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Child beggar in the Contour of Knowledge

Girl beggarBirthdays are always exciting; all the more for students. College life cannot be full without birthday parties. Today I went to a birthday celebration in a popular hangout in BHU campus, Varanasi. All students gathered one after another and were eagerly waiting to have the cake cut. As we were waiting for one more student to join us we were alarmed to see a group of students who were walking towards us. I got afraid and thought to myself if they were coming to attack us telling that cake does not belong to our native culture and we are to be hanged! I was wondering if DJ night incident will repeat with IIT students. Certain friends were murmuring that these students look like the inmates of Birla hostel who according to them were responsible for all turmoil in BHU & IIT.

All of us gave a sigh of relief as we noted that they were not walking towards us nor were they to harm us. But we could see an unwelcomed visitor in our midst. She inquired when the cake would be cut and she needs some. As I closely gazed at her I found that she has not clothed well and seemed to be a minor. As she started begging to a passerby, I could understand that she was a beggar. My interaction with her revealed that she stays with her mother and 3 siblings in a nearby place. She replied in negative for my question if she goes to school. She continued that she would continue begging as long as she lives. It was time for us to cut the cake; and two more similar children came. Others much younger to her and were selling balloons.

This was not the first time I see kids begging in BHU and IIT. It is like being in deep water for BHU when it comes to restrict general public into BHU . People from nearby villages come to collect grass, BHU main roads are used to commute by the settlers who stay in and around BHU. Also BHU attracts pilgrims to its Vishwanath temple. Though restricting general public may be difficult in the present scenario I think strong measures has to be taken to counter begging inside BHU campus or any campus for that matter.

Begging inside a campus that promotes knowledge is an oxymoron. University is a place where ideas are supposed to be generated, issues in the mainstream universe gets solved and progress of the universe is visualized. Presence of such social evil in such institutions would tarnish the sanctity of the institution and the very purpose of education. We are kept in dark as to these children are encouraged to beg due to the predicament of the family or are remain as the victims of child trafficking racket. University has to take up a project wherein these children are properly studied and measures being taken to ensure their education and minimum support mechanism for the dependents if any. Leaving such children as they are is costly. We are encouraging a generation of beggars. On the other hand we may also be indirectly opening avenues for theft.

Why is it that a temple of knowledge is not affected by children begging in its own institution? Why universities to which the nation look for solutions harbor such evil in themselves? Are universities becoming hypocritical? Is our education system being reduced to skill development and employers producing machines which has nothing to do with the deeper questions of the society? Can some BHU students join together and voice to the administration and bring shine in the face of the ones who beg?

Birthday girl cut the cake; Friends enjoyed. Will this birthday and this encounter with child beggars open our eyes and  encourage us to do something so that these begging children can celebrate their birthday with dignity?

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Placed IITians speak!

 

f7ecda04-63c9-4dd3-a69b-e2e1fe1302a8                “If winter comes can spring be far away?” said Shelly in “Ode to the West Wind”. We are about to enter February. We are approaching the season where juniors bid farewell to their seniors. In Varanasi the placed IITians has already started the bash. Among the outgoing students there may be some lucky ones who are placed in good companies and have their future secure. No wonder their class mates watch them with  jealousy as they are less tensed and care less about their academics and are day dreaming the day they leave IIT  to get into a new phase of life.

It was exciting to be a part of a party organized by some placed IITians belonging to IIT-BHU. I am proud that my wards are placed! I am so happy that they were mindful to invite their mentors and their juniors to celebrate their placement. Juniors were not slow to revenge their seniors who once asked  them to give their intro and do certain activities. It was expressed by way of quizzing their seniors about their experience, placements, future dreams and so on.

Taste buds near Bhelupura, Varanasi was the place these placed IIT-BHU students chose for their dinner party. Even before the dinner arrived to please the taste buds, hearts of juniors were well treated through the nice words from their seniors. All seniors started sharing their experiences and advices one after another.

The senior who spoke first encouraged others to give their best and not do the things for name sake. He also mentioned how many IITians do not whole heartedly involve in different things; be it studies or event management, or being part of any fest. He encouraged the juniors to involve with their heart and mind. And he also said that their four years stay in an IIT should not be just academics or movies but he encouraged his juniors to explore oneself. Four years of time is a good beginning in ones journey towards self discovery. Avenues are plenty for IITians. He encouraged them to be bold enough and knock for opportunities in new avenues rather than settling in the traditional or routine ones.

The another senior wanted to encourage his juniors to get into core jobs rather than being placed in software companies. He also said that people would be looking at others based on their money, position or placement; but one has to live for oneself which will ultimately give contentment and satisfaction. He also stressed the importance of being part of a spiritual reflection group. In a time when spirituality is either marketed or kicked out irrelevant he stressed how a Bible study group helped him to get focused and not get distracted. He said being a part of the spiritual think thank where scripture is discussed and meditated also helped him to get encouragement when he was at his lowest ebb.

Juniors also did not stop to cease their opportunity to comment about the seniors. One said that their senior was so lazy. He recollected how his senior missed class as he slept off. Another recollected how he played cricket with his senior. Yet another was remembering how his senior used to visit him in his hostel, update about his well being and encourage him. Yet another junior found it apt to hint at the dominating and demanding nature of his senior. Yet another recollected how his senior introduced him to a spiritual think thank which in turn benefited him. Even as the sharing got over all got into peth pooja and nice selfies!

Pongal/Makar Sankranti Reflections

Very happy Pongal wishes to my Tamil friends; Makar Sankranti to the ones in North and Lohri to the one in the North west! Ankita Chobey in her article [i]in Mumbai mirror describes this as: “It is January and for Indians it is the time of the year when we mark the beginning of the season’s end – that is time to bid winter a farewell. This is also the time of the year when winter harvest festival is celebrated. Across the lengths of our country, this festival is celebrated in various ways. While some call it Makar Sankranti, some call it Pongal and some name it Lohri”. Though these celebrations are done across India in different names and different legends are associated with it two things are quite common: Mark of the end of a season and harvest festivals.

Since it is a harvest festival think along with festivities and Pujas it is also important to spend time thinking about the well being of the ones who are involved in the whole work of agriculture and harvesting them. The plight of farmers are getting worse in India which is an agrarian country with 70% of people depend on agriculture. Times of India article[ii] reported that over 12000 farmers commit suicide every year since 2013. The figures are alarming. I stay here in Uttar Pradesh where I constantly listen to issues where the farm lands are taken by land mafias for constructing flats. An article[iii] in BBC notes, “Half of its people work in farms, but farming contributes only 15% to India’s GDP. Put simply, farms employ a lot of people but produce too little”.

All of us get excited when we get fresh crops, see greenery and celebrate festivals. But mundane realities remains the same. I wonder if our economic model has done any serious favour for uplifting the poor. Rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer. Today as we celebrate harvest festival, can we seriously think about the ones till in the field? Think about what possible can be done for them?

As I conclude I would like to give a glimpse of some of the Agrarian themes in the Bible. Though Christians are not known to celebrate Biblical festivals, Bible mentions about atleast three harvest festivals:  the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-22, Num. 28:26-31, Deut. 16:9-12) which celebrates the early harvest and the final harvest called the Feast of Booths, Shelters, or Tabernacles; (Lev. 23:33-44, Num. 29:12-39, Deut. 16:13-16). There is also a festival which was called festival of Firstfruits which also has to do with harvest (Lev. 23:9-14, see also Exod. 23:18 and 34:26). As I finish I quote few Bible portions:

“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.” Deuteronomy 11:13-15

“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth” Psalm 104:14

May the God as per His promise protect our land, give good yield, take care of the farmers and take away the ailments of farmers who got affected by Okhi and other calamities. May He change our heart to be good to be farmers and the land.

[i] https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/news/india/makar-sankranti-lohri-pongal-how-india-celebrates-itswinter-harvest-festivals/articleshow/56518330.cms

[ii] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/over-12000-farmer-suicides-per-year-centre-tells-supreme-court/articleshow/58486441.cms

[iii] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-40184788

SRI YESU JANMOTSAV BLESSINGS

Sri Yesu Janmotsav* blessings to all my readers as you remember the birth of our Lord, God and Saviour Lord Jesus Christ. As you celebrate Sri Yesu Janmotsav I think it would be appropriate for us this time to reflect on the very meaning of the name Jesus (Yesu).

Matthew chapter 1, verse 21 reads as: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” The name Jesus is very familiar. But many do not necessarily understand the meaning the name signifies. Jesus means “He will save His people from their sins”. The problem of evil, injustice, corruption, terrorism and all are great evil our society is facing. Bible traces sin as the root of all these things. And Christ’s birth is indeed great news as it gives a new birth to the world struggling with evil, injustice, corruption, terrorism. Well, how does the birth of Jesus help the world that is struggling with the above evil. Bible promises in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 and verse 17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come”. Meaning that when a person accepts Jesus God implants a new nature in that person and enables him towards good work and reduces his lenience to evil. This change of heart is the secret of the name Jesus.

However I would make a word of caution here. Many people who bear a so called Christian name might live a life that does not live the message as proclaimed by the name “Jesus”. The promise in the Bible is depended on the free will of a person to accept Jesus and His teachings. This does not necessarily nullify the power of the name Jesus; rather a call to the ones who call themselves Christian or to follow Jesus to retrospect and truly accept the Saving power of Jesus and allow them to be transformed by Jesus.

May the message of Jesus and His salvation bring a new hope to the world struggling with  evil, injustice, corruption, terrorism and so on. Once again blessed Sri Yesu Janmotav greetings.

*Janmotsav– Refers to celebration of someone’s birth. This context it refers to celebration Christ’s birth.

Conversion and Ghar-vapsi: My Initial reflection

Conversion and Ghar-vapsi: My Initial reflection

We are hearing a lot of hue and cry about conversion, antI-conversion and re-conversion. The ongoing debate is that conversion should stop. If it does not stop rules will be framed or force will be used to stop conversion. Let us examine some basic truths that come out of this conversion debate.

Conversion is inevitable:

Change and conversion is inevitable. Worldundergoes change and get converted into new shape in every other second. The world we see is not the same that we saw few years back. Is it bad? Given an option, people opt for conversion. A person havinga bike converts his mode of transport to a car when he can afford for it and feels the need for a conversion. He can either hold on to a philosophy of contentment and retain biking or can have a more comfortable philosophy and can convert his mode of transport. When a person gets a responsible position in government or a political party, his whole life style gets converted. No party – even the ones against conversion are no exception. Even ordinary people who migrate from one part to another gets themselves converted to a new place’s life style. Sometimes this conversion is thrust upon, sometimes accepted willingly.

Why does one get converted:

When a person wishes to convert, he eitheris dissatisfied with the existing system or wants to adopt a new set of philosophies, life style and principles. Some may convert even for getting some benefit. But such opportunists who convert may not be very loyal to the principles, philosophizes and ideologies of the converted way of life. They may not even have problem in converting themselves again to some otherparty for some gains as and when the opportunity knocks. But willful conversion is different from forced conversion. Why do many give up their lives when they werethreatened? Why did not they compromise even when faced with severe persecution and threats?

Conversion by Hinduism:

Hindus show that Muslims and Christians are the ones who convert. When I go to some parts of tribal villages of Tamil Nadu,Andra, etc I find people worshiping gods other than Hinduism but calling them as Hindus. Their gods mostly are based on their village tradition. Mahabarata, Ramayana, Upanishads are alien stories to them. Then why do they call themselves Hindus? Did they too undergo some kind ofconversion somewhere in the history? Since we have history from the perspectiveof the influential can this conversion be ruler out?Who can claim to be original?Today we live in a globe with different religions. At one point of time in history there should have been one religion and even before that no religion. Religion as an ideology might have developed over the years. Can’t it be? Beginning of human existence should have been the origin of all. If any “ghar vapshi” should take place it should take place to respect human beings’worth and grand them their right. That is a real ghar vapsi. If we know history only from one perspective and only from a particular period of time, we should not give a call about “ghar vapsi”

More serious problems raised by conversion debate:

Willingnes to conversion also shows the need for a better alternative for the one who wishes to convert. When a conversion happens we should not ask the question “how to bring back the convert”, but introspect on a more serious question “why did they get converted?”. Instead of alleging false and superficial accusation, the losing party should think of restructuring so that it can retain. Deep questions should be asked from sociological, ideological and practical point of view.

A note on Christian conversion:

Before commenting on Christian conversion of non- Christian, let me make it very clear that a Christian can never give birth to a Christian. They give birth only to ordinary human beings. They can either choose to be Christian or not. Every new generation born in Christian families have to under go conversion.

Christians are often told that they lure people by money. But Christians empty themselves and their pockets when they see a need. Because of the love shown to them by Jesus Christ by giving Himself completely and His teaching to love everyone, charity becomes a part of Christian living. So when they find a need for hospital they will not stop from emptying their pockets for a social cause. What do you expect from a Christian? Not to respond at the time of need? By the mean time when some of those benefited by this upliftment gets to hear about this new teaching, he may wish to accept this self giving ideology. What is wrong in him? Why did the existing community wait till a Christian community empty its pocket? Why did it not think of such activities? Christianity went through different phase of reformation. Why not other religions who cry about conversion go through reformation? Why use force? Why use influence? Why politicize it?If there is weakness in you why do you want to invent a problem to hide your weakness? Why don’t you dare to change yourself? Why threaten people ?Why fight against conversion? Conversion was a part of history and it will have to be

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