Saturday, September 28, 2013

NaMo RaGa

I have been wasting a lot of my time for quite some time monitoring the build up of 2014 central elections. As many of you might have already noticed, we could classify people in two different categories, both obsessed with the emerging new leaders of the two front running parties. There are some overlaps as well between these two classifications, but for clarity it would still make sense to keep them separate. The first classification is dominated by two major groups. One that vehemently condemns each and everything that NaMo does and the other that blindly believes he will be the saviour. In between those two vocal groups, there is also a minor group whose voice is almost unheard due to the noise created by these two groups. That group neither believes NaMo is the saviour nor believes he is going to be the destroyer of 'secular' democracy. The second classification is unanimously one sided, with a large group of people who think RaGa is good for nothing and the minority group that is desperately trying to project him as the one who can steer the nation in the right path.

It is always easier to be in a majority group. You will have very few questions to answer. When there is something hard, you will find hundreds of people trying to support you in competition. Unfortunately, I have a disease of associating myself with the 'minority' group. My brain finds ways of convincing itself that they are always the ones naturally suppressed by the other group and the one that needs the support. Though I was a big supporter of NaMo at one point, I have been gradually drawn to the minority group that thinks Modi can never be the answer to our problems. On the other hand, I had a blunt hatred towards the 'Royal' family at one point, but gradually started becoming 'sympathetic' to RaGa, looking at the way people criticize him. Perhaps there is a pattern for my change of opinion on all these personalities!

I read a lot of criticism on RaGa's CII speech and his remark on 'poverty being a state of mind'. Tempted by those criticism, some time back I watched his long speech at CII's annual convention. To be honest, I couldn't really believe that it was RaGa who gave that passionating speech. There wasn't anything worthwhile criticizing in that speech. Even if there was, it would be really stupid to criticize RaGa for that. They should have criticized the person responsible for that speech instead of the medium that expressed it. For anyone who had also seen the Q&A session that followed the speech, it would have been very obvious. I thought even the questions will be given earlier in those conferences so that they get enough time to prepare for the answers, but probably that didn't happen there. Instead of targeting him for his lack of awareness, I would really appreciate him for his courage to take those surprise questions. Even on his popular poverty statement, he was bashed with unwanted criticism from all the sides. Clearly, he wouldn't have come up with that quote on his own. The quote also started with a story of a woman who came out of poverty using her confidence and self-help group. It was very evident that the author was trying to project the importance of self-confidence  among the poor people. Burying that good intention and projecting him badly based on the out of context quote is surely not worthy of criticism. I would be really surprised whether any of them really understood the strength of that statement even when quoted out of context. Perhaps they have never seen any poor people living happily despite their dire poverty.

People criticizing RaGa for everything should really spend some time trying to put themselves in his shoes. Have you ever tried how difficult it would be to talk some one else's speech that you don't really understand? If you have tried, perhaps you would understand the pain that RaGa is taking for his people. It is easy for someone smart to understand these things easily. But not everyone is same. We need to appreciate the efforts as well. I feel it is a tremendous achievement by RaGa to even show up in those meetings/rallies and address the crowd. Even for an expert, it isn't that easy to face a group of experts. When you don't have that intellectual luxury, you would need to put mammoth effort in bridging the gap. For some one who is really undecided about his goals, the mental strength required to overcome that would be even greater.

Of-course, I don't think any one would argue against the fact that it is the country that is in need of RaGa's service and not the other way round. RaGa would surely have enough money to buy a small country if he wishes. It is also very clear he is not really that interested in the politics of this country. He is being forced by his party and the fellow country-men to be in politics. Whether they are right or not, he has to value their opinion. After all we are a democratic nation, it is not the right or wrong that decides the outcome in a democracy. It is the number that drives everything. If people are ignorant and want him to be a PM, who are we to question them. More importantly what right do we have in finding fault with RaGa who is just respecting their opinions. Just let the people decide that instead of criticizing him for others mistakes. I don't even understand the argument that he can't make up a good PM. They forget the fact that they have already seen 10 years of his rule. Even our PM feels proud to serve under his leadership. When such highly respected people recommend his ability to lead the nation, what is the issue with these common people who don't understand anything about governance. Why are they getting so annoyed when this is all about an official process for change of name?

That is why I feel really bad when people comment about him without realizing what he is really going through. What he really need is some support and appreciation for his efforts.

The topic of NaMo is certainly more complicated. He is clearly a divisive personality. You hardly see anyone taking a middle ground when it comes to NaMo. Either they desperately want him to be the PM or they hate him with all the venom they have!

I have tried a lot to get to the truth of much talked about NaMo development model. The most convincing I could get was Mayank Gandhi's blog. I am not a big fan of pseudo seculars who only talk about riots and fake encounters. Looking at some of the bio-data of the encountered people, I really don't understand why people are making such a big fuss about those encounters. Obviously, the law doesn't allow that. But a country where hundreds of innocent people die everyday doesn't have the right to cry foul for the human rights of criminals. The riot is certainly a black mark on NaMo's record. But attributing all the killings to his name is also blatantly wrong. Perhaps an honest evaluation would be to look at the past records of all communal violence, what was the trigger, what were the losses and mapping that to Gujarat riot. That would give a better indication of how many innocent lives he had failed to save. Further, I don't see much logic in separating the riot victims from other victims. Innocent people don't die only due to riots. There are also a lot of other deaths a government is  directly or indirectly responsible for. Like death due to road accidents, poverty, malnutrition, crime etc. I don't think anybody can claim that these deaths are inferior in nature compared to the riot deaths. Deaths are deaths. When it is unnatural, the only classification should be whether it was preventible or not. So, the real question should be 'how many deaths NaMo has failed to save under his rule compared to other CMs'. I don't think anyone has bothered to check that data. Perhaps it isn't even easy to get any authentic data on that.

So my issue with NaMo isn't that he is communal or he was communal once. People who are after power don't really care much about the religion. He has already shown that in action by demolishing illegal temples and sidelining some of the hard core hindutwa groups. Perhaps the only 'communal' action that we could expect from him is bringing the uniform civil code and bringing the minorities to mainstream. That would certainly polarize  the votes again for him in another election. In the pretext of suppressing the minorities, he might end up as the greatest reformer of muslims of India. So I am certainly not worried about his safron colour. My main problem with NaMo is the authenticity of the development that he has projected to outside world. My problem is in understanding whether Gujarat really saw the magical development under his leadership or it is just the success of a well planned publicity gimmick. My problem is about those crores of people who really think the country will change magically after he assumes the power at centre.

Mayank provides the data showing some crucial points regarding the myth of 'vibrant Gujarath' in his blog. The same data is also available in few other places like this.
  • Gujarat has seen high growth since last 20 years. No surprise there as everyone knows that business skills are in the genes of Gujaratis.
  • Gujarat's focus was mainly on urban development and industrialization and not the rural part
  • Gujarat is only ranked at 11(out of 20) as per as the poverty alleviation is concerned. The tribal(17%) have actually become more poor in NaMo's rule
  • Tough NaMo is clean and reduced the corruption at lower level, he hasn't done much in reducing the corruption/irregularity at higher level. That should be very evident as he hasn't done much to pass a strong Lokayukta act in the state.
  • 2013 lokayukta act is just a face wash and criticized heavily by the activists
Perhaps I can even conclude NaMo's elevation won't make any drastic difference without looking at these data. NaMo is certainly an 'individual' with a difference. But he doesn't represent a system that is different. If he was a 'system', he could have surely made some miracles in the last 12 years of his rule in Gujarat. The number of seats that he has won is almost the same in last 3 elections. That itself says his 'development' hasn't reached everyone. If it was a miracle, surely more people would have acknowledged him as the leader. Certainly he might have delivered better than others, but that is not the change we should aim for. His performance is going to be even poor in the central compared to state. A lot of states would still be under a different government and it won't make much difference to them. We have already seen how corrupt the Karnataka BJP government was in the past. Having a strong PM with weak state governments will not make a big difference to the people who are in need. The same set of corrupt legislators won't bring much changes however strong their leader may be, unless he is a dictator controlling them with a gunpoint.

If there is any hope for this country, that is only from the new Aam Aadmi Party. That brings a real change in the system. A system that can scale well for this large diverse country. A system that doesn't suffer from the weight of the legacy compulsions. A system with a vision for decentralizing the power completely to the right group of people. A party that doesn't need to return the favour of illegal money of its election fund. A party that is capable of making miracles in a short span. I hope they will win the Delhi elections first and then spread to other parts of the country like an unstoppable tide. They have certainly brought some optimism about the future of India. If we fail to give them a chance in next 10-15 years, we must permanently forget the hope of seeing a better India. We don't even deserve to see a better India. Those who think they have been let down by their ignorant fellow citizens should really think seriously about migrating to some other country with a hope of better life.

However, when it comes to 2014 elections, it won't be that easy for me to decide as whom to vote(though I may not vote, I can still influence a lot of votes). Despite my 'sympathy' for RaGa, I don't think any sensible person can seriously consider him as a PM candidate. AAP is certainly the party that has brought the hope back. But looking practically, 2014 is too early for them to contest in the central elections. They would need to win the Delhi assembly first, prove themselves that they weren't just talking in the air and then strengthen the party in other states before really attempting anything for the parliament. Only three months after the Delhi elections is too short a time for doing all these. We have waited for 60 years and another 5 years wouldn't make it any worse. So the obvious choice has to be NaMo. Not because I have any hopes of seeing something dramatically different under his rule. But only because it will clear the illusion of crores of people expecting a miracle from him. I will also be able to validate the 'NaMo magic' myself instead of relying on others stories. The change that a clean new system like AAP can bring would surely be unmatchable compared to that of a corrupt system with an able leader. Dream big, don't settle for anything less! Though we have waited for unusually long time, it would surely be worth the wait!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The first birthday

Dear Arjun and Anirudh,

It is more than three months since we celebrated your birthday, but it took so long for me to write about it. Your first birthday was very special to me. Not just because it was 'your' first birth day. Because it was the first time we organized anything on our own!

When I was in school, I used to take part in lot of competitions. But, when it came to organizing something, I had always been a back bencher. I didn't organize anything on my own when I was in school or in college. I left it for my brother to handle every function at home. I didn't do anything worthwhile during my marriage. I didn't even do anything special for your baby shower. So I was quite nervous when it came to your first birthday celebration.

I am not a big fan of any grand celebrations. I see them as some kind of show offs in many of the cases. The first birthday is even more 'special' in that sense. It is more of a hassle for you than celebration. The celebration is all for us. So I wasn't really very keen on celebrating the same. It makes more sense to celebrate only those birthdays where you can really have some fun. But, I had a dilemma there. Since I haven't organized any functions on my own, I wouldn't be really certain whether it is my fear of organizing the first party or the concern of your inconvenience that is really influencing me to take that decision. The party isn't going to be any more inconvenient than going outside at the same time. Both would make you feel uncomfortable by messing up your sleep time. So, I shouldn't be so worried about that, at-least for a day. Though it feels little weird to make you uncomfortable knowingly on your birthday. I know what would have really made you happy on your first day. Some new usb cables, a lan cable and probably a hdmi cable! Very cheap and easy to arrange. But we have already decided that it is not going to be your turn for celebration!

Dhruva's birthday party was the last party that we have attended. It was a nice evening party that looked like professionally organized. I was there too for some of the preparation and still remember Swathi's tense face like a player who had to score 4 runs in the penultimate ball! If that was her situation with one kid, what would be ours with two? So, we started planning for the event more than a month before! It was easy to finalize the hall and caterer. As you might be knowing, I am too lazy to look at more options. More options mean more work and more confusion. So I generally stick to the first one that I felt better. We saw two halls and finalized one of them without thinking much. We didn't even consider any options for the catering, just went with the one used by one of our friends earlier. A lot of other things were a textbook requirements. It was easy to finalize them as well based on the inputs from others. Only the main thing left was hall decoration.

I had a reasonably good idea as how difficult it would be based on the experience from two of my friends party. Since the hall rent was based on the duration, we tend to save some money, ending up with too little time for decoration. Most of the time people go there without any preparation and then lose the battle to time and confusion. We had a good advice from Swathi regarding the planning. So we went to the hall once again to see how we could do the decoration. It was good that we did that. The hall wasn't that co-operative for a birthday party decoration. So, we ended up taking the measurement of main things that would affect it as it was hard to decide anything there. Then started googling for ideas about the decoration.

I know very well that I am not a creative person. But at-least I wanted to be honest and creative while copying the ideas from others. While doing some re-search on the decoration, I accidentally came across balloon modelling, which really grabbed my attention. Immediately I ordered some modelling balloons and a pump to start learning. In two weeks time I could get a good handle on copying some models. These balloons can't be kept for more than 3-4 days. If I am not fast enough, I wont be able make enough models in the limited time that I get.

With that additional learning, we got a reasonably good blueprint for your birthday party decoration. It also helped us in getting more with very less money. The only thing left was to execute the plan properly in 3 hours. Luckily Vasanth and Manju were there very early to start the decoration. They put their creativity as well to the plan to make it look more elegant. Chetan and Kishor joined later to help. Still, there was a lot left to do after 2 hours. I had to come back to get ready and pick you all. I was certainly nervous as I wasn't sure things will turn up as I imagined. I knew it was hard to get things done in time, but was very optimistic with so much of planning. The last hope left was the people, who are generally very kind not to turn up in time for any event!

However, when I came back it was very delightful! The entrance was welcoming everyone with mild decoration.

The stage was nicely set with good number of balloons and other balloon models.

Some more models were hanging here and there within kids reach. Luckily I didn't have to put any label saying what those models really are!


The flower pots and flowers on the table also looked quite nice. So is your collage on the background.

 The cake wasn't as good as it looked on their website. The writings were so horrible that I just felt like erasing it on the spot. But it smelled good, so I was optimistic that it will also taste good.

We cut the cake after most of the people arrived. There were close to 60 adults 10 kids and 15 infants. Not a bad number as we met most of them after coming here. The food wasn't bad, though it wasn't as good as it tasted in their restaurant.

You both slept very nicely amidst the big crowd (Thanks for Swathi's and Vasanth's mom to free up our hands)! We had a very good time talking to everyone. There were a lot of hands in cleaning everything at the end. It felt really great for so many friends to stay up with us to help and celebrate. Though I am not a big fan of special days, I realized how great it feels to celebrate!

Everyone said the arrangements and decorations were really nice. They also showed their surprise in getting all that done managing you both! Of-course, I don't believe all that they said. They will have their compulsion of not giving any negative feedback even if it was bad. I understand the feeling of showing some kindness, encouragement and sympathy! But what matters most for me is that whether I was satisfied with what we have done. Certainly I was. It was the first celebration that we organized and we didn't screw it up!

Oh, yes. we have already started thinking about your next birthday! It will sure be different and better. But, sadly I don't think you will have any fun in your second birthday as well. But, I know it doesn't matter to you. We have fun every day, not just on birthday! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lucia - The new face of success!

Few days back, I talked about a new experiment in Kannada film industry through Lucia. I also told that I will share the link for film once it is released. The film got released on Sept 6th and got very good reviews. I am sure it will be a great success. However, I decided to withdraw my distribution right after the release. I felt really sad while doing that, so I wanted to share what that means to my earlier post and what provoked me to do that.

A day after the release of Lucia, we received a mail from Pawan saying we will have to wait few more days before getting the online link to watch the movie. His main concern was that, if it is shared online, there is a very good chance that one among the 1300 distributors will rip the movie and upload it online which might compromise the sales. So, he said the movie will be shared after the theatrical run.

That didn't go well with many of the distributors. Few showed their unhappiness over the decision publicly mainly on the following point. The decision to delay the online release is against the concept of pre-order as those who have pre-ordered the movie wouldn't be able to watch it till the theatrical run is over. It is also against the concept of 'audience funding' as the film is being delayed for the audience who have already bought the tickets to watch it. If the piracy happens only because of the online version, none of the existing films would have really had the problem of piracy so far.

I agree with all those points, so I really felt that the decision to delay the online release was against the principle of pre-order. But at the same time I also understood the compulsion to delay the online release as the chances of pirated versions will be higher with simultaneous theatrical and online release. That may not be a wise move for a commercial venture. But one could also argue that it wasn't a pure commercial venture. It is a venture to change the existing system. In any case, the decision to delay the online release wouldn't make much difference to me, though I might feel bit disappointed. That was the same view expressed publicly for the mail sent by Pawan as well.

6 hours after Pawan sent his first mail regarding the delay of online release, he sent another mail justifying his decision. The subject line was 'Loads of Criticism about Online Release'. That indicates it is not just the people who publicly questioned his decision, but many more private mails as well expressing the disappointment. It is that mail which made me think more than his original mail about delaying the release. The main points from his mail in his own words:
  • A request... pls dont treat ur 'Pre-order' as a BUY. We never took you onboard as a customer, and neither were we vendors. We always said - Thank you for associating with Project Lucia... called you Team Lucia
  • If I was in ur place, even I'd be quite disappointed. But its beyond my control.
  • At no point did we say... U WILL PIRATE. I know for sure that you wont...  
  • I don't see a theatrical run of more than 3-4 weeks. That would be the max. As soon as the movie shows a downfall in sales... i will send you all the link to watch n distribute. May be sooner than that...
  • And we have not sold the rights or entered into any agreements with anyone to stop us from doing this. Our only intention on holding Online release is to avoid piracy... thats it. And this was informed in regular font size while the film was bought.
  • We are almost done inventing a technical application... where in we will be able to identify anyone who downloads and pirates.
  • To all the unhappy ones, to those who still think all this not valid, I have even offered a Refund. Pls write to with Refund as the Subject. We will gladly return. Just dont question our integrity, vision, our ideas n efforts to bring in a change. If you think you were a customer in this project, then you got it all wrong.. so pls dont hesitate to claim refund.
I had been following Pawan's blog for some time. This was certainly not the impression I had about 'audience film' and 'Pre-order' till date. It looked like Pawan was just trying to justify his decision rather than accepting that he has done a mistake by delaying the online release. I do remember reading one blog post in home-talkies criticizing those people saying home-talkies entertains the piracy as the one with wrong intentions of not able to see the success of a good project. There was also another post by Pawan where he talked about releasing the Lucia only on home-talkies if he can't break the nexus of theatre owners and the current system. That certainly gave me the impression that he was very serious about taking the film directly to audience using home-talkies as a vehicle. If that is the case, why this double speak in his latest mail. He was a true hero of film industry for me till today. Why would such a great personality find it so difficult to accept his mistake and say sorry instead of trying to defend his action through double speak. I was in a dilemma to doubt him. So went through the mail again and sent him a response. The essence of that mail was:
  • What makes you think that 'Pre-order' isn't a BUY? If it wasn't for ordering the movie before release, why would you even call it 'Pre-Order' to confuse others? The mail response after the pre-order says "The Lucia Audio Album is in its final stages of production, we will mail you a download link very soon. We will deliver DVD and movie steaming ticket as soon as the movie is ready for release. An estimated date of release in is April 2013."
    Isn't that saying the movie will be ready to watch when it is released? 
  • If you were in our place why would you get disappointed? The only reason to get disappointed is when you were promised something, but wasn't given. That is indirectly accepting that the decision to delay is breaking the trust of distributors.
  • You have clearly said in your mail that one of the 1300 distributor will be having the bad intention of ripping the movie. Technically, you did say I could be that person who wanted to pirate the movie. What is the need to change the plate now?
  • Instead of vaguely saying it will be released when the sales is down in 3-4 weeks, why don't you clearly say the movie will be released online by 3 weeks or 4 weeks. That would have surely made things much easier.
  • You say you mentioned the movie could be delayed in regular font, which I don't think any one of us remember seeing it. But the home-talkies pre-order says in bold letter that it will be released on Sept 6. If it is not for online release, why even bother to put that misleading information in home-talkies? Why would you say you never had any agreements with anyone to stop you from delaying the online release?
  • A software to curb the piracy can make millions on its own. So, I don't really think that is the reason for delaying the release.
  • If I claim the refund, it is not because I considered myself as a customer. But only because I could feel the arrogance in your response. I agree it feels bad to get abusive mails. But what you really need to do is to feel the anger from people who think they have been cheated. What you have sold to us is not the film, but an idea and a dream. Clearly you have failed to do that in your first attempt. No worries, I can completely understand that. We still need some more time to achieve that. But, what I don't understand is the arrogance in defending that you haven't sold us that dream. I think you still have the time to accept your mistake. If you fail to do that, I am sure you will lose many more fans like me.
I knew success might also bring arrogance along with that. I have experienced that myself to some extent in the past. But, surely I wasn't expecting that from Pawan. Certainly he is more mature than I was. But I have little doubt left now that he got blinded by the success of his new venture, atleast for some time. I should perhaps stop expecting too much from individuals as 'complete human beings'. I still wasn't sure whether I should ask for a refund or not. I had to hear atleast few words from him before framing himself with my charges. It shouldn't be that difficult for him to respond as the questions were precise and I was starting a dialogue instead of framing him. I could decide whether to get the refund or not based on his response. Within few hours I got the reply back.

pls claim refund. thanks. :-)

After-all, he wasn't as arrogant as I thought. He was kind enough not to say 'take your money and get lost!' directly.

So, I had no option left but to ask for a refund. I am truly happy that it won't affect Lucia in any way as the film is already released. I was extremely happy to give my support when it was needed for Lucia. I have read loads of good reviews that the movie has come wonderfully well. I was also happy that it will bring some change in the film industry that I was hoping to see when I did my bit to support it. If Pawan wants support for any of his future initiatives, I might still continue to contribute. But, I am sure Pawan would never understand why would I support him even after writing so much about a 'small issue'. That is because he never really understood why I and many more people like me supported Lucia in the first place!