Traditional Vs. Modern Society

 

 

Traditional Vs. Modern Society.

One day, my grandmother and I were arguing over what I should wear to a function. She wanted me to wear a traditional salwar kameez. I wanted to wear a comfortable kurti over a pair of jeans, and so I refused to don the traditional clothing. My grandmother gave up, sighed, and said that the youngsters of the twenty first century were idolizing the westerners and that human race was already half dead when we spend hours on the computer. I immediately got defensive, and I deliberately looked at the cell phone in her hand and retorted, “I doubt you had a cell phone in your days grandma,” and left the room. But when I found myself pondering over what my grandmother said, I began to realize the adverse effects of modern lifestyle.

We blindly imitate the Western people just because we think it is more “cool”. And for this reason, things which reflect our heritage and customs like religious practices, clothing, beliefs, and languages are gradually fading away. Sometimes, I feel shameful not knowing my own mother tongue properly. At some point, these things will completely vanish and future generations will not even know traditional practices, let alone experiencing them.

It is true that gadgets and technologies introduced in recent times have made our life much easier and they have certainly made our world a “smaller place”, but we can’t ignore their drawbacks. Now a days, we spend way too much time on the computer and spoil our health. When I visited my cousins in the countryside, I marveled at how close and intimate they seemed to be, and regretted that I could not share the same lifestyle. In the cities, where we are engrossed in our own hectic schedules, we hardly find time for our own family members, let alone friends and neighbors.

Our ideal way of spending free time in the city is to watch a movie, or play a video game on the computer. But when these technologies were not available in the past, our ancestors used to spend their time playing games and chatting with people, face to face. We feel proud to be communicating with so may people around the world at the same time through social networking websites, but what we don’t realize is that we are creating false friendships and wasting valuable time.

I am not saying that you should completely leave modern lifestyle, and live like how people used to in the 1970s, but respect your heritage. Don’t drown yourself in fresh gadgets. Spend time with your family and friends. In Walt Disney’s words, “We shall remember that our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.

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The “Natural” Lesson

The “Natural” Lesson

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There is always one thing that the fifth graders at Tom Matsumoto Elementary School wait for, and just for the record, it wasn’t Halloween.

It was a five day trip to Walden West, an integrated nature camp. Just as September is around the corner, we would all have our fingers crossed beneath over desks, eagerly waiting for the circular that would tell us when the camp was scheduled for. And there would be lot of pleading and screaming at homes to convince our parents to let us go. But one week later, we would all have content expressions on our face, with our fingers clutching our permissions slips.

Walden West was a sprawling camp situated at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and it was just absolutely beautiful. My ten year old self thought that I couldn’t describe the place because I didn’t have the vocabulary to do so, but now I realized that I could not express it in words because the beauty of Walden West couldn’t be equated with letters.

So we unloaded our luggage, ran into our cabins, claiming the beds for ourselves, but everyone’s smiles dropped. There were already other people in the cabin- People who were not from our school. There was complete silence while the rest of my classmates gave the strangers cold stares. I tried hard to choke back my laughter as I plopped down on my bed. I mean, seriously, what was this- we were behaving as if we were opposing teams on the day of the FIFA world cup finals.

Soon after lunch, we were to be divided into groups and allotted to various camp instructors. When I heard that I was in Scooby’s group, I was excited that is, until I found out that most of the other kids in my group were from the “rival” school. I was pretty upset that I wasn’t paired up with my friends, but finally managed to gather myself.

I would be lying if I said that I did not enjoy that first day. Honestly, it was just like spending time with my own classmates. That was when Scooby told us of the big “TASK” throughout the week, we would have to participate in three activities that would test our team spirit. If we successfully finish all three tasks, there would be allowed to go on a night trek. A gasp ran through everyone in our group. A night trek is the most dangerous thing that a ten year old can do right? Everyone donned determined expressions, and I knew that we would do whatever we needed to do in order to go on that night trek.

Two days later, we successfully finished two activities, and we had just one more left to go on that night trek. “So far, you guys have done really well in your tasks, but the last one is the hardest, and this time, you are on a time limit, “Scooby explained. Our eyes widened in anxiety. He continued, “This is what you are supposed to do arrange yourself in increasing order of your importance.”

“WHAT?” I screamed in my head. How are we supposed to arrange ourselves according to importance? I racked my brain to see if there was some sort of a mathematical formula that would give the numerical value of the importance of a person. Around me, everyone was running, not knowing what to do. Suddenly it hit me- I was surprised what I hadn’t  thought of it before. “STOP!” I shouted. Everyone froze and turned to me. “Don’t you get it? We are all equal- no one is superior or inferior,” I explained.

“So what are we supposed to do now?” a confused boy asked.

“We stand in a horizontal line.” I clarified. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl smile. The girl was not from my school, and would always try to stand in the background quietly. Scooby grinned, and gave me a sign of approval.

That night after dinner, everyone in our group was geared up with hiking bags. We watched the sunset after we scaled a steep hill, but as we were coming back sown, it was pitch dark, and we couldn’t see anything. There were many scream, and an occasional “Stop stepping on my toes!” and what not. I slipped and tripped on the floor, but no one could see what has happened to me. Some fingers gently fumbled around and helped me on to my feet. I realized that it was the quiet girl.

“Thanks for helping,” I told her gratefully as I brushed the dirt off my jeans. “How come you are not scared of the dark like everyone else?” I asked her, trying to brew up a conversation.

“My entire world has been dark ever since I was six months old. I’m blind”, she explained. I held her hand tightly, not because I was scared, and not out of pity, but to show that I was proud of her, and that I admired her courage. To this day, I still stay in contact with her.

Thus, at Walden West, I learnt things far more important than finding out the differences between red and blueberries I learnt life lessons- lessons that I will never forget in my entire life.

Empowering the Girl Child

Empowering the Girl Child

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            When we are young, one of the first thing that we learn to say is the word “mother.” Even in the world of scriptures, the first thing we learn is “Mathru Devo Bhava,” which means, “the Mother is equivalent to God.” In a world where the mother or a woman in general plays such an important role, isn’t it absolutely necessary to educate them?

            Today, I Geethika Simma, feel extremely privileged to be educated. In India, only about 50% of the female population is educated, while more than 75% of the men are literate. Why have we neglected women’s education for such a long time?

            Educating the girl child plays an important role at various levels in society; it is useful to maintain a sense of discipline in the family, improves the country’s economy, and is beneficial for the society in general. It is said that when you educate a man, you only teach an individual, but when you educate a woman, you instruct an entire family. All in all, providing a woman with knowledge is like opening a door of wisdom and new opportunities.

            We’ve downtrodden upon the women in our country for centuries together, and it is high time that we put an end to it. The first step is to spread awareness about this issue. Support and encourage women in your own family to go on to do their higher studies. Treat her with the same respect that you would give to any other person. Let us stride forward towards empowering the girl child.

Youth and Politics

 

Youth and Politics

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          In our country, most of the population is below 40 years of age. Then why is it that most of our leaders are above 60 years old? Isn’t it rather ironic that an “experienced” politician’s career is at its apex at the same age when the common man generally takes his retirement?

          The adjectives that come to our mind when we think of the word youth are energy, enthusiasm, diligence, intellect, and spirited. This is exactly what our country needs – strong, young leaders who personify these characteristics. There are only a handful of young leaders today like Rahul Gandhi, Varun Gandhi, etc., but they are only on the political scene because they belong to families that have strong influence in the field. It is practically impossible to find a young leader with no political background.

          Why is it that the youth in our country are so reluctant to step into politics? One reason is that the youth in our country are simply not interested in politics. However, we see that they actively participate in showing their discontent in issues like reservation, Nirbhaya, and corruption. Another reason for this deplorable political scene is that youth who are willing to help the society are not given opportunity to prove themselves under the context that they lack experience.

          If the youth in our country are given an opportunity, they may be able to change the political situation in our country for the better. Youngsters are said to be very creative, and their creativity may offer effective solutions to various problems that impend our society. This doesn’t mean that older people should be completely pushed out of politics; in fact they would serve as valuable mentors and guidance counselors to young leaders.

          Youth can do a lot more than just casting their vote. They can help in raising awareness about numerous social issues in their community, educate the illiterate about politics, and raise their voices against corruption. We shall all look forward to the day when we see young leaders making our country a better place to live.

 

 

 

 

 

Diversity

Diversity at the Cost of Unity?

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India is a country with people from a wide range of castes and religions, where they all follow different customs and traditions. Diversity is the one thing that best defines our nation. But is it right to break our nation into pieces and pit people of different social groups against one another under the context of diversity?

Unity plays a major role in the development of our nation. Unity is the one and only element that brings us all under the same umbrella and work towards the welfare of our nation. Without this glue that we call unity, our country would face the threat of disintegration.

In order to promote unison, we must learn to accept other. We must develop a strong and unbreakable sense of fraternity. We must put aside any grudges that we may have against others, and think of ourselves as only the citizens of our nation. We must strive for the development of our motherland, and always keep Benjamin Franklin’s wise words in mind, “United we STAND, Divided we FALL.”

 

Misuse of the NREGA

 NREGA 1

            Agriculture is said to be the backbone of the Indian economy, with more than 60% of the population of the country employed in this field. Cultivation is a seasonal affair, where people are employed for only a few months a year. Farming is also extremely unpredictable – just one mild shower or a gust of wind can make you lose all that you have.

            Farmers and agricultural laborers generally do not earn enough to make ends meet as they are not employed year round. In the light of this, the Government of India had introduced the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). Perhaps a short description of this scheme is necessary here. The NREGA was a plan introduced in 2005. This ACT ensures livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

            There is no denying, the idea behind this scheme is excellent. However, farmers seeking employment found a way to earn money without actually during the work. For example, Raju is an agriculturist with a few acres of land where he is cultivating sugar can, a crop that almost takes a year and a half before it can be harvested. Once he plants the crop, he practically doesn’t have anything to do for almost an entire year. He must wait for a long time before he can sell his crop and receive his income. He must struggle throughout the year to make ends meet. Thankfully, the NREGA comes to his rescue. He is given 100 days of employment with decent wages with which he can live a comfortable life.

            Most of the time, he is asked to clear out the dry ponds, and increase the volume such that when the monsoon season comes, the rainwater can be stored in the man made ponds. Raju is content with his work, but he soon begins to slack off. He starts working for only one or two hours in the morning, but he is paid a full day’s wage. During the afternoon, he works on the farms of wealthy landowners, thus earning an extra few rupees. While the fact that he is earning enough to lead a comfortable life is assuring, how he is earning the money is simply unethical. He is being paid for the work that he is not actually doing. Raju is not the only villager who does this – thousands of rural inhabitant all across India follow his example.

            This is the big loophole in the NREGA. It is high time that the government looks into this matter. Those who really deserve financial aid do not receive it. While it is important for the government to look after the welfare of the citizens of the country, it should also ensure that people do not utilize such schemes in the negative manner.

Tricking for a Book

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10… 9…8….7….6…5…4…3…2…1…

“TRRINNNGGG!” went the bell in its ear piercing trills. I popped out of my seat and dashed out of the door before anyone stopped me. Don’t get me wrong – I actually love school, but today was special.

After an entire year of finger crossing, nail chewing, and fangirl screams, the sequel to my favorite book series had finally released today, and I would have been the first girl in the line to Barnes and Nobles from midnight to morning with a coffee cup in my hand, but then every teenager has parents. And let me tell you this, most parents do not allow their kids to skip school so that you can get one of the first copies of a newly released novel.

So here I was, speeding towards the local bookstore, ready to swallow the book. I practically ran into the book shop, and didn’t dare stop to pause and take in the scent of the crisp, freshly printed paper the way I usually do, and just simply sprinted towards the “NEWLY ARRIVED” section.

There it was – my book, all shiny and just waiting to be read. Just as I was about to reach for the book, another muscular had gotten hold of it. “Hey! I was going to take it!” I protested, pouting childishly.

“Maybe, but I got it first, so it is mine,” he retorted, looking all smug.

“Awww! Fine. Can I at least read the back cover jacket?” I pleaded, making a puppy dog face. He sighed and handed the book over to me, rather reluctantly, might I add. “So do you read a lot of books?” I asked, brewing up a conversation.

“Hell, yeah! The library has a place reserved for me, because the place is practically like my second home,” he replied.

“Really? I am a total book worm. I bet we don’t have similar tastes in books though.”

“I don’t know about that. My favorite is Percy Jackson.”

“No way! I would die for both Harry Potter and PJ. The storyline for our Quidditch hero is amazing, but my favorite book character is our brave demigod,” I explained.

“Cool! I am into mystery and a bit of sleuthing. Hardy Boys and the Secret Seven were my soulmates when I was younger, but now, I am more into Alex Rider, 39 Clues, and Sherlock Holmes.”

“Wow. Agatha Christie and Sydney Sheldon are some great authors in mystery too,” I added. “SO when did you start reading?”

“Oh, me? I was reading ever since I was young. Don’t ask me if I read the princess stories, because as embarrassing as it sounds, I did,” he grinned.

I chuckled and said, “The original fairy tales are good, but the modern ones with twists in The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley are amazing as well. And how could we forget Dr. Suess and his green eggs and ham? And I person who hasn’t read Enid Blyton hasn’t tasted childhood, dude.”

“Hmm- mmm. So do you read classics? I’m into Robinsoe Crusoe, the Jungle Book, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth.”

 

“Yeah, those are some great adventure classics. The other classics like Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Rebecca are very slow moving though.”

“My feeling exactly. I have no idea how someone survive a ten page description of a door,” the guy complained, whining. “DO you like dystopian?” he continued.

“Are you kidding me? Of course I do! Hunger Games and Divergent were very unique, but is this sort of trend going on – a main character always dies at the end.”

“Yup. And the vampire fever is killing me. First it was Twilight with all the girls screaming Team Edward or Team Jacob, and now it is the Vampire Academy. Everyone is just vampire obsessed!”

“Very true, but the Vampire Diaries are good, and are a perfect combination of thrill and plot,” I told him as we walked towards the cash counter. “DO you like the movie adaptations of books?”

“Well, they are not that bad. It is practically impossible to reproduce everything that happens in a book onto the screen, but I guess that is the magic of a novel, right?”

“Yeah, I would always prefer reading the book as opposed to watching the movie,” I said to him as I paid the lady and took the change. “Well, it was great meeting you. See you later!”

“WHAT? Wait. What about my book?” he fumed. The guy hadn’t even realized that I’d bought the book for myself – he was so immersed in our conversation.

I pulled open the door, flipped my hair back and game him a devilish smile, and I strolled down the street with my gleaming book in my hand.

The Unfortunate Weave

The Unfortunate Weave

weaver

Once upon a time, there was a young weaver in the rural textile town of Pochampalli. He worked as a daily wager in a huge factory, earning very little amounts every day. When he found out that he would be getting married in a short period of time, he decided to present his fiance a fine silk sari, a luxurious and lavish gift that a simple man like himself could not afford. But he worked diligently and saved just enough money to do as he wished.

Unfortunately, his mother fell very sick and he had to give up his hard earned money to contribute towards his mother’s expensive medical treatment, and nothing was left for his wife’s sari.

A year later, the couple were blessed with a young daughter, and on her naming ceremony, the weaver vowed to buy a silk sari for his daughter’s own wedding.

Competition in the textile market was high, and there was unemployment all over the country. The weaver’s wages dropped drastically. His working hours were tiresome and long, but he barely earned enough to feed enough to feed his family – under such curcumstances, he was in no position to save enough money for his daughter’s silk sari.

He finally decided to take matters into his own hands. Everyday as he came back from work, he would sneak one metre of think silk thread into his pocket, and would add that thread to the handloom at his home.

Days passed, weeks passed, and months were replaced by years. On one fine day, his wife unexpectedly passed away. Though heartbroken, he continued with his work, raising his daughter on his own. But just a few weeks later, as he walked out of his work place, he tripped onto the floor, and the silk thread spilled out of his pocket.

Immediately, he is thrown into prison unfairly without given a chance at a trial. He spends fifteen long years in jail. Finally, the weaver goes home after getting released from the prison, expecting a warm welcome from his daughter, only to find that she had dies that very day.

Tears flooded down the weaver’s cheeks as he saw his daughter’s lifeless body. He tears through the house, and takes his half finished sari project which was by then only 4 feet long. He tried to wrap his daughter in that square of cloth. To his immense dismay, the woven cloth was too short to cover the girl’s body. He tried to pull, stretch, and lengthen it, but his attempt was futile.

He fell down on his knees, but his tears stopped abruptly. He laughed maniacally, a vacant expression in his eyes. And for the rest of his life, his half fulfilled desire – his most ardent wish haunted him.