Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Dr. Manmohan Singh: Victim, Consenting Adult or a “Sannu Ki" case

Many people in our country forget to add the prefix “Dr.” to our soon-to-be-ex-prime-minister’s name when they speak of him. 

Normally, this kind of omission is either due to a special fondness for a person or a sad symbol of lost respect for a man of letters (or rather, numbers). Many would agree that in Dr. Singh's case, it is the latter

Rahul Gandhi may explain his absence at a formal farewell function for Dr. Singh in myriad ways, but the act does smack of a “use and abuse” behaviour towards a learned man who served the dynasty so well as to attempt to save its reputation even as he lost his own.

But is Dr. Singh really a pitiable victim suffering at the hands of conniving and street smart politicians, or would he be considered a consenting adult?

Or, worse, has he insulated himself so much from worldly happenings that he simply shrugs (or turns away) and moves on in a “sannu ki” (how does it matter to me) manner?

The nation now knows (thanks to Sanjay Baru and no thanks to Arnab Goswami) for a fact, that Dr. Manmohan Singh was indeed a puppet in the hands of Sonia Gandhi led Congress

To me, he represents the quintessential ‘aam aadmi’ or common man (although technically this term is not gender friendly, I use it in a general sense to signify all men and women in the said position), who allowed himself to be led by the nose (or noose?), despite possessing extremely high intellect, a universally accepted measure of the ability to think

You may well ask how a person like Dr. Manmohan Singh can be called an “aam aadmi", but academic or material success alone does not make a person “khaas” or special.  

It is how we behave or act when faced with certain situations and dilemmas that demand us moving away from our comfort zone, that our “khaasiyat” or special qualities come to the fore

So then, you have a man who raised himself out of less than ordinary circumstances (Dr. Manmohan Singh comes from a very humble background) by sheer determination, and gained world-wide respect and knowledge, a very 'khaas' or special act indeed

He went on to become a lauded researcher worldwide and poured his intellect and insight to plan growth and development for a (now) one billion strong nation

And then he became Prime Minister

Suddenly he was in the spotlight in a different way, far from the comfort of his academic world, and thrown into a no holds barred dynamic political world, where he has to see people beyond all the statistics and numbers, the ultimate beneficiaries and the objects of his lifelong studying

And therefore he now needed a different set of skills, those of communication, perception, conviction, charisma. leadership and all others that matter to public figures

But through his entire education and career he never had reason to think he would ever need these, as his intellect always sufficed

So, is it at all surprising that he could not see what his limitations were?

“Political naiveté” was an explanation put forward by some after his initial stumbles and one accepted by the masses at the time

But difficult to digest as he has spent a large part of his career amid politicians

Also, how then do they explain his acceptance of a second term as Prime Minister?

“Lack of charisma”, say some others

 “Lack of empathy and connect with the masses”

Charges that are ultimately sticking, but could have been overlooked had Dr. Manmohan Singh taken an emphatic stand on several occasions in his capacity as Prime Minister

“Lack of articulateness” is being repeatedly ascribed to the esteemed man, but that may be more a case of him choosing to keep articulate thoughts to himself rather than share them with the masses

In fact, the more he kept his thoughts to himself and remained silent, the more he perpetuated a stifling environment where freedom to disagree became compromised

Aren’t we all too familiar with that one person in a group who refuses to take a stand, thereby compromising where others stand?

Thus, instead of being a victim, could he have played a lead role in creating the predicament he found himself in?

Life is indeed about the choices we make, or those that we don't (also a choice)

All that Dr. Manmohan Singh needed to have done was to say "No" to an extremely tempting offer (of Prime Minister-ship), at least the second time round

All that Dr. Manmohan Singh needed to have done was to resign when Rahul Gandhi ridiculed him publicly

All that Dr. Manmohan Singh needed to have done was NOT to say that he would welcome working under Rahul Gandh as Prime Minister

All that Dr. Manmohan Singh needed to have done was to leave his farewell dinner within a short time after thanking everyone present, to symbolise hurt at the party vice president not attending it

All that Dr. Manmohan Singh needed to have done was to show the Indian public that he possessed enough self respect

Had he done any ONE of these actions, he would have gained his reputation back

But alas, not a peep out of the great man, not even at this juncture

To me, Dr. Manmohan Singh's actions (or lack of them) epitomize all that is missing in educational institutions today across the world, however esteemed they may be thought to be, or even a relic of the Raj (both the British Raj and rule by feudal lords), where one was allowed to be educated merely to serve the ruling class

All the famed international academic institutions that he read in (Cambridge and Oxford) also have to take a portion of the blame for failing to engender in him strong convictions while appreciating his academic brilliance

In a person, qualities like insight and integrity, both of which Dr. Singh is said to have in good measure, are augmented by those of self belief, conviction and perception, which help him or her prepare for the unexpected

We may unwittingly land up in places that we didn’t think we would be in, but once there, we do have to roll up our sleeves, face the music and perform

As a child, my parents often said that academic wealth (as compared to material wealth) remained with us forever and could never be stolen

To this I would like to add that a reputation built on the strength of academics alone can indeed be wiped out, if it also not simultaneously fed by mentors, caregivers and other key influencers on strength of conviction, unmindful of the losses or gains in store

This should be a lesson for all parents who push their children towards academic excellence, that their wards’ attitude and the way they think and act when faced with dilemmas matters as much or probably more than a mere degree or certification

Many of us adopt ordinariness or “aam’ behaviour by escaping from the situation altogether

An educated person uses intellectual pursuit as an escape much as the front row watcher uses popular movie fare (to which we can now add TV or internet fare). So it won't be surrpising to find Dr. Singh completely immersed in academic pursuits now that he has time on his hands

But he will have to come up with something life altering for people to forget that he allowed himself to be a willing doormat for the ruling party

Better to have a person vehemently agree or disagree than to have one who does neither (akin to a “sannu ki” attitude), and continues to remain in power, that too for two terms!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Giving up, for just a while-(written for a young friend who is battling a health problem)

In trying times, and those of despair
You are often told to hang in there

“Be strong, be brave”
Your loved ones sing along
“It’s all about getting up and moving on.”

“You can do it”, they cry
“Don’t give up or give in.
Life gives you lemons at times
So just have lemonade and grin.”

They love you and mean well
And truly want you to be swell

But hanging in there can sometimes be daunting
That might find your perseverance wanting

At times like these, when resilience dies
And summoning your confidence takes many tries

When you want to either give up or give in
Your courage and bravery relenting

Be assured, it’s just a break
That your mind and body take

To let you assume you are done
While it assuages, repairs and then says, “bring it on!”

So, take (just a little) time, my friend, to cry, rant and rave
To be human for a while, and not brave

For when the last tear has rolled down, and the last cry cried
The last frown frowned and the last sigh sighed,

Your head will move up, your shoulders square
You’ll look your monster in the eye in a cool, long stare,

And say, “I dare you to break me, I dare!”