Thursday, April 12, 2012

Voter turnout paradox


This post comes as a reaction to the article that I read by Mr.Sushant Singh. This is the second article of the author that I have read about the voter turnout. 

My experience of being part of two voter awareness/registration campaigns (Jaago Re! and Jaagte Raho!) over the past 2.5 years and more importantly of being a citizen of India for 3 decades have shaped my thoughts. 

I strongly believe that for a vibrant democracy, every citizen has to participate whatever the level of awareness. We cannot alienate certain citizens for their lack of knowledge of public policy et al. The onus is on government, civil society organisations and citizens to create a more aware demographic but should not be a hindrance to participation.

And for this participation VOTING is the first step. 

I agree that voting in big numbers does not essentially result in better governance but it is at least a beginning. 

A call for higher voter participation is the first step to generate an interest in governance and public affairs which is definitely missing in the urban citizen for many a reason. If a democracy has to thrive it cannot be because a few citizens take up the burden of participation while others whine. It has to be collective. 

No citizen has the right to complain when they dont participate. Higher participation shows the politician that the citizen cares. It also gives a further impetus to engage with the leader at different forums. Most politicians do not care for the views of the middle class and do not pay attention because they feel their deeds go unnoticed with this section of the population. If this section starts to show the interest, the politician will have no choice but to care. 

I do not buy the argument about not voting due to the bad choices on the candidate list. There are bad choices because political parties know that no one is questioning them. If citizens begin to participate, beginning with voting, political parties will also be vigilant in their 'ticket' giving process. To give a very simplistic argument, if the least 'bad choice' is voted-in each time, over a few elections the 'bad choice' will transform to be a 'good choice' by the process of weeding out. The political parties will start giving tickets to people who have a chance to get elected and who are worthy. 

You get what you deserve, if you think you deserve better then ask for it. 

Napoleon said - The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, But because of the silence of good people. 

So stop being silent....elect, engage....

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wedding planning by dummies!


This post comes in the wake of a friend asking me to help plan her wedding. I am not going to get all nostalgic and cutesy about my dream wedding. Yes yes, I got married after all the fuss you might remember from one of my older posts.

Being the control freak, I went about planning and executing the wedding with participation from my fiancé, support from both sets of darling parents and running around done by some friends and relatives.


source - http://www.ahlanlive.com/ 


So here goes the list created by us wedding planning dummies - 
  • 'Money Conversation'
  • - this is the most important conversation according to me which is often missed out in the excitement of the engagement. Since my fiancé and I wanted to pay for the wedding expenses we started working with a number in mind. Allocate on the following items as per your wishes. You can still have a fancy wedding if you are willing to look around for the cheap deals and cut out the fringes that you won't even notice

  • Theme/type of wedding - is it going to be religious? just a party for relatives and friends? or a bit of both? His city or hers or a destination wedding? Winter or summer wedding?
  • Guest list - At the early stages you only need to know the overall number. It could cause you some stress if what you and your fiancé want is different from what the families want. But some fights and negotiations later you will pin down on a number which is for you to decide on the venue and the rest of the details. You just need to know how many are invited for which events (if you have more than one event) at the early stages. 

  • Venue - One of the first things to book since all the best places and best deals get taken very soon. Plan at least 6-8 months in advance. If you want to do it in a place of worship you will have to talk to the priest and work out the details. Keep in mind the weather, number of guests, accessibility, parking, lighting, ventilation etc. Also,ask about the furniture they would give, water and electricity charges. I wanted an open air wedding since I was bored of seeing all the weddings in a close door place and I am slightly claustrophobic. Hence we decided on a lawn of a heritage hotel which also accommodated many of our guests.
  • Accommodation and transport for out of town guests - to get better deals book your accomodation in advance. You can keep an approximate number in mind while doing so. See if any in-town relatives and friends are willing to host guests. Renting an apartment or a house might be more economical than hotels sometimes. Check out taxi rates for guests to ply to and from the venue to the place of accomodation. Ask if friends and relatives are willing to chauffeur for the day.
  • Invitation cards - you might want to check online to see what styles you like best, before you venture out. My personal suggestion would be not to spend a fortune on this because most people will end up trashing it. If you do not find anything you like in the market you might like to design it yourself or with the help of friends and get it printed. There are many softwares available for you do to so. Also, you don't have to follow conventions to the T. Experiment a bit and write what you and your family want to as long as it conveys the basic message
  • Catering - Get quotes from couple of caterers and do the mandatory tasting. If you are specific about things like me, you might want to check on the dishes and cutlery used to serve the food, if you want to go green then insist of minimal use of plastic. Add on the cost of transporting the cooked food or the dishes to cook the food to the venue which is most often missed by the caterers while mentioning their per plate price.
  • Decoration - most often this might come with the venue. If not, then you might want to look for a decorator who will take care of the chairs, tables, flowers, music, tent, decorative lights, regular lights if you have an evening of entertainment, back-up power arrangement.
  • Photographer - do some search on-line to find out the type of photographs that you want. You can ask around or find photographers through the photos that you like on-line. Please sign a contract with the photographer else you will have grief like we did with the person not turning up on time, not delivering on time, not delivering the required number of photos, not bothering to cover everybody and in the end completely ignoring your calls...
  • Entertainment - personally I am not a big fan of entertainment during the wedding because I think the wedding ceremonies itself are a big entertainment and it is a place for people to mingle. But if you want to book a band, musician, troupe, please do so after watching their show
  • Wedding favors - this is something that depends a lot on the tradition but who says you cant experiment. South India has the tradition of giving Thabulam which consists of a betal leaf, betal nut and coconut. Return-gifts range from a simple chocolate/sweet to something as expensive as silver or gold. Work on it with your budget in mind. No one is really going to remember what you gave them after a few years. 
  • Trousseau - please do not spend a fortune on both the brides and grooms clothing. You might want to keep in mind if it is usable again and the opportunity cost of getting something extravagant which is going to sleep inside the wardrobes for the rest of your lives. I know its important to look your best, but then its your wedding, everybody thinks you look the best ;)

  • Delegate - Towards the wedding it is best to delegate all the items to different relatives or friends after explaining all the details. This will help you enjoy your D-day without stress. Who am I kidding, you will still be super-stressed, but at least not worrying about the minor details....
Happy wedding-planning!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

'Bench'-ing it!

There is one thing that I really suck at in life - resting! As strange as it may sound I have this OCD to be doing something all the time. Making lists of things to-do and then striking them out is one of my favorite pass times. If I ever had some free time just to idle away, I would go around the house looking for stuff to clean or organize or make some craft out of. I know, you must be saying "what a nutcase".

 So recently when my health took a really bad turn, I was forced to rest. It was my body's way of telling me that I should 'chillax'. I resisted it and was feeling really low that I was not making myself useful. I started complaining about how I had to quit my job and recuperate, and how I was not sure what I would do next etc. Well, in the first place i was in bad health because of the way i was crazily working. One of my friends said something really nice which stuck a chord with me. She said " imagine that you are walking along a beautiful path and there is fog in front of you. You can see a bench along the path, a beautiful lawn, some flowers growing and butterflies fluttering. Just take this moment and "bench it".

 I think most of us resist it when things take a down turn in life and try to do something about it. I realize now that when nothing is working for you, you should just do nothing. Take the time to rest and regain strength from within, rather than getting energy by doing some activity.

 Happy "bench"-ing people!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Love thy neighbour

I remember a beautiful story (I forget the source now) about a farmer who followed this commandment very earnestly.

Jones was a flourishing farmer with humble beginnings. Being the first farmer in that area to use hybrid seeds, he got considerable media attention. A young journalist who was looking for something more than just what the 'hybrid' seeds could offer hit upon an unusual angle to this story. Apart from using the seeds on his own field , Jones was also distributing the same to his neighbours for free. This surprised the journalist because he thought being a smart businessman Jones would think about his profits and not distribute his seeds around. What he didnt know was Jones was a better businessman than anyone could ever fathom. Jones believed that if only he was using the 'good' seeds and his neighbours were using 'bad' ones, then his crop would also be of lesser quality due to cross-pollination and also pest attack from the neighbouring fields. By giving his neighbours the 'hybrid' seeds not only did he ensure that his crops were of the best quality he was also being lauded a good Samaritan.

I usually remember this story in the context of 'foreign affairs' and especially in the case of India. I believe that no country can achieve its fullest potential having troubled neighbours. India's neighbours have always caused her anxiety, more because of their internal problems than their issues with India.

I fully support India's external affairs policy of helping its neighbours rebuild their country and the lives of innocent civilians there. Be it Afganistan or Nepal, extending a helping hand without really interfering into their internal matters will not just do them good but also help us in the long run. Even if the show of strength continues at the borders, the other diplomatic measures should be taken forward with all the countries including Pakistan. Even if people say that the language best understood by Pakistan is the language of strength, as long as we can change the public perception inside that country into believing that we mean no harm, we have won half the battle.

Like the Jones in the story our efforts should be towards not just building our nation but also spreading the 'good' seeds around.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

One weekend,a dozen cosemtics


Packing for a weekend trip with a pair of jeans and two t-shirts/tops, but a dozen or so cosmetics baffled me. I was trying to fit everything into a small back pack but all my 'appearance-preserving' items demanded more space.

It got me thinking as to how till sometime back all I needed was a brush, paste and a bar of soap for the umpteen camps, events, trips that I have been to (OK,granted, a little more than some time back). And if I were going to a relatives or friends place I wouldn't even bother taking the tube of paste and the bar of soap. But now starting with my head and running down to my toe, every body part is clamoring for attention from a new product. I cannot place the entire blame on the Lakme, Biotique, Himalya and the likes for coming up with products for body parts which my grand mom would have considered unworthy of attention. Anybody want to know what a cuticle cream is ;)?

Coming back to my packing for the trip - I decided that my hair would need a wash once I landed after a grime-ridden train journey. That meant carrying three different products for the ritual - the first one used before the wash, one during the wash and last one after the wash. I definitely cannot skip taking my basic cleanser to wash myself, but then again I cannot use the same for my face (because the companies/magazines say that the skin is totally different on my face as compared to the rest of my body, but then how does my skin look the same everywhere?). That means two bottles of liquid stuff. Whoever the hell came up with CTM? (do not try googling for it,nothing on the first page will be even remotely akin to what I am talking about - cleansing, toning, moisturising),the first time I heard/read the abbreviation I thought it was something to do with computer technology.


After I have a wash I need products so that my skin is not damaged and to 'lock' the moisture in (somebody tell me what the 'key' is). And this is contingent upon the climate/ weather of the place I am in - the sun demands SPF and the clouds something else. Seriously!!!. Every few days I would also need something to take the dead skin off my face - yes, skin dies as well, if you did not know that before.

Let me stop here before I begin to recount the number of products that I packed to add colour to my face. And if this sounds crazy, I actually skip half a dozen products that my girl friends/ cousins use.

These are the times when I miss being a child when you don't really care if you were having a bad hair day (not going to bother explaining what that is, because I am still trying to understand what it really means) or your armpits smelled a little. You thought when one said 'oily' it meant your puri's and batura's and not your skin; 'combination' was about teams during a skipping game or hopscotch. Back then as long as you brushed your teeth and washed yourself everyday you were good to go. Sigh!!!those days....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fre(e)ading

I always thought that reading for free in a bookstore is not decent. How would they make their money, if everybody started reading sitting in the comfy chairs? Well,my morality stands corrected after I did the same some days back. I felt sneaky while doing it but then I was just one among the many.

'The Tales of Beedle the Bard' has been an object of my curiosity since I read about Hermione reading it in the last Harry Potter book. The exorbitant price pushed me into reading it on the spot. I blame my behaviour on the price. The over-rated book took over my over-rated morality.

I learnt a lesson in the process "it doesn't hurt to be cheap :P", at least not physically.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Full-circle

Times in my life when I am astonished at how my parents and me have come a full-circle, are a few more than what I would have anticipated some years back. My parents have started listening to me not just hearing me out, I have started taking decisions for them, they are mute spectators when I call the shots....ok, am i sounding like a dictator here?..not that they didn't listen to me before but now the balance of power somehow seems to be tilted towards me than ever before. And all this in a very nice way; subtle way of them resting after decades of toiling, sacrificing and agonizing; obvious way of them evolving with times and wanting to give in to the younger influence in their lives.

My 'dad-daughter' activity this weekend makes me reflect on this more than any 'mom-daughter' activity ever. Maybe I just take it for granted that my mother has started listening to me and my opinions, however bizarre they might be. She certainly has changed her views on feminism, politics, casteism and I am getting there with gay marriages.

Dad and daughter replacing the front-door lock is a play fit to be enacted on Broadway. The tools strewn all over, raised voices, sweltering heat making it worse, all in all, the drama involved would make Uncle podger seem mild.

"Pa, its not done that way, will you just let me do it..." was the turning point when my father started assisting me and not the other way round. He just said "OK" and went on to hand me tools. He did not shout as to how he was right and I couldn't do it. He did not say how many times he had done this before. He just said "OK". After decades of playing second fiddle here I was, tightening the screw.

When the screw was going in circles I could see my life was doing the same.
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