On fighting classroom hunger

In our twelfth standard Economics class, we learned about the cycle of poverty; which may remain unbroken for generations. I mean, think about it: a poor household means limited access to a lot of resources like food, water, education, and so on. This obviously affects their health and literacy, which limits their skill and productivity. Low incomes, large family sizes (ie, more mouths to feed), susceptibility to disease and poorer generations to come are an inevitable consequence. The cause of poverty becomes, to quote my Economics teacher, poverty itself, which only perpetuates poverty.

Education is one of the ways to break the cycle of poverty. However, as Maslow explained in his need hierarchy, more often than not, you have to satisfy the lower order needs (basic needs like food and shelter) before you can even dream of higher needs. Which is why the Midday Meals Scheme is extremely relevant and important for India’s children. It beautifully provides a solution to two interdependent needs.

Because, well, education on an empty stomach isn’t going to happen. It’s that simple. You cannot learn about fractions and photosynthesis when you haven’t had even a square meal a day. Chances are you won’t even feel like making an appearance in that classroom when you could be working odd jobs and making money to get that square meal, or provide for your family.

Or well, just for a second, forget about poverty and hunger but think about hunger by itself. Think about the last time you skipped breakfast and had to attend class. What were you thinking about? I remember my eyes constantly shifting to the clock, my mind already in the canteen thinking about what I’d get and nothing else entering my brain.

classroomhunger

“Think about the last time you skipped breakfast and had to attend class.”

Classroom hunger defeats the purpose of classrooms and eliminating it is imperative. While midday meals give parents a reason to send their children to school… it also helps these children, if implemented adequately, benefit from the purpose of school. Food fuels the brain and clears the mind. For a lot of the children benefiting from the midday meals scheme, I’ve read that it may be their only meal of the day. Perhaps, a morning meal can also be worked out, and further such motives to benefit from classes and study beyond the minimum requirement. It will be a significant step toward breaking the cycle, once and for all.

This post is a part of the Akshaya Patra initiative, in which every blog post sponsors meals for an Akshaya Patra benficiary for a whole year! I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.

Working Towards a Cleaner India: Why Litter begets Litter, and Why This Should Stop

Admit it: when you are in a place where everything is spotless, and orderly… you more often than not do not need a sign that says “DON’T LITTER” or “KEEP CLEAN.” You comply with the norms of this miraculously immaculate environment. You’re scared to put something back in the wrong place, or exert too much force in case you break something or god forbid, leave a footprint that’ll spoil the picture I just gave you.

And yet… find yourself in a bustling market, replete with slush and noise and litter and once again, you comply. You’re happy to add to the litter and noise, splashing about in the muck, however fancy the (now torn and written over) DON’T LITTER signs are. Perhaps it’s the usual argument of one person cannot undo this mess. Or that you don’t even bother rationalising: when in muck, act like pigs do.

Collectively, our attitude towards India’s lack of cleanliness is quite flippant. Sure, it’s a topic of conversation. We’ve all had the “How is it that we don’t litter when we go abroad but the minute we enter India, we’re back to littering?” chat. Or the “I just went to ___ street today. I’m not going there again, even if I really need to buy something.” We throw a chocolate wrapper in a dustbin and feel like a ninja, but in another instance, when there is no dustbin in sight… we let it join a pile of waste by the pavement, as hey, whoever is cleaning that up can take care of the chocolate wrapper too.

Sometimes, when there’s a plastic cover (yeah, those still aren’t going anywhere, despite being charged for in grocery stores) around, we might find the heart to dispose a milkshake carton or two in it, and search for a dustbin later. Mostly, though, it goes out of the bus window because otherwise it might ruin our backpack. Yes, that’s personal cleanliness at the cost of public cleanliness. Because we feel no sense of ownership for our roads and bus stops. Why would we? They are so unclean! (And we’re not helping).

How do we pay heed to different rules in different situations? How can we turn our back to civic responsibility so easily?

Studies related to the Broken Window Theory offer an adequate, and alarming explanation. The Broken Window Theory, introduced in 1982 by Wilson and Kelling, says that when rules or social norms (such as to keep the roads clean, or not littering) are openly disregarded, the situation will only escalate in notoriety. Disorder (like graffiti), is shown to promote further disorder (littering) (Source: nasw.org); which, in turn, can lead to an accumulation of litter and even theft.

The solution provided by this theory is to “repair the broken window” before it leads to widespread vandalism and alternatively, to clear up the litter, which has already accumulated, that has and can lead to further disobedience and chaos.

radical change to our environment can lead to a change in our mindset. This alone, makes the vision of a clean India important. It may finally put an end of the cycle of flippancy, and have us care about where we dispose waste and become more socially conscious. It may involve initiatives taken by groups of people and cannot be done overnight, but is not impossible. Following your own values, and sticking to them regardless of the setting, is also shown to be effective. When “offenders” look at people properly disposing garbage, it is found that offenders, too, stop littering and clean up after them. (Source)

Thanks to PM Modi addressing the issue, it is already receiving the real, undivided attention of many. Strepsils’ #AbMontuBolega campaign has also taken up this issue, urging people to raise their voice against “all that is dirty in our country.” With protagonist Montu and hashtag #AbMontuBolega encouraging people to speak up on issues that matter, it is a great way to raise awareness. Words are powerful, but hopefully it will lead to action… starting with acquiring a sense of personal responsibility, and eliminating litter and lack of hygiene at its root whenever and wherever possible.

This post is a part of the IndiBlogger Happy Hours activity, courtesy Strepsils’ #AbMontuBolega. For more details, follow Strepsils on Facebook and Twitter

On knowledge and attitudes towards nuclear energy and more

As the Final Sem comes nearer and nearer to ending once and for all, there’s also so much work that needs to be done right. I’m still undecided on my case study but I have gotten started on my survey. The survey is supposed to be environmentally related. Mine is on Knowledge, Awareness and Attitudes Towards Nuclear Energy.

Given the two completely different takes on the Kudankulan issue (CLICK HERE and HERE for more details) which seemed to stem from people’s attitudes, opinions and associations related to nuclear energy, I decided that was what I would be doing my survey on.

I would really appreciate it if you took the time to fill my survey if you fit the target population; the target population being:

17-35 years old and Indian resident/NRI/any resident aware of current issues in India

If you fit the criteria, here you go:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dDBqb2Y4X0dxcjIzUWtfNDdSdHBRcVE6MQ#gid=0

Thank you so much for taking the time to fill my survey. Happy holidays, everybody!

excerpt.

So I kind of wrote my first short story ever. It’s about a girl who runs (track) and then stops running and how a part of her goes away with it. Very cliched, I know. But it’s a start because it’s the first ever story I’ve actually managed to write in an Indian setting. This has been more difficult that anything, for some reason. Writing about what I’ve lived, breathed and experienced is way harder than infusing elements (hazy emotions and vague longings) of what I know and am into something I’ve just (at most) seen and read about.

Plus, it’s actually PG rated. Very very rare. If my mom asks me what I’m writing again and is all “What’s the use of not showing your stuff to anybody?” I have something to show her. Ha.

Excerpt below.

I remember the day of The Accident, though it’s perhaps the distorted, dramatically intense version that clings to my memory. I wish it weren’t so clear in my head… what happened to things fading with time? To the happy endings that were assured after incidents like these?

Perhaps it’s the only thing I have to cling on to. Perhaps I never knew problems before that.

I’m leaning against the back door of my house that faces the main road… I’m just another girl in the big, polluted, calm, sheltered, tiring yet charming city otherwise known as Chennai…

I used to be someone else… someone who didn’t blend in so easily… who was strong enough to meet obstacles and not run away… who had friends to push her towards the spotlight even if modesty and awkwardness made her reluctantly shrink away…

I used to be someone. A girl. An individual. Where is she now?