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A Challenge to Corporate ‘Raj’

By  Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

On June 15, the Anti-trust regulator in the UK announced it has opened a year-long probe into Google’s and Apple’s mobile ecosystems (iOS and Android) suspecting a possible stifling of competition.

Facebook is facing a challenge in the European Union on the issue of use of cookies to track users without their prior consent. Its user privacy infringement through use of cookies is in direct breach of EU data protection regulations.

Tik Tok is being sued by a Parents Group in the Netherlands for illegally accessing data on their children and compromising their privacy and safety. The UK similarly is suing the company over the use of data on millions of children.

India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has sought a report from Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram regarding posts on these sites offering illegal adoption of children tragically orphaned from the Corona pandemic. A Parliamentary Committee has asked Twitter to appear before it to discuss safeguarding of citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social media platforms.

Across the world, with misuse of social networking sites posing a threat not only to individual but also to national security, social media behemoths are at last facing extra scrutiny for everything ranging from mergers, acquisitions and monopoly behavior, to privacy and free speech infringement.

While other countries are recognizing and taking legal steps to counter the threat, the US has been slow to take off. Some experts and legislators here have questioned whether these social media platforms are fulfilling their obligation as neutral digital public forums.  Among them, liberals have expressed concern these sites are not doing enough to counter violent or false speech, while conservatives have argued that the platforms are unfairly restricting and banning public access to potentially valuable conservative speech.

Existing federal law does not offer recourse for users seeking to challenge a social media provider’s decision about whether and how to present a user’s content. Legal challenges to these sites remain largely unsuccessful absent federal law provisions that can make these private companies accountable for violating free speech.

Claims against social media companies are anyway barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity to social media providers, both for decisions to host content created by others, and for actions taken “voluntarily” and “in good faith” to restrict access to “objectionable” material. Those fine but ambiguous terms provide enough elbow room to the companies to act freely, even irresponsibly.

India’s challenge to the mighty Social Media Empire Raj has accelerated with Twitter losing the coveted “safe harbor” immunity over its failure to appoint statutory officers on the company’s roll in line with the new IT rules.

But unrest among users is growing with liberals complaining not enough is done to exclude harmful incendiary and hate content posted by conservatives, and the latter protesting the bias against conservatives of the almost wholly liberal Silicon Valley controlled media platforms that work against Republican Party and favor Democrats.

Trump, who had often spoken against Section 230, did issue an executive order directing the executive branch to ask independent rule-making agencies whether new regulations could be placed on the social media companies. But that symbolic order meant little, with Trump’s own access to the Twitter and Facebook platforms ironically getting blocked!

That these bans are more political than principled is clear from Facebook’s recently announced  decision to ensure Trump stays barred until slightly beyond the midterm elections at which point the company will revisit the ban’s extension. Only a fool would believe it will not be extended once again to prevent Trump from using his powerful internet potential to dislodge Biden. Hardly innocent, Facebook’s and Twitter’s actions clearly are a favor to Biden and Democrats.

While as Biden supporters we may welcome that outcome, regardless of our party affiliation, we should be horrified at the stranglehold placed by social media mandarins on public discourse and behavior. The selective use of banning in favor of one person, party, or cause is not only despicable but scary. That such unrestrained power of censorship can impact not only our politics and elections, but also destroy vital other sectors of our life such as public health, education, religious pursuit, and the economy, as was clearly demonstrated in the wake of the Corona pandemic, makes the threat to each of us personal.

As pressure intensifies for making these companies liable not only for third-party content posted on the platform but also for their biased interference with and manipulation of speech, it has finally provoked some Congressional action. Twitter and Facebook have been questioned in several Congressional committee hearings over their impartiality and excessive power to restrict free speech, and their ability to monopolize public discourse and commerce. Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill last June that would eliminate the Section 230 immunity unless tech companies submitted to an external audit certifying that their content moderation practices were politically neutral. But further progress is stalled on that and other legislative ventures due to difficulty in finding cross-party support.

Lobbyists meanwhile have aggressively sought to derail any attempt to legislate reform and placed a stranglehold on lawmakers by the corrupting power of money. Elected representatives and even bureaucrats in America in many cases depend directly or indirectly on the financial backing, charity, and goodwill of those powerful social media companies. If you dare to cross the imaginary and ambiguous red line they have arbitrarily set, you get cancelled, de-platformed, and de-funded.

At state level luckily, Florida’s Governor and legislative leaders have announced they intend to set new requirements for social media companies, including clearing the way for lawsuits and financial penalties against platforms that violate the requirements. The Texas Attorney General’s request to Twitter to explain their content guidelines is another example of state initiatives aimed at restraining social media platforms gaining momentum.

The discourse around Corona as we all noticed was and is heavily controlled, with the media platforms suspending or banning contrarian views on anything to do with Corona’s origins, diagnosis, therapeutics, and mitigation. By arbitrarily censoring whatever clashed with the versions advocated by the official infectious disease bureaucracy and scientists, they abused public trust. Worse, they likely colluded with the bureaucracy and the scientists to perpetuate one-sided discourse, as seen in the recently revealed email exchanges between National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Fauci and Facebook’s Zuckerberg.

After 18 months of highly manipulated information dissemination on Corona, as the Wuhan origin of the virus theory is becoming plausible, and some treatment therapies that were outlawed by the media companies as “Trump-speak” are beginning to be accepted as beneficial, there is ground not merely for recrimination but also monetary compensation for the socio-economic damages caused to the global community from excessive use of discretionary power and abuse of authority by the media.

President Biden’s appointment of Lina Khan, who has been a fierce critic of Big Tech’s market monopoly, to head the Federal Trade Commission is a promising development. But her impact is likely to be more on market fairness than on challenging suppression of free speech. (Photo courtesy AP)

Biden’s appointment of Lina Khan, who has been a fierce critic of Big Tech’s market monopoly, to head the Federal Trade Commission is a promising development. But her impact is likely to be more on market fairness than on challenging suppression of free speech. The same possibly is true of the multi-bill legislation introduced on June 10 2021 in the US House, which if passed would be the most daring Congressional venture to curtail the power of Amazon, Apple,  Facebook and Google over online commerce, information, and entertainment.

In contrast, India’s challenge to the mighty Social Media Empire Raj has accelerated with Twitter losing the coveted “safe harbor” immunity over its failure to appoint statutory officers on the company’s roll in line with the new IT rules. Its top executives, including the country managing director, could face police questioning and criminal liability under Indian Penal Code over ‘unlawful’ and ‘inflammatory’ content posted on the platform by any user.

One can imagine Google, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram etcetera facing a similar fate.

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Based in California, the published author contributes opeds and essays regularly to  The South Asian Times.

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The changing face of work post-pandemic

By Sidhi Jain

As the world of education and work makes a gradual recovery from the effects of COVID-19 pandemic, experts foresee the new trends and dramatic changes that will impact the careers of graduates who venture out in the market in 2021-22 onwards.

A new technology-driven focus, according to Marwadi University Provost Prof. Sandeep Sancheti, would emerge in the jobs that are likely to be in demand in the coming times. In the medical and health field, he lists some of these trending jobs to be: Health-care supporting staff like intake specialists, pharmacy technicians, and certified nursing assistants. This field also has roles such as mental health specialists and health and fitness coaches to be on the rise.

In the IT and Computer space, he foresees demand for data science specialists, data management analysts and data mining experts, along with artificial intelligence and machine learning engineers, user experience professionals like UI/UX design specialists, product design consultants, game developers, full stack developers and cloud engineers and architects, and cyber security experts.

“Among everything else, one thing is for sure, remote work is here to stay. The millennials and GenZ will be the trendsetters with Zoom and Google workspaces as the ruling platforms for remote work and the year 2021 will see more opportunities and prospects for dynamic and multi-tasking professionals with analytical, programming and marketing skills,” he says.

As per Dr Sandeep Shastri, Vice Chancellor, Jagran Lakecity University, the career trends currently being offered in the second decade of this century are the most diverse ever available in human history. The fields are demanding super specializations and individuals are training to fill the gaps.

“The digital revolution has shown its effects in the hospitality sector in the form of automation of a huge chunk of repetitive tasks. Public policy traditionally being a blend of political science, law and sociology now has added data analytics to the mix. In areas like accounting and finance, new and extended career roles are outsourcing services, big data analytics, fintech, artificial intelligence, cloud accounting and block chain technology. Post-Covid era brings huge job opportunities in financial institutions like stock exchanges, depositaries, stock broking firms and investment banks etc which are employing tech-savvy economists en masse,” he says.

Digital content creators like podcasters, bloggers, influencers, video creators, and voice-over artists will be in demand in the future.

According to Sahil Aggarwal, Co-Founder and CEO, Rishihood University, “with increasing options, access to information, and technological changes”, the current generation of students faces a different aspect of career growth.

Here are some tips on capitalizing on these career trends:

Entrepreneurial mindset
Employers are increasingly looking for employees who are self-driven. The best employees align with the company’s objectives, find new tasks, and work with teams to achieve. Those who work as if it is their own company are more likely to succeed than those who wait to be given a task list.

Interdisciplinary talent
Graduates who demonstrate an understanding of varied domains are appreciated more than those who are narrowly focused.

Creative potential
In a world changing so fast, successful companies are always creating new value for their customers. Employees who have creative potential are far more valuable than those who stick to the routine.

People skills
It is often repeated, and rightly so, that beyond a point, a person grows or stagnates based on how well one can work with others.

Learning to learn.
Once we stop learning, we are replaced by other humans or machines. The mindset of learning is key to succeed in the 21st century.

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Head of Sabri clan passes away

By Prakash Bhandari

Qawwali exponent Saeed Sabri, 86, died of cardiac arrest after a prolonged illness on Sunday. His elder son Farid had passed away recently from corona. Saeed led his sons Farid and Amin to perform and the group was known as Sabri Brothers.

A large number of people attended his burial in Jaipur to pay their homage to the great singer.

Saeed Sabri was head of the Sabri clan of Qawwali singers, who as a group performed both in public functions and at religious places and were also known for singing classical bhajans. They are a different clan from the Sabri Brothers of Karachi. However, both are of Chishti origin.

“We brothers learned the art of qawwali singing sitting at the feet of our father. He was an exponent of not only qawwali singing but also bhajan and we used to sing both in musical soirees,” said a sobbing Amin.

The Sabri Brothers became known for their high standards in qawwali singing, which is a dying art. After hearing them in a concert, showman Raj Kapoor had them sing for his film Heena. This number “Der Na Ho Jaye Kahin Der Na Ho Jaye” turned out to be a superhit.

Saeed Sabri  as the lead singer believed in judging the audience’s mood and believed in satisfying the popular demands of the listeners be it sufiana or ashiqana numbers.

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Eminent neurologist Dr Ashok Panagariya succumbs to Covid

By Prakash Bhandari in Jaipur

Internationally known neurologist Dr Ashok Panagariya of Jaipur passed away last  Friday. He died a few weeks after contracting corona that led to multiple organ problems.

Dr Panagariya, a former Principal of the famous Sawai Man Singh Medical College of Jaipur and a former Vice-Chancellor of  Rajasthan University of Health Services, was also an advisor to the Rajasthan government on health services. Former NITI Aayog chief and noted economist Dr Aravind Panagariya is his younger brother.

When Dr Ashok Panagariya was struggling for life in Jaipur’s Eternal Hospital, started by Dr Samin Sharma of  New York, the famed cardiologist sent his friend some life-saving drugs. Some US-based neurologists also sent medicines with the help of Prem Bhandari of Jaipur Foot.

Dr Pangariah was known for his exceptional knowledge about neurological disorders and its solution. He was a prolific writer on various medical-related and spiritualism-related subjects and his articles appeared in all the leading newspapers and magazines.In 2002, he was awarded the Dr B C Roy award by the Medical Council of India for his contribution to medicine and in 2014 he was awarded Padma Shri.

His death was mourned by PM Modi, Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra, and  Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

Memoir to be released posthumously

(Photo courtesy Bloomsbury)

Ashok Panagariya’s publisher will release his memoir, “Monk in a Merc”, on June 28. It will serve as a poignant reminder for anyone looking to achieve eternal happiness and mental peace while pursuing all of life’s luxuries, material wealth and professional success.

It will pull at the heartstrings because it asks questions like: Can we find happiness and attain mental peace without relinquishing our material goals? What if we could understand why we behave and act the way we do? How does our brain really trick us into many of the decisions we make every day? What if we could actually train our brain and improve our ability to lead a more meaningful life — not only for ourselves but also for society?

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Cracks in federal democracies – A threat to Indian and American survival as nations

By Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

Federalism refers to a form of government that is based on a relationship of parity and a constitutionally defined division of powers between two levels of government of equal status. Political thinkers view it as the best system for integrating diverse fiercely autonomous political, ethnic, class, religious, socio-cultural and other groups with competing interests, all of whom may have cause to fear control by an overly powerful center.

America’s 13 colonies deeming themselves as free independent nations opted for the federal form of government precisely to retain their parity vis-à-vis each other and with the federal government. India’s several hundred kingdoms and competing political entities and interests were similarly inspired (in some cases coerced) to do the same.  Both countries formulated and adopted a constitution that demarcates powers between the central or federal government and the governments of the constituent states.

In recent years, federalism seems to be under fire as the center and states in both countries are increasingly inclined to test the limits of their powers. Once formed, the evolution of federal nations suggests a gradual movement of power from the component states to the centre. Federal governments tend to acquire additional powers, mostly in response to unforeseen situations and emergencies.

Such appropriation of new powers by a federal government can occur through formal constitutional amendment or simply through a broadening of courts’ interpretation of a government’s existing  constitutional powers or by federal agencies through their regulatory powers.  The federal government in the US, for instance, chronically uses carrots and sticks to beat their counterparts in the states to fall in line with the federal mandated policies and programs. This leads to inevitable clashes and lawsuits challenging the validity of federal or state decisions and actions.

A most recent clash is seen in the Texas Governor deciding to build the wall on his state’s southern border in order to prevent illegal immigrants from entering or inhabiting his state. The Covid pandemic, and the risk of infection from unvaccinated or untested Covid infected immigrants, has enhanced the pressure on Governor Greg Abbott to keep them out, especially against President Biden’s failure to address the problem. With foreign relations and border security defined as strictly federal powers, whether the Texas Governor can ban, prevent or eject foreigners from illegally entering his state is a burning constitutional issue all set to be heard and settled by the highest court in America.

The pandemic has highlighted other disputed areas of delegation of powers, muddling the so far believed to be clear-cut constitutional boundaries between state and federal authority. As a result of political decisions by both state and federal elected officials on public health protection and reopening of economy including issues such as mask wearing, social distancing and socializing, participation in psychologically vital societal activities such as weddings, restaurants, sports, athletics, religious, and cultural entertainment gatherings, intra- and inter-state travel by land, sea or air, in each arena, state legislatures and governors are testing their authority vis-à-vis each other while also challenging the federal government’s exercise of power. Presidents such as Biden and Governors such as Newsom and Cuomo have assumed unprecedented rule-making power which directly contravenes the constitutionally provided authority to legislatures to do so.

In other cases, such as electoral laws, the US Congress is laying claim to regulatory power that normally rests with state legislatures and designated authorities. With renewal of threats to expand and pack the Supreme Court, even the judiciary’s autonomy is at stake. No wonder today’s American government looks different than originally contemplated by the nation’s founders.

In India, federal-state tensions are on the rise with the most dramatic exhibition of federal power over a state when the Modi Government in 2019 managed to successfully repeal Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that assigned special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and passed the J&K Reorganization Act, which dissolved the state and reorganized it into two separate union territories of Jammu and Kashmir. That political outrage storm had barely settled when Covid hit India enabling the Modi Government to appropriate several regulatory powers over national and state economic and public health policies. Enacted by the Modi Government are highly controversial laws such as those regulating citizenship and agriculture, which have added to the centre-state tension in India.

Testing the stability of Indian federation, a serious clash of wills occurred most recently between PM Modi and West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reportedly over the tenure of a civil servant who was serving as Chief Secretary of the state. He was due to retire but Modi extended his service by three months to ensure continuity in COVID control in the state. Such extensions are not unusual. A few days later with a terrible cyclone ravaging Odisha and West Bengal, Modi undertook an aerial survey during which period security regulation prevented Mamata’s helicopter from entering the aerial space. She therefore was not only unable to meet the PM on his arrival at a local airport, but showed up late at the meeting to discuss cyclone related needs with him. Those two failures were played up by vested interests as her rebuff to Modi. Worse, rather than engaging in a calm and cordial discussion, she reportedly declined to sit down, handed over a damage report to the PM, said a few words and presumably left to fly to another disaster location with her Chief Secretary tagging along.

Reportedly, while the PM did not overtly object, fury’s floodgates opened soon enough resulting in an immediate announcement of the Chief Secretary’s transfer to Delhi, on his very last day of service. Mamata retaliated by refusing to release the civil servant, an authority which Modi had similarly exercised as Gujarat’s Chief Minister!  Declining the 90 days’ extension of service given by the Centre, Mamata awarded the civil servant a three-year post-retirement term as her ‘Adviser’.

The Centre responded by issuing a notice under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act on the civil servant for “refusing to comply with the direction given by or on behalf of the Central Government”. The provision authorizes up to two years imprisonment of offenders. The step, while legal, is unprecedented and worse, it opens the floodgates for manipulation of civil servants out of spite. Observers are eager to see whether the firebrand Mamata will use the same power to imprison a central government official as part of her vendetta.

The petty incident has incendiary potential with Mamata already moving to call for an end to Modi’s regime for his many failings including undermining state autonomy on farming, public health, covid handling, and other administrative issues.

A most recent center vs state clash in America is seen in the Texas Governor deciding to build the wall on his state’s southern border in order to prevent illegal immigrants from entering or inhabiting his state. (Venn Diagram courtesy Word Press)

According to a retired civil servant, “The interesting question we have now is whether the Center expects IAS officers to defy the state government. The matter will soon move to the courts and the federal Constitution looks forward eagerly to a direction. Should officers serving states continue to be loyal to them? Or is it now legitimate for them to undercut the latter – whenever Delhi gets miffed with a chief minister? That is the crux of this battle.”

But the battle’s implications are surely widespread and grimmer. As skeptics of federalism have always believed and its doomsayers have predicted, increased regional autonomy or enhanced federal aggression are equally likely to lead to secession or dissolution of the federal nation.

Whether in the US or India, as the Constitution’s federal characteristics are being increasingly and constantly tested, the battling parties are called upon to ace those tests.

Failure is not an option as it could well mean a collapse of the Indian, or for that matter the American, state and nation as we know it.

 

.

The California based writer frequently contributes opeds and essays to The South Asian Times.

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Learn six Indian language basics with AR lenses

The Augmented Reality lenses help Snapchatters understand the basics of six Indian languages — Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu and Kannada. They combine augmented reality and machine learning to recognize over 1000 objects and translate their names to the language one is learning, in real-time, Snapchat said in a statement.

 

The new feature was launched to reinforce the company’s localization efforts in India to build locally and culturally relevant experiences, it said.

 

A member of the Snap Lens Network, Atit Kharel is a digital creator who created the ‘learn language’ lenses following his own passion for the multilingual Indian culture.

 

He comments: “I have always been fascinated by the cultural diversity in India and the range of languages spoken here. The idea behind these lenses was to make learning Indian languages fun and easy — especially for new learners. Augmented reality can be really entertaining and can make learning more interactive and accessible.”

 

The lenses are available on Snapchat by searching ‘Learn Bengali’, ‘Learn Telugu’, ‘Learn Kannada’, ‘Learn Hindi’, ‘Learn Marathi’, ‘Learn Punjabi’ or by scanning the Snapcode.

 

How to use these Lenses: Snapchatters have to point their cameras at an object to scan it, and the Lenses will simultaneously display, along with a phonetic transcription of the word to help with pronunciation.

 

In an effort to engage youth, Snapchat has previously released localized lenses, filters and stickers.

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READER FEEDBACK

I read your article titled ‘Kadha vs Pharma Cocktail’, which is timely and gives the real picture of what is happening in this jumbo-populated country of half-learned people – India.  Here people are blindly following anything western-styled, even blindly consuming modern medicines which they know have serious side effects. Most people live like foreigners in India.

 

The term ‘half-learned’ is not meant as the hopelessness of illiteracy, but to say some behave as half-filled pots and “blind”.  Even though people are brought up with a lot of values of Dinacharya, Sadvruttha, etc., in younger age, many turn a blind eye to those gems, embracing whatever comes from the West, in the veil of modernism and development.

 

Your article is direct, giving the real picture, which I very much liked. By reading your one article one is sure to get the understanding equal to many articles of others!  I liked the sentence that reminds us that modern doctors would not give these dangerous chemical pills to their loved ones but don’t mind giving it to patients.

 

Swami Ramdev has boldly embarked upon tying the bell around the cat’s neck. Describing Ramdev’s gradual emergence and how monstrous pharma goes on plundering the hard-earned money of the common people without remembering that health is a right of each person….you have rightly described the power of united common people’ s understanding…. Thanks for such wonderful writing!

 

Dr. Dinakara Dongre

Ayurvedic physician in Govt Hospital in Udupi, Karnataka

 

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The Mathematical Language of Magic

Everyday Ayurveda by Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya

Imagine a language that embeds its understanding of chemistry, astronomy, meteorology, botany, physiology, ecology and other sciences into the etymology of words. That language is Sanskrt. With layers and layers of subtle mathematical nuance in tone, cadence, and rhythm, Sanskrt is a language done well, meaning it has perfectly encompassed all knowledge into its techniques for producing sound.

It is also one of the only languages that integrated anatomy of the oral cavity with linguistics. Lessons in Sanskrit often begin with the stretching of the mouth muscles by hyper-pronouncing the ten plus five vowels. The alphabet is then arranged in the order of sound emerging from positioning at the back of the mouth (guttural) moving forward (velar, palatal, dental) to positioning at the lips (labial).

My mother would sit with the bright pink books of grammar—called pratham bhagditiya bhag and tritiya bhag—and a wooden spoon. With the spoon, she would mark exactly timed beats, called laya, and occasionally slap our palms if we lost focus or did not repeat after her properly. She would begin with the sounds emerging from the back of the tongue. Called guttural sounds, they are formed by squeezing the vocal cords and curling the tongue into a curve to make the sounds k and g. Aspirated with some force from the vocal cords, these sounds become kh and gh. These four form the first line of the Sanskrit alphabet.

Each subsequent line of the varnamala or Sanskrit alphabet was formed from sounds emerging from spots gradually further forward in the mouth. The second line uses the palatal region to make the sounds ch and jh. The third line is known as the cerebral or retroflex position. The dental position creates the sounds of the fourth line of the Sanskrit alphabet. The fifth line formed from the sounds of the tip of the tongue touching the lips lightly to make the sounds p and b is of labial sounds. Aspirated with some force from the vocal cords, these sounds become ph and bh. Along the right end of the first five lines are the corresponding nasals ong, ñ, n., n, and m. In addition, there are three s sounds, called sibilants, a palatal, a retroflex and lower dental. Then there are four semi-vowels, y, r, l, v and one aspirated empty sound, h.

The fourteen vowels were the toughest for the American tongues my younger sisters had. Regional variations in the way vowels are released also create differences in accents, interpretations and subtle meanings. Originally, my mother showed us the Bengali way for everyday use and then altered each slightly to unfold the Sanskrit pronunciation, which had an inexplicable resonance that no regional language can master. Chanting the Sanskrit varnamala also evoked some kind of change in the quality of the air around us.

It is said that meditative powers are invoked when Sanskrit is pronounced correctly. The power of mantra is enveloped in this adage. There are prayers that can align the Universe and unleash the great potential of sound into motion, just as a wave can create a tsunami.  All mantras, slokas, and stotras invoke this power. It is the gift of a parent to teach their children these sounds seamlessly in childhood, so that they carry these tools with them through their lifetimes. Chants can heal on subtle energy levels, when chemical medicines are slow.

But what do we do about regional variants, accents and other diversities in the expression of a language? Sanskrit tried to preserve the oral accuracy of sound by grounding it in the physical world from where the sounds were generated. When pronounced correctly, these letters give full exercise to the tongue and allow the mind to hear nuances of sound that are often not heard by monolingual speakers.

thesatime | The Southasian times

The South Asia Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2023 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House.   bhaswati@post.harvard.edu  | www.drbhaswati.com 

 

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The Anchor of the Mind is the Present Moment

by Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya

Many are mentally and emotionally unsettled these days, eyes awash in a list of 100,000 who have died in a sea of bad leadership on the same day 100,000 kadas are reported in a country where more were predicted to die.

The brain is unsettled with the injustice, the tragedy, and many bad decisions leaving us to pay the ultimate costs.  For some, it is too much.  The confused brain naturally tries to make sense of it, using its immense powers to push you into the future and imagine scenarios of bizarre proportions, then pull you back to the present where you feel heart palpitations and panic. A moment later, the brain with the same brilliance, pulls you into the past where memories of old traumas and wicked foes who plagued you race through, then pushes you back to the present where you feel your gut churn and the shadows of depression.

Why does the brain do this to you? In its sworn duty to protect you, it works with the tools it has. If you were grown up in an environment of forgiveness and collaboration, one in which higher powers played a role, you did not learn to hang on to the past or wait wistfully for the future.

But if you were grown up in an environment of accountability, in which each wrong step or less than perfect placement of the foot was punished or taunted, you learned to recount what you did that led to the reprimand.  Many grow up playing long-gone moments over and over in their mind, utilizing the blessing of a powerful memory toward self-punishment. Some use their memories to reinforce the teaching that we should be punished for misguided actions.  Why?

The fear of punishment arises when we cannot connect that punishment to love from someone who cares for us and wants us to improve for our own betterment. If the punishment seems insulting and disconnected from love, the young mind’s instinct is to fear abandonment. It creates a hypervigilance, in which it jumps to past and future, anticipating pain and imagining new strategies for escape, remembering past action-punishment sequences. The mind gets cluttered with imaginary future tortures.

To step off the carousel of this cycle of repeated memories and anticipated agony, train yourself to stay in the present. Reframe any past events as lessons.

What is the lesson you are supposed to learn from difficult colleagues, abusive bosses or partners, unmanageable children, selfish family members, or inconsiderate neighbors? Make a list of everyone in your world with whom you cannot have easy conversations, where you feel on defense.

See each of them as lessons.  What is their presence in your life supposed to teach you? Do you have compassion for the less able? Can you forgive people who are not smart, who are more selfish or lazy than you? Do you resent people who make you spend time in ways you do not like? Do you have issues with people who waste money, especially your money? What is your attitude toward someone who has different priorities for life? How do you feel about people who have perspectives you do not understand? These people may simply be in your life to teach you lessons about yourself and how to evolve into a more compassionate, forgiving person. Learn the lesson, and often the person disappears from your life!

Step away from the interpretations and judgments of the outside world. Wise ancestors advise us to travel inward for answers and seek connection with deeper truths. The lessons of each encounter will reveal themselves to you when you stop seeing the person as a negative influence and reduce their importance. The Universe will reach in and leave you a nugget of wisdom on why the person was in your life.

Anchor yourself on the lessons and experiences that life is giving you, and allow all the instruments of the teachings to fall back into the past.

thesatime | The Southasian times

The South Asia Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2023 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House.   bhaswati@post.harvard.edu  | www.drbhaswati.com 

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