Book Published: Miles and Memories

Recently we have published a book – Miles and Memories.

While the base of this was built during my stay at IIT Bombay, it was later well supported by my better-half.

Notion Press: https://notionpress.com/read/miles-and-memories

It is also available in Amazon, Flipkart, Kobo, Google Play, etc. Please read and share your feedback with us.

Thank you 🙏🏽

How Odisha may Excel post Lockdown 4.0

Namaskaar

These are some top points that came to my mind for rebuilding and expanding growth of ODISHA state. Pls share your inputs as well.

  1. Ration & Other Essentials Management : with the influx of native Migrant Workers, the distribution quantities and supply chains intra & inter States need to be reshuffled.
  2. Employment Issues :
    • Native Migrant Workers who are going to stay back need to be given jobs. For same type of job, it will be a competition between them and their counterparts already living in Odisha.
    • Skill-sets need to be sharpened or redefined or reshuffled.
    • All these shall apply to both the organised and unorganised sectors.
  3. Space Issues : may not be substantial, wherever the native Migrant Workers’ ancestral or/and self-acquired properties are already in place and litigation-free; and with most of offices going online now, in any case, Real Estate prices must be lowered now; Waste Management and Afforestation to be duly maintained.
  4. POSCO and Vedanta like mega-projects : let’s try to win them back!!
  5. Explore the Bay of Bengal (BOB) : for research on global climatic changes and how to better forecast the weather.
  6. Seafoods : catches have to be done without disturbing natural habitats; explore advanced preservation techniques, marketing and increase exports.
  7. Food Processing Units : pickles, juices, jelly, dry snacks (baddi, lia, papadd, amba-saddha etc. ) – explore advanced preservation techniques, marketing and exports.
  8. Farming & Fruits : explore advanced techniques, graft varieties lawfully, better preservation against pests, bacteria & fungi, and increase exports; ensure direct reachability with Farmers & Fruit-cultivators.
  9. Dairy Products and Odisha Sweets : apply the GI tags as soon as possible; better preservation, marketing and exports.
  10. Deep-Sea Mining, Minerals & Natural Gas : explore BOB and its adjacent Seas but with due regard to the oceanic environment.
  11. New & Renewable Energy : start windmills, install more solar power panels and explore other alternative energy sources.
  12. Defence :
    •  increase presence of Navy and Coast Guards along the Odisha coastline.
    • root out Maoists with “sustained” efforts – allow them to surrender and get rehabilitated, or let them face the bullets!
    • increase R&D facilities in DRDO, Chandipur and also build similar new centres elsewhere in Odisha; these centres should be at least supportive in nature to the existing DRDOs in the country.
  13. ITI and Diploma Trainings : increase various practical sessions for the youth in the state, so that they find at least some good job after they reach the age of 18; also the industries will need their tremendous support. Redefine their work rates, allowances, bonuses, pension plans, volunteer retirement plans, accident coverages, foreign training options, academic exchange programs, etc.
  14. Academia :
    • implement Vedic ways of life in all Schools to enhance discipline, strength, focus and harmony in children i.e. irreligiously!!
    • encourage “fundamental” Sciences, Arts, Humanities & Commerce degrees at par with Engineering or Medical degrees; build more R&D campuses and invite foreign academia, tie-ups, etc.
    • build necessary academies like Law Academy, Music and Film Academy, etc.
  15. Hospitals : increase number of quality Government hospitals throughout Odisha; do not limit things only to Bhubaneswar & Cuttack; there should be all departments including special treatment for Acid-Attack Victims, Intellectually Disabled and people affected with Rare Diseases; information databases must be maintained with other good hospitals in the country.
  16. Make an all-inclusive Society : build proper & permanent shelter-homes, and good job facilities for Transgenders, Acid Attack Victims and other members of similar category.
  17. Panchayats /Sarpanchs : empower them at the grassroot levels; provide them all latest information and adequate support to operate best with transparency.
  18. Sea Tourism across Bay of Bengal (BOB): secure fine-weather cruise expeditions to South East Asian countries.
  19. Art & Artisans (including Textiles mills) : enhance their work reachability and regularize their due sources of sustainability (including pension, allowances, etc.) from both Odisha Govt and Customers.
  20. Historical Revival : of century-old temples, monuments and museums across Odisha; name or rename certain places after the state Freedom Fighters and other personalities e.g. Netaji Nagar, Baji Rout Museum, Mohd. Mohsin Music & Theatre, Ranganath Mishra Law Academy, etc.

Should India Accommodate More Refugees: A Common Man’s View

With the stable and able Government in New Delhi, and with India’s rising importance in world affairs, different sections of many neighbouring and other far-away countries are eyeing for taking refuge in India. Well, if India can accommodate others, it is well and good. It is nothing new for India; India has opened its borders for many in the past, since ancient times !

But how long and how many people can India accommodate ? This is definitely a major point of discussion at present, and many like me must be either debating it at heart (inner voices) or would have at least once thought about it.

Briefly, my opinion on incoming of refugees to India :

During the last General Elections, I am aware of a particular section of a refugee community residing in India since the last 4-5 decades that “conscientiously opted out” of voting because they believed that by doing so, their cause (fight for their political goals) would get derailed, and may even be forgotten by their next generations !

Is that right ?

Well, I think such refugees can pursue their cause (though the political scene of their  country of origin may have changed completely over time and got accepted by many including their top leaders in exile), and at the same time, when they are residing in a ‘receiving’ country and utilizing all its resources (equally as its nationals or foreign nationals visiting the ‘receiving’ country), then they should participate in its Elections. Whether this impacts the ‘receiving’ country’s administrative decisions or political strategies or social schemes, there could be many “key” factors or impacts related to it. What may appear trivial now can just blow up in huge proportions down the line.

The major concern in such circumstances is the “availability and distribution” of Land and Resources (by the ‘receiving’ country), absolutely vital to existence !!!! The resources could be natural or artificial. Let’s note that the same concern is put forth in many western countries while making policies or regulations regarding settlement of permanent migrants and even duration of stay of temporary foreign labourers – individuals or with families !!

In India, we are already burdened by our own population and also by our neighbours since years. Our own people are starving in many parts of the country; then there are other parameters of human development. These needy lives – some are known, some still unknown. There’s so much to identify alone !

Therefore, notwithstanding India’s famed history of tolerance and liberalism, at the present, I think it would NOT be a wise decision by any of our Governments to accommodate “all” the refugees in future, if any !! Since we are already over-loaded, why can’t that graceful obligation towards mankind be now shared by the entire globe ?.. A world sub-body (existing or new, under the vigil of U.N.O.)  must chalk out better, clearer rules and strictly monitor its implementation in this regard. After all, it would be in order to save human races and prevent fast exhaustion of resources of Mother Earth and of the ‘receiving’ country i.e. at a “single” location or region, within and up to which the borders of that mere single nation stretch.

Also, in these matters, I wish Land and/or Resources (natural /artificial) could be traded among affected countries in some form (e.g. carbon foot-prints), at least till a “feasible” solution is sought to resolve any refugee crisis, anywhere in the world ! Perhaps somewhere, that may set up the balance that is much required to s-u-s-t-a-i-n all lives. Human crisis is not always an over-night issue to be addressed; it may hold years of unrest, strife and survival !!!

So, while being generous, let’s also be practical with measured estimations of long-term fall outs and the respective check-and-balance approaches ! Let the rest of the secured world too shoulder this utter responsibility.

What do you opine, Aamjunta?

(Note: This post expresses a mere view of a common man in India. It does not include reference of any active laws or national policies or dialogue processes on international issues, human rights, etc.)

Open Letter On Our Primary Education System On The Eve Of Teachers’ Day

Though I am not into professional teaching or an educational analyst or anything of that sort, since some time, I have these concerns regarding a section of latest schooling systems in India.

Just consider schooling during our generation and a little beyond. Whether cities /towns /villages, we went to “ordinary” schools… and those “ordinary” schools had almost everything required for a child to get adequately schooled :

– Safety and Security
– Discipline
– good Teachers
– responsible Support Staff
– thorough Courses
– Labs
– timely Examination schedules and proper Evaluations
– a Playground
– First-Aid facilities and a phone-call-away Doctor
– a Garden
– a School Bus with watchful Attendants
– a Store-room of books, notebooks, pencils and other accessories
– a Library
– Hostels
– an outdoor Stage
– a well-ventilated, well-lighted and sufficiently-equipped Hall where competitions /performances /extra-curricular activities were conducted on a regular basis
– various academic /motivational Presentations by external bodies (govt. or private)
– Office and Notice Boards /Circulations
– Musical Instruments
– observations for 15 Aug. /26th Jan.
– uniform celebrations of all Festivals
– a thorough conduct of Morning Assembly
– periodic teacher-parent Meetings
– easy Interactions with any teacher /principal on any working day
– due Counselling sessions
– due Recognitions /Prizes /Scholarships
– proper maintenance of all Records /Registers
– due Vaccination schedules
– Excursions /Picnics
– active participation in Social Services

Well, I agree some of these facilities like a big infrastructure or an equipped hall or musical instruments were not present in village schools but nevertheless, they were highly accomplished institutions even if one merely counts the minimum factors of good schooling. Haven’t students from these less-equipped schools following “trusted” models of curriculum, excelled later in life – whether at the national or international levels ?!? Or haven’t they excelled in any other sphere but just academics ?… Further, haven’t they been highly sought as teachers by countries where the school education models are so different or talk about some brand ?

Today in India, new type of schools focus so much on “projects” and “activities”. As far as I have observed, these are either wholly done by parents /elders or downloaded from the internet; then it is gathered as print-outs or copy-pasted onto a file (hard-copy /soft-copy) and ‘submitted’ in a day or two. So all these, mostly because of lack of time or in a bid to quickly finish the home-work and move on to the next engagement, whatever be it.

And the next engagement usually is to watch an IPL match or accompany ‘Mom’ to the mall /beauty parlour or go with ‘Dad’ to the nearest KFC outlet or get engrossed in some crap video games !! So ever wondered, how these “projects” and “activities” are really helpful for the child ?

Moreover, nowadays only a few schools (even branded ones) sport a playground – how is that justified when on the other hand, these schools are trying to focus on “projects” and “activities” for better advancement of the child ?? Yes, you got great infrastructure and wash-room facilities but playground – that’s also an inseparable part of a good school !

I find at least in some instances, today’s kids lagging in spheres that they should ideally be leading through. For example – well, its great to be wonderful at singing or swimming but first of all, with one’s usual textual lessons satisfactorily done !! Isn’t that the basic purpose (if not sole) of schooling ?

Though there are few good exceptions, I am afraid many children are moving away from even the basic grasp of subjects. “Projects” and “activities” are supposed to form a mere part of the curriculum and constructively aid in an holistic growth ! These should NOT end up consuming maximum time-energy of young minds, and then leaving them with a tired space, a yawning gape at the end of the day to imbibe the actual academic content or even to play or do physical exercises !!!!

Stress is further enhanced as nowadays our career choices and modern lifestyles have confined us (the youngest generation of parents) in already choked urban areas; and even kids have to start the day at 6 AM or earlier (i.e. board the school bus) and are able to reach back home around 5 PM or later (because of traffic or/and tuitions).

Irrespective of any rule, some schools don’t even conduct at least the basic tests /exams. That makes both the child and parents completely indifferent to academics ! Whether or not they understand the tasks – they are only focussed on finishing the “projects” and “activities” at any cost, by any means and timely ‘submitting’ it at school. That’s what the design of some new type curriculum dictates in many such schools.

Where is the space and time needed to r-e-a-l-l-y grow ? In the hustle-bustle, its also so difficult for parents /guardians /teachers to find a niche to quietly unwind, deeply assess children’s progress and properly interact amongst themselves. I am not hinting at the mechanical routine meetings or discussions but at the r-e-a-l assessment !

And regarding all sorts of fees –  it is needless to mention their inexplicabilities and almost exponential hike-curves ! And on top of that, we also pay a considerable Education Tax !! Why ?

In my opinion, it would do us genuine good if we could go back and stick to the “trusted” version of our schooling that concentrated MOSTLY on the essential features of “academics”, and then wisely balanced the REMAINING portion with extra-curricular “activities” or “projects”. Let’s revive and maintain that old proportion or healthy balance !!!

Of course, I agree – perhaps with the inclusion of some modifications that would best suit India’s budding future (as recommended by educated and experienced Academicians, Social Scientists and Child Psychologists).

But unfortunately, the new models have paced up so drastically that now many of us perhaps don’t have options. Every school in the neighbourhood to the one 15 kms away appears the same. Still, if possible, let’s give a thought and try to revive the “trusted” version of our education system (albeit with approved modifications), starting right with primary-level schools.

While framing policies and making rules per se India, let us keep certain aspects in mind. Here below, I have briefly listed three major ones :

1. Let us ensure a measured degree of uniformity in the country’s education system. Let NOT there be any sort of discrepancy which may cast even the faintest shadows of division across the rungs of our society !! Why thrust the burden of non-uniformities on children and ask them to cope with it ? Let’s be sensible and responsible in the most sincere terms.

2.  Secondly, let NOT educational reforms be mere short-term ones or based on vote-bank politics ! For example, presently the RTE facilitates free education for children up to 14 years and the Government-directed reservations in this category stand at 25 % in each school. But have you ever thought – what is going to happen to these children after 14 years of such schooling ? Ideally, that sums up just the 8th standard. Are there any reservations /provisions for owning up an “extended” support for their “complete” development or is their fate going to confront a full-stop, thereafter ? Then what is the ultimate purpose of such a facility ? A drop-out at that level, particularly from a brand school, is definitely going to struggle more !!… Moreover, it may make matters worse if we suddenly let go their tender hands; a young age as 14 years is too vulnerable to get trapped amidst anti-social elements and get lost into some dangerous anonymity !!!

3. Thirdly, can we possibly weigh options to NATIONALIZE various schools just as we nationalized banks ? It will not only maintain a definite standard (courses, fees, exams, activities, etc.) and uniformity but also build better check-posts of transparency and accountability in every department !

Let’s mind more about exploring the inner sheen than just meeting the expectations of a glamorous exterior !

One Episode, Two Realizations: an Emotional, a Funny

Every year on Rakhsha Bandhan, I remember the early morning gift (a Raakhi and a Coconut) from the priests of Jagannath temple at my hometown. (In this festival, this is also a ritual between temple priests and yajmaans (hosts); the yajamaans in turn gift them due dakshinas.) Being the only child, I used to much look forward to it because to celebrate the occasion, I neither had a brother nor I was/am a brother to someone. Actually, I more desired that someone tied a Raakhi to me ! Moreover, my near cousins were either too young or too old or resided in remote terrains or atheists.

Hence to fill all sorts of emotional gaps on this day, my sister-in-law has now made it a point to include a Raakhi for me too in her annual Raakhi parcels to Bangalore. I was indeed elated with her idea…

Last year, she sent a beautiful gem-studded Raakhi. But while it was in transit, thieves stole it 😦 !

So this year, she sent a ‘Jaga-aakhi’ Raakhi (based on Lord Jagannath’s eyes). As usual, thieves have torn the envelope but it seemed the ‘Jaga-aakhi’ deterred them !! My sister-in-law’s trick worked this time 🙂 .

IMG_20140810_102755

The other realization : chor adat se toh majboor hain hii… saath mein, police-ke-dandey aur divya-netron ke ” sirf ahesaas” se bhi majboor hain 🙂 ! (no doubt, thieves have a habitual compulsion… at the same time, they also have another compulsion owing to “mere realization” of police-batons and divine-eyes !)

Desi Thelewale Bhaiyya, Zindabaad !

Today morning, I came across an article detailing certain analysis of Indian food by a well-known Australian culinary historian, Charmaine O’Brien. While reading it, I was prompted within to reflect on my own thoughts related to it.

Last week, we had fresh hot thelewale Samosas (an Indian snack from portable stalls) presented to us by our Help.

I was a bit hesitant since I have just recovered from Viral fever. But ultimately I couldn’t resist the utter temptation – toh “Jay Jagannath” bolke khaa liya (so I had it trusting Almighty) 🙂 … It was indeed so mouth-watering !

Then I remembered my hometown’s 50 paisa /1 rupee variety Chops (stuffed Pakoras) that were incredibly tasty, and just slightly bigger than old one rupee coins. Those from the thelewale used to be a perfect treat with Moodhee (puffed rice) and Masala Chaaye (herbal tea) on rainy evenings ! They are still there but with increasing awareness on hygiene and new options of snacks, now the portable stalls are mostly seen in properly monitored exhibitions and traditional melas (fairs).

samosa_kachori

hmmmmn… Kitna bhi badda restaurant ho le ya aap kaise bhi banalo (howsoever big may be a restaurant or one prepares it with all care), when it comes to Pakoras, Chaats, Jhaal Muri, Ghoogni, Pani Poori, Dahi Vada and these kinda stuff, you can’t beat that of our very own desi thelewale Bhaiyya (India’s street Hawkers) !

For a while, forget the hygiene: zindegi ki woh ‘zing thing’ kahaan se laogey (from whence would you attain that unique pungent flavour of life) 🙂 !!!

And the charchaa (gabfest) around fresh street food and the Hawkers’ portable stalls, under the thundering clouds and in the cool zephyr… usmein baat hii kuch khaas hai, hai na (there’s a special air about it, isn’t it)… ?

muddheemasla

 

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