Peace Out, Bro.

Do you remember the time when as kids we would shut our ears, stick our tongue out and make weird sounds to signal that we have stopped listening to the other side, when in an argument? Well, blocking people on social media is exactly just that.

I remember the era when internet would take ages to connect with that peculiar voosh-voosh sound, and if and when it did, by the time it would even manage to open my email – which obviously had nothing urgent or important or mail – my time was up. Then with Orkut, it just sort of replaced our slam books and scrap books. With the overwhelming information that Google had to offer, it soon was sought out as more of an educational tool than a recreational one.

Internet had expanded our chance of having discussions, making informed opinions/decisions, but it also has given us the liberty of shutting the screen, switching off/or between tabs, and blocking anything or everything that challenges our views.

Internet was also a potential prospect of meeting with like-minded people. No, I am not talking about Tinder, d’uh! But, we become aware of other people who also are blocking the same things/views/people as us, and suddenly that gives a great power to our thought, ingrains it into us more than ever, and we block other views with renewed zest and enthusiasm. This is sort of leading to a “cult” culture over every opinion that we have.

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So today it is very difficult to just say anything you feel like about any issue. Because the moment you open your mouth, you are either a bhakt, or an AAPtard, or just downright stupid. Either you are a feminist or a chauvinist. You become a libtard, right-winger, anti-national, intolerant or Pakistani even before you completely keep your point.  If you are against Trump, you are pro-Hillary. If you are against Hillary, you are pro-Trump. You are racist, body-shammer, islamophobic, or ….and if you aren’t one of these my-way-or-the-highway kind of peeps, then you are just ay!

This is now not only the story of the internet, but also in the outside-social-media life. The recent elections in America or Brexit has proved that we all are living a (judgmental) bubble of our own. But we forget that a bubble doesn’t even need something as sharp as a needle to burst, you know! And well, it has.

This change has been quite drastic, and rather too rapid for my liking. Of course, “change” has various connotations today, and I am not talking about the new prevalent – Do you have a change for 1000? – Kind of change. But, change must be such that it does not eliminate people or their ideas. Because this majoritarian attitude will only reduce our way of life to an idiot mechanism. As Shiv Visvanathan puts it – The change we need is a change in the idea of change itself.

Well, I am going to begin with not thinking that Indians who celebrated Thanksgiving have less IQ than the stuffed turkey on the table. Peace.

50 Shades of Brown

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Have you ever wondered how would it be to be that girl from the fairness commercial ads, who doesn’t get her desired job, just because she isn’t fair? Have you ever thought about rejecting a prospective “bahu”, just because she isn’t fair, and that it isn’t fair enough a  reason to allow the entire family lineage to be dark?! Have you ever given up on a sport you loved, or going out in the sun, just so that you could maintain the colour of skin to that exact shade of brown, and at least not make it a darker shade, if any way you cannot really make it lighter?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes”, wow! Pat your own backs – a little harder this time! Actually, really harder!
Just when we had started talking about how prejudiced these fairness creams ads were- which, by the way, gave me some hope- bam! We come out with fairness creams for men as well! Oh, forget desirable men being tall, dark and handsome, now the symptoms of ailment has become a disease! No, I am not talking about “kaala rang” as a disease, but the non-acceptance of it!
I was in my bubble when I thought that maybe we women obsess over it more, and colourism is not really prevalent – especially when it comes to decisions like job offers, etc! But then my bubble burst. When was the last time you saw a dark-skinned air hostess in an Indian airline?
From the time of RigVeda, people have desired fair skin! There are umpteen recipes for long hair, whitening teeth, and most importantly, fair skin! So, I assume that this fair skin syndrome has been taking the rounds for as long as we can fathom! And now we may or may not read these shlokas otherwise, we sure do use them in our advertising of fairness products! Yeah, right!
Kaala rang is actually the kala kalank on our mentality, and you know what’s worse? We aren’t ashamed of flashing it, or even think there is anything wrong with it! I don’t know when did dark-skin become synonymous with ugly? I mean one can be dark and drop-dead gorgeous at the same time! And no matter how many examples I give here, I don’t think “fair skin” in the matrimonial ads is on its way out!
We are never satisfied with what we have. All around the globe, girls with wavy hair are going ahead and straightening them, and straight haired girls love those curls that they got for that special wedding! Companies will continue selling their tanning creams in the west, while cashing in on the fair skin complex in the east.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if girls of an impressionable age are taught to look at their abusers in the eye and go- ‘Yes I am kaali, but you have a regressive mind-set and ain’t no one got a cream for that.’?
Verdict: “Fair and lovely” is really an unfair and ugly truth.
P.S.  – In the meanwhile, if you girls don’t wish to get married soon, all you have to do is go out in the sun! Hurray – summer is here! #ProTip

Smart Idea?

sprawl cartoonAfter all the debate, various meetings, a lot of input and work, Nashik hasn’t been selected in the list of 20 Smart cities. Just to put things in perspective for a few oh-we-are-so-swag-youngsters, it is as bad as your 8th prospective girlfriend turning down your proposal on your 64th attempt. Yeah! While some are quite openly disheartened, some are relieved, some mocking the whole thing (like they mock everything anyway), others are just wondering what they should talk about in awkward social meetings here on!

What is a smart city?

Wikipedia describes smart city as -“A city equipped with basic infrastructure to give a decent quality of life, a clean and sustainable environment through application of some smart solutions. There should not be any difficulties for the general public or things that they find hard to get in the smart cities.”

profiling_participatory_budgeting_cartoon_large.previewBasically, the aim is to provide great sanitation, transportation facilities, and adequate water supply, build an ecosystem, manage waste, etc. Well, isn’t that what any city, smart or not, supposed to grow into? Or have we elected a government, just so that they can throw a mega birthday party with our money?

Smart city uses information and communication technologies to enhance the quality of performance, increase interaction between the people and government, digitize the entire planning and development process. Well, in our country, literacy is an issue, let alone digital knowledge. So, one has to be very very very lucky – you know, born under the perfect planetary positions (consult your jyotish)- to be in the cream 5% population who understand what it is, and will be able to use the facilities the way they are intended to be! Oh, by the way, if you are reading this on some device, congratulations and be grateful.

Basically, each town/city/state is allocated with some funds for development, expansion and growth. Then, the government comes up with some schemes under which, a few cities get extra funds for development. As the trend has been, we know who all have developed and prospered. And now with more money flowing in, oops, I mean funds being allocated, we can sort of foresee who all are going to flourish!

Oh this topic reminds me, the funniest thing that happened this week was rumours of a certain “Mr. Power” being no more. Hang in there guys, what’s the rush? Well…

Anyway!

Amidst all this economic hoo-ha and political jargon to the smart city concept, I hope a few things are taken care of during the implementation of these plans –

  1. Reservation quota for developing tribal areas, inhabited by SC/ST/OBC. (Here it is important, just for your information, government)
  2. Addressing local needs, culture and architecture, and not just block-printing the same idea across the nation. One shoe doesn’t fit all. Never.
  3. No cheating, or we will…umm, forget it, we are busy vacation-ing!

Well, as for me, I am just awaiting Mr. Kejriwal to announce his own rule of “over-smart city”, since Delhi isn’t on the list. Oh, you get the pun!

Santa Claus(e)

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So what did you get for Christmas?

I think the whole charm of Christmas in India is about the thought of getting something for free! Christmas is synonymous to Santa Claus here.
Though Santa may take a while to locate your residence in the increasing pollution in our city, but you know, he will figure out. Anyway, he isn’t used to the heat in our country, but such dedication! Always manages to put a few candies in that old stretched stocking on your bed! Aww our parents! First they spoil us and then complain we aren’t prepared for life! Such cuteness.

But in this festive season, we see them everywhere – probably more here in India than the west! Walking on streets, at Christmas parties, hotels, malls – they are at all places where people can afford a Santa Claus! Some of them could look like they could do well with some goodies themselves, but nevertheless, putting smile on faces of little brats.

It is a mass gift exchange season, with secret Santa played in every office- the epitome of which was a social media secret Santa, which essentially thrived on the idea of you gifting something to one person, and receiving 36 in return! Whoa, that is some enthusiasm in receiving gifts!

Some people do not believe in a Santa Claus, but believe in being a Santa Claus! There are people who go to orphanages, or school for disabled and spend time with them. While some others donate blood. Everyone finds their way of expression, their own way of being a Santa for someone else.

But even that essentially is a part of feeling great about oneself, if you know what I mean. Its great people are doing all sorts of things for others, but has no meaning if they expect a return favour some other day! Selflessness has just become another word in the dictionary, which is more fiction than fact.

Having said this, I have some experience in the rural sector, and know that getting something for free has done more harm than good! People get so used to receiving something, that they stop working, and wait for things to come to them! This, in the long run, is quite damaging to our society, and is not how a healthy society works! We know value of things, only if we earn it, and not if we get it. This year’s hot Christmas proves how since nature is free and abundant we hardly care. Look at what we have done to our climate!

Something that is true beyond all age groups, races, communities, and countries is:

Everyone wants a fantastic job, but no one wants to suffer 60 hours/week.
Everyone wants a happy marriage, but no one wants to sacrifice.
Everyone wants an amazing physique, but no one wants to sweat it out.
Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.

But you know, as the story goes, even Santa gifts the child who has been good all year. No wonder they say,
“Nothing comes easy in life, even Santa comes with a clause.”

Culture of Politics or Politics of Culture?

Now that Gandhi Jayanti is over, we can all get back to bribing that traffic hawaldar, lying at the drop of a hat, and spitting on that newly painted wall! Not that yesterday we did not indulge (cheers to all those who managed to have a drink), but at least there was a national sentiment as such!

For all those who were high- of course because of Friday holiday- I will remind you that yesterday marked the 146th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, 111th birth anniversary of Lal bahadur Shastri, and the 1st anniversary of Swachch Bharat Abhiyan. It was basically a day of trending Gandhiji on twitter, leaving for Goa for the long weekend, and using Gandhian messages for political good!

I feel this is one topic on which a lot is written, a lot is filmed, a lot is said and quoted, and a little is acted upon! Actually, in retrospect, I will take my words back. I feel we are doing our best to act on all Gandhian principals! No, seriously! For example, Gandhi’s philosophy was based on principal of Swadeshi, and we firmly believe in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (One World Family). All it takes is to know how and when to put two and two together!

Gandhian thinking is essentially about a sustainable way of life, an economic system based on trusteeship and a society in which everyone gains rather than the few become rich at the expense of the many. It is a complex, inter-related system of thought. We are so on the right path –which is made by our government. Hence, the delay!

These days Gandhiji is in our books, on our roads, on our walls, in our pocket and in the political campaign speeches! But not in our heart or behavior. We as a country suffer from selective learning. We have so much knowledge about every subject at our mercy, but we tend to twist and manipulate it in our stride – and use the knowledge only to save our face! Some people happened to read, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” and thought, bingo! That is exactly we want to do. They are all leading our country at the moment, and just for the record, we are blind!

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I firmly believe that Gandhian philosophy is relevant today, more than ever! This century has seen a tremendous rise in globalization, privatization, violence, inequity, poverty, et al. We direly need a Gandhi to save our face in this highly consumptive world! His ideals hold a moral and social mirror to our society! But sadly, while one of Gandhiji’s most famous quote is “Be the change you want to see”, we tend to boo the change we are seeing.

Although Gandhiji has been made an icon of “Clean India”- I think we are taking it too literally. Of course, cleanliness is very important, but all his teachings give more importance to an India cleaned of corruption, violence, hatred, inequality, injustice and the like.

I dream of a Gandhian Swachch Bharat!

The Problem of Plenty

Dog-opoly is a dog-specie version of the famous board game Monopoly, but it really is the monopoly of dogs on the Indian streets!

Our country has a large population of stray dogs- I mean obnoxiously large! Sometimes, one may not find people on streets, but dogs – always! While it may not be appropriate to generalize, but stray dogs have proved to be calamitous for humans, in many incidents and places. Apart from being a tad-bit noisy and unhygienic, they are quite dangerous. It is quite terrifying to walk on streets at night, with howling sounds in the background. They contribute to a number of road accidents, of which a few prove almost fatal to a person walking, in order to save the-dog-sprung-from-God-knows-where. Not eliminating the fact that it could prove fatal for them as well, and that this is a difficult life for them. (Please don’t call PETA).

Quite a few people, by now, probably detest me for my perspective on this particular issue, but in all reasonableness, it makes sense. I mean I understand that they also are a breathing, eating, pooping, moving, barking-but-unable-to-talk-and-express-their-plight (and so are chickens we eat?) kind of creatures, but in my view we need to re-think the extent to which we take things emotionally, accept that it is a grave issue, and take steps to find a permanent solution.

Any discussion on welfare of strays always gets the same reply, “We don’t have resources to cater to majority of people, and how can we cater to dogs?” I don’t completely agree with this notion. In an urban setting, one cannot diversify problems like that. Everything is correlated. If measures are taken to fix any one issue, it automatically affects the other.

One of the main and obvious reason is our hygiene habits. It is the unattended litter on the roads, which actually is a feast for these stray-dogs, and cater to their survival and existence. We as a culture are quite messy- always blaming the incapable and inactive government for improper infrastructure, and on the other hand, don’t even maintain sanitation regime on personal level! We really do not need to wait for a TV show, a bill-board sign or our Prime Minister to start movement to know the importance of cleanliness. It is only clearing of litter that will solve the problem – quicker than anything!

Apart from that, there are a lot of organisations that vaccinate the stray dogs – all thanks to a few good Samaritans. Let us at least help them help us in any way we can – volunteer, provide resources, financial aid, inform about unattended or bruised stray dogs, adopt and encourage others to adopt, etc. Actually even if one cannot adopt these stray dogs, getting them vaccinated will not only save their lives, but also prevent spreading of diseases. These solutions may not be quick in reducing the number of strays, but probably are first few steps in the planned scheme of reducing their numbers. And Jaipur has proved that it is possible.

Every dog has its day, but with our collective efforts these dogs will have a life.

It’s been a Ban-tastic year!

Why wasn’t I informed when the Make in India was replaced by Ban in India? Gosh, I feel so left out!

Last week, Maharashtra government banned consumption of meat for 4 days during an auspicious festival of Jains. I think it’s just funny how the government is slowly turning into our menu card.  Initially, I was wondering what the point of all the outrage against it was. Yeah, they have banned meat – but it’s only for 4 days! One could always store it. To a hardcore vegetarian like me, it couldn’t care any less. And I didn’t.

But then a conversation with my friend made me realize that the point is not just about these 4 days, but the whole inherent issue with governance. May be I am taking it a little too far, but it, basically, is cultural terrorism.

In fact, all the bans levied this year essentially are a result of the same thinking!

The only thing that is common in all these bans is our inability to tackle sensitive issues. Banning is running away from the scenario. It is a reflection of our hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness, bias, and cowardice. It shows that we have no faith in our thousands of year old culture and value system, that we are questioning its sustenance.

Having said that banning does not deter the fact that we are what we ban.

I mean if we have to ban anything, implies that it exists, that it is our value-system, a trend now. And banning a video doesn’t change that! Whom are we kidding? Do the policy makers really believe that banning products, actions, videos, and words really curbs their use?  In fact, all it does is people looking for more illegal ways to do “it”, eat “it”, watch “it”, and all this while saying “it”.

Seriously, don’t we all know where to find alcohol in Gujarat? Or beef in Maharashtra? Don’t we all use cuss words? Haven’t we seen the AIB Roast or the documentary? Aren’t we going to save that pepperoni pizza from last night just to eat it on the day meat is banned? In fact, banning the video gave it more popularity, and all the people who did not even know AIB exists, have access to the aforesaid video. And don’t even make me question banning 50 shades of grey.

It needs basic knowledge of psychology to know how Human mind functions. Even as children, we only want to do the things that we aren’t allowed. The easiest way to make someone do what you want them to do is by telling them – You can’t do it! “Ban” is not the solution.

Whereas the meat ban is only for about 3 days, there are 50 shades of our mentality to be tackled, and putting even a fraction of our energy in that direction will get a lot more achieved than banning these things.

PS – What should I cook for dinner, dear government?

BREAKING NEWS- Thank you for raising our TRPs

Media is a business, it is a business of news. The trouble is when media gets to the business of breaking news. It breaks all boundaries of ethics and logic, and the whole drill of “please-watch-our-channel” is way too apparent.

What has happened in the last few weeks is but an expression of this! It has been a great ride for all the media houses with so many incidents and topics, juicier than Frooti. Right from the Hardik Patel taking the government for a ride to Indrayani Mukherjea giving ideas to Ekta Kapoor for her new plot, media has gone berserk. It has overshadowed other important news like Kalburgi murder case or Baba Ramdev launching his own brand of instant noodles!

Superficial coverage has become characteristic of Indian news media because of breaking news syndrome! Research, permissions, analysis has no place in this whole game of sensationalism. This has proved to misleading information in so many cases, and then the apology that is rendered so feeble, if at all. But the damage is done, and an innocent has to live with this public humiliation. 24-hour pressure for the channels soon led to reporters thrusting their mikes on victims of a mishap to single-handedly engaging an entire nation in a family-tree puzzle.

Last week Anurag Kashyap put up a picture with “plaster” on his eyes on an oh-your-phone-picture-is-so-hipster website, indicating it as a result of a brawl with MMA fighter. Immediately, the news spread like wildfire, just to know later that he had trolled the media houses to prove a point. Media fell flat on its face. A few people called this experiment lame.

But it is not. It just is the sorry state of affairs with Indian media today.

Introduction of social media has aided in adding more spice to this. Just last week, one girl’s Facebook post costed an innocent guy his reputation. He was declared as a national pervert in the honorable court of Facebook, and many media houses ran this story even without listening to his other-side! Turns out this girl was closely associated with a national party, taking revenge for he-did-not-listen-to-her-and-hurt-her-ego! But the damage was done, and the guy – though proved innocent- was humiliated across the country in just a matter of few hours.

Media is the fourth pillar of democracy! But it seems to have shaken, since the line between “news” and “views” has diminished! Objective news has become a far-fetched dream! The pressure of proving oneself innocent in “Noise at 9”, and putting your point across Arnab Sardesai’s trial is much-more than remembering your wife’s birthday!

In the past, it has proved to be a successful medium between the government and the people. Media was probably the strongest tool in our freedom movement. If handled wisely and ethically, it can actually aid in solving important and urgent national issues. If only they can stop being the seeming corporate puppets, who knows, we could actually be successful in eradicating poverty, if not cynics!