Thursday, August 13, 2009

Invaluable Indians...

Guys.... this is the lead story in 'The Week.' More tomorrow. My daughter Arundhati leaves tonight.... my arm and a leg will be missing till I see her again.


People change. Values don’t. “Value” is such a loaded 5-letter word. Difficult to define, difficult to compute. Yet, this much we do know - certain ‘values’ are universal …. eternal. Those are the ones that cut across cultures and centuries and cannot be challenged – truth, loyalty, goodness, honour. When it comes to compiling a list of India’s Most Valuable, it is virtually impossible to draw it up in an all-inclusive fashion.

It is all about branding.Isn’t everything these days? Companies are brands, products are brands, shockingly enough, even people are brands . Perfectly sensible marketing professionals speak earnestly about Ratan Tata’s personal brand equity and I wonder if that makes him squirm…. or is he realistic enough to see it from a business leader’s perspective: personal brand equity = value addition to the company’s stock. True enough in his case. Just like one cannot separate Bill Gates from Microsoft, Ratan is TATA. And TATA is him.
It wasn’t always this way in India. Ratan Tata is in a unique postion given the Tata legacy. But there are countless other self-styled tycoons who believe business credibility is but a click away. Such ‘personalities’ walk around flaunting price tags , labels… brazenly boasting about their net worth … buying their way into and out of situations. Even a decade ago, such crass conduct would have been frowned upon, even despised. But in today’s far more upfront age of aggressive self- promotion, if a famous person does not cash in on individual equity, he\she is considered dumb … out of it. Media , of course, has played a key role in promoting personality cults.
In this context, those making the short list for the country’s Most Valuable People, are the ones with the highest profile. People who have impacted one billion lives directly or indirectly during the past one year. The same people watched by an awestruck nation giving nightly gyaan on tv channels , those whose mug shots peddle products ranging from cameras to condoms, those who bring glory to India in the sports arena and most significantly, those who influence policy, those who entertain the masses via music, cinema, tv. So long as the average Indian can put a face to the name, the fame game is on. Often , the actual achievements of the person being enthusiastically applauded by the masses is unknown even to those fans clapping away. But that’s a matter of detail…. nobody minds. We love our icons . We worship our heroes. We adore success.

It has often been said that the biggest marketing guru India produced remains Mahatma Gandhi. The man and his message are both alive and well a little more than six decades on. Gandhi gave Indians their spine back. His ‘product’ was independence. His ‘byproduct’ – self-respect. We have been patiently waiting for the New Mahatma to rescue us in the 21st century. We may have to wait much longer. But, why despair? There are several ‘amazing minds’ in our midst, who influence our lives on a daily basis. These are towering individuals … well, most of them. For better or worse, we need it identify and acknowledge their contribution in their chosen disciplines. The Editors at ‘The Week’ have done a comprehensive job of putting the list together. Whether it’s Kapil Sibal who will be shaping the minds of Young India by placing education right at the top of India’s priorities, or M.S. Swaminathan who will ensure no Indian goes hungry if he can help it, these are the two most important individuals on the list. A nation that accepts the existence of even one hungry stomach in a population of over a billion people, is a nation that must hang its head in shame.India cannot afford to boast about a single other achievement so long as there are starvation deaths .For every child who dies of malnutrition, there is collective responsibility involved. Since education cannot be forced down a gullet that is denied access to even clean drinking water, forget edible food, perhaps it is time to link the two most critical programmes of feeding and educating the masses in a more meaningful way. Everything else will fall into place, as it has in other countries that made both a top priority before launching space programmes , putting men on the moon or going nuclear.

India has led a pretty schizophrenic existence throughout its complex history. But never has that been as apparent as it is today. We know – or claim to know – what’s ‘good for us’. And yet, we seem paralysed to do something concrete about it. We ‘know’ religious differences get us nowhere ( main reason for the Congress win and BJP defeat in the last election), and yet we are afraid to move against those who foster hatred between communities. Narendra Modi, with his loyal and considerable fan base can be converted into a ‘valuable asset’ if only his mindset miraculously changes.That is one ‘conversion’ nobody will object to! He is dynamic and bold. His vision for a prosperous Gujarat has attracted unprecedented investments. And yet, his party received a resounding slap on its face when the voter snubbed them. Modi as P.M.??? Not for a long, long while. Rahul Gandhi’s immense appeal to the youth of India can be better harnessed if he frees himself from Dynasty and strikes out on his own. Rahul represents Tolerant India – forward-thinking and progressive. Growth-driven and ambitious.His secular stand has won him the hearts of the nation. Rahul could very well emerge as the People’s Politician.
So long as we remain passive bystanders and tolerate those fanning communal strife, so long as we silently endorse the merchants of terror, we cannot dream of real progress – the sort that isn’t measured by the GDP or Sensex swings. Perhaps the BJP has woken up to the country’s real compulsions, which extend well beyond mandir-masjid politics.
Market marshals talk about more transparency. SBI Chairman O.P.Bhat, super brains like Anil Kakodkar, along with the SEBI Chairman C. Bhave , control India’s financial destiny and positioning in the complex, volatile world of finance. Never mind that Pranab Mukherjee’s uninspiring Budget speech didn’t bring cheer to the aam aadmi, India is still far better off than several developed countries reeling from the economic meltdown . We need sharp strategists to manage our domestic economy during this tricky phase, and we are lucky to have them.But somewhere in this complicated numbers game, we cannot afford to neglect the two issues that directly affect each and every Indian – national security and terrorism.This is where Manmohan Singh’s vision and leadership could propel India into a more secure zone. Unfortunately, so far, his contribution has been either too subtle or too sage for it to have made the required difference. The most recent Balochistan Blunder has focused the nation’s attention on how ineptly and unconvincingly his appointee S.M Krishna undertook the crucial damage control exercise….much to the horror and embarrassment of the watching world. He fell flat on his face…. he is still there.
We like to believe Indians have made a fantastic breakthrough in International cinema, thanks to the publicity generated by ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ which is NOT an Indian film to begin with. But what it has done is gift A.R.Rahman’s genius to the world. This modest musician has waited a long time for universal recognition. It is now his – Rahman is in a league of his own with no real competition, either here or overseas. He is a genuine, gilt-edged ‘Valuable’ – self-made and supreme.

Our sports stars largely remain indigenous phenomena, loved by a cricket-mad nation…. And furiously commercialized by their keepers. They are indeed valuable, but it is high time we looked beyond Brand Sachin or Brand Dhoni ( a little tarnished at present), and recognized the contribution of those incredible, small town boys from under- privileged, rural homes who have made the country proud on innumerable international occasions. Leander Paes , dubbed a ‘Tennis Statesman’ needs to be acknowledged for his grit and endurance. Right now, however , sports lovers are looking keenly at a new star on the horizon - Saina Nehwal, ranked number 6 in the world. This plucky 19 -year-old (who recently battled chicken pox), has single- handedly revived Badminton in India, and is expected to do well at the upcoming BWF World Championship.
The time has definitely come to honour our ‘Most Valuable’ citizens - those anonymous Jawans who risk their lives for us, guard our borders, defend us fiercely, and remain the most undervalued citizens of the country. Our grateful ‘salaams’ to our Armed Forces as we salute India’s unsung heroes on this important day.


चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

"The time has definitely come to honour our ‘Most Valuable’ citizens - those anonymous Jawans .."

They dont have a brand to be valuable and a small flame is sufficient at the Jai Jawan tomb to honour them. Who cares for their families!!!

Gia Fernandes said...

This was very thought provoking. Musical talent apart, I think Rahman is also a wonderful example of how spiritual soul triumphs over religious fanaticism. The last bit about India's most valuable citizens - our brave men at the borders - makes me hate myself for not thinking of them every day. Every single safe and freedom filled day that I enjoy.

Happy Independance Day to you Ms. De!

Awww and where is your little girl off to?

Raefah said...

Good one except... "waiting for the New Mahatma to rescue us in the 21st..." Those days have gone...

Every one can make a difference and become a Rainmaker including YOU.. the issue is, it is not manageable anymore... for example, I spoke to few VVVVIPs about Corruption, they all said, it is possible only in Indian Movies to challenge and win!!! They have a great understanding that you should have the ability to pay Rs 1000 per vote to win in any election... They are so confident that they can BUY... This is the reason that people like Ms Jayalalitha told her party not to waste resources fighting in by-elections. Dr Kalam, gave up and chose to mentor younger generation and leave this generation....

India needs: PUSH and LIFT approach! PUSH - Corruption free policies into laws coming from local level civic bodies and LIFT people using grass-root organizations deploying the civic policies... You don't need a Gandhi, you need PEOPLE to build a future India... Stop blaming Politicians, Authorities, Institutions etc etc... instead spend time with PEOPLE... you will build a better society, a future INDIA, is ONLY there.. no where else... not with politicians and their institutions.. ONE Gandhi can NO WAY fight majority corrupt people...

BTW, would love to see Modi as a P.M... His first step is to start writing a book...

Theyoginme said...

Shobha, I was hoping to see something on the Swine Flu from you.. us desis abroad are freaking out, especially me, since I am arriving on the 23rd and headed to Pune in the morning. Pune seems to be the epicenter

Raefah said...

@Theyoginme::: Please take good quality masks (its in high demand) and Roche TamiFlu (Around $120 - 5 day course), of course with lot of prayers. Good Luck!!!

Neeraj Tandon said...

As I read through your article I felt that you had given the Armd forces a miss. Apparently you saved that for the end. Thanks for remembering them.

viksdes said...

what we have lost is our morals, we as a nation lack principles..Liberal and pro development thinking is non existant here. We can just perhaps talk..look at Mumbai this city needs revival..i can smell garbage everywhere , yet I see bang opposite to my house Birthday wishes being displayed for some minister by his pets!

Gia Fernandes said...

@Riaz-NJ & Theyoginme - Tamiflu is NOT a prophylactic drug. It should only be taken under medical supervision when one has been infected by the H1N1 virus. And wearing a mask doesn't really help unless you are in close contact with someone who has been infected. It's not like the virus is floating in the air. But precautionary measures would include avoiding crowded places esp those with central air-conditioning, not touching your eyes and mouth when you are out, and washing your hands as often as you can. In fact, it's a good idea to carry a liquid/gel hand sanitizer. And drink a lot of water. Take care!

Banupriya said...

Dear Mrs. De,

That was an awesome article from you covering "Most Valuable citizens of India". Your way of writing is inspiring and my grateful salaams too to each and every valued person in this country.

In India as long as the people's mind set changes, there is nothing great will be happening even if another Mahatma comes alive.

I wish and hope that all Indians right from the Political people upto the grass root level - the so called aam aadmi should be tolerant and loving each other and do their so called duties to their level best possible. This alone can save India from hunging in Shame due to hungry stomachs.

Unknown said...

The invaluable people according to me.
The farmer who grows our food and feeds us.
The army which is there to lose their lives to protect the country.
The individuals with great diligence have given the country its progress whether they are politicians, industrialists, artistes, professionals or housewives.
The enemies who keep us united.

There are the most despicable people like
Who divide the country in the name of caste, religion, language and region.
The corrupt.
The bootlickers.
These are the real traitors.

anamika said...

Really a thought ptovoking one.I consider this as one of your "Valuable" post.

வேளாண்மை டாட் காம் said...

Came through First time visiting your blog. Simplicity of your blog made me to doubt.. is it the same glittering ShobaDe!lol! real value post!

rehaan said...

a very valuable post indeed...

Unknown said...

This post does not seem like your usual style, short and snappy. It is more like a school composition written with some difficulty.
Waiting for your film reviews.

Sameer said...

Good article but I thought your usual "shobha chi fodani" was missing. It missed the usual tadka. Of course I agree with the thoughts you mentioned.

Also, I was hoping you will write about swine flu. As an NRI, I am freaked out especially having friends and family in Pune.

Happy Independence Day to all the readers and to you Shobhaa. May all the citizens enjoy real freedom in our beautiful country.

Another Kiran In NYC said...

As the very proud daughter of a man who everyday of his professional career was willing and obliged to lay down his life in defence of the country, I thank you for bringing to notice one of the most imporant categories of "most valuable citizens".

My father joined the armed services as an impressionable teen almost literally at the dawn of India's independence. He tells of how much pride his contemporaries and he had in the ideals represented by a newly independent India. He tells of the fervor with with they were determined to protect and defend those ideals from those who might wish us harm. He tells of how much pride he has in the strides India has made since those nascent days. He is proud that despite its foibles India has survived itself and survived well.

That same pride endures in spades even today. And that is why the forgotten jawan, airman, sailor and policeperson bravely and diligently does his task everyday... to ensure that the rest of us live long enough in a safe-ish India, to continue our quest for prosperity wilynily.

Despite the wrinkles that age and the wisdom of life experience that show on my father's visage, his pride and belief in India still shines bright in his eyes. His shoulders seem squarer and his tread is more firm when he speaks of how proud he is to have contributed to his country's quest for peace and prosperity. To him and everyone who dreams the same dreams for India, I say Jai Hind on Aug 15!

Another Kiran In NYC said...

I am in Pune now and somehow I am confused by the swine flu hysteria here.

I dont know if the H1N1 strain is different from what struck us in the US since this April/May or there are other factors at play in Pune. Perhaps it is the density of population and the ordinary sanitation issues or just plain sensationalist rumor mongering (that I notice the desi media obviously specialises in... every damn thing is breaking news) that is causing so much chaos.

I dont think folks thinking of visiting here need to run around with thier hands in the air screaming AAARRRGHHHH. Normal precautions like washing hands and face very, very often, staying in the fresh air when meeting folks instead of enclosed places, eating a good diet, onlyhomecooked food, forget the socialising and generally being prudent will work just fine. The masks are for the infected people. Wearing one is not going to help unless you have proper biological waste disposal and access to a new one every few hours. A clean laundered handkerchief will do if only to keep you psycologically satisfied about being proactive. Ofcourse what I say is valid only if you arnt a kid or a senior or someone with an underlying chronic condition. Then all .... every single one of the bets are off. If anyone satisfies these categories just postpone your visit. Really! Dont even bother to come and make yourself a statistic.

As for me. I have kids with me, so I am keeping out of sight and staying home with them. Cartoon network is our best friend right now. I want to take them back home safe and sound... in time to face the regular fall flu strain that will almost certainly be a mutated strain of this H1N1. Thats the one we need to be afraid of... very, very afraid. They will not have a vaccine or treatment for that one for a long time.

Until then plain old hand and face lathering up with regular soap while counting to twenty... zindabad! Lets hope it works for us through our time here.

Jogeshwar said...

Hey you missed one thing, even women remain the 'unvalued' citizens of our country. Bharatiya naari is discriminated against even before and after the birth.

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mystiquedew said...


For once its not the silly gossip, you really write lucidly wen you want.

There is a theory from an American Philosopher called "veil of ignorance"- rampant in India.

Off track: I remember ur pages on Mumbai sometime. Am now here and watching the city for a few months now.
Mumbai has aged and not very gracefully at that...there are plenty other cities now which can give her the run for her money.

Manish'sMom said...

There are countless times I have cringed about being an Indian. But none more so when the parliament actually did not want to implement the pay hike for our armed forces. They wanted a debate. But they unanimously passed their wage hikes and made no noises about their brtheren having Z security which costs the exchequer CRORES!!I just wanted to hang my head in shame. Here are the brave men who guard us with their lives and allow us to have a semblence of freedom. Can money even value their sacrifice and valour? What have we done as a nation for our armed forces? NOthing!

Sidhusaaheb said...

Some names that come to mind are:

Anna Hazare ( )

Sunderlal Bahuguna ( )

Medha Patkar ( )

Arundhati Roy ( )

Baba Amte ( )

Abhinav Bindra ( , )

Jeev Milkha Singh ( )

S Manjunath ( )

Satyendra Dubey ( )

Kiran Bedi ( )

Geetha Johri ( )

R B Sreekumar ( , )

krish said...

Hi ....

Most valuable citizens .....the jawans ...wery thought provoking ....agree with every word.......every person who makes a contribution in nation building in any way is indeed a valuable citizen but how many who fall in this bracket is to be seen.........and yes Mr tata and Mr kalam are national tresures.....



Roshni said...

A wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully thought provoking post. Most of us Indians under estimate the contribution of armed forces in our lives.

Regarding the utterly sorry state of India at 62, I am an Indira Gandhi creed,I propose imposition of armed rule!!!

We as Indians have defiled our hard earned independence, we will only function very well when a regimental control is thrust upon us. Anyways it's not going to be long before corruption,poverty, illiteracy, disharmony, terrorism, regionalism, fundamentalism will devour India. And before that happens may we hope an pray we get an Indira Gandhi reincarnation or even Mahatma Gandhi reincarnation sans his non-violence ideology??

Unknown said...

wonderfull post....

Work from home India