Seldom do I choose books which I can read in a couple of days. Being a slow and immersive reader with “heavy” preferences, it is less likely that I stumble across easy reads; and vampire fiction is far from it. In addition to that, I repel even remotely spooky stuff. Clearly I made an exception when I picked this book up.
The Book or the Author?
Let’s get to the “whys” now. Why did I pick this book then? (Drumroll please!) because of the author. The author, Phillip Ernest is a Canadian who grew up in a small town called New Liskeard in Northern Ontario. He learnt Sanskrit (an ancient Indian language similar to Latin and Greek) out of sheer interest and in fact went on to do a PhD in Sanskrit from Cambridge University.
I believe, a person who goes on to learn something new, with no previous family history of it, and excel in it, is extraordinary- an outlier itself. Not only this, he has gained such mastery on the language and understanding of the Indian culture that he wrote this book for the Indian audience, instead of foreign. This was one of the main reasons I picked this book up.
The title Vetala is a Sanskrit word which means a Vampire like supernatural being which is neither dead or alive. The book is based in Pune and the protagonist Nada is a foreign national, doing research on an ancient Indian (Sanskrit) literature (duh! hehe…) but is met with demonic-interventions and she must use her wit to resolve the mystery of the manuscript. Since I have lived in Pune (popularly called Oxford of the East- defintely a misnomer in my opinion) for my University education I can vouch for the fact that the describing of the city and it’s people is quite apt. (no spoilers here!)
The book is full of Sanskrit and Hindi (most popular Indian language) terminologies, with a not-so-long glossary at the back. Most Indians won’t need to use the glossary, however, it is essential for foreign readers.
At one point of time I was tempted to compare this book with other books in the same genre, and even Hindi films. But almost instantly I realized that, that would be huge mistake; just because I am so well acquainted with the Indian culture I was risking taking this work for granted. In reality this book is a result of in-depth knowledge of Indian folklore and beliefs. For instance, a common Indian belief of reincarnation (or re-birth) make a typical Indian more accepting of the present “sufferings”, which they believe is the result of their past life misdeeds. This belief, in fact, is the main premise of this book. This in-fact is one of the main reasons why Indians are generally more accepting of the “status-quo”.
Once again, it is a fairly easy read with a deep connection with Indian folklore and beliefs, which reminds me of stories I grew up listening to; they are spooky, fascinating and definitely entertaining. Moreover, because the book is written by an academician, not a screenplay writer, it has no flimsy content.
I was extremely fortunate to have gotten a chance to meet the author, Phillip Ernest. To my pleasant surprise he a very simple and down to earth person. He is a linguist, an intellectual, who believes that a dying language is one of the most tragic mishaps of contemporary times and is steadfastly devoted to keeping Sanskrit alive.
Death of a language is indeed quite tragic, as it is not only loss of the language itself but the concepts associated to it, the knowledge it contains, the philosophy it contains, the way of life, etc. Losing a language is like loosing a culture altogether and no economical parameter can equate such a loss in monetary terms. In fact, futurists predict that we are under the risk of loosing 3,000 minority languages in the next 10 years.
We are very lucky to have a few people like him who have such beliefs, as it is because of them that minority languages, might be preserved. Languages such as Sanskrit and even popularly used Hindi are under the risk of being completely engulfed by English language.
Yet it is unsurprisingly ironical that, such a person’s belief and noble intentions are not appreciated in India. Although Mr. Ernest who wrote this book for an Indian audience, it was not appreciated by a single publishing house in India until it was well received in his home country.
To sum up, the book is truly fascinating and sometimes bizarre, especially for a non-Indian, as it depicts common Hindu beliefs and folklore. It is definitely a page-turner. For me, the author and his motivation behind this work is more fascinating than the story itself; but for foreigners I think the content of the book would be more attractive.
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Black Panther has been making headlines for a while now and anyone I know who has seen this film has said only good things about it. Although I am not an action movie fan, all the positive feedback nonetheless drove me to watch the film.
The worldwide applaud caused me to have great expectations from the film and great expectations almost always ends in disappointment. By the end of the movie I said to my friends, “it was nice, but not as extraordinary as a Nolan movie!”. After giving it a thought, I however realized that this is a different kind of extraordinary movie. And if I am not exaggerating, it one of the landmark movies of contemporary times.
The movie effectively breaks the stereotypes; to begin with, they showed a bunch of black people who were neither poor nor involved in something illegal. Moreover, the exemplary tribes in the movie are well rooted to their culture and portrayed as very wealthy as they actually are (or were before colonialism).
Secondly, ask yourself, how many times have you seen a lighter skin colour antagonist (as compared to the protagonist), except Will Smith or Denzel Washington movies? There general observation is that, even if it an all actor-of-colour movie, it is very rare to see a darker skin protagonist and a lighter skin antagonist. Strangely, lighter shades is more appealing to the public than darker skin and that is why many actors are even forced to undergo skin lightening treatment and casting directors seldom choose anything that doesn’t appeal to the public. But this is where Black Panther makes a difference. Not only is the protagonist of darker skin colour, but so is the lead actress. She made no effort to fit in the so called “beauty standards” and has a charming presence in the film without being unnecessarily sexual.
Thirdly, an effort has been made to present African culture in the most authentic way, instead of westernizing it. The background score, costumes, accents, and location gives it a very authentic feel. For instance, bald women were as graceful as they could get. They didn’t wear wigs or do fake hair extensions to appeal to the public. It was bold move indeed!
Fourthly and very importantly, women characters are neither portrayed as servile nor as disproportionately powerful. They were able to strike an equilibrium between male and female roles; similar to the synergy we are trying to achieve in real life.
In addition to that, the film was filled with plenty of witty jokes, portrayed exemplary moral standards, even the villain was not senselessly crazy. The movie certainly had a counter-colonial undercurrent. Although the movie is based on present day, I feel they have carefully attempted to juxtapose it with some of its historical issues which makes it even more interesting.
Correlation between Reel life and Real life
I recently attended a talk by Jonathan Zinck about how men can stop violence against women. During his talk, he also talked about why a lot of men end up abusing women and then he drew correlation between what we have been seeing in reel life and doing in real life. He and many others claim that our attitudes towards each other has been greatly influenced by what we read and what on screen. What was noteworthy in the storyline was that, there was a situation where a man takes a bullet to save a woman, but she did not automatically fall for his gallantry; which would have otherwise happened in movies a few years ago, which promoted “save the day and get the girl”. Similarly, this movie has subtly changed a lot of things.
In conclusion, whether it is watchworthy or not, that depends on you. But what I am sure about is this production has made a huge difference is what we are used to seeing on screen and my optimist self feels, this is just the beginning. Other movie will have follow the suit.
Tell me what you think about the movie in the comment section below. And don’t forget to share it with your friends.
This Valentine’s Day I did something unusual. I went on a blind date, but that was not the unusual part, what was unusual was that my date was a book!
Thankfully, the public library near my residence is run by some very clever people. They wrapped up books in brown paper with a few lines of introduction of what our “date” is like and whatever we choose is going to our date. Clever, eh? The idea behind this is to encourage readers to try something we would never usually try.
It so happened that I ended up picking this light yet interesting novel for young adults, titled “Backlash” by Sarah Darer Littleman. It is about two teenage girls, Lara and Bree who used to be best friends in middle school. When Lara is going through bullying, self-image issues, depression, etc, Bree tries to help her cope up, but after repeated failed efforts, she gives up and distances herself from Lara. As they enter High School, roles reverse and Lara, who was struggling and simultaneously working on herself in High School becomes what she aspire to be and Bree on the other hand is suffering this time. Unable to contain her emotions mixed with jealousy, Bree makes some very poor choices. Knowing Lara inside out she decides to take revenge (or vent out her jealousy) by creating a fake Facebook profile, but unfortunately Bree ends up digging her own grave.
It was a dramatic read, and also some cute teenage romance and of course Cyberbullying! It was in fact reminiscent of my own teenage, because like most people I also saw cyberbullies in my school, hiding under the mask of their fake virtual identity. Back then, I was just an ignorant teen, like most people my age and I could not make sense of anything happening around me. But I somehow survived that too and now I am a Lawyer and can not only protect myself and people around me, but can also help you protect yourself.
Do’s and Don’ts of your cyber activity
Know your rights. Like it is a crime to assault someone, cyberbullying is also a a crime. Cyberbullying is most probably a punishable offence in your country which could include jail time and/or other serious consequences against the perpetrator. Even if it not a punishable offence in your country, it is certainly against the terms and conditions of most social media sites; which means the offender is in serious trouble. So don’t be afraid of such bullies, they are the ones who should be afraid instead.
Don’t be afraid to share such incidents with your close friends and family as they can help you.
If you feel someone engages in similar activities like cyberbullying, spreading fake news or hateful content, stay away from them as much as possible- virtually as well as physically. Most importantly, inform your peer and above about it immediately.
Avoid realtime update of your (or other people’s) personal activity as it can lead to cyber assisted crimes;
Avoid publicly criticizing or taunting anyone on social media;
Do NOT record anyone’s activity without their permission and obviously do NOT post it or threaten to post it online- even for fun;
Avoid making friends online, because they generally tend to be quite different from what you perceive them to be;
Never open up to a stranger online, there are plenty of people around you who love you and would treasure your company. If however, you still decide to do so, make sure you don’t divulge details of your personal life to them. Most importantly, be wary of emotionally investing in such relationships;
Last but not the least, don’t falsely accuse anyone of being a cyberbully, as it can be a Backlash.
Remember, your inaction can help the potential offender, who will one day find someone else to hurt. And.. “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing” (-Edmund Burke).
PS- Please share this with your loved ones. And if you enjoyed reading this post, subscribe to my blog for some thoughtful write-ups 🙂
Can a saintly, naive, kind, selfless, loving, childlike person survive and thrive in the world the live in? The Idiot, attempts to answer the same question and this post in a humble attempt to understand this Russian classical masterpiece.
(Spoilers ahead! But considering the book is not about the story, it is meant for understanding, so it should be okay)
The protagonist Prince Myshkin a.k.a the Idiot is a 25 year old orphan suffering from epilepsy. The story begins when he returns back to Russia after years of incomplete treatment in Switzerland. St. Petersburg awaits him an encounter with the beautiful Nastasya who has a deeply troubled past; Rogozhin, lustfully and passionately in love with her (like most men in St. Petersburg), who believes in taking whatever he wants with force; and the innocent, childlike Aglaya who grew up in a very protective environment and dreams of one day stepping out and exploring the “wonderful” world she is deprived of.
Turns out, everyone Prince Myshkin encounters falls for him for his naivety, his exceptionally good understanding of the world and his frankness- even Nastasya and Aglaya. The Prince, on the other hand, falls for Nastasya as well, but not just for her beauty, but because he wants to help her (in a non-sexual way). Nastasya in her self-destructive mode (because of her troubled past) runs away with Rogozhin. The Prince later starts liking Aglaya, but choses Nastasya over her. Which eventually leads to destruction of all souls and a tragic ending of the story.
To begin with, the book is not very easy to comprehend. Neither is much material available on the internet to help you understand it. It took me considerable time (months) to read and understand this book. Here is what I understood-
The book has highlighted a contrast between morals and reasonableness. Here, I am associating morals with being kind hearted, loving, not calculative, naive, and selfless, not necessarily an imbecile. On the other hand, reasonableness is associate with being very logical and pragmatic. It can be observed in the book that, although being moral (or “good”) is always appreciated but the world also at the same time looks at it as a source of weakness. Such people are often labelled as fools or idiots. Reasonable people on the other hand, are considered as strong and formidable. In reality, however, neither is the case; but that is how the world perceives them.
For instance, love, it is always beyond reason. One may fall in love with anyone, irrespective of how perfect to imperfect they are or how convenient or inconvenient is it to love them. One may fall in love with the most boring person and find them the most extraordinary; the possibility is endless and of course beyond any logic or reason. Yet such love, despite being so pure is often either short-lived or ends in heartbreak. Do you know why? Because the harsh reality is, the world does not “only” run on love. It must be backed up by reason to survive.
A reasonable person, on the other hand, would be someone who is prudent. For instance, a person who chooses someone after judging all the pro and cons or decides to be with a person based on certain criteria, not just because he/she likes the other person, is- reasonable or judicious.
It is neither good, nor bad to be either. It is a personal choice. Moreover, what is good or bad depends on circumstances and much more. Precisely, it can be concluded that it is not a sign of weakness to be moral (or any of the attributes associated with it), it’s just that it might not be sustainable unless it is backed up with reasonableness.
The only adaptation I managed to watch is the one available on YouTube with English subtitles. It had about ten episodes, each one an hour long. Moreover, it is very close to the original book. So if you are an explorer and like to experiment with what you watch or want to read the book but don’t have the time, this is probably what you should watch.
PS. Please don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comment section below. And if you liked it please do share it with your friends and family.
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky is not the most popular choice amongst readers. However, some of this work’s admirers include Albert Einstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, Virginia Woolf and Albert Camus (wonder why? read on).
The book is, not to mention a classical masterpiece, which intends to answer- Can saintliness survive in the real world? The answer to this question will be discussed in the next post. For now, here are some noteworthy quotations from the book-
So after reading all the above quotations, do you think saintliness can survive in the real world? Do share your opinion in the comment section below.
PS: While reading the book I came across a lot of noteworthy quotes, however, they need context to be mentioned here, therefore I have mentioned only a few quotes.
If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to tell me what you liked (or did not like) about it in the comment section below and more importantly share it amongst your friends and family.
Swearing has irrefutably become one of the most essential parts of our daily lives. Whether it is done consciously or otherwise, it sometimes helps in venting out anger and frustration. Because of lack of creativity, it is sometimes just too foul or rather boring to listen to or even speak out.
Contemporology says, if you are doing it, do it in style. Don’t just insult people, referring them genitals of the either sexes or incest relationships or degradingly use the gender of a particular animal. Such words are now mundane and overused, so much so that it has lost its charm and effect.
Here are some ideas which effectively aid your everyday leisurely activity of swearing-
Instead of calling someone dumb or stupid, use the word Nitwit. When you do that, the person you are referring to will most probably not understand the meaning of the word and feel inferior immediately or get confused. Consequently, he/she will become quiet and confused. Congratulations! You just insulted a person without making the situation worse. he he he…
Crackpot– it’s such a nice word. The pot in English is (or used to be) sometimes referred to a person’s skull, so it basically means cracked skull. It can be used lightly or even aggressively.
Reprehensible– someone (or something) deserving censure and condemnation.
Devious– showing a skillful use of underhand tactics to achieve goals. This adjective is generally used for people like politicians, for how manipulative they are.
Scoundrel– a dishonest or unscrupulous person
Imbecile– it literally means a stupid person. But don’t use the word Imbecile, stupid, idiot or moron synonymously, as they don’t mean the same thing. In psychology, an idiot has the least intelligence on the IQ scale (this now is equivalent to someone who is mentally retarded or the more politically correct “mentally challenged”); an imbecile is not quite as dumb as an idiot and is now considered equivalent to moderate retardation; a moron is then the highest level of intelligence for someone who is mentally retarded, thus considered as being mildly mentally retarded. Specifically, those who have an IQ between 0 and 25 are idiots; IQs between 26 and 50 are considered imbeciles, and those who have an IQ between 51 and 70 are considered morons. These terms were popular in psychology as associated with intelligence on an IQ test until around the 1960s. They were then replaced with the terms mild retardation, moderate retardation, severe retardation, and profound retardation.
In case you prefer phrases over one-word-insults, here are a few more examples.
An incorrigible fool– be creative, replace fool with any other word. But please keep it classy.
You worthless obnoxious person
You greedy swine– Avoid referring to animals while swearing, because they are such innocent creature. In fact, if someone called me a dog or a bitch, I would take that as a compliment.
You snake in the grass– someone who pretends to be your friend, while secretly doing things to harm you.
You despicable/ abhorable/ abominable
You blood sucking parasite
Since you are now better equipped with a good variety of words and phrases, it is time to put it to test. Think of the most annoying person in the world, be it your colleague, your neighbor, your sibling, your landlord/landlady, your ex or a complete stranger. Visualise that person in your mind and say something classy! Lol! Now don’t just say it, write what you said in the comment section below.
Most countries have a unique identification system for their citizens; for the purpose of carrying out government related functions like taxation, government benefits, employment, health related schemes, etc. For instance, USA has a Social Security Number, Australia has a Tax file number, Germany has a German Social Security Number, Canada has a Social Insurance Number, United Kingdom uses National Insurance Number, Nigeria has a National Identification Number, Brazil has a Registro Geral, Iraq has Identity Certificate, etc. And more than 60 such countries around the world take biometric data from its people. Likewise, India presently is in the process of regulating its citizen identification system with the help of Aadhaar Card i.e. a 12 digit Unique Identification Number. Any Indian resident (someone who has been residing in India for at least 182 days in a financial year or 365 days spread out over four consecutive years) can obtain an Aadhaar card by providing-
Demographic information i.e. name, date of birth and address; and
Biometric information i.e. photograph, finger prints and iris scan.
India is in the process of making world’s largest biometric database for and of it’s citizens. It is even looked upon as a model policy overseas. Countries like Russia, Morocco, Tunisia are making an effort to make similar policies in their respective countries. However, here in India, so far it’s implementation looks sketchy. Here we shall look into the ‘whats’, ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of it; and also try to understand, do the pros outweigh the cons?
How did Aadhaar start in India?
After the Kargil war, in 1999 a Kargil Review Committee was formed for the purpose of study of India’s national security. It was headed by K. Subramaniam. He proposed that the citizens in the border area be issued a National ID.
By 2001 the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government accepted the proposal and decided to issue a mandatory National ID to every citizen, starting from the border area on priority basis. In 2003 L.K. Advani even introduced The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2003 for amending the law which would be in sync with this new initiative.
The United Progressive Alliance Government in 2009 further established UIDAI i.e. Unique Identification Authority of India under the Planning Commission. Nandan Nilekani the co-founder of Infosys was appointed to head the project.
In 2010, the name Aadhaar and its present logo was launched. And that’s how it started, a bona fide policy.
What are benefits of Aadhaar?
The intention of this entire painstaking process is of course to provide good governance, efficient, transparent, and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India, to individuals residing in India through assigning of unique identity numbers.
Since relatively a very small percentage of people residing in India have proper identification proof such as driver’s licence, birth certificates, PAN card, etc, it makes good governance in India very difficult. This fundamental defect does not only have a negative impact on Indian governance but also costs her dearly. Most of the public welfare schemes do not reach the beneficiaries, causing loss and misuse of tax payer’s money.
It makes the system of transferring direct benefits to people effective and efficient. Meaning, this system will be able to eliminate ghost or duplicate accounts, as every resident has a Unique Identification Number which is linked to their Biometric data. Moreover, even if a person has changed his/her place of residence he/she can still easily avail respective benefits.
Importantly, this system shall also prevent leakages through the Public Distribution System and in turn put country’s Consolidated Funds to efficient use. How? Suppose, ‘X’ a beneficiary goes to the nearest fair price shop to buy monthly quota of ration, if the shop has a Biometric authentication device connected to the entitlement database, it will make sure that only ‘X’ can avail such benefits. Therefore, every transaction will be authentic and will prevent system leakages. Gradually more and more Government departments and private institutions are encouraging Aadhaar use and in return are providing faster, simpler and easier access to facilites.
A case in point is DigiLocker. DigiLocker is an important pillar of the Digital India programme. It is a secure platform for Indian citizens to store and access documents on electronic repository provided by Government of India. It aims to cut down paper work. It, for instance, allows people to store a digital version of their driving license and vehicle documents on the DigiLocker, sparing them the trouble of keeping the hard copies with them all the time.
It also allows Government departments to issue as well as request documents from users. In the near future one can expect getting original soft copy of marksheets, certificates, No Objection Certificates from Government departments directly deliver in their DigiLocker account.
Aadhaar also makes the process easier for making online payments, opening a bank accounts, getting a sim card, get compensation, employment, etc.
Simply put, as more and more people start using Aadhaar it will improve India’s governance efficiency manifolds by bringing all the residents on record and thus consequently directing schemes and benefits to the real beneficiaries and stop the fund leakage.
What are the drawbacks of Aadhaar?
The biggest topic of debate when it comes to Aadhaar is it’s effect in the absence of privacy laws. Because of the vagueness of Supreme Court’s opinion on whether Right to Privacy is a Fundamental Right or not, Aadhaar could be one of the biggest man-made disaster.
The phenomenon of mass data theft, hacking, etc is not unprecedented. If the Right to Privacy is not a Fundamental Right, then in an unfortunate event of mass data theft, the effected citizens will neither be in a position to claim for compensation not hold anyone accountable. Such stolen data will be of vital importance as it includes people’s biometric information which is going to be their’s for life.
Aadhaar’s poor implementation is raising serious doubts. It has been observed that Aadhaar is being issued to illegal immigrants from neighboring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, etc which is obviously counter-productive. There have been cases where people without any identification or proof of address have gained access to Aadhaar by paying money to the enrollment officer. Such officers shall obviously facing legal consequences, but with respect to India’s present of rule of law status, such legal consequences do not seem to have any deterrent effect.
What is the present Aadhaar controversy?
The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016 made Aadhaar voluntary for Indian residents, however, gradually the Government is now making it mandatory. One’s Aadhaar number is being asked everywhere, whether it is for filing Income Tax return, getting married, obtaining or keeping a PAN card, getting access to social benefits, filling up examination forms, etc.
Although, the Act and Supreme Court have maintained the voluntary nature of Aadhaar, the Government of India is heedlessly following its own whims and fancies. This shows inconsistencies between Legislative, Executive and Judiciary at a very early stage of implementation of this law. Moreover, the Privacy Law lacuna in Indian Legal system is adding up the recipe of a complete disaster of a bona fide policy.
Despite the seriousness of the situation it is baffling to know that the Supreme Court has kept this matter pending for hearing for more than 1 year and 8 months. With executive order of making Aadhaar mandatory from 1st July onward Supreme Court’s silence on status of Privacy Laws and Aadhaar Law is literally risking the lives of 1.2 billion people.
Is Aadhaar the only threat to Privacy?
Amidst all the negative news, it is very important to understand that, Aadhaar is just one of the possible threats to our privacy. Our Right to Privacy can be breached by a number of ways such as, smartphones, CCTV cameras, Biometrics in offices, drones, etc.
Through smartphones, our conversations can be recorded, location tracked, thumb impressions gained, etc. There are internet companies that are unaccountable to Indian Laws and can share user’s data to foreign governments, let alone our own government.
There are no laws regulating CCTV cameras in Malls, ATM booths, Bus stands, Railway stations, Hotels, Airports, etc. There cameras have face recognition technology, can scan our iris from a distance, etc
Therefore, Right to Privacy is an irrefutably important matter, but Aadhaar is not the only threat to it.
What is the solution to it?
With the emergence of new types of white collar crimes, the world needs corresponding Policies, Laws and Technology to counter it. Likewise, with better governance comes more sophisticated criminal activity for which India needs more secure technology, modern Information Technology Laws, Data protection Laws and Privacy Laws and above of Rule of Law.
Legal facts you should know about
In 2010 the Parliament tried to pass the National Identification Authority of India Bill. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, however found the bill unsuitable because of possible national security and potential privacy violations.
In 2016, the Aadhaar Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Parliament) as a “money bill”. This meant that this Bill can be passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) and without the need of approval of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and become an Act (i.e. a Law in force). Why such haste Government of India?
If the Aadhaar initiative is implemented well, it can solve many of India’s administrative issues and even make everyday life easier. It can make doing business easier, make things smoother for start ups, make governance more efficient and effective. It can also help in prevention of crime and even act as a deterrent.
Like any other policy, Aadhaar too has it’s share of merits and demerits, whether its theoretical or implementation based. However, without Privacy Laws in place and proper implementation, it’s demerits shall outweigh its merits.
As you all know this is an important issue concerning all of us, so do not hesitate to share it among your family and friends. The more aware we are, the less vulnerable we shall be.
There are many aspects of it that I must have missed. You are most welcome to mention it along with your opinions, in the comments section below. Thank you 🙂