The Impact of Yoga

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline that originated in India, speculated to date back to pre-Vedic times. Yoga comprises of a disciplined method for attaining a goal, and has techniques of controlling the body and the mind. It is a great way to exercise as it increases muscle flexibility, body strength, and improves respiratory and circulatory health. Eventually, yoga was introduced to the Western countries by Indian yoga gurus, following the footsteps of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was the first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of yoga to a western audience, and visited Europe and the United States in the 1890s for the same.

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The rapid spread of yoga throughout the Western world is news to no one, but its impact on emerging nations is something to take note of. According to numerous studies and extensive research, it has been predicted that if the emerging nations aim to obtain the wealth and technology they desire, it is likely they will eventually discover the same shocking revelation that Americans have discovered: They are still not happy.

It has often been said that Americans are depressed and stressed out. What can be deduced from this is that our careers, cars, smart phones, and even our flat-screen TVs will not ultimately make us happy, healthy, or feel like we live a meaning life.

One of the great hopes in all this is that in the past decade there has been a huge upsurge in people embarking on self-examination. People are again asking the big question, “What is this life about?” And no matter how hard we may try to deny it, the answer we are left facing is a spiritual one.

Because of this reawakening, thousands of people are accepting yoga not only as exercise, but also as an alternative to the experience of a spiritual gathering they cannot find elsewhere. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the chief difference between religion and Western-style yoga, and that is that yoga is usually offered in a non-dogmatic format, which makes it inclusive to many more people. Because of its message of healing, unity and a simpler life, yoga may be one of the great rays of hope for our future. Why? Because worldwide, yoga is being embraced primarily by college students, the upper middle class section, and businesspeople in positions of power – the very strata of society that has the power to make the changes this world so desperately needs.

There is one organization based in Worcester which is doing exemplary work in the field of yoga. Ivy Child International is a non-profit organization that provides cross-cultural health education and psychological services for children, families, and communities. It offers free yoga classes during the summer for people of all ages! The very popular event called Yoga in the Park has been running every summer for about 4 years now.

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Participants doing yoga at Fuller Family Park last year

(Source: Ivy Child International)

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People of all ages participate! Many pregnant ladies are seen doing yoga as well, since it is beneficial for health.

(Source: Ivy Child International)

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A few members of the volunteer team who helped organize the event.

(Source: Ivy Child International)

This year, Yoga in the Park will be held every Wednesday and Saturday beginning June 1st, 2016 in the Worcester Commons. On Wednesdays, the event is from 12-1pm and on Saturdays it will be form 10-11am. All the yoga classes will be uniquely themed each time to keep the interest and the momentum going. The Ivy Child team will provide free water, sell some merchandise, and host a face painting booth for kids as well.

The team also plans to distribute short surveys to access the value and demand for this event so that they can tailor future events better suited to what the community members want.

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As we all know, Clark students who stay back in Worcester for jobs and internships often need some recreational activities to keep them occupied during the summer days! Ivy Child’s Yoga in the Park is a great way to connect with nature while exercising. I hope to see some of you there!

-Nidhi

Cover photo source: Jano India

 

 

 

Humans of Bombay

First of all, Bombay is now known as Mumbai, (Bombay was the official name until 1995, but many people are still attached to it) and is the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra. Being the financial, commercial, and entertainment capital, it is the most populous city in India. Just as USA is a ‘land of opportunities’ for people all over the world, Mumbai is the same for those Indian citizens who don’t have the means or the want to travel abroad. Mumbai’s business opportunities, as well as its potential to offer a higher standard of living, attract migrants from all over India, making the city a melting pot of many communities and cultures.

Now, we have all heard of Humans of New York, but what is Humans of Bombay?

Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s widely shared photo blog, Humans of New York, Karishma Mehta’s Humans of Bombay offers an insightful view of Mumbai through a people-led photo series. The 24-year-old street photographer and city chronicler who started Humans of Bombay in January 2014 says, “I love being the point of contact between someone who tells a story and the ones who like to listen.”

A firm believer in the philosophy that everyone has a story, Mehta, a self-taught photographer, is known for sharing vignettes of everyday life in Mumbai. The photo-blog has over 600,000 followers and has garnered a great amount of acclaim for its beautifully captured portraits and anecdotes of thousands of people of Mumbai. And now, you can have the heartwarming anecdotes and pictures as a beautiful coffee table book. Humans of Bombay, written by Mehta, features 100 never-seen-before images, besides popular gems that chronicle everyone from a nonagenarian couple’s ultimate love story to a philanthropic cab driver’s life.

An exceptional read, it tells you tales of people of different walks of life with utmost ingenuity and is a real page turner. In an interview, she talks about her experiences of how this journey started and the stories that really moved her:

The most important life lesson Humans of Bombay has taught you?
The whole journey for me has been about following my passion. I was a business and economics major, and not a trained photojournalist. So I believe that if you follow your passion, things will come to you. It’s just a feeling I started with—holding on to my passion—and it’s something that has been validated after meeting all these people.

The story that moved you the most?
I spoke to a woman who shared with me an intimate story of her time in an abusive relationship and how she got out of it. Over time, we have become great friends. And back then she offered one of the best advice—don’t rush into a marriage.

How do you decide who makes it to the book or the blog?
I feel that every person has a story. In fact, every person I’ve shot till date has been part of my series or the book. Over the years, I’ve mastered this art of extracting stories. In Mumbai, people are always in a rush, so typically they don’t speak longer than two-three minutes, but sometimes conversations get intense and go on for 45 minutes. Some can even be emotionally draining for the speaker and listener. So I start my conversations with “Hi, can I talk to you for two minutes?” and listen without judgment, hoping they open up and find it comforting.

Here are some excerpts from the book:

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When I was 14, I used to talk to boys; drive motor cycles, smoke cigarettes and people in Bandra would often call me a whore because of those things. I never understood the term back then, but sure if doing all those things made me a whore– I’d take it gladly. After my father’s death, I moved to Chicago where there were so many like me and it gave me the freedom to get inked, experiment with my hair and just be myself.

One Christmas Eve in Chicago, I walked out of a bar alone late at night in a short dress and red lipstick. I was 24 and had been drinking, when from a dumpster, a group of guys walked up to me and put a gun to
my head asking me to give them blow jobs, eventually leading to gang rape. I remember walking home, showering and pushing this incident to the back of my mind for years and never letting it break my spirit – I still wear short dresses and the brightest red on my lips.

In years to come, I got married to my high school sweetheart, faced domestic violence and walked out of the marriage wondering how this could happen to ME, a feminist? It’s because sometimes there are things that are beyond your control. We live in a world where everyone stresses the importance of voicing yourself or walking out of tough situations, but I just want to say this – no one wants to be beaten up, get raped or sell their bodies.

It took me 20 years to voice my incident, but for me a woman keeping it all within her because she has no other choice isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a mark of strength and something we need to start respecting.”

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I’m an 80 year old unmarried woman, and at this stage all I really want is a reason to be happy every day.

What’s that reason for you?

I’m my biggest reason to be happy…celebrating the fact that I’m here, alive and healthy. I don’t think happiness depends on whether you’re married or not, unlike what the Indian society thinks. I’m living with my sister and niece and every single day we’re doing new things to grow and I think that’s what happiness is about– growth and appreciating how fantastic life is.

What are you appreciating today?

The huge piece of cake I’m going to be having after dinner!

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I’ve loved painting since I was a little boy and adding color to people’s lives whichever way I can, gives me immense happiness. A few years ago after we finished painting a bungalow the owner took us to a restaurant to celebrate. This had never happened to any of us before– usually we don’t even meet the owner, the contractor pays us off and that’s it.
I was mesmerized because it was the first time I had even seen a fancy restaurant from the inside and given respect. All my life I had eaten only tea and bread, but that day we ate paneer and daal. That has been the highlight of my life, and I pray for that man every single day.

For more poignant stories of Bombay, follow this link:

https://www.facebook.com/humansofbombay/

-Nidhi

Photo source: Humans of Bombay

 

 

 

Kolkata Musings

The dawn breaks early here. The soft sunshine, slowly working its way through the chilly morning air, enshrouds the city in amber. As I look outside my window, I see trees, fresh from an early morning shower, laden with raindrops. On the street below, people are opening up their shops, dusting and arranging their displays. A couple of food stalls have started with their preparations for the day. The smell of hot and oily mint pakoras and spicy dalwadas waft up towards me. Around the corner, there are scattered groups of men sitting on wooden benches, excitedly talking in fluent Bengali while savoring their gingered tea in tiny earthen pots. There are women too, draped in red and white saris buying hibiscus and marigold as the daily ritual offerings to Goddess Kali. The air in this city always has a distinct spark of festivity; a city where every day is a celebration. Kolkata- the place where I was born, the place where my heart is.

Every year, I go there to visit my maternal grandparents during the scorching summers when the school is on hold. Calcutta, as the city was originally known and the name I have always preferred, offers a cool, soothing respite. Thinking of how I used to spend time with my grandparents, brings back sweet memories of my childhood. We would go on walks, feed the pigeons on the sidewalks, and play in the park. They would spoil me with sweets and candy. They spent hours telling me stories of the ‘olden days’ and sometimes taught me to pray.

But it’s the city of Calcutta that has been more central in my upbringing and has contributed significantly more to shaping my personality than my grandparents. The capital of West Bengal, this city is overflowing with culture and people. Bengalis, as the people of Calcutta are known, are the most laidback and relaxed people you will meet in India. At the same time, the fiercely stand up for what they believe in. The sights, sounds and the smells of Calcutta are firmly etched in my heart and it’s those that root me to the place.

To be honest, it’s a chaos. This city. People visiting Calcutta for the first time get trampled underneath it in the first week. Main roads run through residential complexes. And there are some stick thin lanes which not only have two rows of parking, but also big, fat yellow six-seater taxis (mostly carrying just the driver and a malnourished passenger) along with a Mercedes Benz and an Audi, scrambling their way through them. The economic and the social diversity in Calcutta is astounding. The legendary one way traffic rule where the entire city moves in one direction before 1 pm and goes exactly the opposite direction after 1 pm is unique and even bizarre to some people. And somehow, everyone seems to know the flow. It’s like their mother tongue. They are just born with the traffic language of the city.

People are everywhere in this city. They sleep in houses, apartments, parks, sidewalks. And the rest on handcarts, on machines and in cars. If somehow the first-time visitors manage to make it till the weekend and slowly shed the overwhelming blanket that the city has thrown on them, they will begin nuancing the city- little by little.

Each time that I have been there, Calcutta has revealed itself to me slowly. Opening one sleepy eye at a time. Now a British cemetery, then some jazz left behind by some Americans in the war years. Sometimes a scroll in the Indian Museum, other times a casket of opium and its history in this city. Calcutta lives in the history as much as it lets its history get moldy.

Look, for instance, at the streets parallel to the Chowk Bazaar. A crumbling monastery founded by a Sri Lankan monk, a locked up Chinese hermitage and the building of the Bengal Theosophical Society, one of the world’s first East-meets-West religious ideologies. Each building has its own tale. Each street, a journey through the grimy layers of time. When you walk through Calcutta’s old quarters, you can’t help but feel like you are flipping through a yellowing old book from your grandpa’s bookshelves, with dog-eared pages and broken spines. You might find letters and photos tucked between pages – which seem to talk of love, loss and long nights of his life.

As much a talker’s city as a rambler’s, happiness to Bengalis is Adda-baaji – a substantially Bengali penchant that might be extravagant but is actually very intellectually stimulating. The word ‘adda’ means a group of people, and that is exactly what it is. People, mostly men, sit together for hours talking about anything from politics to theatre, from food to even mundane gossip. The facility to arouse creative expression in others is an absolute quality of the adda. Even if you do not understand Bengali, like in my case, you are welcome to join them under big banyan trees, over a spacey rooftop, in dark corners of parks or over smokes at river-fronts fringing the city.

Happiness to the people of Calcutta is also food. And you can eat the world here, albeit on the streets. A Chinese breakfast at Tirreti Bazaar. The Iraqi sambusas at Nahoum’s.  The Indianised cabbage dolma brought in by the Armenians. Or the Bangladeshi Rui Kalia (carp curry) in Free School Street. And of course, the perennial roshogullas – cottage cheese balls dipped in thick, sugar syrup which are the absolute favorites of everyone. What perhaps could be missing here, when compared to the other metro cities of India, is the boutique-y setup. Right from the transportation of a clutch of chickens tied by their feet and strung to the backseat of a bike to their de-skinning, amidst a flurry of feathers and blood diluted by the water flowing from hand pumps. The butchering and the frying. And then rolling it into a chicken roll the city is famous for. Everything happens right before your eyes. Once in some local magazine, I read this: Every city does its share of dirty work. But Calcutta, unlike most urban cities of India, lacks that cosmetic layer shielding it.

It’s a city where if you lose your gold bracelet on a sidewalk, ten pedestrians will be looking for it along with you. If you are a woman and someone tries to suggestively brush against you and if you shout in fear or curse a threat, men from your surroundings will leave everything to come protect you. But if you don’t be grateful for the gestures, they will make their offence known to you. It’s a city where change is not visible, but millions of human beings and auto motives function in an uninterrupted cycle every day, negotiating their space and value in the giant street theatre.

I miss my hometown deeply. I haven’t lived there at all, except during those month-long summer vacations, but I still consider Calcutta as my home. Maybe someday, I’ll find a quiet suburb to live in. A tiny place tucked away in some corner, a place forgotten by people, left behind by the ever-expanding city. Right now, I am drowned in nostalgia because I miss the dark skies, the chilly winds and those sudden thunderstorms. Calcutta has a special place in my heart, an irreplaceable place.

– Nidhi

(Cover photo source)

What do graphic design and ancient Indian art have in common?

Each era is unique and distinctive in its cultural significance. Indian art forms, including sculptures and architectural methods, have continuously evolved over thousands of years. The history of art in ancient India begins with prehistoric rock paintings. Soon after, advanced town planning systems were displayed in important cities of the Indus Valley Civilization such as Harappa and Mohenjodaro. They had centrally planned cities indicating a highly developed architecture, during an age where it was one of its kind. The use of symbolic forms in India is as old as the Harappan seals.

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Mohenjodaro

(Source)

The Vedic period in India saw the fire altars built for prayers, which with their astronomical and mathematical significance, also played an important role in the evolution of the later temples. That was followed by a period in the history of Indian art that is important for rock-cut caves and temple architecture. Initiated by the Buddhists, the rock-cut caves were imitated by Hindus and Jains in the very famous Ellora and Elephanta caves. The rock-cut art has continuously evolved, to suit different purposes, social and religious contexts, and regional differences.

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Ellora Caves

(Source)

Alongside the evolution architecture, many tribal arts were also evolving and changing with the folk and tribal traditions of that era. These art forms exhibit the cultural and social ethos of India. Such art is an expression of the people whose life is in tune with the rhythm of nature and its laws of cyclic change. Tribal art is practiced by people whose lives blend with natural energy. It has been a tradition in India that our Gods and mythical legends are transformed into contemporary forms and familiar images. Fairs, festivals and local deities play a vital role in the development of these arts forms as well.

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Warli Art (Source)

(Source)

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Mudhubani Art

(Source)

One final aspect that contributed to the evolution of Indian art into the way it is today, is the drawings of military formations used by ancient Indian empires. Formations were known as vyūha, each one had a center, two flanks and two wings. There were thirty main vyūha used, divided into four main categories. One example of a vyūha would be the Padma-vyūha or lotus formation. Also known as the Chakra-vyūha, the Padma-vyūha, is a multi-tier defensive formation that looks like a blooming lotus (padma) or disc (chakra) when viewed from above. The warriors at each interleaving position would be in an increasingly tough position to fight.

The Deputy Commanders-in-Chief would be placed at each outer point of the petals of the lotus. At the inner end, where each end of lotus petal joins with the other, to form an inner-circle resembling the corolla of the lotus, the Commanders-in-Chief would be stationed. The space between any two ‘petals’ is the only access to reach the center of the ‘lotus’ where the Supreme Commander was placed. If a contingent of enemy soldiers moved between any two petals for this purpose, the petals would close in and crush the invaders like the powerful tentacles of a crab. This was one of the toughest formations to break, and has been mentioned in many myths and epic poems in Indian history.

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Padma-vyuha (Source)

(Source)

All of these different influences shaped what is Indian art. So, what do graphic design and ancient Indian art have in common?

It’s hard to believe how big a part graphic design plays in our lives. Few would guess that ancient Indian art too relied on the basic grids that are the foundation of today’s website pages, floor layouts and even newspapers.

Unlike the static grids used in Western designs, Indian grids are more fluid, responsible for everything from the layout of temples to sari designs. Spotlighting them is Dimple Bahl, hoping to bridge the gap between modern design and traditional art with her art exhibit, ‘Scripting the Past for the Future’. An academician practicing design education, Bahl has been teaching Graphic Design at the National Institute of Fashion Technology for the last 17 years. This exhibition took place on April 8th, 2016.

When Dimple Bahl studied history of graphic design from Rhode Island School of Design, she noticed how Book of Kells (a manuscript containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables) held so much value for the museum displaying it. The realization about the significance of scriptures sparked an interest and Bahl went on to study them. Consequently as part of her doctoral research, she started studying the presence and role of grids in Indian scriptures, with the focus on Jain scriptures. She understood that even though the Western aesthetic has been known to dictate grid structures, Indian cultural heritage and its various manuscripts are good examples of the existence of an alternative that could lend variety and perspective to current studies of design.

While she studied Tibetian and Tamrapatra manuscripts from South India, it were the Jain scriptures from Rajasthan and Gujarat, with its detailed patterns, which she focused on in her research and in the recent exhibition. As mentioned above, the main focus of this exhibition was explaining grid structures. Bahl was intrigued by the way the ancient art forms had divided space between them, showing fluidity. She also saw that they were using the same old lines and still created forms including swastika, mandalas, kolam, havankund and janampatri.

The following pictures show the art forms she studied, and some of her exhibition pieces:

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Kolam pattern

(Source)

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Janampatro [Native astrological birth chart] pattern

(Source)

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Indian Mandala pattern

(Source)

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A piece featured in the exhibition

(Source)

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Fragments of a Jain manuscript

(Source)

(Cover image source)

-Nidhi

Reservation in India; My Perspective [Part 2]

To clarify from Naman’s post yesterday, the following classifications are set for allocating quotas or affirmative action, according to the National Commision for Backward Classes:

Social: The caste should be considered as socially backward by other castes

Educational: The caste’ s school non-enrollment rate should be at least 25% above the state average

Economic: The assets of the average caste family should be at least 25% below the state average

On a more personal note, I was “bestowed” the certificate of being a Scheduled Tribal female through the constitution of India by birth. My father belonging to the Khasi tribe and my mother to the Jaintia tribe respectively. To speak of economic prosperity or how my father went from milkman’s son to professor would involve a journey of lengthy familial introspection and that would add/detract from discussing on the reservation system in India. So email me at fdkhar@clarku.edu if you want a proper one-on-one talk about this, I’ll gladly elaborate. Thankfully, through the conscience of my parents, the burden of my privilege has perhaps slightly lowered since I have always chosen to apply for most higher education qualifications through the general category.

Contrary to general opinion, it is a choice to apply through a general or reserved category. I have peers from elevated socio-economic backgrounds who have entered college in India and chosen to apply from the general category, in-spite of being born stamped with a “Scheduled Tribe/Backward Class.” The flawed practice of this entire system relies on the hope that those who are already ahead wouldn’t feel the need to exploit such quotas, and would “voluntarily” chose themselves to be general.

So, given the question: Are you ST/SC/General? I would say that I belong to the general category and would politely demand to be treated so. Of course, this applies to job/educational aspirations and when we speak of the public social sphere (roads, metro-trains, malls, friendly parties), the consensus that I am a northeastern tribal because of my ethnic facial structure prevails. And yes, there are also several who are already ahead and yet chose to eat everyone’s cake. This sustains economic disparity within quota-receiving communities. And if we are to speak of an Indian bureaucracy that will give a damn about checking who signs in as general or not, perhaps we are being too idealistic.

The saddest truth about the quota system, however, is that such reservations are allocated by birth. Almost a comedic hypocritical reverse reaction to the ancient caste system itself. The caste segregation system is just text ritualized into practice. In spite of several other texts within the “hindu” canon challenging the Laws of Manu (ascribes the Varna or caste system in 2nd century BC), society keeps retracting to systems of discrimination as if equality will never become our social quality. Caste segregation was a quota system of reserving specific occupations at birth, lowering certain people into dalits who would (for simpler lingo) do the dirty laundry in opposition to the ritual-performing Brahmin. Fighting this terrible segregation, the pre-independence fight for reservation was that towards equality. An equality still bound to recognizing dalit classes as dalits and brahmins as brahmins.

Of course, the ideal would be to do away with such prejudices in the first place, and let equality be enacted by its own will of choosing merit over classification. To understand how a text like the Laws of Manu enabled a rather poisonous re-organization of society that still continues today requires a proper, more in depth analysis of Indian society’s structural priorities. To clarify, the caste system does not only permeate Hinduism, there are Dalit Christians, Dalit Sikhs, Dalit Muslims, and Dalit Buddhists, too. Given the penance of such discrimination, the quota system would seem like some liberating force, leading one upwards in the socio-economic ladder. Somewhat true, but also more complicatedly false.

India is a federal democratic state. When it comes to reservation, each state can allocate certain people within the quota system. So when we speak of Jats, they have reservation in certain states and don’t have reservation in others. The Jats of Haryana are currently in the limelight for having demanded for their own reservation rights, and this has expanded to similar demands from un-registered Jats of other states as well. The economic loss resulting from the Jats’ demands is grave and staggers the country whose current focus is on prosperity that is defined by GDP. For some, the general belief is that Jats are already upper caste as opposed to Mazbi Sikhs, so there is no need for any reparations. But the violent protests indicate a disheartened community, and reports even suggest demands based on grounds of political inequality (again, India is not really a country of prominent objective journalism, then again no country is).

Resolving to mob justice does stagger a country backwards. Yet running affirmative action through a system of positive-segregation is not the solution either. Displacing focus on economic prosperity is perhaps what India has been doing all this time. Vigilante justice, absolutely morally unjust, is an indication of a government that has not properly accounted for the need to amend or even implement laws. Rising economic disparity clouds proper understanding of who is backward and what they’re demands are. Eradicating caste is all the more problematic when there is no one axis of approaching discrimination. An even more clouded system of checks and balances, addled by human corruption and folly, makes things all the more harder for people who are in actual need of saving.

-Fileona

 

Reservation System in India [Part 1]

In a country like India, freedom is a gift of democracy. We have been given the right to freedom by our Constitution and most importantly the right to exercise this freedom. Consequently, it becomes the responsibility of the current government to ensure this equality prevails.

However in today’s time, one of the major roadblocks to this equality is the Reservation System.

During our vacations, my friends and I were travelling from New Delhi to Panipat in Haryana Roadways (state transport in India) when our bus was stopped by a group of people holding lathis, or hockey sticks, in their hands. A few men had some papers stuck to their chests claiming “JAAT AARAKSHAN ZINDABAD,” meaning Reservation should be given to the JAAT community. The bus was vacated and immediately set on fire. The police was a mere spectator to the entire scene.

Normal life was severely affected with the agitation affecting supplies of essential commodities like milk, vegetables, gas and petroleum products in several parts of the Haryana state including Rohtak, Jind, Bhiwani, Sonepat and Hisar. Trains were disrupted across Haryana and bus service also badly affected.

Allow me to give you a brief idea about what a reservation would mean to the society and why are people fighting for it. In India, some of the classes like Schedule Castes(SC), Schedule Tribes(ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) have been given reservation. Mind you, the reservation is not based on the economical condition, it’s just that these communities have been considered as backward classes. More surprisingly, What actually constitutes a backward class? What are the determinants of a backward class? The answers to these questions have not been defined in the Indian Constitution. So the question is, how can the reservations be made for something which is not defined?

Currently, as per the government policy, 15% of the government jobs and 15% of the students admitted to universities must be from Scheduled Castes. For the Scheduled Tribes there is a reservation of about 7.5 %. (Source)

Other than this, the state governments also follow their own reservation policies respectively based upon the population constitution of each state. Nearly 50% of seats are reserved. Evidently, there’s hardly anything left for the masses (General) not belonging to the reserved community, which becomes the main cause of this agitation in society. Everyone wants to be uplifted and given special privileges.

All of this means that for example if you’re in India, your admission to a university is going to be decided not by your merit but by your category. The admission forms today are filled with questions like “Are you SC/ST or OBC or General Category?” Sad, indeed.

However, I myself support reservations. But in my opinion these should be based on economical considerations. There are many people from rural areas that do not have the basic amenities such as food, shelter, clothing and facilities to attain primary education; they deserve the right to be reserved and given special treatment of reservation.

There are many cases where students from well-to-do families or people who possess all the facilities to get a good education still belong to the reserved class and take advantage and exploit the reservation system just because of their caste.  This arouses the feeling of injustice in the society.

Well, India aims at achieving inclusive growth which is not possible without ending social injustice. Mere economic upliftment will not be enough in a society like ours.

The concept of caste should be removed. In an educated society, no one is inferior or superior.

Reservations shall be supported for EBC, Economically Backward Classes, and the people from the rural area who are deprived of education and other civic amenities.

Do not spoon-feed people who’ve already made it past the high school. They should fend for themselves. If they weren’t good at this level, they won’t be much better off later.

By eradicating the caste system we shall be putting our best foot forward in uniting the people of our nation and helping the economically poor, irrespective of their castes.

-Naman

(Cover image source)

What is Basant? The Importance of Celebrating The Arrival of Spring!

According to our modern calendar, on March 20, 2016, the sun crossed directly over the Earth’s equator. This moment is known as the vernal equinox (from the Latin word vernare, to bloom) in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, this is the moment of the autumnal equinox.

Translated literally, equinox means ‘equal night’. Because the sun is positioned above the equator, day and night are about equal in length all over the world during the equinoxes. In many cultures this is a time for rituals of balance and new beginnings, and sometimes it even marks the beginning of the year itself. For example, Nowruz, which means ‘new day’, is still celebrated on or around March 20th in Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rooted in Zoroastrianism, it is a time of purification and setting one’s intention for a new start.

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Nowruz offerings (Source)

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The Persian dancers pose at the campus of LACMA for the Iranian new year, Nowruz, celebration event on March 17, 2013, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by HaJung Shin: Source)

We can look to our ancestors and notice they often planned their rituals to coincide with the changes in the season, and because they needed a way to predict and honor the seasons, they routinely celebrated moon cycles, the solstices and the equinoxes. Many people still live by these markers. Those of us in the modern world barely notice the seasons except to mark the beginning of a sport season or fashion collection. Thanks to technology, snowplows immediately clear the streets of snow, and air conditioners take the heat out of summer. Most of us don’t grow our own food, and thus we rarely think about the significance of the seasons – whether plants are lying dormant or growing, whether animals are resting or bearing their young. Slowly, but surely we have lost our connection with the earth.

Most of South Asia (which is the Indian Subcontinent) follows some sort of a Lunar Calendar. Different parts of the many countries in South Asia have slight differences in dates and names of festivals, but they often celebrate the same occasion. Therefore, it means that the first day of spring celebrated in South Asia is on a different date than most of the world.

Basant’ is one of the biggest and most colorful festivals celebrated in India, Nepal and Pakistan to mark the beginning of the spring season. It is a secular festival, which is observed in many faiths such as Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism, albeit for different reasons. One commonality among these varied reasons is the fact that they all welcome spring.

Hindus also celebrate Basant as the birthday of Goddess Saraswati – the goddess of knowledge and education. The festival is observed in temple and educational institutions. There is a puja (the act of worship) in most schools, with elaborate rituals and students pray on this day to get blessing from the goddess.

The Sikhs celebrate the occasion of Basant as the birthday of the originator of Namdhari Khalsa Panth, Sri Sath Guru Ram Singh. He was born on 3rd February 1816, which was the fifth day of Basant. Since then, the festival came to be known as Basant ‘Panchami’ –which means the festival is celebrated on the 5th day of month.

Sufi Muslims also celebrate this festival by gathering at the dargah (the tomb or shrine of a Muslim saint) of Hazrat Nizamuddin in New Delhi. A group of Sufi devotional singers visit a village close by in Haryana where they offer mustard flowers at the tomb of various saints and dye their clothes with yellow color, which is the liturgical color of the festival.

This festival also has a long existent association with kites! Initially during this time, the skies in Northern India used to be filled with colorful kites, but eventually this tradition has spread to all parts of the country, as well as into the neighboring countries with the migration of people during the Partition. There are numerous fairs organized in the cities which sell sweets, clothes and jewelry. Several processions are taken out during the celebration of Basant Panchami. One can see locals performing their native martial arts and dancing to various songs of Basant. The processions are joined by people in the village and also of surrounding localities. During Basant, people spend the whole day meeting their extended families and friends.

This year, The South Asian Students Association (SASA) is hosting an event called ‘Basant: The Kite Flying Festival’ on March 26th, 2016 from 1pm-3pm in the Lurie Conference Room! The hosts will be providing kite-making kits so you can build your own kite, and will provide ethnic refreshments such as Chaat (an assortment of savory snacks with tamarind sauce) and Chai (tea with milk).

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Chaat (Source)

chai

Make your way to the UC on March 26th (tomorrow!) for this fun festival!

-Nidhi

(Cover image source)