On life…and learning

Archive for September 2012

Leaders. Walk the Talk…

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They say, true leaders are ones who walk-the-talk.

Just happened to read the blog of LK Advani, senior BJP leader, titled ‘Present Political Set Up More Draconian Than Emergency’, dated September 12, 2012.

Advani, a learned, vastly-experienced and wise man, launched through this blog scathing attack on the present day UPA government, stating how this government is acting worse than the Indira regime during the Emergency period of 1975-’77, where the freedom of press was curtailed as brutally as it can get.

As one politician who faced the brunt of the black days of Emergency, Advani wrote rather eloquently:

India has been independent now for sixty-five years. I have always regarded the Emergency period 1975-77 as the worst in so far as suppression of civil liberties and freedom of expression were concerned…

But seeing what has happened to political cartoonist and anti-corruption crusader Aseem Trivedi, I have started wondering: Is today’s political set up worse even than the emergency? …

He ended the blog, saying…

I am sure the annual report of the Registrar of Newspapers for 1975-76 will have a sorry but significant story to tell. When Hitler assumed power, Germany’s tally of newspapers and periodicals was 4,700.  By the time the Nazi nightmare ended, the   number had dwindled to less than a thousand. The same might happen here if the trend persists.

Now, you’d ask, why am I reproducing Advani’s blog? Well, that’s not the intention, dear readers. The intention is to bring to your notice how Advani has changed his thoughts about the freedom of press and independence of expression over last 35 years.

35 years ago, post the electoral defeat of the infamous Indira Gandhi regime after the black years of the Emergency, Advani became the Minister of Information and Broadcasting in the then newly elected Janata government. The bruises on breach of freedom and independence of press were raw and fresh in minds of the public. The new government was determined to bring about autonomy of broadcasting, much opposite to the censorship that ailed the freedom of expression during the Emergency.

Legendary journalist, BG Verghese, in his highly informative book, ‘First Draft: Witness to the Making of Modern India’, writes at length about this episode. He describes how an elite working-group of highly accomplished and respected individuals was formed for the said purpose. This group came up with a brilliant report on the subject, after due deliberation, and advocated the ‘establishment of a National Broadcast Trust named Akash Bharti, responsible for the conduct of public broadcasting. This was to be ‘a citizen of India’…”

Well received within the broadcasting circles, this report was presented to Advani, with a draft bill, in February 1978.

To share with you Advani’s response, I am quoting from Verghese’s book, paragraph two, page 260:

Advani, as information & broadcasting minister, wryly exclaimed, ‘We promised autonomy. But you have recommended independence.’

Surprised to note the original thoughts of Advani? Well, that is what I call not walking the talk!

Needless to say, the above bill never saw the daylight.

Dear Mr. Advani, I do agree that the memory of the otherwise stressed and harassed public is short, and 35 years is pretty long time as it is, so smarter politicians do take advantage of this factor, and become holier than thou, as per their convenience. I don’t know whether you thought this way while loathing the government for ‘suppression of civil liberties and freedom of expression’ in your blog, your arguments surely couldn’t con the informed commoners this one time.

Dear leaders, we commoners sincerely hope that you’d ‘walk-the-talk’ next time…


Photo-credit: sodahead.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are author’s own and not of the organisation he is associated with.

Stop! It’s Red Ahead…

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World over, all disciplined car-drivers feel scared that if they don’t stop at a ‘Red’ Traffic Signal, they may meet with an accident.

Not in Delhi! Here, you’d rather fear stopping at the traffic signal when it’s red…if you actually intended to, in first place. You fear one or the other vehicle will surely hit you from behind, while you are standing at the signal, awaiting it to be green!

Ironical, isn’t it?

Today, I happened to ride my car early morning (read: 7:30am) to New Delhi from my residence in Gurgaon. I took the Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road; those of you who have commuted on this stretch know it is full of traffic signals.

I was almost at the end of my nerves cracking, at every traffic signal! Red light meant I was supposed to stop. OMG! Should I, or shouldn’t, as the cars following mine just didn’t seem to slow down, whatever colour of the signal it were ahead of them!

As I dared to stop, at each of one them, I said my prayers without fail, anxiously looking at the rear-view mirror. Cars flew by, swish past me, mocking the signal is broad day-light! Lord Almighty knows I don’t like to drive a car in this city for this reason!

Have you ever experienced similar chill down in your spine? Well, my guess is that you would have, only if you’re a disciplined driver; one, who cares for the law of the land.

Who are these reckless drivers behind me that I am scared of? So called unruly truckers, or rustic cabbies? NO. A big NO. Howsoever unruly truck-drivers and cabbies may be, I do see them stopping at a red-light. At least more often than people like you and me. We, who call ourselves civilzed, cultured, disciplined, Khandani, you see, blah blah and blah…

I see you and I driving like this, every day. It is these drivers that I am scared of – drivers who are sons driving with moms, men & women driving with their kids, uncles driving with scant respect of the traffic signal. Are they mindless? NO. A big NO, yet again. They just don’t care, they just aren’t reprimanded by their families and friends sitting next to them. And the trend continues…

According to a Delhi Traffic Police study I had read last year, maximum fatalities on Delhi’s roads (yes, those awesome New Delhi roads!), happen during 10pm and 12pm. Well, what’s strange about it? This is the period when you and I see lesser traffic around, lesser policemen around. And we jump the gun…what more provocation do we need. And why stop at the signal when there’s no one coming from any side anyway?

Don’t believe me? Try riding your car, and luck, on the Lutyen’s Delhi or the South Delhi roads tonight.

My guess is, you will come back as scared, as I did.


Photo-credit: talgov.com

Prime Minister. Is He A Leadership Material?

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Listening to Barack Obama’s spirited election speech yesterday, I could not help recall the pride our own Prime Minister takes in speaking less. Well, I am myself not an advocate of leaders’ babble and ranting without a cause and I am also not falling prey to the Time and Outlook magazines’ works on the respective ‘Underachievers’. However, as an ardent student of the idea of leadership, I cannot fathom as to why would the leader of world’s largest democracy fails to communicate and motivate his nation!

Then, another questions comes to mind, is he actually a leadership material? Or, was he, when he donned the cap of the PM in 2004?

However, I am not writing this blog blindly criticizing the Prime Minister; so many of them seem to be doing that off late. Nor is this blog aimed at hailing Obama as a better leader than Dr.Singh. I am rather thinking aloud; is this good man, the genius academician and a man of indisputable repute in Indian economy and polity, a real leader? Does he possess what we call the skills of leadership? Or, is he a sad case of Peter’s Principle, where he was mistakenly promoted to his levels of incompetence?

My mind says; he was never a leadership fitment. He was always an academic genius, who excelled in all he did, albeit as an individual contributor. Those who carefully noted the happenings in early 1990s in India, a period that credits Dr.Singh as an architect of liberalization of the Indian economy, would certainly remember it was the might and backing of PV Narasimha Rao, the then Indian PM, under whose leadership and guidance Dr. Singh, the then Finance Minister could take those bold decisions the nation thanks him today for.

In my assessment, he was never a leadership candidate, not at least for this crucial responsibility. Retuning back to power in 2004, the Congress Party found him as a befitting person to be given the top-job, with a clever agenda of ‘remote-control-ruling’ by the Party President. He possessed all qualities the common man would look in a chief of our nation – unblemished track record, authenticity, credibility, knowledge; he enjoyed the trust of the masses. After all, we saw him as a messiah of the economic reforms. In him becoming the PM, the party found a silent front, and the nation was led to believe that with all these qualities, he would but obviously be the true leader we always wanted.

Eight years later, we find things so starkly different. He is just not THE leader we assumed him to be. Authentic and trustworthy still as a person, he emerges a fit case of poor leadership. He just doesn’t inspire, just doesn’t invoke confidence in the masses. We still believe he is a great man. But a leader? We doubt. Many don’t even doubt; they believe he isn’t.

When I heard Obama speak with passion yesterday, I found his words compelling. Not just plain oratory it was, it appeared authentic to me. It invoked enthusiasm. It inspired me. Something that one always misses when our own PM speaks.

What does he lack, then? Why don’t we feel compelled or inspired by him?

John Hamm, the celebrated author of the bestseller ‘Unusually Excellent’, speaks at length about leaders being compelling. Parts of this book are so befitting in the current case,

“People who are authentic and trustworthy are usually good and fair…. They might be candidates for a good friendship. But it is not obvious that we should follow them – anywhere.

 …We (followers) must feel compelled (to follow)… there is no such thing as an unwilling follower, only one who has not yet seen a compelling reason to join…

 Hamm continues, and speaks at length about the five E’s of excellent leadership:

  • Great leaders know how to engage
  • Great leaders enroll people
  • They energize the troops, to forge them into a cohesive unit, orient them towards the common goal, and marshal the resources to support them in their task
  • They empower; build leaders under them
  • They enthuse…making their mission exciting for their followers, compelling them to follow…

Does Dr. Singh possess above qualities? I wonder, as I don’t see them, howsoever hard I try to locate them in him. I don’t get answer to the crucial question – ‘what’s in it for me’, in his leadership.

And how would I see these qualities in him, even if he possesses all of them!! After all, I don’t just see him talking; I just don’t see his passion. Being nice & introvert is all fine; when would he start building confidence in his followers? When will he start to engage and enroll? When will he, like a strong leader, reprimand and rein his rather notorious ‘gangs of ministers’, who just don’t do him any good in the failing attempt of governance? Will I ever see him as bold and courageous?

Does he even know that he NEEDS these skills to be able to lead us? I doubt yet again.

Failing me on all above, PM is just another ordinary replica of a corporate world’s manager, who got promoted to a role of ‘leader’, without anyone caring whether he had it in him to be one or not.

One thing that I am confident of – I’m not the only one thinking aloud like this.


Photo-credit one: economictimes.indiatimes.com

Photo-credit two: firstpost.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are author’s own and not of the organisation he is associated with.

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