Nelson Mandela’s Birth Anniversary: My Tribute

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

Today is the 18th of July, the birth anniversary of an extraordinarily altruistic soul who walked the face of Earth with a purpose, a purpose to free a land that deserved to be free, free from the shackles of apartheid, from the boiling cauldrons of poverty and hate and to establish a nation whose central foundation exuded equality and righteousness for all.

Although volumes have been written about this man of great mettle and a leader of class, I’ve decided to pen down the five most admirable things about Mandela (though five is a very petty number) as a tiny tribute to the hero of South African struggle:

1. White or black, who cares? : The discriminatory practices which have prevailed in South Africa, based on meaningless ethnic differences, have been most appalling. The fact that this man had the courage to question the practice of Apartheid and to stand up to the generally oppressive and excessively domineering ‘whites’ does not only exemplify Mandela’s courage, but also gives us an insight into the perseverance and grit with which he led the anti-Apartheid revolution. Mandela teaches us how to take stand up for the things which need standing up, however difficult the circumstances may be. Being a coloured man does not discolour a person’s innate goodness.

2. Politics can be clean: For Indians, I know how unbelievable this statement sounds. Politics here seems to have become synonymous with uncontrollable corruption and can be rightly called the ‘exclusive art of money-making’. But the truth is, politics isn’t as dirty as we make it sound. Politics isn’t about booth-capturing and rigging votes, and bribing individuals with alcohol bottles. Politicians aren’t born crooks, willing to resort to the most preposterous practices so they can have their way. Nelson Mandela is clear proof. He has taught the world how politics is in fact people-centred, nation-centred and not blatantly money-motivated. Politicians don’t have to be white people with brimming bank accounts, a propitious family background and an international education. Politicians are people who can relate, and relate well – to the various groups of people on an individual level and also to the nation on a more holistic plane.

3. Altruism: Nelson Mandela was never in pursuit of individual success. It would have been much easier for him to succumb to the system and not raise his voice against it at all. But he felt for his people and could effectively empathize with their unjustified pain and suffering. His struggle was a culmination of the unnecessary grief the blacks were subjected to, and not simply because he felt discontent for himself alone. He fought not only for his people, but also for national integrity. He could envision a better, stronger, bolder nation, a nation where ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ could live in harmony with each other – a dream which many in those days wouldn’t dare to have. But even behind prison bars for years on end, Mandela was valiant enough to dream, and even more valiant to fulfill it.

StudentSpeak On Behalf Of Engineering Aspirants From India

The Indian Education system has constantly been receiving brickbats and critical commentary. While the bureaucrats and apparent educationists of our society defend our Education System with zest and make reassuring statements about how they will do ‘everything in their power to secure our futures’, the recent facts which have been emerging are honestly appalling. Although the point I am trying to make manifests itself at several levels, courses and universities of our country, I am specifically interested in highlighting the fallacies and more appropriately, the sheer injustice which can clearly be seen if one probes deeper into the case of the students who have appeared for the JEE exam in 2014 and aspire to be engineers.

I am aware that what I am about to write will probably make me sound biased and prejudiced, and may attract a lot of negative feedback from certain students, but I’ll put it very simply: No matter what you do, facts will remain facts. I shall make my intention very clear in the very beginning. I am writing this not as an article to merely sympathize with the CBSE students who are suffering because of ambiguous admission processes, but also to urge other students to understand the unnecessary complexities prevailing in our system and raise their voices, because we are in dire need of change. The JEE Mains Examination this year was held in the month of April, and students had the option of either appearing for it online or giving the written test. According to the admission guidelines, it was mentioned with resolute clarity on 4th March that fifty percent of the JEE marks and fifty percent of the Board marks will be taken into account while admitting students into various engineering colleges around the country. As it turns out, this initial proclamation has conveniently be altered to change ‘percentage’ into ‘percentile’, which doesn’t sound like a very major difference, but the repercussions have been enormous. This abrupt change from percentage to percentile was declared on 24th June. While percentage scores deals with the marks (out of an aggregated 100) that a student has secured in the examination, the percentile score indicates a student’s position relative to the other candidates who appeared for the examination. If my percentage is 98, my percentile can either be lower or higher – depending on the number of people I have outdone.

For most CBSE Class XII students, the differences in their percentage and percentile was hardly two percent. A student scoring 85% had a percentile score of 83. The strange thing which happened then is that all Maharashtra State Board students, who secured marks as low as 62-63%, were given a percentile of 86! This is pragmatically improbable because the State Board results have been glamorous, perhaps not as much as the CBSE results, but they most definitely haven’t been low enough to boost a student’s percentile so massively! I am nobody to pass subjective judgements, but anybody with a sound sense of rationality will get the drill here: There’s something unquestionably fishy. No, I am not anti-State Board students. But I am looking at this scenario from an unbiased point of view. This does not even affect me personally; I have studied Commerce and am now moving on to obtain my English Honours degree from LSR, New Delhi. But I feel for the student community who has to suffer unnecessarily and I am not in any corporate position to make decisions or pass judgements, but at least I can write and show my support.

PILs are being filed and students are drowned in incessant worry and agitation. While someday these young stars were hoping to make their country, school and families proud, all they can today is sit behind their computer and television screens hoping that the court passes a judgement in their favour. Is it fair that the future of so many students be thrown into angst and sheer jeopardy just because our admission committees cannot function effectively? Do students deserve to be subjected to this unfair admission process after years of single-minded focus and hard work? I think not, and we must stand up for them – because if we don’t, no one will. We aren’t asking for multimillion rupee scholarships here, we aren’t asking for new IITs and IIMs; All we are saying is be fair and give us what we truly deserve.

(Article idea inspired by Viraj Tambe)

Log Kya Kahenge?

Three words represent an all-inclusive term that has been ruining the future of Indian children since generations, three grossly stodgy words which have mocked at our youth’s dreams and aspirations in the most ineffable manner, three words to which the country’s children are compelled to give more thought to than anything else in life: ‘Log Kya Kahenge?’.

Although we hail ourselves to have embarked on a journey of perpetual progress on a plethora of levels, it makes me immensely unhappy that we have not been able to successfully do away with certain stereotypes. While we are looking for innovative young minds to propel us forward, we are smothering their very spirits by denying them the luxury to dream, to aspire, to fly into the future – simply because instead of listening to the voices of our own conscience and our hearts, we are often told to listen to the voices of other people, many of whom have themselves been victims of an irrational and biased ecosystem that withheld them from following their passions. The strange thing here is that people fail to comprehend the simple fact that our lives are our lives. We are the only people who will live with ourselves till our last breath, and as compulsively metaphorical it sounds, it is a statement to be understood in the literal sense as well.

Why should the Indian youth be forced to stick to prototyped paths and do things the way ‘everyone else had done them’, regardless of whether old ideas still remain to be valid in an increasingly progressive society and nation?  On one hand, our ministers, our teachers, the whole educational and intellectual class of our nation preaches of innovation and lucubrates the need for creative thought and on the other hand, we are mercilessly subjected to the banter of our numerous uncles and aunts, each of whom speak with such exuberant enthusiasm and animation that makes one wonder whether they are direct descendants of the great Charlie Chaplin: “Aap apne bachche ko Science padhao ji. Bahut scope hai!” Oh sure, I don’t want to become a doctor or an engineer, but let me just go ahead and put myself through hours of Physics and Chemistry which have never managed to fascinate me, just because it keeps the society happy.

The question that arises is: Should the decisions we make be aligned with our own thought processes or by the notions of the individuals around us? Many Indian children do not have the courage to stand up to the society and have their say, so they simply adhere to what everyone around them is saying and become completely indifferent to the voices inside their souls. But many Indian children are also learning to prioritize. They have realized that they must not let go of opportunities and sacrifice their own dreams and aspirations just because they are being pushed onto the ever-inflated bandwagon. In India it seems to have become a widely acceptable fact: The people who are innately intelligent take Science. The people who are a little less intelligent take Commerce. And people with major dearth of intelligence and a lack of basic mental aptitude take Arts. Many people stick to this conventional norm, regardless of the fact that the world around them is changing and perhaps it’s time for them to change as well.

Another dismal fallacy of our society and also our educational system is the shattering overemphasis on marks. Children are forced to resort to means like cheating because “Boards mein number nahi mile toh future mein tu kuch nahi banega.” Our future success is not merely mark-oriented and while marks do go on to make a statement about a person’s capability to some extent, they are in no way indicators of a person’s success. Why, a student with 60 percent has as much chance of fulfilling his dreams and living his passion as a student with 90 percent. But in India, the child with a low score will be blatantly categorized as a ‘nobody’. A big shout out to all the parents who badger and pressurize their children, asking them to study for twelve hours a day: The motivation for your child needs to be to work hard and put in his best, not to simply get marks and outdo the neighbour’s kid.

Children today must realize that they have the freedom to choose who they want to be. Yes, we can be who we want to be and we have the right to fight for our dreams. Progress comes from understanding who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow; where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. The critical words here are what ‘you’ want. Twenty years from now, you’ll want to sit back and look at your life in retrospection. At that moment, you do not want to be regretting anything. You wouldn’t want to look forlornly at ‘what could have been’, but you’d want to look satisfactorily at ‘what is’. Be genuine, be authentic, and find your true purpose. ‘Log Kya Kahenge’ is insignificant.

God

 

I’d now like to quote an excerpt from Harper Lee’s classic ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’:

“Atticus, you must be wrong….”

“How’s that?”

“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong….”

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

the-me-i-want-to-be

 

 

A Review by My Brother: Kindle for All Generations

I just bought the Kindle Paperwhite 3G 2nd generation and the results with it have been very impressive. With a stunning 6” display and an adjustable backlight to suit your reading style, it is the best reading experience you will ever get. The 3G network connects directly with Amazon Whispernet and its partners, enabling you to have a 24X7 access to the Amazon store. High speed internet is free with the 3G model of the Paperwhite; it allows you to download All Amazon content from the web browser. I am an extensive reader and almost all the books which I read are available for a lower price in the Amazon eBook store. Most Classics are free on Kindle and English teachers will find this a breakthrough device to read and teach.

It is a onetime investment of Rs. 13,999, and you will have enough books to read for a lifetime because the Kindle allows you to store around 1000 books on your device and unlimited storage on the Cloud. It is a boon for all voracious readers!

My family was not very keen on the idea of buying a Kindle, and my sister never stopped complaining about how there will be no opportunities to ‘smell the pages’ and hear the sound of paper as each one turns, and how the Kindle will ruin the reading experience. My mother only talked about the harmful radiation from electronic devices. But my father came to my rescue and said the Kindle device will help you read more and better, and it indeed has. When I used to read hardcopy book, I did not understand the meaning of difficult words and instead of checking their meanings in the dictionary, I just ignored them like most lazy children. But, now all it requires to check a meaning or to look for Wikipedia information about a word instantly is just a simple touch! My experience with the content has also been amazing, all books are available at a much lower price and you can also subscribe to free newspapers and magazines from http://www.webtoread.com. While reading a book you can easily highlight or add notes and you can adjust the light you need depending on the situation. You can read in the bright sunlight or in a dark room with no lights on. Most parents’ concern maybe that it will harm the eyes, but Amazon (and me too!) assure you that it does not. It is a scientifically proven fact! You can indulge into your book and read from dawn to dusk sipping hot coffee and relaxing.

The Kindle is simple to use but it is a very powerful device. The world runs on technology and we must progress as well! Update to the Kindle and find a new world of awesomeness awaiting you..!

Check out his blog at:
http://stechtalks.blogspot.in/

What is my destiny?

I look at the stars shimmering in the sky,
I wonder if they know my destiny, my fate,
I ask them, and they strangely reply,
“All you need is a little faith.”
Bemused, I ask them again,
“Tell me, what is my destiny.”
They seem to smirk, and simply say,
“Your destiny is who you choose to be.”