Recently, I have been seeing a lot of news and opinions posted on LinkedIn about the wrong and unethical work practices in the ed-tech companies in India. Many new age internet and social media activists have been dragged into this debate and brawl against such companies. Even these companies have been threatening with legal actions ( some have filed cases as well.) against such activists and those who had witnessed unethical work practices while working in such companies. I won’t get into the legalities and who is right or wrong as its upto courts to decide.
But I would like to add my two cents on the current picture of education in India. Infact, the picture is so gloomy that education has become business and a money minting machine these days. Because such companies know very well that in India, only two domains are such that they are never questioned about their value for money or even if they are worth paying for? Any guess what they could be? ..Well, they are Education and Religion.
The Indian family ( especially middle class) can spend millions on their kids education and never even question if its really worth paying so much. The ROI is hardly ever taken into consideration, atleast when it comes to schooling and bachelors degree. Maybe masters and even higher studies might not be favoured by the families, but basic schooling and college education is a must. One of the reasons for Indian parents/families having blind faith in spending exorbitantly on education is because, unlike USA or other western countries, where a person can progress in life even without a formal college degree or even a school dropout, provided he/she has the required skills earned through the practical lessons of life. But in India, a school and college degree is a one way ticket to the success and materialistic progress in life. It is impossible for anyone without a degree to excel in life, even if they might have the skills acquired with practical experience. Even though exceptions exists, but they are as rare as a honest politician to find.
And the real problem is even if that degree is not even worth the paper, still millions are spent on kids to get that degree with a blind hope that degree will shower on him/her a good job or even a good bride. Education in India is less for gaining skills or even less for learning, but certainly valued more for social status, internal family/neighbour jealousy, or even just as a pre-requisite for appearing for govt jobs like civil services. That’s why it only happens in India, that a young engineer also has a MBA degree but works in Civil services. Even strange, is that many doctors also try desperately for getting into police force or administrative services. Does it sound peculiar?
So, when the purpose of education as perceived by the people is just for getting a job, gaining social respect, winning a family feud, or just to qualify for the particular entrance exams, then no wonder the quality of students and learning experience degrades. And this provides a perfect environment for such ed-tech companies to mint money. In short, vultures are invited to have a feast…..
So, when we see these companies asking Indian parents to pay lakhs of rupees for a 3rd grade kid to excel in life( I wonder how that would be..) then parents do not hesitate ( most do not..). When a ‘XYZ’ ed-tech company tells the parents that they teach 6 year old kids to learn coding and thus become the future Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, then parents do not mind. When ‘ABC’ ed-tech company tells the people that they teach the best courses online, not as a teacher, but as a partner for their kids bright future, then it is hard to resist the dream of their kids becoming successful one day.
This is the background on which such ed-tech companies are rapidly becoming unicorns and their founders billionaires. They don just teach kids and students about education, but they also teach parents to dream. I am afraid if that dream might someday turn out as a mirage.
Today, when public schools in India are failing ( with the surprising exception of Delhi), when in person coaching or tuition has become a thing of the past due to Covid, where teachers teach for the sake of making ends meet, where students learn just to get a degree and go to America, and where parents are willing to spend lakhs and crores on classes, tuition fees, books and exam preps, then is there any better environment than this for the business of education to prosper in India!
Recently I watched a panel of media experts discuss about the change in the media world after Covid-19 in India. Here are the few points which formed the gist of the discussion
-> Covid has impacted the media world as never before. Print media, TV news, radio, digital media, social media platforms, OTT etc.
-> The subscriptions and readers of print media like newspapers, journals etc is decreasing for the last few years, especially since the onset of the covid. This might be due to the fear of covid, as well as the availability of digital options readily available to the reader.
-> Infact, reading has decreased nowadays. No one wants to read a long article or even a book. So, summary of the article/book is what readers prefer. This has huge consequences on the society because this shows the patience of reading and appreciating the author’s efforts is dwindling. And that’s why we see, audio books, or youtube videos showing the summary is viewed or listened more than actual reading.
-> TV is Dead! Yes, this has been the common understanding of the most of the experts. Since last few years, the audience is shifting to Over the Top (OTT) mediums as these mediums have smartly bundled the viewers choices ( for all age groups and genres), and marketed them at an affordable price. Hence, viewers now prefer to watch a movie or TV show on Netflix or Prime, rather than on traditional TV or even theatres. This has also impacted the advertising revenues which earlier television used to have the largest chunk, while in recent years, it has been consistently reducing.
-> The readers and audience of all backgrounds have access to Digital mediums today. This is because of the affordable and fast internet access provided by companies like Jio in India. Due to which, many people prefer to read news online instead of buying newspaper, prefer to watch TV shows and movies on mobile.
-> Digital is the King of the media nowadays. This is the because every medium has started its own digital platform, be it newspapers like Hindu with subscription based options, Radio channels like Radio Mirchi or All India Radio with their apps which can be installed on Iphone ( which lacks FM receiver…strangely), Digital journals, magazines, bundling of news app like InShorts etc. Everyone is using Digital space to reach out to the readers who have switched from traditional paper/TV based medium to digital-online-mobile medium.
-> Radio is still holding its ground due to its real life experience unlike songs app like Spotify, Saavn and Amazon Music which has millions of songs. Even though the subscribers are increasing but Radio remains the medium for millions who have mastered the art to tune their work with radio’s frequency at the same time. Hence, for advertisers, radio remains an important medium.
-> In India, earlier, English newspapers and channels used to be the preferred option for elite audience. But now as English is becoming more common due to spread of internet and mobiles, its audience is growing. But at the same time, vernacular remains a strong medium as the vernacular newspapers like Dainik Bhaskar, Sakaal, Ananda Bazaar Patrika etc have also started their own digital mediums and apps to retain their audience. Hence, the competition between English and vernacular unlike previous times is growing.
-> Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Koo, are becoming the channels for staying updated with the news and current affairs. Also, the option to express the comments, share the news & content, like or dislike, subscribe makes these channels more attractive than the traditional filtered and edited news channels. But it is also worth noting that the traditional news channels and papers are more trustable as compared to social media, which is also been targeted by fake news and propaganda theorists. Hence, the user has to maintain discretion while accessing such mediums.
-> Finally, the popularity of Youtube channels, podcasts and blogging as a medium to express opinions is ever increasing. Even though the revenue or advertising is yet not well matured unlike the TV, but viewers prefer to watch a favorite YT channel over traditional TV news channels for information. This has led to mass explosion of data and information on the YT and it might even lead to mis-information and hence, proper and authenticate content delivery is expected.
Thus, the media world is going through a revolution and as of now, it seems that Digital is going to be the future of media.
I clicked this pic today. Simply love this. It reminds me that nature is so beautiful. Even something as simple as sunset can make us go deep into thoughts and contemplation. We live with so many worries everyday, but life doesn’t value those worries. Because at the end, all worries, and stress are momentary. Just like this sunset is also for finite time, we really don’t have time to over think about our past or future either. Time just slips away, people move on, new opportunities come in, happiness and sadness eventually fade away, nothing is constant. Only change is constant, Life is just like a wave which travels, and matching the right frequency is needed to tune in to the right music. That’s when life becomes a celebration. Enjoy the simple beauties of nature, be kind to people, help someone, don’t overthink or over work as well. Because the world really doesn’t care if we have worked for 8 hours or 18 hours a day. Our success and failures are our achievements, the world often judges based on their own logic. We can’t act or live as others want, all we can do is just live the right way doing the right thing. Let truth be on our side and let’s view the world with a lens of kindness and curiosity, because if we don’t, and just rush after money, fame or power, sooner or later, it will slip away just like life. To value the important things is what matters the most.
I am writing this article amidst the new lockdowns imposed by the govt in my state. Its been an year since we had seen the lockdowns before, and here now, we are witnessing this again. Looking at the past one year and how Covid has evolved with new waves, and changing the way of living, many of us fear now that this might be the permanent way of life here onwards.
Even though lockdowns might be one of the weapons to ‘break the chain’ of covid wave, but no one can deny the fact that lockdowns are simply brutal. Shutting down the entire state or country has tremendous consequences. We all have seen it firsthand last year. The business cannot sustain, workers lose their jobs, shopkeepers have to close their shops, tech crowd has to work from home for long hours, staying at home results in increased psychological stress, anxiety about the future, kids and college students get affected as their exams are either canceled or postponed, health care warriors have to fight everyday against this virus by often risking their life, which results in enormous physical and mental stress on them as well. Besides law enforcement has to work day and night to administer the lockdown measures, which involves a lot of efforts on their side. All this has fundamentally disrupted our way of life.
But whats the solution? Is it like we have to accept this is going to be the way of living until all get vaccinated in the world, or herd immunity sets in? This might take years. Currently whatever alternatives we are applying are temporary. Like work from home can never be a permanent solution. Because it is evident that not all can work from home, except the tech jobs. Even for them, this is becoming more and more stressful and boring. Work needs physical interaction, social exposure and real life experience. Not all professions involve coding which do not need any pre-requisites, except coding knowledge. But what about sales? or Aviation pilot? or even field technician? Can they work from home permanently? The answer is obvious No!
Sometimes, I find myself fortunate just like my colleagues who can work from home as our work demands a laptop, internet connection ( ofcourse, stable and fast..) and a working brain..thats it. Be it my tech job or my writing passion, I can manage things from home. But I feel incredibly bad for those who can earn their bread and butter only by selling stuff everyday, or whether in transportation business. I cannot imagine how they must be making both ends meet.
While on the other side, for some rich and influential groups, it is business as usual. The govt in my state is busy involved in looting , as they call ‘vasooli’ from the people. The stock market has crossed 50k mark and those with the money and power, are reaping the profits out of this bloated market. The IPL games are about to begin and even covid second wave cant stop them playing, rather entertaining as I hardly regard IPL matches as professional cricket matches. They are more or less like the assembly of rich businessmen and women who own the teams, the advertisers, the cheer leaders and the multi-crore earning mercenary players. Even film industry continues with their entertainment as usual even though Covid has done that job better. The YouTube is filled with newly educated pundits making videos with their precious commentary on politics, economics and scandals. Even elections are in full swing in five states in India, and the rallys are conducted in such a massive way as if to wonder if the people there are living in an iron curtain, with no knowledge of covid precuations. The leaders are busy bashing each other, asserting their Hindu religion and chanting name of Ram and Durga Mata. For all of such businessmen, politicians, cricketers, stock Guru’s, filmstars, covid is something which stays away from their closely guarded citadel. For them, covid is something which just affects the poor and the middle class, as if they deserve them…
As lockdowns are back and so are all the adjustments and compromises we( the common masses) have to do, I reminisce Ghalib’s famous shayari..
गुजर जायेगा ये दौर भी, जरा सा इतमिनान तो रख,
जब खुशियाँ ही नहीं ठहरी, तो गम कि क्या औकात है !
This time will also pass, have some patience
When happy days did not last for long, how can sad days endure forever…..
What my young generation wants to do for the country..
I recently read a book written by Chetan Bhagat ( the famous engineer turned banker turned fiction writer….thats quite a change of career..) – ‘What Young India wants‘. This is his first non-fiction book in which he comments about the ground reality in India until 2012 when the book was published. I have read his other fiction books like Five point someone, and later watched a couple of movies based on his books like 2 States, One night at call center, and Half Girlfriend. But this book is quite interesting as it sheds light on what the youth of India really wants…
India is the youngest country in the world, because it has the world’s largest young population between 18 and 35 years. I proudly belong to this group. So, this book is actually a bundling of my generation ideas and dreams about what we want to achieve in life, What India do we want to live in, or even if I can kindly quote JFK, with the question of ‘what we can do for India!’
The author pinpoints quite a number of issues which the youth faced in 2012. Those were my college days and until now, some of the best days I ever had in my life personally. I was securing good grades in my engineering exams, I was hard working, sincere and very ambitious. I was also very optimistic about my life. But outside my happy go lucky life, the country was digesting quite a number of corruption scandals, Anna movement ( or Kejriwal dominated movement), and also eagerly waiting for the next leader, Narendra Modi to come to the stage and take charge of the country. We all were so tired of everyday corruption scandals, rape news and lack of governance displayed by the then UPA govt, that we all just knew one answer, that only Modi can fix this mess!….
And so it happened. Modi won in 2014 and India finally got a new govt. Since the last 7 years, things have changed in India and in my personal life to such an extent, that when I returned back to India from United States in 2020, I could not believe this is the India I lived in until mid-2015. We know longer hear of any corruption news, rather we see development and progress has become the new headline. I dont want to write what this govt has achieved in the last 7 years, and how India has changed and even unchanged in some sectors, as it isn’t congruent with the topic of the article.
What does my generation want? I think quality education and employment tops the priority. Indian bright minds still suffer from lack of good colleges, updated industry or research oriented curriculum and employment opportunities where we can learn and contribute to the country. Thats why we see many of my friends are in USA and other countries. Even I went and gained a masters degree, worked for sometime to gain the industry experience. Even though I am aware that govt cannot provide job opportunities to everyone, and the onus lies on people and industry to support startups, innovate and create more and more job opportunities.
But equal responsibility lies on govt to support the emerging startups with a conducive environment. Even family often wants their kids to become engineer and move to Silicon valley, or become a civil servant and live a comfortable life on govt perks. Because this will ensure that their kids future will be secured. I believe this myopic mentality has been the root cause of not creating enough job opportunities in the last several decades. We want this expectation from society to stop. Let us become what we want in life. Not everyone can become engineer or bureaucrat. Some of us want to dance, or paint, or even write like I am doing right now. Sometimes, I wish I had become a writer than an engineer, but the lack of prospects to earn money through writing in India and fear of losing family support, makes us persue a society demanding career. Young India wants this to stop…
Then, societal issues has always been a concerning issue for us, especially caste, religion and marriage perspective. Its been 75 years since India became independent and our founding fathers imagined a India which would be free of caste & religion based discrimination. Hardly has this happened. We see how our parents and grandparents generation continue to follow the caste system. We cant bond too much with people of other religions or lower caste. A upper caste guy cant marry a lower caste girl, and vice versa. Friends are made based on the food we eat, whether is it veg or non-veg, beef or chicken,…Ohh, Beef is banned in India now, forgot about that…If different caste or religion couples fall in love and decide to marry, then they are not only opposed but even sometimes ostracized and killed by the ultra-conservatives in the name of honor killing. I find all this to be preposterous. Is this the India we wanted in 2021? On one side we watch American TV sitcoms like Friends, and learn to become liberal, but on the other side, we are conservative enough to live in a ghetto of our own caste and religion. I do not blame this on the parents generation as they were brought up very conservatively, but I feel bad when some of my own friends and colleagues endorse such caste and religion based discrimination. This is something young India wants to stop.
Finally, my young generation is very hard working, sincere and hopeful about the future. We know we are at a remarkable time in India, when all we can do is move ahead and develop the country. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, ‘There is no Alternative’. Similarly, young India has no alternative but to work for the betterment of the country and society. Gone are the days when people used to run away to USA and other countries for better life and opportunity. I know people still are migrating abroad and causing brain-drain, but times have changed and seeing the strict immigration laws in countries like USA, reduced employment opportunity due to Covid and increasing anti-immigrant wave sweeping the world, its good that we stay or return back to India and work for it. India needs startups, India needs innovation, India needs to win in Olympic Games, India needs excellent writers, teachers, researchers, sports psychologists etc..India even needs well educated and professional politicians…and only my generation can provide this and solve all the above mentioned problems which we are facing even today. This is our responsibility and burden. But as I said, we got no alternative.
Interestingly and coincidentally,’Young India’ was the weekly paper/journal published by M K Gandhi from 1919 to 1931. It was Gandhi who inspired the then youth of India to fight for freedom until we won in 1947. Similarly, I hope this young Indian generation also works and strives for making India a strong nation by 2047 when India will mark its centenary of winning independence. I hope the history will get repeated again….
The story of talent getting noticed and hope for a better life..
You can also listen to this blog post as a podcast
Over this long weekend, I found some time to watch this amazing movie: Yeh Ballet. Another thing I did is that I completed reading one book ( What young India wants), and I plan to write its review in the next post.
The movie is superb and heart-touching in almost every aspect of film making. The story, the actors and their background in Mumbai, their struggles and finally, making their dream come true has been filmed wonderfully. Kudos to Soni Taraporewala for making such an amazing movie.
The topic of this movie is infact very unique because even though ballet is world famous in many parts of the world, but somehow, it never entered India. Maybe India already had a lot of its own ethnic and cultural dance forms, that there was simply no space for Ballet to occupy. This movie however is based on a true story. An Israeli-American ( Saul Aaron, based on real life ballet teacher Yehuda Maor) is invited to Mumbai by a dance academy to teach ballet to its students. The dance academy has quite a number of rich kids from affluent parts of Mumbai, but somehow, two guys ( Amiruddin Shah and Manish Chauhan) both of them being from slum areas of Mumbai, are miraculously allowed to enter this academy. And by their talent and a bit of luck, the teacher, Saul spots both of them and finds that amongst all the students, only these two guys have the perfect talent and physique to become a ballet dancer. Both of them are exceptionally talented in other dance forms as well, including b-boying, hip-hop and whacking. But the only thing they lacked is money and parents support. Manish had to leave his house as his father disapproved of him and he chose his dreams of becoming a world famous ballet dancer over other comforts. The movie shows how much hardships he had to endure to make his dream come true.
Amiruddin or simply as Amir, also came from slum area and suffered from bias, street fighting and lack of family support for his dancing skills. Later, Saul took care of both of them and allowed them to stay with him in his house. They both learnt a lot from Saul and he stayed with them in their times of need. Infact when they both got selected to attend the ballet course in America, but couldnt make it to the US visa due to their lack of financial assets, Saul deposited his own money in both of their accounts to make sure his poor yet talented students get to attend the ballet course. I wonder who does this in real world which is filled with cynicism and jealousy. This scene touched my heart!
Finally, they did make it to the ballet school in America and the movie ends with an happy ending. But it does teach a lot of lessons and insights. After watching this movie, I got to know how much talent the poor kids living in slum areas of Mumbai and even other parts of India have! This often goes unnoticed most of the times. Amir and Manish were lucky to get discovered by Saul and finally they could make their dream come true.
The film portrays the typical expectation of Indian parents to ignore their kids talents in all fields, except academics. Both Amir and Manish family disapproves their sons dancing talent. Only later do they realize how fortunate they are for God and Allah to bestow them with a son having such an incredible talent which is found in one in millions. I wonder how many Amir and Manish are there in India, who would be having some gifted talent in arts, dance, music, writing or painting, but often gets neglected just because the Indian Dream only allows Engineers and Doctors to be respected and paid well. The rest professions according to the middle class parents are ticket to poverty and joblessness.
Finally, the most touching character is that of the ballet teacher, Saul Aaron. Where can we find such benevolent and selfless teachers in this world today? On one side the academia and teaching profession is tainted with obsession for money and promoting nepotism by supporting only those kids whose parents are rich and elite, while on the other side, the world still has teachers like Saul who are kind and professional enough to support their students, purely on talent, and irrespective of their background. The film does have a scene where one of the rich students parents, whose daughter could not make it to the ballet course due to lack of her talent, tries to question the academy owner if those slum kids got an admission based on reservation! This is hillarious as the academy owner had to clarify that there is no concept of reservation in ballet schools in America. Even in 2021, the fact that Indian society is obsessed with medieval concepts of caste and reservations, and often sidelines talent is deeply troubling. But inspite of all this, both of them could successfully make it to the ballet school. Indeed, fortune favors the brave and the talented…
I end this movie review here and would like to tell my dear readers to watch this movie on Netflix. Its simply worth watching!
This post illustrates some of the debunked myths for the past one year about Covid in India
The 23rd, March 2021 marks the first anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdowns in India. Initially, they were laid out only for 21 days, with the intention to defeat the virus, but soon it was realized that India was not isolated or even prepared enough to end the detrimental effects of the pandemic any sooner, which the world then was already suffering with. Hence, the lockdowns got extended for several weeks and even months in many parts of the country as we know. 2020 turned out to be very much an odd year in most of our lives, something my generation will not forget for years to come. A lot has been written and discussed, and hence, I won’t get into how it affected our life, environment, jobs, economy, politics, pretty much everything as we know, hardly leaving anything untouched.
Now, as its been an year since the lockdown started, and even though India is not having nationwide lockdown, unlike few countries like UK and Brazil, but the worrying fact is that the coronavirus is spreading again. Many are calling it as second wave, or even third wave, many of us do not agree which wave it really is. But the fact that inspite of the lockdowns, and even after vaccines are available, its quite worrying that the virus is not in control yet, in many parts in India, especially in Maharashtra, which is one of the worst affected states.
Having observed the pandemic and its effects over the year, there are many questions and even myths which were brought up and even circulated using the ubiquitous social media. During the initial few days after March 23, 2020, when the number of covid cases were comparatively less in India, people willingly played the role of self-declared experts and pundits, and tried to explain the low number of cases due to a myriad reasons. Some of which include, ( with my personal experience)
Its because of our beloved PM Narendra Modi and the nationwide lockdowns which he laid down quite early in India.
Because India has a hot and dry climate unlike the cold and brutal winters in USA and Europe
Maybe, because our Indian food is the best in the world! We don’t eat meat, we eat cooked (overly-cooked) food, add spicy masala’s, avoid burgers, coke, or pizza unlike Americans who live on such foods, and hence, our immunity is high due to the healthy food consumption.
Someone even said that because India is a spiritual land, and hence, the mystic powers of meditating monks and all religious practices are protecting us from the virus.
Because India is not very clean country, with polluted air, unclean water and dirty roads, hence, Indians have developed the immunity after living for decades in such relatively unclean surroundings, as compared to America or Europe.
I even heard that India got saved because we have been practicing social distancing naturally for years, with our habits like doing ‘namaskar’ instead of shaking hands, avoiding touching, hugging, kissing or being close to each other consistently unlike western culture etc. I found this to be hilarious!
And finally, India had a milder form of covid virus, as compared to the extremely mutated and fatal ones in America, UK and other countries.
Looking at some of the above reasons, I am sure many of us might have thought them to be ludicrous. Because the fact that even if they were true, still India has the world’s third largest number of covid deaths, after USA and Brazil. Let us debunk some of the above myths or so called explanations given last year.
First of all, PM Narendra Modi and his government did take a pro-active and brave decision to lockdown the country much before the number of cases were detected. This was thought to be quite a prescient move. And it did pave off for sometime, as India did not see any rise in the number of cases for the next 2 months, after lockdowns started. But the irony is that as soon as lockdowns were lifted, the cases escalated. On one side, the Modi praisers had lauded PM’s decision to lockdown the nation, while later the opposition and Modi critics started mocking him and the government for having shown the world how a failed lockdown looks like! Well, the rise in number of cases later were inevitable considering the number of people flying back to India from abroad, high population, dense cities, and that lives of millions of Indians depend on jobs for which they cannot work from home. Also, the poor medical infrastructure in rural areas led to surge in the number of cases, which happened when the lockdown was harshly imposed over night, which led to the exodus of millions of workers and labourers from cities to villages ( walking all the way..), thereby carrying the virus to the remote areas. Many experts agree today that the way the lockdowns were imposed could have been better managed and coordinated.
Hot and Dry climate: This turned out to be a myth as we see many countries all over the world including those in hot and dry areas have covid infections. How can we explain Brazil to be the second worst affected country in the world, if it has the most hot and humid climate with the vast Amazon forest? Infact, in India, the worst affected states are Maharashtra and Kerala, which are faraway from cold winters of the north!
Indian food: Well, even though the food intake is quite different than western countries, with Indian food having a lot of varieties and being more healthy, yet none of the evidence suggests any relation between food and virus. Our food might increase the immunity, but that will be too generic reason to elucidate. Also, over the last few years, the way Indians eat food has changed a lot, especially due to the american influence.
India as a spiritual land: This is one of the most uncanny reasoning I had ever heard. Also, its very Indian in a way. Because often we Indians like to relate everything that happens in the world to some kind of astrology, mysticism and supernatural powers. However, it is true that India is a holy land, having millions of ardent religious followers, and monks living in the mountains. The family culture is exceptionally strong and Indians are very religious at heart. But that doesn’t mean that this good karma will save the nation. If it was really there, then how can some of the most horrifying cases of rapes, murders, caste based violence and corruption happen in this holy land. Metaphorically, I like to relate this to the holy Ganga which is pure where it originates (Gangotri), however it gets polluted when it reaches the ghats of Varanasi and Bengal. Why? Because the people pollute this sacred river! This habit to surrender ourselves by praying to God, sadhus and remembering ancient history, has led to the degradation of science and rationalism in this country today.
Inbuilt immunity: Well, I do agree to some extent that this might have made us stronger when it comes to immunity. Having lived in USA and India, I can relate both the worlds. I saw how safe and isolated Americans live, staying indoors, with centralized ventilation system, visiting doctor for every small illness, consistently taking medicines and pills, eating frozen & raw foods, breathing only filtered air etc. While on the other side, Indians are used to eating outside food which is never frozen, but always fresh. We are used to polluted airs and water, very few air conditioners in our houses, and avoiding visiting doctors by home treatment of minor illness using ayurveda and herbs.
Natural Social distancing: I find this to be untrue. Because even though, we usually avoid direct touching or hugging others as western culture exhibits, but considering the number of people living together in India, like joint families, and even traveling in local trains, buses and public places, its difficult to avoid contact with other people. But its a miracle that some of the worst crowded places in India, like Dharavi slum in Mumbai, for which many feared that it will be terribly affected, actually turned out to be covid-free, or less affected by covid. Hence, its hard to say, if any naturally social distancing helped India. But as per guidelines, social distancing is a must to follow, inspite of any local conditions.
Finally, India having a milder form of virus is debatable. Even though it is proved that UK and other countries have much deadlier mutant of virus, and India did a good job in shielding itself from those deadly mutants. But still the danger of those mutants entering India has not subsided yet.
Hence, looking back at one year, and having read, talked about some of the above questions and myths, this post briefly summarizes what Covid has taught us and even debunked some of the myths. But the virus has not gone yet. As per universal recommendations, we have to wash our hands, practice social distancing, avoid crowded places, get vaccinated as soon as possible, and stay at home to avoid the spread of virus.
I hope things get better soon, and lets be rational and open-minded regarding any myths and reasoning based on the local situations.
Today, we are surrounded by all the modern technology and amenities. Every aspect of life is touched by some form of technology or an intelligent machine. One of the most vital aspect in human life is communication. This is what separates us from other animals. That’s why we humans are called social animals. And we have developed all sorts of devices including telephone to mobile phones, internet to social media, news media to radio transmission to facilitate this communication.
We are all connected in this web of information and communication. There are hardly any places on earth, where any network range, be it cellular or satellite cannot be reached. The world has been brought together with this invisible links of radio waves. We can talk to anyone, anytime, anyplace on the planet within seconds. If we cannot talk, we can leave a message, send a video, update our status, tweet something, post on the wall, and so many other options are available.
Yet, amidst all this digital crowd, we seem to be lonely. It’s as if we are lost in the crowd. This is baffling because inspite of all the tech devices at our finger touch, still our network seems to be lost somewhere. And this network is from our mind, our heart. We seem to stay away from group. As if we have taken for granted that we can connect with our friends and loved ones, anytime due to all the advanced technology. Yet, we fail to do so.
I wonder how many of us really stay in touch with our good friends? I understand that due to busy work schedule and family responsibilities, its not always possible to stay in the loop. Infact, it is said that after marriage, the couple often lose contact with their oldtime friends. Only after a dozen of years pass by, kids grow up, the mid-life crisis of late 40’s hit us, and then some invitation for a school or college re-union comes up, that when we try to connect back to our friends.
Earlier, there was no Facebook. So, the friends only had a option to connect using either phone or home address, which also changed often. Now, there is no such barrier. Yet, I find that more than 95% of my friends on Facebook, who used to be my good school and college friends are just ‘Digital’ friends today. No one is in touch with each other, even though they are just a click away on the app. While, we might be living in the same city, yet it feels like we all residing on different planets. I feel like they have become something like a fixed deposit investment, which I can use(connect) only when the term is over, like only when there is some kind of re-union or alumni meet, whatsoever.
I have often believed that letters are like the mirror of human mind and expression. Because when we write an informal letter, we often put more in our emotions and expressions than we would on facebook, or whatsapp. Maybe, because we are concerned of our privacy. In older days, this form of letter writing prevailed due to this subtler form of expression. Now, even though it has been replaced by more faster and encrypted ways of communication ( after all, letters were like an open secret, with an end to end non-encrypted transmission) like emails, phone and video calls, but its hard to replace the train of thoughts and ideas which used to get expressed in letters. Thats why all the letter writing between eminent personalities like Gandhi, Tagore, Nehru, Lincoln, Franklin, Vivekananda, Marie Curie, Einstein and many more have been collected and cherished in the form of books and in museums. Because those letters reflect the personality of those great men and women.
Even love letters are considered like a sacred form of expression between the couples. I have always believed that apart from love letters, there is no other form of delicate and honest communication between lovers. Today, lovers use all form of mediums be it facebook, instagram, whatsapp, or even an email to profess their love. Video calls, or proposing directly is the standard norm yet human mind is elusive. Because the mind often misinterprets the direct communication face to face, or voice as well. Only eyes tell the truth.
This poem in hindi perfectly tells what eyes speak..
आँखे सब बोलती हैं
सारे राज़ खोलती हैं
आँखे आईना होती है मन का
आँखे बोलती है दिल की ज़ुबानी
कह देती है अनकहीं कई कहानी
इंसान कितना भी छुपा ले जज्बातो को
मन कितना भी बहला ले दिमाग़ को
चेहरा झूट बोल सकता है
मुश्कान झूठी हो सकती है
आँखे सब बोलती है
सारे राज़ खोलती है
Eyes speak everything
they unravel all the secrets
they are the mirror of human mind
they speak from the heart
however man tries to hide his emotions
or mind tries to elude the brain
human face can be liar
or smile can also be liar
but eyes reveal everything
they unravel all the secrets...
Just like eyes, the letters are the perfect medium to convey what the eyes tell. I am sure that however innovative ways of proposing or expressing love might happen, be it like proposing near the Niagara falls, or in front of Taj Mahal, the subtle expression and emotions which letters convey cannot be emulated.
But the sad aspect is today, letters communication have become rare like a good politician. The most obvious reason is there is no need to write letters, when we have more faster and simpler tools like emails, phone calls, text, video etc etc..I agree but still I feel this form of communication ( especially informal)has to be preserved. Because letters open a new door of mind which is more mature and understanding, which a messenger text or whatsapp message cannot.
I am ending this post for now. As we becoming more and more busy and occupied, the communication channels are getting closed day by day. Its like we are experiencing solitude amidst a crowd, and that can be one of the worst evolution of humans. Because we being social animals, and all these communication technologies were meant to increase human contact, but rather, what we are seeing is we are just communicating with the machines, and not humans. Instead of getting closer, we getting drifted apart from our friends and loved ones.
Soon a day will come, where a robot will take care of all our calls, messages, filter out the important and spam ones, send a reply on our behalf. I am sure this will happen some day because of the way AI and robotics is advancing…
Recently, I watched the Netflix documentary – Operation Varsity Blues: The college admission scandal. After watching this documentary, I am stunned with the way this scandal was carried out. I had always heard of scandals and frauds in banking ( like Wall street – Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme), government ( Watergate), and mostly in Hollywood high profile scandals.
But this one in the field of education is something rare. Maybe becuase there is already a way to enter the college which is known as ‘back door policy’ where any interested student for an elite college can gain admission after making a hefty donation to the college or university. But what Rick Singer ( who is accused of carrying out this admission scandal) did was to open a ‘side door’ by faking the students profile with fake SAT or ACT test scores, and even wrongly displaying to the admissions team about being an athletic recruit. It has been covered nicely in this documentary and it sheds light on this obsession of parents to use any illegal means to make their kids get into the elite schools, by using their money and Rick’s ponzi scheme.
But apart from such admission scandals, what bothers me more is this hype to get into elite colleges and universities. In USA, be it Harvard, or Stanford, or in India, be it IIT and IIM ( Thank God, I haven’t heard any admission scandal in IIT or IIM so far). I can understand that it is very natural for anyone to aspire to get into such top colleges, as they have proven over time and with their thousands of successful alumni, that its indeed one of the life’s changing experiences to enter and graduate from such Ivy league colleges. The right kind of networking, amenities, professors, courses, and the charisma these universities have often sets the life of those students who study and pass out of these colleges, which truely makes them a part of an elite group, even though exceptions always exists.
But the most important part is not everyone can get into such colleges. Only the competent, intelligent and deserving gets into. The admissions process is highly selective and that’s why it isn’t easy for all to get into it. But still the students and their parents are obsessed with such admissions, and hence, they try super hard to get into these elite institutions. That includes spending the entire high school years in just studying, with no other personality development, paying millions for tuition, coaching and career counselors, working hard to score maximum in test scores ( SAT, IIT entrance etc).
And after all the above copious efforts, if the student fails to get into his/her desired college, then the depression and stress the entire family goes through is very disturbing. I had tried to crack the IIT entrance exam a decade before, and couldnt do it. I remember it took me quite sometime to get rid of the depression and sadness which often comes along with such failures. Infact, it also led to a sense of loss in self-worth which is very detrimental for a 18 year old who has not even reached his legal age for almost doing anything in the world. But I was lucky to have got into a good college later, and soon came out of the sadness. But not everyone is lucky. Many students cannot bear the pressure and this loss of self-confidence compels them to take extreme steps, like suicide.
While this is the dark side behind the rat race for college admissions, but cheating and bribing( using side door) to secure an admission is even more perturbing. Because not only its illegal but also it undermines the hard work and efforts of all the good students and their parents, who have been burning the midnight oil to clear the tough exams and get admission through legal way ( also known as front door). The actions of those who had bribed and tried to undermine the credibility of the admission process is culpable and those people should be sent to jail. ( But the netflix documentary shows that Rick Singer is still a free man, while others have been sentenced to mere 4 months or even 14 days of jail sentence)
Also, it makes me wonder if the college education after all deserves so much attention? Do the graduates from such elite colleges really change the world? I know many famous engineers, businessman and politicians have studied in such elite universities. Barack Obama is a Harvard law school almuni, and so did Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg went to Harvard. Many Nobel laureates and scientists are from MIT, Stanford and Harvard. England’s most of the politicians have PPE degree from Oxford. IIT’ians are known to be the most successful professionals in India and USA. Infact, Wall Street and Silicon Valley is filled with IIT and USA Ivy league graduates. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google is both an IIT Kharagpur alumni and has M.S from Stanford, along with an M.B.A from Wharton school, University of Penn. All such famous personalities are inspirations to millions of students and young professionals like me. Even parents who themselves couldn’t get into such colleges, for reasons whatsoever,dream of their kids getting into such elite colleges, and thereby becoming the future Sundar Pichai’s or Mark Zuckerburg’s.
There is nothing wrong in this dream. But it is important to understand that this is not the only way for success in career and life. Often, we misinterpret their success to their elite colleges. We think they became successful because they graduated from those universities. This is where the real problem is. Rather it is their intelligence, their hard work and their passion to make a contribution to the world which has led them to the pinnacles of success. Their degree, and the elite Ivy league college is just a launchpad for their career. It is like a booster similar to rockets which provides them the required thrust to begin their career and enable them to work with the similar kind of people ( who also have graduated from such colleges). So, in short, apart from networking and initial boost for the career, the elite colleges dont play much role later in their life. Whatever high accomplishments these people achieve is due to their hard work and perseverence.
Also, not every successful person is from Ivy league college. Infact, many of the famous and successful people did not study in elite colleges or not even attend a four year college. Steve Jobs who actually changed the world, dropped out from a non-Ivy league college. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg dropped out of Harvard. Narendra Modi, the current PM of India does not have a four year degree, but rather gained his education from distance learning courses. Kalpana Chawla, did not have an IIT degree and still became the first Indian woman astronaut. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, does not have a degree from IIT and still could become the CEO. Many successful entrepreneurs and politicians in the world have a degree from a not so famous college. Infact, Peter Thiel even started a fellowship with a $100000 grant for anyone who would skip 4 year college and rather work on some novel startup idea. One of the famous Indian who got this fellowship is Rishabh Agarwal, who is the CEO and founder of Oyo.
While on the other side, Rahul Gandhi went to Harvard ( through back door policy indeed), and he is nothing but a laughing stock in India. Rajat Gupta, convicted for securities fraud, had gone to IIT Delhi and Harvard. Jeff Skilling, the infamous CEO of Enron, who led one of the worst scandals in American business before 2008 sub-prime crisis was a Harvard business school graduate. And the major players on Wall Street who articulated the sub-prime crisis and profited millions in bailout package bonuses, includes Hank Paulson ( Harvard Business school(HBS)), Ben Bernanke( Harvard, MIT), Tim Geithner( Dartmouth), Lloyd Blankfein( Harvard) and Jamie Dimon (HBS).
Hence, going to an elite college is not the only way to become rich, successful and famous ( or infamous). But this does not mean that 4 year college education is not needed. If we want to persue a career in science, research, medicine and govt service, then having a college degree is a paramount. To have a a stable job, be it in private firms or govt office, college education is a must. Even though online courses like coursera, udemy and distance learning have grown manifold, yet the importance and acceptability of college education is not going to subside. But whats important is that going for elite college is not needed. It is just a hype, a social thing which the world gives so much unnecessary attention.I would say, anyone, be it a simple middle class student, or even someone who cannot afford an elite college education, it is possible to become successful in life by attending a decent yet good university, and really work hard to achieve their dreams in life. No dream can remain unfulfilled if the intention is strong and efforts are 100%.
The seven deadly sins in the world of social media and online tech.
Can we relate the above 7 sins to social media/tech world?
Gluttony – Amazon
Envy – Instagram
Wrath – Twitter
Lust – Tinder and porn sites
Sloth – Facebook, Netflix
Greed – Robinhood, Bitcoin and quick investing
-> Amazon resembles the vice – gluttony. Because its not Amazon to be blamed, but our never ending desire for over buying and over consumption. And it is our unquenchable desire for over buying which has made Jeff Bezos the richest man on the earth. That’s why to counter this vice, there is virtue by the legendary Warren Buffett which says
Interestingly, Jeff Bezos has smartly taken care of this as well. If we run out of money to buy things on Amazon, we can also sell things on Amazon!
-> Instagram resembles the vice – Envy. There cannot be any better tool than Instagram to inculcate this vice. It infact makes us not only envious of others, but also makes us feel our world is so banal and boring.
-> Twitter resembles Wrath. How many of us have suddenly become self-proclaimed pundits on every topic, and have blurted out our anger against politicians, or anyone on twitter? I have sure many of us already have. Even I used to do that on this medium, and so did Trump. Infact. Trump took it to another level where he used Twitter to bash his opponents, critics, or media ( like CNN or Times). Indeed, even a single tweet of 140 characters is enough to do the damage!
-> Lust is best represented by Tinder and other sites, including porn/dating sites. Because such apps are designed for short term dating or even one night stand only. They are not meant to find the soulmate or even a long term relationships. Even though, they might market their app to find the best soulmate or partner, but in reality, all it does best is the spread this vice of lust. And porn is something which only serves the lustful nature of human mind.
-> There comes Apple and along with it comes pride. Yes, there cannot be any product or tool which we are super pride of. Apple is the perfect design for letting pride go into our heads. The way they market their products, the charisma of Steve Jobs, the exorbitant price of all the Apple products makes it strikingly attractive. And that’s what fills the owner of this product with pride. Its as if there cannot be any better phone than Iphone. Its as if a college student cannot graduate if he/she does not have a Mac. Its as if we all want to imitate Steve Jobs and all his larger than life quotes. This is what Pride is as per Apple standards.
By the way, Apple’s sports band is named ‘Pride’ which supports the LGBTQ+.
-> Sloth which means laziness, and the best way to stay Lazy is to stay Active on Facebook. I find Facebook one of the best way to ruin our life with laziness. If we are bored, just scroll the facebook posts. The Facebook videos, and our friends posts are enough to divert our attention from whats most important to whats least important. Even Netflix, Amazon Prime and YT serve as mediums for procastination and thereby become lazy. But atleast we have the control over those OTT media service. But with Facebook, its the contrary. It has the control over the levers of our mind and our productivity.
-> Finally, Greed. Greed for money, for power, for fame has always been considered one of the worst sins. And in today’s world, this greed for money is best fuelled by the quick investing apps like Robinhood. Bitcoin have had a roller-coster ride in the last few years. Several ponzi schemes and other get rich faster apps are available, and never has it been so easy for someone without any knowledge of finance or markets to invest money. It seems like such kind of fast and quick return ‘Invest-ment’ is actually ‘In-Waste’ment.
And just like to counter gluttony, Warren Buffett comes here at our rescue to counter this vice – Greed through his wisdom. Having built his fortune on sound foundations laid down by principles and good economics, I agree that the best way to counter Greed is by following Warren Buffett’s wisdom.
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Few years back, I used to visit my grandparents who used to stay in a village in India. My grandfather was the most educated person in the village ( he was a Civil Engineer who had graduated back in 1950’s) and hence was the most respected elderly person in the village. I feel extremely sad he is no more today, and may his soul rest in peace in heaven.
But those days were different in around 2011-12, even just 8-9 years back in India. I was persuing my Engineering studies and during summer time, I used to travel with my Mom to visit my grandparents. The roads in the village were unpaved, and blackouts were frequent ( Rather, having steady supply of electricity was rare). My grandpa had retired from Govt service, after having supervised as Deputy Chief Engineer over many construction projects, including famous dams like Koyna dam, Ujni dam and Bhatsa dam in India.
He was practicing agriculture in his ancestral village, and he had quite a few cows and buffaloes. He hired few men from the village to work on the farms. There was no advanced machinery for agriculture, like tractors. The region had dry climate, and hence, most of the agriculture was dependent on the monsoon rains. Even though the govt had dig a canal, but the water in the canal often was over-used/ mismanaged and hence dried up frequently.
There was no television in our village house. As electricity was infrequent, having a television did not really matter. My grandma only had a radio which she used to listen to songs and daily news broadcast. But there was no scarcity of good and healthy food. I remember, she used to milk the cows in early morning, and then she used that fresh and healthy milk for the daily use to make tea, coffee or other dairy products like butter and ghee. The vegetables were obtained from the farms directly, either planted by my grandpa or some neighbours. Even fruits like mangoes, grapes were never purchased from outside the village, all were grown in the village itself. The lunch and dinner often had roti, or bhakri (a bread made from jowar), curd milk, peanut chatni ( grind peanuts with masala’s), raw onions, rice, daal( lentils) and vegetables. All this made a perfect lifestyle with healthy food consumption.
After all the daily chores, we used to sit in the frontyard and talk a lot about all the family affairs, or I used to tell about my college experiences, or even what’s new in the world. There was no internet, no whatsapp, no facebook, no twitter back then. Atleast it hadn’t reached the villages. Leave aside the noise of social media, many of the houses even did not have a smart phone. Recently, I heard that it is difficult to find even a single house which does not have a smartphone or even a facebook account nowadays.
Life was simple back then, and I simply loved it. Whenever I visited the village, I used to feel so relaxed from all the hustle and bustle of the city life. There seemed to be no stress, no deadlines, and no tensions in life there. After all that was not needed. Life used to be easy going, and people lived a stable life. Their needs were less, and hence, the greed was also less. The food was healthy, air was pure, and society respected that way of living. I used to woke up using the nature’s alarm of hens clucking. The house was designed in such a way that the rays of morning sunlight used to enter our bedroom through ‘zaroka’ or roof top window. Where can we find this ambience these days, especially in cities?
Later in life, I did a lot of globetrotting, like moving to USA, seeing the luxurious New York, staying in some of the finest places on earth. But never ever I could find that calm and serene environment, that stable life, those kind hearted people in any other part of the world, that which is close to my heart..
I really miss that life, that ambience, those good and simple village people. Just in the span of a decade, it seems that life has changed like never before. Those days had all the simplicity of life, and only those who have experienced it in their life, will understand the value of those gone days….
It’s been a year since Covid-19 got escalated into an pandemic in 2020. If we ask anyone about how has the year been for them, I am sure no one would answer it affirmatively. Maybe with the only exception of billionaires and Tech firms whose wealth almost doubled or even grew several times more during the pandemic. After all, these businessmen have mastered the art of making profit even during crisis, be it artificial like 2007 subprime crisis in America, or natural like Covid-19.
The last year saw the world turn upside down. Hardly can we find any industry or sector which remained unaffected. The lockdowns shut down the businesses, wiped out the small startups, ended the tourism and hospitality industry, started the laborious ‘Work from Home’ culture, even ‘Study Online’ over On-campus classes, and skyrocketed the demand for online tech services, be it amazon, zomato, swiggy, facebook and many more. Enough has been written and talked about the after effects of the pandemic in our life.
And this has continued till date. Even though the vaccines have arrived and however, they might be mismanaged or delayed for rollout, the hopes amongst the people have risen that soon, things will get better. Experts are saying that things will get back to normal. But the real question remains, Is it really going to be normal again?
Let me highlight my own experience of both the worlds when I was in the United States. I like to call the two worlds, as BC and AC. That stands for ‘Before Covid’, and ‘After Covid’. Funny it may sound, but we simply cannot deny the fact that our world has indeed changed to such a large extent. I had been working for an Energy Management company before moving back to India in Sep 2020. My work involved substantial amount of traveling to customer sites, where our customers included Energy companies all over the USA. I got to travel to quite a few places like Pennsylvania, St Louis, Colorado, Minneapolis, Florida, Illinois and Georgia. Traveling for business by flights, staying in some of the finest hotels, renting posh cars, sight seeing after work, eating food in famous restaurants ( often a different restaurant or some international cuisine), all this was a part of business trip. And we also worked hard in office during office hours. All such perks which come along with such business trips, were all paid at the company’s expense. For a 25 year old guy, who had never been to America before, this is the one of the best American experience he could get, isn’t it?
But then Covid-19 happened. And everything changed overnight. Our customer site visits or business trips all were cancelled, that means no staying in nice hotels, or parties. The business continues through work from home. The networking which we used to have with the customers and guiding their tech teams for efficient deployment solutions all became virtual using Teams, or similar video conferencing calls. The field experience through such business trips, the networking with the clients, the real world experience which helped me to become matured and even business savvy, all simply disappeared. Work just became work from home, and it just ended up as ‘All work and no play’
And then as Covid-19 became worse, things also took a downward spiral. I had to come back to India for visa issues, and also having some family responsibilities. And later I joined a new company in India. But I heard from my previous company colleagues that the Covid has impacted this industry so much, that mass firings have become a common thing. The revenues have plunged, and the customers are no longer interested in signing new contracts. The work from home has become the new work standard not only to stay away from the virus, but also it serves as a cheap work option. As the business continues, no longer is the need to travel to meet customers, or even get a field experience. The companies have not only accepted the ‘work from home’ culture but also promotes it for saving expenses. This is understandable from accounting point of view, but for a business which depends on in-person trainings, networking and gaining and sharing of knowledge from field visits, this will have long term implications on the business. And this pandemic has affected this industry, such that it has changed the way I worked prior to Covid. Learning new skills, and being prepared for an uncertain work is the new norm.
I am sure not only in energy business, but many other professions like banking, movie industry, performing arts, tourism, hospitality, aviation, sales, retail and many more have seen dramatic change in work pattern. The long established rules of delivering work has been changed. Because after all, not all work can be done from home or remotely. A pilot needs in-flight experience and cannot be replaced by simulation. A tourist guide cannot perform his work through some video conferencing, and neither can a theatre artist. This is one of the biggest change in human history.
Its been one year after Covid started, and for me, its been more than 6 months, since I have returned back to India. Having seen both the pre-Covid and post-Covid world, it seems a big change in work culture, networking, travels, and in personal life as well. There are pros and cons , and it would be too early to say that this change is bad. Maybe we have to adjust to the new change, and even change the statusquo. The work from home might stay for sometime, and the future might remain uncertain for coming days. Its as if like nature is testing our patience, and we have to continue with our strengths, and keep the hope alive.
Recently, I completed reading the book ‘Democracy on the Road’ written by Ruchir Sharma. The book is very well elaborated by the author with his journey across India as a political landscape. The author has written a wonderful memoir of his journey for the last two decades in India with the quest to understand how democracy functions in a country like India!
The book is divided into six parts, with total forty chapters. And each chapter dives into a particular state the author and his team have toured during that state election. I find this book interesting not only because this is about India and politics ( which is one of my favorite topics to talk and debate), but also the fact that the author and his famous ‘Limousine Liberals’ tried to predict the elections outcome ( as they were a group of famous journalists, authors and psephologists)in that particular state but many times the result was completely opposite of what they thought. And this is the beauty of Indian elections, where we never know what is the going to be the outcome, until the results are out.
After reading this book, my understanding of India and its elections have increased manifold, thanks to the author. I have always been intrigued by the question of how can democracy work in a country like India which is so diverse in almost all respects?But this book has convinced me ( and the author) that miraculously, democracy works in India, and even better than many other countries in the world. Even though it might look chaotic or even noisy democracy( as being the world’s largest), but at the end, people do have the power to change the government through their vote.
We see that India had been ruled by Congress govt for a long time, from 1947 when India became independent until 1989, with the brief period of 1975-79, when the Congress suffered opposition all over India and had to lose power in 1977. But it came back in 1980 and ruled till 1989. It was only after 1989, that the decline of Congress dominance started, and this continues till date. Before 2014, when the largest opposition party, BJP came to power under the charismatic leader, Narendra Modi, India had a variety of governments which were formed by rather different parties who had been against each other for many years.
So, the political history of India is divided into these three phases, from 1947 to 1989, 1989 to 2014 and 2014 till present for a general understanding.
Yet, Indian politics is one of the most complicated theory to understand. Because there is no standard concept or even agenda of the political parties. Unlike USA, where democrats are liberals vs Republicans are conservatives, we cannot define Indian politics in a rigid way. Because there are so many parties in every state, that the agenda of one party in a particular region of India might not work in another part of India. Even more interesting is the fact that the elections are often won on basis of which candidate is in the contest, or which caste/religion he belongs to over what the party’s election agenda is stated. People will vote for a candidate if he is famous, or even belongs to particular caste. So, the way the community is polarized to vote for their own caste/religion candidate makes the party’s agenda or even ideology irrelevant.
Also, the author points out one interesting point is that often in India, good economics doesnt go well along with good politics. So, even though the country or state is performing well economically, with high GDP growth rate, low inflation, still there is no guarantee that the government might get re-elected. This happened in 1996, when Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh had liberalized the economy in 1991, still they got defeated in the 1996 elections. And same happened in 2003, when Vajpayee govt assumed that ‘India was really Shining’ but lost election inspite of initiating some of the good development projects across the country.
But this is also true that if corruption and inflation rises too much, then the people do get angry and topple the govt in the next elections. Rajiv Gandhi suffered with corruption charges in 1989 and lost the election, and later Manmohan Singh govt suffered from people’s wrath over rising inflation and corruption charges ( even though the PM was clean as a whistle), which resulted in losing elections in 2014.
The book shows many examples of both sides, including miracles in Indian democracy such as Mayawati , a Dalit leader ( the caste which is considered one of the most exploited in India) rose up to become the CM of a state, Uttar Pradesh which had known for its upper caste dominance of Brahmins and Thakurs, and religious rivalry with the Muslims. Her becoming CM was hailed as a miracle of democracy, and also as a sign that democracy works in India!
But on the other side, Indian democracy has also seen leaders having criminal background, religious fanatics, communal extremists, and even electing a member of Parliament, who was known as ‘Bandit Queen’ for taking revenge against a group of bandits ( by killing the entire group) who had repeatedly raped her. The Indian democracy even saw buffoons like Lalu in Bihar, who made the sacred Temple of Parliament as a Stand up comedy show. People even elected film stars and cricketers just because they were famous and loved by the people. Hence, the book covers a lot of such interesting facts of India.
Finally, I recommend reading this book to know how Indian democracy functions. Various rallys, interviews and minute details of places in India have also been covered. Actually, I think this book might even serve as a political travel guide for journalists and writers. Every state is different, votes different, elects different party and different candidates, yet the country is one, democracy resonates as one. This is the beauty of India. And just as Gandhi said, to know India, we must visit the villages of India. Similarly, the author also opines that Indian politics cannot be understood by sitting in Mumbai Cafe’s or Delhi Lutyen’s gardens, we need to visit the villages and rural areas of India. That’s where the real democracy lies!
Indeed, Ruchir has written an excellent book on Indian politics, and it is simply worth reading!
I often visit the local hills in Pune, which are known as Vetal hill, or Tekdi. They are the most visited by nature enthusiasts, joggers, trekkers, and those who like to spend some time breathing fresh air for few hours, which is so rare in the city nowadays.
But I was shocked today to see that the dry grass has been allowed to burn inside the reserved forest or green spaces. Usually, in India, the farmers, have a practice to burn the stubble to reduce time to replace the land with a new crop. And that creates air pollution and smog in the capital of India, for which it has been notoriously infamous.
But burning the dry grass in the grassland or forest is something very dangerous for the ecology as well for the air quality of the city. Many times dry grass catch fire due to summer heat, or even due to mistaken use of cigarettes by un-responsible people. But the forest authorities have also turned a blind eye towards this, and have let the fire burn the grass to such an extent that the entire grassland is burnt as seen today in the below pics.
Due to the grass being burnt, the surrounding trees are also affected, even to the extent of being burnt completely. I saw a volunteer trying hard to stop the inside of the trunk of a neem tree from catching fire. As the hill does not have water sources, I immediately gave my water bottle to atleast wet the trunk to stop the fire. But the water was less, and hence, we had to use dry sand/mud to extinguish the fire.
Not long before, the grassland used to look green or even dry, but beautiful. It hosts many birds nests, insects, squirrels and rabbits. But now, after burning the grass, they have deprived them of their homes.
Below are the pics showing the beautiful grass before.
Hence, its high time that we should take care of nature, and not let them burn like this. Forest fires are a matter of concern not only for the environment, but also for our well being. We have to be cautious for not using cigarette or any thing that can catch fire. Also, laws should be made to avoid purposefully burning of the dry grass, whether in the fields or grassland.
I have been thinking about this for sometime. Having stayed briefly in the US, and being an Indian, it is very easy to understand the differences in both the societies. Though both have many similarities and differences, but I think when it comes to arrange marriages, US/Western and Indian society are mutually exclusive!
Well, India can be named as the heartland or even arrange marriage belt of the world. This is because of the enormous influence arrange marriages have in the Indian society. This can be extended to an Indian subcontinent which includes Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and some countries like Afghanistan and Iran. Afterall, they were a part of extended India not long before.
So, I wonder what happened in the other parts of the world, like Europe, USA and Latin America where arranged marriages are even rarely heard if not accepted. Once upon a time all the royal families in Europe had arranged marriages. The England’s Royal family had ties with the Germany ( then Prussia’s royal families) and Russia’s royal family ( The Romanov’s). Infact, they so frequently arranged marriage with each other, that the England’s royal family is actually German by heritage ( they had to change their surname from Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor after WW1). I find this one of the comical irony that England’s royal family is not even English, and once upon a time there was England who ruled like the Sun never set over its empire!
So, western societies had a history of arrange marriages. But then today, we see it doesn’t exist anymore. Men and Women have to find a partner without any family arrangements, and hardly does both of their families interfere in their kids relationship business. While on the other side, in India, this is the only business which families on both sides have in their life! That’s another level of responsibility ( often self-imposed) Indian families exhibit. It’s as if the families live their entire life for the getting their kids married according to their choice of religion, caste and social status.
So, then why do Indian arrange marriages work? This has always been a question of surprise and curiosity for Indians and westerners as well. Because inspite of arrange marriages, the divorce rate in India is very low as compared to that of western societies which prefer in love marriages. Isn’t it ironic that a love marriage is a form of relationship whose foundation is built on love and trust. Couples have the freedom to like someone and accept them as their partner in life, without any barrier like family interference, caste, religion, color and even a partner’s gender. ( I have never heard same sex marriages being arranged, so that’s in the bucket of love marriage).
But still, the divorce and separation rate is higher in love marriages. Even in India, the divorce rate is increasing as compared to the last few decades, because Indians are becoming more westernized and thereby accepting love marriage. But on the other hand, in arrange marriage, the basis of relationship is not love between the groom and bride, but its more like an agreement between families, where the caste, religion, social status, business interests, political affiliations, food, language, skin color, education, number of family members, dowry money agreement, stars and astrology, and infinite number of such irrelevant things are taken into consideration. After all this hard work, that’s when a marriage becomes arranged in India. I wonder its easy to understand rocket science or quantum mechanics, then understanding how arranged marriages become arranged in India!
But then after all this pandemonium, the most stunning fact is that such marriages last forever! Atleast until my parents generation, divorce was a rare alien thing. And many couples who did not even know each other, fell in love after the marriage. While many realized after marriage that their spouse is not someone they could ever love. But still, divorce was not an option unless some physical assault or sexual harassment happens. Well, the worst part in India is that marital rape is still legal. I find this deeply troubling. Anyways, so the couples inspite of all the problems and ups and downs, still stick with each other. Unlike in western countries, where a couple get separated for reasons like failure of spouse in business, or even husband not able to sexually satiate his wife. I have never heard any of such things lead to divorce in India. Infact, the sad part is that being a patriarchal society, Indian husbands have always been dominant on their wife. This was partly due to lack of education and employment opportunities for women back then. In villages and poor families in cities, the physical abuse by husband on wife and children is a common thing. Even rich and well educated families, suffer from clashes between married couples for variety of reasons including extra-marital affair. Still getting a divorce is something taken as a last resort.
Well, this does explain why Indian marriages last inspite of all the obstacles, but not all families suffer this. Infact, most of the Indian families value this system of arranged marriages where a couple once married has a responsibiliity towards their children and elders to setup an example and maintain this tradition. Because when a divorce happens, the biggest sufferers are not husband or wife, but the children. Afterall, what’s the mistake of those poor kids who have to suffer by staying away from one of their parents? The kids always love their biological parents, and they cannot get the same love from step-mother or step-father. This is something which makes the Indian couple continue their marriage inspite of the fights and even if the husband and wife stop loving each other. Because they love their kids, and getting separated due to irreconcilable differences will affect their kids life. Wouldn’t the kids learn the same thing from their parents? By having a divorce, the tradition of arrange marriage will get broken, as the kids will prefer to have a love marriage later in their life after seeing their parents being divorced after an arranged marriage.
I feel that we are indebted to the sacrifice of our parents and grandparents who valued their kids education, and a bright future over their personal conflicts. Especially, women suffer a lot in the patriarchal marriage dominance, and still they continue the marriage just for the love of her children. Truth be told, I don’t find this self-sacrifice and unconditional love anywhere amongst men. Its always the mother who does the toughest job in the world!
Hence, this responsibility that kids should not suffer and not get deprived of love and care from both the father and mother, is something which binds the arranged marriage couples along with the wisdom to maintain the family tradition. But, Indian society is deeply religious, status conscious and obsessed with family. Its not easy for a divorcee to get re-married again. Even today, its difficult for someone to live unmarried, or single, let alone divorced. The lack of respect from the Indian society towards a divorcee, or even a bachelor ( unless he becomes a saint or Prime Minister) is deeply troubling. Maybe this also drives the couples to continue their marriage by avoiding all the societal scuffling.
Hence, this was a small attempt to understand why arranged marriages work in India. I think western societies also had this culture few centuries before, but got lost due to the over-importance on individual freedom over family, obsession for material achievements like career, money and fame. Ofcourse, this does not mean all love marriages end up being divorced. Infact, many stand the weather, and remain lifelong committed. The Presidents of USA, except Donald Trump are excellent examples of successful love marriages. But things are changing fast, and India is becoming a global hub, with the winds of all sorts of ideas flowing across the nation. It will be hard to maintain the arrange marriage tradition in India in coming future.
I find the above picture one of the most motivating. The beautiful flower is alone surrounded by dry grass. The sun is shining brightly and it’s taken during late afternoon today. The city is seen faraway as if no one cares for this alone flower.
Our life is like this flower. We are unique in this world. We are surrounded by all the problems and just like sun’s heat, life gives us shocks and surprises. There are ups and downs in life. Just like the city is faraway from this beautiful flower, similarly many times we feel that all the good luck, all the dreams and even our loved ones are faraway from us. Many times we feel to be alone in this world where everyone is busy in his or her own world, driven by money, fame and power.
But this flower teaches a very important lesson. Just like it has blossomed, and become a beautiful flower in spite of all the dull surroundings, and harsh weather, so do we need to keep moving ahead in life in spite of all the problems in life. We might be alone, but that shouldn’t stop us from achieving our dreams, or living a good life. Just like the city doesn’t even notice this flower, similarly our hard work, our aims might not get anyone’s attention, but that should not make us lose hope in life.
We need to keep working, and helping others, and keep glowing just like the flower! I am glad to took this picture, and learnt some life lessons from a small flower.
Understanding what makes a startup unique than business.
Recently, read an article on the difference between a ‘Startup’ and a ‘Business’. Hence, thought to share some of my views about this.
We see that many people are intrigued with the concept of ‘Startup’. It has almost become a buzz word, or a so called trend these days. Legends of the startup world include famous names like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and many more in the world of Tech and Silicon valley. Many people get inspired by such famous success stories, and decide to start a startup and thus, venture out into the world of entrepreneurship ( which involves venturing out to the Venture capitalists (VC firms) to ask for funding.)
But not all succeed in this brutal competition and survival race in the startup world. Its said that almost 90% startups fail in their first few years, and many even never make a profit. Which in other words, leads to loss of money invested by the investors or VC’s. And the founders lose the credibility for any future startup funding, and many worse things might follow up. So, its important to know what exactly is a startup and how does it differentiate from a business?
Startup can be defined in simple words, as a project undertaken with an innovative idea to scale a business model ( which might be new or existing) driven by technology ( which mostly includes new age tools like internet, AI etc) and thereby create a disruption in the market and gain considerable market share. So, the overall aim of the startup is not only to make a profit, but also disrupt the existing models of business or market. It might take years to develop the technology, and even penetrate into the market. Which means it is possible that the startup wont make any money for initial few years, will have to render its services for free to the customers ( like Facebook and WhatsApp does) and will be dependent on the investor funding fro VC’s.
But a business on the other side, is a project undertaken with an aim to make profit immediately by giving services or selling the product manufactured, using industry defined technologies, and thus paving the way to capture the market share. A business has a model, which is often designed such that the business will start making money as soon as possible. It does not disrupt the market, but often earns enormous profits in a well stabilized market. Also, a business can be small or big, and unlike startup, which always aims to bring in innovation, a business might not promote much innovation and can rely on the well established processes and methods. So, in short, a business might not disrupt or not even change the market which startup often aims to achieve.
Lets see this with a simple analogy. It is often said, that when life gives you lemons, better make a lemonade!
Well, does making a lemonade and selling to the customers can be considered a startup?
The answer is No. It comes under business, because its a standard way to provide service to the customer, which here is making lemonades. Now, if we make really good lemonade, then people will appreciate it and our revenues will skyrocket with the fame. So, business will grow, and we might even open our business in different locations in the city and across the country. Still, its a business. Afterall, no one calls a McDonald, or Starbucks or even Papa Johns a startup! Even though it does dominate the market share, but it doesn’t disrupt the market as there are many lemonade makers in the city( just like many pizza or burger makers) and they can also follow the same path.
But if someone design an app or any service to find the lemonade businesses in the city/country, connect them to the customers, and even make it like a home delivery ( like Zomato, Swiggy, Grubhub etc does) then its a startup. Why? Because now they can easily disrupt the whole market by rapidly scaling, and connecting with the local lemonade businesses, and using technology, its faster, better, easier and even more feasible to expand and scale. That’s why we see so many startups have risen in almost everyday businesses, like food industry, tourism( Make my trip), entertainment( Netflix), cab services (Ola, Uber), education (Byju, Unacademy), Online courses (Coursera, Udemy), accomodation (Airbnb, Oyo) and many more.
But just like any one can make a lemonade and start his/her own business, similarly anyone can make an app or website and enter this space. So, the competition is fierce in the startup world. Many times, those startups which have a lead, or a better funding VC, and even those who expand rapidly have a chance to survive in this brutal race. In the initial years, many players emerge and compete with each other, But then eventually, many die out and finally, only one or two succeeds to stay alive. We see this happening in social media world, where Facebook had competitors like Orkut, Google had Yahoo, Amazon had Ebay. But today, they are the only remaining monopolies.
Infact, the startup world is so uncertain and risky that it is difficult to know which company will survive and expand, or which might even die out. Many experts never thought that a social media friends chat wall like Facebook will become so big someday. While Tesla and SpaceX also have surprised everyone considering the huge cost and meagre success rate it had in its early years. But at the same time, did anyone predict that an extremely good looking entrepreneur like Elizabeth Holmes would start a medical startup Theranos on a fake idea and it would result in a complete disaster for the VC’s and even the entire health industry. Even WeWork had once given a hope of becoming the next billion dollar company, but it also eventually fell apart. So, this world is full of uncharted territory!
Below pic shows the failed startups like Theranos and WeWork
While below are some of the most successful startups in the world
Finally, its always a good thing to start a startup because it promotes innovation. It uses tech and that whats makes it much easy and efficient. We all have been using Amazon, Uber, Zomato, Ola, Netflix. All these startups had an idea, which later became the billion dollar idea. They helped people by providing better service, better technology. Our life has changed by this startups enormously, where today, it is possible for a person to connect with his old school friend after a long time using Facebook, calling him/her using Messenger or WhatsApp without any distance barrier, meeting him/her in a new city by booking an Uber or Ola and using Google Maps/Navigation to reach the location, ordering some gifts from Amazon on the way, enjoying food delivered by Swiggy or Zomato at the doorsteps, then having a good time watching movies on Netflix and finally posting the nice selfies and GetTogether pics on the same Facebook or Instagram Wall. The world is Round, indeed!
Well, I very frequently answer questions on Quora. And even though Q&A platform hosts a plethora of topics, I find many questions coming from teenagers or young college going folks about life. They seem to ask very depressing questions about having lost interest in life? Or have failed in life at the age of 19? ( which stunned me for a while..) or having failed in exams repeatedly and so lost interest in life? And even few of them write about having no girlfriend, and so depressed in life and even going to the extent of being prepared to commit suicide?
I find that many of the questions and worries arise at that time are due to over-expectations from life. At that age, we feel the world is perfect, because we are taught so at school. We think we should never fail, because we have always been good at school. We think if we fail, that’s the end of life, because our friends will move on to the next class or some good college, and we have lost the race. So, we have lost the chance in life to rise.
When I read these questions, I feel very sad at the thinking of these teenagers or young folks. Ofcourse, I am not very old either, but atleast I have crossed the stormy waters of teenage and even to certain extent the good old college days. All these questions come from over-expectation from life. Because the canvas of our understanding of life is very narrow at that time. And due to which, it is very easy to get entangled in the negative thoughts and ideas. So, whenever I see such questions, I feel it as an obligation to write answers to their questions to try to convince them with the reality of the world, and so they can start thinking positively about life. Here are some of the questions which asked.
The above is a classic case of over-expectation from life. I find the problem is until school, we are being raised up in an almost ideal world, enclosed within the school premises and safe home environment. We are being guided by school teachers and even college mentors about the career decisions we need to take in life, or what subjects should we choose etc. But no one teaches the most important subject which is life itself! We hardly fail until we get into college, and even in university, we always strive to be A-grade student throughout. We have stable relationships until we reach college, where our parents support us, financially and emotionally, our school or college buddies are with us, and everyone is nice with us. But things change when we leave the secure home or college gates, and venture out into the world of job or business. We get hit with new deadlines, with work pressure, and no one seems to be trust worthy. Suddenly, we see we are failing at our work or even our relationships start to crumble, and then due to being raised in a near perfect world of a nice and goody environment, we suddenly lose interest in life. One breakup, or one failure shatters us completely. And slowly and steadily, people start losing interest in life, many blame of being tricked until school that the world is a good place, and they blame everyone in this world, except themselves. And then people ask the above questions when things totally go wrong or in a bad direction..
So, I wish we were taught in school or college itself that this world is not a perfect place. It is not fair either. When we are taught about physical education and science of how the world works, we are just taught the principles of how it works ideally! Rather, we need to be made aware of how imperfect this is and it is our moral obligation to make it perfect. We are lauded for our grades, and achievements, and special care is taken that no one fails, just to be politically correct. Rather, we should be allowed to fail and experience what failure is. Because it is better to fail at an early age, than to fail later in life. We are being conditioned to concentrate more on exams and preparation for cracking the tough exams, but the real puzzle is life itself, and no one even dares to crack this puzzle. People expect that we will learn as we grow up and get the experiences as time passes. But we are not taught that a set of bad experiences can shake our self belief and crumble us down. Because we are set to sail the boat in the stormy life, all alone. Its almost like sailing the boat without even knowing how to steer the boat in the right direction. Then when the storm of emotions due to some bad experience like failure in exams or getting a job, or even losing a loved one like parents or girlfriend hits us, how can we expect to sail this boat safely?
Hence, I feel this part is what is missing in life. That’s why people ask such depressing questions on such platforms, and many even take the worst steps which inevitably decides the fate of their life. I feel this over ideal, over safe, over secure, over caring life in school or college is something a obstacle to know the reality of life. Even though many of us, like me, learn it the hard way sooner or later. But isn’t it nice to know it before? Like for example exams like IIT entrance, SAT, CAT or GMAT for MBA entrance, or even UPSC for Indian Civil service are just entrance to a career stream. But when we are in school or college, we are taught that if we crack these exams, then life is SET. Then Life is the best with no money issues or job security problem. Its like a safety net for life. I was also eluded into this WEB of LIES… To my 28 year old self, I want to ask now that was it really worth preparing so hard for those exams? Has life been so good for me? Has it provided me a safety net?
My answer is a big NO! Infact, I faced some of the toughest problems in my life even after I had secured admission in one of the finest universities in the USA, or even after I landed a well paying job. The exam preparation didn’t help me to solve my life problems. It just handed over me to the gates of a career which I didn’t know whether it was right for me or not. It did not make me happy. Even after passing the exams, or getting a degree, I wasn’t happy. Why? Because they were never my life goals or something I deeply wanted in life. They were the tasks which were assigned to me due to the influence of peers in school or college. Everyone was persuing them, and so we do not want to fall behind. So,we also enter the rat race, and slog hard to pass them. And then we get blacked out! So,the problem is even if we pass or fail them, life doesn’t change much. Still people give so much over importance to them, that they get depressed when they fail in such exams.
So, this is the missing lesson of life. I learnt it through a hard way that above all such school or entrance exams, it is the life’s exam that matters the most. And the bad part is there is no syllabus, no particular exam dates, no graders and no evaluation of it. We have to give this exam everyday, any time, with surprises and shocks, and we ourself have to evaluate whether we passed or failed….
So,till then, lets keep filling these missing part of wisdom in our life, which act as a wheel to steer our boat in the right direction…
Recently, there is a viral video trending on social media, where a girl posts video while partying with her friends. You might think what’s so special about it? There are hundreds of videos uploaded everyday on YouTube and other social media. But this one for no special reason became viral and here’s the video from her Instagram account.
The above video has garnered so much attention and fame that its makes me think what’s so big in this video. The 19 year old rich Pakistani girl from Peshawar is partying with her friends, and this video is in Hindi, so for the English readers, it simply means, ‘This is My car, This is Me and This is our Party going on”. That’s it!
Well, but what makes this meme so viral is her fake accent. She purposefully says ‘Pawri’ instead of ‘Party’. This is because of the fake western accent she is trying to put on. And her dazzling looks, and the lavish show of car and her friends makes an ideal receipe to get the attention. This is because people in countries like Pakistan and India are simply looking for such kind of videos. And the popularity of this meme was further enhanced by an Indian engineer turned music composer, and his viral meme composition based on this video, will make you ROFL!
Welcome to the world of becoming famous within seconds. Once upon a time, the scientists and businessman used to become famous after years of hard work. Then filmstars started becoming famous overnight yet with months of hard work. Now, it seems with all such meme, short videos and social media, anyone can become famous within seconds and that too without any much efforts. Both these videos have been seen and liked a million times, and they have acquired yet another million subscribers, and die hard followers. What else do we need in life? When Maggi/noodles can be made in 2 min, why not become famous in 2 min?
Today, the social media is filled with such meme’s. Not long before, a girl in India had become popular for just making an extremely badly edited and even terribly singing video song of taking selfies and showing off her flamboyance. She soon became viral and became known as ‘Dhinchak Pooja’. After few days, someone found that she was earning lakhs of rupees per month just with all the viral sensation and ads. Isn’t this a modern case of Ponzi scheme? She delivered a very pathetic content, which helped or educated no one, and yet she earned millions within days! Can there be any better business model to not only become famous but also rich!
So, looking at all these trends, I wonder if we are getting lost in this world of memes. After all, they were supposed to give us some laughter and comedy in this world which is full of stress and deadlines. But now, its almost a career for few people. They post such video clips and meme’s everyday using the social media tools like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Facebook. Its even amusing to see them put as ‘Working at TikTok’, or ‘Working at Facebook’ on their profile! And their followers are overloaded with their not so worthy content, which they follow, watch, share and spend time on it. And even worse its dangerously addictive. Not only for us, but even for the makers and creators of these. Atleast they get paid and the million dollar worth fame with their futile memes. But what do viewers like us get? We not only waste our precious time in watching their repeatedly and sharing them, but also become addicted to watching more and more of such content. If we continue with this, won’t it affect our work, our personal life and even our goals and ambitions in life?
I think its our mistake that we give so much importance to such memes and videos on platforms like TikTok. Its we who have given them so much fame and now it has almost become a career for them. Because they know its the easier route to get noticed. And with fame, new avenues open up like modeling, music concerts and films. Posting such memes to make them viral is a quickest and easiest path to get the fame to launch their careers, And our consistent viewing and sharing for free is a boost for them. Its like we are working for them as their marketing team. Ofcourse, there is nothing wrong to post videos or share them if we like, but it should be worth watching. Videos with fake accent, showing exuberance wealth, lifestyle, or even fake voice is not worth watching or sharing.
If we got time to watch and share, there are lots of good content online, where talented dancers, music composers, and even artists are awaiting to show their talent to the world. We need to learn to use the platforms like Facebook and YouTube created for sharing purposes in a much better way. Educative, informative and even creative videos needs to be watched, shared and supported. They will help us to learn and become more knowledgeable. Only then can we have a world where the true application of social media to make this world a open, free world filled with knowledge will come to reality.
Beauty is one of the remarkable gifts endowed to humans by nature. Women are gifted with beautiful looks, while men are bestowed with handsome features. Even though the definition of beauty might change from people to people, or even region to region like in western countries, women might love to be like Marilyn Monroe or Julia Roberts, while in India, women would like to have looks like Aishwarya Rai or Katrina Kaif. Same goes for men. It would be difficult to find any man who would not like Brad Pitt or even Arnold Schwarzenegger. Because after all, they are considered epitomes of feminine and masculine beauty, isn’t it?
Yet there is something which plays a very very big role in defining the standards of beauty. And that is color. As we all are aware that humans come in all varieties of color. Be it white, brown or black, there are endless similarities and differences amongst us. Yet, for some unknown reason, our society has somehow elevated the fair white skin color as being the highest form of beauty. I do not know how this happened, but the world considered as being fair skinned is the most acceptable form of beauty standard. And due to which, there came generations after generations in movies industry, advertising, fashion, modeling, and even in marriages, where being fair became the most preferred parameter for achieving success and fame. Women and men having blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin became the poster symbol of pure beauty to such an extent that even Nazis tried to define their race based on these attributes. All this led to the rise of racism and as we had seen few months before, how the racism took an ugly route in one of the most advanced countries in the world. Books have been written, movies have been made and endless debates and discussions have been done on this topic, and yet our society continues with this myopic attitude of judging people and giving undue advantage by the color of the skin. I don’t want to write about racism and its atrocious effects on the society, as the world has seen enough of it for the last several centuries. But I want to write about this fascination for fair skin in India and even other parts of the world as I have observed so far.
India is land of diversity. Yet with all the diversity, there are many similarities as well which makes Indians recognizable easily when they travel in other parts of the world, or as observed by foreigners who visit India. Some of those include our culture, strong accent, quintessential sari or even kurta-pyjama/salwar-kameez worn by most Indians. But along with that, we are easily recognized by our skin color, which is brown skinned. Very very few Indians are fair skinned, and even they don’t match the light skin tone of Europeans. But having a fair skin has always been a top priority for Indians. Women cherish the dream of having light skin and hence rely heavily on makeup and beauty products. Infact, so much is this desire of fair skin inoculated in the minds of Indians, that the skin lightening cosmetic product ‘Fair and Lovely‘ is one of the most popular beauty product in India with a market cap of 80% of the lightening cream market in India. The company even started marketing ‘Fair and Handsome’ for males and it has also been a success. This shows how much craving we Indians have to possess a fair skin tone. (However, recently the company changed its name ‘Glow and Lovely’ in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter #BLM protests. I appreciate this company’s stand which have won many accolades).
But still, the majority Indians continue to remain bias towards fair skin. I am sure this happens in other parts of the world as well. But from an Indian perspective, I find this very depressing. Because in a relatively conservative society in India, the marriages are arranged by family. And the worst form of prejudice against women is done in this process. The expectation of grooms for a bride is to be fair, and slim and beautiful. While on the other side, groom are often dark skinned, but the bride’s family does not mind it. There are so many cases when the girl who is highly educated, and earning well, is simply rejected because of her dark complexion. All men, fair and dark skinned, educated and illiterates, earning and not earning, all want a fair skinned girl as their wife or girlfriend. This is one of the biggest problem in India. So no wonder, the products like ‘Fair and Lovely’ will always remain in demand as long as this unjust expectation remains in Indian society.
And many other songs and movies often promote heroine with fair skin. And nowadays, Bollywood has even started importing dancers from western countries ( Eastern Europe and other parts of western world having blonde hair and light skin) who are often seen in songs dancing behind the comparatively brown skinned Indian hero and heroine as seen below.
This is even being copied in events like Cricket matches (Indian Premier League or just IPL) which used to be known as a Gentlemen’s Game not long ago. Now, just to satiate this fair-ish or rather feverish desire of Indians, IPL started bringing cheer leaders ( again fair skinned to attract attention and ofcourse money) from Indian audience.
And even worse is that this mentality of Indians doesnt stop in India, but continues to be carried abroad as well. When I was in the USA, I remember my friends back in India gossiping about me having a white girlfriend. Even Indians who go to the USA or Europe, will try to have a white girlfriend only. I didn’t find many Indians who were willing to accept any African-American or Latino American, even though however successful or nice they might be. Even worst experience is in Strip clubs, where my friends who used to frequently visit, always had a white stripper. I find this all to be utterly preposterous!
Hence, I find this over obsession with fair skin as extremely annoying. Because I wonder what does difference does skin color make? I mean really, if we think it from a practical perspective, it really doesn’t matter. The skin color doesn’t make any life better. It might give those people some unfair advantage in jobs or professions like modeling or fashion, but life remains same irrespective of skin color. We all have to eat, and sleep, and do all the chores. Skin color does not help there. A dark or brown skinned girl can be an expert in any profession just like a fair skinned girl. Our confidence, our nature , our habits, our likes, our dislikes, our attitude, our achievements are never dependent on the skin color.
Lets imagine if a brown skinned Indian guy likes a good natured, well educated, well earning but a decent looking dark skinned Indian girl ( she likes him as well), but he rejects her and rather marries a not so educated, not well earning and very arrogant but fair skinned good looking girl, due to buckling under family pressure as per arrange marriage norms. But then after few days, he realizes that his wife is very arrogant, very selfish and also very narcissist. And they had frequent fights and soon they had to file for a divorce. So, what was gained and lost in this process. Did anyone win? No right. Did anyone lose? Yes, all of them. Wouldn’t it be better if he had chosen his love, by ignoring the stupid skin color part, and rather would have focused on her good nature and true love for him, they both would have made a good and happy family, isn’t it?
I find the above story being repeated countless time in many families in India. When will we Indians realize this basic concept of acceptance to all forms of color. Actually, this is ironic because we, Indians had been ruled by fair skinned British colonizers for a long time. Our forefathers have suffered immensely the atrocities committed by British rulers. How can we forget the hatred from the colonizers with respect to our skin and even comparing us to animals. Has our memory been so volatile that we have forgotten all this? We threw out the British from our land but we are still having the narrow racist approach in our minds and actions just like the British rulers did back then.
So, we really need to erase this skin color biase from our mind. Because in today’s world, the paths to success are not dependent on color or race. It just depends on our attitude and hard work. Else, it wouldn’t have been impossible for Barack Obama to be the President, or Kamala Harris to be the vice president. I don’t have any examples here in India and this is the sad part of the story. We haven’t yet accepted this, and as long as we keep praising racist Bollywood songs which eulogizes the fair skin, as long as a fair skinned woman is chosen as bride, things are not going to improve. But the day when we become unbiased to skin color, and accept this diversity, from that day women won’t need to spend loads of money on beauty products to make their skin lighter. Women won’t need to use filter on Instagram or Facebook to post pictures with lighter skin. Men will be respecting and accepting women as they are, and there won’t be sexual harrassment as rampant in India today. I don’t have any much hopes from my generation ( having closely seen and being a part of it), but I hope the coming generations become more acceptable and kind. But as of now, this is the cost of obsession for fair skin, we have to pay.
I recently read this interesting book, whose title itself gives the reader an overview that this book is based on the mafia or as we call ‘The Underworld’ of Mumbai. This book is written by an Indian investigative journalist S.Hussain Zaidi. Previously, I had seen the Netflix series ‘The Bard of Blood’ and the recently released movie ‘The class of 83’, which is based on his book about some of the encounter specialists in Mumbai police force who eventually end up killing some of the most notorious gangsters in the Underworld.Though Bard of Blood (which is spy thriller showing the espionage war between RA&W and ISI agent in Balochistan) is written by Bilal Siddiqui, but he has been mentored by Mr.Zaidi himself.
So, after seeing class of 83, I became curious to read about this mafia story of Mumbai. And while I had visited a book store, I suddenly pounced upon this book written by Mr.Zaidi, and immediately purchased it. I initially wanted to finish this book in one sitting, but due to my job responsibility and some other emergencies, I couldnt finish it for sometime. Finally, I completed reading this book and it has been a wonderful read. The book thoroughly covers the life of the most notorious gangster/terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, his D-company, and how they changed the face of Mumbai at the height of gang wars and terrorist acts. No doubt, still today, Dawood is the most wanted and most loathed person in India. And in a remarkable contrast, the Pakistani ISI and even their government likes and supports him. Indians hate Dawood not only because he killed innocent people in the 1993 Bombay blasts, but also committed the most heinous of the crimes by fleeing to Karachi via Dubai, and becoming a vassal of our arch enemy, Pakistan. That’s why, Dawood’s betrayal of his own motherland, and being close to Pakistan is something Indians will never forget ever for generations to come….
The story of Dawood’s journey from a street ruffian born in one of the lower middle class neighbourhoods of Dongri to becoming the world’s most famous and richest gangster aka mastermind in Dubai ( later Karachi) is almost like a rags to riches story. The author very eloquently has penned down this incredible journey of this man, and his gang. But at the same time, the book also highlights the role played by various famous gangs, or dons in Mumbai from 1960’s till 1990’s. The book is a must read for those who want to know about the Mumbai mafia, and how it all began and ended as well. Many stories and incidents from gang wars, shootouts, kidnappings, murders, terrorist attacks and encounters are covered in this book, which gives the reader a bird’s eye view of the underworld. The book however focuses on the main villain, Dawood and his company, and has covered all the important facets of his life in Mumbai until 1986 when he left this city of dreams for the last time.
I like reading about investigative stories and books, and so I enjoyed reading this book. As I complete reading the book, I often like to pen down my own observations and comparisons with history and the world. That period in Bombay, which later became Mumbai was indeed a dark one. Many conditions existed in those days which led to a huge influx of young boys to become street ruffian and get involved in bad company. After all, poverty was rampant, job opportunities were scarce and favored the elites only, education was costly, and due to which, it was almost impossible for a person without education or being a school dropout to secure a respectable job and gain some respect from society. Coupled with all this, was the consistent uncertainity and large family to support due to high birth rates. Moreever, the then permit Raj/licensing policies was a perfect system for corruption to breed. The common people saw how few politicians, government babus(employees), merchants and businessman formed a close nexus and completely ruled the country without any scope for the common man to get out of poverty. And that’s why, in 1982, there was a great Bombay Mill strike which badly went wrong with millions losing job or thrown at the brink of poverty. That incident led to more influx of young, high school dropouts or sometimes even college educated youths who couldn’t find a job to take the paths of crime and join gangs like D company. All this led to the birth of Mumbai mafia in 1970’s and 80’s which terrorized Mumbai for the next 2 decades or so.
This can even be compared to the America’s crime and mafia terror in 1930’s and which lasted until late 1970’s, mainly because of Great Depression and influx of Sicilian and Jewish people from Europe, which formed their own mafia groups. New York city and Mumbai has often been compared on a similar note for being cosmopolitan cities. Both are financial hubs, and crown as the most populous city in the USA and India respectively. The former has the Statue of Liberty which welcomes everyone to the American Dream, while the latter has the Gateway of India which also welcomes everyone to this City of Dreams. The resemblance is striking!
But unfortunately, for both the cities, it even became darker when both the cities became the capitals of Mafia. If New York had its Five Families, then Mumbai had its own set of five crime families/gangs like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala and its Pathan Gang, Varadrajan Mudaliar, Dawood and his D company, and Chota Rajan, Arun Gawli and the so called ‘Aamchi Muley/Hindu dons’ as per Shivsena supremo. Later, just like NYPD, the Mumbai police force also took strict actions under its various chiefs like Julio Ribeiro, D S Soman and Ronald Hycinth Mendonca. The special task team inspired from SWAT team, was created with elite cops who later became known as encounter specialists. Julio Ribeiro is credited to have started tackling with the brutal mafia with the policy of ‘Bullet for Bullet’ and was continued by all the later police chiefs, and finally ended with police chief Mendonca, until then all the major gangsters were killed and eliminated. Those elite cops included some famous top cops like Vijay Salaskar ( who died in the 2008 terrorist attacks by Ajmal Kasab and his pakistani cowards), Daya Nayak, Pradeep Sharma, Isaque Bagwan, Prafull Bhosle, Ravindra Angre, Aftab Ahmed Khan and Sachin Vaze. Indeed, it is because of these brave heroes that Mumbai is a safe place again.
Finally, I find some sad moments in this book as well. One of the most intriguing character in this book is about the father of Dawood, who was the former police cop, Ibrahim Kaskar. I find it as the biggest irony that the son of a former cop became the most wanted criminal in India. The book shows how honest and upright cop Ibrahim Kaskar was, and with his impeccable honesty and integrity, he was not only respected in the police force, but also equally revered by other gangsters like Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. Ibrahim knew all the gangsters, yet never crossed the lines to join them. Rather, he remained loyal to his salt. But his son bite the hands that fed him. Dawood betrayed his father and his country. No real life example can rival this irony.
Also, I felt immensely angry when a team led by Ajit Doval was planning to arrest or kill Dawood, but the plan was botched by some officials of Mumbai police. They had acted by the instructions of some politician. So the fact that Dawood successfully escaped Mumbai after receiving tipoff from a politician and the plan to arrest or kill him was also interrupted by some political affiliations. This shows why India has been unable to arrest or assassinate him since 1986. Its a shame that India has such few politicians who have sold their soul for money. Else, our police force and intelligence is more than competent to catch and kill Dawood much much before the 1993 blasts itself. Due to some selfish politicians having lack of love for the motherland, India and its innocent people had to pay the price.
Thus, this book has been an interesting and knowledgeable read. I would like to refer this book as a must read to know what happened …Once Upon a Time in Mumbai……
I am a 90’s guy. Not only because I am born during 1990’s era, but also because that phase itself was so special, so different when it came to the movies, songs and culture in India. I am sure many readers who have lived that era would reminisce those times, when life was simple, predictable and beautiful. My parents generation were fortunate enough to have lived that era. This is because of some of the most incredible romantic movies being made during that time. It was as if the breeze of love flowed freely in the 90’s air…..
Usually, Bollywood movies have had predictable love stories, or even the girl or guy next door type love stories ( yes, even 90’s era had quite similar movies, but still they seemed different than all the previous ones) which had some famous actor and he will try to win the heart of his love by performing all sorts of stunts and daredevil acts. I am sure Hollywood have had its own time of such movies too. But before 90’s, people used to flock to see the movies just to see the hero, heroine or even the villain( like Gabbar Singh in Sholay). The 50’s movies had a trio of actors like Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar who dominated the bollywood industry with their exceptional acting skills. The late 60’s had the evergreen romantic movies which showcased that era with Rajesh Khanna as the first superstar. Soon, people got tired of those chocolate hero typed movies, and syncing with the world events, which included the swinging 60’s and 70’s filled with protests against the establishment, the bollywood also welcomed its first Angry-Young Man, the legendary Amitabh Bacchhan, who broke all the typical hero image of just chasing his love. He revolted against the system, fought against injustice, and resonated with then trend of acting to change the system. The bollywood became a serious place for movies, and soon it was followed by a trend of parallel cinema during late 70’s and 80’s which highlighted the reality of the world behind the 35 mm film.
The 80’s were tough times indeed. As I have always written about how the world got changed during the 1980’s decade, when suddenly the forces of capitalism, free market, democracy and liberalism found themselves on the winning side, when not long before, they had thrown down the baton in front of socialism and communism. And by the end of 80’s, it seemed that the world had suddenly become a new place. The old rules were broken down along with the Berlin Wall, nations collapsed and formed overnight, the markets which had been closed for decades opened suddenly, and new rules were laid out.
Just like the world, India saw its own set of vicissitudes. The 1980’s were some of the toughest times, and unfortunately for India, the 1990’s were even worser when it came to national politics, economics and unity of India. As I have written a article on this journey of India, I wont go deeper much. But the fact that India suffered from a series of weak governments during 90’s, and its economy which had been a terrible permit Raj system had suddenly been opened and it later turned out to be the best decision taken during that decade. But this good aspect was soon over-shadowed by 1992 Babri masjid massacre, subsequent riots and Bombay blasts in 1993, ethnic genocide of Kashmiri Pandits and heinous terrorist acts in Kashmir valley by Pakistan and its ISI. That decade ended with the Kargil war in 1999, which India won gloriously and thus began the emergence of a new India in the 21st century.
But amidst all this chaos, the bollywood affair became intense. That era saw a sudden influx of romantic theme based movies and melodious songs. And people not only praised them, but also accepted them as a part of their lives. This might be because after all, people were tired of dirty politics and communal hatred outside, and so they cherished the love and happy ending stories with the intention of having such a good life someday. They preferred to make love, and not war by flocking into the theatres and music concerts, instead of participating in any protests or revolution, which the earlier generation did.
Today, it seems that the world is becoming noisy and chaotic day by day. Not because of any unexpected event or political debacle ( which though keeps happening everyday), but more so due to the consistent, unstoppable noise we are allowing in our life. This noise comes from social media ( Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), Television, news channels, YouTube videos, Netflix shows, text messages, Gmail or Outlook emails, Zoom or Facetime calls, WhatsApp group updates, sale offers, discount coupons, free subscriptions, loan requests, new deals and what not…..All this marketing and information tsunami bombards us in a gargantuan way!
I wonder if we are ( or have) forgotten to live a calm, serene life. Our life is slowly becoming as if we are living to absorb all this gigantic information created by us for our own disposal. Hardly can we stay away from our cell phone or laptop nowadays. Psychologist have invented a new word for this – ‘Nomophobia’, which means the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact. Did anyone imagine our life would become so much entangled in this web of information and our minds occupied to remain online, 24X7, just that we don’t miss some update or important information? After all mobile technology, or say Iphones were only invented, and brought into market after 2007. and it took few years to get them universalized worldwide. So, roughly, its been just a decade since our life has been caught up by the mobile network.
Even, social media has been there since last 10-15 years only. LinkedIn started in 2003, Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, (all straight in a row, more of a coincidence I believe) all became ubiquitous in the last decade itself. Internet has been for a while, but since the beginning of 3G, 4G and onset of handheld, touch screen based mobile phones, we completely became connected to the Web. Infact we have become so used to Google, that we call Google as Internet. And even worse, when Google went down few weeks before ( just for an hour or more), people tried to google on Google to know why Google went down! Nothing more can show how dependent our lives have become on the internet, social media and phone technology.
But amidst all this never ending pandemonium of data, I find that our day just gets spent in absorbing the information we are thrown at. We get the news from news channels and news apps. And the news channels have programmed their transmission to send breaking news every hour, which never breaks! The social media wall sends millions of tweets and posts every day, which the advanced data analytics breaks down into whats trending, and what hot in the market. The marketing companies are more than vigilant to keep posting us attractive ads, coupons, discounts, offers consistently as everything is done online these days, including shopping from food to clothes, gadgets to beauty products. These apps are equipped with AI such that if I don’t open or use a particular app for one day, it sends me some of the cutest messages like ‘We miss you’, ‘Hey Foodie, are you hungry’, ‘Hey, its been a day since we last saw you!’. C’mon, we don’t shop everyday, or even eat outside everyday. But these apps and their cutie messages, will make us visit their apps and shop even if we don’t need. That’s capitalism 101 here.
Now, as most of us have seen or faced this chaos everyday, it is difficult to stay away from all this. Ofcourse, we have the option to disable the notifications, or even not use the apps at all. I tried to deactivate Facebook several times. I reduced my YouTube channel subscriptions. But then after a few days, I simply couldn’t avoid to take a glance of whats going on the Facebook Wall, or even checkout a favorite YT channel. I couldn’t sever my greed to visit these shopping apps during festival sale, or even on a particular day like Valentine’s day, just for the offers or discounts. Ofcourse the endless emails or WhatsApp group updates is something not in our control, except to mute them. But again, the problem of losing out of some crucial info or even a friend’s picture makes us dwell in for sometime during the day. Infact, during the coffee breaks, or even rest room breaks, all we do is hang on to our phones and scroll through the social media. We pride ourselves in staying busy every minute, but I wonder if this busyness is of any real importance. Because most of the content is just surfed, and skimmed, which hardly makes any impact in our life.
Hence, this filtering of noise in our life is something of a herculean task now. I do not yet have a answer for this. Many psychologists and tech experts advise to minimize the use of social media and phones, and even follow a ‘No-Phone Day’ on weekends, or Sunday. But the real question, is it even possible now? Has our life become too much entangled in this web of networking? Is there any way to filter out this noise from our life? Does uninstalling apps, or deactivating social media accounts, make our life calmer, better and happier? Is it possible to live almost an isolated life without this swathing world of information age?
I do not have definite answers, but I do know these questions and quest for their answers is what matters more than all the fancy offers or breaking news out there. Our health, our mind, our career, our productivity, and even our relations with our family and friends is dependent on this. I hope we find a balance by filtering this noise and reliving a calm yet productive routine.
A short review on how ‘Trumanized’ the world has become
I recently watched ‘The Truman Show’ movie. Even though it has been more than 2 decades since this movie was released, but after seeing this movie, I can relate the world resembles much like ‘The Truman Show’ more than ever! I would like to express some of my observations about this movie.
First of all, kudos to Jim Carrey and the whole film cast for such a spectacular performance. The acting and its story theme make us glued to the movie throughout. But more than acting or the subject of the movie, I am enamored by the depth this movie has. This movie depicts the life of reality show which happens to be portray reality in an abstract manner. Because, unlike the usual daily soaps or reality shows, this movie actually shows the real world itself. Because, I find not much difference between the world we live in today, and that of the world presented to Truman in his name show! Today, we are surrounded by hundreds of gadgets and devices on which our life is dependent on. Everything is tracked, and surveillance has become the oxygen of this world. Just like the intricate network of 5000 cameras captured every minute details of Truman, so does all the ‘Internet of Things’ does for us. The information we Google, the friends we make on Facebook, the messages we send on WhatsApp, the pictures we like on Instagram, the videos we watch on YouTube, the mail we send on Gmail, the apps we downloaded from AppStore, the online shopping we make on Amazon, the places we travel to on Google Maps, the restaurants we visit on Yelp, the jobs we apply for on LinkedIn, the hotels we stay in, the people we date on Dating Apps, the car we drive, the books we read, or even the credit card we use for purchases…OMG, doesn’t it sound like ‘The Truman Show’?
And the worst part is that we have become used to all this. We have indirectly accepted all this by our own consent. As Christof rightly said in this movie,
We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented. It’s as simple as that.
Christof, the creator of ‘The Truman Show’
Today, we accept the world presented by news media, entertainment movies, TV shows, podcasts, talk shows, internet and social media as being the real one. It is like we have become a part of crowd psychology. The way of eating, shopping, dating, traveling all being inadvertently influenced and standardized. Monopoly is the real law book these days. If all the information networks decided to make a villian out of some person, then there is no way the world can oppose it. That person is bound to get victimized. And ironically, all the media pride themselves on free speech, freedom and liberal values. In reality, it is their imposition of information and opinions on the world which thwarts the freedom of all the people. But unfortunately, we all have become like ‘Truman Burbank’. We simply don’t even know that we are stuck up in a world of ‘seahaven island’ owned by tech billionaires, media moguls, oil barons and business conglomerates which have turned this world into a studio to make us accept the reality as they want us to see.
And this show did one marvelous thing. It predicted the future of the world. After its release in 1998 ( the same year when Google started), most of the today’s giant social media( FB, Insta, Twitter, YT, Uber, Maps, WhatsApp) and government surveillance program( PRISM), all happened in the last 22 years. Even the Iraq invasion was imposed by the Bush administration under the false pretext of Iraq having WMD. And you know, the world accepted it. Because we all were ‘Trumanized’. Had it not been the audacious whistleblowers like Ed Snowden, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, we would not even have realized about such clandestine programs. Had it not been Chris Wylie, then Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal would never have become known. Because these people refused to accept the world as it was presented to them. After all this is the basis of scientific mindset isn’t it? Not long ago, the Church used to preach ‘The world is flat’, some conservative Hindus used to ban overseas travel under the reasoning of committing sinful acts, or even conservative Muslims used to impose Shariya law and ban women education, compulsion of Hizab etc. But it was this curiosity, scientific mindset and the brave men and women who refused to be a part of this show, and challenged them. We owe our today’s progress of the world to them.
So, finally, as said in the movie by Christof, ‘If he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him“. Similarly, we have the freedom to choose our own opinions, our ideas and our thoughts. We have the right to accept and reject what is bombarded at us by the world. There is no need for everything to be standardized or even labeled under some ideology. This world is diverse, and beautiful. Even we humans come in all forms of color, race, languages, tradition, culture and behavior. We don’t need to embrace what the media tells us always. We don’t need to eat a particular burger or a soft drink just because the marketing team desperately tries to convince us. We don’t need to buy a tech gadget just because the media tells its a cool thing! We don’t need to embrace the life of Page 3 models and actors, assuming it be charming. We can and must maintain the freedom to live as per our conscience. Ofcourse, it isn’t that easy to sail upstream. But as said, if we are absolutely determined to not become like Truman, then no technology, no media propaganda, or surveillance can stop us from living a free life. We can live a life which does not allow our opinions to be influenced by what trends in social media. Just like Truman stepped out of his studio exit, so can we exit all the hatred, wrong bias, narrow opinions from our mind.
How a part time on-campus job experience taught me some finest lessons about work and life.
In 2015, I had arrived in NC State University, USA to gain a M.S in Electrical Engineering. But just like everyone knows how high the tuition and living expenses are in the USA, I decided to find some kind of an on-campus job to atleast pay my monthly bills like food, utilities and house rent. So, my job hunting begun and I actually ended up finding quite a few jobs, which included working with the University newspaper & media ( known as ‘Technician”), University Disability services and University Dining. As I was very keen to take up a job, so I decided to work at the media and disability services office. Soon, I realized that Disability services job was just once or twice a week, and paid very less. And the ‘Technician’ job was of a correspondent for which I had to write 10 opinion articles ( one per week), after which I will be accepted as a staff writer with pay. So, I was not going to earn much in these two jobs, as both hardly covered my monthly expenses. But I still continued with the Disability services, as it was a noble work, and I also liked helping students. And the Media job was something I always wanted, after having discovered a new passion which is writing! If I hadn’t taken up that job, it is quite likely that this blog might not have existed!
But then still I had to pay my bills, and so I took the University Dining job at Fountain Dining Hall. This is the work which paid just enough ( not too much) to cover my monthly expenses. And I was happy because not only I didn’t need to ask my parents for money, but also had gained a confidence in earning, and control over my financial expenses. And the job was pretty simple. All I had to do was stand behind the buffet counter, and help the students in food service. Well, simple isn’t it? But actually, it had much more to it. I not only had to just stand near the buffet counter, but had to stand for almost 3-4 hours per shift. And during that, I had to keep replacing the hot serving food containers, once they were empty. I had to make sure the food didn’t get wasted, by looking if any food wastage happened in any of the serving locations. Then, after the buffet was over, I had to be a part of the team to clean the area near the containers, including the floors and glasses which was followed by moping the floor and cleaning the window pane overlooking the food counter. Now, does it sound simple? I guess not….
But yes, this was pretty much the job. For an engineering student studying in a grad school, this kind of work certainly doesn’t ring any bell? Many of my class colleagues even loathed such kind of work. Their reasoning was why should a grad student need to do physical work, just for the sake of making some more money to pay the bills? Shouldn’t this time be invested in either studying or even learning some skills which might actually be useful in the job after grad school? Yes, this is true. This kind of work certainly does not resonate in the technical field in which I was studying.But then why did I give it a ‘GO’ for doing such a job, which demanded hard work, long hours and even a certain degree of banal routine?
Well, the answer is partly money even though I could have easily asked my parents to send me money, and they would happily obliged to it. But I wanted to earn myself, and stand up on my own legs. I was a 23 year old guy, and the very thought that I will have to ask money for paying my basic food expenses, and rent was unbearable. Also, my tuition was anyways being paid with the loan and parents funding. To add my living expenses to it sounded too much for me. So, I decided to take this job. But also the fact, I wanted to experience something different which I had never experienced before. Because in India, there is no culture of students working part time while studying ( its mostly confined to either IT or BPO). I have never seen an engineering student working in McDonald’s, or even Cafe Coffee Day ( which is India’s Starbucks) while studying. And before coming to USA, I had always been enthused with the American culture which promotes earning while studying, and gives ample opportunities to work part-time and attend classes. Unfortunately, India still does not have that culture ( mainly due to lack of such opportunities for students, surplus of mainstream workforce available to do such kind of work, and family/parents/peers disapproval)
But as I started doing this job, I started seeing a whole new world of catering and food service industry. This is because, usually I had never cared about how much efforts it takes to prepare the food, and to even serve them. But only when I started doing this job, I got to know about the real hard work involved as a team to deliver a fine dining experience. The minute details in food preparation including high standards of cleanliness were to be taken care of. Even standing behind the food counter for long hours, with a smile on my face and responding to students/visitors questions with courtesy wasn’t an easy thing to do. Even more needed was the strong control over desire of eating the good and delicious food which was being kept in front of us at the buffet counter. Ofcourse, we were given the opportunity to eat one meal per every shift, during the break for 15 mins. But still, I remember many of my colleagues discussed how the chicken smelled good, or even the pizza would be tasty to grab on! Maybe, I can write another post on the different foods served and how we wondered what might be prepared the next day!
What did I learn from this job? I would say a lot of things which might not be experienced at a regular desk or IT job. Surely, the first thing is the lots of hard work being put into this job. In this job, I found that helping people is a good thing. When freshman’s used to enter the dining hall, they used to ask so many questions, whether the food had peanuts ( fearing they might be allergic to peanuts), or even what was the name of a particular non-american cuisine, which were offered sometimes, including Indian curry. It is here where I met people from all backgrounds, be it rich or poor, black or white, urban or rural for the first time. I met some of the full time employees, who had been migrated from other countries as refugees such as Egypt, Latin American countries, Vietnam and even Pakistan. I met this old Pakistani couple who worked with the dishes, and who had fled Pakistan and arrived in USA. They talked to me in Hindi, and I was glad to meet someone who spoke Hindi. One of the migrants from Egypt told me that he was a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan, fondly called as ‘Big B’ in Bollywood. I also met an old lady who worked as a cook, and was known for her jokes and hearty laughs. Her witty jokes and laughs used to make all of us laugh and get back to work with cheerful moods. I remember her asking me if I had a girlfriend, for which I had no answer, as I was not dating anyone at that time. I even met many students from other departments in the university, who all worked along with me during morning or evening shifts. Many of them worked just like me to pay their bills, while few of them were actually quite rich, but still preferred to work, to get some work experience. One of the girl ( who was stunningly beautiful) came from a well to do family, yet preferred working in the dining as she was pursuing bachelor’s in food science. Working alongside with a beautiful girl in front of some of the best cuisines, I guess what else do you need in life? Life is beautiful, isn’t it? ….Just kidding…
In this job, I had two managers, one of them was an old white Irishman from upstate New York. He was one of the most calm and compassionate man I met there. He hired me directly without even asking much questions, and never ever criticized me even if I had made some mistakes in the first few weeks. Infact, I had to leave this job after few months, when my coursework became too much too handle. But then after the semester, I went back and asked him if there was any chance he could take me back on the job. And to my surprise, he accepted me immediately. After my graduation, I met him and told that I was leaving the university town. He wished me good luck, and even went ahead to provide me any referral if needed. I never met such a kind-hearted man as my supervisor before. May God bless him good health! The other supervisor was an African-American lady, who also liked me just like the old man. She couldn’t spell my name, and so she used to call me ‘Aby’. After coming to USA, I had abbreviated my name from ‘Abhishek’ to ‘Abhi’. But in this job, it got even further shortened to just ‘Aby’!. Anyways, I liked working with her too, though she was very particular about cleanliness and coming on time to work. But I don’t remember her being ever angry at me during my stint at the job.
Working with both of them taught me a very important lesson, that in this world, all the differences drop if we are kind with each other, and also good at work. I never felt even for a moment any experience of racism, or even hatred being an outsider to the country. They welcomed me, and treated me just like them, but also expected me to do my job well. After all this is what is America is known for. It really doesn’t matter from where you come from, as long as you can work, follow the rules and become a part of it. This diversity in working with different people helped me immensely in my later jobs and career.
Finally, the most important lesson I learnt is that of ‘Dignity of Labor’. That work is work, and no work is small or big. I found that people working in the dining were proud of their work. They never felt anything low about it. Rather, they considered it as an opportunity to provide the best service to the students and visitors coming to the University. I understood the importance of having pride in whatever we do. If we do not take pride in our job or work, how can we expect others to respect us, or even praise us, right? Even though it might not make us earn loads of money, or might not make a great impact on the world ( in Steve Jobs words ‘to make a dent in the universe’ or ‘to change the world’), but surely all work, be it small or big, does contribute to the betterment of the society.
Take pride in our work! And keep learning and doing better at work!
Today, Jan 30th was the day when the father of India, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a communal fanatic. Since, then India remembers our beloved Gandhi, who was fondly called as ‘Mahatma’ or great soul. A lot has been written and filmed with several movies and documentaries on Gandhi. But it is sad to see that India and even the world has failed to learn from his life. And even worse, the current generation has even forgotten much about him, except that fact that his picture is on the Indian currency note ‘Rupee’. I have always been fascinated by the life and teachings of Gandhi, and hence, I would like to pen down few words on this day of remembrance.
The life and teachings of Gandhi have always been easy and complicated, both at the same time. This is because they seem to be simple from theory, but only when put to action, can we realize how intricate they are to follow. Many of his teachings have even been colluded by political affiliations by us, and this really pains the heart of those who are avid followers of Gandhi. I am not a Gandhian ( atleast not as of now) as I am still learning about him, and haven’t inculcated his teachings in my life entirely yet. But the important aspect is that as more the years are passing by, more I am realizing how much important they are in this world.
For example, Gandhi once said ,
An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind
when we look at how the world has been tormented by violence, be it domestic or at the international level with the constant threat of another world war, arms race, possibility of nuclear weapons falling in the hands of dictators or terrorists, and even biological warfare, I cannot emphasize the relevance of Gandhi’s message in these turbulent times. Unfortunately, many people misinterpret this quote as to stay devoid of weapons or just be nice and weak. They question and criticize Gandhi for being naive when it comes to how the world works in reality. Even India after Gandhi’s death did not stop its piling of weapons, and even becoming a nuclear power, however for peaceful purposes. So, Why is Gandhi’s quote relevant then?
This is because Gandhi was not only a pious but also a very pragmatic man. He was once asked by a journalist regarding the relevance of his teaching – “non-violence ” to fight against someone like Hitler. He had answered that even though it initially seems impractical to fight using non-violence as our weapon, against a dictator who is in a pursuit of world domination with sheer force. But if we look it as a big picture, we will realize that it is possible to fight against even the worst dictator with our weapons of non-violence and peace. Because even though the allies defeated Nazis with much bigger force and violence, but what happened at the end. Both sides lost several men and entire countries were destroyed. Germany, Japan, Italy, Soviet Union, England and France were almost destroyed with few exceptions of cities, universities and religious places. Only USA survived this devastation because of being separated by distance, which could not be targeted by then weapon technology. But today, if another world war happens, USA or any other country, however distant would not be that fortunate.
Violence has never helped to bring peace. Just like hate breeds hate, so does violence. If violence and weapon power would have been the game changer, then USA would not have suffered defeat in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Similarly, Soviet Union also could neither control Afghanistan nor East Germany, however strong the Berlin Wall was built. Even Israelis have not been able to crush Palestinians and Arab resentment inspite of all the suppression done by them in the last 6 decades. Force and repression always gets defeated by non-violence and peace at the end. I can give several examples to prove this. Take India in this scenario. India had been a colony of British for almost 2 centuries. India tried to resist British control over India by all means possible, including wars, killing of British officers, bombing public places and many more. But the British with only a few thousand officers and who were advanced in weapons technology and even more united than Indians were at that time, always over-powered and controlled 400 million Indians!
But Gandhi was the visionary who realized the importance of non-violence during those times, when wars were played like games, and games were played like wars. He united the Indians and preached them to fight against British with non-violence.When all the freedom fighters started using non-violent means like protests, satyagraha, ban of using foreign goods, promoting of swadeshi or local goods etc, the British were surprised. They tried to suppress the protests by sheer force, but they were stunned to see innocent, harmless Indians who were ready to die for the cause of freedom. Many died, but their death hurt the pride of British rulers. They simply could not believe that their rule had descended to become barbaric, against the so called civilized pride they used to exhibit. They did not know how to respond to someone who is harmless and at the same time willing to suffer all the physical pains. This was unprecedented! The British had fought in so many wars, and won most of them. But this war was something the British could never win. Because the actions of non-violent protesters and freedom fighters, pricked the little leftover humanity in the hearts and minds of British rulers. Many realized how can they become so cruel against fellow humans, who just happened to be brown or black skinned. After all, there was no difference between Hitler and Churchill, or Nazis and British colonizers. Both used violence to achieve their aims. And this realization is the ultimate goal of non-violence which only Gandhi envisioned. And he proved it to the whole world, when India became the first country in the world to free itself from centuries old British rule in 1947 completely through non-violent means.
Later, we see many revolutions and protests took inspiration from Gandhi. Be it Martin Luther King’s protest for Civil Rights movement in America, or Nelson Mandela in South Africa. We cannot imagine Obama becoming US President, had Martin Luther King used violent means to obtain equal rights for his people. The white men would have simply crushed it with all the brute force and advanced technology. But Dr.King was prudent enough to know this, and that’s why we see the African-American community has been accepted and assimilated by most of the white Americans, barring few racist minded people.
But it is important to note that Gandhi said that non-violence is something only the strong person can act on. The word ‘strong’ here means who is morally strong. He/she who can face the outcomes with a strong heart. He/she who never fears, who never gives in and who never gives up. He/she who has infinite patience, and who is not carried away by short term gains. That person is capable to fight against injustice and violence using non-violence. But unfortunately, not all of us are that strong, and hence we end up discarding the importance of non-violence. A weak or coward cannot follow this brave path. That’s why when asked, Gandhi wrote, as follows
So, the important part is even Gandhi advised that “when there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.” Hence, his message is to become strong morally, and physically as well. A weak cannot survive in this world. This aligns with the Darwin’s law “survival of the fittest”. But violence should not be practiced by the strong. True strength is attained when one is responsible for the consequences of his/her actions. That’s why even Spiderman said ” With true power comes true responsibility”, isnt’ it? A strong country or person is one who has all the capability of displaying strength, but does not use it against the weak. Rather that power is used to enable the weak to empower them and strengthen the bond of humanity. This action is considered non-violent, and even the most cruel opponent’s heart should melt down after seeing this true strength.
This is my understanding of Gandhi’s message, and that’s why I love Gandhi. I wish all the world leaders follow Gandhi, and then hopefully we won’t have to fear the risk of another world war or nuclear holocaust which might wipe out humanity. Then Elon Musk won’t have to work so hard to go to Mars! I would love to write more on Gandhi, and hence, would pen down my admiration for Gandhi in the upcoming posts. Till then, lets remember him today, and try to inculcate his message in our life and actions.
With the unexpected shock of Coronavirus in 2020, the world went into lockdown and quarantine mode. And with it, many offices, businesses also went online or as it popularly called ‘Working from home’ or just WFH. Now, it will be almost a year since lockdowns and working from home started. And it seems its going to stay for a while.
There are many reasons WFH might be staying for sometime. Initially, it seems that WFH is convenient for employees only. It not only avoids the daily commute to office, but also gives ample space and time for employees to stay near to their family or loved ones. Employees can manage to give sometime to their personal life amidst all the busy work schedule. Besides the money savings are piling up with gas/petrol savings, living away from city in outskirts to skip the high rent, avoiding eating outside or even visiting starbucks/coffee shops for many of us. Not only that, we dont even need to follow the office protocol anymore, which used to be a big list which included washing and ironing clothes, shaving for men, makeup for women, packing food in lunch boxes, polishing shoes, and even a bit of extra efforts to impress the boss, or someone whom we have a secret crush in office, isnt it? But all this has been like a part of history now. Many don’t even shave for months, and wear shorts during online meetings. So, in a way, this has changed our life quite a lot.
Also, many have been able to even pursue some hobbies or learning new skills like cooking, reading books, blogging. Infact I started this blog last year during the lockdown, and so far, I have re-discovered myself that I really enjoy writing. I always had plans to start my own blog, but never could find the motivation or even time due to my work, and frequent business trips. But only when I started working from home, I could find a renewed inspiration to write. Similarly, many people with this flexibility have found new hobbies and interests worth pursuing.
But, this is not just good for employees. Rather it is even better for companies for many reasons. Like basic reasons include they dont need to take risk by allowing employees to come and work in office, which could lead to mass spread of the virus. As the offices are closed, so are the savings in maintenance cost, utility bills and security personnel. A lot of company money which used to get spent in everyday cleaning & maintenance is reduced drastically as hardly anyone enters the company building now. But even more better, is the fact that now due to WFH, it has become easier for the companies to make their employees to work harder and compel them to spend long hours at work! How? The answer is Digitization. With all the video conferencing apps like Zoom, Teams and Cisco Webex, messaging apps like Teams, Whatsapp and Signal, Outlook and Gmails, it has become like a 24×7 work schedule. Because earlier the office was considered more than a work place. It was also a place to network with colleagues and managers, share ideas and thoughts, brainstorm and solve problems, drink a lot of coffee during frequent coffee breaks, and thereby try to get away for sometime from the boring work, or manager!
But now, its just work, work and work! The employees cannot do any of the activities mentioned above. Of course, they can still drink coffee at their leisure, and even talk during meetings or calls with colleagues. But the real life human factor is missing. Using the company secured VPN, and assuming the possibility of meetings being recorded, there is almost no way for the employees to gossip or talk about his/her manager behind their back. I usually do not endorse such gossips or talks, but afterall we all are social human beings. Infact, many happily married couples in this world have known each other for the first time in the office. So, I feel this WFH has removed the human factor and actually made us machines. We work day and night by sitting in front of computer. And this Digitization has even made our analog life, (which used to have all the natural human elements ) into a digital life, of 1’s and 0’s. I guess the software coders or IT folks can easily identify themselves in this dire situation.
And the worse part is many companies and tech firms might keep this WFH policy for a while. Even though it is good for safety and well being of employees from the virus, but what about the mental well being of the employees? I can say that many employees are already bored while WFH, including me. Because wise people had advised to maintain a work-life balance. It is necessary to keep work and home separate. To have a good health, mental well being and family happiness, it is good habit to keep work at work, and never bring at home. But with this WFH, this is impossible as we have made our home itself as a workplace. Thats why it is inevitable that our social and family life is mired with all the deadlines and work pressures. Not only do we all get bored sitting all day working from home, but also it affects the relations with our family members. Infact, during the meetings, I have heard so many background crosstalk from family members etc. This is expected when WFH, but isn’t it affecting our ability to concentrate at work? Also, WFH affects our productivity and discipline. Because earlier we used to only work 9 to 5 in office, and complete the work before leaving for the day. But now, there is no such schedule. I can work even late at night and finish the work, to give the update next day. This is affecting our normal work-life balance.
But companies are happy and they won’t give up on this WFH culture soon. That’s why many people like me are fearing if this is Working from Home, or Forever from Home! I hope the latter never comes true!
I wish I had known somethings early in life such as …….
Today, I am writing about few things in life which I wish I had known before….But I think most of us get to know this only through experience, or maybe few of the lucky ones might get this wisdom early in life as well. But here’s my first wisdom I wish I had known before…..
Early success in life is not really a big thing
Yes, this is because when we are in school and university, we often are very disciplined and studious. We take our study and academic life very seriously ( atleast many of us, and I took it pretty seriously). So, with that hard work, we get the good grades and marks. And we think that is success. Because, after all, in school and college life, marks or GPA is the only yardstick to judge if we are progressing or failing, isn’t it? But that early success is really not a big achievement. Why?
Firstly with that continued success ( I say this because I used to be either a topper, or always amongst the top five in class), we become complacent, and even limit ourselves to our studies only. We form a fortress around ourself, with what is called as comfort zone, and then we are happy with that success inside that comfort zone. We make friends who are just like us, either toppers, nerds, or achievers. That’s when groupism starts, as we limit ourselves from getting to know the other things in the world. Now, I know studying is one of the important parts of school and college life, as it imparts the future perks like good college, scholarships, good job and lots of nice things in life. And I agree with that, as my life would not have been as comfortable ( atleast to a certain extent) had I not studied and got good grades.
But the problem is we often sink ourselves into that world of success early in life. And in that process, we miss out a lot. Because schooling, teenage and early 20’s life never ever come back again, once its gone. And once we are adults, we have to work, there is no escape except if you are born in a Kardashian or Paris Hilton family. And the adulthood brings with it all its own set of perks like responsibility, stress, work pressure, deadlines, financial obligation, relationship commitment, marriage, kids etc etc. So, failing in adulthood is not a good option. We have to work and achieve some degree of success, depending on our ambitions and goals.
So, only childhood and teenage life has that advantage when we really don’t need to work so hard. Because as I had seen in my generation, and it continues till today, that kids, teenagers and collegiates are so much stressed out regarding their grades, homework, assignments, exams, projects and what not. The coaching classes have created even more mess into their life, by having 6 to 8 hours of classes. They not only have to study in school, but also at home, almost till they go to bed. And with the ed-tech companies and digital apps, now, there is no longer any restriction to study for x number of hours only. With apps and online education, 24×7 classes and coaching is ON…. Even kids as small as 6 to 8 years old are introduced and forced to do coding by a startup in India. The rat race for IIT coaching was there at that time, and now it has worsened. These poor kids and teenagers have to spend their 5-6 precious years just to get the early success in life, by cracking a particular exam, or getting 5.0 GPA to get into MIT, harvard or even become like mark zuckerburg.
Hence, I think that early success and working until getting exhausted is really over-rated. There is no need for all this. Because later in life, they have to work until they get retired. There is simply no escape. And I think that if they work too much in their early life, then the possibility to get burned out and hence, lose interest in life is more. This happens, and I am also a part of it. Sometimes, I just dont want to work anymore, even though I like to work. Why? Because I have been doing that since my school or college days, and so I am not only bored to do that again and again, but also I miss my old days for not having done few things which were easily possible. Like playing a particular sport, video games with friends, going out for trekking or cycling with school buddies, dating a girl whom I liked ( but not possible now as she is either married or dating someone else or away living in some other country), or even reading books of famous authors like Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, or Isaac Asimov.
And I miss doing those activities, as I was just busy at that time in persuing that early success which no one cares today. That success made me miss other things which could have made my life more enriched with experiences. That early success made me live in a bubble, where I felt academic or college accomplishments is all that mattered. Oh Boy, I was so wrong! That early success even made me lose the opportunity to spend quality time with my family, friends or even the girl which I liked. And most important of all, that success made me unaware of what failure is. Because as said by J K Rowling and many successful people, that it is failure that teaches the lessons which enable us to grow in life, and not success. As J K Rowling said.”…that I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.” But even she realized later that her early success could not prevent her from spinning down into poverty, committing some mistakes and getting depressed. Because she admits that she had been avoiding failure, and had been in an illusion that her early success will enable her to ride the journey of life. But later did she understand the importance of failure, and how it teaches the vital lessons of life.
That’s why it is said that “Failures are stepping stones to success”. Hence, I wish I had known earlier that it is OK to fail early in life as life is always simpler when you are living with your parents, and you are not bombarded with colossal responsibilities. And you have time, and space to fail, and rise again, again fail at something else, and learn from it to rise again, when you are 16 or 20 years old. But once we enter the field of adulthood, I do not believe the world opens its arms to embrace you with your failures. So, the room for improvement is highest when we are very young. Ofcourse, it does not mean we cannot fail at later age. Yes, we can but just that the efforts to climb up amidst all the paraphernalia is not very welcoming.
Hence, I would say that just as we were taught the poem “Early to Bed, Early to Rise…..when we were kids, I think we can tweak that a little bit, such as “Early to Fail, Early to Rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise!”
Every year on 26th January, Indians celebrate the Republic Day to commemorate the day the Constitution of India came into effect. In addition to it, Jan 26th is also the day when the Indian National Congress revealed ‘Purna Swaraj’ (Total Independence), the declaration of India’s independence from the British colonial rule on Jan 26th, 1930. Hence, this day signifies the right spirit of Independent India.
I remember, when I was a kid, I used to wake up early in the morning to go to school and hoist out beloved tricolor with school friends. We used to carry the tricolor flag in our hands, and run across the streets together, singing ‘Vande Mataram’ just like A R Rehman’s historic composition. Even today, when I listen this song, goosebumps rise and tears often roll down through my eyes. I bet this song touches that one nerve in the 1.35 billion people which unites us as ‘Indians’
So, much pride and love for my country was displayed through those actions. Ofcourse, I and we all of us still love and will keep loving our beloved motherland. But those days were innocent as a kid, as the love or country was simply pure. There was no politics, no political or religious affiliation, all we knew that we are born in this great land, and we are so much fortunate for this honor. I do miss that innocence!
Anyways, then I used to come home, and watch the national parade in Delhi which was live telecasted all over India. The marvelous stunts performed by our jawans, the heart throbbing aviation performance by Indian AirForce, the display of culture, tradition and diversity of different states with posters and presentations, the different forms of dance, the parade of military personnel with their laser sharp accuracy in every move they make is so enthralling! Then, the programme used to end with the nostalgic yet pride tune of the following song dedicated for the great Indian leader and freedom fighter, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
‘Qadam qadam baṛhāye jā Keep stepping forward khushī ke gīt gāye jā singing songs of happiness ye zindagī hai qaum kī this life belongs to our nation tū qaum pe lutāye jā keep laying it down for her
A lot can be written about India, its republic day, how it got independence from British, and what makes India so unique inspite of all the diversity and chaos as well. As I later went to United States for my higher studies, and having proudly returned back to India, I got to see both sides of the world. But as said in the movie Pardes,
London dekha, Paris dekha
London dekha, Paris dekha, aur dekha Japan
Michael dekha, Elvis dekha, sab dekha meri jaan
Saare jag mein kahin nahin hai dusra Hindustan
Dusra Hindustan, dusra Hindustan
There is no country like India on this planet. And I say this with complete humility without any fake pride. Because, I know India is not like America, or Japan. All countries have their own culture, and history. But if we take a look at the world history, most of the countries are either a part of culture, or block. The world has been grouped into those blocks, like Western, Asian, African, Eurasia etc. America has always been a part of western nations, while China, Japan form the Eastern part. But India has always been unique with its location, its culture, its way of living. Though it had British influence, which is still felt today, even including this blog which is written in English! But rest all has been born and bred in this soil. The diversity, the unity being subtly imbibed into it. all is sweetly intertwined with each other. This makes India so different, so incredible!
On this occasion of Republic day, here are some of the previous republic day parades, especially for the non-Indian readers.
Happy Republic Day 2021! May India and the world be at peace, and heal from the havoc caused by Coronavirus,
The word, ‘Karma’ means a person’s actions in this life, and even in the previous life. I am not quite a believer of the existence of the impact of previous life, even though there is a lot of literature which tries to explain it. But I being a pragmatist and realist, often limit myself to this life itself when it comes to karma. Actually, even though this word is used quite a lot in Hinduism and Buddhism, but recently it has been wide spread in the western countries as well. Many people from corporate world, media & music industry, writers try to use this word, and explain their point of view.
This law of karma is actually the equivalent to the English idiom ‘As you sow, so you reap’. And we all have read this in school. It even relates to the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In plain English, you should treat others the same way as you would like others to treat you. Simple, isnt it? But the question is do we really follow this?
The law of karma is very much universal. I mean no one can simply escape it. Because the evidence backing it is enormous. We all must have experienced this law even in small things, like when we hurt someone, we don’t realize it at that time. But we grasp it immediately when someone else hurts us in the same way. If we cheat in exams, we get caught and suffer the consequence. If we eat wrong food, we fall sick. If we spend too much money in shopping, or even bad vices like drinking, we soon run out of our savings. This law is very much practical.
Even if someone tries to run away from the effects of that karma, they simply cannot. We can see many famous examples in history, and day to day life as well. Some of the Nazis who had committed horrendous atrocities on innocent jews tried to run away from getting jailed or hanged to South America, but years later, many of them like Adolf Eichmann did get caught and were later hanged. Many serial killers, terrorists, rapists who commit horrible acts end up being killed or caught someday or the later. Osama Bin Laden, Pablo Escobar, Ted Bundy all got caught & killed. Even those who committed frauds like Jordan Belfort, Bernie Madoff, Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Ketan Parekh, Harshad Mehta all got either caught or exposed sooner or later. Karma circles and hits back!
But then I wonder why people still forget this, and act as if they will never get punished for their actions. This is something of a moral question, for which there is no easy answer. But I do think there are two reasons for this. Well, first is the uncertain time delay between action and result. Just like a mango tree does not give mangoes immediately after the sapling is planted, similarly it takes time for the action to fructify. It could be years, or even decades. Meanwhile, the person who committed those acts mistakenly gets convinced that his/her actions won’t hit back, or as if they are immune to it. This usually happens when power corrupts. Somehow, those people who are extremely rich, famous and powerful, start believing that they are above the law.
But even though they might tweak the social laws, but they cannot change the effect of nature’s law of karma. And this is best seen in the recent example of Donald Trump, who had vehemently denied the existence of coronavirus, and profusely refused to wear or endorse wearing masks in public places. But then after few months, he got the virus, and the faith in this law of karma or cosmic justice being done was revitalized. Even his defeat in 2020 election is a proof of his actions for years, for which he had assumed that he would never get suffered. But as we know, even he could not escape the law of karma.
But the second reason I wonder is the bizare uncertainity in nature’s justice. We often see good people getting suffered for no mistakes of their own, and bad people getting away from their outcomes. As mentioned before, the bad people do get suffered, someday or the other, and that cannot be denied. Just, that it takes a lot of time, sometimes. But I have no answer or even any reason for why good and innocent people get suffered. We see innocent girls and women getting raped, people suffering from racism or caste discrimination, Jews had to suffer from anti-semitism and in concentration camps, India and many countries had to suffer from British and other European brutal coloniazation, innocent people dying in civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, people getting repressed in dictatorial regimes like N.Korea, people dying from earthquakes, tsunami, forest fires, riots, floods, draughts, famines, and even innocent people dying due to cancer, and now, covid-19! I wonder what was the fault of these people?
Religious preachers point to their karma in previous life. But for a practical mind, it does not convince. After all, who has really seen if we really had a previous life? Were we humans or some other animal creature? And why would it take so much time, almost a new birth, just to suffer the consequences of previous life’s mistakes? Why not just make it suffer in that life itself? Why to drag it till next life? I mean these are weird questions, which might not have any relevant answers. Those who have, might not convince us. This is the similar to the classic clash between free-will vs deterministic life! Sometimes, I relate this to astrology, or numerology, which fraudulently claims about people’s future or even a particular number as a good sign! For those fake and corrupt astrologers, I wonder if they themselves know what their future is going to be? I am pretty sure, most of them would not have a damn idea!
I think the quest for answers for the above questions will remain for quite sometime. But the good thing is we humans have come a long way in understanding this world, and nature as well. Not long before, we were trepidated by events like tsunami, cyclones and earthquakes. Our ancestors blamed it on other humans for doing immoral acts and because of which nature had taught us a lesson. Even a pious man like Gandhi, had blamed the Bihar earthquake in 1934 as a ‘divine chastisement for the great sin’ people there had committed against the untouchables. Seeing this absurd belief in superstition, the Nobel Laureate in Literature, Ravindranath Tagore, could not resist himself in responding to Gandhi with a letter of reprimand against this absurd belief.
So, today, atleast we have come a long way with all the modern technology and advancement in sciences. We atleast do not blame floods or forest fires for the sins committed by few men and women. I wish sciences get advanced even further to throw some light on this karmic aspect of life, which involves questions asked before. Maybe, a better understanding of life, will enable us to get the wisdom to know why some people suffer more than others? Is it their karma, or fate, or something beyond our present human cognizance.
Finally, the day of Jan 20th arrived, which marked a new beginning in American history. Not because of Joe Biden (the oldest President) or Kamala Harris ( the first female vice-president), but because that day was the last day of Donald Trump in acting President. I am sure many Americans must have felt relieved and even happy ( not those 48 million who voted for him) with his departure. His chaotic presidency certainly led to wide scale polarization in the States. Whatever he did was right or wrong, good or bad for America is something historians and political pundits will keep analyzing for the rest of their lives. Hence, I won’t delve into that further, as this is a part of history now, and certainly, those 4 years almost felt like a decade for many of us. Hence, it is better to stay away from choppy waters!
Well, having said that, then what is this post about? I am writing this post to try to understand what made Trump the person he is today. I have always been curious to know about his life, and the experiences he has had which must have moulded him to become what he resembles under his brand ‘Trump’. This is not about how he became president, or why did Americans accept him as their President. Neither would I like to delve into the causes of his winning and losing. Rather, I am writing this post to shed some more light on the ‘Trumpian’ mindset.
The Dictionary.com definesTrumpianas an adjective form for President Donald Trump. The term is especially used by critics to characterize his language, conduct, and policies. To understand the psychology of Trump, I read his biography book, watched Netflix TV show Trump: An American Dream, watched a few documentaries about Trump and read/watched several articles/youtube videos about him. Ofcourse, to clarify, I am not trained as a researcher or even a psychologist to make a statement about his personality. But out of sheer curiosity and with an intention to know this dark side of human personality, I tried to read and know as much as possible about him.
And, based on this, I did get to some facts or events which must have played a definitive role in Trump’s life which shaped him the way the world saw him especially for the last 4 years. Starting from his childhood, Trump was born with a silver spoon. His father was a real estate developer in New York city, and was a millionaire. His father was not only a very smart real estate businessman, but also very ruthless and cunning when it came to profits and competition. He tried to instill this attitude in his sons. Trump had an elder brother, who eventually committed suicide later in life. So, this background of having a strict father, being raised up in New York city and seeing elder brother commit suicide are the key elements which influenced Trump’s later life.
Because, Trump grew up in an environment where competition was considered the only form of survival. It’s almost like the hardest form of survival of the fittest. And this was natural because, living in New York city during the 1960’s and 70’s was not a cakewalk. Those days were some of the tough days when everyone flocked into new york for a better life, and hence, the competition for survival and to grow rich in life was harsh. In such a scenario, the Trump’s were millionaires, and so naturally, they had a natural instinct to protect their wealth, and hence, do whatever that is possible to not only stay in the competition but also come out as the best. Another important aspect of New York city life is the diversity that city imbibes, just like Mumbai. People belonging to different ethnicities and religions lived and worked in the same city. It was not uncommon to see Jews dominating the banking, particularly Wall Street and even to large extent the real estate business in the city. While Italians owned the mafia ( though this does not mean all Italians were a part of it). Irish Americans filled a large chunk of the working class population, while the elite WASP’s( White Anglo Saxon Protestants) formed the cream of banking, education, law firms and business conglomerates. And the rest of the others like Afro-Americans, Spanish-Americans, or even Indians and Chinese were mostly considered as aliens living out of the city.
Now, one of the most important things is that Trump’s belonged to neither of them. Because they had a German ancestry ( original name as Drumpf), and hence the mood at that time was anti-German due to WW2 and Nazi concentration camps which had happened, So, they had not only anglicized their name to Trump, but also lied to everyone that they had a Swedish ancestry, just to avoid the hatred from fellow jews. But the fact that they were kind of a minority in the city dominated by other groups, made them conscious of their survival. And hence, Donald Trump became aware of this and hence, did everything to maintain their richness, which was rather rare in the city. The real estate business consisted of several jewish businesses, and due to their competitive nature, it was rather inevitable for him to even scale further on becoming more competitive in order to survive. Ofcourse, this does not imply that the environment made him competitive. It did play a minor role, but the fact that Trump always feared losing whatever he had, and hence, this fear and insecurity made him become aggressive.
Also, he never got accepted by the city elites, because of many reasons. Firstly, the Trump’s did not belong to any dominant groups like the Jews or WASP’s. Second, Donald Trump was not very educated or sophisticated either. His father was not much educated, but had worked hard to become a millionaire which was respected by the then 1940’s society. But Donald Trump grew up in a millionaire family. At that time in the 1950’s and 60’s, the students were expected to study and go to Ivy league schools. But Donald was not a very bright student, and due to his rebellious attitude, his father sent him to a military prep school to instill in him some sense of discipline. He did graduate and only learnt too well to be disciplined. He later transferred to Univ of Penn, but never got mingled or accepted into the student life. He was more like a loner, and hence never had any good friends. He envied those who went to Ivy league and hence, this later made him despise the eliteness of Ivy leaguers or even higher education. And that’s why we see, his supporters are rarely highly educated people, but those who are just high school pass outs or even borderline illiterates. Because Trump has never been comfortable around those who are more educated or smarter than him. That’s why he despised scientists like Anthony Fauci, who were trying to give him advice on how to tackle the covid pandemic. But his hatred for educated men and women, steamed out because Trump knew he was not smart and could never get accepted into the highly educated circles. But at the same time, he understood, the only way he can beat others is by becoming more rich and famous. And hence, he shifted his attention to family construction business, which was like a cash cow for the family.
Donald Trump’s decision to enter the family business was not just motivated by his desire to beat his peers who were already studying in the Ivy league, or by the New York city environment. But it was also motivated by his father’s wish to launch him into the business, after seeing the elder Trump ( Donald Trump’s elder brother) fail miserably at the family business. His brother did not like business, and hence, the onus to carry on the family business came on Donald. But the crux of this story was not only Donald Trump wanted to become rich and successful in business, but also wanted to get into his father’s good books. Why? Because Donald Trump had seen how his brother had failed to live upto to his father’s expectations, and hence, had been insulted and eventually compelled to move out of Trump’s house. He later became a drunkard, out of regret and depression, and finally committed suicide. This event must have shackled Donald. Because he then not only had the responsibility to keep the business intact in that cut throat New York city competition, but also had to prove his worth to make his father proud. He feared that if he did not succeed, then he would also eventually die being a drunkard like his brother. That’s why Donald Trump became a teetotaler, and also became more aggressive, ruthless, greedy, cunning and selfish.
For him, the only way to survive and grow is to beat the competitors. And that’s why his mantra became ‘the end justifies the means’. He would use all sorts of methods, good and bad, nice and dirty, all ways to climb up the ladder. He made the notorious lawyer, Roy Cohn who used to work for the five Mafia families in New York as his personal lawyer. He corrupted the mayors of New York, filed cases against them if they did not follow his orders, requested for tax breaks etc to grow his business. But the most important and daring act Trump performed is to enter Manhattan. Why? Because his father had constructed projects in other boroughs of New York city, but never dared to enter the elite Manhattan. He had become a millionaire inspite of not having any construction projects in Manhattan, and he was happy and satisfied with it. But for Donald Trump, who always wanted to prove to his father, and also beat his peers, he dreamed big. He wanted to enter Manhattan and build the Trump tower. Because entering Manhattan will enable him to become a billionaire, which his father had not achieved in life. It would also make him get the respect from the Jews or WASP’s which he desperately craved for. It was a risky gamble, but it worked out at the end. Had he failed, it would have been the end of the Trump empire. But Trump got lucky and he excelled.
He not only successfully constructed his hotel in Manhattan, but also later built his iconic Trump Tower. And then he never looked back. But even though he became a billionaire, he still never got the respect and admiration from his other business colleagues or peers. For them, he was the guy who got a headstart from his father to get launched into the business. Also he had corrupted the new york officials and hence, become rich by unfair means. Ofcourse, Trump was not alone. At that time, most of the new york businesses were known for their selfishness and greedy nature. But Trump went much further.
He not only entered the Casino market, but went on a spree of buying golf courses, hotels, yachts, airlines, and even writing books. And then eventually it backfired. He lost a big chunk of it, & became bankrupt. At that crucial time, no one supported him but only his father. Donald Trump filed for bankruptcy not one, not two but whopping four times. And his father poured in his millions to bail him out. Well, what lesson did he learn? Trump learnt it quite a bad way that he was not good at running family owned construction business. Yes, this may shock us because the world knows he has been a billionaire for a long time. But in reality, as many have speculated over his real net worth ( which sparked the controversy due to his denial to make the tax-returns public), the fact is that Trump after the fiasco of becoming bankrupt four times, he switched over to reality business. Yes, and that’s where he earned his millions. It is his entertainment shows like ‘The Apprentice’, speeches, talk shows, books, beauty pageants which garnered him the attention and fame, which led to the rise of brand ‘Trump’. That’s why we see for the last few years, even though his company still manages construction projects, but they only lend their brand name and earn royalty. And going further, it is interesting that Trump even used his presidency to earn money, He did by selling stuff like flags, coffee mugs, shirts, banners etc all with Trump name, thus earning the royalty paid by his foolish loyal supporters. He even made the US government pay the Americans taxpayers money for his stay in Mar-A-Lago, owned by none other than Trump himself!
Anyways, the point is that Trump realized early in life that he is not smart or intelligent, and later in life, that he is not good at his family business as well. So, then what was he good at? And the answer is attention seeking. Yes, he used his display of flamboyant wealth, his personality, his charisma to get the attention he needed, desperately, so that he could earn his millions. Else, there was no way he could have maintained his wealth. That’s why, he talked rubbish, hated the media which ridiculed him, acted like a buffoon, criticized women who disliked him, and made his marriages and family affairs like a prime TV show. He created a brand out of nothing but narcissism, bombasting attitude, pompous, chaos and flamboyant lifestyle. With his books, like ‘The Art of the Deal’ and ‘The Art of Comeback’, he tried to portray being one of the most successful businessmen ever born on the planet. And unfortunately, Americans who could not become rich like him became his loyal followers.
The worst part is that his supporters often came from humble backgrounds, especially from mid-western, northern rust belt and southern USA. And these regions are usually known as being part of the bible belt, with pro-guns attitude, farmers or working class, traditional or cultured, and staying away from California, New York and Florida, due to their belief of atheist or sinful people living in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall street and Palm beach, Miami. But the irony is that Trump, to whom these people supported to win the presidency, has always been a part of that sinful Hollywood, New York and Florida lifestyle. People like Trump as rightly said by,
“I’ve dealt with guys like Donald Trump my whole life, who would look down on us because we didn’t have a lot of money or your parents didn’t go to college. Guys who think they’re better than you. Guys who inherit everything they’ve ever gotten in their life and squander it.”
have always looked down upon these people. But just to prove to Barack Obama ( who had apparently mocked Donald to run for the president, after Trump had falsely accused Obama of being born outside the USA) that he can win, and thereby hit back the insult, he ran for president. Ofcourse, he had the added advantage that running for presidency will get him the attention and fame, and thereby dollars. That’s why he always told he will run for president since the late 1980’s, but never took it seriously, only until his BIG Ego got hurt in 2011 by Obama and other democrats, and that’s when he took it pretty seriously. Why people supported him is altogether a different ballgame, and it will probably take a book to elaborate on that. But the fact that he had marketed his brand and gained the support for all these years since early 1990’s business failure, came handy for Trump. And then what happened on Nov 8th, 2016 is history.
Finally, in this pursuit to understand the Trumpian psychology, the book by Mary Trump, his niece, is exceptionally helpful. Even though I haven’t read the book, but based on reviews and articles, Donald Trump is not only a narcissist but also suffers from anti-social and dependent personality disorder. This answers why Trump is so greedy for being the center of attention. His lack of trust in anyone is due to his antisocial personality disorder which resulted due to his isolation from New York business circles. Trump saw his brother die of suicide, and this made him fearful of his own death, if he fails. And this fear led to him becoming greedy and selfish. He became devoid of morals and principles. For him, nothing is good if it doesnt let him win. That’s why, he believed that the election was being stolen, because people like Trump cannot accept defeat. For them, accepting defeat is equivalent to committing suicide. And that’s why we see why Trump remained in denial of his defeat, and never conceded in person to Joe Biden.
People like Trump suffer from lack of empathy and love for others, and that’s why when thousands of Americans were dying due to Covid-19, or even were thrown out of the USA for being just immigrants, he did not care. Because his heart does not have any soft corner, and is just as hard as rock. His dependent personality disorder makes him dependent on his family only, and that’s why we saw why his closest advisors had been his beloved daughter, and son-in-law only. His reckless attitude, his utter lack of concern for laws, and value system made him fire several people in his own cabinet. Even though he showed that he cared for his supporters, or even for the military, but in reality, all he cared for was his popularity. Because, he very well knew that he would get the unwavering support from these poor people who had never seen the likes of wealth and fame that he had achieved. In other words, he used them for making his brand stronger. But unfortunately, after 4 years, it seems that not only has the brand become weaker, but also it has been labeled as a symbol of racism, narcissism and ultra-right wing conservatism.
So, before concluding this post, my main purpose to write on this topic is to understand what conditions make people like Trump live on this planet. And by knowing this, the good side of humanity will make sure never ever such mentally sick, narcissist, and morally depraved people ever come to power in any part of the world again in future. Else, the world knows what happened in the USA after 2016.
Continuing ahead with this article from part 1, the current Modi government came to power in 2014. But many of the readers in India can recollect how the events before 2014 were at that time. When I recollect that time, I cannot neglect to compare it with the pre-Reagan times. Even though the local situation in both the countries is entirely different, but the underlying conditions were on a similar tone.
India just like USA before Reagan suffered its own set of debacles. If we trace back long before, it all started with 1984. The assassination of the prime minister of India, Mrs.Indira Gandhi sent a shockwave to the entire nation. Actually, it even changed the political scenario of the country. Because from 1947 till 1984, with few years of exception ( 1977-79) in between, India had been governed by the Congress party, under Pandit Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and then Indira Gandhi, single-handedly. Those years were the golden period of the Congress party. But after 1984, things changed overnight. Rajiv Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi, reluctantly had to accept the position of prime minister. His term even though ushered in a new era of governance, but it also led to split of the party and nation in a deep way. Because it was during that era (1984-1989), that the conflicts of Punjab,Tamil and Sri lankans, Kashmir issue and polarization between Hindus and Muslims widened after Rajiv sided with conservative maulavis regarding Shah-Bano case. After 1989, India saw several governments, some of which were highly unstable and short-term. Unfortunately, Rajiv Gandhi’s unpopular term led him becoming a victim of terrorism in 1991.
The condition of India continued to worsen during 1990’s decade, both politically and economically. With the sole exception of Manmohan Singh and Narsimha Rao’s economic liberlization policies in 1991, nothing much good happened during 1990’s. Even though India tested its nuclear weapons in 1998, but it was soon followed by sanctions from USA, and also within 15 days, Pakistan also tested in response to India’s nuclear test. The Kashmir situation went out of hand, and in 1990, the Kashmiri Pandits had to flee the valley after the fatwah was released by the local conservatives accusing them of being kafirs. On the foreign policy front, India suffered a lot because of the fall of Soviet Union. The USSR had been India’s friend and supporter in international arena, and this sudden loss of support made India foreign policy adrifted. Further, the Kargil war in 1999 brought India and Pakistan almost near to the nuclear attack. India won the war bravely, but later had to suffer from Pakistan sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of the India for the next 2000’s decade.
Even in the domestic side, the situation had worsened. Already the economy had staggered during 1980’s and even though the economic liberalization policy launched the Indian IT industry on a global stage, but other industries suffered. The politics reached the highest forms of decadence, with communal politics actively promoted in many parts of the country. Dictators came to power in states like Maharashtra, while Bihar became known for Jungle-Raaj due to the notorious Lalu Prasad Yadav’s rule. The Babri masjid incident led to riots and Bombay blasts in 1993. Later, this led to Godhra riots and Akshardham terrorist attack in 2002. Even our sacred parliament was not spared from terrorism by Pakistan and its ISI.
Later, even though the government became stable after 1999 for the next 14 years ( 1999, 2004 and 2009), but India still had to face terrorist attacks in places like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bangalore etc. The train attacks in 2006, and 26/11 in 2008 rocked the city of dreams (Mumbai) to its core. Later, the news of corruption flashed everyday in the media, be it 2G scam, or Commonwealth Games corruption, Indian politicians were breaking their own record of committing higher level of corruption. All this made the public angry and just like the anti-Vietnam war, or anti-bomb movement in USA, India started its movement against corruption led by Team Anna . Even the horrific incidence of Nirbhaya rape in 2012 disreputed Delhi as being the rape capital of India. Those times were indeed full of uncertainity. Inspite of all the difficulties, India continued to move ahead. That India did not break up in parts like Pakistan in 1971 or Soviet Union in 1991. India had become weak but remained united.
And so, people yearned for a change, for a strong man to arrive on the stage. As said by Barack Obama regarding Reagan .”..because the country was ready for it…….”. Same happened for India as well. That year was 2014, and after 30 years of long and arduous struggle, the strong man India awaited desperately arrived on the stage. Narendra Damodardas Modi.
Modi’s arrival as a leader of India in many ways resembles the way Reagan changed America. Since 2014, he has ushered in a way of reforms and movements,some of which include Digital India, Demonetization, GST, removal of Article 370, Article 35 and Triple Talaq, Banking reforms, CAA, Farm laws, Swachh Bharat, International Yoga Day, Make in India, Ayushman Bharat, Jan-Dhan-Yojana etc. And in the foreign policy arena, his performance has been spectacular. Because not only has India successfully guarded itself from any terrorist attacks in its major cities ( except Kashmir), but also has retaliated back with a swift response to Pakistan with not one, but two surgical strikes, in 2016 and 2019 respectively. His astute diplomacy has led to elevation in the stature of India amongst western countries. Because of which, USA, Japan, Taiwan, France has become close to India, and at the same time, India has bonded strong relations with Saudi Arabia, Israel, UAE as well.
More than his reforms or foreign policy, it is the positive atmosphere that he has created is what makes him so popular. When I was a kid, I used to hear from my parents and grandparents, about the freedom fighters who fought selflessly against the British for making India independent. The leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Bose spent their entire life for attaining freedom for the motherland. But then few years after independence, the politics got polluted with cynicism and selfishness. Especially in the last 30-40 years, we can hardly find any politician who is not crooked. But Narendra Modi is an exception. Though he is still an politician, and quite adept at playing all the political games. But when it comes to selfish gains, he is simply not a part of it. Most parties including the opposition parties agree on one thing that Modi has not worked for any personal, or family gains. He never showed greediness for power or money. His family lives very simply in the same old ancestral village. This quality of Modi makes him popular and respected. He has spent his entire life for the betterment of nation. His patriotism, his hard work and his down to earth nature made him won the highest power in the country, inspite of not coming from a well off family or even without an elite education.
Thats why, since 2014, a new wave of patriotism, opportunity and pride has been running in the country. Just like the 1980’s when Americans started gaining back the confidence to stand up to the Soviet threat, similarly India is rising up to beat Pakistan at its own game, and to keep China from becoming a dominant power in Asia. India has witnessed a spark of digital revolution, be it financial apps like BHIM, or make in India, or startup India revolution. Not long ago, we could name only a handful of startups in India. But today, many startups have become unicorns and places like Bangalore and Hyderabad are becoming known as India’s silicon valley and genome valley respectively. Indian movies have also come a long way from those old ‘maar-dhad, masala or romantic movies’, and the recent movies have become more nationalistic, social oriented and with a positive message to the viewers. Movies like Dangal, Uri, Haidar, Masaan, Neerja, Shahid, Madras Cafe, Queen, Raazi, Article 15, Pad Man, Udaan, Andhadhun, Udta Punjab and many more highlight the mature side of Indian cinema.
Also, it is worth noting that just as Reagan’s government was known to be a conservative government, with a christian dominance. Similarly, the current Modi government is also known for being right wing conservative with a Hindu pride. Even though it does not mean that they want to make India a Hindu nation, but the fact that Hinduism is being revived is beyond question. The sensitive topics which were ignored for the last 60-70 years such as cow slaughter ban, Ram Mandir, giving citizenships to migrant hindus from neighbouring countries, yoga, ayurveda, ancient Indian history and River Ganga rejuvenation are some of the top priorities of the Modi government. Even though the opposition, Pakistan or even some western countries accuse Modi of being anti-muslims, but this is not at all true. The fact that there has not been a single major riot in any part of the country shows the tolerant nature of both the religions. The only major thing that has happened in the last 7 years is that the leftist forces under the disguise of being secular ( which according to them means anti-hinduism) are being isolated. The left in India had its golden time during the Nehruvian socialism, and even had enjoyed considerable leverage over Indian politics even after the fall of Soviet Union, apparently due to China’s blessings. But since, last 7 years, they have lost the patronage and support of the people. However, few fringe elements of Lutyen’s media ( the self-proclaimed dynastic elite which owns major media networks in India, and has been historically close to Congress party, institutions like JNU and playing the minority card for decades) has still not accepted Modi, as for them he is not like them, who comes from elite background or some dynasty. But Modi and his team have steadfastly tried to form their own media network base using TV channels like Republic TV, and several youtube channels and talk shows. Even the big businesses like Ambani, Adani, Mahindra’s have sided with the government due its pro-business leader and policies. Also, the Bollywood which once upon a time used to be a breeding ground of nepotism, is now being seriously challenged by the newcomers, and even the public are tired of its eliteness, especially after SSR’s suicide. Educational institutions like JNU, Jadavpur university, AMU etc have been in news for either instigating protests against the government. It cannot be denied that there has been polarization in the university campuses, because for many decades since India became independent, these institutions have always carried a leftist or moderate stand. But due to the current government policies, there has been an emergence of right wing influence and the social media like twitter have become a new medium for right vs left fight.
But apart from all the ups and downs, it is quite proven that Modi government has been exceptionally stable, strong and aggressive when it comes to nationalistic policies, military, foreign policy, technology and social issues. And this is going to stay for a while. As said by one of the eminent Indian political scientist said during his talk, that from 1947 till 1989, was the golden period of Congress party with its flagship Nehruvian socialism with a secular pacifist touch. It resembled like the FDR period in America which started in 1933 and lasted until the early 1960’s. The middle period from 1989 to 2014 was a period of uncertainity. It witnessed the gradual decline of the congress party, but at the same time, the slow rise of the current ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP. And finally, since 2014, the golden period of BJP with its flagship right wing, pro-Hinduism, pro-military with a conservative capitalist touch. That’s why, I see so many similarities between Reagan’s USA and Modi’s India. Looking at the way Modi government is taking its giant leap forward, the financialization of the economy ( but through Indian way -Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and Make in India) has begun. Also, has begun the revival of Indian pride along with ancient value system which had been lost during the British Raj, and could not flourish under the Nehruvian ideology as well. Thus, the chapter of ‘Indian’ization of India has commenced.
I am an avid reader of history. I love history. One of the most important reason is that it helps me to understand the common links between past, present and to some extent future as well. Many historians will debate on this, but as I am not an academic or historian, so I will keep this restricted to a general overview of the similarities between different periods of time.
India and America, the former being the world’s largest democracy and the latter being the world’s oldest democracy. Both these countries have shared many other similarities, besides the form of government. Both had freed themselves from the clutches of British imperialism, however at different times in history. America is known as a country of immigrants (atleast until Trump and its followers denied it under the false notion of being a White Man’s land) and ‘Melting Pot’, while India specializes in its ‘Unity in Diversity’ and also known as ‘Bowl of Salad’ on a similar note. America has the statue of liberty, while India just erected the statue of unity, the world’s highest statue. America started hollywood, while India started its own bollywood. Indians have digested American burgers, pizzas and coke, while Americans have imbibed the Indian Yoga, meditation and spirituality. Thats why, many historians have linked both these countries as being natural allies.
Going further, its interesting to study some similar events in both these countries. Infact. I would say India has always looked upon USA as a country to be worth followed. Most Indians have a positive image of USA. This might be because of its immense wealth, opportunities, technology or even for achieving the ‘American Dream’. But unlike England or Australia, which carry the guilt of British colonialism, United States does not have any such baggage when it comes to relations with India. Infact, Pandit Nehru had envisioned India to be a beacon of democracy, unity and diversity just like USA. Even though he and his Nehru-Gandhi family channeled India towards Soviet socialistic model until 1990’s, but the USA before 1947 was always admired by the Indian intellectuals and political elite. That’s why, we see many of India’s top physicist, nuclear scientists, politicians studied in USA before coming back to serve India.
It was only after the WW2 from 1947 until the end of cold war, that USA earned its notoriety for being a bully, and masquerading human rights with its hidden banner of neo-colonialism. After the fall of colonial powers, England and France in 1945, India and the rest of the world saw how USA continued the colonial legacy by imposing its own set of rules to impose democracy or dictatorship as needed, unfair trade practices and waged violent coups, and wars. Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Chile, Iraq, Afghanistan and many more have seen the dark side of American superpower. And this policy continues to date with some exceptions and change of policies.
But amidst all this, there was a time when USA also had its own set of problems. If Americans reading this article would recollect the swinging 1960’s and 70’s decades, they would agree with me. Except with the only pleasant surprise of 1969 Moon landing, everything else shocked the nation. Starting with the JFK assassination in 1963, followed by assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy in 1968, Vietnam war and the hippie movement, student protests against war in Vietnam, and thereby closure of many university campuses, Nixon’s shocking comeback in 1969, which further lead to its own set of events such as Watergate scandal and impeachment of Nixon in 1974, Energy crisis due to Israel-Ara war which triggered an oil embargo from the Arab nations in 1973, government corruption, hyperinflation, defeat of USA in Vietnam war by 1975, weak Ford and Carter presidency which caused economic recession and events like Iran hostage crisis in 1979 till 1981. The killing of John Lennon, the champion of hippie movement and Beatles founder, in Dec 1980 can be marked as an end of this swinging decades after which Reagan entered this arena as the President of USA in 1981.
The era from 1981 onwards which officially lasted till 1988 until his term end, but the effect of which lasted for several years to come. It became known as the ‘Reagan era’ or in economic sphere, as ‘Reaganomics’. Ronald Reagan who was the popular republican governor of California won the Presidency with the message to make America great. But unlike Trump’s false promise, he did take actions to restore the lost pride of America. His presidency ushered in wave of economic reforms such as financialization of America, deindustrialization of rust belt, tax cuts, heavy military spending, anti-gay/LGBTQ rights, the ‘Christian-i-zation’ of America by expanding conservative church influence, aggressive foreign policy against Soviet Union, stars wars and the onset of Sci-Fi era, and laid the foundation of winning the cold war by defeating Soviet Union at its own game in Afghanistan and military technology.
As Barack Obama interpreted how Reagan changed the nation’s trajectory:
I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think that people . . . he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.
His presidency led to a conservative America, which was white people dominant. Infact, Reagan’s presidency and victory in cold war can be compared to FDR’s presidency and victory in WW2. Just that the latter was republican while the former was democrat. But just as FDR pulled USA out of the clutches of the Great Depression, similarly Reagan did that during the 1980’s. Reagan electrified America with a renewed energy and enthusiasm, and that’s why we see the movies, TV shows, commercials, music during that era all bustling with a pride of being an American. The Wall street went all high due to the financialization of American business. MBA’s became the most sought out degree, and business/management became the trend over manufacturing which led to the collapse of rust belt. Also, silicon valley started becoming famous with its innovative startups like Apple, Microsoft, HP, Zerox Palo Alto and Oracle dominating the Bay area. Hollywood rode itself on this American ride by making movies which were more patriotic, historic or Sci-Fi such as Indiana Jones, Terminator, ET, Stars Wars, Top Gun, Delta Force, Back to the Future, Full Metal Jacket, Raging Bull, Rambo, Aliens and many more.
Reagan presidency achieved the goal of rebuilding America to beat the Soviets who had challenged them in technology, space race, economy, military and foreign affairs. Thus, Reagan restored the pride of Americans back on the world stage. Here’s the famous Reagan-Bush campaign ad in 1984 which depicts the new change he had brought in America.
But on the flip side, it was this Reagan era which led to the fall of American manufacturing subsequently. It started during 1980’s and continued during the 1990’s and 2000’s until the Great Recession, when later it was realized by the industry. Traditional manufacturing companies like GE went into GE Capital, and this financialization of America turned out to be one of the factors for 2008 sub-prime crisis. The Reagan era policies also led to the rise of China in the manufacturing sector, which led to the emergence of China as an economic power. Also, the Reagan era led to the support of Taliban in Afghanistan as well as providing enormous economic aid to Pakistan, which led to ousting of Soviets from Afghanistan. But this turned out to be just a pyrrhic victory as the same Talibans and Pakistani ISI which were heavily funded with American tax payers money, and weapons from military-industrial complex led to the 9/11 and two Iraq wars. War for oil became the hidden policy from Reagan era onwards which was later vehemently persued by Bush senior in the Iraq vs Kuwait war (1991) and Bush junior in the war against terror, again in Iraq and Afghanistan (2002 to 2007)
Modi’s India to be covered in part 2. Until then, stay tuned..
During the 2008 sub-prime crisis, I had seen an interview of an independent stock trader who famously said, “governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world”. 12 years later, I think the time has come to say that “governments don’t rule the world, Social Media rules the world”.
Yes, watching the recent events in the social media world, it seems that the genie has left the bottle. The social media has become stronger and dangerous than ever. Two events which happened during the start of this year signify an alarm for the world. They are the recent change in WhatsApp Terms and Conditions policy, and the banning of Trump on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Even though the latter event might have made most people happy or even they have applauded for this action by social media giants, but many of us have become alarmed over this action.
First of all, the change in Whatsapp policies was something many industry experts saw it coming. After all, Mark Zuckerburg paid $19B for the acquisition of WhatsApp. This wasn’t a philanthropy thing for Facebook. They thought well enough before making that deal. WhatsApp over the years have grown to be the world’s most popular and most downloaded/used app in the world. In India, WhatsApp has partnered with Reliance, which is India’s richest company, to provide payment and retail services. So, when WhatsApp made the changes in its policy, which says that all the data from WhatsApp will be shared to Facebook, which will help their business. How?
When asked by the senator, Mark answered….So, running ads makes Facebook earns the dollars required to sustain its so big social media platform ( and ofcourse to earn profit, which makes Mark the 5th richest person in the world). But our personal data on Facebook ( which we have selflessly rendered over to Facebook under the silly disguise to make friends and connect with the world) and catering to which relevant ads shown is the main business model of this company. This platform needs data just like cars need fuel to run. Because only with that data, can Facebook show us the relevant ads. That’s why it is said, “Data is the new oil”
Now, with this new policy, our WhatsApp data will also shared to Facebook. And what kind of data will be shared? ( or has already been shared for quite sometime) As per Wired story, The company says it collects user information “to operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services.”In practice, this means that WhatsApp shares a lot of intel with Facebook, including account information like your phone number, logs of how long and how often you use WhatsApp, information about how you interact with other users, device identifiers, and other device details like IP address, operating system, browser details, battery health information, app version, mobile network, language and time zone. Transaction and payment data, cookies, and location information are also all fair game to share with Facebook depending on the permissions you grant WhatsApp in the first place.
But its not about the amount of data that these companies are getting access to, but the security of that data is a real concern. The world already knows about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and one of the famous documentary, ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix sheds light on why companies like Facebook and WhatsApp do not charge the users. This is because if the product is free, then we are the product being sold! And by this they mean the data of users which they desperately need to run ads and make money. The more the data, the more is the revenue. Simple it is!
But even more worrying than data sharing or data privacy is the concern of how dangerously powerful that these companies have become. Just few days before, they banned the President of United States of America from their platform, indefinitely! This is not some random guy who posted some thing against their rules, but it is the most powerful person in USA, and even in the world to a certain extent. When such an action happens, it shows how powerful these companies have become. Ofcourse, I am not saying that these companies are above law or US president’s power. They took that action only after the President was accused of causing an insurrection and posting messages and videos supporting violent coup against the law. Also, its worth noting that they took this stringent step after Joe Biden was officially confirmed to be the incoming US President.
But what many of us are worrying is the active levers of communication in the hands of these companies. As we see, unlike few years before, when the world got news from newspapers, radio and television, which was edited to make it politically correct. But in today’s world, people get the news and information mostly from social media, which is not edited neither filtered, atleast to some extent. This is the reason why Trump could convince many Americans to elect him. Whatever he tweeted or communicated was never politically correct. But still due to the freedom of speech, his message used to reach his followers.
But now these handful companies have completely cut him off from his fan base. This is interesting because even though its good for the world that Trump has been banned for sometime, which would filter out the noise and chaos created by him, and restore peace in the world for sometime. But this isn’t just about Trump. What if these companies ban some other leader or a person belonging to a certain ideology like communism, socialism or pacifism? The real question is who has given this moral authority to these companies to ban certain people or ideology? Ofcourse, this does not mean that hate speech or violence should be allowed. Definitely not. But the real threat these companies possess is whom do they allow or whom they do not! What if they decide to support a particular ideology which fits their business model? What if they remove content from their platform which favors their competitors or which challenges their business? As mentioned about the perils of social media monopoly in this beautiful article, https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/at-the-mercy-of-big-tech-billionaires-101610547387559.htmlwhich questions the readers, “Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg decided that he did not like Narendra Modi’s farm laws or Shashi Tharoor’s tirades against the East India Company — and shut them off.” Or even going ahead, what if these companies try to influence the voters in countries by favoring a particular candidate who falls into ‘friendly category’ to these social media giants?
This is something these companies have to make clear. When it comes to hate speech , racism or violence, its their moral obligation to curtail it from spreading. But it is also equal responsibility to allow all form of ideologies, ideas, thoughts to flow. These companies are expected to be impartial. But unfortunately, they are not. So, after seeing this, I installed Signal which is almost an replica of WhatsApp ( infact its co-founder is the same Brian Acton for both these companies). But Signal is designed with a non-profit, open source model, and hence just like Wiki, it will not be sold to some private company( hopefully) and will not run Ads as well. I am slowly moving towards uninstalling WhatsApp, but due to over-dependence and majority user base ( all of my family and friends use WhatsApp), its going to take some time for everyone to switch over to Signal. Till then, I could not allow my WhatsApp to share my data to my Facebook a/c. So, I took the step (which I wish should have taken before) to delete Facebook and Instagram accounts. This would disable my WhatsApp data to be shared due to non-existence of Facebook account. I hope many of us become aware of this to keep their data safe and secure. Goodbye Facebook! Goodbye Instagram! And Goodbye to WhatsApp soon!
As Evan Greer, deputy director of the digital rights group ‘Fight for the Future’ said “Their business model is surveillance. Never forget that.”
Just completed the 7 episodes of the Netflix documentary: Tiger King. This is one of the most horror real life series watched ever. I mean seriously, with every episode ending, it gave a new shock and twist to the story. This series had been released last year, and it had been on my To Watch list for quite a while. But somehow, I used to just watch the first few minutes of episode 1, and stop the documentary. But then, I decided to enter his Tiger kingdom, and know what makes this guy famous!
Having completed watching this series, I can say that I am actually horrified the way they ended this series. I mean this is real life story. So, the things shown in the documentary are for REAL, and not like the fake real in reality shows. People’s lives have been at stake, including the Tiger King – Joe. I find that this documentary has everything to offer. Rather, I can put it this way. Is there anything not there in this documentary? Because, it has horror, suspense, comedy, music, murder, hero, villain, fights, politics, business etc etc. This even surpasses the typical bollywood movies which are often infamous for making a masala movie with all sorts of fights and romances.
I wont go into the story. Neither I want to discuss who is guilty or who is not. Because, for me, they all seem to be guilty. Joe, who is known as Tiger King, is currently in jail for killing tigers and attempting to hire for murder of Carol. The documentary shows the ever-lasting feud between Joe and Carol. And as if their feud which included all possible methods of revenge or harrassment was less, the documentary shows several other characters in and around them, which play important role to their life. I would say do watch this documentary, with ofcourse certain discretion as its not a very family friendly documentary. Many scenes are horrific, beyond reason or even common sense. Before writing this review, I got depressed after watching this documentary end ( though it was kind of expected). So, PLEASE WATCH WITH CAUTION.
One of the most terrifying part of this documentary is the evil side of human nature being displayed by almost everyone, maybe with one or two exceptions. I wont take any names, as they all are real life people, like you and me. But I found most of them having vicious nature. Many of them had felony charges, so its not surprising. But the way feud was aggravated, with not only throwing mud at each other, but also getting to the point to threaten to kill each other. I mean this is disgraceful. I even felt many time if I was watching Godfather, or Irishman or even a cold war era spy movie. Because such types of movies show such heinous scenes of crime and injustice. But looking at the lives of real people in this documentary , I find no difference between those movies and this one.
The worst part is how American culture is obsessed with money and fame. I am not saying all Americans act in similar way. No they don’t. Because I have stayed in the USA for 5 years, and know enough Americans, to know the difference. But the point is that this culture of intense competition and feud is a part of American culture. And making money plays a big role in it. History tells us be it Coke vs Pepsi, Microsoft vs Apple, Google vs Yahoo, Amazon vs eBay, Ford vs GM, CNN vs Fox News etc etc, we can find so much cut-throat competition amongst companies to dominate the market, and thereby get rich. I find similar feuds shown in this documentary between the companies which want to dominate the live show market of exotic wild animals such as tigers, lions, ligers etc. The only difference between other so called reputed companies, and the ones shown in this documentary is the way they handle the feud. The mainstream companies settle their disputes amicably, with out of court settlement, or even lobbying pressure. While the ones shown in this documentary cross the limits of human civilization and decency. Else,there is no difference. The America culture has always encouraged this competition under the disguise of capitalism and free market, but in reality, the beneficiary are only a few high position occupying people in these companies.
As the title of the documentary says Murder, Madness & Mayhem, it actually perfectly suits it. Because even though the documentary shows wild animals which are caged or even bred for the sake of entertainment, but it hardly throws any light on what can be done to solve this problem, and thereby make the life of these wild animals safer and healthy. Rather, all this documentary shows is the feud between companies, their people, the insights into their life, their music compositions, their legal disputes etc. Even though it does cover the indictment of Joe, and finally ends when he goes to jail, but I am left with the question of what would happen to those 200+ wild animals kept in his zoo? Will they be simply transfered to another zoo owned by another person? I mean finally, those animals are the real sufferers, behind the cage, isn’t it? Don’t they deserve to be lived freely in the wild forest? And the irony is the documentary shows the woman fighting for this cause, but she herself has kept the wild animals in the cage, and charges people to view them with the help of volunteers, who are not paid? Is there any better business model than this one?
Another thing which struck my cultural aspect is the portrayal of the person who has a Hindu name. He shows to be a follower of a Guru, who had been to the Woodstock festival. He claimed to be eating veg food, and living the life as his Guru wanted. But this is all wrong and misleading. Because on one side, he claims to be living a ascetic life, but on the other side, he has several partners ( beautiful white christian women given hindu first names) with whom he has sexual encounter with. I hate to write this, but this is kind of an insult to Hinduism ( which happens to be my religion, but I would certainly feel the same way for all religions if they had been portrayed in such a negative way). I think that man has not understood Hinduism, or for the matter any religion. Because, all religions convey the message of peace, love and happiness. Using a particular religion by just using its names, or pretending to follow a certain teacher, is not following the religion. I find this to be a problem with few white Americans. They had been a part of hippie commune during 1960’s and 70’s, and even though the hippie movement subsided, these few people continued to exploit the local Americans by showing them to be following an alien religion ( like Hinduism or Buddhism), under the disguise of yoga, meditation, philosophy, enlightenment etc. This is all WRONG. They have completely misunderstood that religion. Infact, all they are doing is just gathering followers by being different, and filling their coffers with $$$. Thats it!
Thus, I end the review here. Its a one time watching documentary. It has very different story, something which is not seen very commonly in real life. For the real life depiction and excellent filming of the documentary, I would give a 3.5/5 rating. But I am not happy with the way things ended. I hope justice will be delivered to all of them. But then, I remind myself that after all its an American story….
Recently, I read the news about Elon Musk who became the richest person on the planet. Usually, Forbes, Fortune and many other reputed magazines publish the richest people’s list every year, or even month. But this one’s quite special. Because not only that Elon Musk is one of the biggest inspiration, but also he has achieved this feat by wearing many hats which very few have done in the human history.
Yes, Elon Musk, as we know is the founder of several successful companies/startups such as Electric car manufacturer Tesla, Space exploration SpaceX, solar panels services company Solarcity ( which is now a part of Tesla Energy), AI R&D startup OpenAI, neurotech company Neuralink, and infrastructure and tunnel construction company The Boring Company. Besides, he has proposed the idea of Hyperloop (an ultra-fast intercity travel), had started Zip2 after dropping out of Stanford Ph.D program, and was a part of the legendary PayPal Mafia, which had started PayPal, which was later acquired by eBay. Though he is famously known for two of his most famous companies, Tesla and SpaceX, but this entrepreneur has been the founder and owner of eight companies so far. And the best thing is he started most of the companies from scratch ( with the sole exception of Tesla which he acquired and turned it into the brand for which it is known worldwide today). Isn’t this amazing?
The fact that Elon Musk has achieved this feat to become the richest person on the planet is truely remarkable in many ways. First of all, unlike the previous richest people ,Elon Musk is quite different. This is because all the previous richest were either business magnates who had earned their wealth through some form of commodity like oil & gas, steel (John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.Paul Getty), or had earned their fortune through banking & investment (Rothschilds, Warren Buffett) or had become rich by being a monopoly in their one business such as (Bill Gates -software, Henry Ford – cars, Vanderbilts – railways, Jeff Bezos – ecommerce ). But Elon Musk has been unique by having started several companies, neither of which are monopolies, as electric cars, space exploration, solar energy etc has been ventured out by several other competitors as well. But navigating through the competing sharks, and coming out as a winner is what makes Elon a unique one!
Secondly, he is a self-made man. Ofcourse, there have been many rich people who had humble beginnings, and Elon is one amongst them. But his credentials are further enhanced by being a self-made man who is also an immigrant to USA. This had happened a more than 100 years back with Andrew Carnegie( who had emigrated from Scotland to America), when he surpassed John D Rockefeller to become the richest man on the planet. Since then, most of them have been born and brought up in America itself. Elon Musk’s success proves that the American Dream is still alive!
Then, of all his achievements, I admire the most in Elon Musk is his love for reading and passion for science & technology. He is a voracious reader, just like Bill Gates ( both share this common attribute). He is known to have mastered Rocket Science by reading books. And he is a nerd, and extremely passionate about the progress of science and future of humanity. That’s why he famously said about his dreams and goals in life as
“In the case of Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, and PayPal… it really stemmed from when I was in college and trying to think: what would affect the future most likely in a positive way? So the three areas I was quite sure would be positive were sustainable energy, the internet, and making life multi-planetary.”
“you should try to take the set of actions that are likely to prolong civilization, minimize the probability of a dark age and reduce the length of a dark age if there is one”
He is so passionate about science & technology, and to make this planet have a better future, that he started all his companies in the field of advancement of sustainable energy, internet, space exploration to make life multi-planetary, faster & carbon free transportation, neurotech and artificial intelligence! Which entrepreneur or businessman has done so much in the field of technology? Maybe Edison might be the nearest one in this list. But having the courage to venture out in a field which was never explored much before, and even with the least expectation to have any success or earning profit is a sign of true passion and bravado. This makes Elon Musk one of my biggest inspiration. His pinned tweet says a lot about his commitment for science & tech, and to save human race if in case apocalypse ( in the form of nuclear destruction or even far deadly virus than Coronavirus) happens in near future…
Had he failed (which had almost happened in 2008), it would not only be a loss for Musk, but also a huge loss for science & humanity. Because there are many other software, internet & social media giants, oil & gas barons, Wall street financers, venture capitalists, automotive manufacturers (petrol based) and entertainment media moguls in this world, but there is none like Elon Musk. This is because even if others fail, there are others who can run those companies. For ex: Yahoo failed, but we have Google. Kodak failed, but we have Sony, Nokia failed, but we have Samsung, Apple etc. But in case of Elon Musk, if Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop, Neuralink fails, then it is difficult for someone to take the position of Elon Musk and re-invent the wheel. He has set an example in the silicon valley through his companies that its high time to look beyond starting companies in internet or using 140 characters only. Atleast we can say with Elon’s companies and efforts, we have a chance to make this future for humanity different. That’s why the success of Elon Musk with his off the beat, innovative and humanity transforming companies is so essential for the progress of humanity.
His becoming of richest man on the planet is simply a reward for his years of hard work and dedication,which he truely deserves. But I think that Elon Musk’s success through his companies and becoming the richest man will stand as an inspiration for my millennial generation, as well coming generations to come. This is because today, we have a man who is rich because of his work for science and tech, and not because of his greed for money or desire to become a monopoly. His example stands as a testimony to the fact that it is possible for someone like a nerd, a bibliophile, a science lover, a tech passionate to become richest man on the planet. No longer is that position reserved for the bankers, monopolists, investors, commodity traders, or similar money hungry people. Infact, Elon Musk doesn’t even care to become the richest person in the world, and this can be easily noticed from his recent tweet.
This shows the character and detachment of Elon regarding money, fame, success etc. That’s why he is my inspiration after Steve Jobs. Both did not care for these worldly vices. All they cared for is their work, and devotion for a just cause, with technology companies as their medium to achieve this. Steve Jobs wanted to change the world and he did through Iphone and Mac, while Elon Musk wants to make the future better, and he is relentlessly persuing it through his several companies. These are Men of Honor!
Finally, his attitude in life is something worth learning. Elon Musk is someone who never quits. And this was tested during the 2008 crisis, when all of his companies were struggling financially as well as technologically. He was left with enough money just to have one last launch of his beloved space exploration, and when left with that final choice, he remarked “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” And he did it. That fourth launch was a success, and since then, he never looked back.
One of my favorite quotes of Elon Musk is
“There have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Why do you want to live? What’s the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future? If the future does not include being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, I find that incredibly depressing.”
And this is one of the personal motivations as well. Infact, I had read about his biography book written by Ashley Vance, and that time was a tough one in my life. I was going through some of the hardest experiences, and was almost on the verge of losing hope in life. But after reading his biography, I contemplated, that if Elon Musk can dare to lose everything ( which he had earned through hard work) to achieve his aim, then why was I having the fear to fail when I hadn’t even achieved anything like him? His biography taught me a very important lesson that we should never quit our goals, however tough they might be, as long as we know they are important enough. The world out there will always laugh or ridicule us, but that should not stop from trying. In case of Elon Musk, his fight was against the powerful oil lobby which had supported the traditional automotive industry which had been using fossil fuels and had led to global warming. They had tried all possible ways to make Tesla a failure! Even in case of Space, it was the NASA and Russian Space agencies which did not want a private company to enter the space race. Many astronauts and rocket scientists had laughed at Elon Musk for his idea of reusable rocket.
But today, we see he has surpassed all of them. And he truely deserves this. For me, he is like a nerd entrepreneur cum scientist, who being brought up during the 1980’s generation when Sci-Fi was the trend, and kids in that era dreamed of the world where humans would colonize the space through multi-planetary space missions, driverless electric cars, renewable energy, hyperloop for fastest transportation, artificial intelligence driven robots and advanced genomics. It seems that Elon Musk will soon turn that fiction into reality. That’s why Elon Musk is the greatest living inspiration for me, and my Millennial Generation!
I’ll end this post by this amazing video which gave me goosebumps, especially his quote at the end of the video!
I watched the Netflix series, ‘A Suitable Boy’ yesterday. This BBC directed series, having 6 episodes, is based on the Vikram Seth’s novel, with the same title. I have not read the book, and so I cannot comment on the originality and comparison between the book and the TV show. But I would like to express my opinion on the miniseries.
The story is based on a newly independent India from the clutches of British rule. Those were the years around 1950-52, when India embarked on its journey to build a nation which had been dominated by mass poverty, communal hatred between Hindus and Muslims, and an immediate need to strengthen the unity of India. The story revolves around four families in Brahmpur town, which are the Kapoors( key family in local politics), Mehras( in-laws of Kapoors), Khans ( who are the Nawabs) and Chatterjis( rich, liberal family in Calcutta). along with Saeeda bai (the singer-prostitute), Kabir Durrani and Haresh Khanna.
Lata, is the protagonist of the story, whose mother wants to find a suitable boy for her to marry. Lata falls in love with Kabir Durrani, a handsome guy in Brahmpur university. But she finds out that he is a Muslim, and hence she decides not to marry him as her conservative family would never accept it. Her brother’s family is married to Chatterji’s in Calcutta, and her sister-in-law introduces Lata to Namit Chatterji, who belongs to a rich Bengali family, immersed deeply in literature and music. Lata finds Namit exceedingly liberal, poetic and dreamer, and she still goes out with him a few times. But later, she realizes that she would never be his dream woman, as she is too pragmatic and conservative. Even Lata’s mother did not like Namit.
Then, Lata’s mother introduces Lata to Haresh, who is a self-made man, working as a foreman in shoe factory. Haresh had ran away from his family, toiled hard to make his way up in the factory, and even went to England for higher studies. Lata’s mother likes Haresh and finds him to be suitable boy for Lata. Initially, Lata is not very appreciative of Haresh’s humble nature, and down to earth attitude. Finally, at the end, when Haresh after not receiving any positive response from Lata, he decides to move on, she does realize how much she loved him. So, she ran away to the railway station, and then proposed Haresh in front of everyone. Thus, Lata ( and her mother) are successful in finding ‘A Suitable Boy’ as per the storyline! End of the story.
This might sound to be a boring story, but this is the crux of the TV series. Yes, you read it right. Even though there are many other characters and supporting sub-stories to extend this to a 6 episode series, but the main storyline sticks to the suitable boy hunt for Lata. As I have not read the original book, hence, I am not sure how the book conveyed this story. But this BBC produced and Mira Nair directed miniseries lacks originality. It seems that the series has been hastingly concluded without even making the purpose of characters relevant. For example, Kabir’s role is very brief and non-relevant. Initially, it does seem that Lata has fallen for Kabir,and this might become another Hindu-Muslim romance story, but Lata simply rejects him ( even after performing in Shakespeare’s play along with him).
Maan Kapoor’s dalliance with Saeedabai and Meenakshi Chatterji’s sexual scenes with some random guy named Billy( while trying to hide this from Mehra’s and Kapoor’s) are utterly non-relevant for this story theme. It seems that being western directed, they want to insert some sex scenes just to make it look romantic and gather audience to watch this series. But such tactics work in Hollywood, but not in Indian diaspora. Indians often do not want sex scenes in the movie/TV series just for the sake of making it romantic. Rather, we Indians often appreciate the subtle emotions of love between the lovers, and few romantic songs. Due to the multiple western motivated coitus scenes, makes it even more banal.
However, the background of local village politics, which is often influenced by religion and caste equations is superbly portrayed in this series. The scenes of communal violence between Hindus and Muslims is something of a stigma on the Indian society. Yes, it is true that India have had many riots after independence, and both sides are to be blamed equally. I am in no denial of this. But the problem I find is the primary focus these so called western (BBC and Hollywood) directors and writers put on this topic, especially the British. They find solace in adding fuel to fire by showing the riots and hatred between these two religions, very often in their movies and TV series. I don’t understand why? Infact the irony is the British themselves played the divide and rule politics before India became independent, and led to the partition of India. And since then, they have been propagandizing to the world through such shows and movies, that how the two religions still fight and hate each other. BBC and western movie directors should realize that India has come up much ahead and has proudly stood as an example of ‘Unity in Diversity‘ amidst all its problems.
Infact, this is one of the biggest flaws in this story. They should have shown Lata marrying Kabir, defying the religious divide. This would have ideally been in congruence with the secular idea of India. If they can show a scene of Kabir kissing Lata in the temple premises ( which led to a huge controversy of ‘Love-Jihad’ in the India conservative media), why can’t they take it ahead of showing them being married? But as per the story, Lata marries Haresh, who is more of an arranged guy deemed suitable in the conservative Indian mindset. This is where the miniseries disappoints most of the audience, including me.
But the series does have some positive remarks as well. It courageously portrays the bond between Maan and Firoz, and Mahesh Kapoor and the Nawab, as a Hindu-Muslim unity,which does earn accolades from the viewers like me. The background of a 1950’s India in Calcutta, and villages is very excellently displayed. The elite clubs of Calcutta, the land reform bill and its effect on the zamindaars/landlords, the 1952 elections, and even the prejudice faced by hard working Indians ( as in case of Haresh Khanna while trying to secure a job in Praha, a Czech shoe factory for the managerial position) from the British/European firms in India are shown with intricacy. This gives the viewers a panorama of the early years of India after independence.
Concluding this review, I would give a rating of 3 out of 5. The series could have fared much better had they removed the sexual scenes, which were non-relevant for the story. But the series fares well in depicting the Indian mindset behind marrying women, the deep involvement of family in selecting the right guy for the girl, and the historic background shown in the post-independence India.
Never before has the world so eagerly awaited for a new year to commence!
Today, while writing this post on Dec 31st, 2020, I am contemplating all the events that have happened in 2020. And there is no denial of the fact that the world got changed in 2020. It looks like after Steve Job’s legendary launch of Iphone in 2007 which changed the world, Covid-19 became the next thing which turned our life upside down. And today, we all are eagerly awaiting for 2021 to usher in. We are sincerely praying that 2021 turns out to be a better year,which will restore peace, happiness and stability back in our life. I do hope the same!
But at the same time, as Gurudev Ravishankar said in his talk today, that this pandemic showed the other side of life. We all crave for good, and happy times. We forget the difficulties and problems in life when everything is stable, and under our control. But this pandemic showed us how things can go out of human control rapidly. This year showed us how important and short life is. It made us realize the simple joys of life such as staying with family, having a stable job, and even going out for a walk. The world saw how difficult it is to live under lockdown. We all usually read or watch movies of the soldiers and freedom fighters who suffered enormous hardships in fighting against the enemy, be it against the Nazis in Europe, or against British rule in India. Only when we all underwent the hardships of living under lockdown, we came to value the importance of true freedom. Until the pandemic occurred, we all had taken the freedom imparted to us lightly, but now we atleast have got a glimpse of life without freedom. That is why, people have even started thinking about the cruelty to deprive poor animals of their freedom by keeping them in zoos and amusement parks for our entertainment!
Having suffered the dark side of life after pandemic, we have started realizing how few things we really need to live a good life. We understood that we can live without eating outside or even buying expensive clothes or gadgets. Because these fancy clothes, makeup or gadgets won’t save our life, but our good health, good food, calm mind and having loved ones staying together will save us. Due to this pandemic having engulfed the whole mother earth, never in history did it happen that we all (humans) became united. Until 2020, we had always biased each other, and made every attempt to separate each others by building either physical walls ( be it Berlin Wall or Trump’s wall), or virtual walls ( made of racism, casteism, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation bias etc). But 2020 made us realize that events like pandemic does not differentiate between us on any artificial grounds. So, in a way, we can also say that 2020 brought humanity together, atleast for fighting against pandemic!
Besides, in 2020, many of us saw how beautiful this earth is! This is because one of the sideeffects of pandemic turned out to be fresh air, with zero air pollution. For ex: This led to viewing of Himalayas from hundreds of miles in India, which was not seen due to high pollution in air for the last several decades. Hence, even though 2020 was a dreaded year for most of us, however this year turned out to be very special for nature observers and climate watchers, due to huge change in climate and nature pattern which had been severely altered for all these years due to human activity.
Similarly, due to no traffic and thereby zero sound pollution, it made wild animals curious to sneek in the cities to find out where did 7 billion people disappear? Here are some pictures which captured this once in a century nature’s phenomenon.
Hence, finally, as I complete this post, 2020 ended and 2021 has begun. Many of us are praying for 2021 to bring happiness and stability in life. Indeed, 2020 was a rough year, which will never be forgotten by my generation. Historians love to find patterns in historic events, and I being a history buff, consider 2020 to be a year which changed our way of living, just like the historic years of 1989 ( when Berlin Wall fell which marked the beginning of the end of communism), or 1945 ( when WW2 was won after the fall of Nazi and Imperial Japanese). As US President elect Joe Biden said in his victory speech, “This is a time to heal in America”. I feel this is a time to heal for the entire world. May 2021 give us enough room for us to heal, come together for humanity, collaborate for just causes, break the barriers of racism, gender bias etc, and work towards achieving global peace. I know this might sound grandiose, but atleast we can start taking one step ahead….
I am ending this post with this realization, that afterall, we did won(successfully survive) in 2020, and have entered a new year, with new hopes and new surprises as well……
Continuing with this topic, there are some common causes for people to often get depressed in life. This includes consistent failures/setbacks, losing a dear one in family ( parents/wife or children), health issues such as incurable diseases, financial problems/debt, and even hereditary from family. There is no perfect one stop solution to address the effects arising from varied sources. But to understand why this generation suffers more than previous can be studied and discussed.
One of the main understanding is the way my generation lives. My generation has been dependent on technology more than all the generations combined. I have already mentioned about the facebook effect, and other social media exposure. But along with that, the lifestyle itself is enormously altered by today’s technology. The way we eat junk/fast food leads to health effects such as obesity and which thereby leads to a bad physique. No wonder then guys and girls feel terrible about their looks, and this acts as a domino effect to trigger their moods. Not being in shape makes them feel jealous of those who are in good shape, and thus the mental trauma starts. People then step into gyms and fitness programs, but not everyone can manage to get in ideal photogenic shape. This all adds up in depressing thoughts and lack of self worth. So, as simple as eating habits can even lead to increase in depressive thoughts.
Failure in achieving a goal or aim in life is one of the most common causes to get depressed or even commit suicide. Failing in competitive exams like IIT entrance or going bankrupt in business, failing to fulfill parents wishes, or even failing to become famous actor or actresses are some of the most common failure driven depression. I have seen one of the friends commit suicide due to low grades in grad school. We all know the infamous Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case. I was shocked to read that India has the highest suicide rates in South-East Asia. And the fact that there is an infamous forest in Japan called ‘Aokigahara’ known as ‘Suicide forest’. All this shows how serious depression can get. But unfortunately, the society always blames the one who does the act. But what conditions made him do the act is hardly questioned. There is one famous movie ‘The Social Network’, based on Mark Zuckerberg’s life. In one of the scenes, Sean Parker tells Mark about the story of Roy Raymond. The case of Roy Raymond is a perfect example of what can failure and depression do. But the movie scene also conveys the underlying message that if we don’t want to end up like Roy Raymond, we need to keep working hard, and never quit. It seems like Mark took Sean’s advice pretty seriously, and that’s why Facebook has become one of the richest companies in the world. But I do feel that not everyone can become Mark, and blaming Roy ( which the movie scene unfortunately does) is not the solution to get away from depression. It was obviously Roy’s mistake to give up, but the situation that made him do so is also equally culpable.
Then, this generation is also living in a nuclear family unlike my parents or grandparents generation, which used to live together. Adding to that, is the nation’s family planning policy ( China’s One child policy or India’s ‘Hum do, humare do’ Two parents and two children policy). Many couples today cannot even afford to raise two children, and hence, many of my generation are raised alone. Due to rising cost of living, it is increasingly becoming difficult to a make both ends meet with a single earning. More ever, we see that the kids and teenagers often spend their time in playing video games, on social media and watching movies. Things even go worse when friends get together and get involved in wrong habits including smoking, social drinking, or even violence. Unlike previous generations, today’s teenagers and young adults often find themselves alone without support from family. Hence, they try to find like minded groups or even to pass time online, by making friends with unknown people in online chat rooms, or on dating sites. This always does not work, and can lead to addiction, or even sexual harassment, which further leads to depression.
Relationships have never been so fragile before as seen today. Just like the hire and fire corporate culture ( better known as Trump’s culture), breakups and patchups have become the current norm in romantic relationships. The options to find a partner have increased through dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, Aisle etc. Many of them provide a platform for speed dating or even casual dating, with no stings attached. Many of the couples who want to date casually find this convenient, and they carry on a ‘Friends with Benefits’ type relationship. But the problem is human mind does not comprehend such type of relations. Things can speedily go from casual to serious for one of the partners, but the other one might not accept this. And so this leads to breakup, but emotional attachment is something cannot be erased overnight like swiping on such apps. So, such type of online dating and casual relationships often leads to heartbreaks and headaches, and soon they find themselves depressed and undergoing therapy.
Then, I find a sense of serenity missing in my generation. I have seen my grandfather and even parents having a feeling of serenity towards life and its problems. ‘Come what may‘ was the attitude they had towards problems which came in life. They did not get depressed when things did not work out, or when they had to walk on the path filled with thorns. Maybe because the previous few generations had seen some of the toughest time in human history, be it wars, fight for independence from colonialism, fight against poverty & inequality etc. But inspite of all the problems, they were mentally strong. They did not give up easily. But this generation is exceptionally blessed with all the comforts and leisures. This is also the fruit of the hardwork which our parents and grandparents did back then. That’s why we are living a good life, with abundance of resources like food, clothes and tech gadgets. The kids today get whatever they want, many times they don’t even have to ask for it. This lifestyle has led to a loss of value in achieving things. Ofcourse, there are many teenagers and young adults out there who do value what their parents have given them. But the attitude to face problems of life with serenity cannot be taught in richness or through books. Only life’s tough experiences can teach it, and hence, the excessive luxury with which my generation has been living has made them more vulnerable to lose faith or get depressed easily in life when things go on a rough side.
Thats why, we are seeing more and more people getting depressed in life. As discussed, there are many reasons and we do not have one perfect solution to solve it. The combination of modern technology, food habits, family structure, affluent lifestyle, social pressure, boundless aspirations etc have lead to rising cases of depression and even worst in suicides. I do believe that inspite of all the education or technological prowess, my generation should learn about mind and act like social humans. Today’s capitalist and market driven competition makes us run towards more education, better jobs, higher salary, hefty bonuses, enormous profits in business, getting the job done, make and break relationships, fast food and drink culture, and many more vices. As mentioned before about the example of Roy Raymond, it can be said that he was a perfect victim of a capitalist driven system where one mistake can end up losing confidence, hope and life at the end. Ofcourse, there is nothing wrong to work for a better standard of living, which can certainly be obtained with good education, better job prospects and good salary/business only. But only achieving these things is not life. As J K Rowling wisely said in her harvard commencement address,
personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life..
However, There is No Alternative to go back towards old living like our grandfather’s generation did. We have to progress ahead and we cannot go back. But we can know our mind, and take things calmly. Meditation can be of great help here. Spiritual practices are known for making us calmer, and peaceful inside. But more than anything, the first thing to cater this problem is the awareness and acceptance towards this issue of depression, and thereby suicides with an open mind is extremely important. Only then can we solve this problem, and save lives. This post should not end here, but rather make the readers think and act to do something to help those who need a ray of hope in their life!
For a long time I have been thinking to write about this topic. 2020 has been a very unfortunate year. Not only due to Covid-19, but also due to large number of suicides in bollywood, and other parts of the world. Most of these deaths are due to either anxiety about uncertainity of future, or relationship issues which also leads to stress. Also, the pandemic has certainly exacerbated the stress levels in most of us. I have been in Art of Living for a while, and one of the main initiatives of the organization is working towards reducing the stress and anxiety amongst the people, as stress often leads to depression. As per WHO, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. And even more disturbing fact is that every 40 sec, one person in the world commits suicide. Most of us are either not aware of this, or very often we overlook these facts, assuming it will never happen in our life. Only, when this hits in our life like a brick in the head, that’s when we realize how serious this problem is.
Stress, anxiety, and thereby depression is not something of a recent change in our life. Even our forefathers, and ancestors have had some element of stress in life. It could be due to poverty, wars, epidemic, or even oppression from colonial masters ( like British did back in India and other parts of the world). I could not imagine how much stress the jews in the concentration camp might have underwent with the constant threat of getting gased, alive! So, I do not say that stress is a modern age issue, or I am not being a luddite to blame technology for this as well.
But what we all are seeing ( especially the medical professionals, mental health experts and even spiritual advisors) is the significant rise in stress and anxiety levels in the last few years. So, I am wondering why would this be, when today, if for a moment we keep aside the dangers of nuclear holocaust, or even avoid getting into the politics of poverty, war or pandemic, we see that human life has reached quite an advanced level when we no longer have to worry about food shortage, staying warm in winter, or cold in summer, communicating with our dear ones over long distance, or fast and reliable transportation etc. Our life has never been so better, simpler, fast and comfortable in the history of human civilization.
Then, the question still lingers is why are we suffering from depression inspite of all the modern technologies and gadgets at our service? This seems like it has to do something with human nature itself. I do not say this is an endemic human trait. Rather, it is more so linked to our habits ( which could be technologically influenced, like for example, getting depressed after seeing goody-goody posts from a friend on facebook or instagram.) or even forgetting about our purpose in life ( which happens when we are too much involved in the joy ride which life offers).
One of the peculiar expectation which we often have is we should never have problems in life. This expectation itself is flawed. We wish all we had is only good times, and bad times should never occur in our life. No one wants to struggle, or witness failure. Though there is nothing wrong to be hopeful of good times, but expecting that we should never see problems is one of the reasons for being anxious, which leads to depression. When we become rich, or successful, we all wish it never goes away. But this leads to consistent fear of losing what we have achieved, and then we do not even enjoy what we have. Rather, we just keep working or worrying to not lose this. If we keep doing this everyday, then I won’t be surprised to see depression knocking at our door!
Similar thing happens when we compare with others. As I mentioned about the facebook effect before, comparison with others is an excellent way to get depressed. And this explains the rise in depression in the last few years. Because we have developed all the perfect tools to compare and thereby get depressed on a large scale. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube are some of the best mediums to express our ideas and thoughts, but at the same time there are also perfect destination to harness the vices of jealousy, envy, comparison and narcissism. Yes, because we just do not look at our posts on the wall, or see our uploaded content. We see others, and we start comparing. Though this can also be looked from the prism of learning, and making us better. But more often, we take it in a negative way, which leads to consistent thinking, worrying, and being obsessed about others. Getting more likes, comments, views, shares, emoticons, followers becomes our obsession and sooner or later, we find our mind occupied with only becoming more famous or good looking than others. Isn’t this a perfect receipe for making stress in our mind?
Gurudev Sri Sri RaviShankar, the founder of Art of Living says, that one of the main causes of depression is thinking ‘Just me, what will happen to me, me, me?’ When we overthink about me, it is the easiest way to become stressed and depressed. And I agree that this has increased enormously in modern age. Why? Because the very fact that we no longer have any urgent problems which will affect our life on a daily basis. Few centuries before, people died from starvation, disease, epidemics, adverse weather conditions, exertion due to physical work etc. Then, We, the Intelligent Sapien developed technology to solve these problems. Today, we do not die from malnutrition as we have produced enough food on the planet ( still people are dying from malnutrition in poorer countries has to do with bad distribution, poverty and politics, but atleast there is no dearth of supply). We no longer suffer from cold in winter, or die from polio. Currently people are dying from covid-19, but then we are rapidly developing the vaccine as well. Hence, we can say that we have solved all the problems atleast for a comfortable living such food, clothing, shelter, education, communication and transportation.
So, what has happened is we do not have any incentive to work for betterment of others. Rather, all we do is just work to get more rich, and famous. The companies and factories which used to produce innovative solutions to make life better, are now either involved in just earning profits, buying back shares, or giving hefty bonuses to shareholders. Ofcourse there are exceptions like Elon Musk, but the bigger pie is simply occupied in looking after themselves. Few decades before, when all the above problems were not solved, the scientists, doctors and engineers used to work day and night to find a solution. Even common people used to find solutions to make things better and help others to uplift them as well. After all, the scientists and innovators did not come from any royal family, or rich business background. They were simple, poor people who just had a passion to solve a problem which bothered humanity, be it darkness, which was eradicated by invention of electric bulb, or a vaccine for polio.
But today, we see most of us have all the basic facilities needed to live life comfortably, and so we are slowly forgetting to help others, and solve problems. We have forgotten that the real purpose of humans is to be in service of humanity. Be it inventing something, or even as basic as volunteering for the weak and old, service keeps us busy and makes our life purposeful. That’s why those who are involved in serving humanity, never get depressed. Iconic personaliities like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, Charles Goodyear, Robert Goddard, and many more worked and served for making human life better. They never got depressed ( atleast not due to self obsession). So, lack of service and increase of narcissism has been one of the key factors in the rise of depression.
It was December 2016. I had been visiting my family here in India for a short trip from USA. The shock of the year, ‘Demonetization’ had just happened back in November 2016. We had planned to go to Andaman islands, and so I was quite excited as we had never been to those beautiful islands. Few days before our planned trip, I had to visit the local bank in my locality for some banking transactions. While I was writing a check, suddenly a middle aged woman, who was wearing a traditional sari and a ‘kumkum’ on her forehead, came and asked me if I could help her in filling out the deposit slip. I was surprised, as why would some unknown person ask me for filling their payment deposits. I looked at her, and she seemed to be from a family with limited means. So, I said yes to her, and took the deposit slip and passbook from her, to fill her details. While filling the details, she told me that she did not understand how to fill the deposit slip, and that’s why she asked me. I said okay to her, and gave her the filled deposit slip for her to sign.
As per the old saying, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I thought it would be better if I can teach her how to fill the form, so that she can do it herself. As I started telling her about the details, she suddenly replied, that she would not be able to learn, and she went away. I was stunned! I felt bad as she was not even ready to uplift herself, and rather was willing to depend on others.
Anyways, fast forward to December 2020….
I recently moved back to India, and had to visit the same bank on multiple occasions. One afternoon, a man who might be in his late 40’s approached me, and asked me if I could fill the details for him to write a check! I looked at him, and he seemed to be from a rural background. I could not say no, and started writing his check. Suddenly, I could recollect the similar experience with that middle aged woman in 2016. I thought to lets give a try to teach him how to write a check. So, while writing the check, I started explaining him the details to be filled. After listening patiently, he told me that if he could know how to read and write, he would have never asked me to write for him. I was stunned, again!
I got the same experience, in the same bank, just 4 years after.
After coming home, I could not stop the train of thoughts which had started coming in my mind. Since 2016, there had been some of the biggest changes in the financial and political landscape in India. Be it demonetization, or digitization using UPI, apps like BHIM, PhonePe, PayTm etc. Quite a few banking corruptions were exposed, and the culprits like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya even fled the country. The ruling party won another election in 2019, and finally, Covid-19 happened this year.
But it seems the financial literacy of quite a few people, more so especially in the rural regions seems to be the same. Its very perplexing to comprehend the fact that if many people are not comfortable with depositing money, or writing physical checks, how are they going to adapt to the emerging and fast moving digitization in the financial sector? How will these people learn about internet banking, cashless wallet, or UPI?
The need for digitization has never been so high before as seen today, mostly due to covid-19. India has rapidly deployed its fintech industry with a wave of online payment apps and digital wallets. The urban areas have seen a massive usage of online and digital payments, and this is a good news for India to become a cashless economy. Our PM Narendra Modi has been a strong proponent of digital economy, as per his motto ‘Say, Yes to digital payment, no to cash!’
But I am afraid that as long as there are people like I met in the above two incidences, who are not only financially literate, but also their mindset to adopt to new technologies is negative, it is going to take a while for India to become a truely cashless economy. The need to teach the rural people about financial awareness, and make them comfortable for adapting digitization seems to be the need of the hour. I observed that even senior citizens are not yet comfortable in adapting to these new technologies, and hence the transition from a cash economy to cashless digital economy will happen only when awareness and education about these technologies is widely spread. Especially, I feel youngsters of my generation should come forward and try to guide senior citizens, and rural people in order to make them a part of this new economy.
I recently moved back to Pune, India. And I have been visiting some of the hills which surround the city. Pune is blessed with many hills or in local language, they are called ‘Tekdi’. Some of the famous ones include ‘Vetal’ hill, ‘Parvati’ hill, Hanuman hill etc. Fitness enthusiasts often visit these hills for running, jogging, walking etc. Due to Covid-19, and the declining number of parks and jogging tracks in the city, these hills stand as one of the last remaining option to exercise besides the gym. They also remain a well known tourist destination for city dwellers to have a quick visit away from the crowded buzz in the city.
I have captured some of the pics which shows the beauty surrounding the city.
I plan to do some more photography of the city and its beautiful surroundings. I hope this natural beauty is preserved as they are the lungs of the city.
Stay tuned to my blog for future travel updates and nature photography.
Many poets, writers and philosophers ( even those who are madly submerged in love) have written that love is not a give and take relationship, it is not a business transaction, but it is something that just happens. But today, we see our society has institutionalized love, just like marriage. While I agree that marriage is a necessary practice or custom for a civilized society to organize and live in harmony together, but unfortunately, love is something which has been defined by this society in a certain way. For ex: we see the enormous influence of religion on marriages and love. A guy belonging to a certain religion cannot marry a girl belonging to a certain religion, and vice versa. This is a perfect example of institutionalizing love. Love is something which just happens, and cannot be explained logically ( no scientist has been able to decipher why a certain guy loves a specific girl more than others).
Now, if such barriers of religion, caste, color, social status are applied to this beautiful relationship, there is no way that love will endure between them. I always felt that such an institutionalization of love is nothing but an uncomfortable adjustment, which never makes couples/partners happy and satisfied in their married lives. I find it impossible to comprehend the fact that people fall in love with only a specific group of people, who are just like them, who eat the same food, have the same social status, education, job, wear similar clothes, speak the same language etc. Of Course, there is nothing wrong for someone to stay and be comfortable around like minded people, culture,or religion. But this barrier is something which does not work in today’s life.
Because decades before, the world was separated physically, and people lived independently without even coming into much contact with each other. Today, on the contrary, the world is flat, connected, inter-dependent and a global hub. Someone in India has to collaborate with an American, who then has to work with a German or a Japanese on the same project/work. And so, as the world is coming into daily contact with different people of different color, race, gender, religion, caste, it is simply unavoidable to like or fall in love with someone who is not like us. An African guy would like an Italian girl, or an Indian girl might fall in love with a Filipino guy, etc… If we apply the centuries old rules of institutionalizing love and relationships, that ain’t gonna work now. It will be an absurd adjustment which has no justification.
Rather, the society should become open to accept that people are going to like what they want, and no longer society can impose its rules on it. In India, where I currently live, things have become so institutionalized, that new rules are popping up to stop these inter-marriages, and due to which, people are fearing to even talk or respond to someone, who is of different religion or community. Even in high profile elite circles, we see people marrying amongst their own elite group. The richest Indian businesses are family owned, and they are zealous enough to keep their elite lineage and wealth within their own group, to preserve the control and wealth. Even Bollywood and cricket ( another two careers to become rich and enter the elite status in India) are no exception. The bollywood families are not only notoriously famous for nepotism, but also for inter-marriages among themselves. And now, with the fame and wealth attained by cricketers, bollywood personalities are marrying cricketers ( Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and Hazel Keech, Hardik Pandya and Natasa Stankovic are some famous examples)
So, with the ever growing trend of arranged marriages, groupism, elite marriages as a way to keep power and wealth within the family etc, slowly people are forgetting how to love or even what is actually love! Gone are the days, when a Hindu girl from a conservative Brahmin family ( Gauri Chibber) dared to fall in love with a Muslim guy, who was an orphan, and struggling actor ( Shahrukh Khan). On the other side, we see a Muslim woman ( Fatima Ghadially) married a Hindu Brahmin cricketer (Ajit Agarkar). Both of them have been successful marriages. Gone are the days when a girl from a rich family, and who is studying medicine ( Anjali Mehta) could fall in love with a shy, simple cricketer ( Sachin Tendulkar) after seeing him at the airport, and in spite of being five years senior to Sachin. Gone are the days when a Muslim actor ( Naseeruddin Shah) can dare to marry a Hindu actress ( Ratna Pathak Shah) and not be charged under any law. Both happily continued to practice their respective religions. Gone are the days when an urban princess can fall for a guy who lived in a poor chawl (house). She married him and moved out of her palace to live with her husband in that poor chawl. Later, that guy became known as Jackie Shroff, and that brave woman is Ayesha Shroff. Can this happen in today’s world? I don’t see this happening anywhere. It is worth noting that even the legendary singer Asha Bhosle ( from the elite family of Lata Mangeshkar) had eloped with a rickshaw driver (Ganpatrao Bhosle), when she was barely 16!
I can give countless brave examples of such open-minded and inter-faith, inter-social status relationships which have happened in the past. But this rarely happens today. This has nothing to do with any particular government in power, but it is the mentality of our society which has changed to a large extent. So, the real problem I find is we have become immune to accepting diversity. It is as if we all are been consciously vaccinated by society and its rules to never break the rules, to never accept diversity, to stay within our own community, caste, religion etc. This institutionalization has led to deprivation of love and harmony among us. We live in fear with each other. We talk with other people like having a business transaction. We think before falling in love. We fear what people will say if we like someone who is not like us. This suppression of our freedom is like a virus which inhibits us to love whomever we want, to become whatever we like, or even to come out with our own identity ( be it straight, gay, lesbian or trans). We need to accept diversity of thoughts, identities, and even diversity in loving. Because as it is said, love has no barriers, it just happens. So, we should let it happen freely, this is the test of love…..
Many of us have missed catching that train where our right partner for life was traveling in!
In life, it is never easy to find true love. Everyone understands this at some point in life. When we are teenagers in school or young adults in college, our thoughts and ideas are often influenced by external world. We start constructing an ideal image of a guy or a girl based on movies we watch, or some character from a favorite TV series. At that tender age, we being young, start assuming that we have lot of time to find a genuine partner. So, most of us just limit ourselves to short relationships, or even a no strings attached kind of relationships. But all this is never accepted by society and neither by life itself.
Because, life is not something to be taken for granted. Similarly, finding a partner is also which needs to be given due attention. And this is where most of us fail, including me. We are told by our parents, or family to concentrate on our education, career and get settled. Then we can look for a suitable partner. But in today’s age, when our education often includes not only a 4 year degree, but also going to grad school ( or post-graduation). Be it working in Tech, or becoming a surgeon, or even working for an investment bank, every profession needs masters degree, or atleast a higher education with credible experience. All this takes quite a number of years, which often gets extended to mid 20’s or even late 20’s.
Now, once a man or woman reaches his/her late 20’s, and if they haven’t seriously thought about relationships, or even finding the right partner before, then it becomes quite a difficult ballgame. I have seen quite a few of friends struggling to find a partner in their early 30’s as well. This is because they have been either too pre-occupied with their education or career, or they have been involved only in short term relationships, which is not a very enabling experience. My story isn’t very different from this. And having seen friend’s situations and experienced myself, I often think whether there is any real need for us to avoid finding the partner just for the sake of career or even for an obsession to find the right partner at the right time?
Because, career is not something which ends after a couple years of experience. We cannot say we know everything in the field of work with only a handful years of working. In career, we never get settled, as today, technology is continuously evolving. There is no beginning or end of career, learning, or working. Unlike few decades ago, when everything was laid back, it was expected to complete education by a certain age, and then with couple years of experience, people used to become proficient or in other words ‘settled’ in their career. So, after that, family used to make arrangements for a suitable partner for him/her, and life moved on. But now, this no longer exists. No one can agree that they are comfortably settled in their job or career with a few years of work experience.
And further, due to social media, internet, movies and OTT media, life is filled with options to explore, know, learn and move ahead. Similarly, in relationships, no one gets settled down for the first choice. We all think we ll find an even better one, because we have options. We compare with our real friends, our social media friends, soap opera actors and actresses. We dream of a perfect partner, and a perfect life. But unfortunately, this rarely happens! While we are busy dreaming about the fantasy life filled with richness and a perfect partner, we often miss the right one in front us. He/She might be in our extended friends circle, or music class, or even living across the street. But we often overlook the ones nearest to us.
They could have become our high school or college sweetheart!. But in this endless game to make a career, get settled down, or under the false impression to keep looking for the right one with an over inflated expectations, we often ignore or turn down the right ones, foolishly! Then after a while, it becomes very late in life and few of us give in to the family pressure to get settled down with the parents choice ( as it happens in India!). But then later, do they realize that they are not compatible with each other, and it opens a whole new arena of problems, fights, quarrels, which leads to divorce at the end.
I know there is no perfect answer for this, and this blog post is only an expression of my views on this subject. But I do sincerely feel this has a lot to do with our over inflated expectations about the partner( maybe like Mr and Mrs. Smith couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, but unfortunately they are also divorced!), our pre-occupation with career, getting rich and getting settled down, or even a string of short term relationships, due to lack of mutual trust between each other, or a no string attached, ‘friends with benefits’ driven mindset between the partners, none of which gives a long lasting, genuine relationship.
Hence, maybe my generation which is obsessed with the social media and virtual world, needs to think and understand that finding true love or a soulmate cannot be done by any algorithm, or using artificial intelligence. A true relationship does not have any checklist which states to have a certain education, or career to qualify for an enduring relation. Love simply just happens, and to know this is the first step.
Recently, I watched the Netflix series ‘Fabulous lives of Bollywood Wives‘. After watching this show, I simply find no words to rate or assess this show. The show lacks complete originality and so I decided to name it as ‘banal’ instead of the so called given name ‘fabulous’.
To begin with the review, the show portrays the life of 4 bollywood families, which are the Kapoors ( there are many kapoors in bollywood, and the least famous is shown in this series), Khans, Pandey and Soni. The former two (Sanjay and Maheep Kapoor, Seema and Sohail Khan) are known to be a part of the bollywood elite, but I have no idea why Pandey ( Chunky and Bhavna) and Soni (Samir and Neelam) are a part of this show, even though they have acted in quite a few movies, but certainly they are not very famous.
The 8 episode series shows the life of four wives, Maheep, Seema, Bhavna and Neelam. I find all four of them obsessed with fake accents, speaking bad words including the F*** word, self obsession over looks, boasting of wealth, and desperate attempt to launch their kids in this industry. All four of them are seen to be demanding, money and fame driven, unrespectful of each other or even the common people. Their abroad trips to Paris or Doha, performing facelift for anti-aging, petty fights, drinking, clandestine attempt to seduce other men is not at all fabulous. All this does not make them fabulous or respected either. Hence, I was disappointed to see the pitiful life of bollywood wives shown in this series. I find this series to be a waste of time and utterly banal.
But, at the same time, after watching this series, we also understand what bollywood is in reality. Most Indians, and even abroad watch bollywood movies, and many of us are die hard fans of the actors and actresses. Starting from the golden age of bollywood in 1950’s and 60’s ( with Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar), to the angry young man era of Amitabh Bachchan in 1970’s and 80’s, from the romantic 90’s ( with Shahrukh, Salman and Amir Khan) to the modern age cinema of 2000’s and 2010’s, bollywood has always been the defacto entertainment for the Indian audience ( apart from Cricket). We all love and follow the way these superstars act, talk, walk, dance and sing. We even emulate their way of life and dream to become rich and famous like them.
But the reality shown in the movies, is not always the reality of life. Even though I have tremendous respect for bollywood stars like Amitabh, Shahrukh, Amir and many more ( especially the golden age era or even the parallel cinema of 1970’s and 80’s). But still bollywood life has always been mired with obsession for looks, wealth, fame, cut throat competition and jealousy. The actors and actresses are never happy in their life. The uncertainity of career and fear of being surpassed by talented new comers is always there. They often resort to drinking, smoking, recreational drugs, extra marital affairs to get rid of excess stress and fear of losing the fame. Ofcourse, not everyone does this, but bollywood is certainly not a very comforting or accomodating place.
Even worse than these vices, is the nepotism. Just like politics in India, bollywood is stained with nepotism. Everyone knows that nepotism runs in the blood of bollywood. If we look at the top families of bollywood, be it Kapoors, Khans, Bachchans, Bhatt’s, Deol’s, Chopra’s or Mukherjee-Samarth family, all have been in this industry for decades, generations after generations. Even though, nepotism does not demote their acting skills, as I agree as most Indians would, that these families inspite of their nepotism have been skilled and very professional in the show business. Along with their good photogenic looks, they carry the sophistication of being a brand and have glorified the Indian cinema for years at the global stage with their sheer hard work and dedication.
But still the biggest disadvantage of neoptism is unleveling of the ground for new comers. The kids of famous bollywood families get the leverage and attention to rise up fairly easy, and this makes the life of newcomers difficult who inspite of their talent, may not always succeed in bollywood.
I think this is the only good part of this series, that finally, the bollywood is coming to an understanding that its not nepotism or connections but work brings more work, fame and recognition. That’s why Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), an outsider became the ‘King Khan of Bollywood’, while Abhishek Bachchan, who is the son of ‘Big B’ Amitabh Bachchan ( an outsider himself) could not earn that reputation like his father earned.
Finally, in the series, I find the most disgusting part is the shallow, fake and banal lives of the bollywood wives shown by the king of nepotism Karan Johar . Actually, they are not even part of bollywood who are successful. They are just missing that success and fame, which SRK, or Big B families have garnered. That’s why they are jealous of others, and desperate to launch their kids to earn that fame and wealth, which they could not earn. So, its worth noting that the life shown in this series is not always the typical bollywood wives life.
Infact, there are many actually talented, real bollywood wives like Kajol ( wife of Ajay Devgn, who stays away from bollywood limelight), Madhuri Dixit( married to a surgeon), Shabana Azmi ( wife of famed poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar), Hema Malini ( wife of Dharmendra), Jaya Bachchan ( wife of Amitabh Bachchan), Ratna Pathak Shah( wife of Naseeruddin Shah), Zeenat Aman, Gracy Singh and many more. They are the real gems and queens of bollywood. These wives/actresses do not behave or live a so called ‘fabulous’ life as shown in the Karan Johar ‘KJo’ produced netflix series. They often live a simple life, away from limelight after their acting career is over. Many of them are excellent housewives, and even some of them are in politics or social service. They are the real bollywood wives, and not the four wives shown in the series.
Thus, I end this review with the understanding that even though there are some fringe elements in bollywood as shown in this netflix series,& even though there is nepotism, family dynasties, cut throat competition, jealousy breeding grounds etc, but at the end, its always the work and talent which stays forever at the end.
The story of how bad can a customer service become!
I am writing this post after having recently seen one of the worst customer service experiences in India. This happened in the banking sector. HDFC Bank is one of the biggest banks in India, just like Bank of America, which falls into the ‘Too big to fail’ category. Few months back, my family was unexpectedly given the personal accident policy by the insurance division of this bank. We were surprised to see this, and had immediately contacted the bank to remove this policy which has been thrown at us without our expectation.
The bank told us that they will withdraw the policy, and refund the amount which had been debited for the policy. After this, days went on, and soon weeks went on, and we could no longer see the refund being deposited. We frequently reached out to the bank vis emails and phone calls, and told them our concern, but all they told was it’s in process, and it takes some time. Soon, we received the check of a smaller amount. We again were taken aback by this check, as it was lesser than the amount bank owed to us.
Again, we reached out to the bank. But by then, our credit card had expired, and the account had been closed as well. So, we had to request for a new credit card, and then a few days later, the card was delivered. We started sending emails for the explanation of this smaller amount, but everytime we got a reply as we are working on your request.
During the last few weeks, we visited the local branch, and the main branch, but due to covid, the entire team was working from home, and so could not help us resolve this issue. The main branch politely requested us to send emails to the team, while the local branch in my locality was notorious enough to raise their hands as if nothing had happened. I ll come to the story of this local branch in a while.
Soon, the reply from the respective team started coming with the investigation for the lost amount. We had to send multiple emails to request for the statements, and only after bombarding their department with the threat to report this issue to the RBI ( Central governing body just like the FED), they finally forwarded the desired statements to us.
But then, the statement seemed to be confusing as it mentioned the LOAN transaction. We knew we had not taken any loan from this bank, and so we wondered what in the world is wrong with this bank. So, we visited the local branch recently, and told the manager about this.
Before going further into this, I will mention the previous experience with this local branch and the notorious manager. To get answers regarding this issue, we had visited the local branch months before. At that time, they had told us that this issue comes under the supervision of the main branch. So, we visited the main branch, and after meeting the team there, they told us the right procedure to follow, which is forwarding our query via the local branch! Wow, I mean it seemed like a round robin now. So,we came back to the local branch, and told them about this so-called procedure. The immediate reaction of the manager and his team was that how in the world is some customer explaining to them their own rules!! They were angry that we had hit the spot, and finally had to tell us about the right team we need to reach to get the bank statements.
So, coming back to the topic, we got the bank statements, which were somewhat confusing. So, as mentioned, we went to the local branch to get an explanation. I don’t know what was wrong with that manager, but he became upset the moment he saw us. And then started becoming angry at us for asking questions on the same old topic. We showed him the statement, and asked him about the loan term. As we are not from the banking industry, all we wanted was a simple explanation. But he started insulting us, as if we lacked the knowledge, and talked with us in a very condescending way. He even mocked us for not being able to understand a simple bank statement!
After seeing this attitude, we left the bank in utter disappointment. Although he did explain the loan term later, but the way of speaking with customers was disgraceful. This is certainly not the way to talk with the customer. In this world, where the business revolves around the mantra ‘Customer is King’, the bank manager’s behavior is the exact opposite of how a customer should be treated. As many customers are not from banking or business background ( especially young students who have never had a bank account in their life or even senior citizens who might not be comfortable with the use of internet, mobile banking etc), it is the duty of the banking officials to welcome the customers ( All of them, irrespective of their background), guide them if necessary and resolve their queries. That’s what the bank officials and managers are expected to do. and that is what they are being paid for!
But unfortunately, here in India, it’s the opposite. Few bank managers from some ‘Too Big To Fail’ status banks live in a cloud where they feel entitled that their position is never going to fall down, or as if they are a part of the intelligent species! I highly doubt if they even understand the meaning of customer service. While on the other side, when I was in the USA, as a young college student, I was surprised to see how bank officials ( PNC Bank, Bank of America, Discover Bank) welcome everyone with a smile ( sometimes, they even walked to the door to welcome me inside). How kindly they treat the customers, provide all the information and resolve all their concerns happily. I really do miss that experience here in India.
But the most interesting thing I find is that India which is known as the IT power, which has a major chunk of its GDP based on the service sector, and which is known to deliver excellent service to the western world, can deliver disgraceful and downgraded customer service to its own citizens? I have no answer for this. I have decided to never open a bank account or even avail any services of HDFC bank hereonwards. But at the same time I do agree that not everyone is bad, and there are some exceptional people doing their job exceptionally well. All we need is to find and appreciate them….
The conversation highlighted the discussion on the issues which dominated in this year, 2020, and based on the current world scenario, the panel shared their insights about how the world will be shaped in 2021. Frank started the conversation with the impact of Covid-19, and how this pandemic has changed the world, especially considering the ever growing importance of digitization and automation. He also shared his concern about the rise in racial inequality seen in this year. But also the fact that President-elect Biden will soon be in the White House, this will certainly lead to the comeback of multilateralism.
Sundeep Waslekar, however, surprised the viewers by expressing that during 2020, there were three major impacts which dominated this year, and which will impact the coming years as well. In his list, the least severe is Covid-19! Yes, I heard right. The least disastrous is Covid-19 even though it has impacted millions of people and crumbled the economy into recession. According to Sundeep, the second most dangerous event which happened during 2020 was that 2020 was the hottest year in the history of the world. The readers can refer for more info: https://www.carbonbrief.org/state-of-the-climate-2020-on-course-to-be-warmest-year-on-record
So, this has led to an unprecedented rise in global warming. But the good thing is as Trump has lost the election, and President-elect Biden has affirmed to bring back the USA into the Paris Climate Agreement. And Sundeep also stressed the fact that Mr.Biden wants to align the economy to a more energy efficient, renewable source based, and sustainable model. Even Europe and China have decided to make their economies carbon free by 2050 and 2060 respectively. So, in a nutshell, thanks to the defeat of Trump, our Mother Earth is going to be saved from a catastrophic disaster.
According to Sundeep Waslekar, the third and most disastrous event which happened in 2020 is not Covid or global warming, but the race for development and testing of hypersonic missiles. So far, Russia, USA, China and India have successfully tested the hypersonic missiles in this year.
Hence, the race for hypersonic missiles which can carry nuclear payloads coupled with the ongoing cold war between USA-China, and USA-Russia ( which is the new cold war continued after the disintegration of Soviet Union) and rising tensions between India-China has created a perfect breeding ground for germinating this into a burning hot war. The panel raised their concerns about the growing escalation of weapons manufacturing, including nuclear warheads, which the new President would have to give due attention to calm down the rising tensions between countries.
The panel answered questions from the audience, and one of the most asked questions was regarding the role of China in 2021. As per Niranjan and Prof. Venkat, China has risen in Asia as an economic and technological power, and who wants to challenge the position of the USA as the world’s only remaining superpower. China has dug its feet too deep into the global supply chains, that it will be impossible for the world to isolate China. The panel illustrated a few examples such as the dominance of China in rare earth elements which are used in smartphones, wind turbines etc. https://qz.com/1924282/how-china-became-dominant-in-rare-earths/ In short, the world may like or hate China, but cannot avoid China.
The panel discussed the upcoming challenges President-elect Biden will have to face as soon as he enters the White House. It will be interesting to see how he leads America in this multi-polar world, where America has retreated from the world leadership during the Trump Presidency. As Sundeep rightly said, that “Donald Trump looked at the world as a place of risk, and not a place of opportunities” That America’s interests were at risk was the psychology behind Trump’s actions to ban immigrants, sell arms, retreat from world organizations etc. “Even though Biden has favored multilateralism, still it is not clear how his worldview is going to be. Is he going to look at the world, especially at China and Russia from cold war’s perspective, or would have a completely new view?” Hence, Sundeep assured the Indian audience who are particularly concerned that Biden will bring up the kashmir issue again, that Biden will certainly look at India from America’s strategic interest, and simply kashmir, H1-B immigration or any human rights issue would not drive his administration’s agenda.
Another topic which was talked about was regarding the RCEP – Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which has been formed among the Asian nations including Australia and N.Z, but dominated by China. For India, this is another organization in the lines of One Belt One Road, CPEC, or AIIB. Prof.Venkat and Niranjan shared their views that even though India looks at China led organizations from the prism of threat to its economic and national concern, but considering the need to revive the economy, India should either think of joining or have a Plan B with US or Europe market collaboration.
Finally, the panel discussed the world economy which lies in doldrums. Even though the world economy will bounce back in 2021, but still it will reach only to the pre-covid level. But the important concern is how the economy will be shaped after this pandemic. Though it is clear that the emphasis on automation and digitization will be preferred, the basic problem lies with the way the economy was functioning. The working class struggled with the low wages, and which led to protests from many parts of the world to increase wages. While on the other side, the CEO’s and BOD’s earned huge profits due to increase in productivity, driven by automation and the internet. But they spent the major chunk of profits in share buyback or giving hefty bonuses to themselves. Hence, profits vs wages will be the main concern in front of many world leaders.
The conversation ended with Frank’s comment that there is hope to rebuild the world based on multilateralism, that nationalistic movements have started to retreat especially with the exit of Trump from the White House, and people can live together again in harmony. While Sundeep concluded his thoughts with a question for the viewers to wonder that the world could not predict about Covid in 2019. So, what will be the next thing/event that might happen in 2021, which will change the world? Let’s hope that whatever happens is positive!
Please do watch this conversation on YouTube as the ideas and worldview from eminent intellectuals and scholars are the perfect food for our thoughts!
Why International Men’s Day needs to be accepted by the society!
The day of Nov 19th, is declared as International Men’s Day! Unlike Women’s day, this day is not much known or celebrated either. Even Google ignores this day by not making doodles which it regularly makes for celebrating women’s day. To be honest, I was also not aware of this day until I read a LinkedIn post from a female connection!
The first question which came in my mind is that why is there a need to celebrate Men’s day? Just because the tradition to celebrate women’s day exists? Well, historically, we see that women have undergone generations of inequality, injustice and impartiality as compared to men. That’s why as per https://www.internationalwomensday.com/About ,March 8th is the day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
Men on the other side, has always dominated the world in all spheres of life, be it scientific, political, social or economic. The world has honored and revered men from all backgrounds, religions, culture in all parts of the world, at all times. Infact if we checkout the list of 100 most influential people of all time, we find only two women in the entire list, which are Queen Isabella ( Rank 65), and Queen Elizabeth I ( Rank 94). It is said that behind every successful man, there is women. She could be his mother, or wife, or sister. No man can ever be successful without the women’s support. But unfortunately, the world has always treated men far superior than women, and hence, the list stands as a proof.
Ofcourse, this is no way means that men in the list are not great or influential. What I am trying to convey is that history has always biased between men and women ( maybe because that history is mostly written by men!), and hence, the need to celebrate women’s day garnered the credit to honor the unsung heroines of the world. But then why men’ day needs to be celebrated?
This is because, the world has changed a lot in last few centuries, especially in the last 100 or so years. Due to scientific revolutions and advancement in communication technologies, the world is closer and connected than ever before. Thanks to spread of common education curriculum, democracy & voting rights, trade & commerce across the world, and acceptance of law and order required for a civilization to function, the world is no longer fighting wars to grab lands, resources, or even enslave people ( atleast not like Mongol invaders or British imperialists, though Taliban and few fringe elements do exist in the world) which used to happen before.
All this has led to a more civilized world, which has brought in more equality between men and women. Atleast the law says to treat men and women as equal. Thus, we see more women being educated & working along side men in business, military, politics and even in space! And I think this is one of the greatest achievement in human social history ( however late it might be)
But at the same time, the world is also becoming more aware of the problems of men. Just as history saw women as weak, emotional and inferior for centuries, in the same way, men were always viewed from the prism of masculinity, bravery, machoism, unemotional, and dominant. The fact that men can also be emotional, and face stress or mental issues was never accepted by the world. Men were molded by the society to become stiff, aggressive, to never cry, never give up, never show emotions, stay dominant over women, earn more & be more educated than women. This was the way the world functioned for centuries. Scholars and intellectuals propounded this theory to compare it with evolution, and the way our ancestors lived, where men used to hunt and gather food, while women used to be at home to cook and raise children. ( there are some backward people like Taliban or ISIS who still believe in this theory)
But, as the world has changed enormously in the last few centuries, this concept no longer holds true. Times have changed, and even though men continue to dominate the world in most spheres of life, but the stress, anxiety, and work pressure they have to undergo to perform and stay at the top is excruciating. For example, we see that if a women voluntarily decides not to work & become a housewife, it is easily accepted by the society. But men unfortunately do not have that luxury. Men are never accepted to take gaps in education or work. Infact, going further, men are even not accepted to work under a women ( this might be due to peer pressure or male ego), but this stress to dominate, affects mental health enormously. And to make matter worse, men are not even expected to express their emotions, concerns in front of others ( especially in front of women as this is considered to be inferior and servile for a man’s macho status)
That’s why we see men’s health being severely affected, which results in some severe health issues like cardiac attack, high blood pressure etc. The below statistics shows the severity of this mindset.
Hence, International Men’s Day is celebrated to show this other side of male personality. Even though physically or through evolution, men are stronger than women, or are more evolved to work in strenuous physical activities such as farming, construction, or fighting wars etc. But that does not mean they are emotional stronger than women as well. Infact, women are better at managing their stress, mental health and work pressure than men. This might be because women express their concerns and issues more easily with other women or even with husband/father. But men are known to never express their concerns or emotions to anyone.
Hence, this day should get more accepted by the world to create awareness about men’s mental health. The emphasis on male machoism, or ego should be discarded. Men should not feel a shame to work under women, and neither should they take stress to stay dominant at the top of the social ladder. In order to make men and women truely equal with each other, it is necessary to accept the fact that after all, men are also humans! Just like a mother, wife or sister plays a vital role in man’s life, so does a father, husband or brother in a woman’s life! The ground needs to be leveled and so Men’s day needs to get the same support as Women’s day!
The world has changed immensely in the last few years. Everything happens quickly, instantly nowadays. If we want some information, just Google! If we want to connect with someone, just WhatsApp or connect on Facebook with them. If we need something, Amazon is at our service. The physical boundaries on the planet have been surpassed, and no longer any obstacle or any iron curtain can prevent us from connecting with someone.
On one side, when we can have anything at our finger tips, but on the other side, this change has created quite a few problems for us. First, this fast and instant result oriented world has created a deficiency of patience in us. We are slowly losing our power to be patient. Our forefathers had an impeccable sense of patience. They used to wait for years for results to come, or even to get any information. They had to work hard to find that info, and hence, this tested their patience. But we on the contrary, can get that info within seconds, and so we are forgetting the value of patience. This generation seems to live a life where waiting is like waste of time, and when having patience is looked down upon. We want everything to be happened instantly, and hence, we rush our life to get what we want.
But in our natural lifetime, nothing can happen without having patience. We cannot grow up from childhood to adulthood instantly. We cannot get all the education or knowledge in the world immediately. Relationships and bonding cannot form within seconds. All this takes time, and that’s where the importance of patience comes in. But unfortunately, Google, Facebook and Instagram cannot teach us the importance of patience, as they thrive upon the need for urgency, rush hour and fast communication. For them patience is like a deadend!
Then, the next problem we are having is Fear. Yes, I am right. We are becoming more fearful than ever. Because when we rush things out, we tend to lose them quickly as well. As we are getting things instantly, we are no longer enjoying the fruit of the hard work to attain it. Because technology has made it possible for us to keep us away from actually being involved in the process.
Let me give an example. Before mobile phone technology came in, the only way we could reach out to our loved ones were the telephone, or letters. Unlike mobile phones or social media, it was not possible for real time tracking or connecting with them anytime ( 24/7). But our foretathers and generations before used to travel across continents, countries, fight in wars, explore forests and mountains, and still were brave and patient enough to remain away from their family and relatives for a long period of time. But in this generation, we see that we hardly can stay away from calling or texting our loved ones, if they are not at home or away without leaving any message. We can’t even stay away from our phone for more than few hours. Ofcourse, people say that technology was not available in old times, and hence, they had no option but to wait. I agree that we are very fortunate to have all the latest communication modes at our hand, but the side effect of urgent and fast communication has led to a form of conditioning of our mind, that we are losing patience, and becoming fearful if we are not able to reach out to our loved one instantly. That is a problem we are seeing in modern times.
And finally, I see the most concerning problem brought in by technology rush is the instant self-gratification. Its like a genie which has escaped out of the bottle! We make friends within seconds just by sending a friend request. We don’t even know about the other person whom we are sharing our messages and pictures. We see something on Amazon or Flipkart, and we instantly want to buy it. And the best thing is it gets delivered overnight. Google has made our life so simple that we don’t need to remember any facts, or birthdays, or even road maps.
All these attributes are of no use in life. Infact, they are the vices which our forefathers avoided, and which our parents & teachers taught us in school to be careful of.
Hence, even though the modern technology and social media applications have made our life better, simpler & smarter, but this rush and fast paced world impacted by the technology has brought in its own vicissitudes. Even though many things can be done instantly today, but life itself has its own pace. As mentioned before, we cannot change the way our body grows, or how relationships mature. We cannot alter the time it takes for the seasons to change, or even for the human reproduction. Everything takes its own time. We cannot get instant peace of mind using some app, or neither can we attain mastery over a subject by googling over. It needs time, and patience, and hard work. And that is the only way to become proficient at something. Be it becoming an athlete, writer, doctor or even becoming a mother!
Technology has created an illusion that if we go slow, then we stagnate. But this is not true.Everything has its own pace. There is no need to rush or hurry for anything. Its okay if it takes time to learn or get a job or make friends. The technology and apps are designed to work faster, and give instant results. Because they are machines made of circuits. We are not. We are humans, and lets evolve at our own pace. Lets not rush over life, else sooner or later, life will rush away from us!
Pune is one of the top 10 cities in India. Popularly known as the “Oxford of the East”, this city is the educational capital of Maharashtra, and even ranks one of the top cities in the country for living, education and job opportunities. Pune is known for its IT industry just like Bangalore, and is also the automotive hub with several auto manufacturing plants in and around the city. And its my hometown, with my schooling, my college all being completed in this wonderful city.
But the lesser known thing about Pune is that it is one of the few metro cities surrounded by mountains and hills on all its sides. There are many hills and mountains surrounding the city such as Vetal Tekdi ( Tekdi is a local marathi name for hill) in the west which is also known as ARAI hill. The hill is surrounded by regions of Kothrud, Bavdhan, Pune University, Law college and SNDT college. This hill is one of the most beautiful oxygen generating spot in the city. Many people come here for walk during early mornings or evenings. The hill is covered with medium to dense vegetation, and can be accessed by all locations from the city.
Below are few pictures taken from the Vetal Tekdi which shows different locations of the city.
Besides Vetal hill, there is another small hill called Hanuman tekdi, which is located just near the Fergusson college. It is located in the middle of city, surrounded by Fergusson college and S B Road. Then, there is a famous hill called Parvati hill, which is named after the temple located atop the hill. This hill is quite frequently visited by tourists who visit Pune.
Though the Parvati hill is not covered by dense vegetation, but it is joined by another forest within a few miles, which is known as Taljai Hill, and it is filled with lush green forest.
These hills are all located in the west, central and south of Pune. There are small patches of hillocks in the north and east part of Pune as well. But they are not much accessible for trek or sight seeing. But the eastern part of Pune is fairly plain and barren as compared to the mountains and lush green western part of Pune. If we go further away from Pune, we see the tallest mountains such as Sinhagad fort in the south-west, Katraj Ghat in the south and Dive Ghat in the south east. Trekking through these tall mountains is quite a feat.
Thus, I feel Pune is blessed with being surrounded by hills and mountains. We, Punekars ( local people addressed as Pune-kars) always mock Mumbai-kars as they only have beaches for exercise or jogging. But we have the luxury of several hills and mountains for trekking, exercise, jogging and sight-seeing as well. But considering the growing urban jungle expanding the city, it is becoming more important for the Punekars to protect the lungs of the city from urbanization, deforestation and traffic ( air & noise) pollution. The number of people allowed on the hills should be limited to protect the hill from being over-crowded. Also, well-defined paths for walk or trek should be laid out to avoid the possible destruction of flora and fauna.
I plan to visit more hills in near future, and take more pictures just like the above pics taken from Vetal takdi. I missed Pune’s tekdi for 5 years, and it always nice to visit them back! I hope we all protect the environment, forests, and the lungs of the city!
Recently I have been watching the famous ‘The Big Bang Theory’ TV series. I must say that it is one of the best comedy series I have ever watched. Even ‘Friends’, of which I used to be a die hard fan of seems to be less funny as compared to TBBT. Anyways, this post is not intended for any sort of comparison between comedy sitcoms. Rather, I would like to write about the importance of nerds/geeks in the world.
Just like the fictional weirdo, nerdy, intelligent, genius physicist Sheldon Cooper character is elegantly portrayed by real life actor Jim Parsons, the world always have had many similar nerdy folks. However to the large extent these nerds might be laughed at, ignored or even ridiculed by the so called pragmatic self-concerned society, but they cannot deny that these bunch of folks have changed the world. If we just look at the history in science, technology, economics or arts, we see most of the inventions and breakthroughs done by the nerd scientists and engineers. Sir Issac Newton must have been a nerd in the 17th century England. The genius physicist Albert Einstein must have been a nerd in his college days who delved into the wonders of physics, and opened the universe of relativity for us.
Silicon valley is famously known as a valley of nerds. It was started and later expanded by a bunch of young minds like the trio Bill Gates, Bill Joy & Bill Atkinson. Bill Gates, as we all know became the richest nerd in the world after he co-founded Microsoft along with his friend Paul Allen, another nerd. Bill Joy who is lesser known as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, is more of a prodigy in programming. This post from Berkeley praises this genius as “Dubbed the “Edison of the Internet” by Fortune Magazine, Bill Joy is one of luminaries of tech. Years before personal computers were being widely used, he created software that would enable the rise of the modern internet…”. And Bill Atkinson is the gifted programmer who along with Steve Wozniak( the geeky genius behind Apple) gave Apple the recognition of being more than just a fruit.
Then, we have the Google founders, Sergei and Larry, who envisioned a world with a web of internet. And adding to that, comes Mark Zuckerberg, another prodigy in programming, who revolutionized the way we live in social life. It is interesting to see that a nerd like Mark, who struggled to be social in his school or college days, came up with the idea of Facebook, a social networking platform. I guess an online social networking platform idea was the least expected from a nerd, but we know, nerds have always surprised the world!
Then, we have the famous ‘PayPal Mafia’ gang which comprised of a bunch of nerds such as Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, Jawed Karim etc. Elon as we all know went on to start world famous companies like Tesla & Space X, while Peter Thiel became the angel investor in Facebook. And the trio ( Steve, Chad and Jawed) went on to start YouTube which was later acquired by Google. This is the power of a group of people who are intelligent, hard working and visionary.
I think the most famous nerd in the world would be Steve Jobs, who was not only a geeky visionary who rode on his imagination ride to change the world with Mac and Iphone, but also garnered the respect, admiration and cult following which nerds usually despise or avoid. Many nerds before Steve Jobs used to either confine themselves to innovating in their labs, or teaching & researching in University like MIT, Harvard or Berkeley. But it was Steve who broke the well accepted image of a nerd, which is generally introverted, shy, and not going after money or fame. But Steve Jobs was the exact opposite. He changed the way the world used to look or treat nerds. He proved that nerds can become famous, rich, and immensely powerful. And we see, Apple is the best example of innovation, and being different!
History shows that whenever a bunch of visionary minds have come together, they have often succeeded to change the world. Silicon valley is the world’s largest group of nerds, geeks and tech enthusiasts. Atleast it started off like this, and maybe things have become more profit oriented today, when Wall Street executives and corporate raiders have invaded the innovative silicon valley into a profit churning machine. But still, the spirit of innovation and passion to change the world runs high among the geeks and techies. Starting from the “Traitorous Eight” to “Paypal Mafia”, the nerds and techies made silicon valley the most famous and revered place on the earth.
Thus, lets hope this spirit of innovation continues in the valley. Even though the companies which were started by young minds who were called nerds in school days, who revered books, technology, comics, video games more than dating girls, or body building, who were mocked as being weirdos by the social world, today we see the entire world is dependent on the technologies and innovations these geeks had started, be it Iphone, Google, Tesla, or Facebook. Hence, I remember some wall street trader had said during the 2008 crisis that “Goldman Sachs rules the world” But he was wrong. Today, its the “Silicon Valley that rules the world!”. And in Steve Jobs words…
The heading of this post might remind few of the readers about the epic movie “The Shawshank Redemption”. That movie is one of my favorites! In that movie, Andy Dufresne tells Red, that “Hope is a good thing, and no good thing ever dies!”. I find this quote to be so much valuable in our life.
Because everything changes in life. Just like day and night, young and old, summer and winter, so does our situations, our successes, our failures all change with time. Similarly in life, we see events happening, and some events are so deep, that their effect remain with us for a long time. We feel that this will never change. We start losing hope, and then suddenly, out of utter darkness, there comes a ray of light which makes darkness disappear. That ray of light is the hope. A small good event can change the entire situation. We ought to keep faith in that ray of hope.
I particularly like the Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. It is one of the splendid books ever written. For me, that book is something which charges my battery with renewed hope and faith, whenever failures or setbacks bombard me. That book is like a charging station of positivity and synergy. The book is very simple yet heart touching. The author had to undergo the worst experiences in Auschwitz, yet he managed to not only survive but also find hope and faith in such a hell. He even helped several of his colleagues to overcome depression and losing hope in life. The author simply argued that “Life can have meaning even in the most miserable of circumstances and that the motivation for living comes from finding that meaning. That we humans have a power to choose our response to situations, however gruesome they might be, And in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I find this to be so true even in our daily life. Thank God we are in much better situation as compared to the infernal concentration camps. And we have the same power to respond to the situations we face in our life. Stephen Covey quoted ” Look at the word responsibility—“response-ability”—the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling”. Isn’t the message by Viktor Frankl and Stephen Covey resonate on the same note?
The Peter Parker principle says “With more power, comes more responsibility”. I would add on to that, No power does not mean no responsibility. Because, whether the situation is good or bad, we all are “Response-Able”. Our response does not depend on the power. Rather, I find with positive or pro-active response to any situation, comes more power to beat the problem!
We all have the power and freedom to choose the response. We can either give positive or negative response. Everyone has the ability to respond. And this power to respond is a hope for us, that every situation can be changed. If some of us remember the movie Cast Away, we can relate how Tom Hanks desperately tried hard to get away from the island to reach civilization, but the stormy ocean waves destroyed all of his attempts. Until one day, he finds the same storm delivers a metal enclosure, and suddenly Tom receives a brainwave! He finds hope that he can escape using that part, and finally he builds a much stronger boat that can withstand the waves, and sails across the mighty ocean to get noticed by civilization! That’s hope and faith, my friend!
So, never lose hope, never lose your response, however dark the night may be!
As few of the regular readers of my blog might be aware of the fact that I recently returned back to India. And so far, it’s been a very pleasant experience. Afterall, who does not love his/her country or staying with family. I know few might not, but I have always loved staying in India, in my hometown, with family and friends.
So, I met some of my school friends recently. The school buddies are like the oldest friends, we know in our life. Unlike college or office friends, they know our other side which we try to hide from the world. They know the stuff we did before we grew up to become nice, good looking adults, isn’t it? In India, we have a funny word for such friendship, which in Hindi we call “Langotiya yaar or Chaddi buddies!”. I can sense that the Indian reading crowd might be laughing out loud for this, but if I allowed myself to try my best to explain this to non-Hindi speaking or foreign readers, then it comes down to “Friends who have been together since they started wearing underpants!” In other words, friends since kindergarten or even before that.
Okay, so I met these friends ( not many, just 3-4 good old guys). In my childhood days, it was difficult to make friendships with girls due to separation of schools and groups of boys and girls. I bet things have changed a lot now. Anyways, I met them and it was very nice to spend time with them. We usually end up talking about all the topics in the world, be it girls, relationships, money, my US experience, politics, sex etc. In such a close group of guys ( just like gals have their own close knitted group), there is nothing to hide. I mean ofcourse, I do not mean we can talk everything with intricate details, but still it is far better to at least share some things with the old buddies which we usually will never discuss with our family, or colleagues.
But one thing I did observe, that things change in our life. We change over time. But somehow, these friends’ mindset who know us for so long, never changes. They will never forget the mistakes we did back in school, or some pranks which we had done to tease each other. I mean it’s okay to share those fond memories sometimes, but I sometimes feel the friends keep judging us from the old lens of those archaic memories. I mean it’s kind of funny, but some people don’t change their viewpoint. Even if we achieve anything in life, for these friends, we will always remain the same old buddy. That’s good to a certain extent, but then we know life is not the same for everyone, and life doesn’t stop at school also. We all move on, and try out different things in life. Someone becomes more rich, or more educated, or more famous in life or career. And in spite of all this, it should not affect the friendship.
But I guess sometimes, with old timers/buddies, it does get affected. Because they keep on seeing us from the old prism of being in school together or played together. And suddenly, the topic changes to “You have changed bro!” And my answer is Yes, because life changes everyone man!. I have no complaints against them, because after all they are my friends. But what I feel is in spite of good old school friendship, the conversation topics should change and become more mature with time. Some sort of privacy, or even freedom to have certain opinions must be welcomed. It is not necessary to talk about old pranks or funny incidents everytime we meet. Neither is it necessary to compare each other’s life. Because, in true friendship, it does not matter. All that matters is just being together in times of need, being there to share joy and sorrow, in short someone who’s there to say “I’ve got your back!”.
I think in India, where the culture is more informal, this problem persists more. Ofcourse, it might be there in other culture’s as well. But in my case, my school friends hardly leave any chance to bring out the old topics, pranks, or anything to tease each other. Then comparisons and gossip do follow. The only thing sometimes binds us all together is the long duration we know each other, and due to which, it’s really hard to break off with them. It’s not very easy to get away from someone who knows us for so long. So, then I also have to jump in the pool and throw their pranks, or mischiefs they did in school back on them. Even though I do not like to behave that way, I have to just to ensure I am not the only one left out in the group. You can call it a way of peer pressure. I guess yes it’s peer pressure, but this pressure seems to never end.
Finally, what am I trying to convey in this post? Frankly I don’t know, but maybe the best thing would be to tell them ” Hey, look, you are my best school buddies, and I know we have known for so long. And we are going to remain the same, but just do one favor, and that is For heaven sake, GROW UP IN LIFE and THE SCHOOL’s OVER!”
Not long before, I had written a post https://abhiknotes.com/2020/09/26/trump-and-2020-elections/ about US elections 2020, and compared the Trump and Biden’s pros and cons to win this election. Though I had not endorsed anyone, but somehow, I felt that the chances of Trump to win this election were slightly more than Biden inspite of the pandemic, recession and systemic racism.
But I was wrong! After seeing the 4 years of Trump Presidency, after having lived in Trump’s America, and even having suffered the unjust immigration policies he had initiated, I had come to an understanding that time has changed, and dictators like Trump are being supported by America. I had misunderstood Trump’s aggressive and autocratic governing to a shift in global political movement, which is also being embraced by many countries like Russia, China, Brazil, India, Hungary, UK, Israel etc. I have elaborated all my assumptions in my blog post.
But as I said, it all turned out to be false. After Biden’s victory, and seeing how America had stood behind the just cause, the righteousness, I am more than happy to welcome a beginning of an era which had unfortunately come to halt in 2016. This event has reiterated the belief in me that truth always triumphs! That honesty, decency and taking everyone along yields a long lasting victory than crooked behavior, indecency and selfishness. I am re-learning the fact that unifying force is always stronger than forces which promote divide and rule tactics.
I had read a book about Trump, and in that book, the author had mentioned that Trump is a person who never backs down, that for him, victory is the end result, and whatever it takes to achieve it. He has no rules, or principles or morals. and that for a narcissistic, self gratifying buffoon like Trump, the end justifies the means. Unfortunately, seeing the new trend of dictatorship governments all over the world, I had come to accept this false and erroneous behavior exhibited by people like Trump. But again, as I say, I was naive, and now, thanks God, I have learnt a lot in the past 4 years.
As all the scriptures in the world say, we cannot escape our karma. That karma hits back, always. Trump might have won in 2016, but it turned out to be a pyrrhic victory. Because he was not fit at all to be the President or leader. The leader who deserves doesn’t divide and rule. He/she doesn’t attack the opponents. So, we can now comfortably say that the phase of 2016-2020 was an aberration in US and world politics. And I hope it remains so in coming years.
But I have also learnt from this political episode that I should not jump to conclusions or speculate any results. Anything can happen in politics, and politics is not everyone’s forte. Many political pundits failed to predict 2016 results, and so did many this time as well. So, I would hesitate to say that this victory for democrats would usher in a revolution for America, and that good days will be back. It wont happen instantly. Trump has gone, but Trumpism might stay. This is because almost 48% of the US voters have favored Trump. The roots of division and ruling which have germinated and sprout in the last 4 years , patriotism at the expense of globalization and liberalization, banning immigration, promoting systemic racism, ongoing threat of China to America isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
But the good thing that this election brought out is that no matter how charismatic, famous or rich the leader( like Trump) might be, if he/she has no morals, no principles, no concern for the people, if he/she does not work for the betterment of the society, if he/she does not take everyone together, which includes people from all races, color, caste and religion, then they won’t last long. It also brings out the importance of experience. That to do anything, experience is the best teacher, and no one can be qualified or become expert overnight. Trump had no experience of politics before 2016, and this has proven the fact that only deserving or qualified can do the job well.
But the most important thing is that Trump failed miserably in combating the pandemic which was the only work he had to do. He not only underplayed the pandemic, but also displayed arrogance and lack of responsibility for the millions of people who suffered and died in US and other parts of the world. Though he did not cause pandemic, but he became a self-inficted victim of pandemic, for which he stands as a culprit in not taking the right decisions for the welfare of the people. For which, he had to pay the price by losing the election. Hence, this pandemic has cost him an election!
One thing quite noting is that this phenomenon isn’t limited to America only, but can be extrapolated to other countries of the world as well. Today, we see many countries having elected leaders with dictatorial mindset or autocratic behavior. Trump’s defeat will be a good lesson for all those to remind them that they have to work for the people, else the same can get repeated in their countries as well. Thus, concluding this post, I wish to say that at the end, truth, decency and justice always triumphs!
How an once united nation has been divided into colored nation!
The US election 2020 is in full swing. In every presidential election, the so called “United” States of America gets divided into the “Red” and the “Blue” states to elect the President. Until 2016, even though the country voted based on its preference, yet the blue and red came always together to form the United States of America. But since the 2016 elections and even this 2020 elections, due to Trump’s division politics, this bifurcation of red and blue has become more apparent and permanent than ever.
So,what are the blue and red states? The Wikipedia article shows the general trend of 50 states going red or blue.
Red states support republican party, while blue states support democratic party. There are some states which are dark red, while some states are dark blue. They are the staunch supporters of Republican and Democratic party respectively. While, there are few states which are either light red, light blue or even purple. They are known to be borderline republican or democrats, or famously known as swing states. Because they can swing the elections.
So, what happens in most of the presidential elections is that only few states decide which president will get elected. Because, the permanent red and blue states have historically remained as they are. So, their electoral votes are considered to be guaranteed. But the swing states are uncertain, and hence, the presidential candidates have to tour those states, conduct rallys, and try to win those states in their favor. So, actually, the US presidential election result is not decided by the majority votes, but only the votes of swing states!
Why is this so? Well, the red and blue states have been loyal to their respective parties or ideologies fairly consistently since many decades. This is because of the type of population which resides in these areas. The blue states, also known as democratic states have the voter base of urban, educated, diverse populations. They are pro-immigrant, support minority rights, women rights/feminism/LGBTQ community, abortion, environmental issues like global warming. are anti-coal lobby, anti-gun lobby or NRA etc. All this is welcomed by people living in cities and those who are well educated, those who work in tech or finance companies etc. That’s why we see states having big cities such as New York, California( Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego), Seattle, New England region such as Massachusetts, Illinois( Chicago), Colorado( Denver) have been traditionally democrats. And that will not change in the near future, unless the democratic policies undergo any change.
Same goes for republicans. Their voter base are rural, sub-urban or small towners, who practice farming, or own a small business. They are not very educated, mostly white, against immigrants or special minority rights, consider climate change as hoax, believe in owning a gun or rifle as a fundamental right, against abortion, regular church goers, despise feminism, and LQBTQ rights. They form a big section of America when it comes to land size. That’s why we see the red states form a part of mid-western america (which is also known as corn belt), southern america( also known as bible belt), and mountainous regions of Appalachia ( Tennessee, Kentucky, N.C), Rocky mountains( Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana) and Texas which are known for their ruggedness. poverty and conservative mindset. They all have remained loyal republicans.
Now, the swing states are those states which have undergone recent changes based on demography, and political preferences. The main swing states consist of Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia. Out of these, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia are in the south, Arizona in the south-west and rest are in the north-central.
Florida, North Carolina and Georgia ( even though a part of the south bible belt) have seen a lot of immigration from wealthy northerners, especially in Florida, and hence, we see big cities like Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham-Morrisville( RTP) etc having substantial immigrants in these states. I had stayed in RTP and Atlanta for the last 5 years, and have seen how immigrants and liberal politics have began dominating the urban areas. That’s why they have become separated into urban and rural division, and which has made them swing states. Even Arizona( Tucson, Phoenix) has a lot of Mexican migrants and the Wall politics started by Trump has further widened the divide between White Americans and Mexican-Americans in this region.
The northern swing states with cities like Pennsylvania( Pittsburgh), Michigan( Detroit), Wisconsin( Milwaukee), Illinois( Chicago,St.Louis) used to be the industrial cities, also known as Rust belt. But since the globalization and financialization of American economy during the Reagan era ( republican), the American manufacturing industry got severely impacted, and hence, it came to be called “Rust belt”, with all its industries being shut down or moved to China.
Hence, with Trump’s criticism of China, these states found a savior and so they swung back to republicans in 2016. But now in 2020, we see they have moved back to democrats due to Trump’s failed deal with China, and civil rights issues( Chicago, Detroit etc having some of the most black dominated areas). Hence, they are known as Swing states.
The race to win the President as of Nov 4, 2020 is still on the way. We are not sure who will win, but this presidential race has further bifurcated the divisions of the states, into red and blue. It is not longer just political divide, but that of ideology( free market capitalism vs govt favored socialist capitalism), religion ( ardent christianity vs religious tolerance/separation of state and religion, anti-immigrants vs pro-immigrants, anti-feminism vs pro-feminism, anti-environment vs pro-environment, pro-gun rights/second amendment vs anti-gun rights/second amendment, anti-obamacare vs pro-obamacare etc respectively. Never in history, America has seen so many diversions and aberrations!
Sharing this important post about Anxiety symptoms.
Summary: Stress and anxiety symptoms can help you identify if you have anxiety to be able to make preventive measures. Each time we feel concerned about certain things or fear about the possibilities of what might happen if, a great deal of ifs- these are what we call stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety is…
How an interesting story can tell us a lot about life!
There is one beautiful story of a professor and the boatman. I assume many of us might have read about this in school. But I guess with time, we often forget the good things we learnt before. So, let’s start this post with this interesting story.
The story begins with the professor, a very erudite and learned man, who decides to cross the river to reach his destination. He sees a boatman, and asks him if he could cross the river. The boatman agrees and thus begins the journey of the professor across the river. The river is huge, and due to recent rains, it is flooded across its breadth. The professor soon gets bored, and starts talking with the boatman to pass the time. He asks the boatman ,”Do you know about science and engineering?”. The boatman is confused, and tells the professor, he does not know anything about it. The professor tells the boatman,”Your 25% life is wasted as you do not know about science and engineering which is so important in today’s technological revolution”.
Then, the professor asks the boatman, “Okay, then tell me, have you read about geography, climate, and environment which is necessary to understand the earth and its wonderful seasons”. The boatman is again confused and just nods his head. The professor laments on the boatman, and says “Oh no, you have wasted 50% of your life. Anyways, let’s keep this aside. Just tell me, do you know anything about economics, how money works, and about banking, finance etc. anything?” The boatman by then is extremely sad and says, “Sir, I do not know anything about this either”. The professor sees the boatman’s situation as pitiful, and tells him, ” My dear, you have wasted 75% of your life!”
During this conversation, the boat has crossed halfway. Then, suddenly, the boatman sees something and asks the professor” Sir, do you know how to swim?”. The professor laughs and says, “No, I never got the time to learn it, as I was busy studying the world, science, politics, philosophy and economics”. The boatman tells the professor “Sorry sir, we have a hole in the boat, and the boat is going to sink!”.And then before jumping to save his own life, the boatman says to the professor” I think you have wasted 100% of your life!”.
Now, what’s the moral of the story? Well, this is a very interesting story, and it’s one of my favorites. I find this extremely relevant in our modern day life. We all are to a certain extent living the life of the professor. We study in school and college about the wonders of the world, about history, about science, but then do we even apply them in later life. We slog and work hard the whole life in earning money or making a living, but we forget that money is made for us, and we are not made for money. We have harnessed the power of science to solve physical problems which has reduced efforts, in other words made us lazy and dependent. But we have not harnessed the power of our mind and brain to the fullest. That’s why we worry too much for small issues, get nervous or depressed easily, stress out our life over petty relationships or serve our big ego. We forget that we are social animals, who are expected to care for others and live together. But we just maintain our animalistic instincts which can roughly be scaled down to eating, sleeping and mating.
So, what has happened, in short, is we are wasting 100% of our life, in spite of all the learning, earning, fighting, gossiping. Because, like the boatman, we are not learning how to swim, which means understanding what life is about, and how to live it beautifully. Books can be written ( or are already written by famous philosophers and writers). So, “Not learning how to swim means not learning how to live”. That, we are not living our life to the fullest. That we are working on those things like money, house, or car which ain’t going to save our life, on our deathbed, or even save our life, when we are depressed. Only by understanding the importance of life which means having a disease free, strong body, a stress free mind, a social and caring personality, by loving nature, family and country is going to help us swim the vast ocean of life, which is filled with enemies like sharks, ups and downs like surface waves and encompasses a depth of uncertainty and problems which needs to be overcomed to keep ourselves afloat! That’s the moral of the story!
How one American journalist visited Cuba for over 40 years, and showed the world the other side of Cuba.
Recently I watched a documentary movie named ‘Cuba and the Cameraman’ filmed, written and co-produced by an American journalist Jon Alpert. The film can be watched on Netflix.
I really enjoyed watching the documentary. It shows both the positives and negatives of life in Cuba, and how Cuba transformed through its revolution in 1959 led by Fidel Castro till the death of Fidel Castro in 2016. The movie depicts the lives of common people in Cuba, especially the three farmer brothers, Cristobal, Angel and Gregario. Many people were filmed and asked questions about their life in Cuba. The people came from all spectrums of life. They included farmers like the three Borrego brothers, shopkeepers, factory workers, construction laborers, doctors, teachers and students.
Jon even went ahead to interview the most famous man in Cuba, which is none other than Fidel Castro himself. He shows how he managed to interview him multiple times, inspite of being an American. He was the only journalist who was allowed to accompany Fidel during his visit to New York for the United Nations speech which Fidel was scheduled to give. The movie shows the lighter and humorous side of Fidel, who enjoyed smoking famous Cuban cigars, and happily answered all the questions asked by Jon.
The most interesting part of the documentary is its informal interaction with the Cubans. Unlike other documentaries, which usually has some underlying message or theme for a particular cause, I find this movie to be purely an interaction of an American with the Cubans. It has no political intentions, neither does it try to relate the adversity of Cuba to socialism or advocating America’s capitalism. The movie shows Jon visiting the same people for almost 40 years. It starts from the mid 1970’s till 2016. During this time, Cuba underwent a number of transformations, including being a successful socialist country in mid 1970’s ( though heavily subsidized by Soviet Union) to a struggling economy in early 1990’s when Soviet Union fell apart and Cuba got severely affected, which led to mass shortage of goods. Then the movie shows again the revival of good times for Cuba in the late 2000’s and 2010’s decade, when Cuba started attracting tourists from all over the world to revitalize its economy.
The best part I liked in the movie is when Jon interacts with the Borrego brothers. I simply love the way those three brothers lived their life. They were simple, poor farmers, who toiled hard throughout the day, yet never complained of the troubles, or hardships they faced. They did not have any tractors, or electricity yet managed to carry on their work diligently. Things changed in Cuba to a large extent, but the life of these three brothers did not change much. They never complained even when things got worse in Cuba. They truely believed in the socialist idea, and hence volunteered for the country without any pay or perks. When Jon asked, “What’s the secret to your happiness, Cristobal?” He replied, “We’re always working and walking, exercising. That’s the secret to being healthy and strong”.When Jon met them, the brothers were very old. Yet Cristobal who was 80 years old could beat in an arm wrestle against Jon, who was 40 years old at that time!
What I learnt from this documentary and Cubans, is that life is not easy at all. but also life is always changing. Good and bad times are a part of life. As taught to me in the Art of Living course, Opposite values are complementary to each other. Cubans saw some of the worst days in the 1990’s but today, we see they are a booming economy. Even though the economy busted or boomed, leaders like Fidel came and went, but what never changed for people like Borrego brothers is the happiness, or satisfaction about life. They never got depressed or even commit suicide, but they faced the adversity with a smile on their face. Afterall, this is what life is all about!
And finally, I appreciate Jon’s tireless efforts to travel to Cuba for over 40 years, and keep track of the people he met to understand about their life and their problems. I liked his generosity to give an electrolarynx to Cristobal who had lost his voice later. I wish I could make an impact on someone’s life. After all, life is all about caring for others, to build relationships, and this movie indeed has a touch of humanity, benevolence and simplicity.
This book review briefly explains why Dr.Manmohan Singh became the known as the Accidental Prime Minister.
I recently read the book ‘The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh‘ written by Mr.Sanjaya Baru, who was Prime Minister (PM) Dr. Manmohan Singh’s media advisor from May 2004 to Aug 2008. This blog post is only about my personal opinion after reading this book, and to make it clear, I have not seen the movie being released based on this book. It’s been more than 6 years since this book was published back in 2014, and this book had been on my ‘To Read’ list for a while. Finally, I got the time to read this recently and I completed it in a few days.
Due to my interest in history and world politics, I found this book very interesting. It covers the political happenings during UPA 1 from 2004 to 2008, when the author, Mr.Sanjaya Baru worked for Dr.Manmohan Singh ( and not for UPA government or certainly not for Sonia Gandhi as he clarifies in the book) as his media advisor. Well, the book highlights how Dr.Singh was chosen accidentally to be India’s PM during UPA 1 ( United Progressive Alliance) tenure, when Sonia Gandhi could not find anyone else deserving enough to serve as PM in her cabinet. Dr.Singh himself never thought of becoming PM, but destiny showered on him the blessings for his past hard work, his patriotism and dedication for serving the nation.
During UPA 1, even though Dr.Singh was the head of the government, everything was not however in total control of the PM. The portfolio allocations for ministers were done by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, but finance and foreign ministry remained in the hands of Dr.Singh, and hence, the UPA 1 became a success due to the exceptional performance of Indian economy with a 9% GDP growth for continuous 5 years, and achieving India’s victory in foreign affairs by signing the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement. Thanks to Dr.Singh, India could achieve this feat.
But during the UPA 2 tenure, the government was maligned due to its involvement in a number of corruption scandals especially the 2G scam, Commonwealth Games scandal, Coal scam etc. But the author clarifies that Dr.Singh was not involved in any of this, because of the fact that Dr.Singh was not at all in control of the UPA 2 government. Not only were all the cabinet portfolios including finance and foreign ministries decided by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, but also Dr.Singh was not consulted for any decisions taken during that tenure. As per Dr.Singh words as quoted by Mr.Baru in the book, “You see, you must understand one thing. I have come to terms with this. There cannot be two centres of power. That creates confusion. I have to accept that the party president is the centre of power. The government is answerable to the party,” This complacency became the main problem for Dr.Singh during UPA 2.
As the author explains in the book, Dr.Singh yielded his space during his second term against his own advice given to the author before. Dr.Singh always considered himself being a teacher, or economist first, and hardly saw himself as a politician. That’s why he was the accidental prime minister. His shy, introverted nature, his humble background, his studious and excellent academic accomplishments all made him an ideal reformer or expert in economics. And this was proved right in 1991 when the world saw how this gentleman along with the then PM Narsimha Rao bravely ushered in new reforms to liberalize the economy and pull India out of bankruptcy!
But when it came to politics, it was quite a challenge. His naiveness towards playing politics within the party, his lack of oratorical skills and his lack of intention to command power over his ministers all turned out to be detrimental to the position of Prime Minister. But his qualities turned out to be useful for the Congress high command who came to dominate and consolidate power behind the curtains, especially during UPA 2 tenure. Similar to the author, I too feel that Dr.Singh should have taken a strong stand against any ministers who did not respect him, or who rather just followed the orders of Congress high command over him. He should have contested Lok Sabha elections in 2009 and should have avoided running for the Rajya Sabha seat similar to the one he did back in 2004. Dr.Singh should have taken the credit for UPA’s victory in 2009 as he truly deserved it because after all, it was due to his economic and foreign affairs policies that had led to rise in India’s stature on the world platform.
Unfortunately, as the author has illustrated in the book, the opposition and the common public misunderstood his silence, or his shyness as submission to the Congress high command. His cardinal mistake of accepting Congress party high command as the leader of the country against his own position of PM, led to a series of events including corruption scandals, India Against Corruption rallies, and finally, set the stage for Narendra Modi, who was seen to be strong, decisive, articulate orator, all of these qualities being exact opposite of Dr.Singh’s personality.
I quite agree with the author’s views that Dr.Singh should have avoided becoming PM during UPA 2. It would have been terribly strenuous for the Congress high command to find someone like Dr.Singh, who is equally competent and compliant. As legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar rightly quoted “You must retire when people ask ‘why’ and not ‘why not”. I think Dr.Singh should have followed Gavaskar’s advice in 2009. But looking at the past 6 years of Modi government, it can be said that destiny wanted to lay the groundwork for the emergence of a new leader on stage, in the form of Narendra Modi, and hence, the chaos, and corruption became the face of UPA 2 government which resulted in the collapse of Congress dynasty in 2014.
But the book does shed light on the fact that it was not entirely the mistake of Dr.Singh. He did an excellent job in UPA 1 when he was given the freedom to work. But in UPA 2 he simply did not have any freedom nor support of his own party. The Congress mistook the victory after UPA 1 as eternal, and foolishly assumed to continue the ‘business as usual’ policy. They even handed over the credit of Dr.Singh to Rahul Gandhi in 2009. But as we know, karma hits back, and this abrasive and denigrating behavior of Congress party ( especially Sonia & Rahul Gandhi) towards Dr.Singh led to their reversal of their fortune in 2014, and it even plummeted further in 2019 elections. After all, Nature is never unfair!
After seeing all this, in spite of serving 10 years diligently, Dr.Singh had to express his legacy as “history will be kinder to me than the contemporary media, or for that matter, the Opposition parties in Parliament.” This is indeed true. India will always be indebted to Dr.Singh for making India liberal and globalized because of his 1991 economic reform, and later during UPA 1 tenure in making India a strong nation by signing the historic nuclear deal with USA. Dr.Singh will always be known as one of the finest prime minister India had after PM Nehru, who like Pandit Nehru was educated in England, close to Lutyens media, liberal in nature, and being respected globally. However, the only difference between both of them is that the former was the PM by destiny, while latter was by an accident!
On-campus work is a charming part of American education, unlike the education system in India.
Recently, read an opinion article on ET about “The charm of American education is over“. The author expresses her opinion on how the American education is embroiled in issues such as restriction of student visa extension, reduced employment opportunities after graduation and Trump administration’s myopic approach towards limiting scholars and students from other countries like India and China. I do agree that a lot has changed since 2015, when I started my grad studies, and I can compare how difficult it has become to pursue education in US especially for international students.
Even though the charm of American education might be over considering the enormous employment opportunities students used to have after completing their education. But still, there are many things which stand unique in American education as compared to education in other countries like India. Some of which are obvious such as high quality of education, huge funding opportunities for pursuing a Ph.D, or even the high-tech campus with all the latest infrastructure, lab facilities, digitized library etc.
But I find something more interesting in American education which simply does not exist in India yet. And that is the on-campus work opportunities. Yes, this might sound trivial for a student life, where parents or society in India generally expects students to just study hard, excel in exams and find a job. On-campus jobs or work is not yet a culture in India. But in USA, this is considered a part of education curriculum. Everyone works or atleast prefers to work on-campus for few hours in a week to pay off their rents, food expenses or other living costs. Though international students have no option but to work to reduce the financial load over their family, but even wealthy American kids do work on campus even though there is no real need for them to work just to earn money. This is because working on-campus is considered a part of student life, as a process to become independent, to grow out of school life and transition to a college life. For them, its also a way to become more adjusted to real life, where we need to earn our own bread and butter. I find this very interesting and hence, I became appreciative of this part of American education.
So, when I landed on the university campus, I immediately started looking for on-campus work. I did end up working on couple of things in my two years, and I consider this to be one of the best part of my American education experience. While working as a writer and correspondent for University newspaper, I discovered that I liked writing. I could see how a bunch of college kids were running a newspaper, a radio station on campus and whatever they did was amazing! Later, when I started working for University Dining, I learnt the importance of hard work, because the work in food industry was really strenuous. Serving students with food menu, slicing pizzas, scrubbing floors or washing utensils, certainly demanded a lot of physical work. But all of the people working in the Dining were students and I felt a part of team. Usually, I never would have done such work alone, but when we are with a team of fellow students, it becomes a great team work. After doing that work, I became aware of the food industry, and how much efforts it take to run the dining/catering service.
In this process, I made a lot of friends and contacts. In India, I used to be a shy introvert guy, but after experiencing this work, I became more and more social. I realized that all the differences between people, be it color, gender or race are superficial. I could see girls doing the same physical work as I used to do, which shattered any notion that physical work is only for guys! When working as a note taker for Disability services, I could feel the hardships of ‘specially abled‘ people, and I became more empathized. I also realized how fortunate I am that God has given me a normal physique.
I even had all types of managers, including a young girl studying bachelors ( I was a Masters student) while working in newspaper, and a military vet who was specially abled while working in Disability Services. Then, I had a very humble African American woman as well as an kind old White dude as my managers while working in Dining. All this led to acceptance of all kinds of people. I dropped any artificial ego, or concepts which I had in my mind regarding working under a certain group of people. I had excellent relations with all of them, and they all liked me so much, even though I was neither an American, nor a white or black guy. I was just a brown Indian guy but this never became any obstacle to find the work, or even do my work gracefully. I performed well, and I understood this hidden aspect of universal acceptance for hard work, and impartiality towards any race, color or gender, which exists amongst common Americans, unlike what is portrayed by Trump or his supporters. I came to understand that while working with common Americans, the American Dream still exists and it is only due to selfish governmental policies on visa, or immigration that has corrupted and destroyed the path of American Dream for the non-Americans.
Anyways, hence, on campus work is one of the nicest part of American education, which still does not exist in India. I hope this culture to work while studying, to reduce financial load over parents, and to drop any superficial concepts of lowering of prestige/image while working on-campus starts in India as well in coming future. Because apart from earning money, it really makes us professional in a student life. It makes us become more social as compared to being hidden behind a pile of books. It makes us value time, as both work and study go hand in hand. It makes us understand the importance of hard work, and that no work is small. All work deserves equal dignity and with that we even start appreciating those working in restaurants, or cleaning services etc. In short, on-campus makes us a better person.
Hence, the charm of American education is not over, but just has become difficult to achieve for non-Americans.
Why Indian relatives, neighbors or few friends like to poke their noses in other’s people’s personal life.
I have always wondered why our family/relatives love to interfere in other people’s affairs? Why don’t they mind their own business? Being an Indian and having lived abroad as well, I guess this is more so seen in Indian families. Nothing to be proud of, though!
Yes, Indian relatives can be really irritating. Like recently I watched “Never Have I ever” and Devi illustrated the definition of “Aunties” as being a specific group who are allowed to have opinions about our life and our shortcomings! In other words, they simply poke their nose in other people’s affairs. Just to clarify, this is no way resembles only a specific gender, or community, but is widely seen to be a characteristic of Indian genes!
Now the question is why don’t we Indians mind our own business? Like sarcastically, most Indians in real life hardly do any business, and so maybe we like to interfere in other’s business! Anyways, jokes apart, but this is a real fact that Indians often get bombarded by questions on their personal life from their relatives or even neighbors to quite a large extent. Like, for a school going boy or girl, the obvious questions are how much marks did they score in exams, or even practice tests! Who is coming first in class, and why he/she failed in so and so exam? Why the heck are they concerned of other kids exams or performance?
Similarly, the relatives love to add fuel to fire by asking about any on going love affairs for a college going guy, or when is he/she going to start a job? Or if they are working, then how much are they earning? Then, even if in a rare case, all the above questions are diligently answered, but their appetite for curiosity doesn’t stop there. It continues with when is he/she going to get married? When are they going to have kids? and it goes on and on and on….
This is the only problem in Indian society, which is not restricted to any community, or caste, or religion or state. Its universal! I wonder why the relatives are so much interested in others affairs. I mean seriously, what are they gonna get by asking such stupid questions? Why does it matter if someone is dating, or not working, or not marrying. Its their individual problem and as long as its not directly related to whoever is concerned, I guess the relatives or neighbors should learn the basic decency to stay away from other’s affairs. Because this is not only highly unproductive and time wasting, but also leads to increase in frustation or worries for those who are being tormented with these forceful pressure to answer such senseless questions.
As far as I know, the western society is far more mature and advanced, when it comes to interfering in other people’s affairs. I have never seen anyone asking about grades, or job status, or about relationships to me, and neither to each other publicly. Ofcourse, such conversation do happen between parents and children, or between people who are in serious relationships. But still, their relatives or neighbors never ever ask such questions. I did not even knew who my neighbor was when I was living in the States. I just saw them few times, but apart from occasional hello’s or exchanging smiles, no conversation happened. While on the other side, in India, even the family living two floors above me keep on asking what am I doing. Those relatives with whom I never talked in the past 5 years, suddenly start asking about my personal life. This is preposterous!
I am not saying that Indian society should start following like western society. This ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. But the underlying fact is that there has been a huge change in generation in Indian society. My generation ( Millennial) who are born in 90’s or early 2000’s, who grew up in a country which was liberalized in 1991, who spend time on western created social media, and love to watch Hollywood movies and TV series, and some of us who are even educated abroad, have been tremendously influenced by some western concepts like individual freedom, having personal space or privacy, and with a tendency to stay busy in something, be it work, surfing internet, watching netflix or playing video games. We find asking questions about others life, unless it matters to us, to be a violation of personal right of freedom. Hence, we abhor to intrude in other people’s personal life.
But the relatives are one or two generation older to us, and they were brought up in society dominated by socialism, patriarchy and centuries old religious propaganda. Their life or career choices were limited ( for which I feel sorry for them), they had a difficult upbringing, often in strict conditions, bound by family virtues or so called family prestige. Also, they did not have many options to spend their time like social media, Netflix, internet or video games. All they could do was either reading, listening to radio or gossiping. I guess the gossip part was the easiest and entertaining, due to huge population and dense neighborhoods. Even privacy was something of a luxury for them. The walls seemed to have ears, and everyone knew or wanted to know about other’s life. That’s why asking questions about other’s personal lives, or giving free advice became kind of la coutume.
But now our generation being different, and with the world changing so rapidly, I think its time that relatives, neighbors or friends understand this, and learn to accept other’s personal space. There is already a lot to worry about, as life has become more complicated then ever. Our generation is going through a lot of uncertainties in life, be it job security, or relationship issues, which inadvertently makes us stressed out and concerned about future. Adding the incessant bombardment of gossips, or questions from relatives is simply unbearable!
Atleast, I have decided to listen to my favorite scientist advice, which is
Having a loved one in our life is the best thing that can happen…
We usually have the habit to extrapolate our sufferings to the highest scale. We think we have suffered a lot in life, and that we have some of the most unsolvable problems in our life. We then get depressed for petty reasons and feel why should bad things happen in our life.
I also go through such feelings sometimes. I then try to calm down my mind’s racy thoughts by either doing “Sudarshan Kriya”, or listening to my favorite music or even writing down something. Then when my mind settles down, slowly awareness dawns. It comes to my realization that how foolish we humans are regarding our concepts which are formed in our minds. We immediately want to give an explanation to whatever happens in our life. When good things happen in our life and we feel we have reached the zenith of success, we immediately jump to pat our back for the hard work we have done, we reach cloud nine and comfortably forget the past, because we crave for the path of roses laid out ahead rather than the thorns of past.
But on the other side, if we fail or do not achieve what we want, we become depressed, lose confidence, and start hating people who are successful out of jealousy. We become desperate for the fruits of success, and having not achieved it, makes us lose interest in the path we followed. We realize the true nature of people during such times, and after experiencing this, makes us aware of the intricacies of human nature. Some people even go to certain extremes out of depression or loss of faith in life.
Be it success or failure, the most important thing to realize in life is that nothing is more difficult in life than a life without love. Yes, indeed. What is the use of any success in life, if we have no one to share with? What should a successful person do if he/she immediately realizes the flock of people going after him/her are only because of their recent success. And they were the same people who had deserted earlier for being a failure!
So, it is better to have true loved ones supporting us during times of failure, rather than fake loved ones praising us during times of success. I feel they are the fortunate ones who have true, unconditional love in their life. Nothing in life is more difficult than living without mother, who is always an unconditional source of love to us. Our parents, even some all weather friends who stand the test of friendship, during the winter of failure or during sunny success, can be counted as true jewels in our life.
Once, we realize this, we will never give importance to ups and downs in our life, because after all, the value or importance of success and failure is only given by us. It depends on who is with us during that phase. Being alone in success or failure has the same meaning. Hence, it simply doesn’t matter even if we become successful or not. There is nothing to be worried about or even get depressed about. Our family, friends, our relations always matters more than worldly accomplishments. So, its the love that moves the world…
I remember my school days when rote memory was valued in high esteem. The teachers and tuition/coaching class teachers used to tell us to memorize all the answers, and to write in the exam as it is. I am sure everyone must have experienced this in their school days. To such a high extent was this system promoting to memorize and rote memory at the expense of creativity and original thinking, that if we wrote answers in our own words in the exam, we were scared that we might get failed or get less marks. In short, this scene from the movie “3 Idiots” well explains the over emphasis on rote memory in schools and college.
All this results in utter destruction of creativity. In fact not just creativity, but the student even loses interest in studying or passing exams. The over dependence on theoretical contents without any discussion, debate, or application of those concepts, over -reliance on marks and passing the exam, studying from a particular author’s book or reference notes, displaying of marks or grades on the public display board, outdated syllabus, competition between students to come first( which makes no sense) are some of the inherent flaws in today’s education system.
In India, the students are forced to study for clearing IIT entrance, since a young age ( from 5th or 6th std). It scary how would a 10 year boy or girl stay motivated or even interested to study for IIT entrance which happens at the age of 18. The age 10-16 are the age group when creativity blossoms at the peak level due to more understanding of the world along with physical changes in them. They normally become curious to know the world, how things work, why people behave in such a way etc. And in that delicate age, if they are burdened with preparation for entrance exams, or to do programming to become future Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerburg, then that is not only destroying the creativity in them but also is an injustice against them.
In an age when the students should be allowed to play, make new friends, read books or paint, they are taught to compete with their fellow classmates. They are told to look down upon failures, and even a sense of fear is instilled in them to avoid failing in any exams. They are given false promises of a bright future ahead, if they study now. I had even heard some teachers saying to students that if they study till age 22, then the next 40 years after that will be full of comforts and luxury. And the kids are so innocent and obedient in that age, that with the only hope that life will be easy after 22, they decide to compromise their playing time, or health during teen and early adult years. Later do they realize, how were they tricked into this game and after having lost the teen years in just work and study, they regret later in life, which results in loss of faith in hard work and in teachers/elders as well.
A lot can be said about the flaws in today’s education system, and we simply cannot ignore that its a need of the hour to reform the education system. Finally, I just want to add Pink Floyd’s classic song with lyrics
We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey, teachers, leave them kids alone
All in all it's just another brick in the wall
All in all you're just another brick in the wall
We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave those kids alone
Hey teachers, leave those kids alone
All in all you're just another brick in the wall
All in all you're just another brick in…
Has the time arrived to think why education system should be allowed to continue, if it doesn’t produce creative minds?
Recently watched this TED Talk and thought to share my views about this.
First of all, this talk is incredibly humorous. The speaker is exceptionally adept at making people laugh, and at the same time, conveyed his views about schooling and creativity quite eloquently. While watching TED talks, I suffer from lack of patience, and if I find speaker or the topic boring, I have the habit to stop watching the talk within 2-3 minutes. But this talk made me glued to the speaker, and I simply admire the way he cracked jokes and expressed his views.
After listening the talk, I agree that the schooling or even the entire education system seems to have lost its real purpose with time. The education system which is still being implemented all over the world was started with the purpose to provide skilled workforce during the industrial revolution. During first industrial revolution, it was the need of civil, mechanical engineers who would build ships, railways, bridges, canals etc. Especially for the European and later American colonialism it was the need of the hour. They need to build ships to go to India, Africa and East Asia, and bring the looted resources back to their country. The requirement of not just engineers but also managers grew during second industrial revolution with the introduction of assembly line in manufacturing, to increase productivity by managing workers, and thereby reaping profits. All this needed the right kind of people who had a habit to listen, to obey, to fear failure in real life because that’s what is needed in factories, and companies.
Later, during the third industrial revolution, the same pattern followed except the techno savvy minds needed to be created, and hence, we see kids being taught to learn programming. Going to B School became a fashion, as it not only paid well, but it also allowed only those people to excel who were obedient, hard working, servile to the company and boss, and did not think out of box. Ironic it may be, but the third industrial revolution which introduced computers, telecom, social media, Iphone to the world, was started by those guys who either did not graduate from grad school or college. The list consists of giants like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and many more. They all were creative and yet dropped out. Why? May be because they did not feel that going to school or college will enhance their knowledge or boost their creativity. That’s why, Peter Thiel has started the “The Thiel Fellowship” which grants $100000 to those young people who would not go to a 4 year college, and instead build something innovative!
In India, we see creativity and schooling are in mutually exclusive zone. The system seldom encourages students to think out of the box, or work on some innovative projects, though there are always few exceptions. More than building something, its the mindset of students which needs to be worked on. We see students are compelled to follow the standard routes of education, which is primarily engineering or medical. Only in rare cases, where the family owns a business, are the kids allowed to study commerce/business. The subject “Arts” doesn’t exist in the dictionary of parents. And that’s why only those students who get less grades( or those who graduate at the bottom of the class) are sent to study Arts. How would a creative artist be born if he/she is convinced that the only reason to study arts was because of their failure to get good grades in high school. Why wouldn’t they consider studying arts as a punishment which in J K Rowling words “that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that would never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension”. That’s why India hasn’t produced any excellent painters, writers( not many still), poets and philosophers, and neither has India won any Nobel prize for literature after Tagore won last time in 1913.
We often tend to sway away by other people’s opinions like a pendulum. But does it really help us? This article highlights wisdom of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, J K Rowling, Steve Jobs and Robert Frost about this.
This is one of the 5 Sutras taught in the Art of Living Happiness program founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I find this principle or sutra to be so relevant in our life. We tend to sway away with people’s opinions, just like a pendulum does. Our life goals, our priorities, our career, our interest, even our food, life partner or clothing is enormously influenced by what people will say or think. Say in a party, or event, if 10 people praise us, and only 1 criticizes us, then we will surely remember only 1 person in our entire life. So much is our personal life dependent on public perceptions.
But if we take a step back, become calm and contemplate on this fact, that does it really matter what people think about us? Does people’s opinions really matter in our life? Should we allow others comments or thinking to affect our thinking and opinions? I think most of us will answer a big “NO”.
This is because everyone changes in life. And so does our opinions and views. Nothing is permanent in life, neither is human life itself eternal. We never know what’s going to happen in the next moment. Similarly, people’s opinions about others are also influenced by their own experiences they have had before. For someone who struggled with poverty during childhood, will most probably become a money saver, or passionate for getting rich in later life. But on the other side, someone who has lived an affluent life, might not care for the comforts he/she have had received, without any efforts. They might not even realize it, how fortunate they are. But we see many of them getting depressed or even obsessed in life due to comments from some friend in a party, or even jealous for not having the desired health, or beauty, or even skin color. Our wishes, our opinions, our views are all a product of the experiences we have had in our life.
One thing I find funny is how much delight the society has in giving their free opinions and comments to others, even when they aren’t asked for. As J K Rowling said in her famous Harvard commencement speech“..but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it”. It is true indeed that the world is more than happy to opine or interfere in other people’s affairs. And we often see that the society never stops in this pursuit. If someone hasn’t achieved a goal like for ex: good job or education degree, then people will keep asking or reminding him/her. Later, when the goal is achieved, the society immediately moves on to assign a new goal which might be job, or getting married. Then after marriage, the next goal is having kids, and so on and on and on. Its simply never stops!
What really happens in this process, is we get entangled due to other people’s expectations, or opinions. We lose our peace of mind. We lose our confidence in our own ability, and we start living a life based on what other want us to live. As Steve Jobs rightly said in his Stanford commencement address – “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. “ We get trapped by dogma and which at the end, makes us regret our lost time to work on what we truly loved to do. We regret for the lost opportunities which might have altered the life track differently. Due to other people’s opinions, we take the crowded or easy path, and not the path which is less traveled, which Robert Frost beautifully expressed. We ultimately feel consequences of “The Road Not Taken…”
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Hence, lets just allow other people to express what ever they want. But let not allow them to enter our mind, or cloud our conscience. We somehow know deep somewhere down in our heart, what we like, what we want in life. Our gut instincts, our mind, our heart is more powerful to face all the external bombardments which occur in the form of people’s unwanted opinions. Lets just put a filter on our mind which will allow only the good, relevant and positive ideas to enter the mind, and flush out all the negative thoughts, fake news, gossips, people’s expectations etc.
Just like hand washing is necessary to stay safe from Coronavirus, we need a mind washing in the form of meditation, wisdom, reading good books, listening good music to keep the mind away from the virus of other people’s opinions, judgements and expectations.
Steve Jobs once said in his commencement speech address that “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” If we keep the humor aside, then it does convey a deep aspect in our life.
Our life is real short, and we keep thinking that life is a long journey. We get involved in petty conflicts, we keep working for the job we hate, we keep talking nonsense things about others the entire day and listening the same from them. We often fail to realize that the end of life can happen anytime.
We need to spend our time on those things which we want to do in our life. We keep scheduling them ahead and ahead in life, but who knows what will be there ahead. We save money for a rainy day in future, but miss out the present joy by worrying about the future. Though there is nothing wrong to save money or invest for a better life ahead, but sacrificing the present joy, and happy moments for some bright sunny day is not always the wise choice. As we do not know how long we are gonna live, hence it is better to keep enjoying everyday life has given us, and also make sure we can enjoy the future similarly.
We need to be very mindful of how we talk, behave with people around us, especially within our family and friends. We often forget how our parents, family and friends are incredibly vital in our lives. Rather, we fight with them, keep some distance from relatives due to certain conflicts, compete with friends due to jealousy or envy, and even drag our family to courts for property or familial matters. I am not saying everything should be goody goody relations with family and relatives. That is not always possible, but the problem is often we spend so much time of our life in fighting with them on some issues, and we realize how petty that thing was when they suddenly die or pass away. We then feel guilty of how we behaved with them, then blame ourselves for the mistakes committed, and for not giving them few nice moments which they surely deserved.
Hence, we should always keep in mind that life is short not only for us, but for others as well, and there is no point in fighting over small petty issues with them. If we can’t live together with them, then atleast we can get separated amicably without fights or quarrels. Often divorce filing is one of the worst experience in a couple’s life, and by keeping in mind, that life is small and too valuable for not getting involved in such fights, then we realize in the long run, such legal procedures are just a waste of time. Also they make our life more miserable. It is better to live together or get separated without wasting time in long, costly legal fights.
Concluding, we need to just be aware that each day given to us is a gift by life, and it is important that we do some good work before the day ends. We never know what’s going to happen the next day. Everyday, even if we do a tiny amount of good work for others or add some value to the world, then our day has been worth lived……
Since moving back to India, it has been quite a different experience. After all, I had stayed in India for more than 20 years, and it was only 5 years back, that I had moved to the United States. That was a big cultural and financial shock for me, and few months back, when I decided to move back to my country, I was expecting another shock ( not cultural or financial, but habitual).
Yes, by habitual I mean I had become quite used to certain things which developed nations like United States have. They include amenities like clean and pollution free air, zero blackouts or incessant supply of electricity and water, exceedingly high speed internet, corruption free bureaucracy, less traffic, less people or crowd on the roads ( sometimes even deserted roads as I had seen only homeless people walk on the roads in USA), automated and fast self-checkout process in banks, stores, or gas stations, display of courteous speech along with good manners with greeting “Good Morning”, or “How’s it going” to everyone we met, and almost every conversation ending with either “Nice to meet you” or “Have a good day”. Even holding the doors for the next person, carefully following the traffic rules, and taking super extra care in the parking lot. I had become used to these basic rules in America( which are not so basic in other parts of the world yet). I was amazed by how fast I had become “Americanized” in just 5 years, even to the extent of becoming comfortable using toilet paper, as we Indians prefer using water ( which is more hygenic, medically proven, cost-saving and environmental friendly)
But after returning to India, I feared how am I going to manage in a country which was known for polluted air, huge crowds, frequent blackouts and shortage of running water, traffic jams, almost reckless display of ingratitude, or lack of manners or greeting in public places, red-tapism in bureaucracy and internet speed which had not passed beyond 2G yet. But after coming to India, its been a wonderful and pleasant surprise on many occasions. First of all, India is still a developing country, and a lot of developments are still in progres. But when compared to the 2010’s India to the current 2020 India, I see a lot of positive changes in India, thanks for the Narendra Modi government.
Apart from politics, as we all know how the current ruling party has sweeped in reforms and changed the way the world looked towards India. But to gauge the real change, we need to see how things are going in public life, by traveling, visiting places, govt offices etc. Hence, after moving back to India, first thing I had to do was reach home safely amidst the burgeoning Covid crisis, just like United States has. Hence, I quarantined myself for 15 days, and it was a good experience to stay in hotel for 7 days for which I had paid quite a hefty amount. The reader might refer my post to know about this travel experience during corona times.
Then, after coming back to my house, I had to make arrangements of some basic things which are needed in a civilized world. So, first I had to take a local simcard, and currently in the Indian market, Jio is the most preferred provider. Hence, I went to Jio shop,within few minutes, I got the Jio simcard, which offers 4G internet speed with 2GB/day bandwidth at the lowest cost in the world ( Rs.600 for 84 days, which comes around $2.8 per month). Even a Starbucks coffee is more expensive than that!
Then I started searching for WiFi connection at home so that I can connect all the smart devices in the house such as Smart TV, Alexa Assistant etc. Based on my past experience few years back, I did not expect great service, speed or even was worried about how much time it might take to start the service. And after reading some reviews in Pune region, I decided to select You Broadband. I contacted them to start a new connection, and within few hours, their representative reached out to me regarding my request. Then he asked to submit the specified docs through Whatsapp, and after sending them, my account was activated. Next day morning, the technician visited my house to setup the fiber connection. I purchased a router and was assisted through video calling for router setup. By the end of the day, my WiFi connection was started. I was surprised with the fast installation, video calling assistance and Whatsapp based docs verification system they are using to assist the customers. And against my presumption, the speed is very good ( I had selected the 50 Mbps unlimited package) and at a very low cost of just Rs.1024/month ( $14/month). In USA, I used to pay around $50-60. Hence, I was satisfied with this experience.
Then, I had to take care of groceries, and I visited the local Indian Walmart in my region, which is the More retail store, owned by Aditya Birla group. Though it isn’t as big as Walmart stores are in USA, but it had all the groceries and food available. I compared the price of food items and found out to be way cheaper than what I used to pay in the States. But some items like toilet paper rolls, kellogg cereals were more expensive, maybe due to the fact that in India, we have more options for breakfast, and not many eat cereals during breakfast. And I was not surprised why toilet paper rolls are expensive in India.
The most surprising thing was use of paper bags instead of plastic bags which are commonly used in Walmart and other stores in the States.
Then, I had heard of ‘twitter diplomacy’, and about it’s use in India for reporting social issues etc. So, I decided to give a try. I updated my twitter profile, and started sending tweets about bank account issues, electricity wire being fallen on the road etc. I was amazed by the immediate response from the respective authorities. I had never used twitter for reporting issues and had relied on traditional ways like calling, or emailing. But the transformative use of social media like twitter in India has made easier for the common man to report issues or any hurdles in the process.
Then, I had to open a bank account as my previous Indian bank accounts were no longer operational. With the demonetization, and digitization wave ushered in India since 2016, I found out many banks in India like Kotak Mahindra Bank, DBS India, SBI, Axis Bank etc are providing online bank account opening, with multiple options like zero balance account, instant account opening feature, all online using their apps. All the verification is done online except the finger print verification, for which we have to go to the bank. But in case of DBS bank, they even visit our house, and take fingerprint, which saves our time. Then, India has started the Unified Payments Interface system for bank transactions using mobile apps such as BHIM, PhonePe etc and its a lot easier than credit or debit cards. I don’t need to carry any cash or even cards ( in a nutshell, no physical wallet) and I can do all the purchase at the stores using BHIM UPI app. This is great for a country which heavily relied on cash till few years back.
Then, even in the food industry, just like DoorDash and GrubHub in USA, we have Swiggy and Zomato which are provide door to door food delivery service. I ordered some food to checkout their service, and as promised I got the best service just like I used to get in the States. The delivery person wears a uniform company, and due to covid, they provide contactless delivery as well. Even in transportation arena, India has Ola to compete with Uber. I found the Ola drivers very cordial, helpful and had taken all the necessary provisions to provide a contactless, and safe ride.
I also happened to travel to Baroda to visit my relatives. Though the travel experience using Gujarat Travels was not at the best, but the booking system by RedBus, GPS tracking of the bus, active social media monitoring done by RedBus, and immediate responding to feedback posted conveyed the message that things are improving in this sector as well. I have a separate post written about this experience. Gone are the days when we used to wait for the bus, and the bus used to come delayed hours later, and there was no way our feedback or grievances could be communicated to the authorities. But now the customer has the voice to raise opinions, post feedback on social media etc.
After relocation, I had to take care of some government provided documents, and even though there hasn’t been much improvement here like banking, telecom, or retail services has, but the process has been partially digitized and many payments are done online. This reduces the corruption in bureaucracy which until few years back had plagued Indian system horribly. Thanks for digitization and active social media platforms, its getting better with time.
Though as mentioned above are some of the new changes which I have seen recently after coming to India, but still many things need to be ameliorated. The customer service is not like what I had seen in the United States. Except Apple, I never faced any trouble reaching out to the other customer service in USA for problem resolution. But in India, it still takes considerable effort to get it resolved, which could be attributed to the fact of India having a huge population and due to which the load on the customer service is relatively higher than United States. Then, we do have pollution ( though it has reduced due to lockdown measures), there are blackouts sometimes, traffic rules are violated sometimes, honking is considered a normal practice, the roads are still small, or dirty, with digging work being done in few places. People are too busy and hence no one cares to greet each other with any American manners. Usually, it boils down to get to the point and get the work done when talking with any one in the stores, or banks.
But as compared to my American habit of not walking out at night alone due to the fear of being mugged, or having the fear of being assaulted by some homeless, or sociopath with a gun, I do not have those fears in India. I had traveled to places like St.Louis ( which has one of the highest crimes rates in the country), New York, downtown Atlanta etc which are known for some violent neighbourhood and shady places. Looking at the current riots, protests, and anti-immigration stand, being an Indian, who is brown skinned made me concerned about my safety whenever I traveled alone at night in US. Atleast I feel a sigh of relief that I no longer have to worry about it while in India. I am not saying that it was unsafe in USA everywhere. There are many good places where everyone is welcomed, and I really liked them. But still, a feeling of being alone in a group remained. After coming to India, and being a part of the society, I atleast do not hesitate to go out at night, and come back safe though I cannot say the same to girls as still their safety is always a concern during night time.
Finally, this isn’t to compare the pros and cons of India and America. There are many on both sides. I was fortunate to have stayed in the United States for 5 years, and it was a great learning experience. I saw the good side as well the not so good side of America. But for India, it has been a time of big changes, and more needs to be done in coming years. Many of us want to make India a developed nation like America. I am not sure when this is going to be, but however developed we might become in future, or however we might try to emulate the American habits such as eating in McDonalds, Pizza, Burger King, drinking Coke, using Iphone, Facebook, Instagram, even buying Tesla, etc but there are some Indian traditions and culture which will always inspire the world, especially Americans and Indians who are staying in America for years, to come to visit India or even come back to India as I have done so. Be it Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, Larry Brilliant, Ram Das, Krishna Das who visited India and which inspired them to change the world, or be it the diversity, food, religion, spirituality which is unique for India, however Americanized or Westernized we might become.
I miss America, but I am also glad to be back to my motherland!
If 2016 US elections results were one of the most surprising and shocking the world ever saw, then on the same grounds, it seems that 2020 will also make a history with its outcome, whatever it may be. Both sides have their pros and cons, and whatever results the political ‘pundits’ might speculate, still no one knows what will actually happen on Nov 3rd. I have lived in US for 5 years ( 2015 to 2020) and having observed the US politics and culture closely, I felt to write a post to add my two cents to this.
First of all, I endorse no party, or candidate, as I am not an American. Hence, the views expressed are completely from an outsider’s perspective, of what I saw in America, and based on those set of experiences, there are certain observations and deductions made about the US politics and public opinions. Also, I like to read history, international relations, and based on that, I often inter-relate certain events around the world, which does influence each other. For ex: one of the significant factors behind Trump’s 2016 victory was the shift towards right wing politics, anti-establishment trend around the world and which was already proven in countries like India and UK, where Narendra Modi had won in 2014 and British had voted in favor of Brexit in 2015, respectively. Such references helps us to understand why Trump could manage to win, inspite of whatever the world media and political analysts had predicted.
Similarly, there are many events and factors which are going to influence this election, enormously. This article analyzes some of them, which will make us understand what is the trend, and what might be the outcome. But at the same time, even a small scandal or event before the elections can change the course, as it happened regarding Hillary Clinton’s email controversy, just few days before the elections. Nevertheless, it did significant damage to her credibility.
The United States as we see today is a very deeply polarized nation. Not only divided are they in terms of political affiliation ( democrats vs republicans), but also on social issues, environmental concerns, women rights, immigrants and minorities, foreign affairs, economic policy, health and education system etc. One set of followers who support republican party, and who are right wingers, pro-establishment believe in excessive patriotism ( or jingoism), less taxes, global warming as a hoax, live in ‘Bible belt’, America first policy, ban immigrants, pro whites and against minority rights, against abortion, against Obamacare etc. While the other set believes in the exact opposite which is the democratic party, with pro minorities and immigrants rights under the banner that America is a nation made of immigrants ( which is true..). They are concerned about environmental issues like global warming, support abortion, do not believe in church or any religion ( or rather religion is a personal matter, that has nothing to do with the state), more taxes on the wealthy, social security and universal health care for all etc. I don’t know any area where both these groups might come together. Such deep and wide has become the nation’s political and social division.
But amidst all this pandemonium, Donald Trump stands as an outsider to all this chaotic politics, who is a rabble rouser, an iconoclast, with his callous and unpredictable behavior. After becoming President, he not only has widened the rift, but also normalized the ‘abnormal’. The way we look towards and expect from the President’s office has utterly changed. He is liked by millions, just as being disliked by even more. But he has become a phenomenon in US politics who cannot be ignored.
Firstly, Trump has benefited immensely from the people’s shift towards right wing, anti-establishment sentiment. This rise of nationalism was seen in 2016, and it continues to this day. We see more and more Presidents and Prime Ministers all over the world being elected, belonging to the right wing party, or ideology. Take India, Narendra Modi won in 2014 and again in 2019, with even more majority. Though Indian politics is a lot different than US, but considering the similarity in political backgrounds as an outsider ( Modi is also an outsider like Trump, as he neither belongs to the establishment of Gandhi-Nehru family, nor he is a part of Lutyen’s Delhi), and their pro country( Make in India, and America First) stand, they both become natural friends. Then, we have PM Boris Johnson in UK, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Bolsenaro in Brazil, and Netanyahu in Israel ( with whom Trump has close relations). This rise of nationalism, all over the world, stands in favor of Trump.
Secondly, Trump has a loyal supporter base, primarily of white voters, who are from rural america, and who have been severely affected by globalization, competition by China, and flow of low cost immigrants from Mexico. They continue to support Trump because of many reasons. They feel Trump has taken steps in favor of them. His trade war with China, banning of immigrants from Mexico, plans to build the wall ( its been 4 years, and there is no Wall yet..). I saw one documentary from DW where the poor people in Appalachian mountains, are hardcore supporters of Trump, inspite of their continued living in poverty. Infact, when I used to travel in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, I saw numerous Trump supporters billboards. They are enamored by Trump, and his persona, for being a white guy, who is billionaire, and close to his family always. The poor and uneducated people in America, are often the fiercest followers of Christianity, and ardent church goers. They find Trump, to be an ideal Christian man, who has been faithful to his family, and exhibits Christian ( which means Protestant) virtues. Besides, he is rich, and white dude, which makes him perfect candidate for preserving the old, white, waspy, conservative America.
Then, we see Trump is fortunate to have formed close alliances with like minded friends, who will render him support to win. This includes being friends with Israel, Saudis and Russia. Israel and its conservative leadership has benefited immensely from the day Trump has been in the Oval office. Not only has Trump endorsed Israel on many issues such as setting up the US embassy in Jerusalem, its stand against Iran by the assassination of Major General Qasem Suleimani, US withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal, and imposing of economic sanctions on Iran, but also Trump being close to Jews, due to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, being Jewish, and his pro-Israel stand. Hence, the conservative Jews in US( Wall Street, Koch brothers) against the liberal Jews in US (New York Times, Silicon valley, universities or George Soros) will fight to support Trump, and make every attempt to get him elected again. Besides, Saudi Arabia favors Trump due to the change in geo-politics in the middle east, where Saudi’s are ever more concerned about the influence of rising Shia Crescent after the disastrous Syrian Civil War, and also with the rise in another competitor, Turkey to challenge the Saudi leadership in the Muslim world. They need Trump’s support to keep Iran and Turkey away from dominating middle east. In case of Russia, it has never been good time for Putin and Kremlin, for having Trump as a President. Russia have always suffered under the democrats( particularly Clintons), under Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1990’s and they feared for the same if Hillary had taken the command in 2016. Hence, Russia will support Trump to keep him in power.
Trump is an astute businessman. He knows how to deal with people, situations and comprehends everything in the world as a race, competition to win. Its his winners take all approach, coupled with survival of the fittest which makes him a typical old fashioned american businessman. He has no ethics, values or principles, and never accepts defeat. But also he has not regrets and is always willing to pass any limits to achieve his ambition. He is the perfect embodiment of “The end justifies the means” ideology. This is what enthralled the attention of the conservative American public. For them, he was and still is the right candidate to recover the American economy, to bring back the jobs lost abroad or to immigrants. Though before Covid-19 happened, American economy rose with the highest growth rates, and Wall street was elated with the spectacular performance of the stock market, thanks for Trump’s decrease in the taxes on the wealthy ( thereby increasing the already widened gap between the rich and the poor), but also due to the share buyback approach adapted by most of the companies. His supporters conveniently forget to acknowledge the fact that Trump had already inherited a booming economy from Obama, and it was during Obama years, when the economy faced dire recession, and it was Obama government who made sure the economy be brought back on track. But as we all know, Trump rarely gives credit to others, and so he boasted of making the greatest economy in human history, in a mere span of 3 years! Now, Trump has lost the trump card of leading the greatest economy due to Covid-19, now he is promising the voters to revive back the economy once again like it was before. He even had to discard the slogan “Keep America Great” and retake the first term campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”. For his supporters, Covid-19 and economic recession are external threats brought by China, and hence they would exonerate Trump for the current economic conditions. Infact, the Trump supporters still hope that he is only the man who can do the job of reviving back the economy, just like he had done to his business, inspite of claiming bankruptcy, a whopping four times!. His personal business track record is an indicator for reversing the country’s current dire situation again if he wins.
To understand if he will win, we need to look at the opponents as well. And looking at the democratic party presidential and vice-presidential nominee, many democrats or liberals are not happy. Even though Biden has more political experience than Trump, but he is not inspirational candidate especially when the country needs a strongman. He is older than Trump, and his political record does not raise any more hopes that any thing better will be done if he wins. Infact, he represents the elite establishment, and observing the ongoing anti-establishment trend in politics, he is clearly the wrong guy. But more worse is the selection of Kamala Harris, for Vice-President(VP). The most shocking aspect of American public, especially the white, rural voters is the lack of belief in women at the highest position. Even though America pats its back for being champion of human rights, feminism, #MeToo etc, but when it comes to society, its still a male dominated one, and this patriarchy has been emboldened under Trump regime. That is why Hillary lost in 2016, as many women voters opted for Trump inspite of his proven misogynist history. The Democratic party is desperate to put a women president in the office, and still unable to learn the lessons from 2016, they have again played the women card, only indirectly in the form of VP. People are aware of Biden’s age, and with the considerable possibility of him serving only one term, Kamala has the chance to become the first women ( non-white) president. For the Trump supporters, more than Kamala as a women, the more pressing fact is that she is non-white. I wonder if the white voters did not allow a white women(Hillary) to become President, how in the world can they allow Kamala to become President? And her identity as a mixed Afro-American, and Indian, is not helping her much due to her highly educated parents, and her elite upbringing. Unlike Obama, who struggled in his life, worked hard and went to Harvard to study law, and is an excellent orator and professor, Kamala has unfortunately no such accomplishments to prove her merit. The only chance Democratic party to win ( maybe) was with Bernie Sanders, who could have fought a close battle against Trump, but the Democratic party system does not want a reformer, and a socialist. Hence, a good chance and candidate was lost!
When we look at Trump’s Presidency in the past 4 years since 2016 elections, the one thing everyone acknowledges is the fact that he has done what he told before winning ( or atleast tried to do). He promised for banning immigrants and he did make life difficult for immigrants. He issued executive orders for curbing immigrants from Muslim countries, for restricting H1-B workers from India, or even deporting Chinese students under the accusation of espionage. He had promised to take actions against China, and he did that in the form of Trade war, even though that might not have worked out much in favor for US. He took strict actions against Iran, and withdrawed from the Iran nuclear deal. He made Wall Street happy by reducing taxes on the rich. He hated the liberal news media, and entertained his voter base with comical press briefings and chastised New York Times and CNN as’fake news’. He entered the good books of conservative Texas oilmen, coal lobby by repudiating the Paris Climate Agreement. In a nutshell, he has done what he promised. This makes him an outsider, who is not like a typical crooked politician ( though he is lot more discreetly). His agenda of ‘doing business’ and ‘getting things done’ are one of the core American principles. Hence, this makes him more famous than ever. However, his voters are not aware of the consequences of what he has done. Even though he has fulfilled many promises, but the after effects are going to be disastrous, sooner or later. But unfortunately his followers have become myopic!
Finally, the ongoing racial protests all over America, be it with the tragic and cruel death of George Floyd and many others have become rampant. The #BlackLivesMatter protests are symbolic of the underlying inequality and racial tensions besieging America. The African Americans are tired of this hatred and biase against them by few white policemen or white fascists. They are also stunned by the fact that mere 12 years before, they had seen America electing the country’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, and with his victory again in 2012, they came to believe that the old America who harassed Afro-Americans as slaves was a thing of the past. They thought their centuries long struggle against racism, with the sacrifice of Dr.King, and many more, had come to fruition. But just 4 years before, with Trump’s election, everything changed. The racism and violence against them have exacerbated again. The way Trump has reversed and abashed the Obama era policies and welfare schemes has disappointed the Afro-Americans and liberals. And they now feel that this would escalate even more if Trump wins again. But unfortunately, the division along racial and ethnic lines have worsened so much that these protests, which were meant to raise their voices against inequality and racism have taken an ugly turn. The incessant violence and riots have polarized the american society, and even united the loyal Trump supporters against the BLM protests. This article shows how a white man carrying ‘BlackLivesMatter” placard had to face severe backlash from the white conservative voters. All this is going to affect the upcoming elections in a big way.
Many political thinkers and analysts are saying that America is going through a systemic change, and with reference to all the events and policies as mentioned above, it does seem to be true. Paul Kennedy had famously predicted about the American decline in his book “The Rise and the Fall of Great Powers“, and Neil Howe and Bill Strauss had mentioned about the turbulent years America will see during 2020’s. All this might be labeled as a close coincidence, but we cannot forget the fact that they did explain after researching centuries of human history, wars and empires. Indeed, America had risen to its pinnacle in 1945, and even in 1991, but the current trend shows it to be on the downward turn. BLM protests, racial tensions, Covid-19, economic recession, ineffective healthcare system, expensive education system troubled with huge education loans on students, widening gap between the rich and the poor with nation’s wealth in the hands of few silicon valley tech giants, wall street bankers and military-industrial complex, lack of people’s belief in political institutions, and thereby paving a way to elect an outsider like Trump are all the indicators of the current American decline. Electing Trump is not going to solve them but exacerbate them. The trump followers might hope that electing Trump will #MakeAmericaGreatAgain by keeping it white, patriarchal, isolated from world affairs, but this short term gain will endure in a long term pain of losing the glory of “American Dream”, of losing democratic allies, of losing the trust of the world, and losing the credibility of being the free land where everyone is welcome to work hard, innovate, and collectively progress. The American history shows that America was made by people who were brave, and free and believed in human values. The founding fathers, Andrew Carnegie, Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Steve Jobs, Elie Wiesel, Henry Kissinger, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Sergei Brin, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more have themselves or their ancestors immigrated to America, due to this faith in America Dream. Even Donald Trump’s family(including his wife) and conservative Rupert Murdoch were immigrants to America! But looking at the current condition in America, that faith has dwindled, and if this continues, sooner or later, time would come to bid adieu to the American Dream!
Looking at the past few years, it is becoming quite evident from the events that have occurred worldwide that the trend of nationalism has risen, once again. History repeats itself, and it has done so for the arena of nationalism. The last time when nationalism was rampant in the world were the turbulent years after Great Depression, rise of Hitler and World War 2. Now, what surprises most of the intellectuals more than this trend is how fast the trend of globalization and liberalization have faced severe backlash in a mere span of 25 years or so.
Lets delve back into history to understand why the era of nationalism and separatism based on country, ethnicity and even to certain extent religious extremism have emerged. Not far back, just 29 years before, in 1991, the world saw the collapse of Soviet Union and its political communism. Today, only handful of countries are communist, such as N.Korea, China, Vietnam, and with the exception of N.Korea, all the others have embraced state capitalism, on the economic front by discarding the socialistic state planned economic model. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and it led to the domino effect of the plummeting of the communist satellite countries in East Europe, and Russia at the end. The world saw this rare, bizarre event and the west proclaimed its supremacy in the ideals of free market capitalism, democracy and globalization. Francis Fukuyama even went ahead with its book, “The end of History and the Last man” with a false, short term belief that with this victory, there will not be any war, or crisis in the world, and hence, the whole world will be one planet with one political system (democracy), one economic system (capitalism). What he actually meant was one planet under one superpower (USA)!
Anyways, it didn’t take long enough for the world to see a new crisis in the form of 9/11. Soon, the superpower was at war( as it always has been after every few years or so), and with that event, new conflicts emerged. As early as 2007, it was slowly becoming evident that the world is becoming more and more multi-polar. In fact, in the Munich conference in 2007, Putin famously brought this to the world’s attention. This is because the rise of Putin to the Presidency of Russia, was itself the first blow to the USA led world. Before Putin, during the Yeltsin years, the world saw how Russia suffered immensely under its corrupt government ( which was supported by USA), and billionaire oligarchs. With Putin, who became President in 2000, it all ended, and that was the first rise in nationalism ( in the form of Russian patriotism) in the world.
Then, with the disastrous Iraq war from 2003 to the Great Recession in 2007-08, USA started losing its economic clout, and was soon challenged by China. China since 1979, with its opening up to the world, had been silently making its pockets deeper with the US dollars, and the whole world realized this only in the last decade. The last decade, from 2010, led to the increase in nationalistic fervor all over the world. This is because of many reasons. One of the them is the loss of economic clout, and the moral superiority of USA. The world admired USA for its success and moral responsibility to protect the freedom, and human rights during the two world wars. Then, after WW2, it was its war against communism which made the world choose the former, due to the lack of freedom and democracy in USSR’s Iron curtain. But after the collapse of Soviet Union, there was no enemy left against USA. Suddenly the vacuum which was created made USA arrogant of its supremacy. In political vocabulary, there were no ‘checks’ on its actions. Even the UN, UNSC were dominated by USA and its allies.
But after the 9/11, Afghanistan-Iraq war under the incompetent Bush regime, and the economic recession, the ‘American Dream’ slowly started losing its glory. The world started accepting the fact that USA was not in its best position as it used to be before to protect the other nations. This led to the triggering of the nationalistic sentiments, however small they might be. Even in USA, the people were fed up with the country’s role as defacto ‘world’s policeman’, and they wanted to keep their country away from world affairs. This was a huge shift in the country’s outlook, unlike the years during world wars or cold war, when USA used to take lead in the world affairs, and even frequently interfered in other country’s internal matters.
Then, the Arab springs revolution happened in 2011, which led to overthrow of USA backed dictators in Middle east and North Africa. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 added fuel to fire to the rising nationalism, and the world did nothing about it. Also, worth noting is the fact that during this time, from 2010 to 2013, with the Wikileaks, and whistleblowers like Ed Snowden and Bradley/Chelsea Manning, the world came to know about the spying program USA had been doing on the world for many years. This led to more concern about the sovereignty and integrity of the nations. Even the allies were spied and this led to the further loss of the trust among the nations with United States. Then the next two events turned to be pivotal in the rise of nationalism as we see today. They were the Brexit in 2015 and Donald Trump’s surprising victory in 2016. Infact, such was the effect of these two events over the world, that most of the escalation in nationalism, right wing, alt-right and tensions all over the world can be attributed to these two events.
Since, 2016, we have seen the rise in new Cold aka Trade war between USA and China, USA’s withdrawal from many treaties and organizations, rise in conflicts between countries like India-China, USA-Iran, and even rise in racial and ethnic tensions in USA and some parts of Europe as well. It seems that the liberal order since 1991 is slowly disintegrating all over the world. Today, we see that many countries have either elected right-wing, nationalistic, anti-establishment ( anti liberal and globalization establishment) leaders or the leaders have proclaimed themselves to be the defacto supreme dictators who can rule the country till their last breath. The first group includes countries like India, where Narendra Modi has been elected twice in 2014 and 2019, with huge majority. He is known for his ardent patriotism with ties to the right wing group, RSS. Besides, we see Brazil with the election of Bolsenaro, PM Boris Johnson in UK, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, PM Viktor Orban in Hungary and many more in Europe as well. Even respected liberal German chancellor, Angela Merkel will step down in 2021, and there has been rise in neo-nazism and hatred of immigrants from the middle least, especially Syria and Afghanistan. Only Canada and France remain liberal with their leaders Trudeau and Macron. But even they are challenged by right wing parties in their respective countries.
While the other group includes countries like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, where Putin, Xi Jinping, MBS and Erdogan have become dictators respectively. On one side even though Russia is criticized by the liberal, left media for Putin’s dictatorship and for its killing of opposition leaders ( the most recent being the poisoning of Alexei Navalny), but on the other side, we see the right wing media praises Russia for reviving the nationalistic trend, and even lauding it to the only country to preserve the good old Christianity values. For the right wing believers who watch Fox news, USA has become dominated by the minorities, immigrants and Jews, and the old USA ( white, Waspy, protestant) establishment has dwindled over the years. No wonder Trump and its followers are in good terms with Putin.
But China with its desire of empire expansion and to become the next superpower, has been facing a great deal of opprobrium, especially since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, which allegedly originated from Wuhan. Further, its border tensions with India, after it purposefully incited violence on the Indian soldiers, led to heightened tensions between the countries. China has aggressively silenced the pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong, and annexed the island. It continues to blockade Hong Kong and Taiwan from foreign support, and has led to forced detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. Further, it has extended economic support to third world countries which usually result in ‘debt trap’ or ‘debt diplomacy’ under the disguise of sophisticated marketing of Belt and Road or The new Silk Road . The world saw how Sri Lanka lost the Hambantota port to China, and the same is happening in other countries in Asia and Africa. Hence, the seeds of future conflicts are being sowed.
Finally, we see the conflict in the middle east as the sands and winds of middle east have always been hot and turbulent. Besides, the age old Israeli-Arab and Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict, now we see its getting more and more complicated with the US vs Iran, Iran-Syria vs Israel, and a new player in the form of Turkey, under the dictatorship of Racep Tayyip Erdogan. Recently, he converted the two museums into mosques and has challenged the Saudi led Muslim world with a new hub of Muslim leadership under Turkish banner. Even MBS have consolidated his richest empire and have become the defacto ruler in the family of Saud. Hence, earlier the middle east was divided into three camps, with Saudi Sunni Arabs, Persian Shia Iran and Zionist Israel. Now, the fourth entry is that of Turkey with its ambitions of a Neo-Ottoman empire.
Thus, it looks like this trend of nationalism is here to stay. The geopolitics has already been covered by the differences and conflicts among the nations, and unless, a peaceful and promising resolution is figured out, there seems to be no end to this trend. We hope that this does not lead us to another catastrophic world war, whose chances have been never been higher before. Many liberals, centrist and left intellectuals have been perplexed by this sudden rise of right wing forces, and many of them are burning the midnight oil to understand what went wrong in their liberal, globalized, world order, which seemed to be omnipotent, just 25 years back. Lets see how the world and its geopolitics unravels before us.
Today, I watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma”. Its a terrific and also quite alarming documentary. It reminds us as Tristan Harris said, “The social media are becoming ‘Digital Frankensteins!’, steering billions of people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors”.
It is quite true. We see the young generation not only prone to the venomous effects of social media, but also becoming more and more separated from reality. They are becoming slowly a part of virtual reality, in which whatever is seen, heard or read on social media is believed to be for real by the young generation, especially the Gen Z. We see that the Gen Z were born after 1996, and when the kids born in this generation started going to school, that’s when the social media erupted and expanded enormously, and started galloping our social world.
In the last 10 years, the world has changed a lot. Most of the apps and technologies we have become addicted to during the previous decade had been started only a few years back. Like Facebook in 2004, Youtube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, Tumblr in 2007, Whatsapp and Pinterest in 2009, Instagram in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011. We see every year there has been some new entry of social media app, except the 2008 year, ( due to the Great Recession effect, maybe). And soon these apps started dominating our social and personal space as well. The most latest entry is of TikTok in 2016, and which has gained considerable notoriety under the Trump Presidency, due to its sophisticated and super-addictive AI. The last decade was the breeding ground of new fan base for these apps, and now they all have become somewhat “Digital Frankensteins!”. This is because we are so much used to them, and our life is entwined with them on such a massive scale, that if the government decides to shut them down( which would never happen in near future at least), they cannot do it. Just like the big Wall Street banks which had failed in the 2007 recession due to sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the government had to bail them out under the label of “Too Big To Fail”( and the banks made sure that the bail out money went to pay their exiting CEO’s and board members some really hefty severance packages!). Similarly, we can see that these social media giants have become “Too Big To Fail” and their continued dominance will stay undisputed in the near future.
But unlike economy and banks, where our money and thereby livelihood is dependent on the savings we put in bank, or loans we take for our businesses, hence we are dependent on the banking institutions just like they rely on the customers. But in case of social media, atleast we have a remote chance that our lives can still be managed and survived without the social media. This is because there are still some old and credible sources of information and connectivity tools existing. For ex: Radio and Ham had been one of the most reliable info sources before TV and internet ushered in. People used to stay connected to each other besides use of telephone for connectivity.For news, we have the all weather print media, journals, magazines and books which often convey the most authentic and reliable information. We don’t need Facebook to stay in touch with friends. We can do that over the phone, or messaging service. After all, we all have hundreds of Facebook friends, but how many of us really connect with all of them? Do we even care of who is in our list, and do we make some serious effort to stay connected with all of them. The fact is we simply do not have time to spend to stay connected to all of them. We are used to a small group of like minded friends, and we tend to stay socially connected with them.
Same goes with instagram. Do we really care for the likes of our photos and videos we upload on the wall? After initial curiosity, it simply vanishes. Infact, human nature does not care for the repeated likes from our friends, but we slowly start looking at the comments and those friends who have not liked the pic!. Though there have been many positives brought by social media such as YouTube where one can share any video and become famous overnight. Justin Bieber is known to have gained his reputation via YT. Its a great medium for sharing knowledge and talks as well. Even Twitter was a new revolution for those who have amassed millions of followers, and any tweet would create sensation in the world. Trump has been using Twitter as a official tool for his Presidency, and many of his orders and declarations have been communicated to the world via Twitter. All this is terrific, and has changed the mainstream media world.
But slowly, we see that it has made us addictive, and lose sight of the relevant information. As I mentioned, earlier, there used to be only few ( and reliable) sources of info such as Radio, Television and Print media. Later, the new channels replaced the print media, and now we see the social media is replacing all of them. The most important concern on the social media is the complete lack of accountability of the content posted by anyone. Unlike radio or print, which is verified and edited, social media is rarely verified, and so the new world of fake news has emerged. Though the content can be reported, and the owners do take appropriate actions against them, but often it is too late and the content by then has reached millions of people all over the world. There is no way a tool can verify if the information is accurate and up to date. We do not have intelligent machines yet, and hence anything posted on the social media cannot be entirely trusted. Then comes the question, if the content is not verified, not trusted then why do we spend our precious time in scrolling through them?
Infact, there has been so much information ( tons and tons of bytes) created and uploaded everyday that it becomes nearly impossible for humans to decipher and absorb this information, let alone analyze and understand it. When there is too much information, its nothing but chaos!. But this continues because of the very basic fundamental of social media, which is everyone has the liberty to express their opinion or add content on grounds of personal freedom of expression. Yes, and this cannot be denied. I am writing this post due to this freedom and I agree that this is needed for the fresh influx of new ideas and opinions to be injested into the world. Hence, the real challenge is to know the difference between whats right and whats wrong. If we do not allow the social media to share all the content freely, then it will be a world of communsitic media, where everything is censored and restricted, just like it happens in China and erstwhile USSR. We do not want to live in that iron-curtain world again.
Finally, there is nothing wrong with the social media, and its usage in our daily lives as long they remain tools just like radio and TV, to share information, to connect with friends, to get the most recent information, or even to express our opinion about some injustice, or grievance. It is one of the most wonderful mediums we have today. But if that tool becomes complicated enough to intrude in our personal life by making us addicted with incessant notifications , updates, fake news and viral videos, then that’s a problem. If the social media like Facebook, as mentioned in the documentary is creating a digital footprint of our activity, and without our consent selling the data ( or selling us indirectly) to third party companies for advertisements or trying to change our opinion about political endorsements, then that’s a big problem. As its seen that all the social media tools have become powerful enough to predict our life, our decisions, our interests and our future as well. This is where the real problem lies. As long as we have the levers of control, we are okay. But if the levers lie in the hands of few social media giants, then we are in a big mess. This awareness is the true message this documentary has courageously conveyed. We all should appreciate the valor and genuine concern of all the people who left their secure and well-paying jobs in Google, Facebook, Twitter etc to come out and speak about this to the world. It is because of these few brave men and women, that the world is still a humane place to live.
History will assess the present as chaotic times. This is because of the ever complex world we are living in. Humans have achieved the highest pinnacle of technological progress in human history, and hence, we are ever surrounded by complex, high-tech machines. On one side it might seem that we are relieved of all the hardwork and sweat, as all the tasks from cooking, transport, calculations, communications, and even intelligence are managed by intelligent machines. We have the best technology at work today.
But on the other side, there has been increase in depression, mental issues, anxiety, unemployment and lack of stable relationships as well. As per WHO, more than 264 million people suffer from depression globally. It is indeed a topic of debate as why are we suffering from high levels of mental and health issues when most of our problems have been solved with the invention of technology. We see that facebook and other social media sites have bridged the gap between the world to easily communicate and share information. But on the other side, we are getting more and more addicted to social media, and even depressed as per Journal of Applied Biobehavioural research.
Adding to this are the incessant bombarding of news reports from mainstream media, news channels, radio, podcasts, youtube channels etc. We live in the information age and its quite in excess. Most of us are unable to get the best relevant data from this ocean of information, and hence, it usually ends up creating confusion and loss of interest. The unceasing tweets from followers, viral videos, and debates have ushered in chaos everywhere.
Adding to this mayhem, is the Covid virus infections. Covid could not have come at a better time when the world is already getting polarized on the grounds of right wing, ultra nationalism vs liberal, pro-globalization order. We see massive BLM rally all over USA due to hightened racial tensions against the Trump supporters rally. Then, we have the Indian-China conflict slowly and steadily rising which might escalate to trigger a full-scale war. The world economy except China has tumbled down, and the fear of long term recession, unemployment and social issues are looming everywhere. I find no perfect word other than “chaotic” to name this!
Hence, when I see this chaos howering everywhere, I find mindfulness or meditation to be a perfect solution to keep our mind calm amidst this pandemonium. Nothing better can make me feel good than meditation nowadays. It is jokingly said during pandemic that if we cannot go outside, then better to go inside ( within us). Yes, indeed. We need to contemplate about our life, our goals, our needs and our future after all this chaos settles down. This pandemic is once in a lifetime event, and hence, it seems that destiny has given an opportunity for us to reflect our life inwards and know the self. The pandemic has already made us aware that our needs are much much less than we usually purchase. As Gandhi used to say, “The world has enough to fulfill everyone’s needs, but not anyone’s greed”. I do agree that this pandemic has proved this right.
When there is no sign of covid vaccine coming in near future, the only way to keep ourselves safe and healthy is by increasing immunity and ofcourse, staying inside and taking all the precautions. Meditation is known to make us strong mentally, and thereby we get the strength to fight against this pandemic. More than health, this pandemic is a test of our mind’s strength. We are more prone to succumb to fear, anxiety, depression, or worst suicide, due to the fear of Covid infections in our family, economic recession and social unrest. So, to keep our mind strong and stress free, we need to spend sometime in mindfulness. We need to meditate everyday for few minutes at least.
I practice Art of Living taught “Sudarshan Kriya Yoga” and it has helped me immensely to keep me mentally strong. Infact, the day I do not do the kriya, I feel nervous, and get angry quickly. Hence, I am glad that I learnt this technique before, and now I can practice it everyday at my home. I will write a separate post about my experience with meditation, and how it works like magic!
I hope this all chaos calms down soon, and let peace delve back into the world.
Nowadays, the definition of being social is someone who is active on social media. The basic nature of social gathering which makes humans as social animals, have changed from the open, outward social world to a closed, inward social media world. As it normally happens, that with every change, there are unintended outcomes. So does, the world of social media has changed the world of human bonding, particularly love…
Yes, today we see that people are more keen on finding their love, or soulmates online, through social media. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram have become the defacto rulers of social media world. And several apps like Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid have become the preferred dating apps for the young generation. Gone are the days when people used to look around their friend circles, or family connections for a life partner. Today, the options are plenty and so are its after effects. I personally find these tools to be useful for everyone who wants to make friends, find dates or just hangout/socialize for fun. But these tools have changed the way dating or falling in love used to be before.
As I mentioned, earlier, it used to be a lot different in finding the right partner. The relationship world was much divided based on their culture, religion, work or even ethnic preferences. People from a particular religion or culture could not easily find someone from a completely different religion or culture to date, lest fall in love. Even if they did, it was not easy for them to carry on the relation due to the way society worked back then. For ex: In India, where the marriages are primarily decided by family and hence, love marriages are looked down upon, it wasn’t easy at all to date or even meet someone from different group. But today, fortunately, this does not exist. These tools have revolutionized the world of dating, and marriage as well. Though still, the matrimony sites and dating apps continue to put on filters based on religion, caste, ethnicity etc. But today, we have the choice to discard these non-pragmatic barriers which society imposes, and select the choice of person, from any background as we wish for.
This is a good change brought out by the social media. But what I feel more concerned is the fundamental change of the way we date or even build a relationship. I mean what is happening on the apps is we often try to know about the person based on his social media profile. We tend to believe that whatever he/she has displayed on their walls is the real life. We forget that the pics which are uploaded are edited with numerous fancy filters. We mistaken for the happy pics uploaded on the photo gallery to be of a successful life. We check how many friends they have in their friends list, and based on that number, we define the social quotient of that person. We see how many countries they have visited, where do they eat, and hangout, or which movies and books are their favorites. All this info is easily available on all the social media apps ( this is what makes them attractive for their user base).
Now, the problem is if all this is already known to the person who is looking for dating or making friends, won’t this influence the person’s choice? For ex: If someone has less friends on his friends list, but he is a really nice guy and good at heart. Now these apps doesn’t tell the world about his good nature ( as good qualities cannot be quantified by some algorithm to be converted to some number). Hence, the world will look at him as a socially shy person just because he has less friends as compared to his peers. Further, the girl who might be looking for partner, might even ignore him, based on this pre-condition.
On the other side, if people meet him personally, then there is much higher chance that they might like him, and they can become good friends with him ( which does not mean they have to officially exhibit their friendship status on facebook). Same goes for matchmaking or dating. We tend to fall for the filtered pics, or first class travel destination videos, or even a toned/muscled physique, and wish to make them our life partner. But later do we find after couple of dates, that they are not the right choice for our life.
I remember one scene from the movie “The Terminal” which many of you might have seen. Tom Hanks who performed the role of Viktor Navorski, helps his friend Enrique in exchange of food to get information about the female officer Dolores. Enrique likes Dolores, and is desperate to know what she likes, where does she hangout, whom did she date etc. Victor helps to get this info from Dolores to Enrique, just like facebook does. But the difference is Dolores did not know who is asking about her, and why is someone taking so much interest in her. This is the real secret of relationship. The true beauty in any relationship is that intimacy, bonding and even to some extent uncertainity about the next step. True relationship blossoms when both of them are longing for each other, to know, understand, and even act to share this bonding. It requires a certain degree of social contact.
Like the one in the famous movie “Taxi Driver” when Travis confidently walks in to talk to Betsy. Betsy doesn’t know anything about Travis, and still Travis manages wonderfully to convince her to take her out for a date. This is the real social skill, which comes by real contact. I wonder if facebook would have been there at that time, and if some Travis who is just a taxi driver sends a friend request to Betsy, how much is the probability that Betsy would go out with Travis for a coffee, based on the online request? You know the answer I bet.
To know the person in real life, by observing their actions, how they behave, how they take decisions,how they react to certain situations is what glues the thread of affection together between them. This cannot happen through an app or website. And this cannot happen, if both of them already know a lot of info about each other from their facebook profile. The ironical coincidence is the movie “The Terminal” was released in 2004, and it was the same year when facebook was launched. It was as if the days of innocent thrill to go after the person, that desperate desire to know about them, and impress them are a part of history now. Today all the information is at the fingertips, and handy but at the cost of lack of innocence, intimacy and curiosity for each other. And Covid has made even difficult for us, when moving out of the house is avoided by most, and so the only way for relationship to build or maintain are through these apps. Facebook, Snap are getting richer but the quality of relationships and bonding is getting poorer.
Thus, I feel our parents or grandparents generations were a lot happier than ours, as they did enjoy the thrill, the excitement to meet someone, to demonstrate the social skills to socialize and even impress the one they loved. Now, what remains is the fast paced like, share, comment, subscribe based networking, facebook wall dependent profiling, and painstakingly time consuming filtered selfies and pictures to share our happy go lucky faces to the world. I hope that the good old days of meeting in person, sharing the joys and sorrows of life ( and not pics and chats) with each other, and then falling in love to remain life long partners still remain in my generation ( Millennial and Gen Z). Lets end this post just like the happy ending between Enrique and Dolores…..
Recently, I happened to travel from Pune, Maharashtra to Vadodara/Baroda, Gujarat by bus to look at some urgent family affairs. Though I was afraid to travel out during this corona times, but the urgency of the situation urged me to go out and visit my family. Based on the experience I had during travel to and fro, I decided to write a post to request people to #StayAtHome. Please!
During lockdown, we all were compelled to stay at home. The fear and uncertainity along with enormous escalation of infections and deaths in some of the most advanced countries like USA, Italy and Spain had convinced us to stay safe indoors. But as soon as the lockdown was lifted, and in India, where the unlocking phase began, we started moving out of our homes. Ofcourse, people eventually got bored staying inside home, and for a developing economy like India, where the WFH culture is not yet accepted, and not even feasible, it was inevitable for us to move out for work or daily necessities. Also, looking at the rising number of new Covid infections inspite of the lockdown, it looks like the lockdown did not work, and on the other side, severely hampered the developing economy. Hence, nowadays, when the media or medical experts advise us to stay at home, we somehow ignore them.
So, I decided to travel inspite of the new zenith gained everyday looking at the number of Covid infections and deaths. I booked the bus – Gujarat travels from Pune to Vadodara, with return ticket as well. My journey from Pune to Vadodara was overnight travel, in a sleeper coach. With a naive intention to save some money ( as we all are in that saving mode nowadays due to the possible fear of upcoming recession), I booked the Non-AC bus. This turned out to be a colossal mistake as I would realize later. Luckily, I booked the return from Vadodara to Pune an Air Conditioned one, but it was a day travel, and it had its own version of problems as I would experience soon.
Thus, I packed my bags, and boarded the bus. The booking was done through RedBus, and it was told that the bus operator will allow only the passengers who had worn mask. The thermal checks will be done before boarding, and everyone will be given hand sanitizer. Besides, social distancing (6 ft) will be maintained inside the bus. But when I boarded the bus, neither was I checked for mask, nor was the thermal check conducted. Even hand sanitizer was not provided. But I had worn mask, and carried enough hand sanitizer with me. This was just the beginning of the violation of Covid rules by the bus operators.
Then, I saw that the compartments were just separated by a thin curtain, and the distance between each compartment was surely less than 6 ft. They should have made alternate seating, but they did not. I was still safe because I had booked the single compartment with one bed on the left isle. But on the right isle of the bus, there were a large compartment with two beds near to each other. I assumed this must be reserved only for the family. But it was not. They had allowed anyone to sit near each other. This was really a gross violation of the social distancing rules.
Then, the bus conductor took the Aadhar details from everyone, and worst, was that he had worn mask beneath the nose. Afterall, the mask is meant to be put on the nose and mouth to cover. Why would anyone on the earth wear mask below the nose and mouth? I had no answer for this. He had not worn any hand gloves, and the pen and paper used to write the details, were common. In India, when the government boasts of the “Digital revolution” brought about, but the bus operators were still using the traditional way of pen and paper. Rather, they should have taken the pics of Aadhar card for verification, or the RedBus should have allowed the passengers to provide these details in the app itself. How would the pen and paper which was shared with all the passengers be more safe and better during a pandemic than the app? This showed the lack of seriousness in the bus authorities.
As I mentioned about my mistake to book a non-AC bus, so I suffered from lack of ventilation, and due to small compartments, closed by curtains, I had to open the window during the night to allow some fresh air. But being an overnight journey, coupled with monsoon rains and traffic jam in the Mumbai area, I must have inhaled more pollutants than fresh air. Also, I feared for the sneezing and coughing from any passengers, which would make the closed, non-ventilated environment inside the bus an ideal breeding ground for Covid infection. Due to all this, I could not sleep much and thus, the night journey turned out to be quite a disaster.
Finally, after the hustle and bustle, I reached Vadodara. After visiting my relatives, and spending a good weekend with them, I started my journey back to Pune. I was comforted with the thought that this journey might be a lot better than the previous one due to the availability of AC as well as an upper deck. But barely did I knew at that time what experiences would soon lay before me!
First of all, the bus got excruciatingly delayed by more than 2 hours. I was assuming I will board the bus around 7:45 AM, and reach my home by 8 PM. But with this delay, I boarded the bus at 10:20 AM. I did the math again, and now, I would reach home by atleast 10:30 PM. But I had no option but to bite the bullet. The waiting at the bus stop was an awful experience. It was early morning time, and so I happened to be the only passenger at the stop. Also, the Gujarat travels authorities seemed to lack the most basic sense of civility in every possible way. They not only displayed the behavior potraying of the complete lack of responsibility, but also did not seemed to convey any information about this delay. I remembered my days in U.S, when any delay in flight or bus, would be conveyed immediately with sincere apologies by the responsible authorities. I compared both, and could not deny the fact that however India might have progressed as an IT giant, and risen under the strong leadership of PM Modi, but its gonna take a long way to go as the basic mannerism and civility are yet to be imbibed in the common Indian masses. Ofcourse, it would be ridiculous to extrapolate one experience or incidence to all the Indians, but as we know, every small thing matters, and after all, nations are made by people!
Soon, my bus came, and I immediately boarded the bus with a desperation to leave that bus stop ASAP. Again, I saw the same environment inside the bus as I had seen while traveling from my home. No thermal checks were conducted, and no social distancing. But the bus was more comfortable due to AC, and having secured an upper deck, I felt to be on the top of the world!
After few hours, I witnessed an amazing experience. It was afternoon, and the bus had reached the Gujarat-Maharashtra border. The bus stopped at a local restaurant. We all stepped down for restroom, and to sip some tea. But after sometime, the bus operator told the passengers on the right isle ( which had two seats adjacent to each other) to step down, and get into the car. I was on the left isle with a single seat, so I did not step down. Around 10-12 people from the right isle stepped down. It didn’t take me long to realize what the real matter was. The bus operators had clandestinely allowed 34-36 passengers to board the bus, when only 24 were allowed ( 12 on the left isle and 12 on the right isle). Hence, now at the border to enter Maharashtra, police officials were going to check, and so to hide this, they let go the extra passengers into another car.
Then, we crossed the border, and the police checked that the total number of passengers in the bus. After looking at the excellent observation of social distancing rules (??) inside the bus, they let us go. Ofcourse the police were not naive, and they did know things were staged. But then the bus operators also knew how to handle them, and so, things went smoothly.
Then after entering Maharashtra, the bus stopped after some time, and those 10-12 passengers boarded back again. I was stunned and no wonder why Covid cases are rising in India. When on one side, the govt is unlocking everything, and on the other side, the Covid virus is also getting unlocked. Adding fuel to the fire are incidences like this, when the utter disgusting actions by the bus authorities to earn more money has made things go out of hand. For them it is always business as usual, even amidst the pandemic. The pressure to stay in business, and make money becomes more important than the fear of getting infected, and even death. For them, the losses incurred during lockdown need to be recovered, and hence, no matter how many rules are broken, or how many human lives are put in danger, everything is secondary in front of surviving in the job or business. Period.
So, after reaching home late at night ( I reached at midnight), I contemplated over these thoughts, and decided to write a post about this. And so I urge everyone to Stay at Home, unless something is absolutely necessary to be done. Things are real bad out there, and many people do not care for life anymore. All they care is business or getting the job done. We cannot blame them entirely, as the fear to die from hunger is more than Covid. The fear of losing job or getting bankrupt in business is more than getting ill by infection. Hence, it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. These are not normal times, and hence, the luxury of travel for leisure are a thing of the past ( atleast for few years!). Today, we need to stay safe and healthy, and then only we will be able to travel for leisure in future when things become more safer.
Next day, I tweeted about this experience to RedBus, and they reached out to me immediately. Then, I was told that they had taken this very seriously, and reprimanded the bus operators with a strong feedback. I do not say that this will stop immediately as old habits seldom die. But I also hope that things will ameliorate as more people share their experiences on social media, and act as aware citizens. We cannot depend on any organization to tackle this pandemic, but its a collective responsibility now. This pandemic is a test of human patience, and unity as well. The more we collaborate and support together, the weaker the virus will become.
As Steve Jobs famously used to say – Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. Now I think the time has changed, and the more relevant message for us will be – Stay Home, Stay Safe.
Finally, the day came for which I had been contemplating. I started my journey from US to India on Aug 18th, and landed in Mumbai on Aug 19th. Traveling during corona times is indeed dreaded by most of us. And so did I. But I had taken the decision to return back and so I kept my decision firm. It wasn’t an easy move, but some changes are never easy and also, I believe that sometimes, it becomes necessary to bite the bullet.
The travel by Vande Bharat mission was not the best one, but still considering the pandemic situation, I would say the airline authorities did a very good job. I had been quite used to air travels for business in the last 2 years, but this air travel during pandemic was unprecedented in itself. Earlier, the only three things we need to do at the airport were check in, baggage dropoff and security inspection ( with immigration as another for international travels), that’s it. But now the list has few more add-ons such as temperature checking, 6 ft social distancing, frequent hand washing and sanitizing, and thermal screening. This is like the new normal for air travels now.
Even inside the flight, the job of cabin attendant has been reduced to just escorting the travelers to their respective seats, and keep the food/water on the seat beforehand. The always cherished hospitality by the cabin attendants and air hostess ( in particular) has become a part of history now. No longer are any drinks served, not even hot tea/coffee. Known for their elegant uniform, hospitality and courtesy, today, the stewardess have to wear the nurse uniform with dress, apron and cap. Ofcourse, this is the need of the hour, and in no way, does this demote the role of flight attendants. But the charm and sophistication which used to associated with air travel has been replaced by seriousness and fear of safeguarding ourselves. I hate to write this but nowadays flight journey feels like a flying ambulance!
The Vande Bharat mission has been doing an incredible job of bringing back Indians who are stranded abroad, or want to return back to their country. After my registration and booking on the website, I was told to sign an undertaking which stated that the decision to fly is my responsibility. When I reached the New York airport ( which was quite empty), I underwent temperature check, and they noted down my temperature on the undertaking document. After the usual formalities, I was again thermal screened at the gate before boarding the flight. Inside the flight, as I mentioned before, we were already provided food, water, masks, hand sanitizer and face shield. Everyone was seated with alternating seating inside the flight. The flight was non-stop due to the restriction to not land in any other country. Hence, the journey was long – 14 hours and hence everyone knew that it was not going to be very comfortable. Moreever, no in-flight entertainment was provided which made the journey somewhat monotonous.
Thus, after 14 hours of arduous journey, I landed in Mumbai. Again, we were thermal screened and then began a long and slow process to reach home. It took me 8 days to reach home after I landed at the airport. Meanwhile, a lot of things had to be taken care of, which included successful exiting of airport after immigration, travel arrangements and quarantine accommodation details to be given to the officials. Even at the airport, all the airport authorities and govt officials were inspecting and watching us so that we do not leave the airport before competing all the required formalities. I had to book a taxi/cab to go to Pune ( my hometown, which is 3 hours drive from Mumbai) after I got an e-pass with the police verification completed. Luckily, my father had already acquired the permit for this travel, and so this saved me some time of hassle at the airport. But at the exit gate of the airport, I was again asked about the taxi details, and the officer requested me not to exit the airport until the taxi driver arrives. Then, he took the taxi driver details from me, and contacted him over the phone. When the taxi arrived, he personally escorted me till the taxi, to ensure I did not meet anyone apart from the designated driver.
It was raining, and the monsoon season had ushered in. While traveling to Pune, I saw some of the most beautiful scenic beauty in the Ghats, especially in the Lonavala-Khandala region. Then after reaching Pune, I had to meet the Govt officials again to check the availability of hotels for my 7 day quarantine stay, which were designated as isolation centers. I selected one of the good hotels in Pune, and stayed there for the next 7 days. I had to carry all the bags with me to the hotel as I was not even allowed to drop my bags at home, which was not faraway from the hotel. The most important thing is that I was not tested for Covid during or after my 7 days stay. When I inquired about the Covid test, I was told that it was optional and I had to pay out of my own pocket. Even the isolation centers were quite expensive, and the bill was charged to my name. I wish they allowed Covid testing at the isolation centers ( as they were supposed to be meant for). No wonder why India is seeing the highest Covid infection rates in the world, and the nexus between govt officials and hotel/isolation center authorities cannot be hidden!
Finally, after this once in a lifetime pandemic overseas evacuation travel experience, I came back home. I was nervous about a lot of things as I had witnessed during and after the travel, but on the other side, I was delighted to be at home, in my country, with my family. Fortunately, I was not showing any symptoms related to Covid and after completing another 7 days home quarantine restriction, I was free. I did learn a lot during this travel. After seeing two countries which are equally affected by this virus, and seeing the troubles people are taking to reach and stay close to their family, or loved ones, I started realizing with mixed emotions, that however this pandemic might have changed our life, but the virus is a lot weaker in front of human strength, determination and courage. Kudos to the brave, hardworking pilots who are working so hard to fly tirelessly day and night to reach us safely to our destinations. Hats off to the flight attendants, airport authorities, taxi/lyft/ola drivers who inspite of the risk of virus infection, are working hard to keep the daily operations running smoothly.
The virus might have locked us down in our homes, but it hasn’t locked down the humanity within us. We will surely overcome this pandemic, and we can hope again, that the travel in future won’t be driven by fear or for evacuation purposes, but with happiness, joy and leisure. Good times are not faraway!
I have always been perplexed by the pandemonium created by the thought: What should one do in life- Should we like what we are doing, or should we do only what we like? Hence, the tagline- Do what you love? or Love what you do?
Our mind never stays in the present. It has a tendency to either flock to the past or to the future. That’s why it is said our mind is flickering. The idea that we like or dislike something also is reflected in our mind. Our mind is not something which just resides in some corner of the body. We often confuse ourselves that mind is our head, or forehead. No, it isn’t. In fact, our body resides in our mind. Strange isn’t it? Bhishmaraj Bam, famous sports psychologist said ‘our body is an instrument of our mind‘. What we think we are is what is reflected by the mind. Everything first gets created in mind, then it reflects in reality. That is why Steven Covey said in his book, ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’ that all things are created twice. We also call it consciousness. In simple words, it is what we are conscious/aware about. Like for example, if it happens that we see a snake in front of us, we feel threatened. This is because of the consciousness imbibed within us which brings us emotion of fear in order to save our life. And the interesting thing is this consciousness is also subtle.
Now, when it comes to a particular interest or inclination towards something, it is also because of our mind. Our mind plays games with us. We erroneously believe that we can do something only if we like doing it. We think that we cannot give our best if we don’t like it. We read or listen to famous speeches by Steve Jobs, which tell us to simply follow our passion. And by passion, it means what we like doing. There isn’t anything wrong in it. It’s good if we know what we enjoy doing. But the problem is that it also gives a message that if we fail at something, then we easily blame that we did not like it, and so we failed. We think that it wasn’t my passion and so I failed. Then, we search for another interest or passion, and then another, and keep doing this. We give aptitude tests and the test results tells us something. But our mind tells us that it might not be what it likes. We look for the right job, right partner, right environment, and we rarely find it. As Steve Jobs reminds us in his speech, that he was incredibly lucky, but all may not be fortunate as he was. Then we get confused, and we waste our time in life. This attitude is a real problem.
The idea of ‘Do what do love‘ depends a lot on our mind. And the fact is mind never stays in the present. The mind easily gets influenced by past experiences or future outcomes. Like for example, if someone tells us that by learning a particular skill, we can become rich quickly, then we start liking it. But if that same skill becomes outdated or doesn’t make us rich, then we lose interest in it. Hence, our passion, our liking, our interests depends on a lot of factors such as social status, past experiences, peer pressure and future gains.
‘Do what you love‘ represents a rebellious attitude as well. Maybe, that’s why it suited Steve Jobs and his charisma. This is because we then tend to select only those things which we think we like, and discard the rest to be unworthy of our talent. Though this might make us focused on a specific skill, but often the parameters to choose the subject of our interest are based on our limited understanding of the world. As mentioned, if social status or money makes us select a particular profession as our passion, then it certainly won’t be our true passion. Also, the age to become aware of our passion is usually either during teenage or early adulthood. And the problem lies in the fact that our experiences about life, our knowledge about self is usually very limited until that age. It is more common for peer pressure or career aspirations as conveyed by society to act as a catalyst to influence our decision making.
On the other side, ‘love what you do’ is more accepting and not rebellious. It makes us start liking things that we do. It does not depend on the rewards or end result to be gained from the action. If we simply love what we do, then we do not care about the final result. Because it is the action which give us joy, and not the fruit which happens in case of ‘Do what you love’. Though both seems to convey similar idea, but the approach of looking towards it is different. We are more free when we love what we do. We do not depend on the societal expectation or peer pressure. We have more options and many times, in the world, it is not always a luxury to select the kind of work we might have to perform. When we have a ‘Love what you do’ attitude, it gives the confidence that we can do anything in this world. Nothing can stop us. We have the capability to achieve anything. We come to an understanding that in this world, everything can be achieved, and to do that, we need to put efforts. And efforts can only be put once we have to aptitude to like it. And the most important thing is this aptitude can be developed by this principle of ‘love what you do’.
For example, during the war, no one likes violence. But the soldiers are made motivated to fight and kill the enemy. They are inspired to love to fight and kill, even if they won’t like doing it. Because that is the need of the hour. Similarly, anything can be done, if we convince our mind about the importance of doing it, and why doing that work matters. That’s all is needed to make things work, and with this attitude, anyone can move mountains!
Hence, it is better to ‘love what we do’ which will keep us inspired to keep working, and with consistent efforts, we will get what we want.
Finally, even Steve Jobs came to this understanding as expressed through his 2005 Stanford commencement address, “And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
2020 will always be remembered in history as a year which changed the geo-political game of the world. Covid-19 has not only changed the way we look at the world, but also transformed the relations between different countries in the world.
Before 1991, the world was roughly divided into three parts. The first world consisted of United States with its allied nations such as UK, Canada, France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, Israel, Pacific oceania (Aus-N.Z), Iran( separated after Islamic revolution in 1979) and S.Korea. They formed the capitalist & democratic bloc with various organizations linked to each other such as NATO, Five Eyes etc.
The second world were lead by former USSR/Soviet Union with its satellite countries ( known as Warsaw pact), and other nations like China ( split after 1970), East Germany, N.Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and Afghanistan. They formed the communist bloc with socialist government.
The third world was also known as the Non-Aligned movement (NAM), and while they were not officially part of any group, but still more or less remained close to Soviet Union, due to their history of being colonized by the first world countries ( primarily UK and France),and hence guided by their common struggle against colonization (Africa) or economic imperialism ( in case of South America where USA controlled the economy of these countries). They were India, Egypt, Middle eastern countries including Palestine, few South American nations, and Africa. They were either democratic or ruled by monarchy or military dictatorship.
And everything changed after 1991. The former Soviet Union got dissolved and its satellite countries got closer to the West. Russia lost the superpower status. The third world countries had to align towards United States for economic support. The world became unipolar, with USA being the sole superpower. The 1990’s years were some of the finest years for USA and the West. The world thought that all the conflict in the world had ended, and experts like Francis Fukuyama called the time as the “The end of History”.
But things changed after 9/11. United States became involved in Afghanistan and Iraq ( due to Bush family’s past history with Saddam Hussein), and this involvement changed the entire geo-political scene. Meanwhile, Russia which had seen some of the toughest years during 1990’s decade under drunkard Boris Yeltsin started seeing change under Vladimir Putin. China since Nixon’s visit in 1972 had drifted away from former Soviet Union and under Deng Xiaopeng’s leadership started trading and manufacturing for USA and the rest of the world. It quietly watched the collapse of Soviet Union and America’s involvement after 9/11. Meanwhile, it kept itself busy by increasing its manufacturing share and making its deep pockets deeper. But it also made sure its technology is developed, either by copying or stealing from USA.
And then the next pivotal event happened, which is the Great recession of 2007, and then the election of Barack Obama, America’s first African-American President in 2008. This sent an alarming signal to the world that things were slowly changing in United States, and its stand as a self-declared, undisputed superpower and world’s policeman role no longer stood strong. That is why Putin in Munich conference, 2007 famously remarked about the world changing towards being multi-polar. And during 2008 Beijing Olympics, China displayed its strength by competing with USA and showing the world, that the sleeping dragon had awaken.
The next few years until 2016 were some of peak years for international liberal order. United States became more liberal than ever, and the American public became tired of America’s over-involvement in the world affairs. This marked a new period during 2010’s decade when other powers in the world started to rise up, particularly Russia and China. Russia annexed Crimea, and started yielding its influence in Ukraine. China started becoming more aggressive in the South China sea, and its ambitions flourished with the launch of Belt and Road Initiative, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and surrounding India with ‘String of Pearls’ strategy.
For India, however, the years since 1984 until Modi’s election in 2014 were some of the toughest years in its history. Indira Gandhi Assassination, Khalistan movement and anti-Sikh riots in 1984, Indian peace keeping force to resolve Sri-Lanka conflict and the subsequent assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, Shah-Bano verdict, Hindu-Muslim resentment, fall of Babri Masjid and 1993 Bombay riots, rigged Kashmir elections in 1987, expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 followed by Kashmir terrorism for the whole 1990’s decade, Kargil War in 1999, then Godhra Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002, various terrorist attacks during 2000’s decade such as Parliament attack in 2001 and Mumbai blasts in 2003, 2006 and the perilous 26/11 attacks in 2008. In addition to this, there were many corruption scandals in the UPA 2 government, and due to which the mass agitation happened in 2011. India suffered immensely for 30 years, and the only good events which happened during these 30 years were the liberalization of Indian economy by Manmohan Singh and Narsimha Rao in 1991, Pokhran nuclear bomb tests in 1998 and the fact that India survived and did not get shattered or split up like former Soviet Union. This was because of the strong and deep roots of democracy, belief in the idea of India, secularism and brotherhood amongst the diverse yet united people of India.
2014 marked the seminal year in the history of India. Narendra Modi got elected with majority votes, and thus the struggle of India finally halted. The later 6 years have seen tremendous changes. With a strong foreign policy, India conducted surgical strikes, twice!. With many policies like Make in India, Swachh Bharat, demonetization, GST, banning Triple Talaq, resolving long standing Kashmir issue with the removal of article 370, and Citizenship Amendment Act, India has finally made a comeback, however belated it may be. To challenge China’s aggression against String of Pearls, India has initiated ‘Necklace of Diamonds’ strategy. Also, India has become more closer to United States, Germany, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE to boost its trade and strengthen bi-lateral relations.
Just as 2014 marked the year of change for India, similarly 2016 marked the year of change for United States, when the USA and the whole world was shaken with the Brexit and unexpected election of Donald Trump. With Brexit and Trump’s surprising victory, the globalization based liberal order started getting on backfoot, and the more conservative, nationalistic driven approach started becoming mainstream. Trump changed the way the world looked towards USA. He reversed many decisions taken by Obama and prior administrations such as Iran Nuclear deal, Paris Climate Agreement, and pulled USA out of many organizations such as WHO, TPP, UNESCO, United Nations Human Rights council, and threatened to quit from WTO and NATO as well. This is a complete reversal of the superpower role played by USA since the victory in WW2 in 1945. No President has done so much changes during the first term, and this has caused troubles and resentment not only to the liberal order but also to the deep state which exists inside USA establishment.
Finally, the most recent event which years later will be compared similar to 1939 or 1991 is the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic which actually spread in early 2020 from Wuhan, China to the entire world. This pandemic (however the origin might be, whether accidentally escaped from lab or engineered one) has crippled the world economy. USA is the worst affected country in the world, with about 170000 deaths as of Aug 2020. European nations like Italy, Spain and Germany also suffered enormously in the early phase of the pandemic, and now, India, Brazil, Mexico are seeing the worst effects of this pandemic.
The pandemic changed the world view towards China. Until the pandemic, China transitioned itself from a poor, backyard communist country back in 1970’s to an economically developed, state controlled capitalist yet politically communist, ‘factory of the world’. But today, it is seen as a nation which not only poses significant threat to the United States superpower status but also is considered to harbor aggressive ambitions to spread its influence over the world, just like USA and former Soviet Union did after 1945. That is why, we see after the pandemic, China suddenly became more aggressive towards India regarding its border issue, and has yielded control on WHO as well. It is rapidly expanding its assistance to African and European countries amidst the pandemic, and looking at its history of capturing key resources in other countries by its ‘debt-trap diplomacy‘, it plans to do more so in coming future.
Today, the geo-political game has become more complicated yet interesting as never before. The world before 1991 was into three blocs, and from 1991 to 2007-08, it was only USA, the defacto superpower. But since 2008 Great Recession in USA and especially with Donald Trump’s election in 2016, the geo-politics started becoming multi-polar. And after almost 4 years of Trump Presidency, we see in 2020, the world is no longer looking towards USA as the superpower.
In the last 12 years after 2008, many events besides Trump and Brexit have also influenced the world affairs. The Arab Spring, killing of Bin Laden & start of Syrian Civil War in 2011 which lasted for the whole decade, election of Putin again in 2012 ( who continues to rule Russia as a new Tzar), Edward Snowden, Wikileaks and the whistleblowing of US spy program in 2013, Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the US-China trade war and killing of Iranian major general of Quds force Qasem Soleimani by US drone strike in 2020. All these events have altered the geo-politics on a large scale. Today, to counter the US and Western influence over the world, a bloc of group of nations have allied together ( some openly while other discreetly). They include Russia, China, Iran, N.Korea, Turkey and Syria.
The history of Russia with US has always been a game of tug of war to exert their own control over the world. Russia under Putin has emerged strong and has positioned itself a powerful leader in the Eurasian region. With abundance of Oil and advanced military technology, it remains a game changer for the events happening in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It is widely considered that Syria was actively supported by Russia, and this resulted in the Syrian victory in the civil war. Russia had seen its worst years under US controlled Yeltsin and billionaire oligarchs, and so today Russia does not trust the West. It looks like the 1990’s debacle with Russia was the repetition of Treaty of Versailles, and even though Putin wont start any world war like Hitler did, but the Russian mistrust of western democracy and predatory capitalism has positioned them to support Putin and a strong yet isolated Russia.
China on the other side is becoming like the next Soviet Union. With its consistent belief in communist ideology among the top political party cadre, and a burning aspiration to make China strong, and to never again face humiliation from the western countries and Japanese, China has risen up to make itself an aggressive nation. Even though it is true that China did face a lot of humiliation and persecution for almost a hundred years until 1949, and even after that, for another 30 years or so, the Chinese suffered hardships during Mao’s rule. But after 1979, China has reversed its fortune and made a stunning comeback with a strong economy. The western world silently supported China when it embraced capitalism, and they hoped that eventually China would accept democracy as well. But this never happened. Just like Russia follows a managed democracy, so does China follows a managed capitalistic model. But what makes China aggressive like former Soviet Union was against USA, are the stronghold of Chinese Communist party over economy, people, and its spread of China led institutions such as BRI and AIIB, which pose a threat to USA and western led institutions. Also, China fares worst when it come to humans rights and is known for spying and stealing from US, just like Soviet Union did. China’s support for terrorist nations like N.Korea worries the world, and it is because of China that these two nations have nuclear bombs. Further, China has supported Iranian regime, and this poses a threat for Israel, Saudi Arabia and US. Finally, the recent Covid-19 spread from China and its futile attempt to hide it from the world, have exacerbated the rift between China and the rest of the western world.
Iran, is another country, whose ideology and leadership makes the geo-politics more complicated then ever. Considered one of the best friend of USA until 1979, when the Islamic revolution happened, today, Iran continues to remain on the enemy list of USA. This is also because of the inter-dependencies of the middle east politics. The middle east as we today, was never united in history. The British and the French made attempts to unite this region on the grounds of religion. Later, the formation of the state of Israel gave another boost for unity of the Arabs. But Iranians are not Arabs, they are Persians, historically. And due to the practice of Shia Islam, the Sunni countries have never accepted Iran and its adherents/kafirs. Even among Sunni Arabs, there are many spheres of influence. But mainly they are three, which are Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. All these three nations compete to yield their influence over the region. Once upon a time, it was the Ottoman Turks who ruled through their Ottoman Caliphate, centered in Istanbul. But after the fall of Ottoman empire after WW1, Turkey became secular under its ruler Kemal Attaturk. But today, there has been a marked reversal in the Turkish policies. Turkey under Erdogan have championed itself as the new Caliphate and leader of Islam. That is why the Church turned Mosque turned museum Hagia Sophia and Chora Church is turned back to Mosque.
Egypt which had been influential during the British rule and due to Suez Canal, now does not yield much power, as it did back during its war against Israel. And after the discovery of oil and gas in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi royal family have become one of the richest in the world. But unlike Egypt and Iran, Saudi’s have not waged any war against Israel and due to its opposition to Iran, it continues to support Israel against Iran. Iraq under Saddam Hussein had become a trouble for middle east and Israel, which was duly taken care of by US, Israel with the covert support of Saudi and Iran as well (Iran and Iraq were enemies on grounds of religion). Hence, today in the middle east we see a Shia belt from Iran, Yemen, Syria to Lebanon ( with support of Hezobollah), which is against Saudi and its allies such as UAE, Israel, Bahrain, Egypt etc. And to counter Saudi influence, Turkey have started its own campaign to take back the caliphate it had lost to Saudis. The Syrian Civil War re-aligned the relations between middle east countries, and Syria with the support of Iran and Russia, won against the alliance which comprised of Saudi Arabia, USA, Israel, Turkey.
Thus, the world has become more complicated than ever. To understand middle east geo-politics itself is like finding a needle in the haystack. But just as the European affairs back in 19th and 20th century resulted in two catastrophic world wars, similarly this Asian conflict which covers from Russia, Syria, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia has the potential to evolve from being an Asian conflict to a world conflict. More to cover in next post. Stay tuned!
Recently, Apple Inc, made history by becoming the first company in the world to reach $2 trillion valuation. This is greater than the GDP of 180 countries in the world, which includes some major players like Russia, S.Korea and Canada. No company has achieved this in the history of capitalism. Naturally, Wall Street is happy and so are the proponents of the supremacy of capitalism and USA!
Indeed, Apple is one of the finest companies in the world. Its celebrated products such as Iphone and Macbook are revered worldwide. It is said that once we use apple devices, it is very difficult to replace them with any other ones. So much is the glamour, sophistication and cult-like following that makes Apple the world’s most unique company. Indeed, Steve Jobs legacy coupled with his charisma have dominated the world in making the brand Apple, the most trusted and richest. I wouldn’t be surprised if the kindergarteners today will soon remember Apple as a phone, and not a fruit!
Just like Apple, there are other behemoths and giants in the silicon valley, which also have risen like Apple ( will soon match the $2 Tn valuation) They are commonly known as Big Five in silicon valley. They include Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, in addition to Apple. All of them dominate ( they actually monopolize) certain products in their respective fields. Amazon in e-commerce, Google in search engine, Microsoft in Windows Suite software, and Facebook in social media. Just like Apple, each of them are so big that their competitors simply do not exist, or are swallowed by them.
This reminds me of the gilded age in America which happened during 1870’s to early 1900’s. It is surprising that a century later, all these companies have also formed a second gilded age since 1970’s to 2010’s decade. Microsoft and Apple are the oldest in this group, being formed in 1975 and 1976 respectively. Then, Amazon, Google and Facebook came in 1994, 1998 and 2004 accordingly. By the end of 2010’s decade, all five of them represent the America in the world. Before America was known for Ford, Mcdonalds, Coke, Harley-Davidson and IBM. But today, its just Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Amazon, that’s it!
Now, if we look back to the first gilded age, the five companies which dominated America were Railroads owned by Vanderbilt, Standard Oil, Carnegie Steel, J P Morgan bank and General Electric. The Vanderbilts were known as the “Commodore”, and dominated the steamship and railroad industry. The Standard Oil was formed in 1870 and made its founder John D Rockefeller, one of the richest man in America. He was quite notorious at that time, and eventually, his empire was broken with the Sherman Antitrust act. Similar story goes with today’s Microsoft which also had to suffer being a monopoly, and had to face antitrust charges in 1998.
Carnegie Steel (later US steel) was formed in 1892, and its founder Andrew Carnegie was revered for his philanthropy later. His company was brought by J P Morgan who was known as the banker of America. He is also known for his consolidation efforts just like Google has done today. General Electric was formed in 1892 as well and remained the backbone of the US electric industry. It was Thomas Edison who had revolutionized with the invention of incandescent light bulb, phonograph and early motion picture cameras. I find GE to be synonymous with Google of that era. This is because just as Google have revolutionized the information age with its search engine and bringing information at the fingertips, similarly the electric bulb and many related inventions such as AC generator etc shed light over darkness in those times.
Also, today just as Elon Musk have carved his name in the history as one of the greatest entrepreneurs with its legendary “Tesla” electric car company, so was the history created by Ford in its heyday in 1900’s and 1910’s, when he founded Ford Motor company back in 1903. Both stand as titans of automotive industry.
The historical context for both the times is synchronous. Before the first gilded age began, it was the Civil war from 1861 to 1865 which had shattered America due to the war between the Northern Union vs Southern separatists Confederacy. But after the war and assassination of Abraham Lincoln, things slowed down and the country started to progress. The next 30 so years became known was the most progressive years for American economy. As per Edward T O’Donnell, between 1860 and 1900, U.S. factory output soared from $1.9 billion to $13 billion, an increase of nearly 600 percent. By 1900 the U.S. boasted the most powerful industrial economy in the world. This is also known as the Second Industrial revolution.
Similarly, America saw the Civil rights and Vietnam war protests during 1960’s ( history repeats itself..), and with the assassination of JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, things again started to change slowly. Politics became sub-par and was replaced by the need for new industries and technologies. Thus began the era of computers, telecommunication, internet, e-commerce and later social media. Hence, this became known as the Third industrial revolution, or Information age.
Just as the captains of industry in gilded age had built mansions in New York Long island, Rhode Island and even the famous Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, today we see similar mansions in Bel Air, California and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, known as the home of billionaires. The first gilded age led to the enormous development and wealth creation in New York, so did this new age bring in Silicon valley and Seattle.
The economic inequality also is seen to be repeated during both the times. Never before had so few people accumulated such vast wealth in such a short span of time. Industrialists like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie and financiers like J. P. Morgan and Jay Gould amassed stupendous fortunes. By 1890, the top 1 percent of the U.S. population owned 51 percent of all wealth. The top 12 percent owned an astounding 86 percent. The lower 44 percent of U.S. population—almost half the country—owned just 1.2 percent. Today, according to the Washington Post, the wealthiest 1 percent of American households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth. While the top 10% represent 70% of all US wealth. Though this is still better as compared to the first gilded age, when the richest were called “Robber-Barrons”, but still the inequality is wide enough to be concerned of the over-domination of these few silicon valley moguls and the riches they have acquired.
Though the ways of wealth creation have changed and it would be unwise to compare today’s silicon valley entrepreneurs with the robber-barrons. We see more philanthropy being done by today’s billionaires then ever. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have started foundations to donate vast amounts of their wealth for the concern of third world issues such as poverty, education and environment. But still, both the age industrialists brought enormous change in the American economy. Even though John D consolidated his empire by grabbing and capturing all the competitor oil companies, but this brought down the oil prices and common people could afford to use refining oil. The price of oil came down from 58 cents to 8 cents a gallon from 1865 to 1885. John D wrote to one of his partners “Let the good work go on. We must ever remember we are refining oil for the poor man and he must have it cheap and good.”. Though this cannot stand as excuse for his ruthless predatory capitalism to destroy his competitors, but on a wide scale, it helped the people and economy. Same can be seen today. Not many years back, we had to pay for calls and messaging service. But with Facebook and its acquisition of WhatsApp, it changed the entire picture. Today, we can have audio, video calls and messaging ( commonly called “WhatsApping”) entirely free with high quality service. Even though facebook is seen as a monopoly, but this consolidation has helped people to save money.
We can also see the emergence of both the gilded ages brought in huge influx of immigrants from abroad due to rise in economic wealth, new employment opportunities and development of technology. The immigration from Europe was the highest during 1900’s, at the peak of gilded age. Same can be seen today, when the need for skilled & cheap labor led to large scale migration of software engineers from India and China since 1990’s decade. Also, we see that due to this large migration, the locals suffered from job loss and which thereby led to anti-immigration sentiments in 1920’s, and same has happened recently with the election of Donald Trump in 2016.
Finally, there are both advantages and disadvantages of the gilded age. The positive outcomes seen during both the times are the development of technology rapidly, with job creation and making America the leader of technology in the world. They had ameliorated the standard of living and also led to a new generation of entrepreneurs. We see that all the silicon valley moguls from Steve Jobs to Elon Musk, came from humble backgrounds. Same had happened during the first gilded age when most of the captains of industry like John D and Andrew Carnegie were born in poor families. So, this proves that America has always provided the opportunity for an entire new generation to rise and become the richest using technology and innovation.
But this happens only for a specific time period. We see that 1870’s to 1900’s was the time when the room for new businessmen and industrialists was the highest. But after 1910’s, when the economy became over-dominated by these handful of companies, it became almost impossible for new industrialists to venture out. Hence, we see the deacdes from 1910’s to 1960’s were mired with too much corruption, poliitcs, mafia and world wars as well. Ofcourse, the world politics had also changed a lot after 1910’s. But we see that the golden age of industries which existed during 1870’s till 1900’s did not last later.
Then, it was only from 1980’s again that the opportunity and room for new, fresh entrepreneurs was created. And so this time was cleverly captured by Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg etc to establish industries and dominate the business. And now after last 4 decades of over-domination by these companies, we see there is not much room for new and innovative companies to dominate. Either they will be buyed out by these giants or they will become extinct due to monopoly and competition. That is why we see no competitors for Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple in America.
Hence, we see that even though both gilded ages follow the underlying concepts of free capitalism and markets, but their domination leads to predatory capitalism and monopolized markets later. And the same is happening today! The rise of economic inequality coupled with job loss, stiff competition and reduced wages are all the after effects of this new gilded age. There is nothing wrong for the companies to innovate and prosper, but the over-domination and monopoly is bad for the economy and people. Maybe, just like the wave of socialism and communism ushered in after the first gilded age, same might happen in coming years when a new wave of socialism might emerge! Time will render all the answers….
Taking decisions has always been one of the most complex actions. When we take certain decisions, we hope that change will turn out to be a good one. But in reality, we also fear that this doesn’t happen always. We hope for the best things to happen, and try to avoid the obvious risks and difficulties. But still, even the best thought decisions sometimes take us on the other side of the course.
However, we should not fear taking decisions. It is said that just like public speaking is the most dreaded action for most of us, similarly taking decisions and facing its aftermath is equally feared by many. Naturally, human tendency is to stay safe, not take risks and be stable in life. This comes out of concern for the family, societal expectations and the uncertainty in future. Generally, any changes impacts the state of our family. It might even bring certain vicissitudes in life. But with the supportive family, this can be overcome. I feel the more pressing inhibitor in taking decisions and embracing future challenges are the societal expectations. In Hindi, we call it “Log kya kahenge”, which translates to “What will people say”. Yes, even though we prefer individual freedom and liberty, but this societal impact has not vanished from our life. Maybe our social genes still play a role to cater this need, or it is not in the best interest to stay on the barren grass, when our friends and colleagues are on the greener side!
So, what happens is we prohibit ourselves in taking the decisions which might alter our lives ( good or bad), and try to stay on the regular path which the whole world is following. Only few risk to break the society created shell and venture out on their own path. One of the famous examples is Elon Musk, who inspite of earning millions in the dot.com bubble during 1990’s, bravely decided to start companies in automotive, solar and space, where no one was investing, and these paths were considered more so a failure. But Elon was stubborn and he not only withstood the 2007 recession but also had to live in basement for a while when he was unable to pay his rent. As it is said that the fortune favors the brave, so did Elon soon climbed the ladder of success with his world famous companies, Tesla and SpaceX. He certainly must not have thought about societal expectations, or family comfort as well. But he only truely believed in his passion and determination to make his companies successful. That’s the true spirit of an entrepreneur!
Hence, it would be unwise to be afraid to take decisions out of uncertainty about future as well. As no one knows what the future is going to be, and the only thing in our hands are our efforts and perseverence to stay firm on our decision. Ofcourse, sometimes it is prudent as well to modify certain decisions if we cannot see any worth in it. And so it is generally advised that a lot of thinking needs to be done before taking any decisions. But once well thought, then we should not hesitate in taking those decisions. Also, it is not good to modify it often. Because the fruits of our efforts takes time to ripe. Patience is a virtue in this arena. But more than patience, it is the commitment and belief in our efforts that matters. Whatever the decision may be, our efforts and belief that it’s gonna happen eventually does make it happen. Ratan Tata famously says
and Bhagavad Gita guides us with the verse“कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन। मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥” The meaning of the verse is—You have the right to work only but never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction. Hence, it is the law of nature what “As we sow, so shall we reap”. If we truely believe in our passion, and in our efforts, then we need not worry of its consequences. Hard work never gets squandered. Also, with that iron-willed determination, the result will always come, as we intend. That is why Edison mentioned that the harder he worked, the more luckier he got. Hence, taking decisions should not be feared. Even famous industrialist Neelkanth Kalyani remarked that risk taking is the most important skill in business. The problem is not in risk taking, but associating risks with failures. Also, taking uncalculated risks is foolishness. Infact the famous investors often take risks in which they have insight and confidence of its outcome in future. Either, we can have the vision of that field with our years of experience and knowledge, and then taking decisions yields greater percentage of success. Or if we lack the insight, and still decide to take the risk, then we ought to firmly believe in our strength, efforts and stay on the path, let whatever be the outcome.
Hence, if we find ourselves in a situation where the metamorphosis of events and situations happens beyond our understanding, then with the belief that things will work out all OK at the end, we should simply “Just do it”
I recently read Peter Buffett’s book “Life is what you make it” . After reading the book, I found it to be a very interesting and insightful book. First of all, I was not aware who Peter Buffett was. This is because he introduces himself as being a musician, composer and author. Later did I find out that he is also the youngest son of the legendary investor Warren Buffett. This not only raised my eyebrows but also surprised me of the humble attitude and unconventional career selected by Peter, considering his father’s legacy. Ofcourse, this is perfectly fine as everyone has his/her freedom to choose and to practice any profession. But we live in a world where nepotism has become the abiding law( especially in India) and only few people like Peter dare to venture out of their own inspite of the riches laid before them.
I found the book to be somewhat a mixture of Peter’s experiences in life and based on this, he has expressed his philosophy of life. He certainly credits a large share of this wisdom to his parents, and his cultured, mid-western upbringing. He has shared how his mother and father instilled in him a sense of self-respect, work ethic and independence since childhood. The kids were given a fair share of money after they turned 18, and were told not to expect anymore! Peter mentions how he foolishly spent the entire money and shares ( which today might have been worth of millions). But he does not regret about this, and has learned about value of money and life from these experiences.
Peter further adds his understanding of life, and how one should be committed in life to achieve anything. He has illustrated multiple examples of his father’s achievements and the way he achieved them. Even though he comes from a distinguished family, but his life does not reflect any thing even close to a spoiled rich kid. Rather, his simple living coupled with hardships he had to endure to gain recognition as a musician and composer is very exemplary.
He mentions commitment in life as a vital ingredient for tasting the food of success. In his book, Peter writes “Commitment moves the world. It both powers and heals us; its a fuel and medicine together. It’s the antidote to regret to apathy, to lack of self-belief. Commitment batters down closed doors and levels bumpy roads. Commitment begets confidence and also justifies confidence. Commitment enlarges our efforts by drawing on those deep down resources that lie fallow until we determine to discover them and use them.”
I really liked his emphasis on commitment, because it is indeed one of the most lacking aspect in life. Today, we see excess of goals and desires, but lack of commitment and consistency to achieve them. Surely, Peter has seen his father’s commitment in life, and this must have inspired him to accept the importance of commitment.
Adding further, Peter writes “Until one is committed there is tendency, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now”
The gist of the book can be summarized in Peter’s words “Life is what we make it, and part of succeeding lies in breaking through to a clear understanding of what our own success should look like. No one else can tell us how to measure or describe it. No one else can judge whether we’ve reached our goals or fallen short. The world can throw rewards at us, or can withhold them. That’s the world’s business. But the world can’t judge the fundamental value and legitimacy of what we are trying to achieve. That’s our business. The success we define for ourselves is the measure that cannot be tarnished or taken away”
Thus, I would recommend reading this book as it not only conveys the philosophy of life, but also makes an educative read. Peter’s life stands as an inspiration for us to stay committed in life, and inspite of being privileged to live a fairly secure life without any dearth of money, he chose to carve out his own path in life, and has been living a dignified and satisfied life. He did not chose to simply follow his father’s footsteps, but with his courage, and self-realization, he has stood aside from all the glory and fame, and found his true passion in life, which is music. Men like Peter Buffett are rare, and even rare are such books of wisdom!
Peter ends his book by the following words “So, in closing, I will say to you the same thing that I have said to myself a thousand times. Your life is yours to create. Be grateful for the opportunity, seize it with passion and boldness. Whatever you decide to do, commit to it with all your strength…..and begin it now. What are you waiting for?”
It is said that flowers are one of the nature’s most wonderful creation, just like women. As women have the most unique characteristic to give birth and become mother, so does flowers play a vital role in our life too. They are not only beautiful but they also make the world beautiful with their fragrance and beauty, in abundance! We often give flowers to our loved ones as a gift, be it during valentine’s day or when a husband ties the jasmine garland in his wife’s hair. The feeling of love and trust exuberated by the flowers has no parallel with any expensive gifts or jewelry.
Flowers show simplicity, and that makes it valuable. Though they are not that expensive ( depending on the flower though, but most of them are not), but the message of bonding they bring along cannot be denied. It does not matter what of kind of color the flower may be, red, yellow or white. That’s why even in all religions, we have the tradition to shower God with flowers, be it in temples, or in Dargah’s or in church as well.
Beyond this practical wisdom, flowers do have a lot more to express. It is said by some philosopher that if he had some money in his pocket, then he will spend the half of it to buy food, and spend the half of it to buy flowers! Because the food will keep him alive and the flowers will tell him why to stay alive! Indeed, flowers do share this wisdom for why life is important and what is important in it. We all are aware of the life’s never ending problems, and everyday is new one. We are often bombarded by the media and internet of the wrong happenings in this world. We very much get bored with the same kind of work we do and find ourselves stuck in a perpetual cycle of worries and conflicts.
But, a flower blossoms from its bud everyday, and never stops. It’s blossoming does not depend on the viewer’s appreciation. It simply does its work. Doesn’t it guide us with the wonderful principle of working without any expectation of fruit or outcomes. We often work with the end result expectation, and if we know our work is not going to get appreciated, then it becomes difficult for us to continue with the same momentum. But the flower performs beyond expectations!
People plant flowers in their gardens, and then know and appreciate the beauty of flowers. Usually, the famous flowers which are used everyday such as roses garner the admiration. But what about that rose which blossoms in the forest? As rare as hen’s teeth, it will be difficult for anyone to even know its existence. But still there are several beautiful flowers out in the wild forest, and they still blossom without any of our praise. Similarly, this is analogous to the fact that there are so many people in the world who work hard silently, but do not get any praise. There are many people who work quite inconspicuously, and due to which the show goes on! Be it the hard working doctors and nurses who are fighting against Covid to treat the patients, or be it the delivery men and women who handle millions of deliveries all over the world, when people like us simply order online. Even our mother always works hard for her kids to grow up and become successful. She does not even take any pay for the house work such as cooking, cleaning which she has to do 7 days a week for the whole year. In these modern days when a single paycheck isn’t enough, she even has to do her job for supporting the family. Our mother and all the people who work on the background to keep the world moving, are truely “the flowers in the forest!”
Also, a flower in the forest can also be related to the usual tendency of men and women to ignore/take granted for the loved ones and go after the unloved ones. Yes, this is ironic but don’t we assume people and relationships where we are 100% sure of them, and start taking them for granted. One of the legendary Marathi author P L Deshpande humorously said that “Prathamdarshani premala Dvitiyadarshani utara asto”. It means that after love at first sight, it starts reducing from the second glance! This is unfortunately true, because the people who love us often end up last on our list. We take their trust for granted and assume that this will continue forever. And so they become like the flowers in the forest, who are blossomed with their display of love and trust for us, but we are lost in the forest of our worries and pleasing other people (who in reality are not worth the attention and praise), and we tend to forget our loved ones at the end. Hence, it is written by a famous historian Will Durant in his biography that “What villains we are, that only the forbidden or withheld is sweet to us, and the most generous woman is soonest left unloved.”
Of course, it goes along fairly well on both sides. Will had written it back in 1920’s from the perspective of the male dominated world. But today, with equality, we see that this becomes gender irrelevant. Even few men & women become like the flower in the forest, and wonder what went wrong in their relationship, when he/she had all the talents and worldly accomplishments like education, wealth etc but still his/her river of love could not meet the ocean! Sometimes, it become agonizing for few of them due to breakups, and they even end up committing certain acts which was least expected from them. After all, they just wanted to get a recognition and acceptance of being a beautiful flower in the forest by the other equally beautiful flowers in the garden, isn’t it?
Well, As John Lennon said through his song “Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.” We need to grow beyond the limitations put by the world, and ought to blossom in our own way. Just as a lotus grows in the mud, and still cherishes its own significance, so does we need to act on the problems in our life, and grow out of it. We cannot let the hidden lotus within us to submerge in the mud of problems. To grow out of it is its true dharma!