F.L.Y (First Love Yourself)

(This post is meant for many young girls whom I know hate themselves and their bodies.)

Way back in February 1990 when Photoshop 1.0 was shipped to its first customer, the Knoll brothers, Steve Guttman and Russel Brown along with Adobe’s creative team looked at it as the programme to help process digital images, the gray scales levels of which Macs could not display. After 6 versions (2.0 – 7.0) the 8th version, Photoshop CS, was released in 2003 and has had 5 more in the series – till C6. The latest version, CC, was released in June 2013.

I delved into the history of Photoshop when I came across two links which laid threadbare how the advertising industry is exploiting human bodies to earn billions in profit for themselves and their clients. They make us buy the products and try new ones over and over again. And the byproduct of it all is the mindless objectification and commodification of women which has led to a lot of other disastrous effects including the abject loss of self-esteem in many young and even old people. It would be wrong to say only women are affected by it – men are too because they expect women to be like in those chic ads. Needless to say it has engineered a vicious circle.

Many young people implicitly believe what they see in ads and posters, films and videos – curvaceous models, fair and lovely skin, lustrous long hair, all the other beautifully seductive parts of the human body. For the old, it is a desperate attempt to regain their lost youth. No one realizes that there is a great deal of difference between what they see in those visuals, digital and in print and what is real – and that there is a great deal of manipulation taking place. Did you know that almost 100% of the pictures of models that you see are altered???

Ah, and it is Photoshop that enhances the quality of these images with its sharpening tools, softening skin tools and also those that create high contrast portraits. Take a look at this image to see how changes are effected. And the result, beautifully sculpted bodies, fairest of ‘fair’ and flawless skins – dreams of many a person, young and old!

The saddest thing is that many young people hate their bodies and have very low self-esteem. They think their bodies are far from what is touted to be beautiful and desirable. This eats into them and each day they lose their confidence. Without self-esteem and confidence they become fragile individuals, ready to hurt themselves and others; and even kill themselves. They hate their bodies and are constantly comparing their body with that of these models. They diet and starve to get ‘zero’ size figures – the result: eating disorders like Bulimia and Anorexia. Thus the effects are two-fold – physiological and psychological.

Today beauty parlours are big time business. Endless hours are spent before the mirror. Thousands of rupees are spent on beautifying activities and cosmetics. Much more money is spent by the rich on Botox, nose jobs and silicone implants various other surgical procedures. Beautifying the body and preserving it is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Feeling good about oneself is one thing – but being obsessed by that alone is sure to drag one’s life into a quagmire of ‘pining for what is naught’. The stereotypes generated through these ads of how a woman or a man ought to be for that matter has only degraded human beings, bringing out the worst in them. It is high time that we see through the profit-making ploys of burgeoning global beauty business.

It pays to watch this Youtube video:

Girls, love your body, just the way it is. Make peace with it. This is what your parents bequeathed you and embrace it lovingly. When you do that, you will find a metamorphosis within and outside you. You look at life in new light and say – Life is Beautiful! We owe this to ourselves!!

I love this Mark Sterling quote: “If you want to Soar in Life, you must learn to F.L.Y. First Love Yourself.”


Facing the Book!

I have been a Facebook user for nearly 5 years now. I do enjoy being part of this wonderful fraternity. It has brought so many people closer to me  – those I would not have been in touch, thanks to the hustle and bustle of life. It takes me back to good old times and the people from those days when pictures are posted and then tagged. It has also been the quickest means of communicating with all of them. I remember to have met with scores of my former students during my summer holidays by just communicating about my visit over FB.

I am grateful to FB for having brought to my peripheral vision very many students whom I have taught in at least half a dozen schools. Many of them are whom I know well for they were my students; some who know me as I have taught their older sibling(s); a few who have just heard about me as a teacher – all eager to share updates of their personal and professional lives with me. Then there are former colleagues and friends. College mates – classmates, juniors and seniors. These networks are so powerful and through these networks we have been able to organize get togethers and alumni associations as well.

At some point in time I realized that so many people require some kind of motivation in their lives. This made me have a page called Charaiveti for that purpose alone, where I post uplifting messages. To my team members, I have opened a group which I administer. I make it a point to share with them any interesting piece of information regarding teaching and learning, educational technology, interesting careers, online courses and MOOCs and so on. For other educator friends I share those links in a different page called Aware Teachers.

It is quite gratifying to see through FB that our former students have spread their wings, earned Most Valuable Professional titles, shouldered responsibilities both professional and personal. Those are priceless moments when we as educators feel rewarded, and the reiteration dawns on you that, yes, we are in the right profession.

FB also gives me a space to comment and reflect on day-to-day happenings, be it the Delhi Gang Rape, the cloudburst at Uttarkhand or even closer home the travails of a coalition government that gets knotted even more complexly even as it tries to extricate out of messes they create.

Many of us family members are also on FB and that is also a great way to stay updated. Instead of posting invitations by snail mail, I uploaded the invitation of my daughter’s marriage to inform everyone and to invite them for the same. Yes, I am very active on FB and as of today have 1403 friends! Over 75% of them are my students who form a huge slice of the pie of my life!!

However, I find some irksome habits in some of my FB friends. Things that are part of social media etiquette. You might be a hard core fan of Chefville or Farmville or other thousands of ‘ville’ games the FB offers. I am not. So it would be nice if you could stop sending me request for any games.

Oh, yes! You have an idol or a brand – NaMo or Coke for example. Why should you assume that I too share your passion? I may not. In fact, I will not. I would like to read, think, rationalize and come to my own choice of opinion.  And that is my own opinion – in a democracy I am entitled to mine right? So, I would be delighted if you could stop sending me suggestions to like pages & shares, unless they are to me harmless ones like say Optimists’ Creed or something as inspirational and patriotic as the Unity Song: http://bit.ly/15Cvxt7

Then, there are friends who tag others for anything and everything. Here too I would advise you to tread the careful path. Many don’t like tagging and I have seen some people in my friend circles flying off the handle because they have been tagged. I don’t mind being tagged one picture or a post – but definitely not in one with something I dislike / am uncomfortable about. Like say, KFC or Dunkin Doughnuts. That is not my style!

Now, with comments, one can upload pictures too. I find that some silly picture of a funny scene in a movie with a punch line uploaded along with the comment – not in mine but in others’ walls. This is most distasteful and an insult to the person who has updated his status. I wish people would resort to this only to substantiate something – not to poke fun on somebody.

Then there are ‘friends’ who will explode when you share some information. There will be comments, counter comments and altogether it gets into a gooey mess. I have had this experience  and finally had to delete comments that were not very charitable. In this digital space it is worth remembering that each one is entitled to hold his or her own view. So why would you want to comment on the appropriateness of the post – it is the sweet will and pleasure of the person concerned; unless, the post is about you. I think most of us don’t do that.

So, let us face-book peacefully and without infringing others’ space and trodding on others feelings. In that case, I will be most happy to be an FB friend of yours!

Ridiculous, isn’t it???

Dear Mr. Sibal

I am not a lawyer. I am not in politics nor am I in position of power like you. I am not a cyber specialist. I am just a simple citizen, an educator who exhorts my students to think for themselves, have an opinion and make sure that they express it.

My pet peeve over the last few days has been you. First when I read this report in the India blog of New York Times through, you guessed it right, a Facebook link, on the 5th of December 2011, http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/india-asks-google-facebook-others-to-screen-user-content/I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. (Our Indian media caught up a little late!) I can understand if monarchies & autocracies demand this. But a demand of this nature from a legal luminary-cum-elected-representative (Aside: – the board to which I belong to was under your care – and you made so many radical changes there!) from the world’s largest democracy was far too much to digest. And that too at a time when social media is playing a vital role in engineering change in many countries globally; and when young and old are equally members of such online communities that foster a sense of camaraderie and oneness in them.

Why do you want Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to screen content? What kind of content are you particularly keen on removing? Anything that is anti-government or anti-congress? With millions of web users logging in and out, posting anything from tweets to status updates, to photographs to videos, writing blogs to discussing in webinars, how on earth are they going to monitor that? Besides, I fiercely value my freedom of speech. As long as I am not using objectionable language and graphics, why should anybody screen the content that I post?

I have three blogs. One question that I had to answer before I started them was whether it has adult content. I could set up one only when I said no to it. I write something disparaging about X / Y / Z, someone can always report me for abuse of the virtual space. Which means that there is a built in mechanism for social media to purge unwanted / abusive material, right? Why, then, did you want to be the super cop, ask for content censorship of kinds & earn the ire of millions of Indians in the cyber world? What is more shameful is that you are using this as a ruse and saying that by indulging in such free exchange of views & ideas, religious sensitivity will be exploited. Come on, Mr. Sibal, the internet is not a new thing now. If such instances gave rise to communal riots, India would have been in shreds by now. In fact, I have heard many a time that it is your tribe who engender communal issues and use it effectively in vote bank politics.

I am aware of the IT act. Section 66A is about punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc which is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine. Section 66E is for violation against privacy; 66F deals with punishment for indulging in cyber terrorism. Section 67 is about punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material. As a legal expert you know it all too well. And perhaps you know the loopholes too. Is that why you can’t invoke these sections against erring individuals? So how about plugging the loopholes instead of gagging us?

Mr. Sibal, common people like me have tolerated nonsense for very many years. A new found enthusiasm is coursing through our veins, thanks to our communities in the very same social media that you have targeted. India will not go the China way! Do read the writings on the wall!! Or you will not have any wall to write over!!!

An Awakened Citizen

Go Wild, Go Green


It has always been a dream to write and see it published. Imagine my surprise when I could just do that and that too in Asian Traveller, October 2009 edition. I owe my profound thanks to Praveen and Suraj who made this dream come true… And of course, to Aathira, my daughter, through whom these contacts came to be…

It is truly a deliriously happy moment! 🙂 and am so very grateful for the wonderful doors of opportunities being opened for me….

Photo credit: Praveen Muraleedharan Pillai

To Read or not to Read!

I hate news papers! What a transformation!!

As a young child, hooked to reading I used to wait eagerly for the newspaper man to deliver it. Thankfully we used to get both The Hindu and The Mathrubhumi newspapers and so we would share it – my grandfather and I. And I remember how I pored over newspapers and read each and every column in every page.

Today too much of it remains same – we get both the newspapers. All of us at home clamour to read it. I, however, don’t chew and digest newspapers like before! The panache with which news items are sensationalized has disgusted me. The Hindu appeals to me even today, thanks to its ethics and ethos. And I sincerely hope they will retain this individuality even in the changing times.

Today’s newspaper was particularly upsetting. The Mathrubhumi carried out a horrific picture of a Palestine girl’s head in the midst of rubbles due to an Israeli attack on a school. Don’t miss the placing of the picture – the left hand top corner of the front page! How can one ever read the newspaper with out glancing at the photograph? It is shameful for a newspaper of the stature of Mathrubhumi to have done this. And for a newspaper that evolved in the crucible of the freedom movement, and conceived as its mouthpiece, what a fall! K. P Kesava Menon, the editor of the newspaper for over 55 years would have been a sad man, had he been alive today.

Yes, we need to highlight the brutality of the Israeli attack.
Yes, we need to highlight how man has debased himself.
Yes, we need to highlight how we have forgotten ethics and fight with unequals.
Yes, we need to drive home our angst & helplessness when innocent children become victims.
And yes, it is also true that a single picture can convey what even a thousand words cant.

But is this picture needed? Why do we have to sup on horrors? What did we gain by such gory details? Do we ever think about what the picture can do to the psyche of adults and more importantly children? Through these graphic details what are we teaching them? Even during the Mumbai attack, the “live” coverage that the media indulged in came for scathing attacks from too many quarters that they had to think about a kind of code of conduct while reporting.

Even otherwise as an educator I have noticed how “violent” our young generation is in their thoughts, words and deeds. Why shouldn’t they be when our media – both print and visual – brings it all into their sitting rooms in all its ghastly depictions? Truly the time has come to teach these impressionable minds NVC – non violence in communication. That can happen only if the minds are free from violence in thoughts, from violence they see around them, thanks to such explicit pictures.

When will we awake to this reality and allow our children to metamorphose into adults naturally? Let us not inject the creed of violence into their blood streams, for God’s sake! This we owe it to them as they are going to be tomorrow’s generation and the nation’s promise!!