‘Pursuit of Happiness’ in a Classroom

Education is meaningless without happiness” – Manish Sisodia
Image Credit: Clicked by me

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”

Mahatma Gandhi

It took one microorganism to make us aware of the fleeting nature of this life. There is a sense of realization among all of us about a lot of things. How all of us were just running a rat race to reach somewhere which we didn’t even know? We wanted to be productive 24*7 and 365 days of the year. We were collecting all material resources but we didn’t have enough time to experience the pleasure of those things. The current lockdown forced us to slow down. This pandemic made us realize the value of happiness, satisfaction and living our life in the moment. This whole crisis is reminding us to be sensitive towards other human beings, nature and, especially towards our own lives.

However, a lot of us are not happy now. When things were so-called normal, we had other problems to talk about. Now in this ‘new normal’, we are not happy because our movement is restricted, we are not able to go out and do whatever we want. As per the World Happiness Report 2020, India was ranked 144 out of 156 countries. Why Indians do not perceive themselves to be happy? What is the reason behind it? Did we ever learn about happiness in our schools or colleges? Did someone from our family ever talked about happiness or being mindful of our thoughts and emotions?

Though whenever we touched the feet of our elders, they told us to ‘be happy’, no one taught us how to be happy and what is happiness and what needs to be done to achieve happiness. We realize the value of happiness as we grow or when we face some difficult phases in our life or maybe some people might be realizing the value of happiness during this lock down amid the unprecedented corona virus pandemic.

Nevertheless, the Delhi government’s experiment to start a happiness class in schools for class I to VIII has not only inspired the other Indian states but also other countries. During the recent visit by the US President, the first lady Millenia Trump visited one of the schools of Delhi government. She attended the happiness class and found it “very inspiring”. This book tells the story of Delhi education model. It’s written by the education minister and the Deputy Chief Minister of the Delhi government. Written in a very simple language, he covers all the radical reforms as well as innovative ideas taken by his team. He, along with his colleagues Atishi Marlena and Shailendra Sharma took this experiment of bringing radical reforms in the education system of the Delhi government.

These reforms are holistic as it covered almost every aspect be it infrastructure, allocation of the budget towards the education sector, empowering the principal to appoint estate managers and providing high- quality training to teachers, engaging parents through mega-Parents-Teacher Meetings(PTM) and School Management Committee(SMC) , and most importantly creating the education model of coexistence through happiness classes and entrepreneurship mindset curriculum.

Starting a happiness class with a curriculum in a government school of India is a path-breaking step by the Delhi government towards pursuing contentment not only as a State but as a nation. Happiness curriculum is based on the “co existential thought” (Madhasth Darshan) inspired by education philosopher A Nagraj. This thought is based on understanding all aspects of life, including spiritual, intellectual behaviour, and material. The idea is to address the mental and emotional needs of the children by creating a stimulating environment through mindfulness, critical thinking, story-telling, and activity-based discussions where children reflect on their thoughts and reactions scientifically. Through these processes, the child becomes self-aware and also towards family, society, and its surroundings.

Anecdotal evidence shows that there has been noticeable changes happening among the children. Behavior of students is changing towards their teachers and parents. They are becoming inquisitive towards learning other subjects. This book mentions some interesting anecdotes from happiness class. One child started asking his mother if there is any food for her before eating dinner and one kid became aware of his father’s financial situation and stopped asking for an expensive school bag.

It is so ironic for us as a society as well as a nation that we teach our children mathematics, science, history, geography, economics, business, etc, but we never teach them how to be happy, how to be mindful of our thoughts, how to critically analyze any issue before making any judgement and how to live in harmony with nature. We learned how to make money but we don’t know how to live our lives with satisfaction and enjoyment because it’s not about material things, a high paying job or, a big house we have but its about how we do feel inside? Are we able to understand our emotions? Why are we feeling what we are feeling?

Amid this pandemic leading to this moment of reflection, we as a family, as a society and as a nation need to realize the value of inculcating happiness, self-awareness, satisfaction, and how to live in harmony with nature. So, this is the moment we should start pursuing the feeling of happiness forever as an individual, as a family, as a society, and as a nation.

This blog has been republished by The Arm Chair Journal. Please find the link here.

The Quarantine Tree of Happiness

P.C.: Minaxi; Image only for Representation Purpose

It’s been a while since ‘new normal’ is ‘actual normal’. Everyone is living a life that none of us had ever imagined. A lot of things have changed, and are changing along with each passing day, which makes me wonder whether or not this world is going to be better or the same.

Life in quarantine is difficult for many people due to various reasons yet for few this came as a blessing. People who never had time to live in the moment are realizing what it means to live in the moment. Students, who complained of shorter holidays are now enjoying a long break. Some are happy, but some are having second thoughts about the unforeseen future, yet each one of us is living, learning, or longing for things to be alright and back to normalcy.

A few years back, I met someone who gave me profound advice on how to be happy and grateful for everything you have, close your eyes and remember about a place, person or perspective that made you believe in something which you otherwise have never thought off, which made you smile even for a second or taken you somewhere, far away from your self. You are, what you make others feel about themselves.

And the big question is how to nurture your tree of happiness during this quarantine period? Why not all of us plant a sapling or bury some seeds and remember this lock down as something extraordinary, which happened to make us realize the importance of intangible feelings and emotions we have forgotten long back. I know, for some people this won’t be possible due to various constraints, but for those it is feasible they have this chance and can surely go for it and do it. Somewhere down the line, from now when we look back and realize what we did was something meaningful for the life and to mother nature, even when everything was gloomy and uncertain, the memory of our quarantine tree and its leaves would shine and beam through our thoughts and give us the feeling of sustainability worth cherishing.

Make a list of all the happy places you have been or planning to go gives you a sense of belonging to that particular place, time, and thought. Happiness binds you to the places you want to be. Rejoicing is a choice, a story which brings a tear of happiness in your eyes, a movie or play that makes you wonder, a child whose glimpse makes your day delightful, a cup of tea which brings the smile on your face, the smell of your garden, the fragrance of old perfume, the box of un-posted letters, the magic of invisibility of everything that you think in a day is amazing and is what happiness looks like.

The most important thing is to become “mindfulness of your thoughts and feelings”. If you are aware of your emotions and feelings, the process of being happy has started. There are no lesson plans, or theorems needed for happiness, or its learning outcomes, happiness is simply the treasure of your heart and how large it can be for others who can not do anything for you, a single stroke of happiness transforms everything in life, and the thread of happy feelings often weaves the best warmer to wrap around your thoughts. Taking examples of happiness are ways of telling you that nothing can deter your power if you decide What happiness means to you, and Where you truly find it, irrespective of its kind, that is Material, Behavioural, Intellectual or Experiential, based on Modal of Happiness as proposed by A. Nagaraj (1999). So the most important thing is to become ‘mindfulness of your thoughts and your feelings’

Humans have a significant capacity to transform their thoughts into invigorated learning and reach out to millions of others needing your help to be happy.

“Choose happiness above everything else, not because you have better things to do but things will be better, if you are contented and truly happy from within. Seeking happiness leads you to yourself and virtues of life which gives you clarity of thoughts and rationality of emotions.”

Stay happy and preach happiness.
Be fortunate enough and thankful for your happy thoughts which travels all through you.
Show gratitude, when you can not do anything else.
Stay humble and choose kindness.
Be buoyant.
2020 will bring out sanguine hope of thinking.

Guest Post: This blog is authored by Minaxi. She is a research scholar in education. She is a very close friend of mine. This blog has been edited by Ritambhara. All views expressed are personal.

Why Political Science & IR is the best optional for UPSC?

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 mains 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 Civil Services Examination. So, I am not coercing anyone to take this optional and it absolutely depends on the person’s own interest and ideas. In this blog post, I will be talking about the pros and cons of taking Political Science and International Relations:

PROS:

  • It helps you to prepare for the General Studies paper also 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, Indian Politics but also International Relations
  • The Political Theory section of this optional makes you think about 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

CONS:

  • 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
  • For some people, the Political theory part is boring as it is very theoretical. It makes you difficult to ace in 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:

India and the World

“India is a country harder to describe than to explain, and easier to explain than to understand and also India is a place for seeking, not concluding”

Anand Giridharadas (2009)

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 most 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 same issues. This book is also very useful and 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 the 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 Multilateral ism: 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.

“Indian diplomacy is like the love-making of an elephant: it is conducted at a very high level, accompanied by much bellowing, and the results are not known for two years”- A veteran diplomat

Review of Pax Indica: This book came in the year 2012 when I was in full preparation mode for 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 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 of 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.

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 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 whoever 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 during my preparation:

  1. The Hindu ( follow Suhasini Haider) and it’s Foreign Affairs page
  2. Indian Express and it’s coverage on international issues
  3. World Focus magazines
  4. Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) policy briefs and articles are must-read to understand strategic perspective
  5. International Relations by Aneek Chaterjee: Only a few topics(Decision-making theory, Systems Theory) from this.

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 posts below where I list the important books, I read on Modern India and Indian Government & Politics below:

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
  • Watch Rajya Sabha Debates. Big Picture and also the Samvidhhan series
  • Watch out important Supreme Court judgements
  • Check out the PRS website for all new bills, Standing committee reports and their summaries

Please find my other blogs on Political Science and International Relations here:

My Journey through Modern India

Review of India’s Struggle for Independence This was my first history book which I read when I started preparing for civil services. It’s an interesting read with nice anecdotes, stories and, quotes weaved into small chapters. This book never makes you feel heavy. It can be easily finished if someone targets to read one or two chapters in a day. Since Bipin Chandra is a historian with a left-leaning perspective, it gives a one-sided picture. But this was my first book on modern India which made me aware of the freedom struggle for India’s Independence which makes this book quite special.

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 Congress driven nationalism. Sumit Sarkar has narrated the story of Indian nationalism from the perspective of masses. Though a very different perspective, I found the book a little boring. 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. The most beautiful thing about this book is to make 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 heavy reading but slowly you will not feel like putting it down.

Review of Social Background of Indian Nationalism: This book is also one of the best books ever written on Modern India. As the title of the book says, this book is written from a social perspective. Someone should read this book to understand how did feudalism evolve in Indian society? How did news 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. As soon as I read more books or remember my old books, will update this blog. Till then, keep reading guys!!

Nowhere to go….

“As If I was tasting life for the first time, the magical side of it”

The year 2020 has turned out to be the worst year in recent times. There is so much grief these days around the world that it seems I don’t remember when 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 rests 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 Imaran sir’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”

Irfan Khan(Life of Pi)

Book Review of Capital

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics”.

Plutarch
Migrants returning to their home walking hundreds of km due to lock down declared by the government due to corona virus crisis.

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.


Why Money Heist (La casa de Papel) is so popular ?

“This is about Resistance and love”

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.

This quarantine period, find your Ikigai

Image Credit: Clicked by me

ONLY STAYING ACTIVE WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO LIVE A HUNDRED YEARS-

Japanese Proverb

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.

Image Source: Forbes article

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:

  1. Whatever you do, don’t retire
  2. Take it slow and you will go far
  3. Don’t fill your stomach. Fill your belly to 80%
  4. Surround yourself with good friends and stay away from toxic people
  5. Connect with communities
  6. Walk a lot and do Yoga
  7. Reconnect with nature
  8. Do mental work out
  9. Be grateful for things you have
  10. Live in the moment (Carpe Diem)
  11. 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.

How COVID-19 is affecting the higher-ed students in India: Need for corrective action

COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all sections of society. However, the impact on higher-ed students is the least discussed so far. Unlike schools, where students come from nearby localities, university students come from afar. They travel across their districts, their states, and the country to realize their dreams. Thus you will find the greatest amount of diversity in these students of higher-ed institutions – rural and urban, poor, middle-class and rich, from different religions, castes, and backgrounds. During this crisis and lockdown, when classes can not be conducted on the university premises, institutions are adopting digital tools for delivering lectures to students now back in their homes.

Many instructors and universities have leveraged ICT and tools like Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype and Microsoft teams to impart live classes to the students. Universities have already started conducting exams and taking assignment submissions online. This is a great way to make education more accessible during these tough times. However, this access is not going to be uniform across all the students belonging to different sections of society.

The poor students are going to be affected the most during this period. Their access to appropriate devices like laptops and computers is going to be very difficult during this period. According to the India Internet 2019 Report, 99% of users in the country access the internet through mobiles, not laptops or computers. Laptops and desktops usage is only 2% and 1% respectively in rural areas and 6% and 4% respectively in urban areas of the country. Further, internet penetration is still very poor and stands at a mere 27% in rural India. Under the Bharat Net program of the Government of India, more than 40% of the villages are yet to be connected to the internet grid.

Thus, lack of access to the internet and proper devices is going to negatively impact students in leveraging online platforms. Many such students will not be able to attend online classes and participate in assignments and exams that are conducted online. In such a scenario, the rural students are in a disadvantageous position and the urban and rural poor students will be highly disadvantaged.

Recognizing this challenging situation during COVID-19, many universities such as MIT and Harvard have announced that they will either provide every student with a Pass or A/A- grades during this semester. Steps like this ensure fairness and empathize with students facing difficulties due to their prevailing circumstances.

In India, however, no debate or discussion is going on this pressing matter yet. It is an important issue affecting the future of the students who are the future of the country. UGC and deemed universities must provide suitable guidelines to ensure students are promoted to the next level fairly. It is a tough situation concerning the poor and the marginalized students and it must be dealt with utmost empathy. Keeping in mind the “digital divide” all further exams and assignments during the rest of the semester must be made voluntary. All students must be promoted to the next level. Alternatively, institutions can use the tests conducted so far as the basis for final assessments in a fair manner.

Unless such corrective measures are taken urgently, COVID-19 and the after-effects are going to deepen the divide across the poor and the rich students, rural and urban students for generations to come.

This blog is authored by Chaitanya Prakash Namburi. The author has a Masters in Public Policy and Computer Science and currently works for Google India. All views expressed are personal.

Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity for India

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 blog has been republished by Social Development for Communities Foundation. Please find the link here.

#Be yourself this quarantine

Image Source: Clicked by me from my rented house in Bangalore and we didn’t choose the house,house chose us. There is a story behind it. Will tell later 😉

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”.

Short poems @ quarantine time

Image Credit: Clicked by me; Location: Ferrao Castle, Cline Road, Bengaluru

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

Image Credit: Clicked by me, Location: Bengaluru (Lockdown days)

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

Source: Twitter Handle @FilmHistoryPic

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…