Monthly Archives: April 2009

India in Slow Motion by Mark Tully: A Book Review

India in Slow Motion

India in Slow Motion

It is not so often that one comes across a book that reinforces the potential of presenting facts and situations to capture the interest of a reader in a way that the book becomes both educative and a page turner. INDIA IN SLOW MOTION by Mark Tully does just that. With his immaculately diverse  set of ten typically Indian  real life stories, he has successfully brought about the fundamental flaws in the system that is governing this country. I first interacted with Mark Tully at IIT Bombay during their fest and was impressed by his knowledge and observations. And after reading India in Slow Motion, my respect and admiration for him has grown ten fold.

Most of the book is not as much about exposing the familiar problems plaguing India, as it is about revealing the intricacies, significance and true extent of the same. Topics such as the Ayodhya issue, corruption, droughts, farmer suicides, Kashmir, the IT revolution are not unfamiliar. But the treatment that Tully has meted out to these topics inevitably makes us rethink our own estimation of the nature and significance of the problem. Be it the thrilling, detailed first hand account of the entire Tehelka sting operation which got the Defence Minister to resign, the true tale of Kashmir and why it is in its present state or a little known village in Gujarat that has declared independence from the rest of the country, Tully describes an India which exhibits  a common foundation running through all of them-the NETA-BABU Raj-which he finds to be the single most important factor why India is still a country in Slow Motion.

The book starts off by describing a small but largely representative incident in a remote village  in Madhya Pradesh, where a Cyber Cafe built by an NGO is being brought down on the orders issued by a bureaucrat of the region for not possessing a particular “Internet Service Provider License -II”. This incident is small because it never made to the papers and representative because it shows how the Indian bureaucracy is working to defeat it’s own purpose.  Other stories in the book  deal with many cultural and religious aspects including a first hand account of the Babri Masjid demolition and the subsequent efforts to build a Ram Temple in the same site along with detailed descriptions about the rise and present state of Christianity in Goa and also an informative chapter on Sufism and the stance taken by different Muslim leaders in India.

But the crux of the book lies in the revelation of a large number of small facts that goes a long way in choosing the correct frame of reference to look and judge this country’s state of affairs. A large many assumptions developed over years of exposure to the Indian media is convincingly set right by simply reflecting on these hard facts plaguing the country and of which, the majority of us are blissfully unaware. Sample this: In a chapter dealing solely with the farmer suicides in Karnataka, Tully describes the procedure for a farmer to obtain a low interest loan from a Nationalized Bank as per a Govt scheme. In the words of the Bank Manager:

Before any farmer can ask for a loan, he has to produce, one-land records, two- records of rights, three-no dues from the government, four-records of all land revenue paid, five-land valuation certificates, six-no dues from agricultural societies, seven-permission from court if applicant is a minor and eighth(and here is the best part!)- NO DUES CERTIFICATES FROM ALL THE OTHER 9 BANKS IN THE AREA!!!!!!”

And to procure the no dues certificate from all the other banks, a farmer has to approach each and every bank individually and get a certificate from each of them!

Another equally glaring fact concerns the structure and the working of the Police force in India. Tully quotes directly from a report submitted by a Senior retired Police Officer who says:

“..the 1861 Act passed by the British Raj still governs the organization, structure, philosophyand working of our police forces at the end of the twentieth century, never mind the phenomenal changes in our social, political, scientific, economic, and cultural spheres over the decades. The pattern adopted by the 1861 Act was based on the Irish Constabulary because Ireland was a colony at that time.”

Another Senior Police Officer says:

“..for the bureaucracy, control over the police has become an intoxicant they are addicted to and are just not willing to give up. And so the act of 1861 continues to be on the statute book even after nearly one hunderd and forty years-a millstone round the police neck”

Here is another concerning the corruption in the Indian Military:

“An Arms dealer has to bribe a Major General around Rs. 10 lakhs just so the dealer can obtain the list of equipment that the Indian Army is looking to test and purchase!”

Simple but revealing facts like these are in abundance in the book largely due to Tully’s first hand investigation into every topic he has written about. One of the best chapters in the book, I found, was the one on corruption which included a detailed first hand account of the entire TEHELKA sting operation by the very man who performed the sting with the hidden camera! The thrilling encounters with the top politicians and military leaders coupled with the glaring and inexcusable stupidity on part of the Generals for believing everything makes the chapter both humorous and thought provoking. The chapter on the Farmer suicides in Karnataka during the drought on the turn of the millenium is also very well documented with facts revealing such a lack of basic common sense among the officials, that one feels there is no hope for the Indian farmer. Like a farmer says,”A farmer in India is born in debt, lives in debt, dies in debt and is reborn in debt!” Another truly memorable quote that perfectly epitomizes  the life of a farmer comes from a farmer who is asked why he is not investing in long term gains and stability by sending his children to school. He says: “Sir, we farmers are not concerned about what happens 10-15 years from now. All we care about is being able to live through today…everyday”

The stories in India in Slow Motion do little to portray India the way political campaigns (like India Shining) do. But at the same time, the stories do not aim to bring out the harsh realities prevailing in the country such as poverty. What it does aim, however, is to give first hand information on issues that every Indian is familiar with. Though a few stories form an exception  to the familiarity aspect, the underlying objective of giving the readers first hand information on the ground reality successfully weaves through these stories as well. Throughout the book, Tully never makes the slightest effort to force his opinion on the reader. In fact, his completely objective portrayal of ground reality obviates the need for the reader to frame an opinion about India’s prospects. And so, instead, his astute observations compel the reader to develop both the positive and negative outlooks about India.

Tully’s inferences always tend to tell a tale of a car trying to move forward with its brakes on. In spite of describing stories that show the blatant inefficiency  and flaws in the governance system, Tully still displays an optimism that stems from recent and not so recent history when India did make the effort to liberate the economy, thereby easing a little off the brakes on its path to development. But the question of how long or what it takes for these changes to come about, though raised, is left deliberately unanswered. This book is a must read before anyone decides to have a say about any aspect of the present state of affairs in India.

Chronicles of an NITK Convocation

This post is very easily over 2 months late in appearing, but nevertheless I was finally able to finish and post it.

It was simply put, the 3 best days I have had in a long long time. Exceeding all my expectations and fantasies, I returned from my convo with a big smile on my face. Here I recollect all my memories from those 3 days.

After much delay and speculation, my convo date was finally fixed on Jan 31 2009. The day I was supposed to be bestowed upon with a Bachelor of Technology degree for my 4 years of improvised laziness and unproductivity. But my plans  included a lot more than just that. Considering the fact that I had been practically sober for over 5 months, my priorities took shape around appropriate issues. I also had a list of things to do in college which I held close to me during my stay there. So, in decreasing order of priority and importance, here is the list of what all I intended to accomplish:

  1. Get drunk.
  2. Get drunk and then get sloshed.
  3. Go for a midnight inebriated walk around the campus.
  4. Then get drunk again.
  5. Meet all my teachers.
  6. Eat the early morning hot Buns at Thadambail.
  7. Meet all other relevant people.
  8. Eat at 3rd Block Night Canteen.
  9. Visit the beach and eat the egg omlette at the nearby shack.
  10. Download as much as possible from DC++.
  11. And not to forget, I was also supposed to collect my degree!

So with these objectives in mind, I set out to my college in a train accompanied by dozens of fellow to-be-graduates. After getting duly blasted by the TC for being over zealous in disturbing co-passengers who were not to-be-graduates, I went to sleep. At around 9:30 AM, I found Sadanand and myself camping in the same junior’s room and I couldn’t help being reminded that we were room mates once again. The junior looked exactly like how anyone would look half an hour prior to committing suicide. But then, that aside, there were a lot of changes worth noticing in and around the campus. The Highway was in impeccable condition, the new hostel blocks were towering at 7 storeys and a few new buildings were already up and running. But alas! One thing had apparently remained the same, as if in defiance to all the changes happening around-there was still no god damn water in the hostel blocks!

And so, at around 11, I finally met my classmates and went to speak to my teachers. It felt really nice to go back to where it all began for me. Met both my Geotech teachers because of whom I have whatever identity I got right now and informed them of my first admit. Needless to say, they were pretty happy as well. Had lunch at the newly opened “Suraj International” thinking there would be alcohol as well, but alas, they didn’t serve drinks. And soon after, I found myself in Mangalore watching Luck By Chance at Bharath Mall and I have to say, the movie was good.  But the best part of the day was yet to come.

Tul was conducting a quiz (unfortunately under sober conditions) and though I didn’t take part in it, it was anyway an informal affair with a lot of nice questions. Practically the entire quizzing gang had turned up for the quiz and stuck together to get drunk at the one and only Garuda Bar as well. Choukkar, the alcoholic had apparently been sloshed the entire day but didn’t mind  remaining that way for much longer. And as far as I was concerned, I was getting drunk with fellow alcoholics after more than 7 months-and thats all I cared about. And I was duly joined by my room mate alcoholic Sadanand who had, in the meantime, gone to Mangalore on a mission of utmost importance and almost succeeded completely! In spite of his failure, he had still gone one up on my To-do list! And so as he joined the drinking party already drunk,  it became very evident that he was enjoying it! And to add to the shady atmosphere, some old melodious Kannada songs started blaring in the Bar speakers and sounded real awesome! After most of the gang had left, we decided to call it quits at around 12:30 in the night with Gayru who had come all the way from IIM Kolkata and it was nice catching up and belting our very own Karadi. Finally, we ended up in one of our Junior-Harish’s-room nice and high, with plans of watching a movie. Those plans drastically changed 2 minutes into the movie when Sadanand just crashed and went off to sleep. So soon, even I left to my camping room- the dude with the suicide on his face-and went off to sleep.

I woke up early next day, slightly disoriented, wondering for a few seconds where I was and what had happened the previous night. Then when it all came back to me, I got ready and realized I had to get myself registered for the convo. So I went with Sadanand and got registered at the SJA and also convinced him to have the famed Idly-Vada-Sambar breakfast with me at our very own Mysore Mess-I. He was of the opinion that the mess worker would chase us once he found out that we were not students anymore. But nothing like that happened.  A new mess worker gave us the eye but let us eat all the idlis we wanted. And they were still awesome! Free Breakfast!

And as for the convocation itself, all of us were present at the SJA half an hour before time and that was sufficient time to catch up with all of the 18 classmates who had turned up. A dress code of white formal shirts with ties and black trousers and black shoes was flouted by many including me. In due time, the entire senate entered the auditorium to an entrancing music. All the members of the senate were clothed in a strange attire fitting their designations and the whole thing looked more like we were getting inducted into some major cult rather than getting our degrees! And so after all the formalities got underway, the speeches started. And after the speeches ended, the degree giving began. First to all the MTechs and MCAs and then to the BTechs. My parents had come and were watching from the first floor. And I have to say this: The moment I collected my degree which made me a Graduate of Civil Engineering from NITK Surathkal, I felt absolved of all my guilt and regret of not having made it into an IIT and was more than just happy to have spent 4 of my most memorable years here in NITK.

By the time I went back to my room, it was 530 in the evening and Sadanand left to Mangalore with a more noble objective. And I found myself in the company of Logik, Con and a certain female entity who had suddenly lost significant weight-headed for the beach. On the way, I was able to tick off one more on my To-Do list when I ate the Egg Omlette at the Egg Shack near the Lighthouse. Then, after some confusion, I found myself on the beach, sitting on the rocks, talking and catching up on old times for a very long time. It was almost 9 in the night when we decided to go back to the campus. Somehow, I wish I could have stayed there on those rocks feeling the breeze and hearing the waves splash, for a much longer time.

On my way back, I met my HoD and he was really happy to see me. Having been extremely co-operative and helpful during my course, I was really happy to see him as well. After a brief chat with him, I parked myself in front of my Dept for some more chatting session. Shortly, my junior and drink buddy for the night,Harish,  turned up from Mangalore and we both went to do what we were meant to do-get totally drunk. Adrian joined us for our drinking session, as promised. I opened my Black Dog Scotch which I had been saving for over 6 months just for this moment and raised a toast to my Convo. Half an hour later, the bottle is empty and so I open the Tetrapack of DSP that I had bought in the last week of my stay in the hostel. I had saved this too for this date. And after that also got over, Adrian hit upon this very useful idea and next thing I know, I have about 180ml of William Grant’s exquisite Scotch with me in my bottle. With that, we escape out of the hostel and all the way to my Dept, where we camp to finish the extra quarter Scotch. Time passes by and none of us 3 are in touch with it. After the Scotch gets over, I pay my tribute to my Dept by leaving behind all traces of alcohol consumption at the steps leading in front of the Dept Building. All 3 of us, totally drunk by now, head to SAC and talk more nonsense. Logik joined us shortly thereafter. After some more idle chat, I call up Royan (the main reason I am an alcoholic) and talk to him for about half an hour during which time he tells me something he did that suddenly spiked my respect for him. (Hail Royan! Thou art in a diferent continent and at a different level altogether! I Bow to thee!!) And soon after, my conversation with Royan ended, largely due to the zero balance that Adrian’s phone began to claim. However, the night was still young, and I was still pretty high. Harish had crashed on the stage where some Shamiana had been put up. I fulfilled another of my long standing goals by performing “Aqualung” in SAC to a non-Zero crowd with my air guitar! I then joined Adrian in singing “Turn the Page” to the same crowd.

Me and Adrian : ” …Smoke the day’s last cigarette..remembering what she said…what she said”

Adrian (immediately): Here I am!! On the road again!!

Me: Hey wait man! I need to play the lead still! (I walk into the front and play the lead!)

After the song is over and I have played the outro as well, Adrian finds Harish sleeping on the stage and upsets the support used to tie the Shamiana in place and lo and behold! This dude, suddenly springs to life and jumps out of the stage in a flash expecting the entire thing to come down on him-which incidentally didn’t happen. Nevertheless, we found ourselves at 3rd Block Night Canteen treated as the last customers for the night and I end up having some Vada Pav.Now i wish I had also had the Lassi.

I dont recollect what time it was exactly, but it was pretty late in the night-almost early morning. We head to the rooms to get some cash to eat the early morning hot buns at Thadambail and when I went back to the room, I was in for a treat! Though not officially on my To-Do list for the convo, it was always there at the back of my mind. And to do the stuff in that state of mind, at that time with fellow like-minded people (some of whom had passed out during their marathon 6 hour long session) and with copious amounts of Mint flavored Hukka, it was a lot more than I could ask for! All thanks to the DASA guys, my Convo experience was complete and perfect!

I was then officially and properly stoned and went in that state to Thadambail to have the hot buns. Every piece of the Bun-Sambhar combo was like an experience of  a sudden spike in the bliss factor. And with my senses in an extra alert state, I savored each and every moment of it! By the time I came back, daylight was just cracking open in the sky. I bid good night(morning) to fellow drunkards and went to sleep. Now THAT is what I would call A LONG AND MEMORABLE NIGHT!

Having checked off practically everything on my TO-Do list for the convo by then,  I realized I was relatively free when I woke up and so spent the rest of the day in peace. Just went to Mangalore for a short trip to meet a friend and that apart, I spent most of my time in the room filling up my newly bought hard disk with everything I could possibly lay my hands on in DC++. In the end, I found I could only fill around 160GB and not more, largely due to a blatant lack of time.

I finally pack and leave at around 6 and meet some juniors on the way. Although I would have wished to have spent more time with one of them, I still had a smile on my face when I finally boarded the bus and headed to the railway station.

And so there was my NITK Convocation. Couldn’t have been any better or perfect for me. Will remain as one of the most memorable times I have had in a long time!

Scene 3: TIMMY RETURNS!!

SCENE 3 : TIMMY’S HOUSE

Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny go to Timmy’s house and ring the bell. After sometime, Richard (Timmy’s father), a middle aged mentally retarded man in a wheelchair opens the door. Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny don’t know who he is. Silence ensues while they are surprised and are not sure how to react.

ERIC CARTMAN : Who the f*** is this??!??

Kyle (to the other 3) : Guys I think this is Timmy’s father.

Richard: Richard!!!!

Kyle: Err….Mr. Richard, is Timmy here? We haven’t seen him in a long time.

Richard suddenly gets hysterical and starts moving his wheelchair around in a violent manner while continuously screaming “RICHARD! RICHARD!” Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny are taken aback by this behaviour.

Stan: Mr. Richard we just wanted to know if Timmy was here.

Richard stops his erratic behaviour and goes into a room in the house. Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny follow him into the room. There we see Timmy in a wheelchair totally engrossed watching Television. He doesn’t notice anyone coming into the room.

Stan : Hey Timmy! What have you been doing dude? Why have you not been coming to school?

Timmy doesn’t respond to Stan. He is fully engrossed in the Television.

Timmy : Timmeh!!!

Kyle: What is he watching?

SCRUBS is shown to be playing on the television.  Timmy yells “TIMMEH!!”, apparently  finding every dialogue amusing while Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny just stare blankly at the TV.

Stan :  Dude What the f*** is this?

ERIC CARTMAN : Yeah! This show looks pretty retarded! Who the f*** watches this show?

Kenny (muffled) : Timmy does.

ERIC CARTMAN : Oh yeah Timmy is retarded alright!

Kyle : Hey Timmy! Its us, your friends from school.

Timmy : (continues to enjoy the show not noticing any of them) Timmeh!!!!!

Stan : Dude what the f*** is going on here? How can anyone get addicted to this nonsense?

Kyle : You are right dude…This shits not even remotely funny! But Timmy seems to be enjoying it!

(PAUSE while Stan discovers something)

Stan : Wait a minute!

Stan goes near the Television and finds a DVD of SCRUBS all seasons with a caption beneath that reads : FOR RETARDS, BY RETARDS! Stan also finds some instructions for playing the DVD and reads it aloud:

Stan : “PLAY THE DVD ONCE AND IT WILL AUTOMATICALLY REPEAT FOREVER.”

Kyle : Dude Timmy has been watching this show all this time! Man! This is some serious f***ed up shit!

ERIC CARTMAN : Or guys, is this like one of those shows, which are so retarded, that it is used to give people like Timmy a superiority complex? Think of it guys…it makes sense.

Kyle : Cartman! Such shows DO NOT exist! Timmy doesn’t need to be given a dose of superiority complex. He is fine by himself!

ERIC CARTMAN : Oh really Kyle?? You call THIS (pointing at Timmy drooling in a wheelchair enjoying SCRUBS) as being fine by himself?? And what about yourself Kyle? You may have also gotten to where you are by watching other retarded videos that are made specifically for retarded Jews!

Kyle : God Damn you Cartman! I was not and am not retarded!

ERIC CARTMAN : What makes you so sure Kyle? If a Jew was retarded, he wouldn’t know about it would he?

Stan : That’s enough! Guys we gotta think of a way to get Timmy de-addicted from this stupid TV Show.

Timmy (completely oblivious to everything around him)   : Heee Haaaa haaaa Timmeh!!!!

TO BE CONTINUED…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 164 other followers