Narendra Modi: Let’s help him be the change

(Picture via India Today)

India is elated about Modi’s win. He brings boundless hope to a country that many Indians consider damaged beyond repair, myself included.

Modi steps into a position of power with a vision of prosperity for all. His core focus will be on development that aims to improve the quality of life of 1.25 billion people. He promises better infrastructure; hydroelectric power plants; more jobs; more foreign investment; stronger international relations; a 100 new modern cities; and a united country.

From what I understand about Modi, he is a visionary though fierce leader; intelligent, tough, devoted and clear about what he wants to achieve, and perhaps even ruthless in his mission to achieve it. The corruption free prosperity of Gujarat while he was Chief Minister is proof of his abilities. And he is truly innovative! (I can’t get over his holographic rallies!)

However, fixing one state is largely different from fixing a country with 35 territories running with their own bureaucracy, beliefs and varying levels of corruption. Modi has a herculean task before him but he is soaring with confidence, ready to seize it.

I believe that if anyone can reform India, it’s going to be Modi; and clearly the majority of India feels the same. But there is a minority in India who wish his peril and a foreign community that can’t seem to stop warning the world about him.

It’s naïve and idealistic of me to think that the haters will shut-up and let him do his job now that he has won. There will be people, media and agendas digging up dirt on him and scrutinizing his every action. He has tough decisions to make on a domestic and international level, that won’t make everyone happy. He will be watched like a hawk, as they wait for him to stumble so he can be attacked. Unfortunately that is the nature of politics and fodder for media.

And for Godsake, let’s stop talking about what happened in 2002!

We all want to see change. Modi’s authoritarian nature is feared by critics but perhaps it is what India needs to be whipped into shape.

The situation in India is desperate. We have lost decades with the wrong leadership, and patience is no longer our virtue. But we have to give him some time to deliver.

I plead to my fellow Indians, let’s not expect a sudden miracle or radical changes overnight. Let’s make sure we support our new hope and defend it against the evil eye. Modi’s 12-year corruption free record and landslide victory in the polls has earned him the benefit of doubt.

We must give him the chance and time he needs to rewrite India’s destiny. It might just be the only chance we have.

A Diplomatic Decision

My bedtime reading (hardly) these days.

My bedtime reading (hardly) these days.

As I was proudly writing down my list of easy and fun posts to write, I realized that with a master’s programme in Global Diplomacy looming over my head, I really cannot afford to spend time researching and writing about dinosaurs, the psychology behind cellotape selfies, singing nuns, or the history of padel tennis. My research and thinking needs to focus on understanding foreign policy and diplomatic relations, especially since my knowledge on the subject is extremely limited and I have a 15,000-word thesis to submit.

So, if I want to keep this writing challenge I so mindlessly decided to embark upon, I need to marry it with other goals for it to be productive rather than a joyful waste of time I don’t have.

This actually makes this challenge seriously harder.  But I’m up for it.

From now on, most my posts will be on current affairs (keyword *most*). I hope to see them evolve from basic information sharing posts to analytical posts.

I find current affairs extremely interesting and have always wanted to understand more about what impacts our world order, which is why I enrolled in this programme. However, when you are starting from scratch, it can get quite overwhelming.  Understanding the subject is one thing, and then writing about it is another. I hope this process accelerates the way I process information on complex political subjects. If it does, it will really help my degree. If it doesn’t then I know that I may have to cross off ever writing for The World Post.

#Day 11, post 8.

Disco Dino at Dubai Mall

dino

Looking at these pictures of dinosaurs I just cannot believe that they inhabited our planet 230 million years ago. They walked the same ground we are walking now!

Looking at the dinosaur at the Dubai Mall, I can’t believe that something from that many million years ago, is just there, next to Tiffany and Cartier – it’s so surreal. 230 million years from now, maybe our bones will be in some public arena for people (or creatures!?) to gape at.

Just to put this all into context, according to the BBC, the history of life on Earth as we know it began about 3.8 billion years ago. The bacteria that we fight everyday were the first living things (!). Evolution did its thing and starting 570 million years ago, species we are familiar with like arthropods (eg. cockroach) and fish started to develop. Mammals came to being about 200 million years ago and us Homo sapiens, only about 200,000 years ago. We’ve hardly been around!

There have been eras of mass extinction that have wiped out entire races of living things, like dinosaurs, while others have survived. When and what will cause the mass extinction of humans? Or will science help us evolve into an immortal race that will still be around 4 billion years from now? Isn’t it crazy to think about!?

So back to the dino in Dubai. She is a 155 million year old long-necked whip-tailed sauropod (translates from Greek to ‘lizard foot’). She is 80 feet long and 25 feet high, and was 25 years old when she died. Had she lived her whole life, she would be at least double the size and weigh as heavy as five elephants put together.

While looking at her, it took me a few seconds to determine which side her head was on. In the image, it’s the bit on the right. It’s a very small head, common for herbivore dinosaurs. Meat eating animals have bigger heads because they need the brains to think about how to find and kill their next prey, is what the Dubai Mall exhibit attendant told me.

They say her bones were found intact in a sleeping position in 2008 in Wyoming (USA), and she probably died after being attacked while fighting for water to drink during a drought. 90% of the bones in the exhibit are original. Her tailbones were damaged and required some fixing.

Dinosaurs first appeared during the Triassic period, 231 million years ago and became extinct about 66 million years ago. The first dinosaur fossils were recognized only in the early 19th century.

It’s so mind-boggling to have access to something that old. I cannot fathom what 155 million years old means. It’s just fascinating. Makes you really think about evolution and what sort of species living beings will turn into in the future.

There is a name the dino competition going on on Twitter #NameTDMDino. I thought I would be able to think of a name once I saw it, but I really can’t – nothing feels right. Cindy? Nicole? Anastassiarex? Natashasaurous? I hope they name her something special, not Dubai Mall Dino.

#Day10, post 7.

The Pursuit of Happiness – #HappyDay

BjIrOt0CMAApyty

Today being the International Day of Happiness compelled me to spend some time researching and thinking about ‘happiness’.

The Greek language has a beautiful word for happiness – ‘eudaimonia’ – the exact translation of which is ‘human flourishing’. Eudaimonia is central to Aristotle’s philosophy that ‘happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’ I often struggle when I think about the purpose of my life, and reading this quote put my mind at ease. Is it really that simple?

Happiness means different things to different people. The World Happiness Report says income levels are not the only indicators of well-being in rich and poor countries. Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are more important; and at the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to rely on, job security and a stable family are central to happiness.  But then again, to people living in poverty, fighting for food and water – 3 billion people (!) – is ‘happiness’ even relevant?

Happiness was put on the global agenda because of Bhutan, a tiny ‘land of dragons’ with a population of about 750,000 people. Happiness has been an organizing principle for governance in Bhutan since the early 18th Century when it declared that “if the Government cannot create happiness (dekid) for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist.” In 1972, Bhutan launched the Gross National Happiness Index recognizing happiness as a more important measure of prosperity than the Gross Domestic Product.

Following their inherent way of functioning and to extend it beyond borders, Bhutan called for a high-level meeting at the UN headquarters to discuss the importance of happiness as a universal goal. In the meeting held on April 2nd 2012, it discussed the need to have a new global sustainability-based economic paradigm for human happiness and well-being of all life forms to replace the current dysfunctional system that is based on the unsustainable premise of limitless growth on a finite planet. The full report of the meeting can be read here; it’s fascinating to see how happiness can be incorporated into governance.

Some call the meeting a fantastic public relations stunt by Bhutan, but the concept of happiness is so engrained in the policies that govern the country, it’s definitely more than that. Hats off to them for getting the world to recognize this fundamental need for a better planet, even if it was just for publicity! This year happiness is even on Dubai’s agenda.

And then I was pleasantly surprised to find movements such as actsofhappiness, projecthappiness, actionforhappiness that work towards making people happy and encouraging people and companies to spread happiness and drive socio-economic change.

Today, fortunately or unfortunately Pharrell Williams owns the word Happy. And I really don’t know what to say about that except that you can’t hold anything against anyone who is promoting happiness J.

#Day 7, post 6.

Bachchan struck at Dubai Film Fest

Working on the Dubai International Film Festival is as exhilarating as it is exhausting. My main role has been to manage real-time updates from the festival, i.e. live-tweet /Facebook from the event as much as possible. Fun, eh? Anyhoo, with a million things happening at the same time, my responsibilities extended into doing anything needed on site in relation to PR, and helping handle the red carpet.

Honestly, I am not at all star-struck, never have been. But, when I saw Amitabh Bachchan get onto the carpet I was like a little child overwhelmed and excited by the tangible presence of one of the most saught after stars on this planet. At 67, he looks great and sounds even greater.

I was right up the front of the celebrity carpet where I was put to take a picture of every talent and upload to Twitter instantly. Amitabh Bachchan was the first celeb to arrive and the next thing I hear is “Abha, please walk Mr. Bachchan down the red carpet.”

WHAT!? ME? OKkkk! Omg. So awesome.

I stood next to him on the red carpet for atleast 15-minutes. Neither did he look at me, nor did he acknowledge my presence. I did give him the occassional poke when his publicist was pushing me to get him to move quicker through the media (very uncool), but those pokes were conveniently ignored. Obviously. I’m lucky he didn’t growl. Anyway, it was still awesome. I’ve grown up admiring Amitabh Bachchan; being physically next to him was surreal and just simply cool.

I have no proof or tangible evidence of this little event other than this ridiculous picture of the back of our heads.

I frantically searched online to see if SOMETHING was there that put me in the same frame has AB, only to find a video of him at the red carpet with, again, the back of my head. Argh.

It’s ok. It’s all in my head.

The second best highlight for me at the festival was being able to watch the world premiere of the first Emarati feature film on Dubai – “City of Life”. Excellent film about many realities of this city that are not often talked about. I will surely review it soon.

The Dubai Film Festival is on till December 16, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, do give it a look — some really cool films are playing.

Competition:Win a copy of SuperFreakonomics!

superfreakonomics

If you haven’t read, or at least heard of Freakonomics — shame on you.

In a nutshell, as put perfectly by the AP, Freakonomics is a book where the authors “crunch numbers about mundane topics to reveal interesting, unexpected conclusions”. For example: What do school teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? Questions you wouldn’t really think to ask, but they are valid, and if nothing else, beg you to think differently and feed your curiosity. A quirky book that is written basis principles of economics, anyone with an inquisitive mind will enjoy it. I wrote a review of the book about 2 years ago that you can read here. Also, the authors of Freakonomics have a regular blog on the NYTimes and you can follow them on Twitter http://twitter.com/Freakonomics, so do check those links out to get a flavour of their crazy thinking ability.

Now, the success of Freakonomics lead the authors to come up with another such book called “SuperFreakonomics”. You can check out some reviews of it here (WSJ) and here (LA Times).

I haven’t read the book yet (on my priority list to read), but I do have two copies to give away!

So, tell me, in not more that 50 words, why do you deserve to win a copy of SuperFreakonomics?

You can leave a comment here or send me an email at abha.malpani@gmail.com with “SuperFreakonomics” in the subject line. Deadline to send in your comments is November 17, 2009.

Come on then, it’s an easy win! 🙂

Dubai Twestival is back!

Us post Dubai Twestival meeting

Us post Dubai Twestival organisation meeting

Those of you who missed the first Dubai Twestival (@dubaitwestival) that happened earlier this year, make sure you don’t miss the next one!

The Twestival is a global event that unites people on Twitter for  good cause. Local editions of this concept will be held in over 200 countries from September 10-13.

Here are Dubai event details:

Date: September 12, 2009

Time: 8pm-11pm

Venue: Jam Jar @thejamjar (map)

The first one attracted over 150 people; we raised some good cash for Charity Water and had a blast as well!

If you’re  not on Twitter, well, urrr, you should be (!), so register and then come along to meet other Tweeters.

The charity we are supporting this time is the Dubai Autism Centre, a non-profit organisation set-up to integrate autistic children into the community and raise social awarness for autism. Expect a fun time that will make a difference — all you have to do is show up!

Register for the event here too please, it will just take a minute and will help us get an idea of numbers. There is limited space, so register fast!

Come, tweet, meet and give!

TED India and TEDxDubai

tedindiaThis weekend I had the privilege of meeting with someone who has my (newly recognised) dream job. Lakshmi Pratury, former marketer, venture capitalist, and social entreprenuer, now works for TED – one of the best organisations on this planet, dedicated to bringing spectacular people together to change the world.

Those of you who are not familiar with TED: it’s an annual conference that brings together fascinating people who have incredible ”ideas worth spreading” and are asked to talk about those potentially life-changing bursts of wisdom in 18 minutes.

Richard Branson, Benjamin Zander, Bill Gates, Tim Ferriss, Isabel Allende, Phillipe Starck, Al Gore, are just a few of the 400 odd mind-blowing talkers that have spoken at the TED conference. TED began in 1984 where it concentrated on topics related to technology, education and design, however today, its scope is much beyond that.

The launch of TED.com about 2 years ago has made this otherwise exclusive closed-door conference of eclectic people, accessible to anyone with access to the internet. Log on, watch a talk, and believe me, you will be hooked. When I lack inspiration (which is quite often these days), a couple of talks on TED.com and I’m ready to seize the day again. The best thing is the diversity of talks you can watch; depending on your mood, you can watch talks that are “jaw-dropping”, “funny”, ïnfomative”, “persuasive”, “ingenious”, “courageous”, or just plain “beautiful.”

TED.com is one of the best gifts the web has given the world. A must, MUST look at.

Lakshmi was here in Dubai to talk about the launch of TED India. The conference will be held in Mysore November 4-7. You can still apply to be an attendee (you have to be accepted to attend) or a Fellow (deadline June 15), full details can be found here.

When I found out that Ted Fellow applications for India were open, I jumped on the process with full intention to apply. Careful study of the application process made me feel too inadequate to apply since they are not looking merely for people with potential, they are looking for people with potential who have already tried to do something that matters with that potential. I get severely stumped there. I have done nothing with my capabilities that will help anything  in any way, nor do I yet have a conceivable idea to do the same. A look at this video and a read of previously selected Fellows and you’ll know what I mean. The process, however, has made me want to look at things differently and get moving on ideas that might actually matter some day.

Lakshmi, at the session at Knowledge Village, gave us further insight into TED and what it means, and how everyone can participate if they really want to. She gave the example of William, a 19 year old boy from a village in Malawi, who built a windmill from scrap with his bare hands. That windmill gave his home enough energy to power 4 lights and a radio. The awe-inspiring session from this young African boy at TED can be seen here.

“The only thing that stops us from doing is our own mind” she said to the group of 30 odd people present. So true. That, and the lack of self-inspired motivation and commitment to doing something that really matters.

TED will make a little mark in Dubai as the licence to hold TEDxDubai has been obtained. On October 10 in the city will be a local rendition of the actual TED. Unlike TED India, this is not THE TED as it will be managed independently, but something similar. More details are yet to be revealed by the licence holders; you can follow their blog or twitter to stay updated. If you know of any speaker based in Dubai, who has an “idea worth spreading” be sure to submit your recommendation to tedxdubai@gmail.com.

TED.com. Log. On. NOW.

Slides from my talk at Ad Women ME

picadwomenHere’s a pic of me in action at Ad Women Middle East. Yikes, I need to practice not closing my eyes when I speak. BTW, I’m not disgruntled; just super-emphasizing a point I was trying to make. I think. Anyhoo.

For those of you who are interested, the presentation slides from my talk are now uploaded here on the website under the punching title “Social Media – Collaborate or Die”.

BarCamp in the UAE

logo_architecturebc3

Those of you who complain that in Dubai people do not get together to have meaningful conversations, stop complaining and make sure you go to BarCamp.

Yes, one’s happening in the UAE! For those who are not familiar with the concept, it’s an informal gathering of people at an event where the substance of the event is created by the participants.  It’s the definition of “open-source”  in practice and anyone can initiate one by using the BarCamp Wiki.

The idea to do this is Dubai came up when some of us Tweeters were eating cheese manaeesh at Souk Al Baher. Two of the key organisers of Dubai’s first BarCamp are Twitter handles @floater @floatr, @disruptiveplay — well done guys and thanks for pushing this forward.

Being Dubai, the discussion topics need to be watched a bit,  so a free to all online topic list was created at: http://discuss.barcampuae.org/

Some of the topics are:

Social media for social change

Story telling in a digitally connected world

-The open education project

Here you can read descriptions of the ideas, vote for them, and if none of them tickles your ribs, suggest your own!

So, event details are:

When: Saturday, May 9.

Where: DELL building at DIC

What time: 10am onwards; 9:30 am if you want brekky 🙂

Follow the guys on Twitter for updates at @BarCampUAE.

I think it’s going be a great morning. I will be there, come!