Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The morning after 26 January 2006


Today is a historic day. In fact even yesterday was. Yesterday, The Republic of India celebrated its 57th year as an "independent" & "free" country. The world’s largest free democratic group of people. An open progressive and thriving economy. The world’s youngest nation, where more than 50% of citizens are below the age of 25.

Yesterday also saw the release of Rang De Basanti, which in itself is a historic film. The movie wasn’t really great. It was the timing and the point Mr. Mehra has tried so successfully at making. I saw it yesterday night at a Surat City (Fastest developing city of India) Multiplex with my family. I have to say the movie made my blood boil.

I’ve decided to do something. I had an idea running through my head ever since I had first experienced the way our bureaucracy worked when I’d gone to get my first ever driving license. It was for a gear-less scooter, a 16 yr old eligibility license. I was 16 then, I’m 23 now and my red Hero Winner still, as described in the words of a friendly mechanic from near my home in Surat, "runs like a khilona". . I’d gone to get my RTO license. Like a naive fool I went and got the form and eventually got to standing in the queue. But soon after I realised the futility of my actions.
There were rooms, and queues, and people (officers, agents, applicants, kaminas) and floors to cover. I saw all the gory details of Indian Efficiency first hand and for the first time. Right then, I wished I had a camera. Which I could use to secretly capture all the insider trading at the RTO office. Years later, Mr. Tejpal did just that. Thank you! Your part has been well played, sir.
Looking at the uphill task ahead, the sixteen year old in me gave up. It’s not like I didn’t know this would be the situation. I had been well informed by my dear businessperson father after he’d bought me my vehicle, all the things and all the people that I should be meeting to get the license. Dad gave me all the information a regular Indian would need to get a license in the best possible manner. Then there was also my elder bro. He’s 5 years senior to me. But I think he was more naive than me. One because he had to go to a driving school to learn to drive, something which I didn’t have to do ;), and second, he wrote down in a notebook a step by step flowchart. It outlined the exact procedure, with details as far as floor and room numbers inside the RTO building, the names of the various forms and their code numbers and the various documents and proofs that will be required to be submitted at various points of time inside the RTO building. He wrote all the down when he managed to get his license, after a long time if I remember correctly. So he showed me all those pages filled with all the details which I neither could understand or was in any mood to go through. So leaving all my family and friends’ various comments aside I set to venture and find out what the fuss was all about.

So after seeing all this with my own eyes, I walked back where I’d come from – ‘outside’ the RTO office. There were numerous people there, all with briefcases in their laps sitting on their Bajaj scooters and Hero Honda bikes. Whenever someone approached them, they would open their briefcases, then close them and use them as writing pads. Indians are ingenious, no doubt about that! It was as if each vehicle was a different office in this Market for getting Driving Licenses. I was obviously apprehensive (a similar apprehension to the one that I felt a year later, when I went to rent my first adult VHS from a video library behind my home). Seeing my demeanour (he obviously understood the apprehension first-timers felt during their first encounter with The Government of India, and maybe could even smell a first-timer from a mile away), a ‘friendly’ uncle, yes with a briefcase on his lap, called me and stole the words from my mouth, "Driving License chahiye?". I nodded, paid him Rs. 160 (please note# this is same price as RDB Audio CD, except that former is unfair pricing while the latter is quiet fair pricing) and gave him 4 photographs. Next day, I came to collect my license from the same place near a particular tree where our man always sat. He said he had been there for...years.
There was a joke of a driving test before I got my license. It seems agents can work more efficiently that government staff, who are obviously too unhappy at the salary given to them by The Government of India. Now, The Government of India gets all its funding from taxpaying citizens of India, who maybe either corrupt or human. So it’s quite a food chain you see. And it works this way because people at the bottom keep quiet and DO NOTHING.
Anyway, so I had this idea, which has become quite successful lately. All kinds of stings and spy cam operations have been carried by enterprising news channels and media entities alike (we ourselves at JWT were planning an Aishwarya Rai sting-like ad for promoting Lux, but never got around to doing it). Alas its all been more for TRPs than anything else. Now, a few weeks ago I had a similar but more impact-ful idea. I even managed to email NDTV about it. I’m still waiting for a reply. Basically what I proposed was to shift the power to nudify the corrupt kaminas scum-of-the-earth kinds, from well-funded journalists to everyday people like you and me, i.e. the bottom of the pit people (some of you might not consider yourself among this set, congratulations!). My idea was simple, is simple, can be done effectively. Just imagine, if there were a millions eyes capturing and recording all the shit that goes on around our dear nation 24x7, and relaying it to million others, what terror it would strike into the hearts (if they have any) of these evil kaminas. Every time these kaminas try taking another bribe, they’ll think twice for sure and check thrice for small electronic eyes watching them lay bare their souls. and recording them silently, discreetly.
It’s possible! The tools required: Multimedia Instant Messaging Next Generation Tele Relay Devices (read MMS enabled cell phones) and/or Ultra Compact Digital VidCap Mechanisms (read Digi Cams) or why not the small cameras in lighters used by James Bond, I hear that these days they cost no more than Rs. 500!
The Tech Revolution that has taken India so far in the last 5 years can take us even further. Everyone has one of these nowadays. It’s a simple matter of switching it on when need be, pointing it in the right direction, and recording and sending or LIVE relaying the grabbed footage to a forum which deals only with such priceless videos and which millions subscribe to (more on this coming later). Or…as I suggested to NDTV, relaying it LIVE to a TV channel, as it happens.
So I said, hey NDTV! You guys have shit loads of cash, right? Why don’t you spend a little into something which will earn the nation some respect and you guys more pot loads of money, potentially that is. Why don’t you guys setup a LIVE Breaking News Hidden Cam Army. Equip a multitude of idiots like me, with special mobiles/hidden cams that can instantly relay the footage to a ‘safe location’ (should this be an overseas location? Or can we manage to find a spot in India, where no one in India can stop any footage whatsoever from being accessed by the public if they want to), from where it will directly be relayed to the public, without any disturbance whatsoever. When the footage is relayed to NDTV, and you put them on air, imagine the jump in your TRPs when suddenly during the evening news, there is a Breaking News announcement where a certain Amar, Akbar or Anthony from say Mumbai, is relaying LIVE to you an under-the-table deal in progress, repeat LIVE! It could be the traffic cop who asks for just a 100 bucks instead of 300, but without the receipt of course. Or a Railway TT (like the one who I met aboard the Flying Ranee when travelling back to Mumbai from Surat on The Morning After 26 January 2006, i.e. 27th morning, and it is after my encounter with this kamina, that I got down to putting all this down on paper) giving seats to ticket less passengers over wait listed passengers. What shame would befall on these weak men and women trying to make a quick buck, who are obviously unaware that the entire nation is watching them as they palm their last Gandhi Green 500 bucks. Anyway I’ll talk about this later.
So RDB, this movie made me think. Made me act. I couldn’t sleep last night (anyway I can’t sleep at night when I have to catch a train at 5:25 am, people who know me, know why). I was constantly thinking about what I need to do. So I came up with a name at least – RedCam.org, kooooool, izzzzun’t it?
I’m gonna set it up real soon. I wasn’t so sure about this thing last night, but now, now I’m sure as hell it WILL exist. After all how long can I not make it happen. Last night I was thinking, and today I got my first scandal-to-cite, such is destiny.
So, I’m on the Flying Ranee Express, a train with a million reasons why to hate travelling. More on these other reasons some other day, coz the last few hours have been a real rush and I’m bubbling with pride as to how I managed to survive unscathed through them, I am, really.
Let me tell you before I begin my train story – DON’T GO TO THE RAILWAY STATION UNLESS YOU HAVE A RESERVED TICKET IN HAND. Just don’t, staying at home and snoring would be a much better option. That, or take matters into your hand (literally) and act upon your conscience.
So I was to leave for Mumbai, via the 5:25 morning double-decker train which would easily lift the title for "The Most Uncomfortable Train Ever Made". I had spent 3 really nice days with family.
I had a ticket which my dad got me through a ‘simple agent’, he charges 50 bucks for saving me time and energy I would have otherwise spent travelling to the reservation counter, and standing in the queue. Quiet reasonable I say, quite a steal in fact when you consider that it also prevents you mental damage and torture you could have faced by standing inside the reservation counter and seeing the cop-on-duty wander about as if in a garden, when people left right and center were asking me which train you wanted a ticket for. These were of course the ‘advanced agents’. They’re different from the ‘simple agent’ I paid Rs. 50 to the ‘simple agent’. He was just saving me time, he didn’t keep relations with the Ticket Booking Officers, or the TT, or the Railway Station Superintendent, that was an ‘advanced agent" job. They obviously charged higher than the ‘simple agent’ How much? Well that they would have told you after they figured out how gullible you were. It varies from person to person you see. Floating Interest Rates anyone?
But wait, the ticket is a waiting list ticket, although I was hoping that the WL17 last night would get confirmed by today morning, it didn’t, somehow, even though most days it does get confirmed, I don’t know, hmmm can’t say, pata nahin, bhagwaan jaane.
I was kinda heartbroken to see WL10 written somewhere in the complicated chart next to my name. I got to this information after a lot of searching, I tell you, who ever designed these charts for the Railways deserves an award.
Anyway, I started running towards my platform as I feared missing the train (why am I always late everywhere???) and was relieved to see it still standing on the platform. I still had some stupid-hope, so I consulted the chart again, this time outside the train coach. The of-so-well-laid-out-and-really-easy-to-find-the-information-chart again disappointed me. My name was nowhere, I was hoping that maybe there’s a bit of a time delay between the preparation of the chart outside the station that I saw a few minutes ago, and this one, stuck outside the coach. No such thing.
I looked left, and right, and left again and there I saw our man, the TT!!!, a guy with a really long and thick beard. Gathering up whatever hope was left, I went and showed him my ticket (maybe now my luck may change, maybe some people got their tickets cancelled at the last moment, or didn’t turn up at all). No luck again. "It’s full", he says. I asked more as a request than a clarification? "None at all?", "First class mein milega", he says. Fine I say, how much extra will I have to pay? 200 is the reply. 200 on top of a 300 rupee worthless ticket? And that too to sit in a non-ac compartment, where there’ll be more people standing than sitting? No way, I say, that’s a clear rip-off. Although I didn’t expect the poor guy to be honest, his straight forwardness in stating the figure surprised me (last nite I felt like shit, coz I’d paid the TT on the journey home from Mumbai, Rs. 300 as bribe to secure a berth in the chair car with my ‘chalu’ general ticket, without a receipt of course, who cares if the money went into the TT’s pocket and not into the already-making-huge-losses Railways’ cash register. Anyway Lalooji the great is Minister for Railways, so all the more reason not to offer any help to the Railways, whoever gets the money, it’s the same difference yaar! In fact better give it to the poor TT (and hey! Wasn’t lallu thrown out of power in Bihar a few weeks ago, how come he is still Minister? They taught me civics in Std 10th, I never imagined this can also happen then, or maybe our teacher didn’t teach us well, that’s why I don’t understand, yes maybe that’s the reason, the teacher who taught us in school, I had heard had himself not cleared the 10th Std exams ever. But that’s just speculation. Let’s get back to the facts.
So I felt like shit at being such a loser as to bribe the TT 300 to get a comfortable journey. This was both during and after the movie.
Back to the present, so I was fucked, that too in the morning, what to do, should I pay 200 and get a seat in the first class? Before I could make up my mind, the train started to move. I quickly got onto the cc dabba lest I miss the train.
And look what I found! The ‘full’ compartment our man was talking about seconds ago was practically empty save a dozen seats or so.
This picture was taken 10 minutes later from outside the Chair Car compartment, where the TT was ‘reprimanding’ me
Man, I boiled all over again. I vowed not to bribe this kamina who is so shameless as to call this ‘full’. I went and sat at one of the many empty seats, next to me sat, a guy with a general ticket. I had a wait-listed ticket. That means I was in queue because there were way too many passengers who had booked tickets and were travelling in this coach. Right.
And a feeling that things are gonna heat up around here. My out-of-control emotions were already pouring out of my mouth, my target was the puny guy with the general ticket sitting next to me, and he was hearing patiently all the unmentionable words that were pouring outta my mouth full-steam. I’d already taken out my new Kodak digi cam and was taking a video grab of the empty compartment. In comes Mr. Long Beard Kamina, I started clicking even more vigorously to let him know of my protest. He came straight to me, didn’t question my camera antics, and raised an eyebrow at me, then asked me for my ticket which he had already seen properly outside on the platform and knew that I was WL. Then he said, "You are Waiting List", and asked me to come out of the compartment and to the vestibule/toilet area. By then I had lost even the little respect for him that I would keep for dogs at least. I back answered. I was in no mood to cozy up to this kamina I still had my camera in my hand and was deliberately pointing it towards him even though it was off, as I was short of storage space (in-built memory was only 16 MB, anyone know of a good deal for a Kodak V530 1GB Memory Card?). I was eye-to-eye with the kamina. I didn’t bother to keep my voice down, we spat various incomprehensible words at each other. Few seconds later I was standing at the same spot but with my luggage in hand this time. My ticket had been taken from me and was currently in the left jacket pocket of the kamina. I heard words like "police", ""charbi", "andar", "section 155", "seedha", "panga mujhse", "meri train" in the next 45 seconds.
To infuriate him more, I took a pic of the compartment in front of him. A nice steady shot and with flash too.
Then onwards it was all-out war. He gave me some more serious threats while I stood outside in the freezing morning cold gazing at the empty seats inside. While he sat inside and spoke to some of his regular travelling ‘friends’ whom he was telling about me. One by one as the various minor stations came, people went in and got seats, some people who get seats also held smaller tickets similar to the general ticket holder guy who sat next to me a while ago. TT came out and I stared blink-less into his tiny eyes. His threats and demeanour were getting meaner all the while, and alarm bells began ringing in my head, I decided it was prudent to let my folks of what I was getting into. I called up mom and while I was talking (yes I did use the word ‘saala’ when describing the TT to my mom, I find the word a very short and efficient description, not too hard a curse either, and gets the point across quite simply) on the phone, the kamina came out blasting from the door, ‘saala bolta hai mujh ko, bahut charbi chadeli hai, meri train main baitha hai, jab tak danda nahin padega tab tak samjhe ga nahin, abhi section 155 ke andar tujhko andar karta hoon, abhi police aayegi, tujh jaise 25 aate hai roz". This was while mom was on the line. Anyway, so I went back to the phone and told them not to worry, and told my dad to keep his phone on at all times. I then shouted back even louder on his face, and ended my call. It was none of his business what I was doing on the phone or who I was talking to. He said he’ll even get my phone confiscated, as it is my digi cam was a goner, he said. I told him to buzz off.
Half an hour of standing in the cold (I forgot to wear a sweater that day, somehow) vestibule, and then on the other end I saw the kamina with a mean looking daily traveller of the Flying Ranee, and the kamina animated descriptions was describing to the mean guy what he was going to be doing to an ass who decided to speak against his authority, and the mean guy (hahahahahahahahaha) was nodding in agreement. I just stared at them. The TT/Kamina called me towards him with a flick of his wrist, and I lugged my luggage along clumsily but steadily.
The made me sit in the first cabin in the first class coach that is always next to the ac chair car coach, there were two other people, who were minding their own business. But these two kaminas were conversing about me loudly and trying to play mind games and threat games with me. I played along, I’m kinda good at sarcastic commentary. I was told that the police is coming and that I would be whisked off in the "Memu" train and spanked with ‘dandas’ until I learnt how to talk respectfully to a TT like him, an officer of The Government of India (why don’t we privatize Railways? There’s unlimited potential for developing private Railways, India can become the world’s best Railway network, as is we are the largest. Only if private companies are allowed to build/manage/share railway resources. The villages of India today are productive enough for private companies to invest and build networks across India, anyway. Look what privatization did to Banks, we once had the worst banks in the world, today our banking system is one of the most advanced ones in the world).
So I sat, and around 10 minutes later the cop came, looked middle aged and he had alcohol breath. More mind games and loud banter later, the police wallah had paper and a pen in hand, which he held in his hand, unsteadily. He began asking me questions politely and writing down my ‘bayaan’. He did this while I relaxed a bit more in the slightly comfortable 1st class non ac, sleeper like small compartment seat, I even got tea and managed to hold to the tea cup in my hand, steadily.
I gave him all the gory details as is, presenting a very clear case and exactly what happened. He STANK as he spoke to me, early morning drinking ahoy! So he took down the entire story in the format machine-fed into his brain after years of servitude to The Government of India, and its ever changing but always the same officers, who commanded their faithful dog to follow the money that traveled in the railways, and not those who traveled in it. He did a little ‘X’ at the bottom right of the sheet, and asked me to sign my ‘bayaan’. I said I don’t sign stuff I don’t write. If required I can write either in Hindi, Gujarati or English, whatever The Government of India prefers. By then the compartment had become kinda full, an elderly couple, the trying-to-look-mean man (I asked for his pen to write my ‘bayaan’, and then by ‘mistake’ dropped his pen hard on the floor, "oh sorry", I said) I even gave my JWT visiting card to the police wallah. Said it’ll look good along with my ‘bayaan’, I in an FYI sort of manner told him, it was an ‘ishtahaar waali company’ where we make ads that appear in newspapers and televisions, "prachaar waale hain hum". By then the elderly couple first, the people started enquiring about the matter and the police guy, wary not to appear as either one of the two parties involved in the tiff, answered them politely, the TT had gone off to make some more Gandhian Greenbacks I suppose.
Threats in all shapes, sizes and disguises were given to me by the cop as well, he was obviously well connected and friends with the TT. I was also told about "witnesses" to my behaviour (the handful of people that were present in the compartment in the morning, and of them four who I guess traveled everyday in the train were the "witnesses", asked to join in the fun of course by Mr. T.T. Kamina, errr you can spot them in the discreet picture I managed to take once the TT disappeared behind the door, there are the ones sitting right in front, didn’t have to walk much to choose a seat of their liking I guess, he made me delete the video grab of the compartment that I had taken, I wonder if it is in his rights to do that, maybe ill check with a lawyer. Then loudly, I’ve done my fair share of drama in school and college, I spoke to the cop about "symbiotic relationships", "parasites", "our system", "57 years of India", etc. etc.
And I could see the elderly couple smile as I said those things.
Finally, what happened was a blur, I was taken from the first class compartment to the chair car compartment and back again. A more senior police official got onto the train at one of the stations during the next 1 hours period, when I kept staring back at whosoever that communicated with the TT in an over-friendly manner. All of them were now busy discussing among themselves what to do, I overheard them talking about "media se hai" for sure once. Then what happened made me totally relieved and overjoyed in fact. Although the Mr. T.T. Kamina still kept his hard ass manner, the two police officials were talking to me with a smile and held the neatly folded ‘bayaan’ in their hand and told me, "yeh sab ke bareein mein bhool jayenge, agar tum in se maafi maang lo". They persisted for 15 minutes, trying to get me to say sorry. I said "aap log kya bol rahein hain?". Even regular uncles who were travelling in the train told me to say sorry and get over with this, although i am sure they wanted me to be safe more than the TT to be happy, that was something that the police really really wanted. So I said to policewallah#1, "agar meri jagah aapka beta hota, usse bhi yeh hi bolte, sorry kehdo?" I said clearly I had done nothing wrong, I WILL NOT say sorry. They can go ahead and do their job and put me in jail, take away my phone, and my camera, that I will buy new ones. I’m not saying sorry. I knew very well I was on top here. As expected I was handed over my ticket which was until now was in the left jacket pocket of the TT Kamina. I was told to go and wait at the other end of the first class compartment, that I will be ‘probably’ be taken to the police station at Mumbai Central. So I went, and as I passed the compartment I was earlier put in, I peeked in, and waved the ticket I held high in my hand towards the elderly couple, smiled, told then, "Uncle, maine sirf aapme hi sympathy dekhi, dekhiye maine sorry nahin bola, aur yeh mera ticket mere haath mein hai". I wave saluted and left.
Towards the end of the compartment I had to wait for half an hour, it wasn’t so cold anymore.., before I could find a place to sit. Ironically, I found the TT chair stuck onto the wall near the toilet of the first class compartment to sit on. So I sat down, put on my glares, glared at anyone who dared look upto me, and started jotting this story down. Before that I wrote in big bold letters on my left arm – REDCAM.ORG
Hardly 15 minutes had passed, I’d had another tea, when came TT Kamina to me, I put the glares above my head, and asked "Yes?" quite animatedly in fact. "Coach C1, seat 17". I took out my ticket, he wrote down on it and I left without a word. As I was getting into my lovely window seat in the chair car, I kept on my glares, and kept a pen in my mouth, it allowed me to keep a permanent grin on my face, and people around the compartment were looking towards me, many in smiles. I mimed a well know swear word towards his stinking face so that everyone can make out what I was doing, while TT Kamina was busy making check marks on his various charts. As soon as he left the compartment, I got up and proclaimed loudly "R E D C A M dot O R G
RedCam.org, it’ll be up and running sooon, do check it out."
Then, staring through the window for over 2 hours, I went on to vent out the contents of my brain on to my pad, which has now been read by you. I hope this eventually reaches the eyes of Mr. Tejpal and Mr. Mehra, both of whom I respect quite a lot, and both of whom can change things with their help and support. Mr. Tejpal, your help will make RedCam.org inevitably successful and Mr. Mehra, your help will me a movie director! hahahahah which I so really wanna be.
A sincere request, please do go ahead and flock the theatres playing Rang De Basanti, buy their original Audio CDs, don’t MP3 this, MP3 was our generation’s secret tool to bring down unfair profiteering music labels, and we’ve done and will continue to afflict them with endless p2p retribution unless they decide to charge nominal fees for music products. Please do neither buy this movie’s pirated VCDs, for two reasons, one – this movie deserves to be seen on nothing less than the big screen along with the souls of hundreds of other Indians, I’m telling you the scene that you will witness after everyone exits the cinema hall after the movie is over, is something you’ll see rarely – a silent and pondering audience. Two – let’s not steal from these guys, they made a brilliant movie, let’s give them credit, lets set record numbers for DVD sales in India, let’s show Nasscom all time low anti-piracy reports, let’s create history by making RDB the first movie in the world, against which there is one hundred percent unanimous support of the audiences, who therefore refuse to pirate it, and no MP3s are ever created or transferred. Our tech warriors from Bangalore and elsewhere can easily handle the task of blocking of all malicious pirated copies on the net. Let’s set an example for the world to follow for once. Let’s give standing ovations and record box-office figures. Think of it as an election we all decided to take part it to voice what we feel for. Stop watching govinda movies. Stop going to cinema for just watching lame movies with songs. Stop giving money to these mediocre so-called artists who are wasting everyone’s time. You stop watching them, they stop existing. Get the point? Make RDB a hit! It’s really election time! Jai Hind!
Author is a Jr. Copywriter at the largest ad agency in India – JWT Mumbai.

p.s: RedCam.org will happen with our without your support, but right now I want you guys to make another minor miracle happen, you guys forward silly mushy mails around all the time, please forward this to all you can, maybe things can change

p.s: i've got another idea, why don't we all shout "chor, chor, chor", whenever we hear someone playing any rdb mp3 on their comp or mp3 player, please will you'll do it? thank you. :)
the guy who wrote much of the movie is also in advertising! in a rival agency O&M Mumbai, widely regarded as the best agency in the country

4 comments:

Dee said...

Hey KB

dont let anything or anyone tamper with ur spirit!

Dee

Anonymous said...

oh next time carry a novel or one of those mp3 players.. that'll keep you entertained for sure without resorting to such drastic measures ;-)

AutomatiK said...

hahaha id rather carry hidden camera than mp3 players, but thansk for the advice mr/miss anon atleast write your name, but yeah im gonna buy an mp3 player, but tell me wh\ould you plug in the earphones and listen to mp3 after your train journey begins the same way mine did on january 27 2006? the choice of course is yours! have a happy journey through life!

AutomatiK said...

wow im not able to edit my own blog, now how the hell can that be, hmmmmm, i wanna remove the cuss words only btw, you wont make me bow down or tow the line Rai Sahab, i know you have managed to get manipulated videos/pictures/emails of me and you will post them here itself one day, but i've already anticipated all the moves you can make. So...go ahead, make your move