Thanks to the current hot topic of the death penalty, the debate around the relevance of the death penalty has resurfaced. Many nations in the world have chosen to do away with the death penalty. However, India hasn’t gone that route yet. Although the law does say that the death penalty has to be awarded only in crimes which are of the “rarest of rare” kinds.

hangmans_noose_prop_hire_01Personally, I am torn on the subject. For once, I do not have a clear opinion whether as a nation we should do away with the death penalty or not.

This post is NOT about the current hanging or his case or the judgement. This is about death penalty in general, and my views on the same.

On the one hand, I do agree that death does not punish someone, it just finishes the one.

It does not reform the person, because the person is not around anymore, to come out as a reformed one.

And I also believe that really, the only one who has the power to decide the last day on earth, for any individual, has to be the Almighty, and no one else.

So what is the sense of the death penalty, then?

The arguments in my head, in favour of the death penalty are some of these (and most are in the context of India):

1. Although the death penalty does not reform the person concerned, does it stop others from committing such rarest of rare crimes?? Does it help to dissuade others to go that route? If so, then it helps society.

2. The alternative to death penalty is life imprisonment. Which in the Indian context, often equates to a certain finite number of years. So, although there is a misconception that life imprisonment is all of a maximum of 14 years, the reality is that state governments are empowered to release a prisoner serving life sentence, subject to a minimum of 14 years served. Since this has often been misused for political motivations, there could be a lot of hardened criminals serving life imprisonment, who could be out on the streets again, in 14 years. Since their release is left to state governments, and which at any point in time, could have their own political motivations, it is always a risk to let a criminal of such a severe crime to be released so soon! And potentially go back to his old ways and be a threat to society!

3. Whether jail itself be reforming or could it become a place from where the criminal continues to run his crime?? In case of Indian jails, one has these doubts. So while on the one hand, he is perhaps waiting out 14 years, and hoping for a benevolent state government to be in place then, in the meantime, he could well have set up a full-fledged seat of his crime, within the confines of the jail. And perhaps even recruited several new members into his gang. Sad to say, but that is the perception I carry about Indian jails, in general. I am sure like the police, even jailers would have exceptions and some jails may be managed better than others. But we do worry about this possibility of abuse of jail itself!

4. Then there is our benevolent law that allows parole and what not. When the limelight of media is reduced, one never knows if some “cooperative” smaller court would grant such relief to the hardened criminal, and if that would also be a possible escape route?? For the right price, anything can be made to happen in India!!

5. So can such rarest of rare case criminals be kept in solitary confinement then? And could a law be passed to modify the fundamental ‘life imprisonment’ law, to say that such criminals of the rarest-of-rare cases are NOT eligible to be released by state governments, even if they are allowed to release other life imprisoned criminals?? Would that be a reasonable option? Perhaps.

With all these, I remain undecided.

Do you have stronger arguments leaning one or the other way? Do share them, in that case.

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The Southfields station, closest point to go to the Wimbledon queue, bears a Wimbledon look and feel!

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And at right above, is the Wimbledon station itself, where I went, to purchase a sleeping bag. For my all-night stay in the queue

for the tickets

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And as one moves out of the station and walks towards Wimbledon, the streets beckon. You know you are in Wimbledon territory. Unambiguously!

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And as I reach the place where the queue builds up, at 8-30 pm on the previous night, I am amazed to see a few hundred people already there, before me! Tents are laid out and people have got quite comfortable too..

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The view of the camping ground in the evening, with tents and people all over.

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And in the middle of the elaborate tents, my rather unpretentious little sleeping bag :)

Early morning, with a beautiful sky, and people waking up from the tents, and sleeping bags, etc.

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The left-luggage place where tents and other stuff can be left, as you move from the queue and into Wimbledon. Also you can see young and old alike, waiting patiently.

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So when I reached at 8-30 pm, I got a queue number of 1378. So 1377 people before me already. However, there were 500 reserved seats each, for centre court, court no. 1 and court no. 2 to be given away. Or 1500 in total. So at 1378, I was assured of a reserved seat in one of these three courts. By morning, when the queue moved ahead, and people ahead of me, started making their choices – whether to get centre court, court no. 1 or to NOT take a reserved seat (they can take a basic entry into Wimbledon which allows one to walk around, and also get into the multiple other courts, where there are no reserved seats!) – by the time, my turn came, I was fortunate to get a firm seat on court no. 1. The wrist band confirmed that allocation.

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And finally the queue starts moving forward in the morning, around 7-30 am or so. And the excitement builds up further.

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The foot bridge crossed, and then you see the board of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. And you are just around the corner from the turnstiles, where you’ll purchase the ticket and go inside WImbledon! Against advance purchase ticket prices of 600 Pounds or 1000 Pounds or 1500 Pounds, the tickets offered to the people in queue, were as low as 50 Pounds for Centre Court, and 42 Pounds for Court no.1, etc. Really attractive pricing!!

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And then you spot “Centre Court”. Oh my God!! It’s like spotting the sacred idol, after a long queue on a pilgrimage! Also spotted the board that showed what matches were going on, on what courts. Many of the courts have unreserved seats, and especially on day one, you might find some good players, playing on the outside courts. You need to make the most of the opportunity then, land up early at that court, and get a seat. These outside courts have limited seating capacity.

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Beautiful spaces, green all over. And the typical Wimbledon store, selling merchandise!

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And the famous “hill” where one can hang out, eat strawberries and cream (grossly overhyped, by the way), grab a beer or some wine, And as Federer was not playing on the day I was there, and in any case, I had not got centre court tickets, this was the closest I could get to God aka Federer!!

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The smaller outside courts. One can just walk by and see the games. Good players often found playing here, and one can feel extremely close to the players, on these courts!

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Ahh.. you noticed the cap and the T-shirt. Any guesses who I am an ardent fan of?? ;-P And now I am on my seat. In a court no. 1 stadium which is pretty large, thanks to the penance of the overnight queue, I am on row 5 or 6 behind the chair umpire. Extremely close to the court!! Amazing seat.. By the way, the Indian lady seen below (and her family) were waiting in the queue from Sunday MORNING around 9-30 am!! And they were about 560 in the queue. And they did not get centre court. And were on court no 1 just a couple of rows ahead of me! And I had gone at 8-30 pm at night.. Guess they had really bad luck, after being so early and waiting for so long, to miss out on centre court.. !

The court no. 1 before the players come in.

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The unformed people and the specific positions – all that goes to make Wimbledon, Wimbledon.

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The linesmen walk in and take their position. There are two sets of folks – the entire linesmen team is rotated after every few games, perhaps to ensure against fatigue and mistakes. In fact, the same thing happens with ball boys and ball girls. Changed every few games.

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I am set too!! For the first match to being. Women’s top seed starts proceedings here, Serena Williams vs Margarita Gasparyan.

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And the players walk out.

The match begins. Margarita puts up a good fight initially before Serena asserted herself and took over. Here’s a good rally.

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Serena in full flow..

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Serena serve in slow motion!

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And Serena prevails.

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Large crowds enjoying Wimbledon

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The outside courts – much cosier, smaller stands, feel closer to the game..

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On right are the practise courts, where one could be lucky to find some big players knocking away. I could not recognise the players on the court, except for Hewitt, on the left court.

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On the left is the pavilion from where players come out. Fans crowd around to spot the stars walking out!

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Another entry for the centre court on the left, and a huddle of linesmen outside their court, on the right..

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On the left is the formal entrance to the All England Lawn Tennis Club, and on the right is a scoreboard showing updated scores from the various courts

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Nishikori and Bolelli coming in for their first round match.

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Nishikori service in slow motion!

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Bolelli service in slow motion

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A hard-fought 5-setter win for Nishikori. A repeat of how the two met last year at Wimbledon, and Nishikori won a 5-setter then too.

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Nishikori did have an injury which needed to be attended to, while the match was one. That may have been the reason for the long-drawn 5-setter. As it turned out, though Nishikori won this match, he dropped out of Wimbledon thereafter, due to the injury!

Managed to get to the Star Movies Secret Screening yesterday. Basically an invite-only movie screening organised by Star Movies, where you don’t know what movie you are going to see, until the movie starts inside the theatre!

Had missed the last couple of these invites due to travel etc., but managed to reach yesterday.

And was happy to see Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s first Hollywood film, Broken Horses.

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At the outset, it is an amazing feat by an Indian producer and director. To go west and create a product that it totally a Hollywood film. Not an NRI story, not an India-based story told to global audiences. This is an out-and-out American film, in appearance. Characters, actors, location (what looks like Southern Texas maybe, close to Mexican border!)… everything. Not even a remote connect to anything Indian, on the front side. Of course, on the back of it, are many Indian names, including producer and director, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and many others in the crew.

So first of all, salute to Vidhu Chopra for this dare, and for making it happen!

So how does an Indian director go west and create a product there?
Does he pick a script from some US scriptwriters? And try to see what will be interesting and appealing to the western audience. Also to “feel” the script enough, to be able to passionately direct it and create a good product out of it.

This can always be challenging.

So what’s the next best thing?

To see if you already have a script that can be adapted to that audience!

Yes, we have heard and seen American movies being converted to their Indian equivalents (even shows like 24, for example). What happens in such instances, is that the western storyline gets “adapted” to an Indian setting. Some play with the story, some Indianisation, and of course, adding song and dance, if workable..

Has anyone been audacious to think that an Indian story / script can be converted to appeal an international viewer??

Well, that’s the path that Vidhu Chopra adopts.

And of all the body of work that he has himself directed, perhaps the one that suited best for a western adaptation, was Parinda.

And which is exactly what he does in Broken Horses.

Adapts the story of Parinda, quite brilliantly, into an American setting, with the same anger and passion, and creates a really fascinating product.

I for one, liked the treatment although, you can’t help but compare the actors to those in Parinda. In specific terms, Nana Patekar was definitely better as that character, compared to his Hollywood equivalent.

I have loved Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s films, from Parinda, to 1942, A Love Story, to Mission Kashmir, etc. Of course, he has produced some amazing work too. Here with Broken Horses, he scales one new peak.

Congratulations, Vidhu Vinod Chopra!

So just a while back, Karan Johar was at his baddest badass talk when he ‘came out’ at this AIB event, the AIB Knockout – The Roast of Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh.

299285-thumbI am just linking to that YouTube video here and not actually embedding it here, because, being a “family blog”, if I had to really embed the show video here, it would keep going beep-beep-beep, etc.

That show was crazy! Crazy, unbelievable that it happened in public, made me wonder if there is anything like a censor board for such stand-up shows. Of course, also made me wonder if we really need one today? Has the society moved on to a level where these inhibitions are a thing of the past, and any language, any sexual innuendo, any admission of sexcapades or preferences, etc. can be out in the open, without needing to worry about anything at all?? And if that is the case, then sure, we don’t really need censors, and shows like these can be the norm.

That a standup act of this nature is no more restricted to the four walls of a small theatre, but via YouTube, goes out to millions, makes it more critical. In terms of censorship or not!

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But that said, it was clear that all of the folks present on stage there, and several stars in the front rows too (Alia, Deepika, Sonakshi, among others) were all having a ball. Perhaps for once, to be in public, not required to be politically correct, about anything or anyone, and also about language!

And Karan Johar was also enjoying it, as was his mom, sitting out there on the first row!

So since the Filmfare Awards night followed just a little later, where again, Karan Johar was on stage, the worry that the organisers had, was that what if he liked the AIB freedom so much, that the hangover of that openness showed up at the Filmfare Awards too..?? Wouldn’t that be one disaster??!

sdror8h4cyrxtudj.D.0.Filmmaker-Karan-Johar-at-the-first-look-launch-of-JHALAK-DIKHHLA-JAA-Season-6--2-Here is what they were worried about:

“And the life time achievement award goes to this mother-&%$#* who’s spent his life sleeping around with the industry, ______”

or

“Yeah, yeah, these are the debutantes, and we know just how they got the films and how they made this list, don’t we?” **Wink-wink to Ranveer, Shah Rukh and other stars.**

or after Shahid Kapoor takes his award and makes his way down, Karan, keeps watching him from behind (rather, “keeps watching his behind”) and blurts out “Ouch! What an a**..!”

or when a co-host brings up the “touchy” subject of his relationship with Shah Rukh, he explodes, “Haa.. tha mera lafda uske saath.. tha.. kya ukhaad lega tu, b&*%$@*d..?!”

or when the young director won his award, and tucked the award into his pants as he made his acceptance speech, Karan says, “when he came to the Dharma office, he wouldn’t let me into his pants, and now the bas&!#d tucks the black lady inside..!!”

With fears of such possibilities, the organisers had got Kapil Sharma around, so that if necessary, they could drag Karan down, and out of the show, and let Kapil handle it independently.. !

 

(** Written in faking news style, with malice to one and all.. ;-) **)

 

 

 

HaiderVishal Bhardwaj has clearly earned his place in the Hall of Fame of Indian cinema! I would rate him as one of the most creative filmmakers that we have, and of course, he also is one of our best music composers (to begin with!).

His latest creation, Haider, clearly bears his stamp of class. I have heard people say that this one is Vishal’s best work so far. I would personally not go that far, not because I can pick some other film that deserves that position, but simply because it is a tough call to make. Vishal has made many amazing movies, and Haider does rank amongst bis best works, but I would find it hard to give it a specific number 1 tag.

While the admiration for Vishal Bhardwaj is clear and total, another person that demands an even greater acknowledgement is William Shakespeare!! I have not read much of Shakespeare but of course, recognise his stature! After seeing Haider, I read up a synopsis of Hamlet and realised that Haider was so closely related to the original story. And that is amazing! Haider as a story, is very believable in today’s times, and yet, it’s inspiration was Hamlet, which was written by the Bard of Avon, who lived from 1564 to 1616!! A story written nearly 400 years back, continues to seem relevant in today’s times, is the absolutely mind-boggling fact to appreciate!

VishalbAnd as I now relate to the other works of Shakespeare that Vishal has converted to movies, viz. Omkara and Maqbool, what comes out as a common ground, are the complex characters that he sketched.  Tabu and Irrfan in Maqbool, Ajay Devgan and Saif Ali Khan in Omkara, and Shahid and Tabu here in Haider, play characters with extremely mixed and complex minds, and it is their behaviour that makes the very interesting story-lines.

Salute to the most amazing writer ever, perhaps, William Shakespeare, for writing such timeless beauties!

Having heard and read enough about Haider, I couldn’t wait longer than the morning of the first day of a long weekend, and landed up at a 9-30 am show! And as the canvas opened up, very early, I could sense a similarity with Gulzar’s Maachis, which incidentally was the Bhardwaj’s first major film as a music composer, in 1996.

A society ravaged by terrorism in the names of freedom struggle, the accompanying free hand to the army, and which creates its share of monsters and abuse, the disturbed youth and disturbed life in the region, the helplessness and resigned fates that people feel under the circumstances… all of these were seen in the Punjab of Maachis, and were felt similarly, in the Kashmir of Haider. Gulzar, Vishal and Tabu were the common factors in the two films, as were the snow filled winter mountains!

A67_ssVishal does love to work with his ‘regulars’.

I guess, Shahid Kapoor may do nothing for 3-4 years (or do some inconsequential stuff) before Vishal gives him a great film each time, and he should be happy with that state. After Kaminey, this is the next big one for Shahid with Vishal, and it is indeed, a tremendous, power-packed, central role. Subdued by the character, Shahid needs to bring out a range of emotions, and he does so quite brilliantly.

Tabu is another regular Vishal Bhardwaj favourite, and she is clearly one of the best actors we have. She picks and chooses her films, so we don’t see much of her, and it is always a pleasure to get those rare opportunities of seeing her on screen. Like Maqbool, her character here too is a challenging one, and she is impressive as ever.

While Hamlet apparently had a strong Oedipus complex from the central character, here that aspect is underplayed. But a strong emotional relationship does exist between the two.

Kay Kay Menon is one underrated actor in Bollywood. Over time, across many films, he has shown his acting prowess, and he does so here as well. Shraddha Kapoor also gives a very credible performance, and does look the part of a Kashmiri girl. There are good cameos from Kulbhushan Kharbanda and another Bhardwaj regular, Irrfan Khan.

haider1There are stunning visuals of Kashmir, especially the snow clad mountains and trees, the beautiful foliage. And as the credits conveyed at the end, all of the Kashmir scenes were actually shot in Kashmir, no matter the security issues etc. So we got a chance to see the absolutely fabulous landscapes that Kashmir is about.

Original score from Vishal Bhardwaj had to be good! Specifically, he has brought in tremendous authenticity with sounds and words from the region, which evoke emotions related to the story, even as you hear the songs. Gulzar and Faiz Ahmed Faiz have been credited for the lyrics. Gulzar, of course, had to be there! Vishal’s and Gulzar’s is a strong bond, almost approaching the one that Gulzar shared with R D Burman, maybe..?!

The Bismil song which enacts a scene, so to say, from the story, is quite like the “Janm leke kahi phir woh pahocha wahin..” recap song-scene from Karz. But it is interesting to see that it is not just Vishal Bhardwaj’s way of enacting the story, but that this was part of the original Shakespeare tale!!

And even as you marvel at Hamlet and Shakespeare, and at Vishal Bhardwaj and Shahid Kapoor and Tabu, what is most striking is the reality of life in Kashmir. As a dialogue says, “the entire Kashmir is a jail” or another that urges Haider to go to Aligarh, so as to “experience another India, where there are no day time curfews, and night time closures”. Such has become life in Kashmir, and with it, it has taken a toll of entire generations of people, of trade and tourism, and deprived the world of seeing “Jannat” on the face of earth!! Thank you, Vishal Bhardwaj, for giving us a perspective of all of this..

 

For a few years now, I have zeroed in on a simple white-shirt-and-blue-jeans as a regular form of dressing for myself. Most days, if not all.

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It started as a whim of sorts. Our planning team was debating a pitch and had come up with an interesting central theme for a brand. I am able to share it now, as it did not take off, for whatever reason.

The central theme thought of then, was “Simple Hai, Great Hai”. And while I won’t get into the relevance of this, for that brand, as an example of what’s simple and great, came up the white-shirt-blue-jeans concept. That it symbolised the “Simple-Hai-Great-Hai” story.

It stayed in my mind. And refused to go out.

Till one fine day, I thought of embracing it. And decided to make that my dress. My way. My uniform. My style.

Whatever you may call it.

And while the whites have not been a specific type of white, nor have the blue jeans been only a particular kind of blue, broadly speaking, the combination has stayed. And I have been extremely comfortable about it.

And which is when I came across this really interesting article recently:

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While  I had not thought so deeply when I chose to shift to a defined pair of clothing, I feel flattered to even think that eminent luminaries have / had followed a certain practise of this kind too! In fact, the first person I had seen in my life, personally, who had chosen a standard pattern of clothing, also happens to be someone I have idolised, for the longest period of time, viz. my paternal grandfather.

From the time that I can remember, he only wore a white shirt and a white pant, both cotton. Simple living, high thinking, is what he symbolised.

But obviously, about the only thing I share with these great people, including my grandfather, is that I have also been dressing in a certain, standard manner, for a while now.

But reading the above mentioned article, and thinking a little more about this, I do realise that this dressing sense, has been a part of a certain larger shift that has happened in my life, over the last few years.

And which fundamentally is about LIVING the life that “doesn’t fret the small stuff”!

Yes, in many ways, the message from the article resonates. That there are far too many decisions that DEMAND our time, and if there are others that are not critical, why worry much about them.

I am fine with what food is cooked at home. I don’t want to play a role in planning the menu.

I am okay to be driven by my driver as long as he can take me to where I want to go. I don’t want to tell him much about bearing to the left, going little slow, or taking a particular route.

I am okay to let my colleagues or my team take decisions in areas, where my involvement is not a necessity. I’d rather stay focused on areas where it is important for me to participate as I am probably best suited in those, and they are critical enough for me to be involved.

One always has choices in life. The option could be to stay extremely tense, be stressed about the smallest thing that happens around you (which you must necessarily be in control) or let some things be. And find peace within yourself. And focus to do best, what you anyway, need to do.

Believe me, this is easier said than done, for an entrepreneur. I work on it, but I wouldn’t say I have mastered it. But increasingly, in a busy-busy, dynamic world, this is only becoming more critical, the way I see it.

That is my choice anyway.. don’t know what you feel about it? Would be great to see your views too, on this. Do share your comments.

Finally, as this refers to my white-shirt-blue-jeans routine, I cannot help but mention the wonderful gift that my team gave me on my last birthday. To my pleasant surprise, as I walked into the office that day, I saw the sea of white and blue, as the team came dressed in white shirts and blue jeans! Pretty amazing, it was..

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We live in the era of war and tragedy and accidents and some mayhem.

So usually, when we hear of the gallantry of a fire fighter who fought and saved people from burning to death, or the man on the border, who fought an attack from the enemy, or a bus driver who rescues passengers from the bus, even while risking his life, we do find ourselves applauding these brilliant acts and the people responsible for them.

And rightly so.

And yet, there are possibly many many more who need to be acknowledged, but who don’t get the same (or any) credit.

Let me give a few examples:

1. Recently there was a fire in a commercial building in Mumbai, causing a lot of damage, injuries to many firefighters, and even the death of one of them. This is the incident I refer to:

http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-mumbai-building-fire-one-fireman-dies-in-multi-storey-building-fire-in-andheri-2003106

Most certainly the fire fighters did a commendable job. Perhaps against a lot of odds. And they ensured that damage was restricted to the minimum, even at the cost of their own lives.

Think however, if there could have been another bigger hero.

The building inspector maybe, who spotted inadequate fire fighting facilities, or some changes made in the building which made it a fire hazard, etc. and who orders those to be fixed, much before the fire happened.

The building secretary maybe, who against all odds of the clout of the owners, who insist on having their way, manages to get changes done, so as to make the building a safer building for fires.

And ensures that the fire does not even happen!

Will such people even be acknowledged?? They will, in fact, be hated because they cause inconvenience, and force changes, and cause discomfort and expenses!!

2. War heroes or security forces who fight terrorists, are always celebrated. Those who combatted the insurgents in Kargil and won the war for India. Or those who fought off the terrorists at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.

Absolutely deserved heroes of our times!

How about the ones on the border who day in and day out, look for the gaping holes from where enemy could sneak in. And keep covering those gaps. Keep ensuring that an enemy attack does not even happen. Perhaps risking their own lives, as they expose themselves to risk out there.

Or in case of the terror attack in Mumbai, what if a Coast Guard had identified a weakness in the system, ordered for fixes, ensured that some new equipment was ordered and installed, and fundamentally prevented an attack of this sort. We’d probably be thinking of the large capital expenditure, and whether there are kickbacks involved!

Leave alone giving him any due, for potentially preventing a Mumbai terror attack of that quantum, from happening!

3. This post was inspired in fact, by this story about an Air India plane that averted disaster,on account of some quick and smart thinking from the pilots on board.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/how-air-india-crew-averted-a-major-air-disaster/20140718.htm

With 315 passengers on board, we could have been staring at a major disaster. Which thankfully, did not happen, due to the adept handling by the captains on board.

But as the article says, there was little or no mention of this heroic deed. As against that, if there had been a crash, God forbid, it would have been all over the papers!

That is the sad situation where a lot of heroes who ensure that disasters don’t happen, remain unsung heroes in society.

There is a certain apathy around those who are process oriented, who are finicky to the detail, who seem to have an eye to spot mistakes and alert.. they are not celebrated, but in fact, made fun of. Little realising that, these in fact, are the bigger heroes in our lives.

Let’s learn to respect processes, respect these individuals who work at it, relentlessly..