The Blue Whale Challenge – Here is clear and present danger

When no one can hear you, what are you screaming for?
We can be silent, we can sing
Stay or run away, but we still we burn
A big blue whale can’t break the chain

These innocuous sounding lines are from a song called #Burn, composed by Russian alternative rock band #Lumen. Rumors abound that this very song was behind the name #BlueWhale given to an online game that has been linked to the mysterious death of several teenagers around the world. In fact reports suggest(unconfirmed) that in #Russia alone about 130 young boys and girls who took up the Blue Whale Challenge have tragically ended their lives. Last summer these reports first appeared in the Russian investigative newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.

It was while trying to understand the alarming number of child suicides (for the record about 1500 teenagers all between the age group of 14 to 18-19 commit suicide in Russia every year) all unrelated that #NovayaGazeta inadvertently learnt about this diabolic online game. There had been whispers for long. Several support groups, local communities and journalists had been alleging that on popular social networking sites like #VKontakte (Russia’s very own #Facebook) there existed these closed groups, even murderous cults and pro-suicide groups that were known simply as ‘Groups of Death’

The Blue Whale Challenge requires a participant to perform certain tasks which are assigned to them by administrators (referred to as #Curators) and post pictures/videos to ascertain that these have been completed. Thus begins a conditioning of young, impressionable minds by getting them to watch #Psychedelic videos, depriving them of sleep (thus disorienting their senses) and increasingly cutting them off from the world at large. #SelfHarm in case tasks are not completed is encouraged and slowly the image of a Blue Whale is reinforced on the subconscious.

Why a Blue Whale, you ask? Well it is due to the strange phenomenon of this species tending to swim ashore (called #Beaching) and thereby killing itself. Somewhere the perverse minds behind this game decided that since killing oneself was the final aim (read task) of this game this name was apt. Before long the Blue Whale Challenge spread it’s tentacles all over the world with reports of teenagers killing themselves in similar circumstances (jumping off roofs, stepping in front of trains) pouring in. But when renowned fact checking (and rumor busting) site, #Snopes tried to get to the bottom of this here is what they found. Precious nothing.

Firstly there is no clarity about how kids (now worldwide) are able to get access to these groups. For there surely is no such App that is available to download and play. Some say that you simply update your status with relevant hashtags(like #F57 which is supposedly the group that started all this) and ‘someone’ will get in touch with you themselves. Sure sounds creepy but highly implausible too. In the middle of all this melee one suddenly heard that a 22 year old psychology student in Russia, who confessed that he was indeed the inventor of the Blue Whale Challenge, had been apprehended by authorities. All of this news sounding very murky and incredible.

In the end as we debate whether the #BlueWhaleChallenge actually exists or if it is all mere hoax it sure serves a wake up call. For adults and parents around the world to take notice of the dangers that lurk on the internet. And to ensure that their wards get due love, care and attention. So that they do not spend an unhealthy number of hours with virtual strangers. And have a normal childhood like we did. That is not asking for too much, is it?

Every man’s Actor called Om Puri

  In possibly the zaniest scene from Kundan Shah’s cult film #JaaneBhiDoYaaron, Om Puri’s perpetually drunk builder barges into the middle of a mythological play on stage to serenade the very, fat and dead body of the city’s Mayor (a deadpan Satish Shah) draped in a saree. It was ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ and truly so. In a film that had an ensemble of some of the finest stage actors of the country, Puri stood out with a performance that required him to ham all the way through. The consummate actor that he was, Puri showed that one could go over the top and still make it look nuanced. The year was #1983, significant because it was in the same year that Puri won a #NationalAward for Best Actor. For his role as an upright cop in Govind Nihalani’s gut wrenching ‘Ardh Satya’ That was the genius of this every man’s actor called #OmPuri. From the sublime to the ridiculous he could play it all, with panache.

The first week of this year brought us the sad news. A heart attack had led to the untimely death of the legendary Om Puri and one says untimely simply because the actor was not ailing as such and had, in fact been busy with some acting assignments at the time of death. In a career spanning four decades and over two hundred films Puri wowed audiences the world over and is rightfully called as India’s first crossover actor. It was his marvelous acting in films like ‘City of Joy’ and ‘East is East’ that endeared him to western audiences. One still remembers his haunting cameo as an angry peasant in Richard Attenborough’s Oscar Award winning biopic #Gandhi where appearing for all of 90 seconds running time, Puri leaves a indelible impression on the audience. Regardless of the length, Om Puri had the ability to breathe life into a role and make it memorable.

Coming from a lesser privileged background, Puri had to make ends meet doing odd jobs from a very young age of seven. But what held him in good stead was the education that he managed to complete from respected film institutes like the #NationalSchoolofDrama & #FTII. Though his initial days in films were far from easy due to his ordinary looks, he was also fortunate to be an integral part of what came to be known as #The ParallelCinemaMovement of the late 70s and the 1980s. This in turn was the tail end of the neo-realistic Bengali films of the 1950s & 60s that had roots in Italian neorealism. These were all film known for rejecting the song and dance routine of commercial films and for embracing realism and serious subjects. With directors like Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, MS Sathyu and Mrinal Sen and Mani Kaul and actors (and actresses) like #NaseeruddinShah, Shabana Azmi and #SmitaPatil for company, Puri delivered some stellar performances. Till the movement died.

From the late 80s began another glorious chapter in Puri’s career. Where on one hand he was seen playing stellar roles in ventures in international ventures, he also made a successful crossover to commercial Hindi films. Where the lead role eluded him but the actor in Puri made sure he got the author backed roles in which he shone. From playing the archetypal villain of the piece to essaying goofy characters intended to raise a good laugh Puri did what was expected of him. With aplomb. The greatest contribution of Puri to Indian cinema will be having inspired not so good looking great actors to try their hand in big, bad #Bollywood. From Manoj Bajpai to #IrrfanKhan, #NawazuddinSiddiqui to Rajkumar Rao the list is long. So when the #AcademyAwards paid a warm and touching tribute to the splendid Puri this year but not one of the dozen odd Indian film awards deemed it fit to do so, one feels a little disappointed. Even in death, life is a struggle for Puri.

An enigmatic soothsayer called Nostradamus

 It is not always that a blog authored by a little known European scribe about a 15th century French soothsayer creates ripples in the Indian subcontinent. But that is exactly what happened with a blog written by a certain Mr Francois Gautier and it was about the very famous Nostradamus. In this blog of his, Gautier makes a startling revelation that while sifting through an old trunk of his, he stumbled upon some ‘hidden’ manuscripts of the 15th century soothsayer. Then liberally quoting passages from those manuscripts, Gautier points out that Nostradamus had actually predicted about the emergence of a ‘supreme’ leader from the state of Gujarat. And when he adds that the first name happens to be Narendrus, it leaves no doubt in one’s mind about who Gautier is referring to, in the blog. Media channels, print & television, picked up the story and started running it and before you knew it there was just one name on everyone’s lips. No not Gautier, not even Modi. But Nostradamus.

It was at the beginning of this decade (read 2010) that this #15thCenturySoothsayer first gained
worldwide popularity when word spread that he had predicted in his writings about the world coming to an end in the year 2012. Before you knew it every big, small and large media group, TV channel and filmmaker jumped into the fray all wanting to cash in by playing up the fears of the public at large. Not one person bothered to check the fact that there is no mention of the year 2012 in any of his writings let alone a word about the end of our world. Ask anybody who knows a bit about Nostradamus and they will tell you that most of his prophecies are all completely undated and it is this one facet of this French soothsayer that makes him so popular more than 500 years after his death.

There was another thing too. Fearing a backlash by powerful leaders of that time (both political & religious)for his many predictions, Nostradamus deliberately used a mixture of various languages like Latin, Greek and Italian with the objective of making the meaning of his writings as vague & obscure as possible. Professional astrologers from his time like Laurens Videl did not think highly of Nostradamus and his work calling him out for his incompetence on the subject of astrology. With the meaning of his writings being open to all kinds of interpretation, it is no wonder that in every era there have been those who have interpreted a momentous event as one that was already predicted by Nostradamus. Simply because it suited them. Truth of the matter is that #Nostradamus probably had no great powers that allowed him to peek into the future. Nostradamus was a con artist, nothing more.

Which brings us back to that blog by this gentleman called Gautier and what were the motivations behind this ‘old trunk’ tale that he had cooked up. Turns out that the very same ‘old trunk’ had quite mysteriously appeared in a 2003 book written by Gautier and ironically the title was ‘Rewriting Indian history’ #FrancoisGautier who came to India in the late 60s as a 19 year old and has been here since is more an Indian than a Frenchman, really. A self confessed supporter of the controversial Hindutva ideology that aims to establish the hegemony of the majority in the country, he has been misinterpreting Nostradamus to suit his political ideology for over two decades now. What is baffling is that people still keep falling for his trick after all these years! More baffling is how this fake blog made it’s way to the columns of the largest English-language daily in the world?! Times of India? You betcha.

The ugly truth behind the striking resident doctors

  Last week resident doctors of a government hospital in the national capital went on strike alleging that relatives of some patients had assaulted a doctor. This comes on the back of a massive #Strike by over fifty thousand resident doctors in the cities of #Delhi and #Mumbai as recent as end of last month. Worryingly these type of protests are becoming more and more frequent over the last many months. The doctors are wary about the kind of security measures that are in place at these government run hospitals and want it to be reinforced. That it is usually the lesser privileged who frequent government hospitals is a fact. So does it mean the common man has suddenly got more assertive and violent even? Far from. The root of this problem is elsewhere and unless that is addressed these strikes by doctors will go on unabated. And it is the patient who ends up suffering. At the end of it.

A Supreme Court order pronounced no less than 30 years ago spells it out in no uncertain terms that junior doctors (read #ResidentDoctors) should be working no more than 48 hours in an entire week. Speak to any resident doctor across the country and they will tell you that reality is something else. they end up working for twice the number of hours and the average a junior doctor works no less than a 100 hours. Do the math and that is like 14-16 hours daily. Worse most of these hospitals are under staffed due to which you will find many of these folks working for 30 hours at a stretch. And any person who is overworked and deprived of sufficient rest & sleep is unlikely to be in the best frame of mind to do any work. Be it a cab driver, a customer service rep or a #GovernmentHospital doctor it does not want matter. Working under duress is never easy and will always have repercussions. And bad ones.

There is worse. Forget security in many of these hospitals the rooms are small and shabby, there is no access to clean drinking water, sleeping cots or proper sanitation facilities either. And the same goes for paraphernalia like study tables, mattresses and locker facilities which are all found lacking. The solution to this problem lies in completely overhauling the existing system of healthcare in the country, especially the pitiable condition that most state run hospitals are in today. If one were to go by figures, the #WorldHealthOrganisation (WHO)recommends a 1:1000 doctor to patient ratio but in most of India you just have one doctor for almost 2000 patients. Not only do we need better facilities at the existing hospitals but the number of doctors as well as hospitals has to also go up dramatically. Interestingly it is not just the developing nations like India that lack a proper healthcare system and even some developed countries like the USA have had their own troubles with this.

Things need to be done on a war footing but unfortunately for most state governments (no matter which party is ruling) quality and #AffordableHealthCare is not the number one priority. Take the example of the general #Budget presented by the current FM #MrJaitley who increased spending in health sector by a whopping 27% to take it up to 47,000 crores. But compare this with the defense budget where 2,75,000 crores have been allocated and you will know what one is talking about. Perhaps they could take a leaf out of the book of the #AAP government in the capital of Delhi. This fledgling party has led the way with it’s unwavering focus on the above mentioned sectors. Also appreciable are it’s sustained efforts to improve the conditions of government run schools and health care centers. The future is bright.

The Common Man’s Party – Is this the end of the road?

It all began in the year 2011 with the emergence of India against Corruption (IAC) an organisation that sought to take on rampant corruption in public life. The Grand Old Party of India, the Congress had got itself embroiled in some massive scams and the IAC sought to create an ombudsman (read Lokpal) that would put to the sword #government servants accused of corruption. The IAC led by veteran social activist, #AnnaHazare and a motley group consisting of ex cops, retired judges, lawyers and #bureaucrats gained in traction mainly among the urban voters and the youth connecting with the anti #corruption crusade.

But an year down the line cracks began to emerge within the IAC. A group within the organisation felt that the creation of an ombudsman was too simplistic a solution and it was necessary for IAC to take the political plunge to be able to really change the system. This group was headed by an ex bureaucrat by the name of Arvind Kejriwal. By the end of 2012, Kejriwal launched his party on the plank of anti corruption. It was called the Aam Aadmi Party (The Common Man’s Party)

In 2013 the Aam Aadmi Party fought the assembly elections in the national capital of Delhi and riding the wave of anti incumbency they came to power but it was a minority government where the elected CM Kejriwal and the Congress who provided outside support never saw eye to eye. It was to nobody’s surprise when in February of 2014 a mere 49 days after assuming the reins, Kejriwal resigned citing legal impasse on the passing of #Lokpal.

Critics of the Delhi CM, including some ex IAC members began talking of his high handedness and his attitude which they alleged was almost dictatorial. The fledgling party decided to contest the 2014 General elections where they lost dismally. The Hindu Nationalist Party of India, the BJP led by it’s charismatic Gujarati leader Narendra Modi came to power with an overwhelming mandate from the people of the country. Many political experts felt that this was the end of the road for the Common Man’s Party.

In the national capital that was under President’s rule since Kejriwal resigned, election dates for the assembly elections were announced in 2015. Opponents riled Kejriwal calling him a deserter who had run away from his responsibilities and the #BJP riding on the wave of the new PM Modi’s popularity was expected to blow away the Aam Aadmi Party. But almost miraculously it was the AAP that swept away it’s more fancied opponents and Kejriwal got a second term. The people had kept their faith in a new party that promised the people Swaraj, (read self governance) a party that talked of governance without corruption & communally polarising politics.

There was talk of young and educated Indians leaving plush jobs to work for a greater cause, the nation. Yet all the talk was short lived and within a few months the #Delhi #CM fell out with the Prime Minister. Thus began the most acrimonious war of words between the two parties, the AAP and the BJP. Kejriwal accused the center of unnecessarily meddling in affairs of an democratically elected government while his opponents called him simply incompetent. And also someone who had little regard for the rule of Law.

While both parties fought bitter battles for power in courts, Kejriwal started nursing national ambitions for his Common Man’s Party and began taking on the BJP everywhere, in various states. But Modi had a trump card up his sleeve – demonetisation. As much as the Delhi CM criticised the move calling it a disaster for rural and backward India, truth is that the PM had usurped the anti corruption plank that the #AAP had made it’s own. Just like the people of Delhi had reposed faith in #Kejriwal to give him a second term, the people of India gave a huge thumbs up to the radical move to demonetise.

BJP swept elections in India’s largest state making it almost guaranteed that Modi will be the PM again, come 2019. For the Common Man’s Party ambitions of growing nationally were thwarted with abject defeats in the states of #Goa & #Punjab. Naysayers are again going to town announcing the demise of the new entrant, the #AamAadmi #Party. But knowing #Indian politics, one feels that there are a lot many twists to this tale. Watch this space for more.

Is reality television a boon or a bane?

Last week the winner of a popular reality show on a regional television channel attempted to commit suicide. It was in a live broadcast on a popular social media channel off the internet. Fortunately the boy’s friends took him to the hospital in time thus saving his life. Not as lucky was 11 year old dancing star from the financial capital of India, Neha Sawant. After having lost on three reality dance competition shows she was made to quit all these shows in order to concentrate on studies by her parents and this led to the drastic step she took. Which once again underscores the kinds of pressures that young boys, girls and kids have to go through on a daily basis once they climb on the ‘Reality TV’ bandwagon. If those who win these reality shows have to put up with the challenges of constant adulation and staying in the limelight, those who lose have to keep trying while keeping their chin up. And all this while a billion people watch and judge their every move intently.

And this is the truth of #RealityTelevision, not just in India but in the west as well where reality shows have been around for much longer. Just last month #MTV reality show star #ClayAdler shot himself during a trip to the desert with friends. In fact according to a chilling statistic, during the last decade about 21 reality show contestants have all killed themselves in the United States alone. Now do the math for the other countries. From the 60s through the 70s, live TV shows usually used to focus on sports and it was only a decade later that showed contestants marooned in an island (#Survivor) or locked up in a house (#BigBrother) watched by cameras all over became popular. By the late 90s reality TV shows were omnipresent with every channel having some reality show or the other. If it was not dating, it was cookery, or singing or dancing. Anything.

Life in the spotlight is tough for most people even those who have stayed in the constant glare for years. So one can only imagine how unforgivingly harsh it must be for the kids. Many of these kids are goaded, pushed and even forced to contest in these reality shows against their will by parents who themselves were unable to follow their dreams. Almost unwittingly these parents end up pushing their wards down a deep, dark hole that is impossible to crawl out of. Then there are those reality shows that will push the envelope just that little more, for the sake of #TelevisionRatings. If that means pitting one contestant against the other or manipulating situations so that they get cosy with each other, so be it. There was even an infamous #RealityShow in the US that focused on the unstable (and dangerous) lifestyle of a former child prodigy alleged to have encouraged the leading man to try and kill himself in front of the cameras. He failed to but that is a different matter.

But it is not like reality shows are bad or can have only bad repercussions. For the record, these same reality shows gave India it’s two biggest playback female singers, #SunidhiChauhan (Meri Awaaz Suno) and #ShreyaGhoshal (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa) who grew from child prodigies to the leading female vocalists of #Bollywood today. But the journey from the reality show to eventual fame is far from easy and is not for the faint hearted. Support from family and friends helps one stay grounded and in touch with reality. Fame can easily go to the head and adulation can make the best of us swollen headed. So while it is not wrong to hanker after money, success and fame it is important not to lose it. If things do not go to plan. This is the world of Reality television. Where anything can go awry. Anytime.

” Real life begins at night….”

By day each soul must walk within its shadow,
Only night can make us whole again….
Nicholas Gordon.

God creatings are always amazing. Night is also like this. Though it is dark and black, but attractive and charming. Have you ever looked up to the sky and just stare in amazement at  how beautiful it is? It is cool, clear and quiet. Night like this …is perfect.

In fact , we have day and nights, because the earth rotates. When the earth faces away from the Sun, it doesn’t receive any light, so we have nights. Night- it is the period of darkness between the sunset and sunrise,  time between morning and evening. It is the tune of darkness between one day and the next the time of the day when no light from the sun can be seen.

There are so many things in our life associated with night. When we speak about the night, there are advantages and disadvantages, good and bad ideas about it. Various culture, literature have different opinion about night. For instance, in Islam night is considered significant, as the QUR’AN was revealed during the Night of Power, Prophet Muhammad had his journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in the night and etc. Nevertheless, in some literatures , night oftenly linked with darkness which is historically symbolic in many cultures for villainy, lack of knowledge. They say, night is often associated with danger and evil. People say  night is danger and evil, as they have belief that ghosts, vampires wonder around absolutely during night time.

On the other hand there are advantages as well. As artificial lighting has improved, especially after Industrial Revolution, night time actively increased in our life and become an essential part of economy in most places. A lot of establishments like shops, markets , night clubs , pubs, fast food restaurants , distribution facilities, police stations now operate 24 hours a day or stay open at least until 1 or 2 am. Sometimes moonlight also make it possible to travel or work outdoors at night.

Must be remembered here that , real life begins at night. Night is the time of fantasy. It is the moments of romance, time of dreaming and relaxation. It is inspirational to see illuminations and lights in the streets, the moon, stars and the dark blue sky at night that highlight the beauty of the night once more.  While during the whole day when most people are awake and busy with work and other things, night time is given for them to take a rest, enjoy. The most important job of the night is sleeping, it prepares our body for tomorrow’s hard day , repairs.

Different from the day, though day is much more productive than night, there is still something really fascinating , charming and personal in night. Why do you think that most of the couples choose night for dating? Most of the holiday celebrations are also done at night. Because night is different. And everything totally different at night. You notice things you didn’t before. It is impossible to imagine night without sparkling streetlights. The streetlights , other outside lights make everything around you seem foreign and exciting. Lights shine more brightly because of the contrast with the darkness surrounding them as they usually are overwhelmed by  the sun day time.

At night we are all strangers even to ourselves. The feeling of loneliness and emptiness that often night brings  can be thought-provoking. Minds work better and memories become stronger. Flashback always seem to come at night with more clarity that allows you to think better. Most solutions are thought up at night, the trick is remembering them next day! When you think about the day automatically comes to your mind hectic schedule, the arranges you have to run, the work you have to done. Nighttime is the time you can distress and get some alone.

Night is so beautiful and unique time that should be taken advantage of. Night time we get the chance to enjoy peace and quite in places you never  would  during day time. The cool windy weather of the night make you feel refresh and relax. Night appeal and charm people to make conversations. The most memorable and meaningful conversations with family and friends happen in the middle of the night. There must be something comforting about nighttime, because people tend to open up and get in deep discussions only then. Night- time to do whatever you want!

I am proud to be a woman, we women can change the world!

“Listen to me Amin”- I said slowly.” Listen to me very carefully. Nothing is the same .Nothing will ever be the same. There lives on this earth a woman who can be my friend and my lover. Do you understand that? Do you understand what a marvelous thing that is?”

“A friend is a friend,”- Ushman interrupted. “and a woman is a woman. YOU can’t have them in one person. The whole world knows that.”

“If that’s what the whole world knows,….. then the whole world is wrong. I believed the whole world and I

lost her.”

The words of the author of book “Seven Daughters and Seven Sons” confirm the fact of  significant and unquestionable position of the woman in our life without which it becomes nothing.

Women are the mother of mankind. They are inherent part of society. The role of the women in our contemporary society is different and vary compared  to another gender. Every woman plays many roles like a mother, daughter , sister and wife. they play these roles with many responsibilities in upbringing a good community. They are created as a companion for men and men have to make women  to walk with them in course of life.

Markedly, she is the most complete and perfect creation of God. They are the symbol of beauty, similarly they are treated as goddess in many communities. In previous societies in some period of life women had high position and recognition, more authority and power.Even temples had been dedicated to them as they were able to interfere to family inherent rights. Together with, she symbolize independence, love, caring, gentleness, intensity in love. Its impossible to imagine our life without the care and love of women. Because love comes with woman.

To point out one more important thing is historically women have been treated unrespectedly, undervalued and underestimated, various injustice happened with her. They were expected to stay at home, look after children, supposed principal duty-to continue race; as well as take care of household duties. Only man had superiority; could study and work. woman considered as weak and had very inferior place. However  this conception on the mind of  the people has been modified throughout years. The role of the women in society has been greatly overseen in the last few decades. Different type of strikes, national movements and fighting done in various period giving its seeds. It was not easy to change the traditions that has been entrenched in our systems through ages. But why not? They don’t resonate with our present reality; they are no longer true for us. The whole Universe is ever-changing, why we should stuck in old age system that no longer serve any purpose?

At present, the importance and place of the women both in family and and modern community has changed and still changing for the better. Their role has become more prominent and dominant than before. Also simultaneously   they take part in many social functions of the communities achieving high positions in offices and companies as ambassadors, ministers, woman commander- in chief and so on. We can see them in every fields of society such as economic, education, army, technology even politic. Now modern women can go to school to study what they want. Their function are quite active and this definitely make the world better since both men and women can work together to improve and build it more perfect. However, in some distant places and poor areas in several countries women still suffering from the unfairness, injustice , violation. This should be intensely prevented. Because they are the soul of family; means society. And community can’t develop without women.

In general, the women nowadays could heighten their role. According to the latest researches, women make up more than 50 percent of population in the world. Thus, they are significant in each society; for men ; for the continuation of generation. They changed all the treatment towards them. Knowledge is power, modern women know this. They try to become a women in  knowledge. They want the others , especially men to cease regarding as a second-class citizens. Women want to raise their own voice and elucidate their thoughts. Women are blessed with enough patience to stay and enough strength to move on.

Last but not least, women are the spirit and the happiness of our families. Its unrejectable, they have remarkable influence. there is a women at the beginning of all things. behind every great man must be a great woman. I am proud to be a woman , because we -women can change the world. Mark Twain said:” what would men be without women? Scarce, sir….scarce.” Its true, impossible to imagine life without women.

Decoding NaMo – Charismatic. Visionary. Gambler extraordinaire

It was a Tuesday night. On 8th November 2016, when the Prime Minister of India appeared on live television to announce the demonetisation of high value banknotes, it drew strong reactions from all quarters. Spontaneous protests erupted across the country as cash shortage hit ordinary citizens and lengthy queues outside cash dispensing machines (read ATMs) became a common sight. Small scale industry was the worst affected and the rural economy of the country spun into a tizzy. Thousands lost their jobs and were left without a source of livelihood. Economists were bitterly divided in their opinion even while the international community closely watched the developments. Though supporters of the move termed it as revolutionary those opposed to it likened it to political hara-kiri (The word hara-kiri with roots in Japanese history literally means ‘suicide by disembowelment’) The PM, in an attempt to assuage the frayed nerves of a bewildered nation, appeared on television. The message was clear and unambiguous – keep the faith. Cut to March 11, 2017. Results from elections in India’s largest state of
#UttarPradesh (for the record, it is bigger than United Kingdom) came out with a landslide victory for the ruling party, BJP. The nation had reposed faith in Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi. Yet again.

It was in 2014 that the right leaning nationalist party, BJP had been voted to power with an overwhelming mandate from the people. The country had been ruled for ten years before that by the Grand Old Party, the Congress and anti incumbency had kicked in. There was widespread discontent with a government that was perceived to be neck deep in corruption and nepotism. The flamboyant leader of the opposition, #NarendraModi was seen by the vast majority as a powerful agent of change. Hailing from the land of the ‘Mahatma’ Modi’s image as a common man (he started out as a tea seller) prepared to take on the mighty & powerful endeared him to the masses. In the urban pockets of the country he was seen as a development oriented Chief Minister who made Gujarat into a ‘model state’ His opponents called this a carefully cultivated image and the whole development story a big facade. There were more serious allegations, of being authoritarian and of indulging in divisive politics. But come election time, all the muck thrown at the man simply failed to stick. Modi became the 14th Prime Minister of India.

It has been three years since NaMo (as he is sometimes fondly referred to) was voted to power and while his legion of supporters call this the best time since India attained independence almost 70 years ago those opposed to the PM call it underwhelming at best & organised chaos at worst. But what about the masses? That is a different story altogether. The Prime Minister’s flagship campaign, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan aims to end the sordid practice of open defecation in the country (more than half of rural India still do not have access to toilets) thus paving the way for better health and sanitation. The other big ticket campaign of NaMo is the Jan Dhan Yojna that aspires to provide financial independence to the man on the street. With over 20% of India not having a bank account till date, the number of people affected is more than the population of Japan. The third and most recent move of the Prime Minister, that of demonetisation aimed to usher in a digital economy and reduce the menace of #BlackMoney.

The opposition went hammer and tongs at each of NaMo’s signature campaigns terming them as badly planned, terribly executed and misplaced adventurism. The last straw was #Demonetisation, they said. The country would teach the ruling party a lesson they would not forget, they insisted. The narrative that was built in the countdown to the assembly polls being that the results would be a referendum on not just the abject failure of demonetisation but on the three years of misrule by NaMo. Modi never one to back out of a good fight took up the gauntlet and publicly declared that this election was a litmus test for him. Thus he made this an election all about himself. With results going emphatically in his favour, NaMo has again proved to be the darling of the masses. Is it calculated risk taking or is it knowing the mood of the nation? Is he a visionary or merely a charismatic rabblerouser? Go figure.

P.S. At the time of publishing this, Modi has anointed a controversial Hindu cleric to head the state.of UP. Thereby setting the cat among the pigeons. Yet again.

Indians staying abroad : The road ahead

A study on international migration trends conducted last year by the UN Department for Social and Economic Affairs revealed that India has more people staying overseas than any other country. That Mexico came right after India in terms of sheer numbers would probably not surprise many, especially the Americans. Talking about the Americans, the number of Indians residing in the United States   is second only to those staying in India itself. Also Indians living in the United Kingdom constitute the largest ethnic minority there. Apart from this there is a huge Indian #Diaspora settled in the middle east,Australia and spread as far &wide as the Caribbean. It is estimated that currently there are about 16 million Indian living all over the world. Bear in mind that this includes #NRIs (Non Resident Indians) and PIOs (Persons of Indian Origin) both.
For the record NRIs and PIOs are not one and the same though quite a few folks tend to mix up both. Where a non resident #Indian is a citizen of India who usually holds a valid passport of the country, a person of Indian origin need not really be a citizen of India. Nor does a #PIO require a visa to visit India. Also this migration is not really what one would call a recent phenomenon. Far from. Many centuries ago kingdoms of past Indian rulers extended to other parts of South, South East and even parts of central Asia. Which is why there is a sizeable presence of Indians in many of these countries like Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Having stayed in these places for centuries together, Indians have integrated remarkably well with the local populace. Then there are Indians who were taken by their colonial masters to various parts of Africa and Europe to serve as cheap labour.
From science & technology to business & literature, #IndiansAbroad have literally gone places. These working professionals and entrepreneurs who are making an invaluable contribution to the countries where they reside also lead the field when it comes to sending money back which is why India gets a staggering 12% of all remittances the world over. As of last year Indians sent almost 70 billion dollars to the country where their roots are. If you do the math, it is about 4% of India’s GDP. As the world around us grapples with an unprecedented refugee and immigrant crisis, it might be worthwhile to ponder over what effect this might have on this large Indian diaspora. According to figures available with the Indian Ministry for External Affairs, there have been 276 attacks on Indians abroad in the last three years. Cause for worry?

Not really, say the experts. For the Indian community staying abroad has a record of being largely peaceful and there are hardly any incidents of terror attacks by Indians abroad. What is more cause for concern is the change in immigration policy by countries where Indians are residing. In the United States, the new President Donald Trump has voiced concerns about the huge number of students coming year after year to the country. Not just for higher education but also with an eye on better job prospects. Which is why one of the first things that #Trump initiated once he was sworn in was tighter norms for Visa programs allowing Indians entry into the country. But experts from the industry say that getting skilled workers at affordable costs is a benefit that no American firm, big or small can lose out on. For them this is just a temporary hitch. Only time will tell if they are right. Watch this space for more.