My thoughts and experiences about the nuances and hazards of dealing with money

Of all the factors that has divided and fragmented society, money has risen to top that list. Now money is not the same as wealth. It is commonly said that someone is wealthy and prosperous. Wealthy denotes someone who possesses wealth but there is no similar word to someone who possesses money. It is never mentioned as rich and prosperous and there is a reason to it. Wealth adds value to our lives in many different forms and that is how we become prosperous. Money only helps us to buy things and every one of those things are perishable. This is why money does not add value to our lives which in turn never makes our lives prosperous.

Back in 2008 when it was supposedly my “peak age” for marriage, my parents wanted me to buy an apartment in Bangalore where I was working at that time. I was aghast. There was no point in buying an apartment under the assumption that my marriage was going to happen. Then there was the demon of the housing loan to reckon with. I am bemused by how people queue up to take housing loans to buy apartments and houses, especially in burgeoning cities like Bangalore and in exhausted cities like Mumbai. Now let’s say I take up a housing loan for 20 years. I am effectively committing myself to paying back the EMIs every month without a break for 20 years. And how can I be so sure that I am going to be alive and healthy for the next 20 years? The funny part is, people look to reducing the monthly EMI amount by extending loan repayment period. Banks are all the more happy because they know they will end up getting back more money. The sinister thought behind it is, the longer the repayment period, the less likely it is of a proper full repayment which means when borrowers default, banks can easily take over the properties. The ideal way of repayment is to pay almost double of monthly EMIs and close the loan as quickly as possible. The advantage here is, even if we default on payments for a few months, banks will not proceed with any sort of action. But the catch here is, if we try to close off a loan faster, we have to pay some extra money as penalty on foreclosure. This is the best indicator that banks are more interested in what the borrowers have given as security to the bank than the money they have lent.

In cities, parking space for cars are available only in apartment buildings. This means to own a car, we need an apartment that costs may be 5-10 times or even more that of the car. This is how money lures us in into it’s honey trap. The education system trains us to become employees in the corporate world. Then everything that is associated with money takes over our lives. Then social status comes into the picture and social status rises when we start “owning” things. This perception pushes our needs to ridiculously high levels. Own a house, own a car, the list goes on and we embark on our Sindbad journey in the pursuit of more and more money, with little realization that we are being turned into money churning machines. We are simply working hard and enslaving ourselves to the banks to hold on to the things we have bought with money. Add to this the fact that everything we have bought is perishable and may need to be replaced anytime means even more money required.

Money never makes us prosperous because it does not allow us to add value to our lives and without adding value to our own lives, we cannot add value to other’s lives. How Antilla, the mansion of India’s business tycoon Anil Ambani stands out in the extremely crowded and tough living conditions of Mumbai is the shining example. Prosperity reflects on us only when our surroundings are also prosperous. Money keeps us locked to the extent that we actually stop noticing the value of everything else in the world. I was deep in my search for employment in 2013 after completing my MBA when my dad went down with a cardiac arrest. Because he is physically very strong, the experience did not shake him even though he had reached the brink of death. But taking the advice of reducing salt intake too seriously, he literally stopped taking salt. After a few days I noticed strange changes in his mannerism and behavior. On a Sunday evening I insisted and dragged the doctor into the hospital for dad’s check up and that was when we found out that his sodium level was fast declining and he would have had possibly gone into a coma in the next couple of days.

Now what if I had been employed at that time? First of all I would have had been working in a city away from my parents. My mom would have had never noticed the changes I saw in dad. He would have had most likely ended up in coma and I would have had spent almost all the money I was earning on his treatment and my travel. It was a massive learning curve. My keen sense and better understanding of human anatomy made sure I did not have to spend money when I was not earning. If there is a way to earn money there will always be ways to spend the money as well. We can never hold on to money. In a place like India with ever rising inflation and decreasing value of money, the concept of “owning” a house, having a “decent” bank balance and living a “retired” life has taken the biggest hit. We have evolved into a situation similar to that of animals and birds in the wild. They have to seek out their food each and every day regardless of all difficult situations or they will die. If they stop trying they will die. We have also reached that critical state where we have to find ways to earn money till we die. Ironically, as per the Bible, when the “Gods” created us, we were created as beings that were meant to lord over the animals and not live like them.

Now here is what I have learnt through these experiences. First of all, we need to find our balance with nature again. No living being has the ability to destroy nature for it’s own needs except us. We cannot cut the same branch of the tree we are sitting on. The branch will take us on it’s way down. More money is alarmingly proportionate to more destruction of nature now. Bangalore’s geography is dotted with numerous lakes. Almost all the small lakes have been covered up for construction and many of the bigger lakes are being openly used to drain human waste. Then people keep complaining about lack of drinking water. Why? Bangalore has been taken over by the migrant community from all over India who come in search of jobs in the IT industry. Now these people are in Bangalore to make a living and have no time to understand and solve environmental issues of the city. The result is, as per reports, Bangalore is set to become the first unlivable city in India very soon. When we make nature unstable for our needs, nature will take course corrective action to bring back it’s stability and the consequences can be disastrous as we found out with the recent floods in Kerala. More people move into cities like Bangalore every year, creating more need for living spaces and water further depleting the city’s already stretched and dwindling natural resources. We have to stop our war with nature because we can never win it and will only lead to our own destruction.

It is funny how so much is spoken about finding work-life balance without any proper understanding of it. We wake up in the morning at a particular time so that we can finish n number of chores and activities and leave for work at a particular time so that we can reach our work place at a particular time. In the night, we sleep at a particular time so that we can wake up at a particular time next morning. So essentially when we become corporate employees, the corporate takes possession of our lives and time. Our entire 24 hours gets sucked up into our jobs and we get paid only for 8 hours. The balance we need to find is not in work and life but in our need for money. If we learn to find contentment in what we have and look at our needs sensibly, our need for money will decrease considerably. This, in turn, will free our time and energy and help us to focus on creating value in our lives. IT industry in India is notorious for the fact that as employees gain more experience their value decreases. Plenty of IT professionals have become stagnant in their jobs or have lost jobs and are not able to find employment again because they simply do not know anything else to do and did not consider learning and mastering new skills.

It no longer makes sense to “own” anything. This has given rise to business opportunities like renting cars, bikes and even household items. The amount we spend on renting a house or apartment will invariably match up to the amount we spend on maintaining our own. Back in 2008, a colleague in the Netherlands was refusing to own a car because of traffic and parking space issues. Our population has only increased in 10 years. From owning a house the challenge has shifted to living in a decent neighborhood with the availability of drinking water and proximity to essential outlets and services. But paramount now is to not get stuck in a single source of income. Develop skills that would open up potential opportunities for several streams of money. Chasing money should be just like how our body reduces fat when we start working out. Our body instinctively knows how much fat we need based on our daily requirements and burns only what it understands is excess fat. Similarly, if we have a fine understanding of how to simplify our life, we will automatically seek only the money we need to live that life.

I never chase money because money destroys human values and relationships and maroons us in our own little islands. Money clouds our judgement and makes us take wrong decisions. I make sure not to judge anyone in terms of money. It only takes an hour of madness in the stock market for a millionaire to become a pauper. Not having to focus on the money I was earning was what helped me focus on my dad and save him. I seek skill development, self improvement and building good relationships with people. Money, wealth, prosperity, everything will come but there is one question that always keeps bothering me. When all of it comes, will I be ready to use it in the best possible ways? This is what keeps me on my toes and always alert to every potential opportunity. Understanding the nuances of money and it’s potential hazards is the only way to not get enslaved to it.

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The aftermath of floods in Kerala has been as tumultuous as the floods itself

The devastating floods in Kerala has shaken and stirred the country in an unprecedented manner. Nature’s fury, tragic scenes, political wrangling, communal rhetoric, diverse India uniting and a dash of comedy have ensued in the past fortnight. It all started when the Home Minister of India made a quick visit to Kerala and announced a immediate relief fund of Rs. 100 crores. Problem was, Kerala Govt. had asked for more than Rs. 1000 crores. Then the PM wanted to do an aerial survey and assessment of the affected areas with his team. Problem was, thousands of people were stranded in the floods in inaccessible areas where only helicopters could reach them. For rescue, military personnel deployed were only in hundreds. All state TV channels were impressively covering flood affected areas to the best they could. Politicians and government officials in the name of aerial survey were using helicopters that could have been used to rescue people. Moreover their aerial survey was inhibiting the rescue operations. They should have simply stayed at home and watched TV.

Then the Central govt. announced a flood relief package of Rs. 600 crores. The simmering social media erupted. A Govt. that has thousands of crores to give as loans to other countries and for building statues did not have enough money for saving it’s own people’s lives. The reasons were quite evident. The communally harmonious society of Kerala has never allowed BJP to plant it’s roots in the land even though RSS has been actively trying to find some ground. The frequent clashes between RSS and Communist cadres is the clear testimony of that. RSS has even gone to the extent of eliminating it’s own people for defaming the Communists as has been found out from police investigations in some of the cases. The Left parties won the last assembly elections and are in governance of the state now. Moreover Keralites have unanimously rejected any ban on eating beef. The Central govt. has been at loggerheads with the state govt and the Kerala society as a whole which got clearly reflected in the callous approach of the Central govt. towards the time of crisis.

What the Central govt. needs to understand is that Kerala is a part of India and is one of the highest payer of central taxes and excise duties to the Central govt. Kerala govt. had only asked for the support and assistance it is entitled to get. As per 2015-16 estimates, Kerala has 2.7% of India’s population and contribute 4.4% of its GDP. For every ₹1 Kerala pays to the centre, they get only 25 paisa back. And Kerala gets only 3.25% of its GSDP from centre. Every Malayali who stays in Kerala pay ₹12572 per year to centre in different form of taxes (2015-16 data). Rejecting the requests of Kerala govt. and offering measly sums as relief packages is clearly a violation of the federal structure of governance of the country.

Meanwhile a comical episode started off on the side when the ruler of UAE met a prominent Indian businessman and apparently told him that he would be willing to give a relief package of 100 million USD to the Kerala govt which was in turn conveyed to the Kerala CM. Then the ruler of UAE tweeted a statement of support and solidarity towards the people of Kerala which was responded by the PM with a tweet of gratitude. The next thing everyone got to know is that the Central govt. had rejected the offer of help from UAE citing an incident from the past when the erstwhile UPA govt had refused to take help from foreign countries. The ruler of UAE in turn stated that he never made any explicit offer of help. All of this made me wonder why people in important places are tweeting and talking about providing assistance for such a huge calamity on social media when they should be working towards getting help to the affected people. So essentially the Central govt. neither showed willingness to do enough for flood relief nor allowed governments from other countries to help which got totally exposed with this incident.

The communal elements across the country did not sit idle either. RSS was trying to spread it’s own organizational propaganda in the name of helping flood victims. Posts and comments started pouring in on social media about why the people of Kerala should suffer because Keralites still continue to eat beef and the women of Kerala are trying to desecrate the sanctity of Sabarimala by trying to get equal rights to enter the temple. Arnab Goswami has even gone on record to call the people of Kerala as shameless ones. All of these are stark reminders that we have only found freedom from foreign rule and we are a long way away from cleansing our society of the many evils and darkness that has taken control over our minds and thoughts.

In the meantime, the govt. of Kerala got pulled into a couple of raging debates. One was about the handling of excess dam water and the opening of dams which ensued in large scale flooding. OPIndia, an online news platform has falsely interpreted a NASA weather report and claimed that the timing of the opening of the dams resulted in the floods across Kerala (http://www.opindia.com/2018/08/nasa-confirms-delayed-opening-of-dams-coupled-with-rains-led-to-kerala-floods/). NASA’s report (https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2018/nasa-captures-monsoon-rains-bringing-flooding-to-india/) only mentions that above average rainfall caused floods in certain parts of India. Nowhere does it link floods with the management of the dams. Commonsense says same amount of water would have flowed out regardless of when the dam was opened. Only difference would have been in the amount of pressure of the released water. In normal case, rainwater swells rivers which ultimately flows out into the sea. In this case, excess rainwater swelled up river banks and water flowed into human settlements where it got stuck causing floods. Excessive rainfall, human encroachment of land, poor maintenance of drainage systems can all be blamed, but questioning the timing of opening of dams is blatant blaming and false propaganda against the Kerala govt. The Minister of Fisheries of Kerala has stated in an interview on a state TV channel that people had claimed land from the rivers for their constructions and farming and the rivers simply took back those lands which was the best way to explain what had happened. Flooding in human settlements should not be blamed on any governments in particular. The civil administration (municipalities, corporations) should be taken to task for illegal constructions, unplanned expansion of towns and cities and poor maintenance of infrastructure.

The second one was about a 2011 environmental report which stated that large scale sand mining and deforestation is damaging the environment and destabilizing the natural ecosystem of the Western Ghats. This is not for any one govt to take blame. When there is no control over population growth and we venture out into destroying nature for our needs, nature will take it’s own course of corrective actions to stabilize itself. Destruction of nature has been happening across all the states. Nature conservation and environmental protection is a national level problem which the Central govt. and all state govts should come together and discuss upon. Maybe it is time we took a leaf out of China’s development model. Every year a certain amount of forest land is acquired for development activities and at the same time a certain amount of unused or waste land is marked for conversion back into forest area.

In between such a massive tragedy and all the ensuing chaos and mud slinging three factors have stood as silver linings and shining beacons. The first one is the communal harmony of the Kerala society which has only grown stronger in the face of the calamity. In the aftermath of the floods, pictures have emerged of Muslims cleaning a temple compound, something unimaginable in most places in India. Second is the absolutely massive level of support and solidarity Kerala has received from all over India. Support in the form of relief funds and materials have flowed to Kerala right from Jammu and Kashmir. Just the ideal reminder that we may be divided by many reasons but it takes just one reason to unite our minds and thoughts.

The third one is the best of it all. The fishermen of Kerala swooped into the flood waters to save lives as if they were from another world. None of the military might of the world can match their skills in water. They ride the huge waves and choppy waters of the seas in their boats and ships like normal people walk in the park. They moved in silently into the flood waters, saved thousands of lives and went back expecting nothing in return and earning the highest respect from all quarters. When high seas ravage their dwellings and they have to rebuild their lives year after year the rest of the state lives in complete ignorance about it. It is high time the state govt. starts working towards the betterment of the fishermen community.

I am not sure if we have seen the last of the controversies yet. Someone has tweeted questioning the possibility of using the gold stored in the vaults of the Padmanabhaswami temple in Thiruvananthapuram. I am waiting to see if this is going to stir the hornet’s nest. The problem with using the gold is, if we knew why so much gold was accumulated and stored we would also know when to use it.

Elections – The Great Circus of Democracy

A sudden silence engulfs the country at the peak of campaigning during every election, be it in the states or at the national level. The silence is almost choking for about 2 weeks or so. Unpredictable price rise, a characteristic of inflation which has become part of the daily life of every Indian comes to a standstill. People are not used to such peace and tranquility in their regular daily lives. It is a sigh of relief to see the prices of fuel and commodities soar again the next day after the elections. This is how the political, civil and business establishments in India are mocking the very essence of democracy. But this is just scratching the surface, one of the many effects people are experiencing of being subjugated to the establishment.

Here is the interesting fact about elections in India. None of the candidates political parties put up as people’s representatives during elections have any experience in social service activities to show. Indian society has been conveniently segregated into vote banks based on the lines of religion and caste and people vote based these grounds. Political leaders rise through the ranks of their parties on the basis of their influence among people based on religion and caste. The agenda of political parties during election campaigns is not to talk to the people about economic development and social issues. Opposition parties use these as their weapons to attack the incumbent party during election campaigns and then the mud slinging ensues. For every political party, there are 3 category of voters: the loyal voters, the fence sitters and the non voters. The non voters will never vote for the party unless something dramatic happens which induces a mass migration. This is like converting the bad cholesterol to good cholesterol. The loyal voters will always vote for the party no matter what happens. It is the fence sitters who are really targeted during election campaigns. This is where the Cambridge Analytica saga unfolded. Data collection and targeted election campaigning through social and other media are done to woo the fence sitters. In India, fence sitters are either coerced and threatened to vote or their votes are bought in return for money and alcohol or gifts. All of these are nothing considering what happens in the aftermath of elections.

Consider the latest round of state election that just got concluded in Karnataka. It was a 3 way battle between BJP, the party that has the control of the central government, Indian National Congress (INC) the party that was in power in the state for the last 5 years and the JD(S). The total number of contested seats was 224 and the magic number to get for the absolute majority to form the government was 112. No party got a clear majority as was expected in most of the exit polls. BJP got 104 seats, INC 78, JD(S) 37 and 3 went to independent candidates or smaller parties. Now here is where the madness begins. If we go by the absolute majority process no party can form the government. Ideally, the state governor has to call for another election. But the election process is a massive strain on the civil administration with a huge investment of time and money into election campaigns. Because of this reason, the governor has invited the BJP, the party with the largest mandate or vote share to prove their ability to form the government in the next 6 days.

How can BJP accomplish this? These 3 parties have fought tooth and nail against each other in the election because of their ideological differences and even the 3 candidates who won as independents or from smaller parties have ideological differences with all the other parties. As is the case in all elections, the 3 would eventually join the party that ultimately forms the government. Supposing BJP is able to convince the 3 to join their party, they are still 5 numbers short. 5 winners from either the INC or the JD(S) have to jump ship and join the BJP. This is a usual occurence in the Indian political scenario where the party which is trying to form the government woos independents and/or members from other parties with the reward of money or cabinet berths. The name of this game is horse trading. But what has heated up the situation is, the INC is ready to support the JD(S) to form the government. The irony here is, INC and JD(S) candidates were pitted against each other and had fought tooth and nail with accusations against one another during the election campaigns. More irony is in the fact that the INC has won far more number of seats than the JD(S) but the INC, knowing that they have been voted out of power they have chosen wisely to not try to take center stage.

Now let’s consider the case of voter X who is a fence sitter. He is disillusioned with the governance of both the INC in the state and the BJP at the center and has voted for candidate A belonging to the JD(S) in his constituency who went on to win the election. Under the present circumstances, one of the below 2 could possibly happen.

1) BJP woos A to jump ship and goes on to form the government
2) JD(S) forges the alliance with the INC and forms the government

So voter X who voted against both the BJP and INC is going to be ultimately governed by either of these parties, directly or indirectly. When it comes to getting into the seat of governance and grabbing the power that comes with it, political ideologies and differences fade away. The simple question here is, in such an environment where every situation could be manipulated, why are the people being made to vote and then made to look like dumb fools? There is an answer to this as well. The candidates carry their vote banks along with them when they jump ship. Candidates have to convince only their loyal voters and even with the votes of the loyal voters elections could be conducted. So the establishment will run safe and smooth nevertheless. The situation in Karnataka may look complicated and crazy but this is how the establishment is built and has been working all along. The US is dominated by bi-party politics and India is also swaying to a similar situation where either the BJP or the INC will always hold the reins of power. Is this how democracy is meant to be? I am not able to understand any of this which is why I am never able to convince myself to exercise my right to vote because I do not see myself anywhere in the process after I vote.

Jaseena Your Thoughts Are Interesting But You Need Better Understanding & Judgement

Dear Jaseena,

Your Facebook post and the conversation you had with your maid (http://indianexpress.com/article/trending/this-is-serious/sanskaari-bahus-facebook-post-going-viral-must-read-5148113/) is indeed interesting and thought provoking but is not devoid of gaping flaws as well (go through the link first to understand what this blog is all about). Just like your maid you too seem to have a set mind about this topic. Being a psychologist you should have had displayed a better understanding to the situation of your maid. Allow me to break down your thoughts and your conversation with your maid and highlight the important aspects of both.

1) “My son drinks”

This says nothing about the maid’s son as a person. Is he irresponsible towards his family? Is he employed? Is he spending all the money he earns on alcohol? Does he come home drunk and abuse his family? Plenty of questions can be asked here. A lot of boys start smoking and drinking alcohol from their adolescent years. That’s the age when they want to try out everything and boast around among their friends. But that’s not the age when they can explain rationally why they are hooked on to those things. When the boy grows up into a man and if the habits persist with him that’s when he has to be able to explain why. The ones who are either low on self confidence or do not have enough courage to express their thoughts and feelings are the ones creates all the noise after getting drunk. The additional benefit of this is, people either ignore or forgive them considering their intoxicated state. Easiest way to do and say whatever we want with minimum repercussions. Question here is, did you ever try to find out why he drinks and why he is addicted to alcohol? That would be the first thing for a psychologist to do in this context.

Our lives are not so simple to be explained. According to ancient Indian texts, among the innumerable factors that govern our lives, the most significant ones are our karma in this life, and karma from our previous lives. Our genetic structure is supposed to hold information from 7 previous generations so the consequences of their karma also influence our lives. With so much information governing us, what defines and becomes our personality, behaviours and habits would depend on the environment and circumstances we grow up in and get exposed to. Remember the 17 year old who was the most barbaric in the Nirbhaya case? Many criminals who committed gruesome crimes were not able to comprehend their horrific behaviour when they reflected on their actions with a sane mind. It must be the genetic information of a rapist ancestor along with the situation and the people he was with that acted as the trigger. Maybe a rapist or alcoholic ancestor is hidden inside all of us and all it would take is the appropriate fertile ground to invoke the beast.

2) Girls aren’t more mature mentally than boys their age

I would suggest that you try asking a 15 year old girl what type of man does she aspire to have as her husband. Most girls by that age would be idolizing a man in her life, mostly her father, or else one of her grandfathers or one of her uncles or even her best friend’s father. They would have already found the qualities in a man that have endeared to them and would want the same qualities in their men. Ask a 15 year old guy what type of girl would he want to have as his wife and chances are he might give you a long stare and walk away. When a boy looks at a girl, he is staring at her physical features whereas when a girl looks at a boy, she is searching for those manly qualities in her mind in him. This is all about evolution. Males are made for procreation and females for nurturing. Why do you think 22 year old girls are married off to 28 or 30 year old guys in India? Why is it the unwritten norm in the corporate world that guys have to be at least 30 years old before they can become managers? Everyone needs to learn self management before they can start managing others. Guys can take up to 28 years to start managing themselves decently. As little as 3 generations back, 16 year old girls becoming mothers were common in our society. What does this tell you? Girls can be ready for nurturing by that age if required. It is just sad that male hegemony still rules the corporate world otherwise women employees would have become managers with as little as 3 year’s work experience.

3) Wives are not teachers, mentors or coaches for their husbands.

A wife is a mother, sister, daughter, friend, teacher all rolled into one. She is capable of wearing any hat as the situation demands. That is why the role of a woman as wife is so unique. Now the problem here is the maid questioning why her son’s wife is not able to control him and you questioning the maid what she was doing with her son for 28 years. Both of them have been rendered helpless by the patriarchal society. Male hegemony has to be passed on to successive generations so the nurturing environment for boys are created appropriately, be it at home or outside. They grow up seeing women subjugated and silent so they never really understand how much women are suffering in their minds. This has again got to do with our evolution. Men were responsible for hunting for food and getting wood from the forests back in our cave dwelling days. Nothing was more important than the instincts to survive at all costs and the biggest enemies to survival instincts are empathy and compassion. In male dominated households there is no place for empathy or compassion even now. This is why men don’t like to be mothered by their wives and at times even by their mothers.

Now there is a flip side to all of this as well. Strong mothers can either make boys subjugated to them or make them despise women when they grow up. I have lived with an extremely autocratic grandmother for 34 years of my life. I was not supposed to go out and play, no going out without reason and absolute no to talking to people outside. When people come home I was not supposed to sit with them. I was only supposed to answer their questions and asking questions back especially to older people was a sin for which I would burn in hell. I had to back at home or where I stay before it becomes dark no matter where in the world I was. One day, I was late coming back from college because of an extra hour of class and the first thing I got when I came back home was sound thrashing from her with a long fat stick. This was at a time when there were no mobile phones. But somehow I never resented any of this because I realised her love for me very early in life and when I left home to work, I started loving the discipline I have in my life when the entire world around me was going haywire.

Either the maid’s son has to grow a better sense of judgement and understanding about himself and life or he has to go willingly against his male hegemonistic roots and start lending his mind and ears to his mother or wife or both. Till then they can both continue and enjoy playing the you-me (“tu tu main main”) game all they want.

Uprising of the underprivileged and what they should be really agitating for

Courts and civil administration do not protect people, banks do not protect people’s hard earned money, government does not seem to be bothered by ever rising inflation, fuel price, corruption and unemployment and just when I thought India has spiralled out of control, the next big one has bolted out of nowhere: agitation of the people from the lowest strata of the society known as the Dalits . The biggest curse of the country is the continuing existence of caste based divide in the society and the curse was given new life when the caste bias was made part of the Constitution of the country at the time of Independence from the British rule. The objective may have been for the good cause of protecting and uplifting the backward classes, but in a way, it diluted the true essence of the struggle for Independence. The objective should have been to erase and cleanse everything that existed during the British rule but retaining the caste system unleashed three new demons on the society 1) It allowed the administration to become lax and incompetent in protecting people as it became easy for them to blame the caste system for all caste based violence 2) It allowed the politicians to create and secure vote banks in the name of representing each caste. So what happened to the uplifting of the lower caste? That was gobbled up by the third demon – corruption. In every year’s budget, plenty of development schemes are announced by the government but where is the money to implement them? Taxes. That’s a massive pie to eat from so elected representatives and the administration siphon off most of the money that get allotted for implementing the schemes and these schemes include the development schemes for the lower caste people.

 

People at the lowest strata of the society have always been the weakest and the most vulnerable ones. The upper caste people have been subjecting the dalits to the heinous double edged sword treatment for centuries – marginalizing them to the point of isolation by forcing them to stay away from the mainstream society and at the same time using them for menial work and sexual predation of their women. In 1989, the Scheduled Castes and Tribes Act was passed by the Parliament to protect the dalit people from the atrocities of the upper caste people. Question is, why was such an Act required to be passed when it is clearly defined in Article 17 of the Constitution to abolish untouchability and forbid all such practises? Because the administration, comprised mostly of upper class people chose to look the other way and let the oppression of the dalits continue. So the Government was forced to protect the dalits by law.

 

So what’s with the dalits up in arms suddenly? Dalits have been getting education and efforts are on to get them integrated into mainstream society even though there is stiff resistance to this continuing from the upper class people. There have always been simmering tensions and hatred between the upper and lower caste people, especially in the northern part of the country which spirals into open violence regularly. Just like every rule and law can be made to work our way if we are smart enough to do it, the dalits also figured out how to use the SC/ST Act as a weapon by filing false complaints against the upper class people. This is not surprising because every rule is debatable as they are made based on circumstances and experiences and both can change with time. One such case got into the eye of the storm and the Supreme Court was convinced that the case was false. So to prevent innocent people from getting implicated in the name of this Act, the Court proposed new guidelines to the police and administration when dealing with cases registered under this Act. The general contention is that this judgement and some of the guidelines given by the Court could result in the Act losing the ability to protect the dalits anymore and this is what the dalit agitation has been all about.

 

Now to the underlying roots of the problem. Dalits have lived enough in the shadows of untouchability and need to be moved into mainstream society. But there is something that has been nagging and riling the upper caste people – They belong to the General Category and are not entitled to any privileges like the dalits and people from other lower castes. For example, lower caste people can score significantly less in engineering and medical entrance exams and still join the best colleges. This has skewed competition and loaded heavily in favour of the lower caste people. Consensus has been growing that the caste bias need to be removed especially from the public job sector and education sector so that everyone gets fair and equal opportunities.

 

Going back to the agitation, what worries me is the reason why the dalits are agitating. When do we need a law like the SC/ST act? When the civil administration and elected representatives cannot uphold and protect the fundamental rights of the people of the country. These two entities have been failing to act and protect the dalits adequately for all this time. The basic rights of the people of the country are protected by the Constitution and it is primarily for this reason that the system of civil administration and elected representatives have been instituted. In case these two entities fail, courts have been instituted for further protection. There is no further need for a law to forcefully make these entities work for the people. Dalits cannot hide behind a law forever and use the same law as their tool of revenge on upper class people. Laws are always subject to interpretations and could change or get modified as has happened now. Rather than having laws to protect people, there should be strict laws to punish the civil administration and elected representatives if they fail to carry out their duties to protect the people and the courts should be given more power in this regard. Rather than chasing a law, dalits should be agitating against the civil administration, work towards replacing their elected representatives with the ones who can genuinely work for them and ensuring that they get enough protection from the courts.

Another scam in India: why it should and doesn’t matter

Indian economy has been limping after the twin strikes of Demonetization and GST implementation which came on top of sluggish economic growth and ever rising inflation. The economy did not take that hard a beating as most of the other countries in the wake of the financial meltdown of 2008 because the RBI had smartly manipulated the value of the Rupee. But I realized our currency is not so robust after all when I read about how a change in the value of the government bonds in the US had triggered tremors in the value of the Rupee. To add to all of this, two diseases have been plaguing the Indian economy and have prevented it from growing to the levels it should have long back. Black money and scams.
Tax evasion is a part of daily life in India and all that money goes underground immediately which then flows out to bank accounts in countries like Switzerland and Monaco. There is a reality check that can be done with regards to tax payment in India and it can throw up staggering details. The agricultural class and religious centers do not have to pay taxes, business class evades tax as much as they can and unemployed people and people below the poverty line cannot pay tax. So where does the majority of tax money come from? Just the working middle class. What is their % in the total population of India? 20% max. So taxes from 20% people run the entire country and also supports the rest 80% of the population. There is another catch here. There is no country in the world that is free of corruption. In developed countries, 80% of taxpayer’s money goes back into the development and maintenance of the infrastructure and 20% goes into corruption which happens at the highest levels. In India, the percentages are just the opposite. 80% of the money goes into corruption from the grass root to the highest levels and with 20% of the money we have still developed so much. Imagine where 80% could have taken us. The black money ends up in the black hole which is lost forever. Some of it is being speculated to be flowing back into the country as FDI.

 
Scam is like a fashion statement now. Everyone is trying to pull off scams in their own ways. Nigerian scamsters are constantly sending spam mails to trick unsuspecting victims. One reason why the erstwhile Congress government fell away in the 2014 elections was because many of the scams that happened under the noses during their 10 year regime were brought to light. But no political party can wash their hands off and plead innocence here. For a big scam to succeed, the entire system has to be corrupt and corruption can nurture where there is unaccounted money. So it all ties together. The recession of 2008 was completely scam driven. Just like black money fraudsters, these scamsters find loopholes in the banking and financial systems to avail massive loans and get away from paying them back resulting in financial collapses of banks and other lenders. Vijay Mallya is the biggest fish under the scanner now and now a new one called Nirav Modi has leapt into limelight in the past week.
Banks in India are struggling to contain loans of all categories from becoming NPAs. Most of their pain is because of business loans that become NPAs and they are simply not able to get even their principal amounts back. This is how the corrupt system rears up it’s ugly head here. All loans are disbursed through one of the branches of the banks. For normal loans, branches initiate strict checks and ensure that either through timely repayment or recovery procedures, loans can be closed. But business loans never go through the same channel of verification. The top level executives of the banks are connected to the political and business class so they ensure that loans are disbursed without enough verification because it is common knowledge that such loans will never pass a thorough verification. No business deals are completely clean and transparent so business loans will also have a dark side to it. Vijay Mallya reportedly told the lending banks that Kingfisher airlines was running on losses and there was no way he could turn it around but the lenders kept pumping in more cash with the hope of making it profitable again. I am not aware of Nirav Modi’s background yet, if dug deep enough, he may be connected or related to the top 1% of the population who call themselves the elitists who control all the major businesses and financial institutions in their countries. Without such connections it is impossible to pull off such big scams and escape from the country so easily.
Now what is the impact of black money and scams on the country’s economy? If the GDP numbers are good, it indicates a thriving economy where people are earning and spending more and this translates to substantial cash flow in the system. The central banks increase the quantity of currency based primarily on 3 critical factors:

1. GDP growth rate

2. Bullion reserves

3. Foreign exchange (FOREX) reserves
When GDP growth rate is good, central banks get enough cash flow to buy gold and silver and expand their bullion reserves. When international trade is on the upswing, FOREX reserves will grow. Central banks use bullion reserves to settle international debt and also lends to bullion banks which in turn does trading in the precious metals market thereby generating cash flow. This entire cash flow gets adversely affected when money goes missing through laundering and scams. Central banks will have to lend out more from it’s bullion reserves to stimulate cash flow thereby shrinking the bullion reserves. Reduced cash flow will affect trade and stall the growth of FOREX reserves. All of this will decrease GDP growth rate and reduce the value of the currency which in turn will shrink the FOREX reserves. Central banks cannot simply print more currency notes because it will lead to inflation.
Back in 2014 during the heat and din of the general elections, when the present PM was claiming to bring back all the laundered black money stashed away in foreign banks, the present CM of Delhi had let out pearls of wisdom to the people and to the media which no one had cared to even hear. He had said that the need of the hour was to first stop any further laundering of black money. There are banks in India that aid the flow of laundered money to foreign banks. These banks have to be neutralized first and their operations have to be decapacitated. Going after stashed money is the next step. The system we are all in is a Matrix and no one bothers about anyone who goes against the system. So a Vijay Mallya or a Nirav Modi will be in the limelight time and again. I am sure there are gigantic fishes with billions or trillions of dollars in debts to banks but are happily living their lives because they are well protected by the system. This is where the imbalance in the economic structure of capitalism has taken the world to. Nothing exemplifies this better than a palatial mansion in Mumbai right in the middle of a large slum area.
Now how does any of all of these matter to the common people? It does but no one has time to know about it or ask questions. A struggling economy fraught with inflation and unemployment means people are having to constantly and tirelessly work to find ways to make their ends meet and find even an ounce of prosperity. This effectively neutralises the educated middle class, the ones who are most likely to understand what is going on and ask questions. Questions are the biggest threat to the system so engage people to a level where they do not even have time to understand what is going on. Use the media to blank out truth and reality from the public. Keep the rural population largely illiterate and maintain unemployment and BPL levels. Politicians effectively secure their vote banks and the elitists have total control over the system. 

My message to the LGBT community

I came across this video (https://youtu.be/RHZbeLdVxnY) today morning and it incensed and saddened me to know that someone who has enough confidence to address President Obama had to beg and be a prostitute in the past. I have been coming across different news articles about the discrimination meted out to the LGBT community for quite some time now. The problem with us is, unless we are able to draw parallels to situations, our advice and views fall on deaf ears and it can also get me admonished for doling out advice without proper comprehension of other’s plight. So here is my message to the community.

I was in a temple with my dad recently. There was a sizable crowd milling around and suddenly we saw a cat walking by with it’s tail up. The first thing that came our minds was, if that was any other animal, even a cockroach, it would have drawn some sort of response from the people. But no one bothers about cats. There are people who like cats and people who don’t but the general consensus is that of acceptance. How do they achieve this? They package themselves beautifully. They tempt us to cuddle them, they purr when we stroke them, they keep themselves clean and they do all sorts of weird things to attract our attention to them.  Now, all members of the feline family are notoriously elusive. How come only cats adapted to us? Because they know we have adapted to them and they would be safe among us. But cats can never be domesticated completely. I have lived with cats all my life and I know that if I touch them when they are busy or doing their own things I am going to get bitten or scratched for sure.

Let me draw that parallel here with the LGBT community. Transgenders throng buses, trains and traffic signals in India, they touch people and ask for money. I find it very uncomfortable because physical contact with anyone, be it with fellow humans or animals should always be based on mutual consent. Why would I give you money based on your sexual orientation? Why would I care about the sexual orientation of people who are travelling or working with me? I may not know the sexual orientation of my colleagues sitting around me and they may not be knowing mine, but how does it matter? By highlighting your sexuality, you are taking the worst possible way of projecting your image to the world. This is a world where it is possible to sell anything if packaged properly. In business, no matter what people come up with but unless they have a proper marketing strategy, their ideas will never be successful in the market.

Unless we strive for recognition and work for it, the world will never accept us regardless of our religion, caste, colour and sexuality. Our sexuality is not the only aspect that defines us. Don’t let it define you and don’t allow the world to do it either. How do handicapped people become successful in life? They direct their focus on what they have and work on enhancing their abilities. That’s how Beethoven composed his music despite being deaf. We all have talents and abilities, we just need to open our minds and ask ourselves what is it that we want to do with our lives. Kent Cullers is an individual worth knowing about in this context (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_Cullers). He is just a regular guy who was totally blind from the time he was born and went on to head SETI, NASA’s highly advanced space program. The world around us is filled with such inspiring stories of people. When nothing could hold them back, why is your sexuality coming in your way and stopping you from becoming successful?

I will not accept you as L, G, B or T; I can accept you only as human beings. The world is also looking to do the same. The change has to come from within each one of you. Humans did not accept cats into their lives one fine day. It took thousands of years to reach the level of understanding and coexistence we have now. Tap into your talents and force your way through. Crack those entrance exams to get into the top engineering and medical colleges, business schools and civil services. Start your own businesses. This is a time when even small ideas are getting promoted through funding. Who is going to deny and stop you then? By asking to hug him, Akkai Padmashali was looking for acceptance from President Obama, not for herself but for the whole LGBT community. By touching us and asking for money, you are actually seeking our acceptance. Don’t beg the world for acceptance, bring the world towards you, like the cats do. Wrap yourself with your abilities, reveal your true self to the world and see what happens.

By the way, why do you care if LGBT is a crime in India or anywhere else? It is just a law and they say all laws are meant to be broken. Cheating on lawfully wedded partner is also a crime, but is the law acting as a deterrent for anyone? What do you hope to achieve by getting a legal stamp over your sexuality? A law in India will not liberate you from society’s discrimination. Is it about marrying your partner? Marriage is a social norm that has outlived it’s purpose by a long way. Be it in any sort of relationship, two individuals do not and should not need the consent of anyone to be in that relationship and no one should be bothered unless you and your relationship is creating any negative disruption in the society and is adversely affecting peoples’ lives.

Its not just you, the entire human race is confused about our purpose of existence. If you are confused about being L, G, B or T, then I should also be confused about why I was born straight. Understand one thing very clearly. Nothing exists in the Universe without a reason. There is a purpose to every event that happens in the cosmos. There has to be some purpose for the existence of each one of us. If no purpose exists, we would not be alive. There has to be reasons about your sexuality as well. Maybe it is not yet time for the reasons to be revealed. You are alive and breathing now and nothing else should matter to you. Shift your focus away from your sexuality and focus on becoming successful in life and you will force the world to shift it’s focus from your sexuality to your achievements. Become those cats. This transformation will not only bring you peace it will also make the world a better place to live.

Evolution of consulting industry and takeaways from the world of medicine

There is a popular perception and people have told me that the consulting industry is in regression and getting jobs as consultant has become very difficult. I agree to the second part but I can never agree with the first. Consulting for me is a form of art and an art form will die out only if all the proponents of the art either stop practicing it or if their population becomes extinct.

According to dictionary, consult means to “seek information or advice from (someone, especially an expert or professional)”. This has existed for ages, from the time we became intelligent and moved out of stone age and into agriculture. The best example of this is in the caste based society of India. Each caste is created based on the occupation each person chose and certain number of occupations are grouped under the umbrella of a caste. It’s a completely different aspect that this was used to elevate certain class of people and trod upon the other classes of people to create division in the society, but irrespective of all that, if the services of a blacksmith is needed, only a blacksmith can solve the problem. This is good age-old consulting. The best example though, is that of doctors. Forget caste, creed, religion, skin color, doctors are universally believed to be the Gods on the planet, the ones who can heal the world. If consulting has to die, the entire doctor fraternity has to die and if that happens humanity will become extinct in no time.

So what has changed in consulting? People have become smarter because their knowledge has increased and also because we are becoming more sensible. Someone I know told me that she is constructing a new single storeyed house. I know she has two children so I asked her why and she said they both have grown up and will leave home soon. If they come back to stay at any point in time, let them make the house bigger. This is called being wise and people don’t need someone with the tag of a consultant to advise commonsense. Take the case of the field of medicine and how it has evolved. Natural treatment methods are traditionally based on diagnosing the diseases using the 5 senses of the doctors. But that has evolved considerably with the advances in technology. Diagnosis in any form of treatment is based on X-ray, scan and blood test reports among a slew of methods that exist now. Natural remedies work at the root of diseases to pry them out and it is a time intensive process. It does not make sense to tell someone suffering from severe migraine to keep suffering and wait for natural remedies to start taking effect, now that immediate relief for pain can be found through tablets. So natural treatment methods have changed to the point where the patients are first asked to seek immediate relief through allopathy and then switch to natural remedies for rooting out the problem. So, as a normal person I have also become smarter. First, I get the disease diagnosed that I (or my parents) have, take allopathic medication for immediate relief, look up on the internet to understand the root cause of the disease and then decide on the best course of treatment. Consulting in medicine has evolved. Why? Because there are more options for treatment, more knowledge is available and people have become smarter. This is what has happened in the consulting industry as well.

We can equate doctors with business or IT consultants but how would it be like to equate a consulting company to a hospital? We go to hospitals for diagnosis and treatment. In the world of consulting industry, there are companies that do the diagnosis and companies that do the treatment. Here, diagnosis is done on the basis of business models and the constraints they impose. Then the diagnostic report and their recommendations goes to the companies that do the treatment. If the constraints in the recommendations are not or cannot be imposed correctly, the treatment methods will also not bring the desired results. This is the disease that has been plaguing the consulting industry for a long time. The industry had evolved into two streams, companies that develop strategies and companies that implement strategies. There is a world of difference between conception and implementation. For every construction that is done, be it for house or office space, capital costs shoot up by atleast 20%. It is similar to the difference in book value and market value of a property. This is the area where the consulting industry has taken the hit. The financial meltdown of 2008 and it’s ripple effect in the financial market through the subsequent years has forced companies to go into consolidation mode, which in turn have made them smarter. They have started identifying the problems in their business themselves rather than seek outside help. What they don’t need now is someone doing playback of their problems to them and what they need are 1) Solutions to their problems 2) Successful implementation of those solutions and most importantly they need the execution to be done by a single entity. This means, for example that IT consulting companies can no longer hope to sit back and solve IT related problems only. They have to provide and implement solutions that solve business problems.

This effect has cascaded downstream to the individual level as well. Prospective employees should no longer look at completing under graduation, working for 2 years, taking up a management program and hope to become consultants. Theoretical knowledge will have to be backed up by hard core work experience with proof of contribution at the business level. Even programmers will be expected to demonstrate how the work they are doing has improved the business environment of the clients they are working for. Consultants working for the top consulting companies still have the pedigree but I believe it will not last long. Agile methodology has taken over the world, companies are streamlining their structure and operations and management levels are becoming leaner. Consultants will be expected to build strategies and create plans to implement their strategies and execute them. This is where the role of Consulting Managers will become more prominent in the times to come.

I believe consulting is not just the game about identifying problems and solving them. This can be best exemplified by how natural treatment methods work. The fundamental insight natural treatment methods have is that medicines alone cannot cure diseases. That is why they impose changes in food and lifestyle during the course of the treatment. The keyword here is change. Secondly, how the doctor bonds with the patients actually complements and enhances the effects of the medicines. The keywords here are understanding, empathy and compassion. These doctors become famous by word of mouth alone and the ones who exhibit these critical qualities become more renowned. This is what the consulting industry needs to take away and imbibe from the world of medicine. But now, the situation is at the opposite side of the spectrum. Allopathic treatment does not cure but only suppress diseases. Fever is a sign of the body immunity acting against a foreign substance that has entered our body. Paracetamol tablets only suppress the fever but does nothing against the actual cause of the fever. We live in a world where suppressing a symptom is more important than curing the disease. Patients flock to allopathic doctors who charge more consulting fee under the assumption that more money means better treatment. This is exactly similar to how top consulting companies charge more to provide solutions to clients. I have never understood the logic of more money translating into better or improved results. The business world has started awakening to this absurdity, I don’t know when people will start seeing this for medical treatment. But change is on the way. Information is out that chemotherapy does not cure cancer, chemotherapy doses are made from mustard gas and what can really cure cancer is cannabis. The world is evolving and so will consulting, but there is no cause for alarm, it is not going anywhere.

The incredible secrets of astrology

Astrology is an integral part of Hindu life in India and probably of Hindus all over the world. Hindu culture is steeped in numerous Gods, temples, worship and mythological stories; in fact Hindu culture is so old that it has become a way of life. It is a mighty challenge to live in a country which is the most multicultural land in the world. Most aspects of Hindu culture are not comprehensible and sometimes we end up making fun of them in certain situations. When I traveled to Netherlands and returned to India after 6 months, my mind started asking questions about my life and everything in it in India.

It was during this time that my parents were trying to get me hitched. It all starts from matching the horoscope of mine with that of a woman. I was extremely apprehensive about the entire process. Astrology is all about mathematical calculations and mistakes can happen during calculations. An astrologer had almost screwed up a marriage proposal a friend had received. I was actually putting the most important decision of my life and my future in the hands of people whom I have never known before. That was the time when I decided to understand astrology better. I didn’t start learning astrology as such but I wanted to understand the background of astrology. There was a time till not so long ago when parents used to fix up marriages and the boy and girl used to see each other only on the first night of their union. There had to be some way to match the boy’s and girl’s personalities. What I wanted to know was about the parameters that are used in astrology to check for compatibility. One specific aspect caught my eye. From the horoscopes it can be found out if the lifespans of the boy and the girl would be affected if they were brought together in marriage. It struck me immediately. Energy and vibrations. Too much attraction or repulsion of energy can be catastrophic to one person or both. Then I realized that astrology is all about energy. In astrology it can even be checked if two people are sexually compatible. This is advanced science. But how is it possible? Big Data and Predictive Analytics, the current raging storm in technology has been quietly working in astrology for thousands of years. Patterns have been established by observing people’s lives and predictions are made from these patterns. For example, Jupiter in 8th house indicates high probability of incarceration which is proving to be true for people.

To make a horoscope, the essential components are date, time and location. Based on these factors, the positions of sun, moon and other planets in the solar system are calculated and from this data, their influence on each person’s life can be inferred. This points to a specific question. Are we born randomly or are we born on a specific date at a specific time in a specific location?  Ancient texts indicate that Gods incarnated on earth under these specific parameters and the heavenly bodies were aligned in such a way as to be helpful in fulfilling their purpose of incarnation. If this is true, aren’t we also born in the same way? All of us have unique experiences in life and not all of us get Jupiter in the 8th house. What does all of this mean? Karma in our present and past lives. Lord Rama killed a monkey king by deceit and Lord Krishna gets killed by an arrow from a hunter who happened to be the monkey king in one of his past lives. This is all about some sort of celestial accountability. No karma, be it good or bad goes unnoticed. We have to fulfill our karma in present life and also account for karma in our past lives for which we have to be born under certain conditions.

But one question bothered me. Why are we born under the influence of celestial bodies? Why doesn’t their influence affect the animal world? There could be only one reason. The frequency of energy of human beings is tuned to the frequency of energy received by earth from other celestial bodies. This means we are created specifically in this way which would mean that Mother Nature did not create us. This is why we are not part of the food chain. This is why we are destroying nature, a behavior that no other animal exhibits. Add to this the concepts of karma and rebirth. It is said that our souls are cleansed before it is proceeds to afterlife. This must mean that our memories and effects of celestial bodies are erased before we are reborn. Maybe this is why we do not have memories from our past lives but we still have to deal with karma from those lives without remembering about them. The influences celestial bodies bring to each person’s life is clearly connected to their karma which is why different people encounter success and failure in their lives in unique ways. Isn’t this a system put in place to manage and monitor us? Birth, life, death, and the cycle goes on and on. Aren’t we prisoners in the system? Is this the Matrix we are all stuck in and saints like Sankaracharya supposedly escaped from? What is the purpose of the system? Is this a model that works for beings with higher intelligence all across the Universe? Or is this a model experimented on us so that it can be replicated to the worlds of other intelligent beings? Most importantly, aren’t we the aliens on our planet?

Whatever it may be, nothing happens by chance or accident in the cosmos. There is a specific reason associated with every event. Research suggests that we make friends based on how closely our DNA resembles theirs. There must be a reason why out of the billion people on earth, we know only a few hundreds and very few of those hundreds end up as our good friends. I met a girl when we were both 6 years old and as we grew up I started feeling that if I let her go away from my life I may never find anyone else again. That’s exactly what happened. Intuition? Connection from a past life? I may never know. All I have with me is a haunting feeling that there is some sort of connection with her. What’s worse, our horoscopes may have matched perfectly well.

Questions were twirling in my mind after I returned from Netherlands. No astrology exists there but life is better by a 100 times. Don’t celestial bodies affect people there? I realized later that they do. The differences I observed have been created by us only. India is bursting at her seams with population growth. It is impossible for social benefits to reach all people. Everything is controlled and managed in Netherlands so there is prosperity. But this doesn’t mean celestial bodies and karma have no bearing on their lives. They simply don’t know enough about all of it to consider their influences in their everyday life. The system works precisely everywhere. Different skin color, races, religions, castes, the system keeps us divided perpetually so that we are chasing our lives all the time and never get to even know that a system that controls us is in place. Who runs this show? Would be fun to exit the system and meet the Great Manipulator.

 

Godmen, Politics & the Games of Throne

Being the most diverse country in the world comes with its own riders. I believe India has become the largest producers and suppliers of Godmen and Godwomen in the world. This phenomenon is not restricted to any single religion. India has become the religious hub of the world that too at a time when religions are withering and dying away in many countries.

Before comprehending who these Godmen and Godwomen are, we need to understand why they exist. India has the tradition of glorifying heroes as Gods, that’s how we ended up having 33 million Gods. Even people who have done good deeds in their lifetime in remote villages have temples in their names. Many of them were genuinely good people, like the Sai Baba of Shirdi and Sankaracharya. But this eulogizing trend has reached preposterous levels. Even movie actors and politicians have temples dedicated to them now. India is a developing country with a burgeoning population without social benefits, unlike the North American and Western European countries. Religions play a very significant and intimate role in people’s lives.  When lives become difficult due to different circumstances, people become vulnerable and flock to religious places in search of answers. Commonsense goes south when our minds are confused and clouded. Gods do not reside inside idols and buildings. When people do not find answers, they automatically turn to the next possible alternative. These Godmen and Godwomen are feeding on people’s vulnerability and have positioned themselves precisely for people to turn to them. What do people really get from them that they cannot find on their own? The best they can do is to engage people’s minds with meditation, yoga and reading ancient texts, which people can easily do on their own. Do they have any higher powers or abilities to communicate with God? None of them have displayed any such ability. They can make predictions, but that is based on astrology, palmistry, numerology, face reading and many different methods. Then why do people flock to them? Two reasons. One, humanity has always been enslaved through our existence. That is why we look up to Gods, because we have been enslaved to higher powers. Then there are the ones among us who have risen to lead us. We look up to them as well. When desperation sets in, we need to look up to someone again and when we do, we find these Godmen and Godwomen waiting to prey on us. Two, the herding mentality we have inherited from the animal world. How people flock to the Godmen and Godwomen is like the Great Migration at Masai Mara every year. Thousands of wild buffaloes converge to the bank of the river. Then one buffalo takes a blind leap of faith and jumps into the water and all other buffaloes follow in a frenzy. This is how people have become. Just one good word is enough and people start dashing to the abode of the Godmen and Godwomen.

What makes the situation worse is, these Godmen and Godwomen start vying to become representatives of the religions they belong to. In India, religion and politics are two sides of the same coin. Politicians and political parties use religions to divide people and disrupt societal hegemony and this is how they maintain their vote banks. The political class is carrying forward the baton of colonial legacy of divide and rule. This naturally created the nexus between political and God men classes. They exist and function for mutual benefits. People vote for the leaders the Godmen and Godwomen direct them to. This is applicable to all religions and has been highlighted amply in many movies. People do not vote based on abilities of candidates or their experience in serving society.

All of this has helped make the society ripe for communal disturbances. Political parties incite violence to divert people’s attention from issues plaguing governance and administration. They just let people die and places burn for a few days. The mobs that incite violence are mostly goons of political parties, who are paid and hired to kill, loot and burn. This is exactly what has happened yesterday when a well-known Godman was convicted of rape and his henchmen and mobs started rioting and arson. That the rape happened 15 years back tells a story in itself, the story of how the Godman had used his influence to keep himself from being convicted for so long. How the rioting spread so quickly to different states in north India clearly indicates the complacency of the state governments and their role in the saga. The way in which these governments are reacting to the situation rather than sensing trouble in advance and being proactive in preventing the riots is sure shot confirmation of their silent participation. This is not anything new after all. Riots and violence in 1984, 1992 and 2002 are all stark reminders of the malicious games being played out time and again by the politico-religious nexus with the lives of people and destruction of public property.

But, I wonder how many people think through why all these politicians, businessmen and influential people flock to these Godmen and Godwomen. These are places for meeting people and making deals. The Godmen and Godwomen act as intermediaries and make connections and deals happen and thus get to exert and extend their sphere of influence on people. These are also hubs where money laundering happens, where the black unaccounted money is turned white. This is how these Godmen and Godwomen end up becoming so rich and are able to own so much land and buildings. Ever wondered why dud, sometimes cringe worthy movies are made? Those are also outlets for using unaccounted money.

Ever wondered why all of this happening? Because in the Kali Yuga, money or wealth is considered as equivalent to God and this has been clearly mentioned in ancient Indian texts. Forget Godmen and Godwomen; more people rush to doctors who charge higher fees compared to doctors who charge less and the underlying assumption is that doctors who charge more will provide better consultation and treatment. What makes me wonder is, when people can themselves read ancient Indian texts where Kali Yuga is written about in such detail and can comprehend what is happening in the world, why do they need to go to Godmen and Godwomen. Because in Kali Yuga ignorance rules and enlightenment is suppressed and ignored. This is why such a system has come into place and anyone who raise questions are ridiculed and marginalized. People have short term memories; they live through the ordeal each time and vote the same people back to power expecting things to become better. Hope, humanity’s greatest strength is turning out to be our greatest nemesis I guess.