Tag Archives: India

Lion

Movie Review

My Rating: 7/10

There has been a recent spurt in the number of movies getting inspired by the real life incidents, and they make you believe that the real great stories are the ones that happen for real. Lion is one of those movies that did a fairly good job at translating a real life story into a movie.

There are a few things that I did not like much including the stereotypical depiction of the Indian poverty. But then it’s difficult to shy away from the realities of modern India. Acting performances of Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman were among the few good things about the movie, and so were those of the young debutantes – Sunny Pawar and Abhishek Bharate.

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Watch the movie for its story, and not for its situations, because you might not like all that you see.

 

Watch the trailer here:

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Not Just an Accountant: The Diary of the Nation’s Conscience Keeper, by Vinod Rai

Book Review:

 Rating: 7/10

not-just-an-accountantIndia faced public descent and dissidence in the last few years of the previous government, ultimately leading into the change in government with a thumping public mandate. The underlying cause was not the regular question of Roti, Kapda aur Makaan (food, clothing and shelter), but this time it was about corruption, scandals and failure of decision-making. And that was a paradigm shift in the way elections happened in India. This book is about the one agency that provided the public with the educated assessment of the integrity of the application of public funds. And more than that, it’s about the individual who contributed to usher in a new era for this agency – the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Vinod Rai, the man behind the steering wheel, has been considered one of the most effective CAGs that India has seen since independence, and it’s not without a reason. He might not be a great story-teller and might not know the tricks of sensationalization, but he is definitely good with presenting the chronology of the facts that he lays down in the book. He has elaborated on five of the biggest audits conducted in his tenure, which turned out to be the most controversial as well, eventually bringing down the mighty Congress government of 10 years.

While the cases of 2G scam and Coal-gate scam highlighted the compulsions of turning blind eye in a coalition government, those of Commonwealth Games, allocation of oil fields and the failure of Air India simply highlighted the ineffectiveness and sheer moral corruption of the government of the day. In my view, Rai withstood immense pressure and showed great courage in going ahead with these audits in a period when accountability was being put aside to pave way for ‘crony capitalism’. Rai has articulated his thoughts very clearly and provided irrefutable evidence in the book for his claims, making it an interesting read.

One thing though that I found missing in the book was the answer to a key question: Why were all the audits conducted for a period that began after 2004? I am a big AB Vajpayee fan, but I would have been happier to hear from Vinod Rai that these issues (eventually leading to scams) were handled much better in NDA era of 1999 to 2004. The 2G spectrum, coal mines allocation, Air India losses, etc. were long-standing issues faced by India that stayed as-it-is during NDA regime as well. After reading the book, I cannot be confident that Rai was truly an unbiased auditor who was merely doing his job.

Nevertheless, this book is a good read and I would recommend this to a reader who wants to understand the factors that changed the political battlegrounds in India.

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 P.S.: The pictures have been borrowed from internet with thanks to the owner of this picture.

2014 The Election That Changed India, by Rajdeep Sardesai

Book Review

Rating: 7/10

2014-the-election-that-changed-india-original-imadznfpukmf3jbm

Rajdeep Sardesai is one from the league of journalists who rose from the ranks of foot soldiers of pre-privatised news industry to the owner (almost) of a multi-million dollar news channel. But still he is a journalist who is just as appreciated as a stain on your shirt – you will notice it only when it’s there, and will forget the moment you switch your shirt. I said in one of my comments during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections of India, ‘Rajdeep Sardesai used to be as good as Pranoy Roy (NDTV), but thought it’s good to be loud & outspoken as Arnab Goswami, and ended up struggling in-between trying to find his ‘original’ style.’

However much do I dislike his style of journalism, I found his style of writing very intriguing in his debut book – 2014 The Election That Changed India. His first-hand account of what conspired and how it happened in one of the most challenging, yet innovative elections of the world’s biggest democracy, this book will definitely be used as a reference for contemporary political historians. In his book, Rajdeep has covered the entire landscape of Indian politics, from “Left” to “Right” and in-between, from UPA to NDA to Third (& Fourth) Front, from “Didi” to “Behenji” to “Amma” – he has it all.

One of the key changes that happened in the Indian politics in 2014 was that this was everybody’s election, and the level of polarisation was unprecedented. Parallels can be drawn with the Janata Party government formed after Emergency, but they will never be able to match the hype that the 2014 election created. This election saw the use of modern technology, analytics and social media in almost a maddening style by the cash-rich BJP. In this high-paced election campaigning and run-up to the highest post in India, media played a crucial role, and I believed that only someone from the media could ever chronicle the events accurately. And Rajdeep, in my opinion, has done that to a highly satisfactory level.

The book is not without its flaws, though. Rajdeep has, at numerous instances, tried to break himself free from some of the most embarrassing moments of his career – Modi interview during Vivekanand Yatra and Raj Thackrey interview. Very subtly, he tries to reassure the reader that all is well between him and these politicians, and that he can always give them a casual call even in the late hours. Only he or the politicians know how much water does that statement holds. Also, his obsession with comparing politics with cricket annoyed me a lot.

Overall, I believe the book is a very interesting account of one of the most ferociously fought elections of India. If you ever participated in those heated political discussions in early months of 2014, I will highly recommend you to read this book.

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P.S.: The pictures have been borrowed from internet with thanks to the owner of this picture.

International Yoga Day – solution to all world problems

India’s new Prime Minister – Narendra Modi – delivered a much-awaited speech to the United Nations General Assembly that was received very well by a packed house. Now those who know me, will know that I’m not the greatest of Modi fans, but I’ve been in that phase of transformation into one. Alas, the speech that he delivered today at UNGA was a major let-down on expectations. I know I will be making some friends angry over this, but I looked for something revolutionary, innovative, powerful or at least different. I was utterly disappointed.

What I did instead get to hear was the old repeated record of how the world should be coming together, how world is under terrorist attacks, how world is changing very fast, etc. And then came the killer, the most amazing (read embarrassing) argument that I heard from Mr Modi today asking the world to come together to celebrate an Antar-rashtriya Yog Diwas (International Yoga Day). It seems like his 30 minutes speech was actually a build-up to this proposal of yoga as the single solution to all world problems.

I am still in a state of surprise that this master  speaker of India was not able to deliver some powerful message on this global stage. And I’m sure I’ve missed something that has been noticed by others who are all praises about this speech. Please guide me on what I am missing.

Why do I want to go to India… … but I don’t?

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A startling fact about UAE tells me that hardly around 20% of the total residents here are Emirati nationals while the other 80%+ are expatriates who come here, work here and then go back to their countries to retire. A major portion of that expatriate population comes from the Indian subcontinent and I’m one of those thousands (or probably millions) who have come here to chase their dreams – or simply, the money. But deep in the heart, everyone is an Indian, a Pakistani, a Brit, a German or an American, but not a Dubaian or an Emirati. There can be a long discussion on that, but my immediate point is that like many others, I also want to return to my country at some point in time. I bought a house there, just in case. I repatriate most of my savings, just in case. And I always stay connected, just in case.

Now I have many strong reasons to return back to India, my home country, and some of them might sound absurd to you. First and foremost, I don’t think I can be anything else emotionally than an Indian. I spent a quarter century in India – growing up, studying, learning to walk, learning to ride and learning to live – and it’s simply not possible to erase the memories of those beautiful years from the memory. My first school, my first stage appearance, my first crush, my first love, my first job, my first air travel – all of that happened in India. The food, the people, the streets, the rush, the family, the crowds, the festivals and the festivities, all pull me back to what I call – my roots.

But then how easy is it for someone to forget the present and connect to the past. My friends tell me that if you want to return, you return in 3 years or else you are caught in what they call – golden handcuffs. This country might not give me love, affection, family or adoption, but it surely gives me security, safety, lifestyle and yes, money. For a change, I am not affected by my relatives’ perceptions while making my life decisions. I have an option to live a ‘Western’ lifestyle and yet the option to go back to the Indian roots in every corner of Dubai. And I’m just 3 hours flight from my family in India, so that’s not a worry either.

So, while I might be tempted to go back to the roots, my selfish self tells me that that might not be the best thing to do. And if you think otherwise, I would love to know.

 

-AS