A mishmash of spirituality, human relationship, adult and children's literature, news analyses and anti-road-rage tirades

Russia-Ukraine war: 3 things we can do to stop it

Spirituality with Ranjit

Image courtesy: Canva and Wikipedia

Russia is at war with its neighbour and its former state Ukraine. Ukraine says that ‘full-scale invasion’ by Russia is under way, as explosions are reported in multiple cities across the country. By the evening of 24 February 2022, at least 40 people have been reportedly killed.

This might me just the beginning of a long, gory fight that might involve other powerful countries like China, France, Germany, the USA and the UK. The global stock markets have already started crashing, pushing the world to the brink of a catastrophe in the form of Third World War.

This not only means a long, unwanted upheaval in the Russian geopolitical region and a possible rise in oil prices and other commodities across the world, but also a grim sign of possible loss of hundreds or thousands of precious lives—both civilian as well as military in both…

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Filed under: Current News, Philosophy, Spirituality, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Three antidotes against messages that burn


Image courtesy: Pixabay

How often have you been tempted to give a fitting retort to an acrid message posted in a group? How many times did you decide to back out at the end?

These things occur to me thrice as often as most of you would think they happen to you! For as many times, I pull out of such situations and decide to store my energies for something worthier. But at times, I do oblige to their whims!

Recently, I got caught into the quagmire of the riposte game by a disturbing WhatsApp message that went viral. It comprised a text message in Hindi and a 05:45-minute-long video.

The text message in the form of a paragraph hails the man in the video as a hero, who supposedly took a bold step by catching hold of the propagators of another religion and by ‘teaching them a lesson’.

The video presents a man announcing himself to be making this video from Dera Bassi toll plaza at 11 o’clock at night. Dera Bassi is a satellite town of Chandigarh.

The camera zooms in on three faces. The man claims that he caught the trio in the act of distributing pamphlets in the toll plaza. The pamphlets are supposedly aimed at promoting a minority religion. What happens beyond this is too contentious and too graphic to be elaborated here, considering my own safety and sanity.

I am anyway not of the opinion to give such videos a chance for more traction. This is the same reason why I am not sharing the video here.

But I wanted to leave a message for the person posting such a message as well for those who might have been encouraged to share it in other groups. I wrote the following sweet-coated yet tart lines in reply to the post. Kindly put up with me a few more moments to go through them and let me know how you think about them.

Religion is about love not hatred or force. Religion is love for God, love for self, and love for others. Religion is about being capable to treat the people belonging to your faith in same way as you would treat people belonging from other religions.

If anybody is forcing someone to do something or not do something in the name of faith, it is not religion. In fact, this act can bring the greatest disgrace to the religion. Hindu religion is based on the principles of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It advocates the simple truth that ‘the whole world is one family’.

In a secular democracy, everyone has the right to follow and propagate their religion.

If Christian missionaries are spreading their religion through pamphlets, Hindu missionaries like Ramakrishna Mission, ISKCON, and Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship are also propagating the principles of Hindu religion across hundreds of countries around the world. Had those countries barred us from spreading Hindu religion, we would have shrunk to the confines of a handful of countries only.

Therefore, I request everyone not to spread such messages that divide people on religious lines.

Having said that, I would like to draw your attention to an important aspect of unfiltered forwards. I request everyone to inculcate a habit of contemplating on every message before forwarding it to others.

You may be hell-bent to share nationalistic messages. You may feel duty-bound to share a message informing about a lost child or about how a chivalrous group of people just saved your religion from extinction. Here is another such example. This video falsely shows Kerala Muslims burning Hindu god images in protest against CAA. The clip has been widely circulating on Twitter and Facebook.

But do give it a thought whether it is serving the purpose of national building or public in reality or not. The message may be based on fake news, may be politically motivated, may be aimed at inciting communal violence, or may be simply a prank.

You may use the following checklist to self-assess your message before forwarding.

  1. Checked the factual correctness
    • Did the sender verify the facts? ☐
    • If the message includes a phone number or weblink, did you try calling the number or visiting the website? ☐
    • Did you verify from authentic news sites? ☐
    • Did you check with fake-news-buster websites like Alt News and Hoax Slayer? ☐
  2. Understood the motive
    • Does the message put any political party in unusually bad light? ☐
    • Does the message portray any particular person, community, or nation negatively? ☐
    • Does the message sound too beneficial or too helpful to be true? ☐
  3. Checked if it incites violence
    • Does the message incite violence? ☐
    • Does the message contain too much of graphic detail? ☐
    • Is the message safe for children to view? ☐

If you think I have left out any, you may add your own to the list in the comments section below. Thanks.

Here a beautiful article written by the Mozilla Foundation team on how to make sure you aren’t spreading misinformation online.

Filed under: Current News, General Awareness, Heresy, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A regulatory authority for school textbook publishing in India?


Image source: Pixabay

Recently, there has been a lot of hue and cry among private publishing houses in the business of making textbooks for school children. This is because of a news that supposedly says that the Indian government is banning textbooks from private publishers and making it mandatory for schools to use textbooks from the government-funded publisher (NCERT) only.

I think the issue stems from a clash between two divergent schools of thought revolving around textbooks published by private players:

  1. PARENTS ARE VICTIMS. Textbooks from private publishers, although not required by law, are being prescribed by schools because of the schools’ business interests. So all schools should adopt only NCERT books, which are cheaper. Most newspapers in India subscribe to this view.
  2. PRIVATE PUBLISHERS ARE VICTIMS. By bringing in a ban to use textbooks from private publishers, the government is supposedly trying to shut down an entire industry comprising highly-paid authors, content developers, editors, illustrators, graphic designers and allied professionals. Most newspapers in India do not even discuss this as an issue, although an utter fear psychosis prevails within the industry.

But somehow the debates seem to ignore the most important stakeholders—the students using the books. In fact they are the victims.

Regardless of the fact whether the books are published by NCERT or private publishers, textbooks require to maintain certain standards in quality. Here is a non-exhaustive list of quality parameters for textbooks.

  • content
    • pedagogical requirements
    • level-appropriateness
    • treatment
    • extent of coverage
    • accuracy
    • sensitivity to genders, races, faiths, disabilities, common stereotypes and misconceptions
    • adherence to syllabus
  • visual appeal
  • utility in classroom situations
  • supplementary audio/video/multimedia material
  • production quality
  • support system and hand-holding to teachers
  • efficient and timely deliver to meet demands

In most cases, barring a few, textbooks from most private publishers score far better on almost all counts. But quality comes with a price. Hence, these textbooks come with much higher price tags. In the absence of any regulation, at times the prices can be just whimsical.

The NCERT books on the other hand may score considerably lower in terms of quality and definitely lower in terms of meeting the demand. These books are available at throw-away prices.

Seemingly, the children seem to be exposed either to the best or the worst depending upon how much their parents are affording. And parents, without the expertise to evaluate books on the required parameters, think that they have every right to choose affordability over quality.

My question is—do we have such a right to decide the children’s future in monetary terms only?

In the interest of the learners, who are the future of the nation, I would rather propose a new idea. In my opinion, both government and private agencies should come together to formulate an unbiased, not-for-profit regulatory authority in the line of IRDA, TRAI, etc. This authority can keep an eye on all the parameters discussed above.

The sooner this happens, the better for the nation.

Filed under: Children's Educational Books, Current News, , , , ,

The gentlest weapon to slay the harshest adversary

A tribute to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi by me on the ZTTRR blog…

Zero Tolerance to Road Rage

non-violence, satyagraha, Martyrs’ Day, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Gandhi, Gandhiji, Gandhian principles, peace, collage

Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhiji and Bapu are just a few names by which people today love to remember Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Besides successfully leading India’s freedom struggle against the British, Gandhi is known for presenting to the world a very powerful yet simple tool to fight injustices and conflicts through peace, truth, logic and steadfastness. This, he called, the principle of Satyagraha.

Satyagraha (pronounced, suht-yuh-gruh-huh), loosely translated as ‘insistence on truth’, is a policy of non-violent resistance or civil resistance. It is, however, different from passive resistance, as understood and practised in the West. In Gandhi’s own words, Satyagraha is different from passive resistance “in three essentials: Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatsoever; and it ever insists upon truth.”*

Satyagraha has proved to be the most potent weapon in the world. Peace attained…

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Filed under: Current News, Road Rage, , , , , , , , , , ,

Is the bad better than the good?

I am shaken by the news story about a modern-day knight (I want to call him so), who was stabbed to death for daring to take on eve-teasers. Atrocities against women are on the rise in India’s capital New Delhi, as well as in other parts of the country. According to a special report, till November 2013, police have registered 1,450 cases of rape, 3,200 cases of molestation and 850 cases of eve-teasing in Delhi.

The heroic story of the person—who single-handedly raised his voice in opposition to crime against women—therefore, deserves widespread publicity from every woman and every sensible man. I dedicate this article to the Late Manoj Sharma.

While the chivalrous act of this martyr left me awestruck with veneration, his demise at the hands of the eve-teasers tormented me no end. The incident raised some serious questions.

Are supreme sacrifices like his a necessary price for keeping our women safe? Is it hinting that if you want to save one woman from the devils, you need to renounce one man as a quid pro quid? Is his end a triumph of the bad over the good?

My attempt to find out answers to those questions, led me to write an open letter to this valiant warrior. And I am reproducing it here:

Dear the Late Manoj Sharma,

I salute your martyrdom!

Martyr Manoj, you had but one life and you gave it away to save a lady from being eve-teased. You even don’t know if you were successful at teaching these hooligans a lesson.

On the contrary, by keeping yourself alive, heal and hearty, you could have possibly saved a thousand more women from being misbehaved in your lifetime. You were capable of bringing the medieval chivalry back to this century at a time when it is missing the most. People like you are an absolute necessity for our decadent society.

If only could you have been a little more vigilant, a little more mindful about the vicious and savage ways of the vice, you would have both saved the lady and taught the culprits a lesson for life.

Maybe, you could have called the police, shouted and built up a mob, or done anything else to save the woman and catch the miscreants at the same time. But should never become a prey to the evildoers and untimely snub your life, leaving behind your senile father, a bereaved wife and a young son.

RIP Manoj Sharma!

The only thing that I brought home to today is the reassurance of something that I have always considered an ideal to live up to. I am glad to share this with you:

The righteous always need to be one step smarter and ever more cautious than the corrupt. Or else, vice will annihilate virtue. People at large will falsely come to believe that the corrupt only triumphs. And that will be a pity!

If you are moved by the heroism of the late Manoj Sharma, please share this story with everyone you know. Let the world know that such a man did exist. If we succeed in inspiring even a single person to follow the ideals of this martyr, I think, we would have paid a real tribute to him.

Let Nirbhaya, the young girl whose plight shook the nation a year ago, be given a reason to be happy to see more Manojs coming forward.

The original news story can be read by clicking on this link:

Filed under: Current News, Philosophy, , , , , ,

Are We Still a Democracy?

Democracy's Dance of Death (Illustration by Ranjit K Sharma)

Democracy’s Dance of Death (Illustration by Ranjit K Sharma)

Imagine yourself standing next to your neighbourhood shopkeeper and bragging about your son’s smashing performance at the latest exam, while your domestic help appears in front of you all of a sudden only to inform on how your son’s school has sent him back to home today as a punishment for his bullying behaviour. Well, you are speechless, motionless! Isn’t it?

Indians too have found ourselves in a similar situation recently.

While Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s words, “mantle of democracy is now very much strongly held by India,” when addressing an audience at Oxford University’s Said Business School, highlight India’s strong democratic credentials, at the same time, the Jallianwala Bagh-like, mid-night crackdown on peaceful protesters, supporting Baba Ramdev’s fast unto death at Ram Lila Ground, New Delhi on Saturday night, tends to accentuate the glaring shortcomings therein.

Not in the distant past, we remember having settled down smugly self-satisfied at the victory of democratic values. The Indian democracy has deepened when members of the civil society such as Anna Hazare and others were included in the drafting process of the Jan LokPal Bill.

But with the above surprise, forced eviction, where thousands were manhandled, Indian democratic credentials have surely come under scrutiny.

Swami Ramdev’s demands might be too far-fetched. He may be a political greenhorn. He might be limelight-hungry. He might have assets worth over a thousand crores!

But that do not justify such undemocratic way of curbing his voice against the government; not to tell AICC General Secretary Digvijaya Singh’s uncalled-for statement of naming Baba a thug.

I think Baba has done the right thing by continuing his fast unto death.

The only positive sign about which he should feel lucky is the fact that he wasn’t arrested by the police, charged with an “attempt to commit suicide”, and force-fed through the nose like Irom Sharmila, who has been doing a Ramdev since November 2, 2000 for protesting against a similar, undemocratic law of the government.

Let’s cross our fingers and watch where we are heading towards!

Filed under: Current News, General Awareness, , , , , ,

Traffic Control Measures

The Beijing municipal government has passed a new law that limits the number of new car license plates to be issued in 2011. Here’s the news link:

It is too harsh a measure to curb traffic problems. It is retrograde and highly punitive in nature for those economically backward people who, after years of hard work, have finally arrived at a position to own a car. With it, their dream might remain dream forever. The measure is bound to create a permanent divide between haves and have-nots.

Some forward-looking measures might be:

  • making carpool mandatory for regular one-route travellers
  • encouraging increased use of public transport through special concessions to regular users
  • making cycles available on rent for small-distance travellers
  • improving the transport infra-structure, wherever possible
  • building double-decker, or perhaps, ‘triple-decker’ roads in addition to multi-storeyed parking lots

Filed under: Current News, , , , , , ,

Sex and Murder: Yet another Angle

The Daughter and Her Beau

The Daughter and Her Beau (Photo Courtesy: The Hindu)

“A young school teacher and her male friend have been arrested for allegedly stabbing her mother to death at her Paschim Vihar residence this past week and then trying to pass it off as a murder during a robbery.”


“The young man brought a bottle of beer with him and the two made themselves cosy in the house. But Sakshi’s mother, who had gone to a religious congregation in the neighbourhood, happened to return earlier than expected. She had the key to one of the entrances and caught the two red-handed. The woman lost her temper on seeing them together and screamed at them.”

These are the lines from a recent news story. Kindly read the story first in order to enjoy the discussions below.

While prima facie the murder seems to be a typical example of Walter Cannon’s fight-or-flight response of human beings towards stress-causing situations, a closure look can reveal deeper implications of the mental make-up that the youth of today possess. The first impression that any keen observer will have at this level is that the daughter displayed a total lack of values.

I am not going into the humdrum of casting aspersions on the very sexual act that was the kingpin behind the brutal murder of a mother at the hands of her own daughter. Let me assume the intercourse as an ordinary act of wrong-doing, one of hundreds of evil deeds that everyone of us does during the span of our lifetime.

Having assumed the act of Sakshi calling her beau and her subsequent engaging in fornication as ordinary, the only extra-ordinary thing that happened on the fateful day was that she was caught red-handed by her elderly mother. And it is easy for us to imagine how she could have reacted to such an unimaginably bizarre act of perversion that her daughter was seen doing—a daughter completely lost in an orgasmic ‘high’ in between ‘breathful’ of penile thrusts from her partner all in front of her mother! It was but natural for her to lose “her temper on seeing them together and [to scream] at them.”

But how natural was her daughter’s reaction to her? Quite unnatural and very disgustedly undesirable. There were hundred other ways of reacting to her mother’s lambasting words than the one that she and her boyfriend Sunny chose to. There could only be one, if any, in a trillion mothers who were dogged enough so as to not forgive her weeping daughter at her feet. And even if she would not be ready to compromise and be bent on handing her over to the police, what loss could the daughter have incurred in even receiving the noose from her mother? At least she would not have been accused of the grave moral crime for which she is imprisoned now.

Filed under: Current News, Philosophy, Relationships, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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