Saturday, January 26, 2019

Strengthening the Republic

If Independence Day was the birth of modern India, it is Republic Day that gave this birth a purpose, direction, and a soul. After the end of World War II, many countries attained independence, and democracy as a form of governance found its roots across the world. It very soon became the most legitimate and popular form of governance. However, the real challenge of building the nation was post-independence.

Across the world, independence was achieved at a high cost, after decades of struggle with the colonisers and with sacrifice by thousands of people. In India too, it was a hard-earned gift and valued by millions of citizens. People who led the independence movement saw these sacrifices as a part of their selfless service to the nation and its people. The movement nurtured a different breed of leaders, for whom nation building was the sole purpose of their life.

Millennials are born in a different age- for the most middle-class population that was born post-90s, freedom is a given fact and thus often taken for granted. It is a harsh truth that the current generation of Indians doesn't understand the gift of independence, and responsibility that comes with it.

It will be wrong if we only blame the millennials. Inspiration comes from role models in public leadership. Role models in 50s and 60s were leaders of independence, people who lived for the country and were willing to die for it. In the last three decades, there has been a severe dearth of role models in public life. For people like us who are born in mid-eighties, there was no one to look up to in our teenage except Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who valued dialogue, brought respect in politics. As a teenager, I was touched by his personality only to understand his politics as I grew.

Freedom fighters have played a big a role in educating masses. Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore used to write scathing articles criticizing each other's ideology, but had deep respect for each other. It was Gandhi who made sure that his favourite Andrews was there to take care of Tagore when he was not well and raised money for Shantineketan. The titles of Mahatma and Gurudev were given to the great men by each other. Last known respectful debates by political leaders were between Jawahar Lal Nehru and Jai Prakash Narayan about the flaws of democracy. These leaders knew that millions were reading their articles; these debates not only educated the masses but also kept the spirit of true engagement with national issues alive.

India has failed to inspire its current generation. In the last three decades, we haven't seen much of such written debates in the newspaper or respectful debates in parliament.India Against Corruption was a moment of awakening for many, but it's energy fizzled out. India lacks role models in public life who selflessly serve the nation. In a parliamentary democracy with a multi-party system, it is a shame that the nation starves for alternatives and doesn't have leaders to look up to.

Every generation has its own challenges and has to fight its own battles. As a higher percentage of our population is moving towards the upper middle class, and with basics taken care of, many of our young people are in pursuit of meaning in life and are choosing careers in the social sector. It is time that a significantly higher percentage join active politics- in any political party because we need good people everywhere.

India needs to end this leadership crisis in public space. The republic will be strengthened only if many more youth join active politics and lead the country through moral courage and imagination. Preserving the republic can be the highest tribute to makers of India and its constitution.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Gandhi - A Forgotten Idea

 Gandhi was one of the most prolific thinkers of the 20th century. His ideas of struggle against imperialism were way more progressive than where he was then. He embodied the idea of non-violent revolution through civil disobedience during a time in history when the world saw the two biggest wars and a major era of his political and social work was marred by extreme violence across the world. Yet, his own nation has forgotten his ideas and while we argue and talk about capitalism, socialism, communism and quote the theories and its philosophers, we completely miss the ideas spoken by Gandhi and lived by him.

As we look around the world and especially in India where he is called, " The Father of the Nation", we don't find a formidable group that stands strongly and advocates the ideas of Gandhi. On a much deeper analysis of why this is happening, it is quite simple to find reliable conclusions. First, Gandhi wasn't just an activist, his philosophy started with living his ideas and herein lies the challenge-  living a life of simplicity, transparency, non-violence, non-accumulation, truth and loving your fiercest enemy is the most difficult thing possible. Gandhi’s ideas are those of personal transformation and internalizing the change we wish to see in the world, none of his ideas are of externalizing change. On the other hand, we study ideologies that are equally formidable, but they most commonly are about demanding activism and even promoting violence. The onus of self-control and personal transformation isn’t the first thing asked and being the change often isn’t the foundation.

Second, which comes as a by-product of the first one, is that the ideas of Gandhi are that of internalizing, so people who are truly living them are mostly away in their own way, shaking the world gently. They won’t come to defend Gandhi because they have a deeper belief in the strength of his ideas and the change it has brought in their own lives. If we look across society, we find groups of people who vociferously advocate for Ambedkar or Bhagat Singh or even Savarkar. They will be seen on TV debates, on roads, and in rallies but we won't find a formidable group advocating Gandhi’s ideas. In Hind Swaraj, a book on his idea of India, he has written that the people weren’t ready for the sort of internal change he was propagating back then and in the 21st century, with the rise of capitalism and consumerism his ideas seem to have been lost to a large population.

Third, Gandhi was for everyone, not specific to a class, caste or religion. He spoke for humanity, his work might have focused on the upliftment of a particular marginalized community but he saw them as humans first. He even loved his oppressors and never termed the Britishers as the enemy and cared for them as well. Most other political figures spoke about a particular class, caste or a religion at large and thus, to date, have a strong following, with people standing for them and fighting for them.  Gandhi though was for everyone. It seems that none remained his in the truest sense. He has used a symbol for personal gain but not for the emancipation of humanity.

The most striking feature is regarding the perception that people, especially the youth have, about Gandhi which is often formed from cherry-picking insights from the popular debates surrounding him. Few have read his ideas in “Hind Swaraj” or his autobiography, “My Experiments with Truth” and rarely have they tried to live them in their life except a few who have been able to do so. Over the course of past 10 years I have met numerous people who have been inspired by his ideas and the ones who truly believe in him, see him as a human with flaws like any of us but with an indomitable spirit to experiment, fail, learn, grow, love and be the change.

Today, in this divided and polarized world, we need more people to imbibe his principles of truth, non-violence, peace, selfless service and love for humanity, more people who connect hearts, more people who see humans as humans. We need to learn his ability to respectfully dialogue with people of opposite opinions. He is more relevant than ever and all we need is to give his ideas the importance they deserve. He wasn’t God, he was one of us who did what he could in his lifetime and now it is up to us to take forward his ideas through practice. This complex world doesn’t need one Gandhi but many more. His ideas aren’t that of instant gratification but of lasting courage. True peace can be established through ideas of non-violence and civil disobedience but that shall happen only when there is a critical mass who believes in it and follows it.

Gandhi was a simple man like us, he became extraordinary because he lived the ideas he spoke about. He became the change, he wished to see in the world.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Prime Minister please unfollow trolls, it gives a wrong message!

Respected Prime Minister Mr. Modi,

Indians have loved you beyond measure and gave you an overwhelming mandate in 2014 election and I believe that you might be our PM in 2019 as well. People of India, youth of India looks upto you as a role model and icon.

You are one of the few politician who is tech savvy and connects with people so well. I want to bring to your notice that 33.9 million (3.39 Crore) people follow you on just one social media site i.e. Twitter and around 44 Million (4.3 Crore) are your fan on Facebook and that makes you one of the most followed politician in India. 

I recently noticed that you follow a mere 1779 people on twitter and out of the selected few there are few who are a disgrace to society and more than that to your name. They abuse people, disrespect women, give threats of rape and murder. I know they are people with bad childhood, parenting and don't know what they are doing. But Mr. Prime Minister they are putting your name in bad light because I believe you will never endorse such behaviour.

Therefore I request you to please unfollow such trolls from your twitter account. In the article here, there is a list of few handles who have brought disgrace to your name. 

List of abusers followed by you:

I request you to unfollow such people and show the youth of nation that you are against such people and will never endorse such comments. I have deep faith in the mandate of people and you as well, please lead by example and do what a revered leader like you should do.

- Regards,
Prakhar Bhartiya
(Citizen of India)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Narendra Modi is just a symptom

It is not a reflection of Narendra Modi who is endorsing such language in a subtle way, the issue is much deeper. NaMo is just a symptom and it is going to last, if not him then someone else.

The primary reason is the callous and selfish society that we are as a nation. National Interest comes last on our list of priorities, we have ignored the issues plaguing around us for far too long and it has created a vacuum of leadership in our country.

During Independence movement we had exceptional leaders who took the plunge to selflessly build the nation, they gave a promising direction to the country. Nation building became the task of few post then and eventually people with deep selfish interest rose to fill the vacuum.

Now what we see is a result of two generations of ignorance, it will continue unless a critical mass of people don't come forward to build the nation and make it their top priority. It is like in every other space the quality of product is mediocre in our country unless someone brings the exceptional product and we know there are few exceptional products.

We like it or not NaMo and such tribe are going to stay unless a generation takes it as a role to shift this. He is what we deserve and he is the best we deserve at this point of time. I am hopeful to witness the signs of shift in my lifetime.

PS. Its a difficult choice to rise and do something that doesn't have immediate result. There will 'n' reasons why you cant make this choice but there is only one reason to do and that's going to be YOUR personal calling. So, these choices are not for all to make, not everyone is cut out to be exceptional but we all have the sanity to recognise, look for and support such individuals.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Problem is much deeper

It was a political surrender by government. - High Court
It's rare that the court directly blames the sitting government for inciting violence. We as citizens need to understand the choices that we have made and the beauty of democracy is that we can correct our choices within a time frame. Our government hasn't been able to handle masses reaction in the best possible ways. They have failed from JNU to Kashmir to Jat agitation to now Ram Rahim. 
Their choice of action has differed from case to case basis, in some cases entire state machinery was used to crush the dissent. Labels of nationalist and anti-nationalist were pasted on every tongue that moved. We all know the brutality to propaganda that was done to create an atmosphere of support terming both JNU and Kashmir agitation as anti-national.
Story from past
Years back there was a PM named as Atal ji, who asked the CM of a state to resign and take responsibility of mass carnage that happened but alas the parent organization did not allow it to happen because the vote bank would be hampered. Years later that man became Hindu Hridaya Samrat and eventually Prime Minister of one of the greatest gullible democracy on earth.
The problem often in these cases is not whether NM will go out and slaughter people. The challenge is that when they supported such things in past, they created supporters of similar thought process. Now, even if you have tried to undo your image and become holier than thou, you have made an individual choice. People like you because of what they saw in you and became your supporter. Now you have transformed your imagine without publicly accepting that, "I believed in killing people, now I have changed, atleast on the face of it."
The acceptance of crime done irrespective of the fact that it's consciously or unconsciously done becomes the first step to truly change yourself. And in this case that's completely missing. Now, your supporters will do what they revered in you and you will never be able to stop them, unless you accept your sins, go through the punishment and truly cleanse yourself and make a new base. There are examples in history where in people have accepted their faults and went on to become great leaders.
These things were meant to happen in a political system of our country where politician do anything to make sure they win. NM is just an example of one type of politics. Congress will remain a dysfunctional party until they accept they are family run party, then give that up, get new leadership and find new direction. Mostly all parties have a core DNA and they follow it, if they really want to change them, they need to accept their flaws, face the consequence and start fresh.
India is what it deserves and India will be what its people deserve!

Monday, August 14, 2017

To Modi ji with love

Dear Narendra Modi (PM) ji,
Hope you are good! I have stopped writing about anything that happens in our country because everything is justified nowadays. But reading the news of Gorakhpur and listening to the parents, brings mix emotions in me, from pain to sadness to anger. We need to set right priorities as a country, as a government and stop this propaganda based development. Focus on health and education, if you wish to improve lives of people, the return might not be immediate and it might happen that next government sees the benefit but we don't have a choice, someone needs to be honest. 
Health and education can't be improved like a crash course, to build the right foundation and strengthen the entire system, our government needs to let go of instant gratification and multiplying votes. Do that by talking about cows and army, Indians will vote you back in power but also focus on fundamental things. Your only contribution in education seems like in changing history syllabus, just to remind you that education has other subjects as well. I am yet to hear you talk about education as vociferously as you talk about "other" issues close to your heart. When I say "YOU/YOUR", I mean you and your party. 
Also, lets stop blaming the past governments, they were not good and thats why country chose you and now that you are here for 7 more years, set your agenda right. People will remember and vote you back in 2024 as well but do something. Stop the untouchability that you have created among political parties, see the model of health reform of Delhi Government. Arvind Kejriwal isn't that bad, he like you(loud), seems like a well intentioned man just that he has a minuscule online army compared to yours and he has been stupid to not have best friends like Adani and Ambani. Delhi is small in comparison to states like UP but I am sure there are ways to learn and implement good practices. All good practices doesn't necessarily need to come from Gujrat. Amit Shah ji is enough for the country to be replicated across the states. 
I was never in favour of hate-monger MYogiAdityanath as CM but I like your honesty and unlike other politicians you are clear that yes this is my agenda and I will stand by it. I got to know your favourite colour, which is fair, you have all the right to choose your colour. That day gave me clarity and I stopped giving any benefit of doubt that I might have given otherwise and thus stopped writing.
I have never been your big fan just like Atal ji (for those who have forgotten him, he was first BJP Prime Minister of India) wasn't but now that you are here, I respect you for the constitutional post that you hold which was once held by Nehru and Atal. I agree to disagree with you on certain things and that's the beauty of India that we have these rights still intact, but I have hoped (still hope) that you are someone who will make system work more efficiently atleast for common Indians. I keep reading, you work so hard, don't sleep much, it will be great if tomorrow from Red Fort, you share a little about what exactly are you working on, sort of a daily and weekly plan. I will be glad to know and I am sure million others would like to know, it will help us understand the priorities better. You should share that with us, as you are our Pradhan Sevak!

Sleep well tonight, tomorrow you will be live in front of camera, look good.

- Hopeful,
Prakhar Bhartiya
(an ordinary citizen in 2017!)

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Rotten within me!

Sometimes I feel there is something rotten within me. This sense of helplessness. This sense of dissatisfaction, sense of losing everything. A deep misery that I am not worth it, a sense that I can't do anything. Deep sense of weakness and a feeling of being lost. I see a lot around me which I wish could be different. The world I imagine is so far from reality, the people I imagine are just imaginary.
All I come across is misery, lack of courage, apathy, selfishness, narrow minded, short sightedness. Everything around stands strong on the feet of corruption, from what I see, to what I eat to what I hear. People are dying and I contribute in their death because I am part of the system. Some will die tomorrow and some will later but we have ensured that tragedy persists. I don't see the courage of moral imagination, all I see around me is deep sense of self-centered approach and no space to something different. I feel like I live in the world of labels, I portray some on me and I put some on others.
The only hope I see is among few individuals who are trying their bit, struggling among all odds to do something but that seems insignificant. The number of such people is too small, they are sometimes overpowered by popular narratives of the world.
I die every night in my bed only to gather courage to do something about the rotten inside me, the next day. I both win and lose to die again. Only hope is that one day I will die as a hopeful!
(PS. These are reflections from last night.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Congress: Introspect or prepare to write obituary on hills

Democracy works best when both ruling government and opposition are strong. In current state of affairs in our country the opposition(National Party and not regional ones) is very weak and nearly trembling to death. No matter how strong the government is, opposition plays a constructive role in its functioning. 

It is time for Gandhi family to deeply introspect and see where they are failing the party and eventually the country. If Congress is not worthy of being a strong opposition or even remain a National Party, the family should take responsibility and step down. It's been long that their leaders have been saving Rahul Gandhi, he should step down or take responsibility and stir the party.

Time to step up or step down.

From ruling over largely entire nation, Congress has shrinked to around 6% and there are literally no chances for them to do any magic in UP or Goa next year and very feeble chances of a magic in Punjab. The main state they are in power is Karnataka and few other small states like HP, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur and in an alliance in Uttarakhand. It will be hard for them to retain other states apart from three in North-East.

On the other hand BJP, has brilliantly moved from ruling 19% while Vajpayee was Prime Minister to 65% under Modi. The nation has accepted both its nationalist ideology and development plank. It has very well captured the vacuum created by lack of leadership in Congress. Seeing at the growth of BJP, it is very likely that they seal the results of 2019 much before it actually happens. The elections in many ways are a mind game and dwindle on popular perceptions, with the confidence that Congress has right now, it is very hard for them to even imagine winning 2019 unless BJP does a huge blunder.

One important learning that is becoming important for parties is to strengthen local leadership. With emerging regional parties, it has become all the more important for both national parties to strengthen their local leadership. If we reflect on Delhi and Bihar, the two election where BJP lost post 2014 and Assam where it remarkably has won, one thing that stands out is that in both Delhi and Bihar it did not have a local face. Delhi and Bihar were run on Modi's face value while in Assam it had Sonowal. The voter is intelligent to make a choice when it comes to local and centre.

After election in Karnataka in 2018, Congress might be forced to take a vacation and enjoy writing its obituary in the hills, the only ruled states by them. The only choice they have is to take charge and evolve or become history!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Youth Alliance: Journey between then and Now :)

There are some days that leave a mark on our lives and become a defining milestone. Four years back it was this day when the hard work of many people brought together a group of 17 youngsters as part of Lead The Change program. Youth Alliance was in its primitive stage, full of passion and commitment it set off its first program.Today when I look back at first LTC, I feel it was that program that made Youth Alliance what it is today. 

Some brilliant compassionate hearts joined the program, they nurtured it with their love and faith. Many of them stayed back for around two years to build the organisation. Manisha, Seema, Angna, Subhash, Ajay, Shashank became the pillars of the organisation for years to come. They started walking the journey with Vibhuti, Udit, Shivang, Akanksha, the pioneers who hosted the first LTC into the unknown, we could only see a step further sometimes even the step was blurry but faith kept us moving until many more joined the caravan.

I still remember sitting with my diary and scribbling the proposed structure of LTC, with literally zero experience in designing a leadership program. I reached out to Swapnil Bhaiya, one of the co-founders of Jagriti Yatra and I remember finalising 90% of LTC sitting with him. He used to make coffee for me and scold me like a younger brother. The next stop was Vivek bhaiya from Gandhi Fellowship, who had his own unique style of loving by challenging the person. I still remember, "This will not work, you are making a program that will take them to Ivy League." He constantly challenged me to think deeper and was always around when I felt depressed.

It was  Valentine's Day when I went to Anshu Bhaiya, to share the model and take his inputs. He patiently listened to all my super excited talks, after the long conversation around the program that we had at the dining table in Goonj, he went in and handed a cheque to me. I did not ask for funds in the entire discussion, not even mentioned the struggle of finances but he saw through me and said,"I know you don't have money and you will need it." He wrote in my diary, "Lage Raho!" I think the only justice I could do to him all these years, is not stop.

There are so many other people who made this possible. It will be hard for me to write about everyone, all I can feel today is deep gratitude for all each one them. From Jayesh Bhai to Ravi Bhaiya who later became part of the journey, from TFI flatmate to school friend, from kids of my TFI class to slum right across my childhood school, from my family back in Kanpur to my partner for life, from my college to universities across the world, from the forces visible to forces invisible, from my country which has always made me feel proud to the world I have started knowing now, all I can say is a big Thank You for making this a reality :)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Reflections from Eye Camp!

Like every year, we went to the villages with a small group of enthusiastic young people eager and excited to know more about villages. Gramya Manthan, the rural immersion program that happened in June 2015. During the program, a camp for Eye check up was organized  for the people of surrounding villages. More than 200 people turned up for check up, most of them were old men and women. During the camp, we came across 21 people who were suffering from cataract disease, which is a curable blindness. All they needed was a small surgery to get their sight back. In the scorching heat of June local care was limited and not infeasible to have surgeries. On consultation, mild winters of February 2016 were finalized for operation and thus began the planning with the beginning of new year.

On 11th February, I and my team-mate Ajay Sharma reached Paliya. We had already shared about surgery with a few people from the village over a call. Now, the next step was to visit homes and talk to people. After the first round of conversations in the village, mixed responses were received. We were a bit worried whether people would come for surgery or not yet in our heads we were determined to make the surgeries happen even if there were 5 people ready as we had planned for 20 surgeries. Surprisingly, People had different notions about an operation here in the village. Many have had distressing experiences with doctors in the past while some of the responses were hilarious enough as one old lady said that they might take our eye out and I might get blind and some said the doctors take out kidneys etc. showing their respective worries.

During a basic check up before the operation like BP, Sugar etc a lot of people gathered marking a good response and positive spirit to go ahead with the plan.To our surprise, an old lady around 70-year old had Blood Sugar level at 268 which is quite dangerous and she was unaware about the same. Such incidents showed us the reality of what more needs to be done in rural India. These are the basic healthcare facilities and our people have been unaware and denied of this for decades.

It was such an amazing experience to be there and share(sometimes convince) that how life could change post this operation. There was a lot to learn from their responses as it showed a lot of apprehensions, their past experiences and how they have not been given basic access. Another heart-filling humorous incident happened when an old lady came to us next day that the doctor has filled her hand with air yesterday and it has been paining, to our surprise the doctor checked her BP and she was convinced that her hand is filled with air now. :) On one side I was in laughter but on the other side it made me wonder that she has never ever experienced this before.

Finally, the day had come. We were ready to make the move to Kanpur city and many of the people who agreed yesterday  had dropped out. There were several reasons and one of them that really worried me was apathy of younger generation towards old people within families. For a moment, we grappled on how to make sure that we have at least 5 people. We reached out to all who had given their confirmation earlier and heard their concern.It was humbling to see the challenges and importance of a day for them, as how difficult it was for many to take a couple of day's leave.

We finally had 8 people with whom we left for the villages and it was such a fulfilling feeling to see their trust and belief in us. The operation was scheduled for next day, cataract surgery is not a long process. It's a 20 min. surgery but the nervousness was quite visible, sharing stories of our distant relatives who had undergone this surgery and how simple it was served to pacify their queasy hearts.

It was such an endearing experience the next day to witness as they held each others hand with love and encouragement to vanishing all the fear before calling in for the operation. The time came and 5 of them were called to get ready for operation. It was a difficult time for me as well, 8 people had come all the way with sheer trust and hope and if something goes wrong what would I say to their families. The utmost belief they showed in me that none of their families accompanied and they said to me, "Bhaiya, you just be with them constantly." Meanwhile, I meditated to calm myself and then cleaned the room where we all were staying. In the next three hours all were back, pin-drop silence in the room, a couple of them were trembling. All I could do was hold their hand and be with them. It is hard for me to express that moment in words, as some feelings can only be felt in our hearts. They were made sleep then.

As they woke up, the amusing conversations started. By now, other Youth Alliance volunteers had also arrived. Tejal, our alumni from first GM was also there, making sure that she is there with them and taking care of their basic needs like to use toilet. By the evening the room was filled with laughter and lively spirits. I had to request our oldies to talk less. Happiness was evident and infectious. We also had three volunteers from Mexico, Honduras, and Panama. They were amazed to see a hospital room filled with so much love.
Next day the bandages were removed to check for the vision and gratefully everything went well for all. The joy was of hopes being fulfilled. Now, all were excited to go back home and see their families. We reached back to villages post noon, explained about the future medication and care that was needed to be taken. I felt relaxed and at peace.

I am sure these eight stories will be a powerful example and people will not delay in health matters. This was not just a health care initiative but a huge step to break many stereotypes in disguise, it had already brought a Brahmin and SC on the same bed, yes they did not touch each other but atleast they were next to each other on bed. 

At last, I would like to thank everyone, who came forward to support us, especially Dr. Awadh Dubey(Eye Surgeon) who offered us his services and has been a huge support for Gramya Manthan since the beginning. All this was possible because there is love in everyone's heart for everyone, it is just that we need a medium and chance to express.