Sit in a closed room, close your eyes and imagine this: Salman Khan pulling a pack of Marlboro cigarettes out of his pocket and smoking a few of them before going all guns blazing against the bad guys. After that, think of Ranbir Kapoor smoking a cigarette while reliving the fond memories he spent with his beloved.
Now, think of a man sitting in a dark room. He is too weak to move. Imagine him smoking a pipe and coughing continuously. After that, imagine him lying still on his death-bed, vomiting blood. He’s dying a slow and painful death because of lung cancer. Does that sound ‘cool’?
Every day after having lunch, I have this habit of taking a stroll right outside the office area. It happens to be a great way of keeping yourself up and running. The moment I step outside the office, at least 10-15 people can be seen gossiping and smoking cigarettes with filters lying scattered all over the place.
There’s a young lady I used to work with. Back in 2016, she was in her late 20’s. I must confess I haven’t seen a writer as good as her. One fine day, while attending a client call, I saw her carrying a lighter. She held it firmly in her right hand and was on her way to the smoking zone (just outside the office). The very sight of her making her way to the smoking zone made my heart sink in an ocean of gloom. That’s because I had a crush on her. XD
I followed her while she was making her way to the smoking area. She had one cigarette, which she was sharing with one of her female colleagues. She took a few puffs and passed it to her colleague. I stood there motionless as I saw them smoking and giggling.
I wish I could barge into the smoking area and snatch that cigarette from her. I wanted to tell her that smoke wasn’t the only thing that was being blown away by her. Quite frankly, I didn’t utter a word, but the sight of those giggling faces kept flying through my mind for the rest of the day. Take a minute and look around yourself. You’ll see a lot of people smoking around us. From colleagues to friends to strangers outside Metro Stations, the list is never-ending.
A lot of people hesitate to admit that they smoke. Questions about smoking are often swept under the carpet. Some people might even go on to bully you, saying: ‘Man, grow up’ and ‘You haven’t lived your life’. Now, would someone be kind enough to tell me how on earth is smoking associated with growing up?
Smoking kills nearly eight million people globally. (That’s a huge number). College goers and young working professionals are falling prey to this menace. Earlier, cigarettes were cheaper, and people could light a cigarette almost anywhere. Cigarette manufacturers used to sponsor charity events, discussions and seminars. However, in those days, access to information was pretty much limited, and people weren’t ‘aware’ of the health risks associated with excessive tobacco use.
Today, the cost of cigarettes has skyrocketed, and people can no longer smoke as openly as they once could. Smoking is banned in public places. Furthermore, a warning sign pops up whenever a person lights a cigarette on the big screen.
Why do people smoke?
A common ‘reason’ they give is: ‘Zindagi mein Bahot tanaav hai’ (My life’s stressed-out). I quickly follow it up with another question: Would it fade away after you’ve smoked? What follows my question is indomitable silence.
As individuals, all of us need to decide how we want to live our lives. People need to understand that the real face of smoking isn’t glamorous, and neither is it cool. The real face of smoking is covered with misery and disease. It is a disease that intensifies every time you light a cigarette.
It is all-pervasive. It is growing at a rate of knots. It’s an indomitable force. Wonder what I am talking about? It’s WhatsApp.
The online messaging app has become so popular that it doesn’t need any kind of publicity. No advertising, no PR events, and no conferences. WhatsApp is installed on every smartphone these days. Gone are the days when people used to purchase message cards. I remember buying a new Airtel message card every second day as a 16-year-old back in 2010. Calling somebody was quite exhausting. Dropping a message was way too easy. Back then, nobody had predicted that the world of messaging would soon undergo a major transformation.
Nine years down the line, WhatsApp is the undisputed king of the online messaging market. As far as the numbers are concerned, India is WhatsApp’s biggest market. In 2018, India was home to more than 200 million WhatsApp users (no prizes for guessing). Everybody is using WhatsApp – from a rickshaw puller to the CEO of a multi-billion MNC. Messages become viral within minutes.
Fresh and new memes are churned out every minute. Even our dear Prime Minister hasn’t remained untouched by a never-ending avalanche of memes.
There’s another thing that’s getting viral these days, but it’s not as cool as memes. Fake news seems to have found a perfect pairing alongside WhatsApp. No matter how fake or idiotic the story might sound, there would be people who will read it, believe it, and then share it. Every single time people get a link to a story on WhatsApp, they share it within seconds. Of late, WhatsApp has become a major avalanche in triggering an avalanche of fake news, giving rise to the term Ravish Kumar coined ‘WhatsApp Universities.’
According to a report published by the BBC, around 40% of the total messages sent and received on WhatsApp dealt with scams pertaining to conspiracies and technology. There were stories related to nationalism, such as culture and ‘common man’ stories. The researchers from the BBC interviewed as many as 80 people across three different countries, i.e. Nigeria, Kenya, and India.
The interviews were conducted over a period of seven days. Researchers analyzed the respondents’ ways of media consumption and the use of Facebook and WhatsApp for information sharing. They realized that respondents across all three countries did not make much effort to explore the original source of the information that was being shared.
Research conducted by the BBC has thrown light on the fact that more than 70% of the Indian population has not been able to differentiate between fake news and real news. To top it all, these results showcase the need to improve digital literacy among Indians.
Of late, several incidents of lynchings came to light owing to the dissemination of fake news over social media and messaging platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp. The number of times a message can be forwarded on WhatsApp has now been limited to five (in one go). Well, never in my life have I seen the common man enjoying so much power. And that got me thinking.
Why Do People Forward Messages?
It goes without saying that people love to forward messages. Indians, in particular, love pressing the forward button the moment they receive a piece of information on WhatsApp. There are quite a few reasons behind this reckless forwarding spree.
Forwarding Is Easier Than Composing
In an age governed by the internet, nobody likes to compose an original piece of content. Everybody’s busy in copying and pasting the work done by others feat human nature and procrastination. Nobody wants to go through the long and tedious process of creating new content because one has to spend a good amount of time as well as energy to do that.
Nobody is ready to put in the hard yards. In such a ‘helpless’ situation, there’s nothing easier than getting to forward a “pakaa-pakaaya” (already in form) message.
Literally, Free Of Cost
Now, there’s nothing like it. Forwarding a message doesn’t cost you anything, maybe that’s why it’s so popular. If online messaging companies start charging people for forwarding messages, the number would certainly come down significantly. Messages are being forwarded recklessly because no one charges people for doing so, and no one cares.
Moreover, there’s nobody governing the outflow of messages. The credibility of the news sources is also not being checked. In such a situation, a person can forward whatever they want to, as anyway the person forwarding has nothing to lose.
We Love To Argue
Ah, all of us just love arguing, don’t we? Arguing happens to be a preferred pastime for many. Forget constructive arguments and discussions, there are some who keep on arguing just for the sake of killing time. Today, we just forward a message and wait for the person to reply with an emoji. As soon as the reply is received, begins a never-ending saga of arguments, most of which are redundant.
Drawing The Curtains
We are in dire need of constructive arguments, and not fake news. Having a communication channel as powerful as WhatsApp is undoubtedly a blessing, but it is not being used to the best of it’s potential. In fact, it is being misused to spread and share fake news.
Understand the responsibility that comes with disseminating information. All you have to do is check the credibility of the story you are planning to share before pressing the forward button.
Words are lying in disarray,
You know what I mean, don’t you?
It is with you that I find profound solace
A place so calm and peaceful
The skies have turned murky
And moving forward is a daunting task
I have been struggling to get things going
For the path I took was insurmountable and rough
The journey is wearing me out
But I’d keep on moving
If I give up, all hope would perish
Never to return
I always knew there was a place
Later, it dawned on me that it was just a trick
Wanted an immediate answer
It hurt me immensely and I felt cheated
Despite despondence, I’d like to keep you close to my heart
My voice is falling apart
You kissed my cheek and smiled, rather nonchalantly
I realized that the journey was complete
I had conquered the final frontier…
India’s political landscape is changing. Every second day, we see a political unrest rocking the world. A political leader lands in controversy. Protests are organised, petitions are signed, seminars are held, but at the end of the day, we find it hard to find a solution.
Ever wondered what the problem is? The problem is: youngsters aren’t interested in politics. Well, we can’t blame the youngsters. Almost every year, we see chairs being thrown by our respected MPs during Rajya Sabha meetings. No matter how disinterested you are, you can never run away from politics. Political decisions keep affecting you throughout your lives.
The moment your high school is over, you get yourself enrolled in a university. Quite frankly, it is quite easy to keep political developments at bay during graduation. As a student, political events taking place in and around the country never caught my attention. During graduation, we had 10,000 different things to look into. All of us wanted a job, and that’s about it. And so, in a quest to get our hands on a lucrative job offer, we distance ourselves from anything that’s even remotely political.
The Truth (Well, Yes)
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to run away from politics. Politics is all pervasive. Suppose a housing bill is passed. It will affect all the students who plan to buy a new house. Furthermore, if metro fares are hiked by the AAP govt in Delhi, students commuting through the rapid transit are bound to get affected and so on and so forth. You know what they say about “personal being political”? One cannot escape politics and one must not either.
The Necessity Of Being Politically Aware
As students, we need to make our presence felt. It forms an important part of growing up. Start speaking about what you believe in. Universities provide you with an excellent platform to make yourself heard. Discuss, debate, critique policies and statements by our leaders. Not everybody needs to become an MP. You need to stay on top of the political developments because all of these developments, no matter how small or insignificant they might appear, will end up affecting you in the long run.
I remember attending a seminar at the Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi back in 2012. Arun Jaitley (Minister of Finance 2014-2019) had been invited has the chief guest. He was an Honorable Member of Parliament back then. He spoke on Public Accountability and Legal Reforms in India. I was asked to attend the lecture because many of my batchmates were on leave and some wanted to simply reach home a bit early. I decided to attend the lecture in order to grab some chai and samosa. That lecture, I must admit, rekindled my interest in politics. The lecture was enjoyable. It kept it me on the edge of my seat. I was so engrossed that I completely forgot about the chai-samosa. Today, I make it a point to keep myself abreast of all the political developments.
But Why Aren’t Youngsters Interested In Politics?
Politics doesn’t sound exciting. There’s a belief that Indian politics does not do anything for the welfare of its citizens. Most of us think that politicians are busy lining their pockets. This happens to be a common belief. Furthermore, the country’s current political landscape does not take every youngster into account. It goes without saying that a lot of political debates fail to attract youngsters. They aren’t ‘exciting’, but the lack of excitement certainly cannot undermine the importance of such debates. Just once in your life, go and attend a seminar, a debate, or a protest, and your outlook towards politics will change.
As far as the protests are concerned, the contemporary student activist has a host of resources at his disposal. Gone are the days when dharnas and hunger strikes were organised to protest against oppressive governments. Today, all we need to overthrow a government is a successful, channelised social media campaign. If there are enough signatures on an online petition, then the parties in question will have to step down. Power cannot be retained if people go against you. Hierarchies can be broken today, and that’s a luxury we didn’t have earlier.
The decisions taken by those in power will take years to come into force. Many of the decisions will be implemented only after you’ve graduated. Nothing will change overnight, but being politically aware and active will always help you stay on top of the game. If an oppressive government comes into power, a politically-informed citizenry can make it bite the dust.