Thursday, September 30, 2010

From Globalization to Indianization

What is it that unites the vast expanse of our country into a Nation? Despite all the differences and variety, we still manage to stand as one and be recognized as one. You may travel to the north, the east, the west or the south, but you’ll always feel at home. So, what are the things that make us feel at home even in the far flung corners of India?

Culture, language, traditions, festivals and rituals may be considered some factors, but, all Indians do not speak the same language or celebrate the same festivals or follow the same rituals, traditions and culture. Then what else can it be?

I recently found a, somewhat, unexpected answer to this question of mine. In fact, I realized that there is an entire genre of things that makes all the different cities in India so different and yet so similar. You might visit any town in India, but if it boasts of a Barista, you’re sure to get the same lip-smacking Corn and Spinach Sandwich there. Every Oxford Book Store is celebrating the 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindra Nath Tagore this year and you can find his entire collection at all of these. Music World has a similar collection of CDs in every store that you may visit. Fabindia displays the same kurtas on its mannequins be it in Ahmedabad or in Kolkata. One can find high rise buildings flaunting familiar tags of IBM, TCS, Accenture, Aricent in every big city. Plus there are malls that showcase pretty much the same brands of clothes, accessories, bags, shoes, jewellery and what not.

Now that’s what we call Globalization to Indianization :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Word Play

A friend of mine pinged me today to say 'hi'. In a playful Sunday mood, I replied 'fi'. My friend then responded with a 'wi-fi'. I replied 'wi-max' and the chain started. We went on and on from 'cli-max','cli-mate', 'room-mate' and finally after more than a dozen transitions reached 'certainty', where we finally decided to call it quits. What we were doing was keeping a set of syllables in the word constant and changing the remaining part to construct a new word. It was interesting how we could come up with words that would fit and that too by merely thinking.

At the end of this exercise, I realized what wonderful gifts we, humans, have been gifted by Nature. We rarely realize the importance of the blessing called articulation. What if primitive man never learnt how to speak? There would be no means to communicate our thoughts and ideas. We would never have been able to express our love, joy, anger and sorrow in words. We can't even be too sure whether we would have existed in our current form.

The other thing that we often forget to give importance to is our power to think. 'Think' sounds a very abstract word, but, it encompasses much of our entire existance. Our thoughts drive us, frame us, define us. We think about our past and call it memory. We think about our future and call it a dream. We think about our present and call it analysis that drives our actions. I believe in destiny and that there is already a plan in place for everybody. This sometimes makes me feel that all our 'thinking' is of no use. We think for hours and hours and then what happens was destiny. But, at another level, I feel that all this thinking is our little contribution in the Big Plan. We want to put in our bit, so that when we get something, we can justify our deserving it. So much so for Human Folly.

This reminds me of the two contentious phrases:
"I think, therefore, I am" and "I am, therefore, I think".

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Carefully Careless!!!

At first glance the title of this post sounds oxymoronic, but, after reading this post you might get a little convinced that its not so oxymoronic. Most of us know how it feels to bear the tag of being Careless. Our parents have scolded us for being so, our teachers have been disappointed with us for being so, our friends have consoled us for being so, and sometimes, we've been resentful of ourselves for being so.

The underlying truth is that no one wishes to be careless; no one behaves carelessly on purpose. We all know this! Of late, I have come to understand that most times we are meticulously trying to be so careful that we end up being careless. I'd like to put this statement into perspective with some examples.

1. Being extremely careful in locking the doors and closing the windows of our car and in the act leaving the keys of the car inside.
2. Reading and re-reading the content of an important e-mail before sending and then sending it without attaching the attachments.
3. Revising our answer sheet a dozen times before submitting it and then submitting it without writing the roll number.

Sounds familiar? These were just a few that I could randomly think of. I am sure you can think of more.

In each of these cases, it wasn't that we weren't mindful, it was probably that we were preoccupied with something we thought was more important. The fault may not always be in the amount of "care" we take while doing something but may, in fact, lie in the way we "prioritize" the different micro-actions involved in doing it. I like calling it the Improper Prioritization Syndrome (IPS).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Looking below the Cover

I was on my way back from office and was waiting at a signal. There were two little boys selling magazines at the crossing. They were going to every car and reading out the long list of magazines they had in an effort to sell a few. None of the people at the signal seemed particularly interested in their magazines.

The two boys came to me and started repeating their long list of magazines. Like all other people at the crossing I too shook my head. They kept standing by my car for a little longer than usual and then slowly moved ahead. Surprisingly, they did not approach the car behind mine and stood at the rear of my car. I heard the younger one tell the older one, "Go ahead! Ask her. She won't say anything." The older one hesitated a little but then came back to me. "Isn't this the Nano, the cheapest car?", he asked. I was quite amazed at the awareness of the boy. I smiled and answered, "Yes, you're right. How did you know?" The boy pointed to the magazines in his hand and said, "I read it in the magazine." He then told me that he went to school in the morning and sold magazines at the signal in the evening.

Somehow I felt very happy that this little boy could read the magazines that he was selling. He had empowered himself to read, study and be aware. Though he did not have much, he was still making full use of the meagre resources that he had.

How many of us would have made a similar choice? Would we have had the inquisitiveness to look below the cover or would we have just blindly sold the magazines and earned a few bucks? Is it about being too busy to learn something new or is it just not feeling the need to learn any more?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Of late it has become common to see a number of hoardings showing a little tiger cub against the number 1411 in bold. Equally common is the buzz about Tiger Conservation on TV ads, facebook and twitter. What’s with this sudden concern for the tiger???

Obviously it isn't very pleasant to think that the much dreaded Sher Khan of The Jungle Book may soon become a figment of our imagination. Its equally disheartening to tell a little girl that Tigger, Winnie the Pooh's buddy, may not be with us for long. Pondering over this question, I also remembered having studied that the Tiger is our National Animal and since we are on the verge of losing this national symbol forever, I understand India's concern. But Indians are not the only ones who are concerned. What might be the reason??? One more question that was troubling me was "Why the Tiger???", after all, its not the only animal that is endangered.

I wanted to delve deeper into these questions, so, I started going through a number of sites and online material on this topic. The amount of information available on this issue astounded me and I only thought it proper to share the little that I learned with all of you.

Why the Tiger???
The tiger is the top of the food chain, the ultimate consumer. It depends on other species and natural resources for its existence. A healthy tiger population is an indicator of a healthy eco-system. If the tiger is fighting for survival, it means that there are a lot of weak links in the food chain and we may soon have many more species fighting for life.

India and the Tiger
Out of all the countries that are habitat to the Tiger, India has the privilege of boasting of the largest wild population of tigers. But, the recent tiger census shows this large population numbering at a meager 1411 - a number not at all to be proud of. In the beginning of the 19th century the total number of wild tigers in India was estimated around 40,000 and within a span of a hundred years this has reduced by a whopping 96.5% to 1411.

Project Tiger (now known as National Tiger Conservation Authority - NTCA) that was started in April, 1972 under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 has done phenomenal work in the area of conservation of the tiger and other endangered species. A number of tiger reserves have been established under this project to protect this species. Although the status of the tigers in these reserves is good, the condition is dismal outside.

The Problems
Poaching is the biggest menace that the tiger population is facing. There is a huge foreign demand for tiger products in the form of medicines, tiger-skin and talismans. Poachers are exploiting the vulnerability of this species to earn quick money with little effort. The Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau has been setup to look into these crimes and the punishment in cases of offences relating to tigers has been enhanced.

Another growing nuisance is the reduction of the forest cover for purposes of agriculture, dwelling and timber. The tiger is a territorial animal. What this means is that no two tigers share their area. The area of the male tigers is overlapped with smaller areas of the female tigers, but, the areas of two male tigers never overlap. The reduction of forest cover causes reduction in the area available to the tigers. As a result, the tigers are forced to move towards human settlements, which is harmful to both humans and the tigers.

Steps towards a Solution
The need of the hour is a partnership between the government and the citizens to save this dwindling species. A number of NGOs have risen to this cause and have been fundamental in spreading awareness about this issue. But, some NGOs are using this cause as a tool for fake publicity through the media. We need to act responsibly and apprise the Forest Department of any complaints that we have, before shouting out on the television. In addition, we need to say a big NO to all sorts of animal products and be watchful about the crimes against all the endangered species. Most importantly we need to raise our voice against deforestation - the cause for most of the natural and environmental ills.

Looking Forward
The tiger is a resilient species. It can quickly breed if it is allowed to live in peace and is given adequate space. It is time to join the dots to restore the stripes.

For those of you, who might want to learn more, please follow the links below:
1. Project Tiger
2. Save Our Tigers

You can also go through the bi-monthly journal(Nov-Dec 2009 edition) of NTCA at Stripes.

N.B.: While every caution has been taken to provide my readers with accurate information and honest analysis, please use your discretion before quoting or taking any decisions based on the information in this blog.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Journey from NO to MANY!

There are some moments that get engraved in memory and you never forget them. Even ages later, they keep coming back to mind as fresh as dew. I am narrating one such incident here that dates long back to the days when I was in class I at Loreto.

We were being taught sentence construction. Mrs. Basu, our class teacher, was speaking out random words and we were raising our hands, as soon as we had thought of a sentence.

"Apple", she said.

"An apple is red", replied one of my classmates.

"Very good", nodded Mrs. Basu.

"Cat", said Mrs. Basu.

A little girl quickly raised her hand and said, "The cat is on the mat". Mrs. Basu smiled and nodded again.

"Book", "Chair", "Flower"...the nerve-wracking rapid-fire round of sentence making went on for about ten minutes and then we were asked to open our class-work notebooks. Mrs. Basu wrote five words on the black-board and asked us to quietly write down sentences on each of them.

I sat at my desk, carefully and meticulously trying to make the best possible sentence for each word. After completing my work, I reviewed it and satisfied with my attempt, I submitted it with a smile on my face. I was expecting a "Smiley" or a "Star" - those coveted shiny stickers - for my work, after all, I had made some classic sentences.

We received our notebooks back after corrections during the last two minutes of school that day and none of us got the time to check and flaunt the remarks we had received. The minute I reached home, I flung open my bag to check whether I had received a Smiley or a Star. I quickly flipped over to the last written page and what I saw there was shocking. There was a big red cross against the third sentence I had made. Tears began rolling down my cheeks. This was unreal - one big red cross!!!

Seeing that aghast look on my face, my Dad grabbed the notebook from my hands. He read the sentence and then burst out laughing. He showed the notebook to Mom and she began smiling too. They both wiped off my tears and told me to calm down. My Dad opened the last page of the notebook again and there I saw the following lines:

3. Friend - I have no friends.

My class teacher had made a big circle around the NO and changed it to MANY.

Papa asked me why I had made such a sentence. I argued that the sentence wasn't wrong. Trusting my grammar, even today I hold that this was a perfectly grammatically correct sentence. Papa made me sit in his lap and then suggested that I should have used the word MANY instead of NO in the first place. He didn't want his little daughter to grow up with the feeling that she lacked friends. He told me that one always has friends, there is nobody who doesn't have friends. I remember myself sulking back, "Papa, why should I lie when I have NO friends".

Looking back, I realize how Mrs. Basu changed my life for ever that day by changing one word in my notebook. Although I love flaunting my "Grammatical Correctness" to all my FRIENDS even today, I now understand the difference that a single word can make. I humbly stand corrected:

3. Friend - I have MANY friends.

This goes out to my dear parents and all my loving friends who've shaped my life in their own special ways. Thanks everyone! :)