Utopia or Dystopia?

Written in collaboration with a fellow batchmate, a good friend, and an amazing co-writer – Varun V, who devised not only the basic premise, but also wrote the first draft, and encouraged publication of the following article here. Hope you enjoy!

“If we don’t want to live on this trashy planet, we better send back a robot like Doraemon to correct our ancestors’ mistakes.”

“No, we better just leave this planet on a starship like Axiom from WALL-E. This planet is just hot, insufferable, and beyond repair.”

These are the thoughts that will course through the heads of our future generations if we don’t give them the greatest gift we can – the gift of life – a life free of garbage, smoke-ridden air, polluted water, and polluted soil.

We just celebrated World Environment Day on June 5th, and saw our social media inundated with posts and stories on the importance of recycling, reforestation, and going green. However, is this lip service and ‘generation of awareness’ enough? Ironically, these posts, including the article you are currently reading are made using smartphones, which themselves don’t have a life of more than two years, ending up as e-waste later in landfills – their chemicals leaching into the soil and nearby water bodies.

Our perennial rivers are drying up, acute water shortages are leading to inter-state disputes, monsoons have become erratic – catching farmers unprepared and causing the agriculture industry to suffer. Water bodies are polluted, with so much sewage dumped into them that even certain lakes in Bangalore are catching fire.

The lungs of the planet, the Amazon Rainforest, is losing nearly 5 million acres of coverage every year to augment Brazil’s economic condition through forest products. Despite the devastation of the 2019 fires in Brazil, ones in 2020 were worse. A new report warns that the Amazon rainforest may be nearing a dangerous tipping point. Bush fires and forest fires ravage large tracts of land in the USA and Australia every year. The global temperatures are rising and the greenhouse effect will soon turn the planet into a toxic, cloud-laden, uninhabitable wasteland like Venus. Sure, Earth and Venus are sister planets, but we don’t really want Earth to be resembling Venus any time soon. 😂

Well, we have painted a grim enough picture and before we get accused of being UN climate activists/ambassadors whose only agenda is to complain, let’s get more optimistic here.

Perhaps this pandemic is a break for Mother Nature – a break from us insensitive human children, an opportunity to rejuvenate herself. Let us also use this quarantine time to introspect and bring about changes in our daily routine which will help our future generations thrive in liveable conditions.

Of course, reuse, reduce, repair, and recycle top the list. Composting, being resourceful with our already limited resources, practising safe waste segregation, maintaining hygiene, planting trees, using chemical cleaning supplies judiciously, etc. are all ways we can make a difference.

With increasing fuel prices and the pandemic completely thwarting the business of carpooling and taxi services like Ola and Uber, we can try to switch over to electric vehicles. and hey, they’re even Wi-Fi enabled. 😉 There are tax rebates offered on them and there is also no registration fee. Many of the Indian state governments are also offering cash discounts to people who are buying electric cars and scooters. if enough people switch over, our petrol pumps would soon be equipped with charging stations. It is a win-win, though I do agree it’s a long haul.

it would be unfair for us to blame all environmental issues on the government as the economy is also an important aspect to consider and it is what drives the government’s vote bank. While preserving the environment is of utmost priority, the economic aspect cannot be overlooked, for the economy is what gives people their livelihoods. Changes have to happen, in each and every industry. There must be strict government-enforced regulations and caps on many of the traditional industries and factories. I believe that our governments are becoming more environmentally conscious, though they can definitely be doing more.

So let’s try to become forward-thinking and optimistic. Let’s stop playing blame games on the government and expecting everything to change to overnight. let’s stop being social justice warriors on social media and instead use that energy to learnabout technology, and embrace the technology which can not only add value to our life, but help us make a positive impact on the environment. This will broaden our mindset and will keep us aware. Such research will also prevent any large consumerist company from exploiting us, the general public, for their monopolistic purposes. Digital is the future, and rightfully so.

Let’s use this pandemic quarantine time to do what we could not do earlier with our hectic lifestyles – to introspect.

Do we want to hand our future generations a utopian paradise or a dystopian wasteland?

Image Source – Google Images – DreamsTime

A Transition and A Comeback

It’s been over a year and I’m truly ashamed.

For not having written a word here.

For breaking the heart of a ninth grade me who thought she’d write consistently. Who wanted to be a blogger in the true sense.

There is no way to justify a year-long hiatus from a blog where I have worked hard to build a sizeable readership, but please do hear me out.

A lot has happened this past year. Finishing high school, writing entrances, getting into a medical school like Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, making some amazing friends, crying over subjects like anatomy, building my online footprint across different writing platforms, etc. So much has happened and I am excited to see what the future holds.

So, sincere apologies to everyone who has followed this blog. I promise to try to post here more often. 👍

Image Source – Google Images – DepositPhotos

COVID-19 – A Catalyst For Transformation

This century seems like a cold, dispassionate march of advancing silicon chips. The solution to every problem seems to lie in the realm of technology. With a pandemic currently ravaging the world, we are in the midst of a transformation, one so unpredictable that no one can fathom whether its long-term outcomes will be beneficial or detrimental.

Covid-19 has come as a catalyst to further digitisation in areas earlier unimaginable. India, with a population once dependent on neighbourhood ‘kirana’ stores, now orders groceries online. Students, used to submitting notebooks on the teachers’ desks, are submitting homework online. Office and administrative work has all shifted online and there is a sudden spike in demand of household cleaning bots. Companies like Ola and Uber, with enormous projected market potential, are now struggling as social distancing norms obliterate their cab-sharing services. The film industry, having to quickly shift content online, suffers losses in ticket sales, and may eventually even have to reduce film production budgets. Countries dependent on tourism have their economies upended. Travel and any sort of social congregation seems like a distant dream, destroying the airline and hospitality businesses.

Lifestyles are changing at a speed which was inconceivable even until late last year. But that’s what makes the post-Covid era exciting, albeit uncertain. However, Covid-19 is a catalyst, for all those entrepreneurs whose vision for digitisation had earlier been rejected. Today, an idea for a digital school will definitely receive funding as investors realise its profitability. Schools, as we know, may now be extinct, reduced to mere activity centres, where students gather only for specific occasions. Platforms such as Unacademy, with their entire course material being taught online, are now seeing a surge in the number of users.

Online courses are cheaper and students may even feel empowered to pursue subjects of their interest, decentralising education and reducing the need for traditional schools. With employers now focusing on skill sets instead of degrees for recruitment and selection purposes, traditional education may soon be entirely revamped. Although criticised for being undisciplined, online education enables students to learn only what they want to, in the style that suits them. The rigours of traditional examinations may be a thing of the past. Unsystematic, yet original. Learning, in its pristine and true sense. Good or bad; it is for the future to tell.

In a collapsing traditional economy, with unemployment rates projected to reach almost 33%, it is up to digital solutions and tech-savvy entrepreneurs to become key drivers of product development, weeding out al the inefficiencies of the current industry set-up. Entrepreneurs must now aim to provide products or services, that like a well-crafted story, elicit a visceral response in the target audience, permeating a human experience that is both unforgettable and addicting.

The sudden shift in lifestyles gives entrepreneurs the power to step back from being mesmerised with those gleaming computer screens and getting to the grassroots of a problem. The human aspect of the problem. Transforming lives involves the ability to visualise technology as a tool to bring forth the answer, and refraining from making technology THE answer.

It is of primordial importance that entrepreneurs of today and the future be ready for interdisciplinary work, especially when technology-based solutions are to be implemented in the fields of medicine and education.

The future is interdisciplinary.

The virus will pass, but so will an opportunity. The clocks are ticking, and entrepreneurs must start now.

Image Source – Google Images – Syspro

An Act of War

Terrorism. The word is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine, provoking images of mass destruction, indiscriminate killing, torture and widespread fear among the masses, at the thought of the sheer number of lives lost due to this senseless menace. Just this past week, on February 14th, 2019, we, as a nation, witnessed the devastating Pulwama attack, in which an explosives-ridden vehicle bombed a bus, which was part of a larger convoy. It led to the loss of the lives of more than 40 jawans of the paramilitary forces, or the CRPF, the Central Reserve Police Force. However, can we consider what happened last week in Pulwama an act of terrorism when it was clearly a dastardly act of war?

This horrific episode bears a shuddering resemblance to the Uri attack back in 2016, when sleeping soldiers were attacked in their bunkers early in the morning. India responded with surgical strikes, and this time too, the Indian Army has been given full autonomy to respond to the senseless act of violence. The surgical strike in 2016 was our Prime Minister’s response to the Uri attack, but did that seem to have any effect on our state of undeclared war with our neighbouring nation? No. If it had, then this kind of attack would not have happened again. Surgical strikes do have their use, but we need advanced military tactics, strengthened homeland security and intelligence to counter these infiltrators; we need these far more than we need Rafale fighter jets.

With India on the brink of a general election, there is little time for our government to do anything except issue stern warnings and aim at diplomatic isolation of our neighbouring nation. However, what our current government and even the subsequent government must realise is that there is a need to ensure that our military is prepared to fight the war with more advanced tactics than what are being used to fight against us.

As a nation, our resolve for peace should not be mistaken for passivity and weakness and infiltrators must be punished. As a tribute to the martyrs of Pulwama, we, as the nation, must strongly condemn violence and let the families of the martyrs know we stand in solidarity with them. We must not give their widowed wives, grief-stricken parents and orphaned children assurances anymore; we must resolve to act.

Please use the link below to donate to the Bharat Ke Veer website, ensuring that at least the families of our martyred ones have the support they need. A loved one is irreplaceable, but the least we can do is make their lives a little easier financially.

Bharat Ke Veer

Image Source – Financial Express

A Closer Look at My Hometown

Travelling is a heavily romanticised experience in modern literature, often described as limitless in terms of the learning it offers – learning about culture, history, language, art and various ways of life, along with the development of the trait of empathy. Due to my parents’ unquenchable desire for travelling, I have visited quite a few countries abroad, seen quite a few airports while in transit, but have all the while ignored the ethereal beauty of my own hometown – Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan and a popular tourist destination. I have come to realise that this is a common phenomenon; people are so interested in visiting places far away that they underestimate the value of places close to them. So, on my latest trip to Jodhpur for Diwali, my uncle, my enthusiastic cousins and I managed to budget some time away from shuttling between the homes of distant relatives and visit the old quarters of Jodhpur, primarily the Mehrangarh Fort.

After traversing the long-winded road leading to the fort, at an elevation of 410 feet, we were greeted by a mesmerising view, a view encompassing the entirety of the city of Jodhpur, also addressed by its sobriquet, the ‘Blue City’, on account of all the blue-coloured houses visible from above. Legend has it that the houses were painted blue on the orders of the founder of the city, Rao Jodha.

Mehrangarh, its foundations laid in 1459 C.E. by Rao Jodha, is enclosed by impenetrable walls. Its boundaries enclose several palaces, known for their expansive courtyards and intricate carvings. The impact of cannonballs fired by the attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen on the second gate. The fort is also home to a fully stocked museum, with items from the private collection of the current ruler, Raja Gaj Singh. The museum exhibits the heritage of the Rathore dynasty, in armour, costumes, paintings and royal palanquins.

I also managed to visit the famous clock-tower, ‘Ghantaghar’, which overlooks the bustling local Sardar Market. For me, in addition to its rich history, the vibrant colours, which provide a picturesque backdrop to everyday life, really make the city beautiful. I initially found it difficult to wrap my head around why this old, quaint town is so closely associated with only the colour blue, as many other stunning hues can also be seen on the busy streets and in the bazaars. One can see a plethora of long, colourful skirts worn by the women, with complementary headscarves, as well as coloured turbans worn by men. The captivating bright oranges and yellows commonly seen in shops selling fabrics on ‘Nai Sadak’ serve to add to the vivid impression of life here. However, as seen in the case of a name like ‘Blue City’, legends hold a very powerful place in people’s lives and tend to stick.

Prior to this experience, I was oblivious to what Jodhpur had to offer and now, I’m so glad to have had an opportunity to appreciate my hometown from the eyes of a tourist, which I encourage everyone to do – for the time being, leave your far-fetched desires of visiting exotic countries (and perhaps, planets), and visit your hometown, with the mindset of a tourist, and when you do so, do not forget to keep an iPhone camera handy…:) (Genuinely speaking, with just a little bit of correct framing and composition, look at the pictures it can give you.)

A Message to All My Readers: I want to thank all my readers for the motivational comments I receive on my blogposts, as these deep, insightful comments are what make me want to continue blogging. This has been perhaps my longest hiatus from WordPress, and I’m deeply apologetic for it. I promise, after finishing eleventh grade, twelfth grade and college, I’ll be more regular. 😉

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I have just entered eleventh grade, the land of the sleep-deprived, or my junior year of high school, and as was the case in tenth grade, I have two words for my academic life now, Information Overload. For once, I’m not talking about the academic pressure, (yes, of course, it’s presence is unfading, but it’s something that has almost become secondary when the rat race of securing admissions in good colleges is taken into consideration). Most students enter eleventh grade knowing that academic pressures will be high, but few know that their conversations will, over the course of the next two years, be solely dominated by comparisons of elite colleges and universities.

With an influx of advice from experts such as career counsellors and online portals engaging in career mapping, students like myself often end up becoming more confused, with various adults conducting psychometric tests on us poor lab mice to determine the ‘best fit’ career options for us. They also suggest other back-up careers which support our interests in case our first choice fails. No doubt, in India, this is a relatively new service, and in many underdeveloped areas, where children do not receive career guidance at home, these counsellors are providing some excellent help. In addition, let’s face the fact that it’s a fantastic business opportunity as well; the fees, per student, for a few sessions and some personalised help, ranges from Rs. 7000-10,000.

The fundamental problem with many of these psychometric tests, apart from the standardisation, is the fact that they suggest careers on objective parameters, on the basis of which they further outline career plans, including best fit colleges. However, perhaps a more functional solution, maybe not perfect, involves regular sessions of workshop vocational training, where students interact with experts from various fields including medicine, law, performing arts, pure sciences, engineering, business, etc. Teaching students the real-time requirements and aspects of a career, along with potential future advancements in the field, is the ultimate way to get them decided on what they like or dislike. Personally speaking, one of my extremely talented friends, unsure of her goals, has recently appeared for five consecutive psychometric tests, each with divergent results. Now, she has reached a point where she believes that she has no focus and can never get anywhere. If she had actually met some experts from the various fields she is interested in, she might have found her calling or her ‘dream’ career.

Another major problem I see with psychometric evaluation is the intense focus on the ‘dream’ college. The career coaches suggest ways to get into those colleges and get the brand name of those colleges on a student’s resume. In eleventh grade, no one talks of anything less than getting into MIT or UC Berkeley, without realising what they actually want to do there. The university or college becomes the students’ goal, not the pursuit of excellence in their chosen field, and that is precisely where I see a problem. The question, ‘what happens once I get into the university?’, is one few know the answer to. Few are aware of their big-picture plans.

For most students, regardless of the course they’re pursuing and its alignment with their goals, it’s just the brand name of the university that matters; the brand name providing the student a perceived sense of merit and also being their source for some good connections/networking opportunities in their field. Counsellors thrive on this branding and marketing; after all, ‘thirty of (insert counsellor’s name)’s fifty students are in Ivy League colleges’. As much as I’m programmed to want to get into one of these colleges myself, sometimes I feel that these colleges are only selling membership to an exclusive club. Indian entrance examinations are another ball-game altogether, where there’s no subjectivity whatsoever; scores, and only scores, matter for top-notch colleges here.

For all those students criticising their parents or teachers for pushing them in a certain direction, I just want to say one thing. They have observed you for the last fifteen to seventeen years of your life and will always be with you; they can give better advice than a counsellor who has known you for little more than two hours, and that too, via a psychometric test. I would like to add that I’m not demeaning the work of counsellors, this is just an opinion, but I’m tired of the ‘I’m going to a counsellor for career advice’ fashion statement that comes from students these days.

With that, I’m signing off, to probably go and write another mandated psychometric test. 😉

Just Another Fake News Channel- A Fresh Outlook

This is an excerpt from my recently updated post – Questions and Answers with President Trump.


Welcome to my imaginary global news channel, ‘A Fresh Outlook’. I am senior international news correspondent Maanini Singhvi and once again, I have had the privilege to welcome the President of the United States to a one-on-one interview, concerning his latest political moves, his impending meeting with the leader of North Korea and the even more petrifying possibility of a meeting with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Here is the full transcript of our conversation.

24th May, 2018-

Me- Welcome, sir. I trust that you have been informed of the subje-

President Trump- Yes, yes. I know why we are here. Hang on a second, will ya? Put on this mask that I made. Well, Ivanka helped me tape the rubber band on.

Me- Sir, that’s a mask with the face of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

President Trump- I know, I know. My lawyers, mainly Rudy Giuliani, ’cause everyone else left, wanted you to wear it so that we can practice for my ‘inevitable’ meeting with that Mueller guy. ‘Inevitable’, isn’t that a good word? I overheard it, when Mike Pence was talking to his staffers about his chance at the presidency. He later told me that it means ‘never’. He’s a really good guy.

Me (rubbing my temples)– Ohhhhh…Very well, sir. Do you have anything in mind regarding your interview with Mr. Mueller? For example, have you rehearsed any answers?

President Trump- Oh, I have a lot in mind. Just don’t publish this, okay? (Whispering) I’m going to go against my lawyers’ advice and go totally unscripted for the interview. I’ll tell Mueller all about Vlad.

Me (visibly flabbergasted)– Sir, forget I asked that. Would you like to elaborate on why you chose to back out from the Iran nuclear deal, which was one of the signature achievements of your predecessor?

President Trump- Well, the Iran Nuclear Deal was badly negotiated and never benefitted the United States. It made Iran rich and could only have led to a ‘cat-as-trophe’. And (inaudible), the United Shursh (inaudible) would only be benefitted if I undo Obama’s policies, ‘cause those policies never got us anywhere. You look at North Korea, people say I deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for that thing. But, we’ll see about that, we’ll see.

Me- Sir, my question was about Iran, not North Korea, but since you did bring up North Korea, I would like to ask you about the constant efforts of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea in bringing the North to the negotiation table.

President Trump- President Moon and I are best friends. Literally, best friends. Sorry, Macron, I won’t brush off your dandruff anymore, (inaudible). President Moon has certainly been instrumental in talks with Little Rocket Man ‘cause they both speak Korean. Also, I personally hold the belief that my unpredictability has scared Little Rocket Man. I’m so unpredictable with my foreign policy that people, including my own staffers, say they never know what’s coming next.

Me- But, that is precisely what ‘unpredictable’ means-

President Trump (continues)– I’m such an unpredictable person that Little Rocket Man destroyed his own nuclear testing site so that I would agree to talk to him. But alas, the June 12th summit may not work out. It’s very unpredictable right now.

Me- Sir, the testing site is unstable, on the verge of collapsing, after he conducted his sixth test there, according to studies conducted by China. Further, your national security adviser, John Bolton, made explicit references to the 2003 Libya model when speaking about North Korea. What are your views on that?

President Trump (grunting)– Well, if I lose support for my Nobel Peace Prize campaign because of him, John Bolton is going to go down either like the Spicer or the Scaramucci model. Also, I like Little Rocket Man. I promise him; if this upcoming summit, whenever it happens, goes according to plan and he agrees to denuclearise, he’ll be good, rich and happy.

Me- Sir, there’s no campaigning for the Nobel Peace Prize. There is a committee that decides the winners. And are you threatening to fire Mr. Bolton?

President Trump (shrugging)– Yeah, I might fire Mustachio, ‘cause I had to do a total 180 on Twitter because of him. You know how hard it is to do a 180? Plus, I have never, ever, ever flipped on my promises. Oh, and are you serious? No campaigning involved for the Nobel Peace Prize?! That’s great! I’m anyway very good at winning things when committees are involved; I won the 2016 presidential election because of the Electoral College. Did you see that beautiful map?

Me (exasperated)– Yes sir, I am a journalist; I covered it on election night. Anyhow, you have been very vocal about your distaste for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. What did you think of the comedienne, Michelle Wolf, who performed this time?

President Trump- She was actually pretty funny, but I can’t admit that, can I? Just don’t publish that statement. I’ll say this, though, she totally bombed. You can publish this statement. The reason those dinners aren’t successful anymore is because I never attend them. They’re just a bunch of fake news journalists, gathered in a hall, deciding on their next fake news story. Did you see their TV ratings this time? They probably broke the record for worst ratings. CNN probably gets better TV ratings than those dinners ever do. Ughhhh…  (Inaudible). And I want to take this opportunity to thank Seth Meyers and President Obama. Their 2011 roast was the reason I ran for President. And I also ran to ‘Make America Great Again’, of course.

Me- Sir, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview. Before, we leave however, I would like to ask you…Yanny or Laurel?

President Trump (gasps)– I’ll call Michael Cohen to get him to pay both.

Me (shocked)Sir, no! I meant the recent auditory illusion that has become an Internet phenomenon.

President Trump- Oh, that thing, it could be Laurel, but to be honest, I heard ‘covfefe’. Don’t give me mini-panic attacks like that. And plus, I think you’re fake news, too.

Disclaimer: This is an attempt at political satire. No offence intended to anyone; this is simple, light-hearted comedy. I sincerely hope that everyone, regardless of political affiliation, is able to enjoy this post. Thank you, Mr. John Oliver, for that amazing ‘Scaramucci model’ joke.

Why So Mysterious?

Thank you to Sophia Ismaa Writes for nominating me for my first Mystery Blogger Award; I don’t know why I seem mysterious, but I gratefully accept the honour. She is a genuinely brilliant writer, fiercely passionate about bringing positive changes in society and is unpretentious; her writing showcases her true beliefs, whether it is about politics, justice or feminism. Please do visit her blog.

Here are the answers to the questions asked. (Honestly, I found them really interesting to answer and hope that everyone finds the answers just as interesting to read.)

1. What is one book you read that made an impact on you?

-For all practical purposes, all I can hope is that my textbooks have left an impact on me. A lot of my dream career hinges on that.

Although I’m committing an act of injustice to the multitude of classics that I have read, I think the most impactful book would be ‘The Story of My Life’ by Helen Keller. Through her book, she allows the reader to experience everything she felt in her early years, the frustration, the moments of pride, her equation with her teacher, her graduation, etc. Her sheer determination really speaks volumes to the reader.

2. What is the strangest, weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

-Where do I start? Peas, broccoli, cabbage….Those aren’t bad enough? Okay, let me try better than that.

Just this past year, my school had planned a trip to Coorg, a hill station close to Bangalore for all us tenth graders. (I still feel bad for the teachers accompanying us. Ma’am, if you are reading this, the-loitering-around-the-resort-like-ghosts-at-11-PM was not my idea, I promise.)

The hotel room I was sharing with three of my friends did not have a functional microwave, so we only had a tea kettle to boil water. We had a packet of noodles with us that we decided to cook, or in more teenage terms, have a ‘Maggi party’. You are probably wondering what could go wrong with that. When teenagers are involved, practically everything can.

One of my friends decided to demonstrate the superiority of her cooking skills and boiled an excess amount of water in the kettle. Then, she forgot the pouch of tastemaker (masala) inside the wrapper and proceeded to throw it out. (To this day, I don’t know whether it was a prank or not.)

The rest of us, who were totally unaware of what she had done, spent the next half-an-hour trying to eat/drink flavourless noodles submerged in hot water. I advise you, never try that. Aware of our own cooking abilities though, we did not criticise her at all, we just made fun of her for the next three months. Excusable, right?

3. Name a few things about blogging you love and certain things that irritate you.

Things I Love About Blogging-

-1. I love the fact that most bloggers, at least on WordPress, welcome new ideas and are ready to have discussions without ridiculing one another. This is really heartwarming, considering that in an era of social media, it is extremely easy to troll and bully people under the garb of anonymity.

-2. Blogging is a great creative outlet which allows readers to share their views with the blogger. The interactive environment and immediate feedback are conducive to high levels of discourse. Personally, I also feel that blogging enhances the quality of my writing. When I used to write essays just for myself, I had no incentive to improve upon them. Now, I am increasingly trying to get better in hopes of satisfying and widening my existing readership. Yes, I am praise-oriented.

Things I Dislike About Blogging-

-1. It takes a long time to acquire a readership. I am certain that every blogger reading this can relate to that. Becoming an overnight sensation is next to impossible and although we all dream of that when we start blogging, it just doesn’t happen to most of us. No matter how good you think your content is, readers come gradually. The most important thing is to continue posting your best work while waiting for readers to notice you.

-2. Lecturing bloggers like ‘A Fresh Outlook- Maanini Singhvi’ are quite agonising to be around. However, she asked me to endorse her in this post, so I will. Please visit her site. She desperately needs readers.

-3. Sophia Ismaa asking me complicated questions like this one is something that absolutely terrifies me. 😉 (Please do excuse my humour, Sophia. We’re friends, right?)

4. Take BuzzFeed’s: ‘Everyone Has a British Food That Matches Their Personality Quiz’ and post your results; food and description included!image1And I thought I was going to get Welsh cakes, because I’m so sweet. But no….

Well, as they say, BuzzFeed knows best.

5. Recommend a book in one paragraph (3 sentences max)!

-Khaled Hosseini’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ is truly a masterpiece, beautifully written, yet painfully sad. It is an interconnection of stories that span nearly 60 years of Afghan history, delving deep into the consequences of an act of separation that scars the life of two young siblings, who reunite much later, but under completely different circumstances. The reunion is not one which the reader wants; it is not hugs and tears; rather, it is heartbreaking and riddled with the bitter truth of reality.

-(I can’t believe that was three sentences.)

My Questions:

1. Describe your personality in five words (a single sentence). List any five novels you would recommend to readers of all ages.
2. What is your take on the proliferation of xenophobia and other fears regarding immigrants worldwide?
3. Do you believe in aliens or non-carbon-based life? (Humour intended).
4. Do you think that Artificial Intelligence can take over the world?
5. If you had to visit the beach or an amusement park, what would be your choice and why?

My Nominees:

1. superheroes009
2. Rida Yumn Ahmed
3. poeticallyyours360
4. KraftingThoughts

All readers are also nominated.

This award was created by Okoto Enigma to celebrate blogs which captivate, inspire and motivate bloggers. It is a fun way for bloggers to get to know each other’s interests and preferences better.

Tagore’s Ideals and Our Progress

Where the Mind is Without Fear- Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

In light of certain cases which have currently been dominating the news feed in India, let us take some time to compare our visionaries’ inspirational ideals to our current conditions with a line-by-line analysis of this beautiful poem. 

Rabindranath Tagore’s “Where the Mind is Without Fear” is a poem that envisages a country where there is no fear of oppression, where discrimination is eradicated, where illogic and superstitions have no place and where the people have dignity and embrace reason and knowledge. In the form of a prayer to the Almighty, Tagore sets the ideals that he believed would make India flourish. Even the Constituent Assembly adapted Tagore’s ideals into the Preamble of the Constitution, where India is declared to be a sovereign republic, free from internal and external coercions. When the Constitution was brought into effect, India became free from external oppression, but internal compulsions have still not vanished. We still cling to some of the worst issues that a society can possibly face.

In the decade of 1940, the world saw two iconic events which continue to be explored today in extensive detail. The pre-independence struggle of India spread a powerful message of rebellion against imperialism, whereas the Holocaust intended to revive hatred and discriminatory beliefs against certain minorities. At the same time when the horrors inflicted by Adolf Hitler on Jews and other minorities in Europe spread ramifications all over the world, the non-violent Gandhian struggle for India’s independence spread another powerful message; a message that the world respected, a mass freedom movement, Satyagraha, that relied on truth and insistence, ultimately forcing the British to withdraw and transfer power. It later influenced the American civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., and the anti-Apartheid movement of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. In spite of our glorious freedom struggle, the question is, have we attained the ‘heaven of freedom’ envisioned by so many revolutionaries apart from Rabindranath Tagore?

No country in the world has truly achieved freedom, in terms of mindsets and societal issues. Even the seemingly perfect Western democracies have a long way to go, suffering their own problems of mass-shootings, hostility towards immigrant workers and increasing jingoism. The growing culture of Trumpism is creating intensely nationalistic conditions worldwide. So, in India, is our problem the lack of nationalism? Certainly! Saluting the flag, standing up for the national anthem, beating up anyone who does not do so and spewing hatred towards people online under the garb of anonymity is our brand of nationalism. We do not pay adequate attention to the constructive nation-building programmes, in which we can actively participate. We are a nation which happily discusses the political views of actors and celebrities and maligns them for days, considering ourselves nationalists. To achieve Tagore’s ideals, we must be selflessly patriotic, not selfishly patriotic, which is what we are heading towards.

Tagore envisioned a country where the mind exists without fear; even today, there are several fears among people. There is fear to speak out against wrongdoing; the resulting severe backlash and the branding as being ‘politically incorrect’ forces people into submission. There is fear to expose corruption of high officials, consequences being harassment and even killing. Money and wealth define status; people in impoverished communities still cannot hold their heads high with dignity. People blame women for the crimes against them and lawyers defend those criminals. Victims of such crimes still have not been empowered enough to hold their heads high with dignity.

Knowledge is still not free; government schools lack the infrastructure to cater to the talents of their students and private education is still the monopoly of the higher income groups. Even reservation systems in schools are exploited by those who do not need it. Economically stable students portray themselves as backward to cash in the benefits of the reservation system, depriving those who truly need it. This is only leading to an increase in the number of sub-par engineers, sub-par doctors graduating. A sizeable population of ‘independent’ India still represents an emaciated nation submerged in poverty and illiteracy.

Tagore idealised a country where narrow domestic walls do not fragment the nation and words emerge from the depth of truth. However, in undeveloped regions, age-old prejudices, casteism and honour killings still persist. In the name of diversity and adequate representation, the huge body of Parliament exists, but its sessions are washed away with trivial issues, blame games and politicians trying to defend their self-worth. Resolutions do not come out in benefit of the people and the depth of truth, rather the interests of the ruling party. The judiciary hesitates in implementing the Uniform Civil Code across all religions.

The poet prays that the clear stream of reason does not vanish in the dreary desert of age-old customs and superstitions do not override the ability to make right judgements. He wants the mind to be led forward by the Almighty, into open-mindedness and a willingness to embrace change. With growing urbanisation and the rise in a younger, more free-thinking population, people have indeed abandoned their superstitions and are gradually eliminating irrelevant age-old customs. However, due to the restrictive nature of our education systems and mindsets, even with such a talented and young population, India still cannot boast of twenty-year-old billionaires and innovative start-ups. We are a country where the Prime Minister needs to start a cleanliness drive (Swachh Bharat Mission) across the nation to remind us to keep our surroundings clean.

India so far is the most developed of the developing countries and our country’s youth and large working population is our biggest asset. We are growing and becoming self-aware, however, there’s a journey of a thousand miles ahead, which we must begin with a single step. We must focus on helping the underprivileged, caring for our own surroundings and empowering each other. We must actively encourage the feelings of brotherhood in our community to completely dismantle the goals of any politician trying to play by caste or religion and only then can we truly be selfless patriots and say “I love my India”.

Many of these thoughts have been coursing through my head for a considerable period of time now and I must admit, I am also guilty, to a large extent, of not participating in the constructive programmes that I have described. I have written this post, not to criticise anyone, but to put my own guilt into words. I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading this post!

Several Milestones- One Post

Here we go with my Academy Award acceptance speech-

I have reached a milestone both in my experience as a blogger and as a student. ‘A Fresh Outlook‘ has recently crossed a hundred followers! When I started blogging, I had one email follower, my friend, Katie, in the United States. This number has grown to over a hundred now, implying that I have been able to assimilate into this beautiful WordPress community of thought-provoking ideas. This experience of blogging is an ongoing one and every day, there’s something new and delightful to read! Thank you all for your continued love and support!

As a student, I’ve reached the culmination of my tenth grade finals, (affectionately called Board Exams by the student body in India). 😂 This is the first major academic milestone of my life, and I’ve made it through with extensive support from my parents and teachers.

The task of simply making it through each exam, day by day, was arduous and now, it has come to a point where just the fact that the exams have reached an end is enough to give a feeling of excessive gratification, before the anticipation of the results sets in…;)

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank superheroes009 for nominating me for my first Sunshine Blogger Award and Rida Yumn Ahmed for nominating me for my second Sunshine Blogger Award.

End of Academy Award acceptance speech. 😂

(I have combined the two award nominations in one post to create a more comprehensive set of answers).

Sunshine Blogger Award #1-Nomination by superheroes009– Questions and Answers-

1. What does the name of your blog stand for?

-My blog’s name stands for my perception of the society we live in. It’s a series of unrelated articles that I write on the spur of the moment. Nothing elaborate or deeply meaningful. Uhhh….Sometimes, I wish I could be Shakespeare.

2. What’s the one thing that makes you feel amazing about yourself?

-I can’t answer this without indulging in self-praise, can I? I guess, the best thing about me is that I’m not a rebellious teenager….

“This comes too near the praising of myself; therefore no more of it…”–Portia (The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare, Act III, Scene 4)

Thank you, ICSE English Literature. I can’t be Shakespeare, but I can quote him.

3. What are your hobbies other than blogging?

-I love learning languages, especially French. I aim to be fluent in it.. Along with that, I’m a full-time student. I like following Donald Trump’s antics as well.

4. What/Who is your source of inspiration or motivation?

-Helen Keller is my inspiration; I cannot even begin to describe a deaf-blind woman who overcame all deterrents to emerge as one of the most versatile and self-reliant people of the twentieth-century. Her versatility ranged from performing onstage to writing to charity work and fundraising.

5. Describe yourself in six words.

-I am sociable but mostly introverted. (I was trying my best to stretch that sentence. Honestly, I really do not know).

6. Do you think your current leader or government is propelling the country in the right direction?

-Yes, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is performing decently under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP members are intrinsically nationalistic in their approach and I disagree with their jingoism, but I think they are economically quite a progressive party. Their economic moves, especially demonetisation, introduction of GST (Goods and Services Tax), though poorly implemented by the administrative officers, were probably flawless action plans on paper.

Coming to the ‘intense nationalism‘ propagated by the party, I think that this is a problem which plagues the entire world right now. Nationalism is good to the extent where it helps in constructive nation-building programmes, but jingoism is flawed and only builds hatred for other communities. So, BJP should change in that sense by giving up its extremely pro-Hindu stance. And the Indian National Congress (the Opposition Party) should focus on staying secular and stop all the minority appeasement, which they do only to obtain votes, not with any good intentions. The British focused on minority appeasement when they ruled over India, and now the Congress is doing it.

7. Name any of your five favorite movies.

Pixar is truly the most amazing thing that has ever happened to the world of filmmaking.

1. Toy Story trilogy (especially Toy Story 3)
2. Ratatouille (This ties in with my interest in the French culture and I think the movie is seriously underrated)
3. The Dark Knight
4. Baby’s Day Out- (Yes, I’m sorry, but I loved it!)
5. Dunkirk (I really liked the lack of spoken dialogue in this film. I think watching the movie in IMAX really enhanced the experience).

Get Smart (Steve Carell) was probably the first Hollywood movie I watched; I was five or six at the time, didn’t understand anything, but loved the slapstick comedy.

1. Dangal
2. Rang de Basanti (I enjoy social issues portrayed in a unique perspective)
3. Airlift (Tells the story of the real-life civilian evacuation of 170,000 Indians living in Kuwait when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. It was the largest-ever civilian evacuation in history and was carried out by Air India….My mom and i both adore this movie).
4. Lagaan- (Finally, a movie which makes cricket even remotely interesting)
5. Hindi Medium- (A parody of the current state of the Indian education system, very intelligently scripted)

8. Name any songs you’re hooked onto.

-Anything by A.R. Rahman or Coldplay. My dad introduced me to music. He likes ghazals, couplets with an intricate rhyme scheme, sung by Jagjit Singh and written by Mirza Ghalib (my dad even learned Urdu for this). So, at age seven, I asked him if there’s anything better in the world of music, (normally, seven-year-olds don’t enjoy ghazals). 😂 That’s how it all began.

9. What’s your idea of a healthy friendship?

-A healthy friendship is one where both friends don’t have any expectations from each other. I don’t have much experience here…

10. What is one message you want to convey to your readers?

-Start writing. It’s fun.

Sunshine Blogger Award #2- Nomination by Rida Yumn Ahmed– Open-ended Prompt-

Haters will see you walking on water and say it’s because you can’t swim.”

-This is a great question for an essay, but I have just a simple response. Don’t bother too much about what haters or followers think, you can’t keep everyone happy. I’m currently in the fast downward-spiraling vortex of trying to please everyone and it’s not fun down here. The only person you are accountable to is yourself and let the negativity of the haters be channelized into positive energy.

The question initially prompted me to think of Moses for some reason…Anyway, thanks for the nomination and the beautiful prompt!

My Nominees (For the same set of questions):

1. Zankhana Goyal
2. KraftingThoughts

All readers of this post are also nominated. 😊