Intuitive Mind, A Friend or Foe

Intuition is a strange feeling. It has a way of predicting outcome of events that has not actually happened. Inspite of best preparation, on occasions we feel things are not going to go well. At other times we feel an air of cool confidence. I do not know. Is this intuition or gut feeling? Is this true feeling, how can I separate false signal from the right one?
Like most students of Pharmaceutical Sciences, I also dreaded mathematics. As luck would have it, calculus and statistics was a compulsory paper in first year undergraduate course of Pharmacy. The year I appeared in my examination, mathematics paper was particularly tough. Many students claimed that they would not make it to next grade without appearing in the mathematics exam again. On top of that, I had on my own had managed to do poorly in a few additional examinations. On one particular Saturday morning many of us gathered in our college to glean some information about potential outcome of first year examination. Some enterprising student announced that based on his reliable information only eight students out a total of thirty had passed, and all the rest have to appear in retest in one subject or more.
I returned home despondent. Although I anticipated such an outcome may happen, but reality was beginning to sink in. What am I to say to my parents? Especially so knowing how much difficulty they are bearing for my education. What will our friends, relatives and neighbors say? I had no answer. I was thinking all these dire consequences and listening to cricket commentary of a match being played between India and England. Like my predicament, Indian team was also not doing very well. In the swinging condition of England, English bowlers were tormenting Indian batsmen. Suddenly something happened. A voice inside me announced that even if a single student passes in the first year exam, that will be me. I do not know where this came from. But it was very soothing and peaceful. For rest of the weekend, worry of examination result did not bother me. Monday morning, I was walking from nearest bus stand to my college with a friend. We were talking sports. Once we reached  college gate, my friend came out and announced “you have passed”. It was true that year many students had to undertake mathematics examination again. Some students had to take examinations for other subjects as well. Strangely, I had passed, albeit, borderline in atleast one subject. That could have gone either way. I had no way of knowing this before hand. But for the inner voice in my head. What should I call it, my intuition or gods gift?
I have had similar experiences several times in my life. I was looking for a good graduate school after my post graduate degree in India. A good school means that gives you fellowship, yet does not insist on GRE score. My friends had applied to scores of schools in US. I went for only one school, I was pretty certain that I shall be there. The school was University of British Columbia. Somehow, I had a feeling, this is the school for me. I was rejected in my first attempt. However, six months later, University came back stating they had funding to support me.
Midway through my PhD research, one evening I was sitting at the common room. One scientist described how Adirondack mountains change their color in fall. Adirondacks are close to Ottawa. I had a feeling I shall be there. Lo and behold, I got an opportunity to work at the University of Ottawa.
Before cricket match with Australia, during Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath era, many a times before a match had actually a started, I could sense Indian team has already lost. If you look back now, in those times India had lost many crucial matches to Australia. Is this my inferiority complex, my lack of faith in Indian team or exaggerated belief in Australian superiority? On the other hand, I was pretty certain in my mind that Indian team was going to win T20 world cup and Champions trophy. While India seem to be playing well in Champions trophy, T20 world cup was no way to predict. First, India was playing for the first time. It was sporting a new team, new caption and in a tough group.
I cannot explain these experiences. May be these are just co-incidences. But I keep looking for signals before major events. Many a time I get omen of impending failure. Such times are difficult and testing. One has to keep on trying without giving up, but in the back of your mind there is a feeling something amiss At times in my over eagerness to turn a situation in my favor, I misread signals. However, a true signal one can never miss. It gives a confidence, calmness and a faith that nothing can go wrong. It is upto us how we use such experiences. I consider it to be a friend.

New Delhi Railway Station, World Class!

India is a country, where taxpayers do not have much say on how their tax money is being spent. Our tax is forcefully deducted from our salary at the end of every month. Our political leaders and bureaucrats do not assume that they should be accountable to us common public about amenities and conveniences they create for us.


Last evening I was at the New Delhi railway station. New Delhi station is expected to be a modern railway station. Recently, it has undergone facelift with a lot of public money. Besides, New Delhi, a city that hosted commonwealth games two years before, was touted to become a modern world class city. Sadly, however, none of the dreams and expectations came through.



In order to discourage sundry visitors, railways stopped selling platform tickets. What a funny idea! Enterprising visitors, like my driver, buy ticket for next station from New Delhi and gain entry. This ticket is cheaper or at best equal price to platform ticket. Even if one does not have a platform ticket entry into railway platform is no bar for anyone.  No one checks platform tickets. It is a free for all. For honest and genuine, who wants to buy a platform ticket, a long queue awaits. In the end, you may get a ticket but people, whom you came to see off, their train has already left station. I cannot understand, in this day and age, why automatic ticket vending machines cannot be installed at different entry points and in the platform itself. To avoid entry of unscrupulous visitors, why checking of platform ticket not be enforced?

 

After you have managed to buy a platform ticket, one has to go through a security check. Another joke! Unlike airport, railways experience much bigger footfall. Yet, unlike airport,  New Delhi railway station has only four screening machines. Disinterested security personnel look at each baggae with such indifference, that it probably does not matter. In the VIP parking area of New Delhi railway station, that opens in platform 16, there is no personnel to check if some one is avoiding x-ray check of their luggage. I saw a few people doing just that.


Once done with security check, one is faced with the daunting task of climbing overbridge. A modern station should have escalator or elevator. New Delhi has none. Even if it has, it is in select locations, I could not find one. Travelling with aging and infirm is a nightmare. There is no easy and userfriendly way to locate wheel chairs or mechanized buggies. What common and less resourceful people like me is likely to expect is being duped by porters who charge exorbitant price and time to move passengers. Is it too much to put several wheelchairs and / or buggies for ferrying people that cannot go up medieval era overpass?


Waiting on the platform is another unbearable experience. The track below is filled with human waste and sundry other garbage. Stench is overwhelming. Sadly and strangely, passengers are sitting on the platform and enjoying their meal. Is it an expression of helplessness, or total surrender to ones fate or being inured of ones sorroundings? It is true, railways advice travellers not to use washrooms when train is stationary. However, there is no enforcement. In the absence of railways ability and willingness to enforce cleanliness, can they not employ technology like modern toilets equipped in airplane or even in long distance Volvo bus? Can railways not employ people to maintain cleanliness of stations and tracks round the clock?




I am fascinated by railway station and railway journeys. It reflects life. Railway stations are microcosm of India. All kind of people, one objective that is moving from one place to other. Is expecting a clean usefriendly experience and journey too much to expect from our administrators? Most of the time, railway ministers are concerned about poor and do not want to raise fare. Has anyone asked if poor people really love to travel in the condition our railways dishout whether on board a train or on the platform? A point to be noted, between Delhi and Kolkata, there are two Duronto and two Rajdhani express trains, all superfast trains. Yet there is no glut of ticket booking. All trains are booked nearly three months in advanced.


Why crib about railways, when general administrative and governance apathy is seen all over our public services. Our cities get waterlogged. Our airport and metro stations get flooded. Traffic jams throw general public life out of gear. Traffic lights, even 60 years post independence are dysfunctional at normal times, stop functioning. Roads develop potholes creating hazard for humans and vehicles alike. Our children get poisoned food, in the name of mid day meal. Same state of apathy and mismanagement goes on year on year without any accountability.


India needs to seriously decide, does it want a strong administration and strong governance. It is not that India cannot be administered. There are pockets of excellence. A typical case is Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. Same Indians that spoil and soil Indian Railways, use Delhi Metro with care, reasonable care. If our leaders / administrators / managers without playing politics of poverty, show us a glimpse of an alternative that is clean, efficient and reliable people are bound to respect it.



Narendra Modi & the Art of Straight Talk




A storm in the teacup was created as a result of an interview of Shri Narendra Modi given to Reuters. In the interview, when asked if  Narendra Modi felt any sadness for Gujarat riots. Mr. Modi responded, if one feels saddened if a puppy, read “Kutte ka Baccha” in Hindi, is crushed under ones wheel, we are talking about loss of human lives in riot. As a human being, whether one is chief minister or not, one feels bad. Without looking at the essence of interview, it became an important news that Narendra Modi, a Hindu chauvanist, has compared muslims puppy. If one reads the interview, this conclusion one can arrive only if the person is stretching his imagination too far, literally way too far. The statement of Narendra Modi on “Kutte ke Bacche” is no way a reference to Muslims. It is an allusion to a situation where if someone feels sad about inadvertent death of a puppy, why would he not feel bad about loss of human lives. 

Mr. Modi was also asked if he was a Hindu Nationalist. Mr. Modi responded, he is a Hindu by birth. He loves his nation as a patriot. So he can be called a Hindu Nationalist. This statement was twisted to claim Mr. Modi is coming out as a communal person who is pro Hindu. However, Mr. Modi has given several positive speeches. One was addressed to students of Fergusson college Pune. However, no one discusses this speech of Mr. Modi or the one given to students of Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi.



Admittedly, Mr. Modi should have been adviced to use milder analogy, given the surcharged political atmosphere.  It appears that BJP is suffering from foot in mouth disease. If they have a deeper strategy, that is yet to unravel.
From the all out criticism of statements that have been twisted and turned on their head by congress, her allies and other parties indicate how much they worry about Narendra Modi. Is it his plainspeak of real issues that reaches audience like an arrow? Is it his no nonsense attitude like “Khaounga bhi nahi aur khane bhi nahi doonga”, I shall not be bribed, I shall not let others accept bribe, shakes up our regular politicians. After all, if you do not steal a few hundred crores of public money, why join politics. Since independence such mollycoddling of corrupt and corruption is going on in the name of people, in the name of coalition politics, in the name of governance.
Congress spin doctors have been trying to link Muslims to the statement, with the hope, may be realistic hope, that muslims will vote for Congress. It is important to note that muslims have understood the game plan of their secular backers. In last sixty years or more, plight of muslims have not improved with numerous doles and reservations. Ideally, people from minority community and backward castes should have become most powerful if the idea of reservation, free food, etc is taken at face value. However, one must see through the game plan. It is one thing to announce a program and other to make it successful. It is time muslims understood this and vote for party that creates a system that is uniform for all Indians and gives equal oppurtunity to grow. 
It is not at all surprising that anti Modi sensational news are appearing before election. Some handed over to oponents by BJP spin doctors, others by adroit manipulation of state machinery and NGOs by congress. It is certain, congress have a better strategy to divert attention from poor governance, corruption, inflation and sagging economy , compared to BJP.

Education Must Stimulate Original Thinking

Education system in India has become a epicentre of rote learning. Everything that can go wrong with our education system has gone wrong. Students do not ask critical questions. Teachers do not teach how to think. Cutoff limits in centres of higher learning starts and ends at 100%. Students score hundred percent even in literature.
In this context Angad Nadkarni hits the nail on the head when he said education system must stimulate students to think. Angad is a hacker. He has created an APP called Examify. The whole effort represents an enterpreneural spirit an ability to solve complex problems, along with a “Can do” attitude.
Stature of a nation depends on quality of thinkers it produces. India has many problems. Employing her predominantly young population is a daunting task for countries policy makers. Unemployment problem of India cannot be solved by public sector. Even private sector cannot absorb all the aspiring candidates. Self employment and enterpreneural skills are very important to inculcate in our education system. Individual or groups of individuals, that are free thinkers, should take up problems related to multitude of problems facing India, and move on to solve them. Then, and only then, India can be called a superpower.
Another important aspect of Angad’s presentation is ability to see pattern in regular events. Such skills can be used to tap environmental pattern, rain fall, climate change etc. Right prediction may help our farmers in sowing seeds at right time when it may likely to rain.
Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

Ishrat Jahan, Unfortunate Victim or Political Ammunition on Election Eve

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In June 2004, four people, that included an eighteen year old girl named Ishrat Jahan, were shot and killed by Gujarat Police based on input from Intelligence Bureau (IB). It was claimed that these people were planning to carry out terror attack in Gujarat. Their plan, it was said, included killing of the the then chief minister of Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi. Other people killed with Ishrat Jahan were Pranesh Pillai (alias Javed Gulam Sheikh), 2 Pakistani Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar. Ishrat Jahan’s family filed case claiming their daughter was innocent and demanded CBI enquiry on the matter.
In early July of 2013, CBI filed charge sheet in the decade old case. CBI claimed that Ishrat Jahan, along with her three accomplice, was gunned down in cold blood by Gujarat police and officers of Intelligence Bureau. The news exploded in national media scene like a powerful bomb.
An all out war broke out between congress and BJP over minority bashing vs. politicization of national security. Civil rights activists and intelligence officers fought on supremacy of civil liberty over quality of intelligence input and execution of security threat perception. Feminists confronted police on gender bias over attempted character assassination of a female victim. One intelligence agency accused another for engaging in witch-hunt. 
In the face of all these, bemused public were faced with several fundamental questions. First, was Ishrat Jahaan a terrorist? And, even if she was a terrorist, was security establishment correct in eliminating her in cold blood? Finally, is it necessary to politicize execution of an intelligence input, that might have gone wrong?
It is important to recognize that most human rights organization work with perfect hindsight. Security and intelligence officers do not have the privilege. It is important to consider that not many are questioning credentials of three other people killed with Ishrat, namely Javed Sheikh, Zeeshan Johar, and Amjad Ali Rana. Javed Sheikh had criminal background. Two Pakistani’s, Amjad and Zeeshan, were believed to have terror links (please read Wikipedia on Ishrat Jahan Encounter). Although it has been claimed later that Zeeshan and Amjad were Indians, no proof was ever furnished. No one claimed bodies of two alleged Pakistani’s. At the time of encounter no one had this information. It is also not clear, if Ishrat was such a low profile person from a lower middle class family in Mumbai, why would Gujarat Police target her? In simple language, what was the motive?
Even with best intelligence gathering mechanism and gadgets, mistakes  do happen. May be it happened in Ishrat Jahan case as well. There was some input from intelligence bureau, indicating some affiliation of Ishrat Jahan with terrorist organization. This insunation might have been withdrawn three years later, but encounter had already happened based on first input. Remember, around the time India was riddled with explosions after explosion. So if security and intelligence agencies had not worked on all available inputs, they might have risked more innocent lives. It is also important to recognize that terrorists do not attack announcing their intent. If they go through, they have fulfilled their mandate. If caught before an act, they can always pass themselves as innocent civilians.
It is natural for Congress to attack BJP. Firstly, in Gujarat state congress has not been able to make any headway in last fifteen years. At the national scene also, congress led UPA has been humiliated by BJP on repeated  allegations of corruption. Recently, Mr. Narendra Modi has been potrayed as chief of 2014 election campaign by BJP. Many believe, Mr. Modi will be next prime minister of India, if BJP led NDA comes to power. Many parties, that include Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trina Mool Congress and left parties (CPM, CPI, RSP etc) have declared antipathy towards Mr. Modi. These parties depend on significant muslim support. Since Narendra Modi did not express any remorse for Gujarat riots under his chief ministership, these parties do not want to associate with Narendra Modi. Recently, Janata Dal United had severed a 17 year old alliance with BJP in Bihar state, on the issue of Narendra Modi leading BJP’s election campaign. Some of these parties, notably Congress, which is in power at the centre, would like to put as many roadblocks on the path of Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial ambition. By the way, CBI reports to central home ministry. Many organisations, including Supreme Court of India, have expressed apprehension that CBI is being manipulated by central government to suit its purpose. Like harassing political opponents, staying in power by blackmailing allies, or modifying CBI chargesheets appropriately to include or exclude people it deems fit. In this scenario, it is difficult to understand the timing of CBI chargesheet filing on a ten year old case and insuating involvement of top leadership of Gujarat government in the killing, however, stopping short of naming them. This many may consider a clever ploy of character assassination on the election eve. Also, according to reports nearly 800 cases of fake encounter happened in India every year, many in Congress ruled states. However, none debated so much. Is this a case of selective leakage of CBI report to gather political mileage?
It is also important to consider the driving force behind Ishrat Jahan’s family in filing a case demanding enquiry on her death and pursuing it for a decade. Family is in their perfect right to demand one. However, if they were from lower middle class family as claimed by media and their lawyer, who is funding expenses of their court case for nearly a decade? More so when sole bread earner of the family is no more. Did NGO, left leaning and anti-BJP and anti- Modi inclinatio, persuaded them to file a case? Left leaning intellectuals and NGOs have declared antipathy towards BJP and Narendra Modi. It is not surprising that cases are being pursued with dogged determination to bring down Narendra Modi. This would not be possible without support from an well funded machinery.
Finally, how do we protect our people that collect intelligence input and those who execute them. There has to be a legal support to back these organisations, incase something goes wrong. People that fought with militants during Punjab militancy, were later hounded by Human Rights groups.  Government did not back them, and many intelligence officers had to fend for themselves.  There has to be an oversight mechanism and there has to be a chain of command with buck stopping somewhere. In the US, President sanctions hits like drone attacks. However, opposing party incumbent do not go after the president for electoral gains. Sometimes, there will be mistake. As it might have happened in Ishrat Jahan case. It is happening in Afghanistan, happened in Irag. Howeve, if the opposite was true, then many people, read innocent, would be dead. That time another set of people will bay for blood of intelligence machinery and police force for incompetence. Strangely, human rights group will not come out and support law enforcement machinery.
All said  and done, Ishrat Jahan has lost her life in early age. We do not know if she was a terrorist. It is emerging that she was in police custody for few days. May be, when police could not extract evidence out of her, they decided to execute her. This is not right, absolutely not right. Could police have not released her and kept an eye on her movements? Nation should be sorry for the loss her family suffered. But the neighborhood infested with atmosphere of terrorism, we might see more innocents dying either by terrorist bomb or police bullet.

Empowerment is Key to Upliftment

I am writing about the You Tube video presentation of Ms. Mittal Patel as part of Idea Caravan Endevor sponsored by  Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.
Ms. Patel was talking on topic “Plight of Nomadic and Denotified Tribes”. It is unfortunate that even after 65 years of independence, these people do not have property identity in government records, these people are registered as criminals, traditional vocations of these tribal people are being lost and tribal women engage in prostitution.
The fact that tribals are in such a miserable state in a so called prosperous state like Gujarat, says a lot about their plight in states that are economically less progressive. In last sixty five year, government of India might have created a lot of schemes for the upliftment of people that are socially and economically backward. Apparently, such benefits have not percolated down.
What Ms. Patel is doing is empowerment of tribal people. She is getting them voter identity card. This will give them voting right. By forming a block tribals can demand their rights. An identity card is also giving our tribal population a  sense of dignity. Now their identity in government records will never be confused or misrepresented. They can always show their identity cards and knock the door of law and justice.
Education is being spread among tribals.  Education also gives tribal people that are losing their traditional vocations an oppurtunity for alternative vocation.Light of education awakens aspiration among kids. They now dream of joining maninstream by becoming a policeman, a doctor among other professions.
Marriage of tribal girls within community, will protect them from being engaged in prostitution. This will keep the community free from sexually transmitted disease. Community will be spared of illegitimate children. By becoming a housewife, tribal girls will be able to take care of family and community better.
Important point to remember, Ms Patel did not talk of inducement but empowerment. She had worked towards transformation of community of Nomads, so that these people became aware of their rights and wanted to adopt to change by their own volition. No amount of force, or inducement can achieve this type of result. Otherwise, after sixty five years of independence India will not have communities that are not aware what their government was doing.
Nomadic people have many innate skills, which should be tapped and preserved. May be depending on their skills, they should be adopted by specialised organisations that rely on such skills. These organisations should work towards education and upliftment of tribal children while nurturing their special talent.
Government may have good intention. However, to propagate such intention India needs people like Ms. Mittal Patel. People that work with empathy, that work with dedication for a cause can transform the world, let alone India. She has achieved what our trained and paid bureaucrats could not. Society must work towards empowerment of people like Ms. Mittal Patel, for them to work freely and help neglected segments of Indian people achieve their rightful place in the society. Ultimately, a nation is judged based on quality of her people.

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.


Romance, That Incredible Emotion

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Once in a while in our life times, everyone may have had an occassion to  experience an overwhelming feeling of romance. An indescribable feeling where happiness is blended with thrill, satisfaction and a sense of achievement. A butterfly in our stomach represents thrill and anticipation, and a sensation in our heart represents confidence and success. Such a feeling is associated with any maiden venture that appears unattainable, yet we desperately desire to attain.
Climbers who love mountain, quiver at the thought of conquering a peak. Stage performers get a rush at the prospect of a cracking act in the presence of an appreciating audience. Remember the heady anticipation the first time a boy is acknowledged by a girl with a smile, and butterflies in the stomach at the thought of first date with first crush.
Romance, beautiful as it may be, is transitory. Romance between people, romance for achievements tends to fade with time. May be old age, may be familiarity and proximity takes sheen out of romance. Once in a while, though, some external events may cause an explosion in an individual. When world appears so beautiful, you only wish you could melt away in distant horizon holding hand of someone you love.
Recently, I was transported to a world of romance after listening to a song. The song was a duet sung by Arijit Singh, the original play back singer of the song for movie Aashqui 2, and Debanjana  Karmakar, a contestant in Indian IdoL Junior. Such a beautiful chemistry, such a beautiful voice, that I got goose bumps. I felt world is all beautiful, there is not hate, no sorrow, only love. Incredible!
Listen to this recorded video, what an incredible feeling of romance.