Archive for the ‘Social issues’ Category
Jesus Christ explains the lessons we can learn from resurrection in this exclusive interview
Happiness is back in fashion, thanks to the Complete Wellbeing Happiness Movement It’s a unique movement. Its only objective is to make the world happier.
The movement is based on the idea that Happiness is contagious, which is a proven fact. In a world full of hatred, despair, skepticism and anger, the Happiness Movement is like a fresh breeze that clears the stale air and fills our hearts with hope. It encourages us to try Happiness because Happiness is not rare, as people have come to believe. In fact, Happiness spreads like a chain reaction and that is what the Happiness movement is depending on for its success.
I also like the idea of the Happiness Bomb. Imagine if we could drop a bomb that, upon striking the country, would destroy all negativity that plagues it and infects all its people with Happiness. Every country would then want to be the first to strike 🙂 and no one will worry.
Written by Manoj Khatri
1 February 2009 at 3:55 pm
Posted in Social issues
Last year I wrote a story about Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in my column “Out and About” in The Times of India, Thane Plus, in which I urged readers to celebrate gently. I feel its relevance has not diminished and therefore I am reproducing the story here.
(First published in The Times of India, Thane Plus on 26 August 2006)
Last year, on the sixth day of Ganapati Mahotsav, a truck carrying an idol was proceeding towards immersion. The reveling children and adults were dancing to loud music and throwing gulaal (red colour powder) on passers-by. As this writer overtook the truck in his car, some of the ecstatic celebrators tossed some colour, which landed on his windshield, blocking the view partially. Fortunately, it covered only the passenger side of the windshield. If the colour would’ve landed on the driver’s side, it could’ve led to a disaster on the road, risking the lives of pedestrians and of passengers in other vehicles.
Every year the twin cities of Thane and Mumbai celebrate Lord Ganesha’s birthday with vigour. Millions are spent on extravagant pandals, ornate idols complete with themes and contests marking the ten-day festival. Immersions too are grand affairs with devotees dancing all the way to tunes produced by a combination of large drums, banjo, keyboard and other musical instruments. With so much show of devotion, the Lord of Prosperity would be pleased with Mumbai devotees. So what if in the process of celebrating, the devotees cause irreversible damage to His creation? So what if they disturb the peace of their neighbourhood, cause traffic obstructions and create impediments for ordinary passers-by who are trying to reach home after a hard day’s work? These are trivialities that the Lord will obviously overlook. Or will He?
The world over, and especially in India, people spend a lot of energy in trying to please God by celebrating religious festivals lavishly. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong in celebrating per se, even celebrating lavishly. It is only when these celebrations take on a competitive nature, with everyone vying to please God that the problems begin. It does not require a high level of IQ to understand that you cannot bribe your way through to earn the blessings of the almighty, the Creator, the omnipotent.
Bigger idols and brighter colours are often made from substances that pollute the environment and harm Mother Nature, which God created with such love. Loud music creates noise pollution that has been found to be harmful to humans in the long run. And nothing, not even celebration of the Lord’s birthday, justifies the inconvenience that all this causes to millions of residents, both believers and non-believers.
It strikes one as ironical that devotees create impediments for others in the name of the very God who is known as the “Remover of Impediments.” Such is the inconsideration displayed by some of the devotees of the Lord that they need Supreme Court rulings to prevent them from blasting music after 10 pm, so that senior citizens and those suffering from high blood pressure can get sound sleep. Come to think of it, it must have been Lord Ganesha who, in the guise of the Supreme Court judges, gave the 10 pm ruling, in order to protect His other devotees – the ones who express their gratitude silently – while the noisy devotees indulge in reckless extravagance to earn brownie points.
Let’s take a pledge this year to be more considerate towards God’s creations – both Mother Nature and Her people. We can do so by acquiring only idols made of clay, keeping noise pollution in check, by immersing the idols at home in a bucket of water, and by celebrating Lord Ganesha’s birthday in the spirit of love for all humanity. Let’s pray for greater peace in the world and seek His blessings for a better world.
Written by Manoj Khatri
20 September 2007 at 11:14 pm
Posted in Social issues
They are beautiful. They’re rich. They are famous. But the similarity doesn’t end there. Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Nicole Richie have other things in common…like being booked for drunken driving, doing drugs, serving prison terms and going for rehabilitation.
To common folk, these girls have a dream life: looks to die for, good fortune, wealth, fame, fan-following. Or do they?
Having to go to rehab at 20 is not exactly the kind of life anyone would want. But maybe I am old-fashioned, conservative, or even downright boring! “High life” is about taking the risk, get on a high, and indulging in all that is proscribed — after all life’s nothing if not adventurous. Going by this logic, these girls are living their lives to the fullest, aren’t they?
To me, life is a constant high. Unlike what abusing artificial stimulants and substances produce in us, life’s challenges produce a genuine high. Its varied trials, tests and hardships make it adventurous. Its unpredictability makes it risky.
Perhaps the irony is that these are the very things that are missing from the lives of these rich and famous girls. They get everything on a platter. For them, life is easy. They have lived, and are living, a life of utmost comfort. No worries or challenges whatsoever — at least not the kind we common folk have. They have nothing to look forward to. If life is simply great all the time, it becomes monotonous. Much like, if there was only happiness, it would quickly lose meaning because there isn’t anything to compare it with.
The following extract from Tao Te Ching (The Book of The Way) by Lao-Tzu sums up the irony:
When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad
Being and non-being create each other
Difficult and easy support each other
Long and short define each other
High and low depend on each other
Before and after follow each other
So, essentially, opposites define each other. And, too easy a life loses definition. I suspect that Lindsay & Co have too much of a good thing going for them — so much so that they get bored of it and therefore “manufacture” worries and challenges to make their lives interesting. When I ponder on what makes celebrities do drugs, indulge in outrageous acts, or break the law (à la our own Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Fardeen Khan), I am tempted to veer towards thinking that they create their own problems to keep their lives exciting even though they may be doing so entirely unbeknownst to themselves.
Of course, this is just my hypothesis and I may be entirely wrong. But it’s worth thinking about…it makes me wonder whether our hardships and difficulties are a blessing in disguise?
The mind’s garden is fertile
As we sow, so shall we reap
A good seed produces a smile
A bad one makes us weep
Resentment leads to anger
Prejudice promotes hatred
Fear is a synonym for danger
Guilt kills before we’re dead
Doubts raise uncertainty
Envy is the root of pain
Blame generates toxicity
Is there anything we gain?
To avoid a harvest of weeds
We must plant noble seeds
Like those of genuine love
Blessed with grace from above
Love dissolves all sadness
Helps us deal with madness
Wipes away all the gloom
Causes the garden to bloom
So what would we rather breed,
A love seed or a hostile weed?
~© Manoj Khatri~
So finally, after 14 long years, sentences in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case have been announced and all the accused, including the high-profile film star Sanjay Dutt, have been convicted. The punishments vary—from death sentences to probation.
Everyone has an opinion on the judgement. I am no exception. I am sharing mine here.
After I heard about the conviction, I pondered: What is the purpose of punishments? The idea of punishment strikes me as odd. The law of the land is not about getting even, is it? I think the law is for protecting the society from anti-social elements. In my opinion, punishing people with death penalties or rigorous imprisonments doesn’t serve the larger goal of the society.
I am strongly in favour of reform and rehabilitation in place of punishment. We must aim at eliminating the crime, not the criminal. This is not to say that we leave criminals free to roam. By all means confine the convicted in closed spaces like jails. But give them an opportunity to get reformed. In fact, active steps should be taken towards changing the criminal’s bent of mind.
In my column, I have covered fragmented efforts of some jailors, police officers and NGOs in bringing reformist activities such as meditation camps to jails. Read All in the mind. Also read about Bihar Government’s initiative: Fresh move for reforms in jails.
However, the best-known reform activist I know of is Kiran Bedi, winner of the 1994 Ramon Magsaysay award, whose initiative of introducing Vipassana meditation brought about a change in the outlook of inmates of Tihar jail, one of Asia’s largest prisons. Bedi is definitely a role model for police officers anywhere in the world.
But initiatives like hers should be taken by the central government at the universal level. Every prison in the country should become a reform centre with one objective: eliminate crime.
So finally we have the first woman president of India.
Shiv Sena declared that it supports the candidature of Ms Pratibha Patil because she is a Marathi woman. So now we choose presidents based on their mother tongue. And I thought India was a secular country, where things like caste, creed and religion didn’t matter.
The UPA chose Ms Patil as their presidential candidate because she would be the first woman president of India. So now we also choose presidents because of their gender.
And NDA did not support Ms Patil because it simply did what every opposition party always does—it opposed the candidate of the ruling alliance!
What about merit? Does that feature anywhere in the decision-making process?
If a meritorious candidate who is elected as President happens to be a woman from a specific region/religion, it is a matter of pride for the country—that we do not let gender/caste/language come in the way of merit. Unfortunately, the other way around seems to be happening. We’re letting issues like gender and caste overshadow merit. Will our politicians ever rise above petty politics?