India can solve its Partition within; you only need to know its knobs

27th August 2020

27th August 2020

Fortyfive years ago, I was on a Japanese built ship which had just been bought second-hand from a bankrupt owner out of Hong Kong, delivery taken in Canada, where the crew on departing had taken along bits and pieces from whatever they could lay their hands on as souvenirs. Electronics was just arriving, replacing valves and diodes, and a modern radar that was not working had teased the skillsets of technicians in multiple seaports that we stopped at in Europe and America, largely because the manual was missing, as were many of the bits and pieces inside, and all the knobs from outside, and whatever information we could find was in Japanese.

We got the radar working, but we couldn't adjust the settings, luckily there weren't more than 8-10 in those days. The Electrical Officer onboard was a brilliant guy, ex-Indian Navy, and one day he sat down on the jetty at Marseille with me and drew the complete circuit diagram by memory as he saw it using nothing more than different coloured chalks on the ground. "Everything will work, Malik", he told me, "we just have to fix the way to calibrate the power supplies". And that's what we did - using blocks of wood, files and sandpaper, we made new knobs. Using an assortment of pipe tubing, we made the inserts. And then using a series of connectors, some more electronic parts cannibalised from whatever we could lay our hand on including 2-in-1 radios, we fixed the calibration parts in steps, close to what the original settings were.

It wasn't perfect, but when the ship called Japan a few months later, the engineers from ashore saluted us and took some of the wooden knobs as their souvenirs. And I learnt that anything and everything that is broken, if it has half a chance, can be re-calibrated to work again.

In 70+ years of India's Independence, saddled with the reality that the Brits had taken along more than what could be called souvenirs on departing, we were also faced with a 5th column which messed up our progress from inside. By about a decade or so ago we had reached a point where it was re-calibrate or collapse. The numbers now about a decade ago looked like this -

1% for whom there were no rules
19% who wouldn’t follow the laws
80% stuck following regulations

That's as close to the 80/20 rule as it goes. But, as we re-calibrate, we discover that all it needs to fix things is if about 20% from within the 80% give notice to the 19%+1%, which is 16%. Actually, as I had discovered whilst working with my Electrical Guru, one needed even smaller tweaks to fix things, if one sat down and understood the innards of the problem, maybe 1% of the 16%, which is a very small number of core controls. Make the controls - somehow - people will use them, that's all. There are many, many controls.

The problem as I see it in India is that for decades now we have taken the 19% and considered them to be a homogeneous entity, single control lever or knob, and that scares us. Whilst happily subjecting ourselves as the 80% to about 300 different sub-sets. If you look at the census of India 1901, you will note that the 19% had about 500 subsets in comparison to our 300!

The first and most important thing to do, then, is what?

Recall - the Electrical Officer spent the better part of a day drawing the complete circuit diagram with chalk on the jetty and then making me walk over each running inch of it till both of us knew it by heart. We then started working on re-calibrating it. 

Learn what the 19% are. 

As for the 1%, we will make fresh knobs and inserts, from wood that we choose.

Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.

A survivor of two brain-strokes, triggered by a ship explosion in the 70s, Veeresh moved beyond fear decades ago. 

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