Table 1: How you rated the various business groups on fairness and ability to run a business without government favours.
Source: responses from 37 readers
The questions, wrote the agitated reader, were asked in Hindi and you were answering in English. Hindi is our national language.
The reader of the Honest Truth was reacting to a recent interview on CNBC Awaaz where my pathetic Hindi skills were on full display and - as agreed with the interviewer - I would switch to my comfort zone and respond in English.
Yes, my Hindi is really bad. Decades after moving on from school I would still wake up in a sweat from a nightmare where I had failed a Hindi test and was forced to repeat a year in school! Hare Ram! That is a result of studying in an English-medium school and bunking my Hindi homework to play in the fields. Yes, we had green spaces in Bombay before the real estate developers did their seven-rounds and tied their business knots with their politician friends! Sometimes I rise to the challenge and try to overcome my phobia of Hindi.
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A few years ago friends of mine, who run a school in north India, invited me to accompany them on their annual visit to their school. Happy to get out of the beat of big-city travel, I readily agreed. On reaching the small town, I was told that there was an Annual Day and, since I was the Chief Guest, I would have to give the welcoming remarks. You guessed it - in Hindi!
I was paralysed. And I refused. It was an awkward situation. The programme had been printed, my name was on it (though without my consent!), and I was there - and I was not speaking. But I stood my ground. The function began and the children carried on their various performances with the sheer magical joy that comes when enthusiasm blends with innocence. I felt guilty: the students did not know who I was, but they had a name of a Chief Guest - and they knew that Chief Guest was in the audience: silent and invisible.
I leaned over to my hosts and announced: I would like to give my talk in Hindi.
Minutes later, I was on stage and - a few minutes later - I was back in my seat.
My talk was in simple Hindi but, apparently, it was powerful (it was about being good and doing good, a message that my father's teacher imparted to my father when my father was a student). But, no, I have never headed back to that school again and duck the invitation from my friends by saying (truthfully), "I would like to, but I am travelling."
Letting India down?
But the comment about me speaking English on a Hindi channel deserves attention, not only because it shows my weakness in Hindi, for it also shows the perception we create.
Did the comment about Hindi being a national language and my inability to respond to it have a hidden implication: maybe since I do not know the national language, I was not to be taken seriously?
If I spoke in shudh Hindi and said all the incorrect things, would that have been acceptable? We have thousands of people who speak Hindi correctly - but they say and do bad stuff.
Or if I wear manifestations of my religion on my forehead, rings of supernatural power on my fingers, and adorn garments of simple cotton - is it then okay to mislead people with false statements and false actions? Hmm, we have thousands who have successfully done this, too. And still doing it.
Do we have to study at Harvard or IIM or IBS - or any MBA school - to prove that we are smart? Does topping our class in school or college prove that we are superior? Or do actions of goodness speak louder than all the academic credentials we carry in our pockets?
Is working for a large finance company a sign of success - or a sign of a willingness to corrupt the system? Hearing proud fathers talks about the jobs and careers of their successful NRI children, it is obvious that the measurement of money success overwhelms any value system they may have tried to inculcate in their children.
Well, you know my views - expressed in English ☺ - on many of these matters.
And, to prove that being kaala does not stop me from being a dilwalla, we have plunged headlong into music and charity.
I cannot read a single note of music. I cannot play a musical instrument (I can massacre a few taals on the table), and I cannot sing. With all those defects, we started the National Streets for the Performing Arts (www.NSPA.in ) as an effort to bring some smiles back to people lives and to give musicians a chance to earn a steady income. People love it. The "established" music circles are not sure what to make of this disruption. Indian classical musicians sitting on a chaddar at a train station singing to a hurried and unrefined uncultured audience?
And I know very little about the NGO and charity space. But I do know it lacks transparency. Yet there exist many well-meaning charities who would like to improve their organisational skills and deserve your donations. So we have launched www.HelpYourNGO.com. Many NGOs are excited about what we plan to do but some NGOs are demanding to know why we are putting up information on the HYNGO web site? Well, we responded, this is publicly available data. Are they trying to hide something?
No, it does not matter what language you speak. You can disrupt traditional practices and help those who are ignored.
And it does not matter what your grades were in school, or which classes you bunked - or how rich you are (Table 1).
You don't have to be Indian, in some sense, to love India - for there are many "Indians" who are destroying India.
What matters is whether you are a dilwalla.
And, yes, I really should practice my Hindi and learn some music.
Maybe then the mutual fund industry will understand my persistently irritating message of doing what is right for the investors and finally change its tune! ☺
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