Thursday, December 15, 2005

Indian of the Year

Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got.

~Janis Joplin.

Since I am reasonably free these days, I happen to watch a lot of TV. And since I know that this is not going to last for too long, I avoid shows that can be habit forming. So, the best option is new channels. The lastest thing to catch my attention is Indian of the Year award from NDTV, being plastered all over the place. The line-up of the nominees is as follows:

1. Rahul Dravid
2. Sania Mirza
3. Amitabh Bachchan
4. Aishwarya Rai
5. Sonia Gandhi
6. Manmohan Singh
7. L K Advani
8. Nitish Kumar
9. Narayana Murthy
10. S. Manjunath
11. Aruna Roy
12. Laxmi Mittal
13. Sachin Tendulkar

The advert also goes on to state that my SMS can make a difference and urges me to vote. Intrestingly, it adds that I can vote for more than one person. Since I am eligible to vote and I am told that I can makes a difference, I can afford to publish my views on the line-up. So here goes...

First, I must admit that I am rather disappointed with the assortment of stars on display. Choosing the Indian of the year from a population of over a billion is no piece of cake. I am sure conjuring the line-up itself would have been a tall ask.

I think that the best way to approach this is to wonder what has been the theme of the year. To me, and hopefully to millions like me, 2005 has been a year of hope. It has been a year when the Sensex has breached 9000 points when everyone had all but given up all hopes on it. It has been a year when Lalu has been defeated in Bihar, when Mr. Karthikeyan has raced alongside the greatest F1 drivers ever. It has been a year in which India's GDP has grown at close to 7.00% and inflation has been at record lows. Twenty-somethings sitting in what used to be buffalo sheds in Gurgaon are advising their hedge fund clients in New Hampshire, how to hedge their CDS portfolios on i-Traxx. Purchasing power has appreciated like fucks and I have bought a mammoth flatscreen TV for my parents on impulse. It has been a year in which India has stood up against the US and EU in trade negotiations and come out of the battle unblemished. It is the year in which honourable Members of Parliament have been caught on tape taking bribes and have for all practical purposes written their political obituaries. A year in which battles have been won, and the hopes of winning the war cemented.The job is not done yet, but the balance is tilting in the favour of a brave new world. Yes, it has been a year of hope.

The second criteria that I think is important while deciding upon the Indian of the year, is the difference that they have and can make to our lives. This is a difficult one to translate into words, and the only reference that I can provide to my reader is something I read long back in Michael Crichton's best book- Rising Sun. I have not seen the more widely distributed movie so I don't know if this monologue appears therein. It tries to explain why the US is falling behind Japan (and in the context of the late 80s and the early 90s I guess that would be quite pertinent). It says something to the effect that the reason why America is falling apart is because the most desired profession there is the legal profession. Lawyers in the US are highly paid, and even most US presidents have been educated to be lawyers. However, law is not a productive profession- it does not add any value to an economy. Law at best serves to maintain the climate for economic prosperity and is not prosperity by its own.The only people who make money out of the law are lawyers. So when you have so many lawyers, it is only natural that it promotes a social and economic situation which borders on the fringes of law. So you have employees suing organisations, investors suing issuers, drive in buyers in McDonald's not just crying over split coffee, and worst of all, spouses suing each other. Even though a Google search for the (brilliant!) entire text has failed, I hope I have made my point.

And last, one parameter that I think is important is that the person's most significant achievements should have occured in Year 2005. One doesn't decide to hand an Oscar to Kattie Hepburn in 2006 for the best actress just because there's no deserving candidate around. There is no accrual in life, no carry forward. To get my vote, you have to be alive and kicking and ready to rock and roll!!!

It is in this context that I sit down to evaluate the line-up.

Rahul Dravid- As much as I admire India's new performing captain, I do not believe that cricket serves much purpose in the running of the country and much less building hope. In that respect movies about cricket like Iqbal and Lagaan go much farther. Cricket is entertainment at its best, and it unites the country, blah blah... but it is not technically a generator of wealth for me or my countrymen at large.

Sania Mirza- I had written off this little lady a few months back, but then whew... she has proved to be a real surprise deal. Apart from her obvious skills on court, her off-court conduct itself is very impressive. However, the same reasons apply as do to Dravid, but in her case, I think she is a much greater teen icon, who deserves (and is getting) her place in the sun.

Amitabh Bachchan- I just realized that I didn't even know how to spell his last name, so you obviously know what's coming. AB's resurgence from near bankruptcy like our friend the Phoenix, is phenomenal. I am not a fan but I still am impressed by his acute business sense, perseverance and courage. However, I think that was last year's story. This year its just been a repeat performance. Hence, sorry Sir, you don't have my vote. Hats off, anyway.

Aishwarya Rai- I noticed that there are 13 nominees. I think Aish was the odd one in the baker's dozen. Why, why??? Just because she's pretty? Why don't we nominate Anjali Gupta instead, or even Barkha Dutt herself?

Sonia Gandhi- No way! And since this is a volatile subject, I am not offering my reasons. Please note the use of the plural. But trust me I have very strong views on this matter.

Manmohan Singh- He has made a difference this year. And he is also our best hope going forward. But whether this is the guy that I would place my bets on- not really.

LK Advani- What for? What for?

Narayan Murthy- Now this is the man that I would vote for as the Indian of Decade or some such thing. To say that he is the Indian of year is a bit of a step down for him.

S. Manjunath- First, I salute the man and his courage.I have been to a B-School and I know how difficult that career decision is. Even more, I realize that even if that choice of career was made on the last hour of the last day fo the placemenat season, I am still consider his decision to make the most of his position- and make a difference to it, is really great. When people make such choices under duress, most spend their time looking to switch jobs. However, I cannot cast my vote for him, since as I said this is a year of hope, and all said at done, at present I am saddened by the destiny of Mr. Manjunath.

Aruna Roy- Now that would be a good choice. She stands for hope and development, and fights for that one thing which can make a huge difference to where this country is at 2020- Accountability is Public Service. But like Mr. Bachchan, but of course in many different ways, Ms. Roy has been awarded and rewarded and recognised previously.

Laxmi Mittal- I won't even waste a line here...

Sachin Tendulkar- I don't even know why he has made it to the list of nominees. I have been a bit of a fan over the years, but this has been the most forgettable one in his illustruous career. So what if he came back from injury to score his 35th century- when Kapil Dev took his record breaking wicket, didn't we all heave a sigh of relief

Nitish Kumar- My Man for the Year. Arguably the best Railway minister we ever had- and IR being the largest employer in the world and the largest carrier of freight and human traffic is the most important element of India's development. But that's not why he gets my vote. By upstaging Lalu and wife, this gentleman has executed a coup of sorts. I have nothing personal against Lalu, but look at how India's most naturally endowed state has languished under his regime. Lalu is not responsible for bringing it to that state, but he most definately is responsible for keeping it that way. Bihar has been the grey spot of the India Shining story. Nitish's coming to power was almost crafty and which makes me hopeful of his surviuval in Bihar politics. And his track record with the Railways is a promise of things of come. may be he won't be able to undo/ redo everything in one term. May be he might. He is educated, he has a vision which is modern (something that is very important- I am told that Pol Pot was a visionary too), he's a man of action and not known to take shit from anyone. I am a numbers guy and Mr. Kumar is the one man who has (apart from other things) got the complex cowbelt caste equation right. This is a vote for hope, a vote for a new begining. best of Luck Mr. Nitish Kumar- and please don't let it go to your head.

And now for some harsh reality. My desk neighbour has just handed me a copy of Mike Gayle's Turning Thirty. And he insists that I read it over the weekend. In any case I am going to be in Goa for the weekend and nothing I do there is anything that is expected of a responsible 29-year old!


At 5:25 PM, Blogger Ajit Chouhan said...

Really great stuff u've written.Cant agree with your views anymore.I guess i dont need to vote after reading your views yaar.

At 8:10 PM, Blogger BangaloreGuy said...

Cant believe they have such a sorry list of nominees. Except for Sania, Manjunath and Nitish cant see what any of the others "achieved" as such this year.

The political picks are perhaps the worst of the lot.

And good choice on Nitish. Here's hoping he can as he said "demolish the myth that governance is impossible in Bihar"

At 10:44 PM, Blogger Anirudh Karnick said...

The list is stupid.

At 12:46 AM, Blogger Gaurav said...

superbly written man..

At 12:35 AM, Blogger anubhav said...

i think filmstars were added just to embellish the list...but i am not sure
if nitish kumar was the best railway minister we've had...but he is sure a strong contender for the indian of the year..

At 4:02 AM, Blogger Arvind Iyer said...

Superb article. (wow. it is a good habit to wander about and read blogs...should do this more often :)
News and other media channels have to appease or at least appreciate what the audience/public wants/expects them to show. A list without a dash of cricket, or entertainment, seems incomplete to many. So lets not bicker about that.
You believe it is Nitish Kumar. And that's one vote (or a few more, in case you want to steer it your way). But that's democracy at it's core. You are entitled to your own opinion.
I have no problems with the list.

At 4:05 AM, Blogger Arvind Iyer said...

I'd have liked it if you had put in that extra dash about who YOU would have liked to include in the list.
This line is a bit harsh..but Socrates has wisely said - 'Denunciation is the easiest path to critical repute'

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Anuja said...

ah - I really like Mike Gayle, hope you enjoyed the book too! when do u turn thirty by the way???


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