Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our famed Constitution

This post was long overdue, mainly because the incident which it relates to happened about 4 weeks back. I was sitting at Dadu’s, the hangout-cum-small eatery at XLRI. Probably I was the only student left in college, as everyone had left for home after end-terms. There were few labourers hanging around, and were in middle of some intense discussion. I heard the words, “apne desh ka constitution bahut bakwaas hai” (The constitution of our country is utter nonsense) which was followed by half-mocking advices from others to convert to a particular religion which supposedly cares for poor people and improves standard of living as a ‘return favour’ for accepting their religious beliefs. I didn’t need to hear any further as I had managed to guess the discussion topic, but it got me thinking whole day on politics, its importance in human life and society in general.

Though the labourers were probably not aware, their discussion had roots in part III (fundamental human rights) and part XVI (Special provisions relating to certain classes) of constitution of India. It is indeed unfortunate that when people talk about politics, what it is and its consequences, they conveniently forget (most of them don’t even know) that it had roots in Aristotle’s work. According to Aristotle, inquiry into ethics leads to politics and ultimately provides principles of “how men should treat other men”. Same point has been put forward by Ayn Rand while defining Objectivist Politics. She gives very apt example while explaining political philosophy where she says “political philosophy will not tell you how much rationed gas you should be given and on which day of the week—it will tell you whether the government has the right to impose any rationing on anything.”

So, when that person said, that “our constitution is utter nonsense”, he was doing the basic error of assuming something which is derived as given. Constitution can never be nonsense. It is the political philosophy which is flawed. The constitution is just the effect. Politics is clearly dependent on other 3 philosophical principles of metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. A political philosophy which has socialist values, which tries to integrate fundamental rights and special provisions to certain classes together can’t have any other consequences than those observed in our society. A political philosophy which deviates from the basic principles had to result in a disparity which is observed today. A constitution giving people the fundamental right to follow any religious belief but following it with special provision based on caste is not serving any purpose.

To conclude, whatever seems ‘nonsense’ in life is clear consequence of men’s actions from the point where they start to abandon reason. To quote the non-contradiction principle put forward by Aristotle and championed by Ayn Rand, “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. One of them has to be wrong”.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Unknown Indian Youth

It has been almost 2 weeks now since I joined Rang De for my summer internship and it has been an amazing experience. Sometimes I feel the criteria for evaluating a workplace is very simple. If after a day’s work, you can get a good night sleep, feeling satisfied about your day, without your conscious haunting you, you know you are at right place.

One week into the internship and I got a chance to go on a field visit to ‘Gurukul’, a vocational training school, training young people who don’t have access to quality education mostly due to financial reasons. A joint initiative by NABARD, PanIIT and Rang De, the aim is to tackle the ultimate challenge, ‘employment for all’. Most of the youth in the pilot project at the training center are from Bahraich district, Uttar Pradesh. They are given different assignments like bar bending, Masonry etc depending on their skills and preferences. It is a 1 month long program, along with 6 month ‘on-job’ training, after which each youth will be a certified worker; a certificate which will be government recognized carrying similar weightage as that of ITI certificate.

The facilities provided are very good. Care has been taken in everything, right from choosing the right kind of mentors to providing basic amenities. But what amazed me most was the attitude of the trainees. Maybe the thought of a regular source of income, maybe financial stability but I guess more than anything else the thought of fulfilling the dream of becoming a skilled worker eventually was what which was driving them. The conversations we had with some of them were very interesting. Most of them had a big family with very few sources of income. Typically each one of them was either working in someone’s farm or was doing household work at some corner of India before joining the training. After receiving the training they want to break free of the vicious age old poverty cycle. They don’t want to keep doing what their forefathers did just for the sake of it. In simple terms, they want to do something which ‘adds value’. And no, they don’t use this phrase like Corporates do; they surely haven’t heard of it, but they mean it. There was a healthy sense of ambition in each one of them; there was spark in those eyes. They didn’t want to be limited to a 6000/- per month job. They wanted to work hard, learn more, improve and climb the ladder. All they need is an opportunity to show their worth. Most of them probably haven’t heard about Winston Churchill but those eyes were saying, “Give us the the tools, and we will finish the job.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Welcome to Chennai

After being laughed at, after receiving sarcastic ‘best wishes’ (ya, people actually do that), after being told that “this is the ultimate punishment for all the sins/crimes you have committed”, I finally landed in Chennai, at 3a.m. on 8th April. But this place is not all that bad. People really know how to enjoy and entertain themselves. Like, people on Chennai central (including ‘Coolies’) enjoyed the sight of a thin guy carrying 4 bags at 3 a.m. in the morning. For any question, the answer was a pointed finger towards helpdesk which was vacant. So I too decided to enjoy myself and spent next 2 hours watching ads about railway thieves. Don’t know why after each ad people were staring at me. At 5:15, I finally decided to part ways with the lovely station and helpful people.

The auto rickshaw guy, true to the unwritten rule followed all over India of looting outsiders, charged me double the usual price (so I was told later). As I have specialised in doing useless things at wrong time, instead of arguing with him on price, I was playing a game with myself of guessing the vehicle code for Chennai, but was disappointed as the first 6 auto rickshaw I spotted had codes TN-01, TN-02, TN-03, TN-05,TN-07, TN-09. Driver of the auto rickshaw that I had hired was probably Michael Schumacher’s long lost 3rd brother. But thankfully I reached guest house safely. Even here there was no reprieve (reprieve from fun that is). I was asked to fill a form with check-in time etc. I did some rough calculations on when I left station, how quickly Schumi bro drove etc and wrote 5:45 a.m. I was duly scolded. It was 5:39 a.m.!!! How can I write 5:45 when the time is 5:39? So typical Indian of me.

But the city is really good. The roads especially are very well planned and structured. Every care has been taken to ensure that it is humanly impossible for pedestrians to cross the road without risking their lives. But I have 3 yrs experience on traffic skills in another lovely city, Pune. I used the skills to fullest to run diagonally between two moving cars, buses etc. Food is really good here. But basically in restaurants, it is ‘eat as much as you can’ competition, where each person is given a big plateful of rice, which should suffice 4 people, along with 10-15 curries, vegetables etc in small tiny bowls. The first day was especially funny when I walked in a restaurant named ‘Mathsya’ hoping that, as the name suggests, they might have good fish dishes. It turned out to be a veggie restaurant. The Madrasi thali I ate is amongst the best meals I ever had. Guessing what exactly is there in each ‘katori’ was like playing minesweeper. It was fun.

There are lots and lots of film posters, banners on roads which are really brain-storming because it is tough to guess who is hero and who is villain. The loyalty in people is unbelievable because no matter in which language you ask question, the answer is always in Tamil. Bus conductors auto-drivers really want outsiders to explore the city and drop them to some unknown places and finding your destination becomes a game of treasure hunt. People really go out of their way to help. Couple of friends of mine asked ‘where is old mahabalipuram’ and got the answer ‘somewhere’. That really helps. It has been fantastic few days here. I am loving it. About Kashmir it was said, “If there is a heaven on earth, it is here only’. Same applies for Chennai, with couple of words here and there of course.