Wear Your T-shirt to Humanity

The other day my social activist friend said,” Come on we have to start doing something some where”.

“Where exactly do we start? Do you have an action plan”, I asked in a friendly voice, even though he would often term me,  in as unfriendly manner as possible, as a speed breaker.

“It is like this. We go and raise funds. Then we buy fifty thousand T shirts”.

Being a born skeptic, I asked, “T Shirts?”.

“I mean these will not be ordinary T shirts. We will get the slogan -Save Trees – printed boldly on both the front and back of the T shirts. If needed we will go for another fund raising to organise a grand function. We will invite a celebrity I know to inaugurate the T shirt”.

“Great”,   I said. “Why can’t we use the funds to plant trees. Directly. As simple as that”.

My friend was agitated. Annoyed. I could see the passion of social service burning in his eyes. “You people will never appreciate my subtle ideas. You will never understand. First it is important to educate people. You know, educate people. Create awareness. You know, create awareness”.

He went on and on till I surrendered. His idea was that writing ‘cigarette smoking is injuries to health’ was the only way to eradicate smoking from this earth once and for ever.

We are a people of symbols and gestures.  It is in our DNA. That is why events and campaigns about social ills start with a bang and fizzle out in a couple of months, till another grand even after a couple of months comes up to cover up for all our callousness.

Occasions like campaigning for swatchh bharat are great opportunities for schools to improve their brand value. It also provides an opportunity for the teachers and students to upgrade their social media status. You may clean something in the morning and by evening it is back to square one. That is why one should not make one’s hands dirty and preserve their cleanliness to to utilise for a fantastic selfie.

During those initial days of swatchh bharat mania, it was a usual sight to see a duo or trio of  school teachers  driving a herd  of school kids holding placards and shouting slogans. They also held brooms and stopped every now and then for selfies and photo ops. I was so much swayed by their enthusiasm I also joined them. (Not because one of the teachers was pretty, mind you). At the end of the rigorous ritual lasting for one hundred and twenty minute, each child and teacher, on an average, must have spent one hundred minutes in selfies and photo ops. One teacher confided in me, “There is strict instruction from the principal. The photos must be of good quality. This event will be a watershed one for our school magazine. We will also go for a press release”

Social media like whatsapp have created another brand of social activists. You can feel the fire in their fingers. They are experts in forwarded as received messages. They do no have even time to read the messages. Because in a day they have a set a target of 10, 000 messages to be forwarded. So, you cannot accuse them of not understanding the messages.  However, it makes them appear more humane than you are. They even threaten you and emotionally black mail you. “You must forward the message to hundred others, or else you are not a patriot/ your are not a human being / you do not love your mother and so on”.  By the way I have lost a couple of close old friends because I dared to exit from such non sense groups created by them to spread socially bullshit messages. On their part, such virtual activists are absolved of all the social responsibility that comes up with being actively associated with the issues on the ground.

In the ultimate analysis, it makes sense to wear your T shirt to humanity.  You might have erroneously and unintentionally (and very humanely, because to err is human) killed a couple of animals and human beings, but wearing a T shirt is regret enough to absolve you of all your sins, because now you appear more humane than your fellow human beings and animals who choose not to flaunt such a T shirt.

being gandu

image source: https://teespring.com/shop/beinggandu#pid=6&cid=619&sid=front


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Alone in the World of Technology?

After their adaptability to the mobiles, social media apps like Facebook have become a rage. On these very social media platforms quite often we get ‘forwarded as received messages ‘ ringing alarm bells as to how real relationships have taken a back seat as people spend more and more time on Facebook, Whatsapp etc. .

This week’s Indispire topic too raises questions linked to the above propagated fears. It says, “In this world so connected with technology, we have actually lost our real connections. Technology has actually surpassed human interactions. Real time conversations became texting and feelings became status updates…. “.

I am reminded of an often repeated theme in twentieth century Bollywood films. The hero would go to a foreign country for studies. When he comes back after twelve years  no body is able to recognize him. Sometimes, the story would take a ‘comedy of error’ twist.  Now you cannot present such a story to the present skype generation. It is a great loss to the Bollywood script writers.

Barring the above notional loss, I do not think there is any real cause for alarm. Rather three are reasons enough to rejoice.

We can look at it this way. Now we leverage technology to save a lot of time.  No more do we travel 20 kms to a railway station and stand in queue for two hours to book that vacation ticket. We do not have to visit a post office to send money or a letter or a telegram.  Some even do not go to office to their official job. This in turn gives us more time for creativity, productivity or have real life fun.

Even though my wife is very active on social media, she does not miss her daily quota of enlightening and philosophical  face to face conversations with her neighbours. Now there are more topics for discussion. Like, why her dress from Amazon cost more than her neighbour’s.

Jokes apart, now she is able to connect with her daughter in Switzerland on a daily basis almost at no extra cost. Sometimes during the video chat my daughter closes in on the dinner plate and they both cry. In a way it has deepened the feelings. Imagine how we would have interacted ten years back. Maybe once or twice a month a phone call. Or, an international mail. Hardly can our daughter be out of sight, to be out of mind.

There has been no let up in my face to face interactions with my family members, my neighbours and  my colleagues, even though I use technology a lot.  Now, due to these latest developments in communication technology, I am able to make connection with those with whom I would not have been able to do so if these latest developments were not there. In fact technology has helped me to connect more with real people, far and near.

Thanks to their status updates, now I feel being connected on a daily basis to hundreds of my school/college mates and ex- colleagues.  Many long lost friends have been found. Those who are nearby still come physically to express their feelings whenever the occasion demands.

The fear that the virtual world created by  technology has taken over the real world is over exaggerated. Especially in the case of India. Or else, every year you would not be seeing larger crowds at public events and holiday places with their friends and families.

In fact technology is providing me less and less excuses to be alone. The virtual reality provided by technology is only a medium. The people I interact with through this medium are real. Does not matter if they are far or near. And sometimes even if I have never met with them.

What about our blogging activity and our real time interactions over so many bloggers from India and outside?

Before the era of computers and BPO did you hear of someone earning a salary in one year, the equivalent of his father’s life time earnings in a private or government service?

Or the senior citizens (and the non-IT guys) attributing all the ills of present Bengaluru, including cost of living and heavy traffic jam, to ‘those IT guys’.

Well, that could be a kind of loss to those attached to the idea of good old Bangalore.

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