2015 GOES BY..REFLECTING ON..

It is always between ‘what changes from one calendar day to the next’ and ‘every day is a new day, a reservoir of hopes, a new opportunity to do, undo or redo things’.

And it is always better to go with the later one – every day is a new day and every day is a new ‘you’.

Welcome 2016. Adieu 2015.

Reflect on. Retrospect. Introspect.

To reflect on the days ahead. To recharge yourself. With this symbolic milestone.

A symbolic milestone that comes every year.

It is for you to look at it – so why won’t we do it in a positive, uplifting mode?

Yes, life is very unpredictable – and so are its difficulties – with moments that let you down – with letdowns that lock you in an inertia.

But pragmatism tells to always look ahead – at the point beyond that letdown. It is only you who can break the run of inertia in your life – it is only you who can win over the psychological entrapments that you have built around yourself.

Life’s experiences should tell us that there is no substitute, no alternative, but to fight back – when life is dragging you down. Kill those jinxes that work to darken your path.

After all, apart from your family, who else stands with you emotionally? Everyone else either has a fleeting attention to the problems your are facing or a ‘knack’ to exploit you more in your hours of crisis.

Anyway, that was about migrating from one year to the next – here in this case, from December 31, 2015 to January 1, 2016.

So..what has been my account of the year?

Diversified. Challenging. With my share of highs and lows. With my problems and with my triumphs. Like it happens in every life.

The many things that I had thought to do this year – some of them I could do – some of them are works in progress – and some of them are in advanced stages of ideation – and some of them are in still pipeline – something that always happens – in every life – and I have learnt to enjoy it this way.

I successfully developed my personal website this year – which I treat as my web journal – and so far, I have been engaged with it looks and progress. I had taken the domain name last year but the development with a professional touch came this year – and it was in sync with what I had thought when I was beginning 2015.

While reflecting back on 2014 on December 31 last year, I had decided that I would devote more time to my books and would limit my online publishing activity to once a day. Now, when I am reflecting back on 2015, on a December 31 exactly one year later, I am already more than a post a day – so far 431 posts this year in 364 days with this December 31 yet to go.

2015 was the fourth consecutive year on my writing and publishing pledge when I could maintain the discipline of writing or creating something daily – something that I had begun on October 15, 2011 – though with a random thought – with no long terms goals – but with ‘every day’ convictions.

I still have no goals. My driver is the sense of satisfaction that I draw after creating something from discipline of doing it daily.

Yes, I regret that I could not work that much on my books as I had thought, but what is relieving is that I know that why I could not do so and that I would do something concrete with them in the days to come.

Like I have been doing with my writing and with my creativity, I could do all that I needed to – with diversity as the leitmotif – in articles, in essays, in poetry, in images, in quotes, in fiction.

All that I have been through in 2015 I cannot write here and I should not write here, but while moving to the next year with the symbolic importance of January 1 – of ‘newness and hope’ – I have no bad feeling about how 2015 passed – but good reasons to look ahead and positive energy to work further.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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WHEN I GOT THIS LOTTERY SCAM EMAIL FROM A UNIVERSITY STUDENT EMAIL ID!

Some days ago, on December 24, I received an email on my Hotmail ID that I don’t use frequently. The mail had been sent twice with a brief message ‘can we talk?’. I saw the message on December 28.

Like it happens, emails from unknown IDs make us suspicious, especially in the times of email frauds, in the times of chronic phishing, especially when they are with such terse, cryptic messages that openly tell us this conversation, if taken ahead, will lead us to become victims of a financial fraud or an email scam. Such cases have been widely reported in the media, from across the world.

But the email ID here is what made me look further into it. After I did some basic googling, I found this email ID was of a student from the Western University, Canada (or University of Western Ontario) – from its Department of Education. I came to know that it was a reputed university consistently figuring in global rankings and was among the top ranked in Canada.

The next question was – why some student from such a university in Canada and from an educational stream not related to mine wanted to contact me?

It led me to think the one plausible thought that came to my mind – the possibility that this email ID was hacked.

To clear my thoughts further, I replied to the mail with an expected normal – ‘who is this?’

And to speak for my thoughts, as I had thought – as happens – I got a long reply the next day – this time from a different email ID with a different name – with similar fraud lines like ‘the person writing the mail was initiating the process to discuss further about a great sum (in GBP – the notorious email lottery scams) that had to be transferred to my account’ and that ‘I needed to exercise utmost caution and privacy while taking the communication further’ and that ‘the whole transaction would be processed through India’s central bank’ and so on.

As soon as I read this, which reaffirmed what I was thinking, I did the same that I do with this sort of emails – marking them for my spam mail folder and deleting them.

But what is worrying here is the email ID.

I cannot say and would never like to think so – that some student from a reputed university would write a mail that would lead to a financial fraud.

That pushes us to think about this horrible possibility – that these criminals, these scamsters are hacking email IDs of genuine people to entrap their victims – like in this case, where an email by a university student led me to reply back – something I (and many others) don’t do in case of an email by an ID with suspicious traits.

I think I will write an email to the Western University, Canada about it – and hope they act swiftly on it.

Here is the screen-grab of website of the university with the email ID from which I got the mail. I am putting this screen-grab in public domain as it is already open to public access. I hope it will alert the concerned people as well as many unsuspecting ones who ultimately become victims of such frauds.

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©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE BASIC THAT ‘FREE BASICS’ IGNORES!

Indian philosophy has always seen charity as one of the best virtues and ‘a must have endeavour’ in every human life – yes, an endeavour that doesn’t expect anything in return.

And ‘secret charity’ is its most pious form – giving without expecting anything in return – even good words – even obliged gestures.

It is the ‘sanctum sanctorum’ act of a virtuous, meaningful human life that believes in ‘giving’ because it comes to him as responsibility and not as liability – because it comes to him as answerability to his inner urge and not as a mean to feel ‘high and mighty’.

Indian philosophy, right from the dawn of its civilization, right from its earliest texts like in Vedas, has consistently extolled virtues of charity (and secret charity). Its scriptures worship concepts like Dana (donation/charity), Bhiksha (alms) or Dakshina (reasonable fee) and put emphasis on their inevitability in every human life and their need for overall well-being of the society – the need to give it back to the society.

Charity (or secret charity) is very basic to human life in Indian culture, tradition and history – and so in every other religion or faith practiced worldwide – be it Christianity or Islam or Buddhism (which emanated from India) or Judaism or others.

Not like the ‘basics’ of Facebook’s ‘Free Basics’.

Tomorrow, December 30, is the deadline to send in your opinion on the consultation paper floated by the telecom regulator TRAI on ‘differential pricing’ of digital content (zero-rating/net neutrality).

Activists and many concerned people, who can think and who bother to think, are up in arms against services like ‘Free Basics’ or ‘Airtel Zero’ or Reliance Industries’ upcoming digital content platform ‘Jio’ that claim to liberate the internet for everyone by ‘offering free mobile internet ‘selectively’ – choosing services they deem fit – something that is highly questionable.

How can the initiatives by these ‘commercial vendors or social media sites with business interests’ be seen in good faith when ‘profit seeking’ is the root of any business idea?

India crossed 100 crore (1000 million) mobile phone subscribers mark this year, yet only 25% Indians are online as Google’s Rajan Anandan says. And even if we are the fastest growing internet market in the world, there are only 400 million mobile internet users (and there are only 150 million smartphone users) – so there is a huge (huge) market to tap – because it is the mobile internet market that makes India the fastest growing internet marketplace in the world.

And that makes us question the intent of the ideas behind the services like ‘Free Basics’.

We have no reasons to question Mark Zuckerberg’s intent to donate his 99% wealth in charity. In fact acts like that are what the world needs desperately. And people like Zuckerberg doing so publicly, no doubt, will inspire many others to join the cause.

But then Zuckerberg could have kept Facebook away from his ‘Free Basics’ basket – that would have simply answered all the critics who are questioning his intent – an altruistic act that would speak for itself.

That was the minimum (and maximum) basic expected!

That could have answered the critics questioning his intent with doubts like ‘why Free Basics is in bad taste’ or ‘why it sounds inhuman in appeal’!

Free BasicsFeatured Image Courtesy: Free Basics website

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NO MORE ‘GIVE IT UP’

In September 2012, it was reduced to just six from a copious, unrestrained flow so far.

Then some months later, some thoughts went into it ‘within a reconsideration mode’ and the number was increased by three, making the cut at nine in a year.

Then came the elections in 2014 and the tally was further upped by another three to make for a comprehensive ‘a dozen for a dozen’ mark.

Now comes January 2016 and another approach is going to be adopted.

According to a government notification issued today, now if you are in income bracket above Rs. 10 Lakh (the taxable sum), you are no longer entitled to avail subsidized LPG cylinders.

Logical and fair.

We can even lower this income threshold to Rs. 7.5 Lakh or Rs. 6 Lakh (the income threshold for OBCs or the ‘Creamy Layer’ threshold – above which OBCs are entitled to get caste based reservation).

Millions in India, its masses, need subsidy and any policy in India can only succeed when it looks at subsidies as ‘social obligations’ and not as ‘unavoidable or necessary evils’.

That means we need a rationalized subsidy policy where the whole emphasis should be on identifying those who really need and those who unnecessarily avail subsidies.

And we need steps like the one taken today – what was voluntary till date doesn’t remain ‘on individual discretion’ anymore.

The exchequer had a subsidy payout of around Rs. 41000 crore in 2014-15. The country can do much better if this subsidy burden is directed at those families in real, dire need.

The government notification also tells the ‘give it up’ initiative failed to live up to expectations. India has around 15 crore LPG connections that itself tells millions of families are still dependent on traditional, alternative sources of energy. They, simply, cannot afford the luxury of LPG connection – something that is considered a basic need today. They need subsidy in real terms. Millions of households with LPG connections need subsidy because they face difficulty in managing their monthly budgets.

But those families that earn some Rs. 50000 a month certainly doesn’t it.

So, the notification today is a logical move and will add up significantly to the lot of around 57 lakh families that have so far ‘given up’ their subsidies voluntarily.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MODI’S NAWAZ STOPOVER

As it goes – Narendra Modi thought – and Nawaz Sharif proposed – and two met – while Narendra Modi was to leave for India via Pakistan’s airspace – as reports say..

But shouldn’t we leave the part – ‘as reports say’ – and instead should prefer to go with the part – ‘as it goes’?

Are there written rules for policymaking on diplomacy?

No, there should not be and there cannot be!

Written rules are for extremes of policies made in a democratic nation that India is!

Written rules, like in a constitution, ensure that what a policy must not do!

Written rules define boundaries of policies according to times and are open to time-specific changes!

Written rules don’t say ‘do not follow or mend a policy’ because it is contrary to the position earlier taken – if it is not akin to compromising with sovereignty of the country!

Written rules don’t say, in case of India-Pakistan talks here, that talks should be done on ‘this or that’ precondition!

Written rules don’t say that ‘don’t tweak your policies to take an altogether different approach to try something good even if it means trusting a nation like Pakistan with bad track record on this parameter’!

Written rules don’t say that ‘don’t take a path opposed to the one taken previously as it is not in sync with domestic politics of the nation’!

Written rules never say diplomacy cannot be exercised ‘the common man’ style!

So, what is wrong if Narendra Modi chose to have a brief stopover in Pakistan to wish Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, personally on his birthday – doubling the day’s moments of joy as it was also the wedding of Sharif’s granddaughter that day!

Shouldn’t we see this as the ‘icing on the cake’ – that doing this on the day – on December 25 – gave the developments an overall higher appeal to the symbolism of this ‘common-man-esque’ call as the day happens to be birth anniversaries of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Atal Bihari Vajpayee as well?

Why should we go on scouting for ‘inside stories’ and why should we go on endlessly about possible scoops?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TWO DECEMBERS, AIIMS METRO STATION AND ‘OPEN SKY ROOF’

Two Decembers – two years – two random clicks – 2014 and 2015 – same AIIMS Metro station – same hospital (All India Institute of Medical Sciences-AIIMS-Delhi) – India’s biggest and probably the most superior hospital in the country – the hospital with the common perception that it is either for the ‘high and mighty’ or for those who cannot afford any other option and are cursed to bear the apathetic doctors and support staff of the hospital – and same story symbolic of homelessness in India and ‘open sky as roof’ in North India’s chilling cold..in a Delhi that has now a government which boasts of being a government of and for the common man..

DECEMBER 2015

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©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey

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DECEMBER 2014

AIIMS 2014-1

AIIMS 2014-2

TWO DECEMBERS, AIIMS METRO STATION AND ‘OPEN SKY ROOF’

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

LOST MUSINGS (I)

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LOST MUSINGS

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

YES, WE ARE RESILIENTLY TOLERANT..

Yes We Are Resolutely Tolerant-1

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YES, WE ARE RESILIENTLY TOLERANT..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

STAR WARS: THE FORCE IS STILL IS THERE..

I haven’t seen the movie. It is releasing in India tomorrow but I can’t say when I will go to watch it.

But that doesn’t mean I am going to keep myself aloof from one of the most important marketing events of the year that comes garnished with what has unarguably become an important cultural phenomenon – recreating and re-living the ‘Star Wars’ experience.

And a journey through the reports after the movie was released, and a journey through the events and reports that preceded the release, tell us how a brilliant marketing campaign was weaved around a movie franchisee that has made words like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Yoda, Darth Vader, Jedi, Sith, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Count Dooku, Obi-Wan, Death Star, R2-D2, Galactic Empire, Lightsaber, Stormtroopers and many others part of contemporary lingua franca – inspiring loads of spin-offs – in every age right from its first release in 1977.

Going by the majority of reports and assessments, it can be said the film has successfully ‘re-launched’ the franchisee with the same essence that made the first two trilogies of the ‘Star Wars’ series cult classics – narratives that make you feel positive about plausibility of their fantasy – here an alternative universe the ‘Star Wars’ way.

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ tells ‘the Force’ is still there – with grand success of marketing events before the release of the film and the iconic triumph that it achieved after its release.

Fantasy, any sort of, is inseparable part of our existence but erecting them on celluloid requires a master’s craft. Very few narratives have excelled in that and we can say the ‘Star Wars’ series is one in the league (another valid example here is the two ‘Ring’ trilogies – ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the ‘The Hobbit’) and it is good to read that this 7th movie in the series, with a new production house and a new director, has extended the space opera logically from its 2005 release, ‘Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith’.

Disney, which acquired Lucasfilm for US$ 4 Billion in 2012 has played well in taking the ‘Star Wars Universe’ ahead. The company mounted a massive pre-release marketing campaign, and as per reports, ‘The Force Awakens’ had already grossed around US$ 250 Million before it hit theatres.

No other marketing campaign has generated this sort of intense buzz except Apple’s iPhone launch in the recent history.

Similar reports of fans waiting in long queues outside theatres (in case of the film) or shops (for iPhones) make for cultural extensions to these two brands. While Disney put in intense efforts starting with release of ‘Star Wars comic book’ in January, the buzz around the next iPhone starts building up by March-April and peaks in August-September before the September launch event of iPhone.

Critics and people, at large, have appreciated the film and have gone on to say that ‘The Force Awakens’ successfully talks to the nostalgia in them for ‘Star Wars’ films.

And the film’s record-breaking financial success so far and its projections for the days to come reaffirm it.

Star Wars

Featured Image Courtesy: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ poster from Star Wars website

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

FLEEING FALLUJAH: ISIS WAY

We all know the whole ISIS existence is totally anti-humanity. In fact, we cannot expect any semblance of the universal values of humanity being followed in the territories controlled by terrorist organizations like ISIS or Al Shabab – or for that matter, even radical organizations like IRA or ETA or Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party – or for that instance, in many countries run by dictatorial regimes with one party hegemony.

Such outfits always find this or that excuse to maintain their grip over power and most of them do so in the name of religion like ISIS is doing or quoting ethnicity and national pride like Nazi party did.

In fact, nothing could parallel the worst atrocity perpetrated in the name of ethnic superiority and national pride – the Holocaust – millions of Jews and many others were methodically killed in a cold blooded manner over the years. They were starved to death. They were gassed. They were arbitrarily shot. Many of them were burnt when they were still alive.

We all know, with the beginning of the end of the World War II, Hitler’s forces came to know that their defeat was imminent and they were going to be subjected to legal action for their war crimes. And so, the officials of the Concentration Camps, which dotted the German occupied territories, especially in Germany and Poland, were ordered to kill all inmates and wipe the evidence. In many camps they did so – but failed miserably. In many they could not do it.

In our generation, no one has seen the Holocaust, but those who follow it can very feel the horror by going through the literature available on it and by engaging with the visual documentation including fictional narratives based on experiences of victims. An engagement with the Holocaust documentation stirs your whole identity.

I had the similar feeling when I saw this tweet yesterday. It was by Col. Steve Warren, the Spokesman for the Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the US military operation against ISIS or ISIL (Islamic State) as his Twitter page says. Mr. Warren had tweeted a document that listed directives for the ISIS fighters on ‘how to commit atrocities on civilians before fleeing Fallujah’ so that the allied forces could be painted in dark in the propaganda material of the world’s most dreaded terrorist organization – that has established beyond doubt its grip over advanced communication technologies.

ISF is for Iraqi Security Forces and PMF for is Popular Mobilisation Forces, considered a Shia militia wing. They are engaged in fierce battle with ISIS. The ISIS directive lays down on how the ISIS fighters, dressed in ISF and PMF outfits, should maximize efforts to creates stage managed scenes for ISIS propaganda videos and it includes assault on women and execution of people.

Here, it is about one Iraqi city Fallujah. ISIS (or ISIL) adopts similar cruel ways in other cities in territories under its control – whether fleeing or not – killing people at will – in the name of ethnic cleansing and religious wars – like it was done in the Holocaust – though at a much larger scale.

Jim Clancy1

The only difference is – while the fleeing German forces tried to dispose of the incriminating evidence pushing them to commit even more crimes, the fleeing ISIS fighters brazenly carry out atrocities to film propaganda videos to flaunt their activities, to lure people further in the name of religion.

Featured Image Courtesy: Col. Steve Warren’s tweet

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/