The True Birthright: From Freedom to Independence

What is the relevance of freedom in the world’s largest democracy? The foreign hand and its garb of partisan politics has gone long ago. The rewiring of our brains is also over as we seek to establish an international footprint and communicate in English. Indians have become successful migrants and occupy many important positions in multinational companies all over the world. Is there something common at all that links us in our mind and mindsets?

There is a constant tug-of-war as India refurbishes its image on the world stage portraying a developed-country aspiration but like a flying kite still has its reins in the developing-world tag. Is it the burden of over-population that keeps offering new challenges? Is it the branding of a confused culture rhetoric that makes it an eastern-western mix? Is it the raging debate of urban and rural disparity driving change up a roller-coaster? Remove yourself some light years away, and India sends a probe to Mars successfully and it makes the world sit up and take notice of its technological prowess.

So what makes India?

The inspiration of the Ashoka Chakra, part of the Indian Flag, at a classical dance school.

The inspiration of the Ashoka Chakra, part of the Indian Flag, at a classical dance school.

Intrinsically, we are dreamers and as an eastern world which believes in the power of mind and meditation, we have an uncanny ability to stay driven through intuition and belief.

We are hard workers and have seen the real meaning of Darwin’s survival-of-the-fittest theory as we fight our way through seats in education and jobs, whose matrix changes whenever a new community wants to be recognized and reserve its patronage. We are very closely knit and try to leverage networks through contracts, business and clannish enough to even promote marriages and follow the gene code to exert its supremacy.



A UNESCO world heritage site, the Brihadeshwara Temple or the Big Temple as its popularly known is amongst the biggest temples of India and over 1000 years old.

A UNESCO world heritage site, the Brihadeshwara Temple or the Big Temple as its popularly known is amongst the biggest stone temples of India and over 1000 years old.

We are original thinkers but have had to start again and again, as invaders have taken knowledge and precious booty out of the country and told us to rethink our own self-respect. No point in repeating the story of the Zero, Chess, Takshashila, Astronomy, Navigation, Ayurveda, Zinc extraction, Yoga and more.  Nowadays, it’s the export of Indian minds.

We have led from the front, in the real sense. We also sent the most number of soldiers to the world war to win our place on the international stage. Nowadays, we send most soldiers to fight terrorism or protect infiltrations from borders. Amongst the world’s largest armies and a nuclear capable backbone lies the power of unified patriotism of many states and more languages.

We are normally very friendly as our culture is very compassionate and absorbs even the irrationality of other regions with open arms. We are always looking to shift our attention to cult driven leaders and have just learned that business leaders who create economic highs can also have a following like sportspeople and film stars.

The skyscrapers that jostle for attention are now routine and upgraded in luxury.

We have the power to call many launches, products, demonstrations as one of the world’s largest as the numbers are here, and the world’s largest sea of humanity thrives here. Yes, we have our shares of power woes, natural calamities, traffic congestion, corruption, black money, political ill-will and political do-goodness together, but we seem to go on with a high degree of optimism.

Relevance fights reminiscence as an old world charm landmark has been marked for road widening.

Relevance fights reminiscence as an old world charm landmark has been marked for road widening.

And today, as a new found power of materialism sweeps across India, we have to make sure that technology and its benefits that’s waking up a new India touches its every corner. It’s not just the freedom to earn or enjoy, but to keep a tab on the new language of the fast life that’s enveloping us. True independence is when every life in India gets certain benefits of food, healthcare and kindness, not as a donation but as a responsibility. We don’t have social security, but we can create a cover of life-sustaining benefits for every underprivileged Indian.

Urbanization grapples with the rural way of life as highways cut through scenic farmlands where farmers toil the year long.

Urbanization grapples with the rural way of life as highways cut through scenic farmlands where farmers toil the year long.

When rural India holds its own in tandem with urban India and drives change together, without being a second fiddle. When the labourer’s child, no matter what his skin colour, can walk into the nearest school, when his or her parents toil to make that skyscraper. When women and children can walk carefree in the wee hours without causing stress to their overtly worried families. When it is not so difficult to bridge the gap of idealism and practicality, happily.

When it is not so tough to celebrate this new relevance of freedom to share and care. That’s the independence of a comforted nation that will truly give us a pride of belonging to the world’s oldest culture.



Storytelling and the magic of engaged minds

India and its mythology hold an ocean of beautiful content. It may be an evolution of the human being with senses or organs becoming vestigial over time. Maybe beings were superior with minds that really transcended boundaries and were capable of extra sensory powers. But there are many indicators that the ancients knew a lot more about astronomy, metals, medicine, irrigation, mathematics and science than we presume.

But all said and done, there is a wonderful world of beings and their journeys that can leave you spellbound.





(Picture courtesy, exhibit near a temple of Tirupati, India’s biggest land of faith.)

You have superheroes who flew or appeared wherever they wanted to, mutants with special powers, minds that could see beyond, thought controlled weapons, inter-galactic flights, the power to control the elements and much more. But what continues to fascinate is that this treasure of characters can be a playwright’s delight and spin a wonderful new, or maybe old, world of probabilities. Now, if this storytelling can also deliver nuggets of learning and education, isn’t it a win-win?

This is not just about escaping into another world and living up to your fantasies. It’s also about using this entertaining avenue as a teaching tool for young minds.

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(Image courtesy,, showing a Syllabus Cartoon on digestion with kids and a mythological character Ghatojgaj)

Just as cartoons provide us with a wonderful medium to teach, reaching it to children, including the underprivileged ones should also be top of mind. These are based on government prescribed lessons, hence called Syllabus Cartoons.

On one hand, there is an affluent India with children connecting to the animes and the mangas in a global comic culture, there is also an underprivileged India who would need a helping hand. Equal Indian Foundation supports the sharing of this wonderful tool of learning as shown above, from to all children, going beyond economic boundaries.

Because education is a birthright of every child, even more so, in this information age.



When mother tongue accommodates the world tongue

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It’s no surprise that education can do wonders to anyone’s future. But it’s a great insight that language can also play a great leveler. Just as the word ‘local’ has positive connotations in the western world, the same ‘local’ need not be a pride-builder in a country like India. Reason: a mindset that hails the ‘imported’ and shuns the ‘regional’.  Though India has now gone a big transition, rising like a phoenix and coming up trumps in many areas on the world stage, it also has to go a long way to bridge the gap of haves and have-nots. The majority of the haves live in an ‘imported’ world and the have-nots struggle in a ‘regional’ India.

Does this mean, that a government decides to ban the ‘imported’ to promote the ‘regional’? Bad idea. It means that more effort to raise the ‘regional’ or ‘local’ here to the perception of ‘imported’.  But how does this herculean task get accomplished? Or, at least, get started? Will the business class come forward to nudge the political will to push the ‘regional’ forward? Or will the political class keep the ‘regional’ class in the backyards for their political gains? Note, that Indian politics is always measured in promises made, not promises delivered. Because, by the time the first party fails to perform, the voter has no choice but to give the second best time to again fail to perform. The cycle used to continue thus, not any more. The aim for respect is set to change it.

It’s time for the new R: Respect, that is driving India with consolidation of the world tongue, English.

So has something changed in the Indian consciousness? Thankfully, yes! Young, middle class India, hitherto, lazy to vote has started showing interest and started to vote and be part of the transformation. They are the ones also easily affected by the swing in the economy, but would just look the other way till now. The ‘have-everything’ class now openly gives donation to political parties to further their business interests, but at the same time, also participates in the political will to usher in more policies for economic growth. But what happens to the ‘have-nots’? Who will guarantee their growth and future? The vying for respect is geared to change it.

To start with, the have-nots now are more demanding and understand that their growth potential is much bigger than the vote-banks they are. Their children now are exposed to the next generation, thanks to the satellite television penetration in the remotest villages of India. Many would like to step out, march together, take their place in the sun, and a pie of the action. But there is something that still stops them. Their ‘regional’ tag. So the first thing they do is get the ‘imported’ tag, by learning English. Imagine the power when a vegetable vendor’s child talks back to you in English. He doesn’t just know how to talk, he knows how to talk back. The feel of respect can work wonders.

Slowly it dawns to the new world order, that regional languages and mother tongues have not kept pace with the development of English in India. It’s a different story in China, Russia, Japan, Germany and many other countries that have developed their backbone in education and technology on their native language, including computer software. But this is not really India’s fault. It’s just that we are more complex than the European Union, which after so many years, still struggles to consolidate its potential. So even as we speak a multitude of languages, over 25 main and hundreds of other regional languages, we tend to look upon English to co-exist as the language of professional growth. Respect helps the stretch from national to international.

Our social fabric thrives on ‘regionalism’, from get-togethers to marriages based on the language we connect in. But new India is an open canvas which has transformed the ‘imported’ language English for professional growth. Whoever said, when in Rome, be a Roman, needs to see, how Indians have interpreted it successfully, as when aiming for growth, Indians use the language of professionals. So every progressive Indian slowly knows more than one language, and an international Indian knows how to make the ‘imported’ language his or her’s own ‘regional’ mother tongue as well.

Maybe, Darwin’s law of survival of the fittest can now be retaught with an amazing parallel. The survival of the most adaptive professionals and the power of respect is blazing the transformation.

Transforming India: Mystic heritage to economic miracles

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First you fight for survival of the fittest, then a civilization that creates a world around resources, then for freedom to stake your rightful ownership. And then, when you think you can now take it easy in a planned ecosystem, you start all over again. Why? Because there is a constant war about upstaging others and creating your prominence. Maybe it’s insecurity, maybe it’s a need. But definitely, it seems to be a ritual of existence for the mystery called the human mind.

India as a country has undergone this battering over and over again. In fact, it’s not just a country, it’s a consciousness, that has evolved in many frequencies, many times.

Spiritual juggling: The old India. The world’s favourite place for snake charmers and rope tricks, made its first announcement as a thinking community over 5000 years back. When sages and mystics’ thought revolution echoed along with the foundation of science itself. From the game of Chess, postulating the number Zero, creating the World’s first University, masterminding strategy the Chanakya way, to the excitement of Ramanujam mathematics, ‘thinking’ flourished here.

Identity churning: The lost India. Modern history knows that it has seen conquest after conquest of its abundant land, then a bigger part of Asia. The region was made to work hard on its resurgence many times, from Mughals who made it their home to the British, who took back whatever they could (Check the Sotheby’s auction list for India artefacts). In the meanwhile, Columbus’s discovery and the other part of the world started their transition to being called ‘developed’ over a hundred years earlier, while here English was sown as a link language.

New frontiers: The new India. Today, as an economic revolution is helping India stake its place in the world, it’s a huge cauldron of emotions, cultures, systems, and an imagination that’s humongous. Just as varied political will rule different countries, there is a variance of culture and languages stretching from the north to south, east to west. So a union of over 26 states with even more languages, but who identify with one spirit is today called India, and is over 66 years old. India has already made its mark in many areas, technology and world enterprise to name a few.

It has the onerous task of treading forward, balancing the hopes of a billion people, and shredding the tag of a developing country, overcoming malnutrition, wealth disparity, racial discrimination and citizen safety, amongst others. Pangs, that even a western world has. On the other hand, it’s equally interesting to see the need of the west to import oriental practices and glorify Buddha, Yoga, Vegetarianism, Ayurveda, Meditation and more, for true world oneness.

So what’s new and different now, that’s set to catalyse the next level of recognition and benchmarks? A growing war against corruption and the jostle of many leaders from different political approaches claiming or aiming to play the next action hero. As India goes into its general elections in April, the nation is watching many intentions at play. Gullible, intellectual, informed, opportunistic, all kinds of voters will decide on India’s next sojourn with destiny. In the fray are billionaire industrialists, passionate revivalists, seasoned politicians and political heirs. Yes, April 2014, nationwide polls hysteria sweeps India.

Picture the diversity of the leaders at war:

–        A billionaire industrialist, who essayed his vision in his book Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation, and also spoke at a TED conference in 2009. He also led a mission to digitize data of a billion people and help the Government of India connect benefits to citizens spread across 3.3 million square kilometers.

–        A seasoned bureaucrat, who has taken his ride on the anti-corruption war to a nationwide level in a dramatic one year. As an outsider, was part of the team who lead the Right To Information bill to be regularized. As an insider, struggled to put his point across as the Chief Minister of Delhi, albeit for a short month.

–        A hard-nosed politician, who promises to extrapolate the prosperity of his home state, also the home state of Mahatma Gandhi, to the whole of India. Today, as he erases allegations of ethnic hate and leads economic resurgence, he is also a poster boy of industrial India.

–        A heir of family tradition in politics, and destiny’s child, is playing his cards safe to his party’s chest. Depending on his performance, he may emerge as the next Gandhi, a surname that guarantees clout in the business of politics. His claim to fame is his young image.

As this war for identity and establishment of ideals from people of different parties is waged, voters can only hope that good karma works. What will be the impact on new policies, people, unemployment, business, exports, FDI, markets, diplomatic relations and even price rise for the common man?

Whoever wins, hope India doesn’t lose.


Distancing disparity from the age of innocence


Govt School No. 92 Sanjeevni Nagar Bangalore

No one gets to decide where one is born. Very often, the life an underprivileged child leads, also comes with a trail of societal prejudices, that draws the line between the haves and the have-nots. Even if it’s as elementary as going through primary school education. But sometimes, we can make a choice of changing that equation for a few children. If we want to. Spend some time with little ones who hope to be better off than the family they come from. Sometimes teaching or sharing, sometimes just cracking a joke.

This is not the choicest of public schools that would be granted a second look when you pass it by. You may not even know, there is one hidden in the by-lanes of a lower middle class neighbourhood. You may also overlook the fact that, at a stone’s throw away from the school, a sewage line overflows onto the road and is not considered a health hazard for the school children. No fancy boards, no reception area, no play-area except for an open ground full of small stones and rubble. Here, little feet are forced to feel happy for more reasons than one.

Come lunch time, and the children rush out to be fed by ISKCON’s noon meal scheme Akshay Patra. Hygienic food with balanced nutrition, through charity. The government puts in some grants to keep the school running. The teachers and staff put in their best to see at least one bright hope somewhere, one child who will be a proud alumni, maybe, from a mix of all kinds of students, some creative, some notorious.

In-between all this struggle, there is the beauty of hope. You get to meet little minds, who are also brimming with ideas. Many of them may not speak english the way the western world wants to, but these little minds also have the spark to open your eyes. Like when a little girl comes up to you and appreciates the paper bag you are carrying. Before someone thinks that she wants the contents, the little angel is just happy to know that civilized society is using paper bags, and reducing plastic!

Then there a few others who have surprised the teachers so well in art, that their work adorns the office of the headmaster, who is due for retirement in 2 years.  He shows us the stationery a software company has given for the kids. He preserves the pencils and the geometric boxes with care under lock and key, for the next batch of students. It also opens our eyes to small needs that a student in a government school may have, something, which our kids just take for granted.

It is easy for us to feel good when we leave the school and thank the forces that be, for the prosperity that many enjoy. But we have more to do. We have to go back and tell our kids that there is a sea of children who are not so lucky, but delightfully smart and waiting to be taken care of. Maybe, they already know. Some students in our apartment complex approached us for collecting toys and books for underprivileged children! One couldn’t just help wonder, that maybe our kids are now more thoughtful than many of us.

We could call it a choice. We could call it a commitment. But if there is a little bit that we can push ourselves to think for others without an iota of prejudice, it could be to provide an equal platform for young underprivileged minds and tell them that they are all beautiful inside.

Artworks by students adorn the school office wall at Govt School No. 92, Sanjeevi Nagar, Hebbal, Bangalore

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