Sunday, 19 July 2009

"Jai ho" or the end of it?

Humankind has some good traits and some not so good ones. They feel sorry for people who are under-privileged; tend to help out people in trouble; try their bit to help the struggling ones. But at the same time, if someone who is really hardworking and deserving makes it to a state better than they are, the feeling of sympathy and compassion is immediately replaced by the green monster – jealousy and the strong feeling to put such people down.

Consider the case of a fresh graduate who joins a team at work. Initially all the team mates are co-operative and willing to help. Everyone has some advice to give to the fresher on how to go about things in a professional world- what to do, what not to do, etc. The mistakes that he makes are often ignored/ covered up quickly and every effort is made to accommodate him into the scheme of things. The fresher feels happy to be in such a team and with the support of all the seniors, transforms himself into a very talented workplace resource.

Now, here comes the twist in the tale. As soon as the fresher makes a name for himself, the other “seniors” start to view him as a threat. Instead of acknowledging the fact that the guy is really talented and taking pride in the fact that such a valuable asset is present with them, they start to put the person down at every juncture – loading him with too much work, setting unrealistic targets for him to achieve, highlighting every small mistake as a huge blunder and so on. All of a sudden, the fresher feels a new kind of challenge thrown at him. He has to deal with new responsibilities that his career demands as well as with the ego-clashes of his seniors. It is how gracefully the guy deals with this situation that determines his true worth at work.

At a higher level, a similar situation is faced by the developing countries. A classic example in this case is our own country – India. When it became independent in 1947, no developed country at that time thought of it as a future super-power. They entered into deals with us to serve their own selfish interests only to further consolidate their positions as world super powers. But when India tested its nuclear missile in 1974, all the countries that had looked upon India as a fresh entrant into the World arena became aware of its enormous potential. They started to see India as a security threat even though our past record of zero military offensive seemed to suggest otherwise.

It is with this fear that they brought in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). This group adopted an approach where technology and raw material for Nuclear Energy would not be supplied to the countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty(NPT). This was a smart move by those nations in order to make our nation starved for nuclear fuel.

India is just one among the four countries in the world which has not yet signed the NPT. A common sense question that arises is this - Given its flawless record of not having attacked any other nation in its history of over 5000 years, why is India not signing the deal? The answer is also pretty simple – India has stated in clear terms its policy as “No first use” meaning we will never use weapons for any kind of attack. Our military systems are titled “defense” because we never go about attacking nations like the other big nations do. But if there is need to protect ourselves, we should be ready with any sort of arsenal that the war demands. The second reason why India is not in favor of the treaty is because of its inherent flaws. Though the treaty states complete “non-proliferation”, there is a clause called uranium Enrichment and Plutonium Reprocessing (ENR) which could mean that countries can still develop weapons even after signing the treaty. This means that it allows partial proliferation of the only those countries which had nuclear weapons before 1967, giving an unfair advantage to them. And finally, India does not want to sign the deal till all the countries of the world declare complete non-proliferation, especially our crooked neighbors.

Thus, the isolation of India continued for almost three decades. But then, India’s potential as a consumer of nuclear fuel could not be disregarded. In spite of imposing economic sanctions on India in 1998, India’s GDP continued to grow and thus, the Bush administration had to withdraw all sanctions in 2001. India, with its ever-growing demand for energy and its vast economy presented a big business opportunity for USA which was greedy for business with India. It wanted to sell its nuclear fuel to India and make money out of it. This formed the roots of the “Indo US full-civil nuclear co-operation”. The US was so keen on the deal with India that even after facing opposition from its own congress and the NSG, it went ahead with the deal.

A historic moment came last year when the entire set of NSG members decided to grant India a “clean waiver” from its existing rules. This meant that India was free to enter into civilian nuclear deal with any country in spite of not signing the NPT. The NSG finally had recognized India’s history of non-proliferation and no first use and had given it full powers. It should be noted here that India is the only country which has not yet signed the NPT that has been given this kind of a waiver. A similar attempt by Pakistan to secure a deal was outrightly rejected by the NSG given that nation's track record of military offensive and terrorism.

This was a truly significant resolution for India. It meant that the world had finally recognized India as a potential great nation. It was a moment when we could stand on our rooftops and shout “Jai Ho!!” We could now go on to become self sufficient in terms of energy which is a pre-requisite for any kind of development. Given our track record of insufficiency in power for last few decades, this would surely be the turning point. Besides, nuclear fuel is more efficient and less toxic to the environment when compared to the conventional fossil fuels.

But again, the joy of last year was short-lived as the ego of the world superpowers came into picture this year at the G8 conference at Italy. They came to mutual agreement to curb transfer of ENR technology to nations which have not yet signed the NPT. This came as a surprise to India as it would impact our three stage nuclear programme. This means we would again be starved of energy unless something was done about this. What is particularly saddening is the way our leaders have downplayed this issue saying they are not "deeply concerned” about it. Instead of recognizing this as detrimental to our progress, they are still resting on the past laurels that they have achieved. Also, in the ten full months since the waiver was given last September, no effort has been made to secure deals with potential suppliers of fuel like France, Australia, etc.

Our country is now at a similar situation like the fresher at office. No one wants to support it because they see it a potential threat. Not only on the nuclear front, but in many areas like science, agriculture, astronomy, etc we are facing isolation from other nations. I came across a news item recently where it said many countries are now not so keen on sharing space science info with ISRO after the success of Chandrayaan. It would lead many of us to believe that the JaiHo season is finally over. This is a challenge that every aspiring super power has to face in its quest for glory. But I am sure that eventually we shall overcome all these obstacles and find our deserving place among the nations of the world – at the top. It can never be the end of JaiHo. Can it?

1. The fresh graduate in this case is selected as a guy for ease of explanation. It could as well be a girl. It is the same case with the girls too, although a bit more complicated as they are to deal with even the gender related egos of the senior male colleagues.

2. This article is my personal opinion about the recent happenings. As such, it need not be politically correct. Although, every effort has been made to verify the facts from reliable sources, the views expressed are my own.

3. [added after Saravanan's comment] : The situation where a fresher joins new team at work is one "particular" case selected for leading into the bigger issue. It does not mean that "seniors" at work are always bad and freshers at work are always hardworking and sincere. There have been instances where freshers joining the team have been so bad that training them to adjust to professional life has been impossible. Also, there have been cases where seniors have been so good that kept inducting new guys year on year into the team and enhanced the team's as well as the company's reputation of a good workplace. I am sorry for the ambiguity it has created.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Iruvudellava Bittu...

It has been quite a while since I published my last post. Thanks to all of you who commented on my previous post, directly or indirectly and gave me your most valued feedback. Personally, I too enjoyed putting my thoughts in the form of a story. But I feel, there is a still lot of scope for improvement. Hopefully I will publish many short stories in the days to come.

The inspiration for the earlier story was a trip with my office friends to one of the popular hill stations in South India – Kodaikanal. It was a nice trip and we all had a lot of fun. We had planned the trip from so many days and taken care to ensure that it was complete in all respects. Still, at the end of the trip, there was some hollowness to it because we missed one of our close friends there.

After coming back, I got a comment on the last post from that very close friend of mine which translated roughly into something like this – it is the very thing which we desire very badly that will elude us all the time. It is a real irony but unfortunately it is the fact most of the times. The more I thought about this, the more dimensions I could get draw from it. Was it always the fact that we dint get what we want? Or maybe we don’t put in efforts to get what we truly want. Then, it occurred to me – it is mainly because we are never satisfied with what we get. Whenever we feel we have got all that we wanted, there will always be something else that will fill the list of “must-haves”

In the story that I wrote last, Seenu was lost in Shaila’s thoughts all the while when he was at the holiday destination. Now, imagine for a moment that Seenu is already married to Anita and still he wants to be with Shaila. Would the story be the same then? Would it be right on Seenu to think like that in the first place? This is exactly similar to the situation above. People are not always satisfied with what they have – some want more wealth, some want more love, some want everything and even more. The needs and wants just never seem to end. Particularly, the desire to own something increases a thousand fold when you know that thing can never be yours – be it the dress at the shop which you like so much and has just been bought by someone else or the delicious dish at the buffet which everyone has in their plates but is now closed at the counter. When I talk about this, a classic recent example that comes to my mind is the “Shiney Ahuja” episode. That sick bugger had everything with him – money, fame, a loving wife, nice kid and what not. And yet, he desired for something else which has put him into so much of trouble. Maybe some people are always like that.

There was one more comment from one of my office friend that the dreams and aspirations of people always keep increasing. And business survives only because of that. If everyone in the world was happy with whatever they had, there would be no demand for things. Smartphones and luxury cars would never come into the picture then. I could not agree with him more. There is no end to dreams and desires. But as long as they are kept under a certain limit, there is no harm in having them. Trouble begins only when people start exceeding the limits for the dreams and aspirations, For example, if buying a nice luxury car like Lamborghini is your dream, it is good to start saving money and dream of owning that car one day. But at the same time, it would be foolish to sell off everything that you have to own that one little piece of automobile marvel and end up penniless even to fill fuel for that car. That would be absolute madness then.

It is not wrong to have dreams, desires and aspirations in life. Those are the ones that motivate us and keep us going in the tough times. But we must be careful enough to draw the line clearly between controlled aspiration and hysterical yearning.

Today, I finish one more year of my working life. Nineteen of my batch mates had joined with me two years ago, fresh from college, aspiring to achieve great things in their career. This job was really a great thing to have then and everyone was happy with it. But, the aspirations of people kept changing over time. Some wanted to pursue higher studies, some wanted to get married and settle down in life, some wanted more challenging technical paths,etc. In all the cases the desire to achieve something great was paramount in them. I admire each one of them for their dedication to their goals and they way in which they went about achieving them. I wish them all the success in life.

As they say, change is the only constant in life. We keep developing new goals, new ambitions and dreams. Life gets exciting when we dream big. There might be challenges on the way, but we experience joy when we overcome the obstacles. The kannada poet Gopalakrishna Adiga summed it up very well when he said “ಇರುವುದೆಲ್ಲವ ಬಿಟ್ಟು ಇರದುದರೆಡೆಗೆ ತುಡಿವುದೇ ಜೀವನ” (life is nothing but leaving behind all the things you have and aspiring for better things). Isn’t it?

Thanks to all the people who have taken pains to read my posts and have given me valuable comments all these days. Keep visiting!

PS :
1. The title lines are taken from the song "yaava mohana murali" from the kannada poet Gopalakrishna Adiga. They also appear in the kannada movie "america america". You can watch the video here.