Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Integrity, Honour and other Arcane Notions...

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will - his personal responsibility.”
Albert Schweitzer

I fear we live in dark and troubled times. A time when the inner conscience of the world seems to have deserted us. Ours is a generation that has been starved of great leadership; one where the persistent famine of visionless stewardship prevails. Ours is a generation to whom life came easy, with its hardship and turmoil, earned not on the blood soaked beaches of Normandy but washed aside in the pursuit of the Microsoft dream. Ours is a generation that has lost its moral compass.

We live in a time when bankers do God’s work and the clergy undermine it. We live in a time where Tia Tequila and Mayawati are considered celebrity and God, respectively. They have become our measure of success. A time when politicians are admired for quitting halfway through their terms, rather than for the sacrifice and service to their constituents. In a time when drugs allow athletes to believe they are invincible on the field and untouchable off it. And we, the adoring fans, are willing to forgive them no matter their trespass, provided they apologize to us in a public manner, repent and spend time in a facility that can wash away all their sins for a mere $5,000+ per night. When city sanitation workers decide it is okay to hold local residents hostage during a blizzard, simply to flex their union muscles and make a point to their political bosses. In a time when elected officials forget to declare income and pay tax on it, not once or twice but for ten years running; and then not only protest their innocence, but truly believe they have done nothing wrong. When people can publish and market books on ‘how to be a pedophile’ on the biggest bookstore on earth - and have the company defend their decision, saying they protect free speech (and only reluctantly removing it after a sustained public outcry). In a time when college professors believe it is fine to desecrate the greatest works of fiction in order to update them to be politically correct. We live in a time when society seems to have decided that the shortest, fastest and least honest and hardworking path to success seems to be the right one, as long as success is measured by the increased number of zeroes in one’s bank account.

The shocking revelations at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. that have engulfed the British Isles are not surprising, in my opinion. They are not dissimilar to the systemic failure that led to the 2008 global financial crisis that started on Wall Street; the gravest since the US Great Depression of the 1930’s. Technology allowed people to cheat, obfuscate and hide the truth with alarming regularity, and with a high degree of sophistication never possible before. But much more frighteningly it was symptomatic of the culture we have created. One where people perpetrating these actions are fully aware of the fact that it is, at best, ethically wrong, and in many instances breaking the law. Yet, they are encouraged to pursue any and all means necessary to sell the next newspaper or collateralized debt obligation (CDO). It does not matter if the truth has to be perverted to achieve the goal, or even if an outright lie has to be told, as long as it benefits the corporation’s bottom-line.

Progress is a wonderful and powerful thing. The internet and modern technology have broken down barriers between our worlds, ushered in hitherto unimaginable connectivity and provided a voice to the meekest. But the “anything goes” culture that seems to have accompanied this revolution is in danger of destroying the very fabric that civilised societies were built upon; civility, values, and personal responsibility. If Kennedy were alive today perhaps he might say, “Ask not what YouTube can do for you. But what you can do (for your world) through YouTube.” We all seem so madly absorbed and wrapped up in the pursuit of our fifteen gold-plated minutes of fame that we have forgotten about the far-reaching consequences of our actions. About the impact they have on our children, our culture, and a global audience now in the billions. I am sure every generation has felt the same fear I describe, starting with Socrates who famously warned society against writing because it would "create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories." At every stage of great technological advancement, we have been reminded and warned about the vulgarisation of our culture. Yet here we are today still thriving and moving forward, for the most part. But with each generation, and this great progress, we have been prepared to give up just a little bit more of our decency and privacy; I wonder if the internet is that final slippery slope, and if we have reached the point of no return? Just to be clear, it is not the internet or all that our current technology enables but our unhindered access and ability to manipulate this technology 24x7 in an unchecked, rumor-mongering, careless, lawless and invasive way that seems to have unleashed the true nature of our beasts. We can make up facts, destroy reputations, hide our identities, obscure the truth and invade people’s privacy in a manner that was not possible a mere decade ago. Just ask your father or grandmother, and no matter where in the world they grew up, I bet they will tell you that society today seems to have abdicated personal responsibility, principles, and values at a much more alarming rate than ever before.

Ironically, it was the British that were credited with giving the world the “rule of law.” Yet, today it is Britain that seems to have completely lost its own moral compass and forgotten the very rules that it created. The question is not how deep or wide-ranging this crisis in Britain will be but how far are we all willing to fall, before we lift ourselves up again?

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Cheating Heart


“Men cheat for the same reason that dogs lick their balls... because they can.”
Kim Cattrall

I was in my early twenties when I got the chance to work with a famous actor. This guy was quite a legend, known in the industry as one of the greats who had cemented his reputation with a series of huge hits in the 1970’s. Sure, we were now in the 1990’s, but fame can last longer in the film industry, even if you have done nothing recently. Partly because it is a small and incestuous group and partly because newcomers will put anyone remotely famous on a pedestal in the hope that they will give them their big break. So reputations endure from one generation to the next. This guy was no Cary Grant or Amitabh Bachchan, but he was a household name with my parent’s generation.

We did a few ad films with this actor over the period of a year, so I got to know him pretty well. One night we were sitting and discussing the script, in his office, over drinks and after we both had a few too many drinks I finally summoned the courage to ask him the question that was on the mind of every twenty-year old. “Are all the stories true about the women and have you cheated on your wife?” It must have been the combination of the vast amounts of alcohol and the fact that this old timer had a wild eyed young man in audience that led him to answer my question with great seriousness. At first he mumbled and stumbled on about fame, power, money and how all these things made men attractive to women, for about ten minutes (most of which were pretty incoherent) and then went on to tell me that it boiled down to one simple thing – that it was not like he wanted to or planned to cheat on his wife “but when women are throwing themselves at me, hour after hour, day after day and week after week – then what am I supposed to do, how many times can I say no and how long can a poor man resist such temptation?” At this point he looked at me triumphantly, as if expecting a pat on the back for the effort he had made trying not to cheat on his wife. I not only did not offer one but told him it was wrong to cheat on his wife. He laughed and suggested we have another drink. I will admit that as a twenty-one year old I was impressed with his position and predicament, but still I had trouble reconciling the cheating part. Most twenty something men are so obsessed with women and sex that rationalizing an argument for cheating can be a factor of immaturity, inexperience and early untamed manhood. However, we do grow up and once we reach our thirties we begin to have a completely different perspective on life and women. The fundamental change in my thirties was instead of feeling some sense of admiration and envy for men like the actor; I began to feel sorry for men like him. Adding notches to your belt in your twenties, before marriage, can be chalked down to wild-eyed boyhood, but doing this in your forties and beyond, especially as a married man, is nothing more than pathetic and boils down to insecurity and lack of integrity.

Here is the one thing that there is no getting around. Cheating on your spouse is a conscious decision one makes. It is not something that happens unconsciously when one consumes a lot of alcohol or uncontrollably because a woman is repeatedly throwing herself at a man. Think about it this way: if the same man who cheats on his wife is offered an opportunity to sleep with the most gorgeous woman in the world, but told that he has to jump off the top of the Empire State Building right after – would he still do it, even if he was drunk? It really is that simple. Men cheat because they believe they can get away with it. That they will be able to grovel, beg and get their wives forgiveness; and most of them do. Everyone has opportunities to cheat and everyone can make a mistake, but those men who have a pattern of cheating do so knowing full well they are doing wrong and still go ahead with it. What it boils down to once you clear away all the psychobabble excuses about personal issues, childhood experiences and personality types, is quite simply the difference between men with ethics, morals and character, and those without.

Cheating and abusive behavior among men in power has been around longer than the world’s oldest profession. In 1791, Alexander Hamilton started an affair with a married woman, while he was secretary of the US Treasury. When the affair and cover-up were exposed, he published a pamphlet defending his affair by saying that he never abused any public resources – sound familiar? Today, there seems to be an epidemic among elected officials all over the world, and all of them are using Mr. Hamilton’s defense, when caught, as a reason not to resign their office. What is greatly worrying to me is that these men all have one thing in common, and that is they believe they did nothing wrong since they did not break the law. But the issue is not the law. It is one of their word and their bond, and the trust that we have put in them. They have broken their vows of marriage and clearly misled and lied to their constituents often over a period of many years. Take Mark Sanford (Governor of South Carolina) who lied about his whereabouts for close to week, and finally when concerns about his disappearance started to grow, he held a tearful press conference blubbering on about his Argentine soul mate. I am glad his wife walked straight out the door with the kids, but he too refused to resign his office. Then there is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent revelation that he fathered a child with his housekeeper (the same time his wife was pregnant with their first) and kept his secret for fourteen years, while the housekeeper brought up his children under the same roof.  Conveniently, Arnold came clean and sought forgiveness right after his political career ended. Or to more serious charges against the former President of Israel, Moshe Katsav, who last year was found guilty on two counts of rape. He had been dogged for years with charges of sexually harassing and abusing women, but clearly believed he would get away with it because of the office he held. Sure Mr. Katsav’s charges are more serious and he did break laws, but the underlying principle and premise is the same. These men are clearly drunk on power and abuse their position to prey on women; believing that they are not only bulletproof, but not answerable to anyone for their actions. The fact that politicians, especially today, living in a 24x7 media and technology fishbowl still believe they can get away with doing this boggles my mind, and tells me how deluded and desperate these men really are.

The latest scandal involves a rising star in the NY Democratic party who it seems has been sexting and tweeting lewd messages and naked photos of himself to college girls and porn stars. He has been married less than a year and his wife is three months pregnant. When the story first broke he went on a media blitz totally denying it and claiming that his account was hacked. When it became clear that the blogger who broke the story had more incriminating evidence, including, women who had been victims willing to talk, it was only then that Anthony Weiner decided he needed to come clean, beg for forgiveness and seek “treatment.” I am terribly curious about the idea that one can get cured for being a cheater, a serial liar and for completely lacking character. The bottom line is not if these men broke laws or if their wives forgave them, but the simple fact that they knowingly lied to protect themselves. We put our trust and faith in them to make important decisions about our lives and future and they broke that trust, demonstrated extremely poor judgment and are no longer fit to represent us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Education: Part 1

"One of the few things a person is willing to pay for and not get.”
William Lowe Bryan

“Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a snake, In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
“Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

I can still remember those words and vividly picture Ms. Malti acting out this scene from Macbeth. She would be hunched, knock-kneed and deliver it with her best witch's voice and a chilling cackle. It was my first foray into Shakespeare and it moved me in a way no teacher or subject ever had before. I was in the 5th grade, all of ten years old, and decided that day that I wanted to and needed to write. That single moment changed the way I viewed school forever. The passion, delight and energy, with which she brought the words off those pages to life, inspired me in a way that I had always sought but never knew I was missing. 

This to me is the single most important purpose of an education – to lead to that single, solitary moment when a spark is ignited, a connection made, in a way that lights up a child’s brain activity to open their mind and engage their senses with sheer delight. 

It is not about text books, subjects, grades and exams. It is about finding that unique passion within each child, and shaping and nurturing it once discovered. 

Some must be inspired to dance, some to fix cars, some to write, some to bank and some to rogue but that is the journey we must all make through childhood, and the breakthrough that helps us become the adults we are passionate about becoming. 

So I ask where have the teachers like Ms. Malti gone?  Those who teach because it a passion they want to impart and share for Shakespeare’s words or Vernier’s Callipers.

I look at the education system today in America and India and wonder what happened. I hear of the horror stories from parents paying $30,000 a year in fees, for a 3 year old child’s pre-school in New York. Or read about thousands of Engineering graduates in India, whose prospective employers say they don’t even have the basic proficiency to string together one coherent thought. And once hired, have to be re-trained for months to address "inherent inadequacies" in their education (“India Graduates Millions, but Too Few Are Fit to Hire” – Wall Street Journal). 

In fact, many graduates are finding that they need to supplement their degrees with further education because the skills they possess are not adequate to get a job. Another report published by Pratham, a child-focused nonprofit, paints a dire picture on rural education. In their 2010 report they state “as things stand, more than half the children in Standard 5 [10-11yrs old] will be incapable of completing even elementary education except by blind promotion without regard to the actual learning levels.” 

Much is said about India having the greatest advantage in the global economy in the next 20 years because they will have the youngest population in the world; with half its 1.2 billion people below the age of 25 years. But to my mind this advantage over US, Europe and China will be totally negated if we are unable to provide them with an education.

Meanwhile, in America, once known for its great school system credited with providing the US with its greatest competitive advantage over the last two generations, things are also desperately and completely broken. I defer to a brilliant 2009 documentary called “Waiting for Superman” to sum up the current state of US education system; “In America right now, a kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. These drop-outs are 8 times more likely to go to prison, 50% less likely to vote, more likely to need social welfare assistance, not eligible for 90% of jobs, are being paid 40 cents to the dollar earned by a college graduate, and continuing the cycle of poverty.” 

According to the 2010 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) report, the United States ranked 14th out of 34 developed nations for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics. What is startling is that a mere twenty years ago it was on top. 

There are many neighborhoods in the country where children know more people who are in prison than graduated college. Multiple social and community experiments have produced more than disappointing results and even though the average amount spent per student has increased dramatically from $393 in 1960-61 to $9,683 in 2006-7 (source: U.S. Department of Education, 2010). We have learned that throwing money at the problem does not solve anything. 

In fact, it seems to have actually made the school system worse and accelerated its decline. This, while creating a bureaucracy so vast and so complex that it makes India’s stifling bureaucratic mess look like child’s play to navigate. 

The last but most important part of this broken puzzle is the teachers union who seem to have a stranglehold on the system with iron-clad teacher’s contracts that protect teachers blindly while doing nothing for school children. A school principal in America today is unable to fire a non-performing teacher who has tenure. All they can do is shuffle him around the system by passing him off to other schools (and accepting their non-performers in return) or until last year send them to the infamous rubber room that existed in New York. This was a room where teachers awaiting disciplinary action were sent to sit around idly, while receiving full pay, as their grievances went through the union-designed system which could take years; of course as long as the teacher gets paid, the union get its monthly dues.

Ultimately, I look to America and India not only to drive the future success of our increasingly inter-connected global economy but also to remain the two greatest beacons of democracy in an increasingly turbulent and uncertain world. Failure is not an option. 

However, imagine for a moment a world where people no longer have basic reading, writing or math skills. Or worse yet, one where the small percentage still privy to a stellar and frighteningly expensive private education all grow up aspiring to become investment bankers and hedge fund managers. 

One where kids no longer dream about being astronauts or veterinarians or firemen. Consider a world without literature, doctors, inventors, policemen, laughter and leadership. 

If we don't allow our children to dream, or stifle their thinking by depriving them of the spark a great teacher can provide, we will be clipping their wings before we ever let their imaginations take flight, and limit their reality forever.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Of Defiance and Fairytales: 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup

"Sachin Tendulkar has carried Indian cricket on his shoulders for 21 years. So it was fitting that we carried him on our shoulders after this win…"
Virat Kohli

Unlike my fellow billion plus countrymen I got my perfect fairytale ending to the 2011 cricket World cup. My fairytale was not contingent on the Little Master getting his 100th International century, but on MS Dhoni rightfully taking the mantle from Sachin Tendulkar as India’s next great cricketer to enter the pantheons of cricket history. I am sure if you ask Tendulkar, he will say that this personal milestone is inconsequential and pales in significance to his being able to finally hold the only trophy he has coveted but did not have on his mantle or on his twenty-one year long list of superlative achievements.

In many ways this was the perfect World cup, not just because India won on home soil or that it was the first for a host nation to ever accomplish this feat. It was just a perfect world cup all around in my view. Even the losing teams were able to walk away with their heads held high. First, India vanquished the last title holders, Australia, in the quarter-finals. One did not feel bad for this team in so much as one felt sad for the way his countrymen had started to treat the Captain, Ricky Ponting. It was as if Australia had forgotten how many years they have dominated every form of the game under him, including winning 3 consecutive World cup trophies. However, Ponting scored the century of his life to single-handedly lift his team out of trouble and save the reigning World champions the ignominy of a humiliating defeat. So while Australia exited the tournament, being vanquished by the favourite, Ponting got to silence his critics and walk away with the last laugh, head held high.

Next India faced Pakistan, the black horse of this cup. The match was billed the “match of all matches” based on rivalry between these two teams and animosity between these nuclear armed nations, who have fought 3 wars. Pakistani fans are as passionate and jingoistic about their cricket as Indian fans. The backlash for players can be as severe as it is in India, from the press and fans. So it is pretty amazing to me that even though they lost to India in the semi-final, the Pakistan team managed to win the respect of every Indian.  Not just because of the heart and passion with which they played, but more so due to the actions of their captain, Shahid Afridi, who demonstrated on the greatest stage in the world that he is a true sportsman, a gentleman, a spirited opponent, a leader and great ambassador for the sport. I think his actions in defeat even managed to placate otherwise heartbroken Pakistani fans, many of who turned around and started to root for India in the final. Perhaps, it also had something to do with the olive branch India’s Prime Minster offered to his Pakistani counterpart by inviting him to watch the match, in what would be their first meeting and thaw in relations since the Bombay terror attacks on 26/11 derailed peace talks. At the end of the day all of us off the field, especially our leaders, need to remember that the most important thing about this sporting rivalry is not the violent days of partition, the extremist elements that support terrorism, the wars we have fought over territory or the other things that divide us but the fact there are many more things that unite our nations and people’s – much like our passion and fervor for cricket.

This brings us to April 2011. Another day that will no doubt now be etched in the same spot reserved in all Indian memories as 1983 was. The last time India won the World cup by shocking the world and beating the mighty West Indies. In fact, 1983 is so deeply imprinted in the nation’s memory that survey-takers in the 2011 Census were told to ask people who couldn't provide a birth date whether they were born before or after that last World Cup victory! So it was again today but this time India were the favorites’ from the start, perhaps a much greater burden to carry than the team in 1983 that was not even expected to make it past the qualifying rounds. A team that has been touted as the greatest in a few generations of Indian cricket, if not ever. A team that has already won the 20/20 World cup and reached no. 1 in the ICC rankings in test cricket by dominating the last few years. They were no. 2 in ODI rankings behind Australia coming into this World cup and had only one thing left to prove. In the end, this fairytale victory is a testament to Gary Kirsten who has coached India for the last four years and this was his last day. He has turned the potential we Indians have always said our teams have on paper and brought that to life in the field, in every department. It is equally a validation of Mahindra Singh Dhoni's fearless leadership. If Kirsten has helped the Indian squad realise their on-field potential, then it is Captain Cool who has made them believe in themselves in a way I have never seen with any Indian side before. Dhoni never looks rattled on the field, no matter how dire the situation. He never loses his cool and he never panics. This has clearly rubbed off on the boys, who seem to take the lead from Dhoni’s fearless and selfless leadership and his never say die attitude. In fact, it is the only ingredient I felt was missing for years from numerous great Indian sides. It was the same X factor that the Aussies had; that self-belief and attitude that a match is never lost, over or won until the last ball has been bowled.

We should spare a thought for the Sri Lankans, who were also looking for a fairytale send-off for one of the greatest spin bowlers the game has ever seen. Sadly, Murali’s farewell on the International stage was both wicketless and as part of the runner up team. However, it is also true that he is the only member who was part of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World cup winning squad that became the first team in history to bat second and still win, defeating the team that would dominate world cricket for the next decade; Australia. Murali got his send-off and honors in his home ground in Sri Lanka after they dispatched England with a 10 wicket annihilation. The team performed brilliantly and carried themselves with great élan in this World cup and was after all the underdogs. Again Sangakkara and his lads can walk away with their heads held high and proud of the fact that they are a young team with tremendous potential.

So I believe we all got our fairytale today in a number of different ways. Kirsten leaves with the knowledge that he shepherded his herd to the greatest triumph any coach can. Tendulkar can retire as the greatest cricketer ever, along with Sir Donald Bradman, and hold every record in the game until he dies, or much after. And Dhoni demonstrated today, to his many critics, that fearless leadership involves making decisions, some that turn out to be correct and some that go horribly wrong; that if one has the courage of one’s convictions, steely resolve, a never say die attitude and the coolness that would turn a cucumber green with envy, then it is possible to dream really big, carry the burden of 1.2 billion people on your shoulders and deliver…Jai Hind!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Open Letter to India

“The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference.”
Bess Myerson

A social revolution is afoot around the globe. People, who have been stepped on, downtrodden by top-down economic prosperity that never trickled down to them and brow beaten into years of giving up their hard earned wages to corrupt officials and wretched politicians, are saying no more. Granted all the current unrest is restricted to the autocratic and dictatorial regimes in North Africa and the Middle East but mark my words that this phenomenon will spread to India, China, Russia and Brazil. I know people will consider it sacrilege that I would dare to compare the deeply democratic systems of India and Brazil to the shams that mask the authoritarian ones of Russia and China. But I feel compelled based on the extent of corruption that exists in all these countries today. The lack of rights of the common man is equal in all, and justice is an ideal that seems confined to the pages of history books or gathering dust in law journals, for all practical purposes. Today, money can buy whatever kind of judicial outcomes one seeks, if one can pay. I understand that I paint this picture with very broad brush strokes but such is the need of the hour. In my mind this crisis in India is dire, and it is a crisis. Unless we wake up and take control of this cancer, it will destroy our country and everything that our grandparents shed their blood for and died giving us.

I long ago gave up the notion of getting rid of corruption in this world. Where there are human beings there has and always will be corruption. Even the Western world is not immune to corruption. So having corrupt people is not the issue but the degree to which corruption has increased, in India, with liberalisation is what gravely concerns me. I have been away ten years and in that time the level, depth and pace of corruption has not only increased dramatically but more frighteningly it seems to have become acceptable and almost legalised as a means for not only doing business but going about day to day life. It has spread from politicians, public servants and the bureaucracy to a societal cancer that is rapidly destroying our soul, blinding and eroding our essence. I no longer believe that economic prosperity will help lift the poor and instil a sense of patriotic duty in the rest of us. I can no longer close my eyes and bury this harsh and ugly reality under some fantastic rate of economic growth or the hype the media feeds us every day. We can no longer justify it simply because we are told that this has been our way from time immemorial and that is why we should accept it. We can no longer stand idly by while we sell our country to the highest bidder.
 
My critics will point to the 2005 Right to Information Act and even the social audits that have been instituted as part of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) but I argue quoting Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, India’s Chief Information Commissioner; when he told the Wall Street Journal that people requesting information have been threatened and even murdered to protect the culprits. "The number of murders has been mounting, and that's a cause for grave concern." (http://on.wsj.com). Even during the NREGA audits there have been numerous instances of intimidation and official interference like a senior Congress party politician in Nagarkurnool, elbowing his way onto the dais to try and take control of audit proceeding to defend local politicians and contractors (http://www.nytimes.com). Ultimately, it does not matter how many transparency laws or right to information acts are passed if there is no protection for the people trying to exercise this right. And when the people meant to uphold and enforce the law can also be bought then where is the recourse for the aam aadmi? If we believe that by simply passing more laws we are making progress towards a cleaner government, then I contend that our democratic ideals are no longer high enough or worse yet we are deluding ourselves.

I am also fully aware of the realities and know that is easy for an NRI to say we should stop bribing the policeman, the motor vehicle department employee or the electricity board. But I believe that if a person in India is to stand on principle, today, they would have to live without electricity, the ability to drive and probably without food and shelter. It is fast becoming impossible to be an honest person. I am told you even have to bribe someone to receive your tax refund! If this is progress then we were better off living in the era prior to liberalisation. Today, not only are the politicians amassing vast amounts of wealth but also cutting every corner on the delivery of projects simply to make even more money. They are not only looting the nation but raping it by delivering sub-standard services and infrastructure. The recent Commonwealth Games, 2G and now the ISRO's spectrum scam are examples of how corruption has now grown into a nexus with the private sector. Even our great army has been sullied by the Adarsh Housing scam where flats meant to be allotted to widows of the Kargil conflict were given to everyone but a single widow. This Congress government has demonstrated that they are without a doubt the most corrupt in our history. It seems our current leaders have taken a page out of Machiavelli’s book when he said, in the Prince; “since love and fear hardly exist together if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”

If 2010 was the year of uncovering scams, as the Times of India and Outlook have declared, then it is equally the year of our politicians no longer displaying any fear, shame, or professing any sense of remorse because they are all complicit and all above the law. If the Congress party is serious about prosecuting corrupt officials then why did it take Sonia Gandhi more than a month to say anything on the 2G issue? And why was Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, silent? In my book only the guilty stay silent because the innocent have nothing to hide, and therefore no reason to wait to proclaim their innocence. Why are the accused, other than having resigned their posts, still smiling? Because they know that there will be a prolonged investigation by some agency whose chief has been appointed by the government and it will drag on just long enough for the public anger to dissipate and people’s attention to move onto the next scam. Nobody will ever be prosecuted and life will go on. This time we should all say no more - and demand real transparency and meaningful accountability. Nobody should be above the law.

I still believe the vast majority of our country is honest and hard-working, but there is a small and very powerful majority that has become completely corrupt. Consider this a plea from India’s most vocal cheerleader, her greatest admirer, optimist, and eternal patriot. I believed in her and saw her potential much before anyone else. I believed she would become a global economic powerhouse during her darkest days and the lowest ebbs of the license Raj. And never stopped believing in her despite the tremendous odds and the contrary viewpoints of every expert. Today I feel she is dying. If we do not act now then it will soon be too late to act. Because GDP growth rates, new highways, bullet trains, a rising SENSEX, industrial productivity and the number of Indians on Forbes rich list won’t matter - when the aam aadmi decides that he would rather die fighting for justice and equality, than let his hungry children watch the corrupt official slap him one more time.