Sunday, December 20, 2015

Chhavi Rajawat - The Sarpanch of Soda

 Imagine you are suffering from loose motions but cannot step out of your house to relieve yourself till after sunset.

Imagine you are sitting in an open field for defecation with no bushes to hide behind because being in arid zone, there is very little vegetation around. You are forced to stand up everytime you hear vehicle approaching or people talking and wait till they pass by and are a few hundred meters away from you. Only then you get to sit again. Imagine these interruptions happening several times during just one round of defecating in an open field!

As she speaks with me in the sunny back lawn of her ancestral home in her village, I can see pain and anger in her eyes but not helplessness. Meet Chhavi Rajawat, the Sarpanch of Soda village in Rajasthan. When I jokingly tell her that a village called Soda gives an impression of it being a village where people are fond of drinking, she laughs and goes on to narrate all that ails her village and how she cannot let the villagers down after they have given her a second term as their Sarpanch.
Chhavi Rajawat- Sarpanch, Soda Village, Tonk District, Rajasthan

Had she relied on government funds, perhaps the women of Soda would have still being defecating in the open. Not anymore! She motivated villagers to part with some of their savings to build toilets and at the same time appealed directly to her schoolmates, college mates & ex-colleagues in the corporate world to chip in. Which most of them did. Today, more than 800 of the 900 homes in Soda have a pucca toilet (as of March 2015). But then old habits die hard and some people, mostly men, still prefer to defecate in the open. How to stop them?
One of the 800+ Toilets constructed in Soda Village

Her mom, super-proud of her daughter, jumps in excitedly and narrates how she has motivated young children of the village to start tailing such men and deprive them of moments of solitude, something critical to the excretion process! If necessary, the kids also make noise and tease the chap making fun of his choice to defecate in the open. These guys shout at the children, threaten them, curse them but in the end, it is the children who win! 

Chhavi is India's first and youngest village sarpanch with an MBA degree! Before taking the plunge into full time Sarpanch-giri, she worked in the corporate sector including companies like the The Times of India Group and Bharti Airtel.

Construction of toilets without any government help is just one of her achievements. Her other successes include converting 40 muddy pathways inside the village into bitumen surfaced or stone paved roads. Hence every pathway and every gali in Soda is now motorable, barring a few connecting the Dhanis (Settlements) on the outskirts of the village. 

Soda village at present has 40 such well surfaced  roads, lanes& By-lanes

During her first term as Sarpanch, she also got the biggest reservoir in the village desilted to improve its rainwater storing capacity. This reservoir today is the safest source of potable water in Soda. Prior to this, villagers depended on shallow handpumps to draw groundwater which is laden with deadly pollutants and is highly saline making it unfit even for farming. She managed to get all such handpumps sealed and news ones were installed around the village reservoir. As expected, getting the state government to release funds for desilting the reservoir proved to be a herculean task as usual with the officials dragging feet and delaying file movements. This left Chhavi with no option but to approach for sponsors in the corporate world who partly funded this exercise.

With its groundwater heavily polluted, the reservoir is the only source of potable water for the entire village

As you enter Soda off the Jaipur-Tonk road, you are greeted by the sight of State Bank of India's Soda branch flanked by its ATM! Around the bank are shops of barbers, tea sellers and samosa-pakodi doing brisk business during banking hours. The bank caters not just to Soda but dozens of neighbouring villages as this is the only bank in the area. Chhavi has ensured that every Soda resident has a bank account here for easy transfer of MNREGA payments and other government subsidies and incentives. Getting State Bank to agree to open a branch in her village wasn't exactly a cakewalk. It is here that her MBA degree and corporate experience perhaps came in handy and she managed to convince the bank's top brass by convincing them of the gains the bank would make.
The village boasts of a Commercial Bank, a rarity in this part of the country

A few hundred meters from the bank is a towering mobile tower which ensures that the residents of her village enjoy good mobile and data connectivity 24 x 7, something that most villages in the vicinity can  only dream of. Perhaps, having worked in Airtel, Chhavi knew the right strings to pull at the right places to get this tower situated in Soda.

From a village which got electricity for barely 4 hours a day, Soda now has power supply for at least 16 hours a day. While all homes in the main village are electrified, the ones on the outskirts (Dhanis) have been provided with solar panels for lighting up homes as well as streets.

Dwellings which have not been electrified have been provided with Solar power

So what makes an alumnus of The Rishi Valley School, Lady Shri Ram College & Pune University to give up the `good life' and devote her prime years to a village? Doesn't she regret giving up luxuries of playing Polo, riding horses etc. for this unglamorous life dealing with not so hot & happening crowd?

No way! For Chhavi, the upliftment and progress of her ancestral village Soda is her first & foremost priority and nothing can come in-between. She is convinced that with 70% of India living in villages, the country simply cannot become a world power without improving the quality of living & quality of life of its rural citizens!
This reservoir was dredged to increase its water holding capacity & supplies drinking water round the year to people & their cattle


Sunday, August 24, 2014

An Untold Story of Love Jihad

Upon learning that Muslim young men were getting some sort of special training to Patao (woo) Hindu girls in order to successfully establish marital relations with them, scores of young Hindu men across the country are reportedly switching over to the other side. Thousands of skullcap wearing young Hindu lads were seen searching for these `Love Jihad’ academies in many parts of the country, specially the state of Uttar Pradesh.

One group of `Muslim looking’ Hindu boys this reporter spoke to reluctantly spilled the beans behind their move to convert. They said that they have been trying very hard to hook girls from their communities in their neighbourhood; schools; colleges; workplaces; bars and even places of worship but the girls didn’t lay any grass before them (Ghaas tak nahin dali hamen).On the contrary, they got their fathers & brothers to beat them up and then threatened them with tying Rakhi.

One of them had even approached Bhoga guru Baba Kamdev for tips but he turned them away after giving a big (and boring) lecture on how to treat Naaris as Maa & Behens (Mothers & Sisters) in true Indian spirit. He then forced them to learn some yoga techniques to sap their bad physio-chemical energy so as to remove thoughts of love & sex from their minds (Shuddhikaran).

“How unfair! Had we known of these `Love Jihad’ schools, we would have known some really cool, tried & tested tricks to phansaao those girls.What’s the point of wasting your life fantasizing about them and letting your youth go down the drain, I mean it literally?”

When I asked them as to why don’t they learn those tricks from Bollywood, one of the guys quickly pointed out that most of the successful bollywood actors are part of this Love Jihad. “I’m dead sure these Bollywood Khans were coached in one of these Love Jihad paathshaalas”, he said.

Another one said that despite him & his brother trying everything under the sun, their girls refuse to give them any Bhaav. “We have tried topping in our class; played sports; indulged in body building; learned social dancing; even playing guitar and what not. Still no luck”.

“These girls are quite chaalu & materialistic. They don’t care for anything except moolah. They only go for guys whose parents have money, who drive in 10 Lakh Plus cars; have a bachelor’s pad of their own in one of city’s posh localities & pockets deep enough to buy them branded stuff.”

“I’m telling you, they’ll even marry a pig if that fellow had money”, chipped in another one.

Come to think of it, not all Muslim guys are that rich. We’re told that a lot of them perpetually hang around the poverty line. And yet they manage to hook our girls. Kuchh to sikhaate hi honge Jihad school mein varna unse zyada rich to hum hain hi!
Another guy who was listening quietly so far jumps into the conversation.

“You see, my elder bro had managed to pataao our neighbor’s pretty looking daughter. She had fallen for him completely and was willing for marriage even. But then our elders checked out their kundlis and declared that they were from the same gotra & hence brothers & sisters. Poor guy…he is still unmarried and passing his time over porn sites”.

Oye, that reminds me of a classmate of mine. He managed to get into IIT, then IIM & then IAS. Girls whom he had earlier pursued unsuccessfully were now daaloing dore on him. And when he finally decided to marry one of his ex-hearthrobs, this bloody dowry thing came in-between! Her parents had heart attack after hearing the dowry amount. Bichaari ladki aaj tak kunwaari baithi hai”.

At the time of filing this story, reliable sources rang up this reporter & told him that the Parivaar is now rethinking its strategy of making Love Jihad a poll plank because it seems to have backfired.

Yeah, after meeting the guys mentioned above, I can safely say – It Has!!

Disclaimer: Readers may please note that this is a piece of imaginary satirical writing & should not be confused with real news or real facts. It is fake news and is not intended to personally offend any individual , institution, gang, gangster or a political entity or its followers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Will Justice (Retd.) Katju be rewarded with a 2nd term as Press Council Chairman?

In politics as, in every other facet of life, TIMING occupies a great significance. A whistle blower blowing the whistle when something wrong is happening is a big deal. It can draw attention to the `wrong’ and help nip it in the bud. But whistle being blown after the thief has bolted cannot be accorded the same respect & must be looked at suspiciously.

Recenlty, we have had two such instnces-

One of an AIIMS Forensic Science doctor claiming that he was coerced/influenced by the powers that be to dilute/manipulate/conceal facts in the sensational death of Ms. Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. Soon after, AIIMS denied the charges levelled by this doctor and it was revealed that he had an axe to grind with AIIMS management relating to his career prospects, promotions etc.Or perhaps it is a strategic move by the doctor for endearing himself to the ruling dispensation by giving it scoopfuls of muck to be thrown at the ousted regime and keeping its key leaders on a tight leash by way of installing probe after probe into their deeds & alleged misdeeds & then using it as a control panel.

The 2nd one is that of highly respected retired Supreme Court Judge & presently Press Council of India Chairman, Justice Markandey Katju’s revelations about a corrupt Madras High Court judge being appointed as Supreme Court Judge despite an adverse reports from Justice Katju himself and the Intelligence Bureau.

Both these relate to events that occurred during the tenure of UPA government. But surprisingly, neither the doctor in question nor Justice Katju blew the whistle at the appropriate time. They both waited for a regime antagonistic to the UPA govt. occupy the seat of power in Delhi before spilling the beans, if one can call it that.

Among the two persons involved here, Justice Katju occupies a comparatively widely respected position in public eye than a careerist doctor fighting for a promotion here & an increment there. Also, as author of some landmark judgments as a judge, many of which had sermon-like flavor, one has higher expectations from Justice Katju. It therefore becomes important that Justice (Retd) Markandey Katju’s actions be examined under an electron microscope to see even the tiniest of their elements. It thus becomes imperative that Justice Katju answers these critical questions without losing temper or walking out of studios in a huff or without getting into a reprisal mode-

1. Dear Justice Katju, Why didn’t you blow the whistle on this Madras High Court Judge story earlier. Are there any rules/oath etc. As an SC judge that bar you from doing so? Anyway, it has been three years since you retired from SC in September 2011. Why did you sleep over this truth all these three long years? Even bureaucrats don’t wait that long to write books revealing the `dirt’ in the system!

2. Were you waiting for the UPA Govt. (that appointed you as Chairman of the Press Council) to go so that you don’t annoy the guys who gave you this lucrative post-retirement position within a few days of your retirement & thereby risk being removed from this post?

3. By raising it now and giving it an anti-UPA twist, are you trying in some way to score brownie points in the eyes of the NDA regime which will soon have to take a decision on appointing a Press Council Chairman once you retire on October 4, this year?

4. Of late, you have also been aggressively articulating your views on stuff like Common Civil Code, Muslim women wearing burqas and Article 370 etc. And your stand over these is quite in sync with the thinking of the ruling party and the `parivar’it belongs to.

Not that there is anything wrong in it and many people would have ideas that are in sync with someone else’s thinking. So what?

One is just wondering about the TIMING! Is it a mere coincidence or is it part of a well conceived Mile Sur Mera Tumhara strategy to impress the regime in Raisina Hill about you being on their side & thus subtly appealing to it to count on you? Is all this being done with an aim to get an extension as PCI chief sir?

Sir, with your kind of wisdom, you’d agree that one of the toughest things to earn & retain is credibility. In my view, your credibility would grow leaps & bounds if you were to answer the questions above and simultaneously declare that you won;t be accepting any post-retirement positions offered by this government and/or foundations & bodies linked to it and companies/institutions supporting it overtly or covertly.

Allow me to clarify that the above questions do not in any way dilute the positive impact & desirability of whistle blowing, if the term can be applied to justice Katju’s recent disclosures. The judiciary, like every other organ of our system and psyche, needs to be cleansed & purged of corrupt elements, including seemingly `soft & acceptable’ corruption that doesn’t involve illicit transfer of cash or valuable physical assets between two persons – one in position of power & the other at the receiving end of his/her power.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


In a secret & astonishing move, Pakistan has approached the United Nations asking it to pass a resolution declaring the bordering Indian states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan & Gujarat in addition to all its coastal states & parts of the North East as Pakistani territory effective May 17, 2014.

Pakistani Army has parallely started moving troops to the international borders adjoining these Indian states so that they can swiftly take control of existing Indian territory once the UN passes the motion. Pakistani Navy has also moved its fleet of warships to station them in the Bay of Bengal to take control of West Bengal, Orissa, Kerala & Tamil Nadu. 

This unprecedented development has its roots in the declaration made by one Giriraj Singh, a BJP leader, wherein he is reported to have said that “those opposing the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi would have to go to Pakistan after the general elections”.

Pakistan’s incredulous claim over such a large area is backed by a serious scientific analysis of polling data for Lok Sabha elections in the past. Given that BJP polled 18.8% of the total votes in 2009 and assuming a best case scenario of the party polling 25% of the total votes in 2014, given the much publicized `wave’ for it. In his confidential note to the UN Secretary General, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN has argued that given that India has close to 81.5 Crore voters, this would mean that close to 60 Crore Indians wouldn’t have voted for Modi. Assuming that those voting for BJP’s allies are spared deportation, Pakistan may still have to accommodate a humongous population not less than 45 Crores, more more than 2.5 times its own population!

Excerpts from Pak’s UN Ambassador’s letter-

“Where on earth shall we find space to accommodate so many Hindustani Kaafirs?”   
“Our country hardly has many people with spines intact. As a result, our doctors and hospitals aren’t geared to treat spinal patients. How the hell are we expected to treat these Indians then?”

“Assuming that a large chunk of those externed would be women...mannerless & uncultured women who proudly show off their skin, Pakistan shall needs millions of meters of fabric to stitch Burqas for these `loose’ women. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees may thus be ordered by your excellency to provide this fabric as our own factories have been long destroyed by the Taliban and US drones which bombarded them suspecting these to be Taliban hideouts.” 

“Issuing Visas & citizenship documents to so many people, that too at one go could be a herculean task your excellency. Pakistan neither has that much paper nor educated people to man Visa desks at its High Commission & Consulates in India. Thus, the Govt. of India may be instructed by your office to deport these anti-Modi Indians in small batches & allow the process to be completed over the next 10 years.” 

Last heard, UN Secretary General has referred this matter to the UN Security Council and asked it to take a call before May 16, 2014. Instructions have also been sent to WHO to train Pakistani doctors in Spinal Injury Treatment. UNHCR has been asked to arrange for designer Burqas & keep them ready for dispatch to Islamabad at short notice.

It has also sent a letter to India’s Ministry of External Affairs to drop this idea of Externment. 

Disclaimer: Readers may please note that this is a piece of imaginary satirical writing & should not be confused with real news or real facts. It is fake news and is not intended to personally offend any individual , institution, gang, gangster or a political entity or its followers.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A nation’s search for an individual HERO or CONTRACTOR to govern & deliver

At the recently concluded India Today Conclave 2014, Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party fielded several questions & barbs from the audience. One question that he was repeatedly asked by various who’s who of the country (yes, the conclave is for the elite, by the elite & of the elite) is whether he was in the race to become India’ Prime Minister.

When he refused to confirm, he was then criticized for not helping matters as it was sending confusing signals to the voters as to who then should they vote for; who then is going to solve India’s plethora of problems; and if he isn’t in the race, then all that is left to vote for is Mr. Narendra Modi (implied in their queries cum observations). To these, Kejriwal clearly responded by admitting that he didn’t have the answers, leaving the audience feeling `let-down’. What came out was that `people’ were wanting to repose their trust in some individual to govern the country just the way we do with commercial contractors and sub-contractors.

Which brings us to this ever-important question of why do we, specially Indians always expect individuals to rescue us from the mess we have ourselves created or helped create by way of our ignorance, apathy, gullibility & collaboration with the `system’?

I see this as a serious problem roots of which perhaps lie in the culture of hero-worship ingrained in our collective DNA. And most of it has to do with our local fables wherein gods & goddesses arrive on earth to destroy evil & demons. Till the gods decide to oblige, people need to put up with the status quo and suffer. This is further reinforced by our cinema wherein a lone hero comes and vanquishes the villains even as hordes & hordes of people just watch the fight either from the fringes or balconies, windows, behind door curtains. And once the `clean-up’ is done, this `impotent’ crowd rushes out to celebrate the `victory’. So whether it is a dacoit threatened village; smuggler infested slum; rural musclemen; urban gangsters or corrupt politicians, the masses keep suffering & praying for a miracle. And once their prayers are answered, a `hero’ descends on the scene to do the job. The same is true for the culture imported from the west. Right from childhood we are fed a diet of Superman, Spidermans, Pop-Eyes & Rambos - all individual heroes with unbelievable powers to vanquish terror & misery. 

Second, and equally important aspect of this could be the fact that we, as people, are more comfortable being told what to do than taking our own decisions. Could this be because of the `clerical’ mindset ingrained in our culture since British days. Being a clerk is always safe as you never have to take decisions on your own and are simply following orders given by your masters. So you can never go wrong & can never be blamed for anything. While this attitude may have suited India’s British rulers, it has been a disaster for us, as people. We love to shirk responsibility & run away from taking decisions & being held accountable. And so we’d rather stay on the margins and let someone else shape our destiny. In ancient times, we used to go to temples seeking solutions to our problems from gods, represented by the priests. Now we run to spiritual gurus to seek solutions to problems that are our own creation. This is at personal level. The same approach can be seen working at the national level wherein we’d rather allow a handful to determine our destiny and are happy fooling ourselves about our misplaced notion of exercising our `democratic rights & powers’. It is sad to see the inability of our highly educated people with coveted degrees from sterling institutions to get rid of the clerk sitting inside them. 

You look at literature, folk tales, cinema, popular culture or anything else & you’ll find the same stuff being repeated over & over. Seldom would you find any example of collective wisdom & collective action. Nor would you find any trace of `Systems & Processes’ that can deliver the `order’ that the masses yearn for. Thus, this looking up to a `hero’ (am already getting a neck sprain looking -up to someone all the time) and worst, waiting endlessly for his or her arrival.

When we read out stories of Lord Rama to kids, we tell them that he was a privileged man & incarnation of god. And being god, he finished off Ravana, the evil guy (from North Indian perspective). What if we told them that Rama’s wife, whom he loved so much, was abducted by an evil guy called Ravana of Lanka and instead of waiting for help from his dad or some other politically connected bigwig of that time, he decided to rescue his beloved all on his own and in the process built-up a team to conquer Ravana; that it all started with him being driven by his very own personal pain of separation from his wife & his strong urge to punish the kidnapper and not with a general agenda of ridding the country of a learned man with evil thoughts and sick agenda troubling the people; that he decided to help himself and the rest as they say is `his-story’.

Or for that matter, why can’t we interpret Goddess Durga’s ten powerful hands holding various weapons as collective power of women instead of some sort of an individual heroic character - women who joined hands to assert themselves and eradicate suffering! I’m sure that this would, over the years, give us the confidence & capability to achieve what we want to achieve ourselves with no one doing us any favour whatsoever.

Coming back to the question of `Who Should govern India’, it is time we stopped waiting for heroes and their magical powers to take the country forward. We must focus on delivery of good-governance through robust systems, processes & institutions and do our bit in achieving this goal. It is high time we saw a paradigm shift from individuals’ capability to collective capability reflected in the system of governance.

Remember, as an individual, Manmohan Singh was considered a learned, clean & honest (non-bribe taking types) man in whose basket we dumped all our hopes for good & corruption free governance and got busy with our own quest to earn as much as we could.

Look what we got!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Tree & a Bonsai

I, a Bonsai? 

O’ dear sweet li’l kid
Am told you’re the one god lives in
Or is it godliness? 
Everyone says you are god’s gift 
The believers & followers of god 
should then be respecting you for what you are
For the joys you bring
For the liberty you symbolize 
And for the purity that you embody
With no biases
No preconceptions
No prejudices 
And no ill wills 

Born in a free society
So you are told
How then did i become a conformist
You wonder when as you grow old

The truth, my child
Is that your freedom is limited to 
The narrow boundaries drawn around 
You are at liberty to run as much,
But within this compound
Stray even a little beyond 
And we have labels in our pocket 
We call you names 
‘coz we dunno what to do with you
It’s our own limitation 
But we’ll blame it on you

We’ll trim you & prim you
And make you a Bonsai 
That tiny li’l breathing thing 
That appeals to my eye
We’ll place you in a corner 
With a lamp on your head 
We’ll cut out your roots 
So that you never hug the earth again
In a puny little pot
You’ll get water & food
As part of this bargain
It is we who decide when & how you get to see the sun
Or hear the birds and bees 
For whom you are no fun
Yet, as I said earlier
You are a free man 
A woman of your will

Yes, there is something called a tree
Out there in the wilderness
It grows and lives life on its own terms
 Free from the freedom you have 
It blooms, blossoms and fruits
Year after year
Its millions of leaves selflessly cleaning the air
Its unruly branches sheltering hundreds of creatures
Its leaves, fruits and stem feeding a number of mouths
Its rough looking trunk shielding a number of lives
With adversity as perpetual companion
On the floor of the forest
Amidst competition it survives
Works its way around and thrives 
Supporting innumerable lives

This fellow is a fighter & survivor
A creature pretty smart 
Its roots turn explorer
Running deep in the ground
Resting only once water is found
Its twigs negotiate the winds
In their quest to touch the sky

O’ dear sweet li’l child
It is about time you showed who you are
Looked everyone in the eye 
And chose for yourself 
If you wanna be a Tree 
Or will be happy as a Bonsai.