Current Issues Kabir

How would have Sant Kabir responded to the COVID 19 crisis?

How has been the year 2020?

I know, everyone would respond differently to this seemingly simple question. The major length and breadth of 2020 has been occupied by the most unexpected phenomenon : COVID 19. As I go out every morning or evening for the routine walk, I can see a shop or two closing every day and some other shop sprouting with fresh branding and fresh hope.

Well, this one observation sums up what the coronavirus has done; for many of us, it has completely shattered or at least slowed down what was going right whereas for some few, it has opened new doors.

As I do weekly mentoring calls with the participants of ‘Unlock Your Self the Kabir Way‘, a course on Kabir that I teach (this course was started as a result of COVID-19 in the first place!) I realise how the pandemic has positively as well as negatively affected so many of us. since the course is woven around the wisdom of Sant Kabir, often, the participants ask how would have Kabir responded to a pandemic like this.

We believe that many of the problems that we face today did not exist when Kabir lived. Loss of jobs due to artificial intelligence, addiction to cellphones, large number of people turning homeless due to a lockdown, forceful sterilisation of animals; these problems are in a way contemporary, born out of progress(?) of humanity and technology. Would Kabir’s wisdom be inadequate or incapable of solving these multi layered problems?

If we read the words of Sant Kabir, we realise that he has actually touched a large number of issues like untouchability, orthodoxy, religious hatred etc. in his couplets. But it would be a grave mistake to conclude that these problems is what defines the scope of the solution that Kabir has offered.

Kabir had a very integral approach towards problems. Rather, if we study Kabir’s work and dive within with that understanding, we will realise that the core problem is just one. The numerous problems that we face are just manifestations of the one core problem. And since there is just one problem, there is only one solution. What’s that one problem and what’s the one solution?

In one of his Nirguni Bhajans, Kabir says :

पांच पचीसों पकड़ मँगाउजी
एक ही डोर लगाऊंगा |

I will catch the five and twenty five with a single rope.

The word five could mean five senses. These five senses give birth to twenty five problems. If we keep the numbers aside, Kabir is simply highlighting the fact that all the problems that we face are actually born out of disturbances created by the five senses in our mind. As per Kabir, tackling each problem independently is not going to help. One needs to understand the plain simple fact – the problem is because of the ripples created in our mind by these five senses. For example, we get disturbed when we see something that we do not like or when we see cruelty around. We are disturbed when we hear something that is unpleasant to us. Whatever could be the problem, it creates ripples in our mind through our senses.

As per Sant Kabir’s wisdom, as long as the ripples exist in the mind, whatever the mind does to solve the problem, it will rather add to the problem. The first step, the very essential condition for a solution to come up is lack of these ripples.

That is why Kabir is talking about the one rope- that one rope is awareness. In order to act on a problem, we need a firm ground, a ground which is untouched by the problem. If there are ripples in the mind, the ripples will distort the way the problem is perceived and the response of the mind would also be distorted.

Once we understand this, it is very easy to understand why most of the solutions offered to the problems we face are skewed.

It is very easy to wrongly conclude that by awareness, Kabir means only being aware when you are solving the problem. That’s how generally all the commonly available solutions are. Have a flu? Take a pill and get rid of it. Have inequality? Pass a new legislation and get rid of it.

Interestingly, such solutions give birth to many more problems. The legislation, which is proposed as a solution gives birth to ten more problems – is it drafted fairly, will it be executed properly, will it cause innocent people to suffer?

We have arrived from one problem to infinite problems because of our own solutions. Had we followed Kabir’s approach – awareness, our problems would have been fewer and simpler to deal with.

So, the solution cannot be a ‘use and forget’ kind. When awareness becomes uninterrupted, we realise the most profound fact of the life :

घट घट में राम रमैय्या

In every body, the lord lives.

If we look at all the problems that exist – for humans, animals, environment etc. they are all born out of our belief that we are a separate entity from the rest of the world. This separateness gives rise to all the ripples in our mind. The ripples of insecurity lead to hoarding, the ripples of greed lead to extremely skewed distribution of wealth, ripples of dominance leading to use of this planet as a resource to be exploited.

If we had ingrained this solution of awareness, most of the problems that we are facing, including the coronavirus pandemic, would have not born in the first place. But that does not mean that the solution of awareness is ineffective against the crisis.

If we all look around, we are all panicked or challenged by the pandemic and the suffering it has caused. At the same time, we are doing very little to actually help someone or even ourselves. All our frustration is coming out in the most worthless manner it could – on social media.

If we listen to Kabir, be aware of the situation, observe how it has been playing with our minds, how it has further strengthened our sense of being ‘separate entity’ and with that understanding look at the problems being faced by us as well as people near us, we will be far better at dealing with this crisis!

Current Issues

COVID-19 and the past and future of the Humanity

A lot has been said and a lot is being said about COVID-19. Experts and stakeholders from different fields- science, medicine, environment, economics, education etc. have been talking about the virus and how it’s going to impact our lives in near and far future. Most of these articles are scientific and data driven in nature while some are based on outcomes of very sophisticated forecasting tools. There are quite a few articles where social implications of COVID-19 have been discussed in great details. 

It’s good to clarify right at the beginning that I am not a scientist, not a researcher or an analyst. Though, what people often forget is that we are humans to begin with. We are not the sole residents and owners of the Earth. All these write-ups and articles from these experts take many things for granted which is not the case at all. 

This piece is an analysis of root-cause of our miserable situation. It’s not backed by data but it’s based on observations as a human being. I am convinced that we are no rulers of this planet but one of the ‘species’ which is residing it and I will be examining the situation from this perspective. The world is talking about Coronavirus as the only problem, rather it’s just one of them.

I would rather say that virus is not the problem itself. It is actually an outcome, a manifestation of our crazy and self-centred ways of living.

The strange animals called the Humans 

Humans are residing on the top of Darwin’s model of evolution. Generally, all the animals and birds take care of the ecosystems in which they thrive. There might be some occasional damage to the ecosystem caused by some creatures but that is generally out of sudden anger or rather a result of direct efforts to survive. Once that trigger is gone, animals move back to their normalcy. Animals are generally full of sense of territory and once they get it, their mischief stops. Human beings violate both of these laws. Along with immediate instincts, human beings are governed by momentous insights and have the unique ability of pursuing their ‘dreams’, ‘ambitions’ and ‘goals’ no matter what.

In the process of creating wealth or safeguarding one’s interest, human beings can happily destroy the ecosystem in which they and many more creatures flourish. Also, like other animals, we fight till we claim our ‘territory’ or whatever the goal is but our notoriety increases drastically after we get what we want. 

In short, our journey as humans is fuelled by fear, insecurity and discontent with whatever we have. Once we achieve what we hoped for, our desire is not shunned but it multiplies manyfold. The glass of desire is an absurd one. Once you start filling it, it doesn’t get filled; it starts getting bigger and bigger. 

Our acts have always been detrimental to the entire balance of nature and many epidemics that we had, were actually results of we destroying habitats of others. As this article points out, destroyed habitats create perfect conditions for coronavirus and many more pandemics are about to begin in the future. 

One of the greatest teachers from India, J. Krishnamurti would often say that ‘to exist is to exist in relationship.’ Without any doubt, we are the creatures on earth who exist in the worst possible way; exploiting everything rather than nurturing it. Over the centuries, we have cultivated toxic relationships with other co-occupants of this planet.

Our mistake is our misconception that we are individuals 

Humans are highly ‘individuality’ driven. We have circled down our identities to narrow dots. Secondly, whatever falls out of our circle of identity, we identify it as competition or threat. In nature, life is woven so magically that there could be thousands and lacs of viruses but they won’t kill all of us. In the worst situation, they will kill a tiny fraction of our population. We started looking at everyone other than us as a threat. With the discovery of antibiotics, we started a war with microbes and in turn, affected ourselves by destroying the habitats of ‘good’ bacteria within ourselves. It took us many decades to realise this mistake and now, microbiome research is fostering to study causes and cures for many chronic diseases and disorders. 

Yet, we are far from realising that fighting is not the key to exist.

Even now, with the Coronavirus outbreak, we are in fight mode (at this moment, it is absolutely necessary to control the pandemic) which is the only immediate solution. But, it is a ‘short’ term solution. The long term solution could appear only when we rethink about the way we deal with ‘life’ and its balance on Earth.

Flattening the curves  

Everyone is talking about flattening the curve so that we can buy ourselves time to manage the situation better and reduce the number of casualties on the way. Flattening the Coronavirus curve is of course the need of time but to ensure our (and of the entire life on the Earth) healthy survival, we need to get serious about many other curves and should worry about flattening them instead.

  1. Population: We are already much more in numbers than we should be in the first place. No population control, no hopes. 
  2. Pollution: Our rivers, air, soil, oceans everything is being polluted at a crazy pace. Ultimately, it’s all going to come back to us and hit us badly. We are already out of time; Ecosystem restoration should not be our just first priority but our first three priorities. 
  3. Desires: We have already come far ahead of what we had expected from the life. We have done it at the cost of many people who are going through a living hell. As long as we operate from our sense of insecurity and comparison, we might possess all the wealth of the world but still, we would be wanting more and more. 

We humans need to learn the art of being satisfied. But, individual and social satisfaction goes against the ‘growth’ driven society. Every effort will be made to make us feel insecure and incomplete. Entire machinery will be put at work of triggering our ‘fear’ so that we buy more, we hoard more and compare more. Once you get in the spiral, getting off is next to impossible. COVID-19 has momentarily stopped the spiral. Better be careful before you step into it again!     

Current Issues

What Making My Tea Taught Me About Solving The Problems That Our Society Faces

Suddenly, the importance that tea has in my life has gone up. While working full time, I used to have a cup or two of tea during the day, more as a formality and as an excuse to spend some time away from the laptop screen.

Now, as I practice classical music more seriously, tea is playing the role of companion which soothes my tired throat. Not a surprise, I stop after practicing every two hours to make myself a cup of tea.

Tea with some ginger in it heals the sound (at least one gets that feel). So, every time I make a cup of tea, I add lots of ginger to it. In order to extract the maximum of its flavor, I boil the water for long time with minced ginger in it. This is how we are conditioned- we feel more force will give us a better flavor and extract. Still, in spite of boiling for long times, I hardly got the flavor that I wanted. So today, I thought of trying out something different. I made my tea, closed the gas and then added the ginger and covered the pot. To my surprise,  the flavor is much better than what I get with too much of boiling.

The lesson learned?

We are conditioned to think that more force, more brutality, more power is required to solve a tough problem. On the other hand, one has to understand that force and brutality kills the sensitivity; just as boiling kills the aroma of ginger.

In our society, there is cruelty, violence, hatred  and so many other problems simply because of absence of sensitivity. And what do we do to solve these problems? We use brutality; it makes people more insensitive. Isn’t our society like a boiling pot? Where everyone is just trying to add more heat? I do not expect that political parties will stop adding the heat. That completely kills their agenda and dynamites their vested interests. We, as individuals, while living in the society, can consciously make a choice of not adding more heat and preventing the sensitivity from getting killed. Many of us are disturbed by looking at what is happening around and are clueless about what to do to stop it. If you are one of them and just follow the crowd by adding more heat, you are doing more harm to the society than helping it.

Current Issues

Why finding fault in others means wasting your time!

On social media and everywhere around, people finding faults in others have bloomed like anything. Thanks to social media, we not only read various (many times false and fabricated) news/updates but we now also have power to share them with our circles and even comment on them. This power to share and comment on stuff around us has resulted in the rise of so many so-called ‘experts’ who have a say in almost everything.  The worse part is, these experts spend most of their energy in finding mistakes and criticizing others.

Personally, I am least bothered and concerned about what people do with their time. At the same time, I strongly feel that social media is doing more damage than help by converting people into mistake finding machines. These people are more responsible for this attitude because social media has given them just an outlet.

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-7-41-12-pmThese criticizers feel that their criticism will bring about a change. Sadly, that is not the case. Change happens one person at a time and when you are busy criticizing others, you are wasting the time that you have got to change that one person i.e. you!

We are naturally attracted towards finding mistakes in others. It is very easy. One can find mistake even in most perfect things around him or her. I can criticize a square for being to squarish and missing some curves whereas I can criticize the circle for being too roundish and missing the edge. In short, criticism is a low hanging fruit. It gives you a sense of contributing something to the system without doing any or very little hard work.

Imagine, instead, you spend this time working on yourself. Over a time, you will change and this story of change will inspire many others to change themselves. The catch is, changing oneself, that to in a positive manner is so difficult. It is a process which happens in solitude; you won’t get any likes and shares for doing that. You won’t attract a huge following while you work on yourself.

Considering all this, criticizing others looks such a lucrative task to be done. Alas, it’s a waste of such a nice life and such a precious opportunity!

Current Issues

The Future of RIckshawallas in the Age of Ola and Uber

Taxi and Auto drivers in Mumbai planned a strike starting from 29th August to protest against on-demand hailing services like Uber and Ola. Through my occasional discussions with cab drivers and very rarely with Rickshaw drivers, I always feel the hostility they keep in their minds against the drivers who joined with these Apps. To begin with, I do not personally support either App based services or individual cab or Rickshaw drivers. As an individual, I use what is convenient and cheap.

olaI would like to share an incident that took place a few days ago. Our flight landed at Pune airport around six in the evening. I had parked my car in the office just a mile away from the airport. We had to rush to the office to pick my car and then rush to the crematorium to get the last glimpse of an old, loving lady who had passed away while we were on flight.

Since the distance is short, instead of a cab, we plan to take a Rickshaw. All the rickshaw drivers demand a sum above 100 whereas reasonable fare would have been Rs. 30. An Ola couldn’t have costed more than 80 rupees. We prepare our mind to pay 60, double of the fair fare to any Rickshaw driver. Unfortunately, none of them is willing to come below 80. We simply start walking; not because the additional bucks are a burden on our pocket but simply because we dislike this attitude. After we walk further, we finally get a rickshaw driver who is willing to charge us as per the meter.

It is again and again proven that products or services fail due to the attitude of people who run them. On one side, we have Rickshaw drivers who deny to accept passengers even if they are willing to pay twice the fare. On the other hand, there are rickshaw and cab drivers who feel as if they will starve to death due to lack of business as more and more people are opting for App based rides.

uberDisruption is easiest in the fragmented marketplaces. In monopolies, disruption rarely happens. Uber, Ola and other ride hailing Apps targeted a right sector- which is highly fragmented and offers a pathetic user experience. What should wise rickshaw or cab drivers do to safeguard their future?

There is only one thing which can save the future of Rickshawallas – offering more value than the competitors. A rickshaw has numerous advantages over a cab- it is inherently cheap and hence, can promise lower fares if a minimum engagement rate is attained. It is compact and hence, can offer a speedy commute and is much easier to park. Integration with solar energy is far more feasible for a rickshaw than a cab. Using technology, a rickshaw can be made as safe and convenient as a cab. It is a choice; whether they want to unite to protest against competitors or they want to unite to offer a better service.

Among many other sectors, transport is the one which needs reforms badly. Over next 10-15 years, the changes in this sector would be beyond our imagination. Considering the automation and advances in the self-driving technology, the number of people depending on driving as a profession is bound to come down sharply. Ola, Uber and other App based services is just a mild shock; the major one will come when the entire transport sector is reformed and self-driving cars are running on streets.

If I were a rickshaw driver, I would leave aside all the unions and other things that prevent me from upgrading with the technical advances and offering the best service.

Can’t you see? Over the period, technology has systematically freed us from some of the biggest influences on our hearts and heads- from religious orthodoxies to nationalism.

Current Issues

What Separates Amazon from Flipkart?

Well, there are two happenings, every tech enthusiast should be aware of. First is the fact that Amazon has reached annual sales of $ 100 billion and it has done so in the minimum amount of time. Which means, no other company could touch the revenue of $ 100 billion in a period as short as Amazon. The other news is not good; especially if you love Indian start-up Flipkart and the two Bansals who run it. Flipkart is down-priced by investors and is struggling to grow at the pace it targeted.

amazon flipkart
Note: Logos are owned by respective organizations and are used here for better understanding of the reader.

If one looks at these two news together, one has to ask the question- What separates Amazon from Flipkart?

Amazon, though it reported profits only recently, is growing for sure. Amazon was not in loss due to lack of business I would say; they were in loss to grow further. It seems, this long term strategy has paid off and Amazon has started reporting profits. Moreover, its AWS business is growing at a pace even faster than Amazon itself; but I will touch on that sometime later.

Flipkart, on the other hand, has a different story to tell. It probably faces a downround, where investors buy a company’s stock at a valuation lower than the previous round.

What  is the reason behind drastically different fate of two companies operating in similar market on similar principles?

Amazon and Flipkart work on an almost same principle. But, if one observes carefully, one realizes that there are many things that separate the two companies. Just having a similar business model is not enough. Personally, I feel, Amazon is doing a much better job in terms of delighting the users.

Take my own example. I earlier used to order from Flipkart without fail. I never thought of buying from Amazon. But sometime, I could not find what I was looking for on the Flipkart website and bought the item (it was most probably a book!) from Amazon. After that point, I found Amazon to be more user friendly, easy to use. Now I hardly buy anything from Flipkart.

Keep aside my story. I suppose this might have happened with many more users. To build on this, I think following are the couple of things that separate Amazon and Flipkart.

  1. Continuous improvement and experimentation: I respect Jeff Bezos for this. Those of you, who do not believe me, please take out ten minutes to read his letter. Jeff has ensured that Amazon nowhere stagnates. Amazon is working on so many fronts; they are taking small steps but are ensuring that the improvement never stops.

What we see as success at Amazon is actually a product of insane experimentation and maybe countless failures. Amazon has managed well to keep its people on their toes, all trying to find out something new, which might or might not work.

For instance, to grow Amazon Marketplace in India, they did this-

India is another example of how we globalize an offering like Marketplace through customer obsession and a passion for invention. Last year we ran a program called Amazon Chai Cart where we deployed three-wheeled mobile carts to navigate in a city’s business districts, serve tea, water and lemon juice to small business owners and teach them about selling online. In a period of four months, the team traveled 15,280 km across 31 cities, served 37,200 cups of tea and engaged with over 10,000 sellers.- Jeff Bezos

This is what I call as taking extra efforts to accomplish something. This is an example of doing something out of pure passion and not just to churn profits.


  1. A strong philosophy: Amazon is not just an etailer. They are not just people who made an App and market it. They are working very hard on their packaging, delivery, customer delight, energy conservation, sustainability and hundred more things at a time. The above excerpt from Jeff Bezos’ letter is enough to show the spirit to act as per the philosophy.

Sustainable business has to be a part of philosophy of any enterprise. This is another excerpt from the letter from Jeff. Don’t you think this is really commending work? No one was forcing them to do it; but they realized it and took the responsibility and simply did it. I am not aware of anything of this kind happening at Flipkart; please let me know if you know.


We’ll keep expanding our efforts in areas like packaging, where our culture of invention led to a big winner – the Frustration-Free Packaging program. Seven years ago we introduced the initiative with 19 products. Today, there are more than 400,000 globally. In 2015, the program eliminated tens of millions of pounds of excess packaging material. Frustration-Free Packaging is a customer delighter because the packages are easier to open. It’s good for the planet because it creates less waste. And it’s good for shareholders because, with tighter packaging, we ship less “air” and save on transportation costs.

Amazon has found out the converging points of what is good for environment, customers and the company itself and it tries very hard to leverage on those converging points. As mentioned above, packaging helps not only the environment, but also the company itself.

Same day delivery, drones for delivery are good moves and they help the business. Improving packaging too helps business to a certain extent but the major benefits are related to sustainability and not monetary. Amazon targets to be fully dependent on renewable energy and their wind farm is a step in that direction. Very smartly, they have figured out keeping everyone happy- environment, customer and also the share holders.

Another advantage of having and working as per a strong philosophy is, it reduces human resources related issues. Flipkart is troubled by the resignations from its top management. Something like this happens when people join an organization and later realize that they have a very different philosophy or work culture. At Amazon, the culture and the philosophy is very well defined, which results in hiring talent which is well aligned to it.

I am not at all saying that Flipkart is just an ordinary etailer. It takes lots of efforts to build something as big as Flipkart. But, to go beyond that, to break the wall, one has to have

a strong philosophy

A culture of risk, innovation, improvement

Commitment to philosophy and consumer delight.


To conclude, a business can never succeed simply by having an App and marketing it. You need something great, really great at the back of it. You need to have a philosophy which determines your further actions and direction of the further improvement. Amazon has found out what that ‘great’ thing is. Has Flipkart found it out?



Current Issues

The Fight Over The Temples

This is 21st century, best to my knowledge. A tons of issues are already there surrounding us, right from climate change to poverty to increasing violence. For past few days, one particular issue has bypassed all these ‘mundane’ issues and is on the top of the priority list.

‘Should women be allowed to enter that temple?’

I thought of raising a few questions on the issue.

  1. Why women are suddenly so interested to enter this temple and why were they not for so many years?
  2. The great Indian news channels, who are often neglecting the most important news, why are they giving so much of footage to this particular topic?
  3. Suppose, the women get the entry to the temples. How is it going to change their lives?
  4. Is it really proved that entering that temple works the way people believe it to be?
  5. Those who are stopping the women from entering the temple, do they know and can they write on stamp paper what harm women entering the temple will do?
  6. How much time collectively the ‘talented’ Indians (including me as I am writing this article) have wasted talking about this?

If we try to answer all these questions, we are bound to feel pity for ourselves. I am neither against of nor in the support of women entering the temple. I think, entering a stone temple is not that crucial event in our life. Honestly, the true temple which we should visit rests in our hearts and we hardly visit it.

temple heart

People with vested interests are being quite skillful at mixing the issues to fulfill political agenda. Here, they have mixed gender equality and religious sentiments to hammer a government which they are otherwise unable to argue with.

We are at a phase where really having a dialogue is most crucial for us. For long time, we have been listening to the false claims and hoaxes of people with vested interest. It is time to stop hearing the external noise and having a dialogue with yourself.

Why don’t you enter the temple of your heart? No one is prevented from entering there!

Current Issues

Are You Sensitive, In-sensitive or Partially Sensitive? Answering This Question Might Solve All the Problems That the Human Society Faces!

What it means to be ‘Partially Sensitive?’

As we are human beings, we are all supposed to be sensitive. May be to different extents, but without any doubt, we are all sensitive. There is a gross mistake in the way we look at sensitivity. Conventionally, a person is either considered to be sensitive or insensitive. What if I tell you that we all are partially sensitive?

Yesterday, I was in Mumbai to attend a concert along with my wife and a couple of friends. One of the friends is a vegan and advocates that everyone should be a vegan. He has a whole lot of scientific evidence and tons of data to prove how turning vegan is actually a good step towards cutting down the greenhouse gases. At the same time, he was also harping how cruel the people eating innocent animals are. I listened but whatever he said, did not touch me.

The same morning, I was enjoying my morning tea at this friend’s place when I came to know about the fateful event in Bangladesh where a few young students burned down the place where one of the most iconic musicians India has, Ustad Allauddin Khan lived. His rare pictures as well as the instruments on which the maestro used to practice were consumed by the fire. I was totally put off. The same friend of mine, was not touched even a bit by this event.

In the first incidence, I appear to be insensitive towards nature and the innocent animals while my friend appears to be sensitive. In the second incidence, I appear to be sensitive whereas my friend looks like a cold hearted being.

Are both of us sensitive or insensitive? The answer, according to me is, we both are partially sensitive. My friend is sensitive towards the earth, climate change and the eco system whereas I might be insensitive towards all these things, but I am quite sensitive towards music and musicians.


Seems as if the whole of humanity is partially sensitive. Each and every one of us is sensitive for certain things and every one of us is utter careless about things other than those.

Is this selective sensitivity of human beings cause of all the conflict that we see around us in the society?

Being sensitive solves many problems. Sensitivity significantly transforms the human relationship. Contradicting interests is probably the biggest cause of all human fights. Let it be the fight between communists and capitalists or the fight between the castes.

Sadly, we are all digging in the earth to reach the sky. Organisations, movements, agitations are hardly effective to solve the problems we see around in our societies. Yet, we keep on doing more of all this. In fact, we are doing it in a more sophisticated and explosive way using social media hoping that this would solve the problem quickly.

No. Without sensitivity, nothing happens. Anger multiplies the anger and hate multiplies the hate. It’s very simple calculation.

Being totally sensitive

Is it possible for one person to be totally sensitive? Is it within the human limits to be that way? Honestly, just like love, sensitivity is a human independent state. Just like love, sensitivity has no subject. Then what makes us partially sensitive? I we look at it carefully, our ego makes us sensitive towards the things that matter for us and totally blunt towards the things that do not matter or nourish our egos.

Total sensitivity comes from total loss of ego. Are we even trying to walk in this direction? Ahem, we know the answer.

Current Issues

What is the problem with Internet.Org? | My Thoughts

A few days ago, I was in Bangalore, a city in southern India and capital of the state of Karnataka. I happened to read a print newspaper there in Bangalore after many days. The hectic life in Pune does not allow me to have this luxury.

What grabbed my attention was the huge ads put up by Facebook on the every alternate page that I opened. The ads were sentimental, telling how lives of poor could change if exists. A lot of debate is happening around this issue and many have started raising their voices. Mark came ahead and wrote editorial for an English newspaper to explain his vision and thoughts.

On one side, the picture created by proponents of is touching: farmers would get to know weather alerts and other useful information which they presently are deprived of. We have reached a stage where internet is a basic need; at least in cities. On the other hand, this model has multiple disadvantages including the power to skew the opinions of a large chunk of population.

Considering both the sides, how is one going to conclude which is the correct option?

Some questions are worth pondering upon. Why do we need Facebook or some private mobile service provider to provide free useful information? Cannot our government do that? I understand that internet is a tool and necessity and access to internet can significantly impact the lives. But I cannot understand Facebook taking up the initiative on their shoulders; unless there is some hidden agenda. If someone has to take the responsibility of providing free internet access to basics, it should be the government. There will be a huge debate around what are the basic needs. Is access to news a basic need? It could be; but the question is, who promises that the news media which are provided free of charge do not propagate some agenda?

In this particular case, Facebook certainly has the power to improve lives but it equally has the power to bias people and their opinions. Who is going to be the watchdog? Of course, none like a watchdog exists.

The underlying principle is: the medium should always be neutral and should not favour any particular offering. Internet is a medium and hence, it should not favour particular sites or services.

Another question worth asking, what will Facebook and Reliance will get if this thing works out?

  1. Facebook will get millions of new users and power to influence their political and financial choices.
  2. They will also be able to capture a lot of information about these people, their habits and things they like or dislike which can be sold to companies who have offerings for the bottom of the pyramid.
  3. Reliance might attract a large number of customers who will migrate just to avail free Facebook.
  4. A huge data about how Indian market will evolve during coming years will be made available.

One must take efforts to realise, that nothing is free today. Things which are labelled as free are probably the costliest ones- they take away your information. Considering this, is really free? Certainly, these giants have more to gain than lose if this happens.

Another often missed aspect of this issue is, those who are talking about it are not the ones who will be using it. We do not know if the poor Indian wants free Facebook or net neutrality. I feel, somewhere, we have taken it for granted that the ones who are going to get affected by this have no locus standi in the entire debate. It would be really insightful if someone asks the poor people whether they want to something like this or not. And suppose, if they say, yes, they are absolutely eager to use, is it right to do so?

I think it would be still unfair. Why poor, even well earning members of the society will drool over free access to Facebook or any other internet community for that matter. That doesn’t mean it is a right thing to do.

I personally feel we should be most careful about influencing people and their thoughts is concerned. Influenced minds could be the best agents of change or worst weapons we ever see. To conclude, no information is better than the partial information.



Current Issues

Are We Tolerant, Intolerant or Fools?

Suddenly, everyone is commenting about how tolerant or intolerant India as a nation is. Social networks, media houses, individuals and groups of individuals; everyone wants to be listened. I don’t know, how tolerant or intolerant we Indians are, I can certainly say, we are all fools. It is quite easy to provoke us, make us verbal about something and then using all the tides to fulfil some vested interest. This has been happening here for years and the trend will remain so for many coming years or even centuries.

Do we even know what does the word tolerance mean? We keep on living our cunning everyday life as usual, without bothering about compassion, tolerance, love and what not. When something or someone makes us feel insecure, or tries to take away our piece of pie or threatens our existence or interests, then only we become sensitive and verbal about all these topics.tolerence

I am least bothered to comment on what some film star or his wife has said somewhere. I am least bothered about the truth and falsity of the claims made. As a meditater, I am only concerned about one fundamental question- is a normal person walking on the streets around tolerant? Am I or my friends tolerant? If no, what is the way towards tolerance? It makes me worry that tolerance today is not something which makes up an essential part of our life but a weapon to trigger violence and hatred.

I have a question worth giving a thought- why do we need a movie to tell us how superstitious our lives are? Can’t we know that just by looking at our lives? The basic problem with all of us today is, we do not have time to observe and think about our own actions and our own lives. We need a movie to tell us that we are living a superstitious life which is worth laughing upon. We need a TV show to tell us the problems in our immediate neighbourhood. We like to run a marathon to create awareness about some problem but we take no efforts to face the problem and solve it. Are we becoming more intelligent as the time is progressing? I doubt. We are rather becoming shallower, quickly triggered by some piece of news which might be distorted as well. We are very eager to express ourselves without caring even a bit about do we really have anything worth sharing.

The problem with social media is, it gives us a feeling that we have accomplished something without us doing anything in the reality. I don’t know, if the lacs of comments and thousands of discussions will actually do anything to make us more tolerant or even intolerant. Within next two days, we would have happily forgotten everything. The second question worth asking is, who is benefitting from all this? Media companies, brands, politicians, social networks? I think all of them but not the individual who is wasting his time and energy in all of this.