Here in my city with love

Where do I begin to write about this favorite city of mine? Do I talk about it being one of the oldest surviving heritage places with a rich tradition or do I talk about its proximity to just so many forts, beaches and other weekend getaways? Soaked in a rich culture of its own, known often as the sister city of Mumbai and my home abode for a lifetime, Pune will always grab that first place in my travel diary, second to none.

Pune, I had entered this city as a one year tiny tot cradled in the arms of my father when he got transferred here. Today as a twenty something independent woman there hardly comes a street I have not walked or driven down. Yet this city unfurls every day to surprise me more, its expanding across all its horizons to accommodate people even more, but still stands up to its repute of being counted as one of the two cities to settle. Its competitor is for you to guessJ.

How does it leave a staggering 300 urban cities behind in this quest for being a favorite settlement to several Indians from all states? Here’s how – Drive, Design and Connect.

Design – Pune can be identified as an amalgam of heritage from the Maratha period and drifting to modern architecture during the British rule. Forts, museums, palaces & sky scrapers you have it all. Within the heart of Pune in densely populated peths with meandering lanes are situated traditional residential forms of Maratha architecture called ‘wadas’. Go visit the most famous one Shaniwar Wada- the fortress built during the reign of Bajirao Peshwa and you know what I am talking about. Want to go for a quick morning trek and Sinhagad fort located atop a hill is your answer. Museums like the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum and palaces like the Aga Khan Palace bring alive the embedded historical past. Pune also has several educational institutes beautifully designed in British architecture. Fergusson College, Deccan College and several convent schools are far away from the concrete standalone building premises of today.

Image result for british archi pune

Drive – All these places of visit can be well reached by driving down in car, bike or any other public transport. It is not only reachable within its territory but also lauded for its proximity to many other prominent cities around like Mumbai, Goa, Banaglore, Hyderabad etc. Pune has a mix of flyovers, highways and roads. Now with its expanding horizons it is all set to welcome the metro line to connect all its commuters.

Connect – There is not a better city that connects well with its people. Punekars houses people of all kinds. Where you will find an extremely opinionated Punekar taking a dig everything sitting in of the many kattas, at the same time there is the carefree youngster who will be enjoying the city life hopping from one eatery to partying in another disc. Owing to being called the culture capital of Maharasthra, Pune connects with theatre, drama audience and recently artistes across the world. The international connect is located in the upscale Koregaon Park which houses in the Osho Park – a spiritual getaway.

I am irrevocably in love with this city. It is designed to welcome the modern settlers but at the same time is well connected to its roots and tradition. Come down to my city and experience its vibe.

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Aarushi Talwar Case files: once again

Is justice is swaying from side to side? An open-ended view written in dismay!

I usually don the hat of a movie critic when one of the Friday releases swings my mood to an extreme; most often the pleased side, at rarity in disdain. But this week’s release ‘Talvar’ cast such a lasting impression that it left me with fewer words to critique and largely baffled at this reel cum real life story, unravel once again. Much discussed since May 16 2008, but curiosity got me to revisit the Aarushi Talwar case files for details that I may have missed.

The movie will haunt you for a while and make you aware of details not shown before. It will engulf you in shock at the shoddy affairs of the UP Police for compromising and trampling on the crime scene. I was unaware of the ego clashes between the two CBI teams respectively presenting  their two pronged theory. The CBI director’s way of asking to come to a conclusion in a scene is as if like tossing a coin and deciding. You can’t help wonder if justice has really been rightly given? As much as you wish that it can’t be the parents, there seems to be no fool proof against the Nepali servants either.

It’s not about taking about sides, but its uncanny how circumstantial evidences have also weighed themselves equally on the two accused sides. On one side the narco-analysis of the servants fills you with shock and the theory that parents may have turned murderers for trivial reasons holds no water. But the movie does not explain the unjustified points as well. You can’t help but judge them based on their dialogues and actions with their witnesses (here). Nupur’s reaction as justified by the maid on asking her to re-check the latch again, Anmol (Aarushi’s friend)’s call going unreceived on the landline past midnight (here), the out of order landline as claimed by Rajesh Talwar and no first hand urgency in informing the police before neighbor’s intervention (here). Human reactions are different for all, absolutely true but its difficult to not notice the indirect answers to the questions during media interview with no signs defensive approach. (here and here) I wish these all are plain coincidences and not witness to a lot more.

Nonetheless, the movie left me feeling anguished for the parents for the lifetime imprisonment without strong evidence against them. Justice should be rightly served with purpose and not out of influence. Its a mockery at the police and judiciary. It sways in favour of the parents, but the facts are such that I wonder if truth is only what meets the eye?  One line about the movie -a must watch because it’s gripping and keeps you hooked till the end.

Imagining Future India, Realizing Digital India

If a stockbroker in a city can get the latest share prices across the globe in seconds, then imagine a day when farmers, arguably the most underpaid workforce are digitally connected just like in a city to know the best practices for cultivation & market prices forgoing the money minting middlemen. If urban youth in India can take courses from Harvard & MIT to enhance their skills, then imagine a day when most of the children in remote areas can take online courses by the government schools to get mere basic education. If US can have a unique social security number for each citizen that propels better services, then imagine a day where every Indian citizen’s Aadhar card a unique identification number stored on a cloud platform enables efficient and rightful service delivery anytime anywhere. This is Digital India envisioned. This is Dream India revealed.

From high speed internet connectivity for Gram-Panchayats, through governance and services on-demand, to providing collaborative digital platforms for participatory governance! Digital India- the dream project of the Government of India(GoI) has planned it all under nine pillars. Do I wish to repeat them again that can also be found here? Naah, this digital medium called blog just gives me a chance to connect with more like minded audience and share my thoughts on this colossal project set to achieve Education, Information, Healthcare and Broadband for all. Here are a few points that are interest me.

The Aadhar Card (722 million as on December 2014), an initiative for a cradle to grave unique identity number was an amazing initiative by GoI, but it lost steam midway. The government can propel this again to create a centralized online repository on a cloud platform connecting all citizen details such as voters id no., passport no. , address, ration card, educational qualifications, bank accounts among others. This will also help in tracking utility consumption details such as usage of electricity, gas, water, telephone, visa status and medical payments. Mandatory usage of Aadhar cards for purchase/trade/sale of all commodities above a set value will keep a tab on all transactions and eliminate/reduce liquid cash/transaction. It will also enable citizens to avoid repeated submission of personal details to different departments.

Digital banking is on the rise with mobile banking and cashless transactions. The latter can be enhanced by a common e-wallet cum card that can be swiped for all forms of public transport like railways, buses, rickshaws, taxis.

Digital city-wise rate cards for perishable commodities like grains, vegetables or fruits allowing the farmers to get the right price as per the local rate fluctuation in the city eliminating a major cut of the middlemen & increasing transparency.

Poor literacy rate is a key factor causing poverty and reduced employment opportunities. This is caused due to lack of proper school facilities, teaching staff and inadequate classrooms. Digital literacy can surpass distance and help connect classrooms across the nation and to provide online teaching. PM Modi on Teacher’s day demonstrated the power of digital by connecting to various schools across the nation. Also Intel’s ‘Digital Skills for India’ programme with the Indian government is set to create digital literates across 1,000 panchayats, a move that will impact five million citizens by the end of 2015. A day may not be far when schools are connected through broadband and online education platforms like massive open online courses (MOOCs).

The central government has proposed to build 100 Smart Cities by 2025. If this dream turns a reality a blueprint of a proposed smart city should include 24/7 utilities, wi-fi zones, telemedicine, digital security and surveillance, smart parking and traffic management. The main aim should be to provide good infrastructure such as water, sanitation, reliable utility services and health care.

PM Modi invites US President Mr. Obama to grace the Republic Day of India 2015, breaks the news first on his Twitter handle.  Khan Academy of US educates over 10 million students across the world, run via its YouTube tutorial Videos. From world leaders to the common man, Social Networking Sites have a growing mass appeal so enormous that it sure promises to not fade away in the near future. It is helping in a two way communication between Government and citizen. MyGov.in is one such platform that engages citizens to help give feedback and formulate policies.

In next 2 years, if broadband penetration across India increases by 50% from current ~7% and mobile penetration in rural India increases by 30% from current ~45%, the corresponding increase in GDP could be 9% (~$180 billion). Mobile Banking and Broadband connectivity are the two pillars of major transformation in India. As clichéd it may sound the Idea advertisements depicting better education through better connectivity holds true if success fully implemented (p.s. the network by demand itself has seen inroads into many remote areas).

In conclusion, Coal auctions going online has garnered a sum of Rs.1.52 trillion so far,  Make In India campaign has garnered over 2.1 billion global impressions on social media and the most recent Twitter Samvad Indian Govt. initiative about real time content thought messages has received a thumbs up. The Government of India is sure on the way to realizing this dream. Digital India is here to stay, revolutionizing India and impacting lives through various common platforms.

Thanks to Intel http://www.intel.in/ for hosting this topic and giving me the chance to research and write on this amazing initiative called #DigitalIndia.

When the sword turned mightier than the pen…

Sword is mightier than sword-for article

The term freedom to me is the courage to do what I love to do and face the future come what may. Freedom to me is the right to stand up against the wrong but yet feel safe in a democratic haven.  Freedom is power, freedom is wings to soar. Alas, freedom for some is a bravery act in the name of murdered humanity and to laugh in mockery at loss of human lives. These instances in short symbolize the slain Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, the reaction of the world to it & a group of ‘God’s own terrorists’.

We live in a world today where the meaning of the word freedom is making more space in the modern world but yet on the other side, diminishing in its true sense. While improving the quality of human life is the focus for most, destruction of human lives in the name of religion seems to hold more interest to some. Curbing the right to express has always been on the radar of extremists. As we allow this world to shrink in terms of secularism and expand to a give rise to idiosyncrasy, the people on this globe are stunned with questions too many!

Has radicalization taken over innocent minds far more than moral education? Are one’s beliefs on his/her religion so frail, to be affected by trivial words? Isn’t journalism defined by the mere right to express in a free democracy? Has revenge & religion become far more powerful weapons of destruction than harmony & humanity?

Quoting one of my favorite Shakespeare lines, “To be or not to be” – is a decision that sure does not lie with these phony messengers of God but best lies with the one who created them. But “To live and let live” can sure be a mantra followed by both us and them.