Devil in the Detail

One trip out of India, and we end up having so much material to write about on our return. I am not referring to the wonderful sights or technological innovations one sees abroad or the curtsey and efficiency with which even a third world country’s immigration and customs officials function. I am referring to the simple things which are overlooked because of lack of planning or attention to detail or plain insensitivity.

Problems or Opportunities?

Recently, I had an opportunity to interact with a bright second generation Indian American, who is incidentally doing quite well professionally and is on a fast track career path. Most of these kids are born and bought up in the US or elsewhere and their only link to India is that it’s the land of their parents. You might think that therefore these kids don’t have as strong an emotional link to India as their parents – but I am pleasantly surprised to discover that there are quiet a few young bright professionals of Indian origin who are willing to do their bit for India.

Narcissism of Small Differences

Over the past few years, in the course of my travels across the country, I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with innumerable dedicated, brilliant and competent individuals who care deeply for the country. I am at once elated and depressed when I talk to them. I am delighted to see them willing to do something about our problems, but am depressed at their inability to overcome minor differences and work together for the cause of the nation.

Alienated Elites

October 11th marked the birth centenary of Lok Nayak JP, one of the truly great heroes of modern India. Every Indian has to be thankful to him for his spirited and courageous fight against the 1975 emergency, and but for him we could not have escaped from the clutches of a dictatorial rule. His name and memory as a conscience keeper of our nation are imprinted in the minds of many grateful people.

Chaotic Traffic and Citizen Responsibility

We often rightly complain about chaotic traffic on our streets and lawlessness in our society. Hyderabad City is a prime example of both these scourges. All visitors tell us that if you can navigate the Hyderabad traffic successfully, you can drive anywhere in the world without fear! And yet we fail to realize that the problem is not with the police, but with us. We neither seem to care for traffic rules, nor do we take responsibility for our actions.

Unfulfilled Potential

The other day I was talking to a chauffeur who was driving me around in a district town. He stopped his education at 3rd grade. His father had passed away and his mother could not take up a job with two little kids in the house. So he and his older brother took up work to support the family. He is now about 30, and has a wife and two kids. He earns a decent wage. He seemed bright and hard working. “Why can’t you study now?” I asked. That set him thinking. He responded, “In my twenty three years of work at different places, no-body ever told me to study. You are the first person”.

People Power

Often times I am asked why I have embarked on this unusual journey – medical education, civil service and now governance reform. Born about a decade after Independence, I grew up in a village in coastal Andhra. My father was employed in a small town in Maharashtra, and an old aunt, a child widow who never remarried, raised me. These somewhat unusual circumstances gave me the different perspective of a participant/observer of public defecation, caste, hierarchies, superstitions, poverty and underdevelopment.

The Good In Our Midst

A friend of mine was telling me that my column is always about what is wrong in the country or in Hyderabad – maybe giving impression to readers that I think there is nothing good in our society. It’s precisely because I see so many good things in our society that I think that we are not a doomed country and our problems are not intractable. Far from being a prophet of gloom and doom I am an optimist to the core and a very cheerful one at that. My anger is only at the gap between what is and what could easily be, and at the gulf between the promise and performance.

Little Things Which Can Make a Big Difference

A poor, migrant watchman’s family lives in a hut in my neighbourhood. One morning when walking along the road, a pet dog from a posh home rushed out and attacked him. It was several long minutes before the terrified watchman could free himself - but not before his right arm was severely bitten from wrist to shoulder. There were gaping wounds and severe bleeding, and almost half the skin on the arm was hanging loose. The petrified man returned home with difficulty – drenched in blood and perspiration.

Time – Eternal or Finite?

When a secretary of George Washington, excusing himself for being late, said that his

watch was too slow, the general's reply was, "You must get a new watch, or I must get

a new secretary." If this were the case, most of us in Hyderabad would be changing

secretaries every week. Emerson said, "I could never think well of a man's intellectual or

moral character, if he was habitually unfaithful to his appointments.'

All of us have numerous experiences of meetings which started late and ended even

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