Managerial Lessons from Arvind Kejriwal

AAP

AAP

Now that our Delhi CM is walking easy early mornings, we can all enjoy chai-pe-charcha and stories of his triumph. BJP seems to be still in shock and news of no change in ease of doing business at ground level has been picked up nicely against PM Modi. We plucked threads of Kejriwal’s success shared by his trusted colleague Ashutosh and discovered interesting aspects of the way Indian brands have been managed in the past.
Will brands be managed little differently than before after AK’s victory? We don’t know for sure but Indian entrepreneurs are expected to learn from AK strategic and tactical ways more than global leaders.
Apology
Everyone loves Cadbury in India and generations have grown up with its sumptuous chocolates but something creepy happened in 2003 when people found worms in chocolates. A major hue & cry in market caused worries in Indian office of this British company. The marketing icons of Cadbury cracked a brilliant idea of communicating through Indian demigod Amitabh that its chocolates were world class in quality processes, production and packaging. The company effectively defended but never apologized.
Select automobile companies frequently recall a batch of production for faulty performance or quality product issues. We have seen more Japanese companies like Honda, Toyota than perhaps American companies recalling a batch for correction.
No one apologizes in Indian marketing. Consumer complaints must be dealt effectively with advice of legal or advertising or PR partners. Why maafi?
Dialogue
Arvind Kejriwal apparently regrouped after his massive defeat in Varanasi and all Lok Sabha constituencies and re-started the process of meeting people of Delhi. He visited every MLAs constituency twice before December 2014 to confess his mistake of resignation. He did not ‘outsource market research or a PR agency to communicate his confessions. His personal effort and communication convinced voters of his genuine intent. He himself toiled in marketplace.
Marketing managers and their brand managers love calling ‘brand partners’ for long discussions on how to ‘turn around’ unfavorable situations. The usual instinct is to use the power of money and media to ‘manage market failures’. No direct consumer dialogues?
Patience
Everyone is wiser in hindsight. Now people are saying that AK waited for BJP to announce Kiran Bedi’s candidature. We don’t know if he waited but he surely welcomed her elder sister in electoral politics. The more Bedi didi campaigned, the stronger Arvind bhai emerged. Before Bedi, AAP party had taken Modi head on. They waited and waited for CM nomination from him.
We remembered HCL versus IBM competitive advertising of 1980s. HCL was courageous in taking on MNC brands those days. The company used to wait and watch to calibrate its moves. Perhaps life is too fast and marketplace has no time for patience these days. Flipkart is reportedly ready for another US$ 1.7 billion funding after US$ 1.9 billion fund raising last year. Snapdeal is not waiting. Amazon did not wait last year to announce US $ 2 billion funding to its Indian arm. The e-commerce envious critiques may argue about profitability versus valuation, but currently no one is waiting for others to make mistake. Let all make fortunes and mistakes together.
Perhaps e-bay is waiting and watching as they coined a term called ‘responsible e-commerce’ implying current tsunami of funding as ‘irresponsible e-commerce’.
Unfulfilled Promises
Kejriwal did not forget 49 days and his ‘unfulfilled agenda’. It is not possible for a brand to deliver all at its peak delivery level in a given period. There are gaps and at times serious gaps in delivering up to the customer expectations. In business, ‘customized solutions’ is usually an over-claim. No one ‘fully customizes’ ever and perhaps very few companies are honest to refund the client for the ‘unfulfilled promises’. Money, once in the bank, is usually never returned for those consumer disappointments.
Telcos, Banks, Insurance, Oil & Gas companies, Consulting service providers could revisit their contract periods and recapitulate the ‘unfulfilled promises’ of their respective brands.
Restrain
PM Modi stepped down from grace to call Kejriwal a ‘naxalite’. Post Bedi didi’s influence on BJP advertising, direct attack in the form of Kejriwal’s caricature and mocking his dharna , muffler and every possible aspect of his life was attacked. But he remained calm and did not retort. He conserved his ‘energy and focus’ to talk about his mistakes and unfilled promises. Competitive marketing usually brings warring brands on TV wherein challenger brands love provoking market leaders unlike in Modi vs. Kejriwal battle. Leaders usually don’t mock challengers. On this front, Modi could learn from marketing especially after Delhi defeat
Big Myth
Somehow political parties in power cannot control their desire to crush opponents on every count. BJP was firing all its national canons against AAP.
PM Modi was prominent on every outdoor opportunity in Delhi last month. In BJP’s contrast, AAP was surely poorer in visibility. BJP’s was massive multimedia campaign and reminded of Congress party’s spend level audacity.
There is TV News channels accused of completely pushing BJP agenda while AAP had its foot-soldiers on ground as Kejriwal’s media. We may call it ‘effective ground campaigns’ in media marketing terms, but no one usually takes the ground route against aerial. BTL never substitutes ATL in marketing minds. Perhaps it cannot nationally do that but it can surely be a great trick in regional or territory level campaigns.
Over to Harvard Professors for Competitive Strategies piece!

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Leave my skin alone

Next door Indian girls: they are now educated and either working or aspiring to build great careers. Most of them have realized the importance of looking great too as they regularly spend days and evenings with their male colleagues across the country. Most of them are conscious of their body and language. They are physically active in parks, gyms, marketplaces and indulge themselves in beauty parlors. Timing is just right for India and her daughters to assert and express themselves. More importantly saying it boldly to the world what they want to.
In 2012, a Mumbai based pharmaceuticals company had launched vagina whitening cream. Soon after the media launch, social media and TV channels polarized the launch into a social, cultural, moral and professional debate. The comments on the concept were mixed but most comments from women were very bolder than expected. Ann from Mumbai had commented:
Ohh F*** OFF!! Women don’t want to tighten or whiten anything. They just hope their husbands n boyfriends will love them regardless any change in their body. This is what MEN want and it will only encourage young minds to raise their expectations when it comes to choosing women. Seriously…if such things cause insecurities n problems in married life, clearly u r not mature enough to be married.
The mention of the word whitening takes us to a leading multinational brand’s text on its website. It reads:
Fair & Lovely’s skin-lightening technology is known to be the best in the world! However, this hasn’t stopped the brand from innovating further to pioneer the development of cutting-edge fairness solutions. Fair & Lovely’s brand-essence of ‘Re-scripting Destiny’ has played a decisive role in its noteworthy presence in over 30 countries.

While there is no direct parallel to the above two references, it is only fair to decode what Fair & Lovely means by ‘Re-scripting Destiny’. The brand essence presumes the need to re-imagine what one is destined with. Fair & Lovely has many extensions like ‘Advanced Multivitamin’, ‘Anti marks’, ‘Ayurvedic’, ‘Forever Glow’, ‘Fairness Men’, ‘Under Eye Serum’, ‘Winter Fairness Cream’ etc. All these extensions intend to borrow and replenish the essence of ‘Re-scripting Destiny’.

Recent guideline on fairness promise in advertising reads as- “The new rules propose, among other things, that ads should not show darker skinned people as unhappy, depressed, or disadvantaged in any way by skin tone, and should not associate skin colour with any particular socio-economic class, ethnicity or community.”

Till recently fairness brands have been built on storylines about how being dark skinned could affect the job, success and marital prospects of consumers.
Film director Shekhar Kapur famously tweeted:
MNC1: My dream is to turn India white with my fairness creams
MNC2: Mine is bigger. To sell them skin repair creams after you destroy them.
Another tweet said, “Most skin fairness creams are chemical bleaches that in long run will ruin your skin in any case”. There are millions of Indian girls who are not buying the myth of fairness. And in fact, there will be thousands of fairness products’ users who will be dissatisfied or lapsed. It is this group that needs acknowledgment and applause from a new Indian brand that is not in awe of MNC ideas. A new brand idea can bring back the self-worth of women regardless of the color of skin.
A new attitudinal change idea could spur new conversations and new engagement. It could bring back her attention from fairness to self-worth measured in terms of talent, passion or just simply being good human.
Freedom from Fairness – The New Challenger Idea

The new brand narrative is not about ‘dark is beautiful versus fair is fabulous’ but an ‘indifference to complexion’ in times when ‘real difference lies in self-belief or a girl’s competency to take on new challenges and opportunities. It is a shift from ‘destiny’ to ‘karmic control’ worldview. The new narrative is perhaps not to re-script destiny but not to believe in the idea of destiny at all. The new belief is not borrowed from external divinity or outer strengths. It is sourced from within an individual’s upbringing, education, career environment and inner courage. This is more amplified among Indian girls as they get more support nowadays and the visible difference in their self-confidence is higher & sharper as compared to men.
The attractiveness and beauty anxieties were essentially overriding earlier but the new ones have surfaced. The foremost anxieties now are education, career and financial independence. The new archetype is defined by her ambition and success and not by her complexion or beauty. Someone who is not stuck in the gender stereotypes.
In a recent movie storyline, champion boxer Mary Kom’s father is against her taking up boxing because her face may be spoiled. But she goes against his wishes and takes up boxing. At one point her father asks her choose between him and boxing but Mary Kom chooses boxing. Finally she makes him, her family and India proud. In her story, it is her ambition that has taken higher ground over her beauty. Her powerful fist makes her face beautiful. Mary Kom knew her self-worth. She did not not need a fairness cream to punch her way to success. In the same way, a software engineer, a doctor, a teacher, a banker woman, a student does not need fairness cream to win over life’s challenges or re-script destiny.

Time has come when the physical attributes must not lead to insecurity or security in an Indian girl’s mind. The real need is to help young girls develop an image of self-worth that not only accepts but respects their true features, complexion, and beauty – an idea that simply wipes dust from the face of truth instead of evoking a beauty myth.

The ‘Fair & Lovely’ myth destroyer brand role in consumer life is not to re-script destiny but to disregard destiny, to have inner force and stronger self-belief. The new attitude is not indifferent to skin but indifferent to color of skin.

Next door Indian girl’s take on the subject now is:

I did not like the comments on my complexion during my childhood. Later during my growing up years, people, especially relatives, kept suggesting beauty or fairness recipes. My skin is not a white rose. My skin is certainly not a visual of attraction or love or desire. Just like the color of my eyes, color of my lips, color of my hair, color of my teeth, color of my nails, the color of my skin is just fine. It does not need special treatment or attention. It is healthy enough. And it certainly does not need special punishment of chemical bleaching.
I did not like fairness promises then and now I am uncaring. I have grown up watching that ‘dark to fair’ complexion in seven days miracles only on TV. I have never embarrassed myself or hurt self-esteem in front of the mirror. There is no other DNA appearance on human body except complexion which has been more insulted and exploited as skin. My skin does not need to be roughly peeled. Like the color of eyes, I am happy with the color of my skin. My face need not be whiter than my other body parts. I am perfectly fine with my face and skin complexion. I don’t want to feel confident with fairness because I don’t know what ‘fairness’ means. I don’t want heads to turn for my complexion and I am pretty sure I don’t want any white glow emanating from my skin. I drink lot of water, run and do yoga. I take good care of my metabolism and hormonal balance. I have good immunity and well-oxygenated body. I am not Kareena and I don’t want to look the part of fair people. I am OK. How I look naturally after I have taken normal water bath and used my mother’s soap, is absolutely fine. I am perfectly normal human being. I don’t need to have an aura. I don’t need to hide my face, feel low in interviews, or sulk. I don’t need to challenge and win over other contestant. I don’t want to compete on complexion. Give me fresh spring water to clean my face and leave my skin alone.

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Unforgettable fragrances of life 

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Do you really remember the fragrance you had worn last? Since our childhood we would have experienced many fragrances in the natural environment of gardens but in urban India of today, florists and their flowers or a visit to famous city gardens does not evoke the pure abundant experience of pleasant old fragrances.  One can vividly remember the Afghan Snow and Lacto Calamine of late 60s through the sensorial flashback of mother’s dressing mirror niche. Or later in life, the distinct smell of Eskamel (acne and pimple ointment) and of course the family’s winter guard Boroline. In the frugal seasons of life, glycerin with lemon was the best solution for cheeks, lips, elbows, and even heels. It was like a holy dip in winter nights for everyone in the family. The lemon’s acid combined with glycerin worked like a bitter pill. The next morning the skin used to look & feel amazingly rejuvenated and nourished.  International brands of cold creams and moisturizer were little premium products then which were found in the vanity cases of brides or the dressing tables of affluent relatives.

In many ways life was simple with limited number of options to choose from.  Be it toothpaste, talcum powder, hair oil, shaving soap or cream, after shave lotion, the sensorial world of personal care was less cluttered. Lack of choices in 70s and 80s kept us loyal to few brands in each category and kept the families’ collective strong. Brands were ‘family brands’ and not ‘individualistic’ as we see today. It is difficult to conceive a brand like Hamam today with the fragmentation of family structure and sudden onslaught of western brands which individuate every one of us from the family (of old brands). The explosion of choices seen in 200 plus deodorants, body mists, perfume sprays challenge the human mind to retain an experience.  People keep trying ‘new’ every time they shop and often they move on from the last experience in search of something that is in vogue or keeps them ahead in the consumption of new. The mobility and content consumption leaves a dry track of experiences without any stickiness of memories. The constant thirst for ‘new’ never quenches our desires and we unknowingly remain trapped in the multiple choices of life. The difference between shopping in malls and joy rides in an amusement park blurs as people have series of flirtatious experiences. Like in a food court, people order a variety of many choices to try little bit of everything. The multiple intakes assume the role of a singular experience. The idea of diversity supersedes loyalty in consumption. And somehow the uniqueness of singular experience recedes in the past.

How distinct is singularity over plurality in fragrances gets well explained in the old story of a young tribal girl who permanently leaves her body’s odor in her first sexual experience with a stranger bachelor on a humid evening. The man, after years of his marriage, continued to recall the tribal girl’s soiled sweat body odor whenever he slept with his wife.  In mind, he continued to sleep with the tribal girl for the rest of his life. Powerful olfactory memories of body scent to food & vegetables or cookies, coffee, spices are all saved in different storage spaces of mind. As people multiply experiences, they accumulate more and when they consume it more frequently they accelerate the decay of memories. It is almost like the blur of visuals through the window of a high-speed train. When people frequently shift from one experience to numerous new options in every purchase cycle, they usually gather no extraordinary distinct experience. One could argue that the most distinct still has the ability to break through the clutter of ordinary or sameness in many categories.  And we see that in food & beverages experiences, a new flavor in ice creams, cakes, cookies, candies etc can leave a mark but the longevity of every new sensorial code is a function of the repetitive exposure and the absence of superimposition by the ‘new’. The unique singular old code assumes the role of ‘classic’ which we occasionally revisit like an old song or a movie. The new code perhaps cannot give what an old can. The ‘classic’ at times gets defined as the unchanging ‘core’ as new experience evolves. In many cases, the ‘core’ diminishes over time with the pace and magnitude of change while in others it remains intact.

In the unchanging & changing India of today, we see strong intact core when it comes to grooming and fashion. While in technological experiences, people are zipping along the tech curves. In grooming and fashion, wherein the ‘new’ is overwhelming, the old guard of natural products, herbal, Ayurvedic, homemade beauty recipes, and ethnic wear for both men & women is making a strong comeback in a new ‘mix & match’ or ‘indo-western’ or innovative convenient forms. In interesting ways, the old is also evolving fast without changing its core and is fighting hard against the complete dominance of ‘new’.

Perhaps we see pointlessness in complete change as the life around us does not entirely change. The Indians of today find it almost impossible to cut the cord. Nobody wants to completely break free. We want to come back home to meet parents, revisit small towns we left behind, cherish vanilla flavors over new varieties, dip Parle-G in tea but not the exotic Oreo, remember Dream Flower over all deos, feel nostalgic for Boroline over all lip balms, recall simple water wash over all face wash products, and the luxury of Pears over all soaps.

It will be interesting to note the memories of today’s young generation (born in 1990s) after a decade. They are enjoying abundance of choices, economic affordability and that too at a fast pace in most categories.  What will they retain and what not?  Which will be their first choice of ice cream flavor after ten years? Will there be an equivalent of Boroline among lip balms of today or a Yardley among the new choices of fragrances? Will they recall their childhood and adolescence through unique fragrances when they grow old?

 

 

 

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Scared of disease not death

It took not more than an hour for my dad to move on from physical to the world of spirits. On March 1, 1987 evening, he had tea at a family friend’s home where he collapsed. When I compare his departure to the loss of a saint in our mission yesterday, the difference is stark. The saint which my dad perhaps was not had his first massive heart attack in 1983. He fought for thirty years with his heart ailment and finally succumbed to death on June 24, 2013.

Why this saint took thirty years unlike my dad who could not survive beyond an hour? A tough question and surely debatable in death of life haunted me.  In Indian mythology, you attribute it to the script of life. No one has seen the scriptwriter as it is hell of a job to write billions of scripts for Indians alone.  

One question people asked each other was very popular yesterday- “are you scared of death?”  Most lied and replied in negative.  I did not know what truly I thought was my state of mind. So I was in the ‘don’t know’ category. Later the question pushed me to find an answer. In fact, at a deeper level my diabetes and phobia for chronic terminal diseases pushed me to find an answer. I told myself that I don’t want to feel the pain endlessly, see my blood every morning, have my body syringed infinitely and be incubated on ventilator.  I don’t want to be on dialysis and have retinopathy.

But do I want to live without diseases? 

Yes! 

Do I not want to die per script?

 Yes, but healthy like my dad and fast.

You got to accept and switch off the body machine. So do it fast and don’t repair as it will keep troubling you over time. This is one school of thought. The counter view is to respect body, repair it as it is gifted to you, and don’t challenge the scriptwriter.  This is view lived by the saint. I don’t think my father had a view point on such a silly topic. If he would have lived long, he would have subscribed to first school of thought. He played hockey, sweat out in 60 minutes and played many games of 60 minutes each and moved on.  The injured bodies must be benched.  And stop playing. The younger and healthier bodies must be promoted and given new duties; at home, in office and at national or global level.

There is some merit in extending the lease of a diseased life. The body is able to stay marginally relevant to others and share work, enrich experiences, and most importantly network newer set of people. Bringing people together; acting like glue, and spreading love and harmony has rewards in and after life. The saint who passed away yesterday will have huge followers who will pray for him to rest in peace. He will be remembered and appreciated for his words, thoughts, actions. But a ‘speed departure’ has the swagger of life. You don’t beg more breaths but accept the defeat like a champion who played a good game. You don’t want to be benched, retired hurt, or rested and live life helplessly watching others. Another uncle of mine who was operated for a heart valve in 1984 quit his job and took yoga as life. He lives healthier, smarter and happier after 29 years of heart disease. But another relative who is fighting cancer is much younger with a school going daughter. No one to cook food for her, depleting money in a terminal disease has more than double edges on the sword. And only the family takes the cuts including the patient. Diseases were always menacing earlier and man fought over few but the battle continues. You fight for future generations; sometimes to set an example of chivalry against terminal diseases or at times for pure sciences. But people don’t think much about speed of death as they think more about life. Thinking about life is easier and happier; it is more positive but little less than death perhaps. The latter strengthens you, prepares your family, and gives immense clarity. As they there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to the matter of faith; prejudices do come in and one should accept all.

Diseases are fault lines of life. Those who seek perfection will have a view point on each disease. They will be anxious, perturbed and eventually overcome by death. There is no escape; only surrender in faith.  One cannot surrender to diseases but to death. You can win over diseases but not death.  

 

Peace !

 

 

 

 

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Real Power

Before Alexander died he asked people to display his empty hands to the world in his last journey. He wished to convey that all the power he fought for is not being taken by him but is being left behind. The warrior code of power lost to the ultimate reality and powerlessness in death.

In the same way, after two world wars, world leaders across continents appreciated the ideology of non-violence and peace. One meaning is surely that real power is eternally superior and rock solid than its counterpart i.e. Peace is greater than war; should we say blood must flow in veins not in drains.

In India, traditionally a patriarchal society, empowering women is the new social theme and the shift is now facing resistance from traditionally men dominated sections of society. But evidently women power is the new power focus in our society. Now we wonder why Indian grand fathers acted like landlords and why Indian grandmothers were subservient and symbols of sacrifice. The patriarchal power still dominates in most parts of the country but is perhaps a melting traditional form with rising female literacy and working population.

The Counter Culture in power games is interesting. Democracy was the new power against monarchy.  Science looks rationally new power against mythology and social belief systems. Capitalism over socialism looks surely more exciting and modern. There is new community of people who want to live moneyless out of choice to promote frugality in high consumption society. These people feel they have the real power over those who have billion dollars. They think that our most valuable things in life e.g. family, community, passions, our own life is not bought with money. Deprivation makes you stronger than consumption. It is debatable as it is about which side of the line you are.

Renunciation is as powerful as acceptance. Austerity can lead to happier life too. The view and counter view makes the subject attention-grabbing. In the more homogenous material world, doing things in a new way comes from non-linear thinking. Open door policy is a new way that empowers employees. Right to information or education in democracy is the real power. If media is the new power over governance, if technology has overthrown human intuition or clinical judgment in modern medicine, if life skills & personality is the real success decider than knowledge or professional degrees, if pester power is new and patriarchal is old, we are on to an interesting discovery of insights.

There was a time when products were supremely powerful.  Mechanical ruled engineering only to be repositioned by computer sciences. Humans were in awe of powerful bikes till computers came on. New power structures represent change; a positive change that impacts society to live smarter and happier. Perhaps, brands shouldn’t be more powerful than products, but they are. Myths are more powerful than truths in shoppers’ behavior. The “real power” versus “not so real power” can be an interesting debate platform. It need not be lackluster with only social or political or economic topics but more behavioral, more insightful and more everyday to which people can relate to; can share their experiences, or even threaten Big Brother.  Ecuador recently ruled out any change in its position on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying the reasons for which he was granted asylum were still relevant. A small nation symbolizes new power as it chose to align with another icon of new power. This can be argued either ways as there is a valid case against Assange.

People often confuse new real power with underdogs or underprivileged or under the hierarchical weight of structures in society. But it’s not. In a way, real power is not the original but the challenger. It counters older notions of power, humbles them to make way for newer codes. It is evident that power when held tightly to chest dissolves in its identity. Recently an Indian leader displayed his displeasure for internal organizational issues. His resignation entitled him to be the great sulk man during that week. His power within the party eroded with his inability to make way for future; for younger leadership. This resonated authoritarian power not decentralized; new power lies in younger people, in party workers. The moral of the story is that power plans succession; in empowering others.

New trajectories of new power are an opportunity to sync with. When we say women empowerment in India, we look forward to a new change in society, at home, in our places of work. When we talk about child welfare, we look forward to right to education, right to food, right to shelter, right to safety, and right to good health. In this projected change, shifting power to children from the provider or guardian government is new trajectory.  New axis could be what Tata Group (an Indian business conglomerate) has recently announced i.e. funding business ideas from SC, ST, OBC sections of society. The trajectory of ‘socially backward entrepreneurs’ is new ray of hope for holistic development of society; is the new change currency in erstwhile government policy logjam.

The ‘power’ versus ‘real power’ obliquely implies that ‘power’ per se can be artificial in the light of ‘real power’ yet both co-exist in real world.

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The amazing class X

(1978-2013)

My son is expecting his class X result on May 17, 2013 and his anxiety is well controlled unlike mine 35 years ago when I passed class X. There is something milestone-ish about class X as it happens right in middle of teens. It hormonally and intellectually graduates one into ‘senior’ world and one’s childhood quickly rests in past. In Indian school examination ‘system’, there was this devilish fear of ‘board exams’ as if the external examiners were appointed to fail students. The fear of ‘strict marking’ and ‘no non-sense in answer sheets’ enveloped teens. Our teachers and parents must be blamed for the mindless anxiety and fear psychosis. In fact life was not competitive so much those days. There were bright and ordinary students then like today. There were elite 60 + percentage ( we didn’t have percentile concept those days) first division holders. Most students used to be in 50-60 percentage range like the great Indian middle class. They were neither brilliant nor academically weak but formed the majority.  In our small town, toppers were known before the results as the mid-term school exams were good enough evidence.

There was huge importance to class X for its ‘Colonial Matriculation’ image. People could now proudly announce their academic achievement. The  ‘matriculates’ were a class in their own right. They were the eligible soldiers, peons, primary teachers, typists & stenographers and clerks later in life. India still had ‘intermediate college’ and ‘Senior Secondary’ schools. We didn’t have 10+2+3 education system instead it was 10+1+3. The class XII of today that marks the career trajectory these days was class X till late 70s in India.

In 1978, the class X result was published in newspapers. Prior to class X, one used to get result from class teachers in school. The nervousness and excitement of seeing one’s roll number in newspaper cannot be matched with any teenage emotion. We had gone to the bus stand in our town at 4 am as newspapers used to arrive by taxis from the state capital. Newspaper hawkers used to charge premium on copies as demand soared that morning. Group of classmates used to hurriedly scan roll numbers and soon the newspaper used to become source of joys and tears. Those days we used to have the concept of ‘supplementary’ which meant if one failed in one or two subjects, one could reappear. But everyone looked up to achievers who won ‘merit’ i.e. more than 70+ score. 90% was rarest of rare achievement.

We have come a along way now in three decades. We will log on to the board site and get subject wise results at 3 pm on May 17. The system will not crash and there are many other ‘result’ sites. Mobile phone SMS will come in easy too. And of course, there is school website to check the ranks.

There can never be a bigger feeling than topping your school or board at that stage in life. The local press comes home and you probably get to see your picture in newspaper first time. Everyone loves winners and the results bring lot of joy and celebration for winners. Those who don’t score well get sorted out in society in a clean way. Many get into catharsis mode and emerge winners later in life. Students find or rather get their different careers and pathways  after class X. Some never meet again and very few remain lifelong buddies. Thanks to social media now, you can rediscover your old classmates.

One thing I am going to suggest my son is to check the result with his friends and not with family. He must not miss the moment of mixed  emotions at 1500 hours on May 17 as those moments can be his lifelong memories. Because the amazing class X buddies will never be back together and life will never be the same.

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“Hang Me”

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These two words echoed the court room in Delhi when Ram Singh responded to the charges of sexual violence and subsequent death of an Indian daughter. Judge perhaps missed the point. Indian courts are known for delaying justice. Therefore ‘fast track’ court was set up for hearing of this case which was by now infamous as Delhi Gang Rape.  The rapes continue in India after the December 16 incident.

It would have been 90 days on March16 since the brutal attack in a moving bus led to Nirbhaya’s or Damini’s ( these names were given to the victim girl by Indian media). On international women’s day, President of India posthumously awarded her.  Her mother took the award for her bravery & fighting spirit but  her family was sad as they could not request President for hanging the juvenile gang member who was reportedly most violent and aggressive.  (Hanging is illegal under Juvenile Laws in India).

In less than 90 days, Ram Singh committed suicide in his jail cell. He made a rope out of threads from a cotton mattress and his clothes. He was the ‘main accused’  who had exclaimed ‘hang me’  in the court.

Nirbhaya’s parents were sad once again as Ram Singh denied them the only chance of justice. In other words, ‘hanging’ would have been justice but not the fact that Ram Singh took his own life by committing ‘suicide’.

If the punishment was to end the life of a criminal, why the meaning of ‘hanging by hangman’ and ‘hanging by self’ differ so much? In other words , what is the difference between  “punishment by law” and “punishment by self” when the “punishment quality &  end-result” is exactly the same.

  1. The law wanted to set an example as a deterrent.  “Hanging by Hangman” would have set the example which Ram Singh denied to the society and Indian courts.
  2. Quite like the suicide bomber, the injury is inflicted on others  by multitude  while he or she claims his or her own life. In this case, the injury on society continues to be more than on his life. In a strange way, he did not lose by losing his life. He evaded law.
  3. When law punishes there is ‘direct fear of law’ unlike ‘indirect fear’ that may or may not result out of the message that an offence of this nature will sooner or later lead to capital punishment. There is loss of transmission of fear from judicial establishment to society.
  4. Revenge or ‘satisfaction of justice’ remains under-achieved when the convict self-punishes himself. In Indian epic Mahabharat, Draupadi asked one of her five husbands Bhim to bring the blood of Dushasan who had earlier pulled her by hair. Draupadi wanted the ‘satisfaction of revenge’ and not merely ‘revenge’ by washing her hair with the blood of an offender. The latter was her brother-in-law in a complex cousin bloodline with her Pandav husbands.  Bhim split open his thighs in a combat , drank his blood to announce that he fulfilled the ‘promise of punishment’ earlier made to his wife Draupadi. She finally washed her long black hair with her brother-in-law’s blood. In India of 21st century, we heard and read about the chemical  castracization of rapists and there were recent protests to make anti rape law more bloodthirsty in India linking us back to Mahabharat days. Culturally that may be the unchanging reference point.
  5. Zero tolerance of crime against women and Zero forgiveness to convicts is the social demand in new awakened India.  If a man rapes a woman, he should be hanged till he breathes last. Since ‘suicide’ is a criminal offence in India, the rapist , if hangs himself like Ram Singh, commits one more crime by taking his own life. In the sequence of such events, the soul leaves a body that was destined to be serial offender.
  6. Soul is neither good nor evil per Indian mythology.  Soul is formless energy that after leaving body merges in the super soul. Mind, Body and Soul are different concepts. All three have different notion of satisfaction.  In unnatural deaths, the soul remains unsatisfied and unfulfilled per popular beliefs. In this case, both souls remained ‘unfulfilled’ and will wander in universe till they don’t meet their respective points of satisfaction.  By taking his own life, Ram Singh’s soul has once again attacked Nirbhaya’s soul.  Their battle continues in spiritual terms till both surrender.

Only God has right answers to man’s puzzles and confusions. It may sound stupid but  God must resolve this for man i.e. Why suicide is inferior death to hanging by hangman?

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