A letter to my niece on her 21st birthday

some life lessons in a letter to my lovely niece on her 21st birthday

21! Wow! How and when did that happen?  Blink of an eye.  I still think of you as the little girl who cunningly sneaked into my suitcase every time I was packing to leave for the US.  Yes, I am stuck in time as most of us old farts are, but you? That’s another story.

From a naughty eyed little toddler with an infectious laughter to a tomboyish young kid. From an often-loving but sometimes-distant young girl to a warm, mature-beyond-her-years, incredibly talented artist, Illesha you have come a long way. Did I say stunningly beautiful?

As adulthood arrives, so does trepidation. And questions.  Lots of them.  Will things change now that I am 21?  Should I be behaving differently? Am I making the right choices?  What should I do with my life? Will Gus ever grow up J?  Will my family finally stop harassing me? These are perplexing questions with no certain answers except perhaps for the last one.

Leshu, as you stand at the cusp of adulthood, I thought I would share some advice with you instead of the usual expensive gift – Twizzlers cost good money you know. What’s heartening is that given your fiercely independent nature we don’t run the risk of you actually taking it.

Health is wealth – Yes, I know. That’s probably the worst start ever but since I am now approaching middle age I have earned the right to say corny stuff like that.  Seriously though, life is 10X better when you wake up feeling great.  More than sweating it out at the gym find a sport that you love and play it 2-3 times a week (Candy Crush is not a sport).  You will be far healthier and happier. It’s taken me all of my 35 years to figure that out.

Don’t define yourself – Acid will not liberate you J, being in tune with yourself will.  Beyond the physical impressions that we call the body and the mind, there is an intuition that is you.  Hone this intuition and trust it more than anything else. Some people use Yoga, others use meditation but I suspect in your case it will be your art.  Use your art to discover yourself but don’t define yourself as an artist. Don’t define yourself as a girl either. Nor as a Hindu or as an Indian.  In fact, don’t define yourself by any man-made boundary.  We have created more problems in the world through narrow definitions than we have solved. You are more than all these boundaries put together.

Stress kills, literally – More people die of stress related issues than any other disease in the world. Nothing is worth losing your peace and your sleep over, ever. Remember, our natural state of being is relaxed, not having an agitated mind. Observe a kid and you will know.  It is external expectations that put us in a restless state.  You do not need to over-intellectualize this.  Just find little tricks that can help you destress quickly and get back to your natural state of restfulness.

Claim your life – Life is not that complicated but it can be pretty confusing. Almost everybody you meet will try to tell you what is right. They have no idea. They are simply seeking validation. Look deep within. You already who you are and what you must do. You just need to realize it. Every year, take a week off for yourself. Find a place that puts you at peace and retreat to this place whenever you are faced with the big questions or feel weighed down and distracted.  When you need to get back in touch with yourself. When you need to shake off the impressions you have picked up along the way. The answers will present themselves.

Stay 21 forever – Here’s a technical fact.  If you can get old only if you stop growing, then the opposite must also be true.  Don’t stop growing and you will stay young forever.  As you achieve one milestone after another, maintain your humility and know that you have much to learn. That way you will keep exploring and keep growing.  You will become mature and become wise but you will not become old. Couple this with the enthusiasm of a child and life will be wondrous.

So, Happy Birthday Leshu and I hope you have a blessed year ahead.

Oh, one last thing – If it all gets much at times and you feel you need a rest, my suitcase awaits.  I will happily carry you along for as long as you like.


Can we have some service please?

The Anna Hazare saga and India’s corruption battle continues

One unintended consequence of the Hazare drama that unfolded yesterday was that it made me tune back into the talking heads on our news channels.  Something I had promised never to do, as my own silent protest, after the appalling show they put up post the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008.  If you are wondering where I get my news now, it’s mostly Twitter, although CNN, BBC, The Economist and WSJ do lend some perspective.

I have to confess, it was rather amusing.  At one end, there were the government representatives making yet another volte-face, and repeatedly underscoring that they have completely lost touch with the people of India.  The opposition, predictably so, once again politicized the issue in favor of their ‘Prime Minister in waiting’ proving that they never were in touch with the people of this country.

The media as usual was at its deafening best (where do they get these anchors? Love 'em :-)) labeling everything as breaking news and then proceeding to take credit for breaking it.  Of course there were the usual lawyers, film celebs, and political observers, who made even less sense.  One respectable looking lady questioned why Anna should be a leader and why others should not be leaders as well.  What??? (Couldn’t get myself to watch long enough to get her name)

With this circus in the background, I could not help thinking about what I would like to say to each of these venerable actors.  Here are my thoughts –

Mr. Prime Minister, it is time to take stock.  The response to every corruption allegation cannot be a counter-allegation.  Perhaps it is time to get back in touch with the ideals you were once respected for.  As honest and sincere as you might be, we need more passion and inspiration to ignite this nation.  It’s time to take a stand or sit down.

Mrs.Gandhi, every mother in this country salutes you for the love you have demonstrated for your son.  But holding a country of a billion and the entire polity ransom is perhaps too much.  The very love that gave you the drive to win two back-to-back elections appears to be tearing away at the fabric of your esteemed political party.  Perhaps it is time to stop protecting your son’s inheritance and focus instead on the burning problems this country is facing.

Mr. Advani, maybe it is time to consider actually imbibing some ideals in your political struggle. Opportunism can get you only so far in.  People want leaders and leaders are defined by the character they exhibit in the face of adversity.  By continually flip-flopping depending on the circumstances, you and your party have not really given this country any worthy alternatives, which is rather unfortunate.

Congress party spokespeople (you know who you are), where did you guys come from?  Why are you so angry?  Perhaps you should consider the existence of some deep-rooted childhood issues or sort out the domestic imbalances.  Such anger can only emanate from suppressed emotional trauma.

The media, please stop yelling.  I am scared to turn the TV on, literally.

And finally, the people of this country – Should we also, besides fighting for a stronger Lokpal bill, consider striking the word ‘Raj’ from our vocabularies as a reference to the government and never elect a politician who does so.

Raj, in English means rule, and until the day we allow our government to rule, can we really expect better?  Perhaps I am dreaming but the idea of Congress Seva as opposed to Congress Raj does seems appetizing.  I know that’s how the Mahatma dreamed it.

Jai Hind,


7/13 Mumbai attacked yet again

It is with a heavy heart that I write this note. Just as Mumbai was slowly beginning to gain confidence, terror struck again. Like you, the disgust, agony and helplessness I feel is overwhelming and is beyond words. Perhaps the only silver lining is that all my family, friends, and fellow-employees in People Group are safe.

It is with a heavy heart that I write this note. Just as Mumbai was slowly beginning to gain confidence, terror struck again. Like you, the disgust, agony and helplessness I feel is overwhelming and is beyond words. Perhaps the only silver lining is that all my family, friends, and fellow-employees in People Group are safe.

While we may not have the circle of influence to fix the broader issues in our country, maybe we can all do some things in our own small ways. Here are a few thoughts –

– Let’s not fan rumors. If you do not have confirmed news about something do not send chain emails and smses. They tend to create panic.

– If we happen to find ourselves in an unfortunate incident, let’s promise ourselves that we will help others. All too often people are too busy taking pictures rather than providing support.

– Let’s ensure that we will report any unidentified and suspicious package in any public place immediately.

– As a family unit, friend's circle, or as an organization, we should all plan how we would react in crisis situations.

Please think about what else we can do in our individual capacities and share your thoughts. Also, please observe 2 minutes in prayer for victims and their near and dear ones.

Will Microsoft be irrelevant 20 years from now? Probably …

Will Microsoft be irrelevant 20 years from now? Probably …

An incredible milestone in the history of computing – Internet Explorer marketshare falls below 50% for the first time -  http://bit.ly/dnxP1A – This is great news for consumers.  For several decades, Microsoft has had a strangle-hold on desktop computing and IE was a way to extend this dominance to the Inrternet world too.  Thankfully, things are not going in the direction MSFT intended.  My view is that for long, MSFT has stifled innovation through it's monopoly power and there was a fear that this would continue in an Internet computing economy.  Given the latest numbers on the browsers, and companies like Google and Facebook growing stronger by the day, the fear can perhaps be put to rest.  I will personally sleep better knowing that Internet computing will be charcaterized by healthy competition.

Now if only somebody could find a way to challenge Google’s control of Internet advertising.  Facebook, are you listening?

CWG – Another Lost Lesson?

Observations and a 4-point plan to clean up the CommonWealth Games (CWG) Fiasco

The CWG games have suddenly become an example of India's execution ability and efficiency and everyone is going all out to demonstrate what a great job we have done? Wow, what happened??

Being patriotic is one matter, being willful another.  All the celebrities, politicians, and regular citizens calling upon us to 'demonstrate the love for our country' by being positive about the games are perhaps forgetting two things –

1) Being in denial is almost always a strategy for failure

2) Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat their mistakes 

By simply hoping that the CWG is a bright example of India's capabilities we cannot wish away the corruption, arrogance, sheer disdain, and lack of basic human values and ethics of some of our politicians and bureaucrats.  Rather than live another lie for the next several decades, we need to use the CWG as an opportunity to learn and mold our laws, systems, and governance towards a better future.  

Sure, right now we need to focus and complete the job at hand – whatever it takes.  But by no means should we stifle public debate because we do not wish to embarrass ourselves in front of the world; by no means should we silence voices because we wish to show the world a positive image; by no means should media be ‘managed’ through politicians.  An independent media, discourse and debate are the hallmarks of a healthy democracy and in the end nations and people are judged by what they stood for and not merely the show they put up. 

Our face to the world needs to reflect trust, resilience, strength, commitment & integrity not delusion, disdain & corruption.  If we truly wish to build a lasting nation we first need to build a lasting idea – an idea of unified values and ethics around which a nation can then be built.  But a lasting idea requires conviction, commitment and courage.

Being the eternal optimist though, I am hoping that our government will take action as soon as the games are over.  From my limited view, here is a 4-point plan that can change the perception of the CWG fiasco from ‘the result of an incurable corrupt nation’ to that of a ‘blip in the journey towards becoming a developed country’ –

1) Form an autonomous body comprising of the top intelligence officials in the country reporting directly to the Prime Minister's Office with the mandate to complete the investigation into the CWG Mismanagement within 60 days.

2) Take the culprits to task without delay. Whether it is Sheila Dixit, Suresh Kalmadi, Gill, Reddy or all of them, they need to be punished and made an example of.  We cannot continue to tell our kids that ineptitude and corruption are acceptable.

3) Kick-off the process of separating Sports and Politics with an aggressive timeline.  Sports is a great unifying catalyst, especially in a country characterized by youth and a multitude of castes, communities, and religions. All our major issues – communal disharmony, social & economic inequality, crime, lack of education –   can be addressed to some degree through a far-sighted sports development plan. If visionaries like Mandela can try and propel an inter-racial country coming out of apartheid on the back of sports, surely a nation which has been free for over 60 years now can be galvanized around the same. Well, Mr. PM, the buck stops with you and if you don't see the power of sports find somebody who does, and empower him just like you did for Aadhaar, India's Unique Identity Program under Nandan Nilekani.

4) Put in place a body of young sports professionals  who can contribute to a framework that sets out .guidelines on bidding for global events and subsequently managing them.  Charge this body with responsibility and accountability to administer the same and create a single window clearance system under them for managing large sporting events which are in the national interest.

Of course, the above is simply a starting point and not a comprehensive plan.  I make no claim to having all the answers, but like the rest of us, I can tell when something stinks.

Make no mistake, I love my country and nothing would give me more happiness than to see us come out of the current mess with our heads held high.  However, simply manufacturing the perception that ‘all is well’ is not something my spirit can accept.  Spare me the hyperbole, deceit and lies and let’s focus instead on our ability, commitment and passion to be the best in the world. 

Jai Hind,

Anupam Mittal

P:S – Also, let's please stop with the conspiracy theories immediately.  If it isn's Pakistan, it is the western imperialists, western media and the CIA that have conspired to bring down the games?? Incredible as it sounds this is what Kalmadi alluded to. 

I have spent 10 years of my life in the west and I can emphaitically say that westerners love the idea of India, especially a progressive India.

Walking The Talk (email to People Interactive colleagues)

To really love the Internet, it must become a way of life for us in every way. As an organization, everything that we do, our process, systems, workflows, etc. need to be built around the Internet. As individuals you should be getting your news, weather, real-estate services, matrimonial connections, ringtones, gaming, and whatever else that it is you do from the Internet.

Hope you are all
well and 2010 is treating you well so far.  I am sure many of you have had the
chance to learn about People Way and what it means for you and the
organization.  Think of it as a behavioral roadmap for excellence.  However, it
can only add value to our lives and careers if we actually take the content very
seriously  and live the principles captured in People Way on a day to day
basis.  Let me explain with an example –

You may have read
the line 'We love the Internet' as part of our cultural definition.  However,
how many of us really do?  Sure, we all use the Internet to access information,
send emails, play games & network (which many of you usually do:-), book
airline tickets and so on.  But, if you have to ask yourself, if the Internet is
a way of life for us, many of us would come up short.  To really love the
Internet, it must become a way of life for us in every way.  As an organization,
everything that we do, our process, systems, workflows, etc. need to be built
around the Internet.  As individuals you should be getting your news, weather,
real-estate services, matrimonial connections, ringtones, gaming, and whatever
else that it is you do from the Internet. 

If you don't use Facebook or Twitter
actively, you are missing out on a free front row seat to the social web in the
making, a truly historic and revolutionary change that will impact our lives,
careers and opportunities forever.  What we are seeing today on the Internet
will be 10 times more impactful than the change portals and search
engines brought to our lives and businesses and if you don't try to understand
it while it is happening you will have compromised your skills

Besides helping you
understand your jobs better, active consumption of the the Social Web can help
you understand customers better.  It can help us engage with our customers in a
multi-faceted way that can leave them delighted with our brands and with us as
people.  Positive word-of-mouth is the holy grail as far as the Internet is
concerned and together we can create an incredible impact.

A quick example – Say
somebody tweets me on Twitter saying 'Makaan.com is not showing listings for
Mumbai'. Before I can retweet, Saif from Makaan.com dev tweets back saying
'looking into it', after 10 minutes Aditya tweets back saying it was a minor bug
but is up and running now.  I then end by retweeting, thanking the person who
made us aware for the feedback.  Turns out the customer has 2000 followers and
so tweets my message which eventually ends up reaching 50,000 people though the
various networks associated with his networks.  This delights a handful of
people and prompts them to send us suggestions to improve Makaan.com. What a
wonderful virtuous cycle!
  But not possible unless you love the

Think about the
above and you can see where I am going.  I can give you countless ways in which
we can get ahead of competition and stay there, if only we walk our talk.  So,
if you are a field employee or a senior exec and you do not use push email or
the mobile Internet you should be wondering if you are becoming irrelevant.  If
you are in PR and you are not obsessively active on the social web you are
already becoming irrelevant.  If you are in Mauj Mobile and you are not
downloading a couple of applications or content a week, you are perhaps far
removed from understanding our business.  If you are in Shaadi.com and you are not logging into the site regulary, you probably often find yourself coming up with
ideas that are not accepted.  I could go on and on and on but you get the
To preempt what you
are now thinking – when will we do our jobs if we waste our time on the
that is no excuse.  You have to find time.  You  have to
integrate it into your lives.  You have to substitute it for other media. 
You have to fill your empty moments with it.  People many times more
accomplished and busier than us are doing the same and they are doing it for a
reason …. because it is the biggest change we will see in our
I encourage all of
you to actively use the Social Web, Smart Phones, Applications, Downloads,
Vertical Searches and the like.  However, find ways of controlling it, don't let
it control you.  It must complement your job, not take away from it.  I realize
it will be a struggle initially but I know you will get a hold of it.  There's
millions of people already doing it effectively.
An Internet & Mobile

Countdown to Copenhagen

In less than 2 weeks Copenhagen will determine the fate of the planet. It is good to see that 3 of the world's largest polluter's – USA, China and India showing signs of constructive action. Personally, I believe that India should be as seen as leader in driving the climate change agenda as opposed to somebody who needs to be put in line. Pachuary delivering the opening speech should certainly raise our profile.

And You Thought The Worst Was Over

I started the year cheering ‘may the best of our past be the worst of our future’, fully
convinced that it could not get worse than 2008.  It seems that everybody I spoke to had
experienced some sort of personal tragedy in 2008.  As if that were not enough, the world itself
seemed to have gone through quite a tumultuous year – worst recession since the
great depression, oil at unprecedented levels, a food crisis and finally the
Mumbai tragedy – as if to say, this is as bad as it’s going to get.  So, with renewed vigour and hope, I looked
out at the 2009 expanse from the rapidly closing 2008 window, and imagined how
wonderful my life would be – The new year would bring with it new opportunities,
new people, new dreams and perhaps the simple passing of time would simply
erase all my troubles.  But 3 weeks into
the new year and I realize that life is not that simple. New problems have come


Raju ban gaya gentleman

 Suddenly, corporate India’s biggest scamster seems to
have found a conscience.  By grudgingly admitting
to a multi-year multi-billion dollar fraud he seems to think that he has done
the country a favor.   I personally think
that he has single-handedly eroded all the business credibility that this
nation had built over the last 20 years. 
The only industry in India where ‘quality’ was not a concern and which, through its ripple effects, lifted
the country and its people to a higher plateu, is now being looked upon
suspiciously. A shame really.


Whose land is it anyway?

 When I used to hear the word strip (no, I didn’t take my
clothes off) I used to think of  Las Vegas – the playground
for adults.  These days Gaza comes to mind.  Rather unfortunate that 2009 started with renewed
warfare and an end to the cease fire.  As
long as I can remember, the Hamas and Israelis have been at each other’s
throats.  Somewhere along the way most
people, perhaps even them, have lost track of what they are fighting for.  While 2008 offered some hope, 2009 has
brought an abrupt end to any resolution.


Oil’s not well

 Up or down, oil seems to be at the core of this world’s
problems.  At $140 per barrel it was
driving non-oil producing nations into bankruptcy.  At $40 per barrel, it is affecting the huge
sovereign wealth funds of oil producing nations which, many expected, would
finance the world out of a global recession. 
In India,
if oil subsidies don’t bankrupt us strikes by unions at the oil companies


Let’s see what Feb and March have in store.

The truth spelt backwards

An opinion on the Satyam fiasco –

RAM, bam, thank you
, that’s the feeling I got when I read RAM Raju’s letter to his board
and shareholders admitting guilt in a multi-year multi-billion dollar fraud
that many people are calling the “Enron of India’.  While they will be pleased that we now go
down in the history books with a corporate scandal of a magnitude that puts us
at par with the USA, (we seem to be obsessed with one-upmanship with the
rapidly decaying super-power of the world – what else can explain names like
Bollywood, India’s 9/11, and now Enron of India) that is not the point of this
commentary.  The point is that even in
his letter, while Ram seemingly said sorry, it was anything but
apologetic.  If anything the letter was
extremely clinical.  One could even say
it was arrogant – I did what I had to do,
I tried my best to cover it up, the problem is that there was no way to
continue hiding things, I am still not going to tell you exactly what happened,
now go ahead and do what you have to
– is how I read the letter.  Here is what appears to have happened –

Cooking the books

Mr. Ramalinga Raju claimed that his crime was that he cooked
his company’s books to overstate the health of the company’s earnings and
balance sheet as he was afraid of getting off the proverbial tiger.  This coming from a man, who only a few months
back, in September 2008 on an interview on NDTV spoke at length about Satyam’s
beliefs and his personal principles.  He
discussed the word Satyam’s origins (his father’s name and the Sanskrit term
meaning truth) and how his company and its management tried to reflect the very
etymology of the word.  This was the same
month that Satyam won the Golden Peacock Global Award for excellence in
corporate governance – an international award conferred on companies that
follow best practices as far as company administration is concerned.  Mr. Raju himself won the coveted Ernst &
Young entrepreneur of the year award in 2007.  How did a company exalted for such high levels
of conduct and one who’s leadership seemed to represent the highest values that
mankind can strive for, go from corporate halls of fame to a shameful existence
within 3 months? 

I think that the plot is a lot more sinister than Mr. Raju
would have us believe.  Rather than a
victim of circumstances of a dog-eat-dog world, Mr. Raju seems to epitomize
what our country is quickly becoming – a culturally and morally bankrupt
society.  Like many in this country Mr.
Raju probably got ahead of himself at some point and started believing that
reality was simply what he wanted it to be. 
He figured that wrong or right was less about absolutes and more about
perception.  The biggest sin was getting
caught and with the kind of power he wielded – in Andhra Pradesh at least –
getting caught was perhaps not probable. 
However, the global economy was something beyond his control and the
effects of the meltdown soon came looking for victims in india, of which Mr. Raju is the
first but certainly not the last.  Essentially,
Mr. Raju got caught in a vicious cycle of downward spiraling real-estate prices
and a stock market that could not find the bottom.


Bending the truth

What we have been told so far is that Mr. Raju has not
profited from this accounting scandal and all he was trying to do was to build
value for shareholders of the company most of who were regular everyday people
and institutions.  In fact Mr. Raju and
other promoters held only 8% of the entire shareholding of the company. What
incentive would he then have to engineer such a massive fraud?  There are 2 assumptions here 1) people
conduct frauds only for money  2) what
Mr. Raju is telling us is the truth. 
Both seem faulty.  History tells
us that power and competition is a much more heady cocktail than wealth can
ever be and perhaps it is this very intoxication that lead Mr. Raju on the same
path that many a great men have been tempted down.

Secondly, I don’t believe we are being told the truth.  In fact we may never know the entire
truth.  However, for whatever it is
worth, I believe that Mr. Raju siphoned off the funds to fund his real-estate
ventures.  I believe that the massive
land acquisitions, which put Mr. Raju and his companies, amongst some of the
largest landlords in this country, were made, at least in part, from funds
generated by Satyam.  Let me be clear – I
have no evidence to suggest the same.  My
claim is simply an opinion.  However, if
one looks at Mr.Raju’s track record one finds enough evidence to suggest a man
who liked living on the corporate edge. 
This is not the first time that he has tried to divert Satyam’s money to
other companies held by him.  In the late
1990’s there was some attempt to invest in Satyam Constructions.  In fact over the last decade Mr. Raju has
flirted with several investments and companies that were actually not
completely thought through, questionable or simply bad business decisions.  I believe that a deeper probe will reveal not
only embezzlement of funds but also the involvement of political personalities
and other corporate honchos that could raise many questions about the health of
our much venerated corporate sector. 


Skeletons abound

 As we learn more and more about what actually transpired at
Satyam, I think we will find evidence of a crime that has long been in the
making.  Further, it cannot be one
person’s doing.  Crimes of this magnitude
can simply not be committed by one person. 
Not only are there more people within the organization that are fully in
the know, there are several powerful individuals outside the company who were
hand-in-glove.  As much as we like to
think that the real-estate industry in this country is now professionalized and
corporatized, nothing could be farther from the truth.  In reality, it is still an industry
characterized by cash deals, political favors, muscle tactics, and vague
legislation.  The Satyam fiasco will
ideally expose some of the under-belly of this sector in our industry.

 Along with the real estate industry, hopefully this tragedy
will put into question regulatory bodies such as SEBI and what their role
should be, accounting companies such as Price Waterhouse and where their responsibilities
lie, as well as banks and what their duties are.  How is it possible that one company over 7
years managed to release accounting statements that were fictitious, get them
approved by their audit firm and get TDS certificates for interest earned on
assets from their bank to validate the same?

The Satyam scandal points to a nexus of profiteers who
believe that the rules don’t apply to them. 
It points to bribes, illegitimate favors, coercion, forgery, theft, and
perhaps many other crimes by corporate india, politicians, and the
bureaucracy.  I expect that over the next few weeks many organizations in
corporate india will be exposed for what they really are – a set of cooked books, ponzi
schemes, and hollow transactions.  (Note – Look for
at least 1 company in the broadband sector and 1 in the media sector as well as
a couple more in real-estate


The new husband

 Ram Mynampati is the guy now in charge.  I don’t know much about him but my only
question is – why wasn’t there a criminal case filed by him and his team
against Raju immediately after he took over as interim CEO?  Why did they assume what Mr. Raju was saying
was the truth?  What, if in fact, Raju
has siphoned off funds?  Wasn’t it his
responsibility to protect the assets of the company and consequently make sure
that Raju and consequently the funds don’t disappear?


Booking the cooks

 There is an ongoing debate on Mr. Raju’s ultimate
plight.  While Mr. Harish Salve thinks – that India is god’s country and nobody
goes to prison here
– there are many others who believe that the law of the
land will prevail and that Mr. Raju will pay a price for his crimes.  I side with the latter.  However, for different reasons –

Mr. Raju will be brought to task not because he committed a
crime or got caught.  He will pay the
price because he got caught at a time that citizen activism is the highest in
the country.  He will serve time because
he got caught just before elections – the current government cannot afford to
let the opposition use this as a campaign tool.  He will face consequences as there are too
many important people who could get caught in the cross-fire.  He is better ‘kept quiet’ behind bars or in
other ways that we will soon discover.

If not for the above I would have agreed with Mr. Salve
except with a slight modification – This is
god’s country, nobody goes to prison here, they only become celebrities.

Finally, in Mr. Raju’s defense, perhaps he is not entirely
to blame.  We should have seen this
coming when he christened his real-estate companies  MAYTAS – the truth spelled backwards.

I have a few questions …

Dec 13th – Almost 3 weeks have passed since the
attacks in Mumbai and I still find myself restless.  It feels as if it was yesterday and I can’t
seem to shake the images off.  There are
so many questions.  They just don’t stop

 Why did the fire at Taj take so long to put out?  Why wasn’t there a sense of urgency amongst
the firemen?  Why weren’t there dozens of
firemen heading into the Taj as opposed to 
2 standing on the ladder and helping
one person out at a time?  I saw 500
firemen run into the WTC on 9/11 and as many cops within 10 minutes of the first
crash – What happened to our guys?  Are we really that gutless?

 Within hours of the attacks taking place how was a civilian
like me allowed to break 3 security cordons and go to the Taj and the Oberoi? Why
did all the different security outfits look completely confused?  Why did they not seem to be in control?  Why did they not seem alert? Is their job toTaj fire
simply be present at the scene? Why wasn’t there one person coordinating the
entire effort?  Why didn’t we have any
information about what was going on? Why was the effort so chaotic? Why do our
security heads believe that keeping us in the dark is the best way to handle
such situations?  Why do they manipulate
every news item that comes out?  Why are
we only hearing stories about number of lives that were actually saved?  Why are we giving out 5 lacs for showing up
at the target site and 10 lacs for firing a bullet at the terrorists? Why do
they think we do not realize the truth?  Do they know the truth?

 Why were the 20 something reporters checking their
makeup?  Why were they calling friends
and asking if the sentences they were framing were grammatically correct since
this was their big chance and they wanted to get it ‘absolutely right?  Why were they asking foreigners if they would
come back to visit our country?  Why did
they look so excited?  Why did they seem that
as far as their careers were concerned this is as good as it was going to get?
Why do the interviewers speak more than the people being interviewed?  Why we projecting what we want to hear as
opposed to listening? Why do the anchors in the studio insist upon using the
word ‘exclusive’ in every sentence?  Do
we really care?  Do the media remember what their job really is?

 Why is our opposition leader referred to as prime-minister-in-waiting?  Why couldn’t he help himself from making
comments such as ‘the administration has failed and will need to provide
answers’?  Why did he think that it was
more important to let people know his schedule and why he has decided to not
visit Mumbai right away?  Why did he not
provide us with leadership, facts, and assurances?  Why did he not say something that brought us
together as human beings as opposed to dividing us L K Advani
based on political
affiliations?  Is it more important for
us to know how many times he has spoken to the prime minister or is it more
assuring to know what the government is doing to take charge of the
situation?  When did he become an expert
on terrorism activities?  What right does
he have to make wild claims, within hours, on which outfit was responsible for
these attacks without the right data and analysis?  How can an individual who single-handedly
gave terrorism a platform in this country – by destroying the Babri Masjid – be
our only leadership option?  How come our
streets are riddled with hoardings, posters and pictures of politicians take
credit for everything from our GDP growth to the death of the terrorists?  Why do political parties have free license to
disfigure our city?  Why don’t they pay,
like the rest of us, if they wish to use our outdoor media? Are we ok with
having our country run on personal feelings, whims and fancies? Who
are these people running our country and where did they come from?

 Why is the only inspiring Indian leader not of Indian
origin?  Why does our prime ministerManmohan Singh cari not
speak with the same passion that he did when he was finance minister?  Where is the man, who through his poetic and
arousing budget speeches in the parliament gave us reason to believe that
change was

possible?   Is he so caught up
in his politics that he has forgotten his mission?  Has he lost sight of the millions of Indians
who had our hopes pinned upon a new India when he came into
office?  Yes, we want a prime minister
who has a squeaky clean reputation; Yes, we want somebody who can take tough
stands; Yes, the man should be able to propel our nation forward; But more than
ever we need somebody who can move us.
 Somebody who can inspire us.  Somebody who speaks
to us from the heart.  Somebody we can relate to.  Somebody who can unite us.  Somebody we can have faith in.  Will the real Manmohan Singh please stand

Why do we make up stuff when asked questions by the
media?  Why do we feel compelled to smile
when a camera is in front of us even if people are dying behind us?  Why do we go about our daily lives without
answers to questions that deserve answers?  Why do we have such little value for human life? Why are we
so quick to take credit and so eager to blame? Why does somebody else’s success
make us so miserable? Why do we try to pass off somebody else’s work as our
own?  Why do we try to take ownership of
things that are not ours or credit for things we did not do?  Why do we behave so sneaky?  Why are we always trying to see what we can
‘get away’ with?  When did we lose our
sincerity?  Why do we always try to cut
the line we are standing in?  Why are we
willful to the point that we use words and sentences not for what they actually
mean but for what we want them to mean? 
Why do we always see things the way we want to see them as opposed to
what they actually are?  Why do we lie so
much?  Have we become completely spineless?

What action did our ex-Chief Minister taken in the last few
years?  Has anyone ever seen a bead of
worry on his forehead?  Why does he
always appear like he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar?  How does he sleep at night? Why do our
politicians feel that their job is to win elections and that their work ends
when they get into office?  Shouldn’t
their work start when they join office?  Why
does it seem like being in office is the celebration for fighting the election?
Why is being ‘in position’ the most important thing for us?  Isn’t being ‘in position’ the beginning and
not the end?  Do you ever get the feeling
that most people in this country are simply ‘getting in position’? Is there anybody left to take action?

What concrete steps have been taken since the crimes
occurred?  Yes, a couple of politicians
have lost their ‘positions’ but will that lead to any good or are they simply
being replaced by people who had also, at some point, lost their
‘positions’.  Does it feel like we are on
a merry-go-round?  Why have we still not
been given one single comprehensive view on what exactly happened?  Has a complete internal security plan been
presented before the people of this country? Have we been told how the victim’s
families should come to terms with this? 
What are we doing to make sure that people did not lose their lives in
vain?  Were they just collateral
damage?  Why can’t we have a cross-party task force to address all the issues
completely, cohesively, and quickly.  Where is our sense of duty that will ensure
that this never happens again?

I could go on and on and on because no matter how hard I try
the questions just don’t stop.  In the   
end, perhaps there is just one question that matters – What next?

                                                                Question mark