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This post will:

1. Briefly take you through the development of my relationship with Institutionalised Prayer

2. Offer a view of a remarkable factory-style temple operation

 

Since I was a child, I have lived in contradiction as far as my relationship with Religion and Puja (Hindi for Prayer) is concerned. I hated the idea of praying to God everyday- I would, as most kids are wont to, pray to him when I needed to. When I did pray, I would pray imagining myself to be the little cow-herd from the parable who forced the Lord to drink milk by by his earnest praying, crying and even begging.

 

I found visits to most temples hollow- I took an instant dislike to greedy priests, dirty corridors and the 5-second-blink-and-you-miss-God darshans before you were pushed along by the security-guard. I prayed best when I sat in silence, remembered my forefathers and God.

 

I was mesmerised by rituals- the sound of a smashing coconut (and the laughter when its watery contents emptied themselves onto my Father), the incantations (I memorised lots of the sanskrit shlokas) , the smell of camphor, the beautiful chunari my mother would wear and of course, the chum-chum or barfi that would come after.

 

Over the years, Visits to the Madurai Temple, Salasarji outside Jaipur, Tirupathi in the South, Sidhivinayak in Mumbai, Pushkarji (again outside Jaipur) and Dwarkaji near Mithapur in Gujarat confirmed my disenchantment with priests and their money-making ways. God is nobody’s pillion-rider. Prayer is not a covenant but a loving two-way relationship. I disavowed Puja and prayer for the new-fangled spirituality, good old personal prayer in new clothes.

 

But the contradiction still continues. I am still fond (not mesmerised any more) of rituals. I still like the camphor, flowers and festive atmosphere but have grown to detest the average pandit. What really binds me to rituals are the mantras, sutras and shlokas. I believe that the ancient texts (vedas and the upanishads) and rituals derived from these represent a body of experience and thought of the philosophers and prophets of the past essential for our continued survival. To ignore them would be conceit and to blindly take them on, foolishness. These texts are, even today, expressed in their own contextual syntax which is indecipherable to the average person and an ignorant or worse, a calculating pandit will misinform, misguide and confound him even further.

 

I like to embrace these texts with intuition, intellect and a good dictionary as guides.

 

It was with trepidation then that I visited the Trimbukeshwar Temple, fours hours from Mumbai, this morning to perform a 4-hour Puja ceremony. I hoped that it would be devoid of squabbling about money (just eight weeks ago when at Haridwar I had come face-to-face with an ugly display of naked greed by the priest performing Granny’s last rites) and be personal, a little one-on-one with God.

 

 

(Above: The main temple at Trimbukeshwar. Image courtesy Dharmesh)

Reaching Trimbukeshwar at 5 a.m. we were accosted by a drunk man en route to the sanctum sanctorium and even at that early hour had but a fleeting glance of the Idol. This was followed by a 2 hour wait for the priest who was to do our Puja, a period that saw the devotees standing in wait swell to the hundreds.

 

When we actually got to the Puja, I realised that this was going to be a community affair. The devotees were segregated by language ability into different lines and led to one of several large halls where all the ingredients and paraphernalia of the puja had already been placed by the team of coordinating pandits.

 

A senior Pujari led the proceedings in every hall, taking rows of gathered devotees through a series of synchronised actions and rituals, culminating in the final havan (sacrificial fire) in each devotees’ personal, portable kund (vessel).

 

At first, this batch processing of the devotees interfered with my conception of what pujas should be like. But as the puja went on, I saw that this factory manner was a very effective and efficient way to run the process.

(Above: Devotees wait before the start of the Puja. This picture represents a fourth of the hall. There are several halls of this size with pujas happening simultaneously)

1. The dakshina or fees for the Puja were spelt upfront- all ingredients for the Puja were included, no extra was asked for and there were no hidden costs.

 

2. The pandits had organised every conceivable item to be used in the Puja before-hand. All one had to do was sit down and start the puja. This ensured that no time was lost due to the devotees getting different (or incorrect) ingredients and misplacing or mishandling them.

(Above: flowers, milk, curd and various other items to be used in prayer)

 

(Above: Representations of a selection of the pantheon of Hindu Gods through nuts and wheat)

3. The pandits did their best to explain the rituals – as well as one could expect a hall full of devotees to be talked to anyway. If you wanted to understand the rituals in detail there was a provision to visit the temple the day earlier and speak to a member of the coordinating team in advance. It was perfect- they had discriminated between those who wanted information and those who did not- to the convenience and satisfaction of both.

 

4. There was no distinction based on class or income, everyone was treated in exactly the same way. This was a welcome change from temples where there are VIP or Express queues for those willing to make a payment for quick access to God.

 

5. The rather teacher-like Pujaris ensured silence and were quick to admonish any errant behaviour. This ensured that one got time for a little quiet one-to-one with God before, during and after the Puja.

 

6. From a demand-supply point of view, the small number of designated Pujaris managed to mediate the Puja for several devotees in a small amount of time. If this same Puja were to happen for each devotee individually, it would place an enormous strain on time and resources of the temple management.

 

(Above: The Puja in Progress at Trimbukeshwar)

 

7. Throughout you dealt with one main organiser so you didn’t have to take the trouble of finding the right person to answer any questions. As for the rituals- the Pujaris were available after the Puja to answer any questions and queries and to offer advice.

 

Most devotees gathered there after the Puja left satisfied. They had completed the Puja they had come for, been given all details upfront, avoided greedy pandits and ignorant ones and returned home in quick time.

 

It was simple. It was standard. It was quick. It got the job done. Ray Kroc would have probably nodded in approval.

As for me, the fascination with rituals continues.

 

Just before I started this post, I paid my regular visit to Charu’s blog and came across her nice post on rituals, inspired by Krish’s Priestly Matters, his account of his tryst with a Priest and Rituals at his Wedding. You must read both.

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adnan patrawala

 

16-year-old Adnan Patrawala, who had been missing for 2 days, has been found lifeless near Panvel, just outside Mumbai city. Reports claim that Adnan may have been strangled to death by kidnappers who had earlier demanded 2 crore as ransom.

Now it seems that Orkut may have been used to lure Adnan.

It seems that the kidnappers may have used the moniker *Angel* to communicate with Adnan, befriend him, exchange phone numbers and entice him with the possibility of a ‘real-life’ meeting.

I was stunned by this, especially just a few days ago I had read on Boing Boing (via David’s excellent blog) about a National School Boards Association report that the internet was safe and that we should use it more. The NSBA had determined that the much-touted risk of online stalkers and predators was basically nonexistant.

Adnan who (in his profile on Orkut) called himself a party-animal and who wanted to be a pilot, is being mourned by the Orkut Community. His profile has received almost 2000 scraps in the last four hours.

Information from the press that he “loved to spend money on his friends”, drove a Skoda car, love to party (the most syndicated picture shows him with a Bacardi Breezer) may point to indulgent parenting and adolescent precociousness but also to unbridled use of the collaborative web. As I write this, for the first time, the ‘web’ seems more like a metaphor for a spider’s net than for a mesh.

This incident sure to cause a reverberation in the online community. As teachers and educators we have a responsibility to help protect our students again such act. The correct response would not be a blanket ban on sites like Orkut and Facebook in schools, I can see this as a very likely knee-jerk response to this event.

A better approach would be continuing education about the possible consequences of undiscretionary online behaviour, much like the talk students get (or should get) today about sex education. Students have to be told, with examples like this unfortunate incident involving Adnan, that dangers exist and like one would not share personal information with a stranger or accept food from someone you didn’t know similar behaviours were inappropriate even when the other were a virtual entity at a computer screen miles from home.

A good article on what students should be exposed (or not) to is Putting Them in a Bubble, over on Jeff’s Blog

Till students become more adept at using collaborative/discussion tools on the internet, web monitors and net nannies are a good way to go.

I wonder what you all think about this. I await your response.

Rest in Peace, Adnan.

 

Further Reading (click on numbers to open links)

#1: Rediff article that talks of the Orkut Connection to Adna’s murde

#2: An article that claims that over a thousand sex offenders may be on MySpace. It also profiles Pancake26, a predator who uses simple code to lure children and young adults

#3: Indiscreet posting costs students University Seats, Jobs and more.

#4: Link to download the entire NSBA report cited above.

#5: An article that talks of the irreversibly of internet postings; how we ourselves are invading our privacy.

#6: MSNBC Dateline article on Why Parents must Monitor Internet Usage and MySpace

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I came across this in the Economic Times this morning:

 

The government has been asked by a parliamentary panel to consider the possibility of levying an ‘exit tax’ on graduates from the “premier institutions which are run on massive state subsidies”

The panel is of the view that money spent on those who work outside the country doesn’t benefit India. Hence they should be taxed for the same.

 

The report states that experts who appeared before the committee felt that when Indian students go overseas to work after receiving education at leading institutes, which are subsidised by the exchequer, the country gets no return for the expenditure incurred on these students. “The committee is of the view that students passing out from premier government institutions get the best education on payment of nominal fees. In the event of their leaving the country for good, imposition of exit tax on them must be considered,” it said.

But how will they impose this tax? If I am working in the UK and paying tax there, the government would find it difficult to get me to repatriate tax back to India unless it worked out a policy with other countries- a sticky proposition. An alternative method It could to tax my employer at the time of hiring (the employer may in turn deduct it from my salary) or make all entrants to institutes sign bonds that should they get a dollar job, they would repay their fees (with interest?) over time.

 

I want to take this argument further and argue that the government should consider removing subsidies from higher education.

 

The government in India today subsidises university education to a great extent. I remember paying Rs. 1500 (under $40) a year in annual fees at college- I spent more commuting to and fro from college to home.

 

During my MBA at an Indian Institute of Management (IIM), I paid Rs. 1,20,000 ($3,000) in annual fees when the actual spend for the government may have been higher by a factor of three of four.

 

The average salary for a graduate from an IIM is over Rs. 7,00,000 (nearly 6 times the annual fees paid by him for his degree). Similar proportions may be appropriate for colleges across the country.

 

Reading Atanu’s blog a few months ago, I learnt about 3 kinds of losses relevant to this scenario:

 

When an educated person leaves India, there is a first-order loss to the economy if the education was publicly funded. There is no comparable first-order loss if private resources were involved in the training. But in either case, the economy loses the life-time stream of economic contributions that the migrant would have made. This is a second-order loss. There is what can be considered a third-order loss that is harder to estimate but whose impact may be the most damaging in the long run. This arises from publicly subsidizing higher education at the expense of primary education.

Think of it. For every student subsidised at an IIM (a subsidy of 4-5 lakhs a year) over 25 -50 students can be comfortably educated in a government primary school. These students may not be able to pay the few hundred rupees as fees every month and in absence of government funding, may never go to primary school.

 

The Higher-education student, on the other hand can pay for himself. The most efficient way to make him do so is:

 

1. Give him a government loan to study at University

 

2. Upon Graduation and employment, tax him at a higher rate depending on salary and area of work. So, an Individual employed in a private sector firm earning in the top quartile of country’s income may be taxed at the prevailing tax rate + 5%. Another individual who earns the median wage may be taxed at base rate + 2%. These taxes hold till the student pay off the government loan + accrued interest. The idea behind the higher slabs for higher earners is improving the cash-flow of the government higher education subsidy kitty. A student employed in the civil services, government organisations, non-profit or development sector organisations may receive a fee-waiver.

 

In this manner student who have the capability to pay do so while government expenditure becomes more equitable and efficient. Incidentally, s similar taxation scheme is prevalent in Australia and a similar loan programme can be availed at leading US universities, most notably at Stanford.

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arvind ardhya at warwick

Thanks to an Apprentice meets Who wants to be a Millionaire meets The Scholar reality show in India, Arvind Aradhya an 18 year-old student from Bangalore, has won a Full Ride Scholarship to the University of Warwick in the UK.

With 14,000 other contestants participating, the victory may make his admission the most selective to any university ever.

Aradhya, now in the UK, is interested in the stars. “In the interview round I told them that my ambition in engineering comes from a dream to be an astronaut. I plan to go into space.'” Warwick is particularly fitting for him because academics there are working with the European Space Agency to build a Moon orbiter.

Read the full story in the Guardian here

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Today, India celebrated 60 years of Independence from the British Raj. We still have a long way to go on various measures on socio-economic development, but we will leave that discussion for another day.

I wanted to share a few pictures I clicked this morning of children from the the Anjuman Islam High School in Mumbai celebrating Independence Day.

The school is housed in a row of slum-dwellings just off the main highway that connects Mumbai to Pune. As I sped along toward the high-way I noticed school children (their pink uniforms dirty by the muck propelled by fleeting cars) standing in clean rows and singing a song celebrating the Himalayas. They were perilously close to the cars speeding by but seem unfazed by either the guttural engine sounds or the possibility that they might be hit by an errant vehicle.

I jumped at the opportunity to get out and take a few photographs and speak to the children who were all bright and excited to participate in this demonstration of national pride and solidarity.

Have a look!

 

flag at anjuman islam

Above: Parents and the community members of the School participate in hoisting of the flag. In the background you can see boards that show affiliation to a quasi-political organisation (that funds the school) and a board (in Urdu and English) displaying the name of the school. The classrooms are housed behind the grill door in the picture.

child getting eclair at independence day

Above: Reward for the patient wait. A Cadbury’s Eclair for every child.

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Above: The students (drenched in sweat from the 1 hour wait before the proceedings got underway) respond to my slogan of Jai Hind (Hail, India the Victorious). You can see the speeding truck and car on the far side.

15-08-07_0958.jpg

Above: The boy in the foreground, Mazhar, is the son of the teacher distributing the eclairs. He was thrilled by the prospect of modelling for my camera-phone and offered me his precious eclair when I showed him the image after clicking it.

 

I had a fantastic few minutes in the company of these children, none of whom, unfortunately spoke English (They don’t teach it in their school till Class 5). Many educators in India differ with me in this view bit I am convinced about the need to make every child learn English. I don’t decry the vernacular languages, indeed there is a wealth of literature and learning in regional texts; I only propose that they be taught alongwith English- probably the key to the path with the greatest opportunities for self-advancement and an improvement in quality of life.

I hope that in the next few decades of Independent India we can get many boys like Mazhar into schools that are safe and provide a relevant education.

Jai Hind!

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Corruption is a problem that rears it’s ugly head every once a while. I have 2 stories to re-count abut corruption at schools and colleges that I have experienced first hand:

Bribing for Marks

One day, as I just left the examination hall after appearing for a rather challenging paper in Economics, a friend accosted me. I had seen him slip out nonchalantly half-way through the paper. He had obviously not bothered to either study for or to attempt the paper.

Over a steaming cup of coffee in the canteen I was informed about the secret underground Marks Mafia. I also got to see a top secret ‘Rate Card’.

The Mafia worked through a few administrators and staff-members. The process was simple. There were 2 categories.

Category A: Increasing Marks (mainly towards Distinctions) – Mildly Popular

Category B: Converting Fail to Pass – Hugely Popular

The path of an answer script, once you gave the exam was like this: Paper Reaches Examing Teacher, Paper corrected by Examining Teacher, Marks and Paper sent to Office clerk for entry onto the college computer, Marks and Paper sent to Overall Examinations Coordinator and Finally, Marks sent to Principal.

The further along this assembly line your paper was, the more you paid. The mafia has clear logic: It was easier to ‘manage’ the clerk who took the papers to the Examining Teacher than it was to ‘manage’ the Examining Teacher herself; & so on…

Bribing for Admissions

Bribing for admissions is more common than it seems. Just one week ago, I heard a proud parent declaring how he had infiltrated the admissions office of a old and respected residential school in the country.

In India, at several colleges, even where there is a centralized admissions process regulated by a university, there are some seats reserved under “management quota” – it means that the administrators have a discretionary authority over who to admit. Quite obviously, there is a quasi bidding-war for places under the management quota (illegal of course) and the bids (bribes or donations, depending on whose view you take) can be larger than the annual fees of the institutions by a factor of 5, 10 or even 50.

If one were to believe (I Do) Transparency International, a global watchdog, it would seem that in this country this pattern repeats itself in all walks of life. India is at the top of the Global Bribery Index where they are regularly joined by the Chinese and Russians. People like you and me pay upto $5 billion a year in bribes for public services.

If you are a righteous parent accosted by a school or college administrator (or even a motorist stopped by a policeman wanting a little grease), here’s a cool way to send a message.

 

Presenting the Zero Rupee Note

 

zero-rupee.png

I just learnt about this through Ramesh’s blog.

The 5th Pillar (please visit their website!), a Chennai based non-profit has released these notes. The organisation believes that we, the people are the 5th Pillar (after the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and the Press) and is focussed on mobilising everyone of us to make a difference.

They distribute these notes that can be handed to the next official who asks for a bribe (I have already written for a pack to distribute amongst students). The note is reproduced exactly like the original on the obverse, with changes that reflect intent.

Above the Reserve Bank Governor’s Signature, it carries the claim “I promise not to accept or pay Bribe” – a take on “I promise to pay the bearer a sum of 50 rupees” that can be found on the mint notes.

The reverse carries information about the 5th Pillar concept and an appeal to empower every citizen to eliminate corruption.

Does it work? Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Times, London.

 

Vijay Anand, the president of 5th Pillar, said: “People have already started using them and it is working. One autorick-shaw driver was pulled over by a policeman in the middle of the night who said he could go if he was ‘taken care of’. The driver gave him the note instead. The policeman was shocked but smiled and let him go. The purpose of this is to instill confidence in people to say no to bribery. It is just a representation.”

It’s a clever idea, but one that could potentially back-fire if you run across a petulant policeman (school administrator?).

The 5th Pillar will always do its best, but it is really up to the 1st 2 pillars (The Executive and Legislature) to take steps (wielding the carrot and the stick) to get corruption and the country in order.

In any event, it’s still a cool idea that’ll have me ‘bribing’ regularly!

 

As Aside: You have got to read this

Keeping with the admissions bribery examples above, I thought I’d write about a very strange, even comical, line of business finds its genesis in school and college admission season.

Outside many schools and colleges, at the start of the admissions season, touts proliferate (even if the institution in question has no history of underhand dealings). They are not your everyday petty criminals, but can be smart, even suave dealers. Some even go by the moniker ‘Sir‘. They have a clear proposition.

We have contacts in the system and can get your child into this institute in return for a few thousand/hundred thousand rupees. If that doesn’t happen, your money back.

Anxious fathers and jittery mothers pay up (these operations work on an upfront-deposit- you pay before they take up the noble cause of getting your child an education).

Here is the Tricky (fun!) part: These egregious Sirs and Ma’ams have no contacts in the schools at all.

They work on the simple law of probability. Out of the 100 students they accost, twenty may get admission on their own accord. The touts claim these as their ‘victories’ and pocket the money. The other parents are informed about the effort that was made and the palms that were greased for their child’s admission. There money is returned (some may keep a small processing fee).

A nifty little game!

 

 

Further Reading

Here’s an excerpt from the Mumbai Mirror

mumbai-mirror.jpg

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Two months ago I saw An Inconvenient Truth. It has been parodied and pilloried several times in the press, but it left me a message. Global warming is a reality and the ozone depletion is a cause for concern.

Today I finished reading Jeffrey Sachs’The End of Poverty as We Know It.” Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, ex-Adviser to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is probably best known as the dapper economist who accompanies rocker Bono around the world trying to spread the message of fighting AIDS. His central message if “Extreme poverty can be ended, not in the time of our grandchildren, but our time.” He argues that Poverty can be eradicated in 20 years.

I’m not an economist, but the book left me with many unanswered questions. The book starts of with promise. Sachs’ tells personal stories and weaves narratives about several countries together wonderfully as he explains how Globalisation and Interconnectedness are key and how economies are linked to Topography and Natural Resources. He makes a forceful case for Technology as the killer app for development economics and surprises you with some tidbits (African Governments being no more corrupt than others, the US being amongst the lowers contributors (as % of GDP) to Foreign Aid etc. He fashions a hypothesis that 0.7% of Annual National Incomes of the 22 wealthiest countries would eradicate poverty and tries valiantly but failingly to convince you.

In the end a nice book with a lot of information, some oft-mentioned plans, but no pathbreaking ideas.

But this post is not about Messers Gore and Sachs. When I think back about the ideas presented in these two books and films, I realise it’s not about government, corporations or non-profits. It is about you and me. It is about what we can do to make our world live longer, be happier, brighter and better. It is about making a small difference, one thing at a time, and the results will begin to show.

I sat down to make my list of 10 ways I would try and make a small difference to the world and its inhabitants:

1. I will try and Pay it Forward: You may have seen the movie (Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt). It’s about doing good for someone anonymously and starting a potential series of good deeds as receivers of anonymous good actions Pay it Forward by helping others in turn. I’ll let Trevor, the hero of the book and movie explain:

Trevor, 12-year-old hero, explains his idea to his mother and teacher: “You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask how they can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It Forward. To three more people. Each. So nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven.” He turns on the calculator, punches in a few numbers. “Then it sort of spreads out, see. To eighty-one. Then two hundred forty-three. Then seven hundred twenty-nine. Then two thousand, one hundred eighty-seven. See how big it gets?”

On the way back home this evening, I passed a toll plaza. I paid for the next three cars behind me. My first conscious attempt at Paying it Forward.

2. I will volunteer: I plan to devote one month of my time every two years. The last time I volunteered was in 2004 when I worked in Tsunami Affected Areas for 7 weeks- first on relief and then on rehabilitation. It was also the last time when I felt ‘connected to the Earth.’ The last time I saw ‘all of us as one’ for weeks at a stretch. I don’t know if these words will mean much, but anyone who has experienced trauma and calamity from this close will know what I am talking about.

Getting one month off in a block is difficult, so I will try and do this over several days in the 2 years, investing evenings and weekends.

3. I will Give to Soup Kitchens: Next time I am having a get-together at home, good food left over goes to feed the needy. (dial 1098 from a PNT line in India)

4. I will Conserve Electricity: My laptop is almost always on. My Television is always on Standby. I leave the geyser running for hours to have a 5-minute shower. I forget (sometimes) to turn off the lights after I leave a room. My bedroom is wired to put on 3 halogens at a time (no single bulb switches at all). My Air Conditioner consumes energy inefficiently (yes there is a comfortable, yet energy efficient temperature for ACs). All these actions make cost more money and spend more of the limited energy resources that we have. BTW if you were wondering: leaving appliances on standby consume 5% of maximum power.

I don’t know if I am prepared yet to be carbon-neural, but many schools, and all new Government funded schools in the UK are.

5. I will Avoid the Car if I Can Manage it: Good for health and good for the trees too!

6. I will Re-commit to the reason I became an Educator: Education is the way out of global poverty and out of global violence. Everyone from Adam Smith (“An instructed and intelligent people ..are more disposed to examine, and are more capable of seeing through the interested complaints of faction and sedition. The whole society is at risk when any segment of the population is poorly educated” – from his seminal “Wealth of Nations”) and my eight year old student Harleen (I feel happy when I am at school. If everyone went to school, they would be more smiley and a lot happier)

As Teachers we can help shape the world in brighter hues than we find it today. Every day, every class, every moment spent with a child can be used to fill in him a zest of life, a joy for living, a passion for learning.

I have decided to keep a regular journal, think, reflect and recommit every day to this profession.

7. I will Smile a Lot more: I am sure there is some Psychology paper somewhere that mentions a smiling person as being more attractive, happier, more confident and a delight to be around. I know when I see a smiling person on the street, I break into the biggest smile possible. I’d like to be that way most of the day.

8. I will be more Empathetic: I want to – Say Thank you more often. Send more cards (when was the last time you did?). Say Good Morning. Good Night too. Listen with Genuine Interest. Smile at the newsboy every morning. Buy flowers for home. Call an old teacher. Call an old friend. Answer and help anonymous people who make they way to my inbox I have the time. Give more pats on the back. Say well-done more often. Criticise less. Provide more support.

9. I will Vote: I am ashamed to say that I, like more than half of my countrymen in every election, do not vote. I plan to put this right the next time and only then criticise the government for the ills we find ourselves in.

10. I will revisit this list: Ideas that are written and not implemented are soon forgotten. I am going to tack this to my softboard to make sure I see (if even from the corner of my eye), this everyday. I will try and stick to this. Try not promise, for as Amitabh Bachchan, Indian movie superstar says in his film Sharaabi (The Alcoholic): “Vaade toot jaatein hain, Koshishein Kamiyaab ho Jaati hain” (Promises are broken but efforts often become successful).

I hope that by following this (and some other little things I have jotted down) I can make a small but significant change in my immediate environment and in the World (remember the Hummingbird effect?) I believe that “When we Change the World Changes” and that all of us should attempt to make, in our own little and special ways, this world a nicer place to be in. When that happens, transformation will take place.

As Lennon said, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Robert Kennedy said this in an impassioned speech in Africa (these are also the last lines of Sachs’ book):

“Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence…. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance”

Do you want to help? (click on the numbers to read)

#1. Visit the Earth Institute’s “How you Can Help” page

#2. Read about the UN’s Millennium Development Goals; a report on Universal Primary Education

#3. Tips on Global Warming in the Classroom – educator resources from the Inconvenient Truth website (lesson plans, classroom activities, project ideas et al)

#4. More Educator Resources (including student grants of $500) by the Pay it Forward Foundation

#5. Listen to Imagine, by John Lennon (turn up those speakers!)

#6. How Happy is the World? A map of the world with different shades for countries based on their Happiness Index (UN Data)

#7. Try Blackle.com – It’s the Old Google in New Black Clothes. Apparently booting white pages takes more out of your PC, a black Google page would save the world 750 MW of power. (Thanks Krishnan!)

#8. This one is my favourite: If you haven’t read Desiderata, read it. The best advice on a happier, more fulfilling life I’ve come across.

 

10 things to do

This image above is from the Inconvenient Truth Website (but you knew that!)

How will you change the world? Let me know! I would love to hear what you think.

Are you an Educator? Maybe you use a similar discussion in your classroom?

Read our latests posts here or leave a comment!

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