Author: Jinit Jain

The Power of Empathy

The literal definition to empathy is the ability to understand & share the feelings of others. On merely reading the definition, you don’t get the deep underlying message of it. Mind you, this is one of the most profound human feeling that one can possess. It has a deep connotation that is often given short shrift by those who don’t really care to understand its true meaning since it requires a perceptive understanding of human behavior driven by a spectrum of emotions ranging from envy, rage to love, affection & a lot more.

Lord Mahaveera, the 24th Tirthankar to the Jain Community stated, Empathy(Samyak) is an emotion that differentiates a human from other species. With regards to Empathy, he drew a slew of conclusions for humans to better understand it & adopt it in their way of life. Empathy is very different from the emotion ‘Sympathy’ or ‘pity’. The former means to understand others while the latter means sorrow for the misfortunes of others. Human beings, with their convoluted & inexplicable behavior & their innate selfish tendencies, often draw a false equivalence between the above two emotions. Lord Mahveera stated that the sheer ability to understand people from a position of privilege is far more receptive than the ability to understand them when they are in obvious pain or misery.

Empathy calls for understanding people in all the possible scenarios and not just when they are in pain or misery. This is because, we humans normally behave in a consistent manner when subjected to agony but when we have more choices from a position of privilege, often our decisions are motivated by our latent desires & wishes. We tend to be unreasonable to others in our decision making, causing a wide-range of emotions from bitterness to anger, to envy, from the people who are directly or indirectly affected by the decision. Here, exhibiting empathy towards others is of utmost importance. Whether you are one inflicting unintended distress to others or  you are subject of that distress. Empathy, helps us in reaching common ground, if not with the perpetrator but with our ego, aiding us in reconciling with the limited options at our grace & choosing the most appropriate one.

The primary difference between Sympathy & Empathy is visible not when you are at peace with yourself feeling pity & sorry for the misfortunes of the underprivileged ones, but when you are affected negatively by someone & yet choosing to maintain your calm by trying to analyze & understand the situation rather than satiating the irresistible desire to respond back. Empathy is a warrior of difficult times, it tests your patience, your ability to grasp situation especially when things go south, & your desire to understand the whimsical living beings around you without bearing a shred of bitterness in your heart.

In fact, Lord Mahaveera goes on to expound that the cornerstone of basic virtues required of any living being to elevate & become a Tirthankar is Empathy. Unless one is empathetic towards every living being, one cannot understand the True meaning of life & will always be stuck in the worldly affairs of happiness, sorrows, envy, arrogance etc. To liberate from the clutches of these emotions & attain nirvana, one needs to first whole-heartedly espouse Empathy & practice it in his/her daily life. Though this emotion is ephemeral, & sustaining such a novel & powerful emotion requires a lot more than willpower. It requires conscious efforts to keep this emotion alive in the face of adversity because our rage & ego often gets the better of us. Our anger & agony seldom renders us in a calm state of mind where we can determine what’s right & what’s not. It also requires understanding people in the way that we have never done before. To go an extra mile & think from their perspective.

Empathy liberates your soul. It not only differentiates you from other living beings, but also from the human beings around. In this world of excessive hubris & vanity, Empathy has the power of keeping you grounded. Tolerance is an intrinsic factor of Empathy. Without being tolerant one cannot expect to manifest empathy. Tolerance shapes your behavior towards others in the demanding situation, it is easy to show indifference when things don’t bother us but once they start bothering us, it is the tolerance that keeps us in check. As someone has rightly said, a man’s character is judged by the way he reacts in a crunch situation & this character of his is defined by one of the very few basic virtues that include empathy.

An Exegesis of Shashi Tharoor’s ‘An Era of Darkness’

An Era of Darkness by Dr. Shashi Tharoor is an extension of his infamous speech at the Oxford on the proposition ‘Britain owes Reparations to her Former Colonies’ which quite unexpectedly(to him) went astonishingly viral on most of the social networking portals. Comments flooded in huge numbers on the video link shared & much to the author’s surprise transmuted into one of the most hotly debated topics in the country that year. The video was shared 3 million times & may have been viewed by several million people across the world. This was perhaps a compelling reason why a good friend of his suggested him to pen down his arguments & the rationales behind them with proofs & apocryphal evidence wherever possible.

Naturally, the book has a lot of references, sometimes to the work of Indian authors of that time, but mostly to that of English authors who were righteous enough to capture the excesses meted out to the Indians by their British counterparts in their own country. The author hadn’t said anything tellingly new but the way he has explained each & every aspect of his arguments with refreshing tenor makes this book a riveting read. The book also attempts to answer a lot of counter arguments to the above proposition which Shashi couldn’t respond to during his speech at the Oxford, obviously due to the primacy of his argument & the time constraint to counter every riposte of theirs. Through this book, Shashi successfully dispels all the detracting arguments made by his opponents against the propositions in his much-vaunted speech that stir the world.

Quoting the author of this book from one of his previous works:- “One cannot take revenge upon history, history is its own revenge” encapsulate the purpose for which the book is written. This novel is to enlighten Indians about the necessity to understand the salience of their ancestors’ ordeal to achieve democracy, freedom, liberty & sovereignty from their oppressive rulers. That Indians were treated as second-class citizens in their own country, deprived of their artisanship, employment, land, and the onerous tax levied on them accentuate the gravity of the cruelty they were so mercilessly subjected to by their foreign rulers.

In the 18th century, India contributed 25% of the World’s GDP, but owing to almost 2 centuries of British rule, in 1950, India’s contribution to the world economy was dismal 1.3%. In fact, the population growth of India from 1900 to 1950 was 3.1% while the growth was paltry 0.7%. These numbers speak for themselves and convey the horrors that were apportioned to Indians during the Brutish Raj, as the author termed it in his book. If you consider the amount of wealth that was repatriated to England during those gloomy years of slavery, the value comes out to be close to 14million pounds every year for 190years along with the British inequities & racial transgressions faced by the Indians for those woeful years. It is pretty rich of the Britishers to claim that the democracy was the positive outcome for the Indians, from those dreadful years of misery. Britishers created deep fissures in the society, partly owing to their limited knowledge and understanding of complex interwoven societies spanning across the Indian subcontinent & partly due to their immoral machinations. Instead of understanding the intricacies, they made a sweeping generalization of Indian society as one ranging from north to south and east to west and brought them under the rule of law created and passed in London. Indian society arguably was a society with thin caste discrimination but the British reified it by dividing India’s society into different castes based on their profession. This accentuated the caste differences & weakened the society. Britishers, assiduously practiced this doctrine of ‘Divide & Rule’ to stave off a possible mutiny like they had experienced in 1857 when the masses, irrespective of their creed or caste, where sepohs both Hindus & Muslims fought for each other & were only outweighed due to superior weaponry & British chicanery. In fact, The author claims much of the present day caste oppression can be blamed to British insouciance to gross immoralities practiced in pre-Independence period. Britishers, never interfered in the societies immoralities & injustices til it didn’t threaten their profits or their assertion of the rule which safeguarded their profits. Instead of transforming the society into a cohesive force, they employed ‘Divide & Rule’ to meet their ends. Religion, as the author argues was never a defining characteristic of a pre-imperial rule Indian individual but the Britishers in their bid to weaken the bond outlined it with remarkable rigor. This all was done by just a few thousand Englishmen if not hundreds. Indians, as the authors of that era argue, were overwhelmed by their foreign oppressors’ superiority

Britishers ruled India & Indians, but most positions in the government were reserved only for Britishers. When eminent Indians like Dadabhai Naroji persisted with demanding greater autonomy of self-rule & important positions in the govt. the Raj conceded initially but the decision merely was an eyewash meant to contain then simmering outrage against their inequities and later through subterfuge hold all the decision-making power with themselves. The roles extended to Indians were at best frivolous and at worse spineless. It is one thing, to empower the masses with providing opportunities of ruling themselves and another thing, to duplicitously strip them off their power by passing a legislation superseding their roles & responsibilities by bestowing their heads with supreme powers to annul any legislation passed by the lower rung Indians.

The book has with great assiduity debunked all the possible arguments lionizing & defending the British Imperial Raj by systematically exposing the fallacies in their arguments & claims in a seemingly rigorous manner, in some cases, he has cited grotesque anecdotes that will always remain etched in my memories. He cites an example of how thumbs of the artisans of Dhaka, known for their handicraft & artisanship products, were spliced by Britishers since despite controlling the production prices & economic activities couldn’t weave clothes comparable to their quality. The book is replete with such anecdotes that not only boils your blood but also makes you pity for the sufferings of those helpless people. Shashi goes on to claim that the British tyranny was, if not excessive but equivalent to mass slaughtering or the Jew holocaust. Never in the history has the slaughter been inflicted in so ruthless and apparently arrogant manner.
Towards the end, Shashi makes a case as to why Kohinoor, the much-vaunted diamond of whom 6 countries lay claim to shouldn’t be demanded back by India. He says it should remain as a sign of British oppression & continue to remind us of the tyranny our ancestors faced at the ends of the cruel Englishmen. I personally think, no amount of words or the length of the article can justify or even come close to what has been so beautifully written by Dr. Shashi Tharoor. He has certainly set a precedent by challenging the banalities around our enslavement & written a thoroughly comprehensive book enlisting all our sufferings in great detail & with great objectivity to drive home the point why Britain owes reparations to her former colonies. It is not about the financial help that her colonies need, but about restoring the dignity that was wrenched & butchered in every second of its slavery.

The Verdict:

Although I’m a non-entity to review and recommend this book that’s been written by someone who has written 16 books but to aid my readers, I’d like to say this is the most heart-rending description of history you’d ever come across. Shashi has done a lot of hard work in putting his thoughts in this book, in being as objective as possible, though the temptations for being sentimental were overwhelming. I’d give this book 4.5/5. It’s a must read for all of you. Apart from the refreshing tenor of the banal history in this book, it is also laced with a lot of facts & quotes from different authors of foreign origin with their incisive take on Britain’s colonial imperialism.

The Romanticism of War between India and Pakistan

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” as stated by Sun Tzu ring so true especially when you picture the current scenario where two belligerents India and Pakistan are at loggerheads with each other owing to latter’s penchant for using Terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Since the terrorists inflicted grave wounds on the Indian Army soldiers, it was India’s riposte that everyone was looking forward to, much more the Pakistani hawks who are living in nothing but a fool’s paradise.

Pakistan is long been engrossed in a civil war as a result of their continued rendezvous with the Terrorism & their apparent perversion of using it as a state policy & holding it as a hostage to global peace order. But the cover is blown, World with the increasingly fraught environment has realized that supporting Pakistan is feeding Terrorism & hence major global powers have distanced themselves from it, although China still regards it as its all-weather ally but we can understand the devious intentions of China for doing so.

India, on one hand, can afflict serious injuries to Pakistan if she decides to have an all-out blown attack on its northwest frontier or it can swallow this setback & continue marching towards achieving its developmental goals unswervingly & determinedly. India should shed the romanticism of war, which may be, tempting & cloud the judgment of even the most prudent strategist out there. India should realize the ISI hawks in Pakistan are expecting such a reaction, not yielding to their needs will deflate them, for they are losing grip with their own populace. For about 70 years they have been thugging their people with the cry & hue of war with India that underlines the importance of the military in their country and provides them with an indubitable exercise of authority over its civil government. The power politics in Pakistan hinges on this proposition, India denying one such would make them lose their morale, inspire an intellectual churning in Pakistan & hopefully lead to a better environment for sanity to prevail & sustain which would ensue in the crackdown on Terror camps irrespective of their leanings & attaining a stable state of Pakistan.

The perennially riveting Harry Potter Books

Let me be very forthright before you peruse the article. I am an eternal Harry Potter fan and I love the entire series by J.K. Rowling in perpetuity. So, this might reflect in my obsequious flattery of the book and the author throughout this article. In fact, I have to concede a lot of my writings and my constant inspiration to write have emerged from being engrossed in Harry Potter books. They have chiseled with certitude, my thoughts, my way of thinking & certainly my way of writing. Fiction, I find it very difficult to write, because it demands author to be submerged in his thoughts with utmost concentration, actually visualizing stuff before writing it. It greatly expands the horizons and contours of one’s thinking.

We all avid readers have definitely read Harry Potter books, they are like the alphabets of the English language for the readers who love to read fiction books. Harry Potter books can be classified into Kids genre but it is definitely worth a read for all adults too. The books are so inexplicably interconnected and interwoven that often some leads in books are left open only to be pursued in a mystified way in the subsequent book or for that matter in the later books. J.K. rowling, for me, is one of the most cogent authors I have ever come across. Her narration is simple and lucid and her art of writing exquisite novels like the much vaunted Harry Potter saga is a testament to this art of hers. While reading these books, I was in awe of the author and the way she described the story, making you believe that this is the reality happening somewhere in the outskirts of London and for those who reside in London and have read these books, you couldn’t just help wondering where is Platform 9 3/4 at the London railway station. In fact, the best part of her story-telling is the way she accentuates a fictitious story as a real one, almost making you riveted over the turn of events that speckle the books in such a marvelous manner. At times, the fictional nature of the book becomes conspicuous but it’s not only done to outwit your predictions but also to captivate you for the ensuing drama.

These seminal novels by J.K. Rowling had a profound effect on the future of Fictional writing industry and acted as a pioneer in the way fiction was depicted in the movies. harry Potter books were rightly converted into movies which only added to its soaring popularity. One could say they had a symbiotic relationship in advancing each others’ interests. The books made crowds throng the theaters, the movies enjoined people to read the subsequent books. Very rarely in the history of the Cinema and Literature has the interest of both the fields coincided and advanced for their mutual benefits. Even today, people who have watched these movies never like to give them a miss. Gluttons like me are all glued to our TVs, shirking our otherwise important work only to once again live in those times where the drama & mystery unraveled left us in astonishment & incredulity.

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