Tag Archives: America

The underachievers: Top five contenders

Nobody knows why The Time chose Dr Manmohan Singh as the Underachiever of the year. True to our US-loving psyche, our very own Outlook magazine has paid back the compliment, most graciously, by featuring President Obama on its cover with a similar title.

Now there is so much heartburn in the country that one wonders whether it was an American ploy to sow seeds of disunity with this move. The opposition parties like BJP and CPM say that their record of the last few years speaks for itself, and that it is not the business of ‘outsiders’ to decide who is the underachiever-est of us all. Meanwhile the leaders of these parties sulk and plan a counter offensive that would prove, conclusively, that the tag rightfully belongs to them. Ms Mamata Bannerjee has, it is widely believed, a natural talent and a head-start in the race.

But I seriously feel that the true under-achievers are to be found elsewhere, and that they must be recognized. Generally, we all know that the common man in India is the rightful owner of this coveted title, but to be more specific, I would submit my top five contenders for your kind consideration.


  1. The Indian corporate: Taking manufacturing growth into negative territory at a time when there is a growing demand from the middle classes – can only be the work of a hard-working underachiever. Moreover, the image and political management of the Corporates is in tatters, and they have lost their grip over the polity. What sort of an aspiring capitalist society is this where the propaganda machine of the private sector cannot rule the mindscape?
  2. The Indian Voter: With a catchment area of over a billion people, the Indian voter is unable to choose a handful of good leaders for the Parliament and Assemblies! Their sheer dedication in choosing some of worst odd-balls from the society must be recognized as the handiwork of a dedicated underachiever.
  3. The Indian cricket team: At a time when the Indian captain M S Dhoni has the probably the most talented set of players in his team, it must have taken special strategy to lose series after series since our World Cup victory. For the consistency shown in under-performance, the team needs to be recognized.
  4. The Indian Geek: Blessed with brains and an IIT degree, the Geek has disappointed by being always the follower, never the leader, in the field of big ideas; an ideal worker rather than a conceptualizer, or a brand creator.
  5. The Indian Media: So much freedom, so little result. All the ideal settings going to waste, like the grains that are rotting in Indian go-downs. The pathetic performance of Indian media is recognized and commented-on by all, and they are definitely the top contenders for the title.


The competition is tough, and it is not likely that there will be a consensus. Therefore the lucky Dr Singh will continue to rule – and that is as it should be. If I missed out on a contender who is more worthy than the above five, do to submit the name/category, at least for the record. I have no doubt that history will judge them better.



Wish-list of a modern rebel

I need the prison bars
To clang the metal plates;
I need the unjust laws
To rebel against.
I need a social order
To shake my finger at;
I need a structure, a system
To rebel against.
I need an ideology
That rages against injustice-
I need the grand symbols
To rebel against.
I would like to have a dictator
Or at least a strong leader-
I can even use a weak democracy
To rebel against.
I need the stories of the exploited
(I know none of the poor);
I need the cutouts of exploiters
To rebel against.
I need printed placards and tattoos
I need a huge public square;
I also need a few tanks
To rebel against.
I need glittering glass buildings
That reflects a magnified me;
I need a working economy
To rebel against.
I need the media, biased and vulgar,
I need the police, armed with batons;
And I also need the barricades
To rebel against.
I need a person who loves
To absorb all my hates;
I need a doting dad
To rebel against.
I need sandwich, and coke
And a home to come back to;
I need a system that listens
To rebel against.
I need the best education
To tell me all about freedom;
I need the pillars of the University
To rebel against.
I need the Barista to plan the rally
I need good Nike shoes;
I need the multinationals
To rebel against.
I know not how the tribals live
I know not the extent of their trials;
I need the forest laws on the net
To rebel against.
I need a crowd, a rally,
Full of guys, filled with rage;
I need the orators to tell me
What to rebel against.
I need the street-lights
To smash to smithereens;
I need public property
To rebel against.
I will rage against the Americans
Till I get the Green-card;
Till then it will be the Greenbacks
That I will rebel against.
I need a father to print money
Though I do not know how;
All I need is his sense of guilt
To rebel against.
I know not who makes the laws, or why
But I do know my Rousseau;
I know that the laws are made
To rebel against.

Washington DC: Imperial dreams

Washington is a befitting capital of the No.1 superpower, that sometimes believes itself to be the latest successor of the Roman Empire. The association with the Roman Empire was conscious and constant in the steady development of US as a ‘super-power’. This is what Wiki writes right at the start of its brief history on making of Washington- “Pierre Charles L’Enfant designed the capital in 1790s, and Thomas Jefferson insisted that the legislative building be called the “Capitol” rather than “Congress House”. Capitol comes from Latin and is associated with the Roman temple to Jupiter on Capitoline Hill.”

Washington is a beautiful city, in a grand way. Its beauty lies in scale, harmony and dignity. The calm Potomac river, and the marble monuments that overlook it, gives a constancy and stability to the place. The city seems to reassure the visitor that the world order is in secure hands, and that there is no cause for panic. A traveler can be forgiven if he forgets, for a while, the poverty in which much of the rest of the world lives in. The placard holding protestors in front of the White House look so out of place and benign, that you laugh with them, rather than rage at the injustices of the world.

The White House, at the first sight, looks smaller that what one normally imagines – but looks are deceptive. Generally all marble buildings have this feel of lightness – and since the White House is well proportioned, it looks smaller than it really is. That is good in a sense, for again, speaking in terms of imperial and democratic need of the US, a benign and friendly icon is indeed a better idea than an imposing and threatening symbol of power.

Somehow I did not get a ‘democratic’ feel in the city – maybe because the idea of democracy for us Indians is ‘crowds, rallies, striving for rights and street-smart politicians’, and none of that was visible in Washington. Instead, the local papers were full of stories of power broking, party negotiations and lobbying. It would seem that Americans leave the day-to-day business of politics to their politicians and worry about the politics of business only. It is therefore no surprise that New York, in sharp contrast, looks very much a peoples’ city.

It came as a surprise to me that almost half the Americans have not visited Washington. (Surprised because it is an extremely beautiful city.) To an international tourist, however, I would heartily recommend a visit to the ‘Capitol’. It is not only beautiful (though expensive), it also lives up to all the Hollywood hype around it. In fact it does more – it comes close to reinventing Rome, the recurring European dream of a ‘world capital’.


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