FDI in retail & Assam!

1908 - 2006

Renowned American economist

Famous American statesman and economist, John Kenneth Galbraith once quoted that ‘in economics, it is a far, far wiser thing to be right than to be consistent.’ And, this exactly describes what is missing from the present economic condition of the state of Assam. We may crunch all the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) and draw a picture to suit the perception. But, will that be a right step to be counted as a wiser thing to do? Are we questioning the macro policy framework of the state and its course of direction? It is a crucial time for an honest self introspection given the scenario that the state is planning to open up to foreign direct investments in retail sector in to the state. As the debate on the ethics, sense and logic of FDI in retail rages on across the country, it is time to ask ourselves, the people of the state, to reason and debate about the implications of this scheme in the milieu of our economic reality.

The Economic Survey of Assam for year 2010-11 states that the state’s GSDP grew at 7.4% as against 8.1% in the previous year. AssamThe Survey further points out that the secondary sector is expected to remain low as against 2.9% in 2009-2010. The tertiary sector that comprises of ‘trade, hotels & restaurant, transport by other means & storage, real estate & business service and communications, banking & insurance, social & personal services’ is set to grow slower at 10% in 2010-11 as against 12.2% in 2009-2010. The primary sector was expected to grow faster at 6.1% in 2010-11 as against 4.2% of the previous year. Now, without further dissecting in to the definitions of the various sectors as identified by the state, we can summarily conclude that except for the primary sector, the other two important cogs of state income, secondary and tertiary sectors, are facing pressure to sustain a positively increasing rate of growth.

Public discourse

Public discourse

Now, there have been debates and deliberation on the model of growth for the state. As we can understand from the statistics, the largest chunk of the growth pie comes from the tertiary sector. If we dissect it, it will be clear that most of the items included in this segment are demand oriented. That means it grows when demand is there. However, to maintain a demand at the right spot, there is an enormous need to sustain a favourable supply side. For an equilibrium matrix of market stability, it is pertinent that the effective demand is maintained to ensure effective supply and vice-versa. The challenge that the Assam is facing today is it’s over dependence on demand side economics and much lesser importance towards supply side of economics. This puts the state economy in a skewed or lopsided form which is never ideal.

Production

Production

The supply of side of economics would mean creating assets in the economy that would generate income for the state. For example, the state production of oil and tea, state’s primary capital goods for decades, and its trade with rest of the world fetches the state income, making the state rich. However, of late, the demand side of the economy, for example real estate, hotels & restaurants, large retail outlets etc; has overshadowed it so much that we are now dependent heavily on import of goods & services. Since we have not created enough assets for meeting the demand of the local economy, the rising demand is met by produce from outside of the state.  Quintessentially, because of poor foresightedness or lethargy in drafting a policy model to diversify the economy, we remain vulnerable to outside support & trade and sitting at the risk of becoming a dumping zone.

FDI-Retail-IndiaWhy is this discussion necessary in the wake of the state government decision to open up to FDI in retail in the state? Because, FDI in retail in the state won’t set up manufacturing units that will produce products here, generating employment and sustained income stream for the state, but will bring it from outside and sell it here. In terms of employment, we will have a few persons buying and selling those products rather than a few farmers, engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs, economists, social scientists along with backward linkage employment working towards creation of wealth of the state. Due to their strong logistical prowess, it makes much more economic sense to this Global Multi Brand Retail Outlets (GMBRO). The proceeds of this will fly out of the country. FDI in retail is a liability of foreign exchange as the profit or returns it generates will have to be repatriated.  It’s simple business. You invest in something to earn returns. The arguments that such retail FDI will generate employment and wipe out middleman from the system is again questionable. The Indian retail market is estimated at US$ 400 billion that provides employment to 20 million people. For a GMBRO like Wal-Mart, the company turnover is US$410 billion but it employs 2.1 million people.

Market consolidation by GMBRO

Market consolidation by GMBRO

The concerns raised by many over the fate of small traders are well founded.  A New York Times report has exposed as how Wal-Mart has captured nearly 50% of Mexico’s retail market in a period of 10 years. The business model of these stores involve waging a price war, aggressive pricing to destroy the local market, at heavy losses for a few years. Once the local competition is annihilated, it will consolidate the market and bring in a monopolistic power ensuring predatory pricing. The present set of middlemen in the market will be replaced by a fancy and systematic set of well oiled professionals like quality controller, standardiser, certification agency, packaging consultants etc.

There are strong arguments that the primary producer and end users will benefit from such scheme. The agriculture in US got government support worth US$ 307 billion for next five years. Another US study has showed that the net income of farmers in US have come down from 70% in early 20th century to less than 4% in 2005. It is true that these GMBRO will work on a razor sharp pricing model, essentially basing their pricing on their sophisticated and supra efficient logistics management. However, the argument that the agriculture will be standardized with such logistical management minimizing the loss of perishable goods and bring in efficiency in crop management.

The point where it fails to make an impression is the fact that FDI in storage is already allowed and hardly any foreign money has come in. This also validates the fact that technology benefit that is hoped out of this policy is highly susceptible. What is interesting is that every minute, a farmer in Europe quits farming. It is quite well known that some of the biggest GMBRO like Tesco from UK, Carrefour from France and Metro from Germany etc. have strong presence in the European continent. Ironically, Wal-Mart struggled recently to open up its store in Brooklyn, New York in USA due to popular protest against setting up such shop.

Protesters in New York take to the streets against  US retail giant Walmart

Protesters in New York take to the streets against US retail giant Walmart

The inflation will be checked, it has been argued, if FDI in retail is allowed. In the short run, yes, they will go for aggressive pricing to kill the local competition. It may incur huge losses in the process. However, why would a commercial enterprise incur such huge losses? The answer lies in their model whereby they will start a monopolistic predatory pricing in the long run. It will slowly leech from its customers which will have no other stores to turn to.

FDI in Retail

FDI in Retail

A kind of veiled Monopoly will be in place and monopoly by a commercial enterprise is never a good idea. Similarly, these GMBROs will weed out smaller buyers of agricultural produce from buying from the farmers initially. Once the network is established, they will act as a Monopsony (a market situation of one buyer against many sellers) and the situation is not ideal for sellers. With such powers, the sellers will lose their bargaining power in front of their monopsonist.

Market Consolidation

Market Consolidation

If they remain true to their business model that they have followed in other parts of the world, then the state of economy of Assam may stand vulnerable given the fact that we are not a strong supply economy. What essentially it means, that they will bring in goods from cheaper destination with a set logistical management process like China; sell it here, earn their money, pay up to keep the Chinese industries running, rake in the profit to the coffers of these GMBRO.  Recently, a British Member of Parliament, David Amess was quoted in the media, to have said, FDI in retail “literally change the fabric of life in India.”

Assam is one of the poorest states in the country.

Out of cash!?

Out of cash!?

The performance of indicators of agriculture and allied sectors as well as manufacturing sectors has been dismal when compared to other developing states from eastern India like Bihar, Chattisgarh or Jharkhand. According to Planning Commission data, growth rate of GSDP in agriculture sector for 2005-06 to 2011-12 for Assam is 3.99% as against 17.07% in Bihar, 10.85% in Mizoram, 9.55% in Arunachal Pradesh, 8.69% in Chattisgarh and 8.94% in Jharkhand. Similarly, the growth rate of GSDP of Assam in Industry sector for 2005-06 to 2011-12 stood at 2.67% as against 16.73% in Bihar, 13.07% in Mizoram, 10.14% in Arunachal Pradesh and 9.37% in Chhattisgarh. Assam has only edged Jharkhand in this segment at 0.69%. The states that are opposing FDI in retail are some of the best growing states in the country like Bihar, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka among others.

FDI in Retail: Debate is on

Rework economic model of Assam

Rework economic model of Assam

Assam needs a serious re-look at its economic model of growth. It should understand its long term implication of a certain policy before jumping guns to join the bandwagon. It has been long time when we took serious steps to set up new industries to prop up the supply side. The aging tea industry, which is struggling with flagging global market, and a state run hugely loss making oil industry are the only two core sectors. We have missed the IT revolution due to our frail education system at that time, we missed auto revolution, we missed green revolution, we missed white revolution, and we missed opportunities to augment other manufacturing or service sector growth stories. And, this has impacted immensely on our economy.

Infrastructure Development

Infrastructure Development

Right now, the focus of the government should be to create assets like roads, power projects, accelerating on the strong points and build capacity on the weaker points of the economic assets. The initial boost to this has to come from the government and once some capability is established, the private sector investments will follow. History is a great teacher and, if we care, we must learn from it. Industrial revolutions of various nations used the same model. They developed their resources by mobilizing resources, invested in the technological advancement & application and then strategizing their management practice for maximum benefit with active government support. For example, England, during it’s hey days, developed its industrial base, e.g. textiles of Manchester, captured markets like colonies in India and America, and then established trade with them without letting the domestic industries to grow.

By allowing GMBROs in poor states like Assam, the state is allowing foreign shops to come to reap profits and take it back, crush any local entrepreneurial venture and killing the local industry, undermining the aspirations of local sons & daughters of the soils to think beyond a 9 to 6 run-of-the-mill job, and exposing our economic sovereignty to a foreign commercial entity, and thinking aloud, that may conjure to lurk for political mileage and sovereignty eventually. One cannot rule out as history has examples that are not that old to forget. Whither Assam thinks beyond and ahead, and dare to dream more, it should not brush aside such stark objections. It should rather concentrate on building competency and muscle to outwit the global competition by not becoming a dumping ground and bring in consistency between supply side and demand side of the economy.

(The article was published in The Assam Tribune on 24th December, 2012. Please visit this link to view the published work: http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/showpage.asp?id=dec2412%2C6%2C420%2C111%2C993%2C933)

FDI in retail & Assam: Published in The Assam Tribune on 24th December, 2012

FDI in retail & Assam: Published in The Assam Tribune on 24th December, 2012

 

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Skyfall – for love of Bond!

Invincibility is passe. Being human is in fashion.

Skyfall exhibits a perfect fashion statement. The atypical Bond movie with super sexy gadgets & gizmos, lass beauties with an evil touch, an impeccable Bond, an always good M, an old Q, a car that will make you go weak on your knees and likes are missing. And, that is with pleasure! It is getting in sync with the changing facets of spy movies that are being made in the recent past. Bond is gelling with more sense than he ever has! Apparently, the Bond franchise understood that it makes perfect business sense to make the Brit spy more real like Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne or even Nathan Muir. Skyfall just makes that statement it is in the same league and it has moved away from the flimsy Bond films of yesteryear! Brit spy just shrugged his shoulder with American counterparts from Langley.

His name is still Bond. James Bond. And, M still ask him, “What took him so long?” Yes, the subtle elan of Brit wit that was overpowered by an Yankee flavour is rescued in Skyfall. With perfect suiting as ever, Daniel Craig wears some of the finest suits in the film. The girls, which may not as over powering as in other Bond movies, still make a mark as we see our new Money Penny in Naomi Harris and French beauty Bérénice Marlohe dying for Bond, even as he fails to kill her. The subtle steam of romance is very elegantly portrayed.

Yes, with 50 years with Her Majesty’s Secret Service and with 23 films under his belt, Bond is getting old. He is fragile, both emotionally and physically as never before. He is not only romantic, as he was in Casino Royale, but he is also emotional about his childhood, his parents, his relationship with M, his home; Skyfall.

Another refreshing facet was the new Q! Young, smart, geeky, intelligent, the character of Q gets a complete revamp. He may not believe in smart toys that Bond movies are famous for but he knows what he is doing. Until once! Silva fools him once but he bounce back quite astutely. Ben Whishaw, as Q, has refreshed the idea of techno genius of MI6.

Judie Dench, as M, makes an poignant exit as Bond’s boss for seven movies. She remains a brute, no nonsense, headstrong M that earns her the adjective of ‘bitch’ by none other than James. But, she knows why he is the closest one. May be, Raoul Silva was another one. Two rats that survived in the island! But, she was reminded how her sins scratches heart with every step that she take. Until, Bond tried to save her but failed as she died in his arms seeking an answer to a question that she has been asking him all along. ‘What took you so long’

The film revolves around relationships that M shared with both her agents, 007 and Silva, the disgruntled ex MI6 agent who was abandoned by her in the past. Silva, played by ‘brilliancy guaranteed’ Javier Bardem, is again subtle in his brutality. The cyanide story and its result makes you question about M decision. He is brilliant for what he has done but I felt he could still be exploited for some more intensity, some powerful drama!

Bond is old, fragile, hurt, failed. He died, and come back to life. His emotions resurrect as he watch his favourite takes a hit. M ask him to take the tests seriously and he does, unlike old James. He appears and he fails, miserably. He shoots and misses the target by more than what is acceptable for a OO agent. But, for the love of Bond, M presses James into service to go after Silva. Eventually, Bond plays Silva’s cards and almost lose control of the game. And, then he excuses himself to the beautiful homeland, Skyfall. Scotland!

The hand to hand fight, the fall off the moving train into the gorge, the conventional and traditional means of defence, the fight with his James’s father shot gun against an army of machine gun wielding of Silva. He fights smartly, valiantly, prudently, and yet, eliminates Silva in the most conventional style. The weapon that was chosen to eliminate Silva was awesome and as common as usual. The drama and simplicity excited an ardent Bond fan who is used to suave, sophistication and sexism.

The cinema-photography by Roger Deakins captures the exquisite pristine beauty of Istanbul, damp London, dark shade of Scotland, oriental Macau and splashing Shanghai. It was a delight to watch frame after frame.

And, for me, the icing on the cake was this! James Bond tweaks in the goldfinger as he drives down Aston Martin DB5 across the beautiful landscape of Scotland. Priceless!

Watch it for your love for the Spy who loved you, thrilled you, let you live! His name is Bond, James Bond.

 

Redefining Moment with Cinema

Cinema has been an important instrument of personal growth and challenges. I always try to face a situation and interpret as how would I react to a certain peculiar situation. Life is a big teacher and cinema is a lesson that teaches us many things in life. Joy, sorrow, introspection, identity, journey are some of the most important aspects that has stirred me. The recent challenges in my life, an emotional struggle with life and within myself, have questions. The answers to these questions are easy to come by if you accept it and harder if you decide not to accept the truth and rather fight a myth.

Last fortnight, I had the privilege to watch a few beautiful movies that stirred my soul, and asked me tough questions. Osian Cine Fan Festival held recently at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi provided a perfect escape sojourn from the humdrum mayhem of a mundane metro life. It exposed my inabilities, my inexperience,  my myths and truths that I decide not to embrace. I was numb as I sit back today and try to unlearn many things. Life throws whatever comes its way and we are sometimes clueless as how we would react to it. Of course, we are good in ‘celebrating’ happiness, joy and festival. But, are we really celebrating? We often lament that we are naive when it comes to sorrow, pain and myths. Are we stepping a step at a time?

Life is short and it’s full of spectacle, both dark and light. Sometimes, we know exactly what we need to do to live more and die a little less. Les Miscreant e (The Miscreants) taught me that life may have challenges and threats, if you consider death as a threat, but you never stop breathing. This movie challenged the methodology of violent protest as against the sustenance of a cultural protest. The latter method is more critical in bringing changes where it matters: within one inner self. It makes one think as why is he doing it. The sound of drums of echoes louder than the sounds of gun shots as the rhythm is closer to the heart. Its not about the cultural resistance that we face or impose, as a social entity or being part of a ‘responsible society,’ but its about seeing the rational behind a particular voice, understanding the tone and replying in a language which is lasting, impressive and heart hitting, if not changing at least.

And, as we breath, we forgets to respect it. The freshness in a breath is something going elusive. We talk about it, we write about it but we do little about it. Its how you react rather than how you want others to react. We live and we eat but we litter too. That is a tragedy that is slowly but very stealthily seeping into our daily lives.  “The Orange Suit”  is an Iranian film that wants to instill that sense of cleanliness in your lives, both internally and externally, as well as clean up the litters that makes one’s lives horrific. It questioned me: why do I not clean up myself; i.e. spiritually? How can I achieve inner peace if there is dirt in me? And, if you keep your surrounding environment clean, it helps one to enjoy positive energy and how it can help one to improve one’s solitary journey onto life. The film challenged the protagonist and showed how his unanswered, or questions which he did not face, were answered when he tried to find answers of his relation with his son and wife.

The voice may be small but cinematic expression makes sure that it is being heard in the right spirit. As the questions with regard to the identity of the feature film “As the river flows”  remains unanswered, I, as spectator, don’t have any inhibition in discovering that this is indeed an Assamese movie. The expression of an Assamese born and raised during the troubled years are said through this movie. This is what I wanted to tell and this is what any other rational and humane person from the land of Brahmaputra will tell you. The story revolves around a mysterious disappearance of a social activist and a friend’s effort, through his journalistic ethics, to find answers. His journey led him to believe in many questions rather than as many or far lesser answers. He found answers in many questions that remains unanswered. The love and hate relationship, the chicken and egg story, the beauty of nature and ugliness of society, the magic of culture and evil of distrust runs deep. And, one is never alone. Everyone is accompanied by a painful, often bloody, history with an urge to make amends that went awfully weird, wrong and wrestling between urge for change and power. This is indeed put up the question that we have been facing since a long time now and the search for an answer remains elusive.

To remain a living creature from a town by the bank of the Brahmaputra, the Local Kung Fu  is a piece of cinema that deserves a special mention. Carved out of a mere budget of INR 95 K only, this movie binds the influence of martial art comedy movies of Jackie Chan and combines it with some brilliant screenplay with awesome comic timing based on typical Guwahati city life and customs. What makes this cinema beautiful (apart from wonderfully comic scenes & timings) that it instills a sense of accomplishment by someone with limited resources and unlimited dreams. It is an effort that needs to be applauded much more than any other cinema because it gives inspiration to people who never thought that they want to do something like a cinema. It inspired critics to laud the effort put in creating such a wonderful cinema. It inspired me to try my Nikon D31oo to make a short 5 to 10 minute cinema. Experimenting with novetly! It inspired me to try a new thing in life, an unknown thing! Thanks Kenny for crafting such a wonderful cinema.

At this festival, we celebrate life, or at least its varied shadows. I saw the ruthlessness of life. The violent tragedy that may dawn upon someone, anyone. In a land where violence and terrorism goes hand in hand, the value of human life may be cheap. But, is the value of people missing high? In ‘The Repentant,’ a person deserts his terrorist group and joins back his family. He left it because of the death that loomed large following bombing in his hideout and depleted morale of the group. He deserts and come back to his home. But, “Karma” follows him and he has to fled to the town. There he experienced something that he never did. He gets attracted to the smaller beauties of life. But that was to end when his past life came back to haunt him once again. He met a pharmacist. It was a drama about how his information about his daughter would bring together three estranged characters together on a road trip right down to the heart of the disturbed land. I had goosebumps when the Mother cried and tried to wake her daughter who has been sleeping since five years. The Repentant knew where she was sleeping.

“Music makes the people come together”, Madonna once sang. This is the magic wand that would bind people who would love it together without adhering to political differences, religious differences, geographical differences or even age differences. During a brilliantly poignant musical documentary “El Gusto,” I felt why this is the biggest gift of god. Life is no more painful when you pick up your instrument of music and play it or listen to it. All your pains of yesteryear and many years, will die down and you will walk back to the time when it was just absolutely beautiful. All friends come together and sing a song for themselves, for their own selfish happiness. And, it works wonders. A beautifully shot and documented film that started with a Mirror. And, a mirror it was that would reflect the various faces of a society that was once together by the sole power of music. The music is known as “El Gusto.”

And, music that still rules this magnificent, rustic, raw cinema from Anurag Kashyap. It may have got the popular imagination but its worth its hype. For a hall that is packed with people, who were occupying anything that can be used to rest their bums and watch a non stop five and half hours of cinematic excellence from Bollywood from a long time. The dialogues, the pangs, the violence, the romance, the revenge, the gorgeous women, the superb actors, and a superb background made “Gangs of Wasseypur I & II”  just a superb experience. So much so that I was reluctant to spoil the mood of our very own “Tony Montana” of Scarface fame in this movie. The director also ensured that the red is applied gorgeously in the entire scheme of things. And, what a bloody messy affair it was! Faizal Khan (like Tony Montana in Scarface) would be drowned in marijuana but remain in perfect control about the gang politics. He remained fateful to his beloved and they remain in love as expressed by their gold rimmed aviators. The climax was expected but the angst of the revenge and gravity of the scene can only match the ferocity with which Tony Montana fought and died. Of course, Faizal did not die then and there. But, you never know! Nothing is ‘Definite!’  Does he carry on Sardar Khan’s honour forward? Well, of course, he does but life has its own plans. Avenging pride is one of them, and Faisal does that perfectly. Sardar Khan will be ‘Definite’ly be proud of Faisal.

Two movies that made me sit up and stand were Rituporno’s “Chitrangada” and Asish Shukla’s “Prague.” Both of them asked questions. As I ask myself, who am I, why am I, and why am I. These are some basic questions that we always ask and we wonder if we are doing right or wrong or are we just playing alike because others are. Are we really interested to know why we are doing something? Most of the time, we dont know. Chitrangada is inspired by the play with the same title written by Rabindranath Tagore and the director’s modern interpretation about it. It questions about complex emotional stress and how one’s own interests, desires and hopes are shaped because of some other exogenous factors. Why do we want to change for someone else when you really do not want to? Are we remain happy after going through such a change? Or, are we going to go back to listen to our own heart rather than someone’s else. Its a slow process of establishing the fact that not everything is alright when you are only listening to yourself. Or, you may be inspired by your situations. Life is complex but the basic idea is to keep walking. Talking to oneself, arguing with your alter ego and deliberate on something that you may or may not like are things that we all undergo. This cinematic expressions exposes our innate desires and how we struggle to keep pace with them. The plot of the film is based upon two persons in love but this should not essentially be locked in that premise. The idea is universal and every person with a brain that works right face these dilemmas in their life.

“Prague” is not just a wonderful city to live and breath but its also the name of the movie that enthralled both audience as well as critics alike. Its an interesting psychedelic struggle where a person wants to destroy something which he appreciates as much. Its a soul stirring and heart wrenching cinema that challenges the dark side in us and how we love to become evil even when we are in love. It tries to discover the darkest corners of one’s heart, suffocate your soul to find out who you really are, preserve your jealousy and kill your suspicion. And, you remain in romance with your dead. This is pure cinematic delight when it comes to experimental cinema in India. This is surely a notch above “No Smoking” or “Aks.” Go for it if you want to challenge yourself and want to know your darkside and be in love with your dead.

Dead Men’s City

When I chose the title “Dead Men’s city,” I was both skeptical and scarred to use it. But, in the hindsight, I think just apt and perfect for the situation. As a human being, I am ashamed of what has happened in Guwahati just a week ago. A girl was assaulted and molested by a bunch of hooligans in the heart of the city. And, there goes a media channel and, an array of media stories to follow, to air this gruesome act. Yes, you will agree, as like any reasonable person, that the sense of justification and reasoning of airing such a video only displays the lowest journalistic ethos. But, we should not ignore, especially in a consumerist society, that the media, which is a reflection of the society that we live, is driven by market forces and people find it amusing (?) to watch such barbarism on television channels. There is a sense of urgency in this particular incident. This is a welcome step and the guilty should be brought to justice.

Now, I have a very unusual or, if I can use the word, controversial question to it. Why is it that we have woken up only now? Why is it that when the incident was shown on national television that people are hitting the street to demand justice? Why are we doing all that we can for this case? Why are we not shammed to death for any other, unreported incident but widely known among people, cases of molestation? People are questioning the ethics of the media. This is good. But are we questioning our own sense of morality and ethics? Do we question our conscience when we may have ignored such an incident? Can we lay hands on our souls and tell the truth to our own self. You got your answer. That is where we can call our selves hypocrites.

Thanks to media, we are seeing the exposed value system of our society. We are only shouting our voice when we were shammed in public. We have lost our face and we are facing questions from people who would haunt us for our boasting claim to fame about women dignity in Assam. However, we also knew that this is not entirely true. With those disturbing images doing rounds across the country and the world, we are running for covers. We dont know how we will continue to live in the fake blown-up-beyond-proportion ego of culture and social identity that is long dead. We are still drawing inspirations to boast about a cultured society from a bunch of sacred heroes who are increasingly getting diminished from the moral map of the present society.

All that we love to do is to jump the bandwagon and remain loyal to the ‘way of social conformity.’ As we increasingly compromise our own identity, I wonder if we, as a society, will have another hero in near time. It’s appalling that we are starving for heroes and we shy away vehemently to ignore such a reality. We love to live in a world of myth and materialistic bling. We are hardly bothered about what goes out there as long as I am ‘safe.’ This atypical idiosyncrasy of the present society has led me to question us. Where do we stand as a society?

Till the time, it was not aired in the national television, this incident has not insulated such a reaction. Because we love our fake identity and take magnanimous pride in it, this incident shammed us or we are shammed because that the lie that we live in is exposed in front of the world. The foundation, the mascara and the kajal of the society were washed away by this tragedy and the aging wrinkles and horrific scars of our society lay exposed. We dont know what to do or how to go back to our old fake self. We are challenged.

Consumerism and materialism has so much consumed our society that even our values and reputation need to be kicked hard so that it can wake up. Today, sadly, even one’s individual self respect and ethics are driven by market forces. Because it will have negative impact on the overall reputation of the society we  should now join in. All that we care about today, is a good marksheet so that one can get admitted to Delhi University (Let the Assam education system go to hell), get a job in an MNC (let the entrepreneurial kick die), get a trophy wife (who cares about love anymore, we need someone who can mingle with my social class), get a car (because its not only about commuting anymore) and a home as early as possible (because I can move to a bigger house on a bigger loan on a later date). In our mad rat race, we forgot to think about our surrounding and ignore the catastrophic implication that it may have on our individual personal lives, our own identity (provided we have one) and an honour (if we care to own it).

With passing days, we will get back to the machine, that we love to log on to, and keep on doing things that were being done. We will post a “RIP” if some elderly looking gentlemen dies without recognizing the contribution that he had towards the society. This is how we remain true to the ‘Conformity Movement’ and we will come out on the street wearing black T Shirt (because we love Metallica) only when its not too shiny or hot to walk out, is a Sunday and more importantly our fake image is not tarnished and our dirty liens are not washed in front of the nation. Otherwise, we are doing just fine and we are happy with the shopping malls, swanky cars and bikes and five star hotels. Who talks about Assamese language, or its identity? Face of protest? Kalaguru Bishnuprasad Rabha, Ambikagiri Raichowdhury? Who are they? They are passe. We are talking about the changing the world, bringing communism by wearing black, man. Heck! How about Ernesto, oh! Sorry! Che Gueverra? He is kind of cool to be worn.

 Are we living in a Dead Men’s Society? I am. Dont know about you. Just pinch yourself and you will get your identity. If I sound stupid, its ok.

NO.

How important is it to say a ‘NO’? It’s an interesting for which you will have many interesting perceptions. Most of us, without thinking and without cribbing, will say that its but obvious to say ‘NO’ when something is not working out as you have thought it would be. Something amiss and the whole deal is off. However, to keep all parties on the same page, it is important that the disagreeing party airs his disagreement as vehemently as saying a ‘NO.’ You may argue that it may not be the right thing to do as you can say a ‘NO’ in many other ways other than being vocal about it. You may stop responding to the opposite party’s gesture or ignore. But will that make life any better? I have my serious doubts in there.

I have been an out and out old school student. I prefer to say it to the person on the face and without pretending any other reason but the truth. Sometimes it becomes very hard to fathom a reason which may be erratic, irrational as well as insensitive. However, keeping everything in mind, you still have to say a ‘NO’ because you would not want to repent your decision when your mind remains indecisive and doubtful about the whole affair. Rationality is a brilliance that have allowed human to survive all sorts of strife and struggle. However, it may not sound very nice when you practically use it. You are a villain when you actually apply the principles of the rationality and pragmatism. You calculated all the pros and cons and your brain decides that it is about time to say the word, ‘NO’. But, your mind may not feel good as it understands that whatever I am doing, it is only for selfish reasons.

It has not been an easy call. But I decided to say the word, ‘NO.’ Irrespective of the fact, I think I have done the right thing by saying a ‘NO.’ While the life gets tough and the lifestyle tougher, it is imperative for anyone to honour the word ‘NO’ even more. I hated that moment. I hate to think that someone may be upset because of no fault of theirs. However, fate and destiny are the villains, and all you can do is to bow down to them. I said ‘NO.’ Its not pleasant, and I am sorry if I have hurt someone, but it was necessary for the greater good. I wish better for everyone. Let’s move on.

Lets roll the word whenever you have to. Its ‘NO.’

Walking away!

It is an interesting and a dangerous game. Stakes are high and fatality in the line of action cannot be ruled out. There is a fearsome jungle out their where every animal with their ghastly carnivorous instincts are waiting to unleash upon a weak & poor prey. The puzzles and confusions are even more ferocious as one may not know at first where he is stepping in. But with time one realise that everything may not be as blooming or rosy as it was before. One may smell red and rose without realizing the fact that its blood all over. There is no free lunch in this world and neither does anything goes unpaid in this ferocious and dangerous jungle. You pay and you move ahead. What lies ahead, we don’t know. Or, may be, we don’t want to know.

Do you want to move in that direction? Guess what? I think we are already on that road towards the unknown. It has been throwing its little surprises and some naughty characters has already started flirting with you. The walk through the initial steps have been good. The lovely aroma of red roses engulf the atmosphere as you walk towards an orange sky where the possibilities are infinite. The lush green grass that lay down a warm welcome to you expands until the end of the world. The occasional oak tree which have grown old and tall make the occasion even grand. The fresh whiff of air that just blew her hairs across throw him out his gear as the deadly autumn nip makes him croon for some music. The smell of lime interfere in between and they stop. As he bends and sit down on a cold, dark and big stone, sweat oozes out of his forehead. There is a terrible sensation that is running down his mind. His mind goes berserk as it runs north and south, to the Sun and the Moon, it floats in the clouds. Yes, he can smell the clouds, feel the dampness, sweat at the Sunlight. He runs and flies, swim and crawl but he runs. He escapes.

The sweet music of lullaby woke him up. He traveled the universe but he rested on that cold, dark and large monolith. A night was spent under a clear sky and amidst those dark clouds that hover in his sky of thoughts. He opens his eyes for that wind of change to come to his sky that can take the clouds with it. He feels the hunger but he never wanted to eat alone. There was a time when they had breakfast together. But not anymore! He feels hungry to keep running. From himself or from his thoughts, he needs to run today, tomorrow! He is escaping. 

A lot has been done, experienced, dreamt. But the journey never stops. He, who dreams and breathes, will walk and walk away. Towards an unknown jungle which may be a deadly paradise! Take a walk! Walk away!

Escaped

The mood is set, tickets are book and bags are packed. Its time to unwind, unravel and unfold an experience that never was. The excitement and exuberance in my mind was a never before experience. The adrenaline rush is making me go berserk. I am loving this.

Everyone is asking where in UK are you going. Is it Yorkshire, Newcastle, London (which part), Manchester (?) I have no clue what they were talking about. All I know that this weekend I am out of this morass and out there in the green lap of mother nature along with its beautiful children music and peace. UK for me, as on today, is Uttarakhand. The destination is Lake resort, Naukuchiataal in Uttarakhand.

As we rolled down through the circles and hills, the sunrise set the mood as the orange sky welcomed us to this beautiful festival with a gush of cool breeze. We realised that we have moved north and a few inch closer to the grand Himalayas. Yes, we have escaped from the dust and heat of the Delhi summers and we felt better.

This beautiful festival, Escape Festival as it is called, was started in 2009 to give the urban india a chance to escape their daily lives into the passionate lives of theirs. The routes were serene natural beauty with an equally pure and unadulterated music performed by both known and unknown musicians of the world.

As I strolled down the lazy lawn holding a beer in my hand, I found the stage where its all set to go. It was set in the huge backdrop of the Naukuchiataal lake. With every gentle stroke of that cool breeze from the colossal lake hitting on my face, I hanged my head in the air and looked straight in to that beautiful blue sky. It was one of the bluest skies I have ever seen and I murmured “Blues is my soulmate.” I felt as if the entire world has fallen at my feet.

When the world was falling on to my feet

“Mama,” I shouted. And, she turned around smiling. She was smiling as we towards each other and finally we met after a long one year. Her grey hairs remind me of how many thoughts they, as a band, have covered over her lifetime. And, I wonder how it is still giving us some wonderful musical pieces along with some powerful lyrics. I shook her hand and I said, “Mama, we meet again.” I was also sorry at the same time since I have missed their performance the previous night.

Mama was there.

I hate to miss any Skinny Alley show and she told me that the show was good. While we got clicked for a picture, she promised to meet me again in the evening. Jay Singh, the leading lady of the Progressive Jazz Blues band, Skinny Alley, is a pleasure to meet anytime and all the time. Sigh! I miss their performance.

We ate. We slept under the blue sky by the side of the lake as we inhaled some fresh air. And, someone smoked but I got high with the pristine and fresh mountain air. It was enough to give me a kick. I took out my camera and decided to take a walk. Just strolling without any agenda, anything in my mind. I took a few shots, enjoyed many more shots that are saved in my biological hard disc. Sometimes, I feel, one has to drink, eat and breath beauty so that one remains beautiful in his or her mind.

As the sun started to settle down behind those green and blue hills, the lights above the stage lit up. So, did the moon which glowed and showed us sparkling yet priceless pearls and diamonds just behind the stage. I wish I could froze that moment. The guitar strumming and rolling of those drumsticks made me realised that Mother nature’s destiny child, music has just arrived.

The scene got better and better as each band played their typical style of music but I really enjoyed the Menwhopause, and Nyasa. The high from music was ecstatic. The beauty of the place was only enhanced when we saw some seasoned painters and artists doing their own paintings. The colours of those canvases just made the event even more colourful. As the night got older, the music become younger. At the brink of the midnight, some DJs started playing those psychedelic trance that made the entire crowd go crooning and swooning to their tunes. High was a understatement as the people danced to the trance and everyone found themselves in peace with their souls. That night was a night never dreamt before.

menwhopause

Morning was clear, peaceful and bliss. As we woke up to a nice and beautiful morning, we remained constant in that mode of laziness personified until it was afternoon. We did nothing but loiter around in the room and at the balcony, getting lost in the tranquility all over, rolling over and finding ourselves in the midst of dreams yet again. We decided to get out when the show was about to start.

This was a penultimate experience. It was classic, jazzy and memorable. The artists dolled out nice little music with lots of powerful lyrical songs from yesteryears. Lou Majaw was a league apart when it comes to interacting with people and singing Zimmerman’s songs. I yelled, “Play a song for us, Mr. Tambourine Man.”

Mr. Tambourine Man sings another song!

Valentine Sippley was also good as he sustained the mood.

But, if the foreplay of the escape festival was Skinny Alley, the orgasm of the event was going to even better, I guessed and hoped. I was not wrong. There came a band with four talented musicians from Bombay and they sang. The Interplay was a brilliant exhibition of stage music and confluence of jazz and rock, much to a delight of a die hard skinny alley fan, as they dedicated one of their songs to their inspirational band from India, Skinny Alley. I love her when she sung and yelled about relationships, be it of love, hate or life. It was beautiful.

As the night unfolded and grew old, we realised that the escape from the humdrum life is coming to an end. It was time that we move back to where we live. But never the less the escape was worth an escape as I wait for another year to pass by before I escape again.