Musings for a responsible society
Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my life...in vain!
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The recent Fareed Zakaria episode has sent warning signals to the people who have mastered the art of plagiarism. I do not wish to judge what he has done as a genuine mistake or as a pure and deliberate intellectual dishonesty. I also do not wish to argue that it is a result of any professional envy. But, it has sent a message to many who hesitate to acknowledge the source from which they have lifted the content literally. May be it was a sheer coincidence that on the same day one of the vibrant blogging communities in India detected a few blog posts where patterns of systematic and merciless copying were done.
Recently I was editing a few articles submitted by some high ranking officials for a souvenir. It was very unpleasant to see some glaring plagiarism by two of them (who lifted portions from Wikipedia) without even acknowledging the source. Drawing ideas from others to substantiate one’s point is fine. But one can’t lift several sentences from another person’s work and express as his own and fail to acknowledge the original contributor or source even in the references. This has happened to some of my blog articles as well. In spite of a warning that they are copyrighted, I found that extracts from my blog have been lifted by others. Fortunately for us, through Google we can track such clever practices.
Now I am on a different but akin topic now. That is about the ghost writers and their unaccountability. I somehow feel that some of the highly paid writers and high profile dignitaries who face terrible deadlines and time constraints are in the habit of outsourcing their writings, reports and speeches. This can land them in serious trouble if those people who write on behalf of them have compromised on the originality of the text they wrote.
Ghost writers (or Outsourced writing) and Plagiarism
The profession of ghost writing is not a recent phenomenon. In this era of outsourcing, along with the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO), we now have outsourcing of writings of any kind: Speeches, theses, dissertations, editorials and messages. Outsourcing of theses and dissertations are very popular among students of some of the universities where neither the student nor the guide is capable of proving or disproving any hypothesis or has any inclination either to make an experimental or exploratory or descriptive study independently. The entire work is given as a comprehensive contract to a ‘professional thesis writer’ who has mastered the art of ‘content analysis’ of works done on similar themes and can liberally lift the extracts meticulously. One could only sympathize with their utterly worst performance during the public viva-voce examination. As theses and dissertations are increasingly being uploaded over internet, one could possibly detect the plagiarized content without much difficulty.
Speeches and Messages
Our busy leaders need to be worried now. Most of our senior leaders from all fields, viz. corporate, politics, bureaucracy, agree to give speeches and lectures to several audiences. Many are invited to speak every day to different audiences and sometimes more than one speech on the same day. Most of these speeches are delivered through reading from a prepared written text and lasts for 20 minutes to nearly an hour. Can we believe that these busy leaders prepare these speeches themselves?
I used to believe during my college days that
Simplicity is a virtue. Voluntary simplicity is a greater virtue. It is a personal choice to being simple and modest, amidst abundance. If you feel that you are blessed with reasonable means for livelihood or live in a ‘comfort zone’, then it would be wise to think of practicing voluntary simplicity, occasionally, if not always.
It is called ‘voluntary’, as the act requires deliberate and conscious effort from oneself. It would not be an easy task to come out of the comforts, preferences and habituated life styles. And the action would seem illogical and apparently inconsequential. But the impact such actions of voluntary simplicity creates, is purely personal, satisfying and exemplary.
v Life will be more meaningful when we create and not when we consume.
v World is unfortunately guided by the economic principle that growth is driven by consumption and expenditure. But such spending drive would not give enduring growth, balanced development and optimum utilization of resources.
v Aggressive consumption habits will lead to fast depletion of natural resources.
v It is not those who have more material possessions who receive larger social recognition.
v There is a limit to which one can really enjoy one’s possessions.
v When we spend more of our time for tasks that are not ultimately aimed at acquiring material possessions, we will tend to enjoy many beautiful things life offers us.
v Duane Elgin has said, ‘You need to pursue a living that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich’.
v One should be able to believe that ‘less is always better’ and ‘more is always a burden’.
v Voluntary simplicity is not miserliness. It is also not an approach aimed at saving your money.
May be we should try these exercises. Buying only things that we really use, can be a good decision. And we need to use it till its life lasts. Unfortunately our market discourages such frugality (It scares us with new versions making our goods incompatible and beyond repair. This happens mostly with the electronic items). Will it be possible to limit the number of pairs of dress in our cupboards? This is possible if we can donate one of our existing pairs before we buy a new pair of clothes. Same can also be attempted for other personal goods also.
Refrigerator, washing machine, Television, Microwave oven etc are labelled as consumer ‘durables’ that can serve us for a considerable period of time. (Unless they are non-functional or not meeting your important needs). But the profit driven market economy would declare: ‘No spares available’)
J Botherton said, ‘My riches consists not in the extent of my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants’
It is customary among many communities to go on a fasting mode for a few days. There are members of the Jain community who fasts for weeks without taking even a drop of water. It is amazing! I have seen some of those multi-millionaires belonging to this community devote a considerable period in a year in fasting and prayer. Muslims fast on all days in the month of Ramzan. Many Christians avoid non-vegetarian diet during the period of lent and on other selected days. Hindus, before embarking on a pilgrimage (eg. To Sabarimala Temple in Kerala), observes abstinence for several weeks. These are some of the customary practices in voluntary simplicity.
Apart from the above practices, it would be exciting to invent our own unique methods to practice voluntary simplicity now and then. Going for a simple diet for a specific period, skipping one of the meals, abstaining from the favourite dishes, limiting your indulgence in a lavish feast, occasionally leaving your vehicle while going for shopping, sleeping without a mattress or pillow, cutting down your early morning sleep to do something creative etc. are some steps we can try occasionally.
John Burroughs wrote:
“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter … to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring—these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”
Someone told me this, the other day. One should aim at taking 10000 steps a day for complete fitness. Yes, I am talking about 10000 footsteps! How many steps do you take in a day? Have you thought of it? Of course, one can’t keep counting every footstep. But try to estimate how many steps you take in a day.
I started aiming at 10000 steps. Though I used to walk at least five days a week, either in the morning or in the evening or sometimes both times, I am sure I have never reached the 10000 target on any day. Now I try to change my strategies to increase my footsteps in a day. My count started with the morning walk.
The walk in the residential colony is very refreshing. People start walking from as early as 4 am and one can see people walking even at the late hours of the day, till midnight. Some walk very fast, some slowly, and some talk and walk. And I see some people dancing all the way. Many youth use this opportunity to have long intimate wireless chats with the distantly located counterparts. Some listen to their favourite music using earphones. Those senior citizens who do not believe in earphones put their radios in the pocket and listen to the devotionals in the mornings and Kishore Kumar in the evenings. It’s nice to see these lone walkers. However, there are several group walkers, who totally block the foot path without giving way to loners. They walk as a block sharing news, gossips and happenings in their respective familial and official front. They get involved so much in the discussion and literally block other walkers from overtaking them.
I started counting every step. And I gave double score for each step when I jogged. I could hardly reach 4000 steps in the morning. I rushed back home as I needed to finish my newspapers before readying for the office. I worried how I will finish another 6000 steps to reach my target for the day!
Back home, I thought I should get on to the treadmill. It was a recent addition to the highly dense environment in the house. I had miserably failed with just one vote in my favour (my vote) when the resolution regarding buying a treadmill was put to vote in the house. The same majority ruled that the most appropriate place to keep the treadmill is in my study (home-office) room. In fact, this is the destination for all the junk in the house from the decade old broken toys to a number of kitchen devices waiting for a skilled electrician. An FM Radio with speakers was placed near the treadmill. The fortnight was vibrant. But later, the only way to keep the tempo was to push the treadmill towards TV. That worked for a few days. Now, the treadmill has been comfortably positioned in the balcony to dry the clothes. As it was doing a good job there and serves as a good decoration, I didn’t want to disturb it.
But how to take another 6000 steps during the rest of the day? I decided not to use the lift (at least upto 5th floor) in any buildings where I go. That really worked. I gave double score for each step up. By evening, I reached a score of 5500. Still another 4500 steps left.
I did not take the extreme step of walking back home in the evening. But on the way I got out of the vehicle to make a quick visit to the Club Gym. After changing to the sportswear I got on to one of the treadmills after waiting for about 20 minutes for my turn. Inspired by the sincere aerobic enthusiasts all around, I ran for about 20 minutes. I gave a good score of 2500 to myself. I reached 8000!
Back home in the late evening I was too tired to get off for another walk. After hogging whatever was kept on the dining table, I started my usual yelling to the TV addicted children to vacate the sofa and vanish to their study room.
While relaxing on the sofa, I evaluated my 10000 steps project. Yes, I should have given a score of 4500 for 20 minutes of treadmill! Why not give it now? Done! I slept peacefully!!
He loves this month. Gates of heaven opens during this month.
He spends all the evenings in front of the mosque.
His mother, wife and four children wait anxiously in front of the veranda, till he brings plenty to fill their stomachs.
While others fasted, they feasted. Because it is Ramadan rest of the year.
Sibichen K Mathew
All She Needs is Love Part-VII
The Heartbeats of Love
Mariamma peeped through the windows of the bedroom to see the guests of the day. Two men in their fifties, one lady of around 40 years, and a young man in his early twenties were sitting on the veranda accompanied by Joseph, who is a marriage dallal (whose job is to introduce prospective matches to the parents of the men and women of marriageable age).
Joseph is a familiar person in the household, as he used to come with marriage proposals for Mariamma’s aunt. After undergoing several such ordeals, nothing fructified into a marriage and Mariamma’s aunt decided to become the bride of the Lord. She joined the Congregation of Mother of Carmel, which has its origin in the year 1866 at a small village called Koonammavu in Kerala. Mariamma’s aunt was happy at the convent, and she got the opportunity to study in English School and became a teacher in the St Aloysius Upper Primary School.
Dallal Joseph objectively moderated the proud presentation of family virtues by both parties. While Mariamma’s Appachan mentioned about the number of persons from their lineage who were selected to be priests and nuns, the elderly man from the other side, Thomman, did not want to
All She Needs is Love Part-VI
Goodbye to Gooseberry?
The twin boys grew up well nourished. Mariamma and her younger sisters had to be satisfied with lesser allotment of milk for their coffee. And the hens’ eggs, after the sales made to needy neighbours and to Thomas chettan’s tea shop in the junction, were exclusively kept for the twins. Mariamma’s sisters hated the hens because of this and angrily ward of the hens whenever they tried to come anywhere near them. They liked only the big red cock. They fed him well with the expectation of a good feast, next Christmas.
Mariamma didn’t bother much about such mundane things like her sisters. She sincerely served her mother. From early morning to late night she was hard up with unending household chores and rearing the cow, two goats and a kid, and more than a dozen of hens. She enjoyed bathing the naughty twins and putting talcum powder on their body and dressing them up. She carried them on both the hips to the neighbours’ houses and played along with other children till her mother yelled them to return.
Every night, before she slept, she took her slate and scribbled several lines and then rubbed of everything. Many nights she dreamed
All she needs is Love: PART V
Communist Gospel according to Saint Lukose
Mariamma’s absence in class for three days made Lukose Sir worry. He enquired from her friends.
They said: ‘Mariamma has stopped her studies. Her mother delivered twins and Mariamma has to look after them’.
That was a shocking news for Lukose Sir. How can a bright student like Mariamma drop out from school? That too, a girl aspiring to be a judge! He decided to go to Mariamma’s house and meet her father.
Mariamma was washing the clothes of babies and the mother when Lukose sir walked into her house. As the well and the washing stone was quite in front of the house, all washing and brushing were done in full view of all the visitors. Men folk performed their lavish bath (twice daily) in full public view. Ladies bathed in the late evenings as darkness engulfed the area or, carry their buckets to the thatched shed behind the
All She Needs is Love
Broken slate and a lovely dream
Lukose master was going through the slates of his students in Class IV in St Thomas School, Karukachal. He found that the tall slender girl who was sitting in the last row on the cement floor had written so neatly, all the letters of the Malayalam alphabet.
He said ‘Sabash!’ meaning ‘excellent’.
The girl, who was clad in a white chatta and mundu, felt happy and looked at her friends with a proud smile. Her name was Mariamma.
Lukose master was a terror not only for the students, but also for most of the teachers. No one used to be bothered much about the headmaster Kuriachan Sir who was regularly irregular to the school. Kuriachan sir was more interested to look after his chena (yam), kappa (tapioca), kaachil (another variety of yam) and a host of vegetables in his land rather than teaching students