Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Kripa Sagar: Finding purpose

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Ask yourself when the last time was that you did something truly selfless. Because Kripa Sagar does it every time she steps out of the house to run. Whether it is a race or whether it is simply to train.

I remember vividly the day she ventured out to run, it was at the NMSA grounds. She did so,  because Deepta, her cousin, was running. It was too close to the SCMM and I honestly did not expect her to keep up the training after the excitement of SCMM dissipated. But she did.

She discovered that running gave her a high like nothing else. She gave up smoking, she became conscious of what she ate, when she hit the bed, of the way she led her life, generally. It made a difference to her and I could see the difference in her.

It was sometime along the way that it struck her that other smokers too could kick the habit if they took up running. That's how she came up with the idea for the event which she calls Take a  Breath of Fresh Air (TABOFA). Very conveniently, a trust set up by some of her dad's friends and supported by him as well was working with cancer patients. Kripa decided to use her running to not only raise awareness about the value of running in kicking the smoking habit, she used the opportunity to raise money for the Jana Rakshita Trust.

It was not long before her madness found expression in a crazy idea. She decided that she would run a marathon equivalent distance in every state and union territory in the country. Not only would she run, she would also use her visit to talk to people about how running can wean them away from smoking. In Kerala. in Goa. in Mumbai. Her coach must have initially dismissed her as a mad woman but she talked him into giving her a training plan that would allow her to run effortlessly.

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I know many people who run marathons, I know of a few who run the distance once a month as part of their training. They do so to get better at the next competitive event. It is not so with Kripa.

She does so, to send a message to the world. To get them to focus attention on the evils of smoking. Not by preaching. But by sharing her own life experience. It would not be an exaggeration to say that she is a life giver. Because as my doctor friends say, the correlation between cancer and smoking is well established. By making it her mission to get more people on her path, she is changing their lives for the better.

If you have never run a marathon, you wont know what it takes to get there. The training, the pain, the discipline. Venkat P tells me that there will not be more then 5000 people in India who run this distance atleast once a year. A small fraction of them would be women, that number certainly cannot be more than 1000. But Kripa runs the distance every month, at a race if there is one, else she makes up her own event. She trains religiously, she leads a life style that would prepare her for the distance. She does this to ensure that the lives of others does not go up in smoke.

In this she is selfless. And relentless in her pursuit to convert others to her cause. Because she is committed.

The anniversary run of TABOFA is approaching. It starts on the night of May 10 and ends on May 11. Join her on the run, if you wish. Join her to cycle through the streets of Mumbai if you wish. If you can do neither, atleast cheer her on as she does something for the smokers in your family. And if you are a smoker yourself, spare a thought for her.  Thank her. After all she is doing this for you. And if you are incapable of being selfless, that is okay. Be selfish. Just don't smoke the next cigarette. Go for a run instead. Or a walk.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Dilemma of the Undecided Indian

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This election, I will not be voting for the UPA, considering the ten years of misrule they have heaped upon us.

But then I will not vote for the NDA either even though the record of the last NDA government was much much better than any Congress government in my living memory. But I dont care much for the leadership they are seeking to foist on us.

That leaves the AAP which does not have a hope in hell of making a difference to government formation by any stretch of my imagination.

I do not plan to hide behind the NOTA option as that defeats the purpose of elections.

But I will vote.

My candidate will not win, in much the same way no candidate I have voted for has ever won. Thats not okay with me, but I do not really have a choice, caught as I am between a bad choice and a worse choice.

Dont ask me who the bad choice is or the worse choice is, but let me tell you that having been a keen follower of Indian politics, the BJP and the Congress are two sides of the same coin. We need a new coin. To those of you who condemn the Congress for its corruption I say, the BJP is no better.

Until we have campaign finance reform, we cannot expect honesty from those that rule us. Which is why in this day and age, definitions have changed. The honest politician is one who does not make money for himself but for the party. The dishonest chap keeps it for himself and gives some to the party.

The total amount of money that will be spent in this elections by all the parties put together will be nothing less than Rs 20,000 crore. In places like Andhra, the spend by a single candidate in a constituency could be as high as Rs 40 crore. In places like Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal where parties will be frugal, the spend by a candidate in a constituency will not be south of Rs 1 crore, if one were to add up all the costs.  There are 542 constituencies going to the polls and in each of them, there will be atleast 3 serious candidates spending oodles of money to buy votes. The cost of getting a vote today is north of Rs 1000 in cash transfers, not to mention the marketing spend. The cash transfer amount has gone up this time around, my sources tell me. So go on do your math.

This kind of money cannot be raised without looting the exchequer in the current framework. And if a candidate spends this kind of money given to him by his friends, do you think the friends wont want a piece of the action? Whether you vote for the BJP or the Congress, the story will be the same.

The paradigm has to change, the frame work has to be altered. It can be done, but it will take time. It has to be done bit by bit, one step at a time. Things can change, if you want it to change, if I want it to change.

This may sound blasphemous to you but there will always be corruption in high places that you and I can do precious little about. I honestly believe that if we can get our government to deliver the little things, the stuff I will lump together under what I will call civic services, 99% of us will have less reason to complain. If the roads get built, if we get 24x7 water and electricity, if the schools are staffed and have children going to school, if the primary health centres have adequate medicines, if the roads are clean and of better quality and so on.

In our world where corruption has become democratized, the MP who we are going to vote for depends on the MLA to bring in the vote and has to therefore let the MLA conduct an organised loot in his area. The MLA on his part depends on the nagar sevak or the corporator to rustle up the vote and therefore lets this chap have a free run in his area. This works like a well oiled machine.

There are two approaches you can take to deal with garbage in a city. You can set up a sewage treatment plant where the water flows into the sea, or you can ensure that the garbage generated in each household is separated before it is picked up for disposal. The latter approach works best and that is what we need to do to clean up our society.

To choke off the corruption at the corporator level is much easier than to deal with the MP's shenanigans. But if you choke off the corporators loot flow, the MLA too will be affected and by extension the MP. Charity begins at home, they say and so does the clean up. Politics will suddenly not be a lucrative proposition and the looters will have to find other means of livelihood.

Which is why, we have launched the myMP initiative. Do see whats in there, what the data says about the quality of social services in your area. Do share with me your view on how we can make this more action oriented and how we can use all this data to empower people in a manner that equips them adequately to make their elected reps accountable. Heres the site URL: www.mymp.in.

Because if you do so, you can make your vote count. May be not this time, but certainly the next time. That is my game plan. I hope i wont be o undecided the next time I go out to vote.

Jai Hind.

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