Beyond anthem-singing, slogan-shouting and status-updating

What is independence? What is freedom? What is India? Who is India?

I’ve indulged in distant musings about these questions to and fro on dusky dawns and starry nights, pausing the moment I’d feel a thought of wonder hit the chambers of my brain or those of my yearning heart. But these thoughts are evasive.

Forgive me for writing a not-so-celebrative, (seemingly) incoherent article, but these are my true opinions, and oh – let me use my freedom to express these at least on Independence Day.

Although I won’t deny that we are country of color, of wonder, of joy, of Gods, of Dharma, of innate and developed greatness, of diversity, integrity and unity – but somewhere beyond the glossy rainbow of time and wealth, are thunderous clouds of grey. Yes, we must celebrate India, and be proud of our Indianness. But what we mustn’t do in our fanaticism and festive love for the country is forget that our journey is far from complete and our quest for being truly free has only begun.

On this day, as we honour our beloved freedom fighters and the valiant men in uniform, for whom living is not merely breathing, but dying and sacrificing themselves for their nation’s sake, we must pause and ask ourselves some questions: Do we, by our code of conduct, moral values and actions, justify the sacrifice of millions of men and women for the sole purpose of freeing our country? Are we credible citizens who spare the country a thought on days that are not titled ‘Republic Day’ or ‘Independence Day’? Do we ever think about how we are going to give back to the country, after we’ve obtained our numerous degrees from numerous top-class institutions?

Most of us will be surprised when we answer these questions. Let’s not lie to ourselves; our apparent ‘service’ for the nation has been reduced to singing the national anthem in schools as an excercise being done simply ‘for the heck of it’ and waving our national flag with smug grins on our faces on days of national importance because, well, that’s the ‘trend’. Let’s admit it, the Government may have thought it an integral step to play the National Anthem before movies to inculcate national pride, but as the song plays in the background, all we can think of is how appealing the hero will  look when he first makes his entry and whether we should buy popcorn or nachos in the interval. Lata Mangeshkar sings ‘Bharat Bhagya Vidhata’ in her most mellifluous voice, and all of us take the queue for sitting down after another five seconds – some of us murmur ‘Jaya He’ towards the end; other’s don’t even bother doing that.

“So today is fifteenth August! Since everyone’s buying the national flag and pinning it up proudly on their chests as a symbol of Indianness, let me buy one and pin it up too. Let me adorn my home with paper and plastic national flags that the street vendor is selling on 15th August. Let me post a Facebook status sympathizing with and hailing the efforts of our countrymen and freedom fighters. Let me change my WhatsApp display picture to that of the Indian National Flag – a symbol of ostensible pride. Half the population doesn’t even know what the three colors on our flag signify – but it’s evidently cool to use the flag as a fashion prop on Independence Day, so I’ll go ahead and do it.”

Schools will have an Independence Day parade; the prime minister will conduct a special flag-waving ceremony.

And then? Then, it’s 16th August – the plastic flags will be dumped in the nearest dustbin and our miniature national flag pins will be stowed away in our drawers to be forgotten for another year, another eternal year. What a celebration, indeed.

This mindless singing of the national anthem, this compulsive shouting of slogans like ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Vande Mataram’, the pinning up of national flags here and there, the updating of statuses across the social media – if you take these as testimony to being proud citizens of our motherland – well, I’m sorry, but you are sorely mistaken.

I’m not trying to discourage people who sing the national anthem – it is the most beautiful song and must be sung by every responsible citizen of the country – neither am I discouraging people to update their statuses and send across Independence Day text messages. All I’m saying is that people who suddenly seem to believe that doing this is a grand gesture towards our country and that they are making a huge difference by doing this – thye need to know that they are living under an illusion.

To truly make a difference, we need to take action that is more radical and sensible, and involves estranging ourselves (even if momentarily) from our computer and mobile screens to do something that will truly contribute to the betterment of our nation.

I’m not saying that this action that we take has to involve a lot of money and effort. All it needs to have is heartfelt feeling and the motive to make a positive difference to the lives of our people, which will in turn make a positive difference to our entire nation.

Sure, update your status, but after that, go to an NGO and spend an hour with a child who cannot afford education. Take this up on a daily basis. Maybe this one child grows up to be the prime minister of our country! Maybe he grows up to be a scientist who wins Nobel Prizes for the country!

Become part of groups who besides singing the national anthem and holding rallies for national integration, engage in social work which may involve education, teaching moral values and soft skills, or spending time with the disabled and the aged.

Make plans to evolve as an individual and excel – because your success will eventually coincide with the country’s success. Learn to organize and manage yourselves so that in the future, you emerge as someone who not only has the intelligence and intellect (which can be attributed more to hard work than natural tendencies), but you also have the ethical and moral values which will help preserve your sanity and the country’s culture.

Do not engage is sheer fanaticism which people claim to be display of love for the country. This Independence Day, take one step beyond the regular ‘norms’ which focus of flag-waving, anthem-singing and slogan-shouting (Oh, and also visiting the food joints which offer tri-coloured items for a special ‘Independence Day Date’ with your boyfriends/girlfriends). Do something which will create an impact, not metaphorically, but literally.

-Swastika Jajoo

English Hons

First Year

LSR, New Delhi

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.”

Journeys

They manifest themselves

With blithe brilliance,

Ranging from a thousand

Miles around the world to

A single step consciously taken

Towards your soul.

They are as arduous as

They are endearing. 

Their repercussions, as long-bearing

As they seem to be short-living.

Journeys will begin not

In the aircraft that soars,

But in the depths of your soul,

The domains of your mind.

 

 

The Lion King Turns Twenty!

It’s the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life

 People have often asked me about my favourite movie, and although my choices sometimes seem to be as fickle as the UK weather, my favourite movie hasn’t changed since a long, long time and for as long as I can anticipate, I do not see it changing. The movie which has left me besotted since forever: The Lion King. If my heart were a kingdom, Simba would be king!

Yes, my friends, this is a Disney animated movie which released back in 1994, and the beauty of this production is that it has as much to offer to 75-year olds as it has to offer to 10-year olds. It is not often you come across a movie like that. If you ask me which genre this masterpiece belongs to, I’d be torn between Adventure, Humour, Philosophy (no genre like that, is there) and yes, Romance too. I’m just trying to say how one simple animated movie can stretch across so many essential themes and portray each one of them in exemplified brilliance.

The transformation of Simba from a blithe and frivolous cub to a righteous king, involving a journey which runs not only throughout his entire kingdom but also through the chambers of his unexplored conscience, is a heart-wrenching, glorious tale which will render you speechless and make you question the meaning and purpose of your life.

For me, The Lion King is an all-encompassing movie; a movie which reinstates hope in a hopeless world, faith in a faithless soul and love where there seems to be an abundance of hatred. I remember dancing along as Timon and Pumbaa sang Hakuna Matata as vividly as I remember learning the alphabet. In those days, singing the line “It means no worries for the rest of your days” seemed meaningless to me, a naïve child impressed more by colour and melody than profound meaning. Today, when I listen to Hakuna Matata, I not only enjoy the lively tune and lovely jigs, but also appreciate the subtle philosophical innuendo which runs lucidly through the song – and the movie as well, for that matter.

The Lion King is no complex Science or Math, but the message it sends across is perhaps something Science or Math will never be able to elucidate. We listen to philosophers, watch inspirational videos and television shows, seeking to somehow will our souls and minds to develop a spiritual connect with the universe, a reflective connect which not only links us to the larger picture in life, but also to people and things, virtues and principles. I’ll tell you this straight: Simba and Rafiki (and their cheerful friends) will tell you far more, and take you far beyond in your journey, outwardly as well as inwardly. All you have to do is watch and listen.

The Lion King teaches you not to run away from your past, but to face it with as much courage as you can summon from the domains of your spirit. The Lion King teaches you to laugh in the face of adversity, while also dwelling on the beautiful nuances of intricate relationships with family and friends. The Lion King reminds you of the presence of a greater spirit in your life; a spirit which ensures that you are never alone. It teaches you stand up and do whatever it takes to protect the people you love and respect. It acquaints you with the grave dangers of misplaced trust. And oh yes, it also teaches you how to kick ass Pumbaa-style. Plus, the movie has some groovy music with great meaning, right from Hakuna Matata and The Circle Of Life to Can You Feel The Love Tonight (Yeah, baby, yeah!).

To conclude, I’ll just share with you my favourite conversation from the Lion King:

Adult Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.

[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]

Adult Simba: Ow! Jeez, what was that for?

Rafiki: It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past.

[laughs]

Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.

Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.

 

 

 

 

World Music Day

Slowly stirred symphonies
Originating in the soul,
Notes strung together
In harmony. These melodies
So enchanting; a spark of
Jubilance that traverses
To oblivion and beyond. 

I know I can I lose myself,
But I won’t lose my spirit
For my soul will be alive
Till the last note plays
On and on and on…