Thursday, November 24, 2011

Political Yatras

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

One of the oldest forms of political canvassing is conducting walking tours of the constituencies. Every day we hear politicians undertaking tours of their respective constituencies to promote their agenda, and mostly show up to the people's door step to make sure they are personally representing the agenda being promoted on respective tours. Even before India's Independence Gandhiji made walking very popular form of addressing the issues of people and making them a part of the formal protests he undertook. In those day except radio and new papers there was no 24/7/365 coverage of the events. They were strictly by word of mouth and telegram, and eventually on radio and news papers. They were very effective in involving people to participate and support the causes which were noble and represented the common good of the common man.

The country welcomed the walking tours with open arms and at every step waited to embrace the cause and support the movement. For decades the tours of Indian leaders gamely going from place to place and meeting people has been widely accepted as a fantastic forum for communicating directly with people and interacting with them on localized issues to understand the future agenda of the political parties. It has been a very effective platform for reaching out to various sections of the general population and hearing their concerns and what they would like as the agenda for the party in power.

Walking tours are an opportunity to meet people in person and people will see if you are a real person. There is nothing better than shaking hands and embracing people as personal touch is the best form of communication. Granted that with so many millions of people in each state it will be impossible to shake every hand, but even a few hands in each village or town will help build direct communication with that particular community. Each person you touch or speak to will be the medium to transfer the personal interaction to everyone he or she knows thereby putting a human angle to the interaction. It helps to identify the person and that the existence of the normalcy of an individual you have actually interacted with.

There is little expense involved with walking tours as the locals are willing to host you and your entourage. Food and shelter and refreshments are organized with much care and affection by the locals you visit and very likely they will promote your agenda as well once you visit with them. It is also a great way to meet small groups of people and understand their concerns and listen to their issues. Each home visited becomes a great medium to promote personal relationships and further implanting the personal touch to political canvassing.

Walking for long stretches daily keeps a person fit as it is a great form of daily exercise. Most politicians are disciplined and maintain healthy eating and exercise habits. The benefits of walking are often disregarded with the walking tours, and perhaps should be more promoted for their general health benefits. Walking a mile or two daily will help everyone, and perhaps the politicians adopting the walking tours should promote the benefits of regular walking to everyone.

Walking tours are also one of the best possible ways to communicate with small crowds. Large gatherings and rallies do attract massive crowds but keeps the speakers away from personally reaching out to the people. There is no room for personal interaction with a large crowd, and often the large gatherings are in place to hear you speak of your political promotions, rather than personal attention to local issues. Often politicians promise just about everything that locals wish for and people know that it is unlikely that every idea being put forward to the touring politician will not become reality. But we still ask, and they still promise to deliver and we continue with the cycle every season counts votes.

The political yatras will continue with national and regional politicians for time to come or as long as politics are around. Even with the proliferation of television and internet, it is still good to press hands and walk the local roads to communicate directly with the people. Granted that the media coverage will follow you through the walking tours, and they are kept busy with local idioms and festivities. The politicians remain fit with the exercise, and get to taste the local response for a few moments.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Method To The Madness

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

As bad as the reputation of political leaders is today, there is some history to where the current crop of politicians in power have been up to and why many of them are in jail. When Nehru was the leader and followed by Lal Bahadur Shastri for a short stint as the Prime Ministers of India, there was no need for them to raise money for canvassing around the country, and be in front of the media 24/7. The leadership of the country relied on principals of democratic India and only had to express their desire to have India continue to be democratic and remove poverty.

Even when Indira Gandhi became prime minister after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the big slogan was Garibi Hatao and removing poverty was the main slogan that people heard on the radio, prior to the days of the advent of television. There was never scandal related to the politicians and squandering national wealth in form of kickbacks. Only when the television and communications have been introduced into the country the money matters have become a staple of the societal owes in India.

To a large degree when BJP first came into power after the emergency rule declared by Mrs. Gandhi, the money matters were still bare budgeted campaigns and did not foster massive kickbacks. Politicians campaigned hard and visited all their constituents and power packed speeches which were long in rhetoric to huge audiences and promised to deliver to the poor almost in every speech. They were all predictable and spoke the language of the central politicians, and people were divided according to their party lines and voting and campaigns were all predictable.

Only when mobile communications and television were introduced across the country and with multiple licensees in the market big money being demanded and changing hands has become a common practice between the politicians and the business aspirants. Somewhere in the time the technology being introduced and common man having the ability to reach out to each other, the greed factor of politicians in demanding massive kickbacks has come into being a common practice. Instead of using the communications to promote the agendas of the political parties the politicians have been blatantly demanding and receiving massive amounts of money to line their pockets.

Tracing the money is fairly simple, and there is no need to expound on the intricacies of how the money is given, taken and sent to international destinations or into massive public investments. Every industry has been subjected to massive demands for money, and this directly impacts the national wealth system. It drives the price of licenses to levels that are impossible to sustain until the people of subjected to the massive greed factor of the politician in charge of making the decision. Real estate, communications, technology and whatsoever is involved with the markets and infrastructure automatically have to add the value of the kickbacks paid in building the networks and infrastructure and automatically adding to the cost of the end user. Every action taken to give out the country’s resources should have been done with obtaining the maximum value for the citizens of the country, but the reverse is being done while lining the pockets of the politicians. The old political slogan of Garibi Hatao would have been absolutely true if the resources were sold at market prices and the money used to meet the needs of the common man. India would not only be the largest democracy on earth, but also the wealthiest democracy on earth. Jai Hind.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Story Telling At Its Best

CBS 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney died at the age of 92 on November 5, 2011. He has been on radio and television all of his life and just weeks ago did his commentary on 60 minutes. Many years I watched 60 minutes every Sunday evening and special focus to Andy Rooney’s segment at the end of the hour. He only spoke for a minute or two and picked on everyday subjects to comment or critique on, and always was to the point and even with humor. The humor was dry and to the point but ha always made it look like it is simple and true and to the point.

When I first start watching 60 minutes, I was interested in the human interest of the stories and mainly the interviews with the famous figures in the world. Newsmakers, presidents, prime ministers, business heads, dictators, and men and women who influenced the world in some way or the other, sometimes good and sometimes not so good. Many segments covered Africa and Middle East and Asia, and fascinating detail on the subjects and lands in every segment made you wait until next week for more. During winter season 60 minutes followed Sunday afternoon football, and was just after the coffee time to continue watching television Sunday afternoons after football. I still watch 60 minutes on Sundays when I can and still believe the storytelling is as compelling as it was when I first started watching the show years ago.

While the broadcast was compelling view all the time, Andy Rooney’s end piece of each segment was the most charming story of the broadcast. I mean no disrespect to the rest of the crew who capture great stories and tell them quite well but ending with Andy Rooney’s commentary was the icing on the cake for each of the 60 minutes. He told the story quite well and quite simply, and reached out to the sensibilities of all the viewers.

When Andy Rooney announced his retirement a few weeks ago, I was not surprised as he would have known when to stop broadcasting his weekly commentary. There was no replacement for the segment and now that the gentleman has passed away, there will be no other Andy Rooney to shed perspective on common man’s issues every Sunday. No one else will be able to shed such an insightful light on issues as Andy Rooney did every week. Rest in peace Mr. Rooney, and god bless you.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan without a doubt is an actor and individual is a true superstar. He is always well mannered, unabated by the personality and fame and every word well chosen in speech and in writing. He has taken to the web lately and frequently shares his daily life with his millions of fans across the world. His taking the time to update his millions of fans on a regular basis is very commendable and brings him closer to his followers and fans. Every update is as elegant and well versed as all things he does. Just recently the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray wrote in his column that Amitabh should be awarded the Bharath Ratna, which is the highest civilian award by the Indian government. No small recommendation from the chief of Shiv Sena, which can be echoed by millions of others across India on the well deserved commendation to the gentleman and superstar.

For decades his movies provided great action, great dialogues and great performances by all actors who worked along with Mr. Bachchan. Such was his screen persona, all his movies were great entertainers with style and substance along with great screen play and dialogues and song and dance included. Its likely that I may not mention every great movie of his, but Anand, Zangeer, Deewar, Sholay, Trisul, Mukkadar ka Sikandar, Sisila, Majboor, Chupke Chupke, Amar Akbar Anthony, Kabhi Kabhi, Lawaris, Don, Coolie, Dostana, Sharabi, Hum, Kudha Gawa, Cheeni Kum, Mohabatten and many more that have and will continue to enthrall the audiences across the decades of work he has done, and continue to do on the silver screen. His foray into television with Kaun Banega Crorepati is also legendary and continues to draw millions to see him in whatever medium he is willing to take on.

His ability to act out any character is well documented and requires no further dialogue that has not been already delivered. His tone and sometimes song has been enthralling audiences for decades and he seem to reinvent him self every single time he needed to present a different phase of his career and never running out of newness and fresh performances. From a tall and lanky young man to a dignified gentleman to a great looking 69, Amitji has continues to keep us glued to the big and small screen, all the while being a great dad and husband.

When I read about Mr. Thackeray voicing his opinion about Amitji should receive the Bharth Ratna, I felt what better weekly opinion piece that writing about my favorite Indian actor of all time. I still remember my younger brother, many of my friends and myself wearing big bell bottom pants with short shirts and long hair and trying to look cool with the styles of Amitji in those days. Everyone was cool, and looked cool with nice and dapper clothes modeled after the big man. Those were the days of abandon and carelessness outside of school or college trying to imitate the superstar. He still is very stylish and dapper and he is still and icon for today's generation. With his own inimitable style he carries an aura of a great personality with ease and dignity. He deserves the highest civilian award from the Indian government and any other citation or award that can be awarded to any achiever of his stature.

I hope Amtji will continue to entertain us for a long time to come, and he never retires. His body of work both on screen and off will always be in the highest form of entertainment for generations to come as it has been for last several decades. Here is wishing him well and a long and successful life and career moving forward.

Pulse of the People Vasu Reddy From Chicago In the last couple of weeks I did predict that Modi will come back to be the prime ministe...