Are we really free?

I wish all the fellow Indians a very happy 70th Independence Day. Indeed it is a matter of pride for every Indian to celebrate the day for which many people sacrificed their lives or lived under atrocities of their foreign masters. Freedom is a gift given to the present generation for which we should ever be thankful. We have come a long way since the day we gained our freedom and has taken many independent decisions towards the development of our country. However, I still like to question sometimes that are we really free?

Even after 70 years of Independence are we free enough to question our government or a national party without being harassed in one of other way, to press freely without being bought by a political party, to follow and express our religious faith, to eat whatever we like without offending or told by people of other faith and to demand execution of government proceedings without bribery. A bigger question of all would be does this definition of freedom also includes people from lower economic background and women. Women are probably deprived of most of the rights that men enjoy freely in all strata of life. Looking from a womens perspectives in India, it probably doesn’t make any difference if she is under a foreign rule or not since she is in slavery of her family or domestic masters even after her country has gained independence.

Celebrating Independence day should not just be feeling proud upon the fact that our leaders made the foreigners run away but also to ponder over the salient issues of injustice, inequality, religious bigotry, poverty and growing corruption in the government offices. We could only be truly free if we consider ourselves not just to be free physically but also mentally. Our thinking needs to change and it is only by the change in our thinking that we would ever be able to gain our true freedom.

My country is getting sicker day by day!

I have been chauffeuring my mother and two of her colleagues from and to her work today and caught in between of women’s chit chat on several occasions. Among all the womanly gibberish there were some concerning and interesting elements that caught my attention. Most concerning was that many hospitals both private and public have sprung in our city and none of them seem to be empty due to lack of sick people. On the other hand most of them are over crowded and sometimes patients are on the waiting list to be seen. For a country like India it is a good thing that we have an increasing number of hospitals to take care of our people, but it is also a matter of great concern that so many people are still getting ill inspite of all the advancement in health care and clean India movement run by the government.

Some of the reasons that I could think of concerning the health of the Indian people are lack of awareness about health and hygiene, food adulteration, increasing mental stress to cope up with the lifestyle of a growing economy and lack of physical exercise. Of these I think the most concerning are food adulteration and lack of awareness about the hygiene.

I have traveled many places in India and I have never seen a clean public toilet that is maintained by the government. In many places including my city even the private malls do not have clean toilets. Sometimes it feels like that our benchmark for a clean toilet is so low that no matter how much of cleaning is done it is still dirtier as compared to toilets anywhere else in the developed world. Government of India has launched Swach Bharat abhiyan to promote use of toilets and hygiene in the country. However, a turn around change would only be possible when common people understand the importance of hygiene in the context of herd immunity. It doesn’t matter how strong your immunity is, if your neighborhood is weak in collective immunity, then you are more prone to falling ill as compared to the person whose own immunity is low, but lives in a stronger herd. We also have to improve our thinking regarding the importance of constructing good toilet setups at our home. In most of Indian homes toilets are the last place that people allocate the space for while designing their houses. In many homes it is not surprising to find toilets below the stair case or outside in the veranda under a shed or the smallest place possible in the house. To be honest it doesn’t matter how big or small is your toilet as far as it is clean, but it does show the temperament of the people towards hygiene.

We will be celebrating our 70th Independence day tomorrow and even after becoming 70 years old we are still teaching people the basics of health and hygiene. We still do not have any understanding of throwing rubbish in the bins or how to segregate rubbish into wet and dry waste. If you ever go to an old crowded parts of Indian cities you will find people throwing rubbish from their balconies on the street, thinking that their job is done and now it’s government’s problem.

To add up to growing waste management and hygiene issues the current government is all about putting cows on the alter. So many cows on the street littering wherever possible is another nuisance. Hindu people believe in the holiness of cows and therefore anything that comes out of a cow is either holy in itself or has therapeutic value, for example drinking cow piss can get rid of stomach related ailments or rubbing it on a wound or skin allergy can heal it. Many of the Ayurvedic medicines have cow piss as an active ingredient.

Indeed it is proud to think that we are advancing in medical sciences, but having more hospitals does not only shows our advancement but also shows the state of our health. Hence, the more number of hospitals in your city is directly proportional to the more number of sick people your city is generating. The underline cause of the illness is not the lack of medical facility but the lack of hygiene. And in the end we always need to think about our immunity as a fraction of the herd we are part of.

 

Reducing Friction in Life

With the overload of information in our society it’s becoming increasingly difficult to retain and process the information with our human capacity. The major victims of such a conundrum are the elderly. So many things to remember, medical history, bills, how to use new apps, politics, grocery lists, various appointments and several random stuff that we have generated in recent times. It is not very easy even for the young to remember everything they encounter with. This causes friction among people who are either expecting themselves to remember everything or dependent on someone else. Friction in life only adds stress, discomfort and bitterness.

For example recently my mother has been quarreling about my father’s medical history which he always forgets and is totally dependent on my mother to keep a track of it. India doesn’t have a centralized medical information system yet that keeps the track of one’s health and therefore it becomes the responsibility of the patient. A situation has risen that my father needs to see a specialist in two weeks’ time and my mother won’t be available for him then. He is fretting that he wouldn’t be able to explain the doctor about his medical history in my mother’s absence. The friction caused by such a situation lead to shouting and telling each other that they are not responsible or not enough concerned about others etc.

A simpler solution to such a problem could be just writing down everything in a diary or creating a summary that can be handed over to the new specialist. But many people I have encountered who do not want to accept this reality that they can’t remember everything or even if they do remember, sometimes it is difficult for them to explain information in a logical order. In my understanding many people fear to accept this fact is because they do not want to feel embarrassed or look down upon themselves on losing their ability to remember or coping up with the ever growing information overload. In my opinion human brain is not constructed to be a library but it is rather a processor that is meant to think and solve complex problems and not to remember trivial everyday details. Indeed, we do accumulate memories throughout our lives, but those memories should be the important ones and not about your next doctor appointment or grocery lists.

For such things we have readily available help. If someone doesn’t want to keep a hand written diary then it’s really easy to store information, make lists and setup reminders on a smart phone. I can understand that using a smart phone can be a challenge for an elderly but it is still far worse than forgetting important information and causing friction in their lives.

I am in my early 30s, highly qualified with a mental capacity to remember a lot of information, but even I find it much easier to accept the fact that I should spend more of my brain capacity in problem solving rather than remember trivial details and therefore, I use technology to do the donkey work for me. I use Evernote for storing information, Workflowy for making lists, Google calendar for setting up reminders and Dropbox for syncing my important files across my devices. I even have reminders setup for my favorite TV shows because to me it doesn’t matter whether I remember them by myself or I get a reminder from a machine as far as the purpose of watching my favorite TV show is met.

Baba Ramdev, NCBI, Mineral Oil

Bab Ramdev is a figure head of Yoga and Patanjali Ltd. in India. He became famous for his yoga teachings around the country and due to  his liaising with influential people. Through his yoga and public appearances he earned popularity among the people and gained the capability of manipulating them by using their nationalist emotions. He has a staunch pro Hindu and pro BJP stance.

Though he gained his popularity because of his Yoga classes, but now he is known more for his company called Patanjali. He himself does advertisements for many of Patanjali’s products and because of his image as a yoga guru people blindly fall for his products. He boasts about his food and cosmetics products being all natural and condemns all the similar products being sold by other companies for being just harmful chemicals.

In one of his advertisements regarding Mustered oil he claims that a USA based agency called NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) has proven that adding mineral oil to Mustered oil leads to cancer and hence Patanjali is the only company that is preparing Mustered oil that is free from mineral oil and is prepared by natural process. There are few things that Mr. Ramdev ignorantly doesn’t know about, that NCBI is not the kind of research center that does such kind of research. It is a federal government center that maintains several databases to store publicly available biotechnology related data. The research paper that is shown in the Patanjali’s advertisement is actually a research paper that is stored in NCBI’s PubMed/PubMed Central literature database. The actual research is done by someone else and not by the NCBI itself. Ramdev did not even bother to show the title of the research paper that claims such an evidence and nobody even knows if there is a statistically strong evidence to support this hypothesis.  Claiming that NCBI has proven something is actually stupid. It is similar to saying that Google tell us that cancer is a disease. Google doesn’t tell anything it just gives you a list of websites that carry your searched terms. Google itself doesn’t have those pages. However, people in India are so blinded by his aura that they just given into whatever he says on the national television.

Apart from Ramdev’s mineral oil nonsense, he is also very loud about his food products being FSSAI approved as though every other food product in the Indian market is not FSSAI approved. His biggest bullshit is that every other product is made up of chemicals that are not good for humans. One should explain to him that even natural products are chemicals themselves and not all of the them are good for humans. Snake venom is a natural product, is it good for humans? Pathogenic bacteria and virus are natural, are they good for humans? No, not everything thing that comes out of nature is good for humans.

One of the things that really irritates me is that he doesn’t like to call India as “India” instead he prefers to call it by its Hindi version “Bharat”. According to him India is a word given to us by the Britishers and he despises it. Ironically all his products are named in English and on their packages everything is written in English including the phrase “Made in Bharat”. He simply uses nationalist and Hinduism stance to emotionally manipulate people to fall into his prey.

I don’t know how long would it take for India to eradicate such phony people out of the country. It may probably never happen because the divide in India due to caste and religion is so deep that people would always find one or the other way to hack into the hearts and brains of Indian masses.

Changing gender for acceptance in the society

“Iwillbegirl” was the IRC nickname of a guy compelled to turn himself into a girl through medical procedures for getting accepted in the society as a normal couple. Why would he want to do so? The answer is, he is gay and according to him it’s easier to change his gender than to alter his feelings towards men. A 30 year old man with whom I started chatting accidentally turned out to be listening to a person who wants acceptance in the society and is willing to go to lengths. According to him gender transformation doesn’t hurt physically but it does put a lot of mental pressure. He wants to find a gay or straight man who can accept him as a girl and can have a straight relationship afterwards. I was surprised to know that with all of these pride parades and legalizing of gay marriages there are still few gay people who want to change themselves in some fashion to be accepted as normal. I am not going to talk about for or against gay relationships and I am putting my words from purely non religious point of view. In my opinion definition of normality is indeed something that exists in majority and probably that doesn’t impair you from carrying out your life. We call ADHD a disorder because it impairs a person to concentrate effectively and is also not found among the majority of population. But we do not consider homosexuality as a disorder rather an orientation though homosexual population is a minuscule as compared to the total number of human population and it does impair you from a very fundamental role of living beings is to reproduce. People can argue that a gay female can have sex with a guy or can do IVF just to get a baby or gay men can adopt children to start a family, but these methods are purely in vitro and it can only give a synthetically constructed family structure. Chatting with this gay man I got this impression that even they are proud of who they are, there is still a sense of normality that they are worried about. Right now its purely on the basis of society structure but in future it might come up naturally.

Does BJP wants Indian masses to remain uneducated?

Ever since Modi government took place, their policies have received extreme reactions from the public. Initially they were seen as a progressive group of leaders which now turns out to be nothing more than a religiously motivated, anti democratic and self righteous bigots. Until now their decisions have mostly impacted people economically however, with the recent events their decisions are going to hamper the education of children, higher education and even scientific research.

Disclosure of UP budget by the CM Yogi Adityanath has revealed highest cuts on the secondary education. It is not something welcomed among the educated people, but surely it doesn’t matter to many with less education and awareness. Yogi bhakts are instead praising Yogi for his decision to increase budgets for primary education. Their argument is that primary education is more important than secondary or higher education. In my opinion also getting primary education is a fundamental right of every child in the country, but if you look at the bigger picture then primary education can only teach children how to read, write and speak. It doesn’t provide them with the ability to reason, understand complex political agenda, contribute in science and technology or make a decent living for themselves. This is what BJP is looking for to education people enough to make them capable of casting votes for BJP and do not question their policies.

In addition to hike in primary education budget they have also increased support for students hailing form backward classes, which is again a vote bank politics. Supporting poor and needy is important in any society, but supporting one group of people on the basis of their caste rather than economic condition is just trying to create a divide among the people. BJP has always been very good in clustering people into groups of their own and others.

Apart from the cuts in secondary education budgets BJP has also severely decreased funding for scientific research. Many of the projects have been shut down including some of the pilot projects that were running for more than a decade and were at their final stages of completion. Budget cuts had costed the jobs of many brilliant research associates forcing them to quit their scientific career.

Every government in India proclaims that they will remove corruption from the society and BJP boasts about it. However, they have forgotten that corruption is a mindset and culture of uneducated people and it can only be eradicated by supporting education at every level of a persons developmental stage.

Unethical behavior of Indian cellular operators

I have been recently traveling in India and since I stayed in India for a couple of months I had no choice but to switch to an Indian cellular service provider. There are many things that are great about Indian phone companies, one of them is that they are quite reasonable with many different plans to choose from. But I did find some unethical behavior in many of their operational methods. The most annoying one is sending unsolicited advertisements either via SMS or through a recorded phone call. This is something that I have never witnessed during my travels to the western world.

Recently, I tried calling one of my friends who uses Idea sim card (@ideacellular) and I was shocked to hear that they preferred to play an advertisement about their new 3G plan rather than letting me connect to my friend’s phone. This is ridiculous, what if I was in an emergency and I need to talk to someone at that moment. And even if I am not in an emergency why should I have to listen to their advertisements, I am paying my phone bills and my friends is paying his phone bills then we should only get the facility that we are paying for. Why are we being forced to listen to their advertisement?

I am sure that this is also the case with other cellular companies as well in India, though I have received better reviews about Airtel and Vodafone in such regard.

I am not criticizing India as whole, it is a big and vibrant country but when it comes to ethical issues I must say that India lack that culture. People as well as companies are very self centered, corrupt and does not bother about whether their actions can hurt someone directly or indirectly.