Sunday, July 30, 2006

Do Innocent Lives Matter ?

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Over 54 people including 37 children (United Nation figures) died early this morning when Israeli air strikes leveled a building in Qana, in southern Lebanon. The Middle East has been in flames ever since the Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and the Israelis retaliated, 19 days ago. Since then, both have been raining rockets on each other. The Israelis say the Hezbollah is launching rockets from civilian areas, like Qana. It now accepts this morning's strike was a mistake.

From all appearances, the Hezbollah, an `extra-constitutional' authority in Lebanon is guilty of drawing first blood. But the point here is not the genesis of the conflict or where its headed. Nor is it about how this morning's air strike and the casualties thereof has caused the Lebanese to go ballistic. Not just in Lebanon but all over the world. Mind you, its not just the Lebanese, there is support in the rest of the Arab world as well.

And its not about the support either. Its just about how the killing of innocent civilians in general and children in particular can cause so much consternation in the international community. US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice postponed her scheduled trip to Beirut today following the bombings because the Lebanese said they were in no mood for discussions. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan later condemned the killing of innocent women and children. As did many others.

The Price Of War..

I observe this in the context of our own reaction to terrorist attacks on our women, children and families. Note that terrorist attacks are far more dastardly acts than those of war. The conflict between Israel and Lebanon can be termed as war, since Israel is responding to what it sees is an attack on its sovereign nation. And yet, the cost of casualty is the same.

I recall some one saying that we don’t have the time nor the inclination to mourn our dead. Because, after all, so many of us die and in so many ways. And yet, when someone butchers innocent women and children (as opposed to their dying while crossing the street or being hit by a garbage truck) the rules change. The world at large seems to have understood and accepted this. I am not sure we have.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

26/7: A Memorial For The Mumbai Citizen We Never Mourn

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On a low wall between the recently spruced up area where tickets are sold and platform No 1 at Mumbai’s Mahim railway station is an embedded granite plaque, visible to those walking in through the main entrance.

Written in the Devnagiri script and gold letterings are the words “Shradhanjali”, meaning In Memoriam. Just below in equal prominence is inscribed the name of President APJ Abdul Kalam. The plaque notes the bomb blasts that ripped through seven Mumbai local trains on July 11, and records the President’s homage to the victims on behalf of the nation.

In India, loss of public life is rarely mourned in a manner that represents an organised attempt at grief and remembrance. Not that we are a stoic society. Politicians and perhaps others who have commanded public memory are paid generous homage. While for ordinary citizens, remembrance is mostly a private affair, in homes and sometimes institutions.

Human Lives Are Precious

To be fair, there have been memorials erected after natural calamities, like at Nagapattinam after the tsunami-hit Tamil Nadu, or following armed conflicts. But terrorism, for instance, is different from natural calamities and conflicts. It calls for a different kind of response: the first being to demonstrate to terrorists that innocent human lives are precious, and that people will rally around, whether in anger or grief.

Rarely have we demonstrated this in the past. Government involvement in such tragedies typically kicks off with untimely VVIP swoops on hospitals and end with ex gratia payments. Rarely does the state or its constituents pause to truly remember for the lost life, particularly after the event and deed fade from memory, typically a few days.

There could be other reasons as well. But the fact is that you won’t find a memorial for the March 1993 blast victims or the August 2003 blast victims in Mumbai. Or for all those who died in last July’s floods. But contrast Mumbai’s fate to similar tragedies elsewhere in the world. From the Madrid train bombings and Bali’s bomb blasts, public memory is retained in the form of permanent memorials and annual services held there. Incidentally, the toll in Madrid and Bali was roughly the same as Mumbai.

Memorials Elsewhere And Services

In Madrid, a Forest of Remembrance was created in a park with one tree planted for each dead. Incidentally, Spain broke with tradition in 2004 (after the bombings) when it held the first state memorial service for people outside the royal family—at least in the history of Spain’s new democracy.

The October 2002 Bali bombings saw permanent memorials being erected in Indonesia and Australia, from where 88 of the dead hailed. In addition, there were many individual memorials put together by families of the dead, mostly teenagers. A function to put up a new memorial at the Bali blast site in 2004 was accompanied by a Balinese Hindu ceremony.

And there is 9/11. While there are ceremonies every year, a formal memorial will open only on September 11, 2009. Called Reflecting Absence, it will comprise two voids in the original footprints of the Twin Towers. Each void will have a pool of water filled by waterfalls on all sides. A forest of oak trees will surround it. The final design was selected from 5,000 entrants hailing from 63 countries.

2-minute Pause A Beginning

Is India ready to follow suit? This writer is not an expert at analysing the psychological reasons for the inability to unite in public grief. Suffice it to say that something changed with Mumbai’s train bombings. The city’s trains, buses, taxis, office-goers stopped to observe a 2-minute silence at peak hours last week. Even the usually charged pizza delivery boys alighted from their scooters to stand still. And thousands paid homage at railway stations.

The 2-minute silence did not bring the city to a grinding halt. But for a first attempt of this kind, it was notable. Citizens even complained they did not hear the sirens that were supposed to alert them to the moment. Now, there is talk of a wear-white day on July 26, the day floods and an incompetent local administration brought the city to its knees last year. Over 400 died in Mumbai that day and over a 1,000 in Maharashtra.

Many people have argued that Mumbai’s citizens should express anger at the administration’s inability to take care of its own. Ever since last July’s floods, the city has been let down at regular intervals. Living in Mumbai—a land mass that struggles to carry a population four or five times more than it can sustain—itself is a challenge.

Anger And Grief

More than anger, which sometimes can flame out, grief as expressed in permanent memorials may be a more powerful emotion. It reminds and binds, and forces those in power at the moment to revisit old memories. Expressions of remembrance also suggest recognition that the ordinary citizen’s life is indeed not that cheap. As most of us now believe. Public support and bonding are rising, whether for Mumbai’s train victims or wronged individuals elsewhere. The Mumbai train blasts seem to have provided the complementary force in tipping the scales. I hope I am not being premature in calling a trend.

This piece appeared in the Business Standard on Tuesday, 25th July, a day ahead of the first anniversary of Mumbai's 26/7 floods disaster

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blocking Of Blogs..What Are We Protesting !

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People are up in arms over the Indian government's decision to block `objectionable' sites and blogs. And rightfully so. However in doing so, I think many of us are missing the point by miles. To address the issue, you've got to define it. My sense is that many have failed to do so. Let me try !

The 20 Sites/Blogs Or Something Else ?

What are we protesting ? Are we saying there is a freedom of speech/expression issue because 20 sites have been blocked ? In which case, we should protest when Da Vinci Code gets banned in some states, books like Satanic Verses get banned or for that matter Shivaji's biography. Or MF Hussain's painting. Of course there are many more books, paintings and movies which have been banned and not just because they are harmful to minors.

My point is you can't keep quiet for one form of content and get all roiled just because it gets delivered digitally. A digital delivery (if you ask me) does not make it any less `bannable', at least in principle. Yes of course you can download lots of other stuff which is banned in the physical world. But that's a reverse argument and may not work here !

So, if you are with your government on the fundamental issue of banning, or have not protested in the past, then you've got to pipe down. Else, protest all forms of bans on all forms of content.

Technical Incompetence

The Government wants 20 sites to be banned. It sends out a notice to some 150 internet service providers asking them to do as much. Between their technological incompetence and their enthusiasm to please the Department of Telecom, many ISPs banned access to all sites with some extensions, blogspot being one example.

Now, that has nothing to do with freedom of expression. That is plain incompetence and a technical inability to manage firewalls and gateways. Am sure the Government has nothing to do with it. Nor does it want to. Yes, its order has resulted in the baby being thrown out with the bathwater. But its unintentional as I see it.

The guy you have to catch is your ISP who needs to ensure he blocks only those sites that the Government has asked him to. This takes a little hard work from what I understand. But then, its nothing to do with a clampdown on freedom of speech.

Once again, the ISP could be the overzealous MTNL or BSNL, going all out to keep some bureaucrat/politician happy. But that still does not alter the fundamental fact. That's not what the order is asking for. So, protesting in the general direction of the government is pointless.

Now, Does It Merit A Ban ?

Now comes the issue of merit. Is a website that is vaguely attacking Left leaning political parties elsewhere in the world harmful to our digestive process. Am not sure. Is a website that directly or indirectly urges anti-national forces to rally together harmful ? Yes it is. Should we let it be in the interests of complete freedom of speech. Am not sure. You need a very, very liberal approach for this. In any case, this is a separate debate.

Either way, it boils down to a discussion on whether the content on a certain platform (in this case digital) is subversive or dangerous ? It could be magazines, newspapers, films, books or paintings. And what should be done about it. That again is a larger issue which needs to be tackled separately. It has little to do with blogs or websites. Both are delivery platforms for information and opinion. So, lets not make this is a blogs and websites issue. Focus on the fundamental issue if you want to and/or have the energy to. Till then, happy blogging.

PS: My ISP seems to have held on to his horses, at least so far

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Resilience, Immunity and Kindness in Mumbai

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Some bloggers asked why I am not angry at the administration's failure over the city's serial train blasts. Why not take the Government on, first, for not seeing this coming and second, for not being in a position to help its citizens who were in dire need of medical and other assitance ?

I agree I should express my anger. I intend to do that and put my thoughts down on two other points on as well. Sure, the authorities (police, fire) should have resopnded and in large or larger numbers. But as I have argued in the past, we are a shining example of utter mismanagement of governance. Does it make sense attacking it again ? Maybe. But the sources of mismanagement must be addressed first.

The second and the larger issue is that we don't have enough hands devoted to protecting us. That is a fundamental problem. There are not enough cops, whether within the railway system or out of it. There are not enough traffic cops and there are not enough ambulances or people to man all of that. Sure, the cops have a way of dissapearing when something happens. Or rushing to guard Sonia Gandhi and Lalu Prasad Yadav as they make their uninvited visits. But its only part mismanagement. The fact is that there are not enough of them.

A State of Bankruptcy

Any solution should keep this in mind. So, I would sit down with the (bankrupt) Maharashtra state's balance sheet and ask how much are we spending on law and order and where can we cut and prune if we want to do something about it. I should request someone more numerically inclined like Bombay Addict to carry out this exercise but

I have the answer instinctively. Seventy (70 %) per cent or more of the state's budget goes to pay salaries of employees. Not on any form of development work. Of these thousands of employees I can safely wager that we can cut back 20 to 25% and not feel a thing. Instead, we could focus on recruiting more law enforcement hands. And also give them the right facilities, from modern arms and ammunition to working conditions. I would now focus my anger there.

Which brings me to the much discussed points about resilience and kindness. I think we tend to mix them and sometimes confuse one for the other. Here is my take. Suppose you are driving on the road and something (like an accident) happens in front of you. Someone is injured. Or its a bigger accident with lots of injured. Usually (not necessarily) you get out the car and see what's happened. Or if you are walking by, you will run towards the scene. Chances are you will help and take the person/s to hospital.

No Help Coming

Why do you do that ? For the simple reason that you instinctively know there is no trauma care in India. Don't expect blue and white helicopters to materalise out of the sky to airlift the wounded. Or for that matter, expect to hear sirens in the distance within four minutes of the bomb blast or the accident. Because someone dialled a 100. Try and see if someone even picks up.

Even if an amublance set out in your direction, chances are its stuck in a traffic jam - every time I see one stuck I shudder. Recognise we don't have dedicated emergency lanes on our highways, leave alone roads. But guess what, we all know that, even the urchin on the street knows that. So, you take matters into your hands. And see where you can help out. Because that's the only way you can save the poor sod. And that poor sod might you or me one day.

And that's why we are kind. Because there are those of us who feel for our fellow human beings, citizens (and thank god for that) and want to help in some way. Because we know there is no other way that help will be delivered. So, whether its that instinctive response to run to a site of an accident when you hear that sound of metal hitting metal or whether its to stand on a road in the middle of the night with bottles of water, biscuits and tea, it all stems from the knowledge that someone out there needs help and you are quite possibly the only person or set of persons to do that.

Resilience Or No Choice ?

Now the resilience. Why are we resilient ? As many others have said before me, because we have no choice. Both my friends who were in trains (the other first class compartments) that were targeted by the serial bombers are back on them today. Why, because they have to go to work. Yes, there were some who stayed back home the day after. Particularly the younger lot whose worried parents prevailed upon them. But what do you do two days later ? Sit at home. And for how long ?

And what are your options if you can't look at a Western Railway local again ? Will you buy a car and fill petrol at Rs 52 a litre or whatever it is and drive 60 km both ways from Malad or Borivali (north Mumbai) to your place of work in south Mumbai ? Or will you now travel by bus ? Would you spend two and a half hours doing that each way ? And what makes you think buses are safer ? We've had bombs being set off in buses as well. So, what does it boil down to. You have to get onto the train and get to work. At some point. Because you are a bread winner for the family or maybe you are alone.

Most people I know (including me) work for a living. And have no choice about it. Though many of us like doing what we do as well. So there is an added attraction. Most of us don't have a legacy to fall back on either. Turns out even those who have a legacy want to work and prove themselves. That's the kind of infectious energy this city has.

And Finally, The Spirit Word

So that's resilience. Its a combination of a lack of choice and the need to be doing something with our lives. That's not necessarily the same as kindness and the spirit of helping each other. Maybe the two connect, maybe they don't. The resilience makes us seem immune as well. Guess we are, by inference. Because if I were not immune, I would be sitting at home. If I am immune, I am back at work. That makes me resilient and immune as well. I don't see something wrong in that..

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Terror In Mumbai: Life Must Go On

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Two people I know were on trains which were the target of powerful bomb blasts which ripped through seven crowded commuter trains between 6 pm and 6.30 pm on Wednesday evening. The toll as of now is 163 dead and over 400 injured.

Both were headed to their homes in north Mumbai and only by pure providence did not get into the northern first class compartment which they well might have. For those who came in late, Mumbai’s trains have either nine or 12 coaches and two or three first class sections within those coaches. Women travellers have a dedicated section as well.

The bomb exploded as the train had just begun leaving Jogeshwari, a north Mumbai train station. And came to a halt immediately. My friend says commuters standing on the crowded platform were hit as well, by the force of the blast as well as by flying iron sharpnel. The second friend was on the train which halted between Bandra and Khar stations (a little north). He says the blasts were so powerful his ears were ringing even four hours later. He jumped off on to the tracks, walked back to Bandra and got onto a bus.

Traffic Jams & Good Samaritans

I drove home around 12.30 am and encountered traffic jams all the way. Some people took five and six hours to do the usual one to one and a half hour drive. The trains were stopped immediately after the bomb blasts were reported and hundreds of thousands of passengers were consigned to the roads. The jams had nothing to do with the blasts otherwise. They were another reminder of the failure long ago of the city's carrying capacity.

While people like me were trying to negotiate the jams to reach home, thousands of residents were on the streets with water bottles, packets of eats like potato chips, biscuits and the like. Between Worli and Bandra (where I live), I must have been offered water and chips by at least 50 people. They ranged from young, smartly attired boys and girls to old men and women. Some stood in groups, others alone. Some even with stainless steel pans with glasses.

Those who were not offering water and food were directing traffic. Many of them had plastic raincoats on. It had been raining off and on since evening, though not very heavily. I passed the Hinduja Hospital and the Lilavati Hospital on the way. Both usually have milling crowds around them when a `VIP’ is lodged. This time it was ordinary people, waiting for news about their friends, relatives and loved ones.

Life Must Go On

Mumbai (Bombay) has been numbed once again. First it was civic apathy, then vandalism by the Shiv Sena party’s supporters (protesting the defacement of a statue) and now this. The serial bomb blasts will have the most impact. Its not easy to board trains and public transport after an event like this. Worse, if you were in the adjoining compartment when the bomb went off.

And yet, there is no choice. There is no other option. Life must go on. Despite knowing that every vulnerable chink in Mumbai city has been exposed. Those who survived Wednesday's blasts have only fellow passengers to thank. Television imagaes showed many being lifted and hauled off. Others, with bloodied faces and tattered clothes, staggered out of stations and helped themselves into waiting taxis.

Against that gore, I think of one old lady who must have been standing for several hours with a plastic bottle. She offered water to every other car that passed. It was 1 am in the morning when I drove past. And several hundreds, if not a few thousand cars and buses must have passed her last night. Many must have stopped to accept her kindness. I waved my thanks to her as well. But she had already moved on to the next car, waving her bottle. I think of her and I know I must get back to work. Like we always do.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Shiv Sena Goes On A Rampage And The Party Ends

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It’s a little difficult to fathom. Some miscreant/s desecrated Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s late wife’s statue in Shivaji Park in central Bombay (Mumbai) on Sunday morning. Shiv Sainiks go on a rampage burning buses, stoning cars, heckling citizens and smashing store fronts in Nashik, Pune and Aurangabad, towns several hours away from the commercial capital.

Shiv Sena leaders emerge from their houses to challenge the ruling state Congress-NCP government to find the culprits within 24 hours or else..its not clear what the hanging threat means. It surely does not mean that the Shiv Sena will go to the High Court with a Public Interest Litigation. Its evening and I've stayed at home this Sunday. Not out of choice.

Bombay is under siege again, albeit for just half a day. Its restless, frustrated and angry populace is out on the streets. Some seem genuinely angry at the defacement of the statue. Mrs Thackeray was like a mother to them, they say. But it seems difficult to believe their anger is only directed at the defacement. More likely, it is at the perceived enemies of the Shiv Sena, old or new. And most likely, it is new. The Shiv Sena has been hunting for a cause for a while now.

What's The Real Motivation ?

Watching the young men hurl bricks into glass store fronts in the northern suburb of Thane, one wonders what could be the possible motivation. Actually, several come to mind. The obvious one is that the shops did not close down when the Shiv Sena asked them to. In India, a bandh or a shut-down is a way of expressing anger. Through brute force. So much for democratic protests. In any case, shops were closed already. So, why were bricks being hurled ?

To settle old scores, like jobs not given. Or, to find an easy outlet for a rising frustration against all the glitz and glamour that they can see and almost touch but not experience. In India, its almost always been the latter. Destruction of physical property is a leveling experience. It allows the person to think he can conquer and vanquish. And bring those who dared rise above him economically or otherwise back to ground.

Its not the first time we’ve seen this phenomenon - dismissed as "spontaneous reaction of the angered masses" by the leaders who instigate them. It won’t be the last time either. Parked buses, private cars and taxis are traditional targets. The latest targets are the malls and multiplexes, the new glass and steel manifestations of prosperity. Unfortunately, on days like this, they only highlight the disparities inherent rather than the goodies they house within.

The Party's Over ?

Hang on, isn't this the commercial capital of the country where we are talking of ? Where opportunities abound, where no resident whether living in a highrise or on the streets goes without a meal. Where there is a spirit of carmaderie, kindness and trust. Where the civic system can fail, but the people won't. All true and yet, helping people in distress and watching helplessly as the economy shifts from under their feet are two different things.

I have another working hypothesis..if there is one sign that the last three or four years of economic euphoria are about to take a breather, this, perhaps, is it. The widespread vandalism is just a manifestation of the problems bubbling beneath.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What Is Bombay Really Scared About ?

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In my previous post, I wrote about the palpable fear that most Bombayites feel today when stepping out, the shudder that accompanies every sighting of a waterlogged road. Reading some of the posts that followed and the references to media, I am a little confused.

What are people fearing here ? Is it the feeling of being caught inside a car with the water level rising (I came close yesterday and on 26/7) or falling into a manhole whilst crossing the road OR is it television/news reports of the possibility of this happening ?

I admit, you do experience a sense of alarm watching television or seeing the large pictures on the front pages of newspapers. But are you scared into submission ? I really wonder. Before TV came in, the newspapers were putting the same pictures on page one. As they should. TV turned much of this into real time dissemination.


Ridiculous Proposition

So are we saying we are quaking in fear because of what we see on TV ? I think that's a ridiculous proposition. I don't know (maybe there are some of you out there who do) of one Bombay (Mumbai) resident who is shivering in fright only because he or she watched TV in the last few days or read the newspapers. Its very simple. People are scared because of what they experienced. First hand. On the night of 26/7. Do note am not saying everyone is equally affected.

I accept that the images do cause apprehension amongst those who do not live in the city. So, someone living outside India and watching an Indian TV channel or reading a news website report would be worried about his or her family members and friends. Images, reports may sound overblown. Or for that matter, family and friends living in other parts of India. But that's the nature of the news business.

I am obviously a little biased here. But to my mind the thing that media has done is to put tremendous pressure on the civic authorities (albeit with little results). Its highlighted the collective incompetence that passes for civic administration. It does so in a manner that is relentless. Opinions may vary about the treatment but the net impact in my mind is positive. The citizenry would feel better having an active media than not.

Raw, Cold Fear

To conclude, there is no substitute for the raw, cold fear that you've experienced whilst wading through 5 feet plus of water and the waves licking your chin. I know some who have, am sure you do too. Or the memory of someone who lived on the ground floor of your building and was trapped by the rising waters. And died. Someone you saw every other morning on your way to work.

That is true fear. No amount of breathless media reporting can substitute or make up for it. And thank god for that ! That's what's keeping people in their houses and wary of stepping out. Its as clear as that.

PS It rained again in Bombay (Mumbai) today and it was yet another day of deserted streets. Thanks to which I reached my place of work in less than half the usual time it takes

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fear And Submission In Bombay

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Sitting in office, after having driven my car through a few minor lakes getting here, I am wondering why the roads were mostly empty at 11.00 am in the morning on a weekday. Outside, as I write, the rains are pounding the city of Bombay (Mumbai). Trains have stopped, flights are being diverted, schools and colleges have shut. And those who did make it to their offices are planning their trek back.

Now, the roads were not completely deserted, of course there was traffic. But very little. One reason is most of the smaller roads in and around residential areas in Mumbai's suburbs are flooded. So, even if the arterial roads are okay, you can't get out of your lane. For me, getting out of my immediate area was a greater challenge. Actually, so was the road which leads to my office in Worli, in central Bombay.

Did folks heed the BMC (civic authority) Commissioner's warnings yesterday ? Which said that heavy rains were expected in the next 48 hours. Quite possible. But, we've had similar warnings in the past as well. Yes, parents would be careful and would not take chances. What about those who commute to work, clearly the majority ?

Beaten Into Submission

The answer is simple. Bombayites have been beaten into submission. Mostly by fear. Ask anyone who spent the night of 26 July 2005 on the streets and they will tell you that a shiver runs through their spine when they see flooded roads. I don't exactly feel thrilled at the prospect either.

This city's never say no spirit is under extreme strain. Perhaps like never before. One feet of water and the bravest are taking a step back. No one, absolutely no one seems to trust the civic authorities or the politicians.

When asked on a television interview (in a city channel) about lifeguards at the beaches (following a few drownings), the BMC Commissioner said they were being interviewed and would soon be hired. But then, when was the BMC ever in a hurry ? Or for that matter any state or civic administration ? A deadline is not a deadline, its just another point in time.

Well, its the same attitude that ensured most road work was not complete before the rains arrived, on schedule. And there were at least nine months if not a year to set things right. The wounds of 26/7 are yet to heal. I think it will take a long time, if it does.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Why Aren't We REALLY Paranoid ?

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Newsweek's latest cover asks "Can America Compete ?" It leads with an article written by Fareed Zakaaria which starts out by saying that the United States is still the dominant force in technology, innovation, productivity and profits. "But Americans don't quite realise how fast the rest of the world is catching up," it says.

Zakaria frowns upon what he diagnoses as a larger cultural decay in the nation. "A country that once adhered to a Puritan ethic of delayed gratification has become one that revels in instant pleasures...America is becoming a post-industrialised society that specialises in consumption and leisure, he says.

He concludes with a firm note of paranoia. "First, be scared, be very scared. The United States has a history of worrying that it is losing its edge..but America's problem right now is that it is not really that scared. Mainstream America is still unconcerned.." And so on.

Do We Have Stuff To Be Paranoid About ?

Zakaria is not alone in his paranoia. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has hit similar notes in his recent columns. The interesting thing is not the paranoia, but what follows. Both writers have offered solutions. Newsweek then outlines `15 Ideas To Recharge America." Each idea is attributed to one person. The first is Rob Glaser, CEO of Real Networks, the second is Arati Prabhakar of US Venture Partners.

The Delhi-born Arati Prabhakar argues that immigration should be viewed as a strength. "What are the things that are good for America ? That means being completely engaged in the flow of people, capital and goods around the world." She also says the immigrant society has a rich advantage.

So, I wonder wonder we don't have the same degree of paranoia about India ? Shouldn't we be paranoid that we are in a position where could well lose the few competitive advantages we've notched up in the last few years, in the global economy ? Shouldn't we be paranoid about what our millions of youth will do, without jobs ? Or whether they will get the right jobs ? Shouldn't we be paranoid that our boom story of the last three years is hanging precipitously on balance ?

The Wrong Paranoia ?

Okay, maybe the number one guy is paranoid because he has something to lose. Like America. Possibly for the rest its about the determination to catch up. I am not sure I see too much of that. Ive seen all sorts of people getting worked up about a survey-based allegation that Mumbaikars are rude but not getting paranoid about the city in an accelerated ride to the very bottom.

And then, how do we instil or inject paranoia ? Am not sure about this. Most Indian corporations are paranoid. Part of the whole attempt to have strong global footprints stems from a paranoia about Indian markets. And whether they can survive purely on the strength of the domestic market. Or whether they can take on global competition if they are not global themselves.

Of course I see paranoia around. Its mostly about whether Naresh Goyal is actually a scheming spy who might use his aircraft (Jet Airways) to bomb god knows what. Or how China may attack us tommorrow (you think I am joking, read some of our regular defence columnists). Or, its about how our youth is getting waylaid and skirts are getting shorter. And how the screening of Da Vinci Code could cause irreversible damage to our religious sensibilities. Or how some lady entered a temple she was not supposed to..I can go on...
 

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