Saturday, 28 December 2013

A Common Man's Politics in India? A special retrospective with reference to the swearing in of the Executive Members of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi

Sitting before television set, looking at a live telecast of a New Chief Minister being sworn in as the Chief Minister of New Delhi, I couldn’t help but be pleasantly surprised! This is a landmark in history of the politics of not only Delhi but the whole country! The zeal and zest could be seen in all the party supporters of the AAP party. There was a palpable atmosphere of  excitement in the air, and everyone was talking about change, an end to corruption. The Common Man’s Party seems to have been formed of ordinary, common people from every day life. What appeared to me most unique about this party was the decision of the C.M. designate, Arvind Kejriwal's decision to travel by Metro to the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi for the swearing in Ceremony.  Somehow, what has marked this party distinct from the other two major parties, the Congress and the BJP has been its ability to identify itself with the common man and his problems. The Aam-Aadmi Party seems to be committed to address the problems of the common people such as inflated electricity bills, insufficient supply of potable water, and overwhelming stranglehold of corruption.
The lesson to be learned by all the National Level parties  for  the forthcoming General Assembly Elections, is that the chances of success will depend on how well their manifestos have been linked to the  problems of the common man! To quote from the Film, “Chenai Express” Shahrukh Khan’s words, “Don’t underestimate the power of the common man!” Seem to ring true! The events taking place in Delhi today, the swearing in of a most unlikely candidate and and equally unlikely party stands testimony to the common man’s hunger and desire for change. With the common man being fed up with nepotism, corruption and rising prices, one can’t predict what will happen in the 2014 General Assembly Elections.
I very strongly believe that there have been a large number of factors that have fuelled this uncontrollable desire for change in the common man. The promotion of the Firebrand young man fighting for the rights of the common man, the young man fighting corruption has been the reason for the success of various films like “Naik” and another milestone revolutionary film, “Rang De Basanti”. One can only wonder whether it is films that make the society or the society that makes the film. The fact is that Indian films and the society are so closely linked that watching of films should be an important task for all politicians. In the film “Naik” the angry young man Anil Kapoor takes on a corrupt Chief Minister, Amrish Puri as a reporter conducting an interview. The battle hardened Chief Minister is unable to answer some of the questions posed by Anil Kapoor and loses his cool. In a challenge, Amrish Puri challenges Anil Kapoor to become the Chief Minister for one day. What happens thereafter is filled with drama. The movie, “Rang De Basanti” voiced the disgust of the Indian youth with the corrupt system of governance. It was a call for revolution, a Gandhian form of revolution against a cantankerous system although it promoted a non-violent form of protest and revolution which is evident in the way the people of the Aam – Admi Party have promoted themselves before the people of Delhi.
The winds of change started blowing from the very land of the Pharaohs in Egypt. Ousting of Hosni Mubarak who had ruled Egypt for decades due to protests by common people at Tahrir square was bound to have repercussions all over the world. Birth of the Jasmine Revolution, its impact on the middle east, including Syria, the ousting of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya were all the result of common people being fed up with dictatorships, corruption, and government policies which didn’t address the common man. The winds of change reached India in the year 2011 when “Big Brother, Anna Hazare” launched a nation wide reforms against corruption and a demand for the Lokpal Bill to be passed by the Parliament ( Check out my earlier posts, links given below  ). That was a year when I had the opportunity of joining the St. Thomas School at Jagadhri as its principal, and I had to spend a lot of time in explaining to the staff of that school that change was in the air , and that they couldn’t afford to be complacent within their shells believing that nothing would happen to disturb their lazy and complacent lives. Jagadhri being in the interiors of Haryana, about 250 kilometres from Delhi, the teachers felt somehow protected from reforms taking place in the field of education. The swearing in of the the New Chief Minister of Delhi is proof that change has finally caught up with all of us, and no one can be free from it whether one lives in the backwaters of Haryana or the NCR region of Delhi! I would like to reiterate what Shahrukh Khan said the the Movie “Chennai Express”, “Don’t Underestimate The Power of the Common Man”! Thus you have today a ruling party in Delhi which is made up of common people from all walks of life and not just career politicians!
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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Celebrating Christmas Week at the Church of the Epiphany, Civil Lines Gurgaon–A Retrospective

Nativity Play
The week immediately preceding Christmas Day was filled with a host of programs and events at the Epiphany Church Gurgaon. One of the high-points of our celebrations for the Christmas week included a Nativity Play by the Sunday School Students and the Play-way Nursery school students on the twenty-first. What made the Nativity play most unique was the shadow play! Innovative in nature, it encapsulated the understanding of the tiny tots about the meaning of Christmas.
Mary and Joseph
The Christmas Bonfire took place the same day after the Nativity Play and the Customary Peanuts and Candies were distributed amongst all those who had gathered in the grounds in evening. After the Nativity Play and before the the Bonfire, we were Graced by the presence of the Hon’ble State Minister for Haryana, Mr. Sukhbir Kataria.
On the twenty-second we had the honour of having with us the well known singer of that famous song, “Sari Srishti ki malik tumhi ho” Rev. Tahira Haider Ali. She delivered a sermon interspersed with some of her well known soul-stirring numbers. It was a profound moment for all of us!
Christmas Service
The Mid-Night Service took place on the twenty-fourth and was from 11:00 p.m. onwards. I didn’t  attend the Midnight Service as I had planned to attend the Christmas Day service on the twenty-fifth. We attended the second service which took place from 10:00 a.m. onwards. The Church was packed with worshippers and the Presbyter in Charge, Revd. Sunil Ghazan delivered a wonderful sermon on Christmas.
Christmas incidentally is not just about buying and distributing expensive gifts. Some how people believe in partying till late at night, celebrating the occasion as if another one would never come again. The fact of the matter is that Christmas is not about revelry and merry-making it is about developing the Christmas Spirit in all Mankind. The Christmas Spirit is all about being Charitable and Generous in life; moreover it is about being more Forgiving towards others, because how can you expect to receive God’s Grace when you have hurt the feelings of your neighbour? Add to all this the need for Fellowship. Christmas is about Fellowship as it is Fellowship that leads to sympathy for others. Last but least, Christmas is about Service to all mankind. The Christmas Spirit should last all our lifetime and it is not just a few days!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Celebrations in Gurgaon

Come December and the air of celebrations is in the air, and Gurgaon is not an exception!Being a city with a multicultural, multilingual community, it is not surprising to see how well the shopping centres and malls are decorated. Many Christian families begin preparations for Christmas from the first week of December itself. The visit to Khari Baoli in Chandni Chowk is a must if you have to buy the Choicest of peels and stuff to be put in the Christmas cakes. The peels, cherry, and ginger are then soaked in Rum. This is so that the peels in the cake don’t go bad. The best shop in Khari Baoli is the BEADS shop, and the gentleman who runs the shop will guide you about the amount of peels required. But then to come back to Gurgaon, we can find all the ready made eatables from the bakeries in Gurgaon. I saw ready made plum cakes at the Sugar and Spice outlet in the Galleria outlet in Gurgaon.


This time when we visited the Ambience Mall for our Christmas shopping, we saw the tall Christmas tree attracting the glances of all the shoppers. At the base of the the tree, people were pasting colourful post-its with wishes to Santa.

The  atrium at Sahara Mall at MG.Road hosted  a winter scene with lots of snow.

And of course who could forget Mr. Snow Man?

Christmas shopping generally starts quite early, but then the week before Christmas Day is when some of the best offers can be had in terms of garments. Shoppers flock to their favourite outlets looking for last minute discounts and gift  options. This year as always, the city has been decorated with Christmas trees, wreaths and bells. Plum cakes can be bought from Harish Bakery, Samrat Bakery and the Sugar and Spice outlets.


Those who wish to attend Mid-Night Mass can visit the Church of the Epiphany at Civil Lines Gurgaon. This is a one hour service which starts at 11:00 p.m. and ends at 12:00 a.m. (just ensure that you are properly wrapped up for the weather, and yes, the likely fog). The more enterprising can go to the Cathedral Church of Redemption, Church Lane, New Delhi which is close to the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
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Sunday, 22 December 2013

Driving on New Railway Road, Gurgaon poses a serious threat to the safety of pedestrians and other road users

An increase in the number of motor vehicles on the roads of Gurgaon combined with poor  traffic management is posing serious threats to the safety of others road users, especially pedestrians. The large number of rashly driven Diesel Auto Rickshaws add to the chaos. The Traffic condition on  the New Railway road in old Gurgaon is a matter of concern. A lack of traffic lights, lack of speed breakers (On one lane) makes it risky and hazardous for pedestrians crossing over to the other side! To make matters worse is the problem of the parking of commercial vehicles on the side of the lane which has been clearly marked residential constricts the road even more! The New Railway Road is an important road that connects New Gurgaon and other sectors to the Railway Station. Imagine what would happen if this accident, the photograph of which I have pasted below had taken place during the day and not late at night? We were told that immediately after the accidents the two persons in the car scampered of never to be seen. I guess they would have to do a lot of answering to their parents. Yes, the car was a total loss, wonder what they were doing racing late at night, that too driving on the wrong lane? Parents, are you spoiling your children by giving them expensive cars to trash and allowing them to be away from home late at night? With New Year round the corner, drunken driving is bound to shoot up. One needs to be more careful while driving on the roads of Gurgaon at this time of the year, what with idiots and donkeys all around!
The impact was so great that the concrete Pole supporting the high tension electricity wires overhead was snapped at the base, and the boundary wall of a house was damaged. Imagine how fast this car was being driven to have sustained so much damage, and to have caused the concrete electricity pole to have snapped at the base. The car must have been doing more than a hundred and twenty kilometres per hour on a road where cars are meant to be driven at not more than forty kilometres an hour.
Gurgaon is bursting at the seams, and this is evident from the amount of traffic on the roads at any time of the day. Ironically enough, the hustle and bustle on the roads increases during holidays and weekends! The greatest problem is the lack of good road sense in people driving swanky and high end cars. It is funny how even those driving the humble hundred CC motorbikes like to zip and zoom as if they were being pursued by a hundred demons! With everyone driving like crazy, one wonders if the stress of driving on congested roads might not perhaps be affecting the ability of people to drive sensibly and with respect for other road users.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Yujan-2013, The Winter Carnival

This Photograph speaks volumes about the spirit of the moment!
The Winter Carnival of my school took place on the twenty-first of December. There was a festive atmosphere in the air, and what better moment it was for the school to end the year! A gala of events, performances by students who performed on the stage, Christmas Carols and the latest western numbers, as if this was not enough, there were a large number of food stalls that served exotic food. The students had worked very hard to set up game stalls. the school band performed with √©lan,  the vintage car attracted envious glances, and the light fog set hearts beating! What more could one ask for  at the end of the year? Without saying more, I have pasted below some of the photographs that I took on the occasion, for pictures speak more than words, and I am sure you will surely agree!
That was the stall that I was deputed to!
Of course, how could there not be my photograph? Although the student of Grade Eight could not compose the snap right cutting my left foot in the process!
The School Band Whipped up the hearts of all those present!
The Release of the Brochure by Mr. Vishnu Katrtik, the Senior Program Leader stands testament to the students of the Journalism Course!
This is a photograph of Shantanu, a Student of my Science section manning the EATHS Stall. This incidentally was a stall that dealt in environmental issues.
Shrey was there on the occasion and he looked after the fire safety requirements.
Shrey Chopra had insisted that I should have this photograph with the Fire Engine, so I obliged!
Last but not least was this wonderfully preserved Chevrolet car!

Friday, 20 December 2013

School in Jagadhri resorts to the crime of morphing

Look at the two photographs below and decide for yourself whether you might find the discrepancies in the two photographs. The first photograph is the original photograph and the second is a morphed photograph. Clues: look at the colour of the tie and the pattern and thereafter the colour of the suit and its pattern! It is unfortunate that well known schools resort to such practices. The doctored photograph has appeared in the magazine printed by the St. Thomas School  showing a person who was a mere teacher at the time of the inauguration of the multimedia lab of the School, Jagadhri. The funniest thing is that my photograph with the New Zealand team appears in the same magazine, taken on the day of the Inauguration of the Multimedia lab on  the page titled, 'Visit of New Zealand Delegates'! In that photograph I have put on the same suit as the imposter, and my two pens in the pocket, a Mont Blanc and a Parker Pen. The very act of morphing a photograph   is an example of a fraudulent practice which goes against the laws of Cyber Crime.Such actions of morphing are in bad taste and an assault on the individual freedoms of the victims. An insult to the dignity of the victim, such actions need to be condemned and action should be taken against the perpetrators! As it is the administration has turned a blind eye to the whole issue, and the magazine continues to be sold to the parents. In spite of pointing out the presence of this doctored image,(which any discerning person with some basic skills in photography and Photoshop will tell you is a poorly done photograph) nothing has been done till now, forget even an apology!

The morphed photograph is that of the second person from right, 
the only person with the tie, my favourite tie! You will notice the yellow tinge
 to the face, a hint that the face has been patched on to the torso.


Notice the tie on my photograph, first on the left. If you zoom on the photograph, 
you will notice that the tie is the same as the one in the morphed photograph! Notice 
also the two branded pens in the pocket of the coat.

The Second photograph will show you a photograph of me on the occasion wearing my favorite steel grey suit and my favorite black tie which the imposter in the first photograph has also put on! I wonder how degraded people can be resort to such mean deeds. I always wore two pens in my coat pocket and in the morphed photograph the person who doctored the photograph has copied all those details!  
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Sunday, 15 December 2013

Urban Myths and Legends-Are Superstitions a throw back on Race memories and instincts?

A couple of days back it was Friday the Thirteenth, and somehow or the other no one at my place of work even mentioned it as if the very act of mentioning the fact would somehow bring them bad luck! Somehow, fewer people  in India believe in Western superstitions and fewer people in the West are somehow even aware of the superstitions that people in India believe in. Take for example the Owl. The owl according to Western Culture is a symbol of Wisdom, but for people in India it symbolizes bad luck! The same can be said about a cat cutting across ones path ahead. In India this is supposed to bring bad luck, but then in the West, people would even bother noticing such an event! It is clear, from a superficial view that  most superstitious beliefs  are dependent on geographical and cultural factors.
That brings me back to the topic of Friday the Thirteenth. This is an Urban Myth associated with the Western Culture and has some links to the Christian Religion too. The number thirteen is supposed to be so unlucky by some people that you don’t have a thirteenth floor in most buildings, and similarly you might not have a seat numbered thirteen in a commercial aircraft. Why people continue in believing in such superstitions is beyond reasoning. Scientific reasoning and rationality suggest that their is absolutely no basis for believing in such superstitions as never crossing a path that has been crossed by a cat, or not stepping out of homes on Friday the thirteen. Somehow, it is race memories that are to blame for such irrational beliefs. If too many horrible incidents took place in the past on a particular date, then people begin to associate bad luck to that particular date. The only solution to such superstitious beliefs is education. In India where there is an auspicious moment for everything, it often becomes really difficult to move on in life without being really scared of something or the other. Take for example the belief that a person born on a Tuesday, a Mangalik will bring certain death to the spouse who is not himself or herself born on a Tuesday. Imagine the large number of people who remain unmarried their whole lives because of this superstitious fear of causing the death of their partners.
In times of extreme competition and stress and hard work, it is amazing how strongly superstitions and Urban Myths continue to hold sway on societies across the world. I guess, superstitions are deeply ingrained in the psyche of the societies all over the world, and these memories are difficult to remove, they are like the instincts that many of us are born with and are unable to explain somehow their workings. They are like memories engrained within our DNA, memories integral to our being human. While no doubt, Education could be a way of removing superstitions from the society, in some cases it can be a factor for promoting Superstition, take for example the superstitions associated with Friday the thirteenth. Very few of the less educated Indians would even be aware of the superstitions associated with this particular day, although once introduced to the idea, they would be more likely to accept it wholeheartedly because their own belief in auspicious dates for every thing.
To state that western societies are less superstitious than eastern societies would in itself be a very wrong assumption. Some of the most advanced societies can be as superstitious if not more superstitious than their eastern counterparts!  Which brings me back to the topic of Friday the Thirteenth. This is an Urban Myth or Legend that has been strongly ingrained in the Western man’s psyche. Intriguing connections between events, practices are attributed to ancient culture that mark Friday the thirteen as the unluckiest day of all! Katherine Kurtz in Tales of the Knights Templar ( Warner Books, 1995) writes: “On October 13, 1307, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests”. 
  “ LEGEND HAS IT: If 13 people sit down to dinner together, one will die with the year. The Turks so disliked the number 13 that is was practically expunged from their vocabulary (Brewer,1894). Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor. If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert Salvo all have 13 letters in their names). There are 13 witches in a coven.” -*
It is clear that most Urban Legends, Myths and superstitions all have a basis in historical events and ancient facts. One interesting assumption is that “primitive man had only his 10 fingers and two feet to represent units, this explanation goes, so he could count no higher than 12. What lay beyond that – 13 -  was an impenetrable mystery to our prehistoric forebears, hence an object of superstation.”-* The Norse god Loki was the god of mischief and when twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla, he gate crashed into the party bringing the figure to an unlucky thirteen! The same can be said of all superstations that prey over the minds of people in India.
Most superstitions are apparently very old superstitions those that have been with us since the times when our forefathers lived in caves. When these memories are taken up by people living in modern urban cities all over the world, they become  Urban Legends, thus a house where a murder has taken place will be shunned by all, and we continue to fear haunted houses. Each city has its own Urban Legend, like for example my father keeps telling me stories about how in the past, many years back, when he was a child living in what is now Gurgaon, Millennium City of Haryana, it was dangerous to give lifts to unknown strangers while travelling towards other villages. One of his uncles had narrated a story  to him about how one evening, while riding his cycle to Badshah-pur, someone asked for a lift and he obliged and the passenger sat on the Cycle carrier. After some time the uncle noticed that it was becoming tougher to ride the cycle. When he looked back, he noticed that the passenger had grown in size! There are many other superstitions that have become very much part of our culture today and you will see even highly educated people believing in them. Take for example the habit of stringing green chillies and lemons ad then hanging them before the gates of business establishments to ward off the evil eye and ensure prosperity-or for that effect, straightening shoes that are upturned, lest the upturned shoe should bring bad luck to their owners!
All that I can say as a conclusion to this article is that Fridays might be most lucky for some people, and the number 13 could be lucky for those people who according to numerology have birth numbers that include the numbers 2, and 4 as the addition of 1 and 3 in thirteen equals 4 and 4 divided by 2 equals two and 4 divided by the birth number 4 equals 1 both lucky numbers indeed! The fact of the matter is that however we might rationalize our superstitions, and beliefs in Urban Myths, there is no Scientific basis to any of these and they are to be taken with a pinch of salt and a smile! Certainly, they are quirky appendages of every culture and might have something to do with historical events and incidents that took place in the past-a throw back to our race memories, memories that have become ingrained deep within our psyche, a collective consciousness that is unique and distinct for each culture. Fact of the matter is that they continue to prey on our minds no matter how educated we are and at times need to be treated seriously. If a person goes into depression on a Friday the Thirteenth or he  believes that all his bad luck is because of his unlucky birth number, then obviously he would require counselling or even medical treatment. Unfortunately we have become slaves to habit and are easily fixated in our beliefs no matter what may happen to prove our beliefs wrong. It is ironical how most of these beliefs persist even in an age of scientific and technological advancement!
Should the reader be more interested in reading more on this rather quirky topic, the following sources might prove helpful:
·        Bowen, John. "Friday the 13th." Salon magazine, 13 Aug 1999.
·         Brewer, E. Cobham. The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. (1898 Edition in Hypertext).
·         "Days of the Week: Friday." The Mystical World Wide Web.
·         de Lys, Claudia. The Giant Book of Superstitions. New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1979.
·         Duncan, David E. Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year. New York: Avon, 1998.
·         Ferm, Vergilius. A Brief Dictionary of American Superstitions. New York: Philosophical Library, 1965.
·         Krischke, Wolfgang. "This Just Might Be Your Lucky Day." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 1 Nov 2001.
·         Kurtz, Katharine. Tales of the Knights Templar. New York: Warner Books, 1995.
·         Lachenmeyer, Nathaniel. 13: The Story of the World's Most Popular Superstition. New York: Avalon, 2004.
·         Lawson, Thomas W. Friday, the Thirteenth. New York: Doubleday, 1907.
·         Opie, Iona and Tatem, Moira. A Dictionary of Superstitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
·         Panati, Charles. Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things. New York: Harper Collins, 1989.
·         Q and A: Triskaidekaphobia. New York Times, 8 Aug 1993.
·         Scanlon, T.J., et al. "Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Health?" British Medical Journal. (Dec. 18-25, 1993): 1584-6.
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Saturday, 14 December 2013

Election Fever-India 2014

The results of the recent Delhi state legislative assembly elections in  have taken up rather comical proportions. One wonders if the two National  parties in the New Delhi  State Assembly Elections had been caught napping being so overconfident about themselves that they ignored the threat posed by the the Common Man’s party.  They have been so engrossed  in their own greatness and bound in knots based on  narrow principles. The two National parties, stakeholders in the running of the future Government of New Delhi   are now  so shy about staking a claim to make the new Government in Delhi because of not getting a clear mandate from the electorate.  It is a catch 22 situation because the mandate of the people has not given any one party a true win. The Rookie Party, the Common Man’s Party has somehow caused a lot of discomfort to the two major parties, a thorn in the side, which has become difficult to deal with. None of the three  major players in the just concluded elections is ready to form the Government because to do so would require  support of from other parties.  None of the three parties wants to form a minority Government  because there is no guarantee that the supporting parties might  not withdraw support mid-term, and this would give a bad name to any party that has formed a minority Government. History has shown how coalition Governments in the Indian context have rarely proved to be effective Governments, what with bickering about portfolios and positions awarded to supporting M.Ps. In such a situation no major party is ready to risk the shame of falling through mid way through their term.
Faced by the possibility of yet another  assembly election in Delhi, one wonders if having frequent elections is not perhaps a drain on resources, and whether the common man  does benefit from frequent elections at all! The prospect of having a Hung Parliament is likely to haunt everyone, politicians and common people alike! Confusion that has  been caused in the just concluded elections is an indication of the common man’s displeasure with both the major parties and a desire for change. This desire for change has been fuelled by a frustration with corruption, nepotism, and increasing prices! I remember listening to advertisements on F.M. radio exhorting listeners to mark the broomstick. Faced by such great symbols like Lotuses and Palms  one couldn’t help chuckling about the prospects of a party that had taken up so humble a symbol!This is exactly what the third rookie party had intended, to appeal to the sensibilities of the common man and show that this was a party that had the interests of the common man in mind, and not just princes, aristocrats and business tycoons! Like the case in Turkey, Egypt and in fact all over the world, what has happened in New Delhi is an expression of a desire for change in the common man, a desire for greater stability, freedom from corruption and rising fuel prices. I guess the lesson to be learned by all the political parties in India is that one should not ignore the sentiments of the common man!
Faced by the verdict of the recently conducted New Delhi state assembly elections, all the major parties need to do a re-think of of their policies and manifestos so as to appeal to the sentiments of the common man. To quote a dialogue from the film Chennai Express, one can’t ignore “the power of the common man!” The results of the New Delhi state legislative assembly elections will no doubt have a profound impact on the elections that are going to take place in the days to come. The forthcoming Lokh Sabha elections  or General Assembly elections slated for the year 2014 are probably going to see some interesting results! If the prices of LPG petrol and electricity are anything to go by, then these issues cannot be ignored by the national parties. Today, it is clear that the common man’s mandate is important for the formation of any Government in the country. Vagaries of economic slowdown, recession, and unemployment coupled with corruption and nepotism have proved to be major impediments in the formation of government in Delhi. The lack of a clear mandate is a pointer to the state of confusion that reigns in the polity of the country. National parties of the country need to take into consideration the fact that the common people are simply fed up of government policies and the attitude of the National parties towards the plight of the common man. National Political Parties can no longer afford to be complacent towards the mandate of the common man. Promises that are made only to be broken can only lead to the undoing of the chances of a major national party winning in the General Elections. Parties can no longer ride on the wave of sentimental popularity. Issues of communalism can also not be taken lightly in a nation that is built on the ideal of secularism! So then the election that took place in Delhi is a wake up call for all major political parties to gather their act and address the problems that affect the common man in the country. Unemployment, corruption, nepotism and rising prices are serious issues that can make or break Governments in the country. Where a singly party cannot command a majority, it becomes important for parties to put away their differences in Ideology for the sake of the common man and agree to set up a coalition government in Delhi. Inability to do so will lead to a period of what is called President’s rule in Delhi and the prospect of yet another election. The question is whether in this re-election the parties will be ready to relinquish the seat they have won in the state legislative assembly and start all over again.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Africa-A poem

Far away in the distance lies the mystical land of my birth,
Where childhood  pranks appear in dreams so vivid, while sleeping,
I see, Paradise , exotic animals and plants  that hold sway!

If I would ever go back to that land, would it be the one I knew?
For sure, dreams of childhood be firm in sleep but dissolve on waking!
Till now, have I but the luck to own the treasure  that dreams do make.

So do I see, a land where strange birds do take to blue skies,
And lions brave dare to share the roads with men, simply not fearing
Those with guns held like props that harm none!

A mystical world  with  veils of magic woven  into
The fabric of life, and happiness and  excitement by the morning
Sun brought forth, of something wonderful yet to happen!

Mornings do bring forth happiness and pleasure,
Afternoons  are reserved for tasks to be done , while the evening
Does promise restful sleep for men, and awakening for creatures strange!

So do my childhood memories do fuel a dream so rich, of exotic dawn
Of  African sky. A treasure-trove of riches beyond measure, reminding
Me of life with magic so great, where promises are so rich and fair!

Thus, do I view my share of dreams of a land of my birth,
One so mystical and exotic, where nature and man live in harmony, sharing
In the beauty of life, man, beast and flower as one!

In my dream saw I the red velvet spiders march forth in the rains,
And porcupines  that shed their quills, the roads turned to mulch, as slipping
And skidding we made our merry ways, laughing and joking!

A life so innocent and yet so informed about the truths of life,
Where every child knows  of  lessons of birth and death, nature teaching
Us   lessons of life, and the need to respect one another!

In a land of mysteries so fair was I born,
A treasure trove to fuel my dreams in days to come, remembering
The days when as a child I did partake in pranks so innocent!

But then, it was a world so rich that made the stuff of my  dreams,
A world to  treasure in times so  tense, where people competing,
Look for memories so rich, but alas, are  bereft of memories so fair!
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Monday, 9 December 2013

Happiness in the modern age according to Huxley

Life in the age of technological advancement has changed the meaning of happiness to an extent one could never have imagined before!  With the society undergoing drastic sociological changes, it is inevitable that our values also undergo changes. When my students ask me why they should read poetry,  it speaks volumes about how  interests have begun to change down the times. Poetry, in its purest form is now viewed as being superfluous and a hobby for those who are without anything better to do! The same may be said of the classics, Shakespeare is quaint, and Wordsworth was a gentleman who had enough spare time to write a poem about Daffodils, imagine writing a poem about Daffodils! Well one cannot blame our youth for their changing beliefs about the most desirable and valuable things in life.
The society is steadily moving away from the values and  moral values of yesteryears because of the fact that our lives have been very strongly affected by the technological advancements and the internet that are threatening to  turn us into the very machines that are at present serving us. With greater importance being given to a machine like efficiency, output, and infallibility, it is but natural that we should distance ourselves from the things that distract us from our duties and tasks! Take for example, religion, in a dialogue that takes place between the Savage and Mustafa Mond, in Aldous Huxley’s, “Brave New World”, the former asks the Controller if he thinks there was no God, and the Controller replies that, ‘In pre-modern times he manifested himself as the being’ described in the Holy Scriptures, while in modern times of Science and Technology he ‘ manifests himself as an absence’ In the  novel, ‘Brave New World’ by Huxley, God has been replaced by machinery, medicine, and happiness. The argument posed by The Controller is that the people in his world have no need for religion because they are no longer alone! In this rather brilliant book, Huxley paints a modern world, well ahead of his times where vices  such as those of promiscuity are deliberately introduced into the society so that people do not have the time to think of God. Happiness in the ‘Brave New World’ is brought out by regular consumption of ‘soma’-an intoxicant which induces a feeling of joy, happiness and well-being. With advances in medical sciences, no one grows old, and illness are all things of the past, so people no longer need to call upon God to pray for forgiveness!
The similarities between today’s world and the distorted world in Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ are somehow rather startling and they indicate a world which is based on the philosophy of conformity, a world which is spiritually sterile, devoid of poetry and  classics! Are we then headed to a world which frowns upon creativity, individuality, a matrix like existence where happiness is synthesized and fed to people to induce an artificial  sense of happiness? In a world that is steadily getting commercialized, we are steadily becoming victims of propaganda techniques necessary because we drive the economy through our purchasing power. The more we purchase, the more the economy grows, and being subservient to the greater well being of the nation, (where Commercialism is the new religion and the Economy is its disciple) we might as well forget about saving for the rainy day! The very idea of an egalitarian society, one proposed by Karl Marx in “Dass Kapital” seems to describe the very times in which we live. Capitalists and Imperialists might rant against Socialists and Communists, but the fact remains, ultimately they are all one and the same, and they believe in  a society which is egalitarian, a society where everyone is equal, (although imperfections continue to exist) with division of work being made according to abilities and capabilities. The impact of existing circumstances, commercialization, technology and globalization are all leading us towards a society built on the concept of conformism. To conform is to accept that one is not different from others and one is equal to others. This is a  society where there is no scope for individualism (as this would mean that you were trying to be greater than others).  Life in such a society would be highly claustrophobic(to those who like to profess religions, read poetry and even dream) because the very concept  of happiness is subjective and private  and in the ideal state this individualism is seen to be selfish and anti-society as a whole. So we are headed exactly to a Socialist and Egalitarian society where the state provides you with employment, health care, and your children belong to the state and even you belong to the state. This would be a world devoid of arts as art would be seen  would be seen as being detrimental and distracting to the process of nation building. Religion in its purest form would be seen as being quaint and fantastic, and so it would be relegated to the archives. The state would be the religion, the Chairman would be god, and his muscle-men would be his disciples. Of happiness, well your happiness would be subservient to the communities happiness and you have no right to be more happy than your neighbours because you live in a welfare state which cares for you so you owe it to the state to curb your happiness lest it appear to be a selfishness on your part.
The world today, is becoming more and more commercialized and this has resulted in the need to conform to the popular trends  imposed on us through propaganda techniques.  You need to change your one year old car, not because it is not advanced enough, but because it is good for the economy if you keep buying newer products not because you need them, but because market forces have created an artificial need for new products. A world that is being increasingly being driven  by market forces, where the purpose of life is to drive machine of Economy, individual happiness is steadily being driven by propaganda and as such is subservient to the common good. If religion and the classics are are  not good for the market, then it is but natural that they will be done away with, and this goes for creativity individuality and the very idea of thinking differently from others. If you don’t conform to the popular trends then you might as well be like the Savage in Huxley’s, ‘Brave New World’, an out cast who doesn’t fit in the society, a square peg in a round hole! For what right do you have to be unhappy or depressed when happiness is something that is provided to you in the form of ‘Soma’ pills to be taken at regular intervals? If happiness could be synthesized and swallowed as pills then surely the very meaning of happiness will have undergone a great change. But then, surely, isn’t the world headed towards this possibility, repulsive though it may seem?

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Those Impressionable Moments in Arbaminch-Ethiopia

One moment that is etched in my mind is the day in Arbaminch when I accompanied Keffne, a student of class twelve who stayed with us and ran errands to the market. There was a crowd surrounding a young man laid on the ground, naked to all appearances. He had attempted to end his life.  People  prevented him from doing so and had pulled him down from the tree where he had hitched the rope that was looped around his neck. Peering over I looked at him, a child of no more than eight years and saw that in place of his manhood was a prosthetic organ, blue in colour, attached to his abdomen by a square shaped patch, tan in colour. It came as a surprise to see such an organ so alien in nature and it was in that moment that I was filled with a sense of sadness that even today seems to fill my heart with emotions that I can hardly explain! A specimen of the ideal young man, tall and well endowed, he had been brought down by the tragedy that had overtaken all possibilities in life!
Somehow I could sense how he felt, and wasn't surprised when Keffne told me that he had been a victim of an attack by one of the members of the tribe of Gujjis who were known to cut off the organs of males so as to display them as trophies to prove that they were man enough to be eligible to get married. I had come across numerous stories about some of the students of the Arbaminch comprehensive school who had strayed off the beaten path and had their manhood hacked off, left bleeding on the road to die or be discovered by other people who promptly took them to the hospital in Shecha run by Danish doctors. Unfortunately, their survival would lead to a life of frustration and a desire to die since their manhood had been hacked away by members of a tribe who believed in an ancient custom which although it proved their prowess and eligibility to find brides, left their unhappy victims completely wrecked! It would have been better for the Gujji men to have killed their victims so as to prevent them from living a life  of ignominy and mental torture!
I remember the sight of Gujji tribesmen and women entering the town, tall handsome, hair braided in a shirubba, colourful beads threaded in their hair. They came to town to sell a rather rancid form of butter in boluses weighing roughly a kilo wrapped in banana leaves. They carried with them sharp spears and where often looked at without fear by the local residents in the  off marriage season. But then that day when I looked at the young man lying on the ground with a prosthetic for his real organ, I felt really sad for him. For the robbing of one’s manhood does leave one totally devastated, the knowledge that one will never be able to propagate in the future is one great curse and punishment that one can never wish for. It is unfortunate that this practice existed in some of the ancient cultures of Africa! One custom that I remember is of the custom of the men of the Gala tribe that used to undertake  task of jumping over the backs of a series of oxen to prove their manhood so as to prove their eligibility to get married to the bride of their choice.
I am sure that technological  advancement and the fruits of education have surely brought an end to such customs that led to serious injuries to the contestants and victims that came in the way of proving the manhood of suitors and eligible bachelors. But then, my mind still goes back to the plight of that young man who had the bad luck of being at the wrong place in the wrong time! Yes, in the year 1978 people in Arbaminch were still backward enough to follow such savage customs. There were reprisals by the people of the town when such incidents of castration took place, and some of the probably innocent women of the Gujji tribe who came to sell milk and butter bore the brunt as a result of being lynched and beaten up. Unfortunately, the militia and the police that controlled Arbaminch did not have much control over what happened beyond the precincts of the town, especially a few kilometres into the jungle.
I remember sneaking out of the school precincts of the the Arbaminch Comprehensive School during my free periods to forage in the forest that pressed on all around the school, fearing little of the dangers that it presented in order  collect some of the fruits of the jungle, beraha lomin, a sweet-sour fruit, and the seeds of a particular tree which tasted of creamy pistachios but when eaten in excess gave one the most horrible of hiccups! But then I guess that was another world, in any case I never told my parents who taught in the same school about my escapades otherwise I would surely have been given a sound thrashing! What made matters worse was that some of the most horrendous attacks by the Gujji Tribe had taken place just a few metres off the boundary of the Arbaminch Comprehensive Senior Secondary school. People to this day deny this practice of the Gujji Tribe of castrating young men and carrying off their trophies to prove their eligibility to claim brides, but then I know that it did take place because of what I had seen that day in the market place and what I had heard from my friends and teachers!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Do we need all those Exams?

The list of exams that students need to go through today from grade eight to eleven is mind-boggling and this comes in times of such intense technological advancement.  The powers that be, justify abolishing a single written  board exam at the grade ten level in India suggesting that it had led to  an unhealthy amount of stress in students coupled with  unhealthy competition! What has happened in reality is that that single written board exam has now become replaced by a myriad of exams, assessments and tests throughout the year. As if this was not enough, students of grades eight to ten have now to undergo four cycles of  Formative assessments throughout the year where each cycle carries forty marks. You need to have a minimum of three tools or four tools in each cycle! Whew! And students need to prepare for ASSET, DA, PSA, ASL,…etc, the list  of assessments along with their acronyms and abbreviations are simply mind-boggling!
From the poor student’s point of view, the whole year passes in a blur, a whirligig of assessments, all with  some of the most creative acronyms that one has ever heard of in one’s life! Today many students are so confused with the very idea of assessments that the moment they get a written assignment, they get into a ‘freeze mode’. A large number of parents lament that in many cases the projects and work given in the form of F.A. (formative assessment) tools have to be done by the parents themselves (whether they are in form of models, or research done on the internet). I have seen mothers writing up essays and articles for their children because their children were doing other important tasks!
Looking at the quantum of work the poor students have to shoulder as an excuse for not attempting a board paper at the end of the academic session has lead parents to wonder if replacing the board exam at the end of the academic session was such a good idea after all! To make matters worse, students do not have  exam skills to answer a written assessment and they find it difficult to finish even an easy paper; their handwriting has gone bad,and they can’t calculate mathematical problems like their predecessors did. If the ability of the Written Board examinations at the grade tenth level was bad in terms of assessing knowledge, aptitude, and quantum of learning in students, then the present slew of assessments is even worse because they can only add to the confusion of the student attempting them.
What needs to be seen is whether replacing a single standardized written assessment at the end of the academic session with a battery of tests and assessments is really a good idea after all. We were doing quite well before the introduction of CCE and CCA, then why was there a need to remove the board exams at the grade ten level? If it was  the issue of stress in students that prompted this decision, then I dare say that existing stress levels (which exceed previous stress levels) should be  reason enough for reverting to the Board exams of yesteryear! I suppose a new leadership in the country will be able to see through the demerits of exposing students to an unnecessary battery of tests of all varieties and forms!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

A Treasure Trove of Art

When students attempt to capture the essence of any art form and they succeed in doing a fair job, then it is the ultimate result of experiential learning. Simply teaching Fine Arts without making students touch, feel, mould and make the art form would be simply akin to rote memorization! Experiential Pedagogy does result in a better understanding of the topic or unit being taught.
When the students of my school presented a treasure trove of arts which this month, it was something which opened my eyes to the talent of young learners!The creativity and understanding of arts displayed by the students of this wonderful school (which believes in Experiential Learning)  has proved that pedagogy based on Experiential Learning  does help elicit the best in students! I was amazed to see the exhibits displayed in the amphitheatre that I couldn’t help but take a few photographs. The photographs are a depiction of how seriously the students of fine arts took their subject!
A picture can speak a thousand words, so how much can pictures speak? A Mural might depict an entire Epic in the most accurate form possible. This is perhaps also a good way of getting students to know more or our rich culture!
But then to accurately re-create an ancient art form is equivalent to showing an understanding of how the people thought and felt, how they lived, and probably how they worked. It goes without saying that Art transcends ages, castes, religion!Art in all its forms help us connect to each other.
Aesthetics and the theory of proportions can be learned only through working on an art form. In this case, this work, made creatively out of sandpaper all all about proportions:
Somehow, art forms seem to transcend Geographical boundaries and it looks like this depiction of the Trimurti might have some kind of similarity in the Latin American Culture?

Monday, 2 December 2013

People-A Poem

They march across the canvass of life, each one a distinct figure!
And I, the painter do paint each stroke according what I see, each figure,
A distinct colour in the rainbow that floats in the air, each person bigger
Than life told on the Canvass , each one a stroke of a brush bigger
Than the rest, of emotions and feelings a story of life writ  large!

We see a woman sunk in thoughts and wonder if she is happy in life,
Another steps on the stage, smiling with thoughts of going to a happy home,
Where he, the husband does give her the freedom to choose what she wants in life!
And we both, silent observers do see a canvass of people greater than life.

While one is sad, the other is happy, for what does life tell us but that we
Are but threads that woven into the fabric of life  so that we
Might see the  patterns bright and dull that build up a society that be,
But a fabric of life that  makes us be what we be!

We see one lost in thoughts so deep that wonder if she had lost the love,
Of one she chose, and another smiles like she’s found her love.
The young man roots in the dumps of life, for if love be true,
Then what do we do but share feelings so deep and true!

For we can’t deny that people are individuals with distinct beliefs,
Each one a treasure trove of emotions so deep! To believe that feelings
Do feed on what we see with a superficial eye  is but to ignore tender feelings!
And so I look on at people so profound, each one with unique and tender feelings!

While we look at the tapestry that passes me by, we feel that each human is but,
A unique thread in the rich fabric of life, and if they do seem different, but
Then can we dismiss them as people we know  not just? But our thoughts then,
Do delve deep into each one’s  that feelings we would know of sweetness then!

To dismiss each person as people is like believing that our responsibilities
Fall short of the duties demanded of us,  for do our responsibilities
Tell us to love each human being as our own, though unique threads in the tapestries
Of life.So cannot we dismiss each one of them as strangers!

Lovers on the road, so lost in themselves, their smiles would include only both
Of them, living in a world of fantasy, a world so exclusive both
So divorced from the world of reality that I would only let them be, both,
To live in a world of fantasy that would  gain them happiness both!

While we look at the tapestry that unfolds before me and pray to to the Good Lord,
To paint a picture of those who are not just people but children of the Lord!
For what right have we to tell them that they are not my friends in the Lord,
If they belong to another colour or religion-for each is dear to the Lord!

Sure they drift  across the street late at night,  souls with destination so lost,
And we step in to guide them so, but then fail to do so and accept that we have lost
Them to the god of money and fame. But then we believe we have nothing so lost,
That we should scrounge and weep before your self to get back a soul we lost!

And so we see those that will laugh for times to come and those that weep
Of sadness so profound, but then you can’t dismiss the one that would weep,
Of sadness and pain that would lead to pain that does peep
From a world that with sadness is filled for if ever, will hope so peep?

And my friends do tell me that people cannot but be dismissed as those,
We know just not! For each one does carry feelings so profound, those
That would curry an emotion so deep, for who are we to blank those
Thoughts  built on feelings deep, we think that they are kindred souls, all those!

But then you tell me that they are but people whom I don’t know!
But then, each one is a treasure house of feelings and emotions, I know.
For what does it matter if I don’t know their names, are we not a stream that does flow,
In one direction, with one purpose, for human are we, I know!

For if each one be a neighbour, that  we unite as one whole unit,
Humans are we and to help on another is our goal, a bit,
That we can do to further the humanness of us! Like a family that does its bit,
We are but one fabric of life, and we each do help one another do our bit!

So we  see, you and me, while one walks with a light spring in his steps,
The other gazes thoughtfully into the sky, with steps
Which, unsteady fall on ground, while yet another stops
To look with wistful eyes at the shop window decorated with props.

One bent double with fear walks homeward, awaiting the monster
Waiting for her while another woman with bright bangles on her
Hands, newly married, glides homewards to a newly marrieds' life!
All this while, two friends walk by chatting of after school life.

One girl with a heavy school bag slung around her shoulder
Stumbles on, the anxious student preparing for her
Boards, numbers flash in her mind of equations and vectors that her
Teacher had taught, while across the street children do skip and jump without care!

If then humanity be my song, should we ask for names of those
That walk the streets passing me by, but then those,
Are but mine own and to dismiss them as “those
People” would be an affront to my being a human being! For those
Are but my friends, and each one is part of the fraternity called humanity!

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