Showing posts with label China. Show all posts
Showing posts with label China. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Open Letter to Anupam Kher: I Come in Peace


Anupam Kher at the Tata Literature Fest (Image: Huffington Post)



“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” 
George Orwell 

Dear Mr. Kher,

Like many of my peers I grew up seeing you grace our screens, playing everyone from a closed-minded father to an incorruptible cop and a lovable scoundrel. So I write to you as someone who genuinely admired your on screen characters and also looked up to your generation of actors.

Incidentally, I also agree with you that India needs Modi at this moment, to champion development, cut through red tape and reduce corruption in order to usher in phase two of the liberalization that the brilliant Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh birthed, championed and shepherded. I too want Modi to succeed so that India can succeed; it is in this context that I would like to better understand the motivations behind your recent off-screen antics.

Granted India is a free country and nothing stops a person from speaking his mind, however mindlessly he may choose to do it. But there is good reason why we are not aware of the political or religious beliefs of most public figures. Unless you are an activist, self-proclaimed Godman or a politician, sharing these views has no bearing on your profession; one could argue that public figures who use their fame, beyond raising social issues, are taking advantage of the goodwill we have given them.

To be clear I have no problem with your speaking out, even though I find your interpretation of free speech nauseatingly narrow and your defense of the current government glaringly one-sided.

What offends me is the fact that you are making the world believe India is a weak and cowardly nation. A nation filled with wimps who are offended at the drop of a hat, and led by such a weak Prime Minster that he needs an actor to defend him. Beyond this, I confess I am also truly confounded by your goals for the following reasons. 

First, I am sure we can agree that the level of national pride China (or North Korea) touts its citizens have for their country is unquestioned. But we all know that it is forced nationalism, driven by brainwashing and fear. Here is the startling proof of China’s nationalist lie: by one estimate more than $1 trillion in capital left China in 2015 – a foreign education for a child can serve as a first step towards capital flight, foreign investment, and even eventual emigration.” (Source: Economist article). Similarly, if we continue down this path, the pseudo-nationalism you are now touting in India will cause the brightest and best to flee. We see the same in Pakistan, Iran, Russia and every other ‘deeply’ nationalistic nation.

Don’t you think that India has suffered enough over the last few decades of brain drain? Now under Modi we have a real chance to make progress by bringing back the brightest and best minds – do you really want to become the catalyst and poster child for another exodus?

Second, I have no doubt that you were offended by the words of a few students at JNU, as you claim. For me here is the bottom line - it does not matter what the purpose of the student gathering was or what slogans were chanted; even if it was convened to question the death penalty of a terrorist or if they called him a martyr, I am willing to allow it and here is why.

I agree that it is heinous to glorify a convicted terrorist, but mere words cannot shake my belief in the strength of India. More importantly, it is only through debate and dialogue that we can challenge and change views we disagree with. I prefer to know what people think and feel, rather than forcibly stifle their voices, only to have them bottle it up and then vent it in more dangerous ways. 

Granted, my line of thinking requires having the courage to hear what we find most offensive, and also requires a deep belief in the fundamentals of our democracy, the power of our nation and our current leadership’s ability. So I can only surmise that you do not share the same faith in the power or fabric of our nation, the deep roots of our democracy or in our current Prime Minister’s 56 inch chest (Source: NDTV article).

The point is that irrespective of how you or I felt about what transpired at JNU, do you honestly believe the solution is to jail our young minds, misguided as they might be, using a law our British rulers created to silence our dissent?

All I ask is that you show some faith in our nation, and our Prime Minster. Give him time to do his job, and stop making it harder for him by causing unnecessary division and strife. Most of all please stop making us Indians look like wimps who are offended at the drop of a hat.

Because if we continue to choose to take offense to words, if we choose to stifle anger and forcibly suppress dissent – we will fuel the anger and find we are responsible for turning once harmless words into much more dangerous actions. 

Sincerely,

A Fellow Indian

p.s. On a more personal note, you seem to be a rather sensitive chap. One who gets offended quite easily and regularly. Instead of wasting taxpayer money on public defenders, lengthy trials and diverting precious few police resources from fighting crime, you might want to consider hiring a psychologist. I am sure you can afford the best shrink in India and if these sessions help you grow a slightly thicker skin, you will also have the gratitude of the small minority of citizens who pay all the taxes in India.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India: Mr. Narendra Modi

"Democracy is a device that ensures that we will be governed no better than we deserve.”
George Bernard Shaw 

Dear Mr. Modi,

Your mandate is greater than any party has had in decades, and it is yours to squander. The people of India have spoken loudly and clearly, but for me you need to start by reaffirming the most sacred duty of a Prime Minister: that of protecting ALL the children of India without regard for their religion, caste or creed. This duty must extend beyond protection. You must also provide equal opportunity to every Indian, giving each one a chance to lift himself from poverty with the benefit of an education. 

For the record, I have long abhorred the Congress-led vote-bank politics of pseudo-secularism that they have played over the last sixty plus years. All they have done is paid lip service to the word, doing nothing to help liberate our downtrodden. They have given sop’s to buy votes in the name of helping people, and created quotas in the name of providing opportunity. This has merely created the illusion of opportunity, and pushed people into jobs for which they are ill-qualified. This has led to further resentment. The Congress Party has done a great disservice to secularism merely to maintain their corrupt grasp on power.

We have the third largest Muslim population in the world, a fact that should make us all proud. They are a part of the rich fabric of our culture and its vibrant history. Now it is time they became an intrinsic part of our future. In many parts of the country, Muslims are still treated like second-class citizens or viewed with great fear and mistrust. Many believe they are terrorists, or that India will be better off without them. 

Much of this is due to irresponsible vote bank politics, but it is equally due to the fact that it has been convenient to let the majority of Indian Muslims live in the dark ages, under the thumbs of medieval mullahs, who in the name of religion have imprisoned their minds. “Muslims have the lowest literacy rates among all religious communities in the country…” (Source: Times of India article) There is no question that the Congress and their allies have been complicit in allowing this to continue. You can and must change this.

There are many well educated people who have come to believe that Indian Muslims are holding our country back. Some have told me that they believe we should pack all the Muslims off to Bangladesh or Pakistan where they belong. To all these people (and the RSS) I say, let us for a moment look at every country in the world that has staked their national identity on a religion or ethnicity. Where are they today? Do we want India to become a Hindu state so we can be more like a Pakistan or Bangladesh, an Iran or Saudi Arabia or even a Russia? Is this what the next generation really wants? 

country that has chosen to define itself based on religious affiliation, and discriminated against everyone else, has suffered lack of innovation mainly due to lack of diverse talent. These countries will never become economic powerhouses. The fact is that economic might is derived from inclusion rather than exclusion because a great idea knows no colour, caste, creed or religion. Americans realised this a century ago and made an effort to embrace people of all races and religions. The aim was to attract the brightest and best minds from around the world with the lure of higher education, equal opportunity and a reasonably level playing field. 

Ultimately, it is the diversity of our cultures that enables world-beating innovation, which in turn is the most potent engine for job creation and sustained economic growth. Unlike any other country in the world, India’s veins are already bursting with rich and diverse talent - just imagine what we can accomplish if you can help unleash this. India will truly shine.

You must provide every Indian with the right to education, and free all people from the tyranny of ignorance. Put every girl in school, affording her the same opportunities that a boy gets in life. Reaffirm the fact that without our diversity we would be a lesser country and a weaker nation. This is the challenge the people of India have put forth to you. 

Let your legacy be that of an RSS man who took great pains to wipe away the notion of India ever becoming a Hindu state. But if you take us down a path of communal discord or begin to allow the RSS machinery to start creating a subtle and more sophisticated 21st century apartheid like apparatus to discriminate against non-Hindus, then India will once again overwhelmingly choose corruption over communalism at the ballot box in five short years.

So give us the prime minister who helped us beat China (which EVERY Indian knows we can) by unleashing our potential with unbiased leadership, transparent government, business-friendly and consistent policies, all built on a truly secular vision for India.

Give us toilets; not temples…Jai Hind!

Sincerely, 
A Citizen of India


NOTE: updated on 1st June, 2014

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

There is a pill for that...

"I'm addicted to Altoids. I call them 'acting pills."
Harrison Ford

Got heartburn? There is a purple pill for that. Having intimacy issues? There is a blue pill for that. Feeling a little depressed? There is a yellow pill for that. In fact, no matter what you may feel or not feel there is likely a pill for it. While the US and most global economies are expected to continue either negative or anemic growth over the next few years, the prescription drug market is slated to grow at 4% - 7% each year. It will be a staggering $1 trillion by 2013; globally. Think about the fact that a bottle of pills costs a few dollars and now think about that $1 trillion number again. In China the market is growing at double their GDP rate, more than 20% per year, and will be worth $80 billion in the next couple of years. However, it will take many, many more prescriptions before China comes close to overtaking the number one pill popping nation in the world, the United States of America. The U.S. market will retain its top spot and be worth a frightening $355 billion a year, by 2013 (source: IMS Health). It will remain just over a third of the global total for the foreseeable future and you can bet that the drug companies are working hard to keep you popping those little coloured pills.

When most people talk about the drug problem in the United States they think about Mexican cartels and mules smuggling heroin and cocaine in their body cavities. You might be surprised to learn that it is in fact prescription drug abuse that is the US’s fastest-growing problem. In fact, there have been marked decreases in the use of illegal drugs like cocaine, while over a third of children over twelve years of age who used drugs for the first time began by using a prescription drug, non-medically. Over 70% of people who admit to abusing prescription pain relievers got them not from their neighbourhood drug dealer, but from friends or relatives; only 5% bought them from a dealer (source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health). A separate study, the nation’s largest on drugs, found that “prescription drugs are the second-most abused category of drugs after marijuana.” (source: Monitoring the Future study). Statistics show that the number of people who died in one year from overdoses of prescription drugs alone is more than 6 times the number of people who died from overdoses of all other illegal drugs combined. And the number of emergency room visits attributable to the abuse of prescription drugs increased by 97 percent from 2004 to 2008 (source: US Department of Justice, 2011).

So the question I have to ask is, why?  Why is America so much more dependent than any other nation on these little coloured pills? Let’s start with the simple fact that I have not seen a single TV advertisement break without a prescription drug advertisement of some kind - on any channel. These are also not regular ads that inform you about a problem or potentially life threatening symptom. In fact, they are actually designed to convince you that no matter what you may or may not feel, you have a problem that requires a pill. Things that the majority of the world considers simple everyday emotions or the normal, natural ups and downs of life are anything but that in America. Put simply, if you get fired from your job, I think it’s quite normal to feel upset and a little depressed about it. However, once you are done feeling sorry for yourself, I would expect that you pick yourself up and go get another job. Seems pretty normal, but not in America. Here people are bombarded day and night with ads that tell them that these seemingly natural, healthy emotional ups and downs of life are actually a medical or chemical imbalance that requires urgent treatment. The pharmaceutical industry spent the GDP of a small country, $4.5 billion, on advertising in 2009 alone, and for their effort Americans rewarded them by spending over $200 billion on prescriptions (source: GOOD and Stanford Kay, Fast Company, 2010). It is the kind of return on ad spends that any client would die for.

Doctors are the other half of this problem. In 2009, if you add up all the prescriptions doctors wrote, it adds up to more than the entire U.S. population (source: GOOD and StanfordKay, Fast Company, 2010). Pharmaceutical companies have long been “plying physicians with the five-star meals, expense-paid trips, and scores of logo-emblazoned freebies that critics have long argued have a subliminal — if not a tit-for-tat — influence on prescribing practices.” (source: Pill Girl Report). Turns out that 20 cents to 30 cents of every dollar spent on our health for scans, operations, treatments, hospitalizations, and surgeries are completely unnecessary or ineffective and do nothing to improve our health (source: “Overtreated” by Shannon Brownlee). That’s not all; recently doctors went as far as creating a new disease called “Fibromyalgia.” The doctor who discovered this disease admitted later that he made it up, but over the years a powerful pharmaceutical lobby with a pill in hand has turned it into an acceptable diagnosis. Today, the Mayo clinic describes Fibromyalgia as “a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.” I am no doctor but that description pretty much sums up how every person I know feels after thirty. The Mayo clinic also goes on to say that “while there is no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction measures also may help.” The medical fraternity remains deeply divided on this and most doctors do not consider fibromyalgia a medically recognizable illness. In fact, many argue that the diagnosis actually leads to a worsening of the condition because it causes patients to obsess over basic aches and pains (that come with age, arthritis, etc.) that the majority of people simply tolerate. Whether you believe Fibromyalgia is real or not, what nobody can argue about is the fact the prescription pill for it, called Lyrica, has some very serious side effects that include severe weight gain, dizziness and edema.

Consider that 9 of the top 10 drugs prescribed in America, in 2009, were for treating depression and anxiety (source GOOD and StanfordKay, Fast Company, 2010). I guess we can surmise that in the wealthiest nation on earth, one with the highest standard of living and arguably the greatest creature comforts, we have the most anxious and depressed people in the world. If that is true then all I can say is God help the rest of us!