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Reflections on Childhood

Published November 13, 2017 by vishalvkale

Childhood memories are very strong and potent – and not easy to forget; for they form the strongest associations in our mind, and are the strongest elements in our personality makeup. I am no different from the norm; and harbor a series of strong memories both good, bad as well as ugly. I can truthfully state that these were central to me becoming what I am today. While I bear no grudge today for the bad / ugly, it is important to point out that these memories remain etched the strongest. As to the good, I can honestly state that I remember them – almost as strongly
THE BAD & THE UGLY
Lets get this out of the way. My memories of my childhood, on the negative side, in this are of one thing, and one thing only. Being bullied, brutally bullied by self-styled Rambos, so-called machos who thought the world of themselves, and cared little for the feelings of others. The bullying was constant – not just of me – but of other students like me. I haven’t forgotten; neither will I ever forget. But that hasn’t affected my adult relationships; I now have a very strong bond with one such former bully.
I remember talking to one girl in the class – this happened twice in two schools. Now these were innocent discussions between two students around class and studies only. But I remember with clarity being razzed for it all year in both schools. I could not then understand, nor do I fathom now – what is the whole issue if a boy talks Physics notes with a Girl, or Math problems with a girl? Why does this world look at everything from a coloured, tinted and biased lens? Where did these kids pick up such dirty thoughts from – I wonder? I certainly didn’t think it otherwise if people from one sex had an innocent chat with people of the other sex – and I still don’t, by the way!
If you start assuming or even teasing boys just cause they talk to any girl, you are being stupid, and showing your own mentality. It is eminently feasible for a man and a woman to have a positive healthy and friendly relationship. I am now 40+, but still find this behaviour ridiculous. But that is the way our Indian Society is… is the lesson I learnt from it. This is what re-inforces societal stereotypes & mores. It also has long-term impact on the mental process of an individual – not just of the bullied person – but more so of the bully, who is further emboldened by his thoughtless words and deeds.
I recall an incident in school, which taught me the real face of humanity in all its magnificent ugliness. Two incidents, rather. The first was I had falled unconscious due to illness, and I noted – I still recall the intense feeling – that not one person from my so-called close friends came to help. The classmates who did help, remained close to me till we parted. That taught me the art of judging the real true friend. Another incident I recall was the inhuman act of setting bees into a class when girls and a few simple boys were present inside – some of the bullies in our class would do it regularly. That shows us the sick mentality of bullies, and what sickening abnormal amorality they called fun. I remember thinking of them as being mentally unstable and sick idiots – with crystal clarity.
THE GOOD
The good, I can write pages and pages on; that will, however, be for my son’s eyes only, as I hand him over my diary of personal notes when I am no more. There isn’t anything a person can learn from the good as much as from the bad. And who to pick out and who to leave in a long list? But even in all these, I must mention the one who is no more, as per information available to me – Ashok. He was my first real friend, Ashok taught me what friendship really is. No one before him connected; not that he wouldn’t tease me, or I him – but he connected, despite lying to me!
There is a fine line between fun and harassment – he knew that line well. That taught me a lot; it is a lesson I still draw inspiration from – there is a fine line between fun/motivation/drive/follow-up & harassment. And when Gunjan Bisaria told me of his demise – I cried, despite not having met or heard of him for 30 years… that is true friendship. To the first friend in my life,  first friend – Thanks, Ashok!
CONCLUSION
I have taken a negative approach; my objective isn’t to lay open my life. That is why, the Good need not enter into it at all. My objective is to draw attention to the smaller, tiny social mores, behaviours and attitudes that determine personality and mental make-up. The two or three examples given show what I can only call an evidence of a sick mentality – setting bees on classmates. How can that be attributed to fun? How is merely talking to a Girl, an evidence of a love affair? Are you mentally sick, a retard?

There is no way we can stop bullying; that is an unfortunate human trait that people with lesser mental capability adopt to vanquish an intellectually superior person is one way I like to counter it. One insult deserves another! I plan to share this in my school groups as well 😃. But what most people miss is the powerful longer term implications of this behaviour – not just for the bullied person, but also for the bully. 
The bullied person actually develops a strong, rock-solid coping mechanism that prepares him for life, helps him maintain a balance in the ups and downs. But the bully has to learn the hard way –  for the simple reason that for every bully the world has a stronger bully!! And it is this behaviour that translates into adult interactions; a person incapable of softer interactions & softer emotions will always be a bully! 

When Mountains Shake Hands With The Clouds

Published July 27, 2016 by vishalvkale

These are a set of Snaps Clicked on my Mobile Camera en-route to Baroda for a family function; a scene I found breathtaking and mesmerising, as it seemed as though the clouds had descended to the Earth to shake hands with the mountains, creating a stunning visual imagery with a captivating beauty and awe-inspiring visual delight.

Regretfully, I was in an AC compartment, meaning the full impact of the beauty of Mother Nature was muted in these images… but what is there is, I believe, sufficiently captivating… these have been clicked on a Panasonic Eluga Switch mobile phone in auto mode…



Ranaangan : Third Battle of Panipat, Drama Review

Published April 5, 2015 by vishalvkale


Ranaangan – Marathi Natak
Artist – Avinash Narkar, Ashok Samarth, Shreekant Desai
Drama Director: Vaman Kendre
Video Director: Shweta Parulkar
Story: Vishwas Patil

Synopsis:-
The Third Battle of Panipat took place on 14 January 1761.The battle pitted the artillery and cavalry of the Marathas against the Afghans. Ranaangan is the brave portrayal of the Maratha Soldiers who fought the war with true grit.


THE BACKDROP
Ranaangan is the background story of the battle of Panipat, and a look at why The Maratha Confederacy lost; a heart-rending tale of treachery, deceit, courage, valour, back-stabbing, infighting, internecine issues, and lack of a common narrative. A tragic tale of  the defeat of a superior force, and an even more tragic tale of the descent of India into chaos! It is also a tale of a superb leader of men, a far-sighted genius {Bhausaaheb}, & a tale of the unknown hero in Jankoji Shinde and Dutta Shinde – whose progeny were yet again to feature in another pivotal battle, 1857; and who would be wrongly understood for centuries {as per me}, a product of the disturbed narrative we are exposed to…
It is also a stunning revelation to those who arent aware of the Maratha Power, or that The Mughal throne was actually put up and supported by Maratha Power by the mid of the 18th century, or that there was a treaty between The Maratha and The Mughal for the protection of Delhi. The real national power were The Maratha Confederacy; and in the Maratha Confederacy you get to see how India came to be subjugated by a completely inferior British Man… 

For that was what this battle meant : it meant an easy path to the rule of India by the British; The 3rd Battle of Panipat will always remain etched in our history as one of the most epochal battles to have determined the fate of India. After Panipat, while the Marathas were still strong, the aura had diminished; it was just a matter of time before they were vanquished, as the Anglo-Maratha wars were to subsequently prove!


THE PLOT AND THE REVIEW

Portraying a historical event on the limited creative platform of a stage is always a massive challenge for any number of reasons; the limitations imposed my time, space, content mean that telling the story in a clear and precise manner is rather hard, to put it frankly. This calls for a script that is woven with great care and attention to the requirements of the overall plot. 

The plot here is the run-up to the 3rd Battle Of Panipat, the sequence of political and military events that led to the battle; the planning of the battle; the various historical figures and their roles; the internal relationships and internecine problems; and finally the battle itself. The script has been handled exceptionally well, given the wide and extensive scope of the plot of the play; the entire historical narrative has been adapted to the theatre with remarkable aplomb. 

The direction : excellent, period. This is not an easy play to perform; it ranks as one of the most difficult stage adaptations I have encountered in my life. Every aspect – the props, the stage and the character intonations and delivery  are excellent and top-notch. Getting everyone to gel together for 3 long hours of continuous performance must have been exceptionally challenging. What got my admiration was the blocking: the usage of the limited space, which was sheer class. It has to be seen to be believed; and how it actually adds to the story in places!

The performances are all top-class; among these, performances of the characters of Jankoji Shinde, Datta Shinde, Malharrao Holkar, Abdali & Vishwasrao deserve a special mention. But the one man who stands above all is Avinash Narkar, portraying Bhausaaheb, the titular leader of the Maratha Force; Avinash has brought forth the sheer power of the character, personifying the adroit skill with which he wields these infighting people into battle-ready mode, with tremendous skill; you can feel the power and the conviction of the performance!


THE LEARNING

This is a drama that shatters several myths, and takes more than several reputations head-on! A story of how even people with good intentions, as shown by Holkar, Gaikwad, Vinchurkar, Bhausaheb, Gardi, Jankoji Shinde, etc lead to collective disaster, as infighting destroys morale, leading to defeat – even of a much superior strategy and a comparable strength. It also gives a completely different look at the Shindes of Gwalior… as well as the entire ensemble. 

This is a chilling and blunt portrayal… a story of infighting, deceit and high treason… the true story of Panipat; the story of the infighting among the Holkars and the Gaikwad’s on one side and the Peshwa’s emissary Bhausaaheb and Jankoji Shinde on the other side, with planned backstabbing in Pune to boot… a story of how lack of internal trust and teamwork combined with vested interests and lack of knowledge in some key generals was to lead to a superior force being decimated. 

It is the story of how one mistake can cause disaster- leaving a man {Najib} due to his being supported by Holkar, despite anger of Shindes of Gwalior, Peshwas of Pune… one mistake. Najib was later to prove instrumental in both killing Datta Shinde and retaining Abdali back in India at a crucial juncture when he had given up… Just one mistake – compounded again and again and again by the infighting… a tragic story of infighting!  It is the story of how The Holkar and The Gaikwad group’s lack  of trust in Ibrahim Gardi was to lead to disaster…

This battle left India open and defenceless; had The Maratha Confederacy managed to rise above its internal squabbles, maybe, just maybe, history would have been different. We shall never know now; but we can all learn from this sad episode – Divided We Fall, United We Stand. The old maxim is spot-on accurate… watch this drama to understand exactly why… 

I normally base my historical articles on evidence-based books; this is based only on the presented drama, linked above. Thus, I make no claim of its historical accuracy; but have taken the trouble of watching a news presentation {linked below}, which tallies in all essential details with the drama; further, it also tallies with what I have read in some other pedigreed historical books reviewed on my blog. But to say more, I will need to study the history in a good and pedigreed book. 



Ghar Waapsi : The True And Only Ghar Waapsi…

Published February 15, 2015 by vishalvkale

“Ghar Waapsi” has become, sadly, the flavor of the season, with the Media going gaga over it, thanks largely to some disturbing antics of some sections of our society. If we are focusing on returning to our roots, the question arises is just what are those roots? How do we define those roots? The question arises, what is the true Ghar Wapsi? The true return home? Are we, the people who are supposedly at home, truly at home? Or are we in some land that is neither here nor there?

Saying that people should return to their roots is fine, but are we ourselves close to our roots? Is our society – be it Hindu, or Christian, or Muslim or Sikh – really truly back to their roots in national terms, in cultural terms? Have we fully jettisoned our various inferiority complexes and hang-ups? Let us take a lookat some of the more delightful aspects of this society of ours :

We are in a world where anything to do with culture is considered being fundamentalist at worst or old-fashioned at best, where jabbering in English is a sign of education and intelligence, where listening to western music is considered the in thing, where any attempt to portray or look at Indian culture is termed exotic and quaint, where you can find Shakespeare in any book store across the land but will not find one single copy of the Vedic texts, Upanishads, or anything else ancient or medieval Indian literature, not even the Baburnama or the Akbarnama, Abhigyaan Shaakuntalam, Kabiror anyone else.

We are in a world where you are termed naive and foolish for not having read western classics and books, where people look down on you for not watching the latest hollywood flick, where people freely insult themselves and their country by terming our films Bollywood {which was originally {and still is IMO} an insult}, where you find the most ludicrous and idiotic scene of constant, never ending non stop comparisons with The West on everything, except the economy : which is compared with China!,

We are living in a society  where you have to be as good as the West in anything and everything, where you are termed old-fashioned, quaint, or caricatured simpleton for going the culture way, in a world whose schools teach Dickens but not Indian classics, in a world where the education system goes gaga over Western developments and culture while completely omitting Indian developments and culture, and in a land supposedly Indian and yet requiring spoken English as a prerequisite for success!

We are living in an environment where reading itself is considered passe, where a well-read man or woman with a passion for reading is considered impractical and a liability. We are in an era where people dont read religious books, or are not interested in historical and cultural aspects of life and society, where the focus is on materialism. We are living in a world where being decent, good and honest is considered a sign that a person is bookish, impractical and a fool, and where the average Indians knowledge of his or her roots and history is abysmal!

We are in a world where the focus is on gratification of the self, not on the society and the community, where the focus is on feeding the body and making its environs comfortable; not on feeding the mind and developing its finer aspects, in a world where living with a partner without social sanction is considered a sign of development and being oh-so-modern, where sleeping with several partners is considered being modern, and having several girlfriends a sign of modernity, achievement and development, and not a sign of decadence!

If we are truly get back home, it is far better to forget the conversions issue, which can give rise to needless tensions and passions, thereby disturbing the equity that is increasingly to be found in Modern India,  a land where everyone is free to practice his or her own religion, a lovely land where each religion is free! And if you have to right historical wrongs, why not go after the incipient and far more damaging westernization of our society?


If people are so concerned about historical wrongs, why not right the Colonial rape, which was demonstrably damaging, vis-à-vis the exaggerated wrongs of the Muslim period? How many of us have actually read The Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta? The Ramayan? The Mahabharat? The Upanishads? The Puranic texts? Let alone reading – which is an educated activity for enlightened broadened minds – how many among us display the stupidity and the inferiority complexes and open westernization noted above?  

The true way forward, one that represents real Ghar Waapsi, will be if the Indian {The majority} can place equal {Not even greater} but equal emphasis on Mother Tongue with English, where we read Shakespeare with as much elan as we do Kabir; where we watch Hindi, English and Vernacular movies and songs with equal relish without needless comparisons and condescending treatment. The real Ghar Waapsi will be when the Indian appreciates – truly appreciates – Indian Culture, and foregos some of the above small minded habits.

The true Ghar Waapsi will be when the Indian stops giving bribes, recreating the India that was observed in writings of the 1600s, which show a stunningly honest land. The true Ghar Waapsi will be when women get their due in India, as was the case in Vedic times. The true Ghar Waapsi will be when the Indian stops drooling over Western Culture, and faces the West with pride and confidence, confidant and calm, effectively saying : This is me, this is the way I am, take it or soak your head!

The true Ghar Waapsi will be when we can find our ancient and medieval literature in equal volumes and strength on book shelves, when we can actually try and decipher the wonders contained in our ancient literature without the fear that we will be the butt of jokes and condescension, when we can place greater credit on our Mumbai and Chennai film industries, when we can place our own film awards as more important an event from our perspective, rather than devaluing and insulting ourselves by doing the reverse!


That represents the true Ghar Waapsi… the question is, will it happen?

New Delhi : AAP – Massive Challenges Ahead

Published February 11, 2015 by vishalvkale

In the previous article, I detailed why the election isn’t a major worry for the BJP. In this article, I propose to outline the challenges and problems that this election has raised in front of the AAP, as well as its positives.
For starters, the AAP stands as the one single party that has been consistently ridiculed by an amazingly large number of people on social media and national media alike. This is frankly the most disturbing aspect of the entire episode. People were consistently willing to forget the mistakes of the other parties, but not the AAP.
People were scalding in their total contempt  of this party, one whose main plank was anti-corruption & clean governance. I do not deny their mistakes, my point is different : the level of ridicule and insults that targeted this party right from the start were beyond imagination. Not only that, they were pilloried left right and center, despite being the only party in Indian History to quit government on a principle. Whether they should have done so is another matter – but critically, not one person appreciated that they showed that they had no desire for power, for standing up for the people, while blaming them for faults – some real, and some imagined.
It was this absence of a balanced view of this new party that was the most disturbing aspect of the entire political discourse, a matter which is the subject of the third and concluding part of this mini-series. It was from these ashes that this party re-emerged to win New Delhi, and this despite an ugly and frankly shocking campaign that all political parties in India should be ashamed of.
PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES
How they did it is now known, and is a matter of documented record. What is more important is the result they have achieved – 67/70, or nearly 95% seats. First, this represents a major loss for Democracy, rather than a victory. One of the founding principles of democracy is a strong and functioning opposition, which New Delhi now lacks. A strong opposition ensures proper functioning.
Next, this places the pressure firmly on them to perform; further, given that a large number of opponents are just waiting out there, ready to pounce on the first hint of non-performance, is going to be a very tall order. No one can be that good; mistakes will happen. These opponents will conveniently forget the much, much bigger mistakes of other political parties, mistakes for which even the nation has paid a high price at time, but will be all too willing to vilify the newcomer in a disgusting show of political opportunism. The AAP is best advised to gird up its lions for the tough fight ahead, that is pretty much a guarantee. We shall look into the reasons for this in the 3rd part.
That would mean it will have to stay focused on its core area of competence : New Delhi. The biggest challenge this huge result places in front of them is the development of areas outside New Delhi; this is now going to be a tough challenge to overcome, as they will need to concentrate on New Delhi. The only way forward for them is to ensure good performance in New Delhi – clean, incorrupt : let the people realize the power of a clean political party. If they now spread themselves thin, they run the risk of losing focus – this they cannot afford. That means, it has now been effectively contained to New Delhi.
Third, the vote share analysis is damning : only non-BJP segments have supported the AAP; the BJP has retained almost 97% of its base. The consolidation of the vote into one anti-BJP platform is going to be almost impossible to replicate, given the entrenched following of regional parties in other areas. The AAP will find it hard to crack that nut. Be it UP or Maharashtra, the ground realities are such  that it makes the way forward for AAP frought with massive risks.
It can be done : but not with haste. This will require careful strategic thought, and excellence in tactical execution. It will also require a long, time consuming process of development of a following among the people. The vote banks are fragmented, which means breaking into these bastions is always going to be a tall order. The key task for the AAP is now proving to the whole world that clean politics is possible, maintaining high standards and letting their work do the talking. For now, they had best be content with a regional role. This does not mean they make no efforts expand; that would be suicide. But this should be with an understanding that 2019 is not an option as of now.
THE HOPE… LIYE SAPNE NIGAHON MEIN, CHALAA HUN TERI RAAHON MEIN…
लिये सपने निगाहों में, चला हूँ तेरी राहों में
ज़िंदगी  रहा हूँ मैं \- 
 
कई यादों के चेहरे हैं, कई किस्से पुराने हैं
तेरी सौ दास्तानें हैं, तेरे कितने फ़साने हैं  \- 
मगर एक वो कहानी है, जो अब मुझको सुनानी है
ज़िन्दगी  रहा हूँ मैं 
मेरे हाथों की गरमी से, पिघल जायेंगी ज़ंजीरें
मेरे कदमों की आहट से, बदल जायेंगी तक़दीरें \-
उम्मीदों के दिये लेकर, ये सब तेरे लिये लेकर
ज़िन्दगी रहा हूँ मैं
This is what the AAP should now take to heart – this is the one line, the one message that should be on the minds of each member of the AAP, each minister and each volunteer. They should realize that the AAP is now a shining light in the darkness for some Indians – hopefully a very large number. People who are looking expectantly towards Arvind Kejriwal and his team, hoping to watch the promise of deliverance from ugly politics come true, hoping that they will see the day corruption reduces, that the goal of equal development will happen, that money reaches the people it is meant for, and much, much more.
Secondly, this majority gives the AAP the much-needed confidence to implement the reforms they deem necessary and within its powers to do. So long as they explain and sell their message, acknowledging their mistakes, and being mature, they should be fine. They now have the mandate; they should not waste the opportunity – something which the central government is in danger of doing.
Third, the AAP should also understand that the BJP can be beaten without winning over its hardliners anywhere else, or its votebanks. So can any other existing party; all it requires is a consolidation of the vote bank, combined with a genuine attention to the ground needs of the people – which will require painstaking hard work at the field level, something which the AAP excels at, as per new reports.. This is admittedly difficult, but not impossible, given time and the right performance in New Delhi, with the needed evolution in its policies and manifesto.
If they can pull it off, they can evolve into a national outfit subsequently far more easily. This will require that the AAP evolve a credible economic policy that balances the need for equity with the need for growth; that is evolves a foreign policy and so on and so forth – and communicates it to the people. It will require all this and much much more; it is a hard long road of learning for the AAP.
But it cannot and should not forget that people now look towards the future with tremendous and fervent hope, people who are eager for a credible alternative, and who are fed up with the status quo in national political discourse. If they forget that, even for a moment – they are finished. And with them, the risk of hope dying and cynicism setting in is too high; that is not a risk we can afford. The AAP should be clear : on them rest the hopes of hundred of Millions.
The reality is that the BJP’s message still sells to its core followers. The reality is the split vote banks are still a reality. The reality is that caste still sells, and caste-based parties will still garner votes. The reality is that frivolous issues are still considered vital, over and above serious issues by some segments of the electorate. The reality is that large numbers of voters are not educated enough to understand the nuances of the policies, and can be easily converted through a one-sided loaded message. And it is in this backdrop that the AAP has to sell its dream outside New Delhi.
The future is now in the hands of the AAP; how it handles New Delhi could well be the difference between the song above, and the one below for those among the electorate who are now looking towards the AAP and its leaders with hope in their eyes, a light in their minds and joy in their hearts…
क्या शबाब था के फूलफूल प्यार कर उठा
क्या कमाल था के देख आईना सहर उठा
इस तरफ ज़मीन और आसमां उधर उठा
थाम कर जिगर उठा के जो मिला नज़र उठा
एक दिन मगर यहाँ, ऐसी कुछ हवा चली
लूट गयी कलीकली के घुट गयी गलीगली,
और हम लूटेलूटे, वक़्त से पीटे पीटे 
साँस की शराब का खुमार देखते रहे
कारवाँ गुज़र गया, गुबार देखते रहे
हाथ थे मिले के ज़ुल्फ़ चाँद की संवार दूँ
होंठ थे खुले के हर बहार को पुकार दूँ
दर्द था दिया गया के हर दुखी को प्यार दूँ
और सांस यूँ के स्वर्ग भूमि पर उतार दूँ
हो सका ना कुछ मगर, शाम बन गयी सहर,
वो उठी लहर के ढह गये किले बिखरबिखर,
और हम डरेडरे, नीर नैन में भरे,
ओढ़कर कफ़न पड़े मज़ार देखते रहे
I Would Rather Listen To The First Song, Arvindji… you are the hope of India… don’t disappoint us. With a strong ruling party- the BJP, and an equally strong opposition – The AAP {hopefully} keeping a check on each other, the future of our India will be guaranteed, with no possibility of anyone going wrong. India needs you, India needs a strong opposition as well as a strong Government!
Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!

THANKS, MSD… YOU WERE A GREAT CAPTAIN!

Published December 31, 2014 by vishalvkale



I didnt say this for Sachin, nor for Rahul… great though they were, and far better cricketers… 

But for you, MSD, A short post. A vote of thanks from my side for leading our India through thick and thin…

You, Sir, Captained Our India, and that to me personally is the most important. You were the leader! The man who represented us all in cricket, the king.. for several years… 

You were there to take the brickbats when we lost. You were there to share the spoils with the team when we won. You took the failures on the chin, and yet shepherded Team India in Cricket for several years… through the highs and the lows… through victory and defeat… in the manner of a king, a true leader… you took us to Number 1; and when the fall came… you were there equally unperturbed… in the true manner of a king! One of the finest Captains India has had! 

And that is why you deserve this… 

Thank you from a fellow Indian… 

Thanks a lot, Mr. Mahendra Singh Dhoni… Ex-Captain Of India!  

Book Review : Indian Economy Under Early British Rule – Irfan Habib

Published April 6, 2014 by vishalvkale

First, history… and then, to top that, Economic History. Yaaaawn, you would think; yet another long-winded treatise that is boooring, you would think. You could not be more off the mark; the current book stands as the best, most interesting and power-packed book on Indian History that I have ever encountered. It is short, to-the-point, powerful, and deeply engaging in its flawless narrative and nearly irrefutable in its scathing indictment of the British.

Next, why should you read this? Reason : because any number of educated Indians regard the British rule as either a boon, or just another subduing power. For them, this book forms the ideal vehicle; it deals with that easily understandable commodity – money, moolah, cash. Not for this book the esoteric realms of cultural subjugation a-la Pawan Verma; or the cruel horrors of imperial murder and genocide in 1857 and 1942-44 a-la other writers. This deals with a subject that is easy to explain, as well as understand and empathise with, driving home the sheer brutality of the British Rule, as well as the fact that we got nothing in return for it that we would not have otherwise got.

The most engaging and powerful part of the book is that it provides dated, irrefutable historical writings from the period being covered at the end of each chapter; each of these – called “extracts” – is both a powerful proof as well as a window into that times, the flawed and one-sided decision making, as well as a window into the India as it used to be in those days; as these extracts were written as history was taking place, much as our modern news articles.

The Indians are in many things of matchless ingenuity in their several employments… In some things the artists  India outdo all the ingenuty of Europe – John Ovington, 1689

In commercial dealings, the honesty of the people of this country is such that, let a complete stranger deposit the the sarrafs hundreds of thousands of cash….  would on demand repay the sum without any delay… honest sarrafs give in Hindwi writings…  agents throughout the country… repay on demand…  Sujan Rai, 1695-96

We are looking at a countrywide system of hundis – or cash transfer system, which is frankly stunningly flawless, forms the economic backbone of the trade. Even more amazing, bill discounting , insurance, merchants, traders and banks etc so-called western concepts were already present nation-wide. And no proofs were kept or demanded; it was based on trust – and a peice of paper. Note the commentary of the observer from 1695; one then wonders wherefrom we learnt corruption, and dishonesty that we see all around us today? This is period evidence – irrefutable.

Indeed, most of Hyder’s operations seem to be highly judicious and reasonable… respected by natives of all dewscriptions – Francis Buchanan, 1807

Tipu Sultan’s plans to introduce industrial technology – Persian MS copies of Tipu Sultan’s instructions for his ambassadors of Turkey and France… 1785 – 86. Hello, what was it about us not getting industrial technology? It appears that we were in the process of industrialising, but could not. Now why was that? Because the EIC took over, and instead of introducing technology, which local rulers were doing, took to raping the land, using it as a captive market, and as a source of raw material. Result, the annual inflow of gold and silver turned into a annual; outflow, resulting in the poverty you now see around us.

The book goes on into the impact of revenue farming from land, and the conversion of the landed labourer into beggars or landless labourers. It looks at the heart-rending situation as millions of skilled workers were rendered homeless, and without work; it looks at the losses to industrial units, which lost 73% revenue within 3 years of the advent of British Rule.

It looks at how a well-to-do nation with an advanced, a very, very highly advanced culture and internal systems was wrecked by what I call less civilized but more brutal inhuman creatures. It looks at the systematic destruction of India in every sector – industrial and agricultural. It dwells on the systematic de-industrialisation of an advanced honest and great civilization that was in most respects far ahead of Europe. And it provides irrefutable proof and evidence.

Read this book to know the India that was, the golden land, the sone ke chidiya… you will not regret it. Feel the pride at what we were, the tragic grief of our total destruction at the hands of a buccaneering and underdeveloped people, and at our crass foolishness that led to this. Read the book  to understand how India was one country, with extensive cross-border trade and advanced systems, and its ambassadorial relations with the world…

There is no reason for us to feel inferior; if anything, we were actually ahead of the west in innumerable areas, as western writers have themselves observed…

My Vote, My Future and My Country… The Lament Of A Disillusioned Voter

Published April 3, 2014 by vishalvkale

On the 10th of April, in 7 days time, the Great Indian Election Season starts wherein each adult Indian is supposed to excercise his or her vote, and choose a party into power. To some of us, it is a vital day; to some of us, it is a duty, to some of us, it is a task, to some of us, it is unimportant… and to some of us, like me, it is a day to regret, to cry in desolation at the absence of a good choice.

2014… 23 years since I reached 18, the grand and exciting age that grants me the right to vote, that grants me a single lifetime Share Certificate in India, Inc; that grants me the ability of impact the direction of the nation and that grants me an admittedly small and infinitesimal but vital power over my own future and destiny.

And yet, despite this share, this power, this influence… I have felt disoriented and aloof from this entire excercise, remaining aloof and divorced from this entire tamasha. For, look as hard as I might, I could not spot a single person to vote for, a single person who deserves my vote. For every party fields candidates with criminal records, a subject now discussed to the point of boredom. If they dont, then you have dynasties, making me wonder and re-check my civics books for India’s Government – is it a monarchy? To my complete shock, and bewilderment, I find that book stating India as a Democracy! Whats with the dynasties then? Not just Gandhi, but everywhere you see dynasties! Pretty sure that I was taught civics by a science teacher. India cant be a monarchy, methinks. No way, no how.

Then, as I began to age a bit, I started noticing things… sorry, GoI, noticing is a no-no in India, I know – but it is kind of hard to ignore the naked woman beggar, the jamaadar bathed in shit as he cleans my drain, the hungry beggar begging for a roti, the emanicipated kids running around half-naked the adolescents carrying tea instead to going to school, the half-naked men and women labourers, the power-cuts, those fantastic roads that ensure that mechanics get some earnings (a true patriot, that person who makes those shit roads – ensuring business to the impoverished. Good show!).

Then, sadly, I did my BSc(Ag) and MBA. And what is worse, someone in both colleges didnt know his job; he was bad at it. He actually taught me something. Oh, woe is me… I actually gained education. And, with that dirty word called education, came those lovely but totally forbidden things- thoughts. Time passed , I read some more. Blame the newspapers – those fools actually printed some good analytical articles, as also some misguided authors who dared to educate us heathens on what good Governance is all about. (Good Governance? Who needs it when we can have those criminals and dynasties around us? Pshaw! Stuff and Nonsense. What we need is a good, hard criminal and a monarch – 2 of them)

And then, I did the cardinal sin. I actually became a bigger fool by taking all those evil writers at their face value, and started analysing. Ooh, evil dirty word – analysis; that puts such stupid thoughts as GDP Growth, Gini Coefficient, Inflation, Per Capita Income, Implementation, Project completion time, Irrigated Area, Per Hectare Crop Productivty, Corruption free society {Sacrilege! Corruption free? India? Sent this guy to Agra Mental Asylum: he’s mad}, Per Hectare Income of farmers, farmer suicides, education and literacy in India, Mortality etc etc…

Having made the mistakes above, I could then only see the stalled project due to corruption and crime, the loss to the nation due to the Mining fiasco, the simple fact that I have pay a bribe just to prove I am married (And I married in front of God and a 1000 guests. Bribes more important than both, hey?), the fact that I cant get a headway on property without grease {this grease has nothing to do with that gooey stuff mechanics use, btw}, the power cuts, the state of the Army as it doesnt have equipment, the state of health and Government hospitals, the state of our schooling system.

Sadly, having actually listened to a lecture in MBA {Yup, classmates, thats one more than you guys!), I had the sad and unfortunate ability to realise that we had been ruled by both sets of dynasties, politicians and criminals largely due to our federal status, with something called “states” being constituted in India, which meant both major parties were ruling me locally at varying times. {What did I tell you – Civics by a science teacher. She did tell me about something called a state, cant recall what. But she did, so there!}. As I said, I made the mistake of analysing, and the even more base mistake of observing.

And to top it all, I also thought! {A citizen, thinking? Whats the world coming to, anyway?} While this stupid analysis did tell me one set of geniuses were slightly better at running the Goverment {Yup, I think I know what that word means. Google Zindabad!} – it also told me that I still require to pay a bribe for just about everything, that projects are still stuck due to corruption, and so on and so forth, despite this “state” government being different. And, since my civics classes were taken by a science PhD with a post-doc in particle phsyics, this sad person taught me state lists and central lists as well. {Well, I mean – to be fair, he didnt actually expect me to read those bloody lists. But I did, kyaa karoon?} And, unfortunately, I could see both lists in deep trouble. Why Oh Why did I read those bloody lists? Those should be classified top secret Government reports!

Result? Confusion! {What do you expect if you think???? Clarity? Kyaa Samjhe ho – RamRajya Hai? Hadd Karte Ho! What an Optimist} {Well, ok, maybe idiot is a better word there. See – the advantage of an education? I read your mind! Yes, yes, I now know it is a perfectly useless skill} Both sides, the people seem similar. Both sides clamouring for my bechaaraa vote. Both sides doing nothing to make my life easier.

What did I expect and ask for all these years?

  • Lesser Corruption
  • Improvement in amenities like cleaner cities, no power cuts
  • Education
  • Cheap and Accessible Health.
  • Good Roads
  • A friendly police force
  • A fast-growing economy
And for that, I, the discerning voter, am considered a fool. Yes, it is foolish in the extreme – asking for such things as a Marriage Licence without a bribe, good roads etc. I mean, I am alive, isnt it? Aur kyaa Chaahiye???? Amazing, the expectations of people nowadays. I am a fool for I used to state that I cannot find a single person to vote for.
Enter 2014. Once Again, Elections. Once again, the chance to alter the future of my country, and by extension, myself. Once again, I start that forbidden monstrosity – analysis. Once again, with a hope that by some miracle I will find someone who deserves my vote. Once again, I search… will this time be different? Will I find that impossibility? I it too much to ask – a single decent clean candidate from my constituency? This time, chances are I might. Hope lives on… being an optimist {ok, ok, ok, ok and a fool}, I once again hope with my fingers crossed… my head bent in silent prayer for my mother, my India

Yet another incident and proof of our lack of humanity…

Published August 24, 2013 by vishalvkale

Heartless Kolkata watches woman commit suicide – The Times of India

Courtesy The Times Of India:

No words, just shock. Read it yourself, and see into a mirror that portrays how uncaring and cruel we have become… we need urgent attention to our  internal value systems, which, far too obviously are skewed up, and screwed up big-time! Our internal compass, which I had thought to be in dire need of correction, is actually lost somewhere; we just lack a moral compass in totality. Read this if you care; move on if you dont! 


Jaago, Sonewaalon!

KOLKATA: A woman climbed on a lamp-post on Friday evening, took her time fashioning a noose from her dupatta, put it around her neck and jumped off. Heartless Kolkata passed by as she choked to death. It was 4pm, rush-hour on Central Avenue, and no one had the time to stop to save a life.

Even when the body hung limply from the lamp-post, no one stepped up to see if there was a heartbeat left. The culture hub ofMahajati Sadan is nextdoor and MG Road Metro station right in front but commuters glanced at the body and went their way. It was 15 minutes before someone informed a policeman and 10 minutes more before the body was brought down because no passerby wanted to help the cop with the grisly job. The victim was identified as 50-year-old Soma Bakshi, who gave up after a bitter fight with her addict husband.

The incident reveals the dark, uncaring side of the city that was not long ago known for its compassion and helpfulness. In October 2008, two police stations squabbled for four hours over jurisdiction as a 37-year-old man lay dying in Howrah and in November that year, hundreds filed past an old man who was shivering to death on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road. In August 2011, a teenage boy lay bleeding for an hour after an accident on the busy AJC Bose Road but no one tried to save him.

Even on Friday, insurance agents were milling about the place when Soma carried out her suicide preparations, witnesses told TOI. They had come for a musical soiree at Mahajati Sadan but no one reacted when she climbed a tree, clambered up to one of the lamp-posts set up recently, and threw herself off.

“Soma lived on the pavement in front of Mahajati Sadan with her husband Dipankar and a daughter. They slept under the open sky and when it rained, they would take refuge on the porch of the Metro station. Soma was the bread-earner and the couple often quarreled because Dipankar didn’t work and blew up her money on drugs. So when they fought on Friday afternoon, none of us paid much attention,” said tea stall owner Pawan Jadav.

Private firm employee B S Chouhan was the first to react when he saw the body after exiting the Metro station. “I was shocked to see the woman hanging while people went about their life as though nothing had happened. I alerted a traffic constable. But when he sought help from passersby to bring the body down, no one agreed. Only when two other constables arrived could the body be brought down and taken to hospital,” said Chouhan. Police have ruled out foul play but have detained Dipankar for questioning.

Gopal Das, who sells fries on the adjoining pavement and knew Soma, rued how insensitive everyone had become. “I am to blame as well for not realizing that Soma had snapped. We are too busy with our own lives and don’t bother if the person next door lives or dies. Had I turned when the quarrel intensified and seen her, I could perhaps have saved her,” he said.

Book Review: Business Sutra

Published April 28, 2013 by vishalvkale

This is one of the most difficult books to pen a review on, a book that is almost limitless in its reservoir of knowledge and wisdom, a book that provides a veritable treasure trove of fables and learnings, a book that is to be treasured, a path of discovery to be undertaken, an experience to be savoured… a book that will leave you richer for the experience, and wiser for the titbits of knowledge; a book that will stay with you for a very long time… a book that will provide each reader with at least one powerful takeaway
For this review, I am adopting a different style altogether; the reason is that the book is so wide and comprehensive, that I freely sumbit that I cannot do justice to the entire content in a review – at least, not in a fashion that will hold the readers” interest. That would require in-depth knowledge – and I have only read the book one-and-a-half times. Further, it is also a fact that this is a book that is experience-based, so let me quote practical real world examples based on some of the concepts the book mentions… that should convince the reader to procure a copy. 
Hence, while I usually try to start my book reviews with lines or paragraphs from the book that draw in the reader and make him or her yearn for the book; however, I am starting this review with a youtube video of a Marathi song sung by Salil Kulkarni and composed by Sandeep Khare and Salil Kulkarni. This song features the lament of a young father who is unable to give his daughter any time,  is unable to be a part of her daily life,  due to work pressures… 

Damalelya Babachi hi Kahani

komejun nijaleli ek pari rani,

utaralele tond dola sutalele pani ||2||

rojchech aahe sare kahi aaj nahi

mafi kashi magu pori mala tond nahi

zopetach gheto tula aaj mi kushita

nijatach tari pan yeshila khushita

sangayachi aahe majha sanulya phula

damalelya babachi hi kahani tula …


Translation: A sweet sleeping child, face strewn with tears, lies sleeping on the bed; this is a daily affair – how do I say sorry to you, my daughter? This is not something new, it is a daily affair… I always see you sleeping, and take you in my arms in with you in your slumber… how do I explain to you, my child, the story of your overworked and dog-tired Dad? 

Offisat ushira mi asato basun

bhandavale doke gele kamat budun

taas taas jato khaal mane ne nighun

ek ek diva jato haluch vijun

ashaveli kai sangu kai kai vate

athava sobat pani dolyatun date


Translation: Whenever I stay late in the office, my head swimming with the pressure of my daily chores, the hours passing by at a terrifying speed – with me unable to ever raise my head from my desk… how do I explain to you, my daughter, that at such times, tears clog up my eyes whenever the memory of your tearful face swims before my eyes? 
I)
The above is the hard reality of life; with its work pressures, disturbed work-life balance and lack of quality time for family. The modern work-place, the professional work-place, with its KRA-driven work ethics, and the penchant to regard human beings as resources, leaves little scope for the emotional and personal side of employees. “Emotions dont play a role in business” is a commonly stated sentence (phrase?) in business. Sounds fine, when viewed impersonally. But consider that the “resource” involved is a human being – and human beings have emotions, feelings, desires and tolerance levels. By dehumanising the entire process, the focus on the KRAs has been achieved  is the common business approach in all organisations. But do take a look at the song above; just how productive an asset is the above employee going to be? His mind is at home, with his child, who complains ” I never see you, I never play with you etc etc?” If you think this a far-fetched, read this article below: 
The scenario of the employee as a human being and not as a resource is one of the first chapters in the book – and most of us, with business or professional experience has either experienced this first-hand – or have seen it up close and personal. Job performance is a function as much of KRAs and targets and goals as it is a function of the individual human being who is responsible for setting the strategies and executing the tactical plans. The moment you look at it from this perspective, a whole new business paradigm unfurls in front of view. And at least a few of the top successful people do realise the virtues hidden in this approach. 
II)
I recall an interchange with my boss a few months ago. He called me up to set up a team meeting. Then he said – dont worry. No plans – just an open discussion. I just wanted to check how much your teams believes in our product, how much they themselves trust and like our product. This is another concept that the book introduces – one that is not touched by contemporary western management science – but it works wonders in the field – simply because an employee who believes in the value and quality of the product of his company will be far more convincing in his customer (whether internal or external) meetings, will more readily recall details and will be more effective as a result. 
III)
The book talks about to vision and mission statements of the organisation… and makes the solid point through a powerful diagram which features an employee hard at work, focussing on his KRAs… but in the thought balloon, he is shown as thinking “whose vision? Whose targets?”. So true, and so spot-on. Vision statements are in reality just phrases adorning corporate – and at the most – hub offices; on-ground reality has little relation to, or at best little focus on the vision statements, company goals, targets, etc. It is all about my vision, my targets etc… little effort is made to communicate and align the employees with the organisational objectives, to understand individual needs and motivators and align them towards a greater common goal. The net result is that frequently, the larger loftier vision or organisational goal gets lost in the race to achieve personal targets – which is quite often at the cost of long-term sustainability for the organisation. 
IV)
One of the most powerful parts of the book is the one which concentrates on the individual, and how to understand each employee, and the need for getting to know the drivers of each employee. In my own team, I have three people who are poles apart; their motivators are varied. One is driven by money and the will to succeed after a fall; another is just biding time as he is assured of a good job in the government. I cannot drive both by the same logic; as a leader, I need to understand the person – not the resource; the human, not the object on an excel sheet that contributes to my own excel sheet of performance! 
I could go on and on ; but this is a review – not a sermon. My objective above is to kindle the thought processes of the readers of this review. The above practical learnings and examples should make the content approach of the book clear. The most interesting aspect is that this is not done in the form of a boring classroom lecture, but through learnings from our scriptures – The Vedas, The Upanishads, The Ramayan, The Mahabharat etc. Allegorical stories and the teaching method adopted; each story is short, fun to read and highly interesting – encapsulated at the end is the short business lesson in the form of diagrams and business examples. The writing is simple, the language is very easy to understand and the pace is almost frenetic; it is a page-turner, It looks at the individual, as I have shown above; it looks at decision making skills, It looks at change – both calm change as well as sudden violent change; It looks at the organisation as an organism – in short, it looks at the entire spectrum of business activities. The book moves smoothly from the broad vision statement of the company to its internal organisation and to the individual in a smooth flow. 
All along, it leaves insights and deep thought provoking germinating ideas in your mind; for example, the segment on the leadership styles and qualities is worth a book unto itself, so powerfully phrased is the presentation. But most importantly, the key message is the importance  of the individual as a human being – not as a resource; understanding him / her – drivers, motivators and how these interplay with the larger corporate scenario; how his/her decisions impact the scene; how differing roles are played by various players in the world – the person who makes decisions, the follower, the leader etc. Read this book for this alone; to me, this has been the most powerful learning. 
In closing, I would like to quote from the above song again, which will serve to highlight that the employee is a human being, and not a machine…

asa kasa baba dev lekarala deto

lavakar jato ani ushirani yeto

balpan gele tujhe guj nisatun

ure kai tujha majha onjhali madhun

jari yete othi tujha majhasathi hase

najaret tujha kahi anolkhi dise

tujha jagatun baba harvel ka ga?

mothepani baba tula athavel ka ga? ||2||

sasurala jata jata umbarathya madhe

babasathi yeil ka pani dolyamadhe?….


Translation: What kind of a father has God given you? Goes early, comes late?  Your childhood passed without Dad being a part of it; Will Dad be a part of your later life? Will you remember me when I am old? Will you cry for your Dad, for missing him as a part of your life when you stand at the threshold of our house on your wedding day, as you leave forever to your Husband’s house? 






Human Beings arent resources on an excel sheet – they have feelings, pressures, stresses, memories, ties, relations, fears, desires… something western management concepts totally ignore…


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