Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Help Dilemma

How to know whom to help and How Much?

Helping a friend is a universal phenomenon. In fact, as the saying goes, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” And the benefits are not unidirectional; helping a friend also helps us feel good about ourselves. We achieve, what Maslow argues in his famous Pyramidal model taught in B Schools, self-actualization in the process.
But should we help everyone?

Don’t you feel bad when your help is not appreciated? That the efforts you took to help that person, whom you assumed was genuinely in a mess, actually went down the drain; s/he never wanted it!

I, for example, belong to that ‘un-evolved species’ who go hyper to help without properly assessing the case and getting a fair idea of what ‘quantity’ of help would be adequate and most importantly…expected.

I don’t’ have a ready answer to the question – How to know whom to help and how much, but these 3 personal case studies should help you find the answer yourself.

Around a year ago, younger brother of a ‘friend’ of mine met with a serious accident in Jaipur. She asked if I could help her arranging some units of a rare blood-group. What kinda friend would have said NO? Just that we weren’t technically friends at point of time. Few months back, we had a crazy fight over some stupid facebook update where she abused me to the zenith of profanity achievable in English language and then blocked me. As a matter of fact, I have never met or seen her… ever! (She was just an ‘FB friend’ then and an ‘FB follower’ now. Following after blocking! Classic!)

Putting everything aside, I said “sure” … and not a formal sure. I actually called my friends in Jaipur, wrote mails to others and put up an FB update regarding the same. My friends went crazy. They called their friends, and family and doctors and what not to find a matching donor. That FB update was shared more than 50 times! I was overwhelmed. I Googled blood banks in Jaipur. The exercise fructified and one of the directors of a noted blood bank agreed to provide blood. Elated, I passed on his number to my ‘friend’.

Two days later the Blood bank Director worriedly called me to inform that he hadn’t been contacted by anybody yet and whether everything was all right. I had no answer to his query. Even I wasn’t contacted … or thanked in the past two days. At that moment, I felt like a condom: one who lands up in the trash even after giving his 100%.

A fortnight back, my professor, whom I really respect, gave me a call. Said that his niece has got a job in Delhi and I should help her to find a PG accommodation or flat. I said, “Sure”. Her name, I didn’t know; her number, I never bothered to ask. But at that very moment, she became my ‘friend’!

The next thing, I put up a ‘requirement for a friend’ on Flat & flatmates page on Facebook. I was flooded with queries. Never before in my life had so many girls ‘approached’ me in such a short span of time. Some were actually very hot and I secretly hoped that one of them ends up being the flatmate of my so called friend. They requested me to connect me to her on FB or share her number; I had neither. I simply cooked up stories and fed those hotties.

But I couldn't (cuz I thought I don’t need to) cook up a story when I got a call from a very good friend (actual friend) who was also house-hunting then. She asked for her number, I said I don’t have it. Then she asked all sorts of those uneasy questions which I had no inclination to answer. I hung up (though technically I closed the call with a goodnight!), much to her displeasure.

We didn't talk for a week or more after that and even though we do talk now, the charm is lost. No playful bantering, no flirting and no double-meaning talks any more. No more eagerness to meet; we simply make polite excuses of unavailability these days. So in my excessive over-enthusiasm (no, excessive is not redundant here!) to help an unseen unknown friend find a flat, I flattened, if not f*cked-up an existing blossoming friendship! Marvellous!

And lately, I have been requested to help a friend get her documents attested from a gazetted officer so that she can host the future-wife of her friend from Pakistan! I said, …you already guessed it! “Sure. My Uncle (School-friend’s father) can do it. I need to ask though,” I said. If my memory serves me right, I asked her to text me a brief about the boy, the girl and her connection with the two so that I can explain the case to my uncle easily. She never cared to do that.

I still went ahead and called my school-friend, took his father’s number, convinced him that it’s gonna be ‘safe’ and fixed a day to meet. Called up the ‘host-friend’ to give her the happy news but the line got disconnected just when I came to the point after beating about the bush. Called back. Her phone was busy. And that’s about it; no call back, no message, nothing. Meanwhile I am just preparing a reply for my uncle lest he should call and ask “why didn't u come after taking time?”

No. I am not dissuading you from helping a friend or even an unknown human being in general. But before investing your time, energy and at times feelings and reputation, check. Double check!

Going out of your way to help someone is fine, but just a step or two. Don’t run an entire Marathon for them only to realize that they had no intention to run in the first place. They enrolled only to collect the goody-bag!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Whose loss is it anyway?

A new student took admission in a class. He was different from others. He used to ask a lot of questions, used to challenge the assumptions, used to do things differently. And he was intelligent too.

Soon he started getting the attention of the teachers and the students of the class started approaching him when faced with some tricky question. They appreciated him for his helpfulness and simplicity.

However, not everyone was happy with this development; especially the two toppers of the class. Hitherto, they were undisputed. One of the two would invariably become the Class Representative (CR). Though they were rivals but their ways were almost the same - Appease a certain group of students who would vote for them in the CR elections, fool around the entire semester, never participated in any constructive activity in the class yet score high in exams by mugging a night before, cheat if necessary.

Now suddenly nobody was asking for their notes, teachers stopped giving full marks to their answers mugged up from the textbook, students even started murmuring about nominating the new guy as the new CR in the coming elections.

But since he was doing things differently, he was also running the risk of failing more often. And he did fail...that too, quite miserably. And since it was a team project, students in his group, who bestowed their faith in him also floundered.

aah, just the moment the two toppers were secretly praying for. They were delighted. "toldya, he was an idiot", "Stupid guy, thought he would score good marks without copying-pasting from the internet or mugging up answers from the guide-book?" were some of the jibes hurled at him by the two toppers. Soon their continued efforts fructify and other students also started cursing and mocking him. He apologized for letting down his team-mates but even his apology was ridiculed.

things reached new levels when even teachers joined the bandwagon. Especially those who themselves were low on content, who fumbled to answer his doubts in the class and who were happy to hear and read answers, verbatim, as per their instructions. They forgot the sanctity of their profession, the responsibility of their position and got carried away in the popular sentiment. The moment he would raise his hand to ask a question, they would shoot, "yeh, let's hear your STUPID argument," and the entire class will burst into laughter. Stupid became his nickname.

Students who were not yet infected by the propaganda of the two toppers started getting influenced by the disparaging words of the teachers against the new student. "if they are calling him STUPID, he must be, they are teachers after all," they reasoned. And so it was established.

The new guy was a tough one but slowly and gradually, even he became skeptical about his initiatives. Elections came and one of the topper was chosen as the Class Representative. The new guy barely got 4 votes. This crushing defeat gave even more ammunition to his condemners. He was made the laughing stock of the class.

This constant derision was too much to bear even for a toughie like him. And one fateful day, HE LEFT THE SCHOOL. (Thankfully, he was strong enough not to take any extreme step). And with that, the little novelty that this guy brought to the class, the spark that encouraged students to ask questions, not take things for granted, self-explore rather than getting spoon-fed ... that spark was vanquished.

sure, some of his ways were totally outlandish and some of his answers were indeed stupid. But is that reason enough to throw the baby out with the bathwater? The campaign of the two toppers to sully the reputation of the new guy is understandable; who wants competition after all. Its also believable that some students didn't like the new guy while others got swept away by the campaign.

But what was the incentive for the teachers to condescend? They were expected to be rational and impartial. They were supposed to treat all the students equal and assess everyone strictly on the basis of their performance and not based on their personal opinion or hearsay.

And what did they gain out of killing a budding talent which not only held prospects for the class but for the entire school if only allowed to grow. It finally dawned upon few teachers that whatever this new guy was infusing in the class was precisely the things they are expected to promote. In their childishness; they killed their own ally.

The new guy left and the class is back with its two toppers who will continue to do what they are good at. And now its ingrained far deeper in the consciousness of all the students, "thinking differently doesn't fetch you marks." The status quo has prevailed.

Did the new guys lost anything? Maybe or maybe not. With the talent he has got, he will do something good with his life. So who really lost?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Disparity aur Raasta!

Yesterday, I went to Raasta cafe, one of the very famous clubs in Hauz Khas Village.
vahaan jo maine dekha, usse dekh kar mujhe ehsaas hua ki Bhaartiya Samaaj main kis hadd tak DISPARITY fail chuki hai.

The table on which I was sitting was occupied by 6 BEAUTIFUL girls (Now don't give me that shit of 'everybody is beautiful'. At least show some respect for their Makeup and minis! :P  )
One of them was the Birthday Girl. These girls, From Amity University, categorically chose this birthday bash to be a GIRLY AFFAIR!

and there it dawned upon me...
na jaane kitne ladke har saal Vaishno Devi ki yatra karte hain, man main bas ek muraad liye, ki he devi maiyaa, bas ek bandi se setting kara de". Na jaane kitne somwaar ka vrat rakha hoga isi tamanna main.

May have been going to Jaipur Literature Festival for the past 5 years, religiously, with this indomitable spirit that may be, this time around, they will find some hot chick and the things will go beyond just discourses! ;)
na jaane kitni beer apne DUDE-TYPE doston ko pila di hogi, sirf isi ummeed main ki vo apni kisi ek ex-girlfriend se introduction kara de!

And here you have....not 1, not 2 but 6 girls, in their early twenties, having a gala time, not missing the company of guys even an iota. On the contrary, happy to have "got rid of them"!

hey Insaaf ki devi, apni aankhon se kaali patti utaro! is bhaari vishamta ko dekh kar tumhaara dil bhi karaah uthega! ;)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ground 01

AAP’s impressive debut tells that people aren't willing to take ‘you get what you are’ any more. 
They demand better leaders.

Today, at the Central Delhi office of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Hanuman Road, the atmosphere was electrifying. Swarm of people, armed with brooms (the election symbol of AAP) and donning the trademark ‘aam-aadmi-cap’ were celebrating boisterously on the beats of dhol. Some were even smeared in pink and yellow gulal (colors) and some were burning firecrackers; celebrating Holi and Diwali on the same day.

But who are these people who were celebrating like there is no tomorrow? Zooming in on their faces, i realized that they were pretty ordinary faces, as they say - aam-aadmi. Sans their caps, brooms and location, they could have very well been a BJP or congress or ‘any-other-party’ supporter. As a matter of fact, before the inception of AAP on 26th Nov 2012, most of them were indeed voters & hence supporters of some or the other party.

So what happened in just one year that AAP swayed people away from their traditionally trusted parties in such a large number that it has now emerged as the 2nd largest party in Delhi winning 28 out of 70 seats. It boasts of a formidable vote share of 30%, which means around 37 Lakh people have voted for a greenhorn party based on a promise of offering an honest, and corruption free governance. Riding on this wave, Arvind Kejriwal, defeated Sheila Dikshit - Chief Minister of Delhi for the past 15 years - in her own constituency of 'New Delhi' by a margin of 25,864 votes.

The beauty of democracy is that a Leader emerges from amongst the people. Therefore when the people raise questions against his/her credentials, it is argued they are actually questioning themselves. As they say, “you get a leader as good (or bad) as you are.” The assumption here is if a politician is corrupt, it only reflects that majority of people are also corrupt and hence they shouldn't complain because they deserve the kind of man they have chosen.

In fact one of the biggest criticisms of the India Against Corruption (IAC) Movement - the progenitor of AAP – was this perceived hypocrisy. Critics said, and it’s a fair point, that these people who are thronging Jantar mantar or Ramlila Maidan shouting “sab-neta-chor-hain” and demanding Janlokpal bill are the same people who bribe officials to get their file cleared quickly or buy a railway ticket illegally via agents when can’t book it in time.

To clarify, I have not gone through the character certificates of any of the AAP candidates or the people who were celebrating in front of AAP's office. However, to believe that all these people were earlier corrupt and now have suddenly transformed would be too naive. They were as aspiring and vying for an honest government during the last elections as well as they are now. At the same time, they are as likely to engage in the aforesaid types of 'classic-corruption' activities even today as they were prone to during the last elections. The bottom-line is, they are still the same people.

And I have reasons to believe so. Just 50 meters away from the party office, there was a park where AAP volunteers were resting and soaking sun after months of tireless campaigning. However, as there were no public toilets anywhere on the road, some people were relieving themselves near the boundary wall of the park. One can argue, being a voter or at least supporter of AAP, doesn't one de facto signs a contract of being a responsible citizen?
Then how do you explain this behavior of the people? It’s simple. They just didn’t have any option. When it’s inevitable, they latched on to whatever is available.

Of course there would be some people who would take the trouble of going all the way to the nearest sulabh-toilet complex (after frantically searching for it) just as there would be people who would choose to travel 2nd class or go by bus or plane or not travel at all if they can’t get a confirmed train ticket. But such people will always be in extreme minority. Most human beings work on incentives and there are just not enough incentives to go that extra mile to earn a badge of honesty when you have an easy way out. 

But I am sure of one thing - most people will try to look out for options around them and if they do find a decent toilet, I have no doubt in my mind that they will prefer to be use it instead of wetting the wall of a park.

And those who do go the extra mile are indeed the leaders; they inspire. People want them to come forward and when they do, vote for them whole-heartedly. For people in general, a leader is not as good as they are, he ought to be better. At least that’s what they have tried to convey in this Delhi elections by voting en masse for AAP.

The role of a responsible government therefore is to not only govern honestly but also proactively create such systems which facilitate people to be honest, if they want to. Once it sets those systems in place, it also earns far more credibility and authority to be stern with the flouters.

While I am not exonerating the aam aadmi (no pun intended) from being dishonest, the responsibility to break this vicious cycle of corruption lies with the politicians. They have to lead the way; they have to be far more honest, pragmatic and visionary. They must set the precedence of high standards of conduct for the people to emulate rather than hiding behind the excuse – a leader is as good as the people.

Apple Inc. is famous for coming up with products before people even feel their need. Though its hard to copy Apple, our leaders should also aspire for something similar, ‘give people the kind of governance before they even feel its need’ rather than falling down to such an abyss that people start wondering why they gave him their vote in the first place or even worse, revolt.

And when people revolt, they come up with the defense, “hey! You are the one who chose me. I am as good as you.”
“Nope. That’s not why we chose you.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

When AAP made History...

This day - 4th December - will go down in the history of Indian Democracy.

Witnessing how an year old party could unfurl the latent desire for change among Delhiites, compelling them to vote in swathes was a sheer delight. It's historic irrespective of the fact whether Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) 'sweeps' these elections or not. That, in any case, we'll come to know on 8th Dec.

I can recall what Ravish Kumar, of NDTV India, said few days back when he was covering one of the rallies of Arvind Kejriwal, "इतिहास बना देने और इतिहास बन जाने में सिर्फ एक मात्रा का फर्क होता है।" (there is a difference of only one syllable in creating history and becoming history)

Kejriwal did both; he created history and in the process, made this day historical. Never before Delhi had voted so hysterically as they did today; voting went on till as late as 9:30-10 PM. Never before youngsters participated so enthusiastically in a banal event like assembly elections; it appeared more like a Delhi University's Youth Nexus this time. Never before the posh and hence aloof islands, in an otherwise middle-class sea of Delhi, participated in this mainstream democratic ritual putting aside their ego and cynicism.

Glad I was, I updated 4-5 election related statuses on Facebook which got me 60-70 'likes' and the day went by in this merriment. But deep down inside I knew, it was just an attempt to fill a gaping void, a cover-up to a yearning which has been there in my heart for almost an year now but irked me the most today.

Or probably it was a safety-valve to the steam of frustration in my mind of being a mere SPECTATOR from being one of the founding-volunteers of a movement which subsequently wrote today's history. Of course, I did contribute with some ink (quite literally!) in writing this epic by casting my vote this morning, but there was so much more I wanted to do.

"Why wasn't I among those 'maverick-Davids' who took on, not just one but two, 'mighty-Goliaths' with effectively nil financial muscle, banking almost entirely on their agenda, refreshing ideas, strategy and celestial self-belief!"

It's ironic that a career choice - Journalism - which I largely owe to my involvement as a volunteer in the IAC or India Against Corruption Movement (which is the progenitor of AAP) would de-facto prohibit me from participating more actively in this battle.

Afterall, a journo is expected to maintain his objectivity which one may jeopardize, at least seemingly, with closeness to any one political party. And for a journo, losing objectivity is as good (or bad) as corruption.
A 'Catch 22' situation for me indeed.

Though awe-inspiring and unprecedented, what AAP fought today was only a battle; war is yet to be fought and won. Let's see how the things unfold in the future and where I find myself at that time - in the stands or in the field, kicking a**! Amen.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why 'Kung-Fu Panda' gives me a déjà vu?

Movies have this tremendous power of engrossing their viewers. For those 120-150 odd minutes, we tend to forget ourselves and start living the life of the protagonist (or whoever we associate more with).

But Kung-fu panda goes far beyond this lose association. It's just too bizarrely similar to my journey so far as a reporter. So much so that the movie producers can easily accuse me of outright Plagiarism after reading this blog! At least for the first half (cuz my story is still somewhere there) I get a déjà vu, I feel as if it's not's ME !

I watched the movie on Sunday and the next day read this article in MINT. It was cathartic. As if a gay guy visited the central park in Connaught Place for the first time and suddenly came to know that there's a whole friggin community out there; he's not the only one. And being a writer/blogger comes handy because you can express your feelings boiling inside you rather than getting bogged down by them.

I do realize this is no ordinary blogpost, its a potential pink-slip. But journalists swear by 'freedom of expression' and expressing my personal experiences is the kind of journalism (if at all it is!) I think I am good at. There is no deliberate attempt to defame anyone here but if the worst-case-scenario still happens, it would be a 'poetic Justice' (of sorts) to get fired for the same reason you were probably hired in the first place.

So why does this movie gives me goosebumps and a déjà vu?
It's because...

1) It was (not) an accident -
Po went to the 'Dragon warrior' ceremony only to get a souvenir for himself, least did he know that he would be anointed one. He just appeared out of thin air (quite literally) at the instant when Oogway (the Tortoise) was about to nominate the 'Dragon Warrior'.

Wait a second, before we go any further, lemme clarify that I am in no way alluding that I am or gonna be "dragon warrior" or in this case "Dragon Journalist"!! I would be happy if I am able to justify the tag of a journalist first.

But the similarities, nonetheless are striking. My journalistic stint also started somewhat 'out of the blue'. You don't generally get hired in a seminar after-all.

When the house was thrown open for questions, the moderator of the seminar somehow spotted my hand waving in the air continually for the past 5 minutes for the last question. While two of the panelists gave an idealistic reply, my editor, who was one of the panelists, gave me his email address. few months later, I was hired.
so was it a fluke? was it an accident? maybe or maybe not. As Oogway said, "there are no accidents".

2) "you don't belong here,... - are a disgrace to kung fu and if you have any respect for who we are and what we do, you will be gone by morning," said the Tigress to Po. Thankfully none of my colleagues has said something so explicit to me thus far but man I can't explain the vibes I get. I am such an outsider and so not welcome in their coterie...especially my neighbors'.

I really wonder if all my socializing skills simply vanish when I enter the office premises! Barring few exceptions with whom I am good at terms (but sadly they sit far away), the scale of my relationship with my colleagues starts at indifference and goes till hostility.

3) "you have to believe" - 
In one of those rare conversations between the two masters, Shifu says to Oogway that Po is not the dragon warrior. He was picked up by accident and a peach tree (referring to Po) can't defeat Ti Lung (the evil tiger) and Oogway replies, "May be it can. if you are willing to guide it, to nurture it, to believe in it."

I don't know if my two bosses will ever have such a conversation but let me say what I want to, to my 'master Shifu'.

There is a difference between spoon-feeding and guiding and I know it. In fact, I would voluntarily say no to spoon feeding (which one of my colleague tried to do once, by giving me a dictation of what to write in a story). What I seek is your guidance.

Please don't say that "it's between you and who picked you". Because he may have picked me but now you are my 'Master'.

Please don't say that "I will only be able to give attention if it's a page-1 story" cuz, if I am able to make it to page 1 (hopefully consistently), I would probably not need your mentoring then as much as I need it now.

May be I am not like the 'furious five' (I mean your favorite reporters, maybe less or more than five) but tell me, where's the fun in creating clones anyways? There are things at which I may suck, and I don't deny that. Probably they are the very reason behind the status quo but there may also be things which I am good at. 

Shifu figured out food works for Po. What works for me? Somethings i might know, somethings I might not. I would love to help you figure out if you want but certainly, apathy is not one of them.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Say what you need to SAY, without delay...

.....because your silence can become a matter of LIFE or DEATH for somebody.

while travelling in the metro today, I noticed a young GRASSHOPPER sitting quietly on the shoulder of the person standing next to me. I thought i shd tell him but then, I don't know why, I hesitated! 

I thought it would probably startle the guy, the young fellow wud cause unnecessary commotion in the metro by hopping around bla bla bla. and I retracted.

a second later, the man slung his backpack on his shoulder and the poor grass-hopper was eclipsed under the strap of his bag! I was shattered. My TACITURNITY resulted in the untimely death of a young chap who had yet to see the world!

It wasn't the 1st time. In fact, I don't even have a count of the number of times I have FROZEN to say a word to an amazing GIRL...only to watch her walk past me till she disappear in oblivion ...never to return.

but I never felt that bad in all these occasions as i did today. Before the guilt could overpower me, it just struck me that maybe its not too late yet. I finally spoke. thankfully the grasshopper was a resilient bad-ass. the moment the man lifted the strap, it hopped to life and freedom...teaching me a lesson for life in the process.

Don't wait, don't procrastinate, don't hesitate, cuz its gonna be too late by then...just say!