‘People Getting Too Touchy About Religious, Linguistic Identities’

Ravisher Singh, 24, an education consultant from Jalandhar wonders why people are on a short fuse about their religious or linguistic sensitivities as seen in Fabindia episode lately

I live in Jalandhar and among all Indian states, Urdu words are perhaps used the most either in UP or Punjab. Even for the rest of the country, Urdu and Farsi words have seeped so much into our vocabulary that we unknowingly use them. So it feels sad to see people getting all riled up over the usage of the beautiful language as was seen in the outrage over the recent Fabindia ad.

In the past few years, there has been an increase in people feeling outraged about what they perceive to be either direct or indirect attack on their religion. We see many a follower of Hinduism taking umbrage to how it is being represented be it then the recent Ceat Tyres ad or some other controversies in which people believe Hinduism was targeted.

Be it Hindus, Muslims, Christians or Sikhs or followers of any other faith, I feel people should do research into the matter/controversy before jumping in with anger. Our generation is all about social media and any outrage gets amplified and spreads really quickly, but we need to take a pause and assess how we really feel about it.

Ravisher feels social media users must avoid knee-jerk reactions

On the other hand there have been oversights in cases of brands. And say even in the non-advertising world, in cases like making a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad when even drawing his image isn’t allowed, one cannot say that followers of Islam shouldn’t feel offended. It depends from case to case and people shouldn’t give knee-jerk reactions.

Even if people are individually intelligent, the collective IQ is questionable. It does not take much time for a group to turn into a mob. The crowd is often led by a person who is intelligent himself and who understands how the idea of nationalism works.

Let us for a second imagine that a brand has some ulterior motive in using a definite script or promoting a hidden agenda. Should our reaction be how we reacted to Fabindia ad, threatening or terrorising them? Not only Fab India, many other brands also have found themselves at the receiving end of public outrage. Some of them give in so easily and don’t stand their ground. There was this outrage over the Myntra logo. People only see what they want to see, and ignore other important things.

ALSO READ: ‘We Know Fabindia Is Not The Target, Muslims Are’

Narrow interpretations of one’s faith leads to fanaticism. I am a follower of Sikhism and I am also a man of logic, which is why blind faith in traditions isn’t my preferred thing. I would rather test a thing or act from all angles before putting my faith in it. The advertising world also needs to take care. We are being bombarded with ads on every platform in every inch of space available, some outrage is bound to be there given the quantity of adverts a person has to watch in a single day.

One should take proper time and analyse a raging issue before expressing one’s opinion. Instead of feeling outraged, it is advisable to understand the issue at hand and look for a solution instead of generating conflict.

‘Violence Against Hindus Sad But I Have Faith In Hasina Govt’

Banani Mukherjee Das (35), a PR professional from Kolkata, says India can take a lesson or two from its neighbours to make the minority communities feel safe

I have been watching the events unfolding in Bangladesh ever since the controversy erupted during Durga Puja this year beginning from Comilla. Many people have lost their lives and many a Hindu homes and businesses have been attacked. Be it any religion at the receiving end, I feel sad that people continue to fight and even hurt and kill one another over religious beliefs. More so because my family has its roots in Bangladesh. We belonged to Dhaka before my grandfather shifted to India.

It seems we haven’t learnt any lessons from the pandemic? In raging Covid days, people across the world had transcended barriers of caste, creed, religion etc. to help each other in the name of empathy and humanity. All that camaraderie looks frayed now.

There are reports that Hosain Iqbal, the main perpetrator was of an unsound mind and didn’t realise the consequences his actions would carry. But couldn’t the security have been strengthened, given it is such a huge festival, in fact the biggest festival for Bengali Hindus? And even if one person placed the Quran and then spread rumours about it, why were others so quick to believe and get enraged? The undercurrents of discomfort between communities are there in most parts of the world, they come to the surface only occasionally though.

Das says minority communities can contribute a country’s growth only when they feel safe

I must add that the spirit of syncretism is alive and thriving in Kolkata and will continue to be so. According to me, Mamata Banerjee has ensured that the seeds of hatred cannot be sown in Bengal, especially Kolkata. Like Didi, I feel that the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina or in other words, most women leaders often try to douse the fire of hatred rather than fan the flames.

People across the world are unequivocally praising Bangladesh’s handling of the whole incident, and condemnation from the civil society as a singular voice. I also like how she handled the whole Rohingya crisis which could have been avoided by another woman leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

ALSO READ: Attacks On Hindus In Bangladesh Amid Pujo Is Shocking

Recently there was this case in Pakistan also when a Hindu temple was attacked and the Pakistani government also acted swiftly. Perhaps India could learn a lesson or two about how to handle the rights of minorities and that they should not be scared of being who they are. There have been reports that Bangladesh has overtaken India in GDP per capita, and has better employment opportunities, especially for women. India is below Bangladesh in the Hunger Index as well. I believe Bangladesh has learnt its lesson that hatred doesn’t help a country and its people thrive, only a few people benefit from spreading hatred.

When minorities are respected and feel safe, they feel freer to contribute to their maximum potential and it benefits the country at large. I loved how Sheikh Hasina said that Hindus had contributed equally in Bangladesh’s freedom fight and the same goes for India’ s freedom struggle.

I hope we can sustain the lessons we have learnt from the pandemic and not give in to hatred. We should not lend weight to rumours either. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that we all survive when we help each other survive. There is always a place for love.

‘Men In Blue Should Take A Knee For Mohd Shami Too’

Noida-based cricket fan Tausif Alam (35) is less surprised and more disappointed by the online hate campaign against Indian pacer Mohammad Shami

This whole online hate campaign against Mohammad Shami is totally against the spirit of any game. However, this is not the first time a player has been targeted for not performing in the game. We have witnessed similar criticism of players in the past. But, Shami’s targeting is peculiar in the sense that his religious identity is being dragged into it.

For me, those online comments are laughable that Shami underperformed because he was playing against Pakistan. Though I am trying to laugh it off, it shows how opinionated people are about Muslims in India. And the scrutiny they constantly face.

Shami is a fabulous cricketer. He has performed for India in many matches, bringing glory to the team. He has been in superb form and that’s why he was picked for T-20 WC squad. But, just one bad balling spell against Pakistan and he was attacked online for his religion and his loyalty to the country.

This shows the journey we, as a country, have covered. However, this kind of behaviour is not particularly reserved for Muslims, but Dalits too. Just a few months ago, when the Indian women hockey team lost against Argentina in the semi-final match at the Tokyo Olympics, they were attacked in a similar manner. It was said that the team lost because it had “too many Dalit players”.

ALSO READ: ‘Fabindia Is Not The Target, Muslims Are’

I believe that we have to bring this sanity in our home, especially in India-Pakistan match. We pass on the culture to our children. Enthusiasm for a game is fine but it shouldn’t transcend the limit and become some sort-of mania. We should learn from the players. Beyond the media hype and posturing, those Indian and Pakistani players were so friendly with each other on field; we all saw those pictures from how Rizwan and Babar Azam hugged Virat Kohli after winning the match. Shahnawaz Dahaani, another Pakistani player, was posting picture with Dhoni on his Twitter account.

Another sad thing was the response of Shami’s team-mates and the team management towards the whole issue. Neither Virat Kohli nor BCCI tweeted in support of Shami. They seemed to have buried their heads in the sand.

The most ironical part was ‘taking the knee’ by team India before the match for ‘Black lives matter’ in America. Team India which was showing solidarity for a cause in a far-off land hasn’t spoken a word about atrocities in their own country. They couldn’t even muster courage to show similar solidarity to their own team-mate who was being targeted post-match. There is a reminder for team India that ‘black lives matter’ is an American issue while their own country is facing a similar crisis of sorts. They must understand that taking the knee is not a photo op but represents a cause.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

‘I Set Up 1st Gandhi Memorial In US, Sent A Trainload Of Relief For Tsunami… But I’m Barred From Feeding Farmers At Singhu’

Billionaire NRI philanthropist Darshan Singh Dhaliwal who championed India internationally and supported many causes was barred from entering Delhi on October 23 for organising a langar for protesting farmers at Singhu border

Darshan Singh Dhaliwal, a noted Indian-American based in MIlwaukee, who has a reputation for his generosity as a philanthropist and has cordial links to the highest offices in USA feels quite let down by his mother country. Dhaliwal, who has been sponsoring a langar (in Sikhism, it is a community kitchen that serves free meals to anyone and everyone regardless of their background or beliefs such as caste, religion, gender, economic status, or ethnicity), was not allowed to enter India on October 23 when he landed there on a flight from Chicago.

Dhaliwal has been sponsoring the langar since January 2020 and has a record of philanthropy in India for the past several years. In 2004, he had sent an entire trainload of food and other provisions to Tamil Nadu in the aftermath of the devastating Tsunami. He has helped over 2,000 Indian families establish themselves in the USA irrespective of what Indian region they came from.

Talking to LokMarg in an exclusive interview, he said that he headed the campaign to install a memorial of Mahatma Gandhi in the Milwaukee County Courthouse. It was the first time that such a memorial was set up. “Many did it after that but I was the first one. I have established some 2,000 Indian families in the US. I have provided scholarships/financial support to over 1,000 Indian students without asking them which region or religion they belong to.”

Dhaliwal, who holds an OCI card, asked, “So why was I being stopped from helping Punjab farmers in distress?” Clearly referring to the fact that he has been a true nationalist and given so much to Indian causes.

In a first person account, he tells LokMarg the complete story that led to October 23 unsavoury incident here:

“Last year in January, while watching TV one day here in the US, I saw how the farmers were protesting at Singhu Border in India amid heavy downpour in cold weather. They seemed to be in a miserable shape. With an intention to provide whatever help I could, I came to Delhi in January 2020 and started a langar and put up tents for the farmers at the site.

“All of these provisions I arranged were from my own hard earned money. While returning to the US, I was accosted by a few security personnel and was detained at the airport for one hour. They asked me why I was doing all this.

“I came back in April 2020 and again detained both ways and was asked the same thing. I told them I had taken a train full of goods to Tamil Nadu when the Tsunami hit the country’s southern coasts. At that time no one stopped me, so why was I being stopped now from helping Punjab farmers in distress? The same thing was repeated when I visited India again in June 2021.

“During my previous visits they would ask me why I was doing this and if I was collecting money from someone to do this. I would ask them to give me one good reason why I shouldn’t be doing it. I told them it is my own money. I haven’t done anything wrong or illegal.

“I made three trips to the Singhu border and never took the stage to speak about the issue or approached any farmer leader because that is not my cause. I was asked to speak at the protest site but I refused. The issue on which they are protesting is between the government and the protesting farmers. The government says the policy is good for farmers; but the farmers don’t like it. I do not know whether they are good or bad/ right or wrong. I do not have the entire knowledge of the issue so why should I even talk about it. All I wanted to do was provide food and shelter to the protesting farmers.

Dhaliwal (centre) says he only wants to provide food and shelter to protesting farmers without taking any sides

“I want to go on record to say that I am the biggest nationalist in the US today. I was the first person to install the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the Courthouse. Many did it after that but I was the first one. I have established some 2000 Indian families in the US. I have provided scholarships/financial support to over 1000 Indian students without asking them which region or religion they belong to. President Bush is a dear friend. I have been close to President Clinton as well.

“I am from a village called Rakhra near Patiala and migrated to the US in 1972. Our family is involved in politics in Punjab. My younger brother Surjit Singh Rakhra was a minister in the Punjab Government and the other brother Charanjit Singh Dhaliwal is a businessman in the US. For the past 10 months, we have been providing langar and shelter and other amenities to the protesting farmers at the Singhu border but not even once did we get involved with the politics of the issue because that is not our intention.

“Today, I learnt that the former chief minister of Punjab, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, is believed to have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, bringing to his attention what happened to me when I landed in Delhi. I would like to emphasise that I have only one purpose and that is to provide food and shelter to the protesting farmers who are holding ground there in spite of all adversities and we will continue to do that no matter what!”

‘Vaccine For Kids Is Heartening News For All Parents’

Shefali Malhotra, 40, a Noida-based entrepreneur and mother of a 10-year old, says she is both happy and anxious about the soon-to-be-rolled out Covid vaccines for children in India

I’m very relieved that finally a vaccine has been rolled out for children. In fact not one but two: Covaxin and ZyCovD. While the government has confirmed the use of ZyCovD in the immunisation drive for children from 2-18, the final decision is still awaited in the case of Covaxin. As a mother of a young child this is heartening news for me.

The third wave has been predicted after the festive season and it is being said that the paediatric population would be more at risk during the third wave. So it’s great news that the clinical trials of the vaccines have been done and they might be rolled out for children soon.

My only child, Samarth, is 10. So, my husband and I kept wondering when his turn for the jab would come. However, we don’t plan to rush in and get our son vaccinated once the process starts, even though clinical trials on different age groups of children have been thoroughly done. We plan to wait and watch, though not for too long. Call it a balanced, pragmatic approach if you will.

As a mother of a young child, one does get apprehensive about what side effects these vaccines might carry. These are growing kids and as such their bodies are going to react differently than that of adults. Moreover, their immunity isn’t as strong as that of grown-ups that they can fight back well in case of severe side effects.

Malhotra says outdoor activities have been limited for her son, Samarth, for the last two years

So in my opinion, we should be extra careful and do our research well before the vaccine can be administered. We should choose properly which vaccine we want our kid to be administered. One is prepared for the mild fever, body aches etc. but I would ensure I properly communicate with my child both before and after the vaccination to ensure the whole process is smooth for him.

In the past two years the kids haven’t been exposed to the elements much and their physical activities have gone down because they were cooped up inside the house for most part of the pandemic. There were reports/studies that since kids didn’t go out and play in the open, their immunity has taken a nosedive. Many of them have gained weight too because of lack of exercise and yet many others didn’t know how to manage their feelings of not being able to go out, go to school, meet friends. Kids have had a more difficult time making sense of the pandemic.

ALSO READ: ‘Won’t Send My Kid To School Without Vaccination

I ensured that I was communicating well with my child throughout the pandemic. That way he wouldn’t be apprehensive or afraid of vaccination because he has most of his questions answered by his parents. We need to ease our kids into the vaccination process.

Also, the timing will be important. During my vaccination in May, I had a wisdom tooth issue. But I decided to go ahead and get my shot before getting the tooth extracted, though it aggravated my pain. I wouldn’t want my kid to go through any pain, just like any parent. My husband and I had spaced out our doses so that one parent would be in a good condition to take care of the child. If someone has more than one child, they should space out the doses of their children so they could be taken care of well.

I am happy that my child has begun to participate in outdoor activities like cycling, badminton etc. and I want him to have his childhood back. The two years that went without play, hope the vaccines will make up for that. His school has opened, though not fully, and vaccination would mean our child is safe in any surrounding. I hope the pandemic gets fully over soon.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

‘We Know Fabindia Is Not The Target, Muslim Community Is’

TK Rajalakshmi, a Delhi-based senior journalist, finds targeting of a festive clothing line for its Urdu title regressive. But she also feels Fabindia should have fought back the bullies

It is evident that the intention of the BJP MP, Tejasvi Surya, who targeted Fabindia for their clothing line ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz’, was communal in nature. People are not dumb; they understand which community is being targeted when you accuse an ad of ‘defacing’ Diwali because it uses an Urdu title. (It is another matter that part of the title was itself not spelled correctly by both the MP and Fabindia) The media is replete with similar instances in the country nowadays targeting the minority community, either in direct or indirect forms.

Hindustani is an amalgamation of Hindi and Urdu and spoken in many parts of India. The Urdu vocabulary reflects in a lot of Hindustani words that we use in our daily interactions, like zindagi, darwaza, tareef, rang etc. One good example is halwa, part and parcel of Hindu religious rituals and festival food, which is of central Asian origin. Does that mean we boycott it too till we find a new indigenous term for halwa. That way even Hind and thus Hindu too are Persian words. Why can’t we see that it is all about amalgamation of culture or languages over the centuries, and how it has evolved over time?

Urdu itself is part of the two dozen recognised official languages in the country. It is spoken in many states as well. Does that have no sanctity? All languages enrich communication and widen forms of expression and thought. To associate a language with a particular religion and therefore damn it, is unthinkable in the 21st century.

I also found it bewildering on the part of Fabindia to withdraw the ad and issue a clarification that ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz’ was not its Diwali collection. They should have filed a case of criminal intimidation against the MP. There is a rule of law in the country. In fact the state government or the courts should have taken suo moto cognizance on the issue against the MP. By not doing so, anyone can in the name of majoritarian culture bully others on the flimsiest of grounds while the rest watch on.

ALSO READ: ‘CAA. Love Jihad,,, Where Will The Hounding Stop?’

Fabindia is a fairly big brand with retail chains around the country. They should have stood their ground. I doubt if the controversy would have hit their popularity or profits. But by withdrawing their ad instead of fighting back it may well have an adverse impact. What kind of a message are they giving to their patrons and their suppliers, some of whom may belong to the minority community, by succumbing to the pressure?

This whole thing of what is indigenous and what is not is a bogus argument. Many festivals in India are celebrated by all. That’s part of our syncretic culture. Rather than being proud of the rich diversity of language, religion, attire etc, there are people who want to impose a bland homogeneity on us.

Does the MP himself not wear western clothes or Kurta? If he wants to be purely indigenous, he should wear only what people wore in ancient India and abandon all modern apparel, accoutrements technology including use of the smart phone. Will he?

Of course, such attacks are motivated. People are not fools, everybody knows who is targeted in such attacks. Be it the recent Fabindia ad now or the popular jewelry label Tanishq earlier (for showing an inter-faith marriage) last year. The greatest Urdu poet-lyricists of our country from Ghalib to Sahir, Firaq or Kaifi Azmi have given such great verses and songs. Are they not part of our heritage? Or should we boycott them too? Honestly, this has gone too far.

I don’t understand why other apparel brands did not come together and speak up against such bullying. Today it is Fabindia, tomorrow it will be one of them. It’s leading from one level to the other all because you want to target a particular community and constantly make them feel like secondary citizens. Where is all this going to lead us?

In his address to the nation on achieving the 100-crore vaccination mark against Covid-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians to encourage ‘Made in India’ products. Fab India products are sourced from all local manufactures in the country. They have a significant role to play in popularising block prints etc in cities and they have played some role to popularise rural artisanwork and craft. The ruling political class should look inwards when some of it leaders make such clarion calls that willy nilly might affect those concerns. People from all walks of life ought to speak up against this.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

‘I Wish Tatas Make Air India As Good As Their Vistara’

Debashree Mukherjee, 39, an HR Professional and a frequent flyer, says if Tatas can turn around a debt-laden Air India, it will be the revival story of the century

Before the pandemic struck, my husband, daughter and I used to travel a lot, both within the country and abroad. In the domestic circuit, Air India and Tata Group’s Air Vistara were most often our chosen carriers. However, for international routes, we didn’t prefer Air India because better services were available at the same price in other airlines. If we could transfer/interchange flyer miles to other airlines, we would do that too.

So when the Air India’s acquisition by Tata Group was announced recently, I felt connected. Given how people-oriented Tata’s policies are, I know that the current employees won’t be left in the lurch (unlike say the scenario at Jet many years ago). Having said that I am skeptical of the profitability of Air India. I don’t doubt Tata’s efficacy but I feel that Air India’s condition is very, very difficult and it will be mighty challenging for even Tata to pull it off.

The debt-laden airlines is in the best hands I believe, but is the best good enough? If Tatas can turn it around, there cannot be a better revival story than this. And given the fact that it was Tatas who started Air India before it was nationalised, maybe the emotional connect will bring about some solid changes. Tatas will have to be ‘disruptive’ if they believe that Air India can be brought back to its original glory.

Mukherjee says travelling is an experience be it for business or vacation

Travelling is an experience, be it for recreation or business and Air India needs to tap into that. A certain spark is missing in the airline, though we preferred it so far because of the extra facilities it provided – like an extra 10 kg baggage allowed in comparison to other airlines or an extra 30 kgs if you are a Star Gold member as well as complimentary meals.

ALSO READ: Tatas Buy Wings For Maharajah

But how often do we need to travel with such heavy luggage? Not many times. Air India will need to be more people-centric and customise its services, which I believe Tatas can do. Even though there are confirmed complimentary meals, the food quality could definitely be enhanced.

While in domestic travel, the leg room in Air India is the same as all other airlines, when it comes to long-distance international travel, Air India has less leg space than other airlines. We travel business class and relaxation is right up there on our priority list as a family, since my little girl also travels with us.

Air India has come to represent India with its involvement in various difficult rescue missions, and I believe even after it is privatised, the sentimental value will continue to be there. I believe that will play an important part in rebuilding brand Air India.

And given how much I enjoy flying Air Vistara, run by Tata Group, if they can revive Air India and bring it at par with Air Vistara, none would be happier than me. Vistara has new world amenities, amiable and cooperative attendants and customised, good quality food services. The most recent flight that I took was with Vistara around September end and even in these times of pandemic, it was a good experience.

I sincerely hope the skies open up completely like before and we are free to travel the world again and explore its wonders.

‘Recycling, Not Discarding, Holy Idols Is True Worship’

Nashik-based advocate Tripti Gaikwad (33) is an eco-warrior who recycles idols and photo frames of Hindu religious figures often immersed in water bodies or abandoned by devotees

I am a religious person. I find it ironical that many believers who worship gods in idol forms and seek their blessings every day, also discard them once they wear out. You can find idols or framed photos of gods or goddesses lying under trees or floating in water bodies. By doing this, we are not only disrespecting our deities but also polluting Mother Nature.

Two years ago, I was watching a flooded river Godavari in Nashik when I saw a man at the bank carrying four large photo frames to be immersed. I reasoned with him not to immerse those frames as it would pollute the water. Instead, I suggested, he can make use of the frames by recycling them. The man relented and took away the frames back with him.

That is when I felt I need to push and formalize this idea to recycle discarded material. I spoke to my friends and we discussed the possible recycling methods and products to be made out of castoff photo frames and idols of holy figures.

Tripti with her team of volunteers at her recycling venture

We worked out that cardboard can be mixed with water and used for gardening. The wood had several uses and the idols could be turned into Plaster of Paris (PoP) for reuse as building material or for making toys. I then drafted a text message and sent it across several groups, asking to not throw away their old photo frames and religious statues as I could put them to good use.

The idea struck well. We immediately started receiving phone calls and the material. To date, over last two years, we have recycled more than 25,000 idols, statues and frames sent to us from across the country.

People from the nearby rural areas take Plaster of Paris from me and are using it as a putti for their houses. With wood we have started making chaff/straw while good quality frames are used to make trendy nests for the birds. We also get idols made of metals like brass, copper, even silver. We sort them and melt them for reuse.

Some of the recycled products at Sampurnam run by Tripti Gaikwad (right)

I am a professional advocate and this is my social project. I have also registered a foundation called Sampurnam Sewa foundation for the purpose and rented a place as our warehouse and workshop. We now are a team of around 20 volunteers who spread the message through social media/ Whatsapp and coordinate for collections.

I would like to mention that I find spiritual strength in my work as I feel I am trying to be in tandem with the earth. We harm nature without realising they these elements are also our gods who nurture us. Any harm to the nature will one day boomerang on us. Just as humans are either cremated or buried so our bodies are decomposed, the gods also want the same for themselves – turn them into soil. That is the true way to show our respect to the revered gods.

As told to Mamta Sharma

‘Online Studies Took Away The Zing Of My B Tech Final Year’

Shivangi Mishra, 22, completed her B Tech final year during consecutive lockdowns online. Mishra narrates what all she missed out

I was in my B Tech final year from KIIT University, Bhubaneshwar, when we heard the news about the outbreak of Covid pandemic. I was in the hostel, studying labouriously for the final exams and at the same time enjoying the hostel life with my friends.

As the pandemic and the panic spread, we were asked by our college administration to vacate hostel premises. Strict lockdowns were to follow. So, we bundled up our stuff and headed home thinking that the situation will be brought under control in a month or two and we will be back to our normal hostel life soon. However, in good time we realised the intensity of the outbreak the world over.

With no signs of returning to hostel to attend classes, we received information from the college administration about online classes. Studying technology online can be an uphill task for students. To make matters worse, many teachers as well students were not aware of the online education procedures; besides, there were intermittent network issues. To clear the concept, many a time several students would start asking questions at the same time. It seemed chaotic and much would get lost in the confusion.

We had always been to the classrooms hitherto where teachers were physically present and answered our queries. The online classes had their limitations. We struggled to complete the course. Many lagged behind. Those who were not good at studies suffered the most. It was very hard to face an examination after online classes for one whole year and that too for final semester exams.

ALSO READ: Online Learning Has Failed Education For All

During first couple of months, we were completely confused on how to continue studies as the atmosphere at home is entirely different from that of a formal classroom. Sometimes I was frustrated with disturbance with family members moving around. But slowly I devised a routine. Also, as I missed my friends, I started catching up with them online. Despite all what I suffered in academic front, I am really grateful to my parents for their support. At times of Covid, we felt safe with family.

The examinations brought in fresh challenges. The weaker students who used to take additional help from the teachers post-classes and those who had joined the university from remote areas struggled the most.

The placements were also hard to come by as the interviews were done through online apps. It wasn’t the way we had prepared ourselves. A group discussion with interviewees and aspirants in a room is entirely different than how it is conducted online. We couldn’t see the expressions or the faces of the interviewees clearly. At times we couldn’t hear the subject or the arguments placed properly. I would consider myself lucky that I was able to find the position of an associated integration engineer with a private group.

Thankfully, things are getting better now, and students and teachers are getting well versed to online classes. However, online education can never replace the physical classrooms, the hostel life and the atmosphere of a college. I hope the pandemic ends soon and everything goes back to normal.

‘Youngsters Taking Drugs Need Empathy, Peddlers Punishment’

Varsha Vidya Vilas, 52, a social activist says we cannot tar entire film industry with the same brush when it comes to scourge of substance abuse

Over three decades back, when I was a teenager, an incident left a lasting impression on my psyche. I was waiting at a bus stop when I witnessed a well-dressed man looking dazed and lying halfway in a gutter. Apparently, he was under the influence. It made me wonder how addiction to any kind of toxic substance can do to a normal human. It became a pivotal moment for me.

Today, I have been working as an activist to reduce the menace of drugs. I a general secretary of the Nashabandi Mandal, a Maharashtra government-run body working under department of social justice. The recent Aryan Khan case has once again brought to light the deep scourge of drug abuse, especially among youngsters.

Children as young as 11 are falling for substance abuse. While addictions like tobacco or liquor are personal choices, drug abuse is something that has the capacity to make a society even a country compromise its potential.

Reasons for getting hooked to drugs range from peer pressure to conflict or abuse at home, pressure to perform in studies etc. It is also natural for youngsters to go towards what is forbidden, the taboo. We as adults need to inspire them towards a life of joy for these youngsters are unaware of the dangers of their actions.

Vilas has been associated with a de-addiction programme run by Maharashtra department of social justice

Some time ago there was this case of drugs being sold in front of a school disguised as toffees. We figured this out when once we went to a school for a regular seminar and the children appeared dazed. They were listening to our awareness programme but weren’t registering. It was during individual counselling that we found out that the local paan shop in the area was selling school children drugs.

In dealing with cases of substance abuse, we must remember that be it a child or an adult who has given in to addiction, needs our empathy and understanding. However, the peddlers should be strictly dealt with, for they are aware of what they are doing.

ALSO READ: ‘All Youth Are Curious About Drugs’

Many people say it is the star kids or stars themselves who do drugs, but that will be tarring an entire industry with the same brush. In fact, it is these very celebrities whose voices carry our messages far and wide when it comes to India’s fight against drug abuse. Many Bollywood personalities have lent us their support to weed out this problem from society.

No matter what the reason behind Sushant Singh Rajput’s passing away, it did start a conversation. People became widely aware of the Narcotics Control Bureau with whom we actively work on schools and colleges. Society’s help, community’s participation are needed if we are to move towards nashamukti (deaddiction) and not just nashabandi (prohibition). We also take the help of trans-genders to fight the problem and they are known as vyasan mukti doors.

The war against drugs can be won, especially when it comes to the youth, by including them and not by ignoring or judging them. Parents need to take responsibility too. Our youths are our biggest asset and we need to handle them with care.