Once upon a time in India….

Long long ago, there was a country, where anyone could dream of anything, where people believed in equality, where equality was not just a dream, but a reality that had been established by the efforts of many great people. Then a sect of people gradually rose to power, who introduced inequality in society. Over a period of time, their slow and steady progress changed the nation according to their will. They started branding the people who talked against their will as anti-nationalist. The majority of the nation either didn’t have the guts or didn’t care about what happened around them as long as they got their three meals a day and had a roof on top for shelter. These people chose to turn a blind eye to the atrocities that happened around them while deluding themselves that they were optimists.

In such a society lived a girl, who dared to harbour rich ambitions in spite of being born to poor parents. She went through a lot of struggle, hardships and sleepless nights while striving to achieve her goal of becoming a doctor. Innocent as she was, she didn’t realize how biased the system had become and how unfair it could be. She believed that she could realize her dream just by her own hard work and sincere efforts. She didn’t realize that she lived in times when the rich became richer at the expense of the poor. She didn’t realize that she was unlucky to live in a time when the very same sect that had already introduced so much inequality in society, had launched one more initiative to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. I’m referring to the introduction of a common entrance examination for students wishing to pursue medicine. This exam poses an insurmountable barrier to the students from poor background and inaccessible villages who aspire to become a doctor, since they can’t afford the exclusive coaching that is essential to clear this entrance exam. Thus, the introduction of this entrance exam is like hiring a doorman who favours the rich who can afford the required coaching, while shutting the door on the poor who cannot.

But, our girl didn’t understand how hopeless her situation was right from the beginning when she sat for the ‘common’ entrance exam that did not test anything which the students learned in ‘common’. She foolishly believed that justice still existed. So she futilely appealed to the judiciary to get justice. Even though she was bright enough to score 1172/1200 in the board examination, she was not bright enough to understand that the system had rigged her for failure from the moment she was born to poor parents.

So she was devastated when her failure in the entrance exam shattered her dream of becoming a doctor. She, who had always dreamt of becoming only a doctor and who had done everything in her power to fulfil her dream, couldn’t accept the verdict. She should have opted for BDS or Agriculture or anything else within her reach as some ‘intellects’ have suggested in the social media, but she wasn’t ‘smart’ enough to know that it is no longer one’s right to choose what they want to become in life. Again, some ‘intellects’ believe that she should have made another attempt to clear the exam after preparing for a few more years. But how could she make these ‘intellects’ understand the hardships that she had to endure in order to complete her studies? Why could these ‘intellects’ not see that she could not afford to waste even a month, leave alone a year. After much thought, she chose what appeared to be the best option for her – to leave this pathetic world and put an end to her life and dreams. This is the end of this story too.

So, what is the moral of this story? You cannot afford to dream or have high aspirations if you are not already rich or in power. You ain’t worth much if you have neither.

Oh! I forgot to mention – there is one lucrative profession which doesn’t need any qualification or prior knowledge (I mean you don’t have to sit for any entrance exams). Can you believe it? Yes, you got it. Even if you have never set foot in a school, you can still have a pretty good shot at becoming an education minister. You can always dream of becoming a politician who can decide the fate of the country and its citizens either for good or bad. Welcome to the new India!

Ban polythene bags

Polythene bags have become inevitable these days. But, there were days when people survived without them. We are suffocating our dear Mother Earth by whatever means we can, though she gives everything she can to us. People around the world predict that at this rate of pollution and deforestation, many cities would soon become unliveable. We already reached a stage where a businessman has started selling tinned air in the name of ‘vitality air’. If it continues like this, the poor cannot afford to live. It is high time we do something about it.

Many of us would have already experienced that this summer is the hottest ever. Apart from planting trees, we should also ban polythene bags which make the soil infertile and pollute the environment. It is not an impossible task, though we are so habituated to using polythene bags. Today, there are only a handful of cities where polythene bags are banned. If they can implement it, so can we. So, I’m requesting our Indian government to ban it and come up with some innovative substitutes with the help of experts. We all want to leave behind a healthy environment for our future generation to live in. Till now, we have done whatever we could to ruin it. At least from now on, let’s take some efforts to undo our mistakes and help our Earth survive.

Do I believe in God or not?

    I always wonder whether I am a believer of God or not. I feel I don’t fit in either of these categories. When I was a child, I did what any other child would do i.e., followed the footsteps of my parents. My parents have great faith in God. My father wouldn’t express it much, but my mother would do all the pujas, strictly adhering to all the rituals. Back then, I had no idea what she was up to, but just followed her instructions. Slowly, as I grew older, I started questioning her activities one by one. When she did fasting, I would argue that no God would like his disciple to starve and suffer. When she was unwell, I would ask her to go easy with the rituals and not do them so elaborately. Over time, I became more and more inquisitive and started questioning everything, like why it should be only this way, why only at this time, do stars and star-signs have real effect on people, and so on. For all my questions, she had only one answer – she shouldn’t have sent me to school! Sounds logical, doesn’t it? Not really! We always come across people who have a strong belief in God in spite of their education and people who are atheist though they are illiterate. So, in reality, education has very little influence on one’s views and beliefs about God.

      The more I thought, the more things fell in line. Gradually, I discovered that most of the things I had earlier discarded as superstitions, actually had a scientific basis. For example, I realised that fasting is the best way to detox and cleanse your body. Scientific studies (“Methodology.” Effect of Vedic chanting on memory and sustained attention. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.) have shown that reciting mantras calm our mind and there are many more examples like this.

     At the same time, down the line, many beliefs without any basis have been thrust into the society and religion as well. When I asked my mother why I was prohibited from touching anyone and quarantined at night during my menstrual period, she didn’t have a direct answer. Instead, she would say that she was brought up that way and that is her way of living and she would continue to live like that. I didn’t know whether I should feel bad or be angry at her for her stand. But, her statement made one thing clear to me. Blind beliefs like this are the root cause of many of the problems in society today. We would have seen some elders saying, “this is what our ancestors followed, we have followed and so you should follow”. People who are either submissive or ignorant or obedient would follow suit.

    This trend leads to various problems. For example, not allowing women or lower caste people inside a shrine, animal sacrifice, fixing of stereotypes about a community or religion, etc. These kinds of beliefs only degrade other human beings and stand as a hindrance to the development of our country. It is a dangerous disease that starts with discriminating women at home, and progresses to discriminating people on the basis of one’s caste, status, and religion, spreading like wild fire. We all know who is making a business out of our diversity, and yet we don’t bother and continue with our blind beliefs.

     God, religion and our culture are meant to unite us, not separate us. If a person behaves well, helps others and serves the society, it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t believe in God. At the same time, if a person claims to believe in God, but is a threat to society, then he is no true believer in God.

     All these things made me realise that only my actions matter, and not whether I believe in God or not. If one can takes care of his/her physical and mental fitness, contributes to the society productively and helps others, he/she can afford to be an atheist.