A Request


Hello reader.

This is the first such post on this blog, that I’m doing, in the 4 years that this blog has been on the web. First, let me set the premise.

Sneha Sadan is a boys orphanage in the city of Bangalore, India that houses over 30 school-going children, who are either orphaned or abandoned by their parents. The orphanage, from a visit I was fortunate to be a part of, seems to be a rather healthy place with enough emotional and material strength in it to ensure a proper upbringing for these kids. However, there is a lack of certain amenities the orphanage could do with. Among these are very basic things like first aid kits, mattresses and shoes/chappals for the children.

I’d like to make a very simple request here and invite donations to Sneha Sadan. If you can directly get in touch with them, the contact details are on the website. But if you would like to make a donation without doing that, I would encourage you to email me – jaymaniyar [at] gmail [dot] com. This way, I can personally discuss and share bank account numbers and other details. In case, you’d like me to contact you, please leave your email address in the comment below. A point of note here is that I invite donations starting from a minimum basic amount of Rs. 200. Of course, higher nominations would be more than welcome.

In general, any substantial donation or personal involvement in any form is invited. India is home to over 257 lakh orphaned children (Source: Wikipedia). It is, hence, worth imagining (and bewildering) just how many kids in this country go to sleep at night without that person(s) sitting by his/her bed with one hand caressing the little head or sing them a song like this one.

Thank you.

[Photo Credit: The PicSnapr]

Politics isn’t People

The funny story with many Indians is that some believe everything, and some don’t believe anything. So when you tend to stay away from an Indian state because of what political party is in running or what ‘kind’ of people live there, you are clearly in a demented state of mind and way more influenced by national media, conspiracy theorists and blood-hungry intellectuals than you ideally should be.

So, if you decide to stay away from a state because your mind perceives it to be ‘like something’, then you miss out on the fun. And pretty much, everything else. To make myself further clear, every Indian state has it’s people. And not every citizen is political, control-obsessed, killing, murdering, raping, corrupt etc. Many (or most) are kind and welcoming. More importantly, they have a culture to present to you. A culture that they are proud of, a culture that exists minus the politics of the state.

That said, yes, there are problems. No state is crime-free. There have been riots and people have died. It is such instances that we must have zero tolerance for, while actively considering all states as an integral part of the same country. For such instances, the state machinery must be empowered while preserving the connect that the state must have with all others of the country.

In short, politics doesn’t define people. People move on. People adopt the ideals of the Constitution far better than the power brokers do. And keeping that in mind, we must open ourselves up to visiting any state of India, and revelling in what it has to offer. And like most things in life, there’s always something good on offer.

If you can see it.

Verdict: Fear

With the Babri Masjid verdict all set to be announced by the Allahabad High Court on September 30th after a deferring by the Supreme Court from the original date of September 24th, India awaits the result with baited breath.

Yes? No. Not really. The issue, as has been pointed out numerous times, does not connect with a new India that is more focused on India’s economic improvements and genuine rise rather than sort out an age-old issue that, yes, did divide the country on communal lines back in the early 90s.

Now, a quiet majority of this country may be glad to put the past behind by hoping to accept any decision from the High Court. But what may have gone unnoticed is that India has already lost, as a whole. Look around you. Talk Babri and you are basically using a word that may be synonymous to ‘Fear’.

From Facebook statuses to Twitter talks, from SMSes to activists visiting houses to ask people to not venture out, it’s nothing more than game of fear. What purpose does any ‘important’ issue serve if the people primarily disconnected with the issue if you talk about India’s young, are driven back to their homes and asked to embrace fear over freedom?

There is so much fear of reactions from either sides of the Babri conflict, that the importance of the verdict seemingly pales in comparison. If sensitivity over historical issues perpetrates a mindset of continuing distress on the people of the country, then how respectable is that sensitivity? This is nothing more than ‘Feelings Terror’, one that may not necessarily be accompanied by violence but succeeds in generating enough panic in the mind and the heart.

There will only be victory if we can get over it.

Why India needs a Toilet Revolution

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Toilets.

Public toilets. Dog toilets. All toilets.

No matter how much ever you spit at them in disgust (err, figuratively I mean) or frown at the ridiculously dirty ‘sanitation centres’ that India has, you have to accept that you can’t ignore them. But of course, you can’t. And the only way you can ‘Like’ them is if they had a Facebook page of their own. Even then, maybe not.

The Commonwealth Games, set to begin anytime in Delhi, are a perfect example of our utterly disgusting toilet habits. And now the whole freaking world knows our flush systems work as well as Uday Chopra in a movie on Mahatma Gandhi. The entire planet knows our ‘superpower’ talk is nothing but the talk of how ‘superpowerful’ the smells in our toilets are. Mutually assured death and destruction.

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Even though we can serve good food, we offer no outlet to take out the rejected contents of that food. Once you enjoy your food, you will have a stray dog welcoming you while gladly taking a dump on the same bed you will be sleeping in. The Express rightly calls it Brown Terrorism. Although, there are a variety of colors. But I can sense you might just screw your computer with vomit on reading all this, so I shall stop.

What we need is a revolution. History speaks of the great independence movements, rebellions and uprisings that brought about change. But today, none of those may be particularly helpful when it comes to cleaner toilets and better hygiene. We need a Toilet Revolution. Change of habits, change of hygiene (for the better, of course), change of public health systems and pretty much a change of everything (including clothes with stains of excreta).

1. Flush!

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Do this one small little thing right. And defer infamy on this country, like how the good men handling the Babri Masjid case did. IF you have a toilet and IF it has a flush, then flush till all the contents are flushed.

2. Lift up the toilet seat

Lift the toilet seat. Simple. Lift after use. Lift. Like Bollywood actors lift the country’s consciousness by offering quality cinema. Okay, not like that. But life the toilet seat. If a dump is being taken on a railway track, then kindly do not misunderstand this advise and unshackle the track holders. This is only for toilet seats.

3. Avoid toilet humour

If you think physical toilets cause the maximum damage, then you must know that there is an entire section of toilet humour where spitting and shitting takes place in an area best left for more useful things. The brain.

4. Clear little potty bits

The next step to cleaner toilets is removal of all stains. Ensuring removal of all stains, you might say, is like an IPL event without Lalit Modi’s theatrics and Ravindra Jadeja’s batting. But this is a personal toilet where you need not gleefully smile at leaving behind stains for the next user, but removing them yourself. With water, of course.

5. Flush!

Again. Don’t forget. If you remember now that you haven’t flushed off the last use, kindly head back.

Let us bring change. Not of the type that MS Gill brings to India’s sports set-up or Shibu Soren brings to Beard Studies, though.

[If this post gave you the Ugh-Yuck feeling, then please feel free to let any consequent outrage out in the comments  section below, or on Twitter]

Let’s Just Do Our Job

Pakfloods 
Approximately 1,600 people are reported to be dead in the depressing floods that have ravaged Pakistan in the last couple of months [NYT – Flood disaster may require largest aid effort in modern history]. This speaks of a disaster of enormous magnitude and deserves sympathy and (more importantly) aid in all forms from national governments across the world.

Including India.

And India has rightly obliged. The Government of India had announced a $5mn aid package that Pakistan, shockingly, took a while to decide whether to accept or not. They have finally accepted the offer [Times of India – Pak accepts India flood aid offer], but are unlikely to issue visas to around 400 Indian medics to travel to the country and play a role in treating the millions affected and displaced by the floods. [Economic Times – Pak unlikely to issue visas to Indian doctors]

Now, we have several issues that directly damage us and that directly involve Pakistan. But this is not the time to talk about those issues, and instead offer as much help as possible to the Pakistani people. This is believed to earn India some goodwill and one would expect that it would blow the lid on the image of India that the ISI-Taliban-Army nexus tries to create every now and then, and make it persist in public discourse.

However, it would be wise of us to not get carried away. Public memory is usually short and it is unlikely that Pakistan’s civil society will ever have a ‘clean’ opinion on India. This is largely because the textbooks in their schools are agenda-based, an agenda that is directly anti-India.

There is also the possibility that since hardliner elements in Pakistan are always likely to blame India, even for natural disasters, opinion is always likely to end up divided [Times of India – Pak hardliners blame India, US for floods]. The fact that Pakistan failed to accept our offer of aid for so long, speaks of enough scepticism about India that exists in the neighbour.

My point is that we must just do what the human being in us calls for (offer maximum possible aid, doctors) and then resume normal service, once things stabilize. Expecting any drastic change in public opinion or even return-goodwill on the part of Pakistan in strongly dealing with various terrorist elements is unnecessary.

And unlikely.

Why NRIs Shouldn’t Vote

A Bill that allows non-resident Indians to vote in India’s general elections has been given clearance by the Union Cabinet and will be introduced in Parliament soon for approval. [Link]

My views on voting rights to non-resident Indians are simple and to put it straight up front – I think NRIs should not be allowed to vote. Voting, for starters, decides the course that ‘mainland’ India takes every 5 years. This also means that the lives of a billion-plus people depend directly on this foremost activity (and duty, actually).

So what is actually supposed to be an activity of deep significance, can end up as nothing but a symbolic expression of ‘love’ or ‘patriotism’ when NRIs get to vote. NRIs, it can be safely said, are ‘another country’. Yes, they are Indians.

But voting and deciding the governing leaders of a place they do not live in (or don’t intend to, in many cases, for the rest of their lives) is offering too much power, minus any responsibility or accountability. No matter how much NRIs argue in favour of voting in India, they will find it difficult to justify not being accountable in all aspects, be it benefitting or suffering from the peoples’ choice of leaders.

The basic point I attempt to make in this argument is that if you do not live in the place, then it is unwise of you to play a role in hugely significant activities like general elections. NRIs contribute to the growth and rise of India in several ways, and it would be of continual benefit to India if they continued to impact the mainland in their own noble ways, ways that directly contribute to the Indian economy.

Voting, like Bollywood movies or cricket matches, isn’t an area where the quintessential NRI can chest-thump his/her ‘love’ for India (feelings usually linked with traditions, culture and the usual Bollywood/cricket). Again, it can be said that this love is a mere impulse, a basic feeling. It may last for long, but it does not mean much.

If emotions were to decide national policy, then India will be known as a ‘goodwill-God’ (of course, complemented by the usual widespread poverty, unemployment, poor state of public health, corruption etc). But the job, fortunately, of the Government is to ensure the well-being and prosperity of all her people.

NRIs can make several differences, no matter how small. Remittances and investments are strong areas of contribution, as is tourism. Something as simple as talking positively about India to their foreign friends and encouraging them to visit the country can also go a long way. Fortunately, NRIs already do all this. And much more.

Voting, however, may not be a wise idea.

There’s Always Something You Can Do

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First of all, a very happy Independence Day to you.

It’s a dry day, I know. And that’s all that matters. Really. And a dry Sunday, at that. If you have cheekily stocked up on your booze, then more power to you. But all the expletives in the world can’t express your, otherwise, general frustration, can they?

Don’t worry. There’s always something you can do. To keep you busy on a boring Sunday without booze, da. Or on all such days.

1) Stone Kicking

The naughty folks (read ‘separatists’) in Kashmir believe in throwing stones at the Indian Army to keep them away from the streets of Srinagar and other cities and towns in the state. You, on the other hand, can kick stones. Yes, kick.

Areyyy, the ones that lie ‘harmlessly’ on public roads, the ones waiting to come into contact with the wheel of a vehicle and spring themselves at an innocent passer-by to hit him/her on the head. You can kick them away into the side, if you are crossing the road, or the road is empty.

2) Google Doodle!

Got a whole lot of free time to spare? Well, keep all your free time. Google wants just a few seconds of your time. The Google India website, every year, comes up with wonderful doodles that lead to mind-boggling admiration from Indians. And this year too, they are true to their promise.

Nothing wrong. Google’s doodles are something I’ve enjoyed all along. And you should too. Oh, once you are done taking a look at the doodle, you can obviously proceed to search for ‘Shakeela hot bath kiss’ or ‘Sherlyn nude’. Shakti Kapoor takes Google Doodles very seriously, you know. [Picture: Shakti Kapoor’s seriousness] [Picture courtesy: Greatbong]

3) View Independence Day-themed advertisements

One thing I enjoy doing on Independence Day is to take a look at how corporates have brilliantly placed the Indian tricolour very strategically in their ads.

Most ads would go like – ‘Proud to be an Indian. Wear Rupa Underwear & Banyan’ – making the viewer feel apologetic of not attaching with the cause. And the country. Even though you may be very (and rightly) attached with your currently used brand of innerwear.

For example, you could view The Times Of India’s website for starters. The wonderfully astute designers and editors at TOI are usually quick to vomit the three colours on their website as if to make you feel you are jumping into a swimming pool of Indianness. And drowning, of course.

4) Clean up the flags

It’s Independence Day. Time to flaunt the Indianness. I promise to buy an India flag, an India pin, an India cap, an India T-shirt and Uday Chopra jeans. Hey, there are no India jeans. Spare me, please. Except, I won’t really be buying all this.

But I promise I will clean the street. All these purchased flags that have slipped away from their owners, will of course lie on the streets of the same country they are a symbol of. So much for not keeping our cities clean, we tend to dirty our cities with our own flags.

Thank you for the love and patriotism you displayed when purchasing the damn thing, but I’d certainly not like seeing the tricolour on the road. In all seriousness.

Anyway, Independence Day be good to you and your family. Happy, also.

aarti
And please do remember – there’s always something you can do.

[Picture courtesy: Real Bollywood]