Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Have You Ever Wondered Why Your Paste Has Fluoride

What is the point in having fluoride in our toothpaste? Have we ever wondered or even asked?
Neither did I until last week and the revelation was a bit too unholy. 
Toothpaste ads usually guarantee us that, 'toothpastes carrying fluoride strengthens the enamel and reduce decay.' 
Yet, did you know that fluoride - yes, the component in most of our toothpastes today - can actually cause more damage than the benefits it promises to render while studies have confirmed that it is a neurotoxin that can cause serious damage to the brain that subsequently affects its functions?(!)

Now for some facts:
Fluoride’s ability to damage the brain is one of the most active areas of fluoride research today. Over 300 studies have found that fluoride is a neurotoxin (a chemical that can damage the brain). This research includes:

Over 100 animal studies showing that prolonged exposure to varying levels of fluoride can damage the brain, particularly when coupled with an iodine deficiency, or aluminum excess;
50 human studies linking moderately high fluoride exposures with reduced intelligence;
45 animal studies reporting that mice or rats ingesting fluoride have an impaired capacity to learn and/or remember;
12 studies (7 human, 5 animal) linking fluoride with neurobehavioral deficits (e.g., impaired visual-spatial organization);
3 human studies linking fluoride exposure with impaired fetal brain development.

Based on this accumulating body of research, several prestigious reviews — including a report authored by the U.S. National Research Council, a meta-analysis published by a team of Harvard scientists, and a review published in The Lancet— have raised red flags about the potential for low levels of fluoride to harm brain development in some members of the population.

The NRC Review (2006)
In 2006, the National Research Council (NRC) stated that “it is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain.” In addition to calling for U.S.-based research on fluoride’s IQ effects, the NRC expressed concern about fluoride’s possible contribution to dementia

Harvard Review (2012)
In July of 2012, a team of Harvard researchers published a “meta-analysis” of 27 studies that have investigated the relationship between fluoride and human intelligence. (Choi 2012) The overwhelming majority of these studies found that fluoride exposure was associated with reduced IQ in children. In fact, 26 of the 27 studies that met the Harvard team’s inclusion criteria found a relationship between elevated fluoride and reduced IQ. The Harvard team thus concluded that fluoride’s effect on the developing brain of children should be a “high research priority” in countries like the U.S. where, despite mass fluoridation programs, no studies have yet been conducted to investigate the issue.

The Lancet Review (2014)
In March of 2014, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published a review of “developmental neurotoxicity” which concluded that fluoride is one of only 11 chemicals that is known to damage the developing brain. Developmental neurotoxins are capable of causing widespread brain disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, and other cognitive impairments.  The harm is often untreatable and permanent.

The authors of The Lancet review, which included Harvard scientist Philippe Grandjea, write:
“Our very great concern is that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognized toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies, perhaps most seriously in developing countries.”
In a bulletin posted on the Harvard School of Public Health website, Grandjean notes that:
“Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons that cause chemical brain drain. The effect of each toxicant may seem small, but the combined damage on a population scale can be serious, especially because the brain power of the next generation is crucial to all of us.” 

Then why do they do it to us? Why do they stalk the developing countries with this fluoride flush? Does it have anything to do with eugenics? Does this have anything to do with the slow, silent and systematic process to eraze races considered too low to even exist - by a group which considers selective breeding to bring forth a generation of super-humans through its bio-social engineering programs... do you even understand what I am getting at? or perhaps, never mind, check your toothpaste... it must have fluoride. After all, a breed that can be made not to think, is easier to control, right?     

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Right To My Privacy

'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.' Mahatma Gandhi

Seems like this came true yesterday after the right to privacy verdict from the SC that saed that 'privacy is a fundamental right, protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty and as part of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.'
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court on August 24, 2017 unanimously ruled that the right to privacy was a fundamental right under the Constitution. A nine-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar ruled that “right to privacy is an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 and entire Part III of the Constitution“.

Coming to the aadhar, that must be thrashed now, we already have enough of id cards right? The issue is not about owning yet another (aadhar) card. It is about one's right to privacy. Would you like the police and other people in uniform enter your house at night in the name of checking you for some nonsense just because they think your right to privacy is not absolute (like it happens in many of the countries functioning on pseudo-democracy in the West giving us a chance to see what happens when fascist corporate powers takes over nations)? Would you like our women to be strip-searched on the pretext of national security because the government thinks it has the absolute power to decide the level of privacy citizens may have? What draconian law will that be?
Strange people may ask, what is it I do that I need to hide(?) Well, I too would like to be an open book... yet, even an 'open' book reserves it right to open only to two pages... right? Let me retain that right to remain silent if I wish to. I do not want my finger prints taken, my eyes scanned in the name of providing a card, nor have a microchip inserted into my body or have a gps tied to my ankle, nor my body inked with tattooed numerical codes in the pretext of providing me with an unique code - to find me just in case I get lost - all for my own good you see!  All these great goodness done for me with pretexts I care a damn about - If I rubbish these as nonsense and say a 'No, thank you' to their pretentious offers with hidden corporate agendas, I get branded as a 'Communist', a 'Leftist' or even better, an 'Anti-national goon'. Well for A-holes who do say that, well here is my reply, 'I love this country and the fact that we live to enjoy this freedom marching on the dead backs of thousands who sacrificed their body, mind, family and soul for that cause, makes me love it even more. I do what I do because of this more than anything else. I love this country unconditionally as I reserve my right to critically analyze and even hate (if I must) the government(s) that run it"
My body, my rights... I do not want to live without them.
Aadhar should go away like its founder has ran away from the scene following the judgement - perhaps even before when he  could sense the impending judgement. Rights should be established. Democracy must reign in its true sense. Truth alone triumphs. Satyameva Jayate...  Happy to be in a country where this jurisprudence has gone into the jurisdiction. Aren't you?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Tryst With Destiny

Recently, I have been laughing my head off listening to proverbs and quotes with a slight twist... to make some impression, I notice that people add a list of (for no better way to put it,) 'bad' words to their punchlines. I hate being judgmental while at the same time wonder why people call certain words as "bad" nevertheless get offended by them when most words actually are just another way of mentioning frivolous aspects of our lives. What makes us laugh, sure makes us think.

Of all the things happening around that one may laugh at, the chance to laugh at 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' or rather the idea that cleaning a country's filth left over by the dumping of wastes and irresponsible discharge of pollutants into land, water and air (like many of our politician's speeches that we accidentally listen to,) by giant, greedy corporat(e)s rests on the hands and head of the individuals, is hilarious as it makes no sense. Shouldn't the cola companies and mining companies be cleaning their own mess? Shouldn't they be held responsible for that? Or should the burden be passed on to the citizen's shoulder for the government's incompetency to stop the corporat(e)s from littering?! Anyways, why bother when a broom in the hand and dirt pan on the head can spin a political wheel or should I say, help a political flower bloom in India.

India's tax policy is another joke that drives me bonkers. Just take for example the case where a baker pays GST for the bread, another GST for the olive, yet another for the cheese and one more and another for the meat, pepper and anything else he throws into making a pizza and charges us for all the ingredients, why does he charge us yet another GST for the whole pizza one more time?! Isn't it multiple taxation yet again for a country that is already unbelievably in a double taxation system without going for war?
Concerning concepts for jokes, no one in India dare claim a shortage - the idea of imposing the aadhar down the throat and up the arse of every citizen, the dysmal disregard for privacy and total disregard for personal rights, the soaring prices, the plunging pay scales and when I start counting the jokes one has that can make use of proverbs and quotes with the added twist, the chances of finding concepts for a hilarious laugh are limitless as the issues knock down one domino after the other and one can have a knock-out night of stand-up comedy just by speaking the truth. 

70 years of independence and I am still waiting... like many in our villages and high ranges do as they wait for electricity to light a single bulb while our ministers howl over a digital India and e-payments that will surely brighten the lives of the entire nation, waiting like many who lack a toilet in their home or even the basic sanitation and like the many more who live on the pavements for the lack of a home to begin with - to be saved from our superstars and their kids who run on alcohol who in turn wait to run over them with their super-fast, imported sports car that run on liquid gold for remorseless fun and know how to get away with it too, I am waiting like the scores whose land has been grabbed, whose jobs have been looted and their livelihood pushed off their grounds to give way for some luxury hotel or a chain of resort to come in, like the many whose daughters have been raped, son's illegally detained, father's tortured and mother's abused as they are voicelessly forced to wait for justice as they hide from the stigma cast by their own shadow, I am waiting just like that 70 year old man named independence who has seen enough, with just as much strength, with just as much hope that the 70 years of life of watching the same ruthlessness over and over again can bear before singing the eulogy of an entire nation go down the pits of a pre-dug grave right in the front, left, right, state and center. 

Even death, as I see it in India, is merciless as the poor, innocent migrant worker from Tamil Nadu - Murugan, who met with an accident in Kerala would have experienced it last week as he was rushed from hospital to hospital, pleading with one doctor and another to treat him and finally after being refused treatment by several learned doctors in seven different hospitals, after almost seven hours died helplessly due to neglect of treatment. (These are times when I feel like screaming underwater.) At the end of the day, all that the government needed to do to get away with this inhumane murder was mention a 'sorry' - a 'sorry' that marks the state of our conscience 70 years post-independence for the world to see.  

Meanwhile, Indian politicians have resorted to the culture of silence by learning the art of evading questions in political platforms and have decided to grow fat in silence on their loot. India's freedom struggle kicked off with a debate over the dead fat of mute animals and today's reason to celebrate our freedom seems to be for no different reason. 70 years of independence and I am still waiting like many... for the freedom that was supposed to be.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

An Island Of Smiles

There was a time when someone pointed out to an issue I seemed to have had and it even got labelled as 'chronic happiness'. It supposedly confused people; 'How could a person be happy even in the oddest of circumstance?' they told they wondered. Think it bothered them and many others during that time. Those were days when I faintly remember that nothing was too big that my shoulders could not carry or anything too difficult my soul could not handle - everything was doable and any challenge posed was only a motivation to complete the task at hand with ease. Life was fun.
Think it was an influence cast upon by some really strong people who suffered pain yet chose to smile - many who I had met during my wandering days... people who chose to live when all that went around them called them to die; people who faced struggle with courage; people who talked less and did more. The one incident, when I look back, that shattered me is an incident where I met a little kid who endured a painful life without a grudge - even attempting to reduce the pain of her parents bearing her own without a whimper. Think I must tell this story...

This happened when a bunch of us from Loyola were called to document a human rights violation issues in a small God-forsaken village that was getting marooned due to sand mining and other such related corporate greed in a place close to Madras. Once there, we split into teams to cover the story on behalf of each stakeholder - the elders, the mothers, the fishermen, the children and so on. I was part of a team to cover the story of children from a Government School in a small island nearby. Once the catamaran reached the spot, curious children came to have a look at all the cameras, lights and equipment that reached their otherwise ignored and isolated part of the world. 
After a little bit of rapport establishment and ice-breaking, we set to talk with them regarding how life was treating them, how they perceived issues and how they managed to live through their struggles. This was supposed to be both interesting as well as crucial as we were attempting to see issues from the children's point of view. Children often provide multi-dimensional clues to issues as they not only boldly point out to issues without any restriction yet also reveal an adult world from what they have absorbed as silent audience to their interactions - once again with no restriction.
The day went on and on as complaints piled one above the other - issues ranging from lack of regular teachers and computers at school to dirt on food served as part of the mid-day meal, their complaints were many. 
Amidst all this (by then a nauseating discussion), I could not fail to notice the bright smile on a little girl's face. She must have been 6 or 7 years old then. Perhaps, that must have been the most brilliant smile I have ever seen in my life by far. I was curious as hell to know how on Earth amidst all these complaints, she managed to smile. I asked her. Her reply was even more positive: 'Our teachers are good, they manage to teach us as much as they can; why do we need a computer(?!) when we have so many books to read? and our cooks can't do a better job than what they already do... in a home of just four don't we find at times a small stone or dirt in our rice(?!) wouldn't we then just pick it, drop it and continue to eat without complaining? Just imagine how difficult it must be for the ayyahs who cook for so many of us. This is the best we can have and I am always happy for all that is there..." she said and continued smiling. 

By now, the other kids around her withdrew and sneered at her. They were perhaps confused and angry that this one effortlessly blew all the facade they were creating so far, Finally they concluded, 'She has to be happy. What else can she afford to be? She is going to die soon after all...' There was a halt on that smile on the kid's face and was replaced with an unreasonable shameful silence.
A little shocked and being rocked back to reality, I sought clarity. I tried to ask the kid to tell me what others were talking about. She didn't. The others filled the silence and said, 'Yes, she is going to die. she has a hole in the heart that her father can't afford to treat and soon she is going to die.'

I asked the little girl if it was true. Tears rolled down her eyes and she said, 'Yes.' She continued, 'It hurts. And at times, it hurts so much in the night. To get to a doctor, my father has to carry me on his shoulder through the water as we do not have a boat or a catamaran to ferry us from our village to the other side of the land to reach the hospital at night. At times when the tides are high and my father carries me on his shoulder, I can see my father's face go down under the water as he pants for breath. To see that, hurts me more.' 'So these days,' she said, 'I do not cry at all when it hurts. I have seen my father and mother skip their food because they have to spend on my medicine. I know my father will carry me on his shoulders no matter how high the tide and I cannot to see him suffer.' 
I asked her what she does instead. She said she bears the pain. 'If it hurts too much, I bite my blanket hard and try not to make a noise that may wake my parents. I bear the pain' she said.

I believe anything one does must affect him or her - be it a relationship, watching a movie, cooking, reading a book or even writing; otherwise the things we do are not worth doing at all. This is one incident that affected me the most. Watching such matured endurance at such an young age, positivism to the core, the constant and continuous sacrifice, respect and love that runs in their family that I got to see, surprized me. 
For a person who lives an everyday life amidst chronic dissatisfaction and suburban drudgery in a concrete jungle, where even the remotest discomfort has to be amplified and cribbed about, a time when we live in a world where we pick on issues to talk about rather than work on solutions to overcome the same, living amidst people whose favourite pass-time is to discuss issues they have created or create issues so that they can discuss and remain the center of self-obsessed, self-centered and selfish conversations - because they have nothing better to do otherwise with life, this child was like a lesson straight out of the pages of a zen book to me. 

I sought help for the girl at that time. People I took up her case to, took it upon themselves to advice me to concentrate on my own affairs and consider this incident unseen if it affects me again. Social Workers I met advised me that according to some paradigm and some theory, this was a natural process and by a certain cycle, this was a process she and her parents were meant to go through until they would eventually learn to help themselves - the highest form of undependency, self-reliance and empowerment - that I dare not disturb.
Seemed like I was just going through an unstoppable wind-chime of repeated advice on the same note from each person I set to ask for help. Nothing happened, none helped, not even the slightest offer of real help at that time. Life moved by and every time I saw trouble or a chance to complain, I would be reminded of this little girl and her smile. I would turn into this chronically happy monster who could always smile.  

A few years back, I happened to visit the village where I had met the girl - now with the capacity to help with what life had granted me in the mean time. I inquired about the girl from this marooned village. The village was gone - they showed me. Like most human rights issues, the village now claimed unbothered advancement on the dead backs of the vanished and forgotten others. People from the submerged village had moved to the mainland I was told. Then a few young girls - who recollected having a classmate who fitted into my description of the person - must be the ones I had met during their school days earlier in that island, volunteered to take me to where the girl was now. We walked along the narrow lanes, now all advanced; they had self-help groups and even a co-operative store that sold traditional toys they made; there was a new panchayath building and a school that even offered a computer course. We walked all through India shining and we reached a spot where the girls pointed out to a little grave. They said the girl I mentioned had died a year after we had met as I stood there watching the cold-hearted tombstone that held the smile of a girl who had changed my life. I think I lost my smile then and there...   

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

An important read on Aadhar / UID and the false govt propaganda

The following is a message from an eminent activist giving clarity about the government's hand-holding with the corporates and media in a desperate attempt to push the aadhar:

Some people have written in worry that the SC yesterday directed that the government can ask for the UID for Income Tax and PAN card; that is just misinformation coming to us through the press.
For one, what transpired happened during a `mentioning', that is, where the lawyer mentioned the matter only to the court to ask that the matter actually be listed and heard on 3rd April. Earlier the case was listed for 27t March, but then it got shifted in the list to 3rd April. The lawyer took the matter to court to ask the court that there should be no further delay, and that it should be heard on the 3rd April.
The court turned down the request for such an assurance.
While doing that, the court looked at para 5 of the order of the 5-judge bench in its order dated 15th October 2015, where it said that even when it is used in PDS, NREGA, pensions, LPG, JDY and provident fund, it cannot be made mandatory.
That is it.

The court nowhere said that the UID can be asked for other services. That is wrong reporting.
Anyone who knows court proceedings knows that the court could not have made any such order,
1) Because it was a `mentioning' that was underway, and that was only to fix a date, and such an order cannot be passed without hearing the parties to the case, and
2) The October 15, 2015 order was by a 5-judge bench, and 3 judges cannot revise/rewrite/override that order.
For your information, the October 15, 2015 order said:
The UID can be used in six services: PDS, LPG, NREGA, JDY, EPFO, pensions such as disability, widow, old age pensions which are seen as services provided by the state.
Even in these services, its use "is purely voluntary, and cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this court one way or the other".
The UID number cannot be used in any other service. It is not a matter of whether it is voluntary or mandatory. It cannot be used at all.
All earlier orders from the first order of the court on September 23, 2013, when it directed that no one can be denied any service only because they do not have a UID card or number, shall be `strictly followed'. That includes the order dated August 11, 2015, which, among other things says that enrolment is not mandatory (which makes their notifications saying that those who do not have a UID number should be shepherded to the enrolment station is in contempt of court).
On October 15, 2015, the 5 judge bench heard a series of applications for expansion of the use of the number, including the TRAI that came to court saying that they could deal with terrorism if they were able to use the UID number for giving and checking Sim cards. The 5 judge bench refused this use. This refusal by the 5 judge bench was suppressed by the Attorney General when he told the court in a matter taken to court by Lokniti, an NGO, that they intended to make sim cards secure by having it checked against the UID. The court reproduced this submission and disposed of the matter. This has been read by some part of the press as an order by the court that sim cards should be checked against the UID, which is inaccurate. This did, however, mean that the court did not object to such use. That was a 3 judge bench, and could not have overridden a 5 judge bench. This happened because the Attorney-General did not inform the court, and since it was not a UID matter that was being heard, there was no one challenging the UID project who could have pointed this out to the court. This is what is called an order -per incuriam' (i.e. being in disregard of the facts or the law, in this case because they were kept in the dark about what had happened before the 5 judge bench.)
So, the government attempt to make UID mandatory for income tax and PAN card is in contempt of court.. Not just making it mandatory, but even using the UID in these fields is in contempt.
The reason the court so restrained the court is because it had seen the various dimensions of the project that made up the challenge before it, including
insecurity of the data base
national security issues, posed both by the creation of such data bases, and because of the companies involved which includes L-1 Identity Solutions, Morpho and Accenture, which have close connections to the intelligence establishments of foreign governments.
lawlessness the use by private actors, and importantly, the denial of the right to privacy of the people that the government had asserted before them. Like the court said: without the right to privacy, "the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India, and more particularly the right to liberty under Article 21 would be denuded of vigour and vitality."
That is why they said that their order would be till the court has heard and decided these matters - not till passage of a law or any other such circumstance.
There is another thing, and of much significance. When the government directs that we put the UID number on various data bases, they are violating not just the order of the Supreme Court, but their own law (which they passed as a Money Bill, to stifle discussion and dissension). Nowhere does the Act of 2016 authorise the `seeding' of numbers in data bases. It allows only two things:
authentication, which means that biometric or demographic data can be sent to the UID's CIDR (Central Identities Data Repository) to return a `yes/no' reply to the question whether you are who you say you are.
eg. KYC, which does something they had said they would never do, viz., give the data on their data base (except core biometric data - but they have no means of stopping any agency from collecting and keeping biometrics when it is given for authentication) to an Authorised Service Agency.
Section 8(2)(b) is categorical that an agency requesting authentication "ensure(s) that the identity information of an individual is only used for submission to the CIDR for authentication". There is no authorisation to hold on to the number. So, seeding the number is itself beyond the law. And this is how it makes sense anyway if establishing identity was indeed the purpose of this project, as claimed.

Well, now what is wrong with you media fellows?! Is everyone becoming a Bakra Dutt?! Duh!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा

Upon reading an article in the NEWSpaper today, Court orders eviction: bedridden woman, teen daughter out in the street in Kanjirappally. I couldn't help but remember this song:

"सारे जहाँ से अच्छा हिन्दोसिताँ हमारा
हम बुलबुलें हैं इसकी यह गुलसिताँ हमारा...
मज़्हब नहीं सिखाता आपस में बैर रखना
हिंद्वी हैं हम, वतन है हिन्दोसिताँ हमारा...
कुछ बात है कि हस्ती मिटती नहीं हमारी
सदियों रहा है दुश्मन दौर-ए-ज़माँ हमारा...
सारे जहाँ से अच्छा हिन्दोसिताँ हमारा
हम बुलबुलें हैं इसकी यह गुलसिताँ हमारा..."


Better than the entire world, is our Hindustan,
We are its nightingales, and it (is) our garden abode...
Religion does not teach us to bear animosity among ourselves
We are of Hind, our homeland is Hindustan...
here is something about our existence for it doesn't get wiped
Even though, for centuries, the time-cycle of the world has been our enemy...
Better than the entire world, is our Hindustan,
We are its nightingales, and it (is) our garden abode...

About the song:

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, is a patriotic song written by Muhammad Iqbal. It is often rendered during patriotic occasions in India and is used as a marching song by the Armed Forces. The song is often accompanied by music composed by Ravi Shankar. Written for children in the ghazal style of Urdu poetry, the poem was first published in the weekly journal Ittehad on 16 August 1904, it quickly became an anthem of opposition to the British rule in India. 

Now you know the relevance it has even today...
A sensible article in the media after a long time condemning the aadhar. As a pro-rights person I condemn the step taken by the government to disregard citizen's right to privacy in a acclaimed democratic set-up. If we nod to this now, then we will be left with no other option but to nod to everything soon...
Read the article here:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How I Lose Interest In The Academia

Age-old wisdom regarding pedagogy that I realize to be true being in the academia: "Unless hungry for knowledge, it is unwise to feed a (pseudo) learner who is there in front of you out of compulsion sans aim."
I also am a little bothered about the 'thanklessness' of some learners. Earlier, I had one person send me a mail asking me to provide a reference with a note, 'do it asap.' I wondered if the kid had so lost it  that she forgot that I had an option to decline a request too(?!) or if I was expecting too much by expecting just a little politeness from her part. Most of these references I provide for people, takes time and effort - something I could have rather invested in feeding a cow instead; often after this pressure to provide reference and recommendation, there is seldom any follow-up done by the other to let me know about the progress of their application - which of course I am interested to know (why else would I have referred or recommended their case in the first place?!) Anyways, once their work is done, who bothers...
Another incident that demonstrated the absolute 'sloppiness' of another bunch recently - after providing support (this in the case of research), the gang jumped to the conclusion that their task was now an issue for the guide to deal with and it is his burden to complete their research - as they waddle in the muck of their care and concerns in their personal affairs (which I would rather care a rat's arse about) a burden they expected well shifted 'if' the guide was a fool as they expected him to be. You point out to their issue and they walk away with a whiff of stray attitude - determined to showcase where they come from more than anything else. Often concern shown in many such situations for students are taken for granted in many academic corridors.

This sloppiness, clumsiness and total thanklessness, not only tests one's patience and compels one to lose trust yet also makes one wonder how far they would go with such attitude? This is when you realize that it is time to withdraw certain lenient space provided earlier and draw those lines of restriction and distance and build those walls of resistance to safeguard one's sanity. Distance seems the better option.

For an endnote, this is not an issue with most of the students yet there can be no denial that these situations do show up in a minority and it does have collateral damage. This is when a little enthusiasm when shown by just a little bit of students to learn, is like seeing an oasis of faith in a desert for a teacher - even if it is only a mirage.  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Whose Life Is It Anyway

To begin with, I teach conflict resolution. This means, I get to learn more than I can possibly teach - with that fact being established, as students, we get to learn about the Johari Window - the Arena, the Blind Spot, the Facade and the Unknown before we move on to understand Conflict resolution strategies like Withdrawal, Forcing, Compromising, Reconciliation and Confrontation and further learn techniques to effectively use during conflict resolution.

And now for the confession... In real life, I suck at resolving conflicts especially in my personal life. Very often I choose the weakest technique to resolve conflicts - I bow out - I often agree to accept that that person with whom I have a conflict, does not even exist in my life anymore - in conflict resolution language, it is what one calls 'withdrawal'. 
This often oscillates with my otherwise persistent tendency by nature to break things down - something they do not usually teach in conflict resolution classes. Breaking things to a shatter being my favourite and often familiar pass time in a world where I take pleasure in wrecking things up in the backdrop of chaos and confusion. These days, I have suspended this activity since it is financially too taxing to be engaged in such a pleasure - with wife and kids and the recurring expenses you see.  

Now to the point. Very often, I get to see people choose everything else and everything less to resolve conflicts rather than choose the highest and best strategy in conflict resolution - confrontation. Confrontation is not about breaking someone's nose or to humiliate another with facts and truth. It is about collaborating and reaching a certain level of honesty to let each other know what is bothering each other and in attempting to understand the issues through each other's eyes. Psychiatric Social Workers, Counselors and other related professionals learn to use techniques to uncover and address hidden and potential threats during conflict resolution exercises and help people reconcile more effectively in a therapeutic environment.

One of the issues I find couples facing these days is in the area of trying to resolve conflicts in the presence of family and friends - usually an audience who further flame their senseless revelations and displaced excitement. Shamelessly these couples often wash their dirty linen in public and from boardroom to bedroom issues, share their issues loud and clear for the whole world to hear. This very stunt, they hardly realize, is what gets them socially butted, excluded, isolated and the reason why no one wants them to be part of any social gathering where a certain level of civilized behaviour is expected - something that cannot be expected from these kinds. The very ego of their's that they try to defend through these quarrels is the one that shatters at the end of these ugly domestic stunts - which is almost like spitting against the wind and getting it on the face in return.

Friends and families who try to intervene to resolve these ugly spats, may come in with the best intention; yet, they are not professional help providers. Finding an effective help provider is as crucial as seeking help from one.
Ideally, there are a few things that must be kept within four walls in any intimate relationship - things like discussions about finance, sex and confrontations. With city walls becoming thin and walls that divide apartments becoming thinner, people instead of becoming more conscious, have become more disgusting and better dis-reputed as they engage in unrestricted, uncontrolled and instinctive display of their mediocre upbringing not just within these walls yet also go on to tear each other's walls and face on the virtual world too - displaying their skills at how unfit they are to belong to a more controlled, conscious and civilized world to a bigger and silently judging audience who are far more disgusted than entertained by the couple's acts of immaturity in the meantime. 

Some people are born into families with bad examples or are themselves bad examples in their families -  there are ever too many excuses and ever too many people to blame when one does not get to see the log in his/her own eyes. At the end of the day, "Whose life is it anyway?!"   

Monday, February 20, 2017

Why We Say No To aadhar

No one could have said it better about demonetization than the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen; he said: “Telling the public suddenly that the promissory notes you have, do not promise anything with certainty, is a more complex manifestation of authoritarianism, allegedly justified — or so the government claims — because some of these notes, held by some crooked people, involve black money. At one stroke, the move declares all Indians — indeed all holders of Indian currency — as possibly crooks, unless they can establish they are not.

There runs a parallel between this attitude and the attitude shown by the government which has joined hands with the corporate world to declare that a biometric measure - usually used to profile crooks, criminals and terrorists elsewhere - may be used and often forced to profile and account every single citizen of an entire nation. 

Despite the Highest Court in the country - the Supreme Court - ruling that the infamous aadhar card cannot be made mandatory or demanded in offer to services that cannot be restricted, reserved or reprimanded otherwise, Nandan Nilekani seems to be using all his tactics to push, pressurize and use all his manipulative tactics - including one stunt where free sim cards were offered if one presented the aadhar card - to make citizens bend, stretch and break into having the aadhar card - almost forcing his idea up the throat of every Indian. Though the democratic rights of every Indian - further reinstated by the judiciary and promoted by the media - attempts to protect citizens from this exploitation, government machineries - including educational institutions, employment bureaus and even services offered by public as well as private agencies, have been convinced to demand the aadhar through various means by giving people no other option. This makes me wonder how the country was running so far without this card(?!) Is it not one's right to decide whether to own or NOT TO OWN something? Is Nandan Nilekani and his associates above the law in this country at the moment?

The Ten Reasons Why Not To Own the aadhar:

  1. Under the Citizenship Rules of 2003 it is the Registrar General of India who has to maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens and issue National ID cards. (And not Infosys, Nilekani or his unwelcomed allied associates)
  2. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Aadhaar card has rejected the Aadhaar exercise. There is no legal sanction or budgetary sanction
  3. Aadhaar does not guarantee anything. It merely becomes yet another obstacle in obtaining services from the government. (Now a new excuse and comfortable justification for red-tapism in the government machinery)
  4. Enrolment agencies, sub-registrars, registrars and UIDAI have no legal liability for any theft, fraud, crime, and compromise of your security or privacy that may be perpetuated through Aadhaar
  5. The use of Aadhaar by various agencies will now expose all your IDs, information, properties, entitlements etc. to misuse in one go thus exposing you to unprecedented risk
  6. Money transfers from Aadhaar accounts will not be audited if there is less than Rs10 lakh transferred in a year. This means subsidy, bribes and black money may go to shell accounts that may never be traced! 
  7. (Risk further multiplies when you get to know that...) Your money can be moved from Aadhaar-to-Aadhaar electronically without your knowledge
  8. You have neither control on who uses your Aadhaar nor any way to know or verify its use by anyone
  9. Your entire data and biometric is handled by non-Indian companies :)
  10. "In the meanwhile, no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card in spite of the  fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory and when any person applies to get the Aadhaar Card voluntarily, it may be checked whether that person is entitled for it under the law and it should not be given to any illegal immigrant." - Supreme Court Order in WP 494 of 2012 on September 23rd 2013

Today I get to read that a majority of Indians own the aadhar - at times, numbers that show more aadhar holders than the population of the state it represents - these statistical anomalies that eventually reveal more than it tries to hide among these dubious claims. Even if considered true, a majority having successfully fallen into the trap in this bargain, does not give anyone the right to ask those who haven't, "Why not you too?" Further, this also definitely does not mean that the thousands of Lawyers, Social Workers, Professors, even previous Government Staff and other (very few) people who still maintain their sense to think and have decided not to have this silly card are in anyway less and careless fools.
Like the illustrious Annadhurai, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, once said in defiance to accept Hindi as the national language when pushed by the majority of the topied North-Indian babus in the parliament, "Just because it is the majority does not mean that it is right. If one were to go just by majority, then the crow instead of the peacock must have been India's National Bird... isn't it?" There is still space in this majorly confused world that a minority can still be sane though profane.
And after reading all this, you (if you still) have the nerve to think that you are smarter than me by owning an aadhar(?!) Well my friend, the fact of the matter is that now the card own you more than your assumption that you own it...

Here are some more interesting media pages that reaffirm why the aadhar is never as mandatory as we are made to believe if you would like to explore:
Aadhar card not mandatory, rules Supreme Court
IndiaToday.in, New Delhi, August 11, 2015 | UPDATED 16:26 IST
The court also ruled that the information obtained through UID can not be shared for any other purpose except for criminal investigation and that too with the court's approval.
In a major judgment, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Aadhar card can be used for availing government schemes, but it is not necessary. The court has also asked the government to give widespread publicity through various media that Aadhar is not mandatory.
In its ruling, the court said Aadhar can be used for Public Distribution Schemes (PDS) foodgrains, kerosene and LPG, but it was not mandatory to avail the benefits of such schemes. The court also ruled that the information obtained through Unique Identification D can not be shared for any other purpose except for criminal investigation and that too with the court's approval.

Supreme Court demolishes Aadhaar card: Judges rule card NOT mandatory for government subsidies 
in Dail Mail by Harish V Nair
Former Infosys honcho Nandan Nilekani may be hoping for a great political start, but the future of his pet project, Aadhaar, which cost Rs 3,494 crore till September last year, looks quite bleak
Former Infosys honcho Nandan Nilekani may be hoping for a great political start, but the future of his pet project, Aadhaar, which cost Rs 3,494 crore till September last year, looks quite bleak
This is one card game the government looks set to lose.
The highest court in the land on Monday pulled out the foundations from under the United Progressive Alliance government's flagship Aadhaar scheme, directing the Centre to immediately withdraw instructions that make the cards mandatory for availing government schemes or subsidies. 
No less significant was the fact that the court directed the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) not to share biometric or other personal information with anyone without the permission of the cardholder. 

Do You Need Aadhaar Card? Govt Says Yes, Supreme Court Says No
Business Insider by SANGHAMITRA MANDAL

How many IDs must one have before the Indian authorities are appeased? My apologies to Bob Dylan, but the Supreme Court's ruling on Aadhaar Card once again highlights how we tend to lose our vision and put in efforts where it is not needed. 
Only yesterday, the apex court ruled that the Aadhaar Card is not mandatory to get government benefits and services. The interim order was passed after a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court filed public interest litigation (PIL) as some of the state governments like Maharashtra are mandating the Aadhaar Card as a compulsory requirement without the Parliamentary sanction. 
The National Identity Authority of India Bill was introduced in 2010 but it was rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee a year later. Till date, our understanding has been that Aadhaar is voluntary in nature and has a different purpose altogether. So the sudden attempt at the Orwellian-style imposition is a bit scary. After all, many of us already have Voter ID cards, PAN cards, passports and driving licences. So why do we need yet another compulsory validation? Aadhaar should be the prerogative of the under-served India living on the edge while the rest of the country can adopt it at its own pace. The macro vision should not be lost either - we need a nationwide social security network and unique identity numbers must be generated to leverage its benefits. 
Launched by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the chief purpose of the Aadhaar scheme is to ensure a broad economic inclusion, not enjoyed by millions. Considering the vast Indian population outside the immediate administrative radar and living below the poverty line, it makes sense to have an all-purpose identity proof - a pass key to the direct benefits transfer (DBT) scheme. According to the central government, Aadhaar has been launched to "promote inclusion and benefits of the marginalised sections of the society that has no formal identity proof" and Aadhaar-enabled service delivery is linked to various government schemes such as scholarship, pension, janani suraksha yojana , payment of social security benefits, distribution of LPG subsidy and more. But we have not progressed very far as things can only move slowly in a vast and thickly populated country like India. Once the permanent enrolment centres come up all over the country, the 'inclusion' will happen fast. 
But there is another hitch. The Supreme Court is of the opinion that the use of Aadhaar should not be made mandatory as illegal immigrants may leverage it to legitimise their status. Here is one observation, though. Aadhaar is just an identity proof, not a citizenship proof like a Voter ID card. So when the Aadhaar mapping is completed, a second and more stringent level of scrutiny should weed out that problem. 
However, one must remember that the consent of an individual is indispensable for Aadhaar. Unlike a Voter ID or a PAN card, one is under no legal obligation to get an Aadhaar Card. Therefore, the sudden and forceful implementation may actually violate one's Fundamental Rights. Also, a lot of people don't want to opt for it as they are not too sure if their biometric data (required for Aadhaar Card) will be secure with third party service providers. So the best way ahead will be priority-based adoption and gradual inclusion of the entire country. But how long it will take to reach that goal is anybody's guess.

Adhaar Card Not Mandatory, Supreme Court Rules
NDTV by Divyanshu Dutta Roy 
The Supreme Court said the government will now have to publicise widely that the Aadhaar card was not mandatory.
NEW DELHI:  The Supreme Court today said that the Aadhaar unique identity system will not be compulsory for Indian citizens to benefit from government services.
Hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar as a compulsory system to receive government subsidies and services, a constitution bench of the top court ruled against the government.
The government had contended that the biometric-based system of unique identification was an essential tool to ensure transparency in its services.
Rejecting the government's plea, the Supreme Court said it will now have to publicise widely that the Aadhaar card was not mandatory.
It also ruled that no authority shall seek Aadhaar cards from citizens to accord any services. However, on the discretion of the card-owner, it can be used for availing the subsidies in the public distribution system, gas cylinders and purchasing kerosene.
The biometric data collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India cannot be used for any other purpose except in criminal investigations with the permission of the court, the judges said.
Amid concerns of private contractors hired for collecting biometric data, the court said the data will have to be safely retained only by the government.
The use of the Aadhaar as a mandatory system by several states and the Centre had been challenged in the court by retired High Court Judge K Puttasaamy the Centre for Public Interest Litigation.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Possessive Parents And Their (Slave) Boys

'I don'no... what if she can't get along with my family,' 'what if she and my mom have a fight,' 'I dun'no... what if she can't adjust with my folks; and I have to make a decision between the two(?!) What will I do?' '... that's why my mom insists on searching for a girl from the same religion and caste for me, you see.' 
... These are doubts that I get to hear from 30 (plus) year old grown-up, soon-to-be married, eligible bachelors who are at the (arranged) marriage prowl these days. I was puzzled at first to hear and see so much of reservations and considerations that at times I wondered if these were just excuses to delay their marriage - probably because they were in a relationship that they couldn't reveal then. 
Seems like I was wrong until lately I discovered that these fellows who reserve their choices in their never-ending tireless quest for finding that perfect woman, found issues not in these poor unknown women they met but incidentally knew the unwelcome and hostile conditions that prevailed in their own homes way too well. These were fellows who were not confident of their own families and in that forage, attempt to find fault with other's, their families and ultimately end up questioning the other's upbringing - at a time when they should be questioning their own. Cognitive dissonance at its best.

I pity these midnight's children seeking brides or at least who seem to be enjoying the drama of bride-showcasing that seems to happen once in a while - when clueless parents parade their daughters before these boys and their parents only to soon hear that those paraded grapes are sour. These are hair-receding, pot-belly bulging, confused Indian boys stuck with their parents often out on this social exercise hunting for girls - who get to see water, water everywhere yet know that they will get not a drop to drink. 

Then there is the advanced level such families reach when they do find a girl 'fitting' for their son... Often after a certain age, every family has a victim-child - a child who turns out to be the driver, watchman, handyman, bills-paying delivery boy and who at times is also the wage-earner too that no parent can afford to give up so easily - definitely not to a woman or that child he manages to have who are seen as a hurdle to direct parental access.This is usually that same son of their's that decides to stay home dutifully 'to take care of the parents' with mounds of parental sentiments and displaced love misdirected and showered on him as a compensation for the offered services and rendered duties.
Ask the parent's and they will defend their child and his claim to (self) righteousness with their utmost might and claim that everything that could possibly be wrong are the wrongs of their bitchy daughter-in-law; who else could possibly destroy their otherwise abnormally 'normal' home?!
Ask the stray few who might defend these parents and they will quote this child and his reckless betrayal of his own family (his wife and child/ren) to nest his parents as a sacrifice beyond human imagination that needs to be worshiped and will add on that the Earth is in dearth of such kinds.
Trying to make sense to these people, is more like singing poetry to a scarecrow all day long when you are short of an audience to sway. 

Perhaps they do not realize that it reveals more than it covers how fragile and pathetic those parents who want to sacrifice a child as a means to fulfill their own needs and meet their own ends are... even if it means breaking the home of their own child to have their way. 

May such parents get well soon or rest in peace at ease... 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Antiques And Its Familial Route

The antique market has surely picked up these days. What once was considered old, today seems to fetch gold. Recently, I was at a shop that sells antiques in Nagercoil - everything this guy sells, he buys for the price of scrap ('aakar' in Tamil) and sells them for almost their weight in gold - a cheapo in buying and a shark when it comes to selling. With a refined hobby that has been reduced and commercialized, today we get to see the market and the fellows who control it, unable to distinguish between class and crap as both get mixed into a heap.  

Recently, there was the impulsiveness in me to complete (or so I temporarily feel) a vintage watch collection with that Henry Sandoz I finally found in one of those antique corridors. Now, along with the Favre Leuba, Pagol, West End, HMTs and a few pocket watches sits the latest Henry - to be wound time to time - that springs to run all well and fine even now... some way past a hundred years. 

This fascination went out of control recently when I started eyeing the pendulum clocks too. Soon I was to understand the time consumed to preserve these pieces of art that have withstood the test of time and had to give up on not wanting to accumulate beyond my capacity to care. Trust me, reviving an antique without letting it lose its essentials or character while at the same time preserving it, is always an art that needs constant learning.  

Then I ask myself, why does one treasure what another decides to give up or throw away(?!) Would it be the delight in the ruins? Would it be the pleasure derived from seeing beauty of imperfection in art? Would it be the unsaid joy in holding something from the pages of history? Would it be the energy that passes while connecting to something that has witnessed a hundred stories and a thousand dramas in its life time and still? 
Somehow I do not have one objective reason to justify this craze and as a matter of fact, I don't know and I don't have to... hahaha.

At times, I wonder about the journey these articles must have made before making their way to the dump, the antique dealer's shelf or to a collector's home. Some of my friends who have a wonderful collection of antiques have pieces that are mostly passed on - from generation to generation within their family - or handed over to them from people who are tired of having them for long and want to replace an old, place-grabber with a more functional, compact modern equipment. 

Keeping antiques is much like holding the traditions, values, morale, ethos, culture and relationships within a family; anyone trying to keep one, will know the struggle that requires plenty of patience and lot of winding and polishing that is required just to keep it working - the reason perhaps why many give up so easily or opt for exchanging it for one that suits their life style. Very often we do not understand nor comprehend the value of the one that is often too close. 
Stealing words from Kavignar Kannadhasan, 'though the closest, the eyes never get to see the eyelids.' 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bull$hit On The Menu

Off the Ground to the Menu

Interesting turn of events - at least in the Jallikattu front - with Tamil Nadu in the line of fire. The cow and the bull have been giving the Prime Minister quite some trouble these days it seems. From the time he tried to give a menu card - of what to eat and what not to (banning a few in the mean time) instead of abolishing hunger, diversion from issues that needs to be in focus seems to be the central theme about his moves and a stray part of the country seems to sway to his tune.

For starters let us take some hunger facts into account.
According to FAO estimates in ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2015” report, 194.6 million people are undernourished in India. By this measure India is home to a quarter of the undernourished population in the world. 
Now, add these facts too. 
  • India is home to the largest undernourished and hungry population in the world
  • 15.2% of our population is undernourished
  • 194.6million people go hungry everyday
  • 30.7% of children under 5 are underweight
  • 58% of children stunted by 2 years of age
  • 1 in 4 children malnourished
  • 3,000 children in India die every day from poor diet related illness
  • 24% of under-five deaths in India
  • 30% of neo-natal deaths in India
(Source: https://www.indiafoodbanking.org/hunger) 

Does banning a category of meat solve the issue of hunger (?) or help feed the hungry (???) Well then, I would gladly spare not just the bull and his mother - the holy cow, yet also the buffalo too. Kerala rose up to roast this silly plan in its own style and platter. The moment the ban shot up, there were beef-eating fests taking place all over God's own country; so much so that even Yama Dharma's vehicle would have been at stake had he dared objected.

Off the Menu to the Ground

Then came the clipping of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and Kambala in Karnataka. Why bother? Why interfere? Especially in areas where mass sentiments, traditions and rituals are part of a life-style for Indians - even if it does not fit into the measure of sense, sensitivity and nevertheless - sensibility of a minority-few... 

I remember a certain ritual followed in Karnataka where more than 500 devotees arrive at the Kukke Subrahmanya temple in Dakshin Kannada to take part in its trademark three-day ritual called the 'made snana.' 

The made snana ('made' meaning leftover and 'snana' meaning bath), in which people roll over plantain leaves with leftovers of food eaten by Brahmins. Devotees, believe the practice will cure and protect them from skin diseases, infertility or a family curse. 

The religious tradition became controversial in 2010 when, pushed by social and Dalit activists, the state government tried to ban it. The progressives criticised the ritual as being caste-based, against hygiene, and against human dignity. Traditionalists have argued that the government must stay out of matters of personal faith.

The state government's ban on this practice - in a pretext to be progressive - caused a hue and cry, especially among the forest tribe community called the Malekudiyas. The Malekudiyas, who played a significant role in temple functions refused to perform their duties and demanded that the ban be lifted. In 2011, BS Yeddyurappa, the chief minster at the time, relented to the pressure from devotees, priests and members of his administration and reinstated the tradition. Ironically, the ones for whom the ban was imposed, were the ones who fought to lift the ban which followed and allowed them to roll there and here and anywhere as they please. 


Recently, the one and only (or so he feels) Modi'ji used the media as his medium to announce his idea of a demonetization drive with no other consultation, parliamentary resolution or consensus required from people or their representatives - or so he felt, marking his spot and take on where he sits in the fine line of democracy quite clear to any political observer. Once again with 97% of the notes reaching the banks, perhaps the remaining 3 lying in the hands of curios collectors and those retaining a few notes for sentiment-value or with the likes of the poor tribal who neither knows about this demon-itization drive nor has a bank account to exchange his life-long savings of a few thousand crumbled old notes rolled into a small stack. Everyone exchanged their old notes for new and easier to store pink notes now available in higher denominations - the rich somehow managed to fill in their store before anyone else could - a few stray incidents showed the unbelievable quantum of pinks the sleuths could trace to the doors of rich people when most of India was waiting like beggars to draw their own money in giant queues in front of No Time Teller Machines that seemed to be always out of cash; the rich seemed to have benefited from Modiji's plan before the poor and the really ordinary middle-class - the one's like me - could even get a glimpse of those hard to exchange, girly-pink notes. 

According to a recent Indian government committee constituted to estimate poverty, nearly 38% of India’s population (380 million) is poor.

For some more relevant statistics:
  • 50% of Indians don’t have proper shelter
  • 70% don’t have access to decent toilets 
  • 35% of households don’t have a nearby water source
  • 85% of villages don’t have a secondary school 
  • Over 40% of these same villages don’t have proper roads connecting them.
and still my country's representatives claim a 9% annual growth rate.
(Source: https://www.poverties.org/blog/poverty-in-india) 

So basically at the end of the day, through this demon-itization exercise, the keeper of the welfare state managed to get the sensex crashed, businesses drop, got the government to spend quite some stack to not just print yet also destroy over 15 lakh crore in cash (of 500 and 1000 Rs notes) that came back to the treasury's shelf that will be of no use to anyone anymore; somehow the government managed to recall no black money at all with absolutely no point in this exercise. Meanwhile, the incidence of poverty and its effect remains the same with no Modi-fication done in that front... history seems to record a classic Thuqlak'ian blunder once again.

End Note

Now there is an ongoing digital drive and a subtle forcing aadhar up your (whatever) drive that is going on. (Shall write about that soon.) In the meantime as I await the next ban, before the final ban on thinking happens, I think the bull is going to lock horns with the one who released it - as they say, 'the one who lives by the sword will die by the sword.' As for the people of Tamil Nadu, ironically, the biggest and best Jallikattu seems to have happened this year - where they have tamed the undemocratic beast let loose from the centre with people power at the state. Someone has to bell the cat or the bovine as the case may be... isn't it?