Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Are we all corrupt?

 I have been  pondering over this much talked about topic of corruption, trying to find  out the root cause for corruption in our society.  I find that a man’s greed, impatience  and his unwillingness to follow rules of thland helps corruption to spread like cancer. Besides corruption in our country is a part of our culture. It startswith our system of `bribing` the God to get what we want. For the last 42 years I have been offering the elephant God (Vinayaka) 108 coconuts whenever I am facing a crisis or before I get involved in a major project.

 Each one of us in our own small ways is contributing  to corruption. Let me explain. Take the simple case of a traffic offence.  While your vehicle is stopped by a traffic constable for some offence and he tells you that if he books the case against you and  you have to go to the court,  you will end up paying `X` amount; but if you agree to pay him `X` minus `Y`amount on the spot  he will let you go, without registering the case. What do you do? Most of us  would obviously take the second alternative because it is hassle free and costs less. The cop is happy and you are happy because you have no time to waste! You have inadvertently contributed your bit to corruption.

Similar thing happens when a person applies for a driving license or goes to a Registrar`s office for registering some document, or when Corporates have to close any kind of tax related issues  be it income tax,, sales or service tax. The list is endless. To escape the harassment  and accompanying waste of time, people  agree to pay the bribe demanded by the officers concerned, albeit after some negotiations.  Even if our  books are in perfect order and as per the rules; we  have no patience to fight the system because of the hassles involved.  We are in a hurry to get over a problem fast , at any cost!

 It is this inherent unwillingness of the public to fight the unreliable system and the delay in meting out severe punishments to those who indulge in corrupt acts,  which  is  the  cause  for all types of corruption.

Ultimately the giver of a bribe is as guilty as the receiver when we talk about corruption. It is wishful thinking to believe that `Lokpal Bills` or enactment of Laws will eradicate corruption. As I said earlier, as long as  a human being wants to cut corners or break rules to achieve his goals, there will be corruption. Indians by and large  do not consider giving or taking bribes a great sin!

While I have followed the `No give No Take ` policy in doing business, I must confess that I am equally guilty of going with the system when it comes to a simple traffic offence, which I seem to commit more often these days because of old age. And even today, as a faithful Indian(!) I continue to bribe my `Gods` seeking special favours!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Introductions- The Madhu Model

 A Lifelong journalist and editor who has made the introduction of speakers into an art- S.R.Madhu has atlast come out with his first book. Titled `Windows to the World`, it has a selection of his famous circulars about the speakers at the weekly meetings of Rotary Club of Madras South (RCMS) . He has been organising these meetings  for the last 18years  as the Club`s Programme committee chairman and enticing members and their guests with the circular.
While Madhu is famous for his introduction of speakers, I had the privilege of introducing Madhu to RCMS twenty years ago. I have had a ringside view of the tremendous time & efforts he puts in to identify a good speaker, gets their biodata and talks to them about the topic to be covered, does his own reasearch on the topic before he shoots of a circular to the members  each of which is a master piece in effective communication. Since a copy of these circulars also go to the speakers, it is not uncommon for many speakers to start their talk with a  note of thanks to Madhu for the  introduction but also complain in jest  that Madhu has stolen the thunder out of their talk by covering several points from their presentation in the circulars.
While many Clubs complain about their inability to get good speakers, Madhu believes that “there is no dearth of good speakers in Chennai. This is a happening metro, it`s an intellectual capital, a film capital, a music capital. It has businessmen, economists,  entrepreneurs, scientists lawyers, sportsmen, writers,  singers,   & dancers. It is a vibrant city politically, economically , socially. It has scores of achievers young & old. It has a little army of former IAS officers,  plus thousands of youth with stars in their eyes and fire in the belly. Besides most of Chennai-ites are loquacious and they love to talk”
No wonder Madhu has been able to get excellent speakers week after week to address the Club.
Madhu`s book was first unveiled at an Installation meeting of Rotary Club of Madras South at which Natarajan Nagoji, a member of the RCMS was installed as the District Governor. Madhu credits Nagoji for motivating him to come out with the book. The book is an excellent reference book not only for Rotary and other Clubs who are looking for good  speakers but is also in a way a mini directory of `whose who` in Chennai.
To give you an idea about the contents of the circulars let me give you a couple of  excerpts from the book.
About Sandeep Narayan:
“ Sandeep is as fluent and mellifluous a speaker as he is a singer. The American upbringing is obvious but the emotional content is Indian- nay Tamil!. The Indian influence on Sandeep was enriched last year when he married Radhe, a beautiful Bharata Natyam dancer and daughter of Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev. Story-telling, public speaking, music. Sandeep excels in all three. Good reason for you to dump other priorities on Tuesday and listen to Sandeep Narayan”
About Dr.Anurdha Uberoi who gave a talk on Punjabis in Chennai;
`And Punjabis? Vibrant, Boisterous. Loud. They work hard, play hard, sing with zest and dance  with energy. They live  life king-size. The women? svelte, smart, slim ( till they get married), milk and roses complexion, articulate. They exude confidence & charm. Kushwant Singh put it better,” Punjab is known for lusty men and busty women`
Anuradha thinks that Chennai-ites are bit distant and reserved compared to the folks back at home. Make sure to give her a warm welcome.”
About Srikala Varma who spoke on `Know Your eyes`;
“You would not associate royalty with Opthalmology. And not Bharata Natyam training either. But Srikala is no common princes. You will agree when you meet and listen to her.”
As N.Ram says in his Foreword, `the book is a continuing essay in the science and art of communication`.
A Post Graduate diploma Holder in Journalism with a Gold medal from Rajendra Prasad College of Mass Communication , Mumbai, Madhu started his career with Times of India, Mumbai in 1964. After spending 15 years in mainstream journalism with TOI and American embassy in Mumbai & Delhi as deputy managing  editor of the SPAN  magazine, he switched over to development journalism when he joined the `Bay of Bengal` project of FAO- United Nations in India dealing with fisheries. As the International Information Officer of the project he wrote,  edited and produced scores of reports, books, brochures and video films , creating a new benchmark in U.N. field journalism.
It has taken over 50 years for Madhu to come out with his first book. “ a book that gives an idea of the abundance and variety of the talents active in Chennai. A book that is  also a tribute to Chennai”. I am glad to learn that he has a couple of more books in the pipeline.

The above  article has appeared in the Madras Musings issue dt. 16-31,2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

Religion and Children

Media is full of stories about `Honour Killings` of boys and girls of different castes and religions to protect the reputation of the families involved. The heinous crimes are committed not by outsiders but by the near and dear ones of the victims; mostly belonging to lower or middle income  families.  On the other hand inter religious/caste marriages are quite common in the upper strata of society, especially  among boys and girls  going abroad for studies and finding their life partners from other religions and countries across the world; and the parents have no choice but to grin and bear it.
I know of a friend, an orthodox and conservative Tam Brahm, who told his daughter when she was going abroad for further studies, not to get trapped in a marriage with boys from other religions.  ` Please ensure that you only marry a Hindu` he told her. The girl in due course not only came out with flying colours in whatever course she was pursuing but also fell  madly in love with a Pakistani Muslim and wanted to marry him. My friend was devastated, but considering the intensity of love of his daughter and looking at her future happiness, he reluctantly agreed to the match. He consoled himself when he met his friends saying that `After all marriages are made in Heaven. `
My question is what happens to the children born out of such inter-religious marriages - Hindu & Christian, Christian & Muslim or Hindu & Muslim? Which religion will the children follow?  Father`s or Mother`s? It is a difficult choice to make for the children. While many take the easy route of following both religions to keep both parents happy I know of a case where the children made a conscious and well considered decision.
  A boy and a girl born to a South Indian Christian father and Tam-Brahm mother were exposed to both  churches  and temples in their growing years.  The Pooja room in their house had a corner devoted to the picture of Christ and Mother Mary and another corner where scores of pictures of several Hindu Gods were on display. The  parents did not force any one religion on their children. When the children came of age , the father asked them which religion they would like to choose.  The daughter responded that she  preferred  the church to  a temple because the churches were so clean whereas  temples in most places  are dirty and don`t even have toilets! The son preferred to remain agnostic.
I also know of cases where parents try to impose their will on the children confusing them in the process. Many intelligent children however, have their own take on the subject. They say, ` I don`t believe in any religion. I believe in the Supreme Being that controls the Universe. It has no shape or form.  I believe in my conscience and myself`
After all isn`t that what every religion teaches - Look for God within You. Aham Brahmasmi!

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