The Great Indian Political Circus

It’s a funny title; Russia is known for its circus, but Indian circus, one may have hardly heard about. Indian circus is not the circus that has skilled performers showcasing their talent in risky adventures, but is, in fact, Political circus . The trapezes, ring masters, clowns are not there as we see them in a normal circus. This circus continues throughout the year repeating itself every now and then 29 times (29 states), but the main and the most awaited show happens once every five years. Incidentally, the current year 2019 is the year when this gala show is slated to happen. This great Indian Political circus is Lok Sabha General Elections that happens every 5 years.

Why is such an important event that can make or mar the destiny of the nation is being called or compared to circus? Quite simply put, because it’s full of uncertainty (linked with risky adventure), surprise (anything that’s out of ordinary is surprising), action (there are animated election rallies and meetings, workers of political parties sometimes can go beyond sloganeering to fist cuffs and various acts by parties to catch the mindset of voters) and entertainment (there’s no dearth of it – there’s wit, humour, parodying, spoofing and what not!) and all the above combined makes it a real wholesome show like a Circus is!

Where else could leftists and Congress (enemies for decades with workers killing each other for years in West Bengal and Kerala) join hands against TMC, NCP, whose Sharad Pawar was responsible for sabotaging Sonia’s chances of becoming PM, remains integral part of NCP-Congress combine for more than a decade, BJP and Shiv Sena being part of the same Government sharing power yet pulling rug from under each other’s feet and Mayawati and Akhilesh coming together with the sole objective of keeping BJP at bay in UP and if such an adventure is not a circus, what else can you call it?

However, it’s up to us the voters to use our franchise with utmost discretion by rising above the narrow considerations of religion, caste, creed, factionalism, political prejudices to vote for the best, so that we can increasingly make our elections a serious and sincere affair, gradually reducing the above elements that make Indian Politics a circus!

My Father’s Favourite

My father was no music wizard, but he had an ear for music. He could identify ragas and was the main inspiration behind my mother taking up singing seriously and making a profession out of it.

He would dutifully tune to Radio Ceylon every morning to listen to old Hindi film songs that used to be broadcasted between 7.30 am and 8 am every day. Two of his favourite songs were – Jhoom jhoom ke gao aaj from Andaz and Gaaye ja Geet Milan ke from Mela- both sung by Mukesh and composed by Naushad. Ironically, after composing these evergreen ditties for Mukesh in late 40s or early 50s, Naushad did not work with Mukesh till they reunited in 1968 for Saathi. By that time, Naushad was well past his best. After early success with Sahgal, Talat and Mukesh, Naushad almost exclusively worked with Rafi during his prime, composing some gems but probably depriving music lovers from immortal melodies like my father’s favourites. On the contrary , the great Pancham hit high notes riding on Rafi’s magic in super hit Teesri Manzil, though later on he created most of the evergreen eternal magic with maverick Kishore Kumar. Naushad never worked with Kishore, like OP Nayyar never worked with Lata. It just leaves one’s heart craving, imagining how if these all time greats of yesteryears had combined more differently rather than sticking to their personal whims, egos and fancies, how many more songs that would have touched the chord of hearts of millions of simple music lovers like my father could have been created. Not that he didn’t like other songs – he used to wait for the 1st of every month not only for his salary but also to listen to Kishore’s all time favourite “Khush hai zamana aaj pahli tarikh hai” from the movie Pahli Tarikh, composed by elusive Sudhir Phadke that used to be broadcasted by Radio Ceylon on the first of each month. However, the magic of two Mukesh/Naushad ditties remained unmatched in his lifetime.

70th Republic Day

We Indians are extremely respectful and hygiene conscious inside our homes. Our food habits are rather stern requiring us to wash our hands and face before having a meal, if full bath (snanam) is not possible. We also offer prayers before touching the food. As regards elders, the system of touching feet to solicit blessings of our elders is an age old practice; and these elders could be anyone and not necessarily our parents and immediate elders! We have seen our mothers and wives cleaning homes (or supervising cleaning up by maid servant) on daily basis. To sum up, respectfulness and cleanliness are deeply ingrained in our ethos.

However, once out, a sudden transformation happens to us, which is inexplicable. We spit and urinate on the walls, throw waste on the roads, become road hogs while driving, get enraged if fellow driver even lightly scrapes our vehicle, talk and WhatsApp on our mobiles while driving or walking, show all our might while boarding or deboarding city bus or local train, dig our nose and scratch our privates in public etc.

That’s why the war cry from our PM for “Swachch Bharat” or “Clean India” appeared so relevant. Our cities are crowded and chaotic, green cover reducing at a menacing pace, air pollution much above the safe levels, rivers dirty and roads seeing an influx of vehicles month on month. Mumbai is declared free from open defecation, but the ground reality is different. Look at our platforms, government hospitals, public toilets even airports (look swanky, but clearly wilting under the weight of increasing traffic)… the muck runs deep.

Let’s not talk about population explosion. Let’s also not talk about Singapore and Dubai. We cannot worry about the things beyond our control, but should do our bit of contribution to the task of making India better, cleaner and greener. On the eve of 70th Republic Day, let’s take a pledge that entire country is our home and all that we do inside our homes- our acts as well as behaviour- we shall replicate in public. Jai Hind.

On this occasion, let me quote Republic Day greetings that I have received from Marvilla, the travel company launched by my old friend that reads:

Value Add

Competition is good for consumers because it adds more value to each rupee spent by them. Even if the gain is not in value terms, it definitely adds to the service level and experience. It started with consumer goods, then automobiles, banking and currently there is hardly any sector that sees monopoly of a single player or cartelisation between two or three players.

On our visits abroad, we used to wonder at super giant stores like Walmart, Carrefour, Mustafa, Lulus etc, the range offered by these stores and the sheer shopping experience. We had our own Super Bazaars, Apna Bazaars, Akbarally’s etc, albeit on a much smaller scale. However, with the World shrinking, India also hasn’t remain untouched by this phenomenon and what started as Big Bazar format has soon expanded into a host of chains having multiple stores. More, D’mart, Star Bazar, Reliance Fresh have all quickly mushroomed and have rapidly captured the consumer’s mindset.

The above has impacted the sales of neighbourhood grocery, General and provision stores. People go to D’mart that guarantees minimum 7% mark down on MRP, gives customer advantage to choose amongst the competing brands, showcases special offers, accepts payment through debit and credit cards and provides pleasant shopping experience in cool and spacious air conditioned comfort. D’mart has also come closer to customers by opening D’mart Ready in every nook and corner, where customers can go and place order and collect their merchandise later.

As if this was not enough, the neighbourhood grocer has experienced onslaught from e-commerce platform. People, who have busy routines and can’t visit hyper stores can now procure the things of daily requirement online from the likes of Amazon, Flipkart and Grofers. This could be the final nail in the coffin of local retailer.

But why should we feel the pain for him? What value is he adding to the commodity we buy from him or experience that we have of dealing with him. He charges MRP (when local taxes were extra, he would religiously include the same without issuing any receipt, meaning without ever paying it) , gets irritated if you ask him for competing products to select the best deal, tries to push expired goods, has goods stacked all over in not too clean environs, doesn’t accept card or online payment, does not dress up smartly, behaves indifferently and demands change for smaller payment! It’s high time these retailers do a quick upskilling in retailing and marketing and start adding value to their proposition. Keep price list of competing goods handy for customer to choose, recommend lucrative deals to earn trust, don’t treat MRP as the minimum retail price, start accepting credit and debit cards, put up a pleasant persona before customers and discard inferior/perished goods even if it means loss on those materials, is my unsolicited advice to these shopkeepers, lest they are going to be rendered redundant sooner than expected.

In today’s milieu, when people have all information available to them on touch of a button and are spoilt for choices, only those who provide value add shall survive, others will simply be obliterated.

Mahagathbandhan

Mamta played the perfect host to the leaders of Mahagathbandhan and the seeds for the downfall of Modi Government is said to have been sown in Kolkata. However, strange is the mathematics that Mahagathbandhan seems to be relying upon for electoral supremacy over now almost alone BJP. In UP, Maya and Akhilesh have divided equal number of seats between themselves, leaving zero for congress and the grand old party has already cleared its intention of fighting alone for all the seats in UP. Mamta cannot see eye to eye with Left parties and collaboration between Left and Congress in the last state elections in WB proved to be a disaster. TRS and BJD have already cleared their intentions of not joining Mahagathbandhan and in fact, TRS will oppose TDP tooth and nail in Andhra in Lok Sabha elections. Karnataka is in serious disorder and Tamil Nadu is in political chaos. The enmity and equation of WB will replicate itself in Kerala. In spite of long anti incumbency, Rajasthan and MP elections were closely fought and electorate can be expected to vote differently in Lok Sabha elections. Congress is already wiped out of North East.

Delhi will back BJP and Maharashtra will not overlook great work done by Devendra Fadnavis. Gujarat will surely back Modi for one more term at Centre.

Mahagathbandhan must get its calculations right if it intends to offer a serious opposition to Modi’s return to power. By flaunting ineffective turncoats like Shatrughan Sinha in its midst, Mahagathbandhan may end up becoming a laughing stock rather than a serious bidder for power at Centre. The beginning made at Kolkata seems to be only adding to the invincibility of Modi.

Wait or Wait For?

Bhagvad Gita, the Supreme book that encompasses all the learning for peaceful and meaningful existence of mankind has one unique shloka that demystifies the entire objective of existence. It reads:

Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani

A man should just keep on performing his duties without worrying about the outcome of his actions. This was preached to Arjuna by Lord Krishna, who was acting as Arjuna’s charioteer and when Arjuna was facing moral dilemma in killing his near and dear .

A very fine interpretation of the above verse that I came across the other day gave me the fodder for writing this blog. It said, “There is a subtle difference between ‘waiting’ and ‘waiting for’ and in that lies the difference between ‘peaceful progress’ and ‘stressful success. Have you performed the actions that are to be performed…have you done what can be done by you…now wait…. just wait….not ‘for’ this or that or anything, but just wait…. In it, you will discover the key to peaceful progress. ‘Waiting for’ also brings in success, but all that success is too stressful.”

Isn’t the above so very relevant in today’s context when the sole objective of all our actions is for material gain – bigger home, bigger car, more expensive watch and higher status? We do get success but we also build so much stress in our lives that we hardly enjoy the success.

The above was reinforced today when we watched twin daughters of our friend performing Bharat Natyam for the first time on stage. Their Guru said that it was very courageous of some parents to send their children for learning dance form because the only goal to be achieved was the self realisation by the children by learning the dance form and nothing else, while the objective of most parents these days was to see their children securing merits , going to the best colleges and earning 6 figures salary. Some parents just wait to see their children becoming virtuous while some others wait for their children attaining success!

Let’s perform our actions selflessly and just wait rather than wait for the outcome of actions! Relevance of Bhagvad Gita in our day to day existence shall never diminish.

Is Vistara the new thing

After yesterday’s blog on Jet and its decline, a blog on Vistara probably becomes a natural corollary. First of all, it’s got something to do with the credentials of its promoters – Tatas and Singapore Airlines – one, the most respected business house of the country and second, the most respected international carrier. You can hardly ask for a better parentage!

However , it’s start till now has been rather sluggish. It has a restricted fleet size operating mainly on trunk routes between major cities. Therefore, it offers limited flight options. Tatas, who have long-standing experience in aviation (remember Tata Airlines, the predecessor of Air India), looked confused about going whole hog on their re-entry into the sector. There was the news of their partnering Wadias in Go Air, then their interest in Air India and recently in Jet meant somewhere they look at inorganic growth rather than systematically developing Vistara. Also, their concurrent partnership with Tony Fernandes’s Air Asia for Indian operations of Air Asia only adds to the confusion.

Notwithstanding the above, while I have been avoiding Vistara in favour of Air India and Jet for the greed of accumulating their frequent flyer points, the current state of both these airlines is forcing me to seriously look at Vistara and hence today’s return flight to Mumbai was Vistara and not Jet. Jet’s flight was delayed and expectedly served horrible meal. Here the flight was ready ahead of time with very pretty, polite and smart hostesses, spic and span aircraft, filled to the capacity, offered superb meal and in all, provided everything and more that Jet of yore offered. With Tatas and Singapore Airlines helming this, aircraft’s and inflight Service can be expected to be well maintained, losses will not dent the pocket and fleet and coverage will only grow!

Welcome to the new flying experience- welcome Vistara!