Sunday, 29 April 2007

Moustached leaders can't make it big in India


Clean face is the requirement, not clean chit

Strange it may seem but moustached leaders don't stand any chance in Indian politics. Hardly any politician or leader who had a moustache succeeded in reaching the higher offices.

It seems only clean shave politicians reach the office of President and Prime Minister.
Else one should have a beard along with the moustache. The latter alone isn't enough!

Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, Vallabh Bhai Patel, none had moustaches. After independence, the Prime Ministers starting from Pt Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh (he kept 'moonchh' earlier in his political career but removed it later and seems the stars favoured him after that), Chandrashekhar, PV Narsimharao, HD Devegowda, Atal Behari Vajpayee were all clean shave.

Are beards necessary to balance off the moustaches in Indian politics

Manmohan Singh, a Sikh, has beard along with moustache and IK Gujral also had a french cut beard to accompany like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Perhaps they (beard & moustache) do a balancing act and keep one's mouth in check.
May be it brings the statesman-like quality and the measured talk, which needed to reach the high offices. But yes, Lal Bahadur Shastri had a thin hairline moustache.

As far as Presidents are concerned, Kalam Sahab is moochh-less. So were R Venkataraman, KR Narayanan and before them Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, VV Giri, Sanjeev Reddy and Justice Hidayatullah. Zail Singh, again a Sikh, and Zakir Husain, had beards with moustaches. Only the first president Rajendra Prasad was an exception and yes Shankar Dayal Sharma.

But after him, the trend changed with Radhakrishnan. In later years, amongst big leaders Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayprakash Narayan (JP) also fall in this category. They didn't sport a moustache.

Some other leaders in photo here (from left to right): Vivekananda, Subhas Bose, Sardar Patel, Ram Manohar Lohia, JP and APJ Abdul Kalam.

Is it true that men with moustaches are emotional and daredevil (like Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh) who can't keep their emotions under check. This acts as impediment in climbing up the ladder. In other countries, especially the West moustache is no impediment. If I am wrong about any leader mentioned above, tell me.

Probably we don't want our big leaders to be macho.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Fancy auto-rickshaws and the feeling of freedom


Who hasn't set foot in an auto-rickshaw in India?

It was the ultimate symbol of luxurious drive for middle-class until the 80s when the Maruti car arrived on the scene.

Until then an auto ride was something every family member cherished. The three-wheeler auto is a unique vehicle, made to suit Indian conditions and the great Indian family.

Kamlesh, 30, has a small television set fitted in the auto apart from a three-in-one stereo and speakers. The mini TV runs on a 12 volte battery.

"I have to take extra care of my auto as things can be stolen", he says. The purpose is to entertain the passengers and also attract others. 'Earlier I drove a minibus but auto gives you immense satisfaction and a feeling of independence'.

Most auto-rickshaw owners decorate their autos and waiting for passengers, often sleep on the seats. The front seat is large and in some cities two persons sit on either side of the driver.

All autos are unique and this particular auto in photo (a coach it claims itself!) is no exception. Many auto-rickshaw drivers are quite well educated. 'After graduation I tried hard to get a job but nothing worked for me and I decided to drive an auto as I don't have to listen to any maalik's orders', says Balbir, another auto-rickshaw driver.

'Anyday I can enjoy a holiday as I am both the owner and worker', he laughs. Also traffic police rarely challan an auto. They focus more on buses, trucks and taxis.

Auto-rickshaws are safe for women compared to taxis because they are quite open and don't have doors. (I won't take anybody's crap about auto-walas being criminals).

The back side serves as advertising board for companies in many cities and also for putting up messages by local politicians.

Yes, issues about Meter remain. The ubiquituous complaint is that the auto walas charge more than the meter or that it is tampered. In Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, I have found autos don't over charge.

In Lucknow they are cheap because it is like the tempo. They take five to six persons rather than taking you alone. Here is the photo of an auto with a heart on the back. Is it Kannada? And there is the other auto that informs you about a strike.

Kannada, is it? Clearly with the number plate KA. Of course, Bollywood is a language we all understand. And nobody needs to be told about the message given by an auto-rickshaw driver who is the fan of actress Kajol.

And nothing is more fascinating than the horn. Most of the autos still have the age-old rubber horn which the driver presses and ...does it sound pon pon!

The best thing about auto-rickshaws is their Indian-ness. The auto drivers are great talkers, they are somebody are streetsmart and still look like 'family guys'. They can tell you everything about the City.

They are the first to rush an injured person to the hospital, much before a police van comes after several phone calls to the control room and they are as ordinary as most of us.

At least, the auto gives a person the confidence that he can eke out a living, honourably, and the possibility for a poor man to aspire high and get into the middle-class.

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