Thank You, Uncle Pai

The creator of Amar Chitra Katha and Tinke, ‘Uncle’ Anant Pai, passed away last week.

My earliest memories of my childhood include going out with my parents to buy ACK every fortnight. I had every comic that was published, and still have most of them. ACK was how many of my generation learnt about Indian history, culture and mythology. Tinkle came when I was much older, and so never stuck the same chord that ACK had. Now, Supandi’s antics delight another generation – 6-year-old Abhishek.

When I launched IndiaWorld in March 1995, we had a special section for a few ACK comics. That was the time I met Uncle Pai, and he most graciously agreed to let us put the comics on the website. I met him many more times after that, and was always touched by his enthusiasm and humility. His was a life well-lived.

Thank You, Uncle Pai.

Blog Past: Neighbourhood Action Committees

From a post a year ago:

One idea I have been thinking about recently has been that of Neighbourhood Action Committees (NACs).

These will be apolitical and based on volunteering. They will focus on making the neighbourhood better across the country, especially in urban India. This means ensuring delivery of local services, working to solve local problems, creating citizen activism.This idea came up because the weakest link in the governance chain in India is the delivery of local services. The neighbourhood is where we all live and where we also have the greatest angst and frustrations.

What we need to create a society which starts to think and solve its own problems at the local level. Governance is weak in India, and to strengthen it needs work at the lowest level. We need to show people how to self-organise, how to create proposals, conduct meetings, debate issues and arrive at decisions, and finally get action done.

People should be able to help out in the NACs with as little as an hour or two a week. They can use the Web and mobile to help inform, educate and organise.

Weekend Reading

This week’s links:

Why? – Part 5

What I have written this week can be seen as a rant. It is the rant of a frustrated Indian who sees the future slipping away. It is the rant of a citizen who would like to act but doesn’t know where to start and what to do.

There is a way out. Three generations of apathy, bad economic policies and collective stupidity have brought us here. But, a generation of hard work can change the course of our nation. It will require some of us to sacrifice professional careers and thriving businesses to take up a cause that is the most important challenge facing us – rebuilding our nation.

We need to create an India that is not just rich and developed, but also one where nationalism and good character reigns in its citizens. We have lost out on the 20- and 30-somethings. But the young and those yet to be born are the ones which are our hope. Some of us have to rise above the ordinariness of daily life so we can build a nation our children are proud of.

Why? – Part 4

The Whys can continue. The unfortunate part is that while the answers are there, we refuse to see them. Corruption has become a way of life. Breaking the rules and benefiting from patronage when caught on the wrong side of the law becomes a way of life. We don’t blame others because we would act the same way had we been in that situation.

It has taken less than three generations since Independence for the degeneration of the moral character of a nation. A nation is made of its people and its leadership reflects the collective will of the people. It is little surprise that we find ourselves in the situation that we do.

The nation is in steep descent. We are slowly getting desensitized to scams. And that will be the last straw. After that, there are only two paths – either we become a complete banana republic where no one cares about loots and scams anywhere, or a few rebel and work to bring about radical change.

Continued tomorrow.

Why? – Part 3

Why did India not become a fully literate nation within 15 years of Independence? Who kept India illiterate? Why didn’t they realise that all it takes is to educate one generation and they will in turn educate the next? Why did we not realise that not being educated subjects you to a life worse than death?

Why don’t we realise that our own leaders waged a war against our own people – a war that they fought with the tools of illiteracy and perpetual planned poverty? Why don’t we hold our leaders guilty of ‘war’ crimes? Why do we keep trusting descendents of a single family which has no qualifications to run the affairs of our country?

Why is it that we don’t even have time to think about these matters? Why don’t we want to know? Why don’t we realise we are living under a British Raj 2.0? Why do we fool ourselves that we are in democracy when we really are in a kakistocracy – a government by the most corrupt and least principled?

Continued tomorrow.

Why? – Part 2

Why is that we have some very good Chief Ministers but they inevitably never make it to the Centre? Why is it that good governance is possible in some states although the bureaucracy is nearly the same across all states? Why is that some states still languish? Why is that the voters in those laggard states still keep electing the same incompetent people again and again?

Why has India suffered from singularly bad political leadership for the most part through the past 60+ years? Why is it that we don’t realise who is responsible for the sad state of affairs? Why is it that even after every institution has been corrupted we still refuse to feel outraged?

Why is that we don’t think of our children? Why cannot we decide to bequeath a rich, developed country to our children? Why can’t we make India rich in a generation?

Continued tomorrow.

Why? – Part 1

Why are we surprised when Manmohan Singh messes up his press conference? Why did we expect anything better? When will we change our frame of reference that he is despicably dishonest? Raja may have looted the nation along with many other Ministers, but who let them get on with the looting? Who turned the proverbial blind eye to serve his High Command? Why did he do it?

Why did we expect anything better? Why do people continue to believe that he’s “honest”? Why did we not change our frame of reference and see that if we start with the assumption that he is not honest, all his action fits to a T?

Why does our country have to suffer the government we have? Why don’t we care more? Why are we dishonest as a collective? Why are we like this only?

Continued tomorrow.

Blog Past: Talking to Others to Clarify to Self

From a post a year ago:

Over time, I have learnt not to worry about the success rate of meetings – new opportunities creation requires many meetings, and one should not aim for a 100% success ratio….As I put forth my ideas to people I met, I also found me talking to myself. Each meeting helped refine some element of what I was proposing – either via a question that was asked, a comment that was made, or a criticism that was voiced. I like that approach of building up ideas because one can only do so much in a vacuum.

Too often, we end up with a very narrow perspective because we don’t tend to meet people with experiences and cultures very different from our own.

Weekend Reading

This week’s links:

  • Can India lead the mobile internet revolution? from McKinsey Quarterly. “The country could become the world’s first truly mobile digital society. But grasping the opportunity requires unprecedented cooperation between the private and public sectors.”
  • Finding the Next Big Thing: An interview with Any Kessler.
  • What’s your Founder Superpower? by David Beisel.”Just like various superheroes have different superpowers, so do entrepreneurs – but all of them give them the ability to perform superhuman tasks.”
  • India’s Food Situation: from New York Times. “Four decades after the Green Revolution seemed to be solving India’s food problems, nearly half of Indian children age 5 or younger are malnourished. And soaring food prices, a problem around the world, are especially acute in India.”
  • A National Character Flaw: by Atanu Dey. “The fact that India is a desperately poor country points squarely to the fact that Indians must be collectively myopically selfish. If it were otherwise, India would have been a very prosperous country. Prosperity is an indicator of character — be it an individual or a collective.”