Author: Kumar Pratik

"The pinnacle of a thought lies in the prowess to act upon it and not its mere inception."

Beware: Creeps & perverts live among us

They have no labels to identify them, and they come with no warning signs. Instead, they lurk in the shadows, hide behind familiar faces, and wait patiently for that one opportunity to make their move. No, there is no science to identify a creep or a pervert, but make no mistake, they are real and they do live amongst us.

This article is inspired by a true event. A friend of mine recently confided in me about her story and wanted to share it with the world. It started with one message. It seemed like a normal conversation between an employee and her boss. He asked her to stay back in office, as he had something important to discuss with her. Naive and unsuspecting, little did she expect what came next. In that isolated dark corridor, he imposed himself on her then and there. 

In the coming days, he was sending her lewd messages, calling her throughout the day, asking her to spend the night at his place. From threatening her to manipulating her to assaulting her, the man who works at a hugely popular corporate firm had used her, abused her and would have continued to do so had she not stood up against him and fought back. 

It’s not an isolated event either. At least three women I know have shared incidents of molestation as children, and several others have encountered running into perverts and stalkers, sometimes as strangers and sometimes as boyfriends. What makes these people highly dangerous is their ability to blend into the surroundings like normal, sometimes even charismatic men. They seem like ordinary men and might even fool you to be good men at times.

The other quality that makes these ruthless serial perverts dangerous is their rugged determination in pursuing their “prey”. Once a creep has his eyes set on you, he’ll go to any and every length to get in your pants. At times, he’ll pretend to be a gentleman, one genuinely concerned about you. He’ll pretend to be your best friend and make a move when you are at your most vulnerable. If that doesn’t work out, he’ll use his position of power or influence over you.

And if that also does not yield, he’ll go route one and outright threaten or blackmail you with information you only shared with him. He’ll stalk you through hundred different mediums, he’ll get information on you from your closest people, he’ll use your biggest vulnerabilities against you. But most importantly, if you let him, he’ll break you beyond repair.

So why am I telling you all this? Because, you need to be prepared for what’s out there. The onus is on you to protect yourself from these despicable men. They are experts at hiding their true faces and presenting a facade to the world. The onus is on you to unraveling their truth and keeping them at bay. For all the honourable men reading this, it is your responsibility too to protect the women in your life from these creeps.

To the women who have suffered at the hands of these pedophiles, stalkers, and abusers, remember – you were not the first and you will not be the last. So, stand up for yourself today and take the fight back to them. Tell others about the kind of men they were, scream about it if you have to to anyone and everyone so that no one else should suffer what you did.

You have the right to say NO!

We all live in a world that moves at warp-speed every single day, and it’s easy to become a passive “yes man” in all of this. We tend to overlook our own needs and principles and say yes to people just because of our fears.

We need that promotion badly, so we say yes to our bosses talking rudely to us for no apparent reason. We don’t want our friends to think we are alone, so we say yes to going out with people we don’t even like. We want to pay back our parents for their years of taking care of us and don’t want them to think we are rebellious ungrateful brats, so we say yes to them finding the “perfect match” for us, knowing that there is nothing perfect about their algorithm. 

What actually ensues after all this is that we are left with regret, since a passive approach never leads to healthier life-choices. You become frustrated with your boss for talking rudely at the smallest opportunity while you never get that coveted promotion. You end up being in a toxic relationship with a person you can’t respect or love, and it’s even tougher to break things up and get back to square one all over again. You end up marrying a person your parents deem perfect for you, only to later realize he/she is nothing like everyone told you they were and voila, even more regrets!

18eyurj9shxzkjpgIf you are not saying NO to choices you know are wrong for you, you are inherently saying YES to decisions that will prove to be toxic for you in the long run. Just because your friends expect you to get hammered until you pass out in a party, and if you say NO, they might pick on you is no reason for you to go along with it if your belief-system doesn’t allow it. Just because your manager asked you out and you are afraid that if you don’t comply, he’ll sabotage your appraisals is not enough reason to not say NO! Just because someone asked you to stab yourself a hundred and fifty times, you don’t do it, right?

If you appear to be weak, people WILL take advantage of you. The world thrives on those who can identify the weak and the meek. And you will get absolutely squat in return for your compliance. Saying NO is the first step to making sure you respect yourself. You should know that you are worth better and are not going to compromise on things you don’t agree with. Only then will others really start respecting you and your boundaries.

So every time someone puts you in this position, remember to respect what you stand for. Say NO to things you know are wrong for you. Your first obligation is to yourself, and then to the world.

How do you really know when you can marry someone

Today I was asked probably the most difficult question I’ve faced all my life and given that I have no experience in the area, it was even tougher. So, what was this mysterious question? How do you really know when you can marry someone? 

I took a deep breath, stalled for a bit, brought out all my philosophical and MBA skills, tried to frame it instantly and then blurted out whatever came to my head. Now that I’ve had time to reflect, I’m sharing the theory or rather the flowchart, which I hope can help people looking for guidance in the area.

Step 1: Evaluating a person 

What do you think of the person? Do you respect them, do you trust them? Do you think they are genuinely good people?

This is the most important step since 2 years down the line, you don’t want to have ended up with a person who is nothing like who you first met. Here, you need to consult other people, close friends, acquaintances etc. to see what they think of this person. Peer evaluation is necessary here, as you alone are not enough for the job.

Next, you have to observe them closely and their actions when they’re around you. Don’t let your heart make the decision here, give power to the brain. Be objective about evaluating.

Ask them questions that show the kind of person they are. Ex: “What would you do if you got a girl pregnant? Did you ever cheat in your previous relationship? If an innocent person is being hit by bullies, would you help them or walk away?” Tough questions that show you the real face of the person. These answers should be the ones you respect and should never be opposite your value-system. If you can’t respect who you are with, it will only create conflicts in the long term. Love, or what you thought was love can dwindle over the years, but respect and trust live on forever.

Remember, any red flag in this step and you need to stop. End it then and there. Because you won’t be able to afterwards. Move to step 2 only if you are sure about step 1.

Step 2: Mutual love

indian-marriages

Do you fear it or do you embrace it?

Ok, step 2 is about how much that person matters to you and how much do you matter to them? If they disappeared from your life right now, how much would you miss them? And if you disappeared from their life, how much would they miss you? Is it just right now that you would miss them, or would it be the same 5 years later? (The last part is tough and you may not have the answer. That is totally fine but give it a shot.)

How much can you sacrifice yourself for them and how much can they sacrifice themselves for you? Do you give up some things so it makes them happy and do they do the same in return? Because, if they do, they will be willing to accept your flaws and you will be willing to accept their flaws as you go along in your story.

Remember, it’s not their words that matter, it’s their actions and their gestures. Anybody can talk about love, very few can really pull it off. I don’t even want to get into the grey area about what love is, so let’s keep it simple. Do they put your happiness over theirs or is it always about their happiness and you just go along with it?

Let me remind you this step comes only after 1st step, once you are sure about the person. Don’t jump directly to this step or you’ll regret it later on. Jumping to this step without evaluating the person or having respect for him leads to a fling, or infatuation which will not be long-lasting and end up leaving emotional scars on you.

Anyway, so if the person has passed through both these checks, there is only one logical thing to do afterwards.

Step 3: Take a leap of faith 

You’ve made a fully-informed choice. All you need now is to trust your gut and jump into it all the way. Sometimes, things will not work out. Sometimes, even after all this, people will turn out to be jerks.

But if you’ve thought about it long enough, made the right choices along the way, chances are that you have just found the perfect match for yourself.

Just one final check: Close your eyes and ask yourself are they the right person for you? You and you only know the truth, you and only you are responsible for the person you end up with. Make the right choice, take a leap of faith and say yes. Because they clearly deserve you and you clearly deserve them.

I am a writer and I am offended

Once upon a time, there was a Bihari boy called Madhav. He fell in love with girl called Riya. Madhav didn’t speak English well. Riya did. Madhav wanted a relationship. Riya didn’t. Riya just wanted friendship. Madhav didn’t. Riya suggested a compromise. She agreed to be his half-girlfriend.

Script for a cheesy C-grade film? I wish. No, this is the latest offering by the pioneer of Indian literary world, Mr. Chetan Bhagat. Mr. Bhagat, I don’t have a problem with you telling half-baked and rehashed cheap stories to people dumber than 5 points on a scale of 1 to Kamaal R Khan. Go ahead and do so as you please, but please for the love of God, stop pitching your books as novels and yourself as an author.

Name the books as “Manoranjak Kathaein” and they will still sell like crazy if not more than before. Or, maybe produce a show on MTV about youth and relationships with bad actors handpicked by you. You will still have a fantastic audience; in fact, you can reach more people than before. You are still meeting your primary objectives: 1) Money and 2) Telling  really bad stories to people.  Why are you so desperate to write books then?

Because, it is clear you don’t even have the time to write them. I can only imagine you brainstorming before your new novel: Hmm. Boy. Girl. Sex. Obviously. Friends/lovers. Shit happens. More sex. More shit. The End. Maybe, you even have a group of proxy writers who fill up the pages of your novel. With such bad writing, you can never tell.

chetan-bhagatI am a writer and I find it offensive what you pass for as books and novels. I find it offensive that you continue to publish book after book, rehashing and republishing your first novel with different covers. I find it offensive when I tell people than I am writing a novel and they ask me, “What? Like Chetan Bhagat?” I find it offensive that you think language is a dish best served fragmented and bereft of any structure.

You want to tell a story? Please do. Make a film. Release comic books. Rebrand your books as Champak. But, please don’t give out the illusion to the public that you are a writer!  Please stop reducing the attention span of a billion people by means of your books. You are making them dumber and you know it.

You have enough money, go hang out on a beach or something, but stop making the guild of writers come off as a bunch of phonies and sissies. You don’t spend enough time on quality writing, you don’t spend enough effort on scripting a good story, it doesn’t mean all writers don’t. And that is pretty much the message about writers that you are giving out to the public.

If I had the time, I would go on to rant a little more about Bollywood and your associations with it. I just read you were one of the co-writers for Kick. No wonder. But, the two of you are made for each other. Just leave the writers alone please. We still think of writing as an art, and storytelling as a wonder.

I hope I never have to read your books again and more importantly, I hope you never have to read your own books ever again because you might not survive them, you know! Adios.

The story of Nitish Kumar and Bihar: Everything you need to know

The most noteworthy consequence of JD(U) parting ways with the NDA has been a clear shift in the perception of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar amidst the masses. Where he was an honest, hard-working and humble man before, he is now seen as a power-hungry, ambitious and arrogant schemer.

I will not try to defend Mr. Kumar against the allegations, neither will I justify the reasons for his departure. I won’t draw any parallels to any other leader or state, but I will only try to give you an insight into the work Mr. Kumar has been doing all these years. I am attributing the achievements to Mr. Kumar solely, because a leader is responsible for both the failures as well as the successes of a team. It is his job to promote imagination and integrity in his team. If the team does well, he has every right to be given the credit.

If after reading everything below, you still think him to be an evil man striving for the “Iron Throne”, it is your wish.

As Union Minister of Railways:

So, although Mr. Kumar’s political career starts with the JP Movement in 1974, he really shot to fame after quitting Lalu Prasad Yadav’s side in 1994, and aligning hands with the BJP. Soon, he was a cabinet minister for a second time, this time under A.B.Vajpayee.

  • In 1999, after Gaisal train disaster, Mr. Kumar did not hesitate to submit his resignation, taking moral responsibility for the failure of railways. (I hope that gives you some insight into the kind of man he is.) He says, “After visiting the site, the images did not leave me for days. There was no way I could work after that.”
  • During his time as rail minister, he introduced several visionary steps, such as opening a record number of booking centres in the country, introduction of e-ticketing, and the revolutionary tatkal scheme.
  • According to some reports, the ‘Garib Rath’ idea was from his period, which Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav went on to implement and derive credit from.

Anyway, the real story starts in 2005, when Nitish Kumar was selected to lead the state of Bihar. To truly appreciate his contribution, we must go back to the prevalent scenario at that time. In those days, kids from the biggest private schools were being kidnapped, men would be shot to death for fun in the playground next to your colony, and not even grown men would dare to go out of their houses after 8-9pm, let alone women/children. The state was well and truly failing.

Reestablishing law and order:

So, Mr. Kumar’s first step was to reestablish the authority of the state.

  • Fast track courts were set up, and speedy trials were held to put the criminals behind bars.
  • In the first five years, there were 47,000 convictions of 10 year imprisonments and more.
  • Around 5,000 people were handed out death sentences by these courts during the period.
  • As of 2013, the figure of convictions stands at 83,000. Tell me that it is not astonishing! Needless to say, the impact was felt in reduced crime rates.

Human Development: Education, Health, Women

The second step as Mr. Kumar puts, was to focus on human development. According to him, growth cannot be gauged by GDP numbers alone. He says human development indices are the prime scales for measurement. “What good is an increasing GDP if it means the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? Unless the laggards come up to the national average, there is no point of these numbers.”  (By the way, Bihar registered around 11% increase in GDP in the first four years, and total 8.4% since 2005.)

Hence, the focus of the Bihar Government quickly moved onto education sector.

  • A record number of recruitments in excess of one lakh teachers for government schools was undertaken.
  • At the beginning of his term, 12.8% of kids were not attending any form of primary education. Currently, the number stands around 3%.
  • The “poshak yojna” and the “cycle yojna” aimed for the girls in the middle school and the secondary school (which were quite revolutionary programmes to be honest) helped boost the number of girls in 9th standard from 1,80,000 to 6,50,000.
  •  As of now, 14 lakh cycles are being given out every year to the girls in this age bracket. The state decided against tenders to private companies in order to not compromise on the quality of cycles.
  • Currently, Bihar spends 18% of its revenue on education. The only state which spends more, among the ten biggest states by area, is Maharashtra at 21%.

Mr. Kumar says, “Cycle is not just a mode of transport. It is a motivation, an inspiration for the female community that they are on equal footing with the men. It gives them hope to dream again.” I could not agree more.

  • But, that is not all. The scheme of providing Rs. 10,000 as incentive for passing 10th Bihar board with first division to SC/ST/Backward Classes has helped boost the number of students passing with first division from mere 2300 to around 26,000.
  • Patna now also has IIT, AIIMS in the education sector. NIT, Chandragupta Institute of Management, Patna (CIMP) are other important institutes on the rise. Mr. Kumar, meanwhile has been haranguing the Centre to pass the papers for an IIM too in the city.
  • The Nalanda University, which is widely known to be one of the first universities to pop-up in the world is being reconstructed. The new batch is scheduled to start in 2014.

The health sector too saw massive improvement:

  • When his term began, the number of patients in one public hospital on an average in a month stood at 39. That means 1 or maximum 2 patients a day.
  • After the doctors were lured back to the hospitals with a combination of incentives and administration, this number swelled within one year to around 4000. It currently stands in the range of 8000.
  • A revolutionary scheme in this field was the “free medicine” scheme for the needy.
  • The mid-day meal scheme has been a success despite an unfortunate accident putting a dent on it.

Other fields such as employment have not been ignored either:

  • Loan schemes for farmers were improved by involving national banks. Bihar refused to use genetically modified crops to increase productivity as there may have been potential health risks. 5 farmers from the state broke the productivity record of China in growing paddy.
  • Bihar developed an electronic version of the RTI, named as Jankari Scheme.
  • E-Shakti NREGS program which provides employment information by phone to rural people was another innovative idea.
  • Also, Mr. Kumar has held Janta Darbars every week since assuming office to address the grievances of the common public.

And finally, the topic of women empowerment! The bicycle scheme was discussed earlier. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Bihar is the first state to provide 50% reservation to women in Panchayat Raj and Urban Local Bodies.
  • 50% reservation in teacher recruitment, and 35% reservation in Police forces.
  • Again, Bihar is the first state to introduce a revolutionary idea of “women auto drivers”, incentivizing the idea by providing tax relief.

Needless to say, women have been an integral part of the development of Bihar and have been somewhat able to reclaim the rights they deserve.

Infrastructure and industries:

According to Mr. Kumar, the third step for development is the work in the field of infrastructure and industries. He says for the development of the state, it is important to bring investors to the city.

  • The numbers for construction work in Bihar far exceeded the national average, creating a record.
  • Building of long-delayed bridges, relaying roads that ceased to exist, construction of monuments that reflect the state’s history have been very actively pursued and the results are there for everyone to see.
  • There has been an increase of 70% in the per capita units of electricity available in the state, in the same period that there has been an increase of 15% in the national per capita units of electricity. Yes, the state’s per capita value is still just 15% of the national value, but the rise is there for everyone to see.
  • According to a survey in 2009, Patna was ranked as the second safest city to open a new industry after Delhi.
  • The reason Bihar is fighting for the “special status state” is to reduce the central tax on new industries. The state has subsidized its own taxes, but it cannot control the centre’s share.

I can go on and on, but I think you get the point. All I want to say is that Mr. Nitish Kumar is a visionary, and his focus has always been on development, more specifically “inclusive development”. His idea is to take everyone in the quest for development without an inkling of bias or discrimination. He does not believe in hype or advertisements about his achievements and likes to lead a very simple, peaceful life. He is a total abstainer, and values Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a source of inspiration.

If you want to understand him as a person, just sit through some of his interviews, and it will be evident to you that he has no air about him, no sense of self-righteousness. He has reiterated on many occasions that being in office is out of his control, and that the only way he can get back there is by focusing on development. He is just trying to do his bit, and he really does not deserve the flak directed at him.

The biggest achievement of Mr. Nitish Kumar is that he has been able to change the word “Bihari” from an expletive to a compliment within eight years! Anyone who does not understand or appreciate this fact is in sheer denial.

Disclaimer: The numbers presented above have been compiled from various sources, not all of which have infallible credibility. They are true to the best of this author’s knowledge, however.

Man of Steel. Why Hollywood, why?

I was so geared up for this movie that I had almost written this review even before I saw the movie. The expectations had been soaring you see. Zack Snyder, director of Watchmen and 300, Christopher Nolan, writer and producer. What else could one really ask for? The trailers too added to the hype around the Man of Steel. I was convinced that this was going to be the movie of the year.

And, what happens when you expect too much? Of course, you come crashing down. Some critics have already laid siege into the Man of Steel (no pun intended). But, make no mistake, this is a pretty decent film, much better than what Hollywood passes for action movies these days, but something is missing. What you ask? At the risk of being disrespectful towards Snyder, the movie lacks a little bit of Christopher Nolan.

Snyder, to his credit has made some terrific films, Watchmen and 300 being at the helm of the list. The good aspect of his direction is that he gives a lot of attention to the smallest of details. The flaw? He makes very long movies, as a natural consequence. And it really does show here. The original cut of Man of Steel was three hours and twenty minutes long. The theatrical version stands at two hours twenty eight minutes. As a result, the movie suffers in the pacing, which feels very abrupt and disjointed. The action just starts out of nowhere. Why Hollywood? Why? Why the need to cut down? You can almost feel that Snyder and Nolan’s vision has been trimmed down to this.

The Man of Steel soars, but it never really starts flying.

Nolan’s influence does show in the first half with the non-linear style of direction. Kal-El/Clark Kent’s past too has been dealt with aplomb by the Man of Steel, unlike most of its predecessors. Despite the criticism of the score, Hans Zimmer’s music does draw you in, though he is guilty of overusing some of the tracks here and there. Acting, especially by Cavill is absolutely praiseworthy. He really does look the part. Others also do a good job, though Zod (Shannon) is slightly let down by the script. And, that’s where the problem is: the script. It looks more like David S. Goyer’s than Nolan’s. Motivations of Zod and some of his actions are not fully convincing. Yet, the movie makes an alright case with the story.

That brings us to action. The action is scintillating. Snyder, the man who revolutionized slow-mo action switches to ultra-fast action here, and it looks good for the most part. You can almost feel that it is real. It is befitting of how super-powered aliens would fight each other in the streets in reality. Though amidst all the action, the conundrum of Kal El’s mind is slightly lost.

All in all, a very good movie. But, could have been so much more. So much more. I for one, am waiting for a director’s cut, although Snyder has denied that they might release one. Go see it, if you are a DC/Superman fan. Others, flip a coin.

The Uncommon Sense

Common sense, they say, is the most uncommon in common man. We decided to come up with a list of the most commonly observed “uncommon” sense on display in everyday life. Welcome to India.

  1. The Smartass Drivers:
    • The Honkers: Of course honking changes the traffic lights’ colour faster, doesn’t it? So equip your car with the loudest, the crassest and the most irritating horns available in the market. Now what? Go crazy, no holds barred! Honk, honk, honk! Traffic jam ahead? Still, honk, honk, honk! Nobody’s moving? Who cares! Honk, honk, honk!
    • The Light Raiders: Oh, you can’t see through your black sunglasses in the night? Why, switch on the high lamps! If you have the fluorescent lights, it’s even better. Who gives a damn if others around you can’t see a thing; it’s your vision that really matters!
    • The Texters: Driving at 80 kmph and your mobile phone starts vibrating? You must check it, NOW—without stopping of course. It could be some very important message, maybe about “how to reduce your fat in 30 days” or some good forwarded joke. Don’t forget to send back an LOL, before you start concentrating on the road again!
    • The Random Parkers: Where to park, where to park? Meh, I will just leave it here, lying in the middle of the road. You shall not pass!
  2. The Seat Freeloaders:
    So, you’re sitting there in the metro, peacefully reading a book, and suddenly some Auntie with an engorged posterior (no offence) orders you (not asks) to make some space for her. Grumpily, you scooch about slightly. Buoyed by bullying you, the Auntie pushes her rears with all her might into the teeny tiny space, turning you into a 2D object!
  3. The Minister of Traffic:
    Oh, a VIP minister is about to come through this road. Quick, let us block all the traffic here for a couple of hours, and then spend another five hours to fix it. The Minister needs an expressway, and we’ll make him one in the space of a couple of hours. We are smart, aren’t we?
  4. The Unrestrained Fighters:
    There are some of us who are just waiting for a fight. They don’t even wait to know the parties involved, or the reasons for the spat. They are just itching to get out there and unleash their firepower. Often, these guys forget whose side they actually are on, and end up assaulting their own friends in the battleground.
  5. The Mobile Phone Show-offs:
    • The MP3s: Oh, your phone can play music files? Please play me and others on the metro/bus your favourite soundtrack from a ’90s movie or a religious soundtrack perhaps! While you are at it, please set it to repeat infinitely.
    • The “Loud Speakers”: You are at a theatre, watching a movie? Call your girlfriend and start shouting how you miss her, can’t sleep without her etc etc, while the audience looks on in despair. You are the centre of attraction; who cares about the movie anyway!
  6. The Pee-rs:
    You have to go? Nobody’s looking, take your chance. Yes, that pole, aim for it. Why wait for a couple of minutes to reach home? Peeing in public is a statement of your courage and prowess. Who gives a rat’s ass about hygiene and other such petty issues!
  7. The Great Indian Paan Spitters: How can we forget them; be it the wall of a school or a residential building or the footpath, it’s their birth right to grace it with the holy red spit. So go on spitting, let’s turn this green world red.
  8. The Stompers:
    Have you had the distinction of coming across those who wear big massive Iron-man-esque Woodland shoes? These men have no idea about other people who might be wearing slippers or light shoes and go about stomping everyone here and there as if there’s no tomorrow. They are most commonly found in metros, at cinema halls and of course, the Woodland stores.
  9. The Bargainer–Shopkeeper Agreement:
    Shopkeeper: X Rupees. Bargainer: X – Y Rupees. Shopkeeper: X – Y + 20 Rupees. Bargainer: X – Y + 10 Rupees. Item sold. Time lost = Anywhere between 10 minutes to 2 hours

While there is no shortage of more “antique pieces” in our country, these should suffice for the time being while we must ponder if we too are one of these!

(Contributions from: Charvi Jain, Punita Maheshwari, Brototi Roy, Shubhanker Saxena, Ankit Gouraha, Debarati Nandi)

Originally written for News That Matters Not by Kumar Pratik.