Close Encounters of the Terminal Kind

Ralph Chaplin said: “Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie, but rather mourn the apathetic throng, the coward and the meek who see the world’s great anguish and its wrong but dare not speak.”
A friend asked me for my opinion about the Bhopal ‘encounter’ which is in the news at present where eight young men, allegedly ‘dreaded terrorists’, were ‘encountered’. This is a cute term invented by the Indian media to describe what should correctly be called ‘extra-judicial killings’. And if you are among those who like to reduce everything to a single word, then you may like to experiment with the word, ‘Murder’. Truth and facts are boring and don’t sell papers or generate TRP ratings for so-called News Channels (which should be called by their real name – Propaganda Machine) but lace the truth with a dash (if required completely drench it) of fantasy, drama, excitement and fear and you can make a jaw-dropping, BP-raising, edge-of-the-seat, breathtaking clip of a cat catching a mouse. That is where the word ‘encounter’ came into being – murder being rather boring. And those who indulge in it on a regular basis were given the media medal of ‘Encounter Specialist’. I will leave you to arrive at what the logical, factual, straight and truthful word is, that should be used. No point in belaboring the point.
To give you an example of the monsters our media creates see this headline:  Why would anyone fear someone whose specialty is killing innocent, unarmed people? If that is a definition they feel proud of and their law-abiding brethren are not ashamed of, then pray what is the difference between this and the way you would define every daku (dacoit) of Chambal or every supari hitman gangster of the underworld? If honest police officers find such media descriptions insulting, then why do they remain silent? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about ‘encounter’ killings: me leave such thoughts to those who should really reflect on them.
I decided to begin at the beginning and googled the term Encounter. Google, like Jeeves, gives satisfaction and so here is what came up.

I am not sure if those who had the encounter (or were ‘encountered’; such a useful language, English) would describe what they faced as, ‘we encountered a slight problem’, but fortunately they are not in a position to disagree with this definition, so we can ignore what they may have wanted to say.

So, what really happened in Bhopal?

God, of course, always knows. In this case those it happened to and those who facilitated that happening also know. But one lot is now speechless and the other lot are not speaking. Therefore, I am exactly where all of you are; with an enigmatic mystery to solve. Those addicted to mystery novels (I am, if Jeffery Arthur is the author) will be thrilled that one is unfolding before their eyes. I mentioned JA not by accident but by design. Because one of the most enjoyably infuriating thing about his writing is that the mystery is never completely solved. So, you gnash your teeth in frustration, curse him for being the cussed, devious man he is and wait with baited breath for his next novel, knowing full well that it is going to leave you in the exactly same state. We are all suckers for punishment. That is why I have read all his novels and pray for his long and productive life.

The Bhopal Encounter (it deserves upper case) is a mystery which will never be solved (at least for garden variety lizards like me) and will be followed by another and another as it was preceded by one and more.

Then why write anything at all about it?

I believe the Bhopal Encounter is a snapshot of what happens to democracies and what has been happening to our Indian democracy when those who make up the democracy decide to copout of the process. What defines and differentiates a democracy (India?) from a monarchy (Britain), a dictatorship (Egypt), an oligarchy (USA) or an anarchy (??) is the actions of its people. Democracy is not the name of a system of government. It is the name of a state of being that a nation of people choose for themselves. It is the name of a belief about yourself. It is the name of dignity of the individual. It is the name of justice where the law supersedes the individual (the opposite is the definition of feudalism). It is the name of self-determination, individual liberty, mutual compassion and concern. The system of government called ‘Democracy’, ensures all this. When its nature changes and it is no longer able to fulfill what the term ‘Democracy’ defines, it ceases to be a democracy and becomes whatever its actions display, no matter what its PR machine wants to portray to the world. People always see through the covers and know the truth because people listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say, until they see what you do.

Democracy is defined by its three constituent institutions and by their separation; of the law makers, implementers and interpreters. Separation of the Institutions of the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. “I am the law” or “I am above the law” are both feudalistic statements.  The separation is a safety measure to ensure that the democracy always remains a democracy and can’t be hijacked to become a dictatorship as we have seen happening all over the world, even though those regimes still call themselves ‘democratic’, because that is the buzzword to use. After all, how would, ‘The Undemocratic, Dictatorial, Fascistic, Murderous, Oppressive, Apartheid Republic of So-and-so’ sound? Not nice at all. So, they call themselves ‘Democratic’, while all the rest are fringe benefits that their citizens enjoy.

The ‘Encounter Specialist’, by his action (and all those who support that action directly or by remaining silent) collapses the three Institutions of Democracy, where he becomes the lawmaker, the law interpreter and the law enforcer. He decides who is guilty and what should be done to him. By his action, he declares that mere incidentals like evidence, establishment of guilt, judicial process, criminal code, sentencing and the legal procedure to ensure justice, are all immaterial.  He is the judge, jury and executioner rolled into one and by his action, hammers another nail into the coffin of democracy.
The question is not whether the one killed in an ‘encounter’ was guilty or not. The question is whether justice was done and seen to be done. If we declare that the killing of one by another who considers him guilty is justice, then we have legitimized every terror killing in the world. The man who drove the truck through the crowd in France thought he was doing justice. The person who killed the three Muslim medical students in North Carolina thought he was doing justice. ISIS thinks it is doing justice. Every Israeli soldier shooting Palestinian children thinks he is doing justice. Where do we draw the line, if we choose to obliterate it in one instance?

We either draw the line and say, ‘Let the courts decide who is guilty and who is not, based on evidence.’ Or we open the doors to anarchy and civil war. It is our call. It’s the choice of civil society, to raise our voice and say what we want; what we demand from our government; justice or anarchy? The ‘Encounter Specialist’ represents anarchy. The policeman/woman who investigates a crime and brings the murderer to the gallows, represents justice. Whose side are we on? Whose side are you on? I know whose side I am on. So do you.

So, who is guilty? Those who commit murder and call it ‘encounter’, those who order it and all those who sit silently and watch it happen. All of them are equally guilty of destroying the law, destroying the nation and destroying themselves.  Especially tragic is when those sworn to uphold the law and protect the innocent are guilty of violating that trust. There’s nothing more pathetic than a policeman committing murder at the behest of others. It violates and insults the uniform, the oath of office and the Constitution of India. It is the action of such of them that give a bad name to the entire force, where the term, ‘Police Martyrs’ sounds like an oxymoron. Those who really lost their lives honorably lose the honor they deserve. I remind myself that there are others who I know, who in this morass of shameless pursuit of personal wealth and pleasing political bosses, don’t even dream of sacrificing their integrity and stand, often alone, as shining lights proclaiming that honesty and truth are personal values which define us. And so, they are never to be compromised.

In the words of the song:

मझधार में नैया डोले तो मांझी पार लगाए,
मांझी जो नाव डुबोये, उसे कौन बचाए

What is the solution?

In my view the solution is very simple. Justice. Let justice be done. Murder is a crime. It is fashionable today to call for tougher laws. The fact of the matter is that our existing law is more than good enough. Murder is a crime and its punishment is death. What more can anyone do? The issue is not with the law but with the implementation of the law. When murder done by someone special is not punished, changing the law and making it tougher is not the solution. The solution is to bring the criminal to justice, by proper investigation of the crime and collection of evidence. It is not possible for any police force to anticipate a crime of random violence. Neither is it possible for the police to prevent such crimes from happening because we have no knowledge of hidden things. The only way to be forewarned about the possibility of such crimes is through Community Policing by building trust in civil society such that the Police Force is seen as their compatriot and friend. I know that there are a few officers who are working to this end. But one incident of extra-judicial killing destroys years of trust building.

It may not be possible to prevent every crime of politically motivated random violence but it is eminently possible to investigate a crime once it happens and catch the criminals. When there is a price that the criminal is convinced he will have to pay, then he will think many times before committing the crime. Instead of that, when innocent people are killed because the police is too lazy to investigate or is subservient to others and has accepted the role of hitman, then instead of fighting terrorism, you end up creating more terrorists. An extra-judicial killing is a dream come true for the terror group recruiter. Every real terrorist killed in a staged encounter gives birth to ten more recruits. Every innocent killed in a staged encounter gives birth to a hundred. The nightmare of the genuine law enforcer is the false encounter because it closes doors of cooperation which could have prevented future crimes.

My suggestion is that given the dismal record of police investigations, it is time for civil society to launch an independent investigation into these terror crimes and encounters. We need to set up a fund to pay for a top-class investigation agency to independently investigate the crime and collect evidence. This can then be given publicly to the police to take to a conclusion. I say publicly because if the police know that there is real evidence then trying to cover up is not so easy. Criminals must be punished and not rewarded, if we are serious about fighting crime. If crime pays, criminals will flourish. If criminals start paying, crime will end. The law must be respected and applied, no matter who tries to break it.

If we do that, then we would have taken the right steps to change the script. Once the script is changed, the results will be different. It is time for us to wake up and realize that polluting the water in the lake affects all those who live in the lake. Those who sit quietly will not escape the effects of pollution.

The time has come to speak and to act if we want to bequeath a world to our children that they will not curse us for. Stand for justice. Speak for justice. Or sit silently and support the terrorist, the murderer and the oppressor.

The choice is yours. I made mine a long time ago.
Tomorrow also has only 24 hours

Tomorrow also has only 24 hours

Good intentions are not a substitute for systematic action. 
Neither is enthusiasm a substitute for discipline. 
Noise is different from music
We all have the same 24 hours and no, tomorrow won’t have more. All tomorrows have only 24 hours. ‘Tomorrow I’ll have more time,’ is the biggest self- deception line of all time. The key to managing time is to prioritize. Assess all prospective actions in terms of  their impact on your overall goal and then decide what to do and when. Yes you have to first have an overall goal. The sooner you write one – yes, you have to actually write it down – the bigger your advantage. There is something in the nature of written down goals which invokes action. Then you devise a strategy to achieve your goal. That will involve creating steps which consist of individual actions and the time to take each one. Then you act.

Key ingredient: Discipline. Discipline is the key to life and to dieting: The big secret of dieting is to realize that my mouth is my property. Nobody can put anything in it that I don’t want them to. Discipline is where the rubber meets the road. It is walking your talk; to do what you claim you want to accomplish. It is to get up early in the morning so that you have more time in which to reach your goal. Discipline is to wake up every morning and work to make your dream can come true. Because a dream is not what you see in your sleep. 
A dream is that which does not let you sleep.

An extremely useful tool to manage time is the humble ‘Checklist’. It is a wonderful tool to minimize mistakes and ensure that all the critical things get done. Managing time is about discipline and execution. Actually doing what you set out to do. It sounds simple but is not so easy for some people. But once you get used to this very useful ‘regimentation’ you will realize its value. There is nothing cute about freedom that results in waste of resources. Time is a resource – a non-renewable one to boot. 
Focus on contribution – not entitlement

Focus on contribution – not entitlement

Add value first. 
Entitlement will follow. 
Entitlement goes with the territory. 
Contribution defines the territory
Because entitlement is directly proportional to contribution. Entitlement is the result of contribution. If you want more ‘entitlement’, contribute more. Only those who contribute greatly are entitled to great rewards. What do I mean?
We live in a world of cause and effect. If you want to change an effect, you must address its cause. For example, obesity is an effect. Its cause is sugar intake which we do by means of the sugar-laced drinks, fizzy or otherwise, that most of us are addicted to. So, if you want to lose weight and start exercising but do nothing about your addiction to Coke or Pepsi, exercise will only make you thirstier and increase your problem instead of curing it. 

The same thing is true of every effect we see in our lives. You want to change it, address the cause. Peace is an effect. Justice is its cause. But today those who have no concern for justice want peace. Those selling weapons and have their economies based on them, want peace. That is like a drug lord who wants an addiction free society. 

Until justice is established, peace can never be established. There will always be those who fight injustice. And to them others who do nothing but talk of the need for peace, owe a debt of gratitude. If they didn’t stand up to fight injustice, corruption would spread in the land. 
In the world of cause and effect:

If you want to be loved, be compassionate to others

If you want to be respected, show courage and stand up to defend the truth
If you want to empower others, share knowledge and build trust

If you want to help others, share your wealth, knowledge and influence

If you want to promote growth and development, promote entrepreneurship

If you want peace, establish.

Until then every peace is only a recess between wars.
Ideals are important because a life that is lived without seeking to achieve an ideal is the life of an animal. To eat, drink, sleep, procreate and die. Cows do that, sheep do that, cockroaches and mice do that. It is not worthy of human endeavor. Be idealistic. 

We all start in the same place as idealists. But some of us allow life to dampen our idealism, to suppress it in the name of being ‘realistic’. Gradually we move down the slide all the way to being cynical and indifferent. But guess what? The original flame of idealism that we started out with can be dampened but it can never be extinguished. A spark always remains. 

That is why when we are idealistic people discourage us and some even get angry. It is because in our eyes they see the picture of what they used to be. But if we refuse to give up our ideals then they slowly come around and the small glowing ember that is in their hearts, leaps into flame and lights the way ahead for them and us. 

So never lose your idealism. I call myself a ‘shameless idealist’. I am not apologetic about this. I am proud of it. No matter that some of my ideals may not be realized in totality. I know of no other way to live than to live idealistically because in this way of living is deep satisfaction irrespective of the results. 

It is ideals that make us human and it is striving towards them that makes life worthwhile. 

Use things, not people; Value people, not things

Invest in people, not things
Right people add value. Possessions add cost, not value and always depreciate
Surround yourself with great people and value them. Tell them, show them, and do it often. Valuing is not simply patting backs or giving blue ribbons or bonus cheques. Valuing is to push them to do their best, refusing to accept poor work, asking questions that lead them to expand their own limits; pushing them to be the best that they can be. 

Valuing is to be there for them when they need you, to do all this without any concern or thought about the returns because the effort is its own reward. As for other rewards, well do it and see.

Remember that your cell phone does not define you. Neither does your credit card, nor the seat you sit in the airplane. Your shirt, tie, underwear, handbag, shoes, or the car you drive (or are driven in) are all your possessions. You own them. You can give them away or throw them on the garbage heap. They are things, to be used for your convenience. They are not a ‘statement’ of who you are. Our commercial world is insane. Don’t fall into its trap.

Your character, manners, attitude, the smile on your face, the warmth of your  handshake, the tears in your eyes, your knowledge and willingness to apply it to help others, your virtue, your wisdom, your piety, and the compassion you have for others – these are what define you. 

You can’t buy these. You can’t sell these. These are not things to be used for your convenience. These are the things that make memories. They imprint themselves in the hearts of people in terms of how you used them and how they benefited those people. 

They are what you will be remembered for; long after your car, cell phone, clothes, and possessions have all passed on either into the hands of your heirs or onto the garbage heap. 

So remember, we define ourselves as we wish. 

Disclaimer: The title is not mine but is a saying that I have always tried to live by. 
Invest, invest, invest

Invest, invest, invest

Forget sacrifice, think investment
All sacrifice ends, but investment yields forever
Invest in yourself, in your learning. Knowledge is the key to success. But only if applied.
Knowledge applied thoughtfully yields wisdom. The two are not the same. So focus on your investment; track it, measure the yield, and do it often. Write your own Learning Appraisal every quarter. Every week is even better. 

Ask yourself, ‘What did I learn in the last period and how can I apply it?’ Remember that all learning is for the sake of application. 

The one who wins the bout is not the one who knows about Judo but the one who knows Judo. The two are not the same. 

My mentor who taught me Judo and self-defence among many other life lessons
 – Nawab Nazir Yar Jung

There’s a wonderful story about a Judo master and his student. The student was a young boy and very dedicated. But one day he had an accident and lost his right arm. After he recovered he went to see his master. The master told him to return to the dojo and resume training. The student was surprised but did as he was told. 

The master taught him one throw and told him to practice it. The boy practiced that throw over and over and over. Weeks and months passed. Three years passed. Every time the boy asked the master if he wouldn’t teach him something else, the master refused and told the boy to keep practicing the same throw.

Then one day there was an International Judo competition with champions from all over the world. The master took the boy to the competition and entered him in it. The boy won the first match easily as it was with someone his own size. The master then entered him in the next higher weight. The organizers wondered at the wisdom of this. But to everyone’s surprise, the boy won that match also. 

The master then entered the boy in the final, heavy weight competition. The organizers protested. They said, ‘The champion will kill the boy. The boy has only one arm. He is handicapped.’ The master smiled and said, ‘I take responsibility. Enter him in the match.’ Very reluctantly they did. The match was announced. The competitors came into the ring. You could hear the crowd draw in a breath of astonishment. There was total silence. The champion attacked. The boy retaliated and the champion fell flat on his back. There was total pandemonium in the arena. The referee declared the boy, World Champion.

As the master and his student returned home, the boy asked his master, ‘Master, please tell me did this happen? How did I beat the world champion? I have only one arm. I have no right arm. How did I defeat every competitor? How is this possible?’

The master replied, ‘Very simple. The throw that I taught you and insisted that you practice all these years has only one counter. That is to grab your right arm. And you have no right arm. So, nobody can beat you as long as you live.’

That is the meaning of learning, of wisdom, of investment. That is the meaning of applying knowledge. Knowledge unapplied is worm-food; it sits in books and worms eat it. So learn and apply. Add to the learning. Change what you learned. Customize it to suit your situation. 

To begin with, ask yourself, ‘What do I know?’ Then write down all that you know. 

Then ask, ‘What do I need to know?’ 

That will guide you to seeking the knowledge that you need to succeed. 

Then look for places to apply it. Actually look to see who you can help with what you know. Cherish such people, appreciate them, become the floor on which they walk. The wise understand that knowledge is what comes after someone has lived it. And that can only be transmitted from person to person. 

Learning – real learning – is not a virtual experience. 

Sadly, we live in a world today that can’t differentiate between technicians and scholars. Between scholars and practitioners. For in the end it is only the practitioner that can teach you how to practice. So seek a mentor. It is for you. Not for him. It is for you, if you value your life. It’s your call.

Not only will you find places to apply your knowledge, but it will also open doors for you in places you would not have imagined. 

That is the state of grace that comes from investment.