Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where have all the leaders gone...??

Joan Baez lives!God bless her heart. We know where the flowers she sang about have gone ( they’ve been crushed a long, long time ago), but now here comes a book written by a crusty, feisty 82- year-old legend called Lee Iacocca (surely you remember the saviour of Chrysler Corporation?) titled, ‘‘Where have all the leaders gone?” Perfect timing. Perfect tone. Just as the world is in raptures over its latest Superman (Obama), Iacocca’s book raises pertinent questions about leadership and responsibility. Iacocca argues his case brilliantly, passionately and convincingly. The book needs to be made compulsory reading for not just Americans going gaga over their brand new President, but for anybody interested in effective change. With elections in India round the corner, it is exactly this crisis (“Where are the leaders? Why should we vote?’’) that needs to be urgently addressed.
I was on a jury judging the final round of a debate involving college students from Maharashtra. The topic was topical, relevant and challenging (“Governance of a State is better served by a directly elected C.M. rather than through an indirectly elected one as is prevalent today’’). The interesting thing was this – who do you think made it to the final round? Not the smart, sassy students from elite South Mumbai colleges, but clever, ambitious students from colleges in rural Maharashtra – Bordi and Aurangabad. We listened to the team leaders as they argued for and against the motion. What emerged was the level of genuine engagement in the political process, as well as a desperate cry for reform in the electoral processes. But the frustration and despair were evident once the competition was over ( the vibrant, articulate women from Bordi thrashed the men from Aurangabad by a huge margin), and the students were chatting informally with the judges. It was the same question - “ Where are the leaders worth voting for?” And it is indeed this very question that has most voters in a quandary. Every country is looking for an Obama – a charismatic, inspirational, youthful, dynamic person capable of motivating millions. But an Obama cannot be ‘manufactured’. Omar Abdullah is Omar Abdullah – there is a lot of hope riding on the guy. But it would be wrong and foolish to impose Obama’s personality on him. Just as it would be foolhardy to propel Rahul Gandhi to premiership, based on nothing beyond perception. Let him toil a little for the top job – and by that I don’t mean a night spent in a sanitized village with poster boy Millihand.
Increasingly, it looks as if the next election will be determined by nothing more than caste - modern India’s biggest curse.Even the thought that the under -25 citizens of the country – the very people who will decide the next government, will be influenced by something as medieval as caste, is depressing. It is this constituency that needs to read Iacocca’s bold book which throws up tough questions on every page and demands a response to the provocative issues it raises.
Whether it is Satyam, ‘Slumdog…’ or Sanjay Dutt, we are actually confronting the very same issues – corruption and more corruption. Moral and financial. There are enough people out there who are willing to stick their necks out and fight the rot. Like one of the bright eyed debaters said with admirable conviction, “ Why criticize the system ? We need to become a part of the solution.” Her simple statement worked like a booster shot and I found myself strangely re-energized after weeks of quiet rage. The same evening, I came home to find Munnabhai telling viewers that he saw himself as a ‘leader’ and not a ‘politician’. I instantly wanted him to face some of our aware, committed students and ask them what they thought of his leadership qualities. Whether they were ready to accept his ‘jaddu ki jhappis’ and fall for his scripted ‘Gandhigiri’ lines? Sanjay Dutt, it may surprise you to know that our youth are not as gullible as to confuse Bollywood dialogues from a popular film for political savvy. As for ‘serving the people’, maybe serving the jail term first is the better option. In today’s India, such is the irony that the word ‘satyam..’ has become a synonym for corruption on a mega scale. Truth and justice no longer go together. Which maybe why there are so many Indians who refuse to accept ‘Slumdog…’ on merit and continue to regard it as a western conspiracy. Good cinema always but always hides a kernel of truth. How long and how far are we going to run from it ?? Jai ho!!

15 comments:

ankur kakkar said...

hey maam, how're you doing ?
i read this article in TOI yesterday and i now realize that you share the same articles on your blog as well... thats great because all this while i thought i had been missing out on my favourite column in 'sunday times' !! .....

B Jo said...

Very well said. And as almost always right on the point :)

Renu said...

I have read this article somewhere else:) and I thought i am reading a blog:)

Crowscious said...

Slumdog might be a tad cliched for all us cynical indians but it's good for people from other countries to know about India's condition. Atleast for once, they don't have Bollywood with all its glittering nonsense thrown in their faces. Also, ur right, Obama is himself. I hope he is able to fulfill the expectations of his people.

Anonymous said...

Its good that the likes of shobha de and haseena jethmalani are opposing sanjay dutt. the more of "his" type of society who oppose his candidature on moral grounds the better it is for india. s anand

Mayavi Paramananda said...

Quote & Unquote Victor Antonio G., “Often times I run into leaders who seem to think that their primary duty is to bark orders and delegate every aspect of their job to their subordinates. In the end most are confused on why these same subordinates don't respect them. The answer lies in understanding that leadership is much more than ordering others; it is also about establishing credibility with those you wish to lead. Credibility comes from performance."
"To lead by example is the true treasure,
The secret of leadership, in one simple measure. “

Usha Pisharody said...

Well said.. so Where have all the leaders gone?

Backward. REtrograde. That is what is promised for the country when we bank on politics of caste!

*Aham* said...

Jai Ho! SLUMDOG is our success. matter not where the director hails from.

Sanjay Dutt, Is a criminal convict.We may choose to call him an actor... we might choose to be empathetic towards him, but that doesnt take us far from reality... Rocky took to drugs, the "naam" star dated Tina, and years later, the character he played in NAAM, of a corrupt goon, came true when Saajan Dutt was arrested for procuring arms. He married Thanedaar dutt did tamma tamma behind the bars. The suave marathi dhak dhak left the already married Richa who died of cancer. Then quickly married pillay who had to resort to art of living to find her inner peace, until paes happened. Now he has dilnavaaz sheikh as his 3rd wife. WOW. What a stable minister we would be having. Sanjay Dutts want for Shabab and Sharab (or any other nasha)is unquenchable. Yes, Yes, We should elect him. We need more people like him.

The young greats of smaller india, are much mightier than the "seemingly great" smalls of greater bombay. I am so happy to know that you are making time to attend such competitions. I love you for your young spirit and unbiased attitude.

Oxy said...

Didn't u too go gaga over the brand new president of America in your earlier posts???

And trust me couldn't go beyond the first line of second para? Same old rant. Write something refreshing.

R. Ramesh said...

word ‘satyam..’ has become a synonym for corruption on a mega scale - very well put..

Selling Hope said...

Hi Shobhaa ji,

I think the single biggest leader that will arise out of the current crisis is the common man. Not you, but me and others like me,people who sell hope.

Selling Hope said...

Another thing I'd like to write is the law of karma, which we forget. Do good things and get good returns. We should focus on that only and if (unfortunately) we become victims of a Shri Ram Sena like attack in mangalore, take a pledge to devote our lives.

This world requires bodhisatvas who work for welfare and god tests us by brining such animals on land, to invoke the spirit of human benediction for our fellow underprivileged cousins. Being victims of such attack is unfortunate and nobody can help. Even punishing can't help. I know many would disagree but the solution lies in our singular efforts in doing good, and live whatever short lives we have for helping others,provided we have sufficient for ourselves. Things go wrong when we define sufficient. That is where the problem lies.

Sidhusaaheb said...

Some of the things that should be straightened out first of all, I think, is greater transparency for the way in which those who contest elections gather funds for the purpose and the manner in which these are spent (There seems to be too much black-money doing the rounds, at present.). It might also help to set more realistic limits for the maximum amount of money that could be spent on an election campaign.

Then, perhaps, a common citizen could more realistically expect to run a successful election campaign, should he or she decide to contest.

Until then, we have to contend with whatever or, rather, whoever the political parties throw at us. It obviously doesn't suit their purpose to have honest and incorruptible candidates, since gathering wealth through dishonest means appears to be the primary objective of politics in this country.

Thanks for alerting me to Iacocca's book! I read the autobiographical one he had written earlier and appreciated it a lot.

subhash said...

The vibrant and articulate female orator from BORDI!Would you please reproduce her winning debate.

maha said...

true fats...

Work from home India