Immigrants, welcome nowhere?

What is a man to do if the world around him burns and comes down to ashes? Evolution has instilled fight in us but it has also instilled flight. And when one’s family is in danger, men are known to choose the latter option. When a country is plagued by war, famine, disaster, its civilians are left with no choice but to flee. These immigrants travel unsafe dangerous roads in search of better lives for themselves and their family. Instead of finding refuge, these families find closed fenced borders. The European immigrant crisis brought these refugees and their sufferings in the light for the entire world to see. People felt guilty, preached kindness and prayed to Poseidon, but how many of us opened our doors? The crisis remains and these Immigrants are welcome nowhere.

It is an irony that USA, who is partly responsible for the political unrest in Syria which has led to people fleeing the country, has not done much to help these immigrants. Britain went so far as to a Brexit to prevent immigrants from coming into their territory. France and Netherlands are on they way. Such as surprise that the nation that preached peace solidarity and fraternity In the halls of United Nations, playing role model for third world countries for years have forgotten their values and refused to act when such as large proportion of humanity is struggling between life and death. Immigrants are abandoned to unsafe seas, branded terrorist and are seen as harm to the rest of the countries. Europe has forgotten the days when it was itself war ravaged and its people sailed to USA and Australia and were welcomed with love and not hate. They stopped chanting God save the Queen and ran to save their lives. These were not terrorists, these were helpless people who wanted a better life for themselves and their loved ones. They worked hard and their generations have contributed immensely to American economy.

Japan, a country with dark history of violence is afraid to show sympathy and so is Saudi Arabia. Money and funds flow from these nations to help Immigrants, no doubt, but love doesn’t. Immigrants don’t need welfare checks, they need an opportunity to start over. Be it people running away from violence and despotism in Eritrea or political unrest in Syria, they all have a single wish to start with a clean slate and have the opportunity to live happily. Is that too much to ask of the wealthy countries? To accommodate hard working families that might improve their economy by adding to their workforce?

European countries and other nations should look at these “ Economic Immigrants” as a potential resource and rather than closing their borders, should open them up more. These immigrants bring fresh talent and potential. And aging nations such as Britain would definitely benefit from this young workforce. European countries can draw a plan to allocate immigrants in their countries in proportion to their land and economy. So can the rest of the world.

Chaos is the order of the day, but good things do come out of Chaos. A world with open mind cannot co-exist with closed borders. It is time to show that our long list of values are for real and that we are more than just divided nations.

Digital Revolution in India

India’s march towards a digital economy is in full swing. In the wake of Demonetization, NITI Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant was quoted saying that by the year 2020, ATMs, PoS, credit/debit cards will become redundant. It is very much possible that by the year 2020, a majority of our population will be well versed with mobile banking and ATMs and credit/debit cards will not be required at all. There will be High speed WiFi in every public institution. Learning, health care, banking will take a huge leap forward and will become e-learning, e-health care and e-banking respectively. This ideal image is far and yet quite near.

Digital India campaign launched by the Modi government is a huge step forward in this respect. The umbrella project plans to bring a lot many schemes under it with a common goal of making a smarter digital India. As the government move from e-governance to m-governance(mobile), it is also promoting mobile banking. Recently PM launched BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) app that uses a Unified payment Interface. This platform will make banking and transactions feasible for the layman. A lot of companies like Paytm and PhonePe are riding on the “cashless” wave generated by demonetization and are fuelling a cashless economy dream.

Under the Digital India campaign, the government plans to provide WiFi access to all public institutions. Government plans to set up NOFN (National Optical Fibre Network) to provide high speed internet in rural areas of the country. The Campaign aims to produce more jobs in the IT sector by training individuals and promoting IT startups. Not only will this improve the unemployment scenario, it will also reduce India’s trade deficits. The plan is to reduce net Imports to zero by 2019.

Companies like Reliance Infocomm have played a major role by setting up intensive fibre networks across India and facilitated the goal of a Digital India. Companies like Facebook and Microsoft have also invested funds to improve rural digital connectivity in India.

Digital Revolution has shown its impact on every sector of Indian economy. Our education institutions are gradually moving towards e-learning models. MOOC platforms like edX , Khan Academy and Udacity have a huge number of Indian students. Health care institutions are more automated and organized. Government has launched its own website MyGov.in to facilitate people participation in the governance. Digitalization will undoubtedly lead to a more transparent democratic and advanced India.

A major challenge that lies in front of Indian Government is to educate people, disseminate information and ensure high level of digital safety. A large proportion of Indian population resides in villages and/or is illiterate and that will be a big challenge to overcome. Information disseminating booths, easy payment interfaces, and universal mobile connectivity will be needed to realize the dream of digital India. The future is indeed bright and it is time for India to take the road not taken.

Are we are imprisoning ourselves in the ‘cell’ of our cell phones?

Take a walk around your city and everywhere you will run into people bent over their cell phones. Sometimes neck tilted holding the cell phone in the grip of ear and shoulder; sometimes necks bent 90 degree, eyes dug deep into the smart phone screen. In the past decade this phenomenon has given rise to plenty of debate, questioning whether it is healthy or not to imprison ourselves in this ‘cell’ phone and how it has ended our social lives. This debate often overlooks another fact. Human species has lived this way for years now. First we bent our necks over newspapers, then books, and now cell phones. It is not an argument for technology, it is rather an argument for human behaviour and needs.

These cell phones, rather than acting as a prison with sealed walls, are gateways to a whole new world. They foster relationships even at a distance, encourage people to voice their opinion and the experience can be highly customized to a person’s qualities and desires. An introvert can finally find a platform for his voice on twitter, a shy young man too can hope to find love on tinder, a small business man can sell his products on Alibaba in various countries without worrying about language barriers, and a house wife can find a platform to learn English or earn money by free lancing. This cell is anything but a ‘cell’.

Cell phones are often blames for reducing social real life interactions but in reality, they have done something exactly opposite. Rise in technology has been accompanied by increasing number of malls, food outlets, gaming zones, public gathering places etc. Telecom revolution changed how people lived their lives. Every loved one was suddenly a phone call away. Even in present day, cell phones  deepen human bonds even when people move far away. Bringing people across geographic and ethnic borders closer is no less than a miracle.

Cell phones have also made life much easier by bringing together every aspect of life from banks to education to healthcare to paying bills. With improvement in technology, they will be able to do things better and faster and even more functions could become a regular thing for cell phones.

Rather than being prison cells of human mind, cell phones are portals of freedom in so many ways. Cell phones have and will play an important role in the years to come by fostering social interactions and making the world a more connected place to live in.

De-Globalization

Bygone year 2016 saw a wave of rising populism and nationalism across the west. In the reluctance of European countries to provide asylum to immigrants to Donald Trump promising USA a closed and secure future, an interesting pattern emerged which underscored the outlook of developed countries towards globalization.

Britain voted in favour of a “Brexit”. People choose to leave Britain as they did not want Immigrants coming and “stealing” their jobs. This lead to Exit talks in several other European countries such as Italy and France. People felt that their jobs had been stolen by foreigners and their taxes spent as welfare checks on these asylum seekers. Suddenly they felt the need to reclaim their resources and jobs and this lead to a rise in nationalist sentiment across the countries. A similar sentiment was on rise in USA. The world might blame Donald Trump and his policies but that is exactly what USA citizens wanted. 19/20 candidates in the presidential elections USA 2016 had Protectionist policies in their agenda. This is a reflection of what US citizens desire. They do not worry about Globalization or free trade, they worry about their next generations and the competition they might face in the years to come if immigration continues.

Britain PM Theresa May declared that Britain would not remain a part of the free trade bloc in EU and will heavily restrict the number of Immigrants. A lot of countries such as Italy have started sending Immigrants back. Donald Trump has taken the president office and opted out of the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) deal and is planning to impose heavy Border Adjustment Taxes to restrict Imports and boost exports.

While the developed world looks to close its borders, the developing nations are trying to open up as globalization provides them the opportunity to explore and grow. It has brought enormous advantages to emerging markets in recent years. De-globalization might become a reality in future but it will remain restricted to a few nations. As west closes its borders, other nations will emerge and become major market players. China and India will rise as new favourable trade zones and the world would shift its attention to east.

In spite of all these changes, de-globalization will remain restricted to the area of trade and Immigration. The world has time and again come together when faced with bigger issues. Take for example the continent of Antarctica. When the land was discovered, countries argued over land pieces and water resources. But when the damage done to the environment was exposed, all the nations came together to fix it. Issues like hole in ozone layer, declining number of whales, seals and penguins, were taken as important international problems and lead to Montreal Protocol as a solution. In the face of war, climate change, terrorism and other important concerns, the world would remain globalized because we have a collective responsibility towards this planet and these things affect all nations equally.

Censorship in the age of Internet

Advent of Internet ushered us in an era of connectivity with the hope that the world would be more open, transparent and fair when there are so many eyes watching. But the purpose was beaten to smithereens when censorship came into play. Censorship means the practice of blocking or modifying certain content (Videos/ Text /Images) to prevent it from making an impression on the mass.

While censorship comes with both its pros and cons, it is its scope and expanse that is under question. Where and when is censorship ethical? This question is indeed difficult to answer but every nation in the world has found a way to answer it in their own way. Being a communist nation, China took the path of blocking major foreign websites and instead supported local websites like Baidu and Alibaba. Censorship was done to protect nationalist interest. Countries like North Korea practice heavy censorship, the people of NK have no access to outside world. All the websites, TV programs are owned by the state and the content is heavily curated. But in the recent times, thanks to internet, quite a few documentaries (shot by undercover agents)have emerged, providing insights into the life in NK. Countries like Syria, Israel censor websites  to prevent the information of political unrest in the country to reach out to common people inside/outside the country. Then there is Saudi Arabia that censors “Content from the West” to protect its people from the western culture which it frowns upon.  

Censorship in democracies has been practiced quite rationally but not without criticism. Very often censorship on movies and songs are debated in countries like India and Pakistan. For Instance, when the movie “Udta Punjab” was released in India it came under a lot of scrutiny from censor board while the supporters of the movie insisted it showed the reality of our country which was indeed dark and hence should be released uncensored. Censorship proves quite useful when it comes to regulating content for children, family TV etc. but there comes time when the debates become quite grey and it is difficult for anyone to take sides.

In the past decade or two, internet has played an important role to expose truths and bring more transparency (Wiki leaks, Hillary Clinton’s emails etc) to the world. If censorship is to be practiced, it should be done on more rational, democratic lines. No doubt the countries that heavily sensor the Internet are the ones with one or other form of authoritarian governments. Here we need to promote openness and condemn irrational censorship. Any steps to increase transparency should be welcomed. But there are certain grey areas where we need to take censorship with a pinch of salt as its application might not be always right or always wrong. To conclude, censorship is integral to maintain our democracy, culture and to uphold our freedom but it should be done in moderation and on rational lines.

Indian Tiger Vs. Chinese Dragon

China and India, two fast growing economies in the world with largest and second largest populations respectively, have all eyes on them. The world looks to the east and sees the sun rise on these two nations. But the relationship between two economies has been competitive and complicated at its very best. Armed with a communist/authoritarian regime, China plays by rules much different than those of India. While the intellectuals vehemently spoke of the benefits of a dictatorship and that a dictator would be able to get more out of its populace in forms of taxes and labor and thus give rise to a richer economy, India held democracy close to its heart and managed to prove that the road to growth does not have to be stained with the blood of its people.

Today India’s GDP stands at approx 6% of World GDP, while that of China stands at approx 16% of World GDP. But the difference can be accounted for. While the Chinese dragon started breathing fire in 1980, Indian tiger started roaring around early 1990s. Given the head start and the repressive regime policies, Chinese economy soared high. But now the times are a-changing. Recently the IMF forecast predicted that Indian economy will grow faster than that of China in the next fiscal year. Though Chinese economy is already much bigger than that of India and this comparison doesn’t really matter, it is a good news for India. We might not be there yet but the signs are showing good times ahead and India seems prepared to grab the silver lining.

While China will have to deal with an aging population in the coming decade, India will have the world’s largest young/working population. China’s ‘One child policy’ has done great damage to its economy. It is left with a very large aging population that cannot contribute to its economy and a relatively small working population to support it.  On the other hand, India placed no such restrictions and very soon will reap the benefits of it (at least from an economic standpoint). While the Chinese economy is showing lowered manufacturing activity, India is all set to increase it with various government schemes such as Make In India in place.  Indian manufacturing sector has a lot of potential as it can provide employment to relatively less educated/uneducated population in the form of manual labour. With the current government’s emphasis on brining in FDI, the economy is set to benefit in the long run as better investment will lead to better infrastructure, employment and growth.

Apart from Internal factors, there are a lot of external factors that will affect both the countries in the coming years. One of them being US President Elect, Donald Trump. His disbelief in Chinese government might influence the future policies that US makes with China and could hurt the Chinese economy. India is not safe either as our highest FDI Inflows come from US and Donald Trump is inclined towards reshaping US to a protectionist form of economy. Donald Trump is not the problem, it is the will of people of US and other countries in the west. During US presidential elections 19 out of 20 candidates supported protectionism in the markets. Brexit occurred as a result of people wanting to close their borders, even if it came at the expense of economic growth. These events are a window to the mindset of people in west. With such a disaster looming on global front, both India and China will have to prepared to reduce their dependence on other countries and If possible, use it as a golden opportunity to rise as leading global economies.

China is already making efforts to make its presence felt globally. Chinese currency Yuan was recently added to SDR ( Special Drawing Rights) basket at IMF, making it part of the elite group. The ambitious CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor)  and OBOR (One Belt One Road) will improve trade connectivity  of China and improve its trade prospects by facilitating smoother/faster trade via land and water. While CPEC is being seen as an act of strategically side stepping India politically, it has more to do with the economic health of China. It will facilitate its exports and give a boost to its economy.

On the other hand, India is trying to improve its global prospects by improving its strategic relationships with countries. It has launched schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana to pull its poor out of poverty. Schemes like Make in India, Digital India are revolutionary and have the potential to uplift our economy. With focus shifting to cashless fair/transparent economy in the wake of Demonitization, there is no doubt India is leaving no stone unturned to ensure its people rise with the country.

While things look quite bright for India, there is still a lot of work to be done. China has a large proportion of its female population in the workforce while the corresponding numbers in India are very low. India also lags behind china when it comes to Infrastructure and education/literacy rates. For India to do well in the longer run, it will have to improve on all these fronts. Encouraging women empowerment and education, improving investment in roads/railways and imparting quality education to all will work to India’s benefit. We have indeed come far, but we still have a long way to go.

Democracies fail when they ask too little of their people. India needs to call its people to participate in this wave of growth and play their part well. We all need to contribute to ensure our country achieves its true potential. Given the right strategy, India Tiger will rise against odds and will emerge as a winner irrespective of how many dragons breathe fire on its way.

A Statue of Eros

This morning, Sangeeta woke up feeling rather exhausted and dull. It was a gloomy Sunday morning. Weather was rainy and the room was dull with procrastination. She woke up feeling rather lackadaisical, a weird thing to feel at such an hour. But our moods are affected weather nonetheless.

Sangeeta thought it a lazy morning. Sunday meant holiday for Mrs. Gupta next-door. Sunday meant a Monday for a housewife like Sangeeta.

Mrs Anjali Das Gupta was a 27yr old beautiful young wife of Mr Gupta next door. A gorgeous young ambitious woman with dark eyes. She was an object of jealousy for every woman on the block. Everyone, except Sangeeta.

Her jealousy was only directed to Mr Gupta. Something unusual for a woman, so she religiously fought it every day while watching Mrs Gupta drive back home from work. Heart apparently is capable of love and pleasure even when it’s brimming with guilt, she discovered. Strange, she thought. Two good reasons for your heart to stop beating altogether and yet it just won’t. Not a pleasant thought when you have a husband on his way back home.

Guilt takes over easy on rainy mornings, yet she somehow managed to get out of her bed. She glanced at her husband sleeping on the bed. He’ll probably sleep till noon, she thought.

She put on her gown and her slippers and went out in the kitchen. A hot cup of tea would be nice at this hour. Mrs Gupta was probably not up yet, she could see through her window which opened in front of Mrs Gupta’s mansion. The doors were closed, and so were the windows.

Sangeeta stared at her brewing red tea and marvelled at its rich red color. Anjali would look beautiful in this color, she thought. Her thoughts now made her angry. She felt angry at her other self for not having any self control. It’s called other self for a reason. The reason being it is not yours, atleast not consciously. It is an another. So she could pass on some blame there. Maybe a chronic disease or a genetic mutation perhaps. That’s what they said in the papers. But Anjali would look Gorgeous in red nonetheless.

Tired at her own failure to exercise self control, she turned to perform her daily chores.

Sunday afternoon went by quite swiftly. There wasn’t much to do though. A tv serial binge saved her from having to converse with other fellow beings. She wasn’t one to share her thoughts or feelings or to banter about things that people generally like to banter about. She enjoyed her peaceful self critical existence. What could she share even if she decided for it? Nobody could understand, much less empathize. Her pain had overstayed its welcome and yet wasn’t ready to leave, so she has let it stay under her stairs. Being a woman, you cannot a love a woman. But how could she not?

Evening fell and Sangeeta could no longer feel comfortable in her chair. She walked out into the lawn and sat next to her husband.

“What are you reading? “She asked, trying to start a conversation.

“It’s a novel”, came a brief reply.

One mustn’t disturb others while they are reading, but Sangeeta felt too uncomfortable to worry about making others feel so.

“I can see that”, she said, “what is it about?”

“About a girl.”

“I thought you didn’t read that kind of books.”

He looked up from the novel and raised an eyebrow at her.

“What kind of books?”

“Romantic ones. I thought u didn’t like them.”

“No I don’t.”

“Then why  are you reading this one?”

“It’s better to read some crappy novel than to sit in front of tv and watch your stupid serials.”

“It’s not stupid”, she retaliated,”if you try and sit through it, you might even like it.”

“I wish I could believe you.”

He looked down and started reading again. That was her cue to leave.

“Listen”, he called back.”

“Yes?”

“Could you make me a cup of coffee?”

“Sure”, she replied and headed to the kitchen.

This marriage isn’t going to work, she thought. But don’t be ridiculous, she told herself. Men watch sports, drink coffee and complain about women. Its their thing. The thought didn’t linger long enough to bother her through the night.

Next morning, Sangeeta woke up feeling irritated yet again. She complained about the weather for a whole 15 mins before getting out of bed. But there was a silver lining.

All Monday morning she could stand in her kitchen, cook and look at Mrs Gupta’s mansion. Anjali could be seen running around the house , getting the children ready for school, bidding goodbye to Mr Gupta and then finally getting ready and off to her office. Monday mornings were pleasant for this exact reason, she had the peace she needed to accommodate both guilt and pleasure.

May be it is simply sexual, she thought. It could be a meaningless attraction that would eventually fade away. It must fade away. For how long she could go on living like this? Her pain felt fresh like the first heartbreak. “What monster is locked in my rib cage? How can it be a heart.” This isn’t natural. She felt her thoughts slowly drifting into extreme guilt. A voice from the hall shook her from her stream of thoughts.

“Sangeeta, my tea?”

She went out to get cups from the shelf and saw her husband reading the newspaper.

“What are you reading?

“Can’t you see?”

“No, I mean, read me the headlines”, she said, desperate to get her head off things.

Well, the big news is from USA. Yesterday, the US government legalized homosexuality in all its states. So same sex marriage is valid now. Its all over the social media too.

“Really?” She felt lighter suddenly.

“Yes.”

“Well what do you think about it?” It didn’t matter what he thought, but she was curious anyway.

“I think its stupid” he said, “Its clearly an anomaly, something against nature and social order. Probably a genetic disorder or something. Such people should be denied relationships or marriage. Its better if they are simply eliminated or, fixed.”

“You believe so?”

“Yeah.”

His words lingered in the air for a minute before she turned back and started walking towards the kitchen.

A smile crept on her lips. She was glad her husband wasn’t the president of America or any other country for that matter. She looked down at the brewing red tea and thought of Anjali in red. She let the thought stay for a little longer. This time, without any guilt. Her husband will never understand. Maybe she won’t understand it either. But it was real irrespective of it all and without the need of comprehension. She mused over the thought and decided to let it linger a bit longer and closed her eyes. Wrong some would say, but she closed them anyway.

Arthur Conan Doyle

If you happen to Google “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”, you will get thousands of search results for the great creator and writer, famous for his immortal creation, the great detective SHERLOCK HOLMES.
Sherlock Holmes was undoubtedly the Harry Potter of his time.What more? I think he will outlive Harry Potter. Sir Arthur earned a lot of money through his novels and lived a life that many of us would envy. But like every great story, Doyle’s story too was one of its kind and was not all too bright and shiny as one would like to think.
Sir Arthur was born on may 22,1859, and was a doctor by profession. He graduated from university of Edinburgh in 1881. It was during this time that he started writing short stories to earn some money on the side.

Sir Doyle’s medical career was in ruins. It never took off. He tried to establish his practice in Plymouth and Portsmouth (England) but he didn’t succeed. It was during the hours he spent waiting for patients, he started writing novels and created Sherlock Holmes.

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His stories received great appreciation from audience around the world and very soon Holmes was a phenomenon.
Soon enough Doyle got tired of Holmes and wanted to write something else and evolve his art of writing.

In November 1891 he wrote a letter to his mother and confessed, “I think of slaying Holmes… and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things.”

To which his mother responded, “You won’t! You can’t! You mustn’t!” ( Apparently, the letter is not publicly available.)
Sir Doyle received continuous pressure from publishers and audience to continue writing about Holmes.When finally Sir Doyle killed Holmes in his novel “The Final Problem”, he faced the wrath of public and publishers alike. He received life threatening letters from people ordering him to bring Holmes back to life. People even threw stones at his house , mentally torturing Sir Arthur and forced him to continue writing about Sherlock Holmes. This resulted in the Return of Sherlock in his next novel.
People were crazy for Sherlock and most of them believed him to be real, immortal and unbeatable and they could not stand the fact that he could die or worse FAIL. (Reminds me of Hermione Granger!)

Under this pressure Sir Arthur continued writing “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” against his wish till he died.

On his 71 st b’day he confessed that he was tired of hearing about Holmes. He said “Holmes is dead. I am done with him.”

On 7 July just 1 month and a few days after this speech Sir Arthur too died of a heart attack.

Till this date people send letters to Sherlock Holmes at his fictional address 221 B bakers street in London. Hoping that he would help them. These letters include cases form missing cats to stolen Jewelry!!
Generations have enjoyed Sherlock Holmes’s Novels and their TV/Film adaptations yet they were nothing but pain and depression for the person who wrote them.

 

 

Various Film/ TV adaptations of Sherlock Holmes.

 

I like to think Sir Doyle was more John Watson than he was Sherlock Holmes. In awe of Sherlock’s intellect and annoyed at him, both at the same time.

Anyway, Who’s ready for season 4?

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Harbor of Trieste by Egon Schiele

Wow!

This was my first reaction looking at this magnificent masterpiece by Egon Schiele. I was awestruck and kept staring at it for a couple of minutes. It is simply gorgeous. Just look at the lines!

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This Austrian painter is mainly known for his Nude paintings/portraits. His nude paintings were considered so offensive that he was later arrested for obscenity.

Such as this semi nude called the Kneeling Semi Nude (1911):

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But I fell in love with his Impressionism style. Take this beauty for example,

View from the Drawing Classroom, Klosterneuberg (1905)

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Or this,

Boating (1907)

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Or this,

House with a Bay window in the Garden (1907)

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And this,

Tree Mirrored in a pond (1907)

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Do check out his entire collection. It is full of such gems. Adios!

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