Showing posts with label Poverty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poverty. Show all posts

Monday, December 31, 2012

Ze List v2.0 [365/365]

So I finally reached the end of my 2012 Challenge!

Ze List v1.0 was the most read post last year with about 6000 unique readers. Ze List v2.0 hopefully builds on that with my take on what was interesting and what made the cut (or not)


God
We've had incredible ups and downs this year but looking back, I now know the meaning of 'Be still and know that I am God'.

The Great Indian Circus
We had the government and all its cronies do a sequel by sleep-walking through parliament this year. There were plenty of misses and a few hits though no-one can pat themselves on the backs for.

Corruption/Scams
It's all relative. From sports stars to wannabe bimbos, it doesn't look like they learned anything from the last year. Great year for Raja though!

Censorship and the Year of Hacks
The year kicked off pretty bad for folks like me who depend on freedom of speech. Governments everywhere realized it was simply not worth trying to muzzle free speech.

Pranked!
Will be remembered as the year when a ill-conceived prank took its toll.

End of Days
Surprisingly, this year was supposed to be the last. We were not supposed to survive the Apocalypse. But seeing how we did, let's hope dumb-asses like Harold Camping won't spoil us with another doomsday warning.#BrittanicaEncyclopedia #BigBang


Austerity
One of the reasons why I think we all believed 2012 was the end was because of the way many economies in the West unraveled. Austerity is still the dirty word that must not be uttered.

Iran
Continues to be the speck in the eye for the West. When threats didn't work, embargoes did. But frankly, Iran is much too strong and well-built to be cowed down by a bunch of Caucasian bullies.


Bush'ism (noun)
Term given for the unexplained and outrageous insanely things that politicians became famous for saying. 
Synonym: Verbal Diarrhea.
Subject of intense research done by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). Scientists are hoping to extract blood samples from Obama in the hope that they can create politicians who will be as refined and skilled as the American president.

Sexual Miss Conduct
Children and Indian women got the raw end of the stick (quite literally, too).
While Delhi and other Indian States notched up rapes like it was going out of style, it took just one 'brutal' rape to get us out with our creatively written banners asking for stricter anti-rape laws and legislature. Apparently the only women who are truly safe in Delhi is Sonia and Sheila.
No one wants to talk about the 26 year old mother who was blindfolded and gang-raped for several hours before being dumped in Kolkata. 

'Brutal' and 'Castration' became household words and it was just another year for Incredible India.

Pirates Ahoy!
Two Italian marines on-board an Italian cargo ship shot dead two Indian fishermen. What followed was a sordid tale of how the victim's family fought for a whole lot of money and won. Seeing how sluggish our judicial system works, the marines may have all the time in the world to learn some new Indian languages.

King No More
Bad year for the aviation sector. While Air India got the kiss of life, Kingfisher landed and never took off. Mallya may not be poor but he surely has a strategy. Or has he lost interest in his 5 star airliner?

Famous Deaths
An interesting line up of obituaries this year and with the kind of talent that left us unlucky mortals, I think God is casting for an Epic soon.


Full Tension Release
Our over-paid, under-worked pot-bellied politicians put their time to good use- porn in their palms.

Above the Line
If the govt said you were not poor if you earned more than Rs32/- a month and you laughed at the thought of that, then you'd have died laughing when our conscientious politicians declared that millions moved up the ladder this year.

Sachin
From Master blaster with a bad hair day to Average Joe with shoes of concrete, the greatest batsman cricket has ever seen became a Rajya Sabha member and retired from ODIs. From one source of income to another, he executed a fine knock over the boundaries.


Mamatadi
2012 was truly Didi's year. Or was it?
From being chuddi buddy with the ruling party to being isolated as a failing chief minister of an impoverished Indian State, the transition was complete.

Lyrical Gangsters
So what if the he didn't have the look or the moves, the whole world got obsessed with the horse-rider from the East. Oppan Gangnam Style. 


Natural disasters and Fiscal Cliffs
From Japan to the United States of America, it really didn't matter how rich or powerful they were, nature and money showed who's boss.

Hanging up the Boots
Several high-profile retirements left Indian cricket worse than it was. And oh yeah, let's not forget F1 either.

Guest Posts
I saw my ratings soar thanks to enthusiastic guest bloggers who wrote for me this year. One of my most popular guest blogger was AJ whose posts got about 5000+ hits. Thanks to you all!


Free Ads
A fairness cream for down under caused such a furore and tons of free publicity.
Honey Singh was thrown from relative obscurity to outright (in)famy with his 'Balatkar' lyrics.

Vidya Balan
She showed us how grit and sheer determination can bring success. What a Kahaani!

Indian Olympics
From winning our largest haul of Olympic medals to being kicked out from the IOC, we came full circle. Touche`

Aarushi
India lost an Aarushi about 4 years ago. Her parents are still paying the price for asking who did it.

Pakistan
From loosing terrorists to loosing face, our western neighbor had a pretty busy year.


Facebook
Touted as one of the biggest IPO launches this year, FB fell flat on its face. Made for a great Kodak moment though. #Facepalm.

Unsung Heroes
'Hold the Thought, Get the Point' featured some unlikely heroes that you won't hear, will never see and would probably forget very soon. They made the list because of their sheer grit, dedication and character.

Fuel
This section will probably be repeated in every single list of every single year. This year India saw the steepest increase and some token decrease in its prices. Suddenly cycling and walking looks like a better option.

Sunny Leone
She came. We came.
'nuff said.

SRK
With an obsession for attention, SRK cartwheeled himself into my List a second year in a row. #IPL5.



SMJ
Aamir Khan's Sathya Maye Jayathe placed a mirror in front of us and we were forced to take a long hard look at ourselves.

Avengers
One of the most anticipated Superhero movies made us all laugh, fight and believe in the supremacy of American vengeance.

Vicky Donor
Surprise package. Literally and otherwise.

Indian Presidential elections
Probably the first time, anyone ever fought to have their (wo)man at the Rastrapathi Bhavan. Predictably, logic took a back seat and Pranab bailed himself out from a sinking ship. Nice move!

US Presidential elections
Fodder for standup comedians and couch potatoes. No prizes for guessing who won.

Woof Wolf!
Pinky & Pascal Mazurier. Names that many have forgotten by now, became the unwitting victims of vengeful partners who took advantage of the quagmire called the Indian Justice system.

Of Money plants and Mud
Time and Outlook got at eachother's throat for calling their respective leaders a lame duck. Each saw their rating soar and we forgot who won.

Mass Shootings
We saw a new kind of jihadi.

From crazy lunatics firing into a packed theatre to socially-inept children killing other children, 2012 was all about ducking the bullets. #GunControl

Kasab Khatum
After years of fattening him up, we finally slaughtered him. Indians celebrated.

Naked Royals
Just three words: Pasty White Skin.

Bangalore Trash
We wanted our government to act on our trash. Not because we cared for the environment but because we had see (and smell) our trash every single moment of every single day for months.

Apple
From winning a billion dollar lawsuit against Samsung to unveiling new gadgets, Apple did it all.

Julian Assange
When all else failed, he simply walked into the Ecuadorian embassy. Now why didn't he do that earlier?!

Of spoiled sons and sons-in-laws...
This year, we heard (a lot more) about the famous sons and sons-in-laws.

...and wayward Generals and TV hosts
While Jimmy Savile was spared the embarrassment, Gen. David Petraeus was caught with his pants down. 


You've been flashed!
If libdubs were a rage, the past year saw plenty of flash mobs taking bystanders by surprise. Corporates and NGOs took to flash mobs like a duck to water to spread their message and brought a little bit of Bollywood into their lives.

Abort!
The untimely death of an Indian dentist in Ireland ignited the debate supporting abortion in exceptional cases. What good is religion when it can't save precious human life?


Have a great year ahead!


Friday, July 20, 2012

Finally, I did it! [202/365]

After several thoughtful months and a sabbatical, I made the difficult choice of resigning from a company that I came to love.

Leaving a company is never easy. More so when you've invested so much of yourself into the company. Five years was longer than I'd initially thought. But when time came, I knew I had to go.
It's a uncomfortable decision. I've survived and grown.

Leaving my zone of comfort was disturbing, but I knew I had to. Narayan Murthy, the co-founder of Infosys once famously said, "Love your job, but never fall in love with your company because you never know when the company stops loving you... "

Which brings me to an instance of where the society refuses to love its people. I'd written about an amateur artist who is differently abled several weeks ago. As I recalled in regret how I could not be of help to him, I got the perfect chance to undo that regret today. Passing by, I saw the gentleman sitting at the pavement and this time, I decided I would stop and chat with him.

Mahesh, a 23 year old from Kolar, is an amateur painter who ekes out a living by painting with his crippled legs. As I was speaking with him, curious onlookers and tourists stopped to understand what was going on. Some people threw some rupees but he was not interested in free money. I wanted to buy a few paintings and he even gave me four of his favorite drawings. We chatted and all the while, Mahesh is painting deftly with his feet. Anywhere abroad, an artist like Mahesh would have been feted and his paintings sold for thousands of dollars. In a country where you'd meet able bodied beggars at every signal, Mahesh was a breath of fresh air. Infact, some of the beggars, seeing as I was being generous with a cripple, wanted some money too.

Men like Mahesh is what keeps India vibrant and progressive. They don't want quotas and freebies. They want equal opportunities in a society that cares.

You might have a bullying boss in your office.
You might have a disability that makes you different from others. You might even wonder why God is not listening to you.

You need to stop thinking you are in a rut and set up that lemonade stand.

Other Heroes in 'Hold the Thought, Get the Point'
Raju
Vikhitha Shetty
Claire Lomas
Poonam Vaidya 


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tough Stuff [199/365]


Today's media is filled with sensationalism.

As I was flipping through the bundle of unread newspapers last month, I looked for some good news. I could have found gold in the Pacific easier.

But one particular news article caught my eye. The story of a young boy, Raju, from Karwar.
Abandoned by his parents, he lives in a bus shelter in Karwar and wants to be a cop when he grows up.

Now, there's nothing extraordinary out of this and surely you would've seen dozens of abandoned children at any major rail and bus stations across India. A large majority of them  addicted to paint, glue and crime. The rest would be trafficked and sold piecemeal.
But what sets Raju apart is how his life was and is now. I would urge you to read the story here.

We don't know how we can contribute to this child's life. We may never speak or even meet in person, but this we can- we can spread the word. If we were to reach out to children like Raju, this world and our lives will be little more peaceful.

Other Heroes of 'Hold the Thought, Get the Point'

Vikhitha Shetty
Claire Lomas
Poonam Vaidya 


Saturday, May 12, 2012

GuestSpeak: When pictures speak

Carter's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph
Before I come to the point it’s important for one to understand where I am coming from. Here is an account of a relevant story that I feel would help me express my feelings and the message I am trying to convey in a better way.

"I am depressed ... without phone ... money for rent ... money for child support ... money for debts ... money!!! ... I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners ... I have gone to join Ken (recently deceased colleague Ken Oosterbroek) if I am that lucky" excerpts from suicide note of Kevin Carter who took his own life by taping one end of a hose to his pickup truck’s exhaust pipe and running the other end to the passenger-side window. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carter's prize winning photograph was sold to the New York Times; the photograph first appeared on March 26, 1993. Hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask the fate of the girl. The paper reported that it was unknown whether she had managed to reach the feeding center. In 1994, the photograph won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.

My inspiration to write this post came from above mentioned story, my own real experience follows -
Few years back I watched a programme on migrating animals, where an injured baby baboon unable to keep up with pace of other baboons is left behind by the mother. Towards the end of the programme they showed baby baboon being watched by some vultures while mother though concerned about the baby but left with no choice decides to move on with the rest. Being an animal lover I could not bear the thought of baby being attacked by the vultures so I immediately switched over the channel .I kept on brooding over and wondered why couldn't the camera man rescue the baby, treat him, feed him and drop him where he belonged, I cried and cried for months together finally went into acute depression. There on I am not allowed to watch discovery channel. I totally understand the law of nature and phrases like 'Survival of the fittest'. But we as human beings and an intelligent species can avert few of the tragedies that we tend to ignore.

Several times we watch a man or a woman beaten up in an inhuman way or someone run down by a vehicle bleeding to death I can cite any number of such examples that I must have watched on news channels. In each case I have simply switched over the channels for the reason that neither I can bear the inhuman act nor insensitivity of the camera person, or an anchor who takes pride in narrating the whole incident that took place in front of his or her eyes but made no effort to save a life. Their selfish concern seems to be making breaking news that goes like “murder caught on camera" and I wonder is the camera person/photographer as a human being not  morally responsible to avert such tragedies or  should they simply concentrate on what they are getting paid for ??

There is a need for all such photographers, camera men, journalists to take a lesson from Carters case that was much criticized for having not saved the child, who while on a trip to Sudan, was preparing to photograph a starving toddler trying to reach a feeding center when a vulture landed nearby. Carter reported to have taken the picture, because it was his "job title" and leaving.  He came under criticism for failing to help the girl.

The St. Petersburg Times in Florida said this of Carter: "The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering, might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene."
Alka Narula (c)

Written for 'Hold the Thought, Get the Point' by our guest blogger Alka Narula.
Find more information about her at Indiblogger



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Playing with Fire [109/365]

Mera Bharat Mahaan.

India is a land of public contrasts and private quirks.
We are not the most literate but have the most active media in the world.
Over 50% of our population live in villages and a similar ratio in poverty, yet our cities are bursting at the seams.
Our govt silos are overflowing with food grains, yet millions will go to bed hungry tonight. And every night.
We have one of the best interstate highways, yet nearly all our cities have roads that are miserable to drive on.
Mumbai has Asia's largest slum, and the world's most expensive home.
We have antiquated fleets Sukhoi and Mirages that fall from the sky even without a bullet fired, yet we have a million dollar Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.
Our Army chief tells us that we are sitting ducks, yet we are on the largest spending spree in the planet.

Agni 5, our latest boy's toy. 
While I agree we need to have a reliable defense shield, I wonder if the millions of people earning less than Rs 32 a day will agree to their cash strapped government building a missile that will cost a couple of billion a pop.
But what I can't understand is where are all the lovers of humanity? All those people who carped and complained about how obscene Antilia is in the midst of Daravi.
I remember how we smirked and whispered a conspiracy of hatred about the ludicrous display of wealth when the F1 track was built.

But, don't get me wrong, I have the most respect towards our soldiers who fight against all odds. Even the ones we stack against them.
I salute the brave hearts who patrol inhospitable places like Saichen and Kargil round the clock. We owe you a lifetime of gratitude.


But is having a missile really going to cure our insecurity? I don't think so.
Besides igniting an arms race in an already fragile world that is armed to the teeth, a missile with a fiery name is not going to do squat for our economy.
If our government really wants to make our borders secure, they need to start equipping our ground forces and air combat units with better weapons. With the kind of antiquated guns and sub-par equipment they currently fight with, it is a miracle we have not been invaded yet.

In a nation that is fighting Maoists and Naxals from within, does it really make sense when we spend billions on arms trying to defend itself from external threats?
If you ask me, what we need is not another missile to target China, but one that will target every corrupt politician in our country.

Quick question, Mr Politician, who is funding all this?


Friday, March 30, 2012

By the side [89/365]

more Abled than most of us
I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be "happy." I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter and to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.
- Leo C. Rosten

I am not known to be charitable.
Correction: I fail to melt when I see a person begging, just by virtue of a handicap.
A common sight at an Indian traffic, you'd be surprised that many of them would have much more in the bank than you'd believe. Heck they are richer than most of us combined. But of course, I've told you all this before.

Today, commuting to work, I saw a person working away at a pedestrian footpath near a very busy intersection. No, he wasn't begging. He wasn't looking for compassion. He was earning his bread though.
Severely crippled, he was painting. I paused by the side, watched him. Curiously. And so did a lot of other people. Many was bewildered. Some thought he was just trying to seek attention. Surely he was. But he didn't want your money for free. Buy one of his sketches. And those sketches weren't childish amateurish scribbles and doodles, but colorful abstracts with powerful brush strokes. I was amazed and I am pretty sure a lot of passers by were too.
Some did buy his paintings. But I didn't. I procrastinated. I erred. I assumed that he is going to be there the next time I pass by and figured I could buy it then.

I did look for the 'anonymous painter' the next day, but he was gone. No sign of him. I saw him for exactly two days. I wondered what happened. I theorized that the merchants and the cops patrolling the busy CBD didn't like him. He was bad for their image. What will the phirens think? Nothing worse than seeing a crippled man trying to make an honest living. Forget the dilapidated roads, uneven footpaths, overflowing sewers and prostitutes plying their trade under the nose hairs of the cops in the CBD.
I asked one of the merchants and he confirmed my fears. The cops did come and haul him off. He probably has been shunted away from our sanitized eyes into poverty.
But this is not new.

A couple of years ago, there used to be a lady. She was truly homeless. She lived on a footpath about 3 km away from my home. As I came to see her everyday, I began to buy lunch for her. Everyday. She might have been at least 70. She definitely had better days in her past since she had a toe ring. Her worldly possessions were a battered and torn suitcase, some clothes, two mattresses, an umbrella and two stray dogs. I'd see her sitting at exactly the same spot through the day, and when the rains came, the three of them would get under the umbrella. She'd gradually recognize me and smile and fold her hands in thanks when I'd give her the packet of food. This arrangement went on for a few weeks. I remember praying for her and hoping that she sees better days ahead. I was helpless. I wanted to do something. I wanted to bring her home. But wasn't sure how I could take care of her. I was a struggling bachelor then.
Two days before Christmas, with a packet of food for her, I came to the spot where she was for the last 20 years. But she was gone. Her pets were there. They were 'searching' for her. I asked around. They told me that a group of cops hauled her off a few hours ago. I wondered where.
I hope it was to a cozy place, because her belongings were left behind. It was removed a day or two later. And the footpath sanitized.
I did ask the people around. Some long time residents told me that she used to be a wealthy lady who was thrown out of her house and her wealth by her ruthless son. With no where and no one to go to, she stayed on the footpath outside her former home.

Four years on, I still think of her every time I pass the spot.
I hope she is doing better wherever she is.

We err when we procrastinate. I wish I'd bought the painting of that crippled painter when I still had a chance. I wish I'd brought that lady home when I still could.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Behind Poverty lines [79/365]

Roti, Kappada aur Makaan (Food, Clothing and Shelter)
Man's three basic and fundamental rights.
Secure these for your citizens and everything else will fall in place.

Today, a report headlined proclaimed how 5 crore people have moved beyond the poverty line.
Last year, the commission became the stock of much ridicule when it declared how a person cannot be below the poverty line if they earned Rs32 (About half a dollar) or more. Apparently, the department is made up of people who are living proof that evolution can go in reverse.
The new report puts the poverty line at Rs 22.43 for rural areas and Rs28.65 for those fortunate to live in cities. (The encouraging news here)

Now, I don't have anything against the poor becoming richer by a few rupees. Heck! I would be the first to pop the bubbly if the yawning gap between the have's and the have-not's are bridged.
But I smell a rat here.
As Indians, we have lived long enough under the unsightly shadow of being called a 'developing nation'.
So, a headline like this makes an euphoric read. The World Bank and all the donors of our poor, hungry and fly-infested children who will die if we don't contribute generously will be happy.
But the fact is far from the truth. Beyond the headline, it is clear to see how this report is a perfect example of unimaginative people who are about as smart as a bait.

Sample this:
Despite the fact that the commission has reduced the minimum wages required to be classified as under poverty, the number of poor have increased in Bihar, UP, Chattisgarh, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Meghalaya. Interestingly, so has naxalites and maoists in these regions. Not good news at all.

But who can live on Rs32 today? Maybe in the 18th Century where an an Anna paise took you far.
By releasing such a report, the committee has become a farce and a slap on the face of all those families struggling to live on Rs 1000 ($18) a month.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Will Beg for Wealth


A common sight at any traffic light stop worth its salt, as soon as the lights turn red you'll find an army of beggars, slick salesmen selling the latest fad toy and a couple of eunuchs.

Squeezing between cars, dodging the 2 and 3 wheelers that grind to a halt, they knock on tinted glasses peering inside, tug at your trousers and tap on your hands.
All begging you for your attention and a few coins.

What bothers me is how we treat these people.
Of the 14 years that I have been in India, I have seen many many beggars. The number of beggars seem to  have exploded in the recent weeks! Victims of Inflation? I don't think so.
Because they hardly look like the kind of people who would have too much to worry about. Their work hours are highly flexible, they can call in sick and if they do then they get more money, they take their comfort breaks whenever they please and they don't have to bother about any promotions. They get to travel and if they look miserable and horrible, then thats a bonus.

They don't need to worry about unwanted pregnancies because having a miserable looking child tightly hugged in their arms is an added advantage. I wonder where most of them get the feeding bottle that has what appears to be half filled (always) with milk.

Skills? They need to have very minimal verbal skills but excellent mind reading capabilities.
Because I've noticed that in the first 5 seconds that they look at you, they will figure out if you are the gullible type who will fall for their 'misery' and fish for a coin out of your pocket or if you are the hard hearted creature that is not worth their pitch.
I am the second type. Although I am not hard hearted, I shake my heart in the general direction of the individual and they take the cue. Some are persistent and I've noticed that this happens only if there is a female member present with me. Excellent psychological profiling, I must admit.

However, I do notice them. As a habit, I enjoy reading the thoughts of absolute strangers and these beggars, many of who are regulars at the traffic stop at Brigade road seem emancipated yet if you look at them while they are having their lunch or between work (which is when the lights are green) then you'll not see a tinge of sadness.
For many of us, who can have their lunch only at times that are scheduled by our Managers, these people seem to be having it easy. They don't need to wait for the end of the month for payday. If you ask me, I'd say many of these people are richer than any of us. With so much income coming in and almost zero expences, heck, you need to tax these people !

Some of them carry a crutch and feign a limp. What a scam!

Many of them are victims of circumstance. People who shouldn't be there in the first place. People who just want a lot of your money in their pockets.
But who among us isn't a victim of fate and circumstance?
We all have disabilities. Some of us have problems being committed to their partners and spouses, some of us have problems excelling at work, some of us have problems emoting to our loved ones and then there are some of us who will struggle all our lives to achieve the Great Indian Dream.

If people who are not poor but find ways to feign poverty to gain sympathy and thereby our money, would you call them beggars or con artists?
With a action of the hand that simulates eating, our beggars have almost perfected art of living off our sympathy. Kids are a commodity. Handicapped? Excellent. Couple that with the rags, the dried streaks of tears and the malnourished kids that are tied so tightly to the lady, that if not hunger, suffocation will surely kill 'it'. What is happening of that child when he/she grows up? Ordinary people fortunate to afford good health care are reeling with the effects of pollution, global warming, inflation and corruption. What about these kids, who are also our future citizens?
We are slowly but surely chewing our own tail.

When there is so much charity going around and with so many more people giving, why are there so many beggars in the streets of India?
I have seen ordinary people living in squalid slums and dilapidated houses, with little or no money (saved or earned) but with integrity and self respect that disallows them from begging.
With a burning desire to earn a respectable living, they strive to get ahead in life. And sometimes, more often than not their descendants live a better life.

Our inclination for handouts and free stuff, our aversion to anything that resembles hard work and the lack of vocational training that is competitive enables beggars to breed, both in literally and otherwise.

Very few nations are free from beggars but when a foreigner talks and reminisces about India, the beggars are surely going to be one of the sore sights. Of course gathering all of them and 'disposing' them off away from our sight is also not the thing to do. But we need to radically change the way we think and act.
Discourage begging. Encourage entrepreneurship. Provide free health care (Put all our Tax Rupees to better use). Ofcourse we can never wipe off poverty from India, but we can certainly make our Race a lot less notorious.

Next Week, I take on the Eunuchs of Bangalore! Yay!

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