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Did he offer ‘critical acclaim’?

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram visited the naxal affected region of Gadchiroli in eastern Maharashtra recently.

Here’s what I found in two papers today.

Conflicting reports of Home Minister's visit

And now I don’t really know what he really did there? How can reports about the same visit be so different?

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At the Mood Indigo BlogCamp

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Blog bang!

Question: What do you get when you put a bunch of bloggers in one room?

That’s the question that kept doing the rounds for me as I drove to the BlogCamp at IIT Powai on Sunday. That along with the annoying little voice in my head: “This better be worth the effort. You know you hate driving!”

We walked in midway, and a few hours later, the only nagging feeling that I grappled with was the regret of having missed the first session.

I’ve been an Internet professional – a content guy – for nearly all my life, but often I’ve found my confidence in the virtual world’s ability to effect change waning. What’s the point? It’s generally all just a gimmick. Argh! it’s just a space for emotional, intellectual exhibitionists to run riot, at best.

Cynical, cynical, cynical Manoj!

And then I arrived at the IIT in Powai. I’d never visited the campus before, and it was quite a refreshing space to be in. Students all around; events being planned; people on the move – it just seemed a place that was aflutter with energy.

Energy. That’s the word. From the organisers to the speakers, everyone brought their own unique energy to the event.

What ensued were discussions on blogging as a form of conveying your views, indulging and honing your creativity, supporting and promoting a cause, learning new art forms, expressing and exploring your identity along with a debate on ethics and the business.

A free space in an unconference that brought to life the greatest advantage of the blogosphere: thinking aloud without any apprehensions.

It kinda reminded me of a poem that was handed to my entire class as we prepared to graduate from school. Our physics professor’s first real dig at poetry (at least as far as I know). It said something about atoms buzzing around in a open space, swirling and colliding; generating an energy that is unparalleled.

So to answer the question: What do you get when you put a bunch of bloggers in one room?

Answer: As close as humanity can ever get to replicating the big bang. They are the atoms whose interaction is guiding the world in a whole new direction. And the only rule here is that there are no rules.

PS:

Just a quick thank you to the organisers. It was really kind of them to allow me the opportunity to share my experiences with Voterfiles, the blog and the book.

In case you guys are interested in getting to know more about the event and the speakers, you can find all the information and pictures and connect with them by clicking here

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IBNlive.com reviews Voterfiles

Hey guys, please follow the link below for IBNlive.com’s review of Voterfiles: A Political Travelogue.

Voterfiles: The disquiet in the democracy

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The dream supper

It’s often something that you hear on TV shows: If you were to pick three people to share a dream dinner with, who would they be?

It’s a tough choice. Will it be those who knowingly or unknowingly have shaped your life or will be those who’ve altered the course of history or maybe you would rather sit down with an idol, and entertainer or a role model, whose work you’ve cherished.

It’s a difficult question. I’ve never been able to limit my choices to just three. It would probably have to be a large banquet.

In the meantime, it’s nice to have Times Crest put me alongside this motley group from the ages: The story of India, told and re-told They would make an interesting dinner group.

PS: The only addition that I’d have to the above folks would be Catherine Zeta Jones 🙂

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Voterfiles now available at larger chain stores

Hi guys,

Hope you all are enjoying the holiday season. Isn’t it fantastic to be in India during this time of the year. Our holiday season seems to begin from the end of September and lasts till January!

Anyway, just wanted to give everyone a quick update on Voterfiles. The book is now available at larger bookstores. I know this has been a concern of some you for a while.

So I am thrilled to tell you that now you can walk into your nearest Landmark, Oxford or Reliance TimeOut and grab your copies.

As always, thank you for your patronage and would love to continue hearing from you.

Best
Manoj

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The real picture please!

I am not generally a fan of poll surveys. Yeah, they are a guilty pleasure for all of us. It’s like going to an astrologer. We’re looking for something sensational, seeking to indulge in a fantasy crafted with our own realities.

So as I sat watching the CNN-IBN post poll survey for the Bihar elections, I was riveted. In a way, it was as expected. But in way, it said that something extraordinary was on the cards in a few days time. The JDU-BJP alliance was predicted to win an overwhelming majority. Nearly 3/4ths.

That’s not the bit that really caught my attention, however. What really got me glued to my seat with the laptop on top of my lap was the discussion that followed. While some of the participants were thrilled with the potential numbers, others spoke about the change of governance in Bihar – from cycles for girls to suraksha (security), sadak (roads)and shiksha (education).

Amongst them, there was what usually happens on TV debates. People getting carried away and generously placing words in the mouths of the electorate.

‘People have voted because there has been real development in Bihar. Schools and hospitals have been made to function effectively.’ One participant went so far as to suggest that the mandate was such due to a fundamental shift that is occurring in the state. Bihar is moving from an agrarian, feudal system to a meritocratic 21st century economy and society, he argued.

Then came an even more grandiose claim, i.e., the one about this election, like many other recent state elections where incumbent CMs have been re-elected, being a presidential style referendum in favour of Nitish Kumar.

Obviously, it all seemed so sane. And no one can deny any of those arguments. In their own way, they all hold water. However, what they are, are just well crafted arguments; some with an empirical, factual basis, others merely broader and theoretical and then there are those that are mere conjecture.

However, all of them have little, if any, bearing to the situation on the ground. They are as devoid of reality as…well…as reality TV shows are.

That fact was made evident as Yogendra Yadav from CSDS brought the exaggerated celebrations to a grinding halt. He argued that: It’s not that education has improved manifold in Bihar, it’s just that at least now children get books. It’s not that PHCs are functioning efficiently and are plush with doctors in the state. It’s just that even if there isn’t a doctor, there are medicines that are now available. It’s not that there has been development and good governance; it’s just that the preconditions for development have been now put into place. What’s happened in Bihar in the last five years is not vikas (development), but rather it has created an aas (hope). {That’s not a direct quote; but more or less the gist of what he said.}

It’s such a dose of reality that is sorely needed in our public discourse, as opposed to the overused jargons and unbelievably transparent spin that gets shoved down our throats. Such an analysis is not fatalistic or self-deprecating. It’s an honest assessment of the situation as it exists.

It reminded me of a picture of a friend, taken when he was visiting his village in Bihar. Working from home, he sat miles away from Delhi fixing the glitches on our website. It was fantastic to know that he had a comfortable place and a fantastic internet connection in his village. That was until we saw the picture. He was perched atop a tree amidst an empty green pasture. Network problems apparently!

What I am trying to say is that no one says that Nitish hasn’t done well and doesn’t deserve to return. That’s for the people and politics to decide. It’s just that, as analysts, as commentators; guys let’s keep our wits about ourselves and not get overly melodramatic. The story of a nation is non-fiction; let’s at least be true to the genre.

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