Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday, August 12, 2007

bag and baggage

A saga of 16 days, 12 places, 25 people, 70 pieces of luggage, 9 railway stations, 2 nuclear power stations, 15 PowerPoint presentations, 11 odd ‘official’ dinners, 8 ‘call on’s, 1 governor, 1 DGP, 5 IGPs, countless policemen, 4 boat rides, umpteen buses, 2 very good cups of coffee, numerous cuppa tea, 1 tea garden, 5 sea fronts, under nourished egos, varied interests, shopping, temples, elephants, liaison officers, good and bad hotel rooms, museums, palaces, coolies, trolleys, digicams, rains, idlis, dosas, south Indian version of laccha paranthas, curd rice, banana chips, AC 2-tier coaches, unwashed clothes (which were washed yesterday, my room looked like a dhobi ghat), 8 novels (Naipaul, Amis, Torday, Anita Nair, Tharoor, Calvino…etc.), 1 book of essays (The Moronic Inferno), cell phones on roaming and fatigue.

DISCLAIMER: The following account has been censored for a UA rating. Reader discretion is still recommended. Please read between the lines for the expletives that have been erased, emotions that have been obliterated, feeling have been un-disclosed, information kept secret and do remember that all views expressed belong inordinately to yours truly and do not in any way reflect opinions of any canine, feline, bovine, rodent, human, organizational or governmental set up.

Rats scurry along in the gutters under the railway tracks oblivious t the people on the platforms. People who are inhaling the putrid smell of fermenting urine and excreta left by travelers like proof of their fetid existences. “Ah! Once upon a time, I was in Gwalior. Of course, I should know. Ask the scum I crapped there!”

No, this is not an invective about the things going wrong with India on the eve of the 60th anniversary of independence. But this is true of the railway stations in India, barring Malgudi, perhaps because it’s imaginary. It must be said though in 60 years the babudom has moved from the teeming compartments that Gandhi traveled to the AC 2-tier where even vendors do not venture. The isolated steel frame, the Ambassadocracy has moved on to Mercdom! This is a tirade of much miniscule a proportion. This is about my life in the past one month.

Okay, it’s kinda cool to be a 27 year old Indian woman and claim to have lobbed a grenade. No, silly, not in Lal Chowk but at the BSF range in Indore. However once all the madness of raids, cordon and search ops got over; we were herded to Tekanpur where we saw Inspector Beethoven at work. Not a Great Dane, the great Labrador that sniffs out explosives and narcotic contraband. Then soon it was time to take the GT Express from Gwalior to Chennai. I had about two hours to kill, one hour cos we had a “buffer” time to account for traffic rush (haha!) and the other cos the train was late. Therefore I observed the rats.

Then followed a crazy mad rush to keep appointments with governors, IGs, DGs, first woman police station in India, Coastal police station, temples before closing time, slow buses (nobody in Tamil Nadu seemed to know how much time it takes to get somewhere, every time we were told it’ll take 3 hours it took us harrowing five!), Cochin Port Trust etc etc etc ad nauseum. What I failed to understand, very starkly if I may say so was at Mahabalipuram: 30 minutes to see all the architecture of the stone carved temples minus the “Five rathas” (lack of time you see), but a two hour lunch at the Taj (not that I’m complaining too much cos I feasted on squid). This went on.

Wherever we went there were also PowerPoint presentations ready and waiting for us. The worst was at Cochin, where we reached by a slow and arduous train at 7:30 pm, changed and reached the Port Trust at 8:30 pm only to be served tea along with what I now believe to be the seminal contribution of Microsoft to Indian bureaucracy. Seriously, walking into the still-being-constructed-light water reactor-way-out-of-timeline was an experience of a lifetime. The same cannot be said of the PowerPoint presentation on the stages and history of nuclear power generation in India.

Food was another issue. I don’t want to see another idli, dosa or a serving of curd rice for a long time to come. Nor do I want the smell of coconut oil in my dal or what they called the sambaar for us “the outsiders”. The appam and mutton stew at Cochin though was to die for, as was the cold cream pie aboard a naval vessel at Cochin. Methinks Cochin was the best part of the trip: the boat ride to the mouth of the river, where it meets the sea, the visit to the Dutch palace at Mattancherry and the Jewish Quarters with its synagogue where I was afraid to step on the blue china floor tiles.

Ooty was miserably cold and wet. Mysore palace was to use Lutyen’s words ‘garish’ and over top. Bangalore was overcrowded and claustrophobic with its traffic and concrete jungle, yet we managed to reach the train station with a buffer of two hours beating the traffic, oh! Lucky us! Kanya Kumari was absolutely delightful as was Madurai with us finally having some time, graciously accorded by the hosts, to visit the cities treats and eyesores alike. Ah, yes! I was in Pondicherry also, which was another hit, run, touch and go visit.

What did I learn? When you’re on the other side of the fence remember not to do this to your juniors in the service.

P.S.: for some pics check

Saturday, June 30, 2007

talk to the hand...

i've been here before but never with such intensity... do people understand what i mean?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

save the world???

earth, the Raven haired beauty
smelt of freshly cut grass,
or, was it her perfume?
whatever! Let it pass.

fallow, barren, infertile,
she's been called too many names
still she empties her womb
never playing too many games

"Die you cock sucking mother fucker", he shouted
as he pulled the trigger
many died, some maimed, all was over,
or do you want me to give a numerical figure?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

lizard king (with all due apologies)

Disclaimer: I'm willing to face the flak!! Bring it on!!

Interesting Story: The photographer is auctioning this tiara, so make your bids.. best one so far is "two shwarmas from maroush" with ""extra"" GARLIC.. and psst.. the photographer is a pig!! Personally, the Human Rights Watch is helping the help throw off his proletariat shackles and sue the m(b)astard

Boring Truth: Let me give you the background... a friend of mine took a picture of his officeboy with a cheap tiara stolen from a baniya wedding bash.. it has a flashing lights... Okay, truth, he found the tiara at a club next to a cheap ass pineapple cake that said "Happy Birthday, Mrs. Bunty"...

Sunday, April 22, 2007


What is the point of picking up a fight if you've got to apologize later... Fights can be fought out in two ways. One with a swift stroke and another with a long drawn out extended series of bouts. A good fight is one no doubt which can settle scores really quickly and effectively and once and for all... Sock the guy’s face and you’re done. Never have to see the person again. This is possible only if the other is a stranger or a passing acquaintance, who doesn’t really matter much in your life. This is the best fight ever. But imagine having one of these fights with someone you know well, someone you’ll have to see for an extended period of time in your life, anything between six months to a lifetime. Then either the two of you are intelligent enough to never talk to each other ever again. Take care that the two of you never cross paths again. At least there’d be some peace in your life. The fight would be an act complete in itself.
But in case you keep running into him either out your own volition or out of his will ’cos he wants to niggle you, then what happens to your life? Ruinous hell where everyday you fight a bit, win a bit, lose a bit, increase blood pressure, remain under constant stress…in short you hardly have much of a life. In this case humans walk into the realm of the second form of battles. The wars of attrition that drag on for long with no rhyme or reason and which have no clear conclusions... This is harmful in the long run, but most human antagonism gets manifest only in this nature. Look at Palestine-Israel; or the two Koreas…or at your squabbling parents... Perhaps both sides want to increment the misery in their lives as well with the other person's lives. Well, who am I to judge that? To each his own…
As for me, I prefer the first split-second decisive act. One slap, one punch, one whack and it’s all over. I guess I’ve had the advantage of that until now because of my age. Growing up, not too many people remain important, a feeling that increases as and when one shifts schools, colleges or universities. Most of your friends will shift out to jobs and other diverse fields. So how does it matter if you fight with them?
Another thing entirely; if you’re in a job and the i@!$#s around you are either your colleagues or your trainers. If you dislike anyone, just ignore and wash them from your head… A better thing to do in the long run because you’ll need some help from them later in life. And by any chance if you’ve opened your mouth and said something which led to a heated exchange, you’re done for. Be prepared for the protracted time consuming sequence to follow. Sharpen your knives. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Between a cow and ‘chunnu munnu te papa di gaddi’

Ai hai… have you seen the traffic in India? I’ve been around…if you know what I mean… And I’ve seen a lot of this country. Rather I’ve narrowly skidded, swerved, survived the roads, actually what plies on the roads. From flashy Mercs at the Bombay Gymkhana to gaudy Beemers at Taj Land’s End, from bassy Hummers in Koregoan to monstrous Volvos on the Ahmedabad-Vadodara highway, from raddiwalah trucks at Azadpur mandi to gannewalah tractors on the Ambala-Karnal turning, from rickety autos near Charminar to polluting state transport buses before CNG revolutionized Delhi, from zooming motorbikes with young boys ogling at college going girls in Kanpur to slow scooters weighed down by a fat father, fatter mother and two plump children in the streets of Karolbagh...I seen it all!

Holy cow! I guess that’s in tradition with my cultural ethos… or is it an expletive?? Did I just swear, mother of god!!! Forgive me father for I have sinned, but I’d like to shoot some of these cows that amble along the road with no thought of the past, present or future and just as suddenly park their arse in the middle of the road, while the vehicles careen, attempting not to bump into each other, screeching to a halt. No one’s loud about it, but each driver at this point of time is cursing all the cows to kingdom come, like there’s no tomorrow. Who let the cows out? Who? Who? Who?

Another question… who issued driving licenses to some of these drivers? Positively nasty, they don’t know when to use the indicators, when to honk and they seem to be driving with one foot on the brakes. In the night the road is a sea of blinking red lights in front of you and a floodlit stadium behind you. It’s a miracle that you get home safe and sound, in one piece, for you’ve been driving with your eyes closed for a long time dodging the full beam headlights, courtesy the fellow motorists. Scream, shout, tear your hair out, nothing works it’s a madhouse out there. Like playing dodgeball, driving in the streets in India is more an art of finding empty spaces and maneuvering the car there and then looking for the next spot. Of course, traffic jams are a different ball game altogether. If you haven’t been in one, you’ve seen nothing of India. And if you haven’t been in one, read no further, ’cos there’s no way you can read about it and get a feel for it. It’s one of those things in life that have to be experienced.

I’ll tell you anyway. You seem to be the persevering type. That reminds me, perseverance is a virtue on the roads. Especially during jams! It’s what restrains you from giving in to your dark side, slitting your own throat, strangulating the driver in front of you, breaking a couple of windshields and shoving the jaw down the throat of the lady who’s on the phone and not moving an inch when the jam has somewhat cleared out. Perseverance and patience and the simple sane knowledge that if you did any of the above mentioned acts you’d have to deal with the cops…and you don’t want that!

Imagine a hot June afternoon, blazing sun that hurts the eyes (in fact it seems like the eyes have melted)… you are at a crossroad and there’s a flashy sedan in front of you. You can see the driver; she’s on the phone and applying lipstick at the same time. Next to you is a fat pot bellied man in a small dinky car; he’s so fat that the steering wheel seems to be performing a gastric bypass surgery. Sweat pouring down in rivulets down your neck, despite the air conditioning in the car. You forgot to bring your own music, so you elected to listen to the radio instead. But that was a very bad choice because the RJ is shouting banal inanities now about audience who’ve written to her about the nature of her mellifluous voice. You think ‘are they crazy? This is the most irritating voice you’ve ever heard. Does her beau stuff cotton in his ears?’ The light is green, but the lady on the phone refuses to budge and the fat man just burped. Small mercies that your car is all boarded up, but you can almost smell the acrid fumes of his puri aloo bhajji breakfast.

Surely, you’ve got to be kidding if you don’t understand what I mean when I say that traffic in India is a whole world in itself. And you’re lucky if you can survive it with a few homicidal tendencies peppered with delusions of nuking the whole place. That’s just the normal mode here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


so what does freud have to say about this.... very oral or what??????

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Disclaimer: All characters, situations and humor in this piece are fictional. Any resemblance noted is purely incidental. All views expressed belong inordinately to yours truly and do not in any way reflect opinions of any canine, feline, bovine, rodent, human, organizational or governmental set up.

Let’s call a spade a spade. Outdoor is not easy-peasy by any stretch of crazy imagination. It is a series of back breaking, bicep enlarging, quadriceps hurting, knee spraining, ligament tearing, wrist fracturing, and shin shattering exercises. Constructed in such a way that it faintly disguises the essence of medieval torture at its core, this recipe has running, marching (in quick step and dheere chaal), horse riding, swimming, arms drill (salami shastra, bagal shastra etc ad nauseum), rope climbing, yoga bending, aerobics, push ups, chin ups, sit ups as its ingredients. All of these activities have specific procedures that have to be strictly adhered to. And all the salami I was conversant with was of a different nature, taste wise.

A hundred and one mostly out of shape bodies, are churned, wrung, chopped, sautéed, fried, baked, stuffed, sieved, curried, spiced, pressure cooked, boiled, steamed and cooked into a strange smorgasbord that, I’m not surprised, no one wants to sample. This assorted amalgam of human fat, muscle and bone bathed, fed and uniformed ends up indoors to the tune of discussions pertaining to law, procedures, prisons, bullet injuries, leadership, knife wounds, dowry deaths, sincerity, honesty, integrity and competencies. Let’s call a spade a spade. Indoor is not easy-peasy by any stretch of crazy imagination. Not when twelve hundred marks are at stake.

Let’s call a spade a spade. There’s nothing that can be done. The 2nd of November means the 2nd of November and it will come only after the months of March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October are over. So how does one sustain and retain the self in the face of such a hard hitting schedule? (Well, the ones really badly hit go to the hospital. However, they have, since the last two weekends been made to realize the folly of their ways. Ask anyone who has had PT and Drill classes on a Sunday…you’ll know what I mean!) The rest, who have kept in the various shades of pink of their health yawn, sigh and doze indoors and shuffle, drag, pant outdoors and thus forth cancel dates on the calendar.

Yet, you ask, how does one keep sane? Oh dear! That’s a wrong question to ask, lil’un! You see sanity has nothing to do here. As the weeks have gone by, I have been privy to the progression/regression of quite a few of my colleagues. Be it the lanky ‘Godfather’, one of the Kerala brothers, who has done everything from nostril flaring like a horse to a staccato ek-dab-ek which still persists while he runs the cross country forever looking for cover behind tiny rocks and shallow ditches. Best thing though is that we’ve arranged a rather elaborate method of saluting, and that keeps me going every morning. The second part in the Kerala brothers’ series is an earnest ‘banana’ youngster who is diligently attempting to learn Hindi and grow a respectable moustache at the same time. He is quite aware of his limitations on both counts though.

Then there is Bhai, who is bummed about going to the hills, actually he spent most of his time here calculating his cadre. Alternately, every week, he was either happy or sad…but as he’s put it best: “it’s all in the mind”. Did I mention, he could be a great playwright and director? To bhai ka cadre aa gaya, aur bhai ko running bhi aa gayi, bas swimming baki hai! Undoubtedly the best runner in our batch, Dulari, is another person who goes to great lengths to maintain aerodynamics. I guess, that is why he doesn’t cut his nails too often, to slice through air…slackers take note. This is a gem of a coaching trick. “O teri”, I can hear Mr. Shin. Too bad, you can’t transplant Maharaja’s. “Jis din meri shin thik ho gayi na…” He threatens… But then he has another strategy planned out with Motey: “End tak expose nahi karenge. Bas last mein position exchange kar lenge.” I’m not sure which way the wind shall blow, but I’m hoping by the last 10 km marathon, we’ll find out. Motey, we’re not quite sure if he was in the Island police or was he at the hands of the Island police. His dexterous digits can not merely sketch but also flick wallets, watches, pens… He’s lost weight, a new name is in order, hmmm… lemme think…

Oh! Mandeepjee ke bare mein kuch nahi likkha to woh na bura maan jayenge.. sorry jee! His biggest issue is changing clothes for that means changing his head gear. Strangely though, he has been asked to wear the turban and not the helmet for horse riding. May be he should swim the same way!

Bringing up the rear are two really unforgettable persons… One Lieutenant Tangri Kebab who keeps us droolingly enthralled with the sight of his muscled thighs and laughing at his aerobic antics. Peeche ka salute is his patented move as is the demo UAC. Any one caught copying shall be punished under Section 30 of LSW Act 2007. “Kitne chakkar lagana hai for writing this?” The other Dr. D, or D Buddha as some people call him. He is the masterful composer and lyricist of famous songs like “Jaane kyon log drill karte hai”, “Drill na kiya to kya kiya”, “Drill se laga le dil”, “Just chin up, chin up”. These numbers can be heard on the lips of everyone who thinks he or she’s not tone deaf and in the minds of the very few who know they are. We think a dedicated radio channel for the two of them should do splendidly, if not, perhaps a recording studio could be arranged. Such talent should not be made to leave the country without a trace.

Let’s call a spade a spade. These people are fun to be with. They make the troubles of the routine quite bearable. Whatever be the cause of this training, whatever it is that I have to achieve here in terms of the profession or the career, methinks life should be great with these guys around…

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Incredible Weight of Being

Being here that is the premier training institute for police officers of India amidst a hundred people, all apparently the intellectual crème de la crème of the country this year… this batch will soon be replaced by another. The circle of life has a new meaning with the UPSC selection process, yet people refuse to face the truth and hang on to notions of superiority. The real person gives way to fresh blood. Perhaps that is why the country goes nowhere!

Whoa!!! Hold on before you think that this is a subjective vent of anger disguised as an objective analysis of people around me. Where is my sense of humor? I vaguely recall a jocular answer to this query. It was something like – “look at the guy she’s with… She definitely has a sense of humor!” Ok, I’m rubbing it in, but it’s too late to mention that now.

Enough digress; I shall get to the subject related to the incredible weight of being here…in this place…with these people. I have been asked to put on 10 kilos on my frame (for the love of god, I don’t know where I’ll be able to put that). I’m one of the few here who’s on this side of the fence. Where the grass is greener, people have been asked to reduce their weight anything between 1 to 14 kilos… However there are weightier issues. For example the kind of food available and the nature and manner in which it is consumed. Often it is the fear of the body giving way that ensures that we all stuff our faces every time we see food. Hence the efforts at reduction have been met with utter failure. Wherever I see the pants have only become tighter, and they’d like to think those are muscles… Looks like most are broadening their horizons.

Over and above this, there is further burden imposed upon us in the name of attempting to maneuver this girth on the PT field, the gym, the games field, the parade ground, the aerobics class, the yoga mats and the climbing rope. The only ground (quite literally I tell you) where this comes in handy is the WT and the firing range where cushions are handy. At least it doesn’t hurt everywhere and every time the bone contacts with the hard earth. Places I’m hurt are unmentionable, unnamable and unpardonable. Sigh!!

Yet I trudge, plod, dredge and drag myself on each day. Every morning I wake up to the sound of the bugler. He blasts off at an unearthly hour, though of late methinks he has a cold or a sore throat. He begins with a clear sound, short and smart bursts in the right pitch, but within 5 seconds it peters off towards utter flaccidity leaving my mind in splits. We have been instructed not to crack up publicly, audibly or visibly.

As I giggle, chuckle, mumble in my mind, my body stands in the midday sun in this god forsaken piece of Government property, my face and forearms tanned to king‘black’dom come, my scalp dripping each and every gram of salt available in the body along with every bit of the 70% water that I’m made of. One can actually feel the strength ebbing out as the tickled-with-rivulets-of-sweat quadriceps muscles refuse to obey commands of savdhan or vishram. One more thing…I’m learning to incorporate nomenclature like glutes into my regular vocabulary… Man, let’s just call it the ass!

Though the way everything seems to be going, I’ll be lucky to leave this place with my humor intact if not the femur or the humerus. Though the incredible weight of being here may achieve exactly this, I’d rather leave with what I came in… and, maybe a few rope burns!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Underground Man

"Notes from Underground" by F. Dostoevsky... I started reading this book because it intrigued me... okay, the person who gave me the book piqued my curiosity too…(just a little bit, though).. Well now I could go on and write about me...but I guess I shall desist from narcissistic contemplations and write about the Underground Man (UM) who harangues about his condition and position in his society. I'm not sure if I can call it his society, because it doesn't exist anywhere else but in his head. He berates this society, he hates it, he believes that he is despised because he is vile and asocial. Yet all along his display of detached anger, he stops now and then, turns volte face on that particular point of his argument. He deliberately tries to take the reader elsewhere. He wants to show the reader that he is an equal turncoat as the UM himself. That is why he pauses with the 180 degree turn only to hear the reader go ‘yeah’ in his mind. Then, the UM wants the reader to also realize that he agrees with the opposite. Quite the opposite! What the UM needs is love, unconditional and accepting all his flaws. All he attempted to do was have relationships with people without having a relationship actually. Maybe he was scared of any little loss that may accrue because there could be always an end to any relationship. Towards the last 30 odd pages of the book, his real self comes to light. He has met the whore but he shames her with his cruel words.

I finished reading the book in the morning today and I am very sad. I didn’t want to let go of the UM. Perhaps because of the compassion in me, but then the book could have been written so that the reader may feel compassion… (You see, I don’t trust the UM or Dostoevsky anymore!) if the latter is the case then I have once again been taken for a ride… slimy bugger…that coot Dosto! Anyway, the UM fell in love with the whore Liza, and he realized it after he was cruel to her. For four days, he remained suspended in love for her. It bordered on the brink of madness. He desperately wanted for he to love him. She does and she comes over to his place to let him know. She is not entirely without shame. Aware, actually of her own status and life so far, she ventures to speak with enormous trepidation. However her hesitant attempts are met with violence on his part. At first he lets her see through to his loneliness, she does and soothes him as he cries upon her breast, bawling like a child. As things lead from one to the other, and time goes on, the UM wants to test her again. After she is dressed, just before she leaves, he presses five rubles in her palm. What he tried was not a test of whether she loves him or not, but whether he could be loved at all. She did not understand him, how could she, when he (who had read so much) could not even do so himself. His act, yes, undoubtedly cruel, seemed vicious to her. Needlessly vicious!! She leaves the house and he turns to see the crumpled note lying next to the couch.

Of course he realizes! Of course he is crushed! Of course he never sees her again! Of course he goes underground to write his harangue! Of course he is lonely! Of course she could never come back or understand him!

He wanted her to save him from him.
She wanted him to save her from her.

None understood the other. None helped the other. None loved the other. None saw beyond his or her self. They both lost, not just the other, but the opportunity to know themselves. The only one chance at passion available for the two of them, yet they squandered it away in an idiotic move at maintaining their egos in the face of social mores and their own unique though commonplace adjustments to them.
ENDNOTE: Dostoevsky should have carried on writing in this style...simple, incisive and provocative. This book was not a success, and so he meandered into the other style of writing evident in the "Brothers... or "Crime...


Thursday, January 11, 2007

on leadership...

“I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

To lead or to follow…both these propositions connote and denote significance and importance in a very wide spectrum of responsibilities, both on the part of the leader and that of the follower. Each must choose carefully. The avenues / problems / matters that call for leaders and followers must also be carefully deliberated upon. However, the follower has to be more conscientiousness than the leader. This is true especially in the twenty-first century where causes and leaders abound. It is just as easy to follow an ineffective leader in a just cause, as it is to follow a great leader for an evil cause. On the other hand the leader must be self-sacrificing because he has to set an example for every one. In the twenty-first century, the major feature of the changing nature of leadership relates to the changing issues of concern, the transformational style of leaders and the scope, extent and manner of follower participation.

Before expositing on the changing nature of leadership in the twenty-first century, it must be clarified that leadership, its nature, its purpose, its success or lack thereof is dependent upon certain variables and the complex interdependent relationship between these variables. The entire gamut of these variables is prohibitively exhaustive but if an attempt to enumerate them was made then it would include the following, though not in any order of importance or superiority. The aforesaid variables are: personality of leader, personalities of the followers, faith or lack thereof in the leader of the followers, numbers of the followers, nature and significance of the cause, number of beneficiaries or victims to the cause, reason for choice of the specific concern, nature of potential risks, type of solution that the leader aspires to, kind of solution that the followers expect, the needs of the society at large, political constraints if any, the amount of economic resources available, kind of military strategy if need be, courage of conviction on the part of both the leader and the followers, counter strategies of rival concerns, adjustability and flexibility of followers especially as the leader attempts to change strategy if the big picture so demands, the means to be used to achieve ends and the extent of direct or indirect contact between the leader and the followers.

All of the factors involved in the aforementioned variables are experiencing a sea-change in the twenty-first century dominated by the globalizing influences of instant coffee, McDonald’s, Internet blogging and networking, because of which leadership itself is undergoing a metamorphosis. Gone are the days of yore when only great men and women were leaders. Today practically anyone can be stage-managed to become one, or assume the role of one. This is not to say that there aren’t good leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King or for that matter Joan of Arc, but membership to causes and the number of causes as such has grown to such gargantuan proportions that every RWA in Delhi has a leader, some of who definitely are effective and necessary, but for the most of who the less said the better.

At this juncture, the typical classification of leadership styles has to be mentioned because they further elucidate the changing nature and necessity of leadership depending of the temporal and spatial exigencies in the twenty-first century. First, there is the Laissez Faire Leadership Style, which is a “hands off” approach primarily for highly motivated and skilled followers, for example in a specialized business corporation like an architectural firm. The second style which still has a few takers even though it is largely falling out of favor is Autocratic Leadership Style, evocative of the feudal lords in Medieval Europe that led armies to the Crusades. A twenty-first century example would be leaders of fanatical terrorist groups like the Al Qaeda. Third is the Participative Leadership Style which emphasizes that innovation is the only way to success. Panel consortiums like Board of Directors of large multinational corporations exemplify this style. Another leadership style was objectified by Ohio State University and the University of Michigan when they coined the term Situational Leadership, which mainly focuses on the need to change according to the alterations in the situation, as the name suggests, and according to the requirements of the people being led, for example the shifting of the goal posts that occurred in the Oval Office during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The fifth is the Transactional Leadership Style adhered to mostly in large, stationary, almost stagnant institutions like the bureaucracy where status quo is always sought and maintained. Transformational Leadership is the sixth style where the primary focus lies on effecting positive change in themselves, others and the entire organization in exactly the same order with an aim towards progress. Commonly associated with Transformational Leadership are Charismatic Leaders like J.F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela and Visionary Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King who attempted to inculcate ethical values in the followers that would last beyond the duration of the need for a leader or the cause for that matter. Then there is Strategic Leadership which is constituted specifically to outwit competition, for example, Army Generals during war. Team Leadership is yet another style which believes in the old adage “two heads are better than one” and adds “the more the merrier”; and the ninth style, coined by Jim Collins, is called Level 5 leadership wherein the leader embody a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional resolve. The tenth style of leadership, which is fast gaining importance in the twenty-first century, is brand leaders like Angelina Jolie who is the UN Goodwill Ambassador or late Princess Diana who worked tirelessly against the use of landmines.

The list of leadership styles mentioned above is in no way exhaustive. It is open-ended and subject to change whether in the nature of additions, subtractions, or modifications ad nauseum. There is however, one key ingredient that goes into the making of the leadership style that would be followed by a particular organization, movement or concern. It is power in all its manifestations, utility and repercussions. If power of the leader is coercive then the leadership style would be Authoritarian, if it is referent then it would be an Influential Leadership style, if it were distributive then Participative Leadership style would be the result, if power is based on hierarchy then it would imply a Transactional leadership style and if power was essentially the force of the personality of the leader then it would be Charismatic Leadership style. Hair splitting can be furthered in this classification of leadership, for example if personalities of leaders were taken into account then a domineering man or woman would make for an Authoritarian leader. And if the nature of the followers was taken into account then, huge numbers would qualify the leader as a mass or popular leader; submissive and meek followers would denote Authoritarian Leadership. In this way, many more variables can be entangled in numerous combinations and permutations to create an unending figure of leadership styles, more so in the twenty-first century where the situations that demand leaders are growing at a staggering rate.

It is not as if all types of leadership have undergone a tremendous change. There are quite a few similarities left over, perhaps because the human experience is such that knowledge is always cumulative and incremental, whether it accrues as what ought to be carried forth by the new generation or as what ought to be discarded as detrimental. There are avenues where leaders do not have to meet their followers which existed even in the ancient times like that of scientific, industrial and technological movements where leaders like Galileo, Copernicus, or Einstein, Stephen Hawking never have to meet their protégés. An illustration in the field of economics is the 1950s seminal work on economic dependency theory separately arrived at by Hans Singer in Germany and Raul Prebisch in Argentina based on Keynesian economics. Of course this probably wouldn’t happen today because of the information and communication technology revolution. Most String Theorists perhaps know what the other is up to! On the other end of the spectrum are the military generals be it Alexander, Napoleon, Churchill, General Patton or General J.S. Arora who have to be in constant touch with their soldiers. Exceptions do and did exist like the British army, in the days when the sun never set on their empire, who never had to meet their sepoys directly or today’s deconstructed military command structure where orders maybe radioed in to far flung border posts in lieu of messengers on horses that Aurangzeb sent during his campaigns.

Not all leaders are effective all the time. Some are effective only some of the time and in some situations. The test of a good leader is the knowledge when and when not to enforce regulations on the followers. Take the case of Akbar, while he was a great military leader, a just ruler and a devoted architect, he did not in any form pressure his people to follow the tenets of the new religion that he had propounded. In fact tauhid-i-illahi did not last beyond Akbar’s own lifetime, while he did rigorously enforce taxes. Akbar also delegated authority, like land reform measures to Todar Mal, which goes to show that a great leader demonstrates faith in his team and followers. In the twenty first century, delegation of authority is imperative due to the complexities and details involved in every task of every magnitude. This delegation of authority also prepares the ground for future leaders. A case in point could be made about all the political parties (whether in India or abroad) which prepare young leaders very obviously whether to take upon their youthful shoulders the burden of development of the nation, winning elections or nefarious nexus networking, as the recent sting operations have made it apparent.

Thus, there are leadership traits that carry forth beyond time, space and generations. Based on the leadership variables mentioned at the outset, the nature of leadership in the earlier times was that of kings like Ashoka or Marcus Aurelius, military generals like Alexander, warlords like Chenghiz Khan, religious leaders like Jesus or Mohammed, or counter offer leaders like Chanakya. However, today this scenario has changed because the world has transitioned from autocratic rule to democracy with the advent of West Phalian state system. This shift has increased the numbers of concerns of both the governed and that of the government. This alteration in the international state system has brought with it a myriad of issues to the forefront in all the three levels: systemic, nation-state and individual. Democratic theories of governance have undergone adjustments ranging from liberal to elitist to pluralist to sustainable equity to all the sections of society. With this, an advent of a range of socio-political-economic issues has raised their heads, that demands for specific and special leadership. As such there are the likes of Anna Hazare, Verghese Kurien, Narayan Murthy, Arvind Kejariwal, Medha Patkar, C. Bisht replete in the Indian civil society. Also as the means to organize followers have increased manifold, and access for the formation of associations has eased there are movements like Justice for Jessica and Justice for Priyadarshini Mattoo as examples. A simple SMS or a simple Internet broadcast can do wonders in our societies today!

Just like the various independence movements of the twentieth century in the former Asian and African colonies of European powers produced leaders like Suharto, Nehru, Tito and Nasser, in the twenty first century social and economic causes like poverty alleviation produce leaders like Amartya Sen and Aruna Roy. Practically every activity / issue / cause that has the potential to impact and benefit a large number of people creates leaders out of men and women. Even unjust causes create leaders not necessarily in the line of Saddam Hussein or Ayman Al-Zawahari (some do reform like Muammar Quaddaffi, others like Fidel Castro don’t), but its always 20/20 hindsight when the just or unjustness of the cause comes to the fore. As it is said, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter; a notable example is post First World War Germany and Hitler’s stature, power, pelf and position. Even the often maligned political leadership has changed its image from that of an apparently all knowing leader amidst a vast range of sycophants, though this variety of leaders still exists, to effective bosses who get tech savvy things done in their constituencies like Chandrababu Naidu. Often, one single determinate act can transform the society, for example Jayalalitha making rain water harvesting mandatory in every household in Tamil Nadu.

Therefore, in conclusion, the changing nature of leadership in the twenty first century has included mass public participation in numbers seen never before, evident during the protests against invasion of Iraq in the streets of Germany, Australia, New Delhi, and Seattle on one side and local causes like the Narmada Bachao Andolan on the other. However both the worm’s eye view and the bird’s eye view demands that there be a merger of global and local concerns because of the inter-relatedness of the issues that affect humanity as a whole, not nations in particular. Health, education, sanitation, corruption, poverty, epidemics, infrastructure, ecological damage is not limited to geographical boundaries. It is true that they are measured country-wise, one only need take a look at the Human Development Report of the UNDP, but the fact remains that an automobile mechanic in Detroit is connected to a call center employee in Pune, dengue can spread from India to Pakistan, the avian influenza virus can reach the shores of Long Island, Oprah’s Angel Network can benefit the poverty stricken people in African countries, and for energy sufficiency in India, it needs to initiate, sustain and propagate discussion for a gas pipeline project spanning India, Iran and Pakistan. Once the true nature and extent of the needs of the people are assessed in all levels: local, national and international, all avenues: social, political, and economic and there is resolve to fulfill these aspirations, there is no end to what leaders can accomplish. The verity of success in the inter-connected world of the twenty-first century is the hallmark of the changing nature of leadership.

“A leader is a dealer in hope.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte