Tag: India

Can we unlearn things that we learn at home?

One doesn’t always learn from books; some people don’t even like reading! Our primary way to learn is from our experiences. One such priceless experience happened with me recently.

A few weeks ago, my fate took such a turn, that I landed up in a kindergarten as a temporary teacher with no prior experience. My only relevant credentials were that many people, including my family members, close friends and younger people have told me in the past that I am a good teacher and I should seriously consider pursuing it.

Considering my zero experience in the field, I wasn’t assigned direct responsibility of any class of students. I was to merely assist the teachers with the daily work, like checking notebooks and giving exams. Sometimes, I would be assigned some of the lesser interested students a.k.a “weaker” students, where I would personally help them learn and cope up with the class work better.

Within a month my experiences with the children changed my outlook towards them forever. In order to share the same, I would like to share with you two noteworthy anecdotes.

So one morning, a three year old girl, lets call her, Tia, stated to cry unstoppably. It was most shocking for me because she is the quietest girl in the class who always aces her exams and all class work and assignments. And I, on the other hand, cannot bear to see someone cry, especially a tiny beautiful girl like her. I immediately started trying to calm her. I made her drink some water and rubber her back and said some comforting words, she calmed down a bit but she continued to cry silently. Trust me, by now my heart was literally aching. But before I could do anything else, another three year old girl, her classmate, lets call her Pia, came to Tia, held her hand, wiped her tears, and said, “please don’t cry” and to my utter surprise, she immediately stopped crying. And they left smiling hand in hand. Even till this date I don’t know why Tia was crying, but every morning I see Tia and Pia holding hands and playing, which by the way, they never did before that incident. They are inseparable. This incident taught me how simple and unadulterated love and friendship is, and how we complicate it as adults.

Contrastingly, a few days later another rather terrorizing incident occurred. So here is what happened- it was a bright sunny day and the children where practicing writing English alphabets. As usual in every class, there are a few students who are intelligent but moody; and that particular day, for whatever reason one girl, lets call her Rita, wasn’t writing properly and as soon as her class teacher discovered that, she slapped her about ten times for being lazy. And although I was right there, I couldn’t do a thing but stand and watch that heinous incident petrified. My childhood ordeal came back to me. I wanted to undo everything, but I couldn’t! But thence on, I made sure that she reports to me to get her classwork and homework checked. A few days later, a boy from the same class, let’s call him Dave, was punished at the assembly for pushing and hitting his classmate. It was not very difficult for me to discern from where he was learning these things.

Aren’t we adults paradoxical? We as adults practice questionable things and once these impressionable children pick that us from us, we in turn punish them for it.

I have often heard movie lines saying “I don’t teach kids, I go to learn from them.” And I always thought that to be a phoney line. But these two incidents taught me that it’s true; children are born with love in their heart and they are very intelligent, it is us adults who in the pretext of education, in so called educational institutes, instil immorality in them.

My only question is, what if Dave grows up to accept violence as normalcy? Can he unlearn things that he learnt at school and at home?

Rather than us being ablate teach them anything, they could teach us

I would also like to share an excerpt from one of my favourite books, ‘The Idiot’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky- “I was always astonished at how wrong adults were about children, mothers and fathers included. Nothing must be concealed from children under the pretext that they are too small to be told. What an unfortunate and wretched idea! … The grown-ups don’t realize that even when faced with the most difficult problems, a child  may make a very important contribution. … rather than being able to teach them anything, they could teach us.”

PS: Dear Teachers, Please don’t be just another brick in the wall!

The views expressed above are of the author’s only, and are the simplified (not oversimplified) versions of the numerous incidents that occurred.  So different opinions, your thoughts and experiences are welcome 🙂 

I urge you to share share this thought provoking post with your family and friends.

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I time travelled!

Do you remember that book shop owned by William Thacker (Hugh Grant) in the movie Notting Hill? It sold only travel book. When I first saw that movie, I thought “Wow! How many Lonely Planets does he have?” and “Of course he isn’t making profits”! Back then, little did I know about this genre called travel literature and it’s magical powers!

image1A few years later however, on my last birthday, when my brother and his wife, gifted me my very first travel memoir, From Heaven Lake, by the one and only, Vikram Seth, I felt like I discovered a way to escape to any place I want to. In this book, I escaped to Eastern China and hitch-hiked across my way back to India. I felt, I was practically transported to 1982 China and to all the places Mr. Seth visited. I didn’t read the book, I experienced it.

The the diverse landscape of China, the dry  and the cold desert, and the transformation of one into another, the finding of an oasis in the middle of unending inhabitable landmass, and finding unconditional help all along the way; sitting in the comfort of my home I  experienced it all.

A noteworthy fact about this book is that, it hardly contains any pictures and the ones that are there, are in greyscale. Despite that, the author has been able to paint a vivid picture of his travelogue in my head. And wait till you web search all the places he has been to, they are all unimaginably beautiful. Yet, amongst all the literary merits and interesting subject matter, it is the author’s wit, that makes this book extraordinary and worthwhile.  I couldn’t stop myself from grinning, giggling, chuckling and sometimes breaking into a roaring fit of laughter.

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Vikram Seth, beautifully wearing that radiant smile and those sparkly eyes. (an old picture)

He goes on the explain the geographic diversity of China as well. Since the world climatic zones are arranged in latitudinal bands, a longitudinal journey, i.e. North-South, is likely to be much more varied than a latitudinal one, i.e. East-West journey. In western China the main topographical features are so latitudinal, and this enhances the variety of longitudinal journey. Hence, the sandy deserts, cold plateaus, arid land, pastures, glaciers, rigged mountains and passes. Sounds exciting? Now imagine hitch-hiking your way through it!

Mr. Seth has not only made an account of the physical surroundings, but also succeeded in showing the irony of two neighbouring countries India and China, so close to each other, yet culturally and economically so distant and disagreeable. It makes me wonder how the present-day China is like, maybe I’ll find another more recent travelogue.

In the end, if you want to travel and don’t have the resources or the time to, read a good travel memoir and escape to lands as inaccessible as it may seem; and come back rejuvenated. 

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What would you like to do with your time? Comment below.

Have you ever time travelled? Please share your experience in the comment section below or write to me on the ‘contact’ page.

Please don’t forget to share this with your loved ones 🙂

Ciao ❤

India’s struggle for better governance

Introduction India's struggle for better governance

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.

nandan nilekan
Nandan Nilekani

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.

aadhaar

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?

Conclusion

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 🙂 

Ciao ❤ 

India through the eyes of a servant

There are different kinds of fiction books. I know about two varieties now. Type-A are realistic fiction throughout; reading them feels like living them, example War & Peace (https://goo.gl/BimFhn). While Type-B deals with realistic subjects, scenarios but are evidently fiction. Both such varieties are inspired through real life events that has deeply impacted the author and the author has also chosen to write about it. The White tiger is Type-B.

It is Arvinda Adiga’s first book, published in 2008 and also the winner of Man Booker Prize (2008). This book is India through the eyes of an underprivileged village boy who eventually goes on to become “a man”. (How intriguing!) It is not just a rags to riches story, but also portrays the differences between the rich and the poor, their perspectives, attitudes, ambitions and….ethics? No! Certainly not!

I don’t know about the author, but the protagonist is certainly an angry (and sarcastic) young man. This angry young man a.k.a. Balram Halwai (Halwai being a sweetmaker “caste” in India) explores castism and classism in Modern India. Balram Halwai is caught between his necessity to be a faithful servant and his instinct to live up to his father’s dream of- being a man.

This book is also a realistic (not real or general) description (as far as I know) of master-servant relationship and also the servant-servant relationship in India, glimpses of life and governance in villages and mega cities (of India, of course). An independent India that has not yet freed itself of its past.

The book is not to be read for its literary merit, rather for its metaphorical merit. Everything writer in a book has two meanings- one literal and another, what you can interpret. The book is like a thought provoking pop song, its easy listening yet profound. If you read it literally, then it is simply grotesque (and morally deceptive, at least according to me), however if you read between the lines and understand the metaphorical meaning then it turns into something meaningful. The reader needs to know when to take what literally or metaphorically.

The narration is darkly sarcastic and witty. (I’ve never read a book more sarcastic than this one.) And the world through the eyes of Balram Halwai is intriguing. Once you start reading, you’ll finish it within a blink of an eye (of course metaphorically! It’s the Arvinda Adiga effect hehehe)

Favorite quotes

The dreams of the rich, and the dreams of the poor- they never overlap do they?

See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like rich. And what do the rich dream of? Losing weight and looking like the poor.

You were looking for the key for years, but the door was always open.

The moment you recognize what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave.

Fact or fiction?

The White Tiger compels me to think- Does it require a person to do immoral or illegal things to climb up the ladder? In the book, Balram Halwai (the protagonist) murders his employer (and it’s not a spoiler) to climb up the latter and eventually climbs up the ladder. And THAT…precisely makes this book a work of fiction (at least for me).

This is what I’ve learnt from the classic Crime and Punishment (https://goo.gl/NYsieg) that no matter how tempting, compelling or grotesque the circumstances are one must choose virtue over vice- because circumstances change and more importantly – as you sow, so shall you reap. If you do something wrong, it’s guilt will imprison you, even if the government cannot; and you shall suffer until and unless you redeem yourself by suffering for your misdeeds.

(Back to the point) Although the protagonist in this book is shown to have “morally suffered” for it, I’d still like to caution the readers to not get a wrong idea. I insist the readers look at the murder committed by Balram Halwai metaphorically, as in, breaking of the shackles of time immemorial and ever-prevalent corruption, slavery, class difference.

However, from the comfortable position of a reader, I agree with Balram Halwai’s  inevitable metaphorical revolutionary murder, i.e. breaking away.

Lastly, the book is very simplistic, lacks human complexity and metaphorical; suitable for light reading.

Ciao.

PS: I write my blogs with a lot of effort and passion, so if you enjoyed it don’t forget to follow it, like and share it among your friends as it’s my only incentive. And for any queries, comments or if disagree with me don’t forget to write to me in the comment section below and I would love to reply to it. Thank you🙂

Something development this way comes

 

Diversity & Fertility

India, a country of diversity, blessed with fertility. These two are very important virtues,
often taken for granted. You throw a seed and a tree will grow, that’s India. Just pause, and observe the diversity of people, plants, animals, seasons, etc. Twenty nine states (to start with), twenty nine different communities with various sub communities who speak different languages and have different customs. We all know about it (often don’t appreciate it until we go to a foreign country and start appreciating it and once we are back to India, like a pendulum we again start to stereotype and take the beauty of our country for granted, so weird! never mind!). AT LEAST as the next generation we should learn to appreciate the diversity of our nation.

Diversity is an indicator of development, cosmopolitanism and growth; and India is endowed with it, not just our human world, but our natural world as well.

 

aadi

Whenever I read or hear the magic words, diversity and fertility. I start making plans for how I can just pack my bags and go see all the natural wonders of the world. And I start with a nearby park; see a dog fight and run back home shivering with fear; and seeing a lizard in my room is my worst nightmare. But I don’t have even an iota of doubt that I’m an Earth lover, everything about it is absolutely beautiful (even a lizard, as long as I don’t see it in my room). In fact who doesn’t love nature? We all do, maybe in different ways and degrees. The most beautiful views in the world are of natural wonders and not of a mall or a highway and the most expensive and luxurious apartments in cities are either close to a green path or have a beautiful view.

 

Green Wars

Green wars a.k.a. Environmental issues are increasingly becoming an important part of our lives. We are developing respiratory diseases, cancer, facing water management issues, air, water, land pollution and what not. So I have been reading about it from some years now (we all have been) but I never really understood it clearly (until I read ‘Green Wars’ for reasons explained hereunder).

So we all know that any environmental issue comes down to this, sustainable development, the middle path. We all read about illegal mines, dams responsible for floods, building of highways and rail tracks through sanctuaries and pristine forests. Some of it is important for development of the country, but at the cost of environment and the local communities!?. To me it seems like such situations have no solution. I read a lot about it and I have found most of the articles, lectures, etc polarized. Often leaving the reader devastated. On one hand there was an Interstellar situation and one the other hand there was ‘I don’t care, YOLO, I want the American lifestyle’ situation.

While Bahar Dutt’s book the Green Wars provides a deeper insight into the issues and is inspiring. It says (shows) that sustainable development is possible.

I wrote this poem to describe how I feel about Sustainable development:

Two roads diverged into the woods,

One, development,

Another, Environment,

I wanted to travel neither,

As they both are extreme in their own ways,

So I went straight,

It was no road,

An unexplored territory, a tough terrain,

The sustainable development, as it is often called

And that made all the difference.

(The above poem is a modification of ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost)

 

Vital questions to ponder upon (derived from the book)

Q. What is sustainable development?

As defined by the Brundtland commission, 1987 – “Development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

For example, when we have to construct something near an ecologically sensitive area, we do it without effecting or with the least possible effect on the local communities and the natural environment.

Q. Why should I care if an animal becomes extinct?

Extinction is an environmental phenomenon which occurs due to various factors. It is widely believed that we are going through the sixth mass extinction (yes, this has happened five times before, the last one 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs became extinct). We are going through the Anthropogenic mass extinction (it’s called so because we humans are the main cause). The current extinction rates are thousand times higher than they would be had humans weren’t in the picture (Science Journal says so).

So why do I care? This question doesn’t have a simple answer. The reason being, each animal or species affects us in a unique way. For example, the Vultures of India are becoming extinct (the reason is debatable). Vultures are scavengers and they do the vital task of cleaning up to ten million camel, buffalo and cow carcasses in a year. You can call them janitors, cleaning workers, safai karamchari, etc but remember they work for free! The Parsi community who expose their dead to the ‘tower of silence’ are also affected by Vulture extinction. Why? Aren’t there any other scavengers? The answer is, if they don’t eat it, the dogs and rats will. But, vultures are not only scavengers but also play an important role in containing various diseases and prevent it from spreading to other animals. It’s their special quality not every animal can do that. So if Vultures disappear, dogs and rats will eat the carcasses and this will lead to the rise of other scavengers who can’t contain diseases and that will ultimately lead to rise of incidences of Rabies and Anthrax.

Likewise, every animal or species affects us in a unique way. And once an animal or species becomes extinct, there is no way of bringing them back. Just so you know, there is this principle in Environment, the more diverse the environment, the more stable it is; the less diverse the environment the more vulnerable it is.

Q. What is human-animal conflict?

With the increasing population and the simultaneous increase in needs of the people, and the consequential increasing dependence on natural resources has lead to human-animal conflict. The increasing demand has lead to things such as building of dams, mining, clearing land for irrigation, making highways and railways, etc because of which forests are shrinking.

When forests shrink, it becomes less spacious for the plants and animals living in it. It’s the same as a family shifting from a bungalow to a 2 bedroom apartment. The family members used to their private space are left with much less space and they go to their neighbor’s house or the common parks nearby etc. Likewise, animals visit us in schools and human residential areas, attack farmers, cattle, etc.

This being in conflict with the so called ‘human interest’ is human animal conflict. It is considered to be the leading and most comprehensive environmental concerns.

Q. When we have all the Environmental laws, what’s the problem?

It’s execution. Often colored by political ambitions.

For any Law to function, in any (or most) countries in the World, there should be Rule of Law and not Rule of Man or Role of Money, etc. Rule of Law is like being principle centered. Meaning, The Rule (Law) has the supreme power. Now, that’s clearly theoretical because all the rules are ultimately executed by us, human beings. So if any country isn’t governed by Rule of Law, the laws are just ‘something’ written on a paper. It means nothing. Such is the case of Environmental laws in India.

Q. Does everyone love Wild animals and to what extent?

As I mentioned earlier, we all love nature, but its extent and degree varies. The issue I want to point out here is, wherever there is human-animal conflict people start to dislike wild animal’s presence in the vicinity or their proximity. This ultimately leads to violence from both the sides. ( Remember the last time a Snake or a Monkey dropped by for snacks?)

This is where we need to understand that a forest in their home and if we destroy it and reduce its size, we are increasing the chances of human-animal conflict and also risking our lives and much more.

Maybe it’s also the time to show some more love and respect for the environment we live in; and clicking selfies and clicking pictures and uploading on Instagram and Facebook doesn’t count. How about refraining from throwing chocolate wrappers, etc on the roads/parks/ etc. Birds confuse them with food, eat them and die! Tell about it to people around you. Persuade them to not do it again.

Q. What’s the role of religion in environment?

sarus crane
The beautiful, Sarus Crane

This is one very interesting thing I’ve learnt from this book. Religion and Indian environment have a connection. For instance, Sarus Crane, the state bird of Uttar Pradesh is sometimes a nuisance from the farmer’s perspective because they damage their crops, yet the farmers tolerate them and ignore all the damage because in Hindu mythology it has some importance.

I think animals which people find cute or are worshipped or are starred in a cult movie have better chance of survival. But this argument is also valid to an extent only as the river Ganga, which is also Indian’s National River and considered so pious is also one of the most polluted rivers.

The Book

The Author, Bahar Dutt has written about the ground reality. There are many books which academically analyses environmental issues and laws, but what actually happen at the ground level is usually hazy. This book has twelve chapters ( real stories); each of them covers a different aspect about Environment. This work is also an inspiring reflection of the author’s dedication and passion for environment. The book also introduces the reader to a number of wild animals and a lot of interesting things about them. For example, Hoolock Gibbon is also know by the locals as the dukhi bandar (sad monkey) because of its expression. So just for fun, you can call you friend Hoolock Gibbon instead of dukhi bandar! hehehe…

The book is an easy read and it’ll leave you with a much better understanding of your environment. So, please find time to read it.

The Author

bahar dutt
Bahar Dutt

Green Wars, dispatches from a vanishing world is written by Bahar Dutt. She is an animal lover, (also) an environmental journalist, a conversation biologist who has actually done some serious conservation work in India and around the world (and not just a degree holder). Being an environmental journalist isn’t so easy and romantic as it may seem. It’s very challenging. Tight budgets, pressure from the producer to dramatize the issue, strict deadlines and animals don’t show up easily in the thick forests, vulnerability to zoonotic diseases (transferred from animals to humans), travelling to remote places, sometimes too dusty, too hot or too cold and not falling sick.

Conclusion

In the end, I’d say, it’s easier to call environmentalists anti-national, anti-developmental, etc but things not so simple. Making developmental decisions which are sustainable and inclusive is very tricky and even more difficult is their execution.

Once I was studying about plastic pollution in South Asia and as I studied it I discovered that Plastic is a wonderful invention. Most of the things we use, carpets, fleece, pens, paint, phones, car accessories, clothes, cosmetics, face scrubs, etc are all made up of plastic. Now if we decide to get rid of plastic from our lives, economies will collapse, half of the things we are using will disappear forever; we just cannot life without plastic.

Scientists are also trying to invent biodegradable plastic made up of farm waste or corn juice. But when we are already facing food security issues, how can we grow corn just to make biodegradable plastic. Plus, it also have other practical issues.

So all we can do it use plastic responsibly. Educate people, consumers, manufacturers, etc as to how to use it. And scientists are already in the process of devising a method to effectively recycle it.

Likewise there are various environmental issues which are difficult to solve and we have to choose the middle path.

 

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MS & RADHA: Saga of Steadfast Devotion

This blog is based on the book MS & Radha: Saga of Steadfast Devotion, gifted to me by my friend, Anant. Before he gifted me this book I was oblivious of the priceless treasure of Carnatic music and the music goddess MS Subbulakshmi.

Born and bought up in Madhurai, MS (as she is affectionately known) grew up in a very strict and orthodox atmosphere. “We were poor, but rich in music.” MS said once. 225491cb0c426967043dac545c4fa14d--indian-music-wedding-dj

At a very early age it was not just singing that came naturally to her, she absorbed music like a blotting paper. It is quite interesting to know that as a child when her family couldn’t afford radio, her neighbor used to play Marathi Bhajans (Marathi devotional songs) and just by listening she picked it up and practiced until she perfected her pronunciation.

MS from an early age was exposed to concert music and musicians, for musicians who came to Madhurai to give concerts, rarely left without greeting, Shanmukhavadivu, MS’s mother and a Veena player.

MS was married to T Sathashivam, a freedom fighter, a person of who was more concerned with the destiny of nation, than personal advantage. Sathashivam was extremely caring and was dedicated to provide the best prospects to MS, he was also short tempered especially when anyone, questioned or disrespected MS, himself or music. MS always gave all the credit of her success to her husband “I am indebted to him…ignoring his own comforts and conveniences he has labored day and night to bring me name and fame.”

Due to his political involvement, MS was able to have an audience of the whos who of the political scenario at that time, including Gandhi ji and Jawaharlal Nehru. Maybe it was Subbulakshmi’s good fortune that the right people came into her life at the right time, but MS was soon a national icon and an international celebrity.

In the days of Indian freedom struggle, MS’s music was not just entertainment, but it stroked the idea of truth, spirituality, patriotism, sacrifice, compassion, ahimsa (non-violence) & aparigraha (to give away/ tyag).

The book is filled with remarkable heartwarming stories of her life which will leave you awestruck. For example, Once during the studio recording of Meera’s songs in Bombay, a lanky girl with twin plaits heard Subbulakshmi for the first time & refused to record after her, “not today, not after that” she breathed. That girl was Lata Mangeshkar.

mss-katcheryMS wasn’t only a singer, she was devoted to music.

“Even if the mother forgets the child, and the child forgets the mother who bore it,

Even if life forsakes the body & the body forsakes the soul,

Even if the heart abandons the art it had absorbed & eye fails to blink,

I shall not forget the lord who resides within pure souls.”

These are the lines from one of her signature Tamil songs and it is an appropriate example to show that for MS music was like worshipping god and she was absolutely devoted to it. For her even at the age of 81 years, every concert was an examination for which she practiced with sincerity.

She would deliver the most complex performances with demonic practice and incredible memory. MS invariably condemned looking at the written lyrics while singing; she felt it was an insult to the composer. “How can you experience the feeling of the verse, if you are unsure of the words?”

For her, performance was not the end of music, if was merely an outward manifestation of a long process of internalization whereby melody & meaning became a part of singer’s psyche.

To MS every audience was important, once two villages walked 20 miles, but arrived too late for the concert, when they knocked at the door; despite being tired she made them sit and sang for them with same shraddha.

She treated the drivers of VIPs who visited her place with equal respect and were served with the same food. She donated all the wealth she earned for charity and kept only 7 saris in her wardrobe.

Awards and honors of every kind rained upon MS throughout her life, yet she remained unchanged and untouched by all that adulation. It is funny how she was afraid of cockroaches and lizards and never slept without beaming her torch on the ceiling to check if a lizard had strayed in, yet how perfectly she performed in front of thousands of people. MS was docile, brought up in a very strict environment, yet she did not hesitate in making strong decisions, despite stren disagreement with family. This shows, she was strong when needed.

However at the same time she would surrender to her husband and despite all the fame and honour she earned, never did she forego her household duties. She was able to raise four kids very lovingly and did all the household chores. Of course there were times when she needed help, but this a very important thing to note for a modern day woman, struggling for more time.

This book is also filled with lots of amazing pictures of her life, which makes it an interesting read. It has also taught me so many things, life skills, morals, innocence, childlike devotion and a lot more. And now I am off to listening to MS Subbulakshmi’s songs on YouTube.

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