Aamir Khan – Incredible India

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Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and We The People : A Question of Values

Published June 24, 2015 by vishalvkale

Clean India : Swachhtaa Abhiyaan; at long last, we have a Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, a leader, interested in setting an example, becoming an exemplar to the people by focusing on all the right values : cleanliness, closeness to our culture {Yoga as an example}; he has faults – but let us praise where praise is manifestly due in all fairness. But, that does not mean that this attitude, while setting an exemplar, an example before us, will automatically solve our cleanliness issues, even without the systemic flaws I pointed out in my previous article on this issue: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Or Clean India – Does It Meet The Problem?

As I wrote earler, do you really require the Prime Minister of your country to tell you keep your nation clean? Do you really require to be told to throw things in dustbins? Do you really require to be told to keep your city clean, not throw waste outside your home? Do you really need to be told to throw the waste inside the dustbin, not in its general direction? You dont clutter your home – then, in that case, if you throw garbage on the road, what does this behaviour say about you as a person

We are a nation of 1.28 Billion; setting the example wont do much good. Akela Chanaa etc etc… We have to get to the core reason behind such behaviour. Why do people behave the way they do? Why do people take care to keep their home clean, their office clean, the posh hotels etc clean, but display such crass behaviour elsewhere? ? What internal value systems are you displaying? What does it say about your true priorities?

At the office, it is peer pressure + HR / Disciplinary Action + Boss fear; at home it is family fear + selfishness + long exposure / stay; at the posh market it is peer pressure + image etc. What are the core values a person is displaying? It is certainly not cleanliness, or love for cleanliness, or even ethics. The values being displayed are Power, Hunger, Image, Presentation, Projection, Self etc…

A truly clean person displays the same – precise same – behaviour across all aspects of life, not a differential behaviour. Values {at least the core values} dont change as per the situation : if it does, it isnt a value or a core value of that person. Values are typically rock-steady, and remain virtually almost unassailable unless challenged by deep philosphical thought, or disaster etc – or a long sustained period of change : positive or negative. We dont try and make them decent human being; we dont teach values. It starts at home. What you see around you is a reflection of your own deeds, and attitudes.

No point pointing fingers. People are unclean because parents like you and me have not taught them this basic human behaviour. That can only mean that our minds are tainted and unclean. A clean mind, a truly clean mind, sees ethics, values and cleanliness in every endeavour. If there is duality, as in spoken ethics {or even provable ethics} combined with a habit of uncleanliness… Change your attitude towards India, be selfless, view it as your home, and internalise cleanliness.

Sorry to be harsh, but the fault is of the parents. Parents should scold or punish their children for such behaviour; that we dont is a manifest fact. We try and make them street-smart, we try and make them come first…

What is happening in these instances? A person is being influenced by external stimuli which is transient in nature; the moment this stimulus is removed. the behaviour goes back to the normal. Behaviour is controlled by your value system; and external stimuli that are transient and short-term have zero impact on the value system.

Thus, any recommended solution will perforce have to cater to the problem. The nature of the positive influencers like the exemplars others looked at above are such that these are transient temporary influences which lack a long-term impact in the absence of strong emotive rewards for the desired behaviour; that is why the impact wanes over time. And that is also why, despite the fact that Values can change in a sustained exposure, exemplars generally fail to make an impact all by themselves

By contrast, fear of punishment, image consciousness, etc negative influences retain their power for a much longer time after the removal of the stimulus. That is why the only way is to initiate a strong disincentive towards tardy behaviour {littering and filth in this case}, driving the subject towards the desired behaviour : cleanliness.

And that is why I recommend strong punishments for tardy behavior, as in Singapore. This can be combined with school {nursery level, KG-1&2 level children and parent interactions with trainers. And fail the children – even at these starting levels – if both parents dont turn up for these training sessions regularly. Disincentives all along the line for adults, and incentives and freebies and other reinforcers for the children. If you are not clean, there is no place in society for you is the message that should go across to the people.

Adults dont need to be reminded or reinforced of the need for cleanliness; that is a very basic and expected societal norm. Besides, with their value systems being fully formed, the chances of positive re-inforcers, exemplars etc changing the core behaviour is precious little. In order that action is initiated from such recalcitrant people, we need to take a leaf from the errant behaviour : negative influencers : peer pressure, fear etc which we saw above. These will be the drivers than will drive the adults to the sessions, namely the certainly that their child will be failed, for their fault.

Thereafter, you can use any number of positive influencers that you like, your exemplars etc. In my opinion, nothing else will work. We have seen exemplars showing people – I myself have for years being setting examples, with little to show for it. In my colony, for the past year, some adults have been voluntarily cleaning the garden, with zero impact. It is still as dirty as it used to be before the great swachhtaa tamaashaa!

That is why setting an example will not work; and that is why it hasnt worked till now. Remember the Aamir Khan Ad? Or recall all those people who do the cleaning up, and who carry things to the dustbin etc? It hasnt worked because it wont; not now, not ever.
These are influencers, and influence behaviour only for the duration of the experience. Thus, no amount of setting examples is the solution. Values change only when a person is put through a deep, positive or negative influence that has the capacity to jar a person from stem to stern. Or they can be formed during the early years; that is it. The only solution is parent and children education, and a slow change for the better. Fact of the matter is that the moral compass of our society is seriously skewed, and that is a fact.

Rest assured; if a person acts clean in office, malls – but is careless in public places, that person is almost a charlatan, a con and a put-on. He or she is wearing a fake garb of ethics. The truly ethical person is ethical in each and every walk of life, is uncompromising on this basic human value.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Or Clean India – Does It Meet The Problem?

Published October 2, 2014 by vishalvkale

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, just launched by our Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi is the in thing nowadays; everyone – well, almost – is interested and full of praise for this effort, which is beyond even a shade of doubt a very praiseworthy initiative as  such. People are, for the first time,  talking about cleanliness, about dustbins, about Civic Sense & about presenting a clean India. Our PM makes no bones about this – it is a long term initiative, and will require consistent effort and follow-ups for it to be successful. 

He is the second celebrity personality to endorse a clean India campaign, and the first person from the echelons of power. The first was, of course, Aamir Khan with his incredible India campaign of a few years ago. Viewed as a standalone effort, this current campaign is most welcome, and highly praiseworthy. We are indeed lucky to have someone at the level of the PM drive this. He has got the attention of the nation; everyone in the middle class at least seems to be in on it.

But look a little deeper – not at the PM, or his highly noteworthy initiative, but at the system and at your own selves. I respectfully submit that there is precisely nothing to be glad about, or be excited about. I equally respectfully submit that it is a matter of national shame, not something to gloat about. It is not a flippant matter; it cuts to  the core of our being, our habits, our attitude. Cleanliness has been called next to godliness in English; you dont pray to God without bathing and wearing fresh clean clothes even in Sanaatan Dharm {Hinduism}. Further, there are 2 aspects to this – the personal aspect and the system aspect, as I observed above.


In light of the above, if someone like Narendra Modi – who should be focusing on the economy, the Armed Forces, and other major aspecs – is giving his valuable time to it, then it is both a complete waste of time, as well as a deeply disturbing act that should cause our heads to hang in shame, not burst in joy and partake in flippant & senseless Whatsapp pledges to keep the nation clean! 

Do you really require the Prime Minister of your country to tell you keep your nation clean? Do you really require to be told to throw things in dustbins? Do you really require to be told to keep your city clean, not throw waste outside your home? Do you really need to be told to throw the waste inside the dustbin, not in its general direction? You dont clutter your home – then, in that case, if you throw garbage on the road, what does this behaviour say about you as a person? And, if you keep your home and the elegant hotels and cinemas you visit clean, why cant you keep your nation clean? This, Ladies and Gentlemen {including people of my family, who will read this on the Whatsapp groups}, makes you nothing but hypocrites. This is textbook hypocrisy. AND, if you require a person at the level of the PM for a reminder, then my friends, you are selfish as well as hypocrites. 

If I can carry an empty bottle all the way from Mumbra to Chinchpokli – some 40 Kms, get down from the train, walk to the dustbin, and throw it – why cant you? If I can carry a paper wrapper for my samosas all the way from Kalyan to Chinchpokli – 54 Kms, get down from the train, walk to the dustbin, and throw it – why cant you? Making senseless Whatsapp pledges, praising Modiji, idolising him does not make India clean, Sir and Madames / Madamoiselles! Change your attitude towards India, be selfless, view it as your home, and internalise cleanliness. 

You know something – I have just proved my own hypocrisy. You see, even I can recall a couple of instances when I have thrown an empty mineral water bottle after crushing it. But at least, I have the courage to own up to it in written for all the public to read it. At least I have been trying – for some several years now – to not clutter up my nation. I,  at least, have  been making a willing, conscious effort to clean  up my act. I, at least, do not want, need or require a Mr Narendra Modi to come and remind me to be clean! I much rather prefer that he runs my nation, and not sweep it! Shame on you, everyone! Shame on all of us!


The scene : Kalyan Station. Location – just outside the Railway Station. Very near to 2 temples, two eateries. A huge pile of trash, rotting and stinking. This was the regular scene for every single day till the day I left Kalyan in September of this  year. Why isnt this clean, despite there being a municipal authority whose task it is to clean it up? Why do I, a Citizen, a tax-payer have to bear with the filth and the rot?

Similar scenes of neglect can be spotted across the length and breadth of India. Clean India requires an efficient and functioning garbage collection and disposal system. It requires a network of public facilities like dustbins, urinals etc. It requires a functioning and diligent municipal and governmental machinery in each and every state, district, tehsil, taluka and pargana of the nation. Do we have that? Far too obviously, we dont. 

What is this Government doing to clean up the act of the various State and Central Government bodies that we interact with daily? What is it doing to ensure that public servant get sincere and do their tasks? Please keep in mind that ensuring timely office attendance alone does not ensure that the tasks get done. What is it doing to ensure that Garbage collection will happen daily from every locality? If not daily, then at least on alternate days? 

Simply cleaning up the streets once is not the answer. What happens to the waste after that? Is there a cohesive action plan to deal with this waste on a regular basis? Is there an action plan to ensure that the people who are responsible for this do their duties? That they dont collect the trash and create a stinking heap somewhere in public? That the  garbage vehicle come regularly, and dumps the trash not in the street, but in a landfill? Where is the plan? I  cant see any!


But, of course, people will say give NaMo time. He is new, he is fresh, at least he is trying, you cant judge in 120 days etc. Does this mean that no administrative reforms will get attended to? How will he change the system? Has anyone taken the trouble to ask NaMo? If not, then why not? Does it not concern us? So tell me, does this adulation mean that I cant even question the adequacy of the actions of my own Prime Minister? Is this the way Democracy is supposed to function? Does this mean that I cant even point out where his action may not prove to be enough and sufficient? Dont I have that Democratic Right?

Frankly, we are a people who throw bottles, wrappers, other waste on the roads, we spit pan on the road, we urinate anywhere we damn well please, ignore the non-performance of the Governmental staff {but that is another story, so I shall let it pass here},  and then take pledges for cleanliness! There is no need for pledges; just stop spitting, throwing waste, urinating in the open. 

It is possible – I did it. I was just like you all once in the not-too-distant past; I still am like you – but only occasionally. For me, the task is to move from 98% to 100%. And for that, I dont want, need or require a pledge, or indeed Narendra Modi. I know I have to do it, it is my home, my country, my nation. It is my duty as a citizen of India, my lovely India!

And if we require a person of the calibre of the PM to waste his time on this, shame on us! Especially since we  have a highly efficient person like Narendra Modi1. My very dear countrymen, we are all wasting his time as well as the nation’s time by involving such an august personality in such a frivolous exercise, time which could have been more productively used elsewhere! Shame on all of us!

Satyamev Jayate!

Published July 11, 2012 by vishalvkale

It is with a considerable degree of surprise that I have been reading some articles criticizing the iconic show Satyamev Jayate and Aamir Khan, which are frankly way beyond my comprehension. There are views being expressed that the show is pure showmanship, commercialisation of problems, will Aamir return to these problems once show is over, the show is just Aamir, Aamir and Aamir… do they (the critics) do justice by their comments? Let us examine it in 2 parts: Aamir Khan, and Social Change
Aamir Khan
No television show has created as much of a buzz as Satyamev Jayate, the iconic show anchored by Aamir Khan. To a nation used to a diet of game shows, movies, soap operas, reality shows it was unthinkable that a television show based on something as serious as Satyamev Jayate could be a resounding success – but that is precisely what has happened. It is far beyond both my knowledge as well as the scope of my blog to analyse the precise reasons for its stupendous success, so I shall leave it at that. My concern is more towards the reactions – specifically negative reactions – it has generated, and its supposed role in our society.
First of all, let us get one thing straight: The anchor has placed himself quite literally on the firing line by highlighting various unhealthy habits of society. He ran a very real risk of doing serious permanent damage to his brand equity (The Aamir Khan Brand) – which would have meant an erosion of his earning potential. What the show was attempting was actually very risky. We have the benefit of hindsight: we know how it turned out. He, when he took the decision to do it, did not. That took courage – far more courage than anyone from his industry has ever shown. That is beyond dispute. We have to look at things from that perspective.
Secondly, Aamir Khan was getting into uncharted territory; in his line of business, his stock-in-trade is a combination of his face-value and the combined impressions of his performances & associations that is formed in the audience mind. His paycheque is derived from what the people think of him. Therefore, the attendant risk of attempting Satyamev Jayate was of a very high grade for him. Further, you also have to take into account one additional point: Aamir Khan’s movie career is far from over. That apart, he is spending a good deal of his time on this project. He does not need to do television yet: he could be doing production or acting; but he chose TV. If for that he has to be well compensated, I do not find anything objectionable in that. Especially since the end-product is an awesome production with the capacity to jar you to the deepest part of your soul.
Third, as we have seen over the past few weeks, he even had to take personal risk: with several affected power-groups, professionals etc threatening to take him to court. He knew what the content of the show was; he was also mature enough to understand the repercussions of the content. Despite that, he went ahead. His commitment has been held up to scrutiny in the face of allegations and threats – and he has not backed down.
Fourth, let us all not forget that he is also a member of the production team!
Social Change
Fifth, the show is creating a buzz, and it is also leading to a spotlight on some issues that have been on the backburner. It has to be understood that these issues being taken are deep-rooted habits, and are embedded deeply in our society. The agenda undertaken is social change: and one man cannot change a society. It requires concerted effort by a variety of change agents, one of whom just happens to be Aamir Khan. He is a change agent – only thing is, he is just one of the catalysts to change. Instead of panning the show, we should welcome it! How does one change a society? Is everyone so naive as to believe that it will happen automatically? Or that change will happen overnight?
Sixth, just how are societal and cultural norms formed? They are formed by countless social interchanges within members of a particular culture or sub-culture over a long period of time – time that may extend to hundreds of years. Honor Killing, Female Foeticide, Dowry etc all have their roots in the overly patriarchal structure of our society. These social attitudes were not built overnight: they have their roots deep, deep in the past. Other problems also were developed over a period of the past 50 – 100 years, and have now become endemic. How are these to be removed? Someone has to make a start. I certainly do not have an issue with a celebrity lending his name to these issues: it serves the dual purpose of highlighting them as well as acts as a multiplier.
And the clincher: this concept could have been thought of earlier: these points could have been highlighted forcefully earlier. No one took the trouble of doing so, and now people are panning the one team (Team Satyamev Jayate) that is doing a fantastic job! At least they are doing something – which makes them far, far better people; far far better professionals than those of us who choose to sit in the comfort of our environs and pass comments.
I am not stating that all of us are armchair commentators: for all I know a good many may be equally  – or more active: as indeed countless social workers are. My point is that let us support efforts like Satyamev Jayate rather than pan them; by panning them we run the very real risk that henceforth no one will attempt any such effort…which will be catastrophic for us as a society. If that happens, the current focus, and the multiplier effect and the attendant positives, will forever have been lost. Such efforts act as force multipliers: it is upto us to encash them!

Our Attitude Regarding Civic Responsibilities

Published January 3, 2012 by vishalvkale

Civic Responsibilities… why are we Indians – I include Myself in this – so casual towards this? Why are we so careless towards the basic behaviour that defines a normal functional society? On any given day, we can see innumerable examples of Indians putting their country to shame – spitting on the road, breaking red light, parking in no parking zone, not helping people in need in accidents, peeing in public, ignoring corruption incidents, ignoring broken public water taps since “it is not my problem”, throwing their trash on the road, dirtying parks, giving bribes… I could go on and on. I cannot even say the people are the same everywhere – I have been abroad, and have seen the people there. What hurts is that the same Indians behave in a completely different fashion outside India! Why this casual attitude?
It is a matter of national shame if we are having to see an Aamir Khan advertise “Incredible India” and “Atithi Devo Bhava” to remind us of the simplest of things. Do we spit on our carpet at home? On our cars? Then why spit on the road, and even paan spits that discolour and spoil the environ? I have seen trash being thrown on the road, even when there is a trash-can available 10 feet away! This is a classic case of double standards. Our behaviour at our own homes and abroad demonstrates that we are capable of being clean, responsible. yet, when it comes to our own country, we couldn’t care less. Would you dare to pee in your drawing room or bedroom? No. Then why outside – when there is a urinal available at hand? This just leads me to question – are we taking things for granted? I re-iterate: It is matter of national shame that we are actually having to run advertisement campaigns targeted at educating Indians!
While the Incredible India Campaign was actually intended at increasing tourism, (as the enclosed links will elucidate) they also serve an important secondary purpose – social awareness. They are successfully making people question themselves and the world around them.  It needs to be noted that Aamir Khan is not taking any remuneration for this- which is indeed praiseworthy
Perhaps the way out would be to catch them young – take this up in schools, perhaps even colleges initially. In schools, it would be better if this is taken up from the 1st or second standard itself.. I say this because far too obviously we are not teaching this to our children at home. Had that been the case, we would not be having to run a social awareness campaign at all! Our country is as good as our home – and it is up to us to keep it nice and clean… something that I think most of us do not accept.