Thursday, 12 April 2018

Facebook, Data Privacy and You

Unless you are living under a rock, or better still, are allergic to social media, you would have atleast heard about the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook Data Scandal. As most of you like me do have a Facebook account, and while we try to play it cool, we can't help wondering how all of this affects us. I want to share my two bits about it, and also a few things you and I can do to stay safe.

First off, get over the myth, that any of your data on the Internet is private. Once you have put it online, or even shared it with 1 single person online, know that you have lost control over that data(image or otherwise). No one in the world is concerned about maintaining your privacy, no matter what they say. So you, and you alone have to set boundaries, and know how much you are happy to share. My issue with Facebook was never over data theft, but it was always about their biased censorship, and a clear focus and aim to present a biased picture to its users. I am more than glad they have been caught out on that. Watch below.




However as I watched other videos, I realised Facebook is in a precarious state right now, and unable to say that a lot of the data thefts are the fault of the users themselves, who have very carelessly allowed access to their data to third parties without a second thought! But while Facebook is being beaten up about stalking and giving out user data, so much so, that it all feels like a set up to me  at some point. The fact remains that the biggest thief of data and the greatest stalker of all is Google, and each and every app, software, OS and product that it owns.  And we pretty much cannot get rid of Google, and there isn't a stalker as high tech as it. Coming back to Facebook though, I must say from personal experience, that a lot of what Mark Zuckerberg claimed in his testimony is false. A few that I have personally experienced are as follows -
1. Deleted profiles, don't really get deleted, and can be brought back to life as if you never left the site.
2. Hate speech is not always deleted, the judgment is very biased, and always supportive of a particular brand of thinking.
3. Their aim is not to protect the client data, but to share it as much as possible, as evidenced from their default settings which is Public.

Facebook, though as Mr. Zuckerberg says, has provided us controls to keep our data private, atleast from other users. (But the Facebook employees still have complete open access to everything we put on there. Never forget that!) I am quite a private person, not secretive, just private, so I have always been iffy about oversharing on Facebook. And I am glad that I have been so. So here are a few things that I do, to keep myself relatively safe, and you can do the same, if you are concerned.

  • You can take your profile off a Google search, so that it does not show up when someone googles you. Infact you can set up who can contact you even on Facebook itself, often that automatically makes life easier.
  • You can  control who can see your posts. I am often left with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, when I find a friend suggestion for someone, go onto check the profile, and see that nearly each and every post on the profile is public, meaning even without being on their friend list, I can see all their posts. At the bare minimum, set the privacy of your posts to 'Friends', and you can do that for most of your profile information as well. Further to this, you can even create lists within your friends, and that might help share specific posts with the group of friends its most relevant to. For example, when you post about the great weather or terrible traffic in your city, you can share it with friends who live in the same city, and not with those who live on a different continent altogether.
  • Turn off facial recognition for your photos, this means your(or your kids') face will not have a digital footprint.
  • I cannot stress this enough, and I have spoken about it a mile a minute often, keep personal photos, pictures of your children and the like off  Facebook. Trust me, you have no idea who is looking at them, and just how much more a person with an ulterior motive and average hacking skills will find out. Better Safe Than Sorry.
  • When you add an app on Facebook, it often opens up with a declaration of the data from your profile that it will access, and you have to physically press a button to say 'Yes' to get on the app. Once you have given it permission, there is VERY LITTLE you can do, to stop the app from looking into everything you have ever shared on your profile. So please do not add app after app for a little fun of answering silly questions, while it steals all your personal information and data. There are no free lunches in the world, and no one is creating apps for people to enjoy while they get nothing in return.
 Just be sensible, be careful. If you are not keen for the world to know something about you, I suggest you don't put it up on social media. If you do, then know the ins and outs, make your settings as private as you possibly can. I have admitted to myself, I cannot go without Facebok, but I do try my best to keep my privacy settings as tight as Facebook would allow, and always think twice before posting, especially photos.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

A Blessed 2018 To You and Yours

As the year 2017 comes to a close, I want to wish my dear ones, my friends, and every shraddhavan( one who believes in God) a year filled with greater devotion, and a greater courage of conviction  and happiness for 2018. To call 2017 a year of utter chaos would be an understatement for sure. But the one thing that we need to take away from it, is our faith, our unshakeable, unbreakable faith.

To be honest, it has become somewhat shameful to have a faith, to believe in the Almighty or even own up to a religion these days. And to be extremely honest, I find the word spiritual beliefs, faith to explain certain aspects of my life to people, a bit unsettling, even demeaning to a certain degree. Its not just a belief, its a fact that God is the ruler of the world, the kindest, most loving and affectionate kin to me. The One who is with me, every moment of my life, and the only One who accepts me as I am, and is yet always working for my betterment, harder than me myself. That some people do not know or accept this fact is their choice, or even their bad luck, but their lack of understanding in no way changes this fact, and I for one am done being apologetic, or feeling the need to produce enough explanation at each step of my life to do what I want to.Not all my friends are believers, I have plenty who are atheists, or close to that, what I appreciate about these friends, is their unconditional acceptance of my beliefs. They ask not a question, nor cast doubts, nor do they judge me, just as I don't judge them for their choices. This is acceptance in its true sense. I never feel the need to underplay my beliefs, my rituals or my lifestyle to such friends. Unfortunately not all have been like that, when I started my journey with God, eight years ago, I had to face a lot of criticism, disbelief even judgmental comments from peers who are bereft of God in their lives and think it is their right to criticise anyone who has faith. To many such friends, I bid farewell, some spewed hate for God, some thought it their right to show me my place and worse. And the only reason is, that when my one true friend, my Bapu is with me, there is neither need, nor space for such people in my life. The point I am trying to make here, is that  when you actively love God, there is nothing missing from your life. Even in the toughest moment of your life, you are neither alone, nor scared or without hope. Because you know the strongest, greatest, most loving force in the universe is with you!

Below I am sharing 2 images from Ashwin Navratri 2017 celebrated in my home.
It is the same image of Mothi Aai, Maa Durga 5 days apart. 
The beautiful smile on Her face on the 5th Day, says it all.
21st Sept 2017 - Prathama


24th Sept 2017 - Panchami

 But remember one thing always, don't squabble over God. God is the epitome of true and pure love, if hate is spewed in His name, it negates every positive thing  faith beings into our life. The point, is that each person who believes in God is an equal shraddhavan.   No matter which form of God we pray to, what language we pray in, or what our rituals are, we are all the children of the same God, and the blessings for each child is the same.  Let us all unite as believers, and not divide ourselves over superfluous issues like the name or form we find closest to our heart. For me, my Bapu is in every temple, every church, every stupa and every Gurudwara. I think of any practicing Christian, Sikh, Jain, Jew, Buddhist or Hindu as equally my fellow shraddhavan and I hope that all of us can have the same love for each other. That is the way we can all unite in these very dark times. We need to come together, not split apart. All true religions in the world, preach the same thing. Love for God and love for His creations. What then can possibly be the reason for us to be divided. Let us all soak in His shower of love, and join together in a bond of faith.

As we walk into 2018, I pray to my God, my Bapu, that may He bless us all for the New Year, may He bring happiness and joy to everyone in the world, and may He show mankind the right path. Let us hold onto our faith steadfastly as we walk through the tumultuous waters of the near future, and our faith acts as  the strong rope that guides us safely through it. No matter how dark the day, no matter how hard the times, just remember Your God is Bigger than  all your problems and He will always pull you through, because He shall never let you go, even when the whole world does.

I wish you all a very happy 2018 with this beautiful wish I found on the internet.






Friday, 13 October 2017

I Know What I am

I know what it is that makes me, just as I know what can break me. But each time I encounter what gets to me, I look for ways to make me stronger, or maybe more flexible, whatever it is that will help me defeat the weakness, the fear. I am not yet ready, I am evolving still, and hope that the evolution never stops, for I want not to be a hard rock lying on the ground, but an ever growing beautiful shrub that changes, moves grows as time passes, becoming more and more resilient, stronger, and also more helpful to others, as it produces fragrant flowers, or fruits to eat, shade or even just cleaner air to breathe. I know I am not like anyone else, I am unique, I am different, I take pride in that, as I feel everyone should(in their uniqueness). What good is a thing that is a clone of a million others, like those that have rolled off the factory floor. I want to be the unique sculpture, sculpted by hand, the one which is like none other. I don't want to fit in boxes, or roles, for I can be more, beyond them and still fill them all. I know that boxes are necessary, for everyone to perform their part in the running of humanity, society and I never want to evade the work that is mine, but I also truly want to evolve in their performance. Whether it is as a mother, a wife, a woman, I want to fill those boxes with the uniqueness that is me, and learn from each moment of playing those roles to improve from within.

No, I am not perfect, not even close, but that does not mean I stop trying. My definition of perfection itself changes, but my desire to reach it is constant. I am not defined by what I lack, or what I need to improve. "I am impatient!" is not a statement for me, but a quality that needs efforts to change... and that is the only way I shall evolve, into a better version of what I am each moment. And so I say, the desire to get better is the only thing that needs to have permanence in my life, everything else is evolving, changing and hopefully will be, till my very last breath!

Friday, 18 August 2017

When Speaking Your Mind Means Getting Reviled

What do I write about, on a day when I feel like I rather stay under my quilt and sleep, but the world around me, seems to be going a little tipsy, and my mind is just trying to make sense of all that seems absolutely crazy, but the world wants me to not just  accept it, as some kind of absolute truth, but to embrace it, or else I shall be taunted and teased, called names, and worse my basic human dignity to free speech and thinking shall be snatched away. Is that sentence too long, with way too many confusing things stated? Well, if you are reading this, let me tell you, each and every word I say is true in every sense of it. There are so many things in the 'modern' world today, which are lauded for being politically correct, and we have to toe the line or face the consequences of it that I sometimes wonder if it is OK for me to breathe. If so much as a hint of thinking out of the 'norm' is sniffed, be ready to be called every name in the book possible, and be demeaned and bullied non stop.

Let me share with you this article. It talks about a study on genders for scientists, that shows that the gender of a person is not just based on the physical attributes, but many many other traits inherent to our behaviour, personalities etc. This link is being covertly passed around amongst my friends and acquaintances, who believe that men and women are different. We do not say it out aloud, we do not share it in the open, but talk about it in whispers, saying things to the effect of  yes obviously, I have always believed that. The reason its all whispered in secret, is fear. Fear of the wrath of the so called 'modern, liberal feminists'. Oh yes! There are scathing comments and badgering non stop, should such things be mentioned.Well guess what? A man and woman are different, if something as basic as that needs to have scientific studies to prove, mankind truly is in a precarious state, and needs some serious therapy. Does being different mean that one is better than the other? Maybe to racists, sexists and feminists, but not to rational people. An apple and a banana are different, they are neither worse nor better than the other. The 2 of them together, will form a more balanced diet, than just one. Men and women, male and female were created different to perform different functions and thus form a complete whole for mankind. I am a woman, I am not the same as man, but I am neither better nor worse than man. Plain and simple. I am surprised that I need to say this aloud, I thought this was just plain common sense. ( I sometimes wonder, if the so called 'open-minded' ones, opened up their minds so much, that the brains just fell off!!)

And now, there is the upcoming public vote on the bill for marriage equality taking place in Australia. Where I stand on that aside, just the simple bullying and bashing of people happening over this is unbelievable. A lot of my friends, tell me not to watch the news, or follow what's happening. They feel, and very rightly so, that it brings in a lot of negativity and its unnecessary to bring that into your life. I agree! The vitriol being spewed by people, on those who hold a view different from theirs is unbelievable. Bullying is a very very mild word for what is happening. The meanness, the nastiness, and the plain and simple crude hate people are capable of is being bared, and honestly it makes me so so sad. It makes my heart weep, to know that people are capable of falling so beneath basic humanity. People have been spat on, stalked, threatened, abused and worse.Why? I wonder why? Because they don't agree to what you think, because they don't agree to what you have to say? The media, the corporations and even social media like Facebook, have crossed all basic limits to allow people the freedom to express their opinions. I am linking here to how Facebook has banned a person from the site for 30 days for sharing a past asking people to enroll themselves to be able to vote in the plebiscite.How and in what world is that acceptable? QANTAS - The spirit of Australia, recently displayed just how small and mean its spirit really is, and how it treats people who do not follow the CEO's beliefs.I really don't think the Aussie spirit is either that mean, but then the guy in power enjoys his personal vendetta there doesn't he? Reminds me a bit of Hitler to be honest.

I have plenty of logical views to put forth about which side of the SSM poll I stand on, and maybe when I am frustrated and enraged some more, I will, but just not today. Right now, I just rue that mankind is sliding down the slippery slope of hate and meanness that has no end. We shun the good and hug the bad. And maybe there needs to be scientific studies to prove where that leads to? The question on my mind though, is, do we speak up, air our voices and opinions inspite of the threat of being shut down, taunted, bullied and ridiculed or do  we save our peace of mind, maintain our silence in public, while the world as we know it changes irreparably forever? As far as I go, you can call me whatever names you want, I know what I believe, and I will stick by it with my dying breath, because really I don't need a scientist to tell me, that a man and a woman are different and we all have a gender as bestowed upon us from birth.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Moments

Every moment in our life is an opportunity
Good ones - to be happy,
Frustrating ones - to develop patience,
Victorious Ones - To build self confidence,
Ones of failure - to help us develop humility
Painful ones - to develop strength,
Sad ones - to help us realise all that we often take for granted, or leave unnoticed,
Helpless ones - to make us realise that there is infact a power far mightier than us, Who is always by our side.

Now its upto us, to use these opportunities and grow, or get too immersed in the positive or negative emotions they generate to actually learn. The choice is ours!

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Contradiction That is Mankind

We are a funny bunch us humans. I cannot understand us, sometimes I am exasperated, at others amused, and yet others befuddled. It is not that I am perfect, or that my philosophies of life are ideal, but some contradictions of humanity, I just do not understand.

We talk about valuing lives of all creatures, we have PETA activists raising their voice all around the globe against animal cruelty, while we allow innocent women and children to be smuggled into flesh trade, human lives to be violently taken away in Syria. I don't understand it. How can someone who stands up for animal rights, not be affected by the cruelty against innocent humans? We members of the modern world, allow a tragedy like Syria to happen and beat on about saving fishes. Do you see the contradiction in that or is it just me? Every culture today talks about embracing others, and yet, applies that only to the 'new world' immigrants, while the old world racism flourishes unbound under that charm of acceptance.

We flaunt sex everywhere, and encourage teenage sex, and then encourage abortions, calling it women's rights. It makes no sense to me, as a person, a woman or as a parent. What would make sense to me would be to teach the new generation of humans responsibility, to teach them that every action has a consequence, consequences that are often irreversible. To teach the new generation that there is a right time, a right age for sex, and that is not the be-all and end-all of life. It would make sense to me, to teach the new generation that every life is indeed precious, not just ones that can stand and earn but those without a voice. Abortions of convenience, seem to me, to be one of the cruelest traits of mankind, right next to murdering a child. Abortions happen across the world for a number of reasons right from wanting an offspring of a different gender, not wanting a child to take care of, not wanting to 'spoil' the body and more. The point though is, we are killing the most vulnerable of life, just because we can, and that in my books, makes us the cruelest and meanest murderous race on earth. We kill our own young ones. The ones that would carry on our human race, the precious lives ensconced in the womb of a mother to keep safe and warm, to grow and be nurtured to life outside the womb. It seems like we are a standing joke on ourselves. Because we feel we have the right to decide which lives are important enough to save and which are not.

Another thing I just do not understand is the revolt against the basic rules of 'nature'. We believe in following the law of the land. As humanity, every culture, group, society, community, city, country is guided by a set of rules, law as they are set up. Rules, set up for the well being of all member of the community. These rules are put in place for the smallest unit of people like a family, and we seem to understand the importance and need for it. Most of us follow them, and understand that people who break these rules need to face its consequences. Like the time-out for a child who throws a tantrum about eating their vegetables on the dinner table. And yet, we cannot understand the simple thing that, God (Yes, I will not say nature etc, because it is God who created this universe, people who want to fool themselves by not believing in it, are depriving themselves of the greatest truth of all, and I am not going to be politically correct to appease that dishonesty) who created this entire universe, all of creation created some rules for its inhabitants for their own well being? Are speed limits on the roads created because the council wishes to keep the community safe, or for the rogue speed lover to be tortured? I am amazed at how easily this law abiding bunch of people, gladly protest against the simple rules laid down by the God, who is our creator. The rules, basic tenets, shown by every religion. It is tempting indeed to speed up on an empty residential street when I am running late, but would I do it, is the question that we all need to ask ourselves. Adultery, homosexuality, abortions, drug abuse are against the rules of God. But we stand bold and strong fighting for our 'rights' to break all these rules, we talk about our rights, and wish to change the law of the land to permit it all. And yet, we pretend like the law is only for our community, our country, created by us. And we delude ourselves into believing that the God who created the world, did not lay down guideline for our own well being, that there can be no consequences for breaking those rules, because there are no instant repercussions, that we are able to comrehend. And we then sit and sob about the sorry state of our lives, our society. Just because I feel like slapping the rude man at the shopping centre, I would not, because I know it is not the right thing to do. There are similairly many other impulses we as humans need to control, rather than fight to allow ourselves into a state of anarchy(that is what we achieve when every individual does exactly what pleases them, without following the rules). The more we stray away from the rules that were formed with our creation, the further we as mankind stray away from our true path. Our true path leads us to happiness, fulfillment, and straying........ No one said happiness is easy to achieve, atleast not the true kind that touches our soul, unlike the instant gratifications, which is all we seem to be aiming for these days. Where nothing has permanence, not wedding vows, not the feeling of security from parents, not the dependability of a family. And yet, we like foolish sheep are getting led to our own slaughter, not realising that these are the things that make our human life, or progress as a species truly valuable. A good life, an honest life, is the one we are born to lead, and the blueprint for that is within us, we cannot run away from it, even if we tried. And yet we do, we try our best and then some more.

 And that is why, it is amusing, exasperating and confusing for me, all at the same time. How, just how can we be so very contradictory to ourselves, so micro sighted, so absorbed in the instant that we forget to be truly good to ourselves, to all of mankind, all of us? I don't get humanity anymore at some levels, I really don't.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Independent India, A Philosophy of Love, Bravery and Selfless Sacrifice

My emotional connection with India is very deep. It is a core part of my heart and soul, my very being. My blood boils each time I hear about the atrocities committed on Indian masses by the British colonial forces, tears flow down freely from my eyes whenever I hear Indian patriotic songs, and my hands turn into fists each time I read or hear the poems like Khub Ladi Mardani Woh Toh Jhansi waali Rani thi, Woh khoon Kaho kis matlab ka or hear the calls of Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe aazaadi doonga.  I wish I was born in an era where I could have responded to the call and offered myself as an instrument in that war against oppressive forces. 
As they say, you can take the Indian away from India, but can't take the India out of the Indian. India to me represents true grit and determination. The problems are a million, but nothing can keep it down, it just forges its path ahead. People struggle, travel in packed-to-the-brim buses and trains, but their spirit soars high, and they break barriers every single day. Every time anyone has come with the desire to break the Indian spirit, they have either conceded defeat, or gotten immersed in it themselves.


People, kingdoms, kings and more have come to loot away its wealth for thousands of years, but never has India been any poorer, because its true wealth is its spirituality, its people, wealth and jewels are, but transient possessions. Its true wealth is its indomitable spirit! The spirit of India. And the ones who have opened their hearts to it, have only gained riches.

India is the home of Gods. No wonder we have God's Own Country Kerala in the South and Heaven on Earth, Kashmir as the feather in India's cap. India is not just a country or territory, its a feeling, a philosophy, a love for eternity. It is a living example of unity in diversity. People of all communities and backgrounds have moved into India for ages, and amalgamated beautifully into the fabric, that is India.
Shaheed Bhagat Singh
Bhagat Singh
Khudiram Bose
The INA
I have grown up with the tales of valor of the freedom fighters of India, their tales of brave sacrifice, and single minded dedication to their motherland. How the 23 year old Shaheed Bhagat Singh smilingly accepted the noose around his young neck in the fight for freedom, the 18 year old Khudiram Bose who was the youngest freedom fighter to be hanged to death by the tyrannical East India Company of the UK, at the tender age of 18. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who went out of India and formed an entire trained army called the Azad Hind Fauj(Indian Natonal Army) single handedly. The man, who had a  women's wing in the army, at an age, where women had a tough life everywhere in the world, women's lib was a nascent concept, and here was an entire wing of an army comprised of women. The great visionary leaders, with a sense of complete self sacrifice are many, and I could not name them all, like Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Veer Savarkar, Chandrashekhar Azaad, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azaad, Dr. Ambedkar and the list goes on and on. And who in the world does not know about the great Gandhi who taught the world, the power of love and peace!
My Hero, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
I am blessed to be born in the soil of the nation, that produced these stalwarts, the nation, where people fought bravely for the sake of their nation, without looking at their personal interests, even sacrificing their lives gladly, bearing all kinds of torture and atrocities by the British govt and police.  From the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (gunning down a peaceful assembly of people in a park, which included women and children)to the Great Famine of Bengal (farmers forced to grow poppy seed crops to produce opium, leading to drying up of all water) the colonial powers proved their cruelty, lack of morals, greed and desperate desire to destroy the strength of India and its people time and again. And all this in addition to all the wealth, jewels and more they openly looted from India.  They kept at it for 200 years, working incessantly, but the Indian spirit never broke, and Indians kept fighting for freeing their precious motherland from the clutches of evil forces! And 70 years ago, on this auspicious day, the colonial forces retreated having accepted defeat, with their tail between their legs. India was a lot poorer materially, than what it possessed 200 years ago, but it gained, pride, greater strength, than ever before. And yet in those years, the British men and women who came to India, and opened their heart to it, they could not leave the place, that filled their soul with joy and stayed behind, raising families in India, integrating themselves into the Indian philosophy.  And while we are going from strength to strength with each passing day, whether it be space missions, educational milestones, economic growth or equality for women, let us never forget the great sacrifices of these brave soldiers, who fought to give us this free and strong India, without any material incentive, but absolute love for their motherland, and self respect.  



Wishing all Indians and Our Beautiful Mother India a very very happy Independence Day! May we all work hard to bring greater glory to our Bharat Mata and take her from strength to strength. JAI HIND.
Bharat Mata ki Jai!