Monday, October 16, 2017


Digital literacy is often seen in the limited sense of an individual’s ability to use and benefit from modern electronic gadgets today. However, there is also a need for people to know the true worth of the vast array of gadgets which are at offer. This is especially true for many of us who are used to selling our old wares to the local scraps buyer or the kabadiwala. In this age of smart gadgets where our mobile phones are lighter than our wrist watches and our laptops weigh less than our shoes, the weighing scale of the kabadiwala will yield us naught nought. You surely do not want to part with your three year old Rs. 20,000 mobile phone for Rs. 300. Bargaining with them for a better price would seem useless today given the difficulty, if not for an impossibility, for any individual to judge the right price of the array of electronic gadgets available to us today with newer editions being released every other week.

Personally, I have a had a great fascination for every new release of mobile phone and laptop since my first purchase during college in 2004. With every technological innovation, I would be urged to revise model and edition of the mobile phone and laptop that I possessed. I have ever frequently changed my phone since the days of the first Nokia speaker phone to my Galaxy S6 and Dell Latitude-X300 to my Macbook Air. I have since changed six phones and 3 laptops, but have always felt burdened with the need to sell my previous possessions. I hate bargaining and get annoyed when people underestimate prices based simply on how old they are. Imagine my horror in 2011 when a neighbour argued with me on why my perfectly functional neatly kept Iphone3G was to cost no more than Rs. 3000. This hassle has often led me to resort to waiting for a better price and thus hoarding. Online portals offer chances to put one’s product for sale but the hassle of having to bargain a right price still remains. My mother had in this frustration once sold off our first Dell laptop to the scrap dealer without my knowledge while I was back in hostel. Eventually, even I ended up selling them for cheaper prices with a heavy heart, just to avoid watching them rust and rot in disuse.

We need a buyer who is proficient enough to understand the inherent worth of our gadgets based on the features and values they continue to offer. This is especially true in the case of our mobile phones and laptops which we tend to change more frequently than the rest.

I have found a friend to allay my worries and feel much content in reselling my gadgets today. Cashify fills the much needed space of a technical mediator who helps to procure the best price for our old gadgets in a quick and stress free way. It gives an instant price quote, free device pick-up and instant cash delivery at your doorstep, thus assuring a hassle free experience when selling our older mobile handsets or laptops. Among other electronic delices, they also help us with our older Television sets, desktop computers, tablets, gaming consoles and others. A very beneficial service on offer indeed. Its ease of use is an added advantage when looking to quickly sell off old items.
This festive month seems offering a perfect time to make use of it. So why make haste and let your devices to rot. It’s time to make the most of #cleanupcashout before beginning your purchases this Diwali.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

An Impetus to #StartANewLife

The biggest temptation to lie as children comes up owing to the dread of retribution from our parents, elders or other people in authority. Gradually with age, the propensity to lie grows stronger and stronger due to increasing fears. The sole reason of one’s inability to say the truth is due to the lack of confidence in facing the repercussions of saying the truth. In many ways, it is the elders who encourage this habit to lie by punishing excessively which in many ways discourages one from being honest.

As a growing up child, I had often given in to the urge to lie to my parents fearing a beating. But as you grow up, there arrive situations in life when one is in a moral dilemma over whether to lie or to say the truth. The desire to lie is strong but the ethical self intrudes one’s mind to say the truth.

I was faced with such a predicament when sitting for a job interview to a reputed organization this January. It was to be my first job and I had been sitting in it beaming with confidence. The selection process was competitive and there were three levels- a written round, group discussion round, and an interview round to clear before a candidate could be selected. I had reached the final round successfully and had cleared it. However, I was at this point faced with the dilemma of whether or not to hide the fact that I was a patient of epilepsy. Epilepsy being a health situation which most organizations do not want their employees to have owing to various notions and prejudices associated to the competence of an epileptic individual.

I decided to go with the truth and was frank and honest about my health situation. Much to my disbelief, I was eventually rejected. This came as a setback as I had been the sole candidate selected from our college to that particular organization. In the following two months, I attended 3 more interviews where I stood firmly for what was true. Unfortunately, as things would come to be, all of them refused. This is especially surprising one notes that I am a student of social work who had been looking for employment with NGOs ‘dedicatedly’ working towards eliminating discrimination and alleviating inequalities in society.

All the same, the last four months have been an experience, especially the first time when I mustered the courage to say the truth and stand my ground instead of choosing to lie. Altogether, they have in many ways made me stronger, more confident, and have encouraged me to #StartANewLife.

 Today I have gotten myself a place to work without having to sacrifice my honesty, and this has made me bolder than ever.

Get bolder and start a new life with
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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Towards a more Inclusive #DigitalIndia

While the mid 18th century to the early 19th century period saw the rise of the Industrial revolution which transformed the way things were manufactured and produced, the mid 20th century to the present 21st century is undoubtedly the age of the Information & Communication Technology revolution where ICT has transformed the way humans think, act and live in the world today.

However, despite the immense potential of this revolution its impact on the near 70% of Indians living in the villages has been little. Rural India has been spatially excluded from all the changes one witnesses in the bustling cities of the country which have come to become the nerve-centers of all information and services.

Electronic governance or E-governance is a pioneering idea in ensuring the inclusion of this section of society and is being taken up actively by the government to ensure a digitally enabled citizenry who are able to avail of their rights and entitlements in a speedy, economical and transparent manner. This could help a greatly in ensuring that corruption and bureaucratic lethargy are contained at various levels by making the service provider accountable to the service user directly. It would ensure that people are able to avail of the rights and privileges that are owed to them.
But how would this happen? Let us see a few narratives from Odisha, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu which highlight instances where E-governance initiatives could be effective, and areas where they have been implemented effectively. All the reports are based on field works conducted first hand by the blogger.

An account from Odisha

The above picture is of a school which was left half constructed in 2003. The children of the Paharia community living in Baijalpur village of Sinapalli block in Odisha’s Nuapada district continue to lack the basic faciliti of having a school to complete their education in. The teacher reportedly comes once every month from the town of s\Sinapalli to register his presence and ensure he gets his salary.

The hamlet of Pahariapada within the village of Baijalpur is located atop a hillock and has been socially, economically and geographically disconnected from the main village. Despite houses being constructed under government schemes, the hamlet lacks electricity and proper sanitation facilities.

With the Bamboo Weavers of Pahariapada

 “This situation can be changed if communication services and infrastructure facilities were decentralized to the village level” says Mr. Bhimsen in a declined tone. Bhimsen is a member of Loka Drusti, a local NGO, and is someone who has great faith in the power of ICT. When asked “how?” this transformation could take place, he replies with a smile, “It would be easier to make the officials accountable and create a transparent system of entitlement delivery. This would ensure that contractors don’t leave the work half done because poor people are unable to offer them their ‘extra fees’ (a euphemism used for bribes taken from the villagers).”

A Narrative from Maharashtra
In the newly formed district of Palghar in Maharashtra, the people of Utchaavli village had no knowledge of the Employment Guarantee Scheme till we met them in August last year. The bad condition of the connecting road from the village to Saphale station along with excessive flooding during the monsoon made it impossible for them to send their children to schools during the monsoon.

The poor road condition
The Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission, a part of the larger government flagship program the National Rural Livelihood Mission has been trying to mobilize the villagers in Palghar district to actively voice their demands for their rights. The Mission and its employees have been trying to teach the people on how to network and organize themselves using a simple mobile device. Awareness programs have been undertaken and villagers now know about how to receive their wage allowance after having completed work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

"The benefits of E-governance have fast been realized by the Maharashtra government which has taken up efforts to pace up the Sangram Kendras, an initiative that aims to transfer all major government documentation and data processes to an online system which would operate at the village level." says Mr. Udhav who works with the mission office. It will document 11 different subjects ranging from birth/death certificates, land records/revenues, targeted entitlements, etc.

The Sangram Kendras shall also have a software for accounting village revenues. There will be a National Panchayat Portal and an Assessment Portal to check the expenditure budgets of various Gram Panchayats, all of which will be classified under the Area Profile, Plan Plus and Action software. Mr. Amit Pimple who is the Taluka Coordinator provided the above information.

The advantages of having an effective E-governance system in place are many, but it is to be remembered that the challenges are not few.

The First problem to be addressed is, the absence of an adequate digital infrastructure to ensure an effective outreach of ICT facilities is a major hindrance to making services available electronically.

The Block Development Officer of Sinapalli block in Nuapada district, Odisha complained how the direct cash transfer policy for NREGA payments had been dysfunctional due to the lack of internet facilities, because of which transfer of wages could not be made online by his staff at the block office leading to a three month delay in payment of wages.

But it is to be noted that the present government has actively taken upon itself the task of laying optic fiber cables to cover all the villages of India in the next three years and to make broadband services available in the entire country.

A Second problem, and the more serious problem is that of the lack of Digital literacy among the people to make use of available provisions as was seen in Gadchiroli district. The Gond tribals in the hamlet of Bharritola in Korchi block did not have any knowledge on financial services and the presence of Regional Rural Banks and the facilities of Scheduled Tribe Reservations in educational institutions which they were entitled to.

In this case it is interesting to take note of Intel India's Digital Inclusion initiative which aims to take forward the government's vision and has launched the 'Digital Skills for India programme' which aims to train 5 million people in 5 different local languages on issues of digital literacy, sanitation/hygiene, and financial inclusion.

For more information log on to

As has been observed in the urban setting, E-governance has helped to enhance the provision of services like applying for a passport, buying railway tickets, filing applications under the Right To Information Act, registering complaints to the Consumer court, etc.

In the Marakkanam/Mailam block of Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu, it was observed that the villagers were able to avail of the benefits of direct cash transfers due to the presence of a good infrastructure system that ensured people got their NREGA wages on time.

Thus E-Governance, as has been seen in some instances, can help to ensure the speedy delivery of service entitlements in a transparent manner where accountability is ensured at every step of the delivery process. This will help tackle corruption and ensure efficiency thus facilitating the realization of an empowered #DigitalIndia with a well informed citizenry.

This post has been written as a part of a contest hosted by Indiblogger and Intel. All the photographs used in this post belong to the blogger and are copyrighted.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

#Together with a friend in Mumbai

There sometimes arrive times when we are so troubled and bogged down that we do not want to get off our beds and want to sleep all day hugging our pillows close to our hearts. I had felt the same not many years ago when I arrived in Mumbai to pursue my bachelors in media studies. Far away from home, I had led myself into living a monotonous life where I had no friends and people to call my own.

My college was 45 kms away and my pursuit for a qualifying graduate degree meant I had to wake up at 5 every morning to get ready and catch a local train flooding with humanity to reach my college exhausted as a bull would be after having ploughed a field. Taking a bath was a worthless effort as I would be drenched in the sweat of a hundred odd other people in the course of my travel.

Living life alone was a tough affair and nothing seemed to be going my way. However, life changed after I came to know Pinku. Pinku was my first friend in class who I had initially assumed to be a fool, but later had come to become best friends with.

A bike accident in my school days had caused a severe head injury which had rendered me with an epileptic problem. I still remember the first attack that had struck me in the second month of college and how I woke up in the hospital bed confused over all that had happened over the past 3 hours. An attack of seizure was the last thing I would have wanted in a city which I had come to live only a month ago, But Pinku had made it seem all easy. He had taken me home that night and aunty had fed me with a simple meal of dal and roti which seemed like heaven after all the outside food I had been living on for the last 30 odd days.

I stayed for over 4 days straight, going to college and returning back like it were my own home. Aunty would daily ask me what I would like to have while uncle would ensure I was doing fine. Pinku was only too happy to have me over for company. I left on the 5th day, after I had started to feel embarrassed for having stayed for so long. To my surprise, I was abused for long by Pinku for thinking that way and was coerced by his parents to stay back for a few more days. Giving into their coercion, I stayed for one night longer and remember having left for my lodging with misty eyes. This was my first #together moment in the City of Dreams.

Now you can make your own beautiful moments with
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Saturday, November 1, 2014

In search of My God

As a growing up child, I was always forbidden from asking such questions as, “where is God and why should we worship him?” My mother, the only person who would give me a hearing would reassure me that their existed a superior omnipresent power who we all ought to worship for all the good things we enjoy in life. And indeed, for this reason I worshipped God (whenever the need arose, as most of us do) until sometime around the age of 10 when I started to suspect that probably praying was all but a waste of time. “The God who I prayed to had never shown himself to me. Why then should I pray to him?” My rising doubts were criticized upon at home and even at school (I studied at one of those affiliated to the Arya Samaj) where they punished me for refusing to attend the ‘compulsory’ Saturday morning Havan (a vedic ritual).

The continuous rebukes and sermons that I began receiving finally ended my defiance and made me submit to the existence of God. I remained passive though and continued to sincerely worship him owing to the fear instilled in me that said, “You’ve got to believe in him for otherwise you shall have to endure great miseries.” It was the fear of the unknown that made me believe in him. When I look back now, I realize how I had been rather tortured to believe in a God that I wasn’t so much willing to believe in. I had always been told at home that no religion was better than Hinduism. However, there lay one question that plagued my head and that distressed me to no end. Which religion’s funeral practice was the best one to follow?

Disturbed as my thoughts were, I was asked to believe in God and worship him, but never was I told on how I could get to meet him and get to know him.” Blind faith or imminent suffering was the response

While pursuing my Bachelors degree in Mumbai, I was introduced to the treasure trove that was my college library. It proved to be the first source to my search for answers. My first book was the Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s – Future of an Illusion. It declared in its very cover page, “Religion is the universal neurosis.” The book fascinated me as I had done some previous readings of Freud and his contributions to Personality Theories. It made me realize how I had been but an ignorant all through this while. I still strongly believe on a lot of what he wrote, and I quote from his book,

“When a man has brought upon himself to accept uncritically all the absurdities that religious doctrines put before him and even to overlook the contradictions between them, we need not be greatly surprised at the weakness of his intellect.”
-          Sigmund Freud, Future of an Illusion, 1927

This along with Marx’s famous “Religion is the Opium of the Masses” was enough to make me forego all my beliefs in God. Atheism, as my non-belief was termed, made me criticize the institution of religion and mock the concept of God. I felt a strange sort of freedom. A freedom from the ignorance that I had been enclosed within for so long. A freedom from the false belief of the existence of a supernatural power who was constantly overseeing us and was keeping an account of all our good and bad deeds that were to be accounted for later in our afterlives.

It was around the same time that an uncle of mine, having known my views on religion, recommended me to read a book titled What Religion is; in the words of Swami Vivekananda. Vivekananda was a 19th century spiritual monk who had established the Ramakrishna Mission and had gained fame for representing Hinduism, and for speaking on the unity of all religions at the Parliament of world’s Religions, Chicago, 1893. My views on Vivekananda had been a little negative due to his portrayal as a Hindutva icon by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But the book, a collection of his speeches was enough to make me rethink my opinions.

Religion is to be realized. And for you to become religious means that you will have to start without any religion, work your way up, and realize things, see things for yourself. When you have done that, then, and then alone, you have religion.
-          Vivekananda

Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within, by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one or more of all these – and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms are but secondary details.
-          Vivekananda

I had read Gandhi’s autobiography My Experiments with Truth rather lethargically as a kid back then just to be a part of those many who had read it as well. Gandhi had never inspired me, but that was only till I read Hind Swaraj. It was then that I truly began to understand his ideas.

We should do the labour that the poor do, and thus identify ourselves with them and through them with all mankind.
-          M.K Gandhi

Another document that I came across on the internet titled Truth is God was truly enlightening. Though lengthy, it is worth a read for all those confused on their perceptions of God. It is available on the internet and is just a Google search away.

Worship involves inciting the innermost feelings and emotions inside one self. Music is one way of doing it, work another, and prayer yet another. Most of us worship a false God. A God of our mental creation who is our savior at all times. God for most of us is like a sort of a UPS or generator which we resort to when down on power and low on morale. The only difference here being that the back-up we resort to actually exists in our mind itself. The saying “God helps those who help themselves” has a much deeper meaning.

From my long and silent personal deliberation over the subject of worship, I have come to believe that for me it is in the service of the people that I find true solace. In knowing that I have come of help to some and that I shall be able to provide the same service for someone else tomorrow, I find my God.

However, on keener deliberations, I often realize on how even my service as a social worker shall involve a selfish monetary intent. Truth be said, I believe my allegiance to my own faith of finding God through the means of service to be pretentious in certain ways. I often mull over these questions and ask myself.

- Would I provide service if denied a salary?
- Can I detach myself to such an extent that I start to live an austere and simple life where I expect nothing in return for my service?
- Far from expecting monetary benefits, could I remain without expecting even a smile or any sign of acknowledgment for my work?

The day I shall be able to do that, I shall have worshipped God for the first time. But that shall demand of me to renounce all worldly pleasures and get to a spiritual level which I doubt I shall ever be able to achieve.
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Limits to using 'Technology'

My experience of staying without gadgets, telecommunication, and the World Wide Web after having gotten acquainted with all of them happened first when out on my field trip to the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. The tribal dominated district of Gadchiroli which falls on the eastern corner of the state is a densely forested tribal district often known infamously as being the western end of the Red Corridor.

When we started off at first, everything looked like fun. Me and five of my other friends felt like we were backpacking through the jungles of central India only until the moment when one of us picked up our mobile phones to call her parents. NO NETWORK.

We were to do a home stay in a tribal household and on the evening we reached, we were provided dinner at 7 p.m. Open-defecation was the norm of the hamlet and we were up before dawn with our cans of water to attend to nature’s call. None of the houses had electricity and except for the one solar run street light that existed at the centre-point of the village, everyone depended on torches or kerosene lamps. The home we stayed in had an old battery run transistor which worked only when out in the field. Once our batteries were exhausted, neither our phones nor our laptops were functional.

While all this sounds gross and unfit for living, they were in many ways a lot better off than us urban people.

Instead of watching an IPL or the new ISL, like we do to keep ourselves entertained (supporting teams we often have little to identify with) people in the village actively conduct and participate in inter-village sporting events (kabaddi, khokho etc.) which are held regularly. I was given the pleasure of being a part of one of their matches too. This, we observed, encouraged bonding of villagers across villages. But sadly, we never have inter-‘Society’ or inter-colony matches in the cities.

There of course was the famous gilli-danda. But that along with Card games were reserved for the afternoon after lunch sessions.

They lived in small communities and stayed in cohesion with each other. Although people were concerned (like in every place else) about their individual interests, they saw their well being in the welfare of the village at large. Mindless daily soap dramas were instead substituted by community gatherings by the village women at the village centre every night. They talked, danced to music and made merry.
While we saw them as poor, they always seemed content. Even a few households who had their children working in the cities were happy to speak to them once in a few days. And to think that my parents, when in hostel, monitor my every move at least thrice everyday over the mobile phone. Technology has increased the pace of our lives and has made us anxious and fearful. Privacy seems extinct and the need to know things as and when they happen has made us restless. My mom sheds tears when she’s unable to contact me for a few days due to lack of network. Skype has only worsened things.

I am in no way denying the worthiness of technology in our lives. In many ways the lack of technology has proven detrimental to their lives. Despite everyone possessing a mobile phone, the lack of good mobile connectivity makes it difficult for them to contact an ambulance at the block town 40 kms away during an emergency. They remained oblivious to many developments in the country at large.

Personally, I think we need to find a balance between the two. The benefits of technology are unquestionable. But an excess of technology is in some ways building distances between us, and is in some other ways making us anxious beings. Also, we cannot allow our children to become couch potatoes who sit on their Playstations and Xboxs 24/7, or who otherwise stay fixated to FaceBook on their smart phones chatting and playing Candy Crush with their friends living two blocks away.
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Purpose of Education

“You don’t even have an ambition. You do not like to wear good clothes, aspire to wear a nice watch, or have a house and a car in the future. What is the point of your studying so much? There is no point in your reading so many books and wasting your time if you have no aim to succeed”, declared my aunt when delivering another one of her long sermons when discussing my future.

Much irritated as I was, her statement of success shook me strong and made me doubt my whole approach towards education. I suddenly realized how she had brought the purpose of learning down to being nothing more than a means to secure a bright (read- monetarily secure) future. I started to wonder if that is all what education was about- money, a comfortable life and good living.

Would we have had a C.V Raman and a Ramanujam if their approach to learning had been the same? What about all the Verghese Kurien’ and Bunker Roy’ we’ve produced? I wondered.

Why then is society today so intolerant towards people who want to pursue something different because they find it interesting. Why is success solely measured through the prism of money today?

“Education is not merely a matter of training the mind. Training makes for efficiency, but it does not bring about completeness.” 
– Jiddu Krishnamurti

When after doing my Bachelors in Mass Media I chose to shift  to doing a Masters in Social Work, the whole of my extended family frowned upon my choice and even asked me mockingly, “So you aspire to become a Mahatma Gandhi now is it?”
Like wanting to become a Gandhi in life was something wrong.

Our present education is geared towards industrialization with its principal aim being to develop efficiency. With examinations and degrees being declared the prerequisite to future development, we are raising our children in a world of ruthless competition and mutual destruction which never allows them time to think on vital human issues.

Success is today measured in terms of the superior salary that you draw in comparison to thy relations/colleagues. With the meaning of a ‘comfortable life’ being defined by an excessively commodified and market-oriented society, everyone is out trying to fulfill this world view. This increasing need to satisfy the society had led to a very few of us actually pursuing what we love and are passionate about.

Is it necessarily true that a confused person without an ambition is useless and worth nothing?
Why is it that our society cannot so easily accept people who want to carve their own path by gaining their own experience?

To be confused is good. A confused mind is a thinking mind. All it needs is some genuine guidance.
Many people ask me this question, “How can we take up what we are passionate about? There are so many needs and responsibilities to be fulfilled.” Without denying the verity of these statements by any measure, it is undeniably true that people today have ever expanding needs and are never happy with as much is necessary. With them having no definition of ‘enough’, they are always unhappy and are aspiring for more. When does one limit one’s wants?

We thus have a generation of IITians and IIM graduates, who work mindlessly in offices on dull and boring assignments, which offer very little, or no scope for new and innovative ideas. With the money being the sole incentive, all of them rue over the monotony in their line of work. There are a few for whom the money factor acts as a great incentive. But for those many who seek out for interesting careers with job satisfaction, work life becomes a tedious affair. This has created a generation of depressed workers who have increasingly become dependent on cigarettes, alcohol and anti-depressants to keep their work life going.

It’s time that society stopped assuming education to be nothing more than a means to earn money. Monetizing the final output of education is a sort of mental prostitution. People should understand that an individual may sometimes simply have a passion to learn. She/He may not have the best of house or the finest of cars in the future, but they shall certainly be content. It is essential for parents to rethink their views on education and to make learning a fun and desirable activity for children so as to help them draw their own future paths.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Celebrating Diwali, Deepavali and Kali Pujo


I come from a multi-lingual background where my mother is a Tamil and my father is a Bengali. Their distinct customs and rituals meant that every festival in our house was celebrated in a manner in which both their traditions were amalgamated in a way in which neither felt deprived over the other. But Diwali was an exception owing to its distinct way of celebration by both of them. My mother called it Deepavali while my father called it Kali Pujo. Either way, it was a festival we celebrated as a community with a host of people coming together to share sweets and burst crackers.

New clothes were a regular feature during the festival of Diwali with my brother and me getting to buy two pairs of the choicest of clothes this one time of the year. The budget for purchasing fireworks was usually small and all that was bought would have to be divided between my brother and me into accurate halves for otherwise we would end up fighting cats and dogs. As a child, I remember how I’d feign courage when I’d actually be frightened when it came to lighting those ‘atom’ and ‘hydrogen’ bombs because there were girls in our colony watching us from behind.

In keeping with my Tamil tradition, we would wake up early in the morning just before the break of dawn, take an oil bath, and burst crackers just as the first rays of light would begin to appear in the sky. Again as a part of Kali Puja, I would wear on my Bengali self to celebrate Diwali with sweets and crackers late into the night. My multi-lingual background actually made me enjoy a double dose of Diwali.

Sweets and savories were another hallmark of the festival with my mom preparing a host of them which would then be packed neatly and distributed by us among our neighbors after a special pooja. She would place the gas stove on the floor to begin making the Boondis which she would later shape to make round round ladoos. If that wasn’t enough, she would go on to make Rava ladoos, home-made mixture/farsaan and the delicious murukku/chakli. Every time we tried to take a bite, she would whack us telling us to wait till the pooja got over. Somehow the laddoos that we stole and ate tasted better than those given to us later after the pooja :-).

Pepsi and Kurkure – Ghar Wali Diwali

Diwali in those days was a festival. The excitement of wearing new clothes and going to every house in the neighborhood to distribute sweets was an excitement of its own for us children.

With the changing times, festivals truly have lost their essence. The festival of lights which lit our hearts and souls is slowly losing its charm with people using all their time to shop on account of festive discounts rather than wanting to spend time with their extended family.

Being away from home owing work, I want to say that I love you so much ma. I miss your laddoos. Wish I could steal a few of them like I always did. I Hope I get to celebrate a Diwali just like the old times next year.

Happy Diwali, Deepavali and Kali Pujo.
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Monday, October 20, 2014

"Daddy"- The Birth of a Father [REVIEW]

In a world where fathers are becoming equally, if not more involved in the upbringing of their children, Tuhin Sinha’s new book ‘DADDY - The birth of a father’ is a must read for every new age dad.  Based primarily on his personal experience, the author adds anecdotes from the experiences of other fathers and includes professional pieces from renowned pediatricians and child psychologists. It comes as a first of its kind book in addressing the questions and anxieties of just born fathers.

Says Tuhin in his book, “If a woman can juggle responsibilities so beautifully, I don’t see why we should be left behind.” DADDY has a story to tell of how a man's inability to endure the physical pain of child-birth doesn't in any way stop him from being his wife’s pillar of support. Reading it indeed proves that sharing the responsibilities of parenting can be an amazing experience.

The lack of a Paternity leave in India for fathers means that a large part of the load of child care falls on the mother. However, there are various other ways in which a father can help to ensure the welfare of the new born.

The book is neatly divided into 6 Sections with each of them being divided into separate chapters. Every chapter ends with a ‘Things to Remember’ where the chief points of that chapter are summarized in bullet-pointers.

Beginning with helping one to decide on what the right time to become a parent is, the book goes on to explain what a man is to do right upon knowing that his wife is pregnant. It highlights the essentials that need to be ensured amid all the joy and delight of the good news.

Successive chapters help to understand how a man is to treat his wife during the course of 9 months of pregnancy. The various fears about birth related complications expecting parents often feel are dealt with in a thorough and comprehensive manner.

The author’s personal experiences during Labour Day in the hospital and the baby’s homecoming are interesting and in many ways an essential read. The boons and banes of the role played by the grandparents have been justly represented and are undeniable. The book deals with many anxieties that arise in the minds of first time fathers due to the lack of proper medical knowledge and shows how most of these fears are falsely based.

Also, rather than restricting his discussion to the role of a father alone, Tuhin additionally and interestingly discusses on the need for a father to work on his role of being a good husband as well. Reconnecting the lost love between a couple post child birth is important too. A happy family shall mean a healthy child.

A good part of the book is kept for discussing the issue of disciplining and when to know that parental indulgence is spoiling a child. Anxiety issues that arise in a child and other problems that can arise in a child’s mind are discussed with solutions in an expert take penned down by the renowned psychologist, Dr. Seema Hingorrany.

A chapter titled ‘Protecting your Baby’ highlights on the need for vaccination and the dos and don’ts to follow in the event of common illnesses. Another expert take is offered here by pediatric consultant and oncologist, Dr. Santanu Sen and pediatrician Dr. Ninad Hebbalkar.

The seventh and last section Fatherhood Across Generations is an interesting emotional account that the author writes about his relationship with his father. He further writes a 'Things I’d do differently' (as a father) column where he delineates how he wishes to bring his child up. I think this last part was a really informative column and something every father must take special note of, for as Dr. Hingorrany puts it “Health issues can be medically treated, but if behavioral issues are left unattended, they can leave a significant impact on the child's personality development which in turn impacts their success or failure in life.”

Simply put, Daddy is a compilation of narratives on fatherhood which adds up as a parenting guide/handbook. Illustrations on how to burp/bath/massage a child, are sure to bring a smile to every reader’s face while also being greatly instructive. The beauty with which the chapters have been woven together with the author’s personal experience along with those of many other fathers makes Daddy a pleasurable read. Tuhin A Sinha’s newest release is sure to strike a chord with every man who aspires to become a father.

This book is a PR sample but it has in no way affected my opinion on its content.
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Social Work education in India

Studying in one of the foremost and most prestigious (or so it’s called) institutes of Social Work for Rural Development in Maharashtra for the past one year has enabled me to structure my long held thoughts on education better. Education is no more a means to apply knowledge and develop thinking capacities. Today learning has been reduced to being just a medium to ensure one a secure financial future. In the context of my college I can say thus; what is expected of the Agents of Change is very much in contradiction to what these Agents expect of themselves. Concerns of personal future monetary gains are so deep rooted that they far supersede the greater common good for which they claim to have taken up the course.

‘If the ends are satisfied, the ethics surrounding the means are often ignored.’ The following example would help elucidate this statement.

Ex: ‘A good (meaning ‘good placements offering’) college with bad lecturers and poor teaching quality faces no protests from the students. Protest is automatically suppressed in the delight of the expected future good.

I have been witness to innumerable complaints by students most of which emphasize upon the bad food offered, uncomfortable hostels, unfriendly college timings, unnecessary extra classes, etc. None seem to voice opinions regarding the more important points of bad teaching quality and lack of institutional infrastructure to help support our learning. Apart from empty talks amongst a group of friends during lunch or tea, very little initiative is taken in the direction of demanding better quality teachers, most of who happen to be former Social Workers who completed their PhDs from any random university and joined the bandwagon of incompetent university lecturers.

It isn’t difficult to figure out why students remain silent on these issues. Today’s materialistic world has made them so concerned about their future jobs that they fear to protest. The fear rises from the obvious possibility of them being rusticated in the name of ‘misconduct’. Placements have made each one of them so selfish and competitive that there is an utter lack of unity. Fears of gaining a bad impression with the professors surpass all other concerns. Thus, my esteemed Social Work institute continues to churn out students who are taught to suppress dissent in order to gain better grades. With them failing to advocate for their own rights, how is one to expect them to do anything for the people in the future.

In the first few months of our course, we were taught about how we were lucky to have got a chance to study in this college which has given the country some of its best professional social workers. ‘Professional’ of course stood for ‘expert’, ‘trained’ and ‘skilled’; but it was also emphasized (more profoundly, yet indirectly) that it stood for someone who commands a good pay-check in the job market.

“Don’t mistake Social Work with Social Service. We don’t need Gandhis and Mother Teresas. The industry needs professionals not sympathizers”, we were told coldly by our professor.

Social work education seems to stress excessively on the need to be professional as compared to the need to balance it out with being sensitive. The social work sector has been publicized as an ‘industry’ to such an extent that most social work students join with the sole intention of earning a big fat salary in the future. Very few go on to work in the grassroots except when left with no other option.

And when asks one, “What about the primary aim of SW?” prompt comes the answer, “Oh well, we certainly will be working for them. We will be using our professional skills and specialized knowledge (from our air-conditioned cabins in big cities) in order to bring a change in their lives. Of course we will.”

But in a country like ours where poverty seems rampant, how does one view a professional work attitude?

It is good to be professional in one’s work, but being professional in the approach towards one’s work, especially when that happens to be social work is shameful.
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