Attention!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Attention!

Allan Massie said, “Do you know what a soldier is, young man? He’s the chap who makes it possible for civilized folk to despise war.”

Last night I watched a movie called Holiday‘. An action thriller about a soldier on vacation who uncovers a dangerous plot.

I noticed something rather shameful with the crowd at the theatre during the last 3 odd minutes of the movie. And it was more offensive than the people who speak or scratch their haunches when the national anthem is playing. The last scene showed soldiers on their way back from vacation. The scene has families and loved ones spending a few emotion-filled moments with the soldiers before they leave for another long, trying stint away from home, to guard the country.

During this bit, over 60% of the people at the theatre got up and started leaving. You might argue that it is a movie after all. Or that it was past 1:30 am, or even that the climax scene was done. But aren’t we the same people who buy into, and believe the absurdity that is sold to us in the name of Bollywood? Then is this representation of reality so unimportant that we choose to ignore it?

I read some articles a few months ago, that might give some perspective to this. Some random American citizens were at a burger joint, when they noticed a few soldiers standing in line behind them. They got to the counter and paid for their order. They then handed some money and instructed the person at the counter that it was towards everything the soldiers ordered. And that if the money fell short, to let them know and they’d pay the balance as well.

Then there was another story of how someone left some money and a note on the car of a soldier, thanking them for serving their country, and asking them to take their loved one to a nice restaurant with the money, saying it was just a small token of their gratitude. While these don’t seem like fictional stories, surely they might sound a little dramatic, or like we Indians say, ‘filmy’. Citizens in the US have always acknowledged the futility of sending their soldiers to fight unnecessary wars, and they are grateful and acknowledge this huge sacrifice soldiers make for them, and sometimes try to express this gratitude in their own small ways.

We Indians are aware of the tainted reputation of some cricketers and even some cricketing events, but yet will watch the game with undeterred reverence and willful ignorance, but a few minutes that offer a glimpse into the lives of the very people whose sacrifice enables us to enjoy these trivial and meaningless luxuries, and we get easily bored and leave.

This attitude of educated fellow Indians begs me to wonder what exactly our soldiers are sacrificing their lives to guard. A thankless, money and pleasure-seeking race of self-centered robots?

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“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.” ~ Pericles

We don’t defend our freedom in any way, at least let us learn to respect it.

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Hope you don’t have a Rolled Model?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Hope you don’t have a Rolled Model?

We all have role models? Well, at least most of us do. And can we ever admire them enough?

While it’s great if you have idols or role models, something I suggest to friends and acquaintances is that you should not be amazed by your role models. Instead, find out what it is about them that amazes you and earns your respect and admiration. Identify those specific characteristics in them, instead. We  don’t need ‘rolled’ [all-inclusive] models.

Why we admire someone could be something as lame as for their looks or acting skills. It could be their perseverance, or selflessness, truthfulness or their ice cold negotiation skills or the ability to win consistently. But whatever it is, instead of just staring with dropped jaws at a poster of your role model, sit and think about “why” you admire about them.

I’ll safely assume that your role model is human. That said, we all have our flaws; even our larger-than-life role models most probably do (perhaps with the exception of Mother Teresa). And therein lies the problem. People are a sum of their different characteristics, habits, behavior traits, etc. And some of those are excellent, some horrible.

So, whenever we admire a person, it is usually for one or more good traits they have. But since the selection happens on a slightly unconscious level, we tend to admire the person in their entirety, often accepting their negative or less desirable traits as part of the acceptable.  You’ll probably agree if you thought about the last time you argued with someone about why a public figure is liked, admired or hated so much. Blind admiration could cause us to unconsciously inculcate negative traits too; after all, our role models are just so great.

If we admire people specifically for certain characteristics they possess, we identify directly with those qualities in them; qualities that we perhaps desire to have. That, then lets us allow ourselves to be inspired and shaped by specifically those characteristics. 

While I was growing up, many of us dreamed to be like the classy and flamboyant Vijay Mallya. But after he denied his airline employees their salary for months on end, he suddenly didn’t seem so respectable. Tiger Woods will probably never get the admiration he once enjoyed, even if he were to play better than he ever has. Lance Armstrong is a classic example too.

Tip: Whoever your role model, also make a mental note of what skills or character traits make them your role model.

‘Details’ don’t complicate things. Instead, they provide a simpler view of how and why things are. Don’t avoid details, go look for them.

people-man-characteristic-attitude-pictogram-27880388.jpg (800×800)

Image: link

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Let’s Go Back to the Future

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Let’s Go Back to the Future

Last night, on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi‘s birth anniversary, I came across an article titled ‘Where was Gandhiji born? Only 4 out of 10 gave the correct answer.’ [link]

What was the big deal anyway? While my outlook is not even half as non-violent as the Mahatma’s,  I have utmost respect for him.

But for questions like when was someone born, or where? History? I always seemed to have had a problem with History. Beyond doubt, History has a lot to offer us. After all, we cannot afford to figure out, experiment, and make all the mistakes ourselves. Things that have worked, or that haven’t; how lives have evolved, etc. all help us with decisions of today. History also inspires us. It tells us about something that has probably never been done before. Or, that people have tried but have all failed. It indirectly challenges people like you and me to prove History wrong. By knowing what is impossible, we can strive to make it possible.

History #1

On the flip side, I guess we humans also saw in History, that the problem of global warming did not exist till the late 19th century; and unfortunately, we seem to have taken it upon ourselves to change that too.

While growing up, what we were often taught in the name of History, was little short of nothing. I remember being scared before history tests. Struggling to remember dates and events. That is what was most focused upon. Who was someone’s husband or wife; or third wife or fourth husband of the second son or daughter? More confusing than my own family tree, which I still have a lot of trouble figuring out. Or when was this battle fought? Would you care, if you have trouble remembering your own spouse’s birthday. If not for family and friends, I’d probably have forgotten my birthday a long time ago.

History #2

Instead, History is actually a brilliant opportunity to teach children about life, the evolution of life, and so on. Teach them more about various cultures and religions; so that we come to respect cultures and religions better. To cultivate better understanding in them by asking them what they would have done in a similar situations from history. To encourage ideas and challenge children about things that were considered impossible up until now. 

And all the energy and brain-space we would save by not having to remember the ‘whats’ and ‘whens’ of history, can then be focused to understand the ‘why’ and ‘why not’ instead. Isn’t that what the Mahatma did? Change History?

History #3 - lego-gandhi

Image: Link

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Attention! Is this the Police?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Attention! Is this the Police?

Last evening I went to pick up some things for home from the department store. Visits to that store isn’t exactly something I look forward to. Considering the place is a little dusty, and the staff is slow and clueless. And for some inexplicable reason, they keep shifting some sections around every other time.

Anyway, while parking outside, I noticed two police constables standing beside a car nearby. I assumed they must be waiting on a senior officer who might be in one of the neighboring buildings.

I picked up the things on the list, and had just gotten into my car, when I saw a woman and her 6-7 year-old son get out of the store with a few shopping bags on them. They headed straight for the car where the two cops were still waiting.

And then, the hard-to-believe happened. The woman and the boy handed the bags to the two cops, who then loaded them into the trunk of the car. It took me a few moments to process what I’d just seen.

As I type this, India is being taken to the dumps or worse. By corrupt politicians, obsolete laws from another era, and more corruption. The dismal safety conditions that citizens have to put up with, speaks poorly of a weak system. And unappreciated and over-worked enforcement bodies, a large section of which, is deployed for political (politician plus family) security. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to see the pits of it, with officers of the law being made to load vegetables and other grocery into someone’s car.

Whether the car belonged to a politician or a senior police officer, I really don’t know. But either way, let’s look at it from the point of either of the two officers, who were perhaps in their late 30s/ early 40s. Young and driven, they obviously would have joined the force to protect and serve India, not to serve the public servants [politicians]. Then why was the job description of these officers changed, and by whom?

Look at it from the point of view of such officers. They obviously didn’t sign up for such a role. And how many weeks or months, do you think will pass, before all the dreams, aspirations and enthusiasm they joined the force with, leaves them?

Let’s look at it from the point of view of the woman with the kid. If appearances are anything to go by, she came across as well-educated. Why then, did she not see the terrible crime in playing along with something like this, if it wasn’t her idea of course. Whether the reason was a driver on leave, urgent need for home supplies, or whatever, was not reason enough to divert an officer of the law for such absurd and petty tasks. It’s a crime.!

Imagine the little boy now. What impression, and how much respect for the police will he grow up with, when there he was, handing over bags of grocery to two of the departments officers.

There are departmental pressures, hierarchy, work pressures, and all that. And above that, there’s the conscience of the officers and the police department. Then, above that, there’s also right, and wrong. While unscrupulous

Heads up Mr. Satyapal Singh [Commissioner], the average Indian has little respect for politicians. It’s up to you to help us retain our respect and faith in our police force.

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Respect Women

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Respect Women

Is it really that difficult to see, or am I missing something?

19 rapes have taken place in a span of one month in Haryana. I simply cannot wrap my head around the supposed solution doing the rounds, where people are considering lowering the marriageable age for girls to 15-16 years. Are we as Indians in general, or those wise Haryanvis in particular, playing dumb, or simply being indifferent? Haven’t there been cases of married women being raped in several parts of the country as well? So how the hell does reducing the marriageable age become a solution? That would be akin to addressing a food shortage problem by asking everyone to stop eating.

And the spineless attitude of law enforcers and politicians alike is only encouraging more such crimes. Where instead of punishing wrong-doers, they are considering punishing the ones who stands at risk, the ones who have been wronged.

I firmly believe that education is the solution. That, of course, combined with strict laws.

There are so many liberties and luxuries we take for granted in India. In Pakistan, a 14 year old girl is willing to lay her life on the line, and why? Just because she wants to learn. And some lowlifes have the sickness in them to pull the trigger on her.

But even that does not frighten her. She still wants to learn. And yet we, an educated society, behave like animals when it comes to respecting women, and act in such a helpless manner when it comes to protecting our citizens. So what is it that we are afraid of?

I think it is time we stop being dependent on crippled law enforcers and politicians, who’re too busy with their thumbs up their collective butts. Let us try to make our own neighbourhoods, cities and towns safer. Let us ourselves create the safer society that we want to live in.

And most importantly, let us educate. Educate our colleagues, friends, acquaintances even. Let us correct people who might harbor disrespect at any level towards women. Let us become more alert, more responsible, and more respectful when it comes to the women in our country. Be it for women we know, or for complete strangers. Let us look out for them and make them feel safer. We owe it to them. After all, none of us would be around right now, were it not for the ‘woman’ who gave birth to us.

Here’s a small something I had tried sometime back [Link: Spread a Message]. If you feel you have workable ideas or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you. It’ll be even better if we could discuss (over coffee, via email or any which way that works for you) and see if we can come up with a workable & easily replicable solution. You can reach me at shrutinshetty@gmail.com, or on Twitter @shrutinshetty.