That Difficult Neighbour

A peaceful neighbourhood is unquestionably a utopian concept. There will always be that one neighbour who would occasionally give you a really hard time. Initially they would come home and play nice so you think they like you. Wait another week and they would start nagging about the leaves that fall off of our tree in their yard. They would not once miss an opportunity to show off their fancy belongings to suggest how better equipped they are as compared to you. But you cannot simply cut ties with them because a) they will continue to live next door no matter what and b) it is them who provide you with a bowl of sugar when you need it.

India also has one such lovely neighbour. Except they’re saying that the falling leaves are much similar to those growing in their garden and therefore by that logic the tree in our yard is also theirs. In fact, it has even started issuing stapled visas to the residents of Arunachal Pradesh which is a direct attack on India’s territorial integrity. They have proven to be difficult in several other instances. Despite India’s objections, they have been building dams on the Brahmaputra river at their end, which is causing major floods in our country. They went ahead and built the CPEC that passes through PoK without India’s consent thus questioning India’s sovereignty. They also may have deliberately blocked India’s entry to the NSG.

Most recently, there was a nail biting standoff between the two neighbours at Doklam. Although a peaceful settlement came through, the event raised the question whether India could wage a war against its mighty neighbour. The answer is definitely not in affirmative. The costs of war are high obviously, but more importantly it’d leave a huge hole in the heart of our economy, it being India’s largest trading partner. Rationally speaking, we cannot afford to go to war, however, if we were at war, the Indian armed forces are well-equipped and well-trained to defend our territory. Our newly acquired modern defence equipment, the ballistic missile system, nuclear warheads etc can tackle all sorts of adversities.

Similarly, it would be foolhardy for our big neighbour to start anything close to a war with us. If it initiates the attack, the international community would matter-of-factly sympathize with the defender. It would give the USA, the defending champion of the superpower tournament, an excuse to interfere. Moreover, it too gets a significant amount of business from India which it wouldn’t want to loose out on. It may have an upper hand in terms of military strength, but it knows war is at all events off the table.

With this I want to bring to light the anomalies in the international system where there are sufficient conditions for the war to break out, but interstate peace prevails. Several causal factors may be at play. 

In conclusion, it is worth noting that one dialogue from the movie Once Upon A Time In Mumbai -“Jab dost banake kaam ho sakta hai toh phir dushman kyun banaye?” (When we can get the work done as friends then why should we make enemies?). It is in everyone’s interest to use diplomacy as a means for preserving peace against war.

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Her. (A Short Story) 

Darkness had fallen, the sun was gone. She tiptoed out and into the forest in search of what people called a “happy place”. She had resolved to experience what happy felt like.

There is an enchanting lake. She walks towards it only to find she’s not alone. She steps back, very insecure, and hides behind a tree. He sat by the lake, very still even in a state of immense pain. Like he was used to it. She had never seen anyone like him before. For the rest of the night, she forgets everything else and quietly watches him.

It had become a routine. She would find him at the same place after midnight. It wasn’t about finding happiness anymore. Just him. She decides to go closer now. When she does, it begins to pour. Their eyes meet. The raindrops were slowly washing away the masquerade that hid her scarred face. A disaster, she thought. To her surprise, he never took his eyes off her.

He leans and whispers something in her ear. “You’re a work of art” he said. Never had she been appreciated for being who she was. It was a lot to take in. She was feeling weak in her knees. He stood by her, not saying another word.

The following nights they spent learning about one another. It was beautiful what they had, a soul to soul connection. She was slowly beginning to understand what being happy felt like. Very often she would get so lost in his poetry, losing the track of time. When they were together, they made magic happen.

As she stood up to leave, for the first time he stopped her. “Stay”, he uttered. He puts forth a possibility of having something more than this. She is at a crossroads. She wants to become the poet’s muse. But she’s afraid she’ll end up rupturing his fragile heart. That’s all she’s capable of. She’s a beast. As much as she would like to hold on, she needs to go back in the cage.

On Changing The World

How many people are there in this world? Let’s say roughly seven billion. And how many people are you? Obviously, just one.  Needless to say, you’re no Mahatma Gandhi or for that matter Nelson Mandela. So what are the odds that you could change the world?

This is more or less what you’ll hear when you tell someone you want to change something about the world we are living in. “You know what you should do? You should change yourself instead” they’d say, after they’re done laughing. They’re the people who can get nothing done in their lives. So, stay put with your idea and ignore this lot.

The next step is all about taking action. Simply talking about it won’t take you anywhere. It’s okay, if it’s just a baby step. Take it. Do what you have to do to make the change possible.Be the change you wish to see, sure. But go a little bit further. You cannot bring the change all by yourself. Spread awareness, get more people to join you. If something is seriously wrong in the world around you, other people will definitely follow your lead. Thanks to the social media, it has become much easier to reach out to people. It’s a long shot, I get it, but not impossible either.

I feel enraged when people around me persuade me into believing that the world runs like that and nothing can be done about it. Well, it is us who made the world like that and if we’ve messed up, the onus is on us to rectify the mistakes. All the realities of the world are socially constructed. If we understand this concept, it’d be easier to go about the process of bringing the necessary change in the world.

I love John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change”. It is so very beautifully written (and of course, sung). If you listen closely, he’s giving out a very strong message. More often than not, despite of seeing all the wrongs, all the unjust practices, we do nothing. We think we do not possess the means to rise above them. So, we keep on waiting for the world to change. The world is not going to change itself, people! Don’t even wait for others to do it for you. Just go for it, make a difference, because you can.

Simplifying Feminisms

Feminism off late has become the new F-word. Many believe feminists are angry, wicked women who want to make slaves out of men. Some have even gone to the extent of calling them ‘feminazists’. At the same time, other views are surfacing that remind me of the quote by Rebecca West:

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.

Let’s do a reality check, shall we?

Feminism very simply put is a movement campaigning for equal rights and opportunities for the male and the female sex. They should be treated equally. It’s about eliminating the gender gap.  Like my professor would say, we are not born a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’. While growing up, we are conditioned to become one. Our society has charted out strictly exclusive gender roles which is problematic as it gives a certain edge to the so-called men. Say for example, men take all the decisions while women follow orders without any objection. And that created a history of unfair treatment towards “women” which gradually became a norm.

If you have paid close attention to the title, you would have noticed it reads ‘feminisms’. Feminism could be understood in several ways. Interestingly certain types of feminisms are often at odds with others. In my opinion, three types namely liberal, radical and difference feminism are most crucial for our understanding.

  1. Liberal feminists: They are the sweet kind. They would say “Patriarchy is awful. But it’s fine as long as women get equal legal and political rights.”
  2. Radical feminists: As the name suggests they are sort of revolutionaries. They would say “Dude, gender is socially constructed. If you think it’s based on biological differences, you are full of crap. Woman subjugation has to stop.”
  3. Difference feminists: They are like “Sure, women are different from men. They are kind, caring, elegant and what not. The feminine qualities are better and therefore more valuable than the masculine qualities.

And then there are post-feminists who think it’s high time they went beyond equality of the sexes and started aiming towards female domination. As far as I am concerned, I am an equality feminist who seeks to live in a more inclusive, gender equal world.

Feminism primarily empowers women. On that note, if you are a woman, keep in mind, you are not obligated to be a feminist. It definitely is highly recommended but what’s more important is to know that you are in no way weak or inferior to men.

Happy International Women’s Day! #BeBoldForChange

 

Don’t Always Be Happy With Yourself.

No, it isn’t a typographical error. And no, I’m not out of my mind. Keep reading, and it’ll start to make sense.

There comes a time in life when you think everything’s just about right. You’ve earned all your standard check marks from grades and career to relationships. You’re happy where you are. That no doubt gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, but it also is kind of detrimental to your growth.

When you’re happy with yourself, you become complacent and lethargic. You have no dreams and aspirations left to keep you going in life. I am sure you’ve worked really hard to get to this point. But come tomorrow, you need to be a better version of yourself. Say hello to the new experiences. Try the things that you were always afraid of. Set another set of goals for yourself. They needn’t be work related. Never be content. Ask for more. There is always more. Having said that, I don’t want you to be greedy. Exercise your discretion.

There are also times when you settle for less and you come to terms with where you are instead of where you imagined yourself to be. I am talking about the I-am-at-peace-with-what-I-have attitude. I have a friend who wanted to lose some extra kilos. Initially, she was very eager to get in shape which acted as a motivation to exercise daily. As months passed by, she couldn’t keep up. Ultimately, she convinced herself that she was ‘happy’ with the body she had. Yeah, it’s okay to feel that way. But this attitude will always deter her from working hard for the desired goal. This shouldn’t be the case either.

There’s so much to do in life and so much to see. Don’t be happy just yet, you have more dreams to catch.

 

I’d like to thank my friend Anmol for providing me with some interesting food for thought. He’s an immensely gifted writer. Click here to enter his isotopic world.

The Study Of IR

What do we mean by ‘international relations’? One image that pops up is probably that of a group of elites, say Presidents of different countries discussing issues and trying to arrive at a consensus.  It could also be what appears in the ‘International’ section of the newspapers. The reports usually discuss what kind of relations the government of one country enjoys with the others. They also throw light on the foreign policy of a powerful country and it’s implications on the rest of the world. Say for example, Donald Trump’s ‘Immigration Policy’ is making headlines all over, especially in India.

Simply put, international relations or IR concerns the relationships among the world governments. To make it a little bit complex, we also connect these with some other actors or players such as the international organizations, NGOs, individuals etc. We cannot ignore the social structures either- be it culture, state of economy, domestic politics and so on.  It is an all encompassing field, that reflects the world’s complexity.

Nevertheless, the nation-states remain the primary actors in the international system. They are rational, self-interested and self-seeking entities. By this I mean, they prioritize national security and national interest over everything else. So, one key problem in the field of IR is how two or more nation-states would forgo their individual interests to serve the collective interests? Lets just say two nations-states are a guy and a girl in a romantic relationship. The guy likes to spend his free time watching movies . While the girl prefers to watch cricket matches. So what do they do this weekend? This in IR is called the ‘collective goods problem’. While their shared interest is to watch TV together on a Saturday night, they each have conflicting interests with regards to what to watch. This happens because the resources are scarce i.e. there’s room for just one television.

We face this kind of a problem all the time. Siblings fight over chocolate, neighbours have conflicting views about the tree that faces their apartment. But this can be easily resolved by the parents and the Secretary of the building respectively. But it is different in the international system. There is no superior authority above the nation-states that would enforce the measures necessary for providing the common good. So, how do we get the nation-states to cooperate with one another? One major aspect of the study of IR is to find a solution to that. There are also questions on the behaviour of the states. There are various interesting sub-fields like international law, war and conflict studies etc.

Not to mention, we are all pieces in this huge international relations puzzle. Things you do in your daily lives could affect the world order in ways you cannot imagine. Therefore I urge you to not do anything stupid. Yes, all those who voted for Trump, I’m talking to you. (teehee)

Who We Really Are

One dominant theory of International Relations is “Realism”. It tries to explain how the international system functions and how States (i.e. a sovereign nation with distinct territory, government and population) behave with one another. I’d be focusing on one of the two branches of this school which is Classical Realism. It was propounded by Hans J. Morgenthau. He was of view that the human nature was the root cause of wars and all other kinds of interactions between States. He describes it as”animus dominandi“, Latin for ‘desire to dominate’. Human beings inherently seek more and more power, to dominate one another. Hence the likelihood of conflicts and even war between States is high. Cooperation is out of question as it is impossible for the interests of various States to align.

Like any major theory, this one too faces some criticisms. Nevertheless it is still popular and accepted by many scholars. Through this narrative I want to get at the question about human nature. We are guilty of doing so many evil things. We have gone to the extent of hurting, enslaving and even killing other human beings. We poisoned the very Nature that nurtured us. Is this expected of the highly intelligent species? Or are we programmed to behave in this manner? They say humanity is dead these days. But probably there is no such thing as humanity in the first place. It is not just the elites, the statesmen or big business houses seen indulging in power games. Take for instance the phrase ‘cut throat competition’  to get a picture of how bad things are at the bottom level. Jealousy, rage, betrayal, you name it and we have it. Us human beings have done unspeakable things. Is this who we really are? Savages?

I Want To Fit Into My Old Jeans

One fine day when I was getting dressed, I picked up the jeans I hadn’t worn in a while. As you may have guessed, I couldn’t fit into them. I tried and tried. I was in denial. I didn’t want to believe I had put on some extra weight. I started finding faults in my jeans. Maybe they were shrinking because I was washing them very often. A little later, denial got replaced by guilt. I knew I had been eating intermittently lately.

This was so unlike me. Right from my teenage years, I have been thin as a stick. That’s the one thing I love about myself. I have never really had to put efforts to be that way. I never ate a lot. I don’t know if it has to do with growing in age, but suddenly I became fond of food. Although, it’s not too late to make things right. I can do anything to be in good shape again. I love that feeling when I can pick any outfit I like. I don’t have to worry about whether it’ll suit my body type. Speaking of which, I’d like to add that I am very much against body shaming. All body shapes are beautiful and there’s no such thing as a perfect figure. Being skinny is just my personal preference.

Anyway, that day was an eye opener. I have started monitoring my eating habits. I am not dieting per se, but I make sure whatever food that goes in my belly is healthy. My lunches and dinners are light. I am more into burning calories. I take out thirty minutes from my busy schedule to exercise. I usually dance or practice some aerobics moves. For a change, I go for a jog. It is good fun. The more I sweat, more happy I become. After I work out, it gets even better. I somehow feel so ready to take on the world. I don’t even have to check my weight to see my progress. A look in the mirror is enough.

To be honest, I do try to put my old jeans on once in a while. I understand losing weight is not as easy as gaining some. It cannot happen overnight. It will take time. Although, I have a feeling I’m halfway there. Perhaps in another 50 days, I will finally fit into them. Can’t wait!

Dear 2017

Another year has gone by and it’s been three days you took its place. I welcome you and thank you for giving me a chance to start afresh. I promise I’ll use this opportunity to make you spectacular.

I don’t want to sit around thinking about my recent failures. I want to get back up. Try harder this time. I want to make my parents proud. Make something of my life. Prove some people wrong. I want you to be by my side. Continue to motivate me. If I begin to lose hope, I want you to remind me what I’m capable of.

I know everyday cannot be a good day. But try to be as nice as possible. Bring me joy. I know you cannot do that on your own. I’ll stay positive. Do things that make me happy. I’ll be kind and courteous. I will work out regularly. Eat healthy. I wouldn’t let something trivial spoil my mood.

I have high expectations from you. I see myself performing well in the two semesters this year. I want my life to be a little more organized. I also hope to pass the driver’s test and get my four-wheeler driving license. I’d also like to learn to be a better blogger. And more importantly, I want you to be less boring and more fun. Don’t worry, we are in this together. We’ll make these things happen. We’re going to have a great time!

H.

PS Don’t forget to surprise me.

5 Virtues For A Better Life

If someone wishes to read just one book in their entire life, I’d suggest them to read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. It is a moving memoir of a virtuous man who beats all odds and becomes a big man. I found the section of the book where he charts out his virtues very striking. The following are the five virtues that I think can radically improve our lives if we practice them:

  1. Resolution

    Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. We all have dreams and aspirations. Although many of us lack the resolve to get what we want. This should not be the case. Be determined to do something. And once you are, show full commitment towards it.

  2. Industry

    Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Start by cutting off unnecessary actions. It could be scrolling through Facebook, watching too many TV shows or mindless texting. Read a book when you are traveling in a metro or waiting for someone. Learn to play an instrument or to speak in a foreign language in your free time. Do something you like, but something useful.

  3. Order

    Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. This kind of organization can be really boring but it’s very important. If you’re trying clothes on, put them back from where you removed them. Don’t be lazy. Like you assign places for your things, assign time for your daily tasks like going for a jog, breakfast, doing homework etc. A sorted out life, is a stress-free life.

  4. Silence

    Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.This is probably the hardest part. Don’t we just love to prove other people wrong, gossip and especially throw sarcastic remarks? Well, that’s going to take you nowhere. So it’s always a good idea to think about its usefulness before saying anything.

  5. Tranquility

    Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. We may have to face many unpleasant situations and sometimes be forced to do things we don’t like. But at all events, we must try to keep our calm. It’s not in our hands to change things so why bother? What we ‘can’ do is keep our mind in repose. Don’t let little things or little fights spoil your mood.

    Franklin lists down several other virtues such as cleanliness, humility, frugality etc. So, if you haven’t already, read the book for more pep talk on morality.