A Victory and A Small Step for the People of India

The Parliament of India finally managed to come together to acknowledge that it was expected to emergently address the issue of corruption in governance. It took 12 days of protest fasts across the nation, led by 74-year-old Anna Hazare, to achieve this. 27th August, 2011 will be remembered as the day when governmental arrogance and indifference had to bow to the power of the people, with the Parliament accepting that the "sense of the house" was that all the demands of the civil society's movement against corruption be met.

As I publish this post, Anna Hazare is breaking his fast, after being arrested for wanting to protest 12 days days, being sent to jail, and being accused of being steeped in corruption himself by official spokespersons of the Congress. The nonstop media coverage also helped expose the resistance that the political system had to a bill that would address governmental corruption. It was amusing to hear them voice their protest against the citizens' movement, sounding hollow and scared. It was amusing to see security personnel trying to stifle a protestor shouting slogans in support of the national pride in the Parliament compound. This is probably the most scathing indictment of the system's insensitivity, to have themselves shown on prime time television prosecuting a person who is voicing his devotion to the nation.

It is easy to focus on what is wrong with our system, but this victory is proof that the people have in them the wisdom and the tenacity to bring about change. It was a pleasant surprise, almost mystic in nature, to see the parliamentarians come together to agree on the people's demand. What remains to be seen is how this will translate to real action against corruption, and how this movement will be taken forward to include corporate corruption.

The biggest achievement of this movement that I can tangibly see is the difference it has made to the mindset of the people. Society has begun to reflect on its role in the dynamics of corruption. Issues such as dowry, baksheesh, speed money, falsification of property valuation, donations for admission are being looked at afresh, instead of being taken for granted as par for the course. The youth, who have not yet begun to play a role in public life, have started questioning the principles by which they are expected to live. The elderly, who had resigned themselves to the loss of values in public life, have suddenly started standing up and voicing their beliefs, in the certainty that there is hope for the future.

For the half a million people in Delhi, and the several millions of people across the nation who actively participated in this protest, this is a first step towards a human revolution of the utmost importance. Today, I am even more proud to be an Indian.

Truncus Arteriosus

truncus arteriosus

My governance is compromised.
I really must go.

There is a gaping hole,
an unbridgeable chasm
Between the left and the right.
Between love’s labor
And rewards.
What can a people do?

Fresh blood gets confused
As it stands at the door.
The gateway to good
The gateway to the not good
Appear as one.

For one in a million
In truth,
They are one.

Bugs in the ministry.
Riches not mine.
I really must go.

There is no choosing.
No blood to be shed.
No bonds that are any good.

Sworn to my mission
Struggling to breath darkness
Watching helplessly
Blue blood mix with red,
Starving cells of will
Ending their war
To find a clawhold in the dawn
of a life that will never begin.

I really must go.
There is no choosing.
My governance is compromised.

How To Turn Your Adversities Into Your Greatest Strength

Life's adversities are your greatest strength. 

True - this is not a saying you can identify with when you are getting the thick end of the stick every time you pick one up, yet, this simple maxim is what differentiates true success from the pseudo ones that stand tall only to crumble as life works away at the foundations built on vanity and self obsession. The secret trick here lies in being able to learn to not just swallow one's pride but to be able to turn it into good medicine. I was fortunate to have the opportunity of learning this recently.

Upper Fagu leaves steeping in just boiled water, transmitting their wisdom and strength
When Mr. Han in Karate Kid says, Life will knock us down, but we can choose whether or not to stand back up, there is a lesson for each one of us to learn. I have been having a month of anniversaries this month, almost all of them of knock-me-down type of events. The universe has its own peculiar sense of irony, and it teaches you those lessons best (and hardest) that you need to learn the most. The greatest downfall of man (and woman) comes from arrogance, from taking one's gifts for granted, and from believing that one is above the law of cause and effect.

A quick background.

It is a mere five months since I ventured into creating a life different from the one I have lived so far, a life centered around using my gifts of creativity - writing, painting, and teaching - to generate value for myself and others. It has not been easy, since I have been dulled into the securities and complacence that came from my earlier way of living. I set out with determination, focusing my attention on my goal, crafting my work with all my energy, refining my communication, testing my presentation and my content over and over. For someone attempting to make a fresh start at this point in my life, I was satisfied with the halting progress and acceptance that accrued from my efforts. With an unenviable set of challenges facing me, I was perhaps sufficiently distracted to be disappointed.

In the last week, however, I was faced with criticism that I was not prepared for. An editor who had been discussing a guest article by me refused to publish my submissions on the grounds that my sentence construction was not up to the mark, and that my grammar was poor. My first reaction, just like if you've been told that you have a terminal illness, was to laugh. I am quite aware of my poor sentence construction, since I myself am often challenged to figure out what I was trying to say when I come back and read something I wrote some months back. And grammar is what keeps language on a steady course to extinction, in my opinion. All of a sudden, the struggles of the last six years paled into insignificance. To me, with my confidence in my writing skills, this was worse than dowry, divorce or death. Life had not just knocked me down, but knocked me down with the kind of penlight that CSI agents enter dark houses with.

However, as the truth of the situation set in, I asked myself how I could stand back up. On one hand, I felt defeated and useless, and on the other, I felt justifiable anger at not having been understood and appreciated. I spent a day in the doldrums, and the next in deeper doldrums. On the third day, I woke up and made a resolution to use this experience as a springboard for greater success. This post is to share with you how I was able to turn my adversity into my strength.

My first step to stand back up was to take a reality check.

I first went back and looked at my submission. True to my style, it was full of sentences that meandered painfully between adverbial clauses and double negatives. I also used far too many words to express ideas that could have been expressed in half the number of words. Looking at the articles this editor typically hosted, I noticed there was never a variance from the tested blog-post kind of formula, a tight 150 word opening, a bullet-pointed development, and a closure that tied into the key points of the intro. Economy of the highest order. There was no way I could deny that I had been negligent of what was expected of me by the general reading public to whom my personal style was of no inherent value.

My next step was to reset my goals.

I read back on every instance I could find of tortuous sentences and verbiosity. I subjected each instance to the test of whether I could have presented it more effectively, simply, and in fewer words. In some instances, I indeed could have, though it would have made me sound more like a personal development blogger trying to build a silo of lookalike content. I asked myself if I was ready to adapt to the conventions that everyone was expected to adhere to? Was I willing to sacrifice my voice for the sake of readership? Was I ready to say more in less number of words to accommodate the attention span of the nexting generation? What I realized at the end of this searching and fearless writing style audit was that, in order to reach out to a larger readership, I needed to find a balance between my voice, and the reading trends of the present day. I also realized that if I were to abandon my voice, I would not really be able to say what I had to say with the same intensity and conviction.

I decided to mentally segregate the act of writing into two streams,
1. a stream where I would need to train myself to toe the line of attention-deficit reading without losing my voice, and
2. the other where I would need to continuously enrich my style without diluting substance.

My third and last step was to put it into action.

I rewrote by submission in the light of my fresh determination. I allowed contemporary reading trends to hold the rudder of my boat while I let my style make the ride a richer one. I went back and proofread what I wrote, taking care to prune down wherever I could without making myself sound like Sylvester Stallone. I tested every sentence as if I were editing someone else's writing. Once I was satisfied, I brewed myself another cup of Upper Fagu second flush from last year (see picture of it brewing above), and sat and watched the pigeons squabble over who gets to strut their mojo first. Then I went back to my submission and repeated the process all over again. At the end of this second redrafting, I was left with a piece that sounded just like me, and would interest all  readers with adversities seeking to turn them into strengths. I finished my tea and hit the publish button. And you have just finished reading it now!

Anna Hazare and his team arrested for protesting against corruption

One of the darkest days in the history of Indian democracy. Anna Hazare and other leaders of the India Against Corruption have been formally arrested as they began their day preparing to protest against the government's refusal to put up their views on the Lokpal Bill for debate in parliament.

The arrests took place early in the morning, with plainclothesmen turning up at Anna Hazare's residence and detaining him, without detention orders or giving any reason. He and other leaders of the people's movement against corruption were taken to the Officers Mess at Civil Lines, where they were formally arrested.

For a quick overview of the background to this historic development, do look up this post on I Blog For A Cause.

With ordinary citizens coming out on the streets in all major cities and towns of India and even abroad in protest against the government's crackdown on the anti-corruption movement, this day might well change the political future of our nation.
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