Yoku Yatta !

As the Paralympic flame went out last day, our hearts were full of all the joys of spring. India had showcased its best ever performance, winning an incredible haul of 19 medals and setting an unparalleled history. Our Paralympic heroes fought all their hurdles gallantly, giving a befitting reply to all those who ridiculed and humiliated them. When each one of them stepped on to the podium, holding high the tricolour, all our hearts squeaked with pride and joy, arigato, Tokyo!

Better than the best: Meet India's 19 medallists at Tokyo Paralympics 2020  | Sports News,The Indian Express
Pic courtesy: Google

India’s paralympics campaign is indeed awe-inspiring. The stories of our champions encompasses blood, sweat and tears embedded in boundless hope. In spite of facing life’s dreadful challenges, they clung on to optimism and faith, and emerged with wings of fire from the ashes of life.

The star of the campaign was indeed, Avani Lekhara who marvellously clinched a gold and a bronze becoming the first Indian woman to win multiple medals in the same game, all at the tender sweet age of 19 ! She brilliantly fought back all the catastrophes and challenges life flung at her. Sumit Antil left us all star struck as he broke the world record thrice back to back and bagged gold for his country. He is truly an incarnation of resilience. Bhavinaben Patel created yet another remarkable history by winning India’s first silver medal in table tennis. The morbidity that confined her to wheel chair was left speechless as she fought tooth and nail to prove her mettle.

Our Paralympians have set an example for generations to follow. They are all indeed personifications of resilience and determination. Their victory is a huge lesson for the human kind. As we are facing a deadly pathogen, they have taught us to hold on tight and fight tirelessly till the end .

As the spectacular Paralympians return home with their heads up, a dazzling history is set, the radiant sun of hope is on the horizon. Yokku Yata, Warriors !!

The reign of terror

It’s fear that’s flowing through my fingers as I write this. The news of Taliban sweeping back to power in Afghanistan after two decades is severely agonizing . The horrifying scenes of the nervous civilians, frantically hurdling into cargo flights and desperately trying to flee to safe heavens, have been piercing the conscience. The prolonging silence of many world leaders and the paralyzed stature of the UN is extremely perplexing. In spite of Taliban’s repeated assurance of a new peaceful era, the terrifying history of the earlier regimes and past records of the militants threatens to ruin peace in the valley.

Over the past two decades, the pastures of Afghanistan had grown greener. Women have been witnessing the greatest changes. More girls got education, women have been involving in public life, holding important offices and pursuing innumerous opportunities. Internet facilities and the media consumption grew rapidly. Iridescent clouds were looming over the horizon.

Taliban takeover has turned the civilian lives upside down. Women’s rights, peace and tranquillity all stands under threat now. Uncertainty, fear, apprehension abounds in the war-torn country. The innocent children who don’t even know what these wars are for, are the hard hitten victims. Their blooming childhood has been tarnished. Their beady eyes have been drained out of colour and dreams. They yearn to return to schools and persevere their education but are fostered to hide. Ever imagined, how it would be to be awakened by the sound of stringer missiles ? How it would be to witness your own land, being battered inhumanely ?The civilians are living such a terrible life under terror now, they need our voice to bring back life, into their valley.

The international organisations must awake as soon as possible. This requires a strong global response. The world must stand together to put an end to the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Afghanistan. Although Taliban promises to uphold justice, it has already started to unleash brutal attack on the civilians including women and children.

Let’s stand up together to bring back humanity , peace and democracy. We can’t turn our backs on them, and leave them in torment. Afghan lives matter!

P.V.Sindhu : a true trailblazer!

When PV Sindhu stood there at the victory podium, with hear head held high, proudly holding up her bronze medal , adding a new chapter to the history, kindling a fire within the young aspirational minds across the country. ..We shouted on top of our voices “this moment it is truly gold!”

Pusarla Venkata  Sindhu’s amazing journey from Rio to Tokyo was indeed scintillating. Five years ago, it was in the 2016 Olympics PV Sindhu came under International spotlight by proving her mettle. Her hard work and sheer determination won many hearts. But later, a series of losses, one after the other made her centre of innumerous controversies. Many declared “Sindhu has come to the end of her career even before beginning it”. But she didn’t give up , she didn’t settle down, instead she proved them all wrong by stroking to gold at the world championship 2019 ,which turned out to be a wonderful birthday gift for her mother.

When she booked a ticket to Tokyo, Expectations where all time high. We looked forward witnessing Sindhu adding a golden feather to her cap. As she rapidly progressed to the semifinals our joy knew no bounds.. but fate had something else in store… she lost her semis clash… As she walked away, wiping her tears, with her head held down with desolation.. trying hard to cover up her unbearable pain.. I could sense her ache.. how it would have been, to witness her golden dreams turn to dust… after all those years of sleepless nights and tireless days… It will definitely, take much time to sink in.. but she didn’t have time to cry and stay down.. she had a fight left… Like her coach said “there is is a huge difference between winning bronze and ending up in the fourth position.”

Brushing aside her anguish, she held the racket once more. Sindhu unleashed herself and played with all her might, translating her pain into bronze. And yes!! she banged the door right in her opponent’s face, earning her nation, pride… An avalanche of emotions filled all the 139 crore minds… Thankyou, Sindhu… We Indians, walk an inch taller now.. your win was definitely a befitting reply, to those who believed girls aren’t meant for dust and dirt. Keep rewriting history…. keep “stroking” upwards.. we look up to you Sindhu, with eyes filled with awe… you have won the gold in all our hearts.

Back to school!!

“Wake up!!” I opened my eyes languidly, hearing my mom shouting it the umpteenth time.

” Yes…mom..” I mumbled still half asleep. ” Get up dear…some thing great happened…The virus disappeared last night…you can go to school today…”she squeaked. I could hardly believe my ears, it was too good to be true. Unable to respond I sat almost paralyzed, trying to comprehend the news.

“Get ready fast, it’s almost nine” mom repeated, losing her cool. Quickly shaking off my wildering thoughts I dashed upstairs and got ready within a few minutes. Shifting my heavy bag to the other shoulder and munching a dainty sandwich I hurried to the bus stop. Journey to school seemed much longer than usual , I couldn’t contain my excitement of going back to school.

The bus finally reached my school, all my friends were waiting outside with joy filled eyes and mask less faces, smiling broadly. I ran up to hug them and share my excitement, finally…I was back at school!

We swarmed into the classroom and got seated as the last of our friends strolled in. Each of us a lot to share, stories of all sorts. The school bell rang and silence followed, soon our class teacher entered the room. We happily chorused ” GOOD MORNING TEACHER…” She smiled heartily and beckoned us to sit. How elated were we to see her without the intrusion of any screens and to talk with her without waiting to be unmuted! Happy hormones jumped up and down inside me…finally I was back at school. During the breaks we strolled across our lush campus and the mesmerising hallways, laughing, giggling and mocking at each other…we were finally back at school.

At last the school bell rang…none of us wanted to head back home. We reluctantly bid goodbyes to each other, promising to meet the next day.

While travelling back home, I reminisced each moment of the day, I have never felt this happy ever before…I couldn’t still believe myself, my bitter sweet school days are back! Losing myself in a torrent of thoughts , I gently slipped into a good sleep.

Moments later I felt water droplets on my face, perplexed I opened my eyes only to see my mother staring angrily ” Wake up, it’s time for your online class” she cried. ” What!!” I rubbed my eyes bewildered…Oh no..my beautiful day at school was just a dream …😔

Formidable hurdles on India’s road to super power

As the biggest demography and one of world’s fastest growing economy, India has exponentially grown into one of the most powerful nations in today’s world and is predicted to rise into a super power soon. But there are innumerous social, political and economic hurdles on India’s path and it indeed necessary to address each one of them to materialize this dream.

The primary challenges India face are massive poverty and underdevelopment. Even in this century for the majority in our country today, poverty and hunger are coiled to their DNAs. Rampaging poverty and chronic malnutrition are agitating a huge part of our population.

India had slipped to 94th position in last global hunger index, far below many of its neighbours, clearly pointing to the prevailing crisis.

Illiteracy is another obstacle on the India’s path to become a superpower. Consisting of 287 million illiterates, our country contributes 37 per cent of the global total. Illiteracy is indeed a result of the complex mesh of socio-economic inequalities in our country. Lack of ample awareness and education not only perpetuates the existing inequalities but also entrenches the societal mis practices.

Lack of societal unity is another significant challenge. The margins and segregations amongst the people disrupt the peace and stability of our country. Deep seated Caste based segregations and differences in our society constantly creates rifts and communal tensions in India.

Furthermore, Political utilisation of caste is increasing drastic in India.  Efforts to annihilate the caste system and related discriminations have all gone futile. Improving the effectiveness of reservations and uplifting the depressed to the mainstream should be rigorously implemented to revamp the situation.

India being the second most populous country accounts to about 17.7 % of the global population. This population explosion creates heavy pressure on India’s resources. In spite of enjoying a demographic dividend and having a high percent of young population India is still not able to translate it into actual growth. This immense workforce should be cautiously exploited through education, skill development and employment.

Underdevelopment of infrastructure and mass transit system are massive challenges to India. Public transport facilities are still not up to the mark and is not able to cope up with the exponential growth of our country.

Rapid urbanisation and intractable population rise creates further pressure on the transport facilities. Only more investments in this direction can improve connectivity and make our transport system more egalitarian.

According to the World Bank in 2015, India had overtaken China to become world’s fastest growing economy. But several financial policies of the Indian government have blemished the economic fabric of a country and pushed us into ravine of economic crisis.

Covid-19 has further aggravated the issue. Imposition of one of the world’s harshest and abrupt lockdowns last year India’s economy shrank by 23.9 %. Complete absence of rigorous business and industrial activities have created tremendous economic repercussions which will persist for many decades.

Severe bilateral tensions and limited influence in the major international organisations are major challenges. This not only deprives India an opportunity to amplify its voice and influence decisions of bigger nations, but also drastically limits India’s political clout in the global stage.

In spite is been world’s biggest democracy India still is suffering from repeated encroachments in the sphere of free speech and expression. Several democratic protest against the government policies and decisions dim India’s image as a democratic country. Democratic openness has become a victim to corruption.

The pandemic has revealed the fragility and chronic under development of India’s health sector. But even before the advent of the pandemic rampant spread of viral diseases, environmental pollution and garbage accumulation had been severely exacerbating our health system. Improving health facilities and making sure that huge section of our population is offered ample access to such facilities are crucial challenges.

India will have to overcome all these adversities and correct deep fault lines within various domains to rapidly move forward on the road to become a superpower.

Decoding Feminism

Even in this 21st century, feminism is one of the most mystified and confusing concepts ever. Many believe feminism aims to divide and dismantle the society. But in reality, it is a political ideology that advocates the social, political, economic , legal and social equality of all genders and aims to create a radical overhaul of the prevalent social fabric. Still many misinterpret feminism as misandry or as female domination. Such misconceptions blur the true purpose of the entire ideology and it’s highly imperative to shatter such misestimations and move forward. So ,what’s actually feminism and why is it so important?

Feminism: opportunities & obstacles - iPleaders

Feminism actually aims to crush the existing stereotypes, address the systemic inequalities in our society and achieve equality for every individual irrespective of their sex, class and race. Although originated in the west, this ideology has disseminated to all corners of the world. Feminism revolves around the intense belief that all sexes are equal and deserve equality in life chances and opportunities. Feminists are equally against both female domination and male domination, they underpin equality and freedom for he, she and them. It gives importance to tackling the oppression, social exclusion and marginalism faced by many around us due to their gender.

“I don’t believe in feminism but in equality.” This is a very common saying we all might have heard which clearly points to the negative stereotypes about feminism existing around us. Feminism has been historically associated with enmity to men and female superiority , and is often viewed in a negative shade. In reality, Feminism never champions hatred against men or promote misandry , in fact it fights against the gender roles fostered upon men as well. Feminism is not against the choices any women make, but it underlines that the choice should be made by them and not be dictated by the society. Feminism benefits only women is yet another misconception. Issues like social inequality and gender pay gap feminism primarily focuses upon affect everyone, not just women. Furthermore, feminism is not restricted to women, anyone who truly believes in gender equality and strongly fights against societal paradigms that downplay women can be a feminist. Finally, the claim that women’s rights has already been accomplished is baseless, there are still many women from every walk of life struggling to find a voice for themselves, liberation and equality are still distant dreams for them.

Feminism clearly doesn’t aim at belittling or overpowering any other gender, it’s high time we realise the irrationality of such misconceptions and recognise the importance of gender equality. Concepts like feminism successfully instills the spirit of equalitarianism in the minds of many and continues to inspire women all around the globe to crush the manacles and take to the air. Let’s together work to break the social stigmas and pave way to an egalitarian tomorrow.

Are good grades everything?

“Intelligence and character are the goals of true education,” Martin Luther King Jr

Good marks or grades are still considered as the accurate parameters to measure success for students. Time and again we all forget the fact that exam results merely determine a child’s proficiency of the material that exam is designed to test and is not capable to predicting their future. Regrettably, today’s education system considers exams as a sure shot measure of judging one’s intellect.

Education Should Be Without Stress

The traditional education system we are currently following, do not give the students an opportunity to cruise or explore but limit them to surviving a nerve wrecking rat race in which winners are highly extolled while losers are casually eliminated. The bitter truth that classrooms are at times too small a place to judge a student’s worth is often overlooked and we still staunchly believe a single sheet of paper can determine one’s future.

 Parents and teachers tend to attach dignity and recognition with good results compelling the children to think, they “deserve” humiliation and taunt if they score low. Children may commit malpractices and score marks through cheating. Many even commits suicide fearing bad results.  Anxiety, stress and depression crumbles them at such a young age.

Grades are just a snapshot of a whole, multidimensional and never-ending process of learning. Although marks do matter, they are never an accurate reflection of one’s true ability. More importance must be given in developing the critical thinking ability of children and enabling them to learn more extensively. The System should be able to measure how well a student understands the concept and evaluate one’s overall intelligence rather than giving significance to bookish knowledge alone. Many times, backbenchers, low scorers and drop outs have grown up to make tremendous contributions that changed the course of Human Development. From Albert Einstein, Michael Faraday and Graham bell to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg the list goes on. Education must be able to inculcate a realisation that it’s ok to be wrong, fail or to score less. Teaching them the art of failure should also be the cardinal goal of education.

Ken Robinson says rightly “the need is not to reform education but to transform it”. Education must be organic and inclusive and not mechanical and narrow.  Grades and exams are indeed important but are not capable of determining one’s entire future. After 10 or 20 years we may not remember the answers for which we put pen to paper but the knowledge gained will stay with you for eternity.

Breaking The Stereotypes

Virtual assistants have made all our lives more productive ,efficient and less complicated . From forecasting the weather, to setting our reminders they assist us in virtually everything in our lives and have evolved as quite inescapable to human  existence. Life without any of these assistants seem almost impossible now. But wait, have we ever thought why most of these assistants sound female by default? why do we tend to associate them with female identities always? Does this have anything to do with gender stereotypes and the social stigmas prevalent around us.?

Eschewing Gender Stereotypes in Voice Assistants | by Andreea Danielescu |  Chatbots Magazine

 Google, Siri, Alexa and most other popular virtual assistants have defaulted to female voices and in many cases given female names. This evidently points to the deep-rooted social attitude of reinforcing the acts of service to women. From ancient times women were expected to take care of everyone in the family and manage both household chores and several other additional responsibilities with equal efficiency. It’s petrifying that even in this century such stereotypes do exist very strongly in one way or the other amongst us. The typical portrayal of women as ‘natural caregivers‘, capable of handling innumerous tasks acquiescently , still do find a place in our society.  Attributing female identities to virtual assistants will only underpin such biases.  

           At the same time there are several technological reasons behind this. As the majority of the systems are trained in female voices, it is very difficult for them to perceive any other voices. Moreover, women’s voices are discerned as more clear and well-pitched, capable enough to reach out to a multitude. A recent Market research showed majority of the clients round the globe prefer female voice for their virtual assistants as it sounds much more reliable and easily perceivable. On a psychological aspect, many of us unknowingly associate women’s voices with care and responsibility quite habitually. Earlier, the United Nations had asked all the companies globally to turn the voices of their virtual assistants gender-neutral, to completely avoid any promotion of societal paradigms. Apple’s virtual assistant Siri stopped defaulting to female voice and was made available in four different voices this year, thus making a small step for many but a giant leap to equality.

           Companies must try to give their clients an opportunity to choose the voice of their assistants rather than setting one as default. It’s apparent that such stereotypes underline women as obliging, ready to obey without question any blunt voice commands.  Feminizing virtual assistants is an archetype of how these gender inequalities trickle deep into every field. It is indeed a pressing priority to annihilate pervasive gender biases and stereotypes entrenched in our society, which are enormous obstructions in our path to gender equality. Let’s smash the glass ceilings and rise up for an “equal” tomorrow.

For The People !

From the very beginning,  the aberrant appointment of Praful K Patel as the administrator of Lakshadweep was viewed with extreme scepticism by the public and media. Later on, as days and months passed  the worst dreams of the citizens proved out one after the other . The administrator unleashed his true nature by approving several nonsensical laws, spiced with political and personal interests , drenching the peace and harmony of the Island and its inhabitants in the Arabian sea. The grave human rights violation snowballed into a major controversy, and is strongly rippling towards the subcontinent.

Lakshadweep: Why island residents are trending #SaveLakshadweep on social  media - The Week

                  The central government broke the conventional practice of deploying civil  servants as administrators of Union Territories by designating the one-time BJP MLA and minister of the then Narendra Modi government of Gujarat , Praful K Patel as the administrator of Lakshadweep. But tables turned as Patel took charge , he implemented and proposed a series of anti- democratic measures. Alcohol was legalized , the power of  local government  was declined by removing several important portfolios like education and health from their jurisdiction , those who have more than two children were restricted from contesting the Panchayat elections thereby kick starting the demolition of democracy from the Grass root level.

He went on with his controversial plans, introducing Goonda act which enabled the detainment of citizens up to one year without trial (where the lowest crime rate is reported) , abolishing beef as a part of ‘animal  protection‘ , proposing Lakshadweep development authority regulation empowering the administration to snatch away the land of the natives, terminating many contract employees , changing the travel restrictions resulting in rampant spread of Covid – 19 , widening the roads and constructing buildings under the cover of tourism, thereby destroying the public settlements as well as fragile ecosystems of the archipelago. Any development that creates undue exploitation of nature and environment cannot be justified on any grounds. The covid regulations were brilliantly used to contain the protests, as the administrator continued to pursue his tyrannical plans. This denial of public sentiments and opinions as well as the monocratic attitude of the authorities is aimed to rip the heart out of the island’s democracy. At the same time several BJP leaders are of the opinion that the entire controversy is of political nature and the pinpointed laws are only in the draft stage and will not be implemented without the consent of the people.

         Developmental plans should be for the people , not for the promotion of any political agendas or corporate interests. It’s high time some leaders realise the true values enshrined in democracy and the supremacy of people’s opinions. The Central government should intervene in the issue and call back the administrator .Let democracy and only democracy  thrive!

K.K. Shailaja- a victim of the patriarchal viruses ?

Soon after the Left Democratic Font registered it’s resounding and historic win in the legislative assembly elections of Kerala, innumerous speculations emerged about the cabinet formation and the inclusion of fresh faces. But the news of K.K. Shailaja dropped off the second cabinet came as a huge shock to the Keralities. Her much adored covid management and her landslide victory with a historic margin in the assembly polls didn’t earn her space in the cabinet. It raised many eyebrows and sparked massive protests , many  renowned activists, actors and several others took to social media strongly marking their dissent.   How did K.K. Shailaja grow from an ordinary minister to the widely acclaimed “teacher-amma” ? Why did only her exclusion  stimulate massive protests?

Kerala Election Result 2021 | Mattannur Assembly Constituency: 'Teacher'  Shailaja Defeats RSP's Illikkal Augusthy By Over 60,000 Votes

                 Shailaja first came into the limelight in 2018 during the Nipah outbreak. She received immense praise from different corners for the effective handling of the epidemic. Her popularity grew even more stronger during the covid 19 pandemic. She addressed daily briefings, spreaded awareness about the disease, and kickstarted campigns to help contain the spread of the virus.  After the successful slackening of the first curve, teacher-amma’s popularity knew no bounds. She was featured in the Vogue, Guardian and BBC , was recognised by the UN and was also listed as one of the twenty most influential women by the Financial Times last year. All these laurels cemented her image and led to a fantabulous win with a historic margin of over 60,000 votes smashing all records. Thus many assumed she will continue to lead the health ministery in the next cabinet too.

    The experience gathered from dealing with the  Nipah outbreak and two successive waves of covid 19 is of huge importance in the present situation. The delay for a new entrant to understand the system will cost heavily in this crucial time. Shailaja’s popularity did earn immense trust and confidence of the public, it’s a giant challenge infront of the new government to win it back.

However this move has been interpreted as a part of the growing personality cult in the party and the unquestionable leadership of the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The unexpected glory of Shailaja , recognitions, possibilities of her being the next chief ministerial candidate have disturbed many and paved her way out. Many drew parallels between her and the late leader KR Gowri amma who was denied the Chief ministership in the past in spite of her immense popularity due to patriarchal nature of politics.

At the same time many argue that Shailaja teacher was “disproportionately hyped” as Kerala’s health mechanism suffered a huge setback during the second wave. The much celebrated low death rate is also surging high recently, the dearth of oxygen and other health facilities are being frequently reported in many parts of the country. The health department will be thoroughly scrutinised from now on by the public, it is indeed a challenge to prevent any mistakes.

Although the decision to include young and new faces is indeed revolutionary, it’s heart breaking to see a woman excellent in her field being asked to step back, strengthening the patriarchal framework in our society. Let more Shailajas comeup to shun down this male dominance prevalent in every field.

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