<![CDATA[Ajinkya Dharane]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/blogRSS for NodeSun, 11 Apr 2021 01:06:48 GMT<![CDATA[Democracy Who?]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/democracy60496eb35913f80057501bebThu, 11 Mar 2021 01:22:56 GMTAjinkya Satish DharaneMost of us live every minute of our short life to survive. Between our careers, friends, family and amusing us with some form of entertainment, we do not realize that few actors of democracy & anti-democracy cuff us to maintain power.
"India, the world's most populous democracy dropped from Free to Partly Free status in Freedom In The World 2021."

When I saw this headline, my curiosity peaked as to what entailed in the article and who was behind the report that smacked my home country in the face with a subtle future-authoritarian or fascist tag. But truthfully, the events Indians have experienced in the last couple of years, I was shocked and not surprised.

As I read the report, the introduction said - "These withering blows marks the 15th consecutive year of decline in global freedom."

The blows report refers to a deadly global pandemic, economic and physical insecurity, and violent conflicts worldwide.

This is an unfortunate statement - 15th consecutive year, many of us have been living under a belief that we are free.

The year 2020 started with initiating a deadly pandemic in the world's most populous dictatorship, China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was blamed for the cover-up. I can imagine the party leader and the president of PRC, Xi Jinping, sitting with his team in a conference room and realizing that this tragedy their country embarked on the world could be an opportunity. Something similar to what Christian Bale was shown doing when he portrayed the USA's most infamous vice-president - Dick Cheney in the movie Vice. China was the largest contributor to World Health Organization (WHO), and magically the pandemic they started has vanished in thin air over last year, while the world's oldest and strongest democracy, the US, has thrown insults at WHO.

But enough is being said about pandemic. It was just another diversion, a perfect one as it may come, to hide the incompetencies our leaders have. The report I referred to earlier has mentioned other significant issues like economic insecurities (one might argue that came with the pandemic, but if we look beyond the top ten economies, we see an issue lingering for a while) and violent conflicts around the world.

Before we go into these factors and see how authorities carry out these unilateral decisions in the name of the people development, the question has to be asked on who are people behind Freedom House is and what methodology and research they have used to make such claims about different nations.

Freedom House was formed in 1941 to fight against fascism and promote American involvement in World War II. Well, there you go; if the foundation of this organization is so pure and true to humanity, do we need to question their existence and techniques? Not a fan of sarcasm? Please go and do some reading on World War II and how America was involved & please do not conclude by only Pearl Harbour. But it's been 70 years to this foundation, and we can safely assume they have much clearer intentions, robust methodologies at their service rather than justifying involvement in a war across the continent.

Freedom in the World uses a two-tiered system consisting of scores & status. A country or territory is awarded points between 0 to 4 for each of 10 political indicators, grouped into three categories - Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, and Functioning of Government. The points are also awarded based on 15 civil liberties indicators grouped into four subcategories - Freedom of Expression and Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights. The questions to analyze these indicators are - whether the electoral process is fair and free? Are the electoral laws and framework fair and impartial? And many more.

Freedom in the World, 2021 edition covers events and developments in 195 countries and 15 territories in 2020. The research and review process involved 125 analysts, nearly 40 advisers. The research was done by studying news articles (great start!), a broad range of sources, reports from non-governmental organizations, and other methods.

The question should be raised on the methodology of Freedom House. The news sources are mostly biased, untrue-to-the-core, unethical business corporations. The true meaning of free press and honourable journalism is lost a long time back.

Even in the world's strongest and oldest democracy - the USA, two of the biggest news networks are entirely biased and at the end of the spectrum (CNN vs. FOX News). Similar bias is observed in India between NDTV and Republic TV (although Republic is not one of India's most significant news networks, but one of the loudest. Republic was subjected to investigation in TRP scam, so its credibility is of a question here.)

The ruling power controls the news networks in communist countries like China, Russia, some middle-eastern countries. It is like a car salesman rating the manufacturer number one and then selling it to us based on that ranking.

Harvard graduate developed the methodology for Freedom in the World in 1972, and it has been updated timely and incrementally for keeping consistencies. The report claims to be subjective, and methodology supports the subjectivity. You can read the complete report and methodology here.

In 2020, India dropped from free to partly free. As per the report, India's score only dropped by 4, which means India has been in democratic decline for a while now. 2019 saw the government of Narendra Modi get reelected with a more significant margin than in 2014. The government then revoked article 370 and 35a from the constitution, which gave the state autonomy. It was done in the name of the state's development and was met with a tremendous positive response all across India. But on-ground reality was that the locals have to live with a heavy military presence, no internet connections, and a constant threat of being called anti-national. The news networks celebrated the government and congratulated Modi on this historic achievement. But just by opening one eye, it was clear that local people who were the most affected by this change were not asked about their opinion.

It was followed by large amounts of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Acts (December 2019 to March 2020), which were only halted due to a pandemic's arrival. The pandemic called for one-nation, and it started that way with Modi, with all his charismatic orating skills called for togetherness. But it was short-lived. The Hindu nationalist ruling party then scapegoated Muslims (Tablighi Cast event on 22 March 2020) for spreading the virus across India. Though our logic says that event should have never taken place, our leaders and the free press coming out and singling them out as the main factor for COVID-19 in India does not display democracy and freedom. In 2021, India faces protests from the local farmers for a policy, but these protests will be covered in next year's edition. We can expect to see more decline in the score for India.

The report covers some saddening events worldwide, like the war in Nagorno-Karabakh regions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Both nations threw dirt balls filled with blame on each other for the initiation of actions. These nation's leaders justified the war for controlling a strategic route near the Ganja gap, which serves as an energy and transport corridor for Azerbaijan. Sadly citizens of both nations had little say in spending their own money, sacrificing the lives of 6500 combatants and hundreds of civilians.

The CCP was blamed internationally for the cover-up for initial cases of COVID-19. They have worked hard to make up for the loss of reputation by supplying medical devices, personal protective equipments (PPE) and sometimes blaming other countries like Italy for the origins of the virus. But this is expected of China and somewhat respectful because they do not hide behind the letters of democracy.

The United States saw an 11 point decline in the last decade, making it one of the countries that saw the largest decline. The most bizarre events of all took place in 2021 when a mob of thousands marched on US Capitol after allegedly incited by President Trump. Even though Trump's coup attempt was futile and the US got their act together in a matter of hours, it showed a side of the country that has punished other countries for not upholding democratic principles. It was one of the funniest (if you are outside of the US) and saddest day to witness, and CNN had a field day on 6 January 2021. The memes and tweets flooded the internet, with one saying, "If the US saw what the US is doing in the US, the US would invade the US to liberate the US from the tyranny of the US."

We are in the 21st century, with educational levels high, awareness levels high, connectivity at its peak, cross-cultural understanding at its peak. Still, we, as a society, are being succumbed to authoritarian rules. Why are we playing along with these heads of state? What kind of ammunition these rulers have that has us silent? Or are we just trying to survive in our challenges that we don't care?

The first problem I see is the average age of our rulers. Now, this could make me sound like an ageist. The average age of the leaders in democratic countries is not declining. The US elected a leader who is 78 years when he took office. Along with the concerns of the leader's physical and mental health, the ideology of the leader is problematic. World War II was supposed to end communism, and the allies fought various wars afterward to make sure democracy prevails in countries like Korea, Vietnam, Gulf and other countries. Though they failed to impact these expensive and meaningless wars, the current leaders were around for these wars. They have seen the progress communist countries have made and are using these ideas as their justification to consolidate power. After World War II, China was mostly ignored for about 25 years till the 1970s. After that, just by tweaking Mao's ideology, they removed the stigma of communism and now have become the world's largest economy in terms of GDP purchasing power parity (PPP) and second-largest by GDP nominal.

The second problem is the state of journalism in the world. Free press is a thing of history now. Associated Press is the funniest joke of our century. The news channels are openly supportive of one of the political parties, and their coverage is meant only to help the causes of those parties. In the US, the Fox News channel was created for the sole purpose of being a Republican-centred alternative to CNN. We depend primarily on journalism (traditionally through television networks and now through social media) to understand the events around us and form an opinion. So when the Hindu nationalist government of India bombards the misinformation about Muslims being spreaders of the virus, the masses believe it, or masses chose to believe it because nobody has the tenacity to search for truth. When the issues are expanding, twisted and turned about racism, the elections are turned, or the sacred institutions like the US Capitol are attacked. The misinformation makes sure these leaders have the least possible resistance from the public and enough room to achieve their goals.

Enough has been said about social media giants, tech companies, data privacy. I will not expand on it, or I will be standing in a corner and screaming at the wall.

So, all said and done, where are we heading, and what would be the change agent?

Since the birth of the internet in the 1990s and its exponential growth in the last decade, we are heading for another giant war (yes, I am deliberately not calling it World War because the allied countries will not be controlling the majority of the population this time.) The conclusion of this war will be a treaty signed by those left powerful, probably the US, China, Russia, India and some other powers. The treaty will have strict regulations on data regulations, something similar to the conclusion of other wars fought for oil.

Time will tell. Meanwhile, let's go out there and hope our next generation does not have to live in a fascist country (if you are not living in one already).

<![CDATA["Trump" Card]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/trump-card5f7c9473b639bc0017390d5dTue, 06 Oct 2020 16:18:47 GMTAjinkya Satish DharaneFriday, October 2 marked one of the most significant days since the world learned the concept of pandemic. As if the fear, uncertainty, and chaos were not enough, the world woke up to news of POTUS and FLOTUS being tested positive with COVID-19. The messages with mixed reactions from over the world started pouring in.

Best wishes, prayers for quick recovery came from allies like NATO countries, India. In comparison, some top-level officials from countries like Iran and China mocked Trump’s handling of the pandemic and repeatedly called it a hoax and a Chinese virus. 

Since then, a lot has happened, and it feels like the most excitingly anxious part of the pandemic occurred in the last three days as if the previous six months were just a trailer to the real movie, and it is justified. With only over thirty days to the election, the incumbent president seeking a second term hospitalized with the deadliest virus in the living memory. I mean, can it get more dramatic for the election that has the world on its toes. For some world leaders like Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani, it is a game-changing event due to MO’s striking difference between two presidential candidates – Biden and Trump.

I must give it to Donald Trump. He is by far the most intelligent politician I have come across, or he is surrounded by some super smart people (I suspect Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior advisor, to be the one). After fighting multiple controversies like Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections to a scandalous phone call with Ukraine’s prime minister, which got him impeached in house, 45th POTUS seemed to have won it all. But he has been losing the election gradually since the start of the pandemic, where he HAD to shut down the country. The protests around the country for anti-racism added more gasoline to the fire, and there is an actual wildfire in California that seems determined to wipe out a beautiful wild west. The California fires burnt Donald Trump across the country as media was quick to blame him for pulling out of the 2015 Paris deal and damaging our environment. The killing of various people of colour by police and protests against racism and law resulted from Trump’s predecessors (read article). However, the coronavirus was new, its effects unknown, and its spread unprecedented. Trump had a golden opportunity to manage the pandemic and win over the public in May-June of this year and wipe out any Democratic candidate’s chance before he or she was even nominated. Unfortunately, Trump did what he does best – calling out the media, calling out health officials, lie to everyone, lie about everything. Voters have lost confidence, and Biden seemed to finally get his shot at the top post for which he has been working on for the last forty-seven years. 

After the first presidential debate on Tuesday, September 29, Trump was again crucified in media for unethical behaviour and lack of morality. But two days later, it was all good wishes and sympathy for the most powerful man in the free world. 

Now, I am not implying that Trump’s illness is fake or not severe. And I feel the same way I feel for millions of other people who have been infected or lost their lives or lost their loved ones. 

What I adore (and hate at the same time) in this case is the Trump campaign’s use of this illness to almost win back the brownie points they have lost in the last few months. As the news of Trump’s diagnosis came in the late hours of Thursday, the first thing his campaign and team of doctors did was to create confusion over his health conditions. They used the oldest trick in the book of Trump management – hide the truth and let the media speculate, so all the speculation can be played down later and come out on top as the only trustworthy source. 

1. Trump moves from the White House to Walter Reed.

Friday morning saw a little slump in the stock markets, with some pessimistic traders selling quickly. The DOW Jones fell 0.5%, S&P 500 fell almost 1%, and NASDAQ, whose crown listings are giant tech corporations, fell nearly 2.2%. The confusion created by the Trump campaign helped in avoiding these markets to sink lower (and maybe some help from Nancy Pelosi’s announcement on new stimuli package.)

Trump smartly waited for markets to close on Friday before deciding to move to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He walked without support, which was a significant boost to the voters and traders (though they would not be able to do anything over the weekend) about his health condition. Trump, wearing a mask, sharply dressed in a blue suit, walking from White House to Marine One, gave the American people a huge boost in confidence about their leader. 

The move from the world-class medical facility at the White House to a military hospital, which had treated President Ronald Reagan (Trump’s hero president) in 1985, was announced as “abundance of caution.” We, the sane people, must see this move as a vehicle to gain more brownie points and gain voters’ confidence. 

Win- Trump

2. Trump’s video release just before the move

Trump released an eighteen-second video on twitter (his official communication channel, ha-ha!) just before he walked out of the White House. In video, he thanked the supporters worldwide and reassured the American people that he and FLOTUS were doing well. A responsible but expected move of any leader. This was like – if you want a brownie, you must switch on the baking oven. 

No Points — Trump

3. Biden removes all negative ads from air

Biden campaign removed all the negative ads, attacking Trump from the air. The campaign announced that they made the decision as soon as Trump’s diagnosis was made public. This move certainly was the sanest and humane thing we witnessed in this election. Reading a little bit about Biden’s political career, where he has been continuously accused of not being aggressive enough, this show of less aggression worked in his favour for sure. It is a move that shows some hope for America.

Win — Biden

4. Trump’s video from Walter Reed

Trump released over a four-minute video from the hospital on Saturday, talking about his conditions. He started with a short explanation that he moved to Walter Reed as he was not feeling well (Ya! that is obvious). Then the real manipulator hidden inside Trump peeked out, and he said – “this is something that happened, and it has happened to millions of people around the world, and I am fighting for them. We are going to beat this coronavirus, and we are going to beat it soundly.” 

Boom! This was a home run. In his all narcissistic acts, Trump had outdone himself when he claimed to be fighting for the world, not just America, not only his health but for the whole world. 

Win- Trump

In this video, he also claims that his medical advisors had advised him to stay in the White House’s medical wing, isolate, do not talk to anyone, and just sit this out. But of course, Trump would have never done that. He goes on to say, “As a leader, we have to confront problems. There has never been a great leader…(pause), who would have done that.” I can bet huge that he thought of saying, “there has never been a great leader than me,” but maybe thought against it (come on, he is not dumb!)

His campaign continuously downplayed invoking the 25th Amendment clause of Acting President. This would have gone entirely against their motive of showing Trump as a fighter who is the only right leader for America to get out this hole. 

Win- Trump

5. Trump’s second video from Walter Reed

In his second video from the hospital, Trump tickled his ego when he mentioned the supporter outside Walter Reed, waving Trump and MAGA flags. Incidentally, these supporters gathered were violating every possible cautionary measure suggested to support their president, who was suffering from the disease they had been warned against. Too many ironies, but that is America these days. 

In the video, Trump claims that he has learned more about coronavirus by really going to school. He analogized his experience to reading books in school. In this simple, straightforward sentence, Trump positioned himself above his health department, who were still shouting that we do not know much about this virus. He now has the right to say – I know about it, I have experienced it, I fought it, so I can guide you to fight it, so vote me!

Win- Trump

6. Trump’s motor ride outside Walter Reed

I think when you are Trump, you just cannot resist being out of the spotlight. For the outgoing person, who lived on the front foot, sitting back in the hospital and interacting with his followers only through small videos on twitter did not suit well. Trump, breaking all conventions, all expectations, did a drive-by outside the hospital to greet his supporters. There was no notice given to anyone about this Trump’s little adventure trip, and the media freaked out. 

This was by far the stupidest thing Trump had done till now. For a few seconds of the spotlight, he created a doubt about the seriousness of his illness. He was already blamed for not taking the virus seriously, but when he was diagnosed, the complete narrative was, he is fighting it from within. There was an expectation that Trump will now stop downplaying the severity. But it is useless to feed a snake because it will still bite you at the first opportunity. 

When the media crucified Trump on this public visit, he called out the media in a tweet. 

I went through some of the replies, and unsurprisingly there is still many supports for Trump. I say unsurprisingly because all Trump has done since the start of his first term is to discredit media and establish himself as the sole conveyor of truth and facts. 

But I still think Trump lost this point as the majority of the voter base thinks this was an unnecessary act putting a number of secret service agents in danger. I remember the movie dictator when Tamir (Ben Kingsley) tells dictator Aladin (Cohen) that the only duty his body double has is to take a bullet in his head. It was funny to hear that in a movie, your protectors are not expendable in real life. 

Lose - Trump

7. Trump comes back to the White House

With no clear update on his health, his physician Dr. Conley giving inconsistent news, Trump announced that he is leaving Walter Reed on Monday evening to the White House. And as planned, Marine One flew him to the White House and guess what, Trump walked into the White House without a mask. Remember – he is still infected with COVID. And when photographers did not get a good picture, he walked back out and re-shot the entry into the White House. 

It is beyond imagination that taking a good photo is more important than protecting yourself and everyone around you from the virus that has killed millions. 

Lose - Trump

8. Trump is back to propaganda

Trump released a video from the White House, where his energy is evidently high and his message – same old. He praised first responders, doctors, Walter Reed but went right into saying that do not let COVID dominate you. Even though Dr. Conley has stated publicly that Trump is “not out of the woods yet,” Trump declared that he had beaten the virus and now suddenly is the only expert who can guide America out of danger. He claimed to feel like he did twenty years ago and said maybe he was immune now. 

I left out deliberately until now what treatment Trump was receiving while at Walter Reed – some therapeutic treatment with antibodies, NOT approved by the FDA. He received an experimental treatment. Wow! The most powerful man in the free world being treated by an experimental treatment seems like a twisted plot of some terrorist group in a Hollywood movie. Throughout the pandemic, Trump has endorsed these kinds of treatments and unproven medicines. Now with him back at the White House and claiming to overcome the virus with the use of these treatments, he just wiped out any doubters. 

Win - Trump

Remember, the election is less than a month away. The pandemic has hurt Trump’s chances more than his Russian scandal, his impeachment or any other crazy the world has seen in the last four years. Trump has mismanaged the worst-hit country through these challenging times. Yes – India, Brazil, and some other countries are equally blown, but they are not facing voters in the face. 

I am not sure if Trump has won over undecided voters (…yet), but he indeed has managed to undo any damage that was done due to his handling of the pandemic. 

Like Miranda Devine of New York Post said, “If the President bounces back onto the campaign trail, he will be an invincible hero, who not only survived every dirty trick the Democrats threw at him but the Chinese virus as well.”

She is a Trump supporter, but she makes an excellent point. I am not saying the whole diagnosis is fake, but it is overblown for the theatrics. Trump might be experiencing mild symptoms, but his move to Walter Reed, his videos, his messages calling himself a fighter, his move back to the WH all was an act. 

During a war, the president, a commander-in-chief, is said to be leading from the front. Now Trump can call himself a wartime president (yes, I agree that this has been a war of kind) who fought on front lines and returned as a winner. 

Note: Trump is a lot faster to do crazy stuff than my writing. So, this article might be incomplete. I will try and update this or write a new piece as the next part, because we will not lack content until the election results are out, even maybe after that.)

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<![CDATA[An Old Strategy]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/an-old-strategy5f53a5c167f1d60018fcf7b5Sat, 05 Sep 2020 14:56:54 GMTAjinkya Satish Dharane

(Image by James Rajaste)

As an ambitious kid from India, I have fancied about the American dream more than I should have. Growing up, America was the country to be in – be it for studying, working or just living a full life (…if that is a thing these days). The portrayal of a beautiful America in a sell-out media, from the high-roaring buildings or the lush green countryside, never created even a shred amount of doubts in our developing country mindsets.

After living in the country for about six years, it is sad to see the country being torn apart by political agendas, fear and uncertainty.

For the worst affected country by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is just miserable to see it being blamed as a police state, a country where systematic racism is encouraged and trial by media (where judgement comes first and the reality follows if it is given a chance) is the new routine. Social media has been the center of it all. With almost no censorship, these platforms have been the source of hatred, radical views, fear and negative sentiments.

These are not new, however. These problems have existed in the US for a couple of centuries.

In 2015 at the NAACP conference, President Obama pointed out that "The United States is home to 5 percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of the world's prisoners."

This statement heard out of context would tell you – great, US has a stringent justice system, and it is working great. But with a very little knowledge of the history and some superficial research, you can hear the alarm bells ringing.

On paper, the US has abolished the institution of slavery since 1865. But it took the country another hundred odd years to give equal rights to the people of colour. You probably have heard of Rosa Parks. That happened in 1955, 90 years after slavery was abolished. The movie 13th (released in 2016, available on Netflix) gives you an excellent insight into the systematic racism history. Even though the 13th amendment abolished slavery, it did not provide equal rights to black Americans. Cleverly, the amendment states that involuntary servitude is to be abolished except as punishment for crime. The provision of penal labour in this amendment has been exploited by the US government ever since. The maximum pay allowed for the prisoners is $1.15 (as per report from 2007). US government formed a private corporation – UNICOR (founded as Federal Prison Industries) to manufacture various products using this prison labour.

The significant events in US history, like Jim Crow laws that led to segregation, then Nixon and Raegan leading with law and order era, calling out the war on drugs and associating them with the racial discrimination, are the proof that the racism never died in America. In 1994, Bill Clinton led the bill of Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. He came out strong in his introduction speech and used popular baseball phrases – "three strikes and you are out" to give birth to what today is known as mass incarceration.

With these laws' help, the prison population in the US has grown from 300,000 in 1972 to 2.4 million in 2018. That is an 800% growth in incarceration in less than four decades—definitely a worrisome fact. You put a narcissist like the current President Trump in the mix, and you get a new level of well-organized, well-planned crazy. Some reports show that the budget for ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) has increased significantly under the 45th President of the world's biggest economy.

Obama was called "deporter-in-chief" by his critics, and the numbers show he was not easy going on illegal immigrants. But what Trump did with the announcement of mass raids by ICE agents is to instill fear in immigrants. Being as obnoxious as they can be, the media gave the story an angle – all immigrants, illegal or not, are going to be investigated. Unless you have a US passport, chances are you are in trouble. You all probably read about Miguel Perez Jr. An army veteran who had a non-violent drug conviction from 2008 was deported. He had a green card and served in the army.

Now we understand history, let us analyze why we feel the brunt of these problems more than a decade ago?

With the launch of social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, we the humans with lots of opinions and our compulsion to enforce those opinions on others got one thing that newspapers and TV channels would not give us – no censorships. What started as a way to connect with long lost friends, these channels quickly became the medium of expression. You can insult any living soul in the world and not get any repercussions. There is no punishment for calling someone an asshole or insulting their parents, or using extreme profanity on these channels. Hey - it all falls under free speech. And why I should not do it if the most powerful man in the open world is doing it. Yes, Mr. Trump is the biggest bully on these platforms. I am not even going to honour him by giving out references. If you follow him and have some sanity in you, you know what I am talking about. If you do not follow him – you are probably the luckiest person in the world right now.

The world population has increased, but TV viewership has decreased in the last few years with birth and explosion of the internet. And with these traditional media channels promoting themselves through social media. All they need to do is tweet an eye-catching, heart-thumping headline (which in most cases is far away from the contents in the articles), put a thrilling trailer on YouTube and boom – you got millions of views in minutes.

The internet technology has brought the world closer, but you do get burnt when you get close to the fire. We would never have known about the murder of George Floyd or Jacob Blake had it not been for Facebook or Twitter. Black Lives Matter has been around since 2013, but most of us did not know about this movement until this year. We are getting to know the shortcomings of the great country (or what we felt like a great country) like the US. The influential people are exploiting the most fantastic thing about social media – connecting people worldwide, and we, the dumber ones, are falling prey to their exploitation daily. And the worst part there is no end in sight to this slaughter of humanity.

Long gone are the days where Ku Klux Klan or other white supremacist groups openly killed and hung black people. Now those with money or power or both have streamlined the process and has generated billions in profit through this systematic racism.

I do feel that Gen X and Gen Z are smarter than our preceding generations. If we are given facts, we do make our own choices and act on our own decisions. All we need is an unbiased platform to provide us with that. But hey, that is social work and who has time for that!

<![CDATA[Deaf, Dumb and Blind Intelligence]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/_ddbi5f1d03ff52a673001792ad03Sun, 26 Jul 2020 04:31:28 GMTAjinkya Satish Dharane

(Photo by Chris A. Tweten on Unsplash)

After hours of discussion, back and forth, we gathered the courage to go out for an ice-cream in the evening. It was our anniversary. Last five years, we had always celebrated the anniversary in Florida (except 2019, where we took a trip about a few hundred miles further south to Cancun). This year leaving Toronto was out of the question. But we thought we could at least go out for dessert instead of celebrating on the sofa. We can trust our government that much (Ontario had opened up patio dining for restaurants, a few days earlier). We assumed it would cheer us up amid all the negativity surrounding us, but -

Within a couple of minutes of our order, a deaf and dumb person came into the restaurant. He was middle-aged, looked healthy and was carrying a backpack. In a nutshell, he did not have a “stereo-typed homeless” look. When he approached our table, we cringed. Not because of his looks or social status, but by the scare of viral infection. He subtly slipped a small card on to our table and pointed out to read the message on the card. Without touching the card, I read –

I have made this card with my hand

Would you please purchase the card so I can buy food?

Any amount would be good

After reading the message momentarily, my heart sank immediately, but immediately I told the person in sign language that I do not have any cash. That person walked away and entered the store in the hopes of finding a buyer for his card. After a couple of minutes, I entered the store to collect my order and saw that the person was trying hard to ask three people behind the counter for a cake. His struggle made me hate myself for having an ability to speak and listen. The only thing I could do was buy a cake for that person – which I did.

But the incident stayed with me for a long time. It got me thinking, am I really NOT deaf, dumb and blind? Are we all really NOT deaf, dumb and blind? The answer to this can be summarized in a beautiful quote –

“I was deaf and dumb and blind to all but me, myself and I” – Loretta Young

The teen who ignores his teachers’ warnings, parents, and still uses drugs is deaf, dumb and blind. That teen chooses NOT to hear the warnings by his elders, NOT see the implications of drug use. The same teen keeps quiet in front of his (or her) friends who call him a sissy for not using drugs.

The driver who speeds on the highway, just for its thrill, is deaf, dumb and blind. That driver prefers NOT to hear his subconsciousness telling him to slow down. He (or she) sees and overlooks the speed limit signs. The driver does not speak against other rule-breakers and instead follows them into a pit.

The voter who elects a politician even after seeing that politician fail in multiple ventures is blind. The voter cannot hear the politician dividing the nation for his or her to gain power, so the voter is deaf. The voter does not speak against the authority figure and accepts a mediocre quality of life, so the voter is dumb.

On the contrary, animals do not ignore, overlook the dangers or nuances in their lives. A crow knows that it has to abandon a meal lying on the road when a car comes or die. Being the fastest on the land, a cheetah chooses to slow down after a sprint of 300 yards to save its own energy, even it means allowing its prey to escape. In the same scenario, the deer running from cheetah knows it has to stick with its herd for the best chance of survival.

The question has to be raised- Why us humans, the most intelligent species on the planet, chose to ignore the most obvious facts around us? Why do we turn a blind eye, deaf ear or keep our mouth shuts?

I have pondered this question for some time now, and I will try to answer this in the best possible way I can. But let me warn you, this answer might turn out to be the irony I am trying to point out in this complete article.

From the moment we are born, we start living in a bubble of our own. We call ourselves a globalized world, but there is a thick line between a globalized and unified world. The average person visits only 7% of the world’s countries, about 14 different countries in his or her lifetime. (Note: DailyStar UK claims this statistic, but I could not find evidence for this stat. Let’s assume, for our argument’s sake it is true). Travelling to 14 different countries sounds like a “rich person status” to most of us. But remember, the average takes into account 27 countries of EU, where one can travel without any restrictions, and EU citizens travel amongst member countries for business and pleasure often. The stat also considers North American countries where business and pleasure travel between the USA, Canada and Mexico is prevalent.

Each country, irrespective of its location, history, economy, has its uniqueness. When a person visits that country, the bubble I mentioned earlier, knowingly or unknowingly grows. The person gains a certain level of knowledge and experience (about culture, history, economy, etc.) about that country. Let’s assume a person from America visits some Asian country. That person understands the hospitality of some of those countries. Before that person’s visit, they might think the persistence in excellent hospitality as cocky behaviour, thus leading to misunderstanding and, in most cases, racist behaviour.

We need to understand how this bubble works. We ignore anything outside of this bubble. This bubble essentially is our comfort zone. The things outside the bubble are stranger to us. So, we turn a blind eye or deaf ears or keep our mouth shut in those things. And for most of us, this bubble is tiny. In the world where we live to survive and not excel, this bubble’s understanding and growth is not even on our priority list.

We do not understand politics, so we cannot hear and conclude that the statement by that leader is wrong, and we should talk against it. If the teen is raised in a neighbourhood where the drug use is a routine, that teen will ignore all the warning signs and boast that he or she is using substances.

Again, like I said before, this explanation for my question (are we really NOT deaf, dumb and blind) is derived from the knowledge inside my bubble and completely ironic.

I would encourage more feedback on this, so let me know in the comments or write to me.

<![CDATA[A Conversation With Fear]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/_fear5ef3a7a2bb186000177e3974Thu, 25 Jun 2020 12:15:19 GMTAjinkya Satish DharaneAjinkya Satish Dharane

Aryan was sweating from every inch of his body. He was only five minutes in his hike but was already partially regretting his decision. To be fair, he had received information that the distance would be only one and a half miles to his campsite. But the restrictions due to COVID-19 meant he had to park a mile away from the start of his trail. That unintentionally added more than a mile to his hike. He was carrying over ten pounds over his shoulders and walking relentlessly through empty campsites. There was no site of other humans in these dense woods. After walking for about half an hour, he reached the start of the trail. It was picturesque. The tall, thick oak trees bordered the vast mass of backwater from the George Lake. It was a sunny day. The rays of the sun touched the water gently, forming a delightful sight. 

Aryan decided to make a quick stop and rest before embarking on the next leg of the hike. It was going to be more challenging than the mile of flat terrain he had just covered. As he opened his water filtration system, he heard a voice, which made him jump.

“Hi there, how are you holding up so far?” said someone in a thick, dense voice. 

Aryan looked around, only to find no one. His first thought was he was going crazy from being tired. He had got up around six in the morning, drove for four hours, and right away started hiking. He was heading into the unknown. Aryan had taken on a big task on hiking alone after his wife and friends had denied accompanying him. Thinking he imagined the voice, he continued filling up the water bag. 

“Your ignorance is giving me strength, Aryan. So do continue ignoring me,” said the voice, laughing maniacally. Aryan was frustrated at this voice. He was not a coward, or he thought so. Aryan scanned the area and saw no human presence. He decided to confront this voice. 

“Who are you? And what do you want?” screamed Aryan. The scream returned with an echo, which gave Aryan some courage. The echoed voice sounded more energetic, more confident than it was. 

“Oh, Aryan, you disappoint me. I thought you were an intelligent man. I was confident that with your above average IQ, you would recognize me. I am your FEAR,” said the voice sarcastically. 

“But I am not afraid of anything,” said Aryan spontaneously. An expression of denial was very much evident on his face. Pausing for a moment, he said, “uh, well right now, I am not.” 

Fear laughed hard. “Well, the pause you took proves my existence. I am always present inside you. My brothers and sisters live in every living thing possible.” Looking at Aryan’s stumped face, Fear said, “Anyway, I am not going to trouble you. I just wanted to say hello. Also, I want to let you know that you can quit the hike and turn back. There is a nice motel, about fifteen minutes into town. You can stay there. No one will know that you quit the hike and stayed in a motel.”

“I am not a quitter. I will not stay in a hotel like a loser. I knew the challenges before coming here. I am ready for them,” said Aryan in a leading but trembling voice. 

“Well, if you say so. Good luck. I am sure we will meet soon,” said Fear, smirking at Aryan. 

Aryan picked up his backpack, his camping tent, and sleeping bag. He hated himself for bringing an eight-person tent for a solo trip. Aryan was going to rent a single person tent from a local store, but the store could not promise him a clean tent. Aryan, not wanting to take the risk of any diseases, resorted to carrying a six-pound tent in his hand. 

As he reached the starting point of the trail, he saw a sign with the information. The trail was rated moderate, was about five miles, had some steep sections. “You can easily do this. Remember when you used to climb Sinhagad Fort, back in India,” Aryan told himself and started towards the first climb. 

After climbing two steep rocks and jumping back down into the wooded area, Aryan took his second break. He put down his backpack, tent, and opened his water bag. He took a few steps towards the cliff he was standing on. Aryan was mesmerized by the scenery. Aryan had never seen water so blue. The mountain range bordering the lake still had a hint of snow. Aryan just sat there, lost in the beauty of nature. 

“Hi again, tired yet?” Fear said. Aryan was not startled this time. “What do you want? Can’t you see I am enjoying the view?” Aryan snapped at Fear. 

“You called me. I never come uninvited,” said Fear casually. 

“What nonsense. Why would I call you deliberately?” said Aryan, completely confused. 

“Aryan, let me tell you how it works. I am a part of you. I only pop up when you feel me. You are sitting about a mile and a half from your car, where you last saw a human. Remember that security guard. There is no one around. You are worried that some wild animals might come. You have thought of black bears. I do not blame you. You are in bear county. You have thought of snakes. Funny enough, you are even worried about wild geese. I mean, come on. I had to come,” Fear said sincerely.  

“Okay. I kind of understand. Now off you go. I want to reach the campsite and erect the mammoth of this tent before sunset,” Aryan said, dismissing Fear’s explanation. 

Aryan continued through thick woods, some more steep sections, and finally reached the campsite he had booked. He opened up the map to confirm his location. Aryan realized that the nearest campsite was about a mile and a half away in the opposite direction. His heart sank. Fear popped up again. But before Fear could say anything, Aryan shouted, “Go away, I do not need you.”

As Aryan studied the campsite, he found an adjacent water body. The lake surrounded the site on three sides and thick woods on the fourth. Aryan immediately forgot the hardship he went through to reach here. He felt bliss as the cold wind blew past his face, taking away all the fatigue. Aryan boasted loudly, “In your face, Fear. I did it. You were wrong to suggest quitting.” As he turned back towards the site, where he was going to set up the tent, Fear popped up. “Congratulations. But you accomplished only half of it. Do not forget that you have to spend a night here alone,” Fear said with a big smile. 

“Alright, let us make a deal. You do not come until I call you out. Even I feel you do not pop up. Agreed?” Aryan said, partly dictating, partly pleading. 

“Agreed.” Fear said and vanished. 

Celebrating a win over Fear, Aryan started setting up the tent and preparing for cooking his instant noodles. Spending about an hour by the lake, Aryan thought of lying down inside the tent. Aryan pulled up his book and laid down on a rocky surface. He knew the sleeping bag he had carried was cheap and was not going to provide any kind of comfort. As Aryan started reading, he heard a sound of leaves rustling and winded howling. Aryan ignored the noise and went back to his book. The sound continued for the next two minutes, and Aryan was now feeling restless. He started browsing the internet on his phone. His first search was “wild animals in Killarney Provincial Park,” and second was “animal attacks in Killarney Provincial Park.” After reading many positive articles, he found a couple of news articles reporting black bear attacks in a nearby park. Feeling lonely and scared, he decided to call Fear. 

Fear popped up within a fraction of seconds, smiling from ear to ear. “Hello there. I was starting to miss you. Did you miss me?”

Aryan was irritated by Fear’s mocking. He snapped at Fear, “Shut it, please. Let’s talk some sense. I keep hearing these sounds. I know for sure; the sound is just a wind and leaves. Then why am I scared of these sounds? I mean, why do you exist?”

Fear paused for a moment, thinking of a fitting reply. It had been a long time since someone had asked an intriguing question—most people just succumber to Fear. 

“Aryan, you are not worried about the leaves and the wind. You are worried about the things you do not know will happen when you are out here alone. You are scared of the unknown,” said Fear calmly. Fear was waiting for Aryan to react. He was just sitting still looking lost. 

Fear continued, “Do you know what my food is? It is the lack of knowledge of my host. In most of the cases, our hosts do not know the consequences of their actions, and that is the source of our energy.”

Aryan quickly replied, “This is nonsense. I am a well-educated person. I have two engineering degrees and a business administration degree in my pocket. I have an above-average IQ.” 

Fear smiled subtly. “Education is different than literacy. Let me try an experiment. Why don’t you step outside for a minute? Do you trust your instincts? You know it is just tree leaves and wind. Let us go outside.”

Aryan hesitated but stepped outside. Fear was watching Aryan and nudged him to go towards the lake. It was Aryan’s favourite spot so far, and Fear wanted him to be comfortable. 

“So, I can feel my energy going down, you must be feeling less worried now,” said Fear with a weak smile. 

“Yes. It is like magic. I should have felt safer inside my tent, but I feel safer outside. Why is that?” Aryan said, dumbfounded by his emotions. 

Fear smiled, trying to conserve all the energy it could, “Let me tell you about my worst enemy. It is your sight. You knew the sounds were coming from the bushes, the wind. But because you had not sight of the source of these sounds, you called upon me. That is what I call the unknown. But when you stepped outside, your sight just confirmed the presence of the wind and the leaves, so you started parting ways with me. It is like being scared about the water, until your first swim.” 

Aryan was impressed with Fear for the first time. He wanted to know more about its function. He stepped inside the tent again, giving more power to the Fear. 

“Thank you. You are one of a kind. Usually, my hosts avoid me at any cost, which ironically makes me stronger. You are taking the right step. You are embracing me,” Fear said. 

“So, if we, humans, know the trueness of something, if I know the advantages and disadvantages of something, and I take my actions, accordingly, would you completely disappear from the world?” asked Aryan. 

Fear could see the arrogance rising in Aryan. Fear warning Aryan said, “Now be careful, Aryan. You have more than a few flaws to make the right decisions every time. And those who think they are making the right decisions, every time, always tend to misuse us and exploit someone or the other.”

Aryan was puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“Why do you think people in the west hate humans with darker skins? It is because of me, Fear, instilled by a small group of humans about people with dark skins. For centuries they have told everyone that a person with darker skin is dangerous. They instilled me, my brothers and sisters in the minds of masses. The same thing happens in the east, but we are used against some people with different religious beliefs,” said Fear, disgusted with itself. 

Aryan was curiously pondering over Fear’s words. He innocently asked, “So what is the solution?”

“You indicated that you want to conquer me. Please do so. My siblings and I hate the way we currently exist. But when you conquer us, use that win to educate everyone else about the process of conquering us. Do not use this win to your sole advantage. We do have ways to pop up in you, even after you conquer us.”

“So, you mean, these powerful people, who use you against the masses, also feel you?”

Fear smiled, “They feel us the most. Like I said, you humans are scared of unknown things. So, when they use us against races or religions, they lie. And we pop up in their lives as a possibility to expose that lie.” 

Aryan smiled at Fear. “That was helpful. I think we should part ways now. I will try my best not to call you again soon. And I am sure you will pop up in my life, I take the wrong steps.” 

"You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right" - Rosa Parks 

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<![CDATA[Cost of Convenience, Can We Gauge it Properly?]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/costofconvenience5ecfb701b9db990017ed22c6Thu, 28 May 2020 13:07:35 GMTAjinkya Satish Dharane

If there was any doubt in prioritizing a customer convenience, this pandemic has clarified that. Most of the businesses have learned it the hard way. If they do not have an infrastructure to deliver your services and products at the consumer location, they are on the verge of becoming irrelevant. Thanks to lockdown, even those loyal customers who strictly bought local products, were forced to turn to global chains like Amazon, Walmart, Costco.

Why were the big chains not affected, or even some of them thrived in the global crisis? Why were small local stores forced to shut down?

The reason was simple; they quickly adjusted to the customer requirements and government regulations. They profited more in these crisis times as new customers joined their services.

Talking numbers, the average Prime member (who has already spent US$100 on the membership) spends on Amazon is $1400, and non-prime member is $600. Now one can argue that people have shifted their regular shopping online, so this cannot be an additional expense. Still, we are taking business away from the local shops and probably running them into the ground for our convenience.

The unfortunate news about our favorite restaurants, closing down after decades of operations, are surfacing every other day. We immediately blame the COVID pandemic and the lack of government support during the shutdown. But the fact is, we consumers have very much contributed to their demise. In the survey done by The Ascent, our average monthly spending on food is 13%. Out of which, around 6% is on outside food. With the delivery services like Uber Eats, DoorDash, that number is increasing every year.

If you do not know the business model for these food delivery services, you might think you are helping your local restaurants. But these services charge anywhere between 25–30% of the retail price as commission. They also restrict the restaurants to inflate the prices online to remain competitive. These commissions are a death sentence to a small and stand-alone establishment. These small restaurants HAVE to use online delivery services because we consumers want our food at home.

Let’s take an example — I order a small coffee from a local restaurant. Without even checking the total bill, I tap on my phone and voila! In fifteen minutes, I am drinking my coffee on my couch in my pajamas. Let’s break down a bill. I have paid $9 for the coffee vs. $3 if I would have walked one block to get the coffee myself.

These extra costs quickly add up, and the study shows that the average person spends on these services can add up to $70000 in our lifetime — That’s one year salary for an average person.

Now the argument is I paid three times the money, so someone earned more than they would have. Yes, but that someone is not a low margin small business, but a software company that charges multiple fees for your convenience. The restaurant which would have made $2 has now made only $1 due to hefty commissions it has paid to the food delivery service provider.

These newly formed human traits of tapping on the phone to get things done saves our time. It would be justified if we were investing this extra time in productive work. But most of us use to binge-watch new TV shows in record time like there is an award for it. Ten years down the line, our achievements would be the number of shows we have watched, which will have added no value in our lives or our communities. This convenience is costing us our quality to hustle and work hard to achieve something in life.

Every few years, there is a new tech platform that goes viral, and billions of us use it. We get so used to these platforms’ services that our consumption can be easily qualified as addiction. Be it a mindless scrolling on Facebook, or watching stories and pictures on Instagram. In my opinion, the worst of its creating fifteen-second videos on TikTok which require hours to create. I am not sure, yet, about the nature of return by spending our energy and time making these videos. Long gone are the days when the first thing you did in the morning was to greet your family. Now we look for our phone, half asleep, and check for notifications on social platforms. This addiction of ours is worthy of label — modern slavery.

We have started living a significant part of our lives virtually. With the pandemic forcing us, we have taken more things online. The curiosity, the anxiety, the excitement of meeting someone in person is quickly vanishing. Human growth is dependent on his or her trait to go outside the comfort zone. With the virtual world, our comfort zone is reducing to our chair and our computer, tablet, or phone.

The convenience is part of our lifestyle from the times we started community living. We do not need a primitive lifestyle. The whole purpose of community living depends on someone else to provide something for you. But who will define the line where this convenience is costing us money, development and annihilating a less capable in the process.

<![CDATA[Prepare for the new “Normal”?]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/new-normal5ec2a441bdc96f0017f8cf89Mon, 18 May 2020 15:11:50 GMTAjinkya Satish Dharane

The world is preparing to open step by step after coronavirus shut it down in March 2020. The global pandemic has made everyone realize the value they bring in this world. Some have experienced their value rise exponentially, but most of the population has seen their price go down.

The world of the future looks considerably distinct from the World we closed two months back. The fear of becoming obsolete is growing amongst some of the large scale industries. The global trends keep changing every few years, so whatever changes we will see were probably on the cards. The pandemic has merely accelerated the timeline from a few years to a few days. So what can we expect?

Know-how of eCommerce is MUST for every business 

For a while now, the need for a physical location to serve an experience has been declining. This trend is present across the industries. The new thumb rule has been, if you sell it on the internet, it will work. Food delivery services have been a significant part of restaurant revenues long before the start of the global tragedy. The experience of dining in was becoming an add on feature for the restaurants. The lingering doubt about investing in e-commerce the business has disappeared overnight.

While the economies are crumbling, Shopify has reported 47% growth in its first quarter of 2020. The increase in new customers (businesses creating online stores) was a whopping 62%, and their market cap passed the Royal Bank of Canada. 

Shopify is a partial solution to digitalize your business and at a very affordable cost. But Shopify only gives you a solution to a storefront. The distribution and the operations required to satisfy highly demanding online shoppers is a steep challenge. The business has to be competent enough to fight the juggernaut like Amazon. The company which lacks the know-how of these formulae will quickly disappear. 

More Automation, Less Employment - Skill Up!

As businesses go online, there will be two types of jobs. Employees who put their brains behind developing computer codes or labor which can mindlessly work in logistics. As innovators look to automate the processes to increase efficiency and ROI, the average skilled labor will find itself in a predicament. Now the majority of "skilled" labor is doing a job where they have to obey the process. Innovation is not on everyone's agenda. These mildly experienced, but highly obedient people need to up their skills to grow, or industries will forget them quickly.

The silver lining is (or is it?), we can train ourselves from the comfort of our couches. We can use the same technology, which is compelling us to this new education. 

It is all going to be Virtual!

In the last decade, the urge to meet new people has significantly decreased amongst us. When I say "meet," I am talking about a physical meeting and not "e-meet." 

Technology analyst and writer ,Benedict Evans gave a presentation in January. In 2017, about 40% of the new relationships in the US began using a smartphone app. By 2019, the number was at 50%. The trend of meeting new people in some virtual setting is not new. The pandemic has accelerated the need for a virtual environment. Having a pen pal, meeting new dates, having board meetings, and having parliamentary sessions, everything is possible virtually. 

The curiosity to meet new people and learn from a stranger's body language, talking style has played a big part in personality development. With virtual environments, we will miss out on some of these human traits, thus restricting our growth. We need to identify what we will miss and replace these missing opportunities with something else to keep ourselves on the path of growth. Some examples would be engaging in forums to discuss with strangers but to learn with an open mind. Commenting and trolling strangers on twitter are not relevant to the process of growth. 

Data-Driven World and bye-bye to privacy

When we first brought cars to the world, it was a luxury. More than a hundred years later, cars have become an integral part of our economy. Nobody questions the safety of the vehicles before buying them. Nobody challenges themselves before entering an airplane or cruise ship. We trust the mode of transport we are using. 

The data has become a new car in the world. The data can make or break you. Pre-pandemic, there was a lot of concern about how big tech companies are misusing the data and violating our privacy. Remember Cambridge Analytica? (I have a separate article on this topic. You can read it ,,here). Post-pandemic, we want everything to be data-driven. We want to do things online. We want our favorite local restaurants to allow us to order online. We want Amazon to deliver our toilet papers at home. We are justifying the very thing which we were fighting two years back. 

In favor of staying safe and healthy, we have liberated the tech giants to use our data. The smart thing would be to understand the usage of the data and act accordingly. 

As we enter a digital economy, we are software that needs to be updated periodically to keep up with the new trends. The best way to cope is to understand what would come next and prepare yourself to stay ahead of the curve. Let's educate ourselves and the next generations for the coming fifty years and not last fifty years. 

<![CDATA[Keeping It Sane!]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/sanity5eac7622e39df8001733781bFri, 01 May 2020 19:23:15 GMTAjinkya Satish Dharane

There is not a single person who is not affected by the pandemic. You might argue Jeff Bezos might be the one with Amazon stocks growing about 20% in the last one month. But I am not talking about a few gainers. I am talking about the majority of us who have been stuck at home, feeling paralyzed about the situation. Some of us want to go and help solve the issues the world is facing. Some of us want their routine back. But all of us have been building up a reserve of energy consisting of frustration, sadness, and helplessness.

I am not a psychology expert but have been going through the same problems as the rest of the world. After the first two weeks of lockdown, I decided to find an activity to release my energy. I have never been a fan of exercise, so I did not have to worry about the lack of physical activity. But the mental energy I was building up was driving me insane. I needed a release for these thoughts, and I decided to write.

So the biggest question I faced, what do I write?

The first article I wrote was supposed to be a rant about things I HAVE to do because of this crisis. But somehow, I was able to give it a perspective (don't ask me what was the type of perspective, because I do not know). I made it about the conversation between my mind and brain. For the first words ever written by me, I got very positive and decent feedback. All I had done was honestly put down my thoughts in the form of words.

I am an over-analytical person. I tend to analyze situations that do not even concern me. It was apparent I was going to explain my thoughts and their transition to words. The few positive words were enough to hook me to write more. I thought maybe this was something I could do on a more regular basis. I kept reading more and more about different topics and watched a bunch of documentaries to get the facts. After writing and analyzing about six articles, I found out that readers like my honesty and "to-the-point" writing. Immediately I started analyzing why I write what I write.

I give credit to my parents for teaching me honesty. I have gotten out of tight situations several times by just being honest about the situation. My mother has been a house-maker for most of her life. Recently she has started a homemade food products business. She is one of the most innocent human beings I have known in my life (and I say that from an analytical perspective). The word politics are entirely foreign to her. For her, the world is black or white. There is no gray area. My father has taught me to be courageous and specific. In his life, there is no room for nonsense. He has lived his life by wasting very little time. Even at the age of 60, he lives life for twenty-four hours a day on his terms. He has preached little brother - no matter and me the success or failure, you should have the courage to do what is required.

The whole point of writing about these qualities and preachings is, I never thought, I possessed these qualities till the world stopped. These qualities were incubating inside me for the last 30 years. With all the time in the world, I was able to tap into these and find myself an activity that has kept me sane for the last few weeks.

We live in a broken world right now. The amount of negativity out in the world exceeds the positive. Let's not think about what we cannot do. Let's tap into our qualities and embrace them. Maybe we will find a way to sanity and find the strength to face the shocks this world has planned for us.

Stay Safe! Stay Healthy!

<![CDATA[Everyone’s Failure!]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/failure5ea7bf5d23bc2a00ddcb7f7aTue, 28 Apr 2020 05:44:35 GMTAjinkya Satish DharaneWhy can we not ONLY blame China for the spread of the coronavirus?

In the wake of the pandemic, the world leaders and media organizations are calling out China as solely responsible for the spread of the coronavirus. With the number of cases touching three million and over two hundred thousand deaths globally, the sentiment to blame China is understandable.

This novel strain of coronavirus, whose official name is SARS-CoV-2, causing COVID-19 originated in Hubei province in China in December 2019. There have been multiple reports that the Chinese Communist Party silenced the early warnings by the doctors in Wuhan. They issued admonishment to about eight doctors in January 2020. It took the Chinese government three more weeks to impose lockdowns. The first was imposed in Wuhan on January 23, 2020, and eventually, the country went into lockdown on February 2, 2020.

China has been a super economy for quite some time now. As per the 2018 report published by the United Nations Statistical Division, China is responsible for over 28% of the world's manufacturing. It is by far more than the second-largest manufacturing country - the United States of America (16%). Acknowledging the pandemic of any sort would have been a severe threat to the Chinese economy. This was proven right as China's economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the first quarter of 2019.

This being said, no reason can justify silencing the doctors and keeping the world dark for three weeks about a possible deadly virus. I think China is definitely responsible for the initiation of this pandemic and undoubtedly responsible for the loss (in terms of both lives and economy) in their country.

But is China alone to be blamed for the scale the virus has affected the world?

Let's take a look at the timeline, the world's most affected countries imposed.

(*The dates are the earliest dates the countries imposed any measures of the lockdown or social distancing in some states. It does not indicate the whole country being shutdown)

The data above clearly indicates that no leader in the country took the effects of virus seriously before their citizens started dying in numbers.

On February 3, 2020, 12 days after China imposed the lockdown, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, gave a speech on Brexit. He reshuffled his cabinet on February 13, 2020, and then left for a 12-day vacation. In early March, when the countries were starting to exercise caution, Boris Johnson gave a speech, in which he claimed to continue shaking hands. One week later, he was diagnosed with the virus and almost died.

The US president, Mr. Trump, has repeatedly called the virus "hoax." Throughout January and February, he did what he does best - gave speeches to big crowds, played golf, and tweeted. At a campaign rally in late February, he labeled the virus as a hoax created by his opposition. A few weeks later, the US was the epicenter of the virus with the most number of cases. Till today, the country has not imposed lockdowns and social distancing measures in all states. The country, with almost one-third of the cases, is now talking of reopening the economy.

Similar ignorance was shown by leaders of Italy, Iran, Spain before taking any definitive measures. The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, still downplays the severity of the virus by calling it "measly cold." The healthcare systems of all the countries were put to the test and have failed miserably. The world leaders who, at first, nonchalantly dismissed the virus, now are blaming their health departments.

An argument could be made that these countries did not see a large number of cases early on. But this is not the first pandemic the world is facing. The world has seen these outbreaks of coronavirus since 1918. Even if we were to blame lack of medical preparedness, during the Spanish flu a century back, we have seen SARS and MERS outbreak in recent times. The group of researchers, responsible for discovering new zoonotic viruses (the viruses which can be transmitted from animals to humans), reported a new virus RatG13 in bats. They deemed it low risk. The decoding of SARS-CoV-2 shows a 96% overlap with the RatG13 virus. We know that the virus mutates when it transmits from animals to humans, we now know how deadly the 4% change can be.

The virus has been threatening human lives for centuries now. The silencing of doctors, dismissing of the threat, lack of preparedness to respond even after previous experiences, prove that we collectively are to blame for this pandemic.

Blaming one country alone for unleashing pandemic, will help win trade wars and brownie points with the voters. But it will also make sure this will happen again in the next five, ten, twenty years. It will boost another plague, which has been haunting us for centuries - racism. The sanctions of any kind, isolating China, might lead us to other wars.

Instead, learning from this tragedy and working to avoid a repeat in the future is a better solution. The mutation of the virus cannot be controlled. The outbreaks of new diseases cannot be controlled. But we can control the scale of these outbreaks and stop them from becoming pandemic. I believe our world has enough medical expertise to make sure we are proactive and not reactive. Let's be prepared to respond faster and better the next time these viruses decide to attack us.

Stay Healthy!

<![CDATA[We are just beginning !]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/justbeginning5ea4602fd0f3bc0017fe7d4dFri, 24 Apr 2020 04:00:00 GMTAjinkya Satish DharaneIt took only a couple of months for our friendship to turn into love Little did we know that eleven years later our relationship would be as pure as snow

From innocent college years to long-distance tears you stood by me, without any fear

You became one with my family as if they were your own Even on your toughest day, you didn’t corrupt your tone

You became strong and independent, kept yourself pushing not for your own gain, but to hide my shortcomings

You supported my crazy You kicked my lazy

You changed countries for me, not once but twice without any reservations in your mind, you left all your comfort behind

You gave yourself no room for change giving me freedom, to test my range

You asked me what I feel about you all I can say is, “thank you”

I may succeed, I may fail, I can never blame God For he made us, peas in the pod

I was wondering how to write an ending But i realized we are just beginning

<![CDATA[Consumer to Commodity to Consumer]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/datascience5ea45e24b266e700173962a3Thu, 23 Apr 2020 16:00:47 GMTAjinkya Satish Dharane

It is amazing how we are being sold to ourselves.

The announcement of Facebook, a social media company based in the US buying 10% shares in Reliance Jio, a telecom company based in India, was made yesterday. The first thought that came to my below average mind was, why? What was Facebook's business in buying shares in a telecom company? But then, as I read through articles, did some research, I realized that none of the companies are now social media or telecom companies. These companies are now data companies. For these companies, we, the consumer, are commodities. These tech giants smartly sell us to ourselves.

In the last few years, we have read several articles and watched many videos about how our favorite social media platforms are villains in our lives. Google, Amazon, and Facebook are labeled as data mafias of the world. These tech giants exploit our psych to predict our behaviors and even influence us into acting as they want. These platforms are now new channels for the kleptocrats to advance their propaganda.

In today's world, there is no way to go off-grid. Especially in this pandemic, the majority of the population is dependent on these tech giants for basic survival needs. The human dependency on the internet is way past norms of balance. Facebook has daily active users of 1.66 billion people, which is almost 22% of the world population. WhatsApp, another Facebook product, has nearly one billion active users. India alone has 400 million active users on WhatsApp. These platforms have become a necessity for survival.

The brilliant founders, innovators of these companies started with a simple vision of connecting people. Mark Zuckerberg, in his testimony to Congress, stated that Facebook's mission statement is still bringing the world closer. As innocent, these mission statements might sound; the reality behind these companies is far from their vision.

It is unfair to blame these platforms entirely. They have given us the one thing which we crave the most. They have given us unlimited freedom to voice our thoughts, share our activities, likes, dislikes. They have given some of us ammunition to become famous, sometimes even undeserving. Who gives a shit about finely printed terms and conditions, when the alternative is mundane life with no recognition.

In the last decade or so, these tech companies have transitioned from means of connecting to owners of billions of data points. It was only a matter of time when influential people would use this data to their advantage. The beauty of the internet is it exists in our lives without any physical characteristics. It has become an emotion for human beings.

The biggest scandal in this digital age was the 2016 US elections. Cambridge Analytica, the company, based in the UK, helped the Trump campaign win by collecting data on 87 million users in the US and creating their voter profiles. Cambridge Analytica then targets the same users with various ads influencing their behaviors and thus influencing voting decisions. It was a genius project. The scandal got worldwide coverage but is not the only example. Cambridge Analytica's "Do So" campaign helped UNC win the 2010 elections in Trinidad and Tobago. The evidence suggests that the use of Facebook incited ethnic violence in Myanmar. There are more examples in Brazil, some African countries.

History teaches us nothing.

In the late 19th century, a similar revolution happened when we discovered oil. Oil quickly became the most desired commodity in the world. We have started several wars to get hold of this essential commodity. In the early nineteenth century, a great businessman John D. Rockefeller was known for his power in shaping world economics through his company Standard Oil. It took us fifty years to divide his power to a point where we can tolerate it. Today still the Rockefeller name is used when the conspiracy theories about world economics are discussed. It took us over a century to start talking about climate change caused by the usage of oil.

The war for resources is not new for us. Hitler started the war because he wanted unlimited resources for "his" people. The US has fought in Vietnam because they did not want to deal with the communist country for supplies. Look at US-China relations, both powerful nations wasting billions of dollars worth resources to get the upper hand. We have many examples, Iraq, Iran, Syria, where the vulnerability of the less powerful was exploited. Of course, the title of these theaters of wars is always injustice, communism, and terrorism.

Now data is the most valuable resource in the world. In this challenging time of the pandemic, the oil has lost its value, but the value of data keeps rising. The scandals like Cambridge Analytica were first of many scandals to come. The data wars have begun. The scariest part is the common man is a direct casualty in this war, without even his or her knowledge. It will probably take us another half a century to regulate the data collection and its usage. In the best case, we will be awarded some minor portion of the revenue generated from our data. But by then, these data mafias would have squeezed every ounce of us.

The irony of this is, I will be using the services of these tech giants to reach my readers. Sometimes I will be even paying them.

<![CDATA[Politicizing Global Tragedy]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/global-tragedy5ea45f03f267bf001722eb47Tue, 21 Apr 2020 04:00:00 GMTAjinkya Satish Dharane

United States has been the worst affected country in the world in this global pandemic caused by COVID-19 for some time now. The US has been the world’s largest economy since the late 19th century. The country which constitutes for almost a quarter of the world economy has been in some sort of lockdown for over a month now.

As the world fights against the same enemy, the leadership of this “super” country is fighting amongst themselves. This fight has had a ripple effect on the minds of citizens and now some of them have taken to streets in protests.

The protests to shut down the shutdown have started taking place in states like Michigan (more than 31000 cases), Pennsylvania (more than 32000 cases), Ohio (more than 11000 cases), Texas (more than 18900 cases), Maryland (more than 13000 cases). The protests have attracted crowds as large as 2000 throwing the recommendations on social distancing, flattening the curve out the window.

In Michigan, the protesters chanted slogans comparing Gov. Whitmer to Adolf Hitler. The protesters across the country flaunted signs of TRUMP 2020 and MAGA (Make America Great Again).

(Image: Paul Sancya/ AP)

Many of the people waived signs like “right to freedom”, “we deem our governor, non-essential”, “my constitutional right is essential” and some said, “we need a haircut”. I want to assume that the last one was to humor people, or else we have an unsolvable problem of insanity.

(Image: Seth Herald / Reuters)

The authorities in Texas, initially put the restrictions on abortion procedures, labeling them as non-essentials. The authorities issued a strict warning to abortion operators.

National Rifle Association posted a ,video with a leading country musician Charlie Daniels. The video message claimed that shutting down gun stores is an opposition agenda to take away the guns from the general population, thus infringing on their second amendment rights.

With Ramadan around the corner, lots of questions have been raised about the rights of Muslims in the US to go to mosques. The Christian community was restricted from visiting churches across the country just a week before during Easter weekend. Trump has said, “They go after Christian churches, but they don’t tend to go after mosques”

The question is, “who is they?”

From the start, Trump has worked towards distracting the country from the real threats of the coronavirus to propelling his campaign agenda. The protest in the country is a mere sign of his success. The agenda encouraging narratives that abortion is a taboo, anti-Christianity is blown out of proportion, Muslims are subject to generalized hate, gun ownership is projected as essential to the survival of the human race and there is, of course, the shaming of every person that even thinks the word Democrat, should not be surprising to us.

Trump announced yesterday that he is stopping all immigration to the US. This has been a go-to solution for him in every crisis. The promise of closing the border, building a wall on the border is being made since his early campaigning days of 2016 elections.

Trump went on his usual rant of tweets when he tweeted, LIBERATE MICHIGAN, LIBERATE MINNESOTA, LIBERATE VIRGINIA, all in uppercase, in succession. He even claimed that the second amendment is under siege and should be saved.

(Image: Paul Sancya/ AP)

His Republican party has done nothing to undermine his ludicrous claims. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even shut down the mayor of Louisville, KY when he waned against large church gatherings, giving the warning label of anti-Christianity. To be fair, Trump is the Republican party’s only hope for reelection this fall. His actions are the only way to get votes.

Trump has regularly clashed with Anthony Fauci, director of NIH in daily press briefings. The briefings are clear evidence of Trump’s propaganda versus reality.

These crises have been called unprecedented. The lack of know-how has been given by leadership all over the world as a reason behind the failure of the containment of this virus.

But looking at Trump’s press briefings, his tweets, his overall reactions, I think the current US leadership knew exactly how to react to these global crises. They knew best how to plan their actions and do what they do best, distract the citizens from the real problem to retain power at the center.

I cannot resist but admire the PR team around Trump who has worked hard to keep his image as “the savior of America” afloat, amidst many crises they have faced. I fail to understand why the greatest super-power in the world needs saving.

Again, we as a society show illiteracy, blind faith, and our herd mentality. These qualities of ours are ready to be exploited by the powerful.

Note: these are my thoughts, my opinion, and my conclusion. You are free and hopefully capable to draw your own. Best wishes!

<![CDATA[Deserved Inequality?]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/deserved-inequality5e9ee2d104e19f0017b1cd45Mon, 20 Apr 2020 04:00:00 GMTAjinkya Satish Dharane

I have sat in an expensive, tastefully decorated board rooms, chatting with accomplished executives and recently I have been an employee of a warehouse, working a laborious job. The difference in these two domains of work is probably equal to the distance between two ends of the universe. These two experiences got me thinking about the inequalities in the world. On one side, a person earning more than average income can conveniently order products in one click, in his or her pajamas. On the other, a person has to walk for at least ten hours to fulfill that same order.

Don’t worry, this is not another sob story of inequality. In fact, I feel the opposite of sadness when it comes to inequality. I feel it is deserved. Before you conclude my personality, let me try and explain -

I came across the Pareto principle for the first time about five or six years back, when I was being trained for the Six Sigma problem-solving technique. I was trained to find the dominant cause for a certain problem and eliminate that to improve quality. For me, it was only a statistical technique, to achieve my short term goals and impressing my bosses.

The principle is simple - about 20% of the causes are responsible for 80% of the effects. The principle is most commonly applied to wealth distribution in the world. The distribution as it stands is considered highly unfair, as in the birthplace of the term inequality.

This principle is also applied to various industry sectors like sales, where most of your revenue comes from a small group of clients. Why are we okay to work with only a small number of clients to most of our revenues?

In sports, a few players’ performances are responsible for winning team games. The best example is a game of Cricket. The Indian cricket team used to win most of the games if its star player, Sachin Tendulkar performs well. In baseball, there is a stat called Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which shows a player’s contribution to the team. In a study by Jeff Zimmerman, WAR distribution shows that the top 15% of the players contributed to 85% of wins in the 2010 season.

This principle of inequality, as I would like to call it applies to almost every field. In language, few words account for most occurrences in any literature. In health care, a majority of the population is treated for a small number of diseases.I recently read a study that bird samplers put together at Brookhaven National Laboratory, that 80% of the birds account for only 20% of species.

The question has to be asked, why are we comfortable with some things to be unequally distributed and not comfortable with unequal distribution of wealth.

We even thank this unfair distribution in health, where only a small number of causes (like influenza) are responsible for health issues in the majority of the population. We are thankful that we have to find a cure for only fewer types of diseases.

We even appreciate the few top-performing athletes and shower them with our stranger love and portion of "unfairly" distributed wealth. We get excited to pay $200 for a ticket to top pop artist concert but we do not find it worth paying $10 for a local musician who can be equally entertaining.

I think, the power of opinion amongst us, humans, is the most dangerous one. The inequality which we have labeled as unfair is the result of this power. It was our positive opinion and our continuous demands about their products and services, that helped rich people to gather more wealth. We as a society, are collectively responsible for this unfair distribution of wealth and hence the power.

The only thing we can do is embrace this inequality and optimize our life according to the situations life throws at us.

“Inequality was the unalterable law of human life” - George Orwell

<![CDATA[First Thoughts of the Day / 17 April 2020]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/17april20205e9ee2525d17780017786a12Fri, 17 Apr 2020 04:00:00 GMTAjinkya Satish Dharane

For the first time in a long time, I had lived my day doing mindless, unproductive work. Well, unproductive for my mind. Probably very productive for my employer — Amazon Fulfillment Center in Bolton, Ontario.

My body had no trouble getting up today. It had got full eight hours of sleep and the rest it deserved after working ten hours yesterday. But my mind was still struggling to wake up. So again my mind was in a fight with my brain.

My mind said, “go out there and be the hero of your life. You can live the day to your will. You own every moment of today, live for your own gratification and not for the vindication by the society”

My brain said, “you are right. But what if my highest gratification is the vindication by society”

My mind was confused. My brain had thrown a twister.

But secretly my brain was succumbing to the arguments of my mind. My brain has held productivity and daily growth in high regard. My brain knew that mind was the smarter one today and arguing on the principles my brain operates on.

My brain knew that sooner or later, my mind was going to win. It has to come up with a better argument. An argument where I have to live by the stereotypes of civil life. Because, my brain being the smarter one, knew that I HAVE to follow the rules. I do not have the courage to be a rebel, and most importantly my brain knew my mind’s weakness — it’s emotional responsibilities. There, my brain had found a winner.

My brain said, “Dear mind, think of your loved ones. Do this very unproductive, non-growing work today for them”

My mind hesitantly agreed, “Only today!”

My brain knew it had used social stereotypes to win a small battle today, but it was losing this never-ending war. Then my brain conflicting with itself thought,

“The most courageous act is to still think for yourself” — Coco Chanel

With a sigh of disappointment, my brain started preparing for another day in this life.

<![CDATA[First Thoughts of the Day / 15 April 2020]]>https://www.ajinkyadharane.com/post/15april5e9ee136e60f9d00177859aeWed, 15 Apr 2020 12:05:10 GMTAjinkya Satish Dharane

I had been conflicted for some time now. There are multiple fronts my heart has been at the conflict with my brain. One of the conflicts was to write or not write. The debate has been heating a lot in the last few days owing to the shutdown the world is in right now. My brain is pro writing and my heart has been arguing, you will make fool of yourself with your limited vocabulary and untested writing skills. But today my brain has won this argument as it came up with an idea to express my first thoughts of the day.

As I unwillingly opened my eyes today, I was already feeling grumpy about something. I realized I had woken up to my wife’s voice. She was trying to wake me for almost one hour. I had requested her to wake me up at 10 am and it already had been 10:50 am. (Hey to be fair, I had slept at 3 am, as I was wasting six hours of my good night’s sleep to a game called Call Of Duty - Warzone. Those of you who do not know this game, count yourself lucky and move on!)

Today I was supposed to attend an orientation at noon for a new job. As I got up from bed, the thought of attending four hours of orientation irritated me. But thanks to this pandemic, the orientation was going to be virtual. I thought, okay, I will maybe drink coffee, watch some news, maybe even play video games (it is addictive!) while the videos of orientation play on the computer.

I laughed at the irony of the situation. I was thanking the pandemic for this boring task, but I was compelled to do this task because of the same pandemic. It has been almost two years since I have worked for someone else. I had quit my high paying engineering job to focus full time on my entertainment business in 2018.

The business had its ups and downs but was looking on the right track when the outbreak of COVID-19 was reported in China in January of this year. I was no exception to the damage this coronavirus has caused to the people around the world. Some have experienced physical or mental or financial or all three hardships.

In the beginning, I and the people working with me were in complete denial of the damage this outbreak was causing in China and Europe. My firm produces live concerts in North American and UK markets. Slowly the outbreak reached these countries and was declared a pandemic by WHO. As the denial turned to realization, I had to cancel almost forty-odd live concerts planned till September of this year within a day. The substantial income and gains predicted this year was now a distant dream.

The plan, which we all have, which all proudly flaunt had been destroyed before it started. It has been over a month since all this happened, but it is still the first argument my heart throws in the conflict. It is a very painful thought, but my brain is now learning to cope with this pain.

As I was staring at the coffee machine, brewing my coffee, my heart was trying to find excuses to avoid attending orientation. Somehow my heart wanted to just sit at home and make all things right. My heart was presenting an argument about the unfavorable work environment, mentioned in all those articles about the Amazon warehouse. My heart was now bringing up thoughts of risks involved in going out to a place where hundreds and thousands work. The risk of catching an infection from a stranger working with you.

My heart asked, “Is this risk worth taking, for pay you used to earn while interning seven years back. Is it worth to do this laborious job for someone else?”

My brain gave out a laugh and said, “My dear heart, I just realized you are conflicting with your dark side and not me. I am now shutting out your dark side, the part which you know as ego, so you can come onboard with me”

My heart thought for a moment but said, “You are right my friend. No wonder you are smartest amongst us”

My brain smiled and presented a quote by Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts”