Friday, December 6, 2013

Life, time and growth: fuzzy definintions

Three short poems taken out of archives. At least for me, these look even more relevant now than fifteen years back when I composed them.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

River, this!

This river

This river 
Lost her banks 
And thought
She was an ocean.

Till she found
A shore.

His name on river water

His name he wrote
On the river
Sure to find it there
The next time.

When he visited her again,
The river had changed
Her water.
On new water,
The name was still etched 

Until he opened his eyes.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Who am I?

Delicate in, tough out,
 Easily ruffled,

Mostly in single colour,
 In shades of black and silver grey,

Obsolete, irrelevant
 After a short prime,

Laden with a drive,
 That drives nothing now.

Who am I?


I am the a: drive!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sachins and non-Sachins

A Sachin has to leave the field
For others,
After two-hundred test centuries.

Sachins are role-models,
Ultra successful,

Millions of non-Sachins,
Must quit on a muted pitch,
Having lived by singles
And ducks
And hopes and despairs in between,
But no sixes.

I feel like embracing each of them -
The non-Sachins,
Who has played a fair game
Without longing for a century,
And celebrate a failure
In his moment of quitting.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My dad

We two in the room -
Me and my dad;
I, playing with toys,
He, with nothing.

I look at the balloons

Left hanging high from my first b’day.
Longing for them,
I call out dad.
He looks at me, at balloons,

I climb the chair, the table,

Hold wall, reach a balloon,
Which slips away from my finger.
I look below to be sure
That my toys are safe.
Dad, I find, as cruel as ever,

Determined to pluck one,

I climb the pile of books on table.
A book slides, my feet spin.
Hands leave the wall, legs shiver.
I shriek at balloons
Frolicking at my helplessness,
Until it’s all dark and quiet.

It is bright again.

Don’t know how,
I am in dad’s lap
With all balloons tied to my wrists.
Dad is smiling!

Rough translation of 'Mere Bappu'

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Governements and social media

This article was published in the Indian Journal of Public Administration. Ref: Pandey, Manoj. IJPA, vol. LIX, no.2 (April-June 2013)
by Manoj Pandey*
Summary: Media has traditionally been helpful in government communication, but has mostly remained one-directional. Social media, with its limitless possibilities of engagement with people, can transcend communication barriers and help governments bring in transparency in administration, reach people, elicit their participation and deliver services. Constraints such as poor literacy and low internet penetration in developing countries can be overcome, provided governments change their mindset from one-way communication to engaging citizens as valuable stake-holders.

In democratic systems of governance, media enjoys a very high status because of its role as a watchdog over the three pillars of democracy – the legislature, the judiciary and the executive.
 The media also plays another important role, that of an intermediary between the government and the people. In this role, the media becomes the purveyor of information, facilitator, exposer, aggregator of people’s opinions and people’s advocate.  It informs people of the government’s good work; it reports on achievements as well failings of the public delivery systems; it analyses social, economic and political issues; it generates and supports debate on government initiatives and policies; it  provides feedback on public perception of an elected government’s performance; and so on. It also helps non-governmental actors in the society communicate with the people and the government. By doing so, the media acts as an active participant in the socio-economic development of the nation.
The media has been evolving over the years in terms of reach as well as engagement with people. As the governments felt a greater need to reach people and engage with them, the media was there in its expanding roles.
Till a century back, the focus of government communication was on publicity of its activities and achievements. It slowly turned more utilitarian, mostly in the developing countries - informing the targeted beneficiaries of welfare schemes about the facilities being created and how to use them.
The mass media – print media, radio and television - obviously was the primary vehicle for spreading information on developmental activities. Other tools of communication such as outdoor media (e.g. hoardings and banners), mass mailing of publicity material and reaching people directly (inter-personal communication) were used to supplement the mainstream media for reaching messages to the people. Simultaneously, new ideas emerged in the development communication scene, such as educating people about how to make use of the facilities created for them (i.e. IEC), advocacy, behaviour change communication, social marketing and engaging communities in development. However, these stayed localised and project-based.
Advent of ICT and social media

Saturday, July 13, 2013

When a snow flake would seed rain clouds

An old poem, pasted on a hostel wall-paper 30 years ago, suddenly came alive in my memory. Does the dreamy heart-ache make sense today?

हे प्रिय,
तू मेरे अंतर में
बस जाना
हिम-कण बन के,

मेरे उर में उमड़ेंगे
दो घन सावन के. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Being a boss's favorite

I was discussing with a friend how some officers always seem to be in good books of bosses and get good confidential report entries year after year. Here I am expanding upon the wisdom that I derived from the discussion so that others may benefit from it. Let me beforehand declare that this piece is not meant to hurt those who are bosses’ darlings despite not following the wisdom.

1.       Bosses continue to lose the capacity to judge others’ characters, and this incapacitation occurs in exponential terms when a boss  becomes big boss and then the top boss. Keep this always in mind in dealing with the boss.
2.       Behave like his / her best chamcha in the world. Gifts are OK but don’t ignore greeting gestures. For example, male subordinates in Delhi can try bending their body at the waist (even if back pain) and pretending  to touch male boss’s  knee. In UP, Bihar and nearby states, it helps to say pranam instead of namaste or good morning. Never use hi, hello or similar other western salutations. For female subordinates, it helps to offer the female boss a broad smile and compliment for her beauty or dress sense (even if it is n’th time for the same item or style). Helping the female boss in getting a vanity item helps too, even if it involves making a tour programme with her. There are great cross-gender gestures but I have other tips to give and space is limited.
3.       Gestures matter in other situations too. Open door for him; sit only after he has sat and you have made the condescending gesture of pushing the chair under him;  be in the airport if he’s arriving in your city on an official / unofficial trip – better if you can reach the tarmac.
4.       Closely notice the boss’s likes and dislikes. Illustrate your liking and dislike for those things by deeds, especially when he has had a few drinks in a party. Your deeds can take many forms, e.g. if he likes pan-masala, keep one can in pocket and offer him whenever you meet him; if she dislikes cockroaches, kill an imaginary roach in her room with a file when she’s busy on her phone.  
5.       Never say no. Say yes and then forget doing the job. If the job cannot be forgotten, do it half-heartedly and present the output in such a way that the boss feels obliged.
6.       Backbite. It helps in many ways. You are seen as a confidant (How? Refer to point 1 above) and other guys are suspected.
7.       Beseech. Meet the boss often just before children’s summer holidays if you intend to take them to the hills. After not doing much throughout the year, be seen in the crucial one month ( e.g. just before submitting CR form to him or asking for leave) to be working hard. 
8.       Tell lies. Truth never triumphs, whatever Kathopnishad might say. Request him to give you an outstanding CR entry as your next promotion is due (though it may be far yet). Make excuses for not delivering but don’t repeat them in succession. For leave, don’t say, you have an urgent work; say, so and so in your distant relationship is serious. Better still, say, you have to donate blood to him. Keep a few lies always in hand; never know, when you’d need them suddenly.
9.       Dramatise. If late in office (and you can often be), tell in graphic details how you were almost killed by a speeding SUV or that you had not seen such a long jam in your life or that you had a stomach ache that made your viscera come to your mouth or … Try to cook up an interesting story but if you can’t (all don’t have very high IQ, I know), at least put a lot of hyperboles in the excuse.

I’ll stop here. My advice is gender neutral in case of boss as well as subordinate, and whenever the word ‘he’ comes, it means ‘she’ too unless it has an inappropriate connotation.

See how different traits progress as a guy goes up the ladder
(Btw, green line shows idealism and leadership qualities.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

God created a donkey...

God created a donkey. Quite satisfied with his creation he sent one copy to the jungle and retained another in his workshop to work further on it. 
When God found free time, He removed the animal’s hoofs, gave him a flexible palm and topped it with jointed fingers. The moment God released the animal, he climbed the nearest fruit tree and threw a half-eaten fruit on God’s head. God realized his mistake but as per his self-imposed protocol, he could not have taken the privilege back from the animal. So he cajoled him to climb down and sit before him. 
The moment the animal sat there, God pounced upon him and gave him a strong shot of anesthesia  To teach him a lesson, God cut his ears and to disable his power to climb trees, cut his tail. But God didn't want to waste these organs, and so he stuffed these into the animal’s head. He removed a few bones from the animal’s spine and a few muscles from his belly, plucked some hair from his neck and made him recline against the tree. Now the animal could sit under the tree on his back legs. 
 Quite proud of his new creation, God thought of putting wings too on him next to his forearms. Sure that the animal would not come to senses soon, God went to the store to look for a pair of wings that He had kept as an extra copy of the ones He had put on birds. But when God came back, he found the animal missing. He searched for him everywhere but couldn't find him. 
 Ages later, when God was fed up with the earth and had permanently left for his home in the heaven, the animal came out from the cave that he had made his shelter. He sat on the seat where God used to sit. He proclaimed himself God. God never returned to see his tail-less creature; dare he?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A homo sighted in a mirror in Delhi; disappears on turning head!

 A homo was sighted by a blogger in his Delhi house mirror, but the catch was, it disappeared the moment he moved his gaze away. 
 Well, this is not a story on a news-entertainment channel with a morphed video and commentary of doomsday arriving with the sighting of Halloween images on clouds. It is a true sighting, and could have been captured if the reporter had a camera at that time. 
 The blogger says, he cannot claim to have been the first; in fact, such sightings are supposed to have been in millions over the ages, but are seldom reported in this clear manner. And for this courage, this report may give the blogger the coveted ‘blogger of the year’ award, and the report may go viral on social media. When contacted, the blogger said he was busy typing a blog post on the subject. 
 What is a homo? Right question, though slightly wrong in placement. The blogger says, it has nothing gay in it. Then what? The expression was used in the 19th century to describe certain types of primates – animals who stood on two feet and had a big brain and a sense of emotions. Well, scientists love to call the orang-utan and chimpanzee a homo. Homos of  the type seen by the blogger are the deadliest of them and are supposed to have not evolved for ages, at least not since the 19th century scientists gave them the name. Their habits seem to have undergone a change every few years but for the worse, so much so that over 90% of their population is supposed to be suffering from one or the other ailment. These homos live in societies; initially their colonies were just groups, then they seemed like colonies of honeybees and have now turned into rapacious ones like those of African marching ants. If you are a woman, you’d dread to roam at night with a homo of this type around you. Not like a tiger or a croc who’d attack you to fulfill his carnivorous needs, this breed of homo can attack just for the fun of it.
 Coming back to the sighting. The blogger reports that as soon as he woke up, he wiped his eyes, opened the window to ensure it was morning, and went to the mirror. He looked into it and there was the homo in it. He’d seen the creature before too, but he realized the importance of the sighting this morning only because he’d found on the web the previous night that the one he'd just seen in the mirror is called Homo sapiens sapiens, the most evolved of the homos!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Snatch from me, can you?

Your eye’s set on my nest, I know,
From the first grass blade
To the hay-yarn I’ve just twined.

I can sense
Your constant gaze,
Your threat to sweep away the nest,
Shadow of your blood-thirsty claws.

You will eventually succeed, I know.

When I breathe my last
I will have pain - seeing the death of my toil;
And joy - as come alive the smells
Of the unwinding after each trip for grass,
Of the content that each weave brought.

Mortal are a weaver bird and his little nest,
And you, inevitable.
But listen,
My unfinished nest is not just my lust for life;
It is a proof of creation,
That has happened.

Snatch from me, can you,
What I have lived up?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Talking of advertisements

I was provoked to write this small piece on design… Provoked by the discussion on an advertisement I was witness to this week. 
I just draw your attention to four aspects that we are likely to ignore: 

First, the space. You cannot fill all the space of a page layout or an advertisement, thinking that you are able to say more in the same amount spent. If that were the case, the Google homepage would not be that clean but be cluttered with advertisements, if not other content! 

Second, the flow of lines. Don’t the lines going up and to the right denote growth vis-à-vis those in opposite direction? Plants grow tall, children grow ‘up’, sun rises, charts depict higher values up and right… Then, why do we place arrows going from right to left and steps going down when in an ad graphic we try to depict growth? 

Third, colour. No lecture on the theory of colours. Let me just let you imagine what looks vibrant to you. Don’t we find flowers and freshly rain-soaked leaves more lively than mud and dirty foliage? Don’t plump babies with pink cheeks look more full of life than their malnourished counterparts or the aged? Then why do we use so much of dark shades, especially blue and grey [as in gentlemen’s formal jackets] while projecting good times? 

Fourth, symbolism. Do we need to always put a beard on a face to say it is a Muslim face, or Himachali cap on a head to tell it’s the head of a hill guy? When talking of a diverse and peaceful India, do we need to put oft-repeated icons of the four main faiths of India? Why do we insist on hackneyed symbols or icons when we need to give a universal message? Even a niche ad need not carry symbols that give a narrow / uncharitable tag to racial / religious / regional identities, isn’t it?

Monday, January 14, 2013


3rd January, 2357

This page of my diary is going to be very different from others. It is on this day last month that I had seen the face of my grandfather the last time and I have been missing him all along. So depressed had I been that I did not write my ‘daily’ diary for a full month.

I won’t be able to forget grandpa even if all my organs are changed, including my brain. Let me mention here that concepts about humans are changing fast after the first full brain transplant two years ago. We have long achieved sort of immortality thanks to in-situ cloning of organs, organ transplants and what not. The concept of being a grandfather, even a father, has almost lost its meaning. Yet, only if you had suffered the loss of your grandfather – or grandmother if you were lucky to have seen one – would you realize their value in your lives.

Till the last moment of his life, grandpa was active like a child. Part of this energy, I am sure, he had regained from our child Coxy. He would play with her all the day till he and the child went to bed together early in the evening. He would tell her his real life experiences of the world he had lived in over two centuries ago and which Coxy often refused to believe.

Unlike others of his times, grandpa had decided to let scientists experiment cryo hibernation and resurrection on him. His only condition was that when he was made ‘alive’ again after two hundred years, he should be allowed to live as a normal human being and no experiments done on his body. He wanted to live naturally – as an old man of seventy years plus.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Is today's media accountable? For whom?

India has perhaps the largest number of news channels, airing news, entertainment and 'entertaining news' day and night. The print media has also been in good shape in India, as against the global trend. To add to this information regime, various forms of new media have arisen, some changing the very concept of 'the press' or 'mass media'.  Questions have often been raised about media's accountability.
In the paper reproduced below, I have tried to analyse how much accountable does the present day media is and should be, and for whom.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My moment

My moment was etched
In the clay that would last
A lifetime of creation.

I borrowed scales,
I set alarms,
I grieved, wished, anticipated,

I did measure
My part of my moment:
Hours, days, years...
The units that the clay
Had ignored to engrave.

from Blog Surf [2008]

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tell me, ghost

I'm impressed
With your relentless toil the whole night.

Your collecting bricks from the ruins,
Scooping pyre-baked earth
From the river bank,*
Carrying water in leaking palm-cups.

It's nearing dawn.
Take some rest and tell me,
The expansive funeral ground
Is all there for you.
For whom are you erecting
This rickety wall?

*: Traditionally, Hindus have been cremating their dead ones on the banks of rivers.

English rendition of Bhoot [2010]

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Communication for development: a much-ignored tool for public participation

How much do the beneficiaries of various developmental / welfare schemes know about these schemes? Even if they know about them, is the information relevant and actionable? 

My argument is that if we weave communication in developmental and welfare schemes, we'll get greater  public participation and better implementation of these schemes. My article written sometime back in a popular mag emphasises this.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013