Ten ideas for a better India


I came across a contest on HarperCollins India for Ten ideas for the next twenty years of India and was tickled enough to bring out my own list, but after completion I realised that mine were not ‘ideas’ but what I thought were catalysts for change. So instead of submitting the list to the contest, I have posted it here. Feel free to comment, debate and share your ideas.

1. Pass the Lokpal Bill

Self-explanatory. The biggest problem our country filled with potential is facing is graft and political anarchy. I take the liberty of calling it anarchy because a nation run by money-laundering rascals, misogynists and religious criminals with no vision or desire to serve the people is fit to be called anarchy (and I do not single out any political party here. One is worse than the other).

2. Treat eve-teasing as a criminal offence awarded with heavy fine or imprisonment

This includes self-appointed moralists who take it upon themselves to beat up women because they do not fit their bill of ‘Indian culture’. It’s high time someone taught these bastards some culture. A heavy fine and imprisonment might go a long way in curbing the animalistic, sex-deprived street behaviour of Indian men and give women the courage to lodge complaints.

3. Make rape and marital rape non-bailable offences awarded with life imprisonment and revealing a rape victim’s identity a criminal offence

Rape laws in India are chauvinistic at best and so moderate a hardened rapist could easily slip through their grasp. A tough sentence could act as a deterring force.

4. Make sex-education compulsory in all schools

I cannot stress this enough. The moral police could go fly a kite in the filth of their own ignorance and patriarchal tribal values.

5. Make it impossible for a candidate with criminal records to contest elections and set a minimum educational bar of a graduate degree to contest state and national assemblies

Education does not mean knowledge but it does go a long way in opening up the mind to the world and better representation of an emerging India.

6. Introduce a benefit scheme for small-time farmers and BPL families providing them a (realistic) monthly package of money/ration and free education for the children

This might have been thought of and implemented ‘on paper’ but it’s time India tagged along the poorest of the poor and the farmers who feed us on the path of progress and of course their children have a birth-right to education. Considering the amount of tax payer’s money being hoarded in Swiss banks, we can afford this.

7. Implement a ‘One child only’ rule

Controversial, yes; against individual rights, yes but it’s the need of the hour if India has any hope of limiting the population explosion.

8. Build world-class training facilities for rural, athletic and national sports (basically all other sports side-lined by cricket) in every district

Refer to my post India at the London Olympics

9. Build enough public toilets or provide portable loos and make public-urination and littering an offence that will be heavily fined

Self-explanatory. It’s time we stopped ignoring the mess around us and got working.

10. Metro links in all Tier 1 cities, High speed rails connecting the country with on-board loos that do not open on to the tracks

Yes, Indian Railways is a profit-making entity and operates a huge fleet but if you think about the population Vs transport infrastructure ratio we are way behind optimal facilities. And the loos well, haven’t we all pinched our noses shut within a kilometre radius of railway tracks?

Now I am well aware that this list does not cover everything that can be done for a better India. I have not mentioned the dire need for us to stop being IT service slaves of the West and the need for entrepreneurship (but you can read my thought on the topic here) or Caste and Religious issues or environmental concerns. I would also like to write in length on gender inequality and women’s issues in our country in another post, another day, till then I think this will do.  Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

Student on campus – Life in a University Halls of Residence


It was a pleasant night in May and I was hurrying through the last round editing of my writing portfolio. I was a few hours away from the submission deadline and was feverishly giving the finishing touches to the prose, poetry and drama pieces I had written for the final assessment of a major course. My sleep-starved eyes were drooping and the glare of the laptop screen gave me a headache. It was then that I heard the muffled sound – a thud and some indecipherable noises. My tired brain signaled that the sound was familiar but I carried on my battle with grammar and syntax. They were winning and I was fighting with the last ounce of energy left in me. Then I heard that noise again, I ignored it; and again, this time followed by a giggle. That was when I knew what it was and snapped.

Now let me give you a bit of background on the location. I was living and writing in the University Halls of residence.

My cubby hole at the Halls (and yes that’s a Panda on the bed, her name is Switty :p)

My little study bedroom in a flat shared by six students was, well, ‘cosy’ to put it mildly. Of course I loved it and thought it was charming and comfy, but it had a weird way of getting in your way leading to much bumping into things at the slightest movement (and this coming from a puny 4 ft 8 inches tall individual). The corridor was narrow and the shared kitchen well equipped, but like the rest of the rooms – tiny.

Looking out of the bedroom window you could see the low buildings of the campus sprawled out below you or the woods and the campus bar, depending on which side of the blocks your room was placed.

View from my window- Campus bar

There must have been around 400 students-international and British- living in the various blocks of the campus and there was always a constant hum of conversation, drunken revelry or music from different parts of the world. Most residents of the Halls in question, studied Business/Law/Nursing in the same campus and only a few like me whose classes were held in some other campus were placed there due to unavailability of rooms in the Halls close to our campus.

Flat Corridor

The study-bedrooms were all in a row and shared walls with the rooms on either side of the flat. It wasn’t much of a problem in the day time, but for a person like me who sits up all night writing, it was a breach of privacy. Not mine but the neighbours’! Due to my nightly writing I knew when my neighbours came or went, flushed their toilet, got homesick and skyped their parents on the other end of the globe or in the worst privacy breach – brought home a date. Most times when I wrote or read for pleasure or for a deadline far away in the future, I just shut out the noise by playing music or chewing gum. But that night was limits. A deadline loomed and I was not satisfied with the portfolio. The last thing I needed was yet another hour of making-out noises. What the irritation and my snapping led to is history but I recall it till today as the night when a pleasant friendship almost ended and I made the decision of moving out.

It has been two months since I moved out of the Halls of residence into a private apartment block and it has been a strange eight weeks. On the one hand I am relieved to be out of the cramped room, the noises and the crowd but on the other hand I miss it all! Gone are the days when I used to be woken up by the strumming of a guitar or banging of doors when students hurriedly left for classes. The apartment block I live in is tranquil, isolated and well ventilated. No resident drunkenly chants ‘Omlette au fromage’ in the middle of the night or throws stuff at the window of a neighbour to wake them up. Nobody sets off a fire alarm just for the fun of it and there are no midnight snack fests.  In fact, our contract clearly states that we were not to hold any house parties or play loud music or in short sound alive! I have not seen more than one neighbour in the last two months and the sounds of a baby crying now and then and some stray notes of Western Classical music drifting up to my room are the only sounds of habitation I have heard all these weeks.

Woken up by yet another fire alarm

The campus Kitty. He must be the cat with the most number of names in the world. I call him Garfield.

Oh how I miss the Halls! I had so wanted to live on campus and as I had stayed with my parents during undergrad and later on in rented apartments with friends. It was like a dream come true when I was accepted at the Halls and I was ready to overlook all the shortcomings and make the most of my stay. But the time came when I put comfort over a dirty but lively flat. Anyway this is my ode to the nine months of life on campus that lived up to all my expectations and so much more, taught me patience, cleaning (:p) and sharing and left an ever-lasting impression on my mind.

So guys, if you ever get a chance to live in student accommodation, grab the opportunity with both hands. The going might get messy but it’s a lot of fun. 🙂 Do you have any on-campus stories of your own?

You might also like Bangalore to London 2 and London through my eyes.

What Independence Day means to me


As the nation celebrates its 65th ‘tryst with destiny’ I cannot feel the pride and happiness coursing through my veins as it had for all these years. I just feel fear, hopelessness and frustration. 65 years and we have only achieved half of what we could have if we had wholeheartedly committed ourselves to development and efficient use of the country’s considerable resources.

My countrymen are more worried about protecting their religion and culture, even if it means beating up women on the streets and pointing fingers at other communities at the slightest provocation. (Just read all the comments below the story. Girl gang-raped by 8 men, dumped near Agra highway) The politicians are only worried about filling their deep pockets and getting re-elected even if it means looting the tax payers money. Massacres have been committed for the sake of religion; education & healthcare are a joke in rural India and politics has become a dirty word. If Mahatma Gandhi had seen a glimpse of this India, he would have suffered a heart attack!

It worries me that we are oblivious to our potential as a country and choose to accept all these significant hazards to the nation’s growth as a part of life. Did the clerk at the Tashildar’s office ask for a bribe? Well that’s how the system works. Is the public transport a mess? Adjust karo. Did the police refuse to take down your complaint against marital rape? It’s your fault that you are not doing your duty as a wife! I am tired of all the explaining away we do to stay in the comfort zone. Its time we stopped adjusting!

So this Independence day I will mourn for an India that could have been. The history that could have been written, the progress that could have been made. I am not a cynic… just a hurt citizen who is afraid my country will go to the dogs. Period.

Also read Being Indian: Independence by a fellow blogger.

India at the London Olympics


London 2012 has been the best Olympics ever for India. With a total of six medals – two silver and four bronze – India has put its best foot forward this Olympics. Why am I, a non-sports enthusiast blogging about this? Well, this last week has been a very proud one for me.  As an Indian student in London I have had some very special moments this Games when my country bettered its records and gave me a reason to walk with my head held high.

Biggest ever Indian contingent at the Olympics 2012

I have seen the stupendous support and sponsorship that the British home team has received in the lead up to ‘the Games’ as it is called here. In addition to the world class training facilities, this kind of support and fanfare has gone a long way in ensuring success for the team. When I juxtapose this with the kind of luke-warm response India gives for any sport other than cricket, it doubles the respect I have for the Indian athletes who pursued and gave their best shot at various non-cricket sports. These athletes who are pretty much overshadowed by the cricket craze gripping India making it neglect its own national game, have given me a reason to stop and think what cricket and its commercialisation has done to Indian sports! A couple of articles I found that voice my thoughts on the subject.  Cricket, Cricket, Cricket! Why? , How cricket has killed other forms of sport , Why Just Cricket?

This post is a dedication to all those athletes who represented India at the Olympic Games and the six who won even in the face of inconsistent judging and bias.

Gagan Narang_Men’s 10m Air rifle bronze medallist

Mary Kom_Women’s 51 Kg boxing Bronze medallist

Vijaykumar_Men’s 25m rapid fire silver medallist

Saina Nehwal_Badminton Women’s singles Bronze medallist

Yogeshwar Dutt_Men’s 60kg Freestyle wrestling Bronze medallist

Sushil Kumar_Men’s 66 Kg Freestyle wrestling silver medallist

And a pic of the cute little mascots, Wenlock & Mandeville in Diary milk chocolate to celebrate the victory 😀 (and they tasted yum).

Wenlock & Mandeville

It has been an amazing experience to be here in London during the Games and watch the lead up to it and the whole event up close and personal. When I made the decision to take a year and a half of sabbatical from work and move to the UK for a Writing degree this was something I had not considered but now that I have seen the Games in its entirety, I can only say Woah… What an experience! 🙂 I was lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. 🙂

London through my eyes


I write this post while looking out of my window at the beautiful sight of snow falling and listening to the not-so-desirable screams of over-excited girls having a snow fight. Anyway to get on with it…I am done with the snow fights and too frozen to the bones to venture outside. So here I am sitting and blogging about my dearest memories of London…

London at first sight

London is one city that blows me away. The more I try to understand, the more it beckons to me with fresh mysteries. Coming from unpredictable, impulsive India, I was first dumbstruck by the order and conformation to rules around the city. A tad bit boring I know 😀 but it’s amazing to watch the systematic flow of traffic with absence of honking and the single file columns on the tube station escalators ( strictly on the right hand side leaving space on the left for the ones in a hurry who march up/down like ants scurrying to a hole – makes me want to tap their shoulders and ask “What’s the big hurry?”).

Read on for a peek into London through my eyes…mostly photographs but you can expect some commentary side-by-side. :p

Big Ben against The London Eye

For those of you with no idea what the Big Ben and The London Eye are (I had no idea about the Eye & vague ideas about Big Ben until I moved to London) here is a crash course:- Big Ben is the nickname of the clock tower bell close to the Parliament houses and it is one of the most famous landmarks in London. If my ‘London walk’ guide is to be believed, it was nicknamed Big Ben because the bloke who was commissioned to build it was a big fella. Moving on to The London Eye, the giant Ferris wheel, one of the tallest in the world on which wide-eyed tourists take a merry ride lasting a loong time while they look at the city spread below.

Too many sculptures I say…!

I also can’t help but remark about the optimum use of historical structures and tourist destinations by the Government. It makes me bug-eyed about the potential India has if the Government decides to take it seriously. I could dare say London has some of the most well maintained historical structures and museums in the world. Add to it the fact that most of the museums and art galleries have no entry fee and you have the perfect cocktail of tourist and local footfalls.

Hampton Court Palace, dated early 1500’s, stands tall & proud till date

I am a history buff and it does not help that am a romantic too. So there you go…I have set myself the not-so-difficult task of visiting every palace/ fort in London. I have so far covered the most publicised ones and will work my way down to the not-so-popular ones over the summer. It sure is an amazingly good pastime to explore chambers where Kings & Queens lived while imagining the pomp and splendour of the olden days.

Tower of London. Let the looks not fool you…this is where the Kohinoor sits caged in a British crown

White Tower built by William The Conqueror in the Tower of London

There were times as a kid when I used to wonder if I would ever get to see the London Sherlock Holmes lived in (I had thought he was real 😀 ) or Charles Dickens’ characters relived. In a way I have but there is a mammoth difference between Dickens’ London and present day London of course. 🙂

It is one of my favourite pastimes to visit landmarks/ buildings connected to the literary characters I hold dear.

The contrast between the old and the new worlds is evident.

Street art: Fallen Telephone boxes, Kingston upon Thames

I have also taken a liking towards visiting sites where popular movies were shot. Try guessing in which movie(s) the locales in the two pictures below figure.

If you were able to guess then bingo you are a genius if not…then you are more of a human being. Ok here’s the answer, these two almost unrecognisable locales figure in different Harry Potter movies. The first picture is the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron (the blue telephone box like building entrance; it is actually an optical shop) and the second is Leadenhall market which is where Diagon Alley was shot. I know this sounds childish, but I actually went on a paid Harry Potter walk and saw the sites above and Ministry of Magic, Gringotts, Platform 9 3/4 etc…

The picture below was taken on a cold windy day from a wobbly bridge called the Millenium Bridge, close to the school where Daniel Radcliffe studied and where a Death eater attack scene of the movie was shot. (This is lame I know…!)

St Paul’s Cathedral as seen from The Millenium Bridge

Oh and I should mention about the Theatre scene in London. One term to describe it: ‘It takes my breath away’. I knew I could not go wrong with Phantom of the Opera, and sure enough, I was captivated. Then of course came the more earthly musicals like Mama Mia! 😀 (I enjoyed theatre in dear old India too but it’s so different here.)

I am not a person who is into art and architecture, but this city has some cannot-ignore buildings that leave me with a gaping mouth.

London Gherkin against St Mary Axe, the egg shaped skyscraper against an Old church. It is built on the site of a historic building destroyed in a WW bombing

The inside-out Llyods Building where every utility feature like stairs, lifts, heating etc are on the outside

Btw did I mention about the cities within London city? Guess not…so here goes…London comprises of two cities: The City of London (the ancient city with the forts etc & today the Financial district) and The City of Westminster (the present day Civil admn hotspot with the Parliament Houses and so on). The City of London is interesting for its choice of logo I thought. It still has the old (retarded looking) dragons of the days of Ye Olde Londinium. (It’s not just the Chinese who believed in dragons in those days.)

If you thought I was already too taken in with the sights and sounds of London, figure this!

Candies on sale at Winter Wonderland, the annual winter fair at Hyde Park

And this…

Mad shopping among mad crowds at Oxford street on Boxing day

And of course, I did the tried and tested ‘tourist tour’ of London aka the landmarks where tourists stand and get their pictures clicked for the benefit of their bug-eyed folks at home (and to post on FB of course…).

Parliament Houses

Horse Guards Parade

Westminster Abbey

Here’s an interesting fact. The horseman in the picture of Trafalgar Square below is Charles II, the only King in Britain’s history to be tried and executed for a tiff-off with the church (and some other politics). He was hanged in public and he supposedly wore two shirts during the hanging to not let his subjects see him shivering. His son was eventually restored to the throne and all ended well. But in the memory of this ‘sad’ event Big Ben has a black dot on its face at the minute when he was hanged. The statue in the picture below was also erected at the exact centre of London with every measurement of distance leading off from his statue (supposedly).

Trafalgar Square: Site of the Olympics countdown clock and location for large public gatherings in the city

So here’s to the end of this post (my first blog post corresponding to a travelogue). A picture of swans sleeping on the Thames. 🙂

Sleeping Beauties

and the picture of the event that made me jump around like a March hare. 😀 (Pssst…my first Snow experience.)

Enchanted forest? No…the campus woods after the first snow of the year

You may also like Back to blog Amy Winehouse style , Bangalore to London 2 and Midnight in London.