Friday, August 30, 2013

Aam Aadmi Party volunteers- Misery or exhilaration?

A few months back, a wife of one of our volunteer came and requested that I close down one of our local offices, as her husband was neglecting the family and his earning responsibility and sitting in the IAC office, all day. Next day, another volunteer's daughter called me requesting that we stop her father from being part of the movement as he was neglecting his earning responsibilities. I have been hearing similar heart rending stories of our volunteers neglecting their family duties for the national cause. Yesterday, in the volunteer meeting attended by over 250 volunteers, I asked "How many of you have problems at home and work due to participating in the movement?" and over 50% raised their hands.

When I first heard of this issue, I could not sleep well for many nights, as I pondered on what to do. We did not start the movement to break families, nor cause misery to previously happy wives, children and in some case, husbands and in-laws. There is no tangible benefit of money, fame or recognition.

So why did Anna not marry? Why did Arvind quit his job? What propelled me to leave my employment? Why did so many give up their lucrative career to join? Why do thousands of ordinary people leave behind the comfort zone of family, social life and entertainment to spend time, effort and money on doing what normal people would call "crazy stuff"? What drives people to take such extreme steps? What is the future of these volunteers - more pain at home? And more importantly, what should be my response to those who come for guidance or solution?

Some say that all men are born equal. I disagree. Everyone is born different, with unique levels of intelligence, sensitivity, empathy, creativity. But, through free will and choice, people can either evolve or decrease. Looking at the broad spectrum of humanity, I have broadly divided people through their overriding characteristics and attitudes.

Level 1: People who live on a "I, me and myself" attitude. These are the people who are completely focussed on their own existence and own existential issues. All that he is interested is his own pleasures, material comforts and needs. When you hear of a father raping his own child, it is most likely someone living on this level.

Level 2: People living on the next level have expanded consciousness which encompasses themselves as well as their family and close society structure. Peer approval and appreciation, name, fame, money, entertainment, holidays, material show-offs are some their motivations. Most of humanity lives at this level.

Level 3: This is a level at which a small part of humanity lives, in which one has evolved beyond just oneself and close ones. This is the level that most of our volunteers are approaching or have reached. Someone who is at the highest point of this level, is listening attentively to the world and to the people. He is aware of their individual and collective problems. With a sense of objectivity and detachment coupled with involvement and participation, he can find out relevant solutions to their problems. Sensitivity to society, love for all and empathy for the needy manifests as charity and service to others are his characteristics.

Level 4: Who am I? What is existence? What is my role in existence? And, how do I play that role? questions like these occupy the minds and lives of people at this level. Not for them, the mundane issues of the world. Sri Aurobindo was a great revolutionary and freedom fighter at level 3, but soon his evolution took him to this level to explore the dynamic potentiality of the Universal energies and its workings.

Most of our new volunteers are generally the good, simple people, who have been living at level 2. While everyone has been watching the injustice and suffering around the nation, it is only these few people who are ready for transformation, that by force of circumstances and internal change are slowly stepping into level 3. While they may be consciously unaware, there is a great internal change happening within them. 

Transformation is happening in their mind, which manifests itself in different ways - some will come out on the streets shouting slogans, some will write poetries, some sing songs, some paint, some make cartoons and some just come and sit in the office soaking in the atmosphere. While they are bewildered and nonplussed with the higher calling, the exhilaration and enjoyment of being in the higher level makes them want to come back time and again. The earlier joys of family, evening with relative and friends and the entertainment pales in comparison. They want to spend more and more time and energy for working for others.

 It would be futile to expect their families and outsiders to understand their internal changes. Someone who is at a lower level will never understand the one who is more evolved, nor the process of his growth. Most of his earlier contacts will sneer at him, insult him and run him down - calling it a desire for money or fame or worse.

So, it is an evolutionary and life-altering growth that our volunteers are going through individually.  He is bewildered and in a strange world. His environment, his family, his friends and social is still the same, but he has changed and so have their reactions to him. He is torn between the changes happening within, the reaction of his near and dear ones and the feeling of wanting to spend more and more time with what is pulling him.

So, what should I advice him?

Best solution : Live in balance, share with your family and make them understand your predicament. Try to bring your wife in some meetings, avoid friends and TV and spend some more time with the children and family members.

Second best solution: If the above is not possible, then continue working with the movement, in spite of the home strife. You are evolving, and evolution process is eternal, not just of this lifetime. If your family is at a lower level, you need not go to the lower level. Try to pull them up, if possible.

What do you think?

Read in Hindi...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Status Quo is not acceptable

As events move at a bewildering pace, there is a mix of emotions - exhilaration, pleasure, confusion and a lost-in-a-maze feeling. But within all this, there is a sense of direction that is deeply satisfying.

As we waded through the data that we are getting regarding the corruption of people I used to respect (I had the highest respect for Nitin Gadkari, specially as I knew about how he constructed the flyovers and how he used to desist taking money from the contractors, used to like Salman Khurshid's frankness), the scales have started falling from the eyes. Can this be the truth? Can the amounts be so large? Is this real? While the numbers and the insensitivity is staring in the eyes, the mind still wants to cling to the old, false reality. Can Salman Khurshid actually cheat the differently abled? for a mere 71 lakhs? Can Gadkari rob the farmers of their land, for money? Is there no limit? Its numbing and shocking!

The way the BJP supporters have started attacking me on FB, twitter is so amusing. Calling me a land mafia, when all I did was being an employee of a NGO funded by a developer for 3-4 years ! Based on some false newspaper report, an article in India today, based on the newspaper report and a TV report again based on the same newspaper report! By the way, that false newspaper report also never made any accusation of corruption nor of being the land mafia. My response that I had given then can be read for reality check at My personal integrity is unimpeachable.

Today, all political parties are comfortable working in the system. There is probably no serious party that has not tasted power - even a new entrant like MNS is in power in many places. So, there is no desire to change the way things operate. Sometimes I listen to some of the TV debates and the discussion about how changing the FDI component by a few percentage points will change the country, or how a certain policy will alter. I wonder, if this is the same country that I know of? A country, where more than 40 crore people go to sleep hungry? Where thousands commit suicide due to poverty? The panellists think that by fine tuning the policy, all the problems will vanish. I think that we need major overhaul, and not minor technical glitch repairing. They want status quo and we do not.

Status Quo is not acceptable!

There is this raging argument going on, that IAC will cut into BJP votes and due to IAC, Congress will come back to power. And that we should stay away and select BJP as it is the lesser evil. My counter question is "Why does India have to select an evil at all?" Also, I believe that any of the parties that comes to power will continue with the status quo, and status quo is not acceptable.

Why not try and make our dreams for the nation come true, rather than compromise with lesser evil?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Personal Rumination in midst of battle

We have had a tradition of ruminating in the midst of battle. Bhagavat Gita was conceptualized in the midst of the Kurukshetra war. I intend to reflect every week on the fast changing scenarios, inner party dynamics, the national resonance and my personal reactions to the overwhelming developments. I may not possess good writing skills nor the necessary vocabulary, but will write candidly (maybe too candidly) in a self introspective, doubting manner with a touch of self deprecating humour. Do point out if I start taking myself too seriously.

There was a Marathi poem which I had heard long back, which essentially said "There was once a man who urinated in the sea; he spent his balance life measuring how much the sea level had risen because of his urination". The last two days, I was that man.

On the Newshour program on Times Now on Tuesday, the 9th Oct, I told Renuka Choudary, the Congress spokesperson, that she should answer the nation frankly and honestly on the Robert Vadra issue instead of "Rolling your eyes and making faces". She was understandably flustered and angry, but all those who watched were highly amused and there was a flurry of emails, sms, FB posts and tweets quoting my statement. Instead of immediately apologising to her on air, I marvelled at my sharp retort. For two days, I kept on going to the FB, twitter and gloating at my smartness.

Last night, post dinner, I suddenly realised what kind of monster I was becoming. I looked at other signs - there were plenty. My sudden desire to wear appropriate clothes (kurtas), telling people how many calls, emails and sms that come and cannot be handled, combing hair before TV shows and generally feeling like a cat-that-just-ate-the-canary. All my life, I used to mock and make fun of people who took themselves too seriously, people who were pompous, self opinionated and loving the limelight. Am I sliding towards that? Yes, too many warning signs, and therefore an urgent and dire need for course correction.

The reaction of the country to the revelations on the irrigation scam with Ajit Pawar's resignation, Nitin Gadkari's attitude of sleeping with the enemy and Robert Vadra's Real Estate ventures was interesting, to say the least.

The way Arvind Kejriwal went about demolishing one party's claim on honesty after another with clarity, documents, strategy and complete candour is unparallel. His honesty and truth comes out so vividly on TV, that he has become the hero of this nation. In a nation starved of icons (so starved that we used of think of Rahul Gandhi as a youth icon), here was a ray of hope. I have known him for many years and he is a complete WYSWYG (What you see is what you get). There is no pretence, no fake attitude, no game playing. Completely obsessed with serving the nation, by what he thinks is the right way. The inner clarity and truth makes him also fearless. But the real test will come when the vision, manifesto and party workings come to the fore. Am personally very impressed with his thoughts on decentralization and governance, as articulated in his book Swaraj. (Am I sounding like Salman Khurshid - will-give-my-life-for-Sonia Gandhi-kind? :))

Congress is its worst enemy. Earlier in every public meeting, I used to ask people to cheer for the three people who were instrumental  in the growth of the India against Corruption(IAC) movement -Manish Tiwari, Kapil Sibal and Chidambaram. Every time they opened their mouth, thousands of angry Indians would join the movement. This time its Manish Tiwari, Rashid Alvi and Renuka Chaudhary. Is a 130 year old party so bereft of quality people that they have these people as their spokespersons? I would have thought that parties would like to have their smartest and best faces as the TV spokespersons. Are these the best? Its a matter of deep concern for the nation. At least, BJP has much better spokesperson with Nirmala Seetaraman being really good.

The best course for Congress would have been to respond to the Robert Vadra accusation with gravity, seriousness and impartiality. Instead, we are witnessing this terrible spectacle of one sycophant minister after another (one governor too), jumping on each other to rubbish the allegation on the ground that it was motivated. No planning, no understanding, no strategy - just a mad rush to show to the boss some "chaplusi" or "sycophancy". I shudder at the quality of people in government. No wonder, we are in such a mess.

BJP is in a strange position. They tried their utmost to prevent the IAC party formation, but did not succeed. They dont know how to deal with this unknown entity. Every revelation made by Kejriwal was known to them - Robert Vadra, Nitin Gadkari's "Char kaam hum karte hain...", Irrigation scam (where their members are involved), Electricity issue in Delhi- but they kept quiet. Now when it is out in the open, there is a quandary. If they support the revelations, the question will be asked and is being asked about what they did as opposition till now, inspite of having the information and secondly, supporting IAC's stand will also strengthen IAC, to their detriment. Cannot swallow and cannot spit out. Cannot take too strong view on corruption, as their leaders are going to be exposed too. Their discomfiture as they again try to reclaim the opposition space is amusing.

What is also very interesting is that both parties are on tenterhooks. They know that IAC has much more data on their parties and senior leaders. So, how does one react? You justify one and another will hit you. Now, with Kejriwal's call to the people to give information on corruption of leaders, our offices are flooded with unbelievable information on the corruption of some of the top leaders of the nation. The revelations are shocking, to say the least. Media has also become very aggressive on this issue and the immediate future of the major parties is seeming rocky.

The strategy of both parties will be to somehow shoot the messenger. Try and discredit IAC and its members. So, we are soon going to witness all agencies, loyalists swooping on some of the faces of IAC, trying their damnest to discredit them. Strategy being " Cant refute facts, dont worry - impute motives, plant some stories and brazen through".

I think this may backfire badly. The people are loving this spectacle of the corrupt squirming and if any attempt is made to deflect - the parties will have to pay dearly electorally. And if any of the IAC people are physically harmed, especially Arvind, then this country may see a revolution. India is ready for the next phase of change.

We, surely are living in interesting times.