The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free. Slowly, I was discovering myself.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Many civil services aspirants reached out to me to share my experience about taking Political Science and International Relations as the optional subject for my civil services preparation. I gave the main examination thrice with Political Science and International Relations optional and qualified twice for the interview. I feel that Political Science and International Relations is one of the best optional subjects for anyone appearing for the Civil Services Examination. However, I am not coercing anyone to take this optional. It absolutely depends on the person’s own interest. In this blog post, I will be talking about the pros and cons of taking Political Science and International Relations:
It helps you to prepare for the General Studies paper as the syllabus of this optional overlaps with General Studies Paper I, II, and IV
Taking this optional means that you have to read not only Modern history, World history, and Indian Politics but also International Relations
The Political Theory section of this optional prepares you on ethical and philosophical issues which are helpful in Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude paper. It also helps you in answer writing
Reading Political Science & IR also helps you to understand the context of things happening in and around the world. It also helps you interlink concepts and understand things in a better manner
The best advantage of taking Political Science & IR is that it also helps you during interview preparation
This optional is quite vast and you need to read a lot to have a solid grip on this paper
If you are not a regular reader of the newspapers, you will find it difficult to prepare for this optional paper
Some people find the political theory part to be boring because it is very theoretical. Too much theory makes it hard to pass the first paper.
Please also read the posts below where I list the important books on Modern India, Indian Government & Politics, and Comparative Politics & International Relations:
Review of Globalization of World Politics: This is one of the most amazing books I have ever read on international relations. This is a very thick book of more than 500 pages and looks quite heavy from outside. But if you are an IR geek, you will absolutely love this book and will not put it down till you finish reading it. And if you are preparing for civil services and your optional subject is ‘Political Science and International Relations, this book will help you to cover the second part of this paper and also help in fetching good marks. Most importantly, this book helped me to build a strong understanding of IR concepts. This book is divided into five parts: The historical context, Theories of world politics, Structures and Processes, International issues, and Globalization in the future. My favorites are ‘Theories of world politics’ and ‘International issues’ sections. Theories of world politics discuss realism, liberalism, neorealism, Marxism, post-colonialism, etc. in a very detailed manner and the beauty of international issues section is that it took one important issue and entwine its’ trajectory with international relations that help you to see these issues from a unique angle. For instance- culture in world affairs and terrorism & globalization.
Review of Global Politics: This book is very similar to the Globalization of world politics but the style of writing is very different as it’s written by Andrew Heywood. I would suggest reading both books because both give a very different perspective on similar issues. This book is insightful if you are an IR geek or preparing for civil services. I can bet that all those news articles related to foreign issues will make more sense if you have already read these books.
Review of Does the Elephant dance?: This is one of the best books I ever read on Indian Foreign Policy. David Malone served as the High Commissioner of Canada to India from 2006 to 2008. Though this book came out in 2010, it is still relevant because the author has deeply examined how Indian history, culture, internal domestic politics has an important role to play in India’s relations with other countries. This book is quite comprehensive where the author has dealt with India’s relations with all its neighbors as well as the USA, China, West Asia, East Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Russia. I really found the last chapter- “The Evolution of Indian Multilateralism: From High Ground to High Table” of this book quite interesting where the author has written about India’s evolution from idealist moralizer to the often-pragmatic deal maker and how India’s soft power has an important role to play in the philosophy of Indian multilateralism.
Review of Pax Indica: This book came in the year 2012 when I was in full preparation mode for the civil services examination. And it also came just after David Malone’s book Does the Elephant dance? So it was a kind of continuation read on Indian Foreign Policy with all updated facts. Except for the last chapter, other chapters are the same thing as in other books on relation of India vis, a vis other countries, and obviously in a super-refined language of Shashi Tharoor. In the last chapter, he talks about ‘multi-alignment’ as a grand strategy for India in the 21st century. According to the author, the name of the book Pax Indica has no similarity to Pax Romana or Pax Britannica rather it must be built and sustained on the principles and norms that India holds dear at home and abroad.
Review of Challenge and Strategy:This was the first book I read on Indian foreign policy when I started preparing for the Civil services examination. Rajiv Sikri was an Indian diplomat with more than 36 years with Indian Foreign Service and though this book is quite old and a lot of things have happened in Indian foreign policy since this book was written. However, as this book has been written by a seasoned diplomat, it gives you a lot of insights into India’s relations with other countries and especially focuses on policies and strategies that can be used by Indian diplomats and policymakers to make India a major player at the International level.
Review of Flying Blind: India’s Quest for Global Leadership: This is the latest book written on Indian foreign policy, by a young and bright author Mohamed Zeeshan. He is a prolific writer who regularly writes on Indian foreign policy. The author asks many difficult questions in this book: Does India have a grand strategy? Does India have a strategic vision to become the “Vishwaguru”? According to Zeeshan, India’s foreign policy lacks vision and it has consistently shown acting in a panic mode. India’s relations with other countries are overshadowed by domestic/local interests and also Indian diplomatic establishment postures fence-sitting many times when it should take a firm stand on various issues. He argues that India needs a more coherent strategy of international relations through which the country should champion the cause of global good. This book can serve as a starter for those who want to deep dive into the field of Indian Foreign policy.
Miscellaneous Books/Reading Materials: And even if you read all books related to IR in the world and have not read IGNOUs booklets, then I would suggest you to stop reading this blog and go download all IGNOU materials right now. And one more very important thing, you need to read the history of India and the world before plunging into the field of International Relations because as someone said:
“Know the history of these countries before getting to know their relations.”
I will also suggest one nice strategy for everyone who is trying to understand any concept in totality, then must not stick to one book rather explore all kinds of books, articles, newspapers, magazines, etc. written on that topic. Please find some of the books/magazines/newspapers below I referred to during my preparation:
I always believed that India as a nation had something unique. As a birth-place of Buddha, Gandhi, and Ambedkar, India has shown and will always show the path of peace, harmony and also live up to the spirit of the philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam’. I will end with this beautiful quote by Mark Twain.
“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most artistic materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!”
Mark Twain, writer, America
Please also read the following post where I have written the review of all the books related to Modern India and Indian Government and Politics:
If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should Point to India.
Max Mueller (German Scholar)
Indian Polity: M Laxmikant: Indian Polity by Laxmikant is the bible for UPSC aspirants. It is not only helpful for prelims but also helpful for mains examination. Indian Government and Politics section of the Political Science & International Relations (PSIR) require you to be aware of all constitutional provisions. Most importantly, you have to be aware of the current happenings of Indian politics and constantly try to see the bigger picture and what happened in the history of Indian politics with respect to that particular issue. For instance: If President’s rule is declared in some states, you should know under what article of the Constitution of India , it is declared and what is the Supreme Court judgement on President’s rule and what is something about this particular president’s rule.
Indian Government and Politics: B L Fadia: This book by B L Fadia is a kind of guide book for the section on Indian Government and Politics. It almost covers the whole syllabus. It is a quite methodical and full of text, so it can help you to summarize or to have many view points on a particular issue. However, the book is quite boring.
Indian Government and Politics: A S Narang: This book is very similar to B L Fadia’s book. However, two things are different: one is that the book is quite old, so it is not updated as per current happenings and the second thing is that the writing style is totally different as compared to the B L Fadia’s book. Just have this book to get an idea of how the author has written on a particular issue. It’s not compulsory to buy.
Series of Books by Subhash Kashyap: Subhash Kashyap is a well known political scientist, India Constitution expert and a distinguished scholar and a writer. He has written extensively on parliament, the constitution of India and Indian political system. His books on Indian Constitution and Parliament gives you a lucid perspective on legal and political issues which helps in writing answers for mains examination. I would highly recommend reading these books if anyone has taken PSIR as an optional for the Civil Services Examination.
The Constitution of India: P M Bakshi: This book has all the acts of the Constitution along with the important cases. Keep this book with you whenever you want to refer some important case related to any specific article of the Constitution of India.
The Oxford Companion to Politics in India: Niraja Gopal Jayal & Pratap Bhanu Mehta This book is very important and highly recommended. It can help you to analyze the important issues of Indian politics. This book is divided into eight parts comprehensively covering all important issues starting from the institutions, the society, political processes, ideological contestations, social movements, political economy and different ways of looking at Indian Politics. I would recommend this book reading as many times as you can and if possible also make notes from this book that will be useful for revision just before the mains examination.
Miscellaneous: (Highly Recommended) : The Indian Government and Politics section of the PSIR optional is quite dynamic and also need a lot of analysis and interlinking of many concepts for better understanding. So, I will also recommend reading unconventional books on Indian politics, history and memoirs or autobiography of politicians to understand the political dynamics and the nuances of Indian politics.
NCERT Books on Indian Politics, Democracy and Constitution of India
IGNOU Notes on Indian Government and Politics
Read 2-3 newspapers daily. The Hindu, The Indian Express, Times of India
Review of India’s Struggle for Independence This was my first history book which I read during civil services preparation. It’s an interesting read with nice anecdotes, stories and, quotes weaved into small chapters. This book is an easy read. It can be easily finished if someone targets to read one or two chapters in a day. Since Bipin Chandra, the main author of this book, is a historian with a left-leaning perspective, he gives a one-sided picture of the modern India. This book is special as it made me aware of the freedom struggle for India’s Independence.
Review of Modern India: This is a book on India’s freedom struggle written from a subaltern perspective. This perspective challenges the elite perspective of Indian nationalism and has been critical of Congress driven nationalism. Sumit Sarkar has narrated the story of Indian nationalism from the perspective of masses. Though a different perspective, I found this book a little tedious. However, it is a must-read if someone wants to understand the history from the perspective of masses.
Review of From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India:This book changed my perspective of reading history books. It made me realize that history is written by the writers and not the victors. The whole concept of historiography is so important if someone is reading history or trying to make any conclusions from the history book. Writers write history based on the information available and also interpret the historical event from their own lenses. However, this book is a piece of art. I found it very unbiased, quite nuanced with a lot of details, and thousands of citations as if you are reading a research paper. This book makes you understand with a lot of clarity the conflicting questions present in our politics. For instance- How Indian masses were hardly in sync with the leadership of Congress at the national level? The concept of popular consciousness was absent. Local grievances and the local leadership played an important role in any national movement started at that time. Indian national movement was very vague so that each group could interpret it in their own ways. This book is a must-read for all history lovers. The first few chapters are little dense but slowly you will not feel like putting the book down.
Review of Social Background of Indian Nationalism: This is also one of the best books ever written on Modern India. As the title depicts, this book is written from a social perspective. Someone should read this book to understand how did feudalism evolve in Indian society? How did new classes emerge? What was the role of means of transport and modern education in the development of Indian nationalism? What were the factors which played an important role in the crusade against the caste system and untouchability?
Review of India After Gandhi:This book is very special to me because it was a gift from Chaitanya. It was a superb read. I read this book in 2012 and finished it in 15-20 days. It has around 1000 pages but I wanted to finish it as early as possible. This book was unputdownable. It was one of the best books I ever read. Reading this book created a kind for urgency to me to read more books if you want to get selected for civil services. Since then I never stopped reading non-fiction books. Ram Chandra Guha, the author of the book has so vividly narrated the story of post-Independence India that it feels like you are watching a movie. It also helps you in understanding the current day politics because whatever is happening, it has its background in history. This book is a masterpiece and one of the best books to know about the post-independence history of India. It tries to answer some difficult questions like Why India has survived as well as succeeded as a nation despite having huge diversity and differences? However, the author has also been criticized as being pro-congress in depicting the post-independence history and politics.
Review of India since Independence:This book is similar to India After Gandhi by different authors. Some chapters of the book explaining the consolidation of India as a Nation and Land Reforms are very insightful. However, this book is written in academic form rather than like a story. It might not be an easy read but if someone wants to understand the left perspective of Indian politics since Independence, this is one of the best books.
Review of Modern Indian History: This book is like a guide book to help you remember all the historical events and helps you write better and structured answers for modern India history questions. The best thing about this book I liked is that it has created separate chapters for different Governor Generals of India, and the events happened during their tenure that makes you clearly remember different acts and treaties signed between British India and different rulers of that time.
Till today, I only remember reading these books on Modern and Post-Independence India. When I read more books or remember my old books, will update this blog. Till then, keep reading guys!!
The year 2020 has turned out to be the worst year in recent times. There is so much sorrow in the world these days that I can’t remember the last time things were normal. A celebrated actor Irfan Khan died today and It left me heartbroken. I felt like losing someone from my family. I couldn’t concentrate on anything for the whole day. He was an actor par excellence. His acting was effortless. I will always remember him for his magic created on celluloid. May he rest in peace.
People are dying because of the dreaded Coronavirus disease. Migrants are walking for thousands of kilometers to reach their homes. Some died due to hunger and exhaustion. Many people are stuck in different cities away from their parents and family members. Some want to visit their loved ones but they can’t, because of the severe lockdown imposed in our country. People are depressed and lonely these days.
This crisis has turned people’s lives upside down. I am sure many people have lost everything because of this crisis. We might be able to build our economy but we will not be able to bring back this lost time and people’s lives. If you listen to experts, things are not going to be normal so soon. This epidemic is going to be a long haul. Physical distancing/Social distancing is going to be the “new normal”. The world is not going to be the same again.
When people say time heals everything, I feel they say it to console others. We never forget our loved ones who lost their lives. That pain never goes. Just that we don’t want to show it to the world and we want to look strong. We remember the person at every moment of our life without making any sound as if everything is going on smoothly. We don’t even want to tell ourselves that something is broken inside us. Sometimes we are angry with the person who left us in this cruel world to survive. We try to find out his/her mistakes so that we can say that this person was not good enough to deserve our love just to console ourselves.
But nothing really stops in this world. As someone said, ‘no matter how bad your heart is broken, the world does not stop for your grief.’ We have to move on hiding that pain in the darkest and smallest corner of our heart so that no one else can see. Death is the truth. It reminds us almost every time not to forget that this life is ephemeral. We should live this life fully and we should move on and be hopeful in life. I will end this with Imran Khan’s dialogue:
“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye”
“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics”.
The present migrant crisis in India is a stark reminder of the economic inequities existing in our society. When rich and middle-class people are spending their time in the comfort of their homes doing various activities, poor and marginalized migrants are walking for a hundred thousand kilometres to reach their homes. Some also died on the way because of hunger and exhaustion. In this context, I thought to write a short review of the book, “The Capital” by Thomas Piketty. How income inequalities are going to hurt us in the longer-term unless some concrete steps are not taken by the State and its people.
I never read the whole book but managed to give a paper presentation on it in my final year of public policy course. Whatever critics say, this book has brought the issue of income inequality at the forefront. Income inequality is not only an issue based on some statistics but also it’s a moral issue that will always pinch the conscience of the people. This book became popular since it got published. Piketty also hailed as “the Modern Marx” by “The Economist” magazine. He is a French economist who also taught at MIT for two years. His major work is a compilation of historical data about economic inequality. He is critical of economics discipline.
“To put it bluntly, the discipline of economics has yet to get over its childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation at the expense of historical research and collaboration with the other social sciences.”
Thomas Piketty-The Capital in 21st Century
The core concern of the book is to put the issue of inequality in its broader historical context. The author’s main argument is that in an economy where the rate of return on capital outstrips the rate of growth, inherited wealth will always grow faster than earned wealth. He also adds that the concentration of wealth at one level is incompatible to democracy and social justice.
The history of the distribution of wealth has always been deeply political, and it cannot be reduced to purely economic mechanisms.
Thomas Piketty-The Capital in 21st Century
He rejects the Simon Kuznets hypothesis which says that though societies become more unequal in the first stages of industrialization, inequality reduces as they achieve maturity. However, Piketty does not think like that. According to him, demography, low taxation and weak labor organizations will fundamentally lead to greater inequality.
The author feels that unless we do something, ‘free-market economy’ will become a ‘patrimonial system’ with an entrenched hereditary upper class and the rest of the population. He is highly critical of higher compensation paid to senior executives of MNCs that is responsible for extreme inequality in the wake of 2008 financial crisis. To save the world from this ‘doomsday scenario’, the author proposes various measures namely a global tax on inherited wealth, changes in income taxes, use of inflation to redistribute wealth downwards and also enforced transparency of banks.
His paper -,“Indian income inequality, 1922-2014: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj”? co-authored with Lucas Chancel argues that income inequality was highest in India in 2014 since the creation of Indian Income -tax in 1922. They concluded that the top 1 percent earners in 2014 earned 22% of India’s national income. Though there are various counter- arguments to it. Jagdish Bhagwati & Arvind Pangariya refuted this argument in their book, ‘Why growth matters’. Swaminath Aiyar also disapproved of his idea of stark inequality in India in one of his articles on the grounds of statistics and his failure to distinguish between different kinds of inequality.
Thomas Piketty’s hypothesis criticized by many economists. According to them, his approach to economics is anti-mathematical. As per the paper, “Income Inequality, Catastrophe Predictions, Thomas Piketty“, How income and economic unit are defined can create significant differences in the data produced and in the interpretation of the data? For instance, Stephen Rose and Thomas Piketty reached different conclusions about the status of the middle class based on the definition of income and economic unit. Generally, there is no correlation between increasing income inequality and general welfare. His use of tax records to approximate income is convenient and allows easy comparison across different countries and at different times and he also not considered the social security payments as part of his data.
Though income inequality is a complicated issue, Piketty’s biggest contribution is to elevate the income inequality issue to the forefront of both public and scholarly attention. Whatever is the reason behind stark inequality existing in society, the issue of inequality will always be debated as a moral issue.
I always enjoyed watching crime shows because it allowed me to see the evil side of human beings. One of my friends suggested me to watch Money heist. This quarantine period gave me enough time to binge-watch this series in 3-4 days. It was so addictive that I don’t even remember anything doing except watching this series. Now my phone ringtone is the intro song( I don’t care at all) of this series. And for Bella ciao theme song, I have no words. Despite not knowing the meaning of the song, I am not able to get over this song. I listen to this song everyday and possibly listened it more than 100 times till now, researched about it, found out its meaning and what has been the history behind this song. What was the purpose behind using this song in the La casa de Papel. This song needs a separate blog post altogether.
La casa de Papel aka Money Heist has achieved many milestones. It is the most-watched non-English series of the Netflix and 3rd most popular show on IMDB . There is also a documentary on Netflix exploring the phenomenon of Money Heist. I did a lot of research to understand why it has become so popular in the world? Many protests around the world are influenced by this series where people used Dali masks and protested against their governments. For instance- students protested against new financial reform in the year 2018 in Italy.
People can have different interpretations of this series. However, I see this series purely as resistance against the establishment/system which made it extremely popular. As the creator of the series Alex Pina also adds that the idea of rising against the system is ingrained in the series.
“To rise up against the system is reckless and idealistic – [it’s] Don Quixote! -Alex Pina
The conversation between our favourite El Professor, the leader of the band of robbers code-named after major cities and police inspector Raquel Murillo about “printing money” at the Royal Mint of Spain shows the aversion towards the capitalistic system. He tells that they are only printing money and not stealing, which is also done by the governments around the world that is called “liquidity injections”. No one questions the system on what basis they are printing more money? This is so true. Various Central Banks around the world do this in the name of “Quantitative Easing” to increase money supply thereby encouraging lending and investment. And then comes the “robin-hood” role played by these robbers who want to emerge as the messiah to the poor and subalterns by dropping some money from the sky.
Symbols used in the series are real-life symbols used as the ‘symbol of resistance’ at some point in history. Red jumpsuit, Dali mask, and Bella ciao have historical significance. The red color is a symbol of revolution and its also a colour of Marxist ideology. Dali mask was created by a famous Spanish artist Salvador Dali. A lot of his work was emerged during Zurich’s Dada movement that was about rejecting the modern capitalist system. Masks have been used around the world to show solidarity with others. As per Aidan Mac Garry, political scientist, “the masks have become anti-establishment trope wielded by ordinary people to register their dissatisfaction with the ideas and policies of the political elite”.
Bella ciao(Goodbye Beautiful) is an Italian folk song that was used as an anthem against fascist resistance during the second world war. But the beautiful thing about this song is that it has been used by migrants while crossing Mediterranean and protesters against the capitalistic governments. Recently Italians started singing Bella Ciao to show solidarity with corona warriors fighting to save the lives of the people in this deadliest pandemic.
According to me, the most important reason for this series’ popularity is the feeling of love among its flawed characters. Either it was love between Tokyo and Rio or between El Professor and Inspector Raquel (later renamed as Lisbon when she joins the band) or Nairobi and Helsinki or Denver and Monica or Palmero and Berlin. As Nairobi says, “to love you need courage“,the attachment between Nairobi and Helsinki was very touching as it was not a physical but psychological bonding. In a way it was courageous as Helsinki plays a gay character. That moment, when Helsinki plays the mouth organ when Nairobi’s coffin is moving out of the Royal Bank of Spain, breaks my heart.
All the characters are strong and powerful. They have so many good qualities but they are also flawed which is the one thing audiences like, as people see themselves in different characters whenever they watch any series. It’s very difficult to talk about all the characters in one blog as there is so much there to understand why any character of the series is behaving in a way and what point the creator of the series wants to make through that particular character? That’s why I decided to write about my favorite characters from this series. I liked the El Professor, Inspector Alicia Sierra and Nairobi. Though Tokyo was the narrator of the series, I never liked her because she is too reckless.
I liked El Professor because he is intelligent which makes me a sapiophile . He is weird and quite manipulative. But he also falls in love which was not in his plan and that was the sweetest part which made him flawed character. His meticulous planning of the heist, understanding the core competencies of each robber, displaying emotion and fraternity with all his band members, making origami to keep himself calm and immense knowledge about each and everything made everyone to fall in love with him. Nairobi is a flawed character but somewhere I felt that she is a strong feminist. When she takes charge from Berlin during the heist and says this dialogue, “matriarchy begins”, then she wins my heart. Since she dies in season 4 so we can say Bella ciao to this beautiful and strong lady. Inspector Alicia Sierra is a fierce lady and I want to be like her. While working as a police officer- she is fearless, ruthless, strong, confident, truthful and ready to go to any extent to find the culprits. Even though she is pregnant, she is seen as the most powerful official in the tent, who has the same acumen and capability as El Professor has.
I feel like going back and watching some conversations again as it gives you those lessons of life, about politics, ideology, protest, ethics, morality, love, emotions, everyday living, carpe diem and right or wrong. Carpe diem is so important currently since the whole world is struggling because of coronavirus pandemic and how our life has become unpredictable and having very little value as we all are confined to our homes. Though Berlin’s character is too controversial, he is the one after Professor and Tokyo, who delivers some of the best dialogues of the series and he is also one of the most liked characters of the series. I will end my blog with one of his dialogues: “Love can’t be timed, it has to be lived”. So, this is the moment to realize and start living your life as if there will be no tomorrow.
ONLY STAYING ACTIVE WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO LIVE A HUNDRED YEARS-
I read this book a few months back but thought to write this review now because this quarantine period is the best time to find your ‘Ikigai’. Today is the 18th day of the lockdown and it is expected that lockdown will get extended for two more weeks until April 30. Though a lot of good things are happening due to this unprecedented lockdown, people are also feeling bored and frustrated. This lockdown can be used as a ‘reflection time’ to find out what is that one thing which anyone can do with full happiness, love, and satisfaction.
Ikigai is a Japanese concept which means ‘reason for being’. What is the purpose of your life or what gives you the utmost satisfaction? As per the centenarians from Okinawa, Ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning. When you are so engrossed in your work that nothing around you matters, it means you have found your Ikigai. But it does not apply to any Netflix series 😉 It means that you have immersed yourself into the work that you are doing. You forget about your surroundings. For instance- it can be writing, painting, gardening, photography, dancing, singing, decorating, coding, etc.
This diagram sums the whole concept of Ikigai. What you love doing is your Ikigai. If your job is your Ikigai, you will not think of it as work. You will love doing it. That’s the most important thing. Some just don’t enjoy their jobs because they have no interest in it or they are just not good at it. That is why the whole problem of stress which consumes our body and mind from inside. As per the American Institute of Stress, most health problems are caused by stress.
I liked the way the authors of this book explained how stress functions. Modern humans are alert most of the time, stuck in the epidemic of multi-tasking, sitting in front of their laptop, having junk food, and waiting for notifications from their mobile phones 24 hours a day. The human brain equates the ping of a cell phone or an email notification with threat of a predator which has huge health implications on the body leading to adrenal fatigue, cardiovascular diseases, insomnia, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
Though a little stress is good for you, you need to be mindful of reducing stress by having a stoic attitude. A high degree of emotional awareness and ultimately finding meaning of your life and going with the flow is required to reduce the stress level. When we achieve flow in our work, we have full concentration without any distractions.
The flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.
Csikszentmihalyi (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience)
The book also provides some useful suggestions to achieve the state of flow:
No screen time for the first hour after waking up and the last hour before going to bed
Switch off the phone before you achieve flow
Do technological fasting for one day of the week
Check and respond to your email once or twice per day
Start your work with something you enjoy
Find a less distracting place to work
Divide your work into small activities
These days, we all are doing mundane tasks of cleaning, washing utensils, doing the laundry, etc, and the question is how to make these mundane tasks enjoyable. Turning routine tasks into moments of flow is key to our happiness. This is called the micro-flow. Even Bill Gates enjoys washing his dishes every night as it helps him relax and clear his mind. I don’t how others do it but I generally play some nice songs while cleaning my house.
This book is for those who want to find their Ikigai and also want to know the secret of a long and happy life. Just to provide an easy list for everyone, it provides the ten rules of Ikigai:
Whatever you do, don’t retire
Take it slow and you will go far
Don’t fill your stomach. Fill your belly to 80%
Surround yourself with good friends and stay away from toxic people
Connect with communities
Walk a lot and do Yoga
Reconnect with nature
Do mental work out
Be grateful for things you have
Live in the moment (Carpe Diem)
Have a purpose(Ikigai) in life
“Simple Living and High Thinking” has always been the motto of our country’s ancient traditions and also reiterated by inspiring personalities like Swami Vivekanand, Gautam Budhha, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa. So now when the whole world is slowing down during this quarantine period, find your Ikigai and make your life more meaningful and happy.
This is 4th day of the lock down. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared 21 days lock down amidst corona virus pandemic all over the country starting from March 24th, 2020. The situation is quite grim. People are panic buying and many migrant workers are stranded in different parts of the country due to the unprecedented shutdown of transportation mediums.
When I sat on my desk to write this blog, India already had more than 900 cases. I have no idea, by the time, I finish this blog, how many corona virus cases will be detected in India. As per one article, India can see 30,000 Covid-19 deaths by May 2020 and there will not be any hospital beds left by June 2020.
Health has never been a priority for a diverse, heterogeneous and poor country like India. It can be ascertained with the fact that the first National Health Policy for India came in the year 1983 after 35 years of the existence of the Indian republic. Till now, we have only three National Health Policies in place released in the year 1983, 2002 and 2017.
India spends less than 2 % of GDP on health when it has 18% of the world’s population. Not only the whole country gave health a low priority but also other stakeholders. For instance- National political parties relegated the health as a non-issue when it comes to policy priorities for the development of the country.
India has a very low HDI index and high HDI rankings over the years. India was ranked 129 out of 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index rankings. Health(Life-expectancy at Birth) is one of the three dimensions to decide HDI rankings. HDI ranking has stagnated in recent years despite India being the fastest growing economy of the world.
The primary health care infrastructure of the country is in shambles due to lack of financing and acute shortage of medical personnel. 65% of health expenditure is out of pocket and some 57 million people are sent to poverty every year due to this expenditure. India has a severe shortage of trained medical professionals. As per the Economic Survey 2019-20, the doctor-population ratio is 1:1456 against the WHO recommendation of 1:1000. India has the largest number of malnutrition children.
The substandard performance of India’s healthcare system is out in the public amidst the corona virus outbreak. However, this crisis is an opportunity for India to make India’s healthcare system best in the world. Systematic overhauling of health infrastructure is the need of the hour. Heath as an issue needs to be prioritized. It needs to become a matter of great importance politically, economically and socially.
Politically, ‘right to health’ needs to be recognized as the fundamental right through an act of parliament. Some of India’s states have better healthcare indicators. Heath is a state subject under the Constitution of India. Best practices from different states need to be replicated across India. Panchayati Raj Institutions can play a major role in providing leadership to deal with any health crisis.
Economically, health expenditure to India’s GDP should reflect the proportion of the population living in India. The current expenditure is inadequate. The government of India must increase its expenditure at least by 5 % of its GDP from this year itself. Other measures like public-private partnership, increasing health insurance penetration etc should go on simultaneously.
Socially, awareness towards cleanliness and sanitation needs to increase in our country. Maintaining hygiene should be declared as an ‘issue of national importance’. People should also vote for those representatives who give importance to the issues of education, health, employment, etc.
This is a high time to realize the value of health as we can see, how corona virus outbreak has affected every aspect of human lives. Health is one of the most important ingredients in ‘human development approach’ Healthy human beings can only bring overall development and growth in the world.
This corona virus pandemic is an opportunity for India to create a world- class health infrastructure, strengthen public institutions, adopt best practices from other countries, increase public health expenditure by 5 % of its GDP, and declare “right to health” as a fundamental right for the people of India.
This post is for all those people who sometimes feel a bit low because one of their friends is having a great time with her partner/spouse/best friend, cleared a top-level competition, got a high-paying job, having a great love-life or got selected to some Ivy League University or having a great time in their life. It seems that they always look good and they are quite fit or they are visiting exotic destinations(though not these days because of corona epidemic and lock down).
Almost everyone has a story to tell. Everyone feels incomplete in their own way. Everyone has some painful moments in their life. But you know what I feel, people feel more comfortable in sharing their happiness than their pain/sorrow or painful moments or their problems. You need a lot of courage to share your pain, your guilt and your problems to the world. I also don’t dare to share my pains but I can easily share my happiness.
So don’t worry. Don’t overthink. No one is perfect. No one is completely happy. As Oscar Wild said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”. Accept your flaws because they are beautiful. It makes you a soul. Lastly, have a lot of courage and strength to say what you think, to express what you feel, to do what you love and to become what you want as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”.
कभी थैर भी जाओ, कुछ देर बैठो तो, सूरज को डुबते देखो चिड़ियों को घर लौटते देखो सुनो तो कभी ये पेड़ कुछ कहता है तुमसे इन छोटी छोटी बातों में ही सारा संसार देखो तो सही
Wo har chehre pe mask Wo Logono ki akhono me daar Wo hum sabke beech itni dooriyan Wo sooni galiyana Wo band dookane Wo ajeeb si khomoshi Ye kahana aa Gaye hum ye Kahan aa Gaye hum
Mai ladki hoon Mujhe ye roj yaad dilaya jata hai Kabhi mera parivar yaad dilata hai Kabhi ye samaj yaad dilata hai Mujhe ye roj yaad dilaya jata hai Ki Mai ladki hoon Kabhi kapde ko lekar Kabhi chalne ko lekar Kabhi hasne ko lekar Kabhi sajne ko lekar Mujhe ye roj yaad dilaya jata hai Ki Mai ladki hoon Shadi ke baad bhi yaad dilaya jata hai Ki Mai ladki hoon Kabhi khana banane ko lekar Kabhi pati ka khyal rakhne ko lekar Kabhi bachhe ko lekar Kabhi humare mayeke ko lekar Mujhe ye roj yaad dilaya jata ha Ki Mai ladki hoon Har paal yaad dilaya jata hai ki Mai ladki hoon Kabhi humare charitra ko lekar Kabhi humare rishton ke lekar Kabhi humare mahatavkanchaowon ko lekar Kabhi humare career options ko lekar Mujhe ye roj yaad dilaya jata hai Ki Mai ladki hoon……………………………………………………………..
A Reply to this poem received from my friend Minaxi:
मैं, लड़की हूं.. हां, बिलकुल सही, वही, जिसको आप और समाज (बेटी, बहन, पत्नी, बहू, मां, दोस्त, दादी, नानी, बुआ, मौसी, चाची, सास, और) ना, जाने… कितने पैमानों, पर तौलती है, कितने, मापदंड बनती है, कितनी, अग्निपरीक्षाएं लेती है, कितने, सवाल उठाती है, ख़ैर, जो समझो तुम, मुझको, अपने स्तर से मर्ज़ी तुम्हारी है, क्योंकि, मुझे अब… सफाई देना, सुनना मुनासिब नहीं लगता, मुझे, किरदारों में बंधना अच्छा नहीं लगता, मुझे, याद दिलाना छोड़ दो मेरे हिस्से के सब काम, क्योंकि, अब मैंने भी ले लिया है, शहर में अपना मकान, मुझे अब शोर की आदत नहीं है किसी को, कम समझने की रीवायत नहीं है … हां, और जाते जाते एक और बात….. “जो लोग मुझे नहीं समझते, उन्हें पूरा हक है, मुझे ग़लत समझने का, और, जो लोग मुझे समझते है, उन्हें, हक नहीं, मुझे परखने का.” 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 हां, हूं मैं एक लड़की, जो खूबसूरत है, और उसको, ख़ुद पर यकीन है…
Good health for people of the country is the necessity for the overall development and growth of the country. Our constitution under Article 47 of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) thrust the responsibility to the State “to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health”. India has also committed to Sustainable Development Goals and SDG III aims to achieve “Good health and well-being” for everyone.
Developing an effective healthcare system and ensuring a universal healthcare system depends on the nature and quality of the medical manpower of the country. India has one doctor per one thousand seventeen hundred population, which is less than the international standards of one doctor per thousand. This ratio is even lesser in rural areas of the country. India’s medical manpower is not up to the mark due to various reasons as medical education and profession are unregulated, iniquitous and corrupt. The Parliamentary Standing Committee Report of March 2016 noted that medical education and profession in the country was at its ‘lowest ebb’ and suffering from ‘total system failure’ due to corruption and decay within MCI.
In light of this, National Medical Commission Bill was envisaged to overhaul and restructure the regulatory system for medical education and the medical profession thereby creating an institutional mechanism for the overall development of the healthcare sector in the country. The Bill was passed by parliament in 2019 replacing the archaic Indian Medical Council Act 1956. It also replaced Medical Council of India (MCI).
NMC with 25 members will regulate medical education and practice.
It will establish four autonomous boards to focus on undergraduate and postgraduate medical education, assessment, rating and ethical conduct.
Setting up of Medical Advisory Council by the Centre to act as a channel through which the States/Union Territories can convey their concerns and views to NMC.
Uniform NEET test for admission to undergraduate medical education in all medical institutions.
NEXT (National Exit Test), a common final year undergraduate examination for students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the license for the practice.
Fees of 50% of seats of private and deemed universities will be regulated.
Limited license to community healthcare providers connected with the modern medical profession to practice medicine.
ANALYSIS OF THE BILL:
The enactment of this bill is a much-needed reform to usher into a new era in the healthcare system. It will help in creating a cadre of qualified medical professionals to deal with India’s healthcare challenges. Creating a uniform standard of admission, training and regulation will help in establishing a robust framework for medical education and profession in the country. The bill will also curb the phenomenon of commercialization in medical education by regulating the fees charged by private medical colleges. Medical Advisory Council will create a platform for states to share their best practices as well as concerns to the NMC.
against the provision of Section 32 of the bill which allows 2.5 lakh Community
Health Providers (CHP) in the villages to prescribe drugs to patients is not
fair as there are various examples of community health providers playing the
role of game-changer in improving the healthcare indicators in rural areas. In
fact, various studies have shown that poor largely seek health services from
informal service providers. For instance- ASHA[vi] workers under the National
Rural Health Mission (NRHM) played an important role in improving maternal
mortality rate and neo-natal mortality rate and similar experiences in the
state of Chhattisgarh and Assam have improved the quality of healthcare in the
rural areas of these States. Many developed and developing countries have
adopted the concept of community healthcare providers (CHPs) and mid-level
healthcare providers. In fact, India needs community healthcare providers and
mid-level healthcare providers in several forms to bridge the gaps of access
and quality of healthcare services in our country.
Despite bringing a structural change in the form of overhauling the medical education system of the country through this bill, addressing the complex and multiple healthcare challenges of the country will be insurmountable in recent times due to various reasons. The public expenditure on health is still abysmally low. As per the National Health Profile[vii] 2019, India’s public expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP is far lower than Lower-Income Countries of the world. The healthcare system is poorly regulated and accessible to those who have better income level. Urban-rural imbalance in healthcare services had failed those people living in rural areas. There is a huge reliance on private sector with the help of insurance model after the launch of Ayushman Bharat[viii] to provide healthcare services and the problem is that these private players are not regulated properly. Therefore, along with the institutional reform in terms of establishing National Medical Commission, there is need to adopt a holistic approach to create a conducive climate to achieve the goal of “right to health” for the people of the country.
Providing free and compulsory education to children has been one of the important responsibilities of the Indian government since independence. To fulfill the responsibility of providing universal education, the government of India had taken various policy actions. Right to education became a fundamental right under Article 21A in 2002 when the Constitution was amended through the 86th Amendment Act .Consequent to this amendment, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education 2009 was enacted which came into force on April 1st, 2010. This Act has set an obligation on the State to provide free and compulsory education to children under the age-group of 6-14 in a neighborhood school. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the flagship program to achieve the goal of universal education. SSA is the scheme through which the RTE Act 2009 is implemented.
IMPORTANT FEATURES OF THE ACT • Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act mandates unaided and non-minority schools to reserve 25% seats for underprivileged children of society through a random selection process. The fees of these students would be reimbursed by the Government.
•Section 16 of the RTE Act mandates, “No child can be held back, expelled and required to pass the board examination till the completion of elementary education”. This ‘no-detention policy’ was implemented to retain the children in the schools. However, this policy was recently abolished after the enactment of Right to Free and Compulsory Education Amendment Act 2019.
•The Sections 19 of the RTE Act lays down the norms and standards of Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs) of 1:30, buildings and infrastructure, school working days, teacher working hours, ramps for students with disabilities, provision of drinking water and availability of playground, etc. The Act also provides the appointment of appropriately trained teachers. Norms and standards of teacher qualification and training are clearly laid down in the Act.
•The Act prohibits deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to the local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
•There is provision for the establishment of commissions to supervise the implementation of the act. All schools except private unaided schools are to be managed by School Management Committees(SMC) with 75% of parents and guardians as members.
•The Act specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authority in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.
CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE ACT:
The RTE Act brought improvement in the enrollment rate for the students in primary and upper primary schools. As per the ASER report 2016, enrollment reached to 96%. Enrollment for the age-group 15-16 for both boys and girls has reached to 84.7% in 2016. Enrollment trends also suggest that the gap in enrollment rate between boys and girls are consistently reducing. However, the actual data showcases the discrepancies among the states. For instance- the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan have seen an increase in the enrolment rate for upper primary section, but Madhya Pradesh, Assam, and West Bengal saw a significant decrease in the same time period.
Despite improvements in enrolment rates, the quality of education is dismal. As per the ASER reports released every year by Pratham, it was found that the learning outcomes of the students are poor. The quality of education is a cause of concern. For example-More than 50 % of Std V students can’t read Std II textbook or solve a basic mathematical problem. The real cause of concern is that learning deficits seen in elementary school in previous years seem to carry forward as young people move from being adolescents to young adults. This finding was reflected in the ASER 2018 report as in this study it surveyed students in the age-group of 14-18 years, unlike the last 12 years when it focused on students in elementary schools.
Not only this, drop-out rates are still very high. Almost one million children in the age group of 6-14 drop out every year. 75 % of them are from SC, ST and Muslim communities. As per the Brookings Institute Report on primary education in India, 29 percent of children drop out before completing five years of primary school and 43% before finishing upper primary school. As indicated by the report, there is also a huge difference between urban and rural education.
There has been a consistent improvement in the basic infrastructure facilities in schools. As per the report, 98% of the habitations have a primary school within one km and 92% have an upper primary school. The facilities of basic sanitation, drinking water, separate toilets for boys and girls have improved since the enactment of the Act. However, as per the District Information System of Education , only 13 percent of all schools in India have achieved full compliance with these RTE norms.
School Management Committees (SMC) are set up only on paper in various schools of the country. However, the quality of their engagement with schools is minimal, the amount of funding they receive is not enough and they are not empowered enough to exercise their duties and responsibilities.
As per the Economic Survey 2017-18, only 79% of teachers are professionally qualified to teach in schools. There is a huge dearth of trained teachers in the country. There are various issues related to teachers in schools like low accountability, poor quality of the teacher education manual, deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes and large vacancies. As per the data provided by District Information System, around 5.68 lakh positions are vacant. There has also been a major issue of teacher absenteeism. As per the World Bank Study 2010, a teacher in Indian schools is absent every four days.
The seats for disadvantaged students reserved in schools also are not filled completely. There is a huge gap among states in filling the seats for disadvantaged students. For instance- Where the State of Delhi was able to fill 92% of the seats allocated, Andhra Pradesh was able to fill only 0.2% and UP filled only 3 % seats.
The Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) is used for the evaluation of students under the RTE Act. However, it was found that it has not been implemented properly. Only 58.46% of the schools of the country have implemented this provision. However, the no-detention policy was removed in January 2019 after the RTE (Second Amendment) Act 2019. CCE is a pedagogical tool which does not mean the absence of evaluation but a process of continuous evaluation different from the traditional examination system.
There is a need to have systemic and structural reforms to revamp the education system in the country. The Committee on Draft National Education Policy chaired by K. Kasturirangan provided reforms proposals for RTE Act 2009 to make it more effective. India still spends less than 3 % of its GDP on education which is very low as compared to other nations. Though the goal of universal enrolment seems achievable now, there is need to focus on quality of education in the schools at primary and upper primary level. As these children are going to join the workforce and become part of demographic dividend in the near future, there is need to focus on early childhood care and education (ECCE) within the ambit of RTE Act 2009 as proposed under the Draft National Education Policy.
A very unusual incident happened to me this Friday(9th August 2019). As an everyday routine, I booked the uber for home but the driver canceled it twice. I got irritated more as I already had a bad mood due to some other reason. Later I realized, sometimes things happen for good. Then I booked the cab again and it was showing a longer duration so this time I canceled it. Finally, I started asking auto-wallas for a ride. One auto stopped and agreed to go towards Sohna Road as many others refused because of huge traffic on Sohna Road.
It was a normal auto ride. I have the habit of talking to auto/cab drivers. I was talking to this auto driver also addressing him “bhaiya” again and again. When we are almost about to reach my society and there was huge traffic from all sides and so much was going into mind, suddenly the auto driver tells me something. I couldn’t understand what he is saying. I asked him again. He was trying to tell me that he belongs to those people who come to everyone’s home whenever a new baby is born in a family. Suddenly I realized what this person is trying to say. This moment was so different. I forgot everything whatever I was thinking. I realized that this person is trying to tell me their identity. I started noticing his expression and I realized that though he was totally dressed up as a man, he was actually different. This person was transgender. Her name was Rani. She started telling me about her family. Then I told her sorry that I addressed him ‘bhaiya’ as I didn’t realize because of her attire. She said, she dresses like a man as other auto drivers trouble her because of her identity. She also does not drive late in the night as she is a little scared. I told her to take care and gave her the fare. I wanted to take her picture but I could not gather courage to ask her. I saw her leaving society gate.
Since Friday, this incident did not leave my mind. I was constantly thinking about it. Then I thought let me put it down and share it with the world. It taught me so many things. We are so engaged in our life that we never think about the people around us. What are they thinking? What are they feeling? What problems are they going through? How relevant is one’s own identity? How does it impact everyday interactions with others? It makes me realize that even after SC’s declaring section 377 unconstitutional, how much of it is still left?