Right from the inception of Indian Matters

May 26, 2012 at 07:28 pm

It was August 17th, 2006 when I got selected for my first job in IBM. Most students soon got their own job offers and were now more assured of themselves. They showed better confidence and many of them were even planning to extend their student life by writing various B-school entrance examinations like CAT, XAT, IIFT, JMET, etc by weekend after weekend travelling long distances from Manipal (Udupi, Karnataka) to Bangalore or even Trivandrum. But I had no such plans. I'd got into a bachelors programme which I wasn't very keen to get onto but it was the obvious choice after having completed non-medical in +2. I was more cautious and didn't want to blindly follow anyone. I wanted to study further but not without knowing what and why. I thought of myself not being mature enough to decide what to do ahead in my career. The clarity just wasn't there.

It was early 2007 when I was 4 odd months away to step out of college life. As an engineering student into my final term, I used to have a lot of time on my hand. Why? Because final term of Engineering is only a project exercise. Over and above that, staying in a single occupancy room used to leave me enough time on my own everyday. One fine evening I thought of doing something meaningful. I sat down with a pen and paper to write something that even I myself didn't know. I thought for a while with my eyes closed. What came to me was an idea to write a small book citing funny incidents that we come across in our daily lives. I thought of penning those down everyday for people to read and bring them some happiness in otherwise lives that are often filled with dejection, frustration and disappointments. All though I'd felt these feelings myself, but my readings through newspapers and televised news left me with a belief that they were much more intense. I started upon the exercise in a brand new notebook, worked upon it for 2 days and left it there. I thought, no, this wasn't really going to give what I wanted. This was, moreover, not going to make much impact. I sat down in deep thoughts trying to know what I really was here for. Deep into my thoughts, my mind resounded 2 words. They were - INDIA MATTERS.

As they occured to me, I opened myself to really get hold of what it meant. I dug deep to realise that in the land I live in, I wanted people to live their lives more empowered and with more self respect. I connected dots to see it's relevance. I saw that poor lived their lives in the most undignified manner. They lived without any self respect and self assurance. I saw even the middle class people like me not able to achieve their dreams because of several challenges in this country. Moreover, I felt we didn't really ever gave it a thought of doing something beyond our own interests. Nobody seemed to even think and discuss of issues that face us and the nation as a whole. Although, it's difficult to really see things that way when you are just a student being fed with money by your parents and don't get to see the challenges that lie ahead. This is even more so when you are a student of engineering and there is no real interaction of our courses with the society even though benefitting the society is the ultimate objective of technology. In my early years in college back in 2003,2004 and 2005, I was sometimes caught in the fun making session of some of the students of my college even as they called me desh bhakt (a patriot). I used to think why these people made fun while I just talked about things that were of interest to us, our people and the nation. Isn't that something that each one of us supposed to be doing? I felt many colleagues out there to be really stupid. Several years later, into my MBA things seem to be better, not completely though. I have still come across some people reacting in this way and often I've tried not to react.

Getting back to the issue, first year into my job I found a way of hoisting a website. I immediately checked in to see availability of India Matters, but that was already taken for a book written with the same title. I looked into the content and hoped it would already be addressing something about the issues that face us. Unfortunately, it talked about all the billionaires of India or film stars like Amitabh Bachhan who perhaps have helped to portray a better picture to the outside world. But we know the world can see through into real India and calls us a 3rd world country even today. I looked to find availability of Indian Matters, and that was there. I thought over it before I reasoned that without its people there is no India and it was an even more apt a name to convey what it meant and thereby, it was adopted as the website IndianMatters.in. This was on Feb 18,2008. The problem remained that the website made out of basic templates wasn't easy to use and not limited my ability. Moreover, I was at a nascent stage and my ideas in itself were developing. I used to write on issues of national relevance and some people had already started leaving their beautiful thoughts and messages through contact us option. Later on, a friend from my college helped me improve the website utill it was hacked by Turkey based Kurdish Hackers who used to take orders from their leaders in Iraq and Europe on which sites to attack. Indian Matters being a pro-India website, it apparently seemed to be their reason of targeting it. I went on to lose a lot of the articles I'd written about, including the likes of Nuclear Deal. Luckily, very soon towards the end of 2010 I met another person, Amit Kumar, a masters student from IIT Kharagpur who had just passed out of the college helped me not only make it all over again but proactively played a role in its development. That is how the website looks like today. He also went on to make the best logo in the world.

On January 26th, we printed our first set of pamphlets and with a group of friends went to India Gate to tell people what we were trying to do. Some people interacted at length with us and were curious to know on what we wanted to do. While the interest was palpable, it seemed we lost them somewhere and no body ever came back to us. Soon after, I along with some of my friends put up a stall in UIET college of Chandigarh during their college festival and also gave a presentation in a classroom to the students there. This did see students come later on to us, but their questions on what they had to precisely do didn't have the best of answers. Was there something really that we could propagate other than just the positivism and the realisation of the need to think of the issues more rationally? This left me with a lot of food of thought to introspect on what needed to be done. On 22nd April of 2011, Indian Matters got officially registered as an organisation and I continued looking for answers even as I moved for further studies in Rural Management from XIM, Bhubaneswar. I stumbled upon the thought of bringing in such a tool which could push politicians to fulfil their promises. A tool, which would give our democracy a chance to function like a democracy by giving our people to participate in the process of running of this country and make them more empowered and hence bring them the feeling of self respect, making them feel that they matter. I recently started summer internship with an organisation 'Association for Democratic Reforms' to look further into the subject and get deeper insights and find answers.

Today, it's the time when I want to call upon each one of you to lend your services for the self-serving cause by coming together to build upon the idea of e-deomocracy and ensuring that it spread across to the Indian masses so that they can press for better accountability by the elected representatives. There is so much to do, and it's not even going to begin without each one of you chipping in. We together only can do the same. It's time we did something or (I) perished. The question to you all is obvious, I am looking for answers.

Varun Kappal

Pursuing MBA in Rural Management, XIMB
Intern in IIM Bangalore for Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), National Election Watch (NEW)
Indian Matters!


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