Monday, December 27, 2010

Communication woes!

The World today has seen tremendous advancements in communication technologies but when it comes to humans communicating with each other, no amount of technology advancement is going to compensate if we make wrong assumptions. 

Virginia Woolf said in The Waves, one of her widely appreciated works and a literary master piece written based on the technique, Stream of consciousness - "We are difficult to read and we read others badly, either blinded by Sun or misled by shadows". How true it is! Alongside that, my most favorite quote is by Iris Murdoch who says, "Human beings prefer the distraction of confrontation to the difficult effort of communicating openly and honestly"

Just thinking about these quotes takes me back to my engineering college days when British Council Library in Chennai used to be my second home.  But for all the books that I have read, I have come to realize that reading these novels, taking down these nice quotes and remembering them is one thing and following them is completely another! In the heat of the moment, when we are "actually blinded by the sun" or "misled by the shadows", we don't realize that we as human beings are "difficult to read" and worse, we "read others badly"! 

I have always, after any misunderstanding with friends, never shied away from confronting the person and asking him/her, what the fault is. In the process, I have ignored my ego, its bloated nature and put people before its size. Sometimes, it has worked and sometimes, it hasn't. The other person's ego should also come down by some notches for reconciliation to take place. 

To cut this rambling short, all I can think of saying is, among friends, it is OK to fight but not OK to have bloated egos. With age, the size of our egos also increases and our ability to listen diminishes. We close our ears and fail to put ourselves in the other person's shoes. The results can be quite devastating for friendships and relationships. A friendship takes an investment of huge time and effort but in one instance of misunderstanding, it can be broken to shards and destroyed - all because somebody did not have the courage and the humility to apologize and clarify. 

As human beings, we tend to commit the same mistakes again and again and never learn from them. For a change, we should strive to be sensitive to the feelings of others and listen to them with open minds especially if it is one's friend. This is possible only if we communicate - F2F and with eye contact. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Making a case for fairer and speedier justice

This is an essay I wrote for the course 'Ethics in Governance in Business and Society'. At Great Lakes, it is taught by two eminent crusaders against corruption - Mr. Vittal, Ex CVC and Mr. Seshan, Ex CEC.

Making a case for fairer and speedier justice

Erosion of faith in judiciary
Judiciary, considered one of the three constitutional pillars of Indian democracy, is of late sullied by a stream of unpleasant news reports. Questions have been raised on the integrity of senior judges and their track records. People have long reconciled to the fact that politicians and bureaucrats are corrupt and have always looked up to the judiciary and the Supreme Court in particular for deliverance. But reports about Justice Soumitra Sen, YK Sabharwal, Dinakaran and many others in the media point to a deep seated rot in the judiciary that is slowly eroding this confidence of the Indian public. 

Need for urgent reform
Reams have been written about corruption in the legislature and measures to address it. For argument’s sake, if we do assume that all legislators come clean, where does this leave the corrupt judges? There is an urgent need to clean up the judiciary by means of radical reforms. Piecemeal changes won’t do. Considering the backlog of cases in the Indian courts and the lack of accountability of the judges, to be able to enforce law and order, justice should be seen to be fairly and speedily delivered. 

Abolition of Jury trials in India
In this article, I propose a change which would, in my opinion, make the process of justice more fair, democratic and quick. It is something, that democracies world over have embraced, but India abolished way back in 1960 after the landmark KM Nanavati V State of Maharashtra case – jury trials. The argument put forth during abolition was that the opinion of the jury is often biased by social norms, morality, ethics and values and an objective judgement based on set statutes is rarely possible. It was also believed that juries would be influenced by media and public opinion.

Changing times
Fast forward to today’s age – there is a gaping void in the number of judges we have to address the scores of cases pending in all the courts put together. The rich keep appealing and the poor keep waiting. It is a patently unfair system that visibly rewards the wealthy and gives the poor, only a distant and illusory hope. Very few judges have made their sources of income public even though there is a RTI act and few have surprisingly come out openly and admitted that, corruption at all levels is a fact. In this age of 24*7 live televisions, no judgment is immune to the influences of the electronic media and its commentators. 

We now have a thriving public society and laws that increasingly appear out of tune with the times. Laws on land reforms (SEZ issues), sexual rights (rapes and gay issues), organised labour and environmental concerns need to be constantly revisited in this dynamically changing scenario. 

In this context, I propose that we establish a system of trial by juries drawn from eminent members of the civil society. We should have a set number of juries for every district and a judge can appeal only once against the decision of the jury and he can decide only the quantum of punishment.

Argument against institutional rigidity
Amartya Sen in his work, ‘The idea of Justice’, says, “Institutional fundamentalism may not only ride roughshod over the complexity of societies, but quite often the self-satisfaction that goes with the alleged institutional wisdom even prevents critical examination of the actual consequences of having the recommended institutions. Indeed, in the purely institutional view, there is, at least formally, no story of justice beyond establishing the ‘just institutions’” This argument can be interpreted to mean that justice should move beyond a mere interpretation of rigid age old statutes. Indeed, in other parts of the book, with sufficient examples to boot, he mounts an attack on the ‘Rawlsian principles of Justice’. 

Need for citizen participation
In the context of human rights, Amartya Sen writes, “Active public agitation, news commentary and open discussion are among the ways in which global democracy can be pursued, even without waiting for the global state.” In the desire to interpret laws and accommodate appeals, there is simply a search for a “supreme alternative” and no ranking based on a “social point of view” This obviates the checks and balances, a participatory mechanism can bring in - a sad state of affairs for a culture built on the edifice of dialectics. When a jury decides, the sheer number of decision makers is more, humane aspects are given due attention and there is an alignment with the morals and values of the society. 

Addressing corruption, knowledge and trial by media
It is very difficult to sway the decision of a jury by influencing its members. The nexus between criminals and juries is again difficult to establish. So, chances of corruption are lessened by inbuilt mechanisms. Coming to the knowledge of the jury members, perhaps there might be technical limitations but the basic premises of what is fair and what is just remain eminently universal and can be hardly disputed. Regarding trial by media, one can never completely eliminate it in this age of information abundance. Let us learn to live with it instead of decrying the messenger. 

The example of recent adoption of the jury system by South Korea is a case in point. As we have successful democracies embracing this system, it is time we rethink the abolition and give the jury system, a chance. With the system in place, we might end up building a society where corruption free service becomes a fundamental right of its citizenry (Mr. Vittal’s proposal) even without the constitution explicitly saying so.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Why is the winter morning so heavy with sadness?
Why do the dew ridden leaves appear to be shedding copious tears?

Why does my friend shut himself to the external World?
What is going on in the girl's mind as she cries for attention?

What scary ghosts are the dogs trying to silence by barking their lungs out?
Why does the frog appear to be possessed by fear?

What are the foreign tourists doing in this remote coastal town?
Why is this fair skinned shop keeper lost to his surroundings?

Why is there a deathly silence in place of chirpy greetings?
Why are the trees not whispering to each other? 

Where are all the stars hiding?
Why is the twinkle missing in the crescent of the moon?
Where is the normalcy? Has somebody stolen it? 

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I just want to lie down and stare straight ahead
into the unending depths of oblivion,
into the vast abyss of vacuum and void.

I am tired, bored and frustrated with all the 
masks, veils, make ups, gloss, sheen and fake smiles
I demand real faces, real beauty, real character and real 
intentions. But everything is a farce, a sham and a facade.

I just want to lie down and stare straight ahead
into the unending depths of oblivion,
into the vast abyss of vacuum and void.

Opportunism, rank dishonesty, fake sincerity and 
a truck load of lies - these are the layers that cloth
us, that make up the skin, the muscles and the bones.
Once the limelight is on,  we swagger in pride, put on 
a grand show and delude ourselves...but it can't last long...

For now,
I just want to lie down and stare straight ahead
into the unending depths of oblivion,
into the vast abyss of vacuum and void, looking for 
answers that evade me, tease me and mock me.