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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Just Do It!"

There was a time when the papers would predict outcome of the polling on the basis of the percentage of votes cast at a particular constituency. Higher the number of votes cast, better the chances for the ruling party to win, and lower the number of voters, the party was doomed to be declared a loser. It was so because the poorer or the ordinary among the population were believed to form the vote bank of the party and ironically, it was they who were more enthusiastic on voting than the richer and the intelligentsia.

This is a blog not for those poor or the ordinary, who are unabashedly in love with democracy, who look forward to election year with patriotic zeal directed first of all to the nation and second of all to one of the political parties. I write instead for the rich and the intelligentsia, who are generally absent at the polling booths; who feel deep in their bones that the entire political process is a sham; who think that by voting, you simply reinforce a system totally polluted by money and corruption that ultimately has nobody's best interests at heart; who feel that our country, whatever its previous merits, is accelerating in a decades-long slide; who believe that voting for any party is merely a decision about the hand-basket in which to ride to hell. In short, I write for those who, faced with the prospect of choosing between the different parties, are nearly in despair about democracy and who are consequently planning to skip the whole sordid affair rather than soil their consciences.

To those thus afflicted I say, “Cheer up and vote.” Politics is always a sad compromise. If you’re waiting for the perfect political regime and the perfect political party before you vote, you’re expecting divine things from the merely human. This is a fallen world. There never has been a perfect political regime; there never will be. India is no exception. But since no one is ever born into a perfect regime, then we shall be judged only by how well we acted amid whatever imperfections fall to our historical lot. We shall therefore be judged, in part, on our voting record. So come, friends, let us reason together, and see things from the proper perspective.

We won’t be judged, then, on how we would have acted if things had been perfect, nor even on how we would have acted if things had been better. We will be judged on how we acted in the midst of the actual imperfection into which we were born and under which we lived. More accurately, recalling that sins are also committed by omission, we will be judged on how we did not act, as well as on how we did. If we wait to vote until we have a party of the perfect intellectual and moral caliber, then we will be responsible for the repeated election of a rogue’s gallery of leaders during our repeated sins of omission.

For different reasons, both the big parties seem unappealing. All too many are either not voting or throwing away their votes on no-win, third-party candidates. Salvation doesn’t come from either party, or from democracy itself. Salvation comes through grace and through our adherence to the moral, pre-political truths by which all political parties—-Congress, BJP, Communist, and any mixtures thereof—-are and shall be judged. We shall be judged on how well we acted amid the political imperfections into which we are cast, the very imperfections among which we are called to vote. Voting is a sloppy, ineffective way of setting and resetting the political order, supremely subject to manipulation, flattery, and demagoguery. That is why the partisans of extreme democracy generally avoid it. But voting is still the way that we’re called to exercise what political power remains in the hands of ordinary folk, and it’s our duty to use this power as best we can.

Not voting means handing power to those in either political party who make us feel so uncomfortable about voting. On a deeper and more desperate level, we must vote for the sake of democracy. Do not expect more than democracy can deliver, but do help deliver democracy from itself. The one thing most needful at this point is to do whatever we can to restore the moral, pre-political foundations of this nation. Let that be the wisdom that guides your vote.

A crucial election day is only weeks away. At stake are vital political, economic and moral issues of concern to all Indians. During the next five years, there will be important debates about the way our government does business. Legislation on significant issues such as security, employment, education, health care, civil rights and support for the common man is likely to be considered by the next Government, in addition to making crucial decisions affecting our lives. With the stakes so high, we must work to reverse the trend toward declining percentages of voters. As citizens we have an obligation to participate in the elections to ensure that our country's policies ensure commitment to social justice. Every vote counts and plays a defining role in setting policy agendas. It is our civic duty to register promptly, educate ourselves about the critical issues and VOTE!

It is somewhat easy to take an increasingly cynical and disengaged view of politics , the national shouting that has replaced debating, polarizing rhetoric, mud slinging, the seeming lack of real progress on issues important to you, the relentless screech of bad news and the sense that all of this is beyond your influence. But, that is just what you must not do. Each and every one, who is eligible to do so, must go to the polls on Election Day and cast his or her vote. Voting in this and every election is not just important; it is part of our stewardship of life and living. As the commercial says, "Just Do It"…


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