My old bicycle

Google photo of a brave solo female bicycle rider to see the world

Note to my readers : Recently I have started to add a button you will see above saying Listen on Spotify to make it easier for the visually challenged readers to just hear the narration . It is called Podcasting and is a slow process so I have been able to add the Listen button to only 120 blogs or so. I may be able to add it to all of 400 + blogs in time so I request you to be patient. Just tell me if you like this new feature and wish that I continue for all of my blogs so far published. If you do not have the Spotify app, just download it. Thanks.

Note : If you use Microsoft Edge as your browser , you can listen to this blog by clicking the A button in the browser after choosing a voice of your choice. In this case just select American English.

Synopsis : No matter where we live in the world, we all want to see the big wide world that we have only heard of or read about in books but our poverty and our limited knowledge of the world prevents us. Only a few fortunate ones can travel and see all the world has to offer but they too are intimidated by the immensity, the logistics and most importantly the cost of travel, food and shelter. There is an alternative so read this blog.

I learned to ride a bicycle when I was perhaps 7 years old. I used to take my father’s bicycle to a field where a cousin taught me how to balance myself on it and gradually learned it without anyone’s help. This learning came at a price of scraped elbows and knees but the joy it gave me served as a balm on my wounds.

It was an old bicycle of my father who after an accident gave up using it so I learned my lessons on it at an early age when most kids dare not use an adult bicycle due to the fear of falling. The over protective parents now buy them tricycles at first or fix some training wheels on two sides of a bicycle to prevent them from falling. We did not have such luxuries.

Our parents did not bother to know what I was up to most of the time that included a lot of mischief making so we as children grew up with a whole lot of freedom to do whatever we wished that would make the present generation green with envy.

Once I got on my bike from the edge of a roadside veranda because of my small height but pedaled on down our narrow lane where we lived. The only problem was how to get down from the high seat from where my small legs could hardly reach the pedals so I asked a kid to hold the bike so that I could get down but he ignored me and I fell down flat on my face with the bike on top of me. My bleeding knees and elbows alarmed Ma so she brought out the hated tincture of iodine to stop bleeding. The tincture hurt my wounded pride more than anything else.

Almost all families kept a bottle of tincture of iodine because I was not the only dare devil in the lane. The tincture hurt more than the scraped knees so we often tried to hide our mishaps but Ma had sharp eyes that no one could pull any wool over. Dad was more tolerant so he did not mind our little adventures now and then.

Later I inherited this old bicycle when I was in college so it served me well as my sole mode of transport for many years because my elder brother had found a Government job so he bought a brand new bike to go to his office.

My old bike needed a lot of maintenance to keep it going so I upended the bike every Sunday, cleaned the chain with toothbrush and kerosene and fixed the broken springs under the seat or found a new spring to replace the damaged one. I cleaned the mudguards and buffed the bike with wet cloth and oil. I oiled the bearings, put some grease on the chain and made sure that the tire pressure was good. I did this every Sunday year after year to maintain my old bike.

But one day my old tire gave way that could not be repaired even by a genius so I sent a distress message to my dad from my college campus that I needed a new tire before I could come home that night so the very next day a classmate brought me the new tire dad bought for me.

Later this bike that I had maintained with loving care for so many years was passed on to someone who trashed it in a short time because he did not care to maintain it at all.

I had to write about my old bike as a preamble just to tell you how it gave me the freedom to move around anywhere anytime. I was also the errand boy of our family so I had to buy all the essentials for them every month so the bike was very useful. I even woke up at 4 am to fall in line just to buy 20 kgs of coal at the depot and returned home hungry and thirsty at 2 pm with the sac of coal on my bike. Don’t ask me why anyone had to fall in line for 20 kgs of coal at 4 am in a country blessed with coal mines everywhere.

The point is that a bicycle new or old gives you the freedom of mobility but sadly I left India at a young age and never rode a bicycle since then. I learned to drive in Vietnam and was given a new car there. So gradually I became dependent on motor cars and lost the ability to ride a bicycle the way I used to.

Once I was in India to visit my Ma when my brother got the bright idea that he will organize a picnic for me at a place some 30 kms from the city and got me a brand new bicycle to ride. So one morning we started with great excitement on their part and some trepidation on my part. I was amazed that I could still ride a bike and pedal it so far because I had not done so for so many years.

But my joy and amazement was short lived when the time came for us to return home that was more than 30 kms away. Everyone pulled ahead of me leaving me trailing by a kilometer or so because my legs were so sore that I was in terrible pain. At this time a fellow noticed my difficulties and came to my aid. He came behind me and gave me a strong push each time I slowed down. This way he brought me home but the pain in my legs lasted over two weeks. I still remember my ordeal.

So you must ride your bicycle frequently to stay in shape. Otherwise your legs will not support you and cause a lot of distress. The comfortable cars did this to me so until now I can’t ride a bike to go anywhere without my legs swelling up.

In Vietnam I was given a Taiwanese bike that was so heavy that I at first removed all the unnecessary parts to lighten it but it was still too much so I never rode it. May be they should learn from India how to make decent bikes that are light and wonderful to ride.

One of my classmates in college had a brand new Sen Raleigh bike that he pedaled with great pride every morning while we struggled on our beat up bikes. I always dreamed of owning a Sen Raleigh that was the Rolls Royce of bikes but never could afford one as a student. Later when I could afford one, my lazy legs ( no thanks to cars I drove ) could not pedal anything let alone a Sen Raleigh. I feel a twinge of envy when I see how young people all over the world ride their bikes with absolute ease and joy.

Once I had a visitor when I was living in Sikasso in Mali, West Africa. He was a Swiss gentleman who had arrived in Sikasso from Dakar in Senegal and was going on to Niger and from there to Algiers crossing the Sahara desert on his bike. I was amazed. He said that he could pedal his bike loaded with all the things he needed like food, water, some spare parts etc. for 100 kms every day. At the end of his day, he could just sleep under a tree or in a village thus traveling over vast distances day after day.

He sent me a card form Algiers saying that he was on his way to Europe passing through Morocco, Gibraltar, Spain, and France etc. to reach Switzerland. I forgot his name but remember his stamina and courage even today. It was a wonderful way to see the world.

I often hear of a few young men in India who make a group to travel all over India on their bikes. The group travel has some distinct advantages like when someone has some trouble with his bike, they all stop to lend a hand. There is also safety in numbers while a solitary bike rider may run into bandits or thieves on the road. It is outright dangerous to ride solo in some countries where lawless people will rob you, hurt you or even kill you for your money. So group of bicyclists can offer some protection to each other. Female bike riders may face more dangers than others if they ride solo but a mixed group provides the security.

I met a German bicyclist in Haiti who told us how he was pelted with stones by the Haitian bandits who were suspicious. Haiti was undergoing a revolution and a period of lawlessness so many bad people took advantage of the situation to make some quick money. I was accosted by a group on the road to Les Cayes but I spoke Creole so they let me pass. They could have hurt my wife and two children or damaged my car but my Creole came to my aid.

This world is beautiful that very few people ever get the chance or the opportunity to see because it takes a lot of money to travel by plane and pay for expensive visas, food and hotels. There are unscrupulous people everywhere who will take advantage of you given half a chance. There are con men and women, thieves, tricksters, outright criminals and corrupt officials who all are eager to lighten your wallet. Solo travelers are often victimized this way in many countries like that poor German bicyclist in Haiti.

But if you have the courage and have a few good companions to go with, you too can see the world the way no tourist can ever see and experience. You will get to know the real people, the poor people and honest people who will shelter you and give you food if you need. You will be able to get off the beaten path to discover hidden gems that only the locals know about.

If you write a blog on your journey and share your story with the world with photos and videos, these hidden places will no longer remain hidden so some people may start to commercialize it and trivialize it by bringing in hordes of insensitive tourists who leave behind trash and a bad impression on the simple folks.

If you really value your freedom and others then do not write and publicize about your travels so that the simple people may continue to live in peace and preserve their unique cultures. The tourist money may help them initially but in the long run they lose whatever is precious to them like their values, their culture, their food and even their way of living. ( Read my blog here called The effect of mass tourism here )

So start with your own country. Get a sturdy bike and all the things your bike can carry and join a group of likeminded bicyclists. You will see your beautiful country and get to know the diversity it represents. It is also the least costly way to travel and see the world. Once you have seen your own country, then start with another country where people are friendly and welcoming. It requires years of training to pedal long distances. You have to build up your leg muscles and your stamina. At first you will have sore muscles but eventually it will go away. The endurance will gradually increase until you are fit for the challenge of your life.

You will also have the time of your life. This experience will enrich you in a way no fly by night packaged deals promoted by the Tour operators can. It will give you the freedom to see the world the way only you can. When you are old and sitting in a rocking chair, your memories will always bring a smile to your face.

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

Mis blogs en espagnol

Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

Blogs in Japanese

My blogs at Wix site

tumblr posts    

Blogger.com

Medium.com

Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русски


Unity in diversity

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Source : Google photo of unity in diversity in India

Note to my readers : Recently I have started to add a button you will see above saying Listen on Spotify to make it easier for the visually challenged readers to just hear the narration . It is called Podcasting and is a slow process so I have been able to add the Listen button to only 120 blogs or so. I may be able to add it to all of 400 + blogs in time so I request you to be patient. Just tell me if you like this new feature and wish that I continue for all of my blogs so far published. If you do not have the Spotify app, just download it. Thanks.

Note : If you use Microsoft Edge as your browser , you can listen to this blog by clicking the A button in the browser after choosing a voice of your choice. In this case just select American English.

Synopsis :  A great change is coming to India where a great leader is changing the country fundamentally by making ” progress for everybody together “ his mantra and is making all Indians proud for the first time in their life. He is bringing unity among the diverse population of the country by saying that we are all Indians  first and we are all brothers and sisters who have the same aspirations as others to grow in prosperity and live in peace and harmony. 

I must admit that I have not always believed in unity in diversity in India because as a child I was led to believe that the Muslims were the root of all the problems in India. They failed to assimilate with others no matter where they lived and created their own communities where they felt safer and where they could be a Muslim according to the tenets of their faith.

This feeling of separateness was very evident everywhere including the schools where our Muslim classmates remained aloof and separate from the rest of the class although at a very young age, we did not understand this separateness in them or the reasons for it. They never became our friends and we never invited each other to our homes or public festivals or religious events so this feeling of separateness never left us and had a great impact on the way we looked at each other as we were growing up.

There seemed to be a great divide between the Muslims and the rest meaning the 70% of the Indian population where the Hindus were the majority but there are the Christians, Sikhs, Jains, the Buddhists and many other fringe groups like the Bahais, the Parsis, the Jews and others but this divide became more pronounced after the partition of India into large Muslim dominated Pakistan and Hindu dominated India known as  Hindustan.

I was too young to understand the full impact of the vivisection of India because in 1947, I was only 3 years old but my father knew. He had worked under the British in the pre independence India in areas that are now part of Pakistan where some of our siblings were born. He was awarded a prestigious medal by the British for his services in Wajiristan that is a tribal area of Pakistan in the west and worked closely with the Muslim tribals in that area. He lived in Quetta in the Sindh province where one of my sisters was born so my parents were quite familiar with the Muslims wherever they lived.

Then came the politicians who started to see great benefits for themselves in dividing the Indians based on their religions thus creating the barrier and animosity that still prevails 70 years after the independence and has led to 4 wars with Pakistan alone.

I will not repeat the history here and dwell on the reasons because there is no room for such a topic here that can become a very big subject that can’t be discussed in just a few words here so I will stick to the subject of diversity and unity here among all people living in India no matter what their religions and beliefs.

So I will go back to my grade school days and try to understand this great divide that existed then and still persists today. One day our teacher while taking the attendance noticed that one Muslim kid was absent so he asked a few of us Hindu kids to go to his house and find out why he had failed to attend school. We had never been to any Muslim house before but we found his house and entered when no one answered the door.

Inside we found our schoolmate in tears but what was most shocking to us was that he was chained like a dog to the wall by probably his parents but we did not know why. We did not know what we could do so we returned to our school and reported the matter to our teacher who kept quiet. We did not see that kid again in school and moved on to the next grade. He was soon forgotten and I can’t recall his name or his face now but I do feel the shock even today seeing him chained up like a dog and treated so badly.

In other countries such matters would be reported to the Police who will then take some actions to free the kid and ask his parents about it but I do not know to this day if they did and what happened to that kid. Then one day I saw him in the market selling joss sticks while his father stood nearby keeping an eye on him. He had a cruel look on his face and perhaps it was he who had chained his son like a dog in his house but why?

We were also shocked at the abject poverty in which the kid lived so perhaps his parents could not afford to send him to school so made him sell a few things in the market at his tender age. This is the story of millions of Muslims who have remained poor and without education because they had other priorities like survival. One classmate who one day came with a shirt that his mother had hand stitched entirely for him made us gasp because we had never seen such a beautifully hand stitched shirt before but it also signified poverty among the Muslims.

The politicians have always treated the Muslims as their vote bank by telling them that only they can look after their needs but failed to do so because it was a political gimmick to get their votes so the Muslims now feel that they have been deceived by the people who they voted for.

But it was not always this way. Netaji Bose was the first national  leader who made no distinction between people  based on their religion and welcomed all to join his Indian National Army  ( INA) to fight the British and make India free so thousands of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians joined INA and fought together to oust the British and some 26000 died doing so. The survivors who are now over 90 years old ,feeble and poor shed tears remembering how great a leader was Bose who gave them self-respect and dignity and called them all to fight for a cause so people from all religions , caste and creed responded.

But the seed of division was sown by some extremely greedy politicians who wanted power in the post independent India so chose to divide people on the basis of religion and separated India into three parts in 1947 that led to Hindus fleeing East Pakistan and West Pakistan in large numbers that got them massacred in the hands of rabble Muslims. They were encouraged by their political leaders and Mullahs to get rid of all Hindus from Pakistan. Hindus in India then took revenge on the Muslims thus creating the barrier and mistrust that we as children saw and I write about today. Indian lives lost in the struggle for freedom and the consequent massacres in large scale proves that Gandhi’s non violent struggle was a blatant lie that the world still believes in.

When I left India at the age of 22, I saw for the first time how Muslims lived in other countries and how they were in no way any different from others. They treated me so well in Algeria where they invited me to their homes and fed me sumptuous meals during the Id festival. I have already written about how they invited me in seeing that I was getting wet in the rain on the road to Mascara near Mostaganem. Nobody had poisoned their heart against the Hindus the way the crooked politicians had done in India and use them as their vote bank for selfish gains.

It was a group of Palestinian boys who found me a trattoria in Sienna, Italy one day and a Pakistani gentleman in Sudan had given me shelter in his home one night so I began to realize that all people no matter what religion they follow are simply people with same aspirations as anyone else and dream of a peaceful and prosperous life no matter where they live. I have shared meals with them and their hospitality in many countries outside India but in my home country people still live separate lives.

Now for the first time in India a new leader has emerged who has said that all Indians deserve the education, jobs and prosperity irrespective of caste, creed, color, race and religion so that the country as a whole can move forward  and make progress. Muslims were so surprised by this declaration that they at first thought that it was too good to be true but soon realized that in New India there was room for everybody where anyone can make progress and come out of poverty.

For the first time they were told that the Hindus are not their enemies but are their brothers and sisters who do not look down on them. They saw for the first time that the government is helping the poor people everywhere by bringing electricity to all villages and  building farm to market roads, by building millions of toilets in the villages, by giving poor farmers debt relief, by providing  subsidized cooking gas to the poor people, by making universal health care a reality, by giving everyone free medical insurance worth Rs. 500000, by giving low interest loans to people to open their own business, by guaranteeing a good market price for the  farm-produce and reserving 10% of all jobs for the minorities like the Muslims.

Muslim women for the first time were called sisters by the Prime Minister of the country who promised them to repeal their hateful practice of Triple Talaq rule that any Muslim man can use to divorce his wife and throw her out as a destitute. They were in tears of disbelief when this law was passed in the parliament because no one had ever thought of helping the poor divorced Muslim women this way.

There was a Hindu lady social worker in Lucknow who freed the Muslim women embroiders from virtual slavery and abject poverty and from the clutches of the exploitative agents who were making these poor women blind from the hard work of embroidery , paying them pittance and making huge profit from their exquisite work. Please read my blog : The pride and strife of embroiders of Lucknow. ( power point )

This had never happened before so slowly the Muslims have begun to understand that now there is a government that is not dividing them just because they are Muslims but actually helping them come out of their poverty through numerous schemes that are providing them education, jobs and business opportunities.

Slowly they are beginning to support the new government in increasingly larger numbers although the hate mongering is still fashionable among many who have not supported the new Government and continue to support the old politicians who still use them as their vote bank and continue to make fake promises to them.

So I see now a change in the offing that is slowly starting to transform India into a more progressive and prosperous country where more and more people from all sections of the society are coming to join the ever growing middle class because the government is determined to help everyone and treating people of all religions equally creating an inclusive society for all.

The Ram mandir issue :

When Baber destroyed a Hindu temple to build a mosque in Ayodhya some 600 years ago, he laid the foundation of hatred between the Hindus and Muslims that his successors to his throne kept alive by their large scale destruction of thousands of Hindu temples. They converted Hindus to Islam by force and killed wholesale those who resisted thus creating the large Muslim population that it has become now.

Then one day, thousands of Hindus went to Ayodhya and partially demolished the Mosque so that they could build the temple of Ram there but hundreds died in the process when the police opened fire on them. Ram is a Hindu God who was born in Ayodhya and is venerated by hundreds of millions of Indians.

But many Muslims opposed it that led to the intervention of the Supreme Court where the matter stagnates.  Now many Muslims say that it was wrong for the Mughals to destroy the Hindu temples so they will help the Hindus re build the temple at the same spot and help correct a historic wrong.

The future as I see it:

There has been a drastic change in the attitude of many Muslims and countries like Saudi Arabia and Quatar among others are helping build Hindu temples there which was unthinkable a few years ago. When Geeta was translated into Arabic, it sold hundreds of thousands of copies in Saudi Arabia in a short time showing that the Muslims there have the thirst to know Hindu scriptures like Geeta. This is a bitter pill for the fanatic mullahs to swallow but times are changing that brings better understanding between the Hindus and Muslims.

But dividing people on religious grounds and their political affinity has been in fashion in many countries where the politicians try to gain their advantage by labeling people by their race, color, religion, ethnicity etc. Hitler declared that only the white Germans were blue blooded and of pure Aryan descent while the rest were impure people not worth being called Germans. This group included the Jews, many minorities and Gypsies who were brought to the concentration camps to be gassed.

Many political parties in many countries thrive on the notion of white supremacy so they look down on their citizens who are not white or of a different political persuasion creating many difficulties for them. The rise of hate crime against the nonwhites and recent immigrants is a result of homophobia that their political leaders promote.

The discrimination based on one’s religion, race and skin color is an old practice in many parts of the world even today but people are waking up and are demanding equal rights for themselves that does not sit well with some politicians. Could anyone believe that a black man with a name like Barack Hussein Obama will become the President of the United States? But he did that shows that people are changing and voted for him based on merit only.

This is also happening now in India where Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians alike are voting for a Hindu who wants to change fundamentally the country so that all people can live there in peace and harmony and all can participate in the growth of the country. He has not seen people as Hindus and Muslims but Indians first just like the great national leader Netaji Bose long ago and is working hard to unite the people under one nation, one flag, one rule of law for all and equal opportunities for all so that everyone can improve his life.

The fanatic mullahs will not be pleased because it will dilute their prominence in dividing people when Muslims ignore hate and embrace love for all but I see the change taking place right now in India and am very optimistic that it will one day emerge as the great nation where people irrespective of their caste or religion will live in peace and greater prosperity than they had ever imagined possible.

I can see the unity in diversity in India and hope that other nations will emulate this trend and work on it to make racism, intolerance and prejudice a thing of the past like slavery and fanaticism.

The diversity is akin to different flowers in the same garden, each beautiful in its own way and should be appreciated. May be India will show the way.

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

Mis blogs en espagnol

Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

Blogs in Japanese

My blogs at Wix site

tumblr posts    

Blogger.com

Medium.com

Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русски

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Unnecessary incarceration

 

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Source : Google photo of a very crowded jail in the Philippines

Note : If you use Microsoft Edge as your browser , you can listen to this blog by clicking the A button in the browser after choosing a voice of your choice. In this case just select American English.

Synopsis : We often see simple ordinary people thrown in jail for minor infractions in many countries so they suffer needlessly and come out with trauma that bedevils them the rest of their life . The punishment  given to anyone should be proportional to the offense so a reform in the penal system is needed to help those who have served their term to re assimilate into their society to live a productive life.

 

There was a time in the United Kingdom of Great Britain where a child of 10 years of age was tried and convicted of a crime for stealing a loaf of bread because he was hungry and was ordered to be transported. Did you know what that word meant in England in those days? It meant that a convict was sent to Australia on a rickety slave ship that took over a month to reach Australia in the company of other convicts charged with dubious crimes surviving often on just a loaf of bread and water .

Now you can imagine how the bread can turn into a moldy lump during such a long sea voyage with some added vermins thrown in for taste but the convicts had no choice but to survive their horrendous ordeal not knowing what awaited them at their destination. It was better for them not to know because the penal colony of Australia in those days was barren with absolutely no facilities to house and feed anyone let alone undesirables from England so the convicts were put to work to cut stones and make bricks to build shelters first.

It was worse than slave labor for even the children because no one was spared from working. No one could run away because where could they go? It was a vast continent where only the native Australians managed to survive based on their survival skills honed over centuries but they were not eager to help the new arrivals and watched them with suspicion.

So from the Botany bay where they landed, the colony spread toward other coastal areas giving rise to towns and cities later but it took them hundreds of years to do so while the convict ships kept arriving with more people including women and children. Never in the history of mankind a colony was established with the sweat and tears of white people so far from their homeland but that is how Australia was established.

There is a family name called Everingham that has multiplied and spread all over Australia now but once in a while they all gather somewhere to greet each other and remember the first Everingham who had arrived there as a convict for some frivolous misdemeanor centuries ago.

The United Kingdom at that time found it convenient to transport all their undesirables to Australia because their jails were already full and building new jails cost a lot of money so it was a cheaper solution and gain a foothold in a new continent called Australia. It was a wild gamble but it paid off handsomely when they discovered gold and precious gems there later by accident. So they sent men , women and children to fend for themselves and the prostitutes who were so poorly equipped to do so in a far away and strange country.

The governor general of the penal colony was the judge ,jury and executioner rolled into one so many convicts were flogged or even hanged for some infractions because he was supposed to uphold the law and order and somehow make the colony profitable for England so he was relentless in pushing the convicts to work harder and start planting crops for food . This was really hard for them because back in England they were not farmers and did not have the skills to grow their own food. What did children and prostitutes know about farming or doing hard labor to cut stones and make bricks?

This bit of history is the background over which I want to paint the story of crime and punishment now and see where we have arrived since those days and where we are going in the future .

There are millions of common people all over the world who are incarcerated for simple crimes like jaywalking or stealing a loaf of bread or selling cigarette somewhere without a permit so nothing has changed since the Everinghams arrived in Australia.  The penal system and the facilities to jail the convicts varies from country to country but the size of the incarcerated people all over the world keeps on growing .

In the United States alone , it is estimated that over two million people are behind bars and more are being jailed daily so more jails are being built to accommodate them where the government relies on private contractors to build the jails for them and maintain them . It has become a very big business for the private contractors to build jails all over the country because they make huge amount of money and are happy to turn the whole country into jails if that is what makes them rich.

In other countries like here in the Philippines, the government has little or no money to build new jails so they keep pushing new arrivals into cells that are already overcrowded with no room to spare for the new inmates. It is like over crowded rats in a small room leading to frequent fights for survival so the jails have their gangs that rule over the inmates. They are brutal and violent who can kill someone with impunity because they are there for life so who can punish them more?

The gang lords  can carry on illegal drug smuggling, trade in contraband and run the prison anyway they want so the new inmates either submit to their will or be forced to do so by threats, beatings and sexual assaults so by and large the inmates accept the rules just to survive there. The old crooks just laugh when they hear someone say that he was framed and is innocent. The warden and the guards do the same. Why are you here if you are innocent? Their belief in their justice system is unshakable.

There is a story about a fellow who was a very educated person and was jailed for some bank fraud so the warden hired him to do his book keeping because the man was a talented accountant who kept a very good record of all the bribes the warden was taking and stashing it away in some banks. This ledger was kept by the warden in a safe after each entry but one day the convict was released after his term ended.

When the warden opened the safe, he found a blank ledger because the accountant had departed with the real ledger in his hand that he used to find all the money of the warden in banks, withdrew all of them using fake ID and real passwords etc. that he managed to get while in prison and then handed over the ledger to the police. When the police came to arrest the warden, he shot himself. This is perhaps just a story for the movies but such cases do happen in prisons.

In some countries where racism is widespread, the people of dark skin bear the brunt of the penal system and suffer the most. If they are released after sometime then they bear the scar of their prison life the rest of their life and try to survive as best as they can.  Some are so traumatized by their brutal experience that they fail to overcome and adjust to the society again.

So now I come to the analysis part of this blog and ask why is it that people are still incarcerated for minor misdemeanor like jay walking or stealing a loaf of bread when he is hungry? Why women are separated from their children and their home for a simple breach of law that perhaps they did not know anything about?

Did you know that there are thousands of obsolete laws that the police in many countries still use to jail people because there has never been a serious attempt to reform the penal system? The common people may not know all the laws they must obey all the time so they can get into trouble very easily so they are arrested over minor traffic violations or some such things , booked at the police station and finger printed where they take the mug shots and create a dossier on that person.  This dossier is constantly updated each time the person is arrested on some frivolous charges that may not even be real.

The police dossier on a person is like a stain on his or her reputation so it may prevent him to get a college education or a job later because the employer may want a police clearance. This stain no matter how unfair is like indelible ink that can’t be washed away.

In some countries , there are some courageous people who have tried to make jails better for the inmates but they are so rare that I must tell this story just to show you what is possible if there is a will. This story should inspire all the jail wardens to reform their system.

There is a very infamous jail in Delhi called Tihar where many convicts  were kept in abominable conditions. Prison riots were common due to the poor quality food and living conditions where hard core criminals are kept with others jailed for simple crimes. This changed when a female jail warden took the job and went about improving the jail and its living conditions almost immediately. She sorted out those people who could learn a trade like carpentry, baking or cooking etc. and provided them with training.

The convicts then started to bake bread, cakes and various other things  that were sold outside and the profit was distributed among the convicts. Others made bags, wallets etc. that were also sold and the profits shared . The warden dramatically improved the quality of food for all the inmates , made sure that they all had some physical activity through sports and made Tihar jail as the model for all the jails anywhere . The released  inmates who had acquired some skills in baking and other things got some loans later to set up their own business and prosper.

The lady warden was acclaimed as the best warden for improving the jail and the conditions for the inmates and was given many awards but it did not sit well with others in the penal system who were green with envy and blocked her further promotion to the extent that she was prevented to go to the White House where President Obama had invited her because he had heard what she had achieved.

She had shown that the jails do not have to be hellish where the people suffer needlessly. She had shown a way to train them and get some skills that allowed them to set up their own business when they were let out so that they could support themselves and their family.

This story could be emulated everywhere because the vast majority of people in jail are released after serving their term but find it hard to live a normal life somewhere with a good job and raise a family.

There was a time when a person charged with a simple felony or misdemeanor was given a fine and a warning and let go. The serious offenders were given stricter punishments after a brief verification of facts so Emperor Akbar ordered their execution. He kept a monstrous elephant in Fateh Pur Sikri that was trained to step on the chest of a convict to crush him. During the monarchy, the crime rate was low so people lived in peace.

Then came the notorious justice system and zillions of laws for the common people to obey so they started building massive jails using tax payer’s money . The courts now have a back log of cases pending due to the massive corruptions in their system that the lawyers take full advantage of to keep a guilty person out of jail. This is their bread and butter so they want the cases to languish in courts for years. This brings enormous grief to the litigants in terms of time and money spent who only want a quick justice but the system does not allow it.

Once a court sends a man to prison, his ordeal really starts where he is abused by other inmates.Women are not spared either in jails where the hard core female inmates do the same as their male counterparts. The Ashley Judd movie the Double jeopardy is worth watching where the story of a female convict wrongly put in prison who gets her revenge when she gets out is graphically shown with superb acting.

I think the jails serve a purpose to keep really bad people there who have committed serious crimes but the ordinary people should not be treated this way and should be allowed to go after paying a small fine or a warning so that they can continue to live their life. This means that the penal system has to undergo a very serious reform to reduce the number of people incarcerated and reduce the tax payers burden.

The reform must start in the judicial system where a speedy justice should become normal and where the greedy lawyers must be told to speed up the process and not delay. There is nothing more depressing than the courts where you see hundreds of black gowned lawyers milling around like vultures looking for their next kill.

Most people are simple folks who are law abiding so they should not be punished this way for simple mistakes. We all make mistakes and hopefully learn from it. The justice system should after all be fair and should focus on those people who are by nature bad and do bad things.

I hope that someday all jail wardens will follow the example of that lady warden in Tihar who so impressed President Obama.

 

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

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Биография Анила по-русски
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Unemployment

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Source : Google photo of unemployed people

Note : If you use Microsoft Edge as your browser , you can listen to this blog by clicking the A button in the browser after choosing a voice of your choice. In this case just select American English.

Synopsis : The ever growing population in any country seeks employment because it is necessary to earn a living. When they depend on the government to employ them, they find it nearly impossible because no government can provide job to each and every citizen. The alternative is to get the type of education and training the private sector needs to employ them. This blog looks at many other possibilities for the jobless people.

 

Today we hear of unemployment  in many countries where it becomes a political issue when people start blaming their government for not creating jobs for them.  In some countries where the working population is approaching their retirement years, it creates the opportunity for the younger generation to fill those vacancies  but it does not create necessarily new jobs.

As the  educated population increases in a country  because of increase in the number of  better educational institutions ,they all seek employment after their graduation but the number of new applicants far exceeds the  available  jobs so there is  fierce competition. So how can the new graduates get employed?

Is it possible for any government to create millions of jobs for the people? Why is it that everybody seeks government jobs ? As any country develops and grows economically , it happens because the government makes it possible for the private industries to develop and grow due to the development of the infrastructure all over the country. It means new roads, new power stations, new connectivity through new road and rail network, water connection, new connections to freight terminals, air terminals , new Internet and wi fi  connections, new rules and regulations that make it easier for the business in the private sector to grow and create employment for their industries.

This is how a country creates jobs for the young aspirants where the government plays a major role in making it possible for the private industries to establish and grow there.

India is an example of such growth in many sectors  namely the IT industry, telecom industry,  generic drugs industry, agro industries based on food processing, transport industries by land , sea or air, service industries, e commerce , entertainment industry  just to name a few.

No private industry in any country can build thousands of kilometers of roads, bridges or rail  network because it requires massive investment that only a government can make  using the tax money and other sources of revenue . When the government gives the contract to build the infrastructure to the private companies, they employ millions of people to do so .Once the infrastructure is developed, the private sector rapidly expands thus creating employment for the new graduates. New factories come up, new schools, hospitals and shopping malls come up where many find jobs.

If you look at the so called developed countries, you will find lower unemployment rate there because  their industries need new employees to replace the ones retiring or where new jobs are being created in new industries.  The government makes rules and regulations to restrict the import of raw materials or manufactured goods from other countries to give the local industries the advantage they need  due to higher import tariffs. The protection of local industries and subsidies to farming sector are some of the tools the governments use create or maintain employment levels in many countries.

But the growth of the industries for job creation  in the competitive world today faces many challenges . No country  can unilaterally impose such tariffs on other countries where the labor and manufacturing costs may be lower giving them an advantage over the high  labor and manufacturing costs in other countries  so they may retaliate  by imposing their own  import tariffs.

If you take the example of China, you will find that their government  has made a sustained effort over the years to make it possible for the private sector to grow there rapidly creating millions of jobs. The government there makes it possible by creating special economic zones in many parts where  it provides  land, electricity , water, road and rail connection , tax exemption for a period , special subsidies for the raw materials and many such facilities so that the private industries can establish there and grow.

Such help from the government has made it possible for their industries to grow at a phenomenal rate. The government also helps find markets for their export in many countries by making special arrangements through bilateral treaties and agreements where it buys their raw materials at a favorable rate and sends back the manufactured goods there.

Long ago the British did the same in India where they bought the high quality cotton at a cheap rate from the farmers and sent it to England to make clothes they sold in India thus discouraging the development of the local industries. This was done during the colonial period to develop England at the expense of their colonies but this method today does not work .

Now countries like India and China are rapidly growing industrially and make almost everything they need so they import only those products that are essential for their growth in agriculture and other sectors.  Most of the trade deals made between countries are now regulated by the WTO  that serves as the arbiter in case of disputes between the member countries.

The role of Internet

In the last decade or two the Internet has spread throughout the world even in poor countries and has made a huge impact in the growth of many industries that are based on the Internet technology and IT. It has created jobs for millions of IT graduates who run their own business using the Internet or work in numerous call centers providing a service to their clients through the Internet.

Bengaluru in South India and Hyderabad in Central India have become the IT hubs where many new IT based companies have established themselves and employ massive numbers of graduates. The Internet has helped the growth of  e commerce  in a spectacular way. Now anyone with a smart phone can download an application and order practically anything from the vendors who will delivered it to your doorstep in a very reasonable time.

There are many options open to you for the payment like credit card, cash upon delivery or other applications like Paypal. Internet and e commerce has made Alibaba and Amazon a household name but there are many such e commerce companies that have flourished because of Internet. Now more than 40% of the world population has access to Internet that has created millions of new jobs. This will grow more in the future.

Alibaba alone employs thousands of people in China and elsewhere to deliver to your door what you order on line from them so they use people on bicycles and motorbikes to reach even the remotest villages in China. The convenience of buying anything from the comfort of your home is very appealing because you do not have to travel a long distance to the store and fight the traffic and the huge crowd.

In India the food is being delivered to your door when you apply on line . This sort of service employs thousands of people all over the country making life easier for people. One company in Mumbai has turned every household that wants to join it into a mini factory where housewives make papad which is like a tortilla made of mung bean dough and make money based on the quantity of papad they make. It employs thousands of housewives this way and pays them only for making the product but women earn a good income working from their homes.

Another company  delivers food to thousands of employees in their offices by hiring people on bicycles to pick up food from their homes and delivers it to the employees for a small fee . So there are many new ways companies are creating jobs for others.

There was a time when people only aspired for the government jobs because it meant a lifetime of job security, pension and other benefits but no government can employ all the job seekers in any country so now the private sector steps in and offers opportunities for them.

It is estimated that every person with a steady job supports at least ten people who are called the service providers. They are your neighborhood grocers, vegetable sellers, meat sellers, washerwomen , tailors, repair men , people in transport service, shops that supply everything you need, entertainment service, sport facilities, fashion industry and numerous others .  So just one million employees end up supporting over 10 million people in the service sector. They in turn support their families and 10 times more others. This is called the ripple effect that creates jobs for others in the private sector. The employment and unemployment figures published by the government do not paint the whole picture of a country.

Every employed person not only feeds his family , he creates the market for his demands or needs so new factories come up everywhere to fill those demands. It may be a bicycle or a scooter or motorbike that he needs or even a car if he can afford it or new ready made clothes or smart phones or electronics that he wants to buy. The new factories thus employ millions of people to manufacture the things the consumer wants creating intense competition among them to manufacture products of higher quality at a cheaper price.

This competition between the rivals helps make better and cheaper products in the market worldwide giving huge advantage to countries that make them for the benefit of the consumers everywhere. China is a good example that has become the manufacturing center of the world but other countries are also trying hard to catch up to make quality products where they have an advantage of low labor costs.

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Source : Google photo of women in clothing factory in Bangladesh

You can now observe how Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam are fast becoming the manufacturers of ready to wear clothes, sport equipment , motorized vehicles, electronics including smart phones and computers  creating many employment opportunities for their citizens. They make toys, shoes, leather goods, cheap watches, utensils and many such products for the export market that earns them huge revenues and employs lots of people.

Thus the middle class earns it’s nick name as the motor that drives the development of a country. When the poor people improve their earnings and join the middle class, it swells their numbers dramatically like in China and to some extent in India. But the growth of the middle class comes at the expense of the farm population that keeps declining in many countries.

The point is that one should not always blame a government in any country for the unemployment there because the government can only employ a small fraction of the unemployed. The answer lies in the private sector where most of the jobs are created often with the government support as I explained earlier in the blog.

Most people are self employed because the consumers create the demand that they try to meet . There was an old Sikh couple in my home town who made delicious street food  they sold at a street corner every evening at a very reasonable price. It was so popular that he sold out all he made in a few hours everyday and appeared with fresh food the next day. It made him earn a decent living. There are millions of such people who make a decent living by being self employed.

The aspirations of graduates: 

Now I come to discuss the aspirations of educated people who want a white collar job and are frustrated when they find it hard to be employed. When I was a student in California, I often asked my dorm mates what they wanted to do after graduation. Their common answer was that they did not know what they wanted. Only a few said that they wanted to be  an architect or an electrical or mechanical engineer or an artist.

So there is a mismatch between what the market demands and what the colleges and universities train their students to be. Those students who take courses in IT or related sciences, those who take business management or courses related to health care or medical technologies, those who take computer science and learn programming or software development courses, those who learn the computer animation , those who learn to make programs for video games etc. find themselves in high demand even before they graduate because the private companies desperately want them and offer very good salaries and perks to them.

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Source : Google photo of women assembling smart phones in China

As the new technologies are developed in practically every field, there is a need for the technicians to run these industries that use such technologies. In China a simple girl with practically no education assembles complex smart phones or other such products in an assembly line in huge factories because they are trained to do so.

In Bangladesh a village woman gets a job in a cloth manufacturing plant where she sews parts of a garment that others assemble in huge factories. She is not a tailor but learns to operate machines that make clothes for export. So not all the factories need highly educated people to run them because most of the jobs are routine that require a short training course given freely by the company.

The highly technical jobs are reserved for highly educated people with proper background and training so they becomes managers or supervisors or become trainers for others.

The agricultural sector :

This is the sector that employs millions of poor people who have no skills whatsoever and no education but can cultivate land, pick the harvest and do other chores required in the farming. The farming also includes dairy  farms, chicken farms and factories that process agricultural products like fruits ,vegetables or subsidiary products. Most people find it hard to work in the farming sector where the pay is low and work very hard so a huge number of immigrants from other countries take up such jobs.

The immigrants work hard and get paid low wages but they work because they have no other choice. They also have no social security , health benefits or pensions so they are treated as casual laborers who have no job security at all. Often the plantation owners employ such people at starvation wages and make them buy their groceries at the company operated stores at higher prices that leads to abuse of such workers who remain poor and almost destitute.

Remember Cesar Chavez who tried to organize the farm laborers in California and was badly treated by the rich farmers who asked the help of the police or goons to beat up the protesters who were only asking for decent wages and some job security? He was able to organize the farm workers and made a union to protect their rights. He died in 1993 but was awarded the Presidential medal of freedom posthumously for his lifelong work to help the farm workers  get better pay and benefits.

People who work in farms and factories are often treated this way and abused because they do not have the education or skills to find other jobs. This is the great divide between the educated and non educated people. People with right education and training can demand a good salary and benefits and get it while the poor people are happy just to get any job no matter how low is the salary.

The future :

I will conclude this blog by saying that the future belongs to those who  are prepared for it. We now live in the world of fast changing and developing technologies that open up new possibilities for employment all the time for those who get the kind of education and training the new companies need. These jobs will require special education and training that may cost a lot so it is not for everyone. It is very hard to get into any business school anywhere these days. The medical colleges also are very selective in taking in new students and medical technology colleges are very difficult to get admitted to.

So the new graduates will have to seek employment  wherever they can so many will emigrate to other countries where they may have a chance. But for the vast majority of people seeking jobs will have to face the hard reality that higher paying jobs that require special education and training are reserved for those who have it so they have to accept lower paying jobs somewhere if they are lucky.

One way to make a decent living anywhere is to get vocational training that does not require college education but trains people in carpentry, electrical repairs, masonry, welding, car mechanics or refrigerator or air conditioner repair, electronics repair, appliance like washing machines or other household gadgets and appliance repair, plumbing and numerous other trades that pay very well.

My mechanic who fixes and maintains my car makes more than a college professor and lives in his nice home where he also has his garage. No job should be beneath anyone although we should all aspire to be employed somewhere with decent wages.

So the young people should make up their mind when they start their college education and decide what they want to be and exert all their effort in that direction. Such people always get to where they want to go if they are so determined. All they need is the right sort of education and training that meets the demands of the market.

 

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

Mis blogs en espagnol

Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

Blogs in Japanese

My blogs at Wix site

tumblr posts    

Blogger.com

Medium.com

Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русски

 

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A ray of hope

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Source : Google photo of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh unity

Note : If you use Microsoft Edge as your browser , you can listen to this blog by clicking the A button in the browser after choosing a voice of your choice. In this case just select American English.

Synopsis :  We often dream of what seems impossible at times but dreams can become a reality if based on some valid reasons for such dreams. This blog looks at those dreams of a wishful thinker that I have become and suggests that they are not impossible dreams. John Lennon also had dreams that he sang about in Imagine and is wishing me luck from his grave.

 

Source : U tube video of John Lennon singing Imagine

I start this blog with the beautiful song by John Lennon when he sings about what is possible by imagination. I just saw a great historic event in India that will have a profound effect on the future of a nation that aspires to be one of the top three economic and military powers in the world and is well on its way to get there.

The return to power of Narendra Modi with a landslide victory that gives his party BJP the three fourth majority in the 547 seat parliament means that he will have the full backing of his program for the rapid development of the country that he had started five years ago and has made significant progress in all sectors of the society.

Source : U tube video where Modi says Muslims are patriots and have died for India

This video is in Hindi but it shows Modi’s determination to make an inclusive society and not a divided India. His popularity with Muslim women rose when he declared that the hated Triple talaq rule will be abolished by the Indian Parliament , a promise he kept.

Source : U tube video that shows Modi’s support for Muslim women by repealing Triple talaq law through the Parliamentary resolution.

https://youtu.be/-BJi-usb8Zk

But what made me sit up and take notice was a video that I post here where  Muslims are seen rejoicing the victory of Modi shouting his praise and dancing in the streets of India. In a Hindu majority country like India, the Hindus  celebrating the BJP victory can be understood but to see the large numbers of Muslim rejoicing as well made me think and an idea started to grow in my mind that is like the first ray of the sun that starts to wash away the darkness before the dawn when birds are still asleep and the whole world is in deep slumber.

Source : U Tube video showing Muslims celebrating Modi’s win

This idea is so thought provoking that I started to put down in words immediately. I want you all to read it and ponder on the probability that the Muslims dancing in the streets of India rejoicing the victory of a Hindu nationalist like Modi could be a harbinger of something far bigger and greater that anyone can imagine at this point.

It could be an earth shaking event that may lead to something far bigger and of profound political importance to every citizen of India that may someday alter the political landscape in South Asia in a way no one is thinking of the way I am about to write about and explain in the following paragraphs.

So I turned on the Pakistan TV channels and got a mixed reaction there to the victory of Modi who is not exactly a popular figure there. Pakistanis are still smarting from the surgical strike by the Indian air force in Balakot that killed a very large number of terrorists there fast asleep at 3 am one night. The whole strike was over in less than 20 minutes in three locations in Pakistan that took them by surprise because they never saw it coming so were totally unprepared.

The 12 Mirages carrying smart bombs guided by satellite technology, accurate coordinates fed to the bombs and guided by “eye in the air” AWAC plane at great altitude and the Mirages protected on their flanks with other fighter jets appeared on their targets all of a sudden, destroyed them and went back to their bases in India before anyone in Pakistan could understand what had just happened.

The terrorist training camp in Balakot was well funded, well organized and run by the man who has now been declared by the UN the number one terrorist in the world with sanctions, house arrest, freeze of all the assets and other restrictions that Pakistan is obliged to implement giving the terror outfit a great blow that they may not come out of intact.

Naturally the credit for this attack on the terrorists in Pakistan was given to Modi that boosted his chances of a great win in the election because he had made a promise that he will avenge the attack in Pulwama where 40 Indian soldiers were killed by a suicidal terrorist who rammed the army truck with his explosive laden vehicle and died in the process.

Pakistan has not denied that there are terrorists who operate from there to cause havoc in India from time to time like the attack in Mumbai a few years ago and many such attacks that caused great loss of lives but has not taken concrete actions against them until now.

The terrorism is not just limited to India but it has taken a great number of innocent lives inside Pakistan as well. Just ask Malala Yousafzai and she will tell you about the terror in the Swat valley where the Talibans have killed even children going to schools and tried to kill Malala. They have blown up schools and attacked innocent people in Lahore and many other cities just because the people of Pakistan did not share the strict ideology of the terrorists who want to turn the whole country into a graveyard mimicking the American general who declared in the war of Vietnam that he had to destroy the entire village in order to win it.

The fact is that no one in Pakistan and India wants war. No one anywhere in the world wants war but the wars continue in many countries due to the geo political power games some people play from their safe havens in other countries actively supporting proxy wars in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Syria, Iraq, Colombia etc. so ordinary people who only want peace and freedom suffer.

The sufferings of common people in India and Pakistan due to this incessant proxy war and direct wars have been great. I should say horrendous because there is nothing great about any war or the consequences due to it.

The geographical perspective:

India is a huge country flanked on three sides by ocean and in the north by the mighty Himalayas. At one time in the distant past, it was a much larger country that included all of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Ladakh. Most of this vast landmass was ruled by the Mughals who had invaded India centuries ago when Baber came with his hordes through the Khyber Pass to conquer India.

The Khyber pass is located between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the mountainous region of Pakistan that the invaders used to bring in their armies to conquer and loot India so Afghanistan became their base of operation. That country has never seen peace since the fundamentalist Muslims started operating from there and have ground the once peaceful and beautiful country to dust in their fervor to make it a strict Islamic country. They came from Ghazni, Kabul and Mazar e Sharif to loot India, spread death and destruction and eventually conquered the whole country to establish the Mughal Empire.

Later came the British in the guise of doing business and trade but stayed as colonial master for over 200 years and left India under tremendous military pressure of the Indian National Army of Bose in 1947. Gandhi’s impact on the independence movement was minimal according to the British themselves.

However, they plotted in London to divide India into three parts in 1947 so that India could never prosper but would remain subservient to England and protect the interest of the British companies still operating there after independence.

The nationalist leader Sardar Patel opposed this British plan so he was pushed aside by the Gandhi and Nehru clique under pressure of the British who insisted that only Nehru could safeguard their interests in free India. Nehru was not called a brown Englishman for nothing.

The politicians saw great advantage in dividing the Indian population into Hindus and Muslims and Jinnah insisted on a Muslim Pakistan in the east and west of the country so an arbitrary division was made on the map of India by a bureaucrat brought in from London who made an arbitrary pencil mark creating the borders but in reality divided India into three parts.

The resultant partition in 1947 led to massive numbers of people who became refugees overnight and lost everything they had so most of the Hindus in Pakistan took shelter in India and many Muslims went to Pakistan from India. This led to massacres of Hindus and Muslims in unprecedented numbers for which no one took any responsibility least of all the British who had caused the vivisection in the first place.

Some of it can be seen in the movie Gandhi that was a purely propaganda movie to eulogize Gandhi funded by the Congress party of India but it showed the partition and the massacre at the Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar by Gen. Dyer as well.

Since 1947, Pakistan took an adversarial role and fought 4 wars with India over a part of India called Kashmir that they claimed but lost all four wars. The 1971 war in East Pakistan was the most devastating for Pakistan because not only they lost it, they surrendered over 200000 soldiers to India and lost half their country to be renamed Bangladesh. Smarting from this great loss they then resorted to proxy wars with India over Kashmir that is still going on today.

The present situation:

Both India and Pakistan spend huge sums of money to beef up their defensive and offensive capabilities due to the military tensions that prevail and the cross border attacks in India and the terrorists operating from Pakistan. The amount of money India spends on national defense is huge that could be spent elsewhere to develop the country if Pakistan did not pose any threat to India. Likewise Pakistan spends a huge amount of money on arms and nuclear missiles that they could spend on developing the country if they could only accept that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and will always remain so.

So both countries place their air force on alert, place large number of tanks, missile launchers and other assets near the border and place armed border patrols 24/ 7 that guard the border. The situation is so tense that it is like a bone dry forest that can catch fire with a thunder strike and burn it all to the ground. People on both sides of the border live in perpetual anxiety and fear of attack which has a strong psychological effect on them.

Now look at India:

India has never stopped growing economically but the speed has accelerated in the last decade or so. There are big projects of massive infrastructure development all over the country, new dedicated freight railway lines , new container ports on the east coast as well as the west, hundreds of new airports to better connect people, massive expansion of new highways, new housing schemes for the poor, toilets for all villages, rural electrification, universal health care etc.

New schools, universities, technical institutions, engineering colleges all over the country to increase the level of education, massive aid to poor farmers with electricity, irrigation water, farm loans and guaranteed farm prices etc.  are numerous projects the government is working on and has made significant progress to develop India.

So the Muslims who felt alienated in the past now feel that they are getting the benefits of the development in the country like everyone else so they rejoiced when Modi won the election. They feel that for the first time there is a government that does not discriminate in any way the minorities like the Muslims so they have started to feel that they too are Indians and can participate in the nation building.

This does not mean that all Muslims agree or support the new government so some of them remain opposed and behave the way they have always done. At their back are the firebrand Mullahs who stoke the fire of hatred against the majority Hindus and encourage sedition.

So what if ???   

So I started to think what if one day Pakistan and India became one country just like the East and West Germany that reunited after so many years? No one thought that they could reunite but they did and became one. Now Germany is strong and is a model of economic growth in Europe that others are trying to emulate.

Source : U tube video of Pakistanis in Lahore chanting Long live India

What if the two adversaries like India and Pakistan could bury their hatchets and become one huge country that could bring economic growth to all, where every citizen lived in complete freedom to practice his faith, where everyone could enjoy a better quality of life, where they could spend money on building new schools for girls like Malala everywhere, where tremendous opportunities for tourism could open up generating millions of jobs, where the neighbors like Iran and Afghanistan could live in perpetual peace with India, where people of all religions and faith could live in peace and harmony just like they do in India?

These are a lot of what ifs but just think about the benefits. What has Pakistan gained with its years of stagnation and animosity toward India? All the money it now spends on missiles and arms could be spent for the poor to give them a better life. All the lives that could be saved if all hostilities could stop once and for all is surely worth considering!

The separated families could be reunited, people could travel anywhere without visas and restrictions once again, they could settle anywhere and buy properties or start their own business. The society will no longer be divided based on the religion where everyone will have the right to practice it.

The threat of nuclear war between the two countries will be eliminated forever making the world a safer place.

If the Muslims in India are rejoicing because a nationalist Hindu has won the election, is it not a good sign that the future of all Muslims there is safeguarded? There will be no more communal tensions that used to lead up to riots and mayhem in the past.

Do you know that there are Muslim Mullahs who read and give lectures on Geeta in India, Saudi Arabia and Quatar? They sing the hymns of Geeta, Ramayana and read Vedas and openly declare that the Hindu scriptures have a lot to offer the world. The Sufi Muslims have always appreciated the Hindu philosophy and practice most of them.

Pakistani children are taught hate and animosity toward all Hindus in their Madarsas that are Koranic schools where they train the future suicide bombers but they can be taught about love for others.

I have always maintained that the Pakistani people as such do not hate Indians and often praise India for its economic might and the nationwide progress the country is making. They love Indian movies, Indian music, Indian food and many women want to marry Indians.

Pakistan has many internal problems like Baluchistan and Gilgit where people want to be free and join India so this problem would be resolved if the two countries join and become one.

The best outcome:

Source : U tube video showing Pakistanis flying Indian flag and declare Kashmir a part of India  forever.

The best outcome would be the end of conflict in Kashmir where once again people will live in peace and prosperity and the people of Gilgit will enjoy the same rights as anyone in the united India and prosper.

Kashmir is probably the most beautiful state in India that has a curse. When this curse of war is lifted, it will shine once again as the paradise that it really is. The purest mountain air fragrant with poplar and pine scent, the cleanest water and the most beautiful Dahl lake, the snow capped mountains will  attract the world tourists once again creating millions of jobs for the beautiful but poor  Kashmiris and Gilgit residents.

Read my blog called the Curse in Kashmir here

The Indian part of Kashmir is fast developing with rail links to the rest of the country , new roads and with new air connectivity but just go across the Line of Control (LOC) and you will see poverty and despair among the residents. When there is no more border , they will also enjoy the same benefits as the rest of Indians and will not live in fear of shelling and bombs.

In new united India, all the madarsas ( Koranic schools) teaching hate will be shut down and the kids will grow up just like anyone else going to normal schools. The fundamentalists like the Taliban terrorists need oxygen to breathe that they get from these hate schools so they will wither when such schools are shut down.

The Pakistani Muslims have the same aspirations and hope as the Indian Muslims so they too want to live in peace and prosperity. Hate is a loser anywhere but love conquers all.

The 21st century belongs to India that will emerge as the most powerful country economically and militarily but not as an aggressive country but a country that will be the world leader promoting peace and harmony among all.

I hope that someday people on both side of a hateful artificial border that divides people will come to realize that it is in their interest to unite and become one strong and prosperous country where Hindus may dance on the street of a united India for the victory of a Muslim Prime Minister or vice versa.

That is the dream of Malala and that is also my dream. Who knows? May be some day she will be the Prime Minister of a new undivided India where all girls and boys will go to school without fear. She is still young. The future belongs to the young who are daring, educated and are willing to accept the challenges that they face and overcome them.

It does not belong to hate mongers who thrive on dividing people. People are the same everywhere who want to live in peace. I may not be alive to see that day when people of all faith will live in a great United Republic of India but I hope someday it will become a reality not through war but through an awakening that there is wisdom in the saying United we stand, divided we fall.

Note : I could not find any video from Pakistan in English to include here in this blog so posted what I could find in Hindi. If you are reading my blogs in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal then I hope you will share them with your friends freely. Thanks.

 

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Humility and arrogance

 

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Source : Google photo of Jimmy Carter carrying his bag

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Synopsis :  We are remembered positively or negatively or not at all depending on how we have behaved all our life. So what we leave behind does matter to the living who may stop and say a silent prayer over your tomb stone someday and say He was a good man who was so humble , so helpful to others and so kind hearted . 

In the deserts of Arabia when you meet a Bedouin, he will greet you with Salam alei kum  and offer you water or tea while sitting in the shade of a date palm tree where his camel also gets to drink water and rest. If you are young and need his protection because the desert can be a dangerous place for someone traveling alone, he cannot deny it. His faith prohibits it.

There is a congeniality among them that prevails against all odds and is observed. Their life is harsh because the desert is very unforgiving so they are required to be congenial toward the strangers they sometime meet who may need their help.

They can also be brutal toward their rivals so there exists inter-tribal animosity in some parts that may lead to bloodshed over water source which is not a trivial matter in the desert. You may have seen the movie Lawrence of Arabia and know about some of the desert rules and etiquettes.

I have seen the good nature of people in many parts of the world where the simple people are found to be the most hospitable people on earth who will give you shelter and food if you need and who will come to your help without any strings attached if you need it.

I have also seen this good nature in people in small towns of Algeria where they invited me in seeing that I was getting soaked in rain, dried my clothes and gave me hot coffee and shared their meal with me. I have seen this in very poor farmers there who knowing that I had not eaten the whole day while working with them in their fields put eggs and cheese in the hood of my Arab gown ( called djellaba).I was overwhelmed with their kindness and hospitality everywhere.

During the war in Vietnam when I was working there as a volunteer agronomist, I was often stopped on the road by farmers who would insist that I share their food and drinks with them and they protected me from harm by giving me warning of some impending peril that may have saved my life many times.

So I start to think why some people in some parts of the world are so gentle and nice to strangers while in other parts they are not. What makes  those poor Bedouins share their food and water in the desert where such things are so rare?  What made those poor Vietnamese farmers share their food and water with me when there was a terrible war going on and the life was so insecure?

If you go to Japan today, you will be overwhelmed by their courtesy and hospitality they will extend to you without even knowing you and a poor taxi driver in Hong Kong invited me to his dwelling in the slum of Sheung Shui to share a meal with me there.

I have seen the goodness of people in Sicily where they showered their hospitality on me and where the kids shed tears when I was leaving and I am still so impressed when a man came out of his house in a small town in California and invited me to share his Thanksgiving meal with his family. I have many such experiences all over the world but I also have some bad experiences in some parts that makes me write this blog today.

In some countries people are nice to strangers because of their faith that teaches them to be so but I think it is more than the faith that makes people congenial and hospitable. I think it is a part of their culture and it naturally varies from country to country.

In some countries people are naturally suspicious of strangers and will ask all sorts of questions before they can decide whether to be nice to you or not which may have something to do with their political system they live under. You will never be received by anyone in North Korea because people there are so afraid of meeting strangers and are required to report them to the authorities while in more open societies where people live under democracy may not behave that way.

But once in Bulgaria during their repressive communist rule, I was well received by the tourist agency late at night in Sophia when they arranged for me to stay with a family and a taxi driver broke all the rules to bring me back to the hotel in Varna where I had forgotten my overcoat and still managed to bring me back to the airport. He drove up to the plane that was ready to taxi out and convinced the pilot to take me on board even if I was so late. Such kindness and hospitality can warm anyone’s heart and make his faith in humanity grow.

Then I go to India where I give gasoline to a scooter driver who had run out of gas. He takes it and starts his scooter without even saying a simple Thank you and rides off. It has happened many times there and not only in Ranikhet. Yet India claims to be a country of courtesy and hospitality but perhaps with some strings attached.

So I started to think that the courtesy, congeniality and hospitality to strangers becomes a part of the culture in some countries where their religion plays a great role in it even if their political system is repressive.

In more open societies like in India, you find people who rarely say thank you for the help you give them unhesitatingly although I am sure there are many decent people there.

The good nature in people is always moderated by one sterling quality they all have that is called humility. When the Prime Minister of New Zealand sits next to you in a cramped economy seat in a flight, I call him humble. When the Pope washes the feet of a Muslim girl, I call him humble. When Jimmy Carter carries his own bag, I call him humble but they are very important people who give us all an example of great humility that we should practice but how many of us do?

The padres here in the Philippines make the appeal from their pulpits all the time to be humble, to be compassionate toward the needy and be gentle and be helpful to others but who listens? The avid church goers here are some of the meanest, toughest and nastiest people found anywhere but why is it so?

My wife always keeps bottles of water in the ref for anyone who comes to our gate to their great surprise because here no one gives them water or anything and won’t even open the gate for them unless they know them because people are so mean and paranoid about strangers.

A delivery boy came the other day from a great distance to bring us a package and kept on saying Thank you M’am , God bless you when my wife gave him cold water. He was so dehydrated riding his bike in the heat of the day but then my wife is a very kind woman who extends such courtesy to strangers all the time.

You will find very mean and arrogant people who are paranoid and very suspicious of anyone who greets them just to say hello so they never get to meet their neighbors. They also happen to be very lonely and isolated because  of their self-imposed wall that they can’t break down.

So I start to analyze this nature in people and draw some conclusions. I think people who come from poverty and get some education, get a good job and build a nice home, buy a car and live in a fancy gated community become a victim of their material success and become very arrogant. This happens in India and in many countries.

They are also very paranoid as if their hard earned success will slip away somehow through their fingers because believe it or not, it happens to many who lose their homes, cars and other material things because they borrow money to live a lifestyle they can’t afford so the banks take it all away when they fail to pay the mortgage.

A simple farmer does not have much to lose because he is so poor. He will readily offer you food and drinks to show his hospitality. But to say that poverty makes people more friendly, hospitable and congenial towards strangers is to say that the poor people are better than the middle class which may be stretching the truth somewhat. The poor people suffer more from crime and drug addiction, joblessness, low quality of life, poor food and living conditions than the middle class.

The high cost of living, the pressure to live a better life and the social cost of living the way they do makes them more prone to be more cynical, suspicious and afraid of strangers than the most and yet I find the poor people in Algeria and Vietnam were so  nice.

So what it comes down to is that inherently the poor people of this world are more humane as you find almost anywhere in Africa  who will readily trust you and offer you their hospitality but that changes where they struggle to survive in vast slums  that blight almost all the major cities of this world. Their priorities are then determined by the degree of their struggle.

The unfriendly middle class and their paranoia is a symptom of the fragility of their status especially if they live beyond their means and try hard to protect what they have gained. The arrogance and rudeness in them is just an added layer of body armor they put on to hide their low self-respect.

The poor farmers do not go hungry because they are self-reliant and grow their own food but this is not true in the slum dwellers who have to struggle to earn their bread every day. This constant struggle for survival wears down the values they had when they were farmers.

I appreciate humility in a person that sets him apart from others. Such people are very approachable and are naturally friendly like Jimmy Carter. The power and his position did not go to his head like it does in some politicians these days.

But I do not appreciate the arrogance in anyone no matter who he is and least of all in a monk because by the nature of their vocation, they must always be humble yet we found a monk in Canberra who was so arrogant. We were surprised and disappointed in the monk.

We all are given a chance to leave behind our legacy in this world when we depart it but how many of us leave a positive legacy behind? How many of us stop to think for a minute what others think of us or do we care?  Apathy, intolerance, suspicion, arrogance, ignorance, bigotry, religious fanaticism, racism, hateful behavior, paranoia, mistrust of people  are all symptoms  of a  stress related life people live and act accordingly.

So I conclude that I would rather be a poor farmer buried under the shade of an oak tree where people may stop someday and think of me as a good person who gave food to others when he had so little and gave shelter to others in his hut. That is the legacy we should all aim for. Shouldn’t you ?

 

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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Democracy is a beautiful word

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Source : Young voters in India will transform the country

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Synopsis: India is holding the election to choose its national government to govern the world’s largest democracy where over 900 million voters will decide who will govern them. The scale of this massive election boggles the mind in its scope and the implications for the 1.3 billion people, many of them the first time voters. It is the largest voting exercise in the world and is considered generally a free and fair process.

I know that the democratic process of electing a new government varies from country to country. Even the most repressive country like North Korea is known as the Democratic Republic of Korea where people are not given their right to choose their leader because only one person appears as the choice with no opposition.

In other countries they follow their own system where the popular vote does not count and only the Electoral College chooses their leader who may have gotten less votes than his opponent but still becomes the president like in the United States.

He then goes on to appoint some people as his ministers ( called secretaries ) who then run various departments that are called ministries elsewhere so each country has its own system and methods of election that may or may not take people’s wishes into consideration in forming a government.

In a truly democratic system like in India, people do not elect their leader directly but choose the members of the parliament so the political party that wins the majority of the parliamentary seats then gets the right to form the government. The leader of that party then becomes the prime minister of the country with solid majority parliament member’s support.

Please read my blog What is democracy in this context.

It is interesting to note that in such a democracy that is found in India, every minister who becomes the part of the new government becomes so only when he wins the election in a nationwide vote so he comes to the government with people’s mandate and is accountable to them while in other countries where they are appointed by a chosen leader are only accountable to their president like in the United States and not to the voting public. Such ministers or the secretaries do not have to be elected by the people so different countries have different system that may have their own reasons for them.

India is therefore called the true democracy where the people decide who will become their leader and who will become their ministers at the state as well as the national level. While electing their national government, people also choose the state governments. Because of the very large number of voters ( over 900 million ) , India conducts the election over a month long period in seven steps so it is staggered that allows the Election Commission to prepare the voting booths, security and mobilize all the resources at their disposal to make the whole operation smooth and peaceful.

Watch this video to learn how India votes:

 

 

 

Now watch how India elects its leader and the government  in the video here.

 

Source : U tube video on how India chooses its Prime Minister

It means transporting thousands of electronic voting machines to thousands of polling stations nationwide; prepare the voter’s list for each station where the voter presents his voting ID to get his or her right to vote, votes and gets an indelible ink stain on his finger.

It prevents flying voters or repeat voting by some voters at the behest of some political parties who may resort to dirty tactics to gain votes when they feel that they are about to lose. The paperless voting system in India also prevents ballot stuffing thus reducing fraud and illegal practices found in other countries.

The recorded votes in the electronic voting machines are then electronically uploaded to the master computer somewhere where the super computers count the votes nationwide and tabulate in blistering speed and announce the winners and losers in a matter of a few days after the completion of the last step.

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Source : Google photo of the electronic voting system in India

The election commission ( EC ) is a very powerful tool that keeps the election honest, free of fraud and ballot tampering that some politicians may practice. The EC also has the power to remove or transfer erring policemen or voting officers who are found to be dishonest or fail to perform their mandated duties and can even disqualify a candidate who violates the EC rules of total ban on all forms of electioneering, advertising and posting in any media any campaign material during a certain period.

Recently the EC stopped the release of a movie made on the Prime Minister Modi because of this ban. Once EC asked Indira Gandhi why she had used a government helicopter for her campaign before the election although I see now almost all the candidates use helicopters or planes for faster travel, India being a very big country. The EC makes sure that no one uses public money for his campaign so the candidates have to use their own money that their party accumulates for it from donations.

I have lived in many countries where I have noticed corrupt practices of the politicians and their supporters to influence the vote in their favor that may even include killing their opponents or intimidation by their goons. I have seen the flying voters, repeat voters and ballot stuffing using paper ballots or even fake ballots. I have seen how some politicians openly buy their votes from the illiterate and poor voters by giving them money or food or tee shirts and other gifts and I have seen tremendous political violence before the election or during the campaign period in some countries.

In strict Islamic countries like Iran, a voter cannot cast his or her vote in secret so the government candidates know who has voted for or against them so people are afraid to vote freely according to their own will but Iran still claims it to be democratic.

In North Korea everybody is required to vote for the sole candidate so people are afraid to vote against him for the fear of retribution. In China it is the same yet they call their system democratic.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo that was ruled by a tyrant and despotic leader for quite some time, there was nothing democratic about the way he was chosen. He is dead now but the country still has many problems,

So I think that democracy is still a work in progress in many countries where the voters still face many challenges, where their right to vote in secret is not observed, where voter intimidation takes place, where the opposition is threatened or intimidated, where the pre-election violence is done by the candidates, where polling frauds are common and where the polling is neither fair nor free.

But I also think that a free and fair election process that is practiced in some advanced democratic countries such as India also depends upon the maturity of voters, their awareness of the national and regional issues , the manifestos of the candidates and their present or past track records.

It is very difficult to fool the voters there who demand the proof  from the candidates of their past achievements and how and how much they have helped their constituencies. Simple promises made by the politicians just to get the votes does not work anymore because the voters are more educated than the previous generation who are not afraid to ask direct questions the politicians may find hard to answer.

The massive proliferation of TV channels that field thousands of microphone toting and fast talking reporters all over the country even in remote areas now give people a voice that are heard and transmitted over to their studios instantly via satellite technology. It makes people more aware of the issues instantly all over the country so they can watch on TV the analysis of the voting trend, the views of the common people and their demands, their needs and their aspirations that put pressure of the candidates to deliver on those promises that they make so easily during their campaign.

In other countries where the voters are mostly illiterate or with minimal education are easily swayed by the glib politicians who even dance and sing in front of their voters if they demand because such voters are not aware of the issues on which the election is fought or they do not consider them important enough to have live debate.

So the democratic process develops if the voters become mature and more educated who can then discuss the issues in town hall meetings directly with the candidates and demand straight answers from them instead of asking them to sing or dance for them.

I see a trend in many countries that have suffered under a one man dictatorship for a long time or under a tyrant who does not wish to leave power toward a more open and free democracy where people can freely exercise their will to form a government of their choice.

They make consistent demands through protests, sit ins, civil disobedience and other means to put pressure on the dictators to make their country more democratic and often end up paying a heavy price.

Remember the brave Chinese in Tian An Men Square who only wanted freedom and democracy and were killed in large numbers by the soldiers? Remember how the opposition leader in Zimbabwe was beaten senseless by the police when he had challenged the autocratic president there?

The Arab Spring that spread through many Muslim countries after the Tunisia revolution uprooted many long time dictators that paved the way for a freer society and more personal liberty.

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Source : Google photo of Algerians protesting for free election

I had not thought the Algerians will also ask for such freedom but recently they have forced a long time president to step down and have called for fresh election there. They are still protesting on the streets there every day to bring about changes that will bring true democracy to them. It should be noted here that the present generation of Algerians are more educated and aware of their national issues than the previous ones so millions of young voters vote for change in their government.

Source : Sudanese protesting against dictator’s rule in Khartoum

Just last week the Sudanese people have forced the longtime dictator of that country to step down and are now asking for the election of a new democratic government.

So I see a trend toward a more democratic and freer society in many countries that are now increasingly demanding a voice in the governance of their countries. That is the true meaning of democracy where people and only people decide who will be their leader and how their chosen government will meet their aspirations.

With the introduction of paperless voting machines and electronic transmissions of results to the central computer somewhere, the election in India has definitely made progress toward a free and fair election nationwide although some incidence of poll violence still occurs in some places.

What I also see now is the curse of the technology in the hands of common people. Almost everyone has a cell phone and can see the latest updates on election or any other news so the internet is inundated with fake news by some people who make mischief. They upload fake news that the Prime minister of Pakistan has just been killed or a prominent Indian political candidate has been assassinated. The social media like facebook or whatsapp etc have been deleting fake news but the bad people spreading fake news make more and confuse people.

They publish compromising photos of politicians by doctoring the photos using photoshop but often get caught by anyone who looks keenly and finds out the photo shopped photos done very unprofessionally. These fake news and photoshopped photos can be deleted but they do some damage before they are deleted.

Now anyone with bad intent can upload fake videos in U tube to mislead people so one has to be aware of such mischief and delete them or ignore them. They should definitely not share them with anyone.

What is happening in India and other countries where they have a working democracy is that people are increasingly demanding accountability from their politicians and are holding them to the promises they had made to the people to get elected.

So the Indian government has filed many corruption charges against the politicians who are now seeking fresh mandate so many are facing long court battles. Some of them may end up in jails and their monies and properties confiscated by the judiciary.

The Income tax department makes frequent raids when they get the information that some corrupt politicians are hiding black money in their house to finance their campaigns. Recently they have uncovered millions of Rupees of undeclared money in many houses in many parts of India and frozen their assets.

The democracy is still a work in progress but I see now a trend toward a more open and transparent society in many parts of the world where people are becoming more aware of their democratic rights and are demanding the accountability from their politicians.

India is a good example where people are chasing out corrupt people from their offices through their ballots and are electing honest people who are then putting dishonest people in jail and recovering the stolen money of the people.

This work will not be complete until governments are chosen by the people, for the people and of the people everywhere to make the democracy a beautiful word in a true sense.

 

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Etienne Dinet

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Source : Google photo of a self portrait of Etienne Dinet

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One of the most wonderful artists of his period, Etienne Dinet loved to paint the common people of North Africa especially in Algeria where he spent most of his life.

Nasreddine Dinet (born as Alphonse-Étienne Dinet on 28 March 1861 – 24 December 1929, Paris) was a French orientalist painter and was one of the founders of the Société des Peintres Orientalistes [Society for French Orientalist Painters]. He became so enchanted with North Africa and its culture that he converted to Islam, and was proficient in Arabic. In addition to his paintings, he translated Arabic literature into French. ( Wikipedia )

Born in Paris, Alphonse-Étienne Dinet, was the son of a prominent French judge, Philippe Léon Dinet and Marie Odile Boucher.  In 1865 his sister Jeanne, who would be his biographer, was born.

His art was so radically different from his contemporaries in Europe that they at first failed to appreciate his style of painting real life people without posing for him and discouraged the art galleries to display his paintings. The European artists at that time had a posed and unnatural style they could not get away from and thought it was the best way of painting their subject.

Etienne Dinet converted to Islam and took the name of Nasreddine Dinet , became a well known artist and a great scholar of Arabic that he spoke fluently and translated into Arabic many scholarly treaties, books and literature found in Europe and vice versa.

His nude models were real life women in rural Algeria who voluntarily posed for him and appreciated his beautiful portrayal of Arab and Berber women in all their glory. They were not veiled and nudity in women was not unusual in the countryside where Etienne painted most of his subjects. His paintings have a vibrancy that shows the real emotions in his subjects , piety of Moslems, daily life of children, women bathing or playing, rural scenes, landscapes, desert bedouines, camel caravans and numerous other aspects of Moslem culture. He used the colors to depict the natural colors of his subjects.

Image result for Photo of the grave of Etienne Dinet in Bou Saada, Algeria

Source : Google photo of  Femme de Bou Saada , Algeria painted by Dinet

Dinet made his first trip to Bou Saâda by the Ouled Naïl Range in southern Algeria in 1884, with a team of entomologists. The following year he made a second trip on a government scholarship, this time to Laghouat.[1] At that time he painted his first two Algerian pictures: les Terrasses de Laghouat and l’Oued M’Sila après l’orage.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Etienne_Dinet_Raoucha.jpg

 

Raoucha 1901, 46x45cm, collection Musée des Beaux Arts d’Alger

 

He won the silver medal for painting at the Exposition Universelle in 1889, and in the same year founded the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts along with MeissonierPuvis de ChavannesRodinCarolus-Duran and Charles Cottet. In 1887 he further founded with Léonce Bénédite, director of the Musée du Luxembourg, the Société des Peintres Orientalistes Français.[3]

In 1903 he bought a house in Bou Saâda and spent three quarters of each year there.[1] Dinet became so enchanted with North Africa and its culture, that he eventually converted to Islam. [4] He announced his conversion to Islam in a private letter of 1908, and completed his formal conversion in 1913, upon which he changed his name to Nasr’Eddine Dinet.[5][6] In 1929 he and his wife undertook the Hajj to Mecca.[5] In July 1896, he was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and participated in the international exhibition of the Centenary of Lithography (Paris).[7] The respect he earned from the natives of Algeria was reflected by the 5,000 who attended his funeral on 12 January 1930 in Bou Saâda.[5] There he was eulogized by the former Governor General of Algeria Maurice Viollet   ( wikipedia)

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Source : Google photo of the grave of Nasreddine Dinet in Bou Saada, Algeria next to his friend .

Now a magnificent museum in Bou Saada in Algeria has been built to preserve his most renowned artworks .

Here I present a power point of his most well known paintings for your enjoyment. You will not fail to notice the extraordinary quality of his paintings , the details and the play of light and shadows on his subjects that has set him apart from the rest as the master artist of his time. This powerpoint is for your enhancement of knowledge so please feel free to share it with anyone you like in any social media.

 

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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Machiavellian politics

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Source : Google photo of Machiavelli

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Synopsis :  We now see so much acrimony in politics that holds no bar in defaming the opposition in crude and unsubstantiated allegations that makes me think of Machiavelli. The fight for power has always been like war where no rules apply so the politicians throw away all that is decent and resort to dirty politics. I would like to think that Machiavellian politics should be condemned and relegated to the dustbin of history so that people can fight for election within rules and decency.

 

Niccolò Machiavelli, (born May 3, 1469, Florence, Italy—died June 21, 1527, Florence), Italian Renaissance political philosopher and statesman, secretary of the Florentine republic, whose most famous work, The Prince (Il Principe), brought him a reputation as an atheist and an immoral person.

Machiavelli wrote a long time ago what it took to win in politics that today many politicians have taken to heart and take his advice as the road map to success. What the common people ignore is the fact that the politics of winning has no moral base or guidelines so yesterday’s opponent becomes an ally and today’s ally may become tomorrow’s nemesis.

We hear of the great Indian election underway now that will decide who will be the leader to lead a nation of over 1.3 billion souls and whether or not he or she will become a great leader to make the development a priority or a bad leader who will fill his pockets to get very rich quickly and let the country down.

We see again and again how the bad people get to the top by making fake promises they have no intention to keep just to get the votes and then becoming extremely arrogant once they are elected. Then they are surrounded by security goons with dark glasses and automatic weapons who keep people away as far as possible.

So the people who voted the politician into power feel let down because now the same politician makes threats and intimidates  people who have not voted for him and insults them with deprecating words just because they voted of their own free will.

I always see the baby kissing politicians with fake smile shaking hands with the would be voters to impress them but in reality the same person hides his dark secrets from them to project only the fake side of him to win their votes and support. It reminds me of the woman who married Duvalier in Haiti and was a person of low moral character but said that she will get even with her detractors after her marriage which she did by ruining them when she got married to an equally bad person. Many politicians do the same and become vengeful once they get elected toward those who did not support them.

Machiavelli said that in politics people make strange bed fellows to serve their interest and will go to any length to gain power and stay there because power is very addictive and gives such a person the opportunity to abuse it with impunity. No one can bring a dictator to the International court of Justice for killing thousands of innocent people who never meant any harm to anyone because he is not answerable to anyone for what he does. Idi Amin, Mobutu and Mugabe are some names that come to my mind.

In the days of kings and queens, it was routine to see the bloody struggle to gain or retain power. Aurangjeb killed his half-brothers and jailed his father Shah Jehan, the emperor so that he could ascend the throne but such tactics were common since the ancient times.Genghis Khan killed his fierce opponent to become the sole ruler and Cleopatra had her half-brother killed to gain power and favor in the eyes of Julius Caesar. Shaka Zulu had all his opponents executed so that he could become the most powerful of Zulu rulers but in the end he too was killed by his own trusted generals who disagreed with him. Jalal Uddin Mohamed aka Akber challenged his fierce opponent to a one to one duel with the winner take all deal to avoid mass killings by two armies. His opponent was defeated and sent to exile showing magnanimity in Akber. But he was also known for his cruelty toward his opponents.

So the power game has always been brutal where the most cunning and ruthless person prevailed by eliminating all opposition one way or the other. Machiavelli simply put into words and action on how the modern struggle for power can be played through cunning, careful planning and often outright deceit because he said that there is no morality in the game of power struggle so the means should justify the end result.

We are now in the age of democracy where the common people are empowered to vote and elect the government they want through their voting rights. It is fair to say that the voting rights were hard earned through bloodshed and revolutions in many countries while in others they are still fighting for such rights.

In some countries, people demonstrated  in the streets in very large numbers to chase out the dictators like in Iran and Tunisia only to find the next government just as corrupt and brutal as the ones they chased out so a revolution fatigue sets in that encourages the bad people to rule once again.

So the people powered revolutions need a charismatic leader who has the power to move the masses against the status quo so such leaders emerge during a period of crisis in a country like what has just happened in Sudan where women took the lead to force out a longtime dictator. But it takes great courage to stand up against a ruthless dictator because such courageous people end up beaten or dead. In other countries the power vacuum is quickly filled by the hard core fundamentalists who then become the dictators.

There is a basic premise that all people no matter where they live want freedom from oppression and fear, freedom to choose the government they want, freedom of expression and an independent judiciary that becomes an institution and pillar of democracy. They want an army and police force that is apolitical and serves under the democratically elected civilian government but these are high goals to achieve even in a modern democratic country like India although it must be said the Indians do enjoy their right to vote and choose their government, a free press, an independent judiciary and the armed forces that are subservient to the civilian elected government.

I write about India because they are in the process of electing their new government through massive voting, the results of which will be announced shortly. The election process although largely fair and peaceful has seen some poll related violence where people have been killed or injured due to political differences between parties that are fighting for their share of electoral votes and will stop at nothing to get them.

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Source : Google photo of Josef Goebbels , the Nazi propaganda minister

One method used by the Nazis was to appoint a propaganda minister called Josef Goebbels whose sole job was to create propaganda films, publish articles in the media to favor their party and through mass meetings where only the Nazi party was allowed to sing their own praise. Today many politicians do the same by making fake promises to gain voters, publish news articles in the media to show them in a good light and by paying corrupt newspaper editors and TV journalists to sing their praise.

We are now in the era of smart phone technology in the hands of common people so spreading fake news and misleading information is easier than one can imagine. Gullible people who are predisposed to believe fake news especially if they favor one candidate over others then help spread the fake news by using the share button creating a tsunami of fake news that starts to exert its influence in the minds of people. Imagine what Goebbels could do if he had such technology in 1933?

What is interesting is the fact that the politics in any country attracts those people who are morally, psychologically ,intellectually and in many other ways unfit to run for higher office. Some are outright felons with many cases pending against them for bribery, dishonesty, criminal activities and such but they promote themselves as the most viable candidates giving credence to the notion that in any society the scum always floats to the top.

It is more so in the politics where the voice of honest people who may become the leaders if the voting is fair and impartial is drowned out in the fierce debates where the corrupt and incompetent people shout most insults at their opponents and encourage their supporters at their political rallies to beat or harass people who do not support them. We see this sort of behavior in many countries now.

The Nazis did the same but the ascent of Nazis to power was due to the vacuum created after the First World War and the unjust Versailles treaty that imposed heavy penalty on the German people thus creating great resentment and a desire in them to change their government so they opted for a strong leader like Hitler. Hitler explained it in his book Mein Kampf quite well.

This is no longer the case now. The politicians are now fighting with each other to win the election by any means even if the incumbent government is doing an excellent job of governing the country.

The analogy with a tradesman is quite apt here. If you call a carpenter or a mason or plumber or just about anyone to repair something in your house, he will always find something to criticize the previous tradesman. It is the same in the realm of politics where an aspiring candidate will always find something to criticize an elected official even if he is doing a great job.

One reason why some people feel jealousy is because they think that they are better than others and can do a better job. Students get jealous of their smart classmates, women get jealous of someone who is selected as the beauty queen, people get jealous of their office mates who are promoted ahead of them and the politicians get jealous of others who are doing a good job as the leaders of their nations.

Machiavelli used this dark nature in people to get to where he wanted to be and succeeded because he was totally amoral, an atheist and without any scruples so his writings still inspire immoral and dishonest people who say that any means to justify the end is fair because fighting for power is like a war where all is fair and permissible.

But in a true democracy, people are expected to adhere to the rule of law and practice what is fair and legal but how many do? You have heard of the Watergate scandal but in many so called democracies there are the “gates” that one side or the other has used to discredit their opponents. A good propagandist says that if a candidate is clean and honest, invent some dirt on him and repeat the lies until some people start to believe in them. This is very Machiavellian in concept.

I believe that the good and honest people must come forward in a democracy where they can be recognized on their own merit and not through propaganda. They must be supported to win their fight to be elected so that they can govern their country in a just and equitable way where all people irrespective of their caste, color, race, religion and ethnicity are treated equally, where the development is for everybody and where no one is discriminated  using any parameter.

There should be no tolerance for corrupt, incompetent , dishonest , immoral people without conscience  in the politics anywhere no matter what Machiavelli said  because it is only when the good people take charge of their country, they can move forward and make development for all a priority. But this can only happen when the voters are educated and wise in choosing their leaders.

This can happen in many ways. One is not to support fake news and delete them from all social media and newspapers or TV channels. Support your candidate based on merit and not anything else. Judge him by what he has accomplished and not by his fake promises that he has never fulfilled. Expose corrupt people and do not vote for them. Remember that bad people thrive in politics because  they get some support in terms of votes so do not give them the chance to win so that they won’t steal your money and enrich themselves.

There is some truth in saying that you get the government you deserve but no one deserves a bad government. It happens because the good people are defeated by the bad people through propaganda and Machiavellian tactics so wake up and elect people based on honesty and their merit.

If a country wants to make progress, it has to start at the ballot. A wrong choice can set you back by decades. The power struggle does not have to be Machiavellian to succeed. It needs to be fair, balanced and honest so that people can choose the right person to lead them.

 

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Why burn books?

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Source : Google photo of book burning in Germany

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Synopsis : The intolerance of other ideas expressed in books has led to massive book burning in many countries under authoritarian rule. You will never know your past history if it is systematically erased by those who want to rewrite it. This practice of intolerance to new ideas and contrary views has now become outdated so those who practice it should be condemned.

There was a time long ago when people wrote on animal hides or palm leaves. Some made clay tablets to write on that were baked to preserve them. Thus we have found numerous clay tablets with Cuneiform inscriptions in the Middle East but they were bulky and difficult to move from place to place.

The Egyptians took the art of writing on the walls of their tombs and palaces to a new height by using dazzling colors and figures to record their history but they remained unseen in underground chambers of  tombs while the chiseled Hieroglyphs on stone monuments and palaces were ravaged by the passage of time and vandalism.

Man has always been interested in recording his stories since antiquity so used different methods and media in different parts of the world some of which still remain and can be seen and often deciphered but a revolution took place when paper was discovered some say in Egypt where they ground dried papyrus reeds to make an emulsion that they spread layer after layer to make crude paper that was then used to write on by scribes.

In India their ancient texts of Vedas , Puranas and Upanishads were written on palm leaves that became brittle over a period of time so was not considered a perfect medium until paper was introduced perhaps after the Egyptian invention but the Chinese continued to live in isolation for a long period when they used silk or leather to write on.

The invention of paper as we know it today was truly a revolution to preserve art, science, history and religious texts of many religions that survive even today but  with the invention of paper came a giant step toward the freedom of expression when free thinkers started to write down on paper what was in their mind on a given subject.

There was a time long ago when every book or journal or document was hand written by scribes who were experts in the art of calligraphy so they took their time in writing and embellishing texts with art, flowers and other visual graphics to turn any hand written book into a masterpiece but it was a very  slow process that limited the number of such books that could be written.

The kings and queens patronized such scribes and employed them in large numbers in their courts to write , translate or copy other books from other countries so they built large libraries like the one in Alexandria that was world famous for its collection of hand written books of all sorts. But a period of intolerance to ideas represented in such books led to the total destruction of the Alexandria library by fire so all the valuable knowledge gathered over a long period vanished overnight.

The same thing happened to the library of the Nalanda University in India where the hordes of Muslim invaders made a bonfire of all the books there because of their intolerance to the knowledge preserved in those books. It is said that it took more than six months to burn all the  books and manuscripts in their vast library that had taken centuries to fill but the intolerance led to its total destruction and the slaughter of peace loving people who taught there. You can now visit the ruins of Nalanda to see the immensity of the campus and various structures and examine the burn marks on the stones still visible.

This brings me back to the subject of my blog today and examine why we burn books and why some people feel threatened by the knowledge preserved in books and destroy them. The ancient pharaohs ordered their scribes to write on the walls of their tombs their glorious past and wins in battles but the subsequent pharaohs often ordered the defacement of such history if it did not suit them. You can still see such defacement in monuments in Egypt giving credence to the fact that the history is always written by the victors to glorify their rule that failed to tell the whole story or the truth.

People say that the truth can be subjective and depends on who is telling it so there may be many interpretations of the truth . The truth does not always prevail because some people may choose to ignore it if it does not suit them or their agenda. Often a person chosen as the national hero for political purposes may be far from being a hero but such a hero serves a purpose for the ruling class that glorifies him to help them stay in power.

You will find such examples in almost any country where the powerful political elites who rule their country set up grandiose monuments of such fake heroes in public squares and hide the truth that the so called hero was a child molester who beat his wife and was a total pervert. Dictators put up their own statues that are torn down by the angry people when he falls.

But burning a book is far easier and more complete because when it is reduced to ashes, you also separate people from knowledge forever. So people started storing the parchments and scrolls in jars and hid them in secret caves to preserve them and protect them from destruction by people who showed intolerance to such books and documents. The classic case of Qumran or the Dead Sea scrolls discovered by accident by a goatherd in Israel throws light on a period that would have remained obscure had it not been discovered.

The Cultural revolution in China saw the nationwide systematic destruction of Chinese books and ancient documents at a scale not seen since Nalanda and Alexandria because the Chinese leaders had decided to erase their history this way and start writing a new one that suited their agenda. The Red  Guards  misled by their leaders to go on a rampage led to the destruction and public burning of books everywhere that was a dark period in their ancient country where so much was written and preserved for thousands of years  but destroyed in a moment of insanity. The fact that the perpetrators were later judged and punished was too little too late because the damage was done just like in Nalanda.

The question therefore to ask here is why some people deliberately destroy their ancient heritage preserved in books and scrolls even today when such destruction is considered a crime against the collective heritage of the humanity? The youth brigade of the Nazis burned books in public squares to wipe a part of their heritage to rewrite their history to glorify the ascent of Nazis to power.

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Source : Book burning rallies in Nazi Germany

There are no easy answers but it has something to do with the political agenda of the rulers of the moment when such people decide to sacrifice their heritage in the name of preserving their own power. It is said that there are no honest historians because the honest historians are punished if they try to record the truth.

An infamous case comes to mind when a world famous historian in India published a book that showed Nehru in a bad light referring to his many shortcomings that did not suit Nehru so he forced this poor man into exile. He was given a fellowship  by the Oxford University because he was such a noted scholar .He died there never to return home.

But often the book burning or banning  certain books are linked to religious intolerance of one group toward another. It is the irony that during the period of Haroun al Rashid, the famous Khalifa of Baghdad centuries ago , the art, culture and science was at its apex in the Muslim world because the Khalifa was a patron of art, culture, science and astronomy. He ordered his scribes to translate into Arabic many ancient books and literature and built his library full of hand written books. He valued knowledge and rewarded handsomely the scribes who brought in ancient texts from somewhere and made it a law that scribes and teachers were to be protected anywhere and gave them gifts and safe passage firmans.

Then came a period when the hard core Islamists who saw things differently and enforced their intolerance to anything “unsuitable” by burning, killing and reducing ancient libraries to ashes and the ancient monuments to rubble like in Bamiyan in Afghanistan and Palmyra in Syria recently.

The books printed by any government to propagate their version of history and make such books available to children in their schools is an obvious effort to brainwash the young generation into believing a fake narrative but it often backfires. Children are told many lies because they are impressionable at a tender age but they grow up and become capable to make up their own mind later. Some become activists and fight fake history and fake news. Others constantly seek the truth and speak in public forums to force people to rethink about the lies they were told.

The story of Netaji Bose comes to mind in  India where the Congress government paid historians to write text books that mentioned very briefly the sacrifices Netaji made to make India free and very elaborately the contribution of Gandhi for the freedom of India whom the British found unimportant. Thus they deliberately marginalized Bose who brought independence to India and promoted Gandhi for their political reasons.

This happens in many countries. Will the children ever learn about the way the native Americans were decimated and marginalized by the white immigrants or the fate of the native Australians ? Their children were taken away to “civilize them” and treated brutally by the whites. Who will write the real stories so that the children learn about them ? The written history is always skewed by those in power to push their own agenda that glorifies them and downplays the importance of writing what is the truth.

Now we see that the journalists are killed by those who do not like what they write or publish because the fundamentalists have their own agenda that includes suppression through any means of any one who dares to write and exposes the fallibility of certain religions. Salman Rushdie had to hide from his assailants for several years after he published the Satanic verses that is still banned in  many countries. The Harry Potter books were burned by those who thought that the books were promoting witchcraft.

Books of all kinds have proliferated beyond belief since the movable types were invented that made printing easy so books were mass produced for the common people who were learning to read and could afford low cost books. People for the first time could write something that could be published as a book for others to read so it opened the door for the flood of knowledge. It also opened the door for the critical writers who were not afraid to freely express themselves on any subject especially on religious matters that brought them to the cross hairs of the fundamentalists who opposed them.

The future :

Presently there is an enormous amount of knowledge available on line that anyone can access freely on any subject including proscribed subjects that irritate the religious zealots. Amazon and many other websites offer free download of millions of books on any subject that anyone can read anywhere so the era of public book burning is mostly over although some people still do it for symbolic reasons.

The point is that no one can now stop anyone from reading on line because the internet is free and easily accessible in most part of the world. The wikipedia offers articles on any subject and allows you to add your own input on the subject as well. So buying expensive books is less popular now than in the past when so much information was not available. I have read hundreds of books and bought them in many countries but now you can read in Kindle or similar e book readers in color . That is how I downloaded for free Mein Kampf by Hitler that sells for 70 US dollars in stores if available.

So the book burners have a harder time to suppress information they do not like. In this age of internet and free downloads, book burning and intolerance to other’s point of views have lost their relevance. I think the internet and e book publishing has done the mankind a great service by making the book burning irrelevant today although the ISIS terrorists and other fundamentalists still do it to show their anger at contrary opinions on their religions because they mostly cater to the sentiments of people who do not read anything. Such people will tell you that all you need to know is written in their holy books so there is no need to learn anything different.

The book stores are still in business because some people still buy books but you will also notice that they do not sell the controversial books like the Satanic verses or books like Jesus in Kashmir because it may provoke some people into doing foolish things.

I only feel that the massive book burning in Germany and China or other parts that destroyed great source of knowledge forever was a great loss to the humanity because what they destroyed could not be replaced. Rare books and manuscripts, hand written books centuries old and other valuable source of knowledge was destroyed in the name of making a clean slate by cutting the link to the past which is a great tragedy.

If the mankind wants to make progress , it can only do so by preserving its past and learning from it. Book burning is definitely not the way to do it.

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