The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016


Reports say, after Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), now Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS) has expressed its displeasure on the Government of India decision to send a high party delegation to the Vatican City to participate in Mother Teresa's Canonization Mass on September 4 when she will be declared a saint formally.

Going by the past rhetoric of these organizations, it is not unexpected. What was pleasant was how Narendra Modi summed up the emotion of the masses on the issue during his monthly radio address to the nation, "Mann Ki Baat" on August 28.

He rightly described how a person of Albanian origin, with no knowledge of English, adopted India and made its destitute people mission of her life. When he said that a high level delegation led by the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would represent India in Vatican, it was an expression of the wishes of the majority of Indians, unlike those few who still see "good and bad" defined by the demarcation of the religious lines.

Like VHP's Surendra Jain rushed to criticize Narendra Modi on his knowledge of history and how a "Mother Teresa sainthood" would hasten proselytization. Even RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has concluded that though Mother Teresa's work was good, it was not selfless. While delivering a lectures last year, in February 2015, Bhagwat linked Mother Teresa's work with conversion, saying it was her primary motive. Bhagwat's remarks had come at a time when Narendra Modi was busy in initiatives to heal and win back Christians' confidence after a series of church attacks that later proved non-religious in nature.

Here are two things that we should go by.

Mother Teresa's work was termed selfish when she devoted her whole life in the service of the poorest of the poor. When she left the world, she left an institution to serve the people. She didn't keep anything for her, living a simple and austere life. When her work is called selfish, it really pains us, who see a motherly figure in her. Shouldn't we stop seeing the extent of the kindness of greats from a religious eye?

Conversion? Why its fear is still instilled in us? Why our opinion leaders and politicians still try such loaded words?

How can 13.8 crore Muslims and 2.4 crore Christians be a threat to convert 82.7 crore Hindus to their fold?

There is famous saying in Hinduism - and I believe it should be there in almost every religion, if religions evolve to organize and better human lives - that you cannot think of worshipping God when you are hungry and the survival crisis is the sole question haunting you. That is the story of majority of Indians. The first duty of our opinion leaders and politicians should be to feed them first, to lift their lives out of survival hell.

Where our systems failed, people like Mother Teresa filled the gap. And yet it was not enough. India has more than 3 million registered non-governmental organizations. "The government, with restrain on resources, alone cannot reach to all in a country like India with widespread poverty and illiteracy" was the basic idea that allowed such a large number of NGOs in the country - so that they can go to the spaces where the government cannot.

The second thing that again reinforces the feeling that whenever there is a crisis on religious/community lines in the society, it is fuelled by motivated interests, is that none of incidents of church attacks last year were found religiously motivated. There was a great hue and cry and the whole political lot as well as evangelical institutions, from India and abroad, were propagating something like Christianity was in some imminent danger in India, especially after a Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led government was the incharge of affairs in India whose ideological mentor RSS has always been suspicious of the motives of the Christian missionaries working in India, something that even reflected in the Mohan Bhagwat statement mentioned above.  

But nothing happened. India as secure for Hindus, as for Muslims, Christians and other faiths.

To continue..


Tuesday, 30 August 2016


The next iPhone launch date is finally out. It is going to be September 7. The press invite and the Apple website say so. We cannot say it will be named iPhone 7 because the iPhone rumour mill has thrown iPhone 6SE as well as the next in the series. 

With this announcement, the public and the media frenzy that begins months before the next iPhone is launched in September will see its deafening levels that will see its culmination on September 7, the launch day. 

This year it is expected to be even more varied and louder a chatter as iPhone just saw its first decline in its quarterly sales figures since its first launch and so there are speculations that iPhone would come with something blockbuster – like its form, thickness, interface, an all glass body, even its audio jack, and so on. iPhone is still the undisputed smartphone leader globally but that tag may come under threat unless it doesn’t offer something that is gamechanger, that iPhone was when it was first lunched or iPad or iPod, and not the incremental stuff that most of the iPhone launches have been. 

The Apple profit basket shrunk, for the first time in Apple’s last 13 years, after 2003, in the quarterly financial results announced in April 2016. It was driven by a massive drop in iPhone sales – the first time ever in the iPhone history. And it was massive – 10 million units – from 61 to 51 million units a year ago. The Apple story since 2007 is the iPhone story – the smartphone that took the world by storm – registering stupendous growth year-over-year – from 3.7 million units in 2007 to 231 million units in 2015 – that is staggering over 600%. In fact the world’s biggest listed company is solely dependent on iPhone for two thirds of its revenue. iPhone has made Apple the biggest corporation on Earth.

So, there are much higher stakes involved this time and accordingly would be the chatter. We can gauge this from even the intense speculation level on the launch date. Media outlets, Apple watchers, bloggers, consultants and experts burnt their midnight oil in speculating (with assertion) that September 9 would see the next iPhone launch like the last year; someone said it would be September 16; someone else said the next big Apple launch event will be held on September 29. Forbes said as latest as on August 26 that the next iPhone was going to launch on September 9 while Fortune had confirmed September 16 as the launch date as early as in July. 


No communication professional can ignore the massive global appeal that each iPhone launch generates. The extent of coverage that it gets is beyond the organizing capacity of any public relations agency or groups of marketing communication professionals. What Steve Jobs gave to the world is a must case study for every communication expert to deliberate on ‘how iPhone became a global brand with its single brand revenue surpassing overall turnovers of tech companies like Microsoft or IBM’.

Globally or nationally (even here in India), the Apple event to launch the next iPhone is expected to be the top trend of September 7, 2016 and the intervening one week will see intense activity on chatter platforms. Going by the precedent, the event is likely to figure in the top trends on many social media sites. What Steve Jobs gave to this world, a product that was elegant in its beauty, smart in its operations, blockbuster in its innovations and premium in brand visibility – took the world by storm. 

Apple is different and Steve Jobs was different – for the way they both created a visible brand perception around the world – something that we can sum up as an ultimate realization of beauty and brain – something unheard of before Apple brings its products – yes that has been the unique hallmark of Apple making its products since Macintosh in 1984 stand out in the market – creating a cult following – that reached to phenomenal levels since the iPhone launch in 2007. What added to it was the personal touch given to the product and its launch event by Steve Jobs. 

Apple knows that it has such a strong brand cult that people like to identify with every product because they believe if it is Apple, it will be a quality product that would define the category. It gives Apple executives, first Steve Jobs and now Tim Cook, opportunity to focus solely on the human interface, on telling how the next iPhone is going to be even more user friendly while launching every next iPhone at it favourite arena – the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. It has been the highlight of every iPhone launch event that it is people centric and not product centric. Apple shuts down its online store before the launch event to keep people across the world glued to the event only. 

Result! Millions of iPhone are pre-ordered within 24 hours after booking is opened. Some 4.5 million iPhone 6S and 6S Plus units were pre-ordered in the first 24 hours and the first week shipment figures zoomed past 10 million units mark. The pre-order figure for 2014 launch stood at around 4 million units and the other launched have followed the suit. 


The iPhone launch event is top ranked trend on every social media platform across the globe. The September 9, 2015 launch event to introduce iPhone 6 and 6S Plus was a top Twitter trend globally that shows how intense it becomes when it comes to final hours of iPhone launch event. News channels go live with the event in the most of the countries. 

Twitter and Facebook generate an intense buzz of opinions/voices. Twitter has now become the global storehouse of #hashtags (of news and opinion) on any ongoing breaking development. Globally, in worldwide trends, the event with hashtag #AppleEvent was on top. The top 10 list had two other ‘iPhone tags’– iOS 9 and iPhone. It was on top and in top 10 in almost every major market from across the world - the US, the UK, Dubai, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. The hashtag #AppleEvent was on top even in India where Apple has a dismal market share of around 2 percent only.  Almost similar trends were visible on Twitter pages for trending events in different countries.

iPhone, in fact, has become one of the most suitable example of our times on ‘how brands can affect campaigns/public relations exercises around them’. And when the world says that iPhone alone earns more in revenue than overall turnout of its nearest competitor, it sums up the central point about the brand in one word – perfect.

iPhone is the perfect brand to weave any communication package around it and like any ‘perfect’ brand, Apple doesn't put much effort on the ‘promotion front’. Though its ad spend was around US$ 1.8 billion last year, nothing much is known about its public relations/corporate communications expenditure because most of it is self generated - by the world outside the company – the world inhabited by media outlets, analysts, enthusiasts and sophomores of the virtual/online world and people across the world. When Apple launches an iPhone the world talks about it. Apple telecasts the event live and whole world catches every bit of it – the world inhabited, again, by iPhone enthusiasts, media outlets and analysts.

In fact, the word around the next iphone starts doing rounds just few months after the launch event and reaches to the deafening levels as the traditional annual launch date in September nears. The fever built up the aura, like it always happens. And it generates tons of good words, volumes of media spaces and millions worth in PR and marketing exercises. Companies, big or small, always vie for some good, solid public relations visibility that enhances the soft appeal of a brand. News carriers and people talking every bit associated with a product is a dream that every brand aspires to have. With Apple, it is the other way round. Big and small, every media outlet is always ready to catch any buzzword related to Apple launch events, especially when it is iPhone. 


Monday, 29 August 2016


Curfew has been lifted from the Kashmir Valley after 51 days except from the areas of Pulwama and old Srinagar.

There has been a gradual slowdown in violent protests after the government adopted a two-pronged strategy - to get tough with those inciting the unrest including Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists, and initiating a comprehensive dialogue with others including the representatives of the protestors.

The government's determination to find a solution to the ongoing strife in Kashmir through dialogue is a welcome step and how serious the government is this time around becomes clear from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assertion that the lives lost in the Kashmir unrest were those of Indians and the whole of India is pained at that.

"Unity and affection were the pivotal words during my interaction with other political parties on the Kashmir issue. Those who are inciting the Kashmiri youth for indulging in violent clashes and stone-pelting will have to answer someday and those who have died in the ongoing phase of unrest in Kashmir are Indians," Modi said on Sunday (August 28), making his stand on Kashmir loud and clear once again. He was addressing the nation through his monthly radio broadcast Mann ki Baat.

It indicated the continuation of his efforts to initiate a dialogue in order to find a solution to the Kashmir problem, and that has found acceptance among the stakeholders, who see a point here.

Before this, even during the meeting with the united front of Jammu and Kashmir opposition parties last week, the prime minister had said that development alone was not enough to solve the Kashmir problem and dialogue was a must.

To extend Modi's initiative, Union home minister Rajnath Singh held meetings with some eminent Indians before his visit to Kashmir last week (August 24-25) so that he could prepare the groundwork. During his two-day visit to the Valley, he met all the stakeholders and even indicated that he was ready to meet the separatists (but the separatists refused to meet him).

He is slated to take an all-party delegation to the Valley soon and its modalities are being worked out. Also, the government has now decided that pellet guns will only be used as the last resort and non-lethal measures like chilli and pepper grenades, water cannons, and acoustic and laser devices will be employed to control mobs.

To complement these efforts, the Central government is working on other fronts as well to crackdown on separatists and those who are fuelling unrest in the Valley. Many separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq have been arrested and many are under detention and interrogations are on.

The number of security personnel on the ground has been beefed up by deploying more Army troops and additional columns of the Border Security Force (BSF). The National Investigative Agency (NIA) is probing 17 bank accounts from south Kashmir with suspicious transactions amounting to Rs 38 crore that could have been used to fuel the unrest.

But the Kashmir unrest is not a problem that alone the Central government can resolve. The Jammu and Kashmir government, being the representative of the people of the state, is the primary interface here through which the Central government can push any initiative further and therefore both the governments need to act in unison.

Mehbooba Mufti, the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister heading a PDP-BJP coalition government has appealed to the protestors to give her a chance though she has maintained that it is only five per cent of the population who are creating trouble and unrest in the Valley.

Mehbooba sees in Prime Minister Modi a person who will solve the Kashmir problem. Yet she has been hesitant to toe the Centre's line. Thus while India has accused Pakistan of fomenting the Kashmir unrest, Mehbooba still believes in appealing to Pakistan to help resolve the Kashmir deadlock.

Now, Pakistan's hand behind the Kashmir unrest is not difficult to detect. While Mehbooba is still trying to court Pakistan, the Modi government has made it very clear that it will not talk to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Instead, it has asked Pakistan to rein in the anti-India elements on its soil and stop anti-India propaganda.

Such paradoxical approaches to the Kashmir problem have always been obstacles to finding any solution. Successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir and the politicians of the state have always advocated making Pakistan a party to the Kashmir peace process because they believe it appeases a section of voters there, whereas the Indian government has made it clear that Kashmir is an integral part of India and if there is any problem, it is India's internal matter and will be resolved accordingly.

Kashmir, though, has been the main issue between India and Pakistan and the Pakistan high commission in Delhi has been treating the Kashmiri separatists like VVIPs. Now that the Indian government has firmly said that no talks with Pakistan would be held on the Kashmir issue, the state government too should try to find a solution to the problem within this framework.

Pakistan understands that it cannot take Kashmir from India - either through war or proxy war. But it needs to keep the Kashmir issue alive in order to divert attention from its domestic problems as well as to nurture anti-India sentiments that give legitimacy to the role its military establishment plays.

Pakistan, in fact, is feeling desperate after Modi's open announcement that India would now raise human rights and atrocity issues in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and Balochistan on international platforms which got good traction among Baloch activists spread across the world.

Sending its parliamentarians to different countries to highlight the Kashmir issue, getting an anti-India statement issued from the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), giving active patronage to terrorists wanted in India and asking them to spew venom against India and mentoring and tutoring the Kashmiri separatists indicate how insecure Pakistan is feeling now. It is, in fact, so perturbed that Kashmir has started dictating its foreign policy just not with India but with the rest of the world now.

The Jammu and Kashmir politicians and the state government should see through this. That is a must for any peace process initiated by the government of India to bear fruit. Dialogue is the only way forward but both the state and Central government should understand that they should not send conflicting signals that would be like playing into the hands of anti-India elements and the Kashmiri separatists who keep on inciting protests in the Valley.

The Jammu and Kashmir politicians who take part in India's electoral politics must sing the Indian tune and not the Pakistan's national anthem. Why it is that some of these politicians find it easy to blast India while their silence on Pakistan is deafening?

Why it is that they never talk of atrocities in PoK? If Pakistan is out of the ambit of the talks, both the state and Central governments should speak the same language. The government of India had given the separatists a chance when Rajnath had invited them, but the separatists, who openly endorse Pakistan, can't be expected to be a part of something constructive.

Kashmir has seen a lot of destruction and heartburn. The 51 days of curfew, which began after Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani was killed in a police encounter on July 8, has seen a death toll of 71 which include mainly young protesters.

The unrest has left thousands injured and many have become crippled. These include security personnel as well. Education institutions and businesses remain closed. Trade and industry bodies have pegged their loss at Rs 6,000 crore.

But the actual loss will be manifold as the tourism industry, the mainstay of the Jammu and Kashmir economy, which had started witnessing some activity, has been badly hit and the simmering tension tells you that it will take years of healing before Kashmir will be normal again.



'Unity and affection were the pivotal words during my interaction with other political parties on the Kashmir issue. Those who are inciting the Kahsmiri youth for indulging in violent clashes and stone pelting will have to answer someday and those who have died in the ongoing phase of unrest in Kashmir are Indians' - prime minister Narendra Modi said on August 28, making his changed stand on Jammu & Kashmir loud and clear - once again. He was addressing the nation through his monthly radio broadcast ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

It was continuing his efforts to initiate a dialogue process to find a solution to the Kashmir problem that will be acceptable to the stakeholders who see a point here. Before this, even in the meeting with the united front of the Jammu & Kashmir opposition parties on August 22, he had said that development alone was not the solution and dialogue was a must.

To extend Modi's initiative, home minister Rajnath Singh held meetings with some eminent Indians before his visit to Kashmir earlier this week to prepare the groundwork for the peace initiative. During his two-day stay there he met with all the stakeholders involved and even indicated that he was ready to meet the separatists (which the separatists refused). An all party delegation is slated to visit the Valley soon.

But Kashmir unrest is not a problem that alone the central government can resolve. The elected state government, being the representative of the state's people, is the primary interface here through which the central government can push any initiative further and therefore both the governments need to act in unison.

Something that is not happening.

India has accused Pakistan of fomenting the Kashmir unrest but J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti is still appealing to Pakistan to help in resolving the Kashmir imbroglio if the country is really concerned with Kashmiris' plight. Now even a child can understand the Pakistani plot here. The whole Kashmir problem is Pakistan created. While Mehbooba is still trying to court Pakistan, the Narendra Modi government has made it very clear that it will not talk to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Instead, Pakistan should rein in the anti-India elements on its soil and should stop anti-India propaganda.

These paradoxical approaches to the Kashmir problem have always been obstacles to find any solution. It has been consistently seen that the state governments of J&K and the state politicians have been advocating to make Pakistan a party in the Kashmir peace process because it appeases a section voters there, voters who form the core of mobs in case whenever there is a situation of unrest whereas the Indian stand from Delhi has been unambiguous putting it firmly that the whole J&K is India's integral part and if there is any problem, it is India's internal matter and will be resolved accordingly. Though Kashmir has been the main issue between India and Pakistan and the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi has been treating the J&K separatists like some VVIPs, it should be seen as the part of democratic processes only that define India's founding principles. The Kashmir rant in India-Pakistan bilateral ties has always had a Pakistani imprint.

Now that the Indian government has firmly said that no talks with Pakistan would be held on the Kashmir issue, the state government, too, should try to find a way out within this framework only. Pakistan understands that it cannot take Kashmir from India - either in a war or by promoting proxy wars. But it needs Kashmir to divert attention from its domestic problems as well as to nurture anti-India sentiments that give legitimacy to the political roles its military establishment plays.

The country, in fact, is feeling desperate after Narendra Modi's open dare that India would now raise human rights and atrocity issues in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Baluchistan on international platforms, something that is getting good traction among the Baluch activists spread across the world. 

Sending its parliamentarians to different countries to highlight the Kashmir issue, getting an anti-India statement issued from the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), giving active patronage to terrorists wanted in India to spew venom against India and mentoring and tutoring the J&K separatists - these steps indicate how insecure Pakistan is feeling now - so much so that Kashmir has started dictating its foreign policy just not with India but across the world.

The J&K politicians and the state government should see through it. That is a must for any peace process initiated by the centre to bear fruit. Dialogue is the only way forward but both the state government and the central government should understand that they should not send conflicting signals as it would be like playing in the hands of anti-India elements and the J&K separatists who keep on inciting the Valley protests.

The J&K politicians who take part in India's electoral politics must sing the Indian tune and not the Pakistan's national anthem.

Why it is that some J&K politicians find India an easy target to blame while their silence on Pakistan is deafening?

Why it is that they never talk of PoK atrocities and problems?

If Pakistan is out of the ambit of the talks, both the governments should speak the same. The government of India had given the separatists a chance when Rajnath Singh had invited them but the separatists who now openly endorse Pakistan, how can they be expected to be part of something constructive?

Meanwhile, Kashmir continues to burn.

August 27 marked the 50 days of violence in the Valley that began after Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burwan Wani was killed in a police encounter. The death toll in the Valley so far stands around 70 which include mainly the young protesters. The ongoing unrest has left thousands injured and many have become crippled. Both the dead, as well as the injured, include security personnel as well. Educational institutions and businesses remain closed. Trade and industry bodies peg the loss at Rs. 6000 crore. But the actual loss will be manifold as the tourism industry, the mainstay of J&K economy,  which had started witnessing some activity, is gone again and the simmering tension says it will be some years of consistent healing before it can see some positive signs.


Sunday, 28 August 2016


It is in such a bad taste that the mind desperately urges to run away from the TV sets or think of that impossible situation where they all could be dumped somewhere deep so that their twisted voices cannot surface. These so called Seers, Gurus, Saints, the modern day Shankaracharyas, the Sadhus, the religious Satraps, and their ugly bickering in the name of sanctifying the religion and their silly and unpardonable crusades – who is asking them to represent us – who are they to interfere in our personal matters?

Practicing religion is personal and no one has any right to issue a diktat to follow this or that God or this or that Saint or a diktat on whom to believe in as a God. But ‘they doing so’ tells us they do not follow the religion they boast to represent. In fact no religion allows for gaudy display of God ownership and faith ownership. Unfortunately, such ‘representatives’ have had a long run.

Every religion, in its true essence, preaches and teaches love and peace. If we don’t talk of the distortions and the distorted leading opinions, no one religion imposes itself on the other. In essence, every religion is anti-crusade, in its purest, in its spiritual form. In fact, a devout religious soul respects other religions in the same way as his/her.

And who can symbolize it better than the Mother Teresa – who was born on August 26, 1910 in Albania, a European country under the Ottoman Empire then – and who spent her whole life in India since 1928. She was a devout catholic and followed the ways and the teachings of Jesus religiously. It is said Jesus came to her asking her to be His messenger, spreading the message of His love and peace by working for those who needed it the most, the poor, the needy, and in-turn, receiving the love and peace Himself, because He exists in every such soul. And she followed the message, with her beginning in 1948, when she established an order to work for the poor, and she was soon to become the Mother.

It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him. And to make sure we remember his great love he made himself the bread of life to satisfy our hunger for his love. Our hunger for God, because we have been created for that love. We have been created in his image. We have been created to love and be loved, and then he has become man to make it possible for us to love as he loved us. He makes himself the hungry one – the naked one – the homeless one – the sick one – the one in prison – the lonely one – the unwanted one – and he says: You did it to me. Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find, it may be in our own home. 
(From the Nobel Lecture delivered by the Mother on December 11, 1979 on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.)

She remained a devout Catholic throughout her life but devoted her life to the people of a largely Hindu country. She never asked for the religion. Her doors were open to everyone. She found Jesus in every needy soul. She became so Indian that she is known as the ‘Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’. In fact, her religious adherence was her inspiration, the force behind her motherly love. People loving her are in every walk of like, in India, around the world, something that the so called religious satraps of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or for that matter any other religion can never even dream of. What is happening to her Order is debatable and even Mother Teresa’s life and works have seen many controversies but when we remember her, the first image that comes before us is of a loving mother who gave her whole in the service of the poor. She remains among the people even after her passing away in 1997 because she remains in the soul of humanity.

Though she is going to be canonized on September 4 by the Vatican that will officially accord her the status of being a Saint, she has always been seen like the one. In fact, Saints should like her, a modern day Saint as the TIME magazine’s “Mother Teresa at 100: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint” rightly says, not like them who are ready to tear into each other yesterday and today, on TV sets, in public. Thanks for blessing humanity dear Mother. Thanks for blessing India. Thanks for being there for those who needed peace and who desperately needed help. Thanks for being there Mother.


Saturday, 27 August 2016


God is for everyone. God is of everyone. That is the ideal position but something that has been a deep rooted ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon universally, in almost every religion with different hues, in every society, in every country, including India.

We worship women. In Hinduism, Goddess Shakti is revered like the supreme deity. And it doesn’t end here. I am sure every religion has its own female deities. Yet we deny women the basic right – the right to equality in the places of worship.

And that’s why the court decisions like the one on the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai yesterday or the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmadnagar in April this year allowing women’s entry in the inner sanctum, so far barred for women, are important – away from the debates of such demands being being a mere publicity stunt – like we saw in Trupti Desai led movement that resulted in Shani Shingnapur verdict – or away from the political lethargy we see when the political class refuses to budge from its position keeping equations of the votebank politics in mind and it ultimately comes to the courts, the top custodian of our Constitution.

Court verdicts like these pull our attention to this very important discrimination prevailing in our society that we have so subtly legitimized – again in the name of religion – and have efficiently co-opted women to perpetuate such practices – out of fear psychosis – or emotional bondage – or cultural blackmail. You will find a major cross section of women advocating the women entry ban, be it Shani Shingnapur or Haji Ali. When women activists were planning to storm the Shani Shingnapur temple, women of the Shingnapur village and the nearby villages were preparing to stop them and a multi-layered security around the sanctum sanctorum.

Our scriptures say God is for everyone. They say He knows what is in our conscious and He comes to everyone. They say our faith is as important for God as God is for us. The Bombay High Court while delivering the order observed, “It cannot be said that the said prohibition `is an essential and integral part of Islam' and fundamental to follow the religious belief; and if taking away that part of the practice, would result in a fundamental change in the character of that religion or its belief.” The High Court further summed up the spirit in its verdict, “There is nothing in any of the verses which shows, that Islam does not permit entry of women at all, into a Dargah/Mosque and that their entry was sinful in Islam.” (From the BombayHigh Court’s verdict) 

When we worship our deities of both genders with equal faith and devotion, why do we discriminate between their devotees based on their genders? Why men fear women presence in innermost religious circles? That brings us to this point that religion is one of the most primitive tools to maintain male domination/hegemony in the society.

The court’s verdict on Shani Shingnapur was a slap in the face of orthodox Hinduism the same way as the yesterday’s is on Muslim fundamentalists, especially when women were allowed entry in Haji Ali’s inner sanctum till 2011-12. Haji Ali or Shani Shingnapur, they say the practice to deny women their basic rights in the religious places is not restricted to any particular religion. In fact, women have been historically denied their religious rights – and the problem is acute in religions like Islam or Hinduism or in different tribal sects. There are many taboos humiliating and restricting women rights in our society and this is one of them – a practice that has been made socially acceptable even if it is fundamentally wrong.  


Friday, 26 August 2016


Mother Teresa is probably the biggest humanitarian icon the 20th Century India has given to the world. And though her saintliness doesn't need any endorsement like Mahatma Gandhi's greatness doesn't need a Nobel Prize, her Canonization on September 4, a day before her 19th death anniversary on September 5 and almost after a week of her 106th birth anniversary on August 26, is an event that the whole humanity should be looking up to, for it will further motivate the sisters and fathers of her Order, the Missionaries of Charity, and it will further entrench her legacy with a global footprint after the Vatican recognition.

Because there are many who continuously spew venom against her - on her means to raise and manage funds, like accepting donations from dictators or her firm religious/Catholic values on abortion or contraception or her hospices which she defined as the 'houses of the dying' which the critics say should have been replaced by hospitals much earlier or her support for Indira Gandhi and the Emergency of 1975.

Such informed misinformation campaigns are run with no concern of or respect for rechecking and reconfirming the facts. Most of such ‘informed campaigns’ go without the ethical requirements of going out in the field to cross-verify the information and its context because the intent is biased mostly.

In case of cross-cultural critics, the methodologies of such campaigns are designed in cultural isolation and the folks never bother to know and understand the context associated with the place or attached with the person’s identity. They flimsily analyse and process the information based on their own cultural contexts and ethos looking at the facts from the spectacle of their own societies (or their own prejudices, that goes for the inland folks).

They simply don’t care about the contextual interpretation of ‘how, what and why’ of the ‘what they intend to do’.

They don’t care to understand the historical and the prevailing cultural context to get into the localized, contemporary context of a tradition/custom/activity/method/process of a place.

Instead, they go on criticising the Greats and sometimes go unrestricted in their choice of words to express their displeasures (anger or prejudice, alternatively or arbitrarily). They criticise the Greats even if they are no more present among us.

But does it matter? The Greats never believe in defending something that is so utterly misplaced or something that will obstruct them in their duty and responsibility to reach out and heal the humanity. The Greats don’t respond to because their emotive responses are concentrated on helping others.

Mother Teresa or the Mahatma, they kept on working for the well-being of the poorest of the poor. Souls like them who leave the aspirations of their material lives, how can they be blamed of being selfish or prejudiced or indulging in misappropriations? Almost of the Indians would not be aware of Mahatma Gandhi’s family tree after the Mahatma, the Great who got us Independence, the soul who kept on working for the last person of the society first. How can we see the Mother in a negative light when she spent her whole life in a small room without any material possession? After leaving her family at 18, she never saw her mother again.

Yes, the Greats, they can and they go wrong, for they are humans like you and me, but who are we, the living-beings of the material world, soaked up in our individual lives, absorbed by our own petty problems, who never venture out to feed even a single needy person, let alone helping the dying ones, to question the motives of the Greats?

Yes, the Greats, being humans like us, they all have their own limitations. Yes, they do win over them and manage them much more efficiently than us. But that doesn’t mean they cannot err. They are as much entitled to err like all of us are. They cannot be expected to be all-knowing or versatile.

But, then who is perfect? And don’t we criticise even God?

All the Greats who have walked so far, none of them was perfect, and never even claimed. In fact, being the human beings like you and me, they were always fallible, till the very end. Yes, they rose to become Great, but, intrinsically, they were the human beings who worked on their Good Self to dominate their Weak Self so effectively that they became God-like for us. Yes, but they were not Gods. The Weak Self was very much alive within them and that let the Greats remain among us, something they always aspired for.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began his journey to become the Mahatma as a fallible man, like all of us, and he remained fallible, like all of us, throughout his journey through life, from an early married boy to the Father of the nation, Bapu, to the Fatherly figure of the human conscience, he remained fallible.

But unlike almost of us, including the folks who run campaigns to discredit and dishonour the Humanity’s Greats, he always spoke of it, and he always atoned for it with his personal austerity and self-discipline, inflicting the severest pain on himself. All of the true Human Greats, the healers of the Humanity, were like him or he was like them, and all to come will be in the same league.

The world is not going to be moved, to be swept emotively or ideologically by a single soul and the true Greats never intended so. They all did and would be doing what the Humanity needs the most, caring for the billions of the needy, taking care of the emotional poverty and the chronic hunger.

We elect leader even after knowing their follies. And we blame them who work selflessly for the issues that we create from nowhere. A research study criticising Mother Teresa after 16 years of her death in 2013 based on interpretation of a 1981 incident blaming her supporting the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, while comfortably forgetting what she did for Humanity tells us this only, and bewares of such a mindset.

Give the Greats the liberty to remain humans . They crave for it in their private moments. Give them their freedom to remain fallible. Give them their moments to introspect. They deserve it after committing their lives for others, to us. Stop criticising her for her hypocrisy as some of her letters speak about her disenchantment from her belief in God. Doesn't it happen with all of us?


Thursday, 25 August 2016


Time changes things and the way we carry out many activities – even if the perspectives and the concepts behind those perspectives remain the same.

The same holds true about how we celebrate our festivals.

In our childhood, and even in teens, Janmashtami happened to be a community celebration where almost each household participated. Jhankis (tableaus) were created in almost every house in our locality. We would start preparing the day well in advance. Everyone in the family would be given or would take some responsibility.

Krishna is a mystical God but then it takes precedence of spiritual elements over ritual practices of religion to feel so, which the ordinary, worldly people seldom realize. Krishna Janmashtami, that is celebrated as Krishna’s birthday, is not heavy on rituals and is quite flexible - a worldly festival of a mystical God that we enjoy with song and dance.

Krishna is born in every household at midnight – as our scriptures say. And the rituals that we perform during birth of a child in our houses are performed then. This part was for family’s elders, especially my mother and father.

But every step leading to the celebration of the day was my favourite, topped by creation of different jhankis – depicting Krishna’s birth, Vasudev taking him to Yashoda’s house, various stages in life of Krishna with Kansa and his demons and various other tableaus to depict what my childhood would think about then.

I loved making mountain from black stones that I collected from factories in Varanasi’s industrial area. Krishna’s idol is placed inside a large-sized cucumber and after his birth at midnight and the ritual bath, he is placed in a cradle, adorned with new jewellery and clothes. Then, when we used to spend at least a week preparing to celebrate the birth, we would place branches of Carissa (Karonda), with plenty of leaves and fruits all around the mountain (created from stones) and around the cradle.

We would also run from this saw mill to that saw mill to collect sawdust and wood filings. We would then colour the same in different shades and use them in different tableaus – as the base (or the ground). Normally, one tableau would be separated from the next with small wooden blocks and colour of the sawdust. Sometimes, in some homes, coloured sand was also used, though I never used it.

Many small tableaus of different colours and with different themes together formed the grand ‘jhanki’ of every family. Sometimes it took two days to start and complete the final decoration with all tableaus conceived and created.

On the day of Janmashtami, in the evening, we would go to every house to see how the other fellow had done – that how if his jhanki was better than ours – that what he had done that we also could have done – that what was his scale relative to ours – a childhood mind primarily thinks in these terms after all.

But we would always come back in time for Krishna’s birth – that was the main attraction – with all the rituals in place and with all the ‘prasads’ that would follow. Krishna’s birth, like any child’s birth, has celebrations with lavish food preparations.

The ‘ritual part’ and ‘prasads’ that follow are still there but the part (or the parts) that took many days of preparation, in creating many tableaus for a grand ‘jhanki’, slowly and gradually went out of individual families. I don’t remember when we stopped doing it, but I know that probably no house in my locality does it so now. I have heard similar echoes while conversing with people on similar lines.

Janmashtami is still a community celebration and is still worshipped individually in almost every Hindu house, but the community nature of its celebration through individual houses, and jhankis has slowly and gradually gone out of our lives. Janmashtami tableaus are now only seen in temples, public institutions and religious places. 




O Krishna
You are the epitome of love
Of its purest expression

O Krishna
Your ways are mysterious
Its divinity transcendental

O Krishna,
Feeling You is like
Looking at life's joys

O Krishna
You show us the way to live
To love, and to be

O Krishna
Show me the light
To see the life as it has to be

O Krishna,
Give me the courage
To become who I have to be

O Krishna
Let me have an evolved faith
That reverberates




The beauty of black that It radiates
The light in the darkness that it shows
While thinking of You on this journey
While singing of Your mystical aura

The simplicity of Shyam that captivates
The mysticism of Krishna that transcends
In a God's abode that belongs to us
On a journey with no beginning and end

You are the voice of universal creation  
And we are Your manifestation
You are the faith in life personified
And we crave to bathe in this illumination

Yes, God You are, yet so human You look
You tell us the essence of human existence
You teach us of core human conscience
The Perfect One You are, the perfect Soul




O dear Krishna,
Well, it's one year,
When I had made,
A plea so clear..

Now, that it is the time,
For you to manifest again
Now, that You have,
Arrived again..

I am asking for,
That mutual talk
I am speaking of
That silent walk..

You are the Source
You are the Soul
You are the world
You are the Goal

O dear Krishna
It’s Your night again
The day of Krishna and
The transcendental rain

Giving us the moments,
To dance, to sing, to pray
When You come,
To my home again this way..



Wednesday, 24 August 2016


Home minister Rajnath Singh is in Kashmir for a two-day visit - his second in less than a month. He is slated to meet officials from the state administration, state leadership and other stakeholders. Do other stakeholders include separatist leaders from the Valley?

The Indian government has been non-committal on the issue and the August 12 all-party meet had seen a similar stand. Before embarking on his visit this time, Singh held two rounds of talks with some eminent non-Kashmiri Muslims - on August 18 and 21. It raises the obvious question: why non-Kashmiri Muslims only or why Muslims only?

Some of the Muslim leaders present at the meetings were Shahid Siddiqui, former Rajya Sabha member, Qamar Agha, security affairs expert, Ishrat Masroor Quddusi, a judge of the Orissa High Court, Zafarul Islam Khan, editor of Milli Gazette and MM Ansari, a J&K interlocutor.

One may interpret that these meetings say the government thinks only Muslims can suggest better ways to handle the Kashmir unrest. If so, is this not bracketing the whole Kashmir problem as some religious/community issue? Or it is just half the story?

If Kashmir is an integral part of India, as every Indian must believe, then isn't every Indian a stakeholder in the Kashmir peace process, whether Hindu or a Muslim? The exercise that Singh has done in New Delhi needs to see its extension in Kashmir. Most of the representatives in these meetings felt that the Kashmir situation was mishandled and an immediate course correction was needed.

The exercise that Singh will hold in Kashmir today and tomorrow should adopt this context as its backdrop, otherwise it will further alienate the Kashmiris who have genuine grievances.

The Indian security forces have efficiently checked cross-border infiltration, yet the current phase of unrest is now in its 47th day. That is unprecedented. An unrest so long cannot sustain itself if people come to realise that their demands are illegitimate.

Though J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has said only five per cent of Kashmiris are instigating the unrest and finance minister Arun Jaitley has added that the stone-pelters of the Valley are "aggressors and not satyagrahis", and blamed Pakistan for instigating the Kashmiri youth, there seems to be a clear departure in the government's strategy this time.

The words of Mufti or Jaitley or other leaders on these lines indicate a tough stand that does not endorse the dialogue process. However, the efforts before Singh's visit and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent emphasis on the dialogue process, reveal there is now a rethinking on the policy adopted so far by the Indian and Kashmir governments. It makes sense when we see the intent of Singh's visit in the context of the outcome of Modi's meeting with the delegation of J&K's opposition parties, led by Omar Abdullah.

Modi, after meeting the delegation on August 22, had emphasised on the need for dialogue and to reach out. He tweeted after the meeting: "I appreciate the constructive suggestions given during today's meeting. All parties must work together to find a solution to J&K's problems."

Unlike Jaitley, he didn't paint the stone-pelters as aggressors. When he said every life lost in the Kashmir unrest, be it the youth, or security personnel or the police, is Indian, it was an indication of the things to come. And then came news of Singh's visit.

Let's hope the momentum sustains this time. The deployment of BSF companies in the Valley also tells us how serious the government is this time. It seems it doesn't want to leave any loose ends. Initiation of the dialogue process to find a credible solution is a must but for any such attempt to succeed, it is also equally important to control the rogue elements who will try to sabotage any peace initiative.

The additional BSF reinforcement will account for any shortfall in security personnel numbers and will ensure effective patrolling of areas.


Tuesday, 23 August 2016


Five years ago, in 2011, when the Syrian revolution had begun, the US administration led by President Barack Obama had asserted that ‘Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s days are numbered’. Hillary Clinton, then the US Secretary of State and now the Democratic Presidential nominee, had reiterated this ‘version’ in 2012. It had given the Syrian people, those opposing Assad and the Syrian rebels, hope then that the Arab Spring would soon see a successful rebellion in the country.

Five years down the line, Syria has become the worst humanitarian crisis since the days of the Second World War. The images coming from the country are horrible. They leave you choked, sometimes in tears. And some of them become the global rallying points – like last year, when images of a three year old dead Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed ashore on a Turkish coast while trying to cross the Mediterranean to get into Europe – or last week this year, when the images of a five year old Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, stained with blood and rubble – became the global expression of outrage.

These two images symbolize what Syrians are going through. They have nowhere to call home – not in Syria – not outside Syria. Omran Daqneesh’s image is from Aleppo, a Syrian town that is considered rebels’ stronghold. Alylan Kurdi was found dead on a European coast. The five years of the Syrian civil war has effectively obliterated the past, the present and the future of the millions of Syrians.

Image Courtesy: Reuters

When the Aylan Kurdi’s image had hit the world headlines in September 2015, some 13 million Syrians needed immediate humanitarian support. The figures from an Amnesty International report say that by September 2015, the Syrian civil war had left 220,000 dead, over 4 million refugees and 50 percent of its leftover population internally displaced (some 10 million).

From September 2015 to August 2016, the Syrian crisis has only gone from bad to worse. Now there are over 6.5 million Syrian refugees scattered in different countries. The civil war death toll now stands at around 500,000. If we draw a plausible line according to the figures available from the Syrian rebel factions and as per the increased hostilities aided by the Russian bombings, the internally displaced population now stands at around 12 million.

Yet the world community does nothing more than counting the Syrian dead while the number of victims is rapidly going up.

On one side, an emboldened dictator-cum-mercenary-cum-warlord-cum-butcher, after the Russian support, is slaying his countrymen in flocks, using even the chemical weapons. Then there are terror outfits like the Islamic State or the Al Qaeda affiliates or even the Syrian rebel factions. They have sandwiched the common Syrians – killing them, forcing them to live under siege or forcing them to flee the country – to a place where they don’t know if they will see the next dawn.

This ongoing horror has given us another event that once again raises questions on us being the members of a globalized world run by a globalized code with a unifying organization like the United Nations. Barring few, almost all countries are its members.

Events like Syria say the UN is failing; the world community is failing – because the Syrian crisis/civil war is now in its sixth year while the major police nations of the world, who invade an Afghanistan, an Iraq or a Libya, have let that happen. Afghanistan invasion could have been a spontaneous response to the 9/11 attacks in the US but the flimsy grounds on which the Iraq offensive had been launched has always been in questions. The latest British public inquiry report into the Iraq war, the Chilcot Report, which was submitted on July 6, 2016, states that Saddam Hussein didn’t pose imminent threat and that the war should have been averted.

In this globalized world, Syria has become the only war-torn/civil-war-hit country to see a decline in its population – with hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced. According to reports, since the crisis began in 2011, Syria has seen some 11.5% decline in its population.

The never ending Syrian crisis has forced the biggest migration of people since the Second World War – a wave that the European countries are feeling too difficult a crisis to handle. Syrians are the biggest migrants group in Europe – those who have got asylum – those who are still waiting in the ‘nowhere’ zone – and those who lost their lives while trying to reach those elusive borders of the European continent.

The countless images coming out of Syria – of Omran Daqneesh, of Aylan Kurdi, of Syrians dying in chemical and explosive attacks, and of ghost towns with ravaged buildings – sum up the horror tens of thousands of human-beings are forced to live day in, day out, seeking the shore to fix their lives, a shore that is increasingly becoming elusive.

Yes, we live in a world that has always been plagued with ‘humanity killing developments’ like wars, crusades, religious wars, ethnic cleansings and the Holocaust, yet images like these, again and again, leave us thoughtless, speechless, soulless and lifeless. They say all. Their backdrop becomes hauntingly clear just by a mere look. Images like these make our lives beyond redemption. They put us all, the combined human masses of the world, in the dock over a crime that humanity can never get rid of. They rightly negate our claims of being the citizens of a civilized world.