Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gearing for 2012

2012 is almost there...knocking at our doors. We are at the threshold of a brand new year... It’s time for new beginnings, revivals and renewals.

Looking back at 2011, one has to admit that it goes in India’s history as a year that saw us slipping into the stigma of a corrupt nation, for scams galore benumbed us. We also saw the Anna phenomenon unfold! Thanks to social and online networking, we hope the political class will be a lot wearier of us – common people! 

Notwithstanding these turmoils, how can we make the year one with a difference? I am going to tread these nurturing paths so that each day, I become a better individual.

Invest 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes just before going to bed on Meditation. In the first week of December 2011, I got access to a wonderful meditation that has kept me sane and healthy amid the frenetically paced life. I am resolute about continuing this in 2012 as I find myself rooted in peace (amid the chaos around!) and my pre-hypertension reading have stabilized to a healthy 120/70. Meditation has long been considered one of the finest practices to gain peace & clarity of mind along with its other therapeutic benefits. What ancient rishis and seers practiced ages ago has been confirmed by modern science to be a potent tool in quietening the mind and its constant chatter.  To those of you who would like to start the New Year with the remarkable benefits one can offer oneself, please visit The tagline of the free meditation cannot be more apt: Be, Breathe, Blossom!

Keep a Gratitude Journal. It is always easy to find fault with everything around us. Pause and ponder... we are sure to find countless blessings that have come our way. In fact the most difficult people in our lives happen to also be our best teachers, in retrospection. Today’s obstacles will no doubt seem to us as fine opportunities, five years from now. So instead of focussing on the troubles and imaginary fears, let us focus on the bounties we have.   It would be a great idea to write down in a note pad 5 blessings of the day, before we go to sleep. This has manifold effects as the subconscious mind registers the gratefulness. Researchers have found that when we think about someone or something we really appreciate and experience the feeling that goes with the thought, the parasympathetic – calming-branch of the autonomic nervous system – is triggered. This pattern when repeated bestows a protective effect on the heart.

Smile a lot. A smile induces warmth in the beholder’s heart. Frequent smiling is indeed therapeutic in its effect on the body & mind. Besides it is so contagious that it can even uplift the overwhelmed and depressed. It improves appearances and makes people look younger & attractive. It is mood changing and is an instant stress buster. Research has shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good and therefore happier. Smiling therefore is a natural drug.

Seize the moment – Carpe diem, they say. Being mindful is focusing on the present moment. Many a time we are engulfed in the ruminations & regrets of the past and worries & anxieties of the future. Hence we are unable to live in the present. When you are mindful, you look at yourself in a non judgemental way. You realize that you are not your thoughts. You become an observer of your thoughts – you neither grasp them nor push them away. Thankfully, the meditation that I do is aiding me superbly in this process. The venerable Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh advocates practicing mindfulness of ourselves and others – mindful acts cultivate understanding, love, compassion, and joy. In our strife ridden world this is a panacea.

Forgive others and more importantly yourself. Many a time we make mistakes. Others make mistakes. Push comes to shove, we are easy on forgiving others but quite harsh on ourselves. We need to let go of our grudges and bitterness, and embrace peace, hope, gratitude & joy. Embracing forgiveness is a clear way forward. If we probe further, it is the perfectionist in us that wants us never to make mistakes. Weed out this disease. It can cause guilt, rigidity, pessimism, low self esteem and obsessive compulsive behaviour in us. To overcome this we need to acknowledge that we are liable to make mistakes. We need to forgive ourselves for our mistakes. Backsliding is just not the end of the world – we can always pick ourselves up and start all over again. In this sense every mistake is a profound learning experience.

Go for walks. Do back stretches to ward off aches & pains. I aim to go for a 30-minute walk everyday plus do the stretches recommended by my orthopaedist. I have the benefit of a huge park nearby where I stay. So there is no reason why I should be lax on these, given the benefits of one of the most inexpensive yet easiest & effective of exercises. Besides making me physically fit, it will also promote better sleep.

Drink lots of water. In fact I start my day by drinking 3-4 glasses of water. The elixir of life is by far the best liquid to intake. Dr. Batmanghelidj who is the author of “Water for Health, for Healing, for Life” is also the founder of the National Association for Honesty in Medicine and author of, “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water”, in his interview with Mike Adams speaks eloquently about the healing power of water. I find drinking 8-10 glasses of water everyday very energising.

These and other good practices that I indulge in like doing Reiki, reading plenty of inspirational literature and regular prayers will also keep me in good stead through 2012.

Do you have any nurturing practice to share??? 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ridiculous, isn't it???

Dear Mr. Sibal

I am not a lawyer. I am not in politics nor am I in position of power like you. I am not a cyber specialist. I am just a simple citizen, an educator who exhorts my students to think for themselves, have an opinion and make sure that they express it.

My pet peeve over the last few days has been you. First when I read this report in the India blog of New York Times through, you guessed it right, a Facebook link, on the 5th of December 2011, I just couldn't believe what I was reading. (Our Indian media caught up a little late!) I can understand if monarchies & autocracies demand this. But a demand of this nature from a legal luminary-cum-elected-representative (Aside: – the board to which I belong to was under your care – and you made so many radical changes there!) from the world’s largest democracy was far too much to digest. And that too at a time when social media is playing a vital role in engineering change in many countries globally; and when young and old are equally members of such online communities that foster a sense of camaraderie and oneness in them. 

Why do you want Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to screen content? What kind of content are you particularly keen on removing? Anything that is anti-government or anti-congress? With millions of web users logging in and out, posting anything from tweets to status updates, to photographs to videos, writing blogs to discussing in webinars, how on earth are they going to monitor that? Besides, I fiercely value my freedom of speech. As long as I am not using objectionable language and graphics, why should anybody screen the content that I post?

I have three blogs. One question that I had to answer before I started them was whether it has adult content. I could set up one only when I said no to it. I write something disparaging about X / Y / Z, someone can always report me for abuse of the virtual space. Which means that there is a built in mechanism for social media to purge unwanted / abusive material, right? Why, then, did you want to be the super cop, ask for content censorship of kinds & earn the ire of millions of Indians in the cyber world? What is more shameful is that you are using this as a ruse and saying that by indulging in such free exchange of views & ideas, religious sensitivity will be exploited. Come on, Mr. Sibal, the internet is not a new thing now. If such instances gave rise to communal riots, India would have been in shreds by now. In fact, I have heard many a time that it is your tribe who engender communal issues and use it effectively in vote bank politics.

I am aware of the IT act. Section 66A is about punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc which is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine. Section 66E is for violation against privacy; 66F deals with punishment for indulging in cyber terrorism. Section 67 is about punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material. As a legal expert you know it all too well. And perhaps you know the loopholes too. Is that why you can’t invoke these sections against erring individuals? So how about plugging the loopholes instead of gagging us?

Mr. Sibal, common people like me have tolerated nonsense for very many years. A new found enthusiasm is coursing through our veins, thanks to our communities in the very same social media that you have targeted. India will not go the China way! Do read the writings on the wall!! Or you will not have any wall to write over!!!

An Awakened Citizen 

Friday, December 9, 2011

C for Corruption - a Blot on India!

Corruption is no doubt a global phenomenon. There have been many instances of corruption all over and thanks to the media many were exposed. 

Today, with technological advance and an alert print and visual media, things have become a lot easier for exposes. Whistle blowers too have played a vital role in informing us about corruption. 

The Transparency International, a leading anti-corruption watchdog, published its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2011 on 1st December 2011. In this index they actually name the least corrupt to the most corrupt countries in a scale from 10 to 0. While the top slot with 9.5 rating goes to New Zealand, they are closely followed by the Scandinavian countries of Denmark and Finland with 9.4 as their score. The ignominious last two places go to Somalia & North Korea with the lowest 1.0 scores. Where does India figure in the list? India is 95th (out of 183 countries covered by the index) with a 3.1 score. It is worth pointing out that in 2010 we were at 87 with 3.3 score and have dropped 8 places, thanks to the innumerous corruption scandals involving the ruling governments in both the Centre and the States unearthed. 

On 8th December 2011, Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari have touched a raw nerve when they calculated the figures that the corrupt earn in India – a mind blowing Rs. 92,122 crore ($18.42 billion) which works out to 1.26% of the GDP! In their book aptly titled, “Corruption in India: The DNA & RNA”, Debroy who is a professor with Delhi's Centre for Policy Research and Bhandari who heads Indicus Analytics, monitoring the performance of the Indian economy, lists out the various public services that are plagued with the mire of corruption. This includes industries of transport, real estate, illegal mining, government procurement, agriculture, forestry and logging, fishing, registered manufacturing, electricity, gas and water supply, construction, trade, hotels and restaurants, railways, storage, communication, and banking and insurance. Well, reading the exhaustive list, it occurred to me that it would be a lot easier to point out where corruption does not happen in this country than the other way around! It is sad that India’s economic growth is undermined by corruption that permeates the entire warp and weft of the nation. 

Today, though there are anti-corruption laws, they are toothless and powers that be can easily circumvent them, break them with impunity, sneak away through loop holes and walk out of prisons & courts with ease. Coming out of prisons, they target whistle blowers (we have had so many – Manjunath Shanmugham, Shehla Masood, Niyamat Ansari – just to mention a few names that cannot be forgotten) and meticulously eliminate them, leaving no traces. RTI activists find themselves at the receiving end. 

Where does all this leave us? Surely the need of the hour is a strong Lokpal Bill which will ensure stringent punishment to those who indulge in corruption of any kind. Let us all support it in every possible way. Let us hope that we are able to chain the monster of corruption and signal the awakening of the giant that India is – thanks to her man power, resources and timeless national values. Let's remove the blot on this land which has "Satyameva Jayate" (meaning Truth alone triumphs, from the ancient scripture - Mundaka Upanishad) as its motto. 

I want to end this post on a very optimistic note borrowing the immortal lines of John Keats in the Ode to the West Wind. 
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?