Will the real Nitish Kumar please stand up?

The year was #2000 and it was on March 10th that the #BiharAssembly witnessed unprecedented scenes when Nitish Kumar the CM of a seven day old government put in his papers on the floor of the house. His minority government had been given a week by a generous Governor to cobble up numbers, which in Indian politics means just one thing – horse trading. But Nitish being Nitish did nothing of the sort in the bargain clinching the high moral ground. Cut to 2017. Something equally dramatic happened a few days ago when the same Nitish Kumar once again resigned from the post of CM. But this time circumstances were totally different. Nitish’s government in alliance with the man, who was his bete noire for most of his political career, #LalooPrasadYadav was in a majority. Before one could fully grasp the implications of this move came another salvo from Nitish. Within 24 hours he became the CM again. But this time with support from the opposition party, BJP. It was a double whammy.

In the year 1956 the then railway minister (and future Prime Minister) #LalBahadurShastri resigned after a tragic train accident in Tamil Nadu claimed over 140 lives. In the 70 years of independent India there have been several such unfortunate incidents and yet, of all the 43 ministers who have handled the #Railway ministry in this period only one another person resigned taking moral responsibility. No prizes for guessing who that was. In 1999 a ghastly train accident in Assam led to over 290 deaths and #NitishKumar promptly put in his papers. The loss was entirely of the railway ministry for while in charge of affairs Nitish had brought in some pathbreaking reforms. It was he who ushered in the era of railway ticketing over the internet. And who can forget his masterstroke, the #TatkalScheme which allows passengers to book train tickets at a short notice.

For 15 years (from 1990-2005) Bihar was in the grip of what observers liked to call the #JungleRaj where the ruling party #RJD was alleged to be corrupt to the hilt with the CM himself being accused of several scams. So much so that in this period kidnapping had become like an industry in itself. Nitish inherited what was a state in terminal sickness. The son of a freedom fighter, an engineering graduate and a product of the #JPMovement, Nitish took up the challenge and over the next decade changed the face of Bihar. From cracking down mercilessly on criminals to sprucing up primary health care centers throughout the state, electrification in villages, building roads and encouraging literacy in women he did it all. Of course his proudest achievements were in the education sector. Getting hundreds and thousands of teachers jobs, meal programs for the underprivileged and gifting cycles to girls who attended school. While he was doing all this the political landscape in the country had changed.

For someone who has elevated resigning from plum posts into a fine art and always emerged stronger from the experience this latest episode has not gone down well, even with staunch supporters of Nitish. The trouble for Nitish and his party has been the inability to win enough seats to make the government on their own steam. So be it the opportunist #Congress, the corruption tainted RJD or the right wingers from BJP Nitish has had to rely on one or the other to stay in the reckoning. This realignment with the ruling party BJP comes at a terrible expense. In all probability Nitish will never become the Prime Minister. Something which seemed possible when his alliance (read #Mahagathbandhan) won handsomely in 2015. But for Nitish Kumar Bihar comes first. Everything else is secondary. All said and done one cannot help but feel that this saga is far from over. Watch this space for more.

It is time to hang up your boots, MSD

It was the 49th over of the Indian batting, the period of play referred to as slog overs in cricketing lingo. After what was a quiet previous over, Dhoni dispatched England pacer #JamesAnderson’s indipping yorker ball over his head on the leg side for a huge six. The year was 2006 and the shot was the soon-to-become-legendary #HelicopterShot. Many batsmen had attempted it before (including a certain Sachin Tendulkar)but none with such devastating effect. The sight of Dhoni bringing his (high back lift) bat down with great speed to hit the ball while his body swivelled in a direction opposite to that of the shot was something else. The icing was the #365Degree rotation of the bat. Over the last decade MSD has made this shot all his own, a trademark of sorts. And in the process he has built a reputation as one of the best #Finishers that the limited overs game has ever seen.

Of all batsmen who have figured in at least 20 successful run chases in ODI cricket history Dhoni sits right at the top with a #Bradmanesque average of 105. He reads the game better than anyone, is always busy at the crease with his running between wickets and he has all the big shots. Who can forget his masterful 91 in a World Cup winning cause in 2011 while chasing what was a stiff target? Sadly none of this was in evidence at the beginning of the week in #Antigua. Where India’s famed batting lineup messed up what should have been a routine chase of a paltry West Indian score of 190 runs. As Dhoni laboured his way to a half century off more than a 100 balls it seemed evident that he was not half the batsman that he once was. After all he has amassed close to 10,000 runs in his career at a strike rate of 89. Is it time for Dhoni to gracefully step aside and let young talent take his place?

One of the trickiest decisions for any cricketer to make is regarding #Retirement. Hang around too long and tongues start wagging. And fans can be quite unforgiving in this matter even disregarding past achievements. Like how they did with India’s finest all rounder, #KapilDev who was accused of prolonging his career just for the sake of records. Let us discount the fact that Dhoni still runs the fastest between wickets, is the best bet behind them and surely has the sharpest brain in the game. The trouble is the ability to hit big shots at will. Something which Dhoni seems unable to do as regularly as the team would like him to. Remember the previous World Cup where in the semis against the #Aussies Dhoni simply failed to get going? And chasing a huge score of 300 plus, he came a cropper with a run-a-ball 65 before running out. Or the recent #ChampionsTrophy final(in which India got thrashed by arch rivals #Pakistan) where Dhoni seemed all at sea.

To be fair to #MSD he has won everything that there is. Both the ODI and T-20 World Cups and if you add the Champions Trophy (2013) to that it makes him the first captain to win all the three premier #ICC tournaments. He guided his club team #ChennaiSuperKings to #IPL glory twice. No other Indian captain in history has more wins in ODI and T-20 matches. Heck he even had a biopic made on him making him the first cricketer to have this privilege before even retiring. Perhaps it is the motivation that is lacking. The question before the Indian think tank is simple – should MSD be part of the team for #WC2019? The answer, one suspects is far from.

Sridevi – Fifty glorious years in cinema

In a nationwide #Poll conducted by a leading TV news channel a couple of years ago, Sridevi was voted #India’sGreatestActress in 100 years beating other powerhouse performers like #Nutan, Nargis, Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rehman and #HemaMalini. For one her career has spanned five decades which in itself is astonishing for a male dominated industry where the heroines have a very short career span and the day an actress gets married in real life it is goodbye to films. In Sridevi’s case neither marriage & children nor a long hiatus from films (of 15 years, no less) made any difference to her army of fans. Her comeback film in 2012, #EnglishVinglish wowed audiences and critics alike making us all realise what we had missed when she was away. Now after five years she is back with a new film MOM which incidentally happens to be her #300th film (which must be a record in itself) Here is a look at five of her most memorable performances:

SADMA: (Moondram Pirai in Tamil) Sridevi has acted in 23 films with actor #KamalHassan and none more memorable than this #BaluMahendra classic. The lilting melodies composed by the maestro #Illayaraja are the proverbial icing on the cake and remain popular to this day. The gutwrenching climax of the film is considered as one of the most memorable scenes in Indian cinema. Inspired supposedly by the tragic real life suicide of Mahendra’s wife (actress #Shoba who died at 17) the film with strong performances, stunning camerawork and a psychosexual theme was vintage Balu. And as the child woman Bhagyalakshmi who is afflicted by #RetrogradeAmnesia Sridevi was surreal. So much so that the image of a child-woman stuck with her throughout her career in Hindi films. Though completely over the top for most part of the film, Sridevi was very believable. Therein lay the genius of the actress.

CHAALBAAZ: It was totally by accident that Sridevi ventured into Hindi films with #Himmatwala. Which is just as well. Otherwise one facet of her acting would have perhaps remained hidden from us all. Her extraordinary comedic abilities. And no film brought this out better than this quirky tale of identical twins separated at birth. Two immensely successful films, Dilip Kumar’s Ram aur Shyam (based on a novel by #AlexanderDumas) and Hema Malini’s Seeta aur Geeta inspired #Chaalbaaz, which in that sense had nothing new to offer. It was Sridevi and her brilliant portrayal that made this a truly memorable film so much so that the leading men of the film #Rajnikant & #SunnyDeol were reduced to playing supporting actors. The spectacular success of Chaalbaaz made the industry anoint Sridevi as the female ‘Amitabh Bachchan’ of Hindi cinema. Not surprisingly Sri and the #BigB have no memorable films together.

LAMHE/MR INDIA: Apart from Kamal Hassan and Jeetendra Sridevi has done most films opposite actor Anil Kapoor in her career. While on the one hand #Lamhe was intense, bold and ahead of it’s time, #MrIndia was boisterous and fun. If Sridevi’s #Morni song in Lamhe was an instant hit the sensuous ‘Kaate nahin’ in Mr India proved that a saree could also blow one’s mind. Though Lamhe was a commercial failure it is undoubtedly one of the best films of his glorious career. Though actor Anil Kapoor had an author backed role in the title role of Mr India Sridevi stole the thunder right under his nose. Be it the casino scene (where Sridevi pays tribute to #CharlieChaplin in her inimitable way) the parody sequence involving the lead actors with a bunch of kids or even the ‘Hawa Hawai’ song Sridevi simply nailed it. Thirty years later a sequel to Mr India is in the pipeline. Audiences can’t wait.

ENGLISH VINGLISH: Her last film, #Judaai though moderately successful was no masterpiece. By any stretch of the imagination. Worse it had released a decade and a half ago and in an industry where out of sight is out of mind this long a hiatus was almost a cardinal sin. To top it all the film starred relative newcomers including the director #GauriShinde whose first film it was. So to say that the odds were stacked against Sridevi with English Vinglish was to simply state the obvious. But come release day and all the doubting Thomases were forced to eat humble pie. Carrying the entire film on her able shoulders Sridevi proved that time away from the silver screen had only helped her hone her craft. No squeaky voice, no child-woman like or any over the top theatrics. If anything she underplayed her role magnificently. The piece de resistance was her tribute to #MichaelJackson’s famous crotch grabbing step.

Anand Kumar – The humble visionary behind Super 30

 Meet Arbaaz Alam. His father ekes out a living selling eggs on the roadside in the Bihar Sharief locality of Nalanda district. Then there is Aditya Anand, son of Gautam Pandey who works as a labourer at some factory. Or even Kundan Kumar. His father Manoj Kumar Verma has a roadside clothshop. And let us not forget Abhishek Kumar whose father is a priest. How about the twins, Sumit Raj and Subham Raj whose father runs a small hardware shop? Each of the kids at the #RamanujanSchoolOfMathematics comes from an economically backward class and have got awe inspiring tales to recount. It is only through sheer grit, determination and hard work that all these #Super30 candidates have been able to crack the #IIT-JEE. And without a doubt they all owe it to Anand Kumar, a Maths teacher from the state of #Bihar who started this pathbreaking educational program in the year 2002.

Anand Kumar knew all there was to know about poverty. His father was a clerk in the postal department who could not afford private schooling for his children. But Kumar was no ordinary kid. It was while studying in a Hindi medium government school that he developed a keen interest in #Mathematics and after graduating he secured an admission in the prestigious #CambridgeUniversity. But the untimely death of his father and the financial condition of his family put paid to his dreams. He would study vigorously during the day and go around with his mother every evening selling papad (or Papadum as some call it) to make ends meet. It was around this time that Kumar started a small institute titled The Ramanujan School of Mathematics with just two students but within two to three years this number rose to about 500. The turning point came in the year 2000 when a student approached Kumar seeking coaching for the IIT-JEE but being poor could not afford to pay Kumar. Thus was born the idea for #Super30.

In the year 2002, The Ramanujan School of Mathematics started competitive tests for students hailing from economically weaker sections of the society and the best of them, thirty to be exact, were enrolled in the Super 30 program. As part of this Super 30 program, for one year Kumar provides free food & lodging for these students while coaching them (even providing all relevant study material) to crack the IIT-JEE. It is said that Kumar’s mother herself cooks food for these students while his brother manages the day-to-day affairs. In the last 15 years close to 400 (396 to be exact) of 450 students who enrolled for the Super 30 have cracked the IIT-JEE which is a success ratio of about 88%. What makes this achievement special is that the IIT-JEE admits only 8000 students out of about six million odd who apply every year and it is known as one of the toughest entrance examinations in the world.

As word about Super 30 spread far and wide, Kumar has been bestowed with accolades and awards. The man who could not afford a foreign education due to his humble background has been invited by reputed universities like #MIT and #Harvard to speak about his pioneering efforts in the field of education. Government organisations and private institutions from all over the world have offered to provide Kumar with financial assistance but he has politely declined. Nor does he accept any donations for his noble endeavour. To this day it is by running evening classes in Patna that his team raises the funds needed for Super 30. Speaking to the press after his Super 30 had yet again miraculously scored a 100% thisyear, Kumar felt this was the opportune moment to take his Super 30 to other parts of the country.

More power to you, Mr Kumar. May your tribe grow.

Daniel Day-Lewis calls it quits – The end of an era

 It was at a young, impressionable age that one got to see #DanielDay-Lewis in the incredibly depressing #MyLeftFoot and not knowing any better (remember that this was the pre #Google age) assuming that he was actually like that. A person suffering from #CerebralPalsy capable of only controlling one body part – his left foot. But one suspects it had a bit to do with the #Craft as well. And a lot of madness. For the part Day-Lewis actually spent weeks at a cerebral palsy clinic learning to speak like the character in the film does. All through the shoot he remained confined to his #Wheelchair even having unit hands actually feed him food. All this in the name of preparing for a role. Every actor will tell you about that one role for which they would gladly give their right arm. Day-Lewis gave it his all. For every role that he ever played on the big screen. So when the British thespian announced a couple of days ago that he was hanging his boots, one hopes that this is just one of those #Brain-Fade moments.

Like when he was playing the lead role in #Hamlet at the prestigious #NationalTheatre at #London and to the amazement of everyone left the stage abruptly midway through his performance before collapsing backstage. He was to remark later that he had seen his own father standing (on the stage) that fateful day staring back at Daniel Day-Lewis. The actor subsequently denied having literally seen his father’s ghost that day but that was #1989. Day-Lewis has never returned to the stage again. But then he has different from actors of his generation. #Different in every sense of the much abused word. Unlike many great actors who have these heartrending tales of struggles & tribulations that dot their journey to stardom, Day-Lewis had none. He came from a fairly well-to-do British family (#Posh in his own words) and never really had to worry about where his next meal came from. Some would say that this afforded him the luxury to have five year long breaks between his roles (he has done only five films in the last two decades) Day-Lewis would simply call it being #Steadfast.

For an actor of the calibre that Daniel Day-Lewis possesses it is perhaps very important to retain this enigmatic charm. You know, it lends just that bit of mystery, that bit of aura which is missing in actors nowadays. So no matter how many pounds an actor put on for that dream role or how well another actor nailed a rare accent in the quest for perfection it is already a lost cause. Not so with Day-Lewis. So this whole disappearing act that he does after every epochal performance is as important for us as an audience as it is for him as an actor. One fondly remembers the time when he went off the radar after filming the very underrated #TheBoxer. For five years after that he went to work as a #Cobbler in #Italy under the tutelage of the great #StefanoBemer. Whatever was the logic behind what he did seems to have worked just fine. In 2002, Day-Lewis returned to play his most bad-ass role, Bill #TheButcher Cutter in #Scorsese’s violent #GangsOfNewYork.

Even as Day-Lewis announced his decision to ‘stop working as an actor’ (the words of his rep) he has still one last ace up his sleeve – #PaulThomasAnderson’s PHANTOM THREAD. That in itself in rare, Day-Lewis has only collaborated with only director on more than one film. Which was the Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan (with whom he actually did three films) Whether Day-Lewis stays true to his word or whether all this is part of the prep work for a new role as an actor retiring from the profession (as a smart alec remarked on a social networking site) one thing is for certain. When Anderson’s film releases THERE WILL BE BLOOD.

The purpose of life

“ In the beginning, God created  the Earth and he looked upon it, in his cosmic loneliness. And God said: Let us making living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what we have done”. And God created every living creature that now moves, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked.

“ What is the purpose of all this?”- he asked politely.

“Everything must have purpose?” asked God.

“ Certainly” –said man . “ Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this”- said     God. And he went away.

Every of us at least once in our life ask these questions from ourselves: “ Why I came to this life?  What is the purpose of life? How I should live this life ? What is the purpose of existence? “.

The meaning of life or answers to the above mentioned questions pertains to the significance of living or existence in general. Throughout the entire history there were various speculations and suggestions according to the philosophical, scientific, theological and metaphysical perspectives to the search for life’s meaning. The proposed answers to these questions different according to various cultural and ideological backgrounds. Different people and cultures believe different things for the answer to these questions.

Many of us being busy with day to day activities like work, house , leisure time entertainment habitually don’t remember about the purpose of our life. But occasionally, while we came across with that periods of emotionally charged transition such as leave home , get married, have children, get first job, or the cases when we lose loved one or close friend, we stop a while , give time to immerse in  a deep thoughts of  searching the sense of existence and life. Majority of millions of populations in the world have the opinion that we came to the life to live, get education, make family and children, leave after us generation, others say that being happy in this life is the main purpose, some other people believe that reaching the goals and dreams is important, another group state that doing great projects and accomplishments that will make a mark on this world and be remembered for years is for what we come for.  For that people who is trying to enter to University for many years and get education is purpose of life, for another one who striving against the cancer changing one hospital to another is purpose of living, for them who is tying to get upper position in work and be boss, senior person is purpose of life, for some others making something new, create something, be useful to people and different is the chief aim of life.. Which one to follow is up to the people themselves. Life can’t have a purpose or meaning, because life is a mindless process. Some living beings have minds. Human have minds. But human aren’t the process of life.  They are the result of that process.

As a matter of fact, nearly all the philosophers and scientists in past left us their treasure and experiences- quotes, books- assuring us that happiness is the only purpose of life. There are not a several people who believe in this. In fact, if we look around, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives. For instance, when we buy something new, we think it makes us happy, or when we go on holiday , or we get a well- paying job (even we don’t like) we think that it makes us happy.  The thing is that how do we achieve happiness? Happiness can’t be a goal itself. It is believed that happiness is merely by a product of usefulness. Going on holiday, work, dinner with friends or buying a car – these things are great, right. This should make us happy. But they are not useful. They don’t create anything. You just consuming or doing something for yourself. It can’t be the meaning of life. Happiness is when we are useful, or create something that others can use. The quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson restated this : “ The purpose of life is not to be happy, It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived well.” Perhaps, it sounds heavy to do, but actually it is really simple.

Eventually the question comes out : “What we are doing that’s making difference? What you would hope others would say about you when they describe you? or What you would want to be written in your obituary? . Markedly, must be pointed out that, experience is another name for life. But while having experiences the one who understands that time is infinite and beyond the reach of man , we’ll understand the life. So, we are sent to make the world more beautiful and amazing. There are too many things to experience but very little time, so let experience them as much as we can. Everyday try something new, learn something new. Be different , but never be addicted to person, thing, religion, etc.  Possibilities are endless. We can do anything. We can become anything.

And  most importantly, It is only while living that you can wake up in the morning, hear the chirping of the birds, smell the fragrance of the flowers, feel the touch of your beloved, see the brilliance of the sun, and tell ourselves as we look into the mirror , that life is the best thing that ever happened to us.


NEHA DIXIT- A promising journalist amplifying women’s voice in society

A reflection of a foreign student

The 12th National Conference of Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) that was held in Hyderabad opened the door of opportunities for various perspectives in the sphere of Mass Media and Journalism for many young volunteer journalists. Having more than 300 members across the country, the NWMI is a 14 years old association that seeks to provide forum for women in media professions  to share information and resources, exchange ideas, promote gender equality within the media as well as society. The Conference’s focus this year was on ” Gender and Media: Continuities and Discontinuities” on what has changed and not changed for women in media over the years. Participating in the three-day conference discussions on diverse issues such as tribes, media law and gender in media challenged me deeply. Of the several journalists gathered there, one of the brightest, intelligent and most outstanding journalist, who created an enormous impact on me, was Neha Dixit.

My initial impression about her was absolutely different. During my research about this reporter, I discovered her to be a risk taking, self-assured, motivated person and after my interview with her, I realized that at the same time she is modest, polite and kind. Finding two different personalities in one person astonished me.

Despite having grown up in Lucknow, and completing school there, she moved to Delhi to study English literature in Delhi University which seemed to me  as an act of courage in her part. As a fact, it is not acceptable to the typical Indian family to send their daughter to study and live far from them. A master’s degree in Convergent Journalism directed her to choose the professional path of a journalist.

What I found most exceptional  about Neha Dixit was the sheer breadth of her interest in developing issues such as gender equality, social justice, defending the rights of women, sexual violence, etc. She started her career after her graduation from Jamia Milia Islamia as an investigative journalist with Tehelka magazine. I realized that being the same gender and fighting for their rights of women was not a simple task for Neha. In order to show that women are as strong as men and have strong opinions on everything including the government, the media and  others such as Neha are responsible for raising the volumes of those oppressed and downtrodden. As she said, ” If I have to write about women’s issues,  it is necessary to understand that women’s issues also have to do with economics, politics and social justice. I think, it may be tough in the beginning, but becomes more and more important eventually as you end up producing your article or journalistic piece. Make the world  understand that it can’t keep underestimating you.” 

Since 2013, Neha Has been working as an independent journalist writing for the New York Times, Al- Jazeera, Outlook magazine, Foreign Policy, Caravan, Himal South Asia and several other national and international publications. I also got deep impression from her description of the resistance of people to fight injustice, stressing that it is far greater than anything else; that resistance is their strength  and power. That is what keeps people going, including herself. That’s why reporters should continue to keep reporting, she says , because eventually , people are also resisting the same injustice that journalists are trying to fight through their writings and reports. The unfailing resistance of people for their rights constantly motivated and pushed  her to produce great articles over the years, she said. The stories ” Lost children of  the Prophet”, “Operation baby lift”, “Shadow lines” which are landmark achievements in her career, have received a widespread acclaim, with PII-ICRC Award,  UNFPA – Laadii Media Award and others. A remarkable number of her reports are evidence of her unstoppable struggle against sexual harassment, gender inequality, women’s rights and social justice. It is essential to note that, the number of awards she has received every single year are the proof of her hard work and her commitment to the nation and humanity.

I think that in future this self-motivated, far-sighted, driven person, Neha will continue to set up justice in the community with her stories and reach better destinations. When I asked her for her advice to young journalists, she said, “Always learn to enjoy the work you are doing. And never lose hope, never become cynical, negative or pessimistic. Because a lot of people only survive on the hope that things will get better for them.”

I believe that India should be proud of possessing such a courageous and ambitious journalist, who always keeps challenging herself, and at the same time keeps challenging others around her. As for me, a fresh volunteer journalist who came to study in India, the first interview I did was with Neha Dixit- an experience which not only showed me the initial steps to my future job, but also awakened an understanding of the real essence of our job.

I am very grateful to the Department of Communication and Journalism, Osmania University  for giving me the privilege and opportunity to interview the strong, self-confident and promising reporter Neha Dixit, for she is a reporter who managed to entirely change the conceptions of one common foreign student.