I am a regular on the Chennai-Bangalore Shatabdi express, doing the trip at least 3-4 times a month. In some coaches, there's a TV mounted half-way down the coach, and these show various short TV shows for the entertainment of travelers. While I've enjoyed watching re-runs of Charlie Chaplin's silent black-and-white comedy clips, the one thing that always gets my attention is the version of "Candid Camera" that they always show.
You know the drill - the producers set up a prank, and then lure unsuspecting passers-by into participating in it. After the climax, they reveal that the victim has been on Candid Camera. Almost always the person who has been subject to the prank breaks out into a big smile, often of relief. (Of course, the producers could have selected only the nice clips for viewing). You can view some clips here.
I think the Candid Camera situations reveal how people really behave when they don't know the camera is looking. It offers a mirror on a society and its people. Are they honest? Do they laugh at themselves. Do they take responsibility for their mistakes? Do they own up? Do they help others? Do they run away? Do they steal when nobody is looking? Do they stand up and stop a thief when they see him/her thieving? Candid Camera holds a mirror to ourselves, and what it shows can be revealing.
I'd love to see what a Candid Camera program in India would show. How do Indians answer some of these questions I've asked? This would make for a hilarious, yet revealing TV show, in my opinion. Any TV producers interested? Film and TV production students?
It is 24th April today, and I'm standing from the fourth floor balcony of my flat in Chennai, watching the line form on the street below. I have two polling stations next door - one a corporation primary school and another a Women's social club. The trickle of keen early voters that I saw as I was returning from my run this morning has increased steadily. Unfortunately, my application to be included in the voter rolls was lost in the "system" and I'm going to have to sit this one out. My parents, who live with me, fortunately got in.
So as I returned from my run this morning, while I was performing my post-run stretches to cool down, I struck up a conversation with the security guard in the building, Rajappan. He is registered to vote in his village, which is near Thanjavur. I asked him about how he chose his candidate between the various choices available. "Our thalaivar (leader) chooses for us," he said. "He tells us who to vote for and we do it." I had known that this is the way voting happens in our villages; my previous live-in cook, Mallika, had returned to her village in the previous election to make sure she voted according to the wishes of her leader. "If I don't show up and vote, he will not help me if I need it," she explained.
We may have a secret ballot, but I suspect people like Rajappan and Mallika believe that their all-powerful Thalaivar knows how they've voted. "Who is your Thalaivar supporting this time?" I asked Rajappan. "DMK," he said nonchalantly. Lofty notions of people like himself taking power into their own hands every five years and holding those they put into power accountable for their deeds and misdeeds while in office were obviously lost on him. The election was just another ritual by which he reaffirmed his loyalty to his Thalaivar who is the only person he could go to for help if he had a problem. And that was the only power that mattered.
In a Hindu Op-Ed today, Praveen Swami comments on Narendra Modi's explicit statement that he would authorize the use of covert force against our enemies across the border (Dawood, Jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, et al). Swami takes a dovish view of Mr. Modi's statement - he believes that India should not retaliate with covert action because of the fear of retaliation.
In my opinion, this view is what has emboldened our enemies over the past 60 years of our independence.
We have to moderate our policies in keeping with the neighbors and adversaries we have. The Israelis retaliated with overwhelming force whenever they were attacked, and that is the way the Arabs surrounding them stopped troubling them or sheltering terrorists who used their soil to launch attacks.
These high-fangled Western liberal notions of not using force will work very well in a geo-political environment that respects it. Unfortunately, we have a neighbor that constantly provides aid and succor to forces against us, and we have done little other than complain like a little whining child. This has emboldened the ISI, The Pakistani Army, and even democratically elected governments there to conclude that India will never take action. With impunity they incite, recruit, train and then send terrorists over the border. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is home to many terrorists training camps where jihadists are brainwashed, trained, and then infiltrated across the border.
Like the Arab countries ringing Israel, Pakistan understands only the language of force. If we do not retaliate with force, they will continue to view us as as a weak, spineless debating society, and continue to take potshots at us. We must launch targeted covert strikes, take out leaders of any organizations that are inimical to us, and even launch missile strikes against terrorist training camps in Kashmir. Only then will we put some fear into them, and get them to stop. Even if that means there's a risk of retaliation, we must be prepared to run that risk, and raise our internal vigilance.
"Speak softly but carry a big stick," said US president Teddy Roosevelt. All we've been doing is speaking loudly, and never showing our stick. In the nuclear-armed subcontinent we now live in, open all-out war is almost an impossibility. Therefore, low-intensity, localized conflict done using non-state proxies will be the way Pakistan will mount a war of attrition. If we don't stop them by retaliating with force, we will be the only losers.
Executive, entrepreneur, investor and mentor to social entrepreneurs, golf and squash addict, author of thrillers... In short, an amateur dabbler in new experiences, and provoker of thoughts.