Reclaiming the Narrative Against Hyperbole

In my conversations with the tech wrapped class in Urban India, have a blind spot regarding the members of the informal economy. The informal economy is something to be not considered at all. If Autowallah and Taxi Wallah’s have a union, which is irrelevant in the era of Uber, that tech is a silver bullet against predatory, discretionary pricing, but surge pricing is market economics.

The bank employee who has a stable job is lazy versus a start up employee who is entrepreneurial. We, have something very imprecise in our aesthetics, which seeks to celebrate jobless growth, no medical coverage and one pay check away from homelessness. We have some how allowed Economic Times to frame our discourse. Read some EPW, or even OPEN for a change. The language of activism needs to reclaimed or reframed in this digital era. The food that we eat is still grown by a farmer in the hinterland.

Conversation on Digital Disruption with an Auto Wallah

I was sadly stuck in a terrible traffic snarl today in an auto rickshaw, where I decide to ignite a chat in Bhojpuri infected Hindi. The crux of the conversation was to understand the adaptation of the non digital auto wallah, against their smart phone connected counterparts in OLA or Uber. The auto wallah said, you do not waste time, waiting for the OLA or Uber driver as he is not usually a local from this area. These drivers ask us for directions all the time. We are cheaper and own the roads.

When I asked about air conditioner and other comforts, the middle aged gentlemen quipped ‘there was no OLA five years back, and there were summers in Delhi then as well’ 

He complained about the traffic during the peak hours, as these are the times where they get rides or ‘bhada’. Where the OLA driver can fetch a ride at midnight in a jungle.

The Auto Wallah is strategising against digital disruption. I would like to understand more narratives on the ground of evolving livelihoods on the front lines of automation. Life is not only about numbers in a World Economic Forum Report. Local knowledge is a key USP.

AAP: A Political Project gone awry

In 2013, during my first stint in Delhi, I was surprised and delighted to observe a new urban politics in the AAP emerging from the India Against Corruption platform. Then, after a period of hibernation, they came back with a bang. AAP as an intellectual project floundered when Prof YY and Prashant Bhushan left. In the past few days, AAP as a political project is floundering in Punjab and Delhi. In politics as in life you cannot please all. I hope for the sake of left of centre politics in India, that it is not back to business as usual. Trinamool Congress took almost two decades to have its National Party Status yesterday. Even now, it’s grassroots are former left workers. It takes time to build institutions and processes. Do not be in a hurry.

Langkawi Diaries: Nasi Lemak, Nepal and Migration

It was lovely speaking  earlier in the day to a Nepalese chef and staff from Pokhara in a restaurant in Langkawi who have worked in Mainland China/Punjabi by Nature in Cyber Hub\New Friends Colony in the National Capital Region, India. They spoke about remittances, fluctuating exchange rates and below par work with respect to their earlier work in India.

The Nepalese have a massive diasporic community in Malaysia, engaged in restaurant sector work. Migration phenomenon always intersects in a traveler’s life. Globalization which is necessary, and not necessarily evil.

Bhatt on Bollywood

Mahesh Bhatt to Karan Thapar in an India Today TV Interview: ‘We make two kinds of films; to comfort the jolted, and to jolt the comforted- for the jolted it is an ice pack and painkiller, and for the rich, pain is an aphrodisiac’ in response to a question on whether cinema is for changing the world.

And

‘We are not in the truth peddling business, we are in the illusion manufacturing business’

No one articulates it better than Mr Bhatt; the provocateur exemplar.

Reimagining Azadi: Making it matter

Happy Azadi Day India. May we reimagine the way we look after marginalized communities from Bastar to Bombay as we turn 70. It seems too many folks are squeezed in the middle and on the margins. The business of democracy is an imperfect transaction, and we seem to be operating on an auto pilot mode, the energy to change the drift of the discourse on inclusive growth and buy in is missing big time. The nationalist rhetoric has to move from the Times Now Studios to the actual project delivery in the micro politics of everyday life. Let’s talk more with humility with our community members to improve livelihoods wherever we are.

The future does not lie in a utopian city overseas for the middle class, or the urban centre for the poor, it lies where we are. Aspirations need to be actualized in order for a real Idea of India to matter from the text to experience. Let India be prosperous and peaceful for the year ahead from Imphal to Anantnag. Bharat Mata Ki Jai!

Cities have to livable, not smart

With recent urban floods in the so called Indian Silicon Valley and The ‘Sahara Mall NH10’ City, I wonder if the narrative will move to climate governance in cities from being technologically smart in design, and rather dysfunctional on the ground. The notion of sociotechnical resilience as I wrote in a January 2013 conference paper in a planning commission conference in Vadodara for Climate Change Governance in Urban India really needs to be looked in to from a livability perspective. Social Anthropologist Amitav Ghosh with his latest work on Climate Change titled the ‘The Great Derangement’ sounds off a precinct warning with the chapter on Mumbai.

Indian Media’s Poverty of Imagination

The recent media discourse on Kashmir and also the run up to the Punjab and UP Polls, fundamentally articulate that there are no apparent issues in India apart from Navjot Sidhu joining AAP and that Kashmir has issues because of one person who was killed. The Bundelkhand droughts was never covered in the same vain. And the release of Kabali is not a story of national importance, please get a life.

We seem to reside in the ‘Desert of the Real’ as Baudrillard had written about. No one seems to bother what are the real issues about which are such as speaking to the Kashmiri  who differ with your nationalist narrative, take a tough call on the drug menace in Punjab and the conversation about improving community led agriculture in Bundelkhand. Get Real, Media as it seems like every one else you are rotating on your own axis.

Why Social Justice work matters

In January 2015, I went on from being a petroleum industry consultant in Oman and India to a migration and health research lead position driving mini projects within a research program to bring issues of food security and migration experience issues with the Bangladeshi community in Singapore. This was my first formal brush with social justice activist leanings, as the earlier NGO/Social Innovation work I was leading was incremental rather than disruptive particularly in the area of communication and strategy. This experience in engaging with platforms such as AKM Mohsin’s Banglar Kantha and BoP Hub, led me to find out my strengths in working with communities. I just wish I had written more academically with my mentor Prof Mohan J Dutta at the National University of Singapore!

I hope to visit places in India and Singapore to meet peers and friends to take the conversation further whenever possible! Social Justice issues matter, as much as a check and balance mechanism in day to day life.

Question For Kashmir?

Every conflict zone is a human problem. The national security or the ‘independence’ lens really does not capture the torment of zero healthcare, zilch jobs and real absence of hope. The question to be asked is, is the land so vital even if the people treat you as oppressors? And the other question to the other end of the spectrum is: How do you envision life for your citizens after peace is achieved? Will the current revolutionary class be the new power elite ? Will the status quo evolve for the unemployed boy who throws stones for two hundred rupees?