Jul 21, 2013

[If] I Lead India

If you are a TV Advt junkie like I am, chances are you wouldn't have missed the Times Of India 'I Lead India' campaign. You can say that they spent a heck lot of money conceptualizing that ad.
What with all the furniture, the extras, the fire, the clearance for the stunt, the celebrity endorsements and the special effects. You could either be one of those who got the adrenaline rush for the 10 seconds you saw and sprung out of your couch to do the fist bump when the girl did 'the scream'. Which btw was frightening!
Or you could be one of those who watched the ad silently and thought 'What a sheer waste of money!'
Yet again, you could be one of us (like me) who watched the ad with contempt and the silent angst of how our media houses have trifled the struggle for real freedom.

Freedom is not about burning furniture, however symbolic it could be.


Downloading ringtones or the anthem is not going to do squat about anything.
Having a 'Roadies' style audition is so far from what we need, that the Lead India initiative is a mockery of how far our unemployed, educated youth will go for fame and 15 minutes of facebook/TV glory.

Public anger against corruption is not about lighting a massive heap of furniture on fire. This worked in the good ol' days of Gandhi, when lives were simpler and when every Indian was as oppressed as his/her neighbor. What happens to furniture that is not made of wood?

Today, we are not oppressed. We are comfortable. Our thoughts are not about freedom of speech and freedom to vote or some such ideals. We are preoccupied with our thoughts to buy that multi-million rupee apartment, being able to afford the EMI on that SUV and fuel, sending our children to that high-priced International/Christian school in India or abroad, going on that annual vacation to the US/Europe/Thailand, having split air conditioners / LED TVs / Side by Side refrigerators in our homes and to never age or die.
Copying and pasting solutions that worked then to our situations now can never work. We'd think the Anna debacle would have taught us this but looking at the way this and some other 'patriotic' ads have been playing on TV, I doubt if we'd ever learn.

But something good has come out of this ad. What would I do to change the way India is?
As a person who has lived more than half his life in a westernized society, I have a fairly clear idea of what might work and what wouldn't.

Let me begin by reiterating how unique India is.
Among other major countries, we have a lot of character and resilience.
But that's where the good parts end.

We lack self-respect and have a skewed perception of self worth. We are extremely judgmental and are easily enthralled by illusions of grandeur.
We don't practice nor possess dignity of labor. We are hypocritical and love looking down upon people who are not of the same socioeconomic status as we are.
We are brought up to believe that there are only a handful of professions you must grow up to be and God forbid if you are something else.
We tell our children not to cheat/break the law, yet we will jump that signal or ride without a helmet.
We preach tolerance towards women, yet we will (physically/mentally) abuse our wives, sisters and mothers.
We preach non-violence yet breed racism and intolerance towards those who fall out of grace in our sight.
We raise our children in black and white. There are no greys around. Nothing in between.
And if you have been unfortunate enough to have parents who placed a lot of importance on money, then you will grow up to be an average Indian that worships money.

While the list below is not conclusive, I do believe it is a good way to start.

  • Rewrite the constitution with the inputs from citizens.
  • Establish stronger, swifter courts.
  • Enforce existing laws.
  • Step up punishment. Punishment should be incremental, swift and profound.
  • Abolish paper money. Creates a money trail that can't be erased easily.
  • Enforce Accountability.
  • Establish minimum hourly wage. Removes prejudice and reinforces dignity of labor.
  • Increase fines by 10x. 
  • Enforce the RTI Act.
  • Increase internet connectivity.
  • Detach religion from public life.
  • Improve infrastructure. Which in itself will be a major impetus for growth.
  • Encourage public participation in all forms of governance.
  • Abolish multiple party system and adopt a bi-party system.
  • Abolish reservations and socioeconomic quotas.
  • Ban politicians (for life) who
    • have been convicted or are suspects in (criminal/civil) lawsuits.
    • have not passed a certain level of education.
    • do not have proven leadership skills.
    • have not been a part of local/national community service.
    • have been in power for more than 10 years in their active political life.
  • Revamp the educational sector.
  • Foster and reward corporate community service.
  • Reward agriculturalists who innovate.
  • Reward performance instead of tenure.
  • Reward and encourage mentoring.
  • Calibrate standards.
So there you go.. I have the good feeling that I've missed out on some here, but these are things that are not impossible to do. Many countries around the world have faced the same challenges that we are, yet when they adopted standards that suited them the best - excelled.

This could be the start! Do we really have it in ourselves to change?!
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