Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
All contents in this blog are subjected to copy right and no part of any of the articles may be reproduced in any media without prior written permission

Search This Blog


Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Limits of Tolerance

Nothing is infinite and unlimited in the world. Even the life is limited by time. So are privileges, rights and virtues. Therefore tolerance also has its own limits.

Tolerance is the cost for the richness brought by diversity. Tolerance doesn’t mean acceptance of the views of others. If one accepts the views and practices of others then there is no relevance for tolerance either as a law or as a practice. Thus tolerance is the direct outcome of a belief that differences and extremities exist.

Nation is ideally defined as a large body of people inhabiting in a territory and are united by common descent, history, culture, or language. But there are nations that do not follow any of this attributes and still could be called nation. Benedict Anderson, a political scientist called them imagined communities.  Countries like India do not have a common social, cultural, religious or political culture and consequently there are attempts to bring in homogeneity to create a ‘unified nation’.

Dissent emerges within a country when the dominant power tries to bring in certain uniformity on the lines of its ideology. It is true that scientific temper and reasoning need to be predisposed in the views and decisions taken in a democratic state. But it is equally necessary to ensure that the rationality and logic are not out of bounds for  the institutions surviving on faith and belief. The conflicts and mutual accusations happen when the state foregoes the scientific temper and the institutions and groups expect popular acceptance for all their irrationalities. Then there is a hue and cry for peaceful coexistence. People call it tolerance.

Along with the belief and practice related to a particular ideology and lifestyle come the specific rights attached to them. They could be social rights, economic rights, political rights, cultural rights, spiritual rights or any other similar rights. Now the pertinent question would be whether the tolerance needs to be integrative or choosy as far as a particular group is concerned. Can one respect and accept one or more of the rights and practices of a group and reject the others based on their own reason? Will that amounts to intolerance? If such a situation emerges, there is a possibility that the supporters of the intolerant views of a state consider the target groups as enemies of the state. Ultimately, this could lead to the disintegration of the nation-state comprising of diverse groups.

Rainer Forst, a German philosopher and political scientist gave four conceptions of toleration. They are a) Permission conception where toleration means that the authority (or majority) gives qualified permission to the members of the minority to live according to their beliefs on the condition that the minority accepts the former’s dominant position, b) Co-existent conception where a state of mutual tolerance is preferred to conflict as a matter of political necessity, c) Respect conception where despite there being an objectionable difference between them, citizens morally regard each other as having equal legal and political status, and d) Esteem conception where despite the positive acceptance of difference, there are reasons to still consider one’s own position to be more attractive.  In a country  like India, where the diversities  are extreme, in a situation of ‘nation-building homogenization process’, tolerance characterized by co-existent conception and respect conception can reduce the conflict and mistrust between communities or with the state.

The pertinent question would be whether it is possible to expect absolute tolerance by everyone to everything? Definitely not! Can someone tolerate a practice that is not only irrational, unjustifiable, and illogical but also inhuman and utterly derogatory? In such cases, the democratic state needs to be courageous enough to use the law to curb such practices rather than pleading for tolerance. Can those indulging in such practices demand tolerance from others as a matter of right? If the domain is religion, then the task is tougher for a ‘secular’ state.

The possible conclusion from the above discussion is that both the state and the specific groups cannot expect or demand absolute tolerance. What one can expect would be, as John Rawls put it, a reasonable pluralism, where the religious, moral, and philosophical doctrines that citizens accept will endorse toleration. Yes, there needs to be limits for tolerance even within a secular democracy.

           © Sibichen K Mathew                                             Views are personal

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An eye on gold

The Prime Minister of India has launched two attractive schemes to use about 20,000 tonnes of the precious metal treasured by residents in their homes for the development of the country. The Gold Monetisation Scheme  and the Sovereign Gold Bonds Scheme  will enable people to earn attractive interest for the gold deposited and for the gold bonds purchased. This is a very laudable initiative to use gold for productive purposes. But what would be the response of the public in this regard?

Image: 22

Unlike the citizens of many other countries, the affinity of Indians to gold jewelry has cultural and historical significance. Many are sentimentally attached to their personal jewellery. One incident narrated by an official indicates the emotional bond Indians have with the yellow metal. Income Tax sleuths were busy conducting a raid on a big business man in his residential premises. Officials unearthed huge amounts of cash from the premises. Obviously, the man, who concealed his true income in the income tax returns, had to just sit helplessly while the taxmen sealed the currency in suit cases.  But the hue and cry from the man and his wife started the moment the officials began weighing the gold jewellery in the house. Though the jewellery was worth only about one-hundredth of the cash found, they became very upset when the officials seized those personal ornaments.

 As in many societies and cultures, the life of an Indian centers around a number of familial, social and religious functions. This is irrespective of and usually thrusted upon by his primordial affiliations. In almost all functions, the presence of (or presents of) gold jewellery is inevitable. Even when the child is in the womb of the mother, a ritual called ‘valaikappu’ is performed on the pregnant woman in most of the places. Parents and near relatives adorn her with gold ornaments. Later, after the delivery it is a common tradition to feed the child with gold and honey (within hours of the birth). Gold chain is put on the baby’s waist on the twenty eighth day after the birth. After a few months, the naming ceremony is conducted wherein the child is given new ornaments by the close relatives. It is customary to receive gold jewellery during ceremonies and functions like tonsuring and ear-boring ceremonies, annaprasannam (first meal ceremony), vidyarambham (initiating the child to learning alphabets), upanayanam (sacred thread wearing ceremony among the Brahmin community), puberty ceremony, and marriage. Thus the jewellery has become an important cultural artifact for Indians.

Apart from the above cultural significance attributed to gold, it is also a metal which brings along with it emotional and social security, empowerment and social status, especially for the Indian women. Unlike many other family assets, women hold the role as the custodian of the gold jewellery in many homes. That has made the attempts of many men to dispose of the jewellery not as smooth as in the case of other family assets.

Gold is also a reason for frequent fights between couples and between their families. Gold jewellery takes the form of a villain in many relationships. People make and break marriages in the name of the quantity and quality of gold jewellery.  Many times misery awaited to those daughters who landed in the hands of avaricious in-laws. Relationships in Indian society are embedded with several sovereigns of gold jewellery which in turn defined the nature of reciprocity between people.

It will be a tough task to lure Indian families to part with their gold, even if that means an extra income. Another area of mobilization would be the huge gold treasure of religious trusts and those managed by royal families by giving them attractive interest. Many worship centres receive gold jewellery as offerings from the devotees and the same are kept idle.

 One does not know what prompted Henry Ford to comment that the gold is the most useless thing in the world. Not only the women, the kings and the queens, but also the sovereign governments have an eye on the gold! Nevertheless, it will continue to be a cultural symbol and a source for women empowerment. The new slogan is ‘all that glitters is gold!’

                          (c) Sibichen K Mathew            Views are personal

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

4 Films I recently watched

I am not an uncontrollable cinephile.  But I do like to watch movies occasionally and like to analyze it quite incisively.  Bad ones create guilt and disappointments within me for wasting my time in a movie hall. Good movies unleash creative energy within me. There are movies that brought me tears and I never felt embarrassed for that as the nature of depiction of certain events by the respective directors deserved an emotional appreciation. Certain characters, events and dialogue could emerge out of the screen and haunt us for some time after we finish seeing the movie. Many times, we don’t mind watching a movie we liked again and again.

I could watch four movies in the last ten days (it was a rare treat to myself). Two in a hall, third in a flight and the fourth at home. None of them disappointed me. Let me share them with you in the order of my liking: the best to the next best. 

The Best:      ‘Manjhi: The Mountain Man’

This is a real life story of Dashrath Manjhi (1934-2007), a poor labourer who lived in a village in Bihar, India.  He single handedly ventured into creating a road in a hillock using a hammer and a chisel. Ketan Mehta wonderfully created a beautiful story out of this. Nawazuddin Siddiqui played the role of Manjhi  and Radhika Apte, as his wife.

Current generation is unaware of the nature and extent of untouchability that gripped many parts of the country decades earlier (I don’t mean that it is vanished completely). The movie clearly depicts the suffering meted out by the poor and the low caste in the traditional Indian society. In the second part of the movie, one can see the determination of a single individual to fight against all odds to achieve what he aspired, for the benefit of the people. The director has given a visual treat to the viewers by showcasing unadulterated humor, romance, and wonderful music.

There are many flaws in direction and script. I would like to condone all those irritants for the following reasons:

a.       The movie carries a great message to the humanity
b.      The producer had the courage to finance a movie about a simple, humble and extraordinary villager  who followed his dreams
c.       The movie depicts the life in the caste-ridden traditional Indian society.
d.      The socio, economic and political realities of society projected in the movie are still visible in  contemporary India and provides a hint that individuals can spearhead a social revolution.
e.      Above all, the superb performance of Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

For above reason, I give the above movie Rank No.1 among all four movies I saw in the last ten days.

Second Best:    Still Alice

This movie I watched while travelling from Delhi to Bangalore in Air India’s best fleet, ‘The Dreamliner’. (You should not miss travelling in this state-of-the-art Jet.)

‘Still Alice’ is about how life changed for a family when the lady of the house, Alice, a professor of Linguistics started forgetting words, names and events in life. The husband and the three children were in a shock when the Doctor told them that it is an Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Julianne Moore acted as Alice and Shane McRae as her husband. Directed by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, the movie clearly depicts how a person with Alzheimer’s progressed in life and how her immediate family coped with that. You will like this beautiful movie for the wonderful acting, apt expressions of emotions, and realistic scenes.

Third Best:     Piku

Piku is the story of a hypochondriac Bengali father Bhaskor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchaan) and his busy architect daughter Piku (Deepika Padukone), wonderfully narrated by Juhi Chaturvedi and ably directed by Shoojit Sircar. This is a movie you should not miss! This is not just about how a stubborn father who suffered chronic constipation and a short-tempered daughter coped each other under one roof, but  on how individuals with views and attitudes that are at variance struggle to get along each other. Irrfan Khan wonderfully played the role of the manager cum driver of a cab company. Amitabh Bachchan once again proved that none can beat him in playing a role so realistically.

This is not a typical Bollywood movie with romantic songs and dances in exotic locations, artificialities and unrealistic story line. The movie is closer to real life and the settings, dialogue and the scenes looked very natural.

Fourth Best:     Baahubali

I could not miss S S Rajamouli’s ‘Baahubali’ after it has broken all box office records. I watched the Hindi version at Inox. I liked the movie, touted as the most expensive Indian film, for its best use of technology and the amusing choreography. It is worth a watch for entertainment and also to appreciate the efforts of the producer to invest about 120 cr (US $18 million) and reaped more than 600 cr so far. Nothing unique about the story, but it carries a social message. 

                                                               Sibichen K Mathew

Read an interesting movie review by me below:

To see all articles in Cyber Diary click Home

Monday, August 31, 2015

Paradise Lost & Regained by Ratnadip: A Review

There is a proliferation of English Indian fiction especially from the young Indian authors in the last few years. Most of these revolve around themes such as romance, relationship strains, emotional recoveries and marital adventures of urban, middle class, educated and career youth. Much of the story line and instances narrated are repetitive in many works and the ends are predictable.  Another ‘popular’ stream of non-fiction originated in the last several years is from the authors who are fascinated by the Indian mythologies. It was a very refreshing feeling when I came across ‘Paradise Lost & Regained’ by Ratnadip Acharya, an acclaimed author who wrote several pieces for ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series.

Charles Darwin wrote ‘The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals’ in 1872 to tell the world about the life and relationship within the animal world. He wrote about the verbal and non-verbal communication of emotions by animals. Very few authors attempted to travel to the animal world to create imaginative work of fiction. Works like ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams,  and ‘Warriors into the Wild’ by Erin Hunter are very popular even today.

While travelling in a train from Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India towards Thiruvanathapuram, I enjoyed the beautiful sight of several cows and goats happily grazing in the wonderful greenery in a moderately pristine surrounding.  Some of them looked at the train and the passengers, though that would be a very familiar sight for them every day. Birds sat on on the cows and picked what they want and the latter enjoyed it. There were calves playing around the field with joy. Dogs and goats slept adjacently. Watching all those beautiful moments designed by the creator for all beings without any discrimination was quite a fulfilling experience. Some beings in the world choose to be happy through peaceful coexistence and some others, like we the humans, fight for an upper hand.   I would not have keenly observed those beautiful creations on that journey but for the book I was reading at that time.   ‘Paradise Lost & Regained’ kindled an urge within me to observe, understand and learn from the animal world. Certainly, I too got the revelation like the young deer (the protagonist) in the book that all life on earth is a gift from nature which comes in a package that contains challenges and danger and one must be courageous and responsible enough to make the most of life, and to share it with others.

Paradise Lost & Regained is a beautiful story as told by a deer about not only the physical environment we live but also about the universal attributes of trust, love, hope and courage. The deer vividly narrates about her life from the birth in the forest to human captivity, and the great escape. The events narrated are very entertaining, intriguing and exciting. It is very evident that the author is a keen observer and has a clear understanding of animal instincts, behaviors and responses.  

The book triggered in me several strands of thoughts that I would like to share. As we live in this world and cross various stages in life, we face many people, challenges and opportunities. In the early life, when there are many things to explore and get excited, we find meanings but tend not to probe and evaluate. But later in life, we get into an ‘evaluation’ mode rather than a ‘living’ mode. If the evaluation is on us it is productive and reformatory. But if the target of evaluation is always the other people and events – past and present, then it is derogatory, wasteful and destructive. Thus we ‘live’ each moment in the childhood and as we grow up as an adult, we tend to spend most of our time worrying and regretting.

We tend to forget that the life is a precious gift and that we need to live in gratitude the entire life. In the story of the deer we see that the biggest compliment one can get is from one’s own mother as none loves us so much than our mothers. None instills in us more confidence than our own mothers. “You are one of the chosen few, my child. I am so proud of you”, whispered the mother to the baby deer who had already read her mother’s message for her in her eyes, radiant with joy. The mother’s words, her tender care and the protection gave the baby deer the courage to face the challenges in life and to succeed. How many times in our life as we grow big and cross many landmarks, we think about the pain of the mother and the influence she had made on our personality. The little deer was grateful: ‘Feeling grateful to life, I closed my eyes while the milk from my mother’s breast continued discharging into my mouth without the least effort of mine. I wished this rare moment had never come to an end’. The mother gives the first lesson of unconditional love in our life. She is love personified.

This is a story of emancipation by carving out paths ourselves against all odds.  The author makes the protagonist think like one in the ‘Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho that ‘if the universe has conspired to set me free from here, no man-made barrier can thwart me in getting my golden days back….a strong trust filled my heart and made my eyes twinkle with joy’.

Let me reproduce an insightful communication from the mystery bird to the deer, the central character in the story:
‘Whenever the attributes like jealousy, greed, hatred take hold of you, they will pull you down quickly to such a state where always prevails misery. Whenever they grab your being, you are bound to have a quick fall from a state of joy and bliss. And once you are within the grasp of jealousy, hatred, envy, self-doubt it is so difficult to set yourself free and return to your actual happy and loving self. So never allow an emotion to overpower you that may drag you down to a pitiable state. So always be aware; always ask yourself before doing anything if you are acting out of jealousy, malice or hatred, selfishness or envy. If the answer is yes give yourself sometime and watch the forest, ……. , the stream for a long time. You will always find that never do they act out of jealousy, malice or hatred; nothing can tempt them to lower themselves. There is a deep sense of dignity and self-respect in them’
It is a humbling but enlightening exercise if we, humans, attempt to observe our fellow beings from the animal kingdom. That can indeed create a social-psychological awareness of the whole system of creation and the purpose of life. From that learning, we could gain a new perspective about the mother earth and how we should treat our fellow beings.

Ratnadip Acharya is a graduate from the NIT Jamshedpur and is a well-trained street magician. ‘Paradise Lost & Regained’ is a very well written fiction that can make you glued to the theme even after you finished the book. This is a work that deserves attention of readers across the globe. Simplistic presentation, inspirational thoughts (though slightly sermonic), exciting story line and the unique theme could be the reasons for you to grab this book. The book is available at

                                                                © Sibichen K Mathew

Read some of my other book reviews below.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Port out, if you are not satisfied with your mobile service provider

You used to take your meals in a restaurant in the city. After a while you find that the quality of meals in that restaurant is deteriorated. What will you do? You might complain to the manager or the owner of the restaurant about it. Still, there is no improvement and you are not satisfied with the service. What will you do next? Will you make a complaint to the Food Quality Inspector in the Government? Will you file a petition in the jurisdictional consumer court? You won’t be doing any of these as they are time consuming and tedious. You will take the most easy and effective step. You will stop going to that restaurant and select another restaurant for your meals.

Exactly the same thing has happened in the telecom sector since last few years. There were lakhs of complaints about the poor service of particular telecom service providers (TSPs). The Mobile Number Portability (MNP) regulations (within a telecom circle) of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) implemented in 2010 has radically transformed the telecommunication services in India. Under that provision, any consumer can port out his connection to another operator and can get allotted the same number. This has ensured improvement in the services by telecom operators.

From July 3, 2015, the TSPs are ready to roll out MNP across the country allowing consumers to retain the same mobile number anywhere in India.

What is the procedure?

Source: TRAI

·         Send an SMS ‘PORT' (space) Your ten digit cell number   to 1900

·         You will get a Unique Porting Code (UPC) through SMS from the donor operator (your present TSP)

·       Approach the new operator (recipient operator) with the UPC within 15 days and submit the porting 
     request Form and Customer Application Form enclosing the proof of identity/address.

·       Normally, recipient operators do not charge any fee for porting-in. The maximum prescribed fee that can be charged for processing is Rs 19/-

·     The new operator, within 24 hrs, shall forward  the request to Mobile Number Portability Service Provider (MNPSP)

·      The donor operator shall, within 4 working days inform MNPSP whether the porting request is cleared or rejected (with reasons) by it.

·      The porting shall take place within 36 hours (except in J&K, North East and Assam wherein it is 10 days), from the time of clearance by the donor operator.

·         Maximum time for porting a mobile number is 10 days from the date of porting request.

·     Service will get disrupted only for less than 3 hours, that too at midnight, when the porting takes place.

When porting request can be rejected?

·         There are pending dues of more than Rs 10/- to be paid by the subscriber
·         Porting request is made within 90 days of taking a connection
·         A request for change of ownership of the connection is in process
·     The mobile number to be ported is sub-judice or prohibited by a Court of Law or part of a group connection.

If any porting request is wrongfully rejected or delayed by the donor operator, on complaint with evidence, TRAI may impose on the TSP a financial disincentive of  upto Rs 10000/- . It has levied more than 10 crores on this account so far.

Where to complain?

For any complaints on porting, please approach the complaint center of your existing operator and if it is not redressed, file an appeal to appellate authority. Appeal can be filed through email/fax/SMS. The details of the appellate authority can be found in the website of the TSP.
As on March 31st 2015, Indian consumers have successfully ported out more than 15.3 crore connections.

Now, why are you waiting? If you are not happy with the services of the existing TSP, make a porting request today! But ensure that the new operator has good network and service in your area.

© Sibichen K Mathew       Views are personal.  Source for information: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. 

Read more articles in Cyber Diary

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Great Indian Gall Bladder Stones Scam

This incident happened when my son was around eight years old. He complained of pain in his abdomen. Since home remedies did not help in reducing the pain, we showed him to a pediatrician. He suggested us to meet a pediatric surgeon. (I wondered what the role of a surgeon at that stage and I never knew that there was an exclusive surgeon for each age group!) The pediatric surgeon examined and suggested an ultrasound imaging (sonography). We got it done. After a while, I was asked to meet the doctor again. While waiting outside, I could see through the glass doors, the doctors (Pediatrician, Pediatric Surgeon and the Radiologist) sitting inside and jovially discussing the report. So I felt relieved assuming that everything was fine in the ultrasound report. I entered the room and one of the doctors asked me to sit. He said that there are stones in his gall bladder and surgery needs to be done. I asked them when I have to get it done. They said, ‘earlier the better’. They also told me the cost. It was about 4 times my monthly salary. They tentatively fixed a date for the surgery. My wife, who is a doctor suggested we consult another hospital, where at least the cost will be reasonable for a surgery.


We went to another hospital where we knew the doctor. He checked and said that he doesn’t suspect any issue in the gall bladder. He said it is only an infection and everything will be alright in a few days. Since he was very weak, he was admitted for two days. On our insistence, one more ultrasound imaging was done and we were told that there are no stones in his gall bladder!

I remembered the above incident that happened several years ago, when a person known to me shared his experience recently. Mr. Sethuraman felt a mild pain in his abdomen area continuously for a few days. The treatment given by the physician in the hospital in his town could not mitigate the condition. Ultrasound reports indicated that everything was normal. Since Sethuraman was a very rich businessman, his children wanted a detailed checkup done in the best hospital in the capital city rather than in the native town. He was brought to the corporate hospital where the doctors suggested one more sonography. . After seeing the report, he told Sethuraman that there are stones in his gall bladder and they need to be removed. They fixed the date of surgery. Meanwhile, the doctor at the hometown continued to maintain his position that there is nothing wrong with his gall bladder that demands an immediate surgery. They ultimately did not do any surgery and the pain vanished within a few days.

It is not just my son or Sethuraman, there are many others who had similar experience. This does not mean that all surgeries for removing gall bladder stones are not warranted. Surgical operations are effective and safe wherever there are genuine needs. The alternate remedies like ‘flushing out’ through olive oil therapy and other ‘natural’ medicines could be dangerous.

This question lingers in my mind: Why one set of doctors found many stones in the gall bladder and suggested immediate surgery and another set of doctors never found anything that requires a surgery in the cases reported above?

The words ‘Caveat Emptor’ (Buyer beware) is applicable in medical profession as well. But in this context, patients are knowledge deficient. They do not have the capability or opportunity to analyze and decide on the desirability of a treatment or procedure or any other medical intervention. I wished, there is an independent expert body one can rely on if there is confusion. Medical Council of India is a self-regulatory body which functions substantially for the welfare of the doctors than the patients because none other than doctors decide anything there. No patient or their relatives are in a stable emotional situation to seek justice in any consumer court. In a study conducted by in Mumbai it was found that about 44% of the 12,500 patients for whom surgery was recommended were advised against it by their chosen doctors, from whom they sought a second opinion. In an ICMR sponsored study in Delhi recently it was found that substantial numbers of Caesarean-section surgeries are unnecessary. In his book ‘Medical Racket’, Martin L Gross wrote about the situation in America (Page 176): Millions of victims face unnecessary surgery, whether performed by doctors who operate out of ignorance, self-delusion, or simple greed. This 'has long plagued medicine and today still reaches epidemic proportions'.

Tailpiece: My Father-in-Law was admitted in a hospital in the same city where I work, and he was found to have stones in the prostate.  The specialist surgeon conducted a ‘successful’ surgery and reported that he removed all stones. Though the hospital bill was exorbitant, we felt relieved once the pain reduced and he got discharged from the hospital. He left to his hometown within a week. However, the pain reappeared within a week of reaching there and another expert surgeon said that there are still many stones! (Such incidents could result in loss of confidence of mother-in-law on her son-in-law!) Doctors continue to smile in a stony world!

© Sibichen K Mathew         Views are personal    sibi5555 (gmail)
Comments can be posted below.

Click to related related articles in Cyber Diary below

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ten things that make leaders envy Narendra Modi

(Isn't it worth to pick up some of these to sharpen our leadership skills?)
(This is not a ‘political’ article, but an academic writing on leadership styles)

  • When I say leaders, I don’t mean only political leaders. Senior bureaucrats, corporate CEOs and even religious leaders included here. 
  • When I say things, I don’t mean only attributes, but also attitude, advocacy, lifestyle, oration, and even silence.
  • When I say envy, I mean it in its ‘verb’ form and not the ‘noun’ form. So it is not covetousness, enviousness or jealousy that I am talking about, but a feeling of desire that emanates within self to emulate and replicate, though there is an inherent displeasure to the self for not treading such a road earlier. 
  • When I say Narendra Modi, I am not just talking about the one and only Narendra Modi about whom people talking about across the globe, but anyone who tries to reinvent governance with a vigor rooted in clarity of thought, a vision that is lucid, stable and long-term, and strategies that are radical and transformational, yet without any radical departure from the objects and ideals already established. 
  • I would not be giving specific examples or instances to underscore my point for three reasons: a) Some (most) of the tasks/policies are just evolving and cannot be subjected to an empirical analysis, b) Most of you will understand what I am talking about, though I don’t mention it vividly and c) This article is not aimed at giving a political critique or a governance appraisal. This is purely an academic exercise in the area of leadership.

(Since the focus is on the personality of Narendra Modi and not on his position as a Prime Minister, with due respect to that honorable position, I address him Mr Narendra Modi in this article)

1. The Grit

                                                             Image: PTI/
“Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our
fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only
a small part of our possible mental resources. . .men the world over
possess amounts of resource, which only exceptional individuals push
to their extremes of use”.
(William James wrote in his article titled  ‘The Energies of Men’ in 1907)

One needs the grit to push things in the dormant minds and mindsets. To put it differently, we need men of Grit to sustain the dream of every man and to ensure that they don't lose hope. 

A gritty individual’s path is not one that is smooth. But his passion for long term goals gives him energy and vitality to overcome the hurdles. 

Mr. Narendra Modi  does not talk about years but about an era. According to him, his vision is not limited to this century, but to an infinite future. 

2. The forbearance


The forbearance may not be an important attribute if the society or the state exists in a unipolar, homogenous and mono-cultural environment. The going is tough in a multipolar, heterogeneous and poly-cultural environment. In a society that has historical, structural and cultural stratifications, disparities and prejudices, it is a herculean task to promise oneself as the cure for all related issues. This requires unlimited patience, unconditional preparedness to collaborate, and tolerance to ideas and ideals one was not familiar earlier. 

The biggest challenge is to slow-pedal on the sensitivities  that brought an individual the power, without displeasing the individuals and institutions that cling to a unipolar view. 

Mr. Narendra Modi has taken conscious efforts to transform himself from a mono-cultural, unipolar and homogeneous worldview to one that is inclusive. Many times, the transition that is slowly happening in the thought process is expressed not in as many words but in silence. 

3. The unpretentiousness


Simplicity, modesty, naturalness,  and effortlessness (I mean, the ease) in interactions are hallmarks of unpretentious leaders. 

I don't refer here to a person’s words, dress (there was too much unwarranted sensation surrounding it), or even lifestyle. One need not demonstrate his modesty or simplicity by showcasing a Fakir-like way of life. It is not the way one dresses, the mode one chooses to travel or the house one stays that really symbolizes one’s simplicity or humility. People could use such symbolism to deceive the people with mediocre definitions of austerity and modesty. Real simplicity and modesty lie in a person’s ability to assimilate ideas, to respect sentiments, to take steps to become more tolerant and to be inclusive with people who try not to come near due to lack of trust.

Mr Narendra Modi has a personality that continuously strive to be less pretentious by taking conscious steps to reach out to people who are still not convinced about his credibility. 

4. The indefatigability

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. (Robert Frost) 

Indefatigable spirit exists in anyone who persists tirelessly to reach any goal. It can be an attribute for a king as well as a thief. But the quality gets recognition and the individual gets reverence if the goals pursued are for the common good and achievable only with considerable mental stamina, inspirational leadership skills and ability to guide others to cross all the hurdles on the way. 

When the battlefield is tough, the objects are far, the environment is unstable and the time is limited, one has to run a marathon without slowing down. 

The promises of Mr Narendra Modi have implications and ramifications that are long term,  are aimed at changes at both micro and macro level, and can achieve only through transformation not only at the level of state, society, institutions and communities but at a very personal level of each individual. This requires continuous and simultaneous efforts at all levels.  He could be accused of ignoring one level or focusing on another level. The challenge lies in prioritizing the right one at the right time and convincing all stakeholders about that. To satisfy everyone, there is a need to work more and more, alternating between different levels. 

5. The diligence


There is nothing extraordinary about doing something that one is supposed to do or completing a task that is assigned to one. But performing it diligently merits recognition. Diligence characterizes proper understanding of the task, taking an ethical position, commiting to produce the best, determining to excel in the task at hand, avoiding latent and unintended consequences of the action, reducing the harm to the minimum, and ensuring long-term benefits and sustainability even at adverse conditions. 

Every leader aspires for applauses, votes, and awards and these can be grabbed easily when the people are looking for quick results, short term gains and magic formulae.  It is not difficult for smart leadership to give what people want. It can satisfy the ‘dominant’ interests with relative ease. However, what is difficult is to provide solutions that are enduring, inclusive, aimed at common good and that inflict least harm. 

Mr Narendra Modi is trying to have an attention to detail so that policies are comprehensive and offer enduring solutions. The challenge is to maintain a speed that cannot compromise the ‘substance’ while giving wide publicity to the ‘form’.  Only through diligence can one work on each task, if one is not craving for instant populism. That might be the reason that no work could be initiated on certain promises until the tasks at hand are given proper shape to implement. 

6. The fastidiousness

If you want to deliver something that is very challenging and exceptional, you can’t have a -‘please-all’, lax and ‘anything goes’ - leadership style! You cannot keep condoning mistakes. You cannot dilute the tasks or the strategies. 

It is not a blind pursuit for perfection, but a determination to follow the blue print, if that is absolutely essential to achieve the goals. 

Mr Narendra Modi, puts his iron hand on certain things irrespective of the criticisms. There is a danger! Satisfying the specific interests and becoming vulnerable to pressure groups could make him deviate from what he wants to do. 

7. The ethnocentric globalism

Ethnocentrism has a negative connotation in sociology and anthropology. They say that it is characterized by cultural relativism. The simplest definition of ethnocentrism could be this: to judge other cultures by the standards of the culture one has brought in or one is affiliated or one admires. In an era where cultures are corrupted through ‘unhealthy’ acculturation and assimilation, there is nothing abnormal if one tend to uphold one’s cultural values, if they have the potential to be inclusive and are aimed at happiness and  prosperity and can ensure peaceful coexistence of various communities and cultures. 

The negative connotation of ethnocentrism vanishes when the proponents, advocates and practitioners of a particular culture takes the finer universally productive attributes to a wider world and during the course, internalizes the virtues of other cultures and integrate the same in the home culture. 

Mr Narendra Modi, according to me, is a passionate advocate of what I chose to call ‘ethnocentric globalism’. He is keen to explore, recognize, appreciate and accept values and ideas dissimilar to the home traditions and culture. He becomes a winner when he identifies and successfully promotes the universally replicable knowledge rooted in his home culture and when people globally take note of them. 

8. The eloquence

What is eloquence? The dictionary meaning is ‘the ability to speak or write in an effective way’.  In a quote attributed to William Jennings Bryan, it is said that, ‘Eloquent speech is not from lip to ear, but rather from heart to heart’.

A leader is to demonstrate his eloquence in his speeches not by his exceptional language proficiency, his British accent, well prepared speeches (by ghost writers or otherwise) or by the captivating body movements. All of these may be important to some extent, but not central to a successful speech. A good speech comes straight from the heart, has clarity in expression and impresses the audience. 

Mr Narendra Modi has demonstrated to various national and international audiences that he can speak from his heart effortlessly in a language, style and content that most people understand and get inspired. 

9. The resoluteness

Firmness and determination are not ‘electives’ for an efficient leader, they are essentials. The leaders should be commanding. For this purpose, he should command respect from most people in his team, though some in the team could be jealous and over-critical. 

Resoluteness coupled with ethical sturdiness can bring in credibility. A leader who has faith in his own capability will not waver when faced with tough situations. 

Mr Narendra Modi, so far, has given an impression of being a resolute leader who is strong, firm, focused and goal-oriented. There could be accusation of ‘one-man show’ or dictatorial style. But these are natural responses when the leader wears the shoes of path finder himself with not many sharing his strategies initially, though might catch up later. 

10. The devoutness

The cult of leadership nurtured by spirituality has not been well received in recent history. That is mainly because of its link with religion. Thus, spirituality became one of the most misinterpreted words across cultures and disciplines. Though religion and spirituality could be inter-related, it cannot be used interchangeably. Spirituality has a strong status independent of religion.

Plato could not visualize a leadership other than a spiritual one. Nietzsche also believed in a spiritual leadership by the philosopher-king. According to Professor Philip Sheldrake, modern spirituality deals with the ‘deepest values and meaning by which people live’. It need not be essentially religious in nature.

Mr Narendra Modi, is a devout Hindu from his early childhood. He has been brought up learning scriptures of that tradition and got trained through strict discipline. He has decided to contribute his life in the service of the nation. As any person getting into any vocation could be influenced by his education, training and background, Mr Narendra Modi also could be influenced by the value systems and awareness internalized by him while formulating effective means to achieve the goals. If the devoutness boosts his creativity, efficiency and understanding of society, and if it is not against public interest and does not harm common good,  it is very positive and need to be appreciated. 

The aim of the above article was not to showcase Mr Narendra Modi as a saint or as Mr Perfect, as there is none who qualifies for such adjectives in this world. This article does not proclaim that all his predecessors were imperfect or they never had any of these qualities. I am not a sympathizer of any organization that is political in nature. 

© Sibichen K Mathew    
Sibi5555 (gmail)                                                                                Views are personal.

More on Leadership by the author: Read When the Boss is Wrong

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Voice of the Hunted: A Review of 'Wisdom of the White Mountain'

                                                                Book Review: 'Wisdom of the White Mountain'

The voice of the hunted are suppressed. In every society and culture there are individuals who are destined to live the life of a serf. They are considered ever dependent even when sheer hard work made them step on their shoes. They are used to the humiliating experiences. They continue to bend their heads before the mighty and ever willing to lick what is thrown from the table of the lord even when there is no necessity. They are forced to sing eulogies to the immature successors of the breed of the masters.

The protagonist whom people called ‘Vella Pottan’ in the novel touched me so deeply. This is the story of an intelligent person who is made to believe that he is a dumb moron and in all obedience he acted cleverly foolish throughout his life. His childhood was marred by extreme poverty, discrimination and abuses and there was none to love him. He craved for legitimacy. Gradually he suffered an existential crisis which forced him to question the very meaning of life.

The novel clearly busts the hypocrisy of the social and political institutions and double standards of organized religions including the ones that claim to be the denomination of the suppressed.  The stratification within the religion that preached equality underscored the ubiquitous existence of discrimination against the low born.

The blurb of the book tells the theme very succinctly:
 “Some powerful men-including performers of black magic, underworld gangsters, sleuths, extremist zealots, and sellers of spirituality-chased a powerless, low caste man from a Kerala village through Mumbai, Karachi and Delhi till he finally escaped into the mountain ranges of Himalayas. All of them wanted to capture this man alive and keep him with them! However, none of these men could catch and keep this elusive man, as he always found his way to freedom. In the process of working out his escapes this man also unearthed some important mysteries of human life! Why did some powerful men continuously chase a low caste man? How did the man always find his way to freedom? What are the riddles he solved while he was trying to escape from his captors? Wisdom of the White Mountain is a suspenseful and adventurous story told in the cultural, spiritual and philosophical context of the South Asia. It is also about Karma, Kama and Jihad! It ultimately unravels greed and selfishness of powerful men who mix religion and politics to manipulate common people for advancing personal interests.”
This is a novel that would captivate you for its good narrative. It was very exciting to read the chapters and the book provided curiosity all along. This is the second novel of the author, though looked like a sequel (because of the similarity in the title) to his first fiction ‘Dolmens in the Blue Mountain’. I found this one much more deep, unconventional, and meaningful. It is not about pursuit of happiness, but pursuit for freedom.

The hunted themselves were made to be the weapons in the hands of the mighty to massacre others. They became life-less guns triggered by someone else. They crave for freedom and fight incessantly to reach a free world. However after each battle they realize that they entered another stage of bondage. History tends to repeat itself as the powerful continue to use the powerless for their advantage. This novel has the potential to become a globally acclaimed work for its theme and the presentation.

The author, Kandathil Sebastian holds a doctorate degree in Public Health and Social Sciences from JNU. He is a consultant for various international organizations.  Wisdom of the White Mountain is published by Frog books, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing. Pages 183. Rs 145. US $6. It is available in most online stores.

© Sibichen K Mathew      Views are personal          Share the post if you like it

Friday, January 30, 2015

The whimpers from the ventilator

Most people do not want their loved ones to reach the stage of eternal oblivion or them to get transformed to an extraterrestrial status in any heavenly or hellish surroundings so soon. Even when they are in their late eighties or in the nineties, we would like to have them with us. Death is a reality which we would not like to accept so easily. 

My grandma loved to live life ‘king size’. She took care of her health meticulously for several decades without missing her medicines even once.

 In my ‘Letter to Grandma’, I wrote:

 “You liked medicines, regular hospital visits and long chats with your favourite physician, Dr Ravichandran, a man of very few words. When one had to wait patiently for a word to come out of his mouth and lend the ears completely and place them in proximity to his mouth, and struggle to watch closely his lip movements to decipher what he says, how could you spend such a long time with him who was known for his irritating silence and expression-free face? Your unstinted faith in the doctor and in the Allopathic medicines made you feel better from a host of ailments for many decades. I used to see you popping several tablets of different colours into your mouth since your early forties. That is my earliest memory which I can recall as a nine year old boy, who used to spend my days in your house, skipping school faking headaches. Even when you were in the hospital, you never missed to apply Pears face wash, Ponds face cream and ‘Cuticura’ talcum powder. You always went to the surgery table with a smile after handing over the keys of your treasures kept in your room to the nurse and not to any of your children or grandchildren”

From the above extract, I am sure you could understand the ‘persona’ of my Grandma. She loved a royal life and appreciated the creator and the creation. 

Neither she nor we, the close relatives, realized when she was admitted to the best corporate hospital in the district with the complaint of a skin infection on her legs that she would not return to her home. Within a few days, she developed respiratory tract infection. Her heart worked fine with her third pace maker. But the chest infection became serious and she could not breathe normally. She continued to be in the Intensive Care Unit. As her condition worsened, the doctors briefed the situation. They asked her children whether they can move her to the ventilator, though the survival is difficult even with ‘life support’. As all of them wanted it, she was put on a ventilator. Most of the children and grandchildren who are around, sat outside the room for days together.  They went to see her one by one during the permitted time every day. 

She took hold of the hand of one of her sons and scribbled something with her finger on his palm. She looked at him and having realized that he didn't understand what she wrote, took his hand again. She ‘rubbed’ what she wrote earlier with her fingers and wrote again slowly. The son could make out what she wrote: ‘Pace Maker’. Everybody knew why she wrote that. She had thought that the current problems are because of the pace maker or its battery and it needed to be replaced. She knew about the huge cost and wanted the children not to hesitate in ordering the device thinking that it is of no use at the old age. She didn't want to leave this beautiful world. “At any cost, I want to be back at home”, that was the expression.

Slowly, it was conveyed to her that pacemaker was working well. She realized that something else was seriously wrong. Whenever we met her inside, we saw tears flowing down. She might have felt claustrophobic with the mask and tried to pull out the wires and tubes. As days went by, she felt that survival is bleak and her eyes pleaded us to remove her from the life support. She couldn't tolerate the pain, suffocation and the state of helplessness. But, for her children, they wanted to trust the words, ‘10% chance of survival’, given by the doctors even if each day in the ventilator added huge amounts to the hospital bill. For a person who loved life and who was always optimistic, they thought, nothing should be left without trying. 

       Photo by Dr. Vanita Mathew

There is a roll call for all of us to leave the world. There is no exception. And my Grandma died in the early hours of the day. After the funeral, we came back to her home and found two sheets of paper in her cupboard where she had neatly listed her treasure and clearly written who will take what as per her assessment of the needs. She wrote: ‘Dear children, you should never fight and you should take care of each other. Please do not forget to offer Holy Mass every year on the day of my death and pray for me at my cemetery’. 

I can’t tell that it was a peaceful death. I am sure she went through her worst in those days than during her entire lifetime. Though she had an ardent desire to live, the ‘artificial’ life with the help of ventilator would have made her hate the world. I ask myself: Were we right in putting her in the ventilator for weeks? Shouldn't have we given her an opportunity to leave the world naturally while at her home with all of us nearby? 

A few months back, I came across an excellent and thought provoking article in the ‘Malayala Manorama’ daily by Dr Suresh Kumar, a passionate speaker and writer on the subject. He is the Director of Institute of Palliative Medicine, Calicut, Kerala.  The article is in Malayalam. I have given below a few valuable points he made in the above article. 

‘Whenever I took classes to the Doctors in India and abroad on Palliative Care I asked this question: ‘Are you ready to die the way your patients died at the hospital bed?’ Most of them told me they weren't. They are very much aware that hospital is not a place for peaceful death. Why then so many people made to spend their last days in hospitals? To this question, they say ‘external pressure’.
There are many types of pressures. If we ask the doctors, they would say that there is pressure from the relatives of the patients. In private conversations, at least some doctors would admit that there is pressure from the hospital management. If we ask the relatives of the patients, they would say that what public will think if we take our dear ones home without trying all available facilities at the hospital, though they knew that won’t help.
For patients, spending their last days in ICU is a very traumatic experience. One could imagine, how these patients felt, as they were made to spend their last days amidst a few machines, wires and unfamiliar people. They would have wished to see their near and dear ones at those moments when they had to leave the world.
There is a mind-boggling economic dimension to the above scenario. Statistics indicate that in Scotland, half of the annual income of a hospital comes exclusively from the patients who spent their last days in that hospital. As per the estimates from the medical insurance sector in the United States, people incur majority of their medical expenditure in the last six months of their life.
I don’t say that one should not go to the hospital for a major ailment. Hospitals can certainly provide necessary relief. However, the society should also think about the significance of peaceful death at the most comfortable and happy environment. Person should be made aware of the fact that the death is nearing and there is no way it can be prevented. That awareness can make her prepare for the inevitable eventuality through an introspection of her life. She might want to talk to others and share many things to them. The dear ones would get a chance to be near her.’

Which better place to spend the last days than in one’s home?  With whom one can find peace and happiness other than the near and dear ones? As Dr Sureshkumar rightly mentioned, an open debate is necessary on this subject. The government, hospital management, doctors, relatives of the patients and the public should understand that patients who are in their deathbeds have their rights, aspirations and wishes. Of all of them, the doctors under whom the patient is admitted, play a crucial role in advising the relatives correctly, without succumbing to any social or professional pressure or any financial interest, to ensure a peaceful ‘departure’ to those patients whose chances of survival are limited. 

                              © Sibichen K Mathew         Views are personal
Your views and comments may be posted below or send me to sibi5555 (gmail)
You may also like to read: Ageing with grace and dignity


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...