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The Much Ado About Diwali Holiday, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 13th October, 2017

indian festival diwali

Diwali is a mega celebration around the world now. From the former US President Barack Obama wishing the American Hindus, it has caught the attention of the Kenyan government too. Being the 44th Tribe, the Asians are participating in the arena of rights and requesting that Diwali be declared an Official Holiday.

Other countries apart from India where Diwali is an official holiday include Nepal, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Malaysia, Mauritius, Guyana, Myanmar, Trinidad and Tobago and Pakistan’s Sindh Province.

Diwali is especially significant because it is the festival of lights, the celebration of the battle of good versus evil and of course the Hindu New Year. All these combinations that usually are kicked off with the 9 nights of dancing of Navratri mean this is like a big month full of special days which are of religious significance and they culminate at Diwali date.

This mega event has become popular around the world because of its decorative cultural aspects. Just like Christmas, Diwali is a massive opportunity for many service providers and suppliers to make their gold. For example the leading example being fireworks, which in the countries where it is especially an official holiday are sold in large numbers. The impact of fireworks to the environment is under debate. While their main ingredient which is black powder has not been replaced in the last 1,000 years, fireworks are known to cause harm including give hearing loss, scare pets and disturb the chemical balance on water bodies. In fact India learning from these toxic lessons, has banned the fireworks in Delhi according to a latest Supreme Court ruling delivered on 10th October 2017.

The non-pollutant items include fashion wear that is made up of various clothing styles and especially jewellery. This is the time when most update their traditional wear wardrobe and bring in new items of jewelry of gold, diamonds and more. This is the time to also redecorate a house, room or even office space. It is the time to splash a new layer of paint or get that new car you want. The sale on almost all usual lifestyle items is endless. Also the most popular is the food, where you get a large variety of Indian sweets, lunches, dinner parties and lots more. All this shopping sounds exhausting but alas it must be enjoyed like Boxing Day, so why not over an official holiday?

If each tribe had their own official holiday that is almost one and a half month gone in a productive year. The Employer can be sensitive to the list of significant days that his team can have and this information can come from the Human Resources Department. You may say then why allow Eid? Well the number of Muslims outweighs the rest. Islam usually follows Christianity in most countries and Eid is still not a holiday even in the United Kingdom.

The employer can allow the day off without deducting it as part of the leave, for example Vaisakhi is the Sikh New Year and the Sikhs can take their day off. However there might be a question of dividing up faiths. But then again, Christmas is part of the Roman calendar, which we are all following to maintain our calendar dates. Remember that Christians remained the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people. Until such time there is a major shift can holidays change.

For now Diwali should not be an official holiday in Kenya. Our population is not that of 1 million that if we closed our businesses for that one day there will be a disruption in the economy so why put the entire country off?

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Posted by on October 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Love Ain’t Real, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 6th October, 2017

Funny-love-images-with-jokes

‘Love goes by haps; Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps’-

(William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing – Act 3, Scene 2)

What is this thing called love anyway? You can love your mother, father, dog, neighbour, work or lover. It is more like a potion that is the most expensive to get and the worst to have depending on your personality and situation. For some it is for eternity, for some it has just about worked, for some it simply does not exist. Love is pain, let’s face it.

However do people go searching for it online? You will be surprised to know that it really is the target for most looking for that special person even though they do not admit it. According to the famous online dating site Eharmony, they say online dating statistics show that 20% of those in current, committed relationships began online and 7% of marriages in 2015 were between couples that met on a dating website.”

There is a new trend too happening, because according to the Pew Research Center in the United States, they have noticed an increase of 12% of 55 to 64 year olds using these online dating sites compared to only 6% in just 2013.

They also say that about one-in-five 18- to 24-year olds (22%) now report using mobile dating apps; in 2013, only 5% reported doing so.

But what about the in-betweens of 25 year olds up to the mid-40 year olds? What are they up to? They are certainly using especially Tinder to get their quick hook up. Tinder is an app where you swipe on a photo whether you like or not and the understanding is that this is primarily for a one nightstand literally. It is very common and popular especially in the UK. Tinder reached India in 2013 and it completely changed the dating scene there too at the expense of compromising on the Indian culture which is known to hold the institution of marriage as its highest form of society rank.

 

“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs,

Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes,

Being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers’ tears.

What is it else? A madness most discreet,

A choking gall and a preserving sweet.”

(William Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet – Act 1, Scene 1)

Online dating can be fun if there is population, well enough of it anyway. You can’t be 5 women to 30 men, then the men are lucky, and unfortunately women usually are looking for more longer-term relationships then the men. It can be interesting if you want to meet people of different cultures, it will get dangerous when you do fall in love and want to commit and you are on different sides of a border. It is a flaky way for busy people to date because they most likely will not take their date seriously and break-up over a text or email. They love their work or business more rather than sit down quietly with someone they could love or loves them.

For the millenials it is their natural point of introduction or invitation but they are missing out on the old fashioned charm of asking someone out. They may end up having the casual sex but building a long term relationship will be a heart breaker because they are already slightly poor in maintaining regular relationships or the line between obsession and possessiveness can be dangerous.

Online dating makes money for the providers, it scores successes but mostly failures. It is up to you to make the relationship work for you, whatever your objective may be.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Nairobi’s Road to Success, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 29th September, 2017

Kenya's Matatus

The world has a population of over 7 billion people and it is moving in different modes of transport daily to get to work, school or to their preferred destination.

For example, in Soweto the taxi system is popular while in Rio de Janeiro cable cars carry 30,000 commuters from the slums to the city.

Newly elected Governor Mike Sonko issued a gazette notice for all matatus to be banned from the CBD and soon it was revoked after the Matatus Owners Association said that it is not working out for them. The aim was to reduce congestion in the CBD area but the thing to note here is that where is congestion coming from, what is it doing there and how to get it out. This can mean congestion from the matatus, personal vehicles and the taxis, why single out the matatus only?

The planning of Nairobi city can not be altered drastically to accommodate the decongestion programme, but what can be done is how best to use the present road routes for all to get to their destinations within a reasonable amount of time. For example children should not be subjected to a 90 minutes ride to school in the morning, so either change the school or live closer to the school. The same goes for the office, live closer to your office or arrange flexible timings if your employer is reasonable enough to understand. Remember you are better off having a happy and efficient employee than one who is dealing with road rage and lack of interest at work eventually. Private vehicles are not able to successfully do a car pool system, so they need stricter regulations in obtaining driver licenses and penalties for overlapping or obstruction of traffic need to be higher. There needs to be a points system that can be digitally monitored and curb the nuisance of private drivers blocking traffic at times or holding up a situation. Sometimes the accident is on the opposite side of the road, but your lane is slowing down, really!

The buildings in the CBD should either become all related to Government work or NGOs or certain types of industries or services only. This can create a new circle of movement and jobs circulation that can alter the transportation system. There are no doubt the top 10 cities in the world with the best commuter system all have a metro or tube system. Nairobi will need this system, having millions of commuters walk and take the train will certainly decongest the roads. However there must be an incentive for a commuter to take the train versus using their car, perhaps higher taxes like in London to use your vehicle within the city. Luckily there are no shopping malls within the CBD so private vehicle owners can enjoy their time with their vehicles on the outskirts where the malls are located.

The Matatus Owners Association usually complains that they have not been consulted before a change of route is declared. How about they come up with their own plan and let the city try it out and see if it works better. Unless you build more roads or stop the sale of cars and make the matatus system formal then there can be a difference. This formality means having a ticket stop, which can control price and number of tickets and have a pass system, with digital devices that swipe the ticket. The technological advancements are possible but how users friendly on both parties will it be or willing they will be will be the one to watch for.

This debate will continue.

 

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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How Fake News is Destroying Credibility, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 22nd September, 2017

Fake News

When the US Elections were being held last year, the then presidential candidate Donald Trump made lots of noise about and still does, for example recently on June 13th he tweeted “The Fake News Media has never been so wrong or so dirty. Purposely-incorrect stories and phony sources to meet their agenda of hate. Sad!” What is Fake News? According to Wikipedia, they have defined it as “Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.

Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention. Intentionally misleading and deceptive fake news is different from obvious satire or parody which is intended to humor rather than mislead its audience.” Almost everyday we are receiving news via our Whatsapp and while you might be quick to share that you have interesting content, take a second to look at it again and check if it is legitimate. This is the new way of spreading rumors, the sad part is that everyone thinks they have become a reporter and this “fake news” ends up spreading like wildfire.

Recently in light of our own General Elections of August 8th, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission’s Commissioner Dr Joseph Nasongo has said, “we are not interested in Fake News per se, but the content. There are those that have been deliberately designed to stir ethnic emotions or violence. We want the online community to help us stem hatred that is being spewed on social media.” While citizens may use fake news to misdirect each other, even politicians or those in power can do that to suit their agenda. A classic example when after the immediate kidnapping of Chibok girls in Nigeria the politicians told media it is a fake story. The price we are paying for the real story not getting to where it needs to is getting higher. They can use it to spread an agenda they like, for example during the Second World War the Nazi Germany used this propaganda machine to further their mission. You must remember these tips when spotting fake news: consider the source, read beyond, check the author, supporting sources, check the date, is it a joke, check your biases and ask the experts.

Fake news is meant to cause harm or even topple a Government. Don’t fall victim to it. Even if it is a family or friend’s story, always get to the real source before you share unconsciously and let an untruth get legitimacy. You are responsible for what you read and say, so do it mindfully and responsibly. When you are in charge of information have the honesty to use it effectively and not for your personal gain. Fake news is here to stay for a long time mostly because of the social media and technology chatting tools that are available to us.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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What Use Are the Peace Prizes? Point Blank with Asian Weekly 15th September, 2017

bigstock-international-day-of-peace-71171305-555x370 (1)

The world is going gaga over a new iPhone X and on the other side dealing with hurricanes wiping out homes and livelihoods. These are the contrasting times we are living in and with the global warming hitting the ever high it looks like this is what it will be like for the coming decades.

With a new administration in the United States, while there might be talk of another war, so far things are in control. For once in a long time we are battling with civil wars and some ongoing situations that are still not changing. Over 1 million people known as the Rohingya are being persecuted in Myanmar and the Nobel Peace Prize Aung San Suu Kyi remains silent. She is the leader of the National League for Democracy party and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, she was released from house arrest in 2010. But since then her voice actually in the Government office is more silent than ever. Even Novel laureate Desmond Tutu sent her a passionate appeal via a public letter on social media, saying, “my dear sister: if the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.”

The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace. The theme this year is: Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. But the question is how together are we?

We are at the cusp of our own Presidential Re-Election and everyday there is some accusation spinning from party to the other. While credit should be given that the tribal card has not been slung around, when you read between the lines, some things are obvious. Our economy is suffering and jobs are getting scarce, who will put the food on the table for the family, who will pay the bills, who will create the next industry?

Peace facilities possibilities but it does come at a steep price. If a human being himself is not at peace, he can’t spread it or share it with another. A stunning example is by Sadhguru who cites “What is peace? People say that sitting on the mountain and meditating is peace. Somebody else may drink alcohol and become very peaceful and so on. Whenever your ego is satisfied, you are very peaceful. Wherever you go, in that place, if people are willing to support and boost your ego, in that place you are very peaceful. Only in those places where your ego takes a thrashing, that is where you are not peaceful, isn’t it?”

What is this peace for you? Why should it matter? And most importantly why should we all feel it and be together in it? Remember as we are more connected than ever before we are also disconnected and it will take one viral message to mislead us and act unconsciously on something we are not really aware of in the full context. Thus, presence of mind and knowing your rights are very important, only then can you also understand if your peace has been disturbed because sometimes chaos looks like peace to you but it is violence for another.

The youngest country in the world, South Sudan has a devastating state where according to UNICEF, “more than two million children have fled their homes to escape vicious fighting; and last month the one millionth child became a refugee. More than two thousand children have been killed or injured, and many more have witnessed horrific violence. The numbers are staggering and yet each represents the ongoing misery of a child.”

bigstock-international-day-of-peace-71171305-555x370 (1)You decide what kind of world do you want to give your child today, because today’s peace is tomorrow’s peace too.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Live For Today, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 8th September, 2017

September-10th-World-Suicide-Prevention-Day-Text-Hand-Picture

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi

According to the International Suicide Prevention Association, “every year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt.”

According to the World Health Organization:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds.
  • 78% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally.

While Sri Lanka is on top of the list with the highest number of suicides, India comes at 24, USA 48 and Kenya at 84.

Almost 90% of those who commit suicide have known to have had a mental illness, the leading one being depression. But why are people depressed?

The challenges differ from country to country. In the USA 50% of all suicides are committed using firearms and it is the highest amongst white men middle aged due to depression.

In Kenya the highest suicide rate is amongst the students because of financial problems, HIV/AIDS and depression.

In Japan, Aokigahara which is also known, as the Sea of Trees is their suicide forest, where once upon a time up to 105 suicides were documented yearly.

The causes of suicide range from mental illness, which includes depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Then there are the traumatic experiences, which include war and sexual abuse. While poor financial circumstances, unemployment is also common, weak family ties, relationship issues and nowadays loneliness has become very high risk factors.

The case of children feeling neglected in a divorce or separation can also cause them to take their own lives.

Any human being neglected is at high risk of being attacked or losing their mind enough to defy life. This vulnerability unfortunately is growing despite the huge advances in communications. We can see each other whenever and wherever but when we cannot touch and feel, we can loose sense of feeling, being and love. We can give up and we can get lost in darkness which can lead to severe depression and then subsequently suicide.

Drug abusers are not saved from this situation either because even depression leads them to take that puff to feel high and happy. In the end, what matters most are where is your happiness coming from? What is the value of happiness are you giving yourself, what is the value of life and people around you? What is your value? There are now more than ever the spread of positive attitude and learning curves on how to make your life better, stronger and meaningful and no even religion cannot save you from this hellhole. You alone have to come out of this thing called, loss, and the loss of life.

Saving a life is the greatest gift. Try and detect early, for example a tantrum may not be the sign of a suicidal but a pattern of tantrums can be worrying. Seek immediate counselling because the victim is causing self harm and you probably have no idea and remember self harm can be emotional or physical. The signs are light but if you are empathetic you can easily get a hold of them and compassionately save a life.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Secrets We Don’t Tell, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 25th August, 2017

The Secrets We Don’t Tell

Cyber Bullying

The word Sarahah is an Arabic word and it means “honesty”. This new word is also an App that has gone viral because of its purpose, which is to send “honest” but anonymous messages to whomever you like. But guess what it is not the first app to exist and do so; there was the Secret in 2014 and then the Whisper in 2012.

Whisper still exists and on their website they have stated the following: “if would you like to prevent your child from having access to the Whisper app, you can do so by placing restrictions on their device.”

After the break out story of Edward Snowden there have been several attempts to have secret chats, for example the Telegram offers self-destruct option for your chats and end-to-end encryption where only messages are read by the its intended recipient.

Sarahah was designed so that employees could freely give feedback but when the teens caught on it became viral. The ironical part is that it was created in Saudi Arabia by a developer called ZainAlabdin Tawfiq and he did it because he thought it was the best way to share “constructive feedback”.

These secret apps are weapons of cyber bullying. In a recent survey titled “Eleventh National Poll on Children’s Healthy” by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in the US parents recognize cyber bullying as serious health and threat issue to their children to up to 30% of the cases.

According to the research done by the University of Birmingham, children and young people under-25 that become victims of cyber bullying are more than twice as likely to enact self-harm and attempt suicide than non-victims.

Just when we thought the Blue Whale Challenge is under control, India has been reporting a few cases across Mumbai, Delhi and Indore. This is an Internet game where after playing it for 50 days the player has to commit suicide. To show his progress, the player is asked to share photos at every level where there is also a sign of self-harm as that is part of the game.

However there are claims too that there is no conclusive evidence that this game really did result into suicides in Russia. According to a watchdog site SNOPES; they claim “The reasons teenagers commit suicide are well researched. According to data from the General Prosecutor’s Office, in Russia 62% of suicides among adolescents are associated with family conflicts and general distress, conflicts with teachers, classmates, friends, and also with the fear of violence by adults and callousness of others. From a report on the topic from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the increase in the number of suicides “occurs in times of economic crisis and sharp social change.” For example, in Russia there was an increase the number of suicides from 1987 to 1994, when the USSR collapsed. As soon as the company adapted to its new socio-economic conditions, the number of suicides stabilized.”

This actually also opens up a very serious problem that is probably being ignored over the hype of these “secret chat apps”. Why are teens and children gravitating to these to share their feelings and have conversations?

Fear should run down your spine because girls from 6 years of age are body and image conscious and dieting according to the Journal of Adolescent Health UK.

Also according to Young Minds UK one in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder –around three children in every class.

These are not related to Western or developed countries, because of the Internet accessibility worldwide even 3rd world countries are showing serious signs of children mental disorders and suicides. According to the World Health Organization “the burden of depression and other mental health conditions is on the rise globally. A World Health Assembly resolution passed in May 2013 has called for a comprehensive, coordinated response to mental disorders at country level.”

The main agenda should be to focus on the well being of children. They need secure and a healthy environment for their upbringing. However it is not that possible to have the parents or their extended families carry these responsibilities. The Government needs to step up the mental health policies and childcare. Even if the United States has that set up then why is there such a significant rise of suicides in children and mental disorders with the young ones? It is also about sharing culture and maintaining grassroots parenting. This is a vicious generation cycle, which will probably take another generation to fix. The danger is that technology is moving faster than we can control it or us.

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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