Who am I?An Indian Teen’s Identity Crisis

NOTE:This was the article I wrote for the What’s My ID Contest for Youth Ki Awaaz. I won a Nokia Lumia 710 and an internship with them. Here’s the picture :

Nokia Lumia 710 Won By Siddharth Gupta for What's My ID Contest for Youth ki Awaaz

As a seventeen year old teen, I can confidently say I’m an Indian who is astonished by India daily. With the second highest population in the world, the only way of describing us is “we’re everywhere”. Some rejoice by this unique factorial, claiming it to be a bright prospect for the country’s future. But what I, and most of today’s youth sees, is a situation of identity crisis. A situation that doesn’t look good at all.

Today, every child, by the sole act of his birth, acquires multiple tags, which already define him before he or she can logically think. When a foreign dignitary visits India, the first lesson they learn is of our cultural integrity, but they never learn of our inhumane and excruciatingly complex divide. May it be on the geographical distribution of states, or of the language rolled off their tongues, we have a nasty little intuition to immediately separate each other out. It’s interesting to note that most of the geographical and language issues are simply banal. Consider this: at the time of our independence, we had 15 odd states which today stand at 28. Looking at certain separatist movements, we may see an increase in the number. But the point that stands out is that over time, fragmentation, re-merging of areas, division etc stops mattering because over the years, the only common link geographically between people has remained that of belonging to a common nation- India.

Moving on to the touchy issue, caste based discrimination. It’s not that we are not trying to move past it. With each passing generation, the emerging youth of India has slowly worked towards making it a figment of history. Unfortunately, our social stigmas and laws haven’t caught up. As a child when my mother taught me equality, I often thought “How can I say XYZ is equal to me when he gets a reservation in educational institutes, government jobs and many other such similar offerings while I don’t?”

Bringing in the gender divide, I slightly start feeling disgusted. For a nation which claims to believe and worship in a goddess, we are simple brutes. As a staunch advocate of equality among women, I simply find myself in dearth of a true identity, because associating myself with any of them highlighted here, causes a revulsion in me.

Identity. The word itself resonates a feeling of unity, of oneness and in true essence, describes the individual persona of each person. Sadly, as an Indian who is still in his growing years, I’ve discovered that I have multiple facades, multiple descriptions associated with me. Why, is a question I’m yet to answer, because the search goes on. In India, you never have a single identity. It’s always a concoction of many different ones. But whatever the potion may be and whoever may be the brewer, one thing is apparent and crystal-clear. Something is wrong, and we must change. I hope we change. Soon, Fast and Now

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The Pursuit Of HappYness

This is a guest post by Moushmi Mehra .Moushmi Bhabhi is married to one of our guest post writers today,Deepak Mehra.She’s the most recent member of one of the families I love the most,but she,like all of them is simply AWESOME.Beside all other things,I love her for one particular thing.She gifted me one of her favourite books,which has now joined my list as well.The book taught me a lot,change me and made me whatever I am. In fact,it continues to do so.The book was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand(LINK). So here is an enthralling post by the person who changed my life,simply with a book. Also,here’s his Twitter handle @MoushmiMehra (https://twitter.com/MoushmiMehra)

I recently quit working at a software company. Reason? I fortunately realized that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I would have wanted to after all. Thought of using the time at hand now to begin a long-postponed quest – answers to my questions about a rather elusive, much hyped topic Happiness! No I don’t wish to emulate Gautam Buddha, Mahavir and the likes.. well just yet.. but have struggled with these questions way too long for my comfort. My priorities so far, albeit mistaken priorities, allowed an at-best half-hearted attempt to find these answers. The result, quite obvious, I struggle to date.

They say, don’t seek a complicated explanation when a simple one exists! How very true! I began my search by looking for books, articles, people.. anything under the sun that would give me even the slightest hint to what happiness really is? Of course I would need a lot of material to really understand the concept of Happiness I thought. And how wrong was I!

I was lucky to stumble upon a series of talks by an organization called ‘Brahmakumaris’. I occasionally listen to them on TV, mainly one Brahmakumari (BK) Sister Shivani who I personally think is a wonderful orator. Lucky for me, this series was by her.

I remember the first time I saw her on TV. Her attire gave me the impression that this is yet another Swamini giving hard to follow talks on morals, ethics.. all those heavy topics I have hated listening to. But hearing her speak just once changed my impression completely. She had me glued to the television and how? By speaking in extremely simple language, yes, but more importantly, talking sense; sharing thoughts and ideas to deal with situations that are extremely easy to digest and seem to be doable by laymen. So anyway.. with a lot of hope I started listening to all the lectures one after the other and boy was I shocked to hear what I did.

Firstly, what is happiness? Happiness, she says, is a state of being stable; not excited, not thrilled, not laughing all the time, not a temporary sense of pleasure; a state of being at peace with oneself; a state dependent only my own internal being; a state completely in one’s own control.

Our happiness is in our control? What really? That is not possible! Personally, I have always felt happy only let’s say when I achieve something.. be it a material possession, the great score on a test, when someone says something nice to me. But I don’t seem to play the central role in any of this; I don’t seen to be the do-er. These are all external events which may, may not happen. I therefore may, may not be happy. Isn’t it? It depends on my luck and fate?

She demystified her statement by saying that it is me who makes my happiness dependent on these events. I create a thought in my head, if event A will happen, then I will be happy. Fortunately if event A does happen, I will be happy. But for how long? This will be a temporary state because very soon I will decide to be happy next only when event B will happen.

Whoa! How very true! I began rushing with the lectures a bit. I was too intrigued by now. More and more questions started popping in my head. Why are we subjecting ourselves to such pockets of happiness? Can we actually be happy always?

This was answered in the very next talk. A very fresh perspective.. I am a happy person already she says; irrespective of the situations coming my way. We just chose otherwise.

For example, many of us have the tendency to blame others for our unhappiness. To this she said, we have no control over what others are doing but our reaction to it is our choice. If we give a person the power to hurt us, upset us then we need to take the responsibility for it because we are letting that person disturb our state of mind. Alternatively, if we decide to accept people around us with their fallacies and decide to not get affected by them, if we decide to be at peace anyway, we would retain complete control over our happiness.

This seemed very very comforting. Easier said than done I thought. But then it occurred to me. What if I repeat this to myself day in and day out.. I am a happy being. My happiness lies only in my hands. Is it possible that it will become part of my system? It is just about changing a deep rooted belief system at the end of the day, isn’t it? If so far we have convinced ourselves that happiness is external, can we spend the rest of our life convincing ourselves that it is in fact internal? I am sure it won’t take so long.. but even if it does, doesn’t the thought of moving in this direction itself contribute to our peace of mind?

I haven’t completed the series yet but picked up some huge pointers and tips already.

To be happy, be in the present moment. When I heard BK Shivani say this I was like.. not again!! To give you a background to this reaction, I have read quite a few self-help books (all in the attempt to find my answers mind you) and they all insist that one must be in the present; in the NOW. I never really understood why. But listening to these lectures I realized that I have convinced myself that I am unhappy in the present moment, well more often than not. A very natural outcome is that I start doing one of the following:

I fleet to the past. I start thinking of happier times when the situation was not like the current one. For some time this takes my mind off the present and gives me a sense of pleasure. But for how long? Very soon I am back seeing the present right in front of me.

Another reaction is to start imagining a future when the situation is not as bad as the current one. Again, for some time this takes my mind off the present and gives me a sense of pleasure. I am thinking of how life will be one day and I begin to feel very very “happy”? But for how long? Very soon I am back seeing the present right in front of me.

Let’s try a brand new outlook. What if I could look at reality right in the face, decide that it will not bog me down and deal with it like a man? Do whatever it takes to set things right NOW and be at peace, be stable, be happy NOW? Just take a moment here and think about this. Is it possible? Can we try and do this for lasting happiness instead of deceiving ourselves into temporary pleasures of the past and future?

I am convinced that this is not simple on the face of it but.. only because it is not a way of life for us yet. But the day it becomes? I think managing to do this even once will give us enough motivation, courage and strength for future trials and tribulations awaiting us. I see it this way, dealing successfully once with a tough situation at hand will build enough mettle in me for the next one down the road, similarly for the next situation and so on and so forth!

This seems like a technique to everlasting happiness to me and it seems too simple! Funny thing, just to be sure, I started second guessing this conclusion; I tried hard to see flaws in these deductions – a common attitude with my generation I guess. But couldn’t find any. Could you?

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India’s Oprah?

NOTE: This article was written by me for the magazine Youth Incorporated (http://www.youthincmag.com/2012/08/01/indias-oprah-winfrey/) while I Interned there. Here are the links to PDFs of the actual magazine article(http://www.4shared.com/office/Ky47CzN-/64_online.html) (http://www.4shared.com/office/7iLnP07X/65_online.html)

6th May 2012 was a day unlike any other. It was a feverishly awaited Sunday as it was the launch date of Aamir Khan’s Television debut, “Satyamave Jayte”.  Touted to have been the next big revolution after Anna Hazare in India, Satyamave Jayte or SMJ as it’s called popularly has done both, soared to the high skies and crashed miserably as well. SMJ demonstrated an absolute genius marketing coup by heavily promoting the show, highlighting its key unique factors i.e. the 11 AM timeslot and most importantly, Aamir Khan himself. The first episode about female foeticide was moving and so was the second one where Aamir broke out the vile nature of child sexual abuse in India.  Hailed by people worldwide for its exceptional research, presentation and style, Aamir earned the title of India’s Oprah Winfrey. But soon the dream broke.
The sheer monotony of the show slowly has crept up and is now clawing into the viewership. A snippet from the Virar-Churchgate local floated through my ears,  giving a fairly accurate summary of the monotonous nature of the show; “Aamir comes, Aamir speaks, Aamir cries, Aamir talks to a NGO,  Aamir announces Reliance is the philanthropy partner, a song is sung and BAM! That’s it”. A thought to which, a huge majority agrees to. Coupled with the over-the-top reactions displayed by Aamir on the show (the dramatic oh! The watery eyes even before the tragic story begins), SMJ has slowly turned into a redundant  Sunday morning show which Indian families just watch for the sake of entertainment during breakfast.
Such factors might have been ignored if the show had yielded some actual results.  But apart from the two day long twitter hash tag trends, SMJ is yet to show a substantial impact. The key word is substantial because the truth of the matter is that certain influences have taken place, but not of the level which was expected by the sheer magnitude of Aamir’s brainchild.
Despite such fallacies, Satyamave Jayte has actually been a very vital aspect in rejuvenating awareness in the traditional, ultra-sexist parts of India. The unique strategy of being broadcasted simultaneously on over 10 channels simultaneously and the national channel Doordarshan has resulted in an exponential increase in the sensibilities of a vastly ignorant populace in places where a girl is nothing but a burden for her family and a child bearer for her husband. SMJ has dispelled the myth that boys are never sexually abused. The especially able were highlighted as their difficulties were projected for the first time in India. Dowry was satirically mocked with the “Mujhe Kya Bechega Rupiya?” song while Aamir subtly mocked the government for its dismal policy with regard to errant doctors and the use of poisonous pesticides under the guise of the Green revolution. The mere fact that it was Aamir Khan preaching the lessons has resulted in the content rising to national prominenc, similar to the flocking of Indian population to Polio immunisation booths because “Bachan sahib ne kaha tha”.
But, one of the unfortunate things that have come out of the apparent success achieved by SMJ, is that people have further lost their faith and touch in a government whose national policy making capabilities were always doubted in the first place itself. Aamir’s tears and the flowery theoretically simple solutions, despite being of a benevolent nature, have inspired multiple rounds of government bashing banter over tea breaks. To be completely fair, it is almost foolish of us to expect the government to function like Aamir does on SMJ. The government of India cannot simply take up a issue one fine Sunday and forget about it before the week ends. National policies are delicately crafted guidelines which are perfected over years and sometimes decades to ensure that the egos of the billions of Indian hailing from multiple backgrounds are soothed. It was gallant and extremely caring of Aamir to plead for the sale of generic drugs or for the usage of organic vegetables. These pleas were hailed by the populace but such simple and flawed statements cannot be a government’s official stance. Even if eventually becomes a government policy, it cannot take place overnight, as expected by a vast majority, due to the simple reason that the government has to debate, discuss and deliberate upon sub-issues which are never considered by us such as “If generic drugs are sold, is there any way to ensure top notch quality and non adulteration of these drugs?”. The issue is not with Mr.Khan’s ideas but the way society has perceived them. Aamir’s suggestions are well basically suggestions. But, the moment we start demanding them as a national policy, we border on the lines of absurdity, exposing how fools with democratic powers are nothing but glorified fools.
So, the verdict is of somewhat mixed results. On one hand, Satyamave Jayte has brought to India’s notice the seedy underbelly of the society i.e. the problems which all of us love to talk about, the topics we know about but have never actually done anything for. We got our own desi Oprah who could cry on stimulus and win our hearts with passionate true love for a nation which deserves nothing less from its citizens. On the other hand, SMJ has put forward weak solutions to hardcore issues and inspired satirical mocking from a sceptical crowd on both Aamir’s intentions and the state of Indian governance.  By suggesting idealistic thoughts such as allocation of billions of rupees for organic farming in the form of subsidies, Aamir has unknowingly raised unwarranted and over-expecting demands in India’s hearts, minds and souls with respect to our government as financial decisions involving such huge amounts are in no way a cake walk. Staying true with our nation’s aspirations, it is imperative for us to be sensible and realistic changers. Nothing else to the contrary can work in our nation. Hat’s off to Mr.Khan for tasking the steps which should have been taken years ago. Still it’s not too late as eventually, at the end of the day, सत्यमेवजयते

Youth Incorporated Magazine,Editor's Note,August 2012

India's Oprah? article in Youth Incorporated Magazine Page 1

India's Oprah? article in Youth Incorporated Magazine Page 2

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Y U NO Touch Me?

NOTE: This article was also published on Legally India(http://www.legallyindia.com/Blogs/Entry/latest-satyamave-jayte-y-u-no-touch-me)
People, Y U NO Touch Me?

Today’s episode of Satyamave Jayte is probably the best one till date. Hitting on India’s Achilles’ heel, Aamir Khan has brought to our notice the unethical, disruptive, idiotic system which cannot be described even by the most insulting and derogatory adjectives; The Caste system prevalent in India and most of the developing and under developing nations of the world. But, for the sake of being targeted, I’ll limit myself to India.

A small history lesson is required here. Way back in history, about 4500 years ago, the Aryans are supposed to have inhibited Northern India and sparked off Hinduism. The original concept of castes was not on the basis of birth, but on the basis of occupation. This division made administrative sense and still does. The rudimentary form of caste division was similar to certain groups having certain different rules depending on their occupation for better functionality in their profession. It made sense to everyone and soon became the way of life. However, somewhere down the line, this system was taken for granted and turned into a hereditary system i.e. the division of the people into classes gained a basis in birth and not profession. A hierarchy was created which was strictly and rigidly followed so as no one was allowed to climb or descend in their pecking order. A radical lower rung member couldn’t do anything except what his ancestors did for a living and a upper rung purist couldn’t do anything else. Skills, love, talents etc. were tagged “bullshit” as everything from your job, spouse and basically your entire life, was decided by your birth.

Many pose the question, “How the hell do you justify this?” When the same question was posed to a Brahmin in Kashi (Varanasi, Benares whatever), we saw the answer he gave in Stalin’s video. He righteously had put on some shady shades(couldn’t resist it) and scratching his bald spot, he solemnly quoted the Laws of Manu, Chapter 1 Verse 31.The Laws Of Manu is an ancient manuscript written by the desi version of Adam, which lists out the chapter of Genesis Indian style and lays down the ground rules for life. Verses 30 and 31 of Chapter 1 read as:

As at the change of the seasons each season of its own accord assumes its distinctive marks, even so corporeal beings (resume in new births) their (appointed) course of action.

But for the sake of the prosperity of the worlds he caused the Brahmana, the Kshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Shudra to proceed from his mouth, his arms, his thighs, and his feet.

The so called religious heads conveniently ignore Verse 30 and cite Verse 31 as the reason for untouchability because their logic dictates that somehow, God gave them divine rights over the Shudras as they were born from God’s mouth and them from his feet. In return of their argument, I point out Verse 30 which clearly says that human beings, like seasons, have distinctive features which should be the core of their division. Nowhere is the family they are born into mentioned. Plus, it is commonly held that all ancient writings were cryptic et metaphoric. Verse 31 could easily be mistaken for the assignment of duties i.e. a Brahmin created from God’s mouth meant that a Brahmin is a person who teaches and guides society. A Kshatriya was the corporeal representation of God’s hands which meant they were the muscular protective organs of the world. The Vaishyas were from God’s thighs, hardened to deal in clever businesses while the Shudras were the massive workforce of the world represented as God’s feet; always working and dead useful. Each of these segments had their own worth but were primary in their own sense for the proper functioning of society, with the human body as its metaphor.

Moving on from the religious aspect, let’s consider the modern crisis. Many people (sometimes including me) blame the government for the erratic reservation system which ingrains in every Indian the caste system. Initially envisaged as a temporary, 15-20 year measure for the growth of people with backward lifestyles, the caste based reservation system was designed to ensure that until the supposed “backward” people didn’t gain basic rights and educations, they still could enjoy privileges in society. However, 65 years after our Independence, we are nowhere near phasing out the system and are sickly tired of it. The situations created by this reservation are simply pathetic. The sickening feeling a deserving candidate gets when a less performing student gets his or her allotment on the basis of his birth, creates a negative impression. How can a person demand for equal rights when a person is being bluntly given extra privileges? Many protest by saying that backward castes deserve these privileges and they are right in their own holding too, but it’s a debate which lasts forever because the Constitutional reservation system is a caste system in itself, but here in, it’s the other castes at loss because the extra privileges are given to the Scheduled castes, tribes etc.

Then comes in the political factor. Initially tasked with good will (or maybe not), politicians have turned the caste system as a political situation which they can easily exploit. A certain elephant resembling, elephant-symbol using, statue-making corrupt leader is the best example of this situation. The so called “Leader of The Dalits” gave a rat’s fart about their plight and it reflected in her self-glory proclaiming reign as the Chief Minsiter of Uttar Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi, the supposedly young but in his forties leader of India, again gives a rat’s fart about them and all he does is enjoy their delightful cooking in their homes with the Indian chuskiyan of tea. So much for youth leaders!

Eventually, it boils down to conformity and perceptions in our minds. Just claiming to be educated and scientific doesn’t make sense until we actually do. No religion in the world preaches discrimination, so why do its followers? Assimilation into common society is something which is needed, demanded and wanted by today’s youth. Discrimination won’t disappear overnight, it will go away slowly. The RTE is an excellent step forward in this direction. It will not only ensure a kid’s exposure to a varied and wholesome culture in school, it will also facilitate an environment where discrimination doesn’t exist. It may sound very idealistic but the truth of the matter is that to remove something which is rooted, engraved and ingrained in our blood and mind, idealism is the only solution out. Also, it is important to slowly phase out the constitutional reservation system along the terms of the phasing out of the Haj subsidy system, decreasing the percentage year by year. To defend this suggestion, I put forward a valid reasoning. The reservation system was designed so as to give certain privileges do people who were wronged for no reason except their birth. It was a temporary measure because it was expected that educational reforms and the guarantee of individual rights in our nation would set everything right. But, it unfortunately did not happen. Still, better late than never, the RTE was implemented to ensure equal education for everyone. Now as the RTE impact increases, it is only viable and logical to decrease the quota percentages for the reserved seats in any institute or workplace or anywhere else.

I’m no Aamir Khan and nor am I a legislator. I am just a citizen of a democratic nation with a free will to think and speak. Maybe these ideas are right or maybe wrong, but it doesn’t hurt to try, right?

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