April 17, 2017

I Love Me

Posted in Ponderer's Box at 4:54 pm by వసుంధర

Many think that they love themselves. It is true only if they love to have themselves for company. If you are boring to you, how you are not boring to someone else?

Here is something to support this view point.

Apr 16 2017 : The Times of India (Hyderabad)

o-zone – Face your boredom; it’s there for a reason

Vinitadawra Nangia

boredom toi

Constant dependence on external stimuli for entertainment weakens our inner resources to devise engagement
Back when we were kids, we were never al lowed to say, “I’m bored!“ My father could not accept that in a house he had stocked with all kinds of books, encyclopaedias, good music, and sparkling conversations, aimed at burnishing his children’s minds ­ anyone could find the opportunity to be bored. Indeed, he took our boredom as an affront to his creativity.Dad’s argument was that saying you are bored was like admitting that you are no good for your own amusement and edification ­ what good then could you be for anyone else? This was, of course, a time when TV just beamed a few evening hours of serious educative stuff, and things like cellphones, laptops, video players, CDs, tablets or Kindles, were unheard, undreamt of. What you did with your time was not dictated by the availability or lack of gizmos. Intellectual curiosity, romantic imagination and creative ideas kept the sparkle alive.

The only adrenaline rush youngsters craved came from playing in the park or chasing each other. A bicycle ride around the colony was adventure enough and a fast twirl before you lay down on grass to allow the world to rock and tilt was exciting. It was not unknown to just lie down and stare at the ceiling ­ that was when your thoughts flowed.

In the electronic age, time is soaked up by the gizmos at hand, and innui relieved by jumping from one screen to the next. Nobody allows themselves time to get bored. And that is a problem. Ease of stimulation has left us incapable of exploring our own selves or to allow the mind to just be, to drift in and out of deliberate thought. This stifles creativity and a deeper, philosophical exploration essential to existence. Constant dependence on external stimuli for entertainment weakens our inner resources to devise engagement.

Boredom is not an enemy; it is your means to discover your own strengths, instigate new thoughts, and replace tedious routines with new things. But because we do not allow ourselves time to indulge, it’s becoming a scarier proposition, one that people cannot imagine dealing with. Boredom is a call for drawing upon your internal resources and meeting your own self. It is when we stand naked in front of ourselves ­ with nothing in between. That is when you see yourself as you are.

We have to learn to be comfortable in that state.Face it. Feel it. Let it sink in. Absorb it. Let it suffuse your being. In short, look boredom in the eye, understand where it comes from and see how you can use it creatively to move on to something better.Think. Are you bored because you do not enjoy your work? Or is it because you do not feel in control of your life? Is your boredom a signal that you need to think through your life and make certain adjustments and changes?
In the TV crime drama Dexter, the forensics expertserial vigilante killer Dexter says very telling ly at one point, “I’ve always maintained that the greatest obstacle in life isn’t danger; it’s boredom.The battle against it is responsible for most of the events across the world ­ good or ill.“

Indeed, for those of us who do not have the inner resources to engage us in a positive manner, there is the danger of moving to destructive means.We all know at least a few people who spend too much time indulging in mental games and getting their kicks out of playing with other people’s minds.Such an indulgence sickens the mind and makes one obsessive.

And then there are those who push the limits of their physical prowess beyond the feasible. Overstimulated by gizmos and unable to face boredom, they jump from one adrenaline-pumping adventure to another and stretch their limits to see how far they can go ­ from drugs to sex to crime to rash driving or worse.

Our best bet then is to at times sink in to boredom and from that state, let the mind wander asking questions, seeking answers in its quest to find our own unique creative solutions.

Be a Writer and be Happy

Posted in Ponderer's Box at 4:41 pm by వసుంధర

If you have thoughts to share, do not use the phone as media. Write down on a paper and first share with yourself. Then you may share them with your friends. Yes, you have become a writer. It is not just for recognition one should write. Please remember – real writers are always a happy lot. 

Here’s one real writer who is sharing his thoughts on this subject.


I have evolved spiritually since I became a writer: Amish Tripathi

Apr 16 2017 : The Times of India (Hyderabad)

amish tripathi

Before I started writing, I was a banker for 14 years – your typical IIM-A kinda of a guy, unhappy with everything. I was hyper-aggressive and hyper-competitive. Even if I got a bonus, I’d want more. If I didn’t have a cabin, I would crib. When I got one, I wanted a bigger one. If I got a promotion, I would crib it’s come too late. I was trapped in that vicious rat race cycle.
The process of being a writer changed me as a person. It changed my thoughts; the subjects of my books changed me as a person, spiritually.

Shaky start, gritty mind

My journey as a writer wasn’t smooth from the beginning. I was rejected by 20 publishers. Since I was never attached to the concept of failure, I kept at it. I had a well-paying full time job till I wrote my first two books. Only when the money from the royalty became bigger than my salary did I quit to become a full-time writer. You have to look at the practical side of living and pay your bills. I believe in being realistic. I also believe we have to live in the world we have, not the ‘ideal one’ in which we think should exist.
 Hence, I’m still competitive but what has changed – I’m no longer controlled by the external symbols of success and failure. Neither am I driven by external manifestations of power. That attitude has given me a lot of freedom. When you are not attached to things, nothing can stop you. Lord Krishna’s words of wisdom always echo in my mind – do not be attached to the fruits of your labour. That’s the most empowering statement of life. If you remain detached to the results, failure doesn’t fill you with demotivation and success doesn’t fill you with ego or pride. You become unstoppable!
 A disciplined approach
 I start my day at 5 am in the morning. I exercise and go through the ritual of reading four newspapers. I begin writing by 9 am. I’ve observed that I’m more diciplined on my writing days than normal ones. Somedays, I write for hours, on others, I face a writer’s block. The idea is not to get frustrated. I read five to six books simultaneously.

March 22, 2017

A Balanced View on Uttar Pradesh

Posted in Ponderer's Box, Religion at 6:33 pm by వసుంధర

Here is an article showing unusual balance for nowadays. Such realistic analysis is what our country is looking for.

Secular Manifesto For Change


Saba Naqvi

A Yogi Adityanath could not have been elevated to CM of the country’s largest state had there not been a complete hollowing out of secular values. For those of us who still have secular stardust in our eyes, let’s recognise that secularism as practised in India has been reduced to electoral management, that first sees Muslims as a herd and then tries to keep that herd together.

It’s a vaguely insulting formulation, particularly as practitioners of the craft of secular politics have auctioned out the task of delivering the imaginary herd to a bunch of middlemen, all too often clerics or strongmen with criminal antecedents.It should be crystal clear by now that they repel others and have brought Indian Muslims to the point where candidates who presume to be the people’s representatives are unelectable and the community’s vote has been rendered ineffective.

The secular model currently offers no counter narrative to challenge Hindutva that claims to unite people above caste and region in a national symphony . All of this has been some time in the making.The clout of clerics increased ever since Congress famously capitulated before them when it overturned the Shah Bano judgment in 1986. This reinforced the “separateness“ of Muslims and contributed to the rise of BJP in national politics.

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) was at the heart of that churning. Founded in 1973, it is a collection of clerics with a motley crew of professionals whose main purpose is to protect Sharia law. Half its members are life members who represent an orthodox male viewpoint, by default promoted by the state that swears by secularism, that actually means separation of religion and government.Frankly , the Ulema should have no complaint with Yogi Adityanath, the head of a religious order, occupying political office! The same clerics also have their hand in managing Waqf properties that can be described as religious endowments made in the name of Allah for the benefit of the poor. There are approximately 3,00,000 registered Waqf properties in India on about four lakh acres of land (the second largest land holding after Indian railways).It is a national resource that should have been developed for the welfare of the community (the Sikh community is a model to emulate here). Instead, many Waqf boards are repositories of corruption, both petty and large. Yet they get away with it because any demand for scrutiny is described as an attack on Islam.

It’s all rather pathetic. There is actually precious little that the Indian secular state has given the Muslim community except to ensure that they live for eternity in the museum of stereotypes, most notably that of the clerics who mostly talk rubbish when they showcase their views on television. The imagery of these men as “sole spokespersons“ only works to counter mobilise. The community has slipped on all human development indices yet an entire mobilisation has thrived on the argument that they are appeased. It’s true, the clerics have indeed been appeased in a manner of speaking.

The real wealth of the Muslim community lies in its artisans, weavers and craftsmen who make both functional and beautiful things with their hands. It lies in the intellectual reservoirs of poetry and literature, in music and architecture.It is a real irony that over 200 years ago a poet such as Mirza Ghalib would mock the mullahs so relentlessly while we in contemporary India were doomed to take their views so seriously .

These elections have also exposed as a zero sum game the cynical mathematical model that works with the presumed value of the Muslim vote. Indeed, a politician such as Mayawati should recognise that her projection of the mullah-meat tradermuscleman candidates fitted communal stereotyping and hurt rather than helped a community she so grandiosely set out to represent. She spoke so incessantly of Muslims that a casual visitor to Uttar Pradesh during the elections could be forgiven for getting the impression that the state was voting to elect a minority CM! Now that the shock of the verdict has registered some voices are beginning to express bitterness against the mullahpolitician nexus. A process of introspection has begun and at the very least the community must recognise that in the narrative emerging in India their only utility lies as an image that is a caricature of the multiplicity of Muslim identities in India.No one will shed tears unless the change comes from within. Here are my humble suggestions for a manifesto for change:

Tell the mullahs to restrict their activities to the masjid. Ban them (short of issuing a fatwa!) from appearing on TV . Be vocal about stating that you have different role models. Begin the process of examining the structures of law boards and Waqf boards, managed by groups of men guarding their turfs.Get professionals to create a genuine welfare structure for the community .

Ask for participation in existing government schemes instead of harping on separate identity constitutional guarantees. Build campaigns over economic issues, jobs, small loans, education and not issues such as triple talaq. Yes, you will be baited but don’t fall into the many traps.

Salvation lies in propagating the many cultural traditions that unite, not those that separate. Take on the conservative views on music, women’s right and freedoms. Highlight the pluralist traditions.

If someone comes asking for votes on the basis of fear and tells you that Muslims are supposed to be in the frontline of the battle to save secularism, turn around and tell them in that case it may not really be worth saving.

The writer is a journalist and author

August 29, 2016

Anataomy of Rape

Posted in Chit Chat, Ponderer's Box at 8:29 pm by వసుంధర


Aug 29 2016 : The Times of India (Hyderabad)

The Banality Of A Rape

    Jonathan Freundlich

It’s a myth that perpetrators are psychopaths, not `normal’ guys.
That a rape always consists in the brutal assault of a young innocent virgin by a strong heavily-armed psychopath is a widespread myth. This myth is not only false, but harmful. The very large majority of rapes are indeed perpetrated by someone with whom the victim has already got acquainted, and don’t occur in a dark alley as we could expect.Rapes are not as exceptional as this myth implies. Actually , this misconception often prevents us from identifying a situation as a rape and from helping the victim accordingly.That night, my girlfriend E went to a nightclub with some of her friends, mostly foreigners as herself. It was a fun evening; dancing, laughing, being exhilarated by the music and the atmosphere, talking to new people. There was this guy , F. He pretended to be a model from Turkey , something that later turned out to be false. He was very flirtatious, but nice. E made it clear from the beginning that she was committed in a relationship and not interested in anything else but friendship. He seemed to accept it, and E couldn’t imagine that he wouldn’t respect her and her desires.

E and one of her friends got in a taxi with F while her two other friends were in a different car with F’s friends. After a long ride, the cars stopped in front of a house instead of a bar. While entering the apartment, E asked her friends not to leave her alone with him. But they didn’t react when F dragged her inside a bedroom pretending it was “just to talk“, and discreetly locked the door behind him.

Our society paradoxically considers rape as a horrible crime but often labels it as “normal“ when it happens for real. When they are told about rape, most people minimise the story and say that it doesn’t count, that it was not really a rape.

When E told her friends about what had just happened, one of them answered that it was “normal“ when people get drunk. But no, it’s not! It is not because the night was enshrouded in a cloud of glitter, laughs and alcohol that it is not a rape. It is not because E had been enthusiastically dancing in the nightclub that it was not a rape. It is not because she may have been inconsequentially flirting that it was not a rape. Sex without consent is always a rape.

Another friend of hers told her that is was her fault, that anyone could have stopped it. A rape is not the victim’s fault, it is the deliberate action of a criminal. Blaming the victim is an easy way to feel safe: by believing that E was responsible for the rape, her friend felt more confident that she wouldn’t put herself in a similar situation. But although reassuring, this thought is a lie: a rape can happen to anyone, and in the most unexpected circumstances. In the case of E’s friends, minimising the event and putting the blame on her was probably also a way to avoid their own responsibility and their own guilt: they were there, and they didn’t do anything.

A rape is not just a bad experience, it is a criminal offence. No rape should go unreported. As long as rapes are not reported and not fairly dealt with by the authorities, rapists will have a sense of impunity. I suggested E to report the rape to the police. Reporting the rape was a painful process in itself. Beyond narrating the events again and again and going through various medical check-ups, E had to confront with her memories: going back to the apartment was particularly painful, as it crudely reminded her of some of the appalling details of the rape. Nevertheless, having reported the rape will surely make her stronger to cope with its insidious consequences on her self-image.

In front of her determination, her friends had to realise that what had happened was indeed a rape, and they stopped being in denial. Reporting the rape thus also changed their attitude and they became more supportive.Through the police, the whole society had to give some credit to her testimony .The care and understanding that she got at the police station surely helped her a lot. The police was indeed exemplary, which was a much welcomed relief.

When they learnt that E was going to report the rape to the police, F’s male acquaintances seemed to think that F didn’t deserve to be punished by law. At times, it even seemed that it was F who was the victim for them. The victim of E’s determination to obtain justice.

F probably thinks that it wasn’t a rape because he is a normal guy, a nice guy even, not a psychopath. This might be the most destabilising thing about rapes: most of them are not perpetrated by psychopaths. They are perpetrated by “normal“ guys.

E’s rapist is out on bail awaiting the court’s decision, which will take months or even years. He doesn’t seem to understand the wrong he did, and neither do his friends and family . While E has been affected forever by his deeds and might be unable to move on until justice is done, he might just be lightheartedly dancing with other girls at the moment. As long as society doesn’t fully acknowledge what rapes are and doesn’t abandon the comforting and blinding myths associated to them, such events will continue to happen and rapists will continue to have a feeling of impunity.E’s rape was just a banal rape, as many others: the problem is far from being solved. Let’s hope the Indian justice system will show the way .

The writer is an astrophysicist

August 28, 2016

The Biological and the Surrogant

Posted in Ponderer's Box at 8:48 pm by వసుంధర

Times of India

Aug 28 2016 : The Times of India (Hyderabad)

`When I said yes to a hired womb, and no to a fake belly’

Gita Aravamudan

The government intends to ban commercial surrogacy but this tale of an NRI who rented a womb shows how complex the issue is
Meena was having the first real conversation with her surrogate. Until now, she had felt too embarrassed to even talk to the girl. Almost apologetic. She was hesitant even now. Alice (the surrogate) looked distant…She sat cross-legged on her bed in the surrogate home with her little daughter Mini next to her.`How are you feeling, Alice?’ Meena asked. ` Are they taking care of you well?’… The surrogate shrugged. `I am fine. What’s there to take care of ?
In the beginning, I had several bouts of morning sickness. But now that’s over.’ Morning sickness? Meena hadn’t thought of that. Somehow, she had not imagined a surrogate would have morning sickness.

She had brainwashed herself so much into thinking of the woman’s womb as just a container. Alice. Alice. She was a person. Not just a womb. Suddenly she felt guilty . Alice would have had to take hormone treatment. And all the shots. She was enduring all the physical pain and discomfort for Meena. And, at the end of it, she was going to give Meena her most coveted possession -the baby.How could she even begin to repay her for what she was doing?
Alice,’ she said suddenly ` , on an impulse. `I can never forget what you are doing for me.’ She held her hand. `Let me do something for you in return. Let me take care of Mini’s education.’ The younger woman looked at Meena squarely in the eye for the first time. She gave her a tiny smile.`The memsahib in the house, where my father worked as a driver for twenty years, made sure I got an education,’ she said. `School.College. Of what use is that to me now? My womb earns more for me than my education did.’ Meena’s eyes filled with tears.There it was again, the importance of a functional womb. All her education, all the gold medals she had won for her academic prowess … everything had come to naught because of her inability to reproduce. A woman who couldn’t have a child was nothing as far as society was concerned.

Back home, she rummaged through her suitcase and pulled out some brochures on prosthetic bellies. She had to decide very soon whether she wanted to use a fake belly or not.

As soon as she got back to the UK, after hiring her surrogate, she had started looking for prosthetic bellies. She hadn’t decided whether to tell her in-laws about the surrogate or not. What if they totally freaked out?
The bellies marketed by an online UK store looked quite solid and life-like. The skin colour could also be matched if required. Their website had an exhaustive and enlightening FAQs section.

She found the part about belly maintenance quite entertaining.

The silicone tummy is too shiny.What can I do?

A small amount of talcum powder can be applied to the surface of the belly to dull the shine a bit. This will also prevent fluff from sticking to the silicone surface…

Should I wear underwear beneath my fake-pregnant belly costume prosthetic?

Yes. This is for personal hy giene and health and safety reasons, as well as for the wearer’s comfort.

How do I go to the toilet if I have the fake belly on?

The silicone fake tummies have poppers or hooks at the gusset that can be opened to allow for ease of access and wearability .

But the bellies from abroad were quite expensive. Radha (the doctor) told her about Hema Inamdar, a soft toymaker in Ahmedabad, who had now switched over to making artificial bellies. They cost only Rs 1000 for a set of three bellies simulating three, five and sevenmonth pregnancies or five, seven and nine month pregnancies. This was nothing compared to the more than 100 to 200 pounds she would have to pay , per belly, if she were to get them from London… So maybe she should also look at locally made bellies. Even while she was trying to decide what to do, Meena came across a Youtube clip of what the media had dubbed `Beyonce’s BumpGate’.

When singer Beyonce announced that she was pregnant, rumours began doing the rounds that she had actually hired a surrogate to have her baby . However, she appeared a couple of times on stage sporting a small bump. Was she pregnant or was she faking it?
And then, BumpGate happened. Beyonce appeared on an Australian TV talk show sporting her baby bump. But, as she sat down in front of the talk-show host, suddenly , the bump appeared to fold in on itself.

Meena shuddered at the thought of that incident. Imagine what would happen if she had a fake belly which failed her at a crucial moment… Until she was able to figure out what to do, she decided she would remain non-committal. She wore oversized cardigans and heavy coats during the winter anyway , and even if she had a bump it wouldn’t show.

But Chennai was different. Her mother-in-law had an eagle eye.The first thing she would do is check out her bump. She would have to decide by then whether to tell her about the surrogate or not.

Radha had also given her a few tips on how she should alter her body language to make her pregnancy look genuine. She made her sit in her clinic and observe pregnant women.

“See how they arch their backs and bend their knees when they stand up…Also notice how the pregnant mothers place soothing hands on their bellies to calm down a kicking or hiccupping baby. These are small instinctive motions. But you are faking it, so you have to watch and learn like an actress preparing for her part.“

But she was not an actress. She had never acted in her life! Not even in a school play . She pulled out the Indian fake belly that had arrived by courier the day before.She looked at it for a moment and then flung it on the bed.

She had arrived at a decision.She would tell her in-laws about the surrogate. Anyway , what was the worst that could happen? They would reject their own grandchildren. The babies were still genetically hers and Ram’s. And, in the final analysis, that’s all they needed to think about.

Edited excerpts from Aravamudan’s book `Baby Makers’

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