What did “Howdy Modi” achieve?

As you are aware that I am not much into political discussions. But to me “Howdy Modi” an event held on 22nd September 2019, at Houston, Texas was a game-changing event in the history of India. I am not bothered if Prime Minister Modi is from Party A or Party B. Till the end of the last century, India was that dirty country, under-developed, chaotic Place, and of snake charmers. We almost went into bankruptcy in 1992, till we were bailed out by a large loan against national gold reserves.

IT service industry was the first Indian show of technological prowess, well-proven by Y2K and India’s large English-speaking workforce. Rest as they say is history. Not everything is hunky-dory with us even today, but the significant change in our thinking and confidence of all us as a nation, is seen as a substantial change by the whole world. The change has not happened suddenly. There have been reasons as to why this is happening. People of my generation, those born just in 1947 or just after, were a docile lot as far anything foreign was concerned. But some of us were not as docile as they were thought to be. The change started with people like Sunil Gavaskar who looked international players eye to eye and would sledge back. Sachin Tendulkar was born in 1973, and his generation was even more confident; Sachin “screamed” with his bat. Today people of Kohli’s age create fear in the minds of players with their prowess, aggressive and polished behaviour when required.

Such changes started taking place slowly in every field. Finally, the real difference is observed in international diplomacy. In 50 s and 60 s of the last century, we were busy in NAM (non-aligned movement), the favourite baby of Nehru. It was frankly a group of nobody’s; they were neither on NATO side nor the Communist side. India had no identity, and we had forgotten the principle that it’s a power game in this world. But we had no power, including electricity; we were coming out of our problems post-independence and post-emergency. We were meek and weak, and our leadership reflected the status of the nation. We had the leaders we deserved.

During the last twenty-five years, India jumped the fast-growth groovy train. We managed good yearly growth of around 7 to 8 % for some time; even the current low rate of growth is still at about 5%! India managed to give the first non-coalition majority government in many years, and that helped the government to implement many schemes which supported the masses. India is also coming up with decisions that will help new businesses to come up and old companies to grow.

The complete change in the atmosphere was also helped by the strong leadership provided by Modi! Re-election of Modi in 2019 has further helped India to become more confident. We have a large diaspora living in various countries and doing well for themselves as well as for their adopted country. In the last few years, the Indian government provided simple procedures for NRI’s to acquire PAN card and now Aadhar card.

How is this helping India? With confidence, a person or a nation can take bold decisions, make bold statements. Others start taking you seriously and listen to what you say and do! After 5th August action on article 370, Rajnathsingh was asked about dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir. He boldly declared, “We will have a discussion with Pakistan, but it will now be about Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) only.” External affairs minister answered similarly on the subject recently. He said, “ We are willing to discuss with Pakistan but not with Terroristan!” Except for the terror aspect, Pakistan is not even there on India’s Radar.

AnandMahindra1

Howdy Modi was a Bollywood style show where India managed to invite the President of the United States to share the stage with Mr Modi. Some people may call it showmanship; some may call it histrionics. Some liberals have already started comparing this event with Hitler’s Goebbels style propaganda before starting the second world war. The above picture shows Nazi rally in Madison square garden; such pictures and dialogues are already being circulated by “liberals” on the social media. The comparison shows the beauty of democracy. Your own countrymen and your enemies are allowed to show dissent. Dissent was seen outside the stadium in Houston.

What did Trump’s decision to give a speech and then be with the spectators in the first row indicate? It showed that the most influential country in the world and democracy to the core is now actively backing India.  Mind you, many people hate Trump, but he is no Hitler, neither is Modi! As typically happens in world diplomacy, Trump had a meeting and a press conference with Imran Khan, Pakistan PM,  the next day, in New York. In this conference, Trump said that Mr Modi is capable of solving the Kashmir problem.

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I am not going to display any pictures from Houston show, but Imran Khan press conference presents a vital facet of the situation. While Trump was talking about Kashmir, Imran Khan was seen counting prayer beads. These prayer beads are called Misabaha. Imran was either hoping that now only Allah can help him and Pakistan, or was it a show for Islamic World that he is the most devoted servant of Allah and the leader of the Muslim world. Is this the same Imran Khan, the playboy, the Casanova of 80s and 90s? I have purposely not reduced the size of the picture so that you can see the beads in Imran Khan’s hands!

 

AnandMahindra

I respect Anand Mahindra for his maturity, openness and sense of humour on Twitter. He has aptly expressed the feelings of all Indians in his Tweet above! If Anandaji says this, I am sure of many of us will believe in the effects of Howdy Modi event.

What next after all the showmanship is done? Next day in New York, there was a United Nations conference, Indian top brass met  top brass of more than 20 nations on the side of the meeting, mainly to discuss bilateral cooperation. Kashmir issue might have been discussed too! But India’s stance on Kashmir was boldly declared to the global audience from Houston meet.

Another important effect of Houston meet is that there were fifty thousand plus Americans of Indian origin present. They must have felt really proud to see their Bharat  projected in a very effective positive manner. The diaspora will become more confident and try to see how they can help push India’s interest forward. They now know that there is a robust system that is getting established in India under the current government. They see the effect of transparency by way schemes like Visa on arrival, Passport in seven days and so on. They are also observing the fate of corrupts and cheats irrespective of their social and political status. They know that the government means business.

In case if some of you are not aware of efficient ways systems are working, I will share two examples.

On the last day of filing Income Tax returns 31st August 2019, fifty lacs (5 million) returns were filed. In 24 hours we have 86400 seconds. It means on an average, 58 returns were being filed every second!

State Bank of India has a customer  base of more than population of many nations. Now they have started a new system for ATM withdrawals. Before leaving home, send a request for withdrawals (max Rs ten thousand per day) from an App. You will be sent an OTP (valid for 30 minutes). Go to any ATM, currently owned by SBI, punch your OTP, and you are done. Transaction time at ATM must have come down by 75%, is my rough judgement!

Jaihind!

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To Agree or to Disagree!

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As the human brain started evolving, new thought processes started getting evolved too. A few centuries back, only the “intellectuals” would write about various thoughts and theories and this process was limited to a very few people. There were reasons. The thought process did not spread much due to nonavailability of technology and printing was not very easy and was expensive. Circulating hand-written stuff to a large number of people was difficult. When people disagreed on somethings, they simply fought and sometimes killed. The majority of the people stopped interacting with intellectuals, who wrote about things, about which most disagreed. 

Technology has changed a lot in the last hundred years, which helped people to disagree vocally or in writing instead of taking extreme steps. The development has helped in the spread of thought or knowledge much quicker than the olden days. In the last 15 to 20 years, the technology galloped at a breakneck speed. People could share their thoughts with others electronically, privately as well in public. I am talking of WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Blogging. These technological changes have made things more comfortable, and now writing the thoughts or expressing views has not remained the domain of intellectuals. You and I can say things, write about anything under the Sun. We can share our experiences easily; we can share our experiences, our knowledge and even some new theories or thoughts with the world.  

In this scenario, since it has become easy to write and publish, it has also become easy to make comments on such writings or disagree on the writings of others. Twitter is classic example of briefly writing about something; if you are famous and have a lot of followers, there will be instantaneous comments and rebuttals.  

If we’re all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it sensibly. What does it mean to disagree well? Most can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages of disagreement. So let me attempt to make a disagreement hierarchy. 

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Name-Calling, the method for disagreement is quite straight forward and blunt. The method is quite crude. People can and do have difference of opinion on many issues, but instead of doing so in polite or sophisticated way, people will call you Names, they may tend to use bad words. Is it necessary to be crass? But some people are born that way and behave in such ways in other aspects of life too!  

Ad hominem is a word typically refers to a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided, by attacking the character, motive, or other attributes of the person making the argument. The persons associated with the discussion is attacked, rather than attacking the substance of the case itself. The terms ad mulierem and ad feminam have been explicitly used when the person receiving the criticism is female. Probably it is a form of misogyny or malchauvinism. 

 In some form of criticism, people tend to be judgmental about the tone of writing. When one writes something, it is the right thing to comment about the writing rather than the way what is written. But this criticism is better than the first two methods discussed above. 

The contradiction is the stage, where we finally get responses to what was said, rather than how or by whom. The lowest form of response to an argument is to state the opposing case, with little or no supporting evidence. The method is still the only contradiction rather than arguing why one wants to contradict. 

Contradiction can sometimes have some weight. Sometimes seeing the opposing case stated explicitly is enough to know that it’s right. But usually, evidence will help. 

The writer can ignore these types of methods because they do not offer any constructive criticism. These methods may indicate a different viewpoint, but it will be difficult to judge what the argument is about. 

The counterargument is contradiction plus reasoning and evidence. When aimed directly at the original case, it can be convincing. But unfortunately, it’s common for counterarguments to be aimed at something slightly different. More often than not, two people arguing passionately about something are arguing about two different things. Sometimes they even agree with one another but are so caught up in their squabble they don’t realise it. 

There could be a legitimate reason for arguing against something slightly different from what the original author said: when you feel they missed the heart of the matter. But when you do that, you should say you’re doing it. But one also should not forget that the original author may mean something different than what you are arguing.  

Refutation is the action of proving a statement or theory to be wrong or false. The most convincing form of disagreement is a refutation. It’s also the rarest because it requires the most efforts, it needs to study and have knowledge about the subjectHence, we will see that this method of argument is sporadic 

To refute someone, you probably have to quote them. You have to find a specific passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it’s inaccurateWithout pinpointing the details, we will be back to square one where the argument is vague or maybe crass. 

But some people are mistaken that by quoting parts from the writing, they are refuting something. But without substantiating an argument, simply quoting has no meaning. 

The most potent form of argument is refuting the central idea of the writing.  

Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point or at least one of them. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is. So a truly effective refutation would look like the writing below. 

I disagree with your basic idea “xxxxx yyyyy” for the reasons given below. I disagree because of the following points.  

You will wonder why I have tried to classify the arguments and create a hierarchy! It is simply done to describe the way your writings may get thrashed, sometimes by methods like namecalling. But sometimes you will be lucky enough to get great feedback from a knowledgeable person who could improve your thoughts and writing. Criticism is the best way for improvement in life if done constructively. 

In Marathi, there is a saying, “निंदकाचे घर असावे शेजारी”  which means that it is good to have your critic as your neighbour! Various criticisms will teach us how to handle life in general. It is not only about ones writings, but it could be about your decisions, your acts, your behaviour. Done constructively, there is no better teacher than your critic!  

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The Genesis of Enigmatic Society!

प्रत्येक वस्तुला जागा

प्रत्येक वस्तू जागेवर

कराल असे तुम्ही

तर कामे होतील भराभर

This is a saying in Marathi that Jaya remembered from her childhood. Renowned social worker Gangutai Patwardhan used to say this! It translates as below.

Each thing has its own place

The thing should always be in its place

If you follow this

All your work will be done quickly

This is exactly what Japanese concept of 5S says. 5S is a method/Japanese concept for organizing a workplace, especially a shared workplace (like a shop floor or an office space). See the yellow box! The blue box is equally important!

5s-explanation_med_hr

Our society, our lives are like a workplace. Rich and the poor share the same roads and infrastructure. So it is a responsibility of rich, poor and the middle-class to maintain the infra properly, and follow the rules of the society. To me, it is the responsibility of middle-class as their number is large, they are educated and many of them have seen the world.

But the more we change the more we remain the same. I remember when the whole world was holding its collective breath when 1st January 2000 dawned and Y2K was supposed to get things crashing world over, due to the supposed computer glitch. Indian computer companies made a giant-killing by providing a fantastic solution. There were high hopes that in the 21st century finally, India urf Bharat will look forward to getting its deserved place in the world order.

Where are we today at the end of 2018, almost twenty years from the beginning of the new century, but has our society improved? As usual, we have taken two steps forward and three steps backwards. This morning, I was standing in my balcony on my 7th floor home, chatting with my friend Dilip on phone. I saw a scooter stopping in front of a bungalow. An apparently educated lady simply dumped her garbage and drove off. I was observing for the next 15 minutes and saw ¾ more people do the same.

This is a very normal happening in India. We are in Yo-Yo mode all the time, we improve in certain areas and we go back two steps in another area. We have a global company chief in Nadella, Sundar Pichai and Indra Nooyi. We have ISRO sending Satellites after Satellites in space. Then we have people throwing their trash as they wish. We have Municipal Corporations dumping drainage water in rivers without processing. Industrial waste is also dumped in rivers without processing any many places. Under the garb of religion, dead bodies are dumped in the river Ganga!

When Anna Hazare started his Journey for Jan Lokpal Bill in the year 2011, not many had given him a chance of getting through without a great struggle, if at all. But one point which almost nobody had budgeted for was the great awakening of the Middle Class because of this movement. This middle-class was to be the vehicle for India’s journey towards “advanced” society.

Who are middle-class people and what is middle-class mentality? I would define a middle-class person as a person, who is like you and me, who is coming up in life. When one heard TV discussions read articles in those times, it was felt as if being middle class was really rude. The intelligentsia on panels was shocked to see the middle class coming on the road to express their views and argue when middle-class was supposed to be docile.

Now that the awakening had taken place, the same Middle class was being blamed as being too vociferous, too impatient, too aggressive and so on. The intelligentsia had hoped that the middle class will always remain dormant and never go against the proven theories of remaining mute. But with new electronic mediums of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, SMS and so on, this group found a way of expressing their views and communicating openly with others.

There is a flip side to this. Not every cause needs Anna’s intervention; the local issues should be handled locally but the onus is still on the middle-class to lead.

You don’t need Anna to get local roads repaired. You don’t need Anna to solve your daily water problems. You don’t need Anna to clear garbage on the roads! Let Anna handle national level issues like Lokpal. But we don’t bother about our own behaviour. We spit betel leaf juice anywhere. We have unique behaviour on the Pune Mumbai expressway. There are two toll stations on the expressway. After each one, there are washrooms. But some of us drive about 5 Km ahead and then urinate in open. Our government has made laws, especially for villages, which ensures that any person who wants to stand for elections must have a toilet at home. People were still found going to their fields for morning ablutions, some men said they felt manly if they used the field instead of using toilets!

While chatting with friends, the subject of “State of our Nation” always comes up. The conclusion is always the same. Everybody is confused. There is a saying in Marathi, “हे असच चालायचं!” Things will never change. Someone I know was a sophisticated trainer in world’s renowned airline. Every Saturday, he would go a Mandir and offer a small container full of oil to a deity. It was poured in an area from where it would go down the drain. I don’t know how much oil was wasted every day; this could have been given to charity instead of wasting it. This is a story of a highly trained engineer. If the so-called educated people take part in such rituals, remain stuck in such beliefs, how will we ever reach the “Developed” state? I have seen many roadside tea stall owners performing a ritual. They brew their first cup of tea for the day and throw it on the ground. I asked a few of them why they did it? I was told that it gives them good luck for the days business. I asked them why not give it free to someone deserving instead of wasting it, they had no answer.

For our country to become “advanced” what needs to be done, I do not know. Every person’s definition of “advanced” will be different. As long as we don’t come out of the mentality of two steps forward and three steps backwards, the so-called advancement is not possible. For the last 15 years, we are showing economic growth of 7 to 8 % year to year. Effects of this growth are visible but our “backward” thinking dilutes this progress. According to me, the middle-class is the growth engine of the nation but this class also still remains in Yo-Yo mode. In technology, in modern methods, the middle class shows the forward thrust; at the same time the rituals, acts of blind faith are celebrated on a much larger scale because now there is money around. Even in today’s times, I have seen a lady, our relative, go into trance during a religious function. She is a normal college educated lady like ladies we meet normally, but still, she went in a trance, which at least I thought was happening only in uneducated class. The blog below gives my thoughts on such events.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/paranormal-behavior-or-angat-yene-or-devi-ana/

Let me as usual end up on a positive note. We have terrific enterprise, enthusiasm. Our nation is a nation of young people with energy. Let us put this energy to proper use and make sure that we don’t take any backward steps. If everybody folllows the Marathi lines above, then trash will always go in trash bins, vehicles will be parked in their places, roads will not be required to be repaired after every monsoon! We may start “looking” like a developed nation.