Dreams of Gulsat Akhinoma

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Ms. Gulsat Akhinoma was one among the fourteen members of our group that set out from Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, to explore the Caucasus Mountains recently. Gulsat was born in the city of Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan. She is a university graduate working in Bishkek. Since she was born in the erstwhile Soviet Union, grew up there and seen its downfall, I had a lot of questions for her and she had answers for all of them. For me, whatever she had shared seemed to be thought-provoking not only for those who support the ideology that the Soviet Union had practiced but for its haters also. This is an attempt to share it here in her own words.

“I was fourteen years old when the Soviet Union was dissolved. I still remember the day. There was a collective-farm building in our village. On its roof, there was the red Soviet flag, with the hammer and sickle imprinted on it, fluttering in the air. There was also a portrait of Vladimir Lenin on its wall. A few youngsters arrived there on horseback shouting loudly – God blessed us, the Russian army left our land, we are a free nation now. They pulled down the Soviet flag and tried to wipe off the image of Lenin from the wall…

There was a students’ organization in the name of Lenin at our school. I was its leader. We were committed to keep our society a classless one that depended on science for human progress. As you see, now there are limited opportunities for education and once you complete your studies, there is hardly any job opportunity. Under the Soviet regime, there were universities in every city with highly qualified teachers. There was nothing that limited our scope in terms of finding better avenues for education. Those excelled in the local universities were sent to Moscow for higher studies. The government provided for free boarding and lodging for such students. Once you complete your studies, it was the responsibility of the university to find a suitable job for you which could be anywhere in the Union.

During those times, our people used to work for everyone, for the state. Now everyone works for themselves. Still our needs are unmet. There are anxieties and uncertainties about tomorrow. You can find cut-throat competition everywhere. The youngsters were more energetic during the Soviet times. The farmers sowed and reaped together. The nation respected them. As the agricultural production increased, living standards of the people improved. Though there was a crisis in the agricultural sector during the Second World War, the Soviet Union managed to send food grains to countries that were reeling under acute food shortage, including India.

Individual freedom did not mean a situation where the citizens were free to do anything s/he wanted. But, they were free to do what was essential and in the best interest of his/her fellow beings. For us, getting equal treatment and opportunities in the society was freedom. In all such aspects, the Soviet Union was far ahead of any other country in the world ever. But, of course, there were certain controls which were absolutely necessary to keep the Union together.

What one needs to understand is that the collapse of the Union is not something that happened due to the policies of Joseph Stalin. It was largely due to the ‘De-Stalinisation’ process adopted by Nikita Khrushchev and his successors. They brought capitalism, religion and class differences back to the Society which ultimately resulted in conflicts in every realm of life and eventually led to the downfall of the Union. No country which was part of the Soviet Union progressed after its dissolution. There is extreme poverty everywhere. Women from these countries are being sold in the flesh markets in cities like Hong Kong, Bangkok and Dubai. All those youngsters who criticize the Union never lived there. You talk to our elders, they will tell you about a political party and their government that respected humanity, knowledge, science and agriculture. Our country is under Neo-slavery today. Our lives, nature and resources are being exploited. We can’t think about tomorrow without fear.

Religions have made a strong come back into our society. The Soviet Union had kept them at bay. There were just a few churches. Religious education was banned. Religious leaders had nothing to do with politics and governance. Today churches have mushroomed in almost every village with foreign aid. Religious leaders exert so much of pressure in governance.

The silver lining is that gradually people are realizing that everything is not going in the right direction. Despite all the sense of loss, we are hopeful that the Soviet Union will emerge again. Eventually, there will be a realisation that nothing other than a Communist establishment can treat everyone equally and provide for food, health, opportunities and peace. They will take up the red flag they had thrown away once. There may not be another country or political establishment that was loved and admired by people like the Soviet Union. My dream is to be able to live in the Soviet Union again.”

(This is a translation of the original post in Malayalam done by my friend Nissar Adoor. He is getting it translated into Russian)

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Stressful lives of tech workers as they advance in age

Hello Guys,

I am doing some desk review about the issues of aging techies, their challenges in keeping themselves up-to-date, staying relevant in the organization etc. By and large, it deals with midlife crisis. Since I am totally naïve to this sector, I would be happy if any of you having experience in IT can come forward and help me to have a better understanding about life in an IT firm. Those who come forward will be troubled in between for the next three months over emails, not many, of course . I have no remuneration to offer 🙂

Please see the below link for more clarity on what I am trying to say.

http://www.businessinsider.in/An-inside-look-at-the-stressful-lives-of-tech-workers-over-age-50/articleshow/49785666.cms

Those who are willing can comment below. You can still maintain your anonymity and support me.

 

Thanks in advance!

A skeptic who is yet to make peace with marriage

elizabeth gilbert

Sometime during last year I happened to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ which talks about her soul-searching journey through Italy, India and Indonesia over a year after a devastating divorce. She spent time in Italy to eat and in India to seek before finding love again in a Brazilian businessman named Felipe in Bali, Indonesia. After a not-so-long period of courtship, Felipe and Liz swore their love for each other but decided never to get married as both of them had bitter divorces.
Since, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ was not really a bad read, I picked up its sequel, ‘Committed: A skeptic makes peace with marriage‘ which focused mainly on her ordeals with the US government that ended up in her marriage with Felipe as it was legally required for him to live with her in the US. She also talks, in the books, about the history and evolution of the institution called marriage while attempting to tackle her fears of the same. The bond of true compatibility that she found between herself and Felipe made her quite confident that they would make a wonderful couple.
After finishing the book this morning, I visited her Facebook page where I found a post about her commitment ceremony with her writer-girlfriend, Rayya Elias. She separated from Felipe, her husband for nine years, in July last year after she discovered her feelings for Elias, her best friend for more than a decade. She also informs her readers that the reason she’s going public with her and Elias’s relationship now is because Elias has been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer, which is incurable. She goes on, “I’m walking through this cancer journey with her, not only as her friend, but as her partner. I am exactly where I need to be — the only place I can be.”
While I wish all the best to Elizabeth Gilbert and Rayya Elias, I also realise that everything around love is beyond our comprehension and a bit complicated.
Here are some quotes from Eat, Pray and Love:
“It’s still two human beings trying to get along, so it’s going to be complicated. And love is always complicated. But humans must try to love each other. We must get our hearts broken sometimes. This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.” 
“A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”

അച്ചന്‍ മാത്രമല്ല, സഭയും ഒട്ടും മോശമല്ല; ഒരു വിശ്വാസിയുടെ തുറന്നുപറച്ചിലുകള്‍

kottiyoou

My take on the issue of a Catholic priest in Kerala being charged with sexual abuse after a 16-year-old girl delivered a baby in a private hospital at Kottiyoor in Kannur. My post on this issue was picked up by an online portal and it really went viral generating a lot of discussions around the issue and the systemic issues with the Church that lead to such scandals. Those who wish to read my story in Malayalam can follow the link given below:

http://www.azhimukham.com/catholic-priest-fr-robin-kottiyur-rape/

Those who can’t read Malayalam can get an idea about the issue from the following link http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2017/feb/28/priest-on-the-run-after-kerala-teen-delivers-baby-1575735.html

Rereading Mother

Logo_Madre_teresa

Some time during the year 2014, I got an opportunity to visit the Mother House in Kolkata. It was early morning.  The name plate at the main entrance showed that Mother Theresa MC is still in. The Chapel was almost empty after the morning mass. There were a few sisters and lay people immersed in silent prayer. I stood for a while near the simple tomb of Mother Theresa. For anyone who belong to my generation and had a Catholic upbringing, Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa were two prominent saintly figures we had been asked to looked up to. They were great friends and now enjoy sainthood together in the Church.
After returning from Kolkata, I reread the book ‘Mother Theresa’, which is her official autobiography written by Navin Chawla, a former Election Commissioner of India. It doesn’t matter whether you are a believer or not, this book often makes your eyes wet as it talks how God makes simple human beings His instruments.
I like Mother for two reasons. One is the respect she had given to human dignity. For those who lived in conditions unworthy of human dignity, she ensured a place at least to die in dignity. There are accusations that her missionaries converted all those dying souls into Christianity. Those who did not care for their brethren when they were alive, became concerned about their souls once they were no more. It is difficult to believe that Mother had such motives. Her compassion encompassed all religious persuasions and the irreligious and disbelievers as well. She once said,  ‘I do convert, I convert you to a better Hindu, a better Christian and a better Muslim or Jain or Buddhist.
The second reason for me to respect Mother is her absolute trust in Divine Providence. She is someone who lived like a lily in the field or a bird in the air without sowing or reaping or gathering into barns. Still, all that she needed for her mission had been provided. When it comes to the vow of poverty and a life of simplicity, she was not so far from St. Francis of Assisi who is considered as the epitome of poverty in the history of the Church. The only thing she had in abundance was faith, faith in her mission.
Mother had been instrumental in widening and deepening man’s knowledge and love of god and the hallmark of her work was respect for the individual and the individual’s worth and glory.
(Mother Theresa is going to be canonized as a saint today by the Roman Catholic Church)

Say ‘No’ to Free-Basics

Three full-page advertisement has been given by Facebook in today’s Times of India to appeal the citizens of India to support ‘free basics’. Why Zuckerberg is so desperate about it? Do we really think that we missed out something in the past just because free basics was not available? When we have everything in abundance at an affordable cost why should be confine ourselves to whatever Zuckerberg wants us to see or access?

There was a column by Zuckerberg on 28th Dec 2015 in the Times of India wherein he detailed the benefits of his free gift to the people of India. He says, for India to make progress, 1 billion people need to be connected to the internet. Do we think free access to Facebook, WhatsApp and some other useless websites will directly or indirectly reduce poverty in our land? If he is so concerned about pulling our people out of poverty, why can’t he give free access to the poor to wide, open and plural web?

Another argument of Zuckerberg is that many people in India cannot afford paid-internet services. This is absurd. People, even in our villages, really don’t find it so difficult to spend Rs.150/200 a month to get required 2G/3G data. Even if their other needs are compromised, they make sure that they stay connected 24/7. And, most importantly, they are free to access whatever sites or services they wish to.

Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik, in a letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) supporting net neutrality, said that “If you dictate what the poor should get, you take away their right to choose what they think is best for them. The airwaves and wireless spectrum of India belongs to its citizens. When the government sell it out to private telecom companies on certain terms and conditions, they should ensure that the rights and individual freedom of its citizens are protected.

Authoritarian governments worldwide, be it left, right or centre are trying to curtail people’s access to internet and information. Someway, all these attempts by Facebook and like-minded companies, help our government also to achieve their agenda i.e. to limit the citizens’ access to information. That is why such initiatives get relentless support from our government. As per my knowledge, the government has not yet produced the agreements between them and Facebook in the Supreme Court despite repeated reminders. It means something is rotten in the state of Denmark.freebasics

The Jungle Book

ആദ്യമായിട്ട് TV കാണുന്നത് കളത്തൂർ കൊച്ചപ്പച്ചൻ ചേട്ടന്റെ വീട്ടിൽ വച്ച് ആണെന്നാണ് ഓർമ. അന്ന് മുൻ പ്രധാനമന്ത്രി രാജീവ്ഗാന്ധിയുടെ മൃതസംസ്കാര ചടങ്ങുകൾ ദൂരദർശനിൽ തത്സമയം സംപ്രേക്ഷണം ചെയ്ത ദിവസമായിരുന്നു. പക്ഷെ നമ്മുടെ ഉദേശ്യം TV എന്ന സംഭവം ഒന്നടുത്തു കാണുക എന്നതായിരുന്നു. കുറച്ചു കാലം കഴിഞ്ഞ് പേരക്കതോട്ടം ജോസിയെട്ടന്റെ വീട്ടിൽ ഒരു BPL TV എത്തിയതോടെ ആണ് ഞങ്ങളുടെ TV കാണലിന്റെ വസന്തകാലം ആരംഭിക്കുന്നത്. ഏഷ്യാനെറ്റ്ഒക്കെ വരുന്നതിനു വളരെ മുന്പുള്ള ഒരു കാലം. ഞായറാഴ്ചകളിൽ ദൂരദർശനിൽവരുന്ന പഴയ ബ്ലാക്ക്ആൻഡ്വൈറ്റ് സിനിമകൾക്ക്വേണ്ടിയുള്ള ഓരോ ആഴ്ചയുടെ കാത്തിരിപ്പുകാലം.

ബ്ലാക്ക്ആൻഡ്വൈറ്റ് സിനിമകൾ മാറി പതിയെ കളർ സിനിമകൾ വന്നു തുടങ്ങി. ഇക്കാലതെപ്പോഴോ ആണ് ഞായറാഴ്ച സിനിമ കഴിഞ്ഞുള്ള അരമണിക്കൂർ നേരം Jungle Book സംപ്രേക്ഷണം ആരംഭിക്കുന്നത്. സിനിമയിൽ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്ന ഭ്രാന്ത്പതിയെ പോയി. മൌഗ്ലി, ബഗീര, ഷേർഖാൻ തുടങ്ങിയവരെ കാണാൻ വേണ്ടി ഞായറാഴ്ച സിനിമ ഒന്ന് തീര്ന്നു കിട്ടാനുള്ള അക്ഷമ നിറഞ്ഞ കാത്തിരിപ്പായി പിന്നെ. Jungle Book അങ്ങനെ എത്ര കാലം തുടർന്നു എന്ന ഓര്മ ക്രിത്യമായിട്ടില്ല. അത് കഴിഞ്ഞ കാലമായപ്പോഴേക്കും ഞങ്ങളുടെ ഭ്രാന്ത് അല്പ്പം ഒന്ന് കുറയുകയും TV നാട്ടിൽ കുറേക്കൂടി വ്യാപകമാവുകയും ചെയ്തു. ഏതായാലും ഞങ്ങളുടെ കുട്ടിക്കാലത്തിന്റെ ഓർമയിൽ jungle book അല്ലാതെ മറ്റൊരു കാര്ടൂനും ഇല്ല. അതിന്റെ title song ഒരു കാലത്തും മറക്കുകയും ഇല്ല.

ചെപ്പടിക്കുന്നിൽ ചിന്നി ചിണുങ്ങും ചക്കരപൂവേ

ചെന്നായ മമ്മീം അങ്കിൾ ബെഗീരേം തേടുന്നു നിന്നെ

കാടിൻ കുഞ്ഞേ നീയെന്തേ നാടും തേടി പോകുന്നു

മാനോടൊപ്പം ചാടുന്നു, മീനോടൊപ്പം നീന്തുന്നു……

ഇപ്പോൾ ഇതൊക്കെ എഴുതാൻ ഒരു കാരണം ഉണ്ട്. 1967 ഇൽ ഇറങ്ങിയ animated സിനിമയുടെ ഒരു കിടിലൻ live – action remake ഒരുങ്ങുന്നു, അതും 3D യിൽ. റിലീസിനായി അക്ഷമയോടെ കാത്തിരിക്കുന്നു…….