Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 25, 2014

(Disclaimer: I donated some money to Aam Aadmi Party quite a while back, so I might be a member, if they confer membership automatically on all donors; other than this, I have no link to them that I'm aware of, past results do not indicate future performance, please read the instructions carefully before proceeding, goods once sold ... somebody please take the keyboard away from me)

This post was prompted by two things: 1. A series of discussions I've been having with folks who a) supported AAP till their dharna and other 'antics' turned them off or b) still support AAP, but wish they'd behave in a more responsible and mature manner and 2. This post (while it's a bit over the top, I agree fully with its gist).

Before proceeding further, let me get this off my chest first:

Screw you, Congress. Screw you, BJP. Screw you, the Indian one-percenters. Screw you, corrupt, high-handed, lapdogs-of-the-powerful figures in authority. And while we're at it, screw you, Guy Who Kept Honking At Me in Traffic When There Was No Frigging Way To Move Forward.

That felt good. Would have been even better if I could have been freer in my choice of verbs.

Question time. Out of the following list, identify the things AAP folks are accused of:

1. Awarding government contracts and otherwise showing favour to people who *ahem* helped you to come to power.

2. Nepotism -- as in neta's son's/daughter's genes inheriting parent's charisma, leadership and sagacity, so he/she is automatically eminently qualified to ru(i)n the country/state as successfully as the parent.

3. Driving in SUVs bearing party flags and terrorizing/intimidating other motorists into giving way to them ("Appa, I keep noticing these coloured lights when I drive through some intersections, what are they? Why do they have only three colours? It would look much better if we had more.")

4. Letting loose your followers to wreak havoc on your enemies. Taken to its extreme, carrying out pogroms.

5. Arranging for a plane, at taxpayers' expense, natch, to go to Mumbai to pick up the shoes you're planning to wear for your birthday party tomorrow.

6. Shutting down the entire street for five minutes to celebrate the ex-Minister's visit to your locality by lighting x-walla crackers (replace 'x' with suitable integer that produces requisite noise for five minutes).

7. Doing a dharna that inconveniences folks for a short time in the interests of fixing issues long-term.

8. Coughing incessantly.

Three charges that merit a response are that they:
  1. Encourage anarchy, 
  2. Are socialist/populist and 
  3. They don't know how to govern properly
These charges are respectively countered by three questions:
  1. Golly, is this anarchy? Waiter, I'd like two more plates. And extra sauce, please.
  2. Are they any more socialist/populist than the Congress?
  3. Um, how long have they been in power exactly? What? Twenty months? Oh, twenty days. For a moment there I thought you said "months".
The anarchy bit needs some explaining. Anarchy does not mean 'absence of law and order'; it means 'absence of authority'. 'Authority' as in all-powerful, unapproachable entities (be they government, corporate or bureaucratic) who screw over the common man (Aam aadmi. Get it?) in myriad ways while imposing their solutions and diktats from far way, liberally using violence (physical or economic) to achieve their ends. Any move towards breaking this stranglehold (there was this guy called Mohandas Gandhi -- no, he was NOT Indira Gandhi's father -- who had this weird idea of giving more autonomy to village councils, something called Panchayat Raj?) is long overdue. The textbook definition of anarchy goes even further, but we need not go there. And staying on the subject of Mahatma Gandhi, I'm sure there were naysayers shaking their heads in disapproval when he said "Guys, listen to this great idea I had last night when I was spinning my charka -- ha ha, very funny, Jawaharji, can we get serious for a minute? -- I call it satyagraha, here's how it works...".

All this does not mean that I hold a torch for AAP unconditionally: only that, unless they're accused of things like #1 to #6 in the list above (and no, false stings do not count), and these charges stick, I'll be an AAP supporter (sans the topi; to be honest, I think it looks quite silly).

In closing, a fun factoid from the People-in-Glass-Houses department: did you know that Kiran Bedi invoiced an NGO for executive class tickets when she actually traveled economy class? It's becoming clearer and clearer that "What do you think about AAP?" is the litmus test for judging people.

Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2014

Some public service activism for a change.

Considering the recent (failing) drive by the government to rein in the Chennai auto drivers and the fact that I've been personally on the receiving end of the fleecing from the scumbags on innumerable occasions, I've been thinking long and hard about the most effective way to solve the problem: something that doesn't rely on either government fiat/initiatives or a law-and-order approach (the first is easily defeated by the time-tested perversion of the Gandhian way of protests, road-blocks, general hooliganism and court stays; the second by the level of corruption in the system in the form of hidden ownership, false or non-existent documentation abetted by the bureaucracy, and so on).

One of the first solutions that came to mind was a somewhat frivolous one: a Tumblr page called 'Do an Auto Today', where participants anonymously post reports of their surreptitious actions on an auto whose driver fleeced them that day -- actions that, shall we say, are mildly inimical to the vehicle in question (a strategically applied razor blade to the vinyl seat cushion suggests itself). But this is illegal and immoral, and this blog does not condone such activities in any manner or form (I love you, Internet Thought Police, and consider your service yeoman. Please don't hurt me), so it's out of the question.

The solution I'm going to propose is however similar, and is called 'Boycott All Autos Day'.  It's conceptually quite simple: everybody agrees not to use autos on a designated/pre-arranged day. Yeah, I know, getting everybody to coordinate their actions is quite difficult, in the absence of a common messaging platform. Maybe this will become practical someday in the future and somebody will invent a wireless phone that's small enough to fit in our pockets and yet be as powerful as our mainframes, and somebody will figure out a way to connect all these phones/computers so that we can share our thoughts instantly on a single platform ('It's like a yearbook with the faces of all your friends, but the kicker is that the captions underneath the pictures keep changing based on their thoughts')...

Having beaten the straw horse to death, moving on to the details.
  1. If you use autos to commute to work, resolve to take the public transport or call a cab. The extra stress or money for one day is worth the long-term benefit.
  2. Ditto for traveling to the railway station or the airport.
  3. If it's a planned trip -- shopping, visiting friends or relatives, going to the mall -- postpone it to the next day.
  4. Unplanned trips like emergency visits to the hospital are exempt from this boycott.
  5. If you use autos for a part of your commute, use a share auto. Or better still, walk.
  6. If you feel bad because you will be hurting your friendly neighbourhood auto stand folks, please move to the side over there; our trained staff will be shortly with you to administer our in-house behaviour modification regimen that will wean you off the practice of being friendly with unethical and unsavory characters.
  7. Lather, rinse and repeat once every month for the next six months, or till all autos run on meters (whichever occurs earlier).
I think that about covers it. I'll update this list when I think of more scenarios and objections.

One objection is what if the tables are turned on us in the form of an auto strike? There are two answers to this:
  1. Thanks very much for the pre-season practice.
  2. To paraphrase the IRA's rejoinder to Maggie Thatcher, 'We can do this every month; heck, every week. Your wallets will allow you to do this only a few times'.
One can always dream.

Friday, January 10, 2014

January 10, 2014

... and the award for Honesty in Nomenclature goes to The Centre With Potential for Excellence in Environmental Science.

In this age of shameless self-promotion and hyperbole, it's refreshing to see somebody state exactly where they are: they've not achieved excellence yet, but the potential is there. Although I'm somewhat skeptical of the claim of potential too, considering that they're a government organization (going by the 'G' on their vehicle's license plate). But still. Well played, sirs.