City of Joy

It’s been a while since I blogged. Moving to a new job has kept me busy, these past few months. It’s been a particularly demanding, challenging and exciting journey, but it hasn’t left me much time for anything else, including blogging. In August, I also moved my blogs to WordPress.com, and that migration took the good part of a precious weekend, but I digress. Before I joined my new employer, I took the opportunity to go on a trip to a city I’ve longed to see for more than a decade – Kolkata.

Kolkata is a city unlike any other in India, or so I’d heard until I actually saw it for myself. Now, I know it to indeed be so. I chose the last week of June – one of its hottest and most humid – not by choice, but because I was in between jobs and that was the only window I had. Yes, I’d done a fair bit of research online, and also spoken to my “bong” friends who were very generous with their long lists of things that should be ‘must-see’ on my agenda. But, I also wanted to keep it free flowing… experience Kolkata as it happens to me.

And, as it turned out, that was a wonderful idea!

I hailed a non-airconditioned yellow ambassador taxi from the airport, since that was the most classical way to traverse the city of joy. I’d chosen to stay on Sudder Street, since it was very popular with foreigners who backpacked across India, and also close to the famous Park Street. Sudder Street, and its adjoining New Market, were a full-blown sensory experience, giving me the chance to take in the sights and sounds of the city in all its glory. Most places I wanted to see were a short taxi ride away, which was convenient since it saved me a lot of time.

Over the course of the next four days, I did almost everything I wanted to do on my list – circumnavigate the famous Maidan, go to the Indian Museum, visit the Victoria Memorial monument, photograph St. Paul’s Cathedral, go up and down the legendary Park Street several times, ride the Kolkata Metro, spend some hours in the tranquil surroundings of the South Park Street Cemetery, drive over the Howrah and the Vidyasagar bridges, visit the old Howrah town, drive past Eden Gardens, experience the sprawling Science City on the outskirts, saw several street arguments, visit the glamorous and upmarket stretches of Salt Lake City, and of course use every opportunity to take in some Bengali food, including eating at Peter Cat (where my wife had enjoyed several meals as a youngster!).

In the end, the only things left unchecked on my list were a tram ride and a trip to see Mother Teresa’s home – these would have to wait until my next visit. Of course, there would be many more visits to come…

Kolkata touched me in a way that most cities haven’t, and I was glad that I was able to take this opportunity to experience it in a way that most tourists don’t. Kolkata has an uncanny ability to assimilate you into its culture. Once you’ve made it your own, so as to say, it’s almost impossible to see it like an “outsider” does. Most folks I know would have a love/hate relationship with the city – they would either think I’m nuts to think of Kolkata in these terms, or simply “get it”.

Vir Sanghvi described this sentiment beautifully when he wrote: “That’s why Calcutta is not for everyone. You want your cities clean and green; stick to Delhi. You want your cities, rich and impersonal, go to Bombay. You want them high-tech and full of draught beer, Bangalore’s your place. But if you want a city with a soul, come to Calcutta.

Bombay to Goa: Part Two

Please Note: This is an extension of my earlier post on a road trip from Bombay to Goa. Read that to get additional dope on this subject.

This April, we made a second road trip to Goa and back. This time around, however, we were far more experienced about what to expect. (For the record, the Mumbai-Pune-Kolhapur-Nipani-Ajara-Amboli-Sawantwadi-Mapusa route is still the best route to take.) I’m sharing my log file with you since many of you have written in about how helpful you found those pointers…

Bombay to Goa

We decided to get a two hour headstart by starting off from Pune early morning. So we ended up staying over in Pune one day prior to departure. In hindsight, that didn’t help much since the time on road (including breaks) from Pune to Goa also ended up taking 12 hours.

0545, 0 kms – Started from Pune (near Baner) via Katraj bypass
0625, 36 kms – Passed by McDonald’s @ Khedshivpur
0711, 80 kms – End of Khandala (Satara) ghats
0750, 96 kms – Clean loo, Petrol pump n Restaurant
0950, 208 kms – Passed by Sai Food Court
1000, 217 kms – Kini Toll Plaza
1025, 240 kms – Passed by 24-hr McD (Kolhapur) on the opp side
1123, 283 kms – Turn off NH4 towards Goa @ Hotel Kavery (very clean Indian-style loo for ladies)
1245, 325 kms – Hotel Minerva Paradise. Very clean loos + Lunch break 1 hr
1430, 362 kms – Passed by Kamat’s @ Amboli just before the ghats begin
1500, 378 kms – End of Amboli ghats

(Then we took a left for a shortcut to Mapusa, but you should avoid it as it’s an unpaved narrow that bypasses Sawantwadi; Go via Sawantwadi instead)

1545, 395 kms – Turn on to NH 17
1622, 426 kms – Turn right for Mapusa city
1645, 440 kms – Reached Hotel in Baga

Goa to Bombay

On the way back, we decided to split the journey at Kolhapur which is almost midway in terms of time taken.

0835, 0 kms reading – Started from Baga towards Mapusa, then onto NH17 for Sawantwadi
1020, 59 kms – Sawantwadi ends
1045, 72 kms – Amboli ghats begin
1140, 88 kms – Ghats end @ Kamat’s. (Loos not too functional)
1240, 120 kms – Hotel Minerva Paradise about 1 km before Ajara town
1345, 160 kms – Turn onto NH4
1430, 210 kms – Reached our Hotel in Kolhapur

Next day…

0915, 00 kms – Started from Kolhapur
1125, 137 kms – Anewadi Toll Plaza
1150, 166 kms – End of Satara (Khandala) ghats – bypassed through tunnel
1210, 187 kms – Big Kamat’s for lunch stop upto 1 pm
1325, 212 kms – New Katraj tunnel to enter Pune city
1415, 249 kms – Turn onto Pune-Mumbai Expressway
1520, 342 kms – Expressway ends @ Kharghar
1610, 371 kms – Airoli Toll Booth
1645, 382 kms – Home

Special thanks to the missus for logging in all this info on her cellphone throughout the drive. Have a safe one…

Mumbai Local

After some years, I found myself taking one of Mumbai’s local trains to go from one end of the city to another.  I also ended up tweeting about everything I experienced during that journey.  This short poem has evolved from those tweets…

LED displays
Improved ventilation
Faster fans
And cushioned seats
Mobile phones
Seem to be with all of you
Everything looks new in a Mumbai Local

Shoe-shine boys
AH Wheeler
The smell of popcorn
Eunuchs onboard
Pocket radios for some
And a Ray Ban too!
Life sure is interesting on a Mumbai Local

Abusive cop
Scared little kid
Girlfriend-Boyfriend
And an office exec
Vegetable vendors
And a Parsi bawa too
Every one takes the Mumbai Local

Fast train screams past
Marine Lines sea breeze
I arrive at Churchgate
By a window seat
Reached in no time
In 6 rupees too!
Is there anything better than a Mumbai Local?

An India that Deserves Better

It was in May of 2004 when I’d first blogged about a New, Improved India, based on the belief that a highly-educated economist being elected as the PM would help change India for the better.   India did change, but not for the better.

Within a few months, it had become evident that the Dr. Singh who was responsible for the visionary practices of globalization and liberalisation was not the Dr. Singh who was now the alleged “leader” of the country.  In fact, over the next few years, India would see multiple scams surfacing, each trying to outdo its predecessor in terms of the millions and billions it amassed for its kingpins.  And, the famous Dr. Singh was reduced to being no more than a mouthpiece for the venerable “G” clan – if at all he ever spoke!

Like thousands of others, I too saw a glimmer of hope when, a few months ago, a frail old man in a “Gandhi” cap – Anna Hazare – decided to take on the cause of “India Against Corruption” by declaring a fast-unto-death in the capital of the country.  He was doing so, in support of the Lokpal Bill that proposed strong measures against corrupt practices.

Frankly, the amount of activity online (Twitter, etc.) and on-ground, at the time, was a surprise to most of us.  But, the Govt. managed to postpone the problem by seeking some time to correct its steps and table the Bill.  Not one to give up easily, Anna promised that if suitable measures were not taken, he will return on 16th Aug – a day after India’s independence day.

What was eventually drafted by the ruling government was a completely stripped-down version of the Bill, with ommission or reduced liability for key stakeholders like the PM’s office and members of parliaments, and strict punishments for those who “wrongly” make an allegation of corruption!  And, true to his word, Anna was back.

By this time, however, the man had become a movement…

India Against Corruption was now a full-fledged initiative that sparked the imagination of millions of Indians, both here and abroad.  Twitter was abuzz with activity around hashtags like #anna and #janlokpal.  Thousands of people in most major towns responded to Anna’s call of jail bharo (fill the prisons), to mark their protest against the prevalent corruption.  Retired IPS officers and High Court judges were pledging their support in public.  Even NRIs were flying down from across the globe, in a show of solidarity!

Enough and more has been written about how India is a country that is too large and diverse to manage.  And, about how every coalition government has to make tradeoffs that may not be acceptable.  But today, for the first time, I feel that as a people, we have had enough.  The citizens of India are demanding a better government.  The citizens of India – youth and disabled included – are bunking classes and taking leave from work, to show up for candle marches and protest gatherings, at places like Azad Maidan and Tihar Jail…

800+ voluntarily got themselves jailed in Mumbai, just a few days ago.   Thousands have been detained in Tihar Jail already.  Hundreds of thousands are spreading awareness via SMS and tweets, to their friends and family.  1.5 million have pledged their support via the Facebook group – Jai Ho!  And, more than 13 million have registered their voice of dissent via missed calls, as reported by the IAC website.

Yes, some of us are still wishing that this is just a phase, and that “this too shall pass”.  Some of us are still squabbling over semantics, and questioning the “unparliamentary” manner in which this movement has grown from strength to strength.  Some of us are still arguing that as long as we continue to grease palms to expedite things, we have no right to protest against corrupt practices.

But, there is no denying that, what started as one man’s fight for an India that deserved more, has become a movement for which Anna is but a symbol – a face.  Nearly a century ago, a man named M.K. Gandhi taught us that you can shake a nation from its slumber, and oust a colonial ruler, by non-violent means. Today, Anna is using those means to re-ignite a spark in millions.  And, he’s doing more for our society than most of us ever will in our lifetime.

I support Anna because Life is hard as it is, and for decades, we Indians have (mistakenly) lived with the belief that we are like this only.  I support Anna because it takes a lot to get the youth of our country to even care about what’s happening to it.  I support Anna because he may be our only hope, in our fight against corruption and injustice, and an ineffective government.  I support Anna because, years later, when my grandchildren ask me if I had any role to play in the “freedom struggle” of my time, I want to be able to say “Yes, I did!”

I do hope that this flame does not die out too soon… for your sake and mine.

Read Also:
Wikipedia on Jan Lokpal Bill (Anti Corruption) of India
Answering Anna’s critics: 10 posers and rebuttals

Bombay to Goa!

I’ve been driving for more than 15 years.  There were years when the office commute itself was a 50 km/day affair (in Mumbai’s traffic that’s quite a distance to cover).  There were also the occassional trips to Pune via the Expressway, but even on a same-day-return journey, that added up to just about 380 kms in a day.  I have always harboured the desire to drive coast-to-coast across the US, and also explore India by road.  But, hadn’t attempted a really “long drive”… until last week.

We had planned to do a Bombay-to-Goa with both our kids, and I’m happy to report that we all made it back in one piece, and are raring to go again!

The distance is about 650 kms, each way.  And, to get the full experience of a long drive, we decided to do it in one stretch.  The planned drive time was about 14 hours, each way, but we ended up clocking nearly 17 hours!  It was a memorable trip, and I was really pleased that, in spite of a back operation a few years ago, I was able to do this.  We chose the superb NH4 route instead of the usual NH17 one, and it was a fantastic experience…

Here’s what I learned from my first long drive:

– Start by 5 am for a >12-hour road trip; A half-hour in the morning is worth two by evening
– If travelling with kids, carry enough food in the cabin (not in the boot), in case you’re stranded
– On a long road trip, the journey is as important as the destination; Don’t be in a hurry to “reach”
– Wear comfortable attire and shoes – whatever you’re most comfortable in, including floaters
– Plan your route in advance and key-in important via points into your GPS – it will do wonders!
– Don’t start with six options and assume that you’ll decide on the way; Re read above point
– Carry enough water and consume it as frequently as possible; Car ACs dehydrate you
– Don’t take a new car / new pair of shoes / new camera on a long road trip; I didn’t
– Don’t forget to pack your sense of humour with you – no one likes a cabin full of grump
– Know a little about the kind of food you’ll encounter en route e.g. Kolhapur = Spice
– There are at least 20 people in Goa who run at 5.30 am; Watch out for them when you drive!

For the record, the best way to go from Bombay to Goa is from Mumbai to Pune via the expressway and then onto NH4 (buttery-smooth six-lane ribbon of tar!) past Satara – Kolhapur – Nipani (right turn) – Ajara – Amboli (ghats) – Sawantwadi – joining NH17 and then onto Mapusa/Panjim/Madgaon.  Also for the record, the worst way to cross the ghats (mountainous region) is via Anmod.

For those of you who’re interested in our particular travel log, here’s what happened:

(All distances from Powai) Started at 5.15 am. McDonalds @ 6.12 am, 42km. Hit NH4 near Baner (Pune) @ 7.45 am, 145k.  Khed tollbooth @ 8.45 am, 180k. Passed thru Khandala ghats (before Satara) @ 9.30 am, 225k. Next tollbooth @ 249k. Break for lunch @ 1.15 in McDonald’s (opp. side) at 384k. Past Hattari SEZ @ 3.15 pm, 460k.  Entered Belgaum city @ 4.30 pm.  Went via Khanapur road (NH4A) upto Anmod ghats.  Took a few wrong turns trying to follow a “shortcut”, and got lost in the wilderness of a 133 sq. km nature reserve with no sign of civilisation until about 9 pm, when we hit NH4 again near Ponda.  (This last part is entirely optional, and I don’t suggest you try it.)  Then, hit the road to Madgaon and reached Colva @ 10 pm.

(All distances from Colva) Started @ 5.30am. Sawantwadi @ 92k, 7.45am. Amboli ghats end  (Kamat’s hotel) @ 8.55 am. Hotel Minerva @ 2km before Ajara @ 10:15 am, 152k – very clean loo.  Hit NH4 @ 12PM, 192k.  No decent place to eat except McD @ Kolhapur and Sai Food Court @ 265k and some more options @ 285k.  Taswade tollplaza @ 2.35p, 315k. Asal Satara has great food on the opp. side via service road @ 355 k. Last tollbooth on Mum-Pun expressway @ 8pm, 540k. Expressway ends @McDonald’s @ 8.20pm, 570k.  Then, pray that the city traffic does not take all the joy out of your long drive (as it did to our’s).

Happy journey…

P.S. Thanks for all the help, DM.

Read Also: Bombay to Goa – Part Two

The Great Indian Tragedy

According to the backgrounder by The Economic Times:

A lethal plume of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas escaped from a storage tank at the Union Carbide pesticide factory in the early hours of December 3, 1984 in the central Indian city of Bhopal.

Government figures put the death toll at 3,500 within the first three days but independent data by the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) puts the figure at between 8,000 and 10,000 for the same period.  The ICMR has said that up to 1994, 25,000 people also died from the consequences of gas exposure.

Union Carbide settled all liabilities related to the accident, including cleaning up the site, with a 470-million-dollar out-of-court settlement with the Indian government in 1989 after years of wrangling about the amount… The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), an umbrella group of survivors’ organisations, says most survivors received 25,000 rupees (500 dollars) to fund a lifetime of hospital visits.

Yesterday, after a 25-year-long wait, the final verdict was out.

A quarter of a century after the worst industrial disaster in history, a Bhopal district court sentenced seven people, including businessleader Keshub Mahindra, for two years in jail under sections of Indian law usually applied to road mishaps.

The Monday verdict didn’t mention Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide global chief during the disaster. Anderson, who was arrested in Bhopal in 1984, was freed on bail on assurance that he will return. Four years later, the CBI chargesheet named him, and in 1989, the chief judicial magistrate of Bhopal issued a non-bailable warrant for his arrest for repeatedly ignoring summons. In 1992, Anderson was declared a fugitive by the Indian courts.

The Indo-Asian News Service reports:

The United States has ruled out reopening any new inquiry against Union Carbide after Bhopal court’s verdict in the 1984 Bhopal gas leak that killed more than 15,000 people, hoping it would bring closure to the probe into the tragedy.

“Obviously this was one of the greatest industrial tragedies and industrial accidents in human history,” US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake told reporters on Monday.  “But I don’t expect this verdict to reopen any new inquiries or anything like that. On the contrary, we hope that this is going to help to bring closure,” he said…

Pritish Nandy seemed to hit the nail on the head when he tweeted:

We have simply stopped respecting the lives of the unknown any more. No number of deaths interest us, unless the dead are famous.

Bhopal will no longer be remembered for the crime: 6 lakh lives destroyed. It will be remembered for the injustice meted out 25 years later.

Today, I am ashamed to call myself an Indian.

Someone wise once remarked, “There is only one question – How to love this world?”

Update : 16 June 2010

Amar Hingorani, an advocate in the Supreme Court of India, posts a shocking and brilliant editorial in the Hindustan Times in which he informs us that: “The law empowering the Indian government to represent Bhopal’s gas victims was unconstitutional. In effect, two guilty parties negotiated with each other.”

 

See Also : Union Carbide’s official statement

On Krishnamurti

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted something on the blog.  Let me begin the New Year by introducing you to someone who has significantly influenced my Life and will continue to do so for years to come – J. Krishnamurti.

Here’s how the Krishnamurti Foundation describes him:

Krishnamurti is regarded globally as one of the greatest thinkers and religious teachers of all time. He did not expound any philosophy or religion, but rather talked of the things that concern all of us in our everyday lives, of the problems of living in modern society with its violence and corruption, of the individual’s search for security and happiness, and the need for mankind to free itself from inner burdens of fear, anger, hurt, and sorrow. He explained with great precision the subtle workings of the human mind, and pointed to the need for bringing to our daily life a deeply meditative and spiritual quality.

He was a prolific writer and speaker, and has expounded on various subjects that concern us as mankind.  Therefore, it’s an impossible task to try and “summarise” the essence of his teachings or give you a fair representation of what they entail.  Instead, I’ll give you an excerpt from notes to himself…

FLYING AT 41,000 feet from one continent to another you see nothing but snow, miles of snow; all the mountains and the hills are covered with snow, and the rivers too are frozen. You see them wandering, meandering, all over the land. And far below, the distant farms are covered with ice and snow. It is a long, tiresome flight of eleven hours. The passengers were chattering away. There was a couple behind one and they never stopped talking, never looked at the glory of those marvellous hills and mountains, never looked at the other passengers. Apparently they were absorbed in their own thoughts, in their own problems, in their chatterings. And at last, after a tedious, calm flight, in the dead of winter, you land at the town on the Pacific….
 
… You have said over and over again that the mind, or if you prefer it, the brain, must be quiet, must empty itself of all the knowledge it has gathered, not only to be free but to comprehend something that is not of time or thought or of any action. You have said this in different ways in most of your talks and I find this awfully difficult, not only to grasp the idea, the depth of it but the feeling of quiet emptiness, if I can use that word. I never could feel my way into it. I have tried various methods to end the chattering of the mind, the endless occupation with something or other, this very occupation creating its problems. And as one lives one is caught up in all this. This is our daily life, the tedium, the talk that goes on in a family, and if there isn’t talking there is always the television or a book. The mind seems to demand that it should be occupied, that it should move from one thing to another, from knowledge to knowledge, from action to action with the everlasting movement of thought.

Why should you care about Krishnamurti and his teachings?  I’ll let him answer that in his own words…

And as we are – the world is. That is, if we are greedy, envious, competitive, our society will be competitive, envious, greedy, which brings misery and war. The State is what we are. To bring about order and peace, we must begin with ourselves and not with society, not with the State, for the world is ourselves…

If we would bring about a sane and happy society we must begin with ourselves and not with another, not outside of ourselves, but with ourselves.

 Wish you a Happy New Year and a more informed life…

The Gorakhpur Experience

If you’ve been following my blog, you already know that these past few weeks have been particularly hectic for me, thanks to all the activities surrounding my new web presence.  But, amidst all the chaos, I missed out on blogging about an important event in the family.

During the first week of October, we also made a trip to Gorakhpur (via New Delhi) for my sister’s wedding !!!

It was an interesting few months leading up to the “big day”, with tension and excitement available in equal measure.  The boy’s family was from Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh).   For various reasons, both parties had agreed, early on, that we would host the engagement and wedding ceremony in Gorakhpur, and try to keep the formalities to a minimum.  Ma’s health has always been unpredictable, and we were not even sure she’d be able to make it to the event!   But, as the day dawned nearer, I became more and more confident that the adrenalin would keep her going…

Given the dubious safety record of train journeys across Bihar and UP, I was keen to avoid that stretch, and planned to route our journey via New Delhi.  Since most of our relatives were joining in from Delhi, we would also benefit from their company.

That said, we were apprehensive about how our little kids would manage.  This would be our longest train journey with both kids, till date.  And, we were scheduled for not one, but three train rides lasting more than 15 hours each, in a span of 6 days!  Yes, we were planning to take the maid with us.  But, there was no guarantee that she would not cancel at the last minute.

As it turned out, things weren’t half as bad as they could’ve been.  Every thing went off smoothly with the engagement and the wedding ceremony.  And, Ma was able to make it to her daugher’s wedding day.  Having the celebrations in Gorakhpur meant access to a lot of resources (for the bridegroom’s family) and none of the problems of Mumbai’s traffic.  I even managed to go with a few temple-goers for a little ride around the Gorakhpur countryside, to see life on the streets in a new town.

The children enjoyed their holiday, and made the most of the attention from all our relatives.  On our way back, we’d planned a one-night stay in Delhi to catch up with some family that we had not seen in a long while.  (I used to visit family in Delhi, every summer, when I was in school).  Now, after all these years, it was really nice to meet up with some cousins and uncles, and have the kids meet with cousins of their own – some of them for the first time!

Yes, I really wish the weather was not as hot and humid as it was, both in New Delhi and in Gorakhpur.  And, I was really looking forward to my journey back by the Rajdhani – a train I have never been in and have wanted to all my life.  (We missed our train ride back on account of a bad traffic jam in New Delhi, and had to spend an exhorbitant sum to return by flight!).

But, in the end, all’s well that ends well.

Bridge over Troubled Waters

The world is talking about it from Mumbai to Minessota.  Folks have travelled long distances to catch the pre-inauguration laser show and test drive on the new sea-link during its first few days of launch.  And, office goers of Mumbai are desperately waiting for its hi-speed lanes to reduce their daily commute downtown.

It’s also (probably) India’s first bridge to have a website of its own, even if its classic brochureware design boasts of more ads than real content on the project!   The sad reality is, for all the effort that went into its construction, it may not achieve the larger objective, thanks to poor planning and myopic politics.

The Economic Times went from calling it a “traveller’s delight” to “hi-tech incompetence“, in a single day!

ET, 30 June — It was quite an exhilarating experience to be able to commute via the Bandra Worli Sea Link for the time. We started off from the MSRDC site office near Bandra Reclamation and halted at Worli, in a matter of less than 8 minutes, using the sea link route as it was gearing up to open to public in less than 48 hours.

ET, 1 July — What was supposed to be a Rs 300-crore project completed in 2004 actually cost Rs 1,600 crore and was completed five years late… Supposedly it will reduce the 40-minute car journey from Bandra to Worli to seven minutes, but in practice it will lead to traffic bunching at both ends of the link, and become a nightmare during rush hour.

In the days leading up to its inauguration, I was wondering what it would be named…  Given that Mumbai happens to be in Maharashtra,  the Shiv Sena would definitely want it named after a ‘son of the soil’.  And, since the Congress was elected back into power earlier this year, the “first family” would probably want it named after one of its own.  In the end, the Congress had its say.  It would be called the Rajiv Gandhi Setu.

As someone who’s lived in Mumbai all my life, I firmly believe that the city’s traffic problems need a hoslitic mass-oriented solution.  Improvement in the Public Transport System will result in far greater benefits per rupee spent, than investing in two-lane flyovers or sea links that begin and end in traffic jams…

I have yet to see the Bandra Worli Sea Link in its finished state, and plan to head there on the weekend to shoot some pics.  But that’s only because the photographer in me can still appreciate its engineering design and beauty. 

As a commuter, I have no doubt that it’s not much more than Rs. 16 billion worth of band-aid  for a problem that requires open-heart surgery!   Is any one listening?

Lok Sabha 2009

AJAX based widgets that fetch XML feeds from various sources on Election-related news coverage… GoogleMaps that chart the course from your house to the Electoral Center… Comparison info on any electoral candidate like you would compare Nokia handsets… FAQs on how the whole voting thing works…

If all this sounds too good to be true, think again.  It’s all happening in India, this election season!

If, like me, you are also tired of the lack of transparency & access to information, and the limited accountability of your political representatives, you will appreciate just how much any one of these tools can help.  Bear in mind that the list above is just a sample.  There’s all that and more on the world wide web, available at the click of a mouse, to any one with a Net connection.

Sure, some of the features work only for major cities.  Sure, sometimes, spelling mistakes in the voter list can make finding your polling both a little tricky.  Sure, you may print out the directions from GoogleMaps only to discover (at times) that you were directed to the wrong center!  But, if this is what can be achieved in just one election, imagine what we’ll be able to do the next time around!!!

I was able to look up my name on the voter list (showing my old address and constituency), access key stats on my constituency, look up all the candidates that are contesting from that region, read their parties’ manifestos, and access their track record on parliamentary attendance and criminal cases pending against them.  All this, from the comfort of my AC office! 

Thanks to these tools, I also now know that Gurudas Kamat (a respected Congress candidate) has had to declare a 408% increase in his net assets since the last election, and Pramod Kasurde (an independant candidate contesting this year) has only passed his 8th standard!

This country we live in needs change more than any thing else.  And, that change will not come unless you and I move our butts and make our opinion count. 

Head on to these sites to find out all you need to, and ensure that you cast your vote on Election Day…

  • JaagoRe  – Voter Registration, Polling Booth details, FAQs and more…
  • MumbaiVotes – Info on Political Candidates for any region of Mumbai
  • Lok Sabha Elections 2009 – Type in your locality to customise this

Do you still have a good excuse for not doing your duty?!  Really?