Category Archives: Optimism

A Look Inside Myanmar’s First Real Year Of Democracy – 3

Jack continues his photo exploration of Myanmar’s first real year of democracy. Presenting the third part of the 4-part series.

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Sunset from Ubein Bridge. Locals and tourists flock to the bridge to witness the spectacular sunsets.

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A young girl plays with her skipping rope outside the tourist jetty in Mandalay. Tourism in Myanmar has boomed over the past year, topping over one million foreign visitors for the first time. However infrastructure still remains underdeveloped.

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A passenger smokes a cheroot out of the train window.

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A trishaw driver, fishing in a flooded field hopes to catch something, while a cow wanders past.

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A young boy drags a bag of recyclable rubbish, which will be sold for small change. Often people of all ages work to support themselves and their families.

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A toddler sits by himself on the banks of the Irrawaddy river.

A Look Inside Myanmar’s First Real Year Of Democracy – 3

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Raja Bhoj And The Crow: The Story Of The First Whistleblower

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By DP Sakunia

Once Raja Bhoj was encircled by his nobles who were chanting eulogy as they always did. Suddenly a crow came from nowhere & scratched at a noble cum poet. Raja Bhoj became furious & directed to execute the crow. The crow prayed for a last hearing & took Raja Bhoj & his noblemen to a cave full of diamonds.

The crow told the entire kings caravan that the wealth dates back to Lord Ram’s time. She narrated the story that was as follows. A rich person of Oudh invited Sri Ram once for lunch at his place. After lunch the rich person presented Sri Ram with these precious stones. Lord Ram, the gracious self that he were, left the same at the verandah of his palace for someone in need. Time passed fast but no one came forward to take it and in course of time the wealth got hidden in the cave.

After narrating the story, the crow came to his point & prayed Raja Bhoj to search his so called noblemen who had already unscrupulously pocketed some of the valuables. These were the same folks who harped eulogy at Raja Bhoj and kept harassing and looting the subjects. The crow scratched at such a nobleman-cum-sycophant who was actually coaxing Raja Bhoj with self-ill motive.

Raja Bhoj immediately sent the noblemen to prison and asked him to be given the harshest punishment. He also called for a detailed investigation and personally went about asking his subjects who are the culprits and made sure all was happy once again.

Moral of the story: Alas there is no place for such whistle blower in todays time because Raja Bhoj and the noblemen have become equally corrupt towards the subject.

No Reason Celebrating Independence Day In Kashmir: A Kashmiri Writes For MSK

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It was called as the “Paradise on Earth”, but has instead been one of the most violent & bloodshed regions in recent years. Ajaz Ahmed writes on what importance does the Indian Independence Day hold to a Kashmiri youth and how they see their relationship with India.

Let’s understand the literal meaning of independence and then decide who deserves to celebrate it. The Declaration of Independence prescribed the proper role of government to secure the rights of individuals and to affect their safety and happiness. Now let’s understand independence in terms of Kashmir, which has always remained on the edge. Since India became independent, Kashmir never celebrated or accepted 15th August as a day of celebration, and in fact the day was given a very tough name – ‘’Black Day’’. As this territory is marked with human rights violations, rapes, fake encounters and killings, brutal laws like AFSPA goes against the declaration of independence like securing the rights of individuals, safety and happiness.

Though I feel both India and Pakistan betrayed Kashmiris, it’s very important to understand the root of the problem. As India got independence, Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir was willing to stay independent. However, under the changed circumstances after the tribal invasion from the Pakistani side, Maharaja acceded to India with a promise for plebiscite after the restoration of law & order. A plebiscite that would give Kashmiris right to choose between India or Pakistan. Though this never happened, but India & Pakistan fought 4 wars over it and the Kashmiris on both sides are divided by a long LOC.

Kashmir is an untold story, it has no reach, people across the world hardly know about Kashmir conflict. Government has barred Internet service, news channels and is constantly gagging local newspapers. In such a scenario what and why to celebrate independence? Once could be also thinking who is celebrating 15th August in Kashmir. The cabinet ministers including chief minister and forced invited school children are celebrating. This day is a usual day for an average Kashmiri and its been recognized as (15th August ko Hartal hai) day of strike.

I always feel that whether it is India or Pakistan, what they only want is the land of Kashmir. The people, Kashmiris are just an unwanted addition to the piece of real estate they had acquired. Nobody cares about the people, whether they live or die does not matter. Even young children aren’t spared and this makes me wonder, how these innocent children are a threat to a great nation of a billion people, one of the largest democracies in the world.  I mean, please think from the perspective of a Kashmiri. We just want what was promised to us during accession. I am not anti-Indian. The common Indian has no role in our sufferings. In fact, they have more in common with ordinary Kashmiris than the corrupt Kashmiri politicians in the government. I don’t throw stones at the security forces, as my upbringing never taught me so. I will fight but I will not hurt you.

Democracy, Independence, human rights are words that do not hold significance in today’s Kashmir. The day our land will truly be ours and the air we breathe is free again, that day the winds in Kashmir will bring the songs of joy, peace and freedom.

Reflections On The Understanding Of Poverty

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Malathy Madathilezham tries to decipher the real definition and the measures of poverty and more importantly tries finding ways to get rid of the malaise. 

Poverty is a much-debated topic. We all have at some or the other point discussed on some issue related to poverty. The ‘poverty line’ is a recurrent topic that comes into picture during these discussions. How do we define and measure this complex’’ phenomenon? More importantly how do we get ‘rid’ of it?? These discussions are never ending and inconclusive, there is no right answer.

During the major part of my life I had not been exposed to the abject levels of poverty that exist in India (and many other parts of the world!) What I knew was from what I read and heard or what was shown in the media. Even more appalling was my inadequate knowledge on caste (Yes, there WAS discrimination! That’s what I knew and actually thought it was not relevant in these ‘modern ’times!) It is safe to say thus that most of my arguments related to poverty were quite superficial and mostly hearsay!

What has changed now? In short, I can say a better (a long way to go still!) understanding of the theoretical aspects of poverty, some experience from interacting, living with the poor and a stronger conviction that the solution is not simple and neither is it going to be easy to work out.

There are success stories. Those glorified poster picks from various organisation on how so and so person has overcome poverty due to such and such project and his/her own will. Thank god for the fact that there atleast these success stories to take inspiration from! But we also have to look at the kind of society that we are living in. The levels of disparity that exists and that are overlooked by us daily.

Yesterday evening, I saw a group of 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys sitting outside the apartment that I have taken for rent. They were basically searching for dry wood, plastics and other materials in the dump. They seemed to be from a nomadic tribe. Unfortunately I could not understand their language. But here they were, all children of school going age right in front of the house of a principal, scavenging!! How do we ensure that these children and many more like them have a better future ahead and not just in terms of an education?

We need to work on identifying the reasons why generations after generations, families continue to live in extreme poverty, with little or no improvement in the quality of life. This is in spite of the various agencies which include the government having different kinds of schemes, projects and programmes aimed solely at poverty alleviation/eradication/elimination! There is also a need to introspect about so many kinds of inequality and inequity that we have accepted as part of life and may be even consider it right!

It is still a wonder for me that just by the virtue of my birth in a particular kind of family I have a set of options and choices about the kind of life I can aspire for. Yes if I am one of the few persevering and determined kind of people that exist in this world, I can may be, reach the uppermost echelons of success. But largely our choices and options are governed by where we are born, who are our parents, our caste (a sad reality for many even today!) etc. It is important to realise that most people in our country do not even have any options to make a choice! They lead the same kind of lives that their parents, their grandparents lead… TV, mobile, bike and a formal education hasn’t done much to change their lives in a profound manner!

So what makes this happen? Does the society perpetuate one or the other kind of inequity and inequality?  Is it the poverty that leads to inequity and inequality or vice versa? What can an individual do to bring about change at one or the other level without being cynical about everything? These are some questions I am pondering on….

Chennai Express – Is A Full Paisa Wasool Journey

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By Shwetha Kalyanasundaram

All set to board the Chennai express?!? Vaango…ukkarango (read: please come…please sit)!!! Is the journey worth the ride?!? Read on.

Full credits to SRK and the moviemakers to have the name of the female lead displayed over the male counterpart! This drew loud raptures from the crowd and what a way to start the two and half hour odd train journey.

Back again as Rahul (naam toh suna hoga), a planned trip to Goa changes track to Rameshwaram, as he comes across Meenamma, who boards the Chennai Express in typical DDLJ style. As the train chugs along, there are definitely some funny gags which have you in splits. A la Rohit Shetty’s ishtyle, the movie serves comedy and action in equal dosages – flying cars and bikes and colorful sets, for a change, we got to see some action involving steel buckets too!

The movie does have its share of rough patches. Deepika’s twang was lousy, despite being a southern belle. Her Hindi was fluent in certain places, while in most of the other scenes, her dialogues were laced with the southern accent. How’s that even possible?!? Gal, you ought to have gone in for a dub-artist. SRK keeps referring to the power of the common man in the movie. Now, how many common men wear or for that matter can afford a Dolce & Gabbana vest today?

A major portion of the film had Tamil dialogues – for a moment, I was confused if I was watching a Hindi movie or a Tamil flick. The female lead, aptly nicknamed Ms. Subtitle serves as an interpreter whenever the need arises. As much as the important bits were translated, it’s obvious that some portions were lost!

SRK’s screen presence is mind blowing and has you begging for more. He tickles the funny bone, makes you shed a tear and packs in quite a punch in the action scenes. Deepika Paduone was a complete stunner and surrenders to her character completely (albeit her southern accent). The veteran southern star Sathyaraj leaves a desired effect but his role was down played that had me a tad disappointed. The villain Niketan Dheer looked menacing and fit into his role perfectly (but even the villain couldn’t speak good Tamil!). Rohit Shetty travels the full mile to deliver an action packed comedy with all the tried and tested ingredients of the genre he is known for.

Chennai Express is a typical family entertainer – full paisa vasool journey!!

Chennai Express: Finally an SRK film with a story

Real Beauty: Perceptions Differ

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By Malathy Madathilezham

One of the definitions of the word Beauty (as given by Merriam- Webster) is the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit. Thus it is related to our senses, our mind and our spirit. This means that real beauty would be different for different people. This is quite obvious when we observe physical concepts of beauty differ in different cultures, races, countries etc. These concepts change with time. Another aspect of this definition of beauty is that these are qualities, which are not necessarily the visual qualities. So anything can be beautiful; music, fragrance, the inherent or developed qualities of a human being.

Let me restrict myself to human beings. In the present scenario, everyone wants to ‘look’ beautiful! A lot of importance is being given to superficial and external beauty. Scientists are coming out with the measurements/ratios of ‘perfect’ or ‘real’ beauty. Plastic surgeons are using these measurements to make people look beautiful. In addition we have the various creams, serums that are supposed to make us look beautiful and then the gyms and fitness clubs. The cosmetics and fashion industry is thriving on the aspirations of millions to match the concepts of beauty that is being ‘sold’ to them through various media. Thus a lot of economic activity is being driven by the ‘want’ to look beautiful. Mine and your want..

But what about ‘feeling’ beautiful? That feeling which does not necessarily come out of how we look. This sense of feeling beautiful depends on our emotional well being, our happiness and human qualities of kindness, empathy and the like. The kind of lifestyle we lead nowadays with all its tensions, pressures is not exactly helping us feel good about ourselves. We lament about the lack of everything but do nothing about improving our situation. We want to look good and beautiful to others, hide our real self beneath this veneer of ‘Beauty’. But how long would this last… thus we have rising problems of depression, burnouts etc. The pressure on us to match up to the ideals of beauty, success, happiness is too much to handle and makes us forget true happiness, our true beauty and ourselves. The external image that we present to others is but a distortion of what we truly are… In the glam and glitter of the world around us, we lose sense of real beauty… and join the rat race of looking beautiful rather than being beautiful.

For me real beauty is within each of us. To discover that beauty within us and within others is truly a gift. Of course, a good dress, or haircut, or a bright nail polish does make me happy but it can only do so much to add to my self-confidence and self-image. What I am, how beautiful I truly am depends on my actions, my thoughts that are again relative and need not be the same for you. Basically there is nothing real… it’s all an illusion… and my illusion differs from yours!! I believe everybody is beautiful in his or her own unique way. So why don’t you sit down and think about what does being beautiful mean to you?

India Needs More Anna Hazares to Control Corruption

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By Pinaki Pratihar

‘62% Indians had first-hand practice of paying bribes ’

I saw the figure for the first time during Anna Hazare’s anti corruption movement. The Indian youth and the corporates had made an effective online campaign for the world’s most successful event of recent times. Huge number of people, who were active online and offline, raised their voice. Yes! It was a too much of an incident for the ‘world’s largest democratic country’.

We did it!

Mass active people, less important political impacts!

India did it! ……

A large number of Indians were a part of the campaign, and it was unfortunately delayed; nevertheless, it turned out to be an inspiring event for India.

Corruption probably has always been a part of the human society (as a whole) and has definitely been nurtured many a times over by corrupt people in history. We were conscious about the facts and the bad impact of corruption. May be the repetition of same crime again and again in the timeline of our country, forced us to believe that just like poverty and illiteracy corruption is also a part of our social life. An Indian grows up experiencing a corrupt traffic police at a check-point, and visiting only doctor who practice privately since the government medical professionals would be too lackadaisical!

All of us know the dealer of ration, sells one third of the allotted grains to a local shop, and the shopkeeper who purchases and resells it.

It has been discussed and concluded that awareness should be in everyone across the country against corruption. FMCG companies are proved successful to reach any rural part of An estimated 18-20% among villagers (Where 55% people use at least one HUL product regularly) knows about Anna and 10% can initiate a discussion about Anna Hazare and ‘the anti-corruption movement’.  This campaign was unable to reach them by TV-News channels, Reality shows, and Internet media. Word of Mouth! This traditional and most effective medium also unable to reach these villagers! How this issue can be solved by this type of poor reach? So, don’t think, these media are the only way to reach rural India. Maximum young people in India don’t mind to get corrupted or to bribe someone at a small level. How such a large nation can control corruption?

Few Ways I’d like to focus on,

Two-front model: There will be only two political parties, Like USA. It will always reduce the political corruption level. When there is a third party, the society normally gets corrupted.

Constitutional modification: So the constitution should be modified in a way. May be it is changing day by day, or we are changing the interpretation. But the process should be fast, we Indians are adopted with our frequently changing buying behavior. We had adjusted with changes of petrol price. We can adjust with few political changes. Politics! It can reach you easily!

Whistle Blower: Provide us an effective set of channels to blow the whistle on time. Online is not the solution.

Law should be changed! Protesters will be encouraged, when they can feel Govt. is taking prompt action regarding their demand!

Media: I can remember a line of my childhood. I read on a wall of our Panchayet office, “Dadu-nati bhai bhai/ Eksathe pathsala jai” (Enjoying school days with my grandson), a symbol of an old Govt. initiative ‘mission literacy’. The line was successfully placed and reached the root of our society. If postman can reach these people, if HUL can do it, Media definitely can. Govt. should be open to face the music of mass. Theatres and local movies, please shout in the name of a corruption free India.

I feel ashamed, when I find many rural people least bothered about the country, in fact, they don’t have a clear idea, about the map of India. Gram-Panchayat , Govt. Servants and political parties are their Government. What more you expect from just one Anna?

India needs more Anna Hazare, just to educate people about corruption, in a proper way.

The only and only way to stop this corruption today is to de-root the issue by psychological, mental & spiritual growth of people. Make the life meaningful for them as there is no such corruption measures and solution for this problem.

Another day will come, when a new group of people will claim for justice against some old social and constitutional drawbacks. Today’s school goers are affected internally by this Anna Hazare movement as they have seen the naked facts of corruption. They will come-up with a strong base like us. Next movement will be a bigger success. This is the only way to get recovered from such traditional negative practices. The more we will know, the more we can control corruption.