The Tibetan Refugee Dilemma & Impact on the Sub continent (A Research Design)

Research Problem: Is there a difference in attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, core values, International political affiliations, assimilation and perceptions; as also mental well being, stress and health issues, between those Tibetans who emigrated to India in the ‘first wave’ (1959-1980), ‘second wave’ (1980 – 1996) and ‘third wave’ (1996 – Current)

Research Proposal: The current research design is a mere framework for conducting a ‘pilot study’ & subsequent research & detailed analysis; to determine the best long-term solutions to existing problems or potential problems with respect to the issues raised in the research problem.

Justification: The above study is essential for devising a pragmatic and realistic solution to the contentious ‘Tibetan refugee problem’ for the concerned parties, i.e. the People of Tibetan Origin in exile in India, and the Indian Government.

Objective: To determine whether there are ideological differences among first wave, second wave and third wave Tibetan emigrants; possible threats to internal harmony within the Tibetan community; subsequent internal law and order problems within India; as also possible National Security threats to the Indian State.

Hypotheses:

1) The 3rdwave of Tibetan emigrants face greater social & cultural difficulties in assimilating/integrating into the existing Tibetan refugee community/Diaspora, as also into the general Indian environment.

2) The possibility (however remote) of 3rd wave emigrants gravitating towards China and Chinese culture, rather than their own cultural roots, heritage and lineage

  • [China has undertaken various forms of ‘re-education’ programmes (often brutal) for Tibetans in TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region)]
  • [Most 3rd wave emigrants comprise of children and pre-teens, sent to India to attend Tibetan cultural schools, with the tacit approval of the Chinese government]

3) The possibility of the development of fault lines within the Tibetan community in exile within India. These ruptures within the Tibetan community could pose serious National security concerns to the Indian State (exacerbated for instance by the infiltration of Chinese agents as Tibetan refugees)

Note: The above hypotheses is only meant to act as a contextual framework for a subsequent pilot study, full-scale detailed research study and analysis (since the purpose of such a study would then be hypothesis testing), based on the preliminary data collated.

Literature Review: The following online articles were perused by the author for formulating this research design.

  1. http://tibet.net/about-tibet/issues-facing-tibet-today/
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refugees_in_India
  3. http://www.tibetjustice.org/reports/stateless-nationals-ii/stateless-nationals-ii.pdf
  4. http://lhakardiaries.com/2013/10/02/non-refugee-refugees-tibetans-struggles-for-visibility-in-bureaucratic-india/
  5. https://www.savetibet.org/resources/all-about-tibet/the-issues/
  6. https://www.du.edu/korbel/hrhw/researchdigest/minority/Tibetan.pdf
  7. http://www.tibetanpoliticalreview.org/articles/tibetansinindiathecaseforcitizenship

 

Method: Exploratory and Descriptive Research.

Methodology: Mixed Method Research (Qualitative, Quantitative, and Comparative)

Sampling Techniques: Mixed Sampling Techniques (Snowball and Accidental sampling)

Data: Primary Data

Total Universe/Population: 120,000 units spread over the Indian States of J&K, H.P, and Karnataka

Study Population: 10, 470 (Mcleodganj, H.P)

Sample Size(S):2000 (A small sample size should be given logistical & resource considerations)

S1: (Respondents who are a part of 1st and 2nd wave emigrants)

S2: (Respondents who are a part of 3rd wave emigrants)

Data Collection Techniques:

  • Qualitative Interviews
  • Questionnaire(mix of open ended, close ended and multiple response options)
  • Questionnaire for quantitative assessment

 

Discussion:

  • Sampling Strategy
  1. Since the sample is to comprise of individuals living in exile, snowball and accidental sampling techniques are the most appropriate. Using these techniques would avoid causing discomfort to the respondents.
  2. Although systematic random and non random sampling techniques to ensure greater representation of the population can been used (since a population list for 1st wave, 2nd wave and 3rd wave emigrants, as also unit residential addresses can be obtained from the Central Tibetan Administration Office at Mcleodganj, using such techniques, would in all probability elicit a low response rate, given the sensitivity of the study
  3. To avoid selection bias, multiple entry points into the community should be used (at least 5). Initial ‘contact points’ can be Tibetans born and raised in India.
  4. Representativeness can subsequently be improved by increasing the sample size or with quotas.
  • Instruments

Qualitative one on one interview with respondents should be undertaken to determine and document their experience in India as a part of an exiled community

A questionnaire should be framed that contains a mix of open-ended, close ended and multiple response option questions to assess the respondent’s level of comfort in India, as also overall integration and settlement within the existing Tibetan Diaspora in India.

Questions could be framed along the lines of –

  • When did you immigrate to India?

1959 – 1980 □   1980 – 1996 □     1996 – 2015 □

  • When and where were you born?

 

  • What is your gender?

M □      F □     Transgender □

  • How old are you?

 

  • What kind of personal problems have you faced after relocating to India?

 

  • What are your concerns?

 

  • Would you like the Government of India to accord a formal refugee status to Tibetans?

 

Yes □         No □         Not sure □

 

  • What is your opinion of Indian movies?

 

  • What is your take on India as a soft power?

 

  • What is your take on India as an emerging regional power?

 

  • What do you think should be done to empower Tibetans within India?

 

  • Do you think that the International community should take a more proactive stance in favour of Tibetan Independence?

 

Strongly Agree □   Agree □  Disagree □  Strongly Disagree □  Neutral □

 

  • Do you think that Tibet should be given autonomous region status by the world community?

 

Strongly Agree □   Agree □  Disagree □  Strongly Disagree □  Neutral □

 

  • Do you think that Tibet should integrate with mainland China?

 

Strongly Agree □   Agree □  Disagree □  Strongly Disagree □  Neutral □

  • Can you speak Mandarin?

Yes □      No □

  • Do you like to watch Chinese movies and hear Chinese music?

Yes □     No □    Neutral □

  • Can you speak and write in Tibetan?

Yes □    No □

  • Do you believe in Tibetan Bon or Buddhist philosophy and teachings?

Yes □    No □    Can’t say □

  • Are you an atheist?

Yes □   No □

  • You take pride in your Tibetan heritage and lineage

Strongly Agree □   Agree □ Disagree □ Strongly Disagree □ Neutral □

  • Do you think that China should end its occupation of Tibet?

Strongly Agree □   Agree □ Disagree □ Strongly Disagree □ Neutral □

  • Can you understand and speak in Hindi?

Somewhat □ Reasonably Well □ Extremely Well □ Fluently □ No □

  • What do you like about India and Indians?

 

  • What do you dislike about India and Indians?

 

  • If given an opportunity, would you join RAW?

Yes □    No □   Not sure □

  • What do you think of Chinese foreign policies visa via India and other neighboring countries?

 

  • Do you think that the UNSC and G7 nations should pressurize China with respect to Tibet?

Strongly Agree □   Agree □ Disagree □ Strongly Disagree □ Neutral □

  • Do you think that the WTO can take measures against China? If so, what kind of measures would you recommend.

 

  • What is your take on terrorism?

 

  • Do you believe in the adage, ‘One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’?

 

  • Do you agree with the Dalai Lama’s statement that ‘ Tibet will eventually have no choice but to integrate with China’

Yes □    No □   can’t say □

The above and similarly framed questions can be subject to qualitative analysis and interpretation.

For a quantitative assessment of mental well being, stress, and health issues, the following questionnaire type may be framed:-

  • Kessler Psychological Distress Scale:A K10 assessment scale can be used –
  1. During the last 30 days, about how often did you feel tired out for no good reason?

None of the time b) A little of the time c) Some of the time d)  Most of the time

e) All the time

  1. During the last 30 days, about how often did you feel nervous?

 

None of the time b) A little of the time c) Some of the time d)Most of the time

e)  All of the time

  1. During the last 30 days, about how often did you feel so nervous that nothing could calm you down?

None of the time b) A little of the time c) Some of the time d) Most of the time

e) All of the time

4.      During the last 30 days, about how often did you feel hopeless?

a) None of the time b) A little of the time c) Some of the time d) Most of the time

e) All of the time

  1. During the last 30 days, about how often did you feel restless or fidgety?

None of the time b) A little of the time c) Some of the time d) Most of the time

e)  All the time

  1. During the last 30 days, about how often did you feel so restless you could not sit still?

a) None of the time b) A little of the time c) Some of the time d) Most of the time

e) All the time

  1. During the last 30 days, about how often did you feel depressed?

a) None of the time b) A little of the time c) Some of the time d) Most of the time

e) All of the time

  1. During the last 30 days, about how often did you feel that everything was an effort?

a) None of the time b) A little of the time c) Some of the time d) Most of the time

e) All of the time

  1. During the last 30 days, about how often did you feel so sad that nothing could cheer you up?

a) None of the time b) A little of the time c) Some of the time d) Most of the time

e) All of the time

  1. During the last 30 days, about how often did you feel worthless?

a) None of the time b) A little of the time c) Some of the time d) Most of the time

e) All of the time

How to Interpret this scale –

This scale is a measure of psychological distress. The numbers attached to the respondent’s 10 responses (each response carrying a score of 5) are added up and the total score is the score on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). Scores will range from 10 to 50. People who –

* Score under 20 are likely to be well

* Score 20-24 are likely to have a mild mental disorder

* Score 25-29 are likely to have moderate mental disorder

* Score 30 and over are likely to have a severe mental disorder

Further, a General Perceived Self Efficacy Scale (GPSE) and a Personal Well Being Index (PWI) analysis may be conducted for psychometric assessment of the respondents

Focus Group interviews may also be used.

Sorting the Data & Inferences

Once the sample size of 2000 (S1 and S2) has been met, the data obtained through the questionnaires, interviews and psychometric tests, may be categorized into two groups/quotas – Group S1 & Group S2:

Group S1 – 1st and 2nd wave emigrants

Group S2– 3rd wave emigrants

To ensure uniformity, avoid data getting skewed and over representativeness of the sample, an equal number of respondents from Group S1 (1000) and Group S2 (1000) should be included in the sample as a quota.

Once the quota (1000 for Group S1 & 1000 for Group S2) has been met, qualitative techniques may be applied for interpretation of qualitative data

Depending upon the nature of the hypotheses and requirements of hypothesis testing, quantitative data may be analyzed through statistical software such as STATA, SPSS OR SAS. For instance a ‘Chi Square Fitness test’ may be conducted.

The results obtained from the two groups may then be compared.

Conclusions & Suggestions: Depending on the results obtained and their interpretation, a more comprehensive research study may be then be undertaken for –

  1. Evaluating and tracking potential elements that may pose a subsequent National security threat.
  2. Conceptualizing preemptive measures to deal with a disruptive crisis that may arise.
  3. Gathering information on the varied problems (health concerns, employment, citizenship, right to property, business ownership etc.) being faced by the Tibetan community and the devising of appropriate and feasible solutions thereof.
  4. Gathering information on current sources of positive and negative influences, as well as, stress in the lives of Tibetans.
  5. Improving upon the existing refugee camp administrative infrastructure.
  6. Finding an appropriate solution to the legal status ‘gridlock’ of Tibetans in India.

Notes:

  1. Respondents must be over 18 years of age.
  2. Care must be taken to have a proportionate number of male and female respondents.
  3. Tibetans of Indian birth, community leaders, key informants, and interpreters (if required) may be used as snowball initiation points.
  4. Gate keeping bias must be mitigated.
  5. Participants must be engaged with in an unhurried manner.

 

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Mobile & Smart Phone Use Habits of Urban School Going Preteens – A Research Design cum Report

Abstract

This study was an attempt to shed a cursory light on the mobile and smart phone general use habits of school going urban children between the ages Nine to Twelve. As per an IMAI-IMRB report, 60% of internet users in India, currently access the internet through their smart phones (pegged at 314 million as of 2017). The adoption of mobile Internet has fueled Internet penetration in the country, with children increasingly accessing the Internet via mobile and smart phone.

The study used purposive & random sampling techniques to obtain a representative sample of 96 respondents.  It was aimed at determining mobile & smart phone general use habits of preteens belonging to different social classes, school grade, and gender. The study involved the analysis of both primary and secondary data.

Microsoft Excel and SPSS packages were used for the analysis and interpretation of data. A quantitative technique of data collection involving a semi-structured questionnaire was used.

As the target sample was children, questions were kept simple to ensure a high response rate. The research study was exploratory, quantitative and descriptive. Children studying at a Government & Public school respectively were selected.

Criterion variables were used for the analysis of data.

Conclusion: There was no statistically significant difference between girls and boys belonging to different ages and social classes in their general use of mobile & smart phones. The general habits of children between the ages 9-12 in their use of mobile/smart phones are uniform and not significantly affected by demographic or socio-economic variables.

Introduction

The Age of Dot com

The Internet has ushered in a communication revolution with an impact on all facets of life, radically changing the way human beings interact and communicate with one another. It has resulted in a profound change in our perceptions of communication, altered the dynamics of existing business models, paved the way for e-commerce, impacted all of Industry, conceptualized new models for education (e-learning and m-learning) and facilitated ease of information and access to knowledge.

95 percent of all information existing on the planet is digitized and available on the World Wide Web (Hilbert & Lopez, 2011, Science). The birth of a ‘networked society’, a virtual reality that facilitates real life work and urban living, has caused a tectonic shift in the social, technological, economic and political landscape.

The multi modal dimension of the internet has altered established power equations empowering people on a scale unprecedented in human history. It has increased individuation and cultural freedom and led to the establishment of social autonomy.

A consequent of the Internet and digital revolution has been the integration and development of technologies and devices that incorporate the World Wide Web and the Internet, for instance Tablets and Note pads, Mobile and Smart phones.

Children as Active Consumers

Across the globe, there is an upward trend towards the use of smart and mobile phones for accessing the internet, not only by adults but by children as well who are increasingly turning to mobile, smart phones and other PDAs to surf the Internet.

Tweens in the U.S spend on an average six hours per day consuming media out of which four and a half hours of media consumption is through mobile and smart phones (CNN Report, 2015). The Net Children Go Mobile Survey Project, surveyed 3500 children in the U.K, reporting that 56% of children aged 9 to 16, accessed the internet through their mobile phones

India is no exception to this trend. As Internet penetration spreads in the country, the number of Internet users shall increase proportionately. Children are expected to form a substantial part of the consumer base, with mobile and smart phones increasingly becoming the preferred devices for Internet access.

As of 2017, the number of Indian children online is 314 million (Telenor Report)

Statement of the Problem/Research Question

 The problem under study is stated as “What are the general, smart and mobile phone usage habits of school going urban children aged 9 to 12”?

Definitions of Key Terms Used

General of, relating to, or affecting all the people or things in a group: involving or including many or most people (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Use/Usage the act of using something; the way that something is used; the amount of something that is used (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Habits – a usual way of behaving: something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way    (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Tweens/preteens – Child nearing puberty (approx. ages; 8 to 12) (Cambridge Dictionary)

Generation Z(iGeneration, Post-Millennials, Centennials, or Plurals) are the cohort of people born after the Millennials. The generation is generally defined with birth years ranging from the mid to late 1990s through the 2010s or alternately ranging from the early 2000s through the early 2020s (Wikipedia)

 Limitations (Gaps in this research study)

  • This study seeks to provide only a helicopter view and hence the inferences drawn do not provide any conclusive evidence as to emerging social characteristics/trends among young children in their use of mobile and smart phones.
  • The findings are based upon research conducted in Noida (a satellite township of New Delhi) and thus cannot be generalized to other metropolitan areas due to socio-cultural diversity and contextual factors.
  • A panel/longitudinal survey needs to be undertaken periodically since mobile and smart phone usage habits among children are bound to keep changing with time.
  • This study did not look into the psychological/adverse health impact (on children) of use of mobile and smart phones, as the author is not a trained psychologist or health professional

Instrument Reliability:  Analysis of responses pertaining to decision/criterion variables resulted in a CronBach Aplha value < .70. Analysis of all responses resulted in CronBach Alpha value >.70

Literature Review

Literature review in the concerned field was of immense importance in locating the research problem. The findings of the previous studies helped in providing direction as to what method, hypothesis and generalizations were to be made.

The author perused studies conducted in India and abroad on smart phone and mobile phone usage by children. The sources of related literature review are dissertations (Shodhganga), theses, periodicals, journals, The Educational Resource and Information centre (ERIC) and Wikipedia. In addition, since accessing Internet via mobile and smart phones finds mention, the researcher perused research studies related to the research problem/statement on the World Wide Web.

Studies on smart and mobile phone use by children

 NCGMUK Report[1]

A Comparative Report on Mobile and Smart Phone Usage and Internet  Access by Children in   Europe

Name of Researchers – Sonia Livingstone, Leslie Haddon, Jane Vincent,

Giovanna Mascheroni & Kjartan Ólafsson

Name of Organization/s – Net Children Go Mobile & EU Kids Online

Report/Study – UK findings regarding children’s online access through PDA’s, mobile and smart phones; opportunities, risks and parental mediation

Sampling Techniques – Stratified Random Sampling

Sample Size – 3500 children and adolescents (9 – 16 yrs)

Geographical Area – 7 countries; Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania & UK

GSMA 2014 Report[2]:

                                              Children’s Use of Mobile Phones

Name of Organization/s – GSMA & NT DOCOMO

Report/Study –   A comprehensive report by GSMA in collaboration with NTT

             DOCOMO determining the mobile phone habits of children

Sampling Techniques – Random Stratified Sampling

Sample Size – 4500 children (9-16 years)

Geographical Area – UK, Denmark, Italy, Romania, Ireland, Portugal, Belgium & Japan

Methodology – Descriptive, Quantitative Research

Always Connected Report[3]

                                   The New Digital Habits of Young Children

Name of Researchers – Aviva Lucas Gutnick, Michael Robb, Lori Takeuchi & Jennifer Kotler

Name of Organization – The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Seasame Workshop

Report/ Study – A comparative review study determining the changing digital habits of young children

Geographical Area – The continental United States of America

Methodology – Descriptive Content Analysis

BSA’s Report:[4]

                                                 Children’s Media Use Study

 Name of Organization/s – NZ on Air and Broadcasting Standards Authority

Report/Study –   An in depth Comparative Study of Media Consumption by Children

Sampling Techniques – Stratified Random Sampling Techniques (Region-wise)

Geographical Area – New Zealand

Sample Size – 708 households

Sample Weight – Final sample was pre-weighted by household size, and post-weighted by age, gender, ethnicity and, day of a week to ensure the sample is representative.

Methodology – Descriptive, Mixed – Method Research

Ofcom Report[5]

                                         Children and Parents: Media Use & Attitudes

 Name of Organization – Ofcom

 Report/Study – A detailed study on children and parents media literacy, change in use and    attitudes spanning 10 years (2005 – 2015)

Sampling Techniques – Random Sampling

 Sample Size – 17,600

Geographical Area – U.K

Methodology – Quantitative Tracking Survey

Common Sense White Paper[6]

The Impact of the Mobile Explosion on America’s Kids, Families & Schools

Name of Organization – Common Sense Media

Study – A Brief Paper on the Impact of Mobile and Smart Phones on American Kids,   Families and School Teachers

Research Methodology

Variables in the Study

Demographic Variables – The demographic variables are Age, Gender and Type of School.

Criterion Variables – The decision factor was based on use of mobile/smart phones by sample respondents (apart from calling), to determine their general usage habits with respect to mobile/smart phones.

The criterion variables were –

  1. Time spent playing games on an average using a mobile/smart phone.
  2. Access of the Internet via a mobile/smart phone.
  3. Viewing videos & hearing music on a mobile/smart phone.
  4. Type of video content viewed.
  5. SMS habits

Research Design

This study was undertaken with the intention of finding out the general habits of school going children, specifically tweens, in their use of mobile/smart phones. Hence, descriptive quantitative survey research was used. The sample obtained was divided into equal proportions, 50% of the respondents representing a Government school and 50% respondents representing a Public school. Each set of respondents was then divided equally into male and female categories among 4 age groups. For quantitative assessment, male and female categories were coded, as were the schools.

Code –

                          Gender                     Numeric Value
                           Male                                       1
                          Female                                       2
              School   Numeric   Value
Government Schools 1
Public Schools 2

Numeric values were allotted to the response options for the one qualitative question.

                 Response Option                      Numeric Value
                   Movies                                   1
                   Music                                   2
                   Comedy Shows                                   3
                   Cartoons                                   4
                   Miscellaneous

The data was fed into two Excel sheets, one sheet representing a ‘Code Book’ and another sheet representing the ‘Data Set’.

Excel Work Sheet 1 –

Contained questions and responses by male and females in each age group of the schools

f1 = Age Group

f2 = Gender

f3= Type of School

Excel Work Sheet 2 –

Data Set containing questions and the responses. To determine the general usage habits, relevant questions and their responses were categorized on the basis of school type.

Questions that were unanswered were categorized as N/A and given a value of 0. They were not included for analysis.

In questions containing multiple response options, the count of each option for a particular question (not ticked against) for each age category, either as total sample response or response by boys and girls as per school type) were given a value of zero. They were included for analysis.

Schools

Public School: Lord Mahavira Public School (Sector 29, Noida, Gautama Buddh Nagar)

Government School: Junior High School, Harola (Sector 4, Noida, Gautama Buddh Nagar)

Sampling Technique

 A combination of Purposive and Random Sampling Techniques were employed.

Purposive sampling techniques were used to determine the schools.

Four age groups (9, 10, 11 and 12 years of age) and the above schools were selected within a metropolitan area for economic and social inclusivity of the respondents –

  • The Government School catered to children belonging to the lower economic strata of society.
  • The Public School catered to children belonging to the middle and upper economic strata of society.

Random sampling technique was employed for distributing the questionnaire among both genders of the 4 age groups in both the schools.

Population Size – 240 children

Sample Size – 96 children

 Measuring Instrument

 A semi-structured questionnaire containing 18 closed questions and 1 open question was used.

The questions were deliberately kept simple to ensure an adequate response rate. Different questions had different response options. The response options were numerically coded. A maximum of 6 response options were given and a minimum of 2 response options.

Code –

            Option  Numerical Value
                1                1
                2                 2
                3                 3
                4                4
                5                5
                6                6

The questionnaire was administered to the sampled respondents. The responses were collected and subject to statistical procedures using Excel and SPSS package.

Data Collection Procedure

Data was collected through direct administration of the questionnaire to respondents. The researcher had the opportunity to explain the purpose of the research, give instructions and answer any queries. The researcher had sought permission from the principals of the schools, prior to data collection, to enter the school premises and interact with the respondents. The researcher subsequently acquired data from the schools for which he was granted permission to do so. Data was collected in class room settings. Students were asked to tick against the most appropriate option and fill out their response for the qualitative question. The researcher assured the school authorities that the data collected would be used only for research purposes. On completion, the researcher collected the questionnaires from the respondents.

Statistical Techniques Employed

The collected data was analyzed keeping in mind the objectives and the research design of the study. The data was analyzed using –

  1. Excel Package: Excel was used for graphical analysis of the data.
  2. SPSS Package: Descriptive statistics were applied to select questions to describe the nature of the data. Further, student’s t-test was applied to specific inputs (via the research instrument) to determine whether there was any significant difference in the mobile/smart phone usage habits of children studying in Government and Public schools, as also whether there was a significant difference between the habits of boys and girls within the age group studying in the same school.
  3. Level of Significance: A significance level with α = 0.05 was considered.

Data Analysis

1.1Total Number of Respondents Who use a Smart/Mobile phone AND

1.2. Total Number of Respondents who do not Use a Smart/Mobile Phone

Result: An overwhelming majority of school children belonging to both schools in the age category sampled use a mobile/smart phone.

2. Daily Use of a Mobile/Smart Phone by All Respondents

Result: The majority of school children belonging to both the schools in the age category sampled use their mobile/smart phones every day.

3.Usage of Mobile/Smart Phone as per ‘Day’ breakup by all respondents

Result: The majority of school children belonging to both schools in the age category sampled use their mobile/smart phones in the night.

4. Number of respondents playing games on smart/mobile phones

Results:

  • 100% of the total number of government school children sampled in the 4 age categories plays games on their mobile/smart phones.
  • 75% of the respondents studying at a public school aged 9 play video games, while 25% do not.
  • 33% of the respondents studying at a public school aged 10 and 11 play video games, while 16.67% do not.
  • 67% of the respondents studying at a public school aged 12 play video games, while 8.33% do not.

6. Time Spent on Playing Games on a smart/mobile phone everyday

Results:

  • 66 % of government school children aged 9 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 30 minutes
  • 25% of government school children aged 9 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 45-60 minutes
  • 67% of government school children aged 9 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 60 minutes
  • 33% of government school children aged 9 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 120 minutes and over.
  • 33% of government school children aged 10 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 30 to 60 minutes
  • 67% of government school children aged 10 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 60 to 120 minutes.
  • 0% of government school children aged 10 play games on their mobile/smart phones for more than 120 minutes.
  •  67% of government school children aged 11 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 30 minutes
  • 67% of government school children aged 11 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 45 to 60 minutes.
  • 0% of government school children aged 11 play games on their mobile/smart phones over 60 minutes.
  • 91% of government school children aged 12 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 30 minutes
  • 33% government school children aged 12 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 45 to 60 minutes.
  • 0% government school children aged 12 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 60 minutes; and over33% of public school children aged 9 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 30 minutes.
  • 25% of public school children aged 9 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • 0% of public school children aged 9 play games on their mobile/smart phones for 120 minutes.
  • 67% of public school children aged 9 play games on their mobile/smart

phones for more than 120 minutes.

  • 33% of public school children aged 10 play games on their mobile/smart

phones for 30 to 60 minutes.

  • 67% of public school children aged 10 play games on their mobile/smart

phones for 60 minutes.

  • 33% of public school children aged 10 play games on their mobile/smart

phones for 120 minutes.

  • 0% of public school children aged 10 play games on their mobile/smart

phones for more than120 minutes.

  • 33% of public school children aged 11 play games on their mobile/smart for 30 minutes.
  • 50% of public school children aged 11 play games on their mobile/smart for 45 to 60 minutes.
  • 67% of public school children aged 11 play games on their mobile/smart for 60 minutes.
  • 33% of public school children aged 11 play games on their mobile/smart for 120 minutes.
  • 0% of public school children aged 11 play games on their mobile/smart for more than120 minutes.
  • 67% of public school children aged 12 play games on their mobile/smart phone for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • 33% of public school children aged 12 play games on their mobile/smart phone for 60 minutes.
  • 50 % of public school children aged 12 play games on their mobile/smart phone for 120 minutes.
  • 0% of public school children aged 12 play games on their mobile/smart phone for more than 120 minutes.
  1. Access to the Internet via a smart/mobile phone

Results:

  • 58% of government school children aged 9 to 11 accessed the Internet using their mobile/smart phones, while 66% of 12 year olds did so.
  • 7 % of government school children aged 9 to 11 and 33% 12s’ old did not access the Internet using their mobile/smart phones.
  • 66% of public school children aged 9 and 11 accessed the Internet using their mobile/smart phones.
  • 25% of public school children aged 9, 11 & 12 did not access the Internet using their mobile smart phones.
  • 58% & 75% public school children aged 10 & 12 accessed the Internet using their mobile/smart phones.
  • 67% of public school children aged 11 did not access the Internet using their mobile/smart phones.

.   8. Frequency of Access to Internet by smart/mobile phone on a daily basis

Result:  A majority of the total respondents surveyed accessed the Internet via their mobile/smart phones on a daily basis.

  1. Access to Social Media Sites using a Mobile/Smart Phone (All Respondents)

Results:

  • 41 % of 9 years olds’ surveyed in the sample accessed a social media site via their mobile/smart phones, while 45% did not.
  • 50% of the 10 years olds’ surveyed in the sample accessed a social media site via their mobile/smart phones, while 50 % did not.
  • 5% of 11 and 12 years olds’ surveyed in the sample accessed a social media site via their mobile/smart phones, while 62.5 % did not.
  1. Social Media Sites Most Visited By All Respondents

Result:  Face Book is the most visited social media site among all age categories surveyed.

  1. Respondents Who Hear/Do Not Hear Music on Mobile/Smart Phone

Results: 100 % of government school children aged 9, 11 and 12 years old hear music on their mobile/smart phones, while 91% of 10s’ surveyed hear music on their mobile/smart phones.

66% of respondents (public school) aged 9, 75% of respondents aged 10, 83% of respondents aged 11 and 100% of respondents’ aged 12 hear music on their mobile/smart phones, while 8.33% of respondents aged 9 and 10 do not hear music on their mobile/smart phones.

13. Number of Respondents watching/not watching videos via a Mobile/Smart phone

Results:

  • 100% of the respondents studying in the government school, of the 4 age categories surveyed, watch videos on their mobile/smart phones.
  • 66% of the respondents surveyed aged 9 and 10 studying at the public school, watch videos on their mobile/smart phones. 8.33 % &16.67% respectively, did not.
  • 75% & 91% of 11 & 12s’ studying at the public school, watch videos on their mobile/smart phones, while 8.33% of 11year olds do not.

14. Type of videos watched online via mobile/smart phones

 Numeric Code –

Movies                    =   1

Music                       =   2

Comedy Shows   =   3

Cartoons                =   4

Miscellaneous (Music + Movies + Educational Videos + Comedy Shows + Game Videos etc.) = 5

Result: The majority of the respondents of the 4 age categories surveyed in both schools prefer to watch videos of a miscellaneous nature. 10 year olds studying at the government school and 12 year olds studying at the public school prefer to use their mobile and smart phones for watching movies as compared to other age groups within the same school, or in the other school.

15. Awareness about Applets

Result: 52% of the total respondents in the 4 age categories surveyed were aware about applets, while 48 % were not.

16. Download of Applets

Result: 63% of the total respondents in the 4 age categories surveyed download applets while 37% do not.

17. Total n0. of Respondents who SMS

Result: A whopping 89% of the total respondents of the 4 age categories surveyed send text messages. Only a mere 11% do not.

18. Respondents Usual SMS Habits

Government School Children

Result: The majority of government school children send text messages to their friends or others. Only 8.33%    of 10 and 11 year olds’ send text messages to their parents, while none send text messages to teachers or to their siblings.

Public School Children

Results: The majority of public school children in the 4 age categories surveyed send text messages to their friends, parents and others. None send text messages to their teachers or siblings.

16.67% 9 year olds’ send text messages to their parents, while 33.34% 10 year olds’ send text messages to their parents. Only 8.33% of 11 year olds’ send text messages to their parents. 12 year olds’ do not send text messages to their parents.

19. Importance of a mobile/smart phone to all respondents

Result:  75% of all respondents surveyed consider their mobile/smart phones as being a very important part of their lives, while 15 percent considered it as being important. Only 10 % considered it as being not that important, while nearly all respondents were sure that they required a mobile/smart phone. Only 12.5 % of 11 year olds’ said that they do not need a mobile/smart phone.62.5% of 9 year olds’ and 58.3% of 12 year olds’ considered their mobile/smart phones as being very important to them. 45% of 11 year olds’ considered their mobile/smart phones as being very important to them, while 45% of 10 year olds’ consider their mobile/smart phones as being important to them. 29% of 12 year olds’ regard their mobile/smart phones as being not that important.8.3% of 9 and 10 year olds’ regard their mobile/smart phones as being not that important, while only 4% of 11 year olds’ regard their mobile/smart phones as being not that important.

Statistical Analysis (SPSS) of Relevant Responses

6.1 Girls of the 4 age groups sampled from both schools: Student’s t-test (Independent sample t-test) was applied to discern whether there was any significant difference between government and public school girls in their habits of using mobile/smart phones in playing games.

Null Hypothesis: There is no statistically significant difference between girls studying in public and government schools for the age group 9 to 12, in terms of the hours spent playing games on mobile/smart phones.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is a statistically significant difference between girls studying in public and government schools for the age category 9 to 12.

Result: Since P value was > α (0.05) for all options, Null was failed to be rejected.

6.2 Boys of the 4 age groups sampled from both schools: Student’s t-test (Independent sample t-test) was applied to discern whether there was any significant difference between government school boys and public school boys in their habits of using mobile/smart phones for playing games.

Null Hypothesis: There is no statistically significant difference between boys studying in public and government schools for the age group 9 to 12 in terms of the hours spent playing games on mobile/smart phones.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is statistically significant difference between boys studying in public and government schools for the age group 9 to 12, in terms of the hours spent playing games on mobile/smart phones.

Result: Since P value was > α (0.05) for all options, Null was failed to be rejected.

6.3 Boys & Girls of the Age Category (9-12) sampled from Government School: Student’s t-test (Independent sample t-test) was applied to discern whether there was any significant difference between government school boys and  girls in their habits of using mobile/smart phones for playing games.

Null Hypothesis: There is no statistically significant difference between boys and girls of the same age studying in the government school for the age group 9 to 12, in terms of the hours spent playing games on mobile/smart phones.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is statistically significant difference between boys and girls of the same age studying in the government school for the age group 9 to 12, in terms of the hours spent playing games on mobile/smart phones.

Result: Since P Value was > α (0.05), Null was failed to be rejected.

6.4 Boys & Girls of the Age Category (9-12) sampled from Public School: Student’s t-test (Independent sample t-test) was applied to discern whether there was any significant difference between public school boys and  girls in their habits of using mobile/smart phones for playing games.

Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for statistically significant differences between boys and girls of the same age studying in the public school for the age group 9 to 12, in terms of the hours spent playing games on mobile/smart phones.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is evidence for statistically significant difference between boys and girls of the same age studying in the public school for the age group 9 to 12, in terms of the hours spent playing games on mobile/smart phones.

Result: Since P Value was > α (0.05) for each test variable (options), Null was failed to be rejected.

8. Frequency of Accessing the Internet via Mobile/Smart Phone on a Daily Basis

8.1 Girls in the age category 4 to 9, sampled in both schools:  Descriptive statistics were obtained to determine the nature of the data set.

A Student’s t-test was conducted to discern whether there are any significant differences in accessing the Internet (habit) via a mobile/smart phone among the girls studying at a government and public school.

Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for statistically significant differences among girls, in the age category 9 to 12, studying in a government school and those studying at a public school.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is evidence for statistically significant differences among girls, in the age category 9 to 12, studying in a government school and those studying at a public school.

Result: Since P Value was > α (0.05) Null was failed to be rejected.

8.2 Boys in the age category 4 to 9, sampled in both schools:  Descriptive statistics were obtained to determine the nature of the data set.

A Student’s t-test was conducted to discern whether there are any significant differences in accessing the Internet (habit) via a mobile/smart phone among the boys studying at a government school and those studying at a public school.

Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for statistically significant differences among boys, in the age category 9 to 12, studying in government school and those at a public school.

 Alternative Hypothesis: There is evidence for statistically significant differences among girls, in the age category 9 to 12, studying in government school and those at a public school.

Result: Since the P Value was > α (0.05) for each test variable (options), the Null was failed to be rejected

8.3 Boys & Girls for the age group 9 to 12, studying in the Government School:

Descriptive statistics were obtained to determine the nature of the data set. A Student’s t-test was conducted to determine whether there is any difference in internet access habits via a mobile/smart phone among boys and girls of the same age studying in the Government school.

Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for a statistically significant difference in the internet surfing habits (via a mobile/smart phone) among boys and girls of the same age studying in a government school.

Alternative Hypothesis:  There is evidence for a statistically significant difference in the internet surfing habits (via a mobile/smart phone) among boys and girls of the same age studying in a government school.

Result: It can be inferred that there is a difference among girls and boys in their Internet accessing habits since the P value for 2 test variables (response options), were < α (0.05). However, cumulatively speaking the Null was failed to be rejected since the P Value was > α (0.05) in 4 test variables (response options).

8.4 Boys & Girls for the age group 9 to 12, studying in the Public School:

Descriptive statistics were obtained to determine the nature of the data set. A Student’s t-test was conducted to determine whether there is any difference in internet access habits via a mobile/smart phone among boys and girls of the same age studying in the public school.

Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for a statistically significant difference in the internet surfing habits (via a mobile/smart phone) among boys and girls of the same age studying in the public school.

Alternative Hypothesis:  There is evidence for a statistically significant difference in the internet surfing habits (via a mobile/smart phone) among boys and girls of the same age studying in the public school.

Result: Since P Value was > α (0.05), Null was failed to be rejected

12. Music Heard by all Respondents on a mobile/smart phone:

Student’s t-test (One Sample t-test) was applied.

Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for statistically significant differences between boys and girls studying at the government school and the public school in their habits of hearing music on a mobile/smart phone.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is evidence for statistically significant differences between boys and girls studying at the government school and the public school in their habits of hearing music on a mobile/smart phone.

Result: Since P Value was < α (0.05), Null was rejected.

14. Videos Watched by all Respondents on a mobile/smart phone: Student’s t-test (Independent Sample t-test) was applied.

14.1 Boys of the age group (9 to 12) sampled from both schools:

Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for statistically significant differences between boys studying at the government school and the public school in their habits of watching videos (type of videos/content) on a mobile/smart phone.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is evidence for statistically significant differences between the government school boys and the public school boys in their habits of watching videos (type of videos/content) on a mobile/smart phone.

Result: Since P was > α (0.05), Null was failed to be rejected.

14.2 Girls of the age group (9 to 12) sampled from both schools:

 Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for statistically significant differences between girls studying at the government school and the public school in their habits of watching videos (type of videos/content) on a mobile/smart phone.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is evidence for statistically significant differences between the government school girls and the public school girls in their habits of watching videos (type of videos/content) on a mobile/smart phone

Result: Since P Value was > α (0.05), Null was failed to be rejected.

14.3 Girls and Boys sampled of the age group (9 to 12) from the Government School: A student’s t-test (Independent sample) was conducted to determine if there is any significant difference in the type of content viewed on a mobile/smart phone, between boys and girls studying at the Government school.

Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for statistically significant differences between girls and boys studying at the government school in their habits of watching videos (type of videos/content) on a mobile/smart phone.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is evidence for statistically significant differences between the government school girls and government school boys in their habits of watching videos (type of videos/content) on a mobile/smart phone.

Result: Since P Value was > α (0.05), Null was failed to be rejected.

14.4 Boys and Girls sampled of the age group (9 to 12), studying at the Public School: A student’s t-test (Independent sample) was conducted to determine if there is any significant difference in the type of content viewed on a mobile/smart phone, between boys and girls studying at the Public school.

Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for statistically significant differences between girls and boys studying at the public school in their habits of watching videos (type of videos/content) on a mobile/smart phone.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is evidence for statistically significant differences between the public school girls and public school boys in their habits of watching videos (type of videos/content) on a mobile/smart phone.

Result: Since P Value was > α (0.05), Null was failed to be rejected.

18. SMS (texting) habits of respondents: An Independent Sample t-test was conducted to determine if there are any differences in the texting habits of girls and boys sampled studying at the Government and the Public School.

18.1 Girls of the Government & Public School:

 Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for statistically significant differences in the texting habits of the government school girls and the public school girls.

Alternative Hypothesis: There is evidence for statistically significant differences between government and public school girls in their texting habits.

Result: Since P Value was > α (0.05), Null was failed to be rejected.

18.2 Boys of the Government & Public School:

Null Hypothesis: There is no evidence for statistically significant differences in the texting habits of the government school boys and the public school boys

Alternative Hypothesis: There is evidence for statistically significant differences between government and public school boys in their texting habits.

Result: Since P Value was > α (0.05), Null was failed to be rejected.

Findings

On the basis of the data analysis and interpretation, the following inferences were made –

  • The rapid advances in ICT have enabled the diffusion of the mobile and smart phone among all segments of society. The mobile and smart phone is available at an affordable cost and has become essential accessories for everyone, including young children.
  • The mobile/smart phone is an all in one tool that is used by young children for purposes other than communication, like entertainment, acquiring knowledge etc.
  • Young children in particular use their mobile/smart phones for entertainment purposes such as playing games. They spend considerable time on a more or less daily basis playing games on their mobile/smart phones.
  • The mobile/smart phone is used as a means to access and surf the World Wide Web and Internet. Children as young as 9 years of age are aware about Social Media Sites and know how to access them via their smart/mobile phones.
  • Facebook is the most popular social media site among tweens. Most tweens know as to how to set up a Facebook account using mobile/smart phones.
  • Older children (11 and 12’s) are more likely to access the Internet on their mobile/smart phones as compared to younger children. However, younger children are more likely to visit a social media site using their mobile/smart phones.
  • Most pre-teens access the Internet on a daily basis, on their mobile/smart phones.
  • Over 95% percent of tweens hear music on their mobile/smart phones.
  • Older children are more likely to hear music on their mobile/smart phones, as compared to younger children.
  • Most pre-teens watch videos on their mobile/smart phone sets. Older children are more likely to watch videos as compared to younger children on their mobile/smart phones.
  • Younger children tend to watch movies and cartoon videos on their mobile/smart phones, whilst older (11 & 12’s) watch a more varied content ranging from music videos and movies to gaming videos and educational videos.
  • A substantial number of tweens are aware of applets and download them.
  • Most tweens actively use their mobile and smart phones for exchanging text messages.
  • Younger children are more likely to text their parents along with friends, while the majority of older children prefer to text only their friends.
  • At least 75 % of tweens consider their mobile/smart phones as being an indispensable part of their lives and thus very important.
  • There is no influence of the educational institute (school) on a child’s use of his/her mobile/smart phone.

 Conclusion

The general habits of children between the ages 9-12 in their use of mobile/smart phones are uniform and not significantly affected by demographic variables. Even though socio-economic background is a decisive factor, it does not wield sufficient influence to drastically alter the general usage mobile and smart phone habits of tweens. This is clearly evident from the fact that traits (pertaining to mobile and smart phone usage) exhibited by children studying in a Government school (which caters to the educational needs of children of the economically challenged) and those exhibited by children studying in a Public school (which caters to the educational needs of children of economically well-off individuals/elite) are near standardized.

Further, levels of general awareness among children is steadily increasing (exposed as they are) to a multitude of media and modes of communication. There is an indication of the trend towards autonomy by children at a much earlier age, {for instance the preference by older children (11 &12 s’) to SMS only friends, rather than parents}

The constant innovation in cell phone technology and ICT literally makes an immense stream of data and information readily accessible at the push of a button, with both positive and negative implications. Educationists and child development experts such as Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg are of the opinion that habits (good & bad) are inculcated during childhood, and that certain habits that eventually develop into ‘obsessive compulsive disorders’ actually take root during pre-teen years, and are cemented during the subsequent adolescent years.

Thus, Mobile/Smart phones may become objects of addiction for even young children (a trend that is clearly visible in adolescents and young adults, across the globe)

References

Tarun Balram, ‘India’s 243 Million Internet Users and the Mobile E-Commerce Revolution’, http://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2014/07/07/indias-massive-e-commerce-opportunity-and-the-explosion-of-mobile/#593d5dba5c23, Jul 7 2014; accessed on 23/01/2017

Ericcson Consumer Lab, The Changing Mobile Broadband Landscape, http://www.ericsson.com/res/docs/2015/consumerlab/ericsson-consumerlab-the-changing-mobile-broadband-landscape-india.pdf, Apr 2015; accessed on 07/02/2017

Simon Kemp, ‘Digital, Social and Mobile in India’, http://wearesocial.com/uk/special-reports/digital-social-mobile-india-2015, 27 August 2015; accessed on 3/03/2017

NDTV, ‘India’s Urban Children Spend 4 Hours on Mobile Internet per Day’: Survey, http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/indias-urban-children-spend-4-hours-on-mobile-internet-per-day-survey-1275223, Feb 8 2016; accessed on  28/03/2017

Kelly Wallace, CNN, ‘Teens spend a mind-boggling 9 hours a day using media’, http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/03/health/teens-tweens-media-screen-use-report/, Nov 4 2015; accessed on 03/04/2017

Amanda Lenhart, Rich Ling, Scott Campbell and Kristen Purcell, ‘Text messaging explodes as teens embrace it as the centerpiece of their communication strategies with friends’, http://www.pewinternet.org/2010/04/20/teens-and-mobile-phones/, Nov 2010; accessed on 17/04/2017

Naomi S. Baron, ‘Concerns about mobile phones: A cross national study’; http://firstmonday.org/article/view/3335/3032 Aug 1st 2011; accessed on 15/05/2017

Appendices

Code Book

Research Instrument

SPSS Analysis

Foot Notes

[1] https://www.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/research/EUKidsOnline/EU Kids III/Reports/NCGMUKReportfinal.p

[2] http://www.gsma.com/publicpolicy/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/GSMA_Childrens_use_of_mobile_phones_2014.pdf

 [3] www.joanganzcooneycenter.org

[4] www.nzonair.govt.nz

[5] www.stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/…lit…/2015_Adults_media_use_and_attitudes_report

[6] itu.int/council/groups/wg-cop/second-meeting-june…

 

SHIRDI BECKONS

Foreword: The below passage is a brief account of the experiences and impressions of my companion and I at ‘Shirdi Dham’. Though temples to the beloved saint, (Sai Baba of Shirdi) abound all over India, the temple at ‘Shirdi’ takes on special significance in the hearts of millions of devotees across the length and breadth of India; for it was in this remote hamlet and surrounding areas in the State of Maharashtra that Shirdi Sai Baba’s divine attributes first manifested, nearly 150 years ago.

First Impressions

Having gotten off at Kopargaon railways station and commandeered a shared taxi to ‘Shirdi’ Township, we got into the ‘Sai Ashram’ premises at 9.30 p.m. We quickly secured a room and made a beeline for the ‘Sai Temple’, which is about over a kilometer from the Ashram. As we had missed the last shuttle service that ferries devotees to and from the Sai Temple, we walked down.

We reached the temple at 10:30 p.m. & being first time visitors were unwise to the presence of numerous touts. We were also unaware as to how to go about gaining entry. A line of people was slowly passing through a main gate, and we decided to join the queue.

At this point, we were approached by a fellow who informed us that we were already late, and that it would take ages for the queue to clear. As such the premises shut by 11.00 p.m.
This was gate 2, and for a nominal fee he would not only help us secure entry via the VIP gate, but also ensure that we get to drape an ocher shawl over venerated Babaji’s shoulders. He however suggested that we first purchase items as offerings.

Being on a tight itinerary, and already very late, we didn’t give a second thought and decided to go with the fellow’s offer at face value.He beckoned us to follow and being gullible, we did so. The chap took us to a stall located in the near vicinity (There are a plethora of stalls with numerous ornaments, ocher shawls, etc. available for purchase)

The vendor advised us to purchase a ‘chola’ (an apparel worn by sages) since that was what the majority of devotees did and displayed the numerous ‘cholas’ ranging in price from Rs 500 to Rs 5000. We purchased a chola and followed the tout back to the Gate.

Having paid him his requisite fee, he informed us to gain entry into the premises, and that he would join us via another way into the premises & subsequently lead us to the VIP gate and entry into the sanctum.

Much to our consternation, the fellow never showed up! The security personal at gate 2, wondering as to why we were just standing about, came up to us. We told him that we were waiting for our supposed benefactor to lead us into the sanctum via gate 1

Between chuckles and a rather bemused expression on his face, he informed us that there was absolutely no way anyone could get entry via the VIP gate without being a VIP and the  purchase of entry passes from the main office, which was now shut. We had clearly been hoodwinked.

He told us to make haste via gate 2. It was near closing time, and the queue had thinned out considerably. We could still just about make it. Our spirits somewhat deflated, we hurried through a narrow passage leading to the inner sanctum.

The Haloed Hall

We arrived to the inner walls of the Shirdi sanctorum resounding with reverberations of “OM SAI, OM SAI, JAYA JAYA SAI”. My eyes took in scores of devotees/pilgrims giving vent to their emotions in sync with the raising of their arms, their eyes shining with tears. Others had their eyes tightly shut, their faces ecstatic with bliss, unquestioning faith, and devotion.

A magnificent aura of the great sage and saint ‘Shirdi Sai Baba’, immortalized in stone, permeated the atmosphere. Grateful to providence that we could at least bear witness to the remarkable spectacle unfolding before us, we hastened to where we could find a spot (which ended up being right at the very back) for sitting.

The chamber is a massive hall that seemingly curves in a semi-circular arch, and is separated from the enclosure housing the ‘Sai Murti’  (Sai Statue)  by massive wooden doors, which at this point were shut and consequently neither the priests nor the Sai Murti were visible to us.

However, large LCD screens affixed on the supporting pillars beamed the priests, the ritual, and the Sai Murti straight to us. There are 4 aarti’s (prayer hymns) that are held at the temple; the morning aarti or ‘Kakad’ (5:15-5:45 A.M), afternoon aarti or ‘Madhya’, (12:00-12:30 P.M), evening aarti or ‘Dhoop’ (6:00-6:20 P.M) and finally the night aarti or ‘Shej’ (10:30-10:55 P.M).

The Shej aarti is concluded by the act of a ‘Rudraksha’ mala (necklace) being placed around the neck of Baba, followed by a shawl that is placed around Baba’s shoulders, subsequent to which a glass of water is kept near and a mosquito net hung around Baba.

The nightly ritual at an end, and the sanctum and premises being prepared for closure, we joined the queue of people heading out. Feeling both disappointed and relieved at the same time, I accompanied my companion back to the ashram. Though she was subdued, there was chagrin bubbling beneath her outward calm appearance.

‘‘We lost precious time getting suckered in by that tout. We should have just followed the queue of people at gate 2, and we would have made it in time for the Shej aarti and the closing ritual. We are going to go again tomorrow,” she said.“Yes, we could do that. Though we have other places to visit on our agenda, we’ll scrap one of our places of visit from our list,” I replied.

Return Visit

Next early evening, (our day being spent at Shani Shignapur) we made a return to Sai Dham via the shuttle service. We learnt that there were 3 gates to assist entry of devotees. Gate 1 caters to VIP’s or those suffering from an ailment or disability, while gate 2 and 3 cater to ordinary folks.

Out initial excitement at having an opportunity to revisit Sai Dham for a proper ‘darshan’,  (offer of respect) gave way to dismay as we took in the huge crowds of devotees. On any single day there can up to 25,000 pilgrims. There seemed to be an endless wave of people thronging the gates. Feeling pessimistic I turned to my companion, telling her that I was not sure as to whether we would able to get a ‘darshan’ even that day, and given our itinerary, it was a now or never type situation.

She was glum as well, and given the day’s exertions rather tired. She was experiencing pain in her elbow and ankle joints and consequently was in an irritable mood. “If we do not get a darshan today either, I will never ever come to Shirdi Dham again!” she suddenly blurted.
“I intent to give a piece of my mind to that vendor from whom we purchased the chola”, and saying so she stormed her way over to the vendor’s stall, my protests evidently falling on deaf ears.

“You fleece gullible devotees! You have some kind of predetermined arrangement or understanding with touts who bring unsuspecting devotees/pilgrims to your stall where you convince them to purchase your wares. The tout makes a false promise and then disappears into the throng of  people”. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” she vent.

The vendor’s attempt at placating her was of no avail. His protests of innocence were brushed aside by her constant verbal barrage. ” Take your confounded chola back and give me back my money!” Near by devotees began to gather around the stall to hear the exchange and finally, albeit reluctantly the vendor returned the money. “Good job,” I muttered to her after her tirade was over. All she said was that she hoped that Sai Baba would help us in making a quick darshan.

The Divine Works in Mysterious Ways

As we made our way back to the gates, the pain in her ankles suddenly increased in intensity causing her to hobble. Concerned I told her that perhaps we should simply turn back and visit in the near future. She was however, resolute and grimacing replied with an emphatic “no”!

Hobbling her way to the main office where VIP passes are available, she passed through the barricade with a glare at the security personnel, made her way to the counter window, and asked for 2 VIP passes. “Madam, the VIP passes are only for VIP’s, the clerk protested.” “And also for disabled or unwell pilgrims,” she admonished. “You saw that I just limped over to the counter.” Seeing that she was in no mood for an argument, the somewhat chastened clerk handed her two passes. “The price is Rs 150 per pass,” he mumbled. Handing over Rs 300 to him, I said a mental prayer of thanks to Baba.

Darshan

The passes in our hands, we quickly made our way over to Gate 1, purchasing a basket of flowers, incense sticks, and packets of dry fruit (as an offering) en route and joined the queue of people. I looked over at the queue of people at Gate 2 and 3. The line of people seemed endless, and seemed to move along at a snails pace.

Our own line moved along much faster, given the fewer number of people. Reaching the security barricade, we showed our passes to the security personnel. We had to hand over all leather apparel and wallets as also our phones and camera. (Photography is strictly prohibited within the temple premises) Our stuff was placed in a locker, and a token bearing the locker number was handed to us.

As before, we entered a passageway leading towards the sanctum. The corridor led directly to a door way that opened onto the enclosure housing Baba’s ‘murti’ (statue). The murti itself stood on a large square elevated dais that was barricaded along its sides. Two priests sat on the platform, slightly in front of the murti on both sides, chanting mantras, applying ‘tika’ (a mixture of turmeric, sandalwood & other elements) on the foreheads of devotees encircling the dais, handing over ‘prasadam’  (a consumable food item given post prayers to devotees)  and ushering the devotees/pilgrims forward towards two doorways located behind Baba’s murti and the platform. The doorways opened onto the temple courtyard.

The dais was covered with a layer of rose, marigold, and petals from various flowers. The air was thick with the aroma of incense. Four armed security personnel stood guard in the four corners of the enclosure. Two guards manned the doors that separated the main chamber hall from the enclosure, admitting devotees as per their turn. Each time the doors opened to admit a devotee, I would catch a glimpse of the multitudes thronging the hall, and their sonorous chants of ‘Om Sai, Jai Jai Sai Baba’ would filter in.

Much to our surprise and no doubt the surprise of other devotees within the enclosure, we managed to spend nearly 10 minutes in the vicinity of Baba’s murti. This feat was accomplished by our going out at one door at the back & left of Sai Baba and coming in through another door at the right of Sai Baba; thus circumnavigating the devotees about and around Baba.

The security personnel were aware of this fact but were magnanimous enough to ignore our little subterfuge. Had it not been for the 2 priests seated just in front of Shirdi Sai Baba, we would indubitably have been able to touch Baba. Having said yet another prayer, made our offering, been blessed by the priests, and paid our final homage to the divine seer, we made to move towards the exit doorway.

We opened the largest packet of dry fruit, and went about distributing it to the security personnel as prasadam. Once out onto the courtyard we distributed the remainder dry fruit as prasadam to random devotees milling about.

We had entered through Gate 1 at 7:30 p.m. It was now 9:00 p.m. All in all our darshan had taken an hour and half.The temple premises also houses shops (where one can purchase sweet meats as prasad) a center for making donations, and a separate center for NRIs and PIOs. Small temples highlighting the glory of Lord Ganesha, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, can also be found within the main Sai temple compound.

Margosa Tree

Having paid our respects at each of the shrines, we headed to the fabled ‘Neem’ (Margosa) tree, under which Sai Baba is said to have meditated. For reasons incomprehensible to me, I felt a soothing sense of calm and serenity intermingled with a degree of exhilaration. For a moment I stood absolutely still and imagined Baba meditating under the tree, a beatific expression on his face, while the mental message, ‘You shall not look at me in vain’, splashed across my consciousness.

My companion’s eyes glimmered with tears and she appeared to be in a mesmeric state. She was still in pain but oblivious to it. Having spent some time in contemplation and said a quiet prayer, we sat down for a while on a nearby bench.

Diverse Pilgrims

Sitting on the bench while a cool evening breeze blew across the courtyard, I observed the multitude of devotees about. They seemed to come from all across the length and breadth of India, their clothes and language reflective of the diversity and heterogeneity of the land.
Conversations in a multitude of languages, dialects, and sub-dialects floated in the air. Though the bulk of devotees seemed to be local Maharashtrian, there were substantial numbers of devotees from other states. Groups of South Indians, Gujarati’s, Rajasthani’s, Punjabi’s, Bengali’s, Bihari’s clustered together; exchanging intermittent chit chat, life experiences, Babaji’s divinity etc.

Religious centers and places of pilgrimage in India serve to act as a focal point for a people vastly divergent in languages, customs, and traditions to congregate. I was struck by Indian society’s plural characteristic, even though all the pilgrims I personally saw were Hindus.

However, Shirdi Dham is a magnet for all devotees belonging to different faiths.
Subsequently, we retrieved our stuff from the locker and headed back towards the ashram.

Babaji – A Figure Shrouded in Enigma & Controversy

Through out history, great men and women have been tainted by controversy. Eulogized on the one hand or subject to contempt, envy and even downright hatred, Damocles sword looms ever present over their lives. Shirdi Sai Baba was no different. Born to a ‘Brahmin’ Hindu household and yet raised by a Muslim ‘fakir’ (sage/ascetic), Baba was initially alienated by both the Hindu and Muslim community.

His divine attributes, courage and strength of character eventually elicited reluctant acceptance from his detractors , and slowly but steadily people of both communities began to look up to him, admire him and elevated him to the pedestal of a God man.

For all outward appearances, he seemed to be a Muslim, and yet Muslims can not and do not worship anyone other than Allah and Rasul. For most of his life he stayed at a ‘Dargah’ or Tomb. How could Muslim believers permit that if they did not believe him to be a Muslim? How come he came to have his own sect and be worshiped? It would be heresy in Islam.

If he were a Hindu, why did he stay at a mosque? And yet Shirdi Sai Baba named the mosque as ‘Dwarkamai and lit a fire (Dhuni) within the mosque. He would stay for days in the forests, living in a manner akin to the Hindu sages without food or water.

For two years he lived in a meditative state under the now famous Margosa tree, breaking his meditative state only to beg for food, again a custom of Hindu sages. Bells would toll in the Hindu tradition at the Mosque and the ‘tulsi’ plant was grown by Babaji in the corner of the mosque.

To borrow a phrase from V.B Kher, Shirdi Sai Baba was truly a ‘Unique Prophet of Integration’. He acted as a spiritual guru and conduit between two communities adhering to a different religious doctrine, helping any devotee to follow the path best suited for his/her own spiritual development, in sync with their religious belief system.

150 years down the lane, Babaji has millions of followers, adherents of different religious beliefs, but is revered the most by the Hindu community.

Shirdi Sai Baba epitomizes the polytheistic spirit of the Hindu faith that over the millenniums has incorporated within its fold the greatest of spiritual philosophies, teachings, and practices across the spectrum of human civilization, molding them and imbuing them with characteristics that can only be described as ‘Sanathan Dharm’ a.k.a Hinduism.

THE HIMALAYAS SUMMON

McLeodganj – A Tourist Hot Spot

Come the summer months, the fiery sun blazes down on the Northern plains of India, the heat hammering in its intensity, a shimmering blaze lying like a pall over the landscape. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, ‘The very earth itself seems to be dying of thirst’.

Over a 100 years since Kipling, the Indian summer remains true to form, what with 2016 temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celsius. In the heat-inspired torpor, my thoughts turned repeatedly and wistfully towards the mighty Himalayas as the one abode that could offer relief and some manner of refuge from the stifling and relentless heat.

I had kept a lid on my escapist thoughts so far; but eventually (giving into restlessness & a desire to flee the heat) my companion and I heeded the ‘call of the mountains’. Deciding upon ‘McLeodganj’ as our getaway, we headed off in mid-June.

Home to 11,000 people, McLeodganj is situated at an altitude of 6,831 feet, 10kms (via the main road) from ‘Dharmshala’ in the Mountain State of ‘Himachel Pradesh’. Nestled in the lap of the snow-capped peaks of the mighty ‘Dhauladhar’range; with the lush green hills and valley of Dharmshala unfolding before and below it, the quaint township offers picturesque environs’ and panoramic scenery.

Dhasa – Forever May I Rest Here

Lord Elgin (the 2nd viceroy of India) took such a liking to McLeodganj (a name derived from Sir Donald Friell McLeod, a Lt. Governor of the State of Punjab) that he expressed his desire to be laid to rest there, ‘forever nigh to look upon the towering peaks of the majestic Dhauladhar range, with the wide sweep of the hills and plain below’. In cognizance to his wishes, Lord Elgin was laid to rest in Nov 1863 at the local Church,‘St. Johns in the Wilderness’ in ‘Forsythganj’, named after a divisional commissioner of British India.

Home to the exiled Tibetan leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, McLeodganj positively buzzes with a substantial Tibetan expatriate populace and thus goes by the name of ‘Little Lhasa’ or ‘Dhasa’. Most of the close-set shops and cafes that line the narrow by-lanes and pathways of the town are manned and managed by Tibetans or Indians of Tibetan descent.

The town is thronged by local (Indian) and foreign tourists during the peak tourist season (April-July) and has a lot to offer to shoppers by way of a plethora of Tibetan trinkets, souvenirs and apparels among other items. A multitude of restaurants, cafes, and eateries dot the little township providing a wide range of eatables, with Tibetan to Indian, Chinese and Continental fare on the menu.

A Beehive of Activity

The mix of travelers that includes students, monks, volunteers and tourists from all over the world, ensures that there is never a dull moment. The main square is choked choc a block with pedestrians and motorists, with the roar of Enfield motorcycles rising above the cacophony and noise. Jogibara, Bhagsu and Dharamkot roads branch off from the main square and have shops and cafes crammed on either side along their near entire length. Jogibara road leads to ‘Gangchen Kyishong’, the main center of the Tibetan Government in exile.

The scenic surrounding mountain wilderness makes McLeodganj a hub for trekking and adventure companies offering the promise of carefree and enthralling fun for the adventurously inclined via activities such as rock climbing , trekking and paragliding etc. For avid trekkers short on time, the 9 km trek to Triund is a viable option. The trek requires but a day, and though not overtly taxing is no cake walks either, with some steep climbs. However, the panoramic scenery and breath-taking view of ‘Kangra’ valley make up for the physical toil.

The Dance of the Rain Gods

The weather in this mountain township can turn suddenly and unexpectedly. We were witness to the vagrancy of the weather God within a few hours of our arrival. At one moment, the sun was blissfully pouring forth its warmth; at another, it became obscured by dark rumbling and ominous thunderheads that gathered quickly over the Dhauladhar peaks. From the valley below the wind billowed in an upward draft carrying tufts of grayish-white moisture laden vapor, swiftly rising to engulf and envelop McLeodganj.

The two walls of cloud and water vapor, one dark black and descending, the other grayish white and ascending, merged as one. A flicker of lighting, a resounding thunderclap, and the heavens unleashed their torrent. It would be another hour before the intensity of the downpour abated to a drizzle. As the cloud cover gradually dissipated, the sun shone through once more. The surrounding foliage gleamed with dew and the birds twittered, while the Dhauladhar peaks sparkled anew with fresh snowfall. The very environment seemed to be imbued with an air of freshness.

Calling Lonely Planet

‘Lonely Planet’ has already come a calling to McLeod. The ‘Bhimsen Punjabi’ restaurant has found a place for itself in the accounts of Lonely Planet, and this fact is proudly displayed by the managerial staff through a large signboard proclaiming the same. ‘Aamla Kitchen’ that lies just adjacent to Bhimsen is worth a try. Relatively new (only a year old), it nonetheless does justice to both palate and pocket. Bhimsen  also offers cooking classes; speaking of which one can learn how to cook authentic Tibetan cuisine with ‘Sangye’s Kitchen’ and ‘Lhamo’s Kitchen’ and which also find mention on Lonely Planet. The cooking class prices vary in range from Rs 250 to Rs 550.

There is a plethora of other restaurant, cafes, and eateries to indulge one’s taste buds.

The Lore of Bhagsunath

3 km from the main square, lays the ancient temple of Bhagsunath. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the origins of the temple are steeped in a mythical background. Legend has it that it was built by King ‘Bhagsu’ in honor of the ‘Nag Devta’ (snake God). King Bhagsu set-off for the mountains of Dhauladhar, to look for a source of water when his kingdom and people were beleaguered by a severe shortage of fresh water. King Bhagsu found a reservoir of clear fresh water (the sacred Nag Dal Lake) located amidst the mountains and found a way to siphon off the water. However, his act invited the wrath of the Nag Devta and he was drawn into a battle (which he lost) with the God. On hearing the reasons behind the King’s actions, the Nag Devta forgave the King and allowed him the means to ensure a supply of fresh water for his Kingdom and citizens.

Apparently, the King erected the shrine in honor of the snake God’s munificence. During the medieval period, the shrine came to be a site of benefaction by local Gurkha rulers known as ‘Bhagsuwalas’ after Lord Bhagsunag. These rulers built two water tanks with spouts shaped as tiger heads, and a double-story wooden rest house for pilgrims. Incidentally, the temple site houses a pool initially meant for pilgrims for cleansing purposes, but that now (to my amusement) also doubles as a swimming pool.

Roughly, 2 km from the temple lays the Bhagsu Waterfall. A well laid out cemented path hewn into the mountainside leads up to a stream of fast flowing freshwater that cascades off a 30 foot drop into a pool of icy cold green water. The rock face, over which the water drops, is festooned with slate graffiti. As one takes the well-tread pathway and nears the waterfall, sounds of joy and laughter of revelers reach one’s ears. Just short of the waterfall, and on either side one finds makeshift shacks with eatables and soft drinks on offer. As the site is considered a ‘dev-bhoomi’ (Abode of the angels), smoking and alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited.

A large rock overlooking the green pool formed by the waterfall looms right at the start. Friends and couples made their precarious way to the top and either sat or stood with the waterfall in the background for a snap or two. Others could be seen taking a plunge into the waters, while yet others sat by the shacks in their swimwear enjoying refreshments. Having spent some time and soaked in the scene, we headed back to McLeodganj, stopping en route for a brief ‘darshan’ (offering of respect) at Bhagsunath temple.

Tsuglagkhang Complex

Mcleodganj has served as spiritual loci for the Tibetan community, ever since the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso fled to India after a failed uprising against the Chinese in 1959. The Tsuglagkhang Complex is the official home of the Dalai Lama and houses the Photang (The Dalai Lama’s residence), the Tibetan Museum, The Namgyal Gompa and the Tsuglagkhang Temple. Just at the end of ‘Temple Road’, the complex is located at the southwest corner of Mcleodganj.

The Tibetan museum lies just short of the temple within the complex. The museum provides an insight to visitors of the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet, as also the struggles of the Tibetan people. Documentaries are screened each day at 3 p.m. As we made our way into the premises, I was struck by the sight of a group of monks within a large square enclosed compound whom were engaged in an activity, which I could not quite fathom.

Debate of the Monks

A number of monks were seated on the floor of the compound, at an even distance from one another, while others stood looming over them, apparently preaching loudly in Tibetan interspersed with rhythmic stomping of the foot or clapping of the hands. The monks seated on the floor, would roll their eyes, or laugh into the face of the preaching monks. Frankly, rather puzzled by the act unfolding before me, I assumed that the sitting monks were attempting to meditate while the preaching ones were trying to distract them. I later learned that the monks were in fact indulging in ‘debate’. The monks that appeared to be preaching were actually arguing a point. The end of each point would be emphasized with a clap of the hands or stomp of the feet. It made for an interesting display. The enclosure is known as the ‘Namgyal Gompa’

Tsuglagkhang Temple

The Tsuglagkhang Temple is the equivalent of the ‘Jokhang’ Temple at Lhasa. The temple interior is striking with large murals depicting the life of the Buddha or his principle devotees etched out across the wall. Along one wall of the temple interior, lay folded papyrus scrolls on Buddhist literature lined up vertically. A glass-paneled enclosure protected them from exposure.

Another interesting feature was a statue depicting a meditating but emaciated Buddha with his ribs clearly visible. This depiction of the Buddha was a new for me. A massive gilded statue of ‘Sakyamuni’ Buddha, flanked by ‘Avalokitesvara’ and ‘Padmasambhava’, dominates. The Avalokitesvara statue is adorned with relics from the Jokhang Temple during the ‘Cultural Revolution’.

Kora

Having paid our respects at the temple, we indulged in a ‘Kora’, the Tibetan Buddhist ritual of walking around a sacred site in the clockwise direction. Most of the pilgrims were doing a Kora of the entire Tsuglagkhang Complex, and we decided to follow suit. At the entrance to the temple, a downhill road veers off to the left and joins a path that follows right ways in a circuitous trail that loops back up the hill to Temple road. The trail makes for a pleasant walk through a wooded area strewn with fluttering prayer flags, shrines and prayer wheels.

The Tsuglagkhang complex also houses a small souvenir shop, café, and a bookshop containing selected books authored by the Dalai Lama.

Naddi Village

2-3 km from McLedoganj, is the quaint hamlet of ‘Naddi’. A small and peaceful village, Naddi offers a quiet environment that is a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of McLeodganj. The village offers scenic views of the Dhauladhar range. The majestic ‘Hanuman ji ka Tiba’ or ‘White Mountain’ peak, (named after the much venerated and loved Hindu God, Lord Hanuman) is the highest mountain (5,639 m) of the Dhauladhar range & clearly visible. En route to Naddi, is the ‘Dal’ lake, a naturally occurring body of water, used for recreational purposes such as boating. Due to renovation work in progress, the lake was closed to visitors. Just opposite is a small shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and is 250 years old.

Not far from the village is the ‘Sahajayoga’ institute. ‘Sahaj’ Yoga is a meditation art form of Yoga that was popularized by the venerated sage, Mata (Mother) ‘Shri Nirmala Devi’. We made a visit to the institute, where we were introduced to the basic tenets of the art by a kindly octogenarian instructor. The institute also provides comfortable lodging for visitors and tourists to the area. The institution is shrouded by foliage, trees, and flowers that make for a pleasant overall environment.

On our way back, we spent some time in the premises of a Tibetan school that caters to Tibetan children, and is located close to the Dal Lake.

Cultural and Volunteering Activities

As McLeodganj is the epicenter of the Tibetan expatriate populace, it caters to a host of cultural and meaningful volunteering activities. Interested visitors can take their pick; associate with ‘Tibet World’, ‘Volunteer Tibet’, or ‘Lha Charitable Trust’ and sign up for any of the numerous programs on offers. One can undertake a 10-day course in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy at the ‘Tushita Meditation Center’ or a course in mindfulness at ‘Vipassana Meditation Center’.

Volunteer to be a teacher, a social worker, or even environmental worker for either a short period or long period (at least 2 months)

Waste Warriors

Littering unfortunately seems to be the mantra for many tourists. Deplorably, many pristine locations within the Himalayas are increasingly at the receiving end of callous and environmentally ignorant tourists, who do not think twice before chucking their litter down a hillside. Not only is it degrading to the Natural environment, litter also greatly diminishes the physical beauty of Nature.

Civic education seems to be the need of the hour. It is an entreaty to tourists, to not to go about chucking junk, wrappers, paper, polythene bags, bottles etc. in ecologically pristine popular tourist destinations.

Waste Warriors, an organization dedicated to cleaning India, is doing a commendable job at McLeodganj (I hope that other organizations and NGO’s will join in the fray)

Good Bye McLeodganj & Hello Spiti

Before we knew it, it was time to bid good bye to quaint little McLeodganj. We had spent a week in the scenic environs of the town ship and valley and having over a week to spare, decided to head off towards the surreal beauty & harsh climes of Spiti valley.

That however, is another story.

 

 

ENGAGING THE DRAGON

The September 18th-19th incursion by PLA personnel in Chumar in South Eastern Ladakh and the resulting tense military standoff, what with Indian Army and PLA troops at eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, once more vindicates India’s wariness as regards China and the uneasy relationship the two countries share with one another. The fact that the incursion was orchestrated at a time when Chinese President Xi-Jinping was visiting New Delhi (and accorded an Honour Guard), raises questions as to the message being sent by the Chinese leadership.   China is keen to engage with India under the new Modi Government and the talks between Prime Modi and Xi Jinping encompassed issues ranging from transfer of technology for rail infrastructure, trade & investment, China’s visa policy visa vie Arunachal Pradesh, trans-border Rivers, as also the strengthening of overall economic and cultural ties. However, there is no doubt that the adventurism perpetrated at the border by the PLA mitigated the atmosphere and casts a shadow on the sincerity of the Chinese leadership to engage in a meaningful dialogue to resolve long standing border disputes between the two countries.   China seems to be sending a dual message. It will engage with India, be accommodative of India’s business, and trade concerns but only so on its own terms. In this sense, China’s stance seems to be nearly reminiscent of the ‘carrot & stick’ approach that long characterised an aspect of U.S foreign policy. The timing of the incursion seems to send a clear message that it would be in India’s interest to look towards China (located in India’s backyard) with a spirit that acknowledges China’s as an emerging Superpower rather than look towards the U.S, Japan, and other Nations for strategic succour or counter-balancing containment.   The high-level meet between Modi and Xi Jinping saw the inking of a dozen pacts, including one that promised a $20 Billion investment over the next 5 years. This figure has significance when viewed in light of the fact that Chinese investments over the past 14 years were $400 million. President Xi Jinping’s commitment to support India as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and New Delhi’s bid to play a greater role at the U.N Security Council is undoubtedly a positive sign. The acknowledgement by the Chinese President that the two neighbours should seek greater bilateral ties and strategic depth to their relationship; augurs well and sets the tone for India and China to create a climate of mutual respect and confidence.   However, the border dispute is a prickly issue and could prove to be the fly in the ointment. Prime Minister Modi’s forceful conveyance to his counterpart to renew the stalled process on clarification of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the need for a quick settlement thereof bodes appreciation. Both China and India have seen an unprecedented pace in economic growth, and peaceful relations between the two Asian giants are an essential prerequisite for progress and prosperity for the peoples of the two countries.   India’s approach towards China needs to be one of practical pragmatism keeping her own interests foremost. The Elephant and the Dragon must waltz with one another rather than engage in a dangerous game of Russian roulette, if the hopes and aspirations of their people are to be met. Yet India must not portray herself as being weak or obsequious, for strength only recognises strength.   India can take a leaf out of Chinese civilisation’s age-old wisdom and adhere to the Chinese proverb, ‘He, who treads softly, goes far’. The two countries success in amicably resolving their differences and coming to a mutually acceptable agreement would send a ripple, altering strategic equations that would reverberate across the global geopolitical spectrum.

FASHION FOOTPRINT

Think ‘fashion’ and the image that immediately springs to ones mind is invariably that of stylish attire and related accessories. Clothing and textiles is wholly a human feature and has been characteristic of most societies. Reflective of cultural evolution, they have been representative of the resources available and technological prowess of a culture. It is believed that humans first began to wear clothes, between 500000-100000 years ago, when animal skins and vegetation were adapted into coverings to provide protection from cold, heat and rain. One of the earliest used textiles is cotton, whose use has been documented from 5500 BC onwards in ancient India and Egypt and was taken to Mediterranean shores by Arab traders. For much of human history, the techniques of manufacturing and processing textiles remained more or less uniform with variations occurring only as per innovations in indigenous cultures; with embellishments in the final product, differences in quality, finesse and decorations such as embroidery, to distinguish between the classes. In the modern context, fashion has become synonymous with a philosophy that has changed the meaning assigned to clothes. It is a concept based on flux and fortified by the idea of redundancy. It teaches its followers to embrace the new, to reinvent and revise.

Birth of Fashion: Fashion has essentially artisan roots, but its conception in terms of current association, can be traced to 13th century Europe; which saw great progress in the dyeing and working of wool as well as increased use of linen and cotton. The century laid the foundation for the cultural appurtenances related to apparel. By the 14th century, tailoring had commenced allowing clothing to more closely fit the human form, along with lacing and buttons. By the mid 14th century, recognizable “fashion” in Europe, had emerged. The Renaissance, Enlightenment and Colonial periods in Europe saw extensive and continuous flourishes to textile manufacture and innovations in design and clothing.

Fashion Industry:  The industrial revolution led to the mechanization of fabric production, shifting small scale cottage production to mass production. By the 19th century, sewing machines had emerged thus streamlining production. Mass production, created changes in industrial methods and lay the foundation for a nascent ‘fashion industry’. The first ‘fashion house’ was established by Charles F. Worth in the late 1800’s in Paris, albeit an exclusive business catering to royalty and wealthy elite. By the early 20th century, fashion had been institutionalized, and come into its own as an industry. Social upheavals in Europe, the upsetting of established hierarchies and the after-affects of the Great Depression and the two world wars saw a multitude of designers enter into the lucrative business, transforming the fledgling industry into a global industry employing millions, through much of the 20th century. The late 20th century saw fashion cross international boundaries.

Fashion Forward:  Spurred by increasing globalization and consumerism, 21st century fashion goes by the epithet ‘fast fashion’, implying increasingly lowering production costs and product price thus encouraging consumers to regard clothing as being disposable. Disposable couture is increasingly visible in shopping malls across America and Europe. Fast fashion is essentially targeted at young women who form the bulk of consumers. Yet fast fashion leaves an increasingly visible carbon footprint, with the clothing life cycle generating potential environmental and occupational hazards.  Take the U.K for instance, where the British textile industry currently produces 3.1 million tons of CO2, 2 million tons of waste and 70 million tons of wastewater per annum­­­—with 1.5 million tons of unwanted clothing ending up in landfills annually.

Contemporary fashion industry incorporates natural fibers such as wool, silk, cotton etc. and man-made ones, the majority being synthetic fibers made from petrochemicals. Most of the clothes in our wardrobes contain polyester, elastane or lycra. However, their manufacture creates pollution and they are hard to recycle. At each stage required to make a garment, the negative impacts on the environment are numerous and varied. E.g. spinning, weaving and industrial manufacture undermine air quality. Dyeing and printing consume vast amounts of water and chemicals, releasing numerous volatile agents into the atmosphere that are detrimental to human health.

Environmental Impacts: The impact on the environment varies according to the fabric and material used:-

  • Nylon – Made from petrochemicals, this synthetic fiber is non-biodegradable. Manufacturing nylon produces nitrous oxide as an end product, a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than CO2, thus adding to global warming.
  • Rayon – Is an artificial fiber made from wood pulp which on its face value seems more sustainable. However, old growth forest is often cleared and/or subsistence farmers are displaced to make way for pulpwood plantations. Often, Eucalyptus is planted which draws up phenomenal amounts of water, causing problems in sensitive regions. To make rayon, the wood pulp is treated with hazardous chemicals such as caustic soda and sulfuric acid. The use of rayon contributes to the rapid depletion of the world’s forests.
  • Wool– Workers working in the wool industry are subject to exposure to organophosphates causing  symptoms such as tiredness, headaches and limb pains, disturbed sleep etc. Organophosphates are used in sheep dip, and the wool used in apparel can contain their residue. Further, vast quantities of water are needed for irrigating sheep grazing land as well as for cleaning wool. Finally, wool dyes and moth proofing chemicals can be highly toxic.
  • Polyester- The most widely used synthetic fiber, manufacture of polyester is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil, thus releasing millions of tons of CO2 apart from volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and hydrogen chloride which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease.  By products emitted in the wastewater from polyester manufacturing plants can contaminate natural water habitats. Further, making polyester uses large volumes of water for cooling.
  • Cotton– Cotton, the crop used in textiles since antiquity has proven to be in the modern era, the most pesticide intensive crop in the world. It also takes up a large proportion of agricultural land. Chemical defoliants used in mechanized cotton harvesting take their toll on both the environment and human health. The chemicals tend to remain in the fabric and are released during the life time of the garment. It is among the most water dependent crops. E.g. manufacturing the average cotton t-shirt uses over 2000 L of water. Further, bleaching and dyeing of cotton are high energy intensive processes that produce toxins that flow into the ecosystem. Finally, the U.S, which is the largest exporter of cotton in the world, heavily subsidizes its domestic industry undermining the fair trade agreement and consequently the fair trade fashion movement. E.g. in 2002 US cotton was being dumped on the world market at 61 per cent below the cost of production. The adverse affects on workers is equally grim, with cotton workers being exposed to organophosphates, pesticides and heavy metals like copper, cobalt and chromium as well as formaldehyde, with grave health consequences.
  • Leather- Tanning and dyeing processes cause extensive pollution and also bring to the fore animal rights issues.
  • PVC– Poly vinyl chloride is the 3rd most commonly used thermoplastic. During its manufacture, vinyl chloride monomer, dioxin and other pollutants are released into the environment. Compounds called phthalates, used as plasticizers to make PVC flexible, leach out over time. Phthalates adversely affect the hormonal system. When put in a landfill, PVC leaches toxic additives and when burnt, emits dioxin and heavy metals into the environment. It is used as a solvent in glues, to stick plastic coating to water proof fabrics.

Reducing fashions carbon foot print: The gradual awareness of the negative impact of the fashion industry as well as issues pertaining to worker and animal rights has led to an ‘eco and organic fashion’movement, which stresses upon clothing and accessories that have been made with a minimum use of chemicals and limited impact on the environment; taking into account the health of consumers and the working conditions of people in the fashion industry.The eco-fashion movement has led to an emphasis for—

A) ‘Eco-fashion clothes’, characterized by: – The use of organic material in clothes, such as cotton grown without use of pesticides, in their manufacture; 2. Non-usage of harmful chemicals and bleaches; 3. Manufactured from recycled and reused textiles; 4. Durability and meeting the criteria for fair trade.

B) Sustainable Fabrics: – Sustainable fabrics are fabrics considered to be environment friendly. Some of them are:

a) Organic Cotton-  Organic cotton employs no pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides during its growth cycle and is devoid of synthetic dyes or chlorine bleaches. Growing organic cotton has been given an impetus by the Pesticide Action Network U.K. which aims to reduce the problems caused by pesticides used in cotton and promotes organic and fair trade alternatives.

b) Jute– Jute is 100 % bio-degradable. Its high tensile strength, resistance to heat and fire, heavy yet silky texture and versatility, make it a viable option for use in the textile industry.

c) Hemp– This traditional crop is highly ecological, productive, easy to use and pest tolerant. It requires little or no agrochemicals and binds and enriches the soil through its deep roots. It is being used in the   manufacture of hemp yarn.

d) Bamboo– An adaptable plant, it is hypoallergenic, absorbent, fast-drying, and naturally anti-bacterial and is very fast growing. Though some chemicals are employed in its processing, it is nonetheless a better sustainable option compared to other fabrics.

e) Linen– Made from flax, this traditional fiber crop needs few chemical fertilizers and pesticides than cotton.

f) Organic Wool– Is made through sustainable sheep farming practices, devoid of toxic sheep dip.

g) Corn Fiber– Corn fiber (Ingeo) is created by extracting the starch and sugars from corn, and processing them to make a fiber, which can be spun into a yarn or woven into fabric. The technique is being pioneered by Dow Chemicals.

h) Soy Silk– Soy silk is made from the by-products of the tofu-making process. The liquefied proteins are extruded into fibers which are then spun and used like any other fiber.

i) Tencel– This natural but man-made fiber is synthetic like and is made of natural cellulose found in wood pulp. It is 100% biodegradable. Tencel production is relatively environment friendly. All forms of clothing can be made from Tencel and it can also be blended with other materials. Cellulose used in its production is a renewable source. Further, any product made of Tencel can be composted safely at the end of its life cycle.

Eco-Labels: To give more teeth to the eco fashion movement, eco-labels have come into vogue to provide information to consumers about the environmentally positive features of a product. Some of them are:-

1) OEKOTEX STANDARD 100- This standard assesses the chemical and water usage, handling and disposal, exhaust air production, energy usage and general workplace conditions. This standard is now mandatory in several European countries.

2) EUROPEAN ECOLABEL FOR TEXTILE PRODUCTS- This assesses a limited use of substances harmful to the environment and human health, reduced water and air pollution, shrink resistance and color.

3) GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARDS (GOT) – This group is working towards bringing their respective labels under one umbrella, thus making it less confusing for the consumer.

Further, certain restrictions have been imposed into the ecology of textiles world over. The restrictions concern the presence of the following chemicals in textiles beyond prescribed limits and can be summed up as follows-

  • Prohibited amines in azo dyes
  • Chlorinated phenols
  • Formaldehyde
  • Extractable heavy metals
  • Residual pesticides
  • Allergenic dyes
  • Chlorinated benzenes& toluene compounds
  • Phthalates
  • Organic tin compounds

India and Fashion: Eco and organic fashion is especially significant for India, since the country is one of the world’s largest producers of textiles and apparel. Taking cognizance of this fact, the Government of India initiated the ‘Ecomark’ scheme in 1991for the easy identification of eco-friendly products. It takes into account the impact of a product, from raw material extraction to manufacturing and final disposal. An earthen pot has been chosen as the logo. India had the largest number of GOTS certified facilities than any other country in the world in 2011.

Despite the global efforts being made to transition to a wholly organic and eco based textile and fashion industry, the ultimate onus of stemming ‘waste couture’ lies on the designers and consumers who must be willing to purchase and pay a higher premium on organic apparel, as well as become aware of their buying patterns and habits. While adoption of ‘green’ labels is a positive step, people need to be convinced that it is not necessary, for instance, to own 50 pairs of shoes when a mere 5 would suffice. Changes at the policy level can only do so much; what we need today is complete revamps of systemic values that govern our lives. It may not be too much of an exaggeration to claim that you are what you wear. So while it is true that dressing up can be a lot of fun, it is also important to understand and acknowledge that every new garment purchased leaves a carbon footprint, and every old garment discarded adds to the massive pile of waste that the world is struggling to dispose off. Without this understanding, the fashion industry’s environmental foot print is likely to ever more become unsustainable.

 

DOLLARS AND EASTWOOD

I was going through my collection of English films, which contains a few classics, and invariably for some reason I decided to watch ‘Fist Full of Dollars’ starring Clint Eastwood and Gian Maria Volonté.  I first watched the film as a kid,  and then at least four more times in the intervening years between child hood and young adulthood.  The film in itself was inspired by a Japanese film, ‘Yojimbo’ directed by Akira Kurosawa. The plot and theme of ‘Fist Full of Dollars’ is mirrored on ‘Yojimbo’ albeit in a purely Western setting, in America’s mid-west, perhaps during the early to mid nineteenth century, while ‘Yojimbo’ itself was in part inspired by Western film genre and archetype. Interestingly enough ‘Fist Full of Dollars’ was shot in Spain. In my opinion, it is the most vivid depiction of gun slinging cowboys, where lawlessness abounds and the might of the gun is right. He, who wields his pistol and is quicker on the draw, is a law unto himself. Till date I have never watched a Western which is as foreboding, intense and with a grim portrayal of realism. The only film which comes a close cropper, is ‘For A Few Dollars More’, itself a sequel and a part of the ‘Dollar Trilogy’. Eastwood’s portrayal of a reluctant ‘do gooder’ is brilliant. There is no concept of a hero here, no clear cut demarcations between black and white. The tone of the film bears a realistic shade of grey, with Eastwood’s character (Joe) purely out to earn money. The help he renders to a couple, is happenstance and in tandem with Joe’s ideas of morality, while the justice he metes out to Ramon(Gian Maria Volonte) and his brothers, revenge for the beating he suffers at their hands, rather than for some noble ideal.

The cinematography is stupendous while Sergio Leone’s screenplay and direction weave their magic, and Ennio Morricone’s music provides just the right element of suspense and tension. The entire cast of actors are excellent in the portrayals of their character, and no Western film (or for that matter Hollywood or Bollywood) film that I have seen, contained acting, where the actors were required to convey so much through their mere eyes, facial expressions and body language. Gian Maria Volonte’s portrayal of an egotistical, authoritarian and intelligent Mexican gang leader is absolutely scintillating. However, Volonte outdoes himself when he plays ‘Indio’ in ‘For A Few Dollars More’, again an intelligent, egotistical and authoritarian character, but one that is somewhat psychotic and antagonistic as well. In fact, I am pretty sure that ‘Gabbar Singh’s character in the cult Hindi film ‘Sholay’ was modeled on that of ‘Indio’. The hair style, beard and the downright maniacal laughter of ‘Gabbar Singh’ are just too evident as rip-offs of ‘Indio’.

As for old Clint, no Hollywood actor has a patch on him, in his depiction of an intelligent, tough and shrewd, emotionally in control, incredibly quick on the draw, intense and grave cow boy. Not even Gregory Peck (whose acting style by the way was imitated by Dev Anand) or John Wayne come close to Eastwood.

The ‘Dollar Trilogy’ is epic and truly a classic in its own right.