Thursday, 24 April 2014

Vote. For my sake.

I was going to title this post 'Vote. For Me." But then, I frequently 'stand for office' in some way on Twitter every now and then, and I didn't want anyone to think this was another of those larks.

I posted this on Facebook last week:
After a bit of running around the last week, I finally found neither Dad or I are on the rolls, and we can't re-apply until the 27th, election commission cards notwithstanding. Therefore can't vote. I have not been so angry-sad-disappointed in years. 
Yeah. I'm not on the rolls. I can't vote. So, if you weren't going to vote, do me a favour? Go anyway? For me? I don't care who you vote for, just vote.

A vote in time..

The participatory Web, Web 2.0, as it was called for a while, what we now call the Social Web, doesn't have the power to change the course of an election in India yet. Heck, I've said so myself, in a recent set of articles.

But consider this.

Way back in January 2007, I wrote this in a piece in the Indian Express:
On the other side of the planet, during the run up to the recent elections to the US Senate, an incumbent Republican senator, considered pretty much a sure thing for re-election, made a racist remark about a young Indian-American Democrat who was taping his rally. Footage of that remark rapidly found its way on to YouTube (a video-sharing site), where it was adopted and promoted by some prominent American desi blogs. The wider blogosphere joined in too, as did US media. Digging into the senator’s past revealed more signs of a racist streak. Slowly, the Republican’s lead in the polls began eroding. And come counting day, guess which sure-shot Republican seat backfired and swung a very slim majority the Democrats' way?
I guess, what I'm trying to say is this. What if this election yields a hung parliament? What if, in the cobbling together of alliances, it's just a seat or two that makes the difference between your party coming to power or not? What if your constituency could have swung the other way if a few more people had voted?

So, go vote, please?

Monday, 21 April 2014

My Kumble moment

An unusual thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. A story I worked on made the cover of Forbes India.

My portfolio was and is the non-business features at the back of the book, and ForbesLife India—which I no longer work on—but it was still gratifying. I don't cover politics, or business in general, and while I'm interested in technology, it's not my beat either. And I'm by no means a good reporter. I fancy myself more a backroom guy, thinking up the stories and angles, matching them to the right writers, working on the stories once they come in, to make them sing, that kind of thing. So this found me way out of my comfort zone. And it was a wonderful challenge.

The metaphor I thrust on a few people was Anil Kumble's test century. It wasn't expected of him. He was a useful bat now and then, but would never have got picked for his batting alone. Nevertheless, his joy as that ugly shot cantered off to the boundary was pretty darn good to see.

I won't stretch that analogy further—I hope it's not near the end of my career in journalism!—but I would like your opinion, either here, or at the links (it's a package of several stories, two of them co-written with colleagues). Please do not worry about being harsh. As I said, I don't think of myself as even a decent reporter or business writer, so you won't be demolishing my dreams if you diss these.

e-Lections 2014: How Political Parties Turned Tech-Savvy

Case Study: The Dynamics of Mumbai South

Elections: Spawning Business Opportunities

Vote for... Start-ups!

Social Media: Limited, but 'Liked' in Indian Elections

And this interview with Nandan Nilekani, which is where the story started, which was online-only.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

On 'my' Hinduism

I have great faith in Hinduism. As much faith as a devout agnostic can have.

How could I not?

My family has moved several cities and a lot more houses over the years, and everywhere we lived, my parents' ethnicity and faith were always a very small minority. In Bombay, in my school, I was one of small handful of Anglo Indians, one of a small handful of Protestants, and the only one who was both. Everywhere we lived, as is only natural in a country where the majority profess some form of Hinduism, we were surrounded by Hindus.

But the Hinduism I grew up surrounded by, that I am still surrounded by, was warm, inclusive, embracing. It is a Hinduism that sends sweets over at Diwali, and asks us over to celebrate. It is a Hinduism that shared its firecrackers with me because I didn't have any, that yelled at my door for me to come join in the Holi fun (and didn't mind when I declined, because I didn't like the coloured powders, and that made me one of the team captains when I joined in the water pistols-and-pichkaris war games we played in the evenings). That invited us over to celebrate marriages and birthdays and holds us close when we offer hugs at bereavements. That calls or comes over for Christmas, that joins in our parties, that learnt 'western' dance steps at those parties. That checks with us what is appropriate to wear to our marriages and christenings and graciously welcomes us in to their special events even when we, clueless, wear colours that we later discover aren't quite proper. A Hinduism that, even when it practises vegetarianism, still comes over to eat at our home and serves themselves veggies from the platter next to the meat. That didn't and doesn't give a damn what we cooked in our kitchens, really, except to exchange recipes. That made 'national integration' jokes about me when, in succession, I dated a Muslim, a Parsi, a Hindu, and much later, a Christian (who wasn't Protestant, but then I wasn't either by then).

(I'll add here, though this is not the point I'm making—or maybe it is—that this inclusiveness was and is as just as prevalent with Muslim, Parsi, Jain and Buddhist pals.)

It was and is a religion secure in its beliefs, happy to acknowledge and respect that others' paths differ in few or many ways.

It was and is a very different Hinduism from the variety espoused by Mr Modi and his cohorts. This binary view of the world. This suspicion, this distrust, this scorn for difference.

It's not 'my' Hinduism.

It's not a Hinduism I have faith in at all.

The new economy

Vote for..