Sunday, May 17, 2009

THIS is why I drift

After a long, really long time, I did a story that made me think and learn.

I knew something like sperm banks exist, somewhere in the world and that men go there to give 'samples' in plastic containers that are coded and tagged and the man goes out with money in his pocket. I'd also heard that to aid ejaculation, the clinic in question supplies donors and depositors with dirty magazines or lets them watch porn and hangs pictures of nude women on the walls.

What I didn't know was that beneath the seeming flippancy of it all, sperm collection and preservation is a tricky business. Dilip Patil is doing it well at Mulund, and he says he gets about 8 to 10 donors every day. That's a big number for any city in India, not just Mumbai. And is the remuneration the only reason? Not so, says Patil. "For a collegian, yes, Rs 500 per sample is good enough to watch a movie and have a pizza. But we have the vice president of a shipping company who is an approved donor with us, and surely the money is not an incentive for him."

Patil says that most come with the idea of helping an unknown couple, somewhere in the city or beyond, conceive using their sperms after hopeful trying and medicine fails. "It gives them a real kick to know that their sample will help somebody have a child," says Patil, adding that he discourages those looking only for money. "If you're not dedicated to donating for a good cause regularly, we don't want you on board," is Patil's reasoning.

8 to 10 every day? That's great. That's very good. Know more here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Left and Right for the Centre

Don't know about you, but it seems to me that the Congress doesn't much fancy its own chances this election.

Either that, or the party is looking to dent the Opposition's morale by dropping hints of getting the BJP-led NDA's allies on board. So Rahul Gandhi says "there is a possibility" of getting the JD(U) on board, though Nitish Kumar has thwarted any such overtures with a curt "No thanks." A third possibility is that the Congress can see a near-rout or a close call happening, so being assured of more people joining the party (I mean that figuratively) will make it easier to calculate post-poll equations.

Political analysts say that low voter turnouts in three phases of voting conducted in the country thus far may actually go against the Congress' wishes. Either that, or the Congress will romp home with a majority vote (which would not be such a bad thing; when was the last time we had a majority government?). In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine is already telling itself that they're getting more seats than their Opposition, and people in the know tend to agree. Yet, this is Indian politics and though it is a game of numbers, it is not pure math.

Rahul is doing well to announce that his party is keeping its options open. That is actually a way to keep your detractors both wondering and working harder still. It also lets fringe players know they have a space to go to after the polls. What I want to know is how the Congress hopes to quickly sew together new alliances in such a small space of time when its old ones crumbled and crashed without the party having even the slightest hint of the state of affairs to come. For all its Grand Old Party yadda yadda, you'd think the Congress was smarter than that.

Friday, May 1, 2009

My middle finger to your apathy

I would ordinarily be thrilled to be proved right this soon and in such a spectacular manner, but this is the election we're talking about and my being right doesn't change one basic fact - the Indian voter SUCKS.

My earlier post reminded you that for all the online activism, we were about to witness a 'traditional' election - with all its pre-poll bribing, booth capturing, small queues in the affluent areas of Mumbai and long queues in the slums, et al. Unfortunately, and this is new for me, I was bang on target when I said that NO PART of your Jaago Res and Vote Indias would really work.

Testimony to this statement are some headlines from across the nation and the world: DNA says that 57% did not come out to vote in Mumbai, the Khaleej Times tells you that 30 villages in Gujarat gave the polls a mass boycott, and Bloomberg blames the heat wave on low voter turnout.

Would it surprise you to know that Mumbai's slums, which form the bulk of the vote for any election, actually voted lesser this time and that compared to other times, more voters came to polling booths from the city's buildings? This is an interesting phenomenon, considering that the actual picture is always the other way around. Does this mean that our politics has finally disenchanted the enthusiastic slum voter?

That is not to say that the middle classes of the country are enchanted by politics. Anywhere in the country in the first three phases of polling, voter turnouts have not exceeded 47 per cent. Democracy, anyone?

Is it just me or does anybody else realise that as a country, we are disenchanted with our politics because we are disconnected with it? Why does anybody, leave alone a host of civic activism campaigns and multimedia advertisements, need to exhort the average Indian to get out there and vote? Why did some educated people not know when Mumbai went to the polls a full 24 hours before polling began? Of what use was a sustained media effort to cover the elections two months in advance, if post-poll headlines would only talk about mass boycotts and heat waves?

Let's not blame the weather or disillusionment for low turnouts. And let's not get off so easily by using fancy terms like 'voter apathy'. To be apathetic, you must know what you're apathetic about. Not voting because you didn't know who to vote for says not as much about your candidates as it does about your own ignorance. We know everything about the Big B in America and his dog Bo, but we don't even know which party Sanjay Nirupam belongs to and have no compunctions in asking who the heck is Nitin Gadkari.

Your indifference has made this country what it is today. And don't let me hear you complain when you go down with it.