All posts by Utkarsh Singh

About Utkarsh Singh

Those who can, do. Those who can't, advise. Those who can't advise, write.

My encounter with a bully

I am reminded of a series of incidents that happened with me for a period of over two weeks while I was at Nandyal, Andhra Pradesh, India working in a cement manufacturing plant. When I was assigned to come in shifts, I happened to be in a team that was led by a shift-incharge, years my senior (31 years of age at that time, regarded as the go-to person by many in Nandyal plant), who bullied me many times in control room, and while we used to wait at the bus stop. During the starting times when he met me, he used to provoke me quite often, sometimes staring at me for no reason, slightly pushing me, ragging me (by regularly asking me why don’t I drink or smoke, that I am unfit for a plant job, though I must admit I never felt like being ragged) in company of other operators. When these incidents got to my mind and I was at a peak of outburst, I remember anxiously sitting in the plant bus planning my strategy as to how I was going to tackle him today – Should I straightaway warn him? Should I take up this matter with my supervisor (my supervisor was a mature and an able person)? Should I talk to my parents? Should I talk to Biswa (who is one of my close friends, as I was reminded of him)? Should I just act differently so that he sees me not as a person different from others, and so that he is pleased and we don’t bother each other much? or Should I just leave this job? (This all happened for a period of one to three weeks, and was at its peak for one or two days)

I did not take any action against him. But then things started to change. Upon reflection, I realised that I just did these things – I did not change my personality to suit him, I did not pretend to be a different person than who I was then, I stuck to my basics on how to deal with people the way I have had done previously. Because I knew that I was not wrong, and like many things, this too shall pass. I just kept calm and kept faith. One thing that I would like to state at this point is that the bully perhaps does not realises how much of an emotional impact (I remember Biswa calling me over phone and crying!) he can have on his junior colleagues.

Now that same person whom I used to hate the most in the plant became one of my best colleagues in the plant. Perhaps he slowly started to realise that I was not faking (for example- as I don’t drink or smoke, he forced me several times to start drinking (I have realized people do this to make a political statement)). Perhaps I was able to give him a different perspective. He started to joke with me quite often and talk about his son, he started to teach me mill operations from control room, he sent me an FB friend request, he helped me plan my travel to home, he gave me his phone number in case of any help, and many other things. What happened is that his attitude towards me changed. Now as I look back I find it funny that how I used to be so disturbed by this man, as if he was the biggest problem in the plant. I talked to him over phone day-before-yesterday and he invited me to visit Nandyal.

Now things could have turned very differently had I reacted too much during those times, I do not deny this. But I did what I felt was the best I could do at that time. I am happy that this happened to me as it gave me a perspective and taught me lessons.

Now it is very much possible that the person (the bully) may read this account and feel shocked and then go on to give a completely different narrative. That’s the beauty of it, each one of us have a unique experience and perspective on looking at things. Our thinking makes something good or bad, otherwise it is just as it is.

Do we need a college degree to be successful?

It is true that skills, and not degrees, take us far in life. But it is also true that we need degrees to enter into the job market in India and in many other countries. This debate of “whether we really need a degree” is also common to other countries, even to the USA. In the present scenario, to be eligible for a professional job, it is a must to have a degree to back your credentials as it supports the job applicant’s resume. Certain professional fields which are too much subject-specific such as law, medicine (MBBS, MS), academia (teaching) necessarily require a degree and it is not possible to embark on such professions without them. While certain other professions such as public speaking, entrepreneurship, sports, do not require educational degrees as such.

Only 2 per cent out of the 15 million workforce which is added per year is job-ready. Other than the problem of an ever-increasing population, a big part of this problem lies with our education system. Since school we are taught and encouraged to be hard-working individuals who can add to the workforce of the country, and not so much on creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation. The reason why creativity and innovative thinking are not encouraged in our school and university education can be attributed to the following reasons. One, students in schools (especially after entering secondary and senior-secondary classes) are under a constant pressure to perform in regularly-conducted tests and assessments. Two, teachers in private and government schools and colleges, many of whom are disinterested in their professions, are not periodically evaluated and assessed so that they can be trained on their teaching skills (communication skills, audio-visual presentations, conducting smart classes, etc.) which they might be lacking in. If a university teacher is disinterested in teaching or considers her profession as a burden which is to be transferred onto the students, or is lacking in communication skills, how can she motivate and generate interest among the students to think outside the box? Encouraging thinking outside the box will lead to innovative ideas, some of these ideas will be acted upon and that will lead to job creation. Three, tendency to streamline the system by laying over-emphasis on grades. Students end up studying just for marks with little guidance by parents/teachers to help them see the bigger picture.

Parents, in turn, just reciprocate what our education system demands. Every other parent wants his/her child to go for engineering education so as to be able to secure a well-paying job which indicates their concern borne out of insecurity for livelihood and sustenance. As an example, engineering education has failed terribly in India because of its degrading quality and low-quality output. Too many entrants has lead to too many colleges compromising the quality of engineering education. Engineering colleges have ended up producing generalists instead of specialists – how much of these generalists are job-ready?

To tackle unemployment, other than job guarantee schemes like MNREGA, the government has focused on imparting job-specific skills (eg. schemes like Skill India). Entrepreneurship, which does not require educational degree and which can create multiple jobs at a time, has also been encouraged through schemes like MUDRA and Startup India. Renewable energy sector, especially the solar energy sector, has seen an amazing growth in Asia since 2011. Around 60 per cent of global jobs in renewable energy sector have been created in Asia, with China topping the list.

Degree’s role is limited to validating skills and ensuring eligibility for a particular set of jobs. Job-specific skills, and not degrees, will help us in progressing in our careers. As students, one way to ensure our future in this insecure world is to work very hard on our skills, both the soft and the hard ones.

Reinventing the sanitation projects in India

One of the deterrents that could prolong or possibly halt our dream of becoming a “developed” nation in the coming years is the lack of health and hygiene and the absence of widespread ground-level actions. It is this lacking that is also responsible for widening and retaining the gap between the wealthy in a clean surrounding and the poor in a city slum, the urban formal settlements and the urban informal settlements, in our country. Proper sanitation has a crucial role to play in bridging this gap as it is directly linked to the physical health and subsequent well-being of the people living in that area. In India the practice of open defecation is still prevalent both in urban settlements and rural areas. India has the world’s largest number of people defecating in the open (around 600 million in 2012) which includes approximately 70% of its rural population. This figure is particularly alarming because open defecation has a much more adverse effect on a densely populated country such as ours. It causes and spreads diseases like diarrhea, typhoid and intestinal infections, etc., and is responsible for increasing child mortality. Other far-reaching effects include fatality, undernutrition and stunted growth in children, loss of dignity for women and increased rates of crime against women as they are forced to go out in the open in secluded areas, river pollution and soil pollution.

Government initiatives such as Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CSRP) and Total Sanitation Campaign (Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan) have achieved limited success in their terms. Even though government surpassed its own target of building 6 million toilets by constructing 8 million toilets in 2015-2016, sanitation largely still remains a widespread problem in India. This calls for participation of more private companies as well as common people to end this problem. Two of the major reasons for people still practicing open defecation are non-availability of toilets because of poverty and “behavioral mindset” of the people who still do not realize the importance and interlink between water, sanitation and hygiene.  While the former can be tackled by providing more and more infrastructure for toilets, the latter requires creating awareness among the people about this evil practice and change in their mindset, who are still traditionally bound to defecate in the open air.

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The Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) was renamed Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan by Manmohan Singh, and later restructured as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by Narendra Modi in September 2014. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was officially launched on 2 October 2014.

Sanitation projects in a populated country like India require participation of people to be popular and successful. Integrating the two approaches of simultaneously building infrastructure and creating awareness among people can help in making Indian villages and slums “open defecation free”. Providing sustainable sanitation facilities by incorporating affordable toilets which are easy to use and clean, strong and all-weather resistant, building toilets inside or in very close vicinity of households can help eradicate open defecation. Building easy-to-use toilets integrated with a composter will prevent spread of diseases, water and soil pollution. Designing mobile toilets, toilets with an in-built alarm system for women, toilets with provision for urine diversion and providing recyclable toilet bags for people in remote areas can also be effective in reinventing the sanitation project in our country.  Another aspect of the sanitation project is to teach people about the importance and necessity of maintaining hygiene in their surrounding through audiovisual presentations, as spread of diseases is more prominent in a densely populated area lacking awareness. Encouraging people, providing more incentives and awarding households for installing toilets, even if on a time-bound basis, will increase the participation of people as well as popularity of these projects. Educating women and school going children in rural areas about the benefits of cleanliness and its healthy impact on mental and physical well-being will cause awareness among the rural masses.

The objective of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) to make India open-defecation free by 2019 can be achieved if we are willing to engage ourselves to contribute our part to tackle the sanitation problem. With all these efforts it will be a matter of time when every Indian truly experiences that “Cleanliness is Godliness”.

The Good Samaritan Law in India

Good Samaritan Law provides legal assistance to those people who help save road accident victims by reporting the accident to the police or by helping the victim reach to the hospital. Often it is seen that the helper is wrongly accused and harassed by the police personnel as the perpetrator of crime. It is in these situations that police authorities are required to follow certain guidelines and regulations while dealing with a good Samaritan or witness of the accident.
According to the Law Commission of India, 50 per cent of road accident deaths could be saved if immediate assistance is provided. As per a study conducted by the SaveLIFE foundation (which filed a PIL for the enactment of Good Samaritan Law in India), 3 out of 4 people hesitate to help a road accident victim and 88 per cent out of these cite unwarranted police harassment and questioning.
The Supreme Court in March 2016 approved the guidelines issued by the Centre for enacting Good Samaritan Law. It is sad to know that till now majority of the population has not been sensitized about this law. Even more saddening to know is that many police chaukis are not aware of such law. Following action steps can be taken by relevant authorities:
  1. Since police is now the most evident hurdle in enactment of law, police chaukis on roadways should be sensitized about such provisions.
  2. Provision for appraisal and reward for those who save accident victims
  3. Sensitizing through TV advertisements, social media, Mann ki Baat, etc.
  4. Integrating Duty to Rescue with Good Samaritan Law
  5.  Toll-free helpline numbers to nearby hospitals on highways for immediate response. Dedicated division for handling such emergency cases
  6. Signboards and posters on National and State Highways especially in the accident-prone areas
  7. Making sure that Police Stations follow SOPs and government guidelines, eg.  not forcing the Good Samaritan to disclose her/his name, limiting the witnesses’ visits to police stations, treating the witness with dignity

Importance of breath

Hardly people realize the importance of deep and slow breathing. From my personal experience and having read tens of articles on breathing, I can easily summarize the benefits of breathing. A person may survive without food for over week, without  water for 2-3 days, but he cannot survive for more than 10 minutes or so without breath. With age people realize their physical body changes, their behavioral changes, but an aspect that never changes since the time of birth is  Breath.

Pranayama means controlling of the fundamental life force. The entire ambit of Pranayama  is based upon “Prana” i.e., life force, which is nothing but breath. Pranayam is an ancient in-depth yogic discipline developed in India by the sages. It specifies a set of breathing techniques which are targeted to achieve specific results which can improve our physiological and psychological balance.

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Meditation can be as simple as being aware of your inhalation and exhalation

In this short blog, I will be stating some of the many benefits of slow and deep breathing.

  • Our cells also breathe. Uninterrupted, deep and relaxed breathing ensures  the continuous and necessary oxygen to all the cells of the body. Inefficient and insufficient breathing makes cells in your body devoid of the requisite energy to function properly. Insufficient oxygen to your skin cells leads to dead cells. Insufficient oxygen to your scalp may lead to hair loss. Insufficient oxygen to your brain cells leads to inefficient thinking subsequently leading to inefficient or ill-thought decisions and actions.
  • For greater focus. When you concentrate and focus on your breath (inhalation and exhalation), you become aware of your breath. You let go off all the negative and undesirable thoughts from your mind.
  • For relaxation. You must have experienced choppy, quick and shallow breathing pattern when you are anxious, worried or over-excited. Take a deep breath, filling your stomach (the diaphragm, to be particular) and exhale. Irregular and shallow breathing causes dis-ease to you. This is directly related to point no. 1.
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Your diaphragm is the key to confidence!
  • For increased lung capacity. Diaphragmatic breathing is sure to increase your lung capacity. Diaphragmatic breathing means breathing which expands your diaphragm with inhalation and deflates the diaphragm with exhalation. This expansion and contraction can be felt by placing the backside of your both thumbs just under the top bone of the rib cage while breathing deep and slow.
  • Your lifelong companion. Your only companion till you leave it. Your breath is going to remain with you throughout your life. Your physiology may change, your attitude and personality will change, but your breath will truly be yours till your death. Take care and be aware of it and it will take care of you.

I am also sharing three of the wonderful videos about breath which I found on YouTube. These have treasure trove of information and wisdom.

  • Meditate Everywhere Anytime by a Tibetan Buddhist Master | Mingyur Rinpoche
  • The surprising secret to speaking with confidence | Caroline Goyder | TEDxBrixton
  • The powerful secret of your breath – Romila “Dr. Romie” Mushtaq, MD | Romila Mushtaq | TEDxFargo

Thanks for reading!

Triple talaq debate in India

Islam has two sects – Shia and Sunni. These sects emerged owing to differences in opinions following the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD as to who would lead Islam, which was then a new and a rapidly growing faith. Some section within the Muslim faith wanted Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law (Muhammad’s descendant), Ali, to be the rightful successor (known as the “caliph”). While another section believed that the leader should be chosen by consensus. The end result was the election of Abu Bakr as the successor, causing differences and rift between the people. Thus the sect comprising followers of Ali came to be known as Shia while the other one loyal to Abu Bakr was called Sunni. Two successive assassinations after Abu Bakr’s election ensued and Ali eventually did became the caliph only to be assassinated at the Battle of Karbala.

Triple Talaq

Talaq is an Arabic word meaning divorce. The custom of triple talaq is followed by Sunnis and it states that a husband can divorce his wife by enunciating the word “talaq” thrice.

Shias, although belonging to the same religion of Islam, oppose this custom citing its total absence in the Holy book of  Quran. Just like any other custom, triple talaq apparently evolved in the Sunni society and culture with time. It finds a mention in the Sharia, the religious law which governs the members of the Islamic faith and this forms the basis for support to this practice. However, many countries including the Muslim-majority ones have laws which render “triple talaq” a not-so-effective law, paving a legal route to register for a divorce.

What can be a more happier moment than waking up to see your phone flooded with Whatsapp and Facebook notifications? But what if you could be divorced by a mere Whatsapp message or over a Facebook post?

Triple Talaq in India

India still needs to fight a tough battle to end triple talaq for its Muslim population. It is a custom which renders women powerless and voiceless, as they face rejection and isolation from their community, for no one really wants to talk about it openly because of fear of strict opposition from the hard-lined community members. Reports of women receiving talaq over Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp have been surfacing in social media and some news channels. As amusing as it may sound, the women has to live under a constant fear of receiving an instant divorce. Recent instances of Muslim women groups, particularly All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board, coming out to protest against this practice has to be seen as welcome sign by all those who are against gender-based discrimination, from people from all walks of life.

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Instant talaq with a text message

Sadly, in our country it is difficult to find full political support because of the quantum of vote bank involved with triple talaq as it amounts to politics of appeasement of religious communities. Favouring triple talaq equals support to hard-lined clerics and scholars who can influence the Muslim population. I believe that non-Muslims in India can be the biggest helping hand in the fight to ban triple talaq as they have nothing to fear. By supporting this cause in the name of human rights, they can voice their opinion to scrap this traditional law which snatches away dignity of women. They can protest loud and give voice to tens of millions of Muslim women in India. This rising voice against triple talaq should not be seen as an unwanted interference in the functioning of a particular community but as a movement to bring reform to its centuries-old and obsolete laws. A mass movement on social media can give a big push to this movement to ban triple talaq.

Since triple talaq finds its basis in the Sharia, Sunnis and Shias should collectively analyse and debate on Sharia laws. Definitely a solution and a common ground can be reached if they are serious about the future Muslim generations. Just as it is true for Hinduism, those clerics and scholars who are strongly opposed to progressive reforms have deep-rooted insecurities for their positions and roles if they witness these reforms in their lifetime. I wonder what will these clerics do if their daughters and sisters are divorced by triple talaq, would they still support it in letter and spirit?

A “surgical strike” to end triple talaq would not the serve the entire purpose of putting an end to the practices of demeaning women in Islam. But an initiation has begun which is a good sign. What more evil mental conditioning can you see than the defendant, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) saying that triple talaq prevents the wives from being murdered or burnt by their husbands. I don’t understand what act or mistake by a Muslim woman would force her husband to burn her. This speaks of the patriarchal setup and male-dominated thinking that is rooted in our society (mind you that many similar customs exist in Hinduism which need urgent reforms). Nothing new. Opposing the legal route as a substitute to triple talaq, the AIMPLB opines that the Judiciary is too slow in these matters. Triple talaq is definitely not in line with today’s modern thinking – where is gender equality here? To counter the defendants of triple talaq – why not give triple talaq to women to divorce their husbands?

Whatsoever be the logic behind the birth and continued practice of triple talaq, since it is not mentioned in the Holy Quran and since Islam espouses justice, kindness, compassion and wisdom, a healthy debate should definitely shape the opinions in a progressive (and not regressive) direction. As Victor Hugo said, “Nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come”. This idea must meet its logical end.

What I constantly learn from my family members

We all learn something from someone. As many people have said, learning should be a life-long process. One must never stop this attitude.

Here is a link to a page that talks about the same- 3 Techniques to Never Stop Learning

I thought of writing a small post on what I constantly learn from my family.

  • My mother – faith; dedication to your work; cleanliness is Godliness; care and compassion for other people
  • My father – constant self-improvement; strong general knowledge; sociable; always updated with news
  • My brother – imagination; celebrating life; having a positive attitude in life

Thanks for reading 🙂

Will it now be Jio vs Non-Jio?

This blog was originally written for Awesummly. Awesummly is an android which provides you with real-time summarised news. To download the app, click here.

At a time when Indian telecommunication companies are blamed for charging much more than they ought to, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani seems to have brought a revolution in this sector with the commercial launch of Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) on September 1, 2016, at the Reliance Annual General Meeting. From providing highly attractive introductory offers in voice calling and 4G services to its ambitious plan of capturing up to 10 per cent of over 1 billion-strong customer base, Jio has caught the attention of both mobile subscribers as well as mobile service providers. It aims to serve 100 million subscribers by the end of this year, with an addition of 1 million subscribers per day. Following this, Reliance plans to make revenue in the range of ₹36,000 crores to ₹50,000 crores in FY17.

In an impactful speech, which cost Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular approximately ₹12,000 crores in losses in under 45 minutes, Mukesh Ambani announced a series of measures which is set to directly affect mobile users’ behaviour, waging a “tariff war” with incumbent players in the telecom sector. From issuing free SIM cards and providing lifetime free voice calls (local plus national roaming) to providing free mobile data till December 31, and lowest data rates per megabit consumption (4G data rates will see a decrease from ₹250/GB which is charged by the incumbent players to ₹50/GB), advent of Jio is sure to have sent jitters down the telecom sphere. It is said that competition leads to better performance, but in all this brouhaha, future seems bleak for the likes of Aircel and Telenor. How Bharti Airtel, Vodafone or Idea Cellular effectively react to this is yet to be seen. A battle for providing the lowest tariff will not be a surprise.

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The Jio rates

The erstwhile Infotel Broadband Services Limited was rechristened as Reliance Jio Infocomm in 2015. Jio was previously launched as a beta service to its employees and partners in December 2015. As far as the initial investment in this project is concerned, Jio is supposedly world’s biggest venture with ₹150,000 crore investment. With a very strong backing by RIL, it is all prepared to take initial blows in terms of direct losses till 31 December. It will only start making revenue from January 2017 when it begins to charge for its data usage (from ₹149 to ₹4999 on a monthly basis). Apart from data services, it aims to leverage revenue from various digital services like video streaming (with a feature similar to Netflix) and other sources, not to forget the already profit-making RIL.

All this is indeed a welcome step towards digital literacy, especially as it is brought about by a private entity. This will motivate other players to step in –  a step they must take in order to survive in the competition. According to media reports, Vodafone and Airtel have called Jio’s offer a “gimmick” while the state-owned BSNL has pledged to match Jio “tariff-by-tariff”. At the current stage, Reliance Jio has everything to experiment with, owing to its strong financial support. What is left for other big players is to prevent an exodus of their top customers to Jio, for 30 per cent of the customers contribute to 70 per cent of their revenue. The launch of Jio seems to have been played out positively on consumer sentiment. Whatever level of competition and commotion this leads to, the end beneficiary is going to be the customers. And this is what really matters to us.

This blog was originally written for Awesummly. Awesummly is an android which provides you with real-time summarised news. To download the app, click here.

Bob Proctor’s eternal wisdom

The legendary speaker and author Bob Proctor has been and continues to be a great motivation for millions all over the world. An institution in his own self and a great admirer of Napoleon Hill, Bob has been passionately giving himself for the cause of personal development, educating people all over the world. One can only realize the power in his teachings by watching his videos or listening to his audios. Most of his videos are available on YouTube for free.

In 2006, Mr Bob Proctor featured in the blockbuster documentary movie The Secret which featured many other authors and speakers who emphasized upon and discussed about The Law of Attraction. About a decade ago, he co-founded the Proctor Gallagher Institute with Sandy Gallagher – a successful banking attorney in the U.S., and someone who was taken aback when she heard Bob for the first time in one of his seminars in Vancouver (in 2006) and had decided back then to work with him and be his closest adviser.

In his mid-twenties, Bob, with a very little formal education, started a cleaning business and he went on to take his then meager earning of $4,000 a year to over $1,000,000 a year in under 5 years by following his mentor and reading, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, among other steps that he took diligently. He worked closely with Earl Nightingale from 1968 to 1973 at Nightingale-Conant, before starting his own personal development company. Interestingly, Bob Proctor continues to use the same copy of the book, every single day of his life. Now that is dedication and consistency. Bob is now 82 years old but still a student – someone who is passionate and believes in continually learning.

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A young Bob Proctor (center) with Earl NIghtingale (left) and Llyod Conant

After becoming a millionaire, it took 9 years for Bob to get to know exactly what he had done to transform his fortune. Like he stresses in his videos, he knew he wasn’t smart and intelligent enough to earn so much, so he really wanted to find out what exactly he had done to transform his life. Since then he had decided to dedicate his life to the cause of personal development, by sharing all that he knew. Almost all of Bob’s talks are focused on Paradigms (conditioned way of thinking; why do we what we do) and money. Other aspects like imagination, visualization/visioneering, positive thinking and goal-setting revolve around Paradigms.

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Bob Proctor and Sandy Gallagher

I would like to share some of the numerous quotes by Bob Proctor which I have come across.

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Sharing a link to the video of one of Bob’s live seminars –

~ Thank you 🙂