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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Phir Bhi Ganga Behati Hai !

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Someone, somewhere once rightly said - Art is the mirror of the society. The medium of art which strongly influenced the Indian society and vice versa, is, no brainers indeed - Cinema !
A melodious songs from a timeless classic of Rajkapur released in 1960 very beautifully written by master Poet Shailendra, goes like this -
होटों पे सच्चाई रहती है, जहाँ दिल मैं सफाई रहती है. हम उस देश के वासी है, जिस देश मैं गंगा बहती है!
महमा जो हमारा होता है, वोह जान से प्यारा होता है ! ज्यादा का नहीं लालच हमको, थोड़े मैं गुजरा होता! बच्चों के लिए जो धरती माँ, सदियों से सभी कुछ सहती है! हम उस देश के वासी हैं, जिस देश मैं गंगा बहती है!
कुछ लोग जो ज्यादा जानते हैं, इंसान को कम पहचानते हैं, यह पूरब है, पूरब वाले हर जान के कीमत जानते हैं! मिल जुल के रहो और प्यार करो, एक चीज यही तो रहती है! हम उस देश के वासी हैं जिस देश मैं गंगा बहती है! The picturization of this song, relevance to the story and music indeed are simply superb. However what is more important is the timelessness and travesty of this song. I think every generation in past 2500 years of history can relate to this song and would have wished to live in a society narrated in the song. This song portrays An immortal wish, dream, value system, which never materialized and perhaps ever will ! To good to be true, the song touches the Indian hearts and souls almost every time it is played (rarely though these days) on the television or perhaps YouTube ! That's plurality of being Indian, a confusion, dilemma, puzzle, enigma. In the context of movie, this song plays a role of fire in ice. Amidst cold blooded hooligans and innocent villagers a modest man reminds everybody of what it means to be being true Indian-Modest, Truthful, Generous, Loving, Happy despite all hardships, Caring towards friends and guest, Sacrificing, Pious . This is what elders in every generation has taught to the younger generations, this is what is written in the books, this is what is being taught by religious leaders, saints, gods and demigods! The truthfulness, the simplicity depicted in this movie and all other movies released in 1950s and 60s appears to be - Too Good to be true, now !! The society, the people shown in Black and White movies of those times, were black and white in their character, in their beliefs and value system. Where are those people ? Is it safe to say that people now are more complicated than people 50 years ago ? Or is it the other way, i.e people are far less complicated now and don't try to hide behind a song, or don’t try to live in a make believe world and are honest and courageous enough to accept the truth! 40 years down the line, Javed Akhtar penned a song, which projected a grey, yet happy state of Indian society -

हम लोगों को समझ सको तो समझो दिलबर जानी जितना भी तुम समझोगे उतनी होगी हैरानी अपनी छतरी तुमको देदें कभी जो बरसे पानी कभी नए पच्केट में बेचें तुमको चीज़ पुरानी
थोड़े अनारी हैं थोड़े खिलाडी रुक रुक्के चलती है अपनी गाडी हमें प्यार चाहिए और कुछ पैसे भी हम ऐसे भी हैं हम हैं वैसे भी
थोड़ी हममें खुशियाँ भी हैं थोड़ी है नादानी थोड़ी हम में सच्चाई है थोड़ी बेईमानी आँखों में कुछ आंसू हैं कुछ सपने हैं आंसू और सपने दोनों ही अपने हैं दिल दुख है लेकिन टूटा तो नहीं है उम्मीद का दामन चूका तो नहीं है
हम लोगों को समझ सको तो समझो दिलबर जानी थोड़ी मजबूरी है लेकिन थोड़ी है मनमानी थोड़ी तू तू मैं मैं है और थोड़ी खीचा तानी हम में काफी बातें हैं जो लगती हैं दीवानी फिर भी दिल है हिन्दुसतनी !!

Another timeless classic, another song to which almost all the generation can relate to, not in a philosophical or superficial manner but as a song which represents them more accurately, which portrays their mixed feelings, emotions about being what we are as we are now !

Both the songs are beautiful in their own way, while former summarizes lessons from thousands of years the later symbolizes past 20 years of liberalization.

What about the benchmarks ... (ps: nothing to do with the creativity and genius of both the writers!) Of Society ? While the former song refers to a wishful thinking, but still it reminds us of what is right. Perhaps an escape from reality but yet reminds us of how we should be ! I think whatever acts of kindness, nobility we see in our society can be attributed to the good songs we used to listen to, poems and books we used to read. We still are good as a society but with some insanely bad habits, especially the most fundamental ones! I always believed that realization is the first step, but mere acceptance and a bit of arrogance that "we are like this", “ Everything is possible and everything is acceptable”, cant lead us to anywhere! To maverick foreigners visiting India, this new found freedom, madness on street might appeal a lot, to NRIs returning/visting India, all of this might appear despicable and to most of us all of this becomes a routine with indifferent attitude. 
Such an attitude puts a break on the growth of society. What starts with acceptance of minor deviations in behaviour, small wrongdoings becomes a habit which society keeps on accepting and slowly and unknowingly, the minor deviations becomes humoungous caused by complex interactions, leading to permanent changes (temporal but over long duration such as couple of decades) in the benchmark of what is right and what is not! For example what might have started as an occasional 'gifts', 'inaam', sweets, slowly become a monster what we now call as bribing, which grow out of proportion in the form of multi billion scams! Similarly what might have started in an attempt to taste the legacy of East India Company and the British Empire, i.e drinking Tea in government offices, slowly became a habit of absconding from offices to drink tea and ultimately leading to whole day being turned into a tea break!

While its good to realize our shades of grey, black and white, attempts must be made to turn the greys and blacks into lesser greys and lighter blacks white, with universal (and not contextual) definitions of rights and wrongs, an attempt to be white and fair beyond the fairness cream for women and now for men !
As Javed saheb has rightly put - दिल दुख है लेकिन टूटा तो नहीं है, उम्मीद का दामन चूका तो नहीं है !

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Gods Must be Lazy !!

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or perhaps Hazy !?? The shining statues made out of pure gold, studded with diamonds and emeralds. Piles of cash, which keeps pouring in and sometimes keep disappearing as well.

Sabarimalai temple generated revenue of Rs.128 Crore (apprx. $25million) in a recently concluded pilgrimage season! The official notification can be read here According to some estimates the temple might be owing assets (in cash, kind, jewellery etc) anywhere to the tune of Rs.1 to 5 lakh Crore ( whopping $25 -$100 billion). But Unfortunately the fact remains a stampede in the temple killed 100 people earlier this year, which goes on to prove how much of time and resources are invested by the temple committee/trust to improve infrastructure and ensure safety of the visitors/pilgrims etc.

As can be read here earlier this year 100s of kg of Gold and Silver and crore of cash was found in the room of Satya Sai Baba ! What all this money and gold was doing in his room? A possible case of gold lust ?

It took me quiet some time to comprehend this figures, yes ladies and gentlemen, hold your breath tight...the Sri Sai Baba trust in Shirdi manages a corpus of Rs 47,82,31,835.64-crore (over $10 Trillion) as can be read here The total income during the year 2009-10 was Rs 1,64,88,01,030 by way of rent, interest on savings bank accounts, investments and donations.

Similar is the fate of Balaji temple, Siddhivinayak temple, Srinathji temple, Ajmer Sharif Dargah, Puri temple etc. These are some of the prominent temples of national and international fame. The sum total of LIQUID assets of these top 10 temples in India will definitely run into TRILLIONS of Dollars, i.e Crore of Crores of Rs/INR.

As per my estimate within every 5 Kms diameter in India, there's a temple/shrine/mazar/place of worship and within every 100 Kms diameter (per district apprx.) there exists a similar place which is popular in the region and is visited by 1000s of people everyday and perhaps more than a million per year! So assuming an average of Rs.100 ($2) per person, these temples must be receiving donations worth Rs.9-10 crore ($2 million) per year. Almost all of these temples celebrate an annual event/mela gathering at some point in time, which is associated with a mythological or should we say hypothetical story. Again based on my estimate, during this period, these temples receive donations worth equal to or greater than what they might be receiving during the rest of the year. So to summarize, these comparatively small temples of regional significance must be making money in excess of Rs.10,000 crore ( 640 districts x 1 temple per district x $4 million per temple == $2.5 billion).

Fortunately the Indian gods are lazy enough and are not able to spend all this money, which has been safely deposited/donated by the god fearing, religious people of India !! Interestingly the amount of money/assets swindled/dwindled/donated/deposited with the temples might compete (can exceed as well) with the amount of money off shored to Swiss/Caymans etc in past 60 year post independence. I strongly feel that a huge % of this money would have been deposited because it can be parked in the banks( Income tax fears), all of it cant be kept in the house(theft fears) and perhaps it would not have been possible due to logistics constraints to park this money in Swiss/Cayman/Bahrain etc type of places, so temples do offer a safe place, which is out purview of even the government. Considering the fact that everything is possible in India, it is also possible that the trust, the pundits whoever is safeguarding these donations must have been charging fee/commission for safeguarding and even returning the money/funds/donations as and when required, right under the nose of the ultimate savour.

So the lazy gods accepts bribes in almost all forms, but what do they do with it ? It is safe to assume that almost all the money in off-shored is black/illegal. On similar lines, I think it is safe to assume that almost all (i.e more than 90%) of businessman, entrepreneurs in India ( be the one running grocery shops, showrooms, to small manufacturing units to multi-business, multi-billion dollar business empire) evade taxes and these are the people who bribe our lazy gods beyond reason against some demand/wish/request/ plea/ threat etc.

So what kind of favours do our gods return, what kind of services do they provide? We Indians the way we are, its safe to assume that the gods must be performing well, because the donations, the money, the gifts is keeps on increasing YoY basis ! So are gods really lazy ? What about the genuine intentions, the belief, faith, trust in religion, of we the people of India ? Can we simply write-off all that is genuine and true and innocent ! What happens to the middle class and the poor people? Does god listen to them ? I dont think so........we frequently keep hearing rags to riches stories every now and then...most of these inspiring stories are about the self made men (or rarely women, sorry but true factually), so which means that god wants you/us to achieve certain level by ourself (or is that part of the divine plan too ?) in order to be eligible to speak/interact with him (or her) more frequently and produce results. It is like corporate style or perhaps corporates have adapted the god's style !

So, a fraction of we, somewhat genuine a bit selfish though religious, people of India have amassed trillions and trillions of dollars (in India and abroad) of wealth, by the grace of gods in past 60 years and the lazy gods dont seems to be caring about the rest of us any time soon, so its time to wake up, get up from that desk and kick some ass, so as to be eligible to speak with the gods...