Who are you?

I continue with my political commentaries. This one sparked by an article thrown up by my dear Google Assistant. Ok Google, here we go. One of the most powerful questions asked in recent Political history - Who are you? The question was posed during the recent visit of actor turning (I guess he is still undecided) politician Rajinikanth to Thoothukudi in the aftermath of the Sterlite protest and the eventual closure of the plant. A tad too late sir. The damage is already done and the people are still fresh from licking their wounds and mourning their deceased (or should we say murdered) although they have succeeded in shutting down the plant (for now). 

Considered to be the Superstar and darling of the masses, the star expected a rousing welcome from the people. However, what he encountered showed three things emerging in Tamil Nadu that could be the start of something new and promising. Stardom stops at the Cinema theater. Do not expect the starry-eyed fans to continue worshipping you outside the screen. The angst of the people to apathy from leaders and the absence of blind faith of the people in leaders or stars anymore. More importantly, the people are waking up to the realization that they are responsible for the plight they are in and it is their responsibility to get themselves out of it with each other’s help. We have seen this in two issues already – the ban on Jallikkattu and the Sterlite fiasco.

The conspicuous absence of Rajinikanth or his support to the 100-day protest showed that he could not join the protest or support the people either due to pressure from his (spiritual) backers or he had a completely booked schedule for his upcoming movies. Either way, he missed the bus to visit Thoothukudi to understand the situation there and lend a shoulder to the people. After all, his support could have helped turn things in the people’s favor sooner and ultimately in his favor. Looks like he lost the opportunity and most importantly along with that, the trust of the people.

Don’t take me wrong, I am a huge fan of Rajinikanth and eagerly awaiting his latest release (tickets for Kaala anyone?). I will be more than willing to part with my 120 bucks or even more for a First Day First Show, but, would I vote for him? Given his leanings, no.

That said, leaning or otherwise, we need a new, able, strong leader for the people today and Tamil Nadu more than ever is at a point where with the exit of Ms. Jayalalitha and the indisposition of Mr. Karunanidhi have a lot of raw untested leaders politicians at the helm. This has given way to new entrants with even lesser experience in politics like Mr. Rajinikanth and Mr. Kamal Hassan to throw in their hats. Despite the lack of experience, if they can convince the people of their agenda and principles and back it up with innovative, workable solutions, we might actually have a leader in the making for the people.

While we are on the topic of new entrants, Mr. Kamal Hassan would have got a second-hand glimpse of what he can expect from the people of Tamil Nadu. A glorious career in films or a massive fan following is not enough to gain the trust and faith of the people. You need to think of them, their problems and come up with solutions and take them into the future. He needs to be strong enough to stand up against pressure from his own cadres, political supporters, the opposition and the industry (after all, they are the primary bankrollers for any political party). He needs to ensure always that the people are the Maiam (center) in his Makkal Needhi Maiam.

Lastly, the most important person(s) to be wary of this changing political climate are the people themselves. This time, you need to understand what is more important to you when you cast your all-important vote to decide your leader. Vote for a leader who will work with you for you. Also, have patience to see the fruits of the labor of the new leaders (If you choose to elect them). Ask yourselves the all-important question – Who are you?  If you are someone who gets swayed by the glitz and glamour of the personality or if you are felled by the cheap sops that are dished out come election time (think RK Nagar), your situation will remain unchanged. Sindhikkavum. Vaakkazhikkavum. (Think. Vote.)


I believe we need a change.

I continue to digress from my photography to write on a topic little known to me. What I am writing is completely based on what little I have gleaned from around me. I don’t follow politics, watch news or read the newspaper. I however scour the internet following photographers and watching them create their art and drawing knowledge and inspiration for my work. I don’t know shit about politics or its workings. So what gives me the right to write this article you might ask. I think I represent a significant percentage of the non-participative population as far as politics is considered. Yes, I vote, but I’ve not heard any strong agenda based on workable solutions or developmental policies or know the principles of the people who are contesting for my vote.

What drove me to write this article is the rising hatred and division I encounter on social media these days. There has been a rise in the number of Modi haters and the RG trollers hogging up my Facebook feed which was earlier filled with posts of family photographs of exotic trips and delicious food and everything inconsequential in between. And these hate posts are being posted by the same set of people who were earlier posting nice stuff and liking and LOL’ing other posts. I will not even go to the stuff that is written on the comment sections of these posts and the verbal discussions spats that ensue. Heck, I don’t see as much ads these days in my feed (just joking).

I am not a Modi hater. I think he is an able administrator who has the balls to think up something extraordinary (think GST, Demonetization) and implement them in a fell sweep. I will leave the topic of whether they worked or not for another post (if at all). He has an able tactician and an army of brilliant people behind the scenes constantly working their ass off to present him in the best possible light. They dress him right, write his applause worthy speeches, ship him off to strategic posts to woo voters come election time, put him on well timed flights across the world and keep him abreast of the pulse of the people or the lack thereof.

I am not saying that I am a  big follower of the other side(s) either. It’s a toss-up between the devil and deep sea for me.

But let me come to the cusp. What I believe and see around me though is the rising hatred and division. This division is not on the basis of developmental agenda, growth, literacy, employment, or any such trivial issues, but hatred cleverly disguised as religion or the other way around. It's the same either way. We all know how dangerous that can be. It’s not a new phenomenon. It’s a time-tested tool to divide the people, instill hatred and create a diversion for the perpetrators to achieve their selfish cause. As simple as that. The British did that to us when they wanted to invade and take over our land. We fought each other and killed thousands while they settled down nice and comfy. We (Pakistanis and Indians perhaps. O.k., let’s give some credit to the British as well) did that again during the Partition and we fought each other and killed thousands. We did it again in the form of the Bombay riots (Hey Brits… we’re not giving you credits for this one. We did it all by ourselves). We’ve had similar such cases in Gujarat, Malegaon, Karnataka and many more that I cannot recollect or Google right now. I’m not even venturing all the way up to Kashmir. But, I hope you get the point.

Today, we are using media and technology to fight the same battle along with knives, guns and bombs. The penetration of technology is incisive and more devastating than all the weapons of mass destruction we have used to fight over the years and lost (yes we lost them all. All of us). We have hatred and division served to us via Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter without us recognizing it for what it is. Not to mention the numerous News outlets out there stirring it up, slowing it down, drawing red circles so you don’t miss anything and influencing you all day long while playing high paying ads on the side (The recent theory is that the influencing posts paid a lot more than the ads. But we don't want to lose the loose change do we?). The hatred is spreading faster than the most devastating cancer to the most dormant and populous species of the Indian strata – the middle class. The same middle class which sat in the safe confines of their home to drink tea and read/watch the news to find out if the situation outside got any better. They were never overly influenced beyond the price hike, the loss of pay for the days they could not venture out to ply their trade or go to the office or the cinema. They are now being passively influenced by a deep-seated hatred and bias. Yes, forwarding that video on WhatsApp or sharing that post on Facebook is a passive aggression we indulge in from the safe cocoon of our homes or offices from our mobile phones equipped with fast 4G internet provided free of cost. Lap it up.

I believe this needs to stop and change. We are at a juncture where we desperately need leaders to unite us and take us to greater heights in the global space in terms of development, education, job creation, empowerment and wealth. If not all that, I will settle for status quo. But please give the division a skip. We really don’t need people who are striving to influence and send us back to the stone age where we hunt and kill each other. We want leaders to try something different to drive their cause and to win the hearts and minds of the people. Not to mention, their vote. Yes, it is difficult. But, what isn’t?

Religion is big in India and I’m not sure if that will be going out any time soon. I will go to great lengths to say that Religion is the biggest evil today. Drop religion and strive for spiritual oneness with your God. Your relationship with your God should be private and sacred. It's not a cool club anymore. Do not get led astray. Go rehabilitate and clean your systems. Smile at the person next to you. He was your neighbor and friend yesterday. Don’t let somebody you don’t know tell you otherwise. Wise up.

I believe we need a change. Change in you, to understand the propaganda and not get influenced. I believe we need a change in you, to be a better leader and to unite the people for a greater cause. I believe we need a change in you, to stop supporting, distributing and monetizing the monetizing propaganda that divides the people. I believe we need a change in you to embrace your God and shun religion. I believe we need a change in us.

Note: If you have been offended by this post in any way, I strongly urge you to read my last post.

God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts