5 Small But Significant Ways To Save Money

Debt and bankruptcy do a great job teaching you about financial discipline. I am not a good student, but that has not discouraged my teachers. They have never given up on me. Whenever I thought it couldn't get any worse, they have been there to help me change my mind. This has been the case in many areas of my life, especially in the case of personal finance. 

Many of us do not realize how our financial behavior patterns and habits actually drive us further away from our personal goals and deeper into debt. A part of this apparent illusion comes from the insignificance of small amounts of wasteful expenditure that these habits involve. In the backdrop of our overall budget, addressing these habits seems to have a relatively low payoff. However, when we put all these habits together and look at their impact over time, they make up a significant chunk of money that could have contributed to savings or debt repayment insteadAs part of my current mission to leave behind all that I believe is worth leaving behind, here are some small ways that you can stop borrowing from the future.

Are Our Gurus a Tad Too Cool?

Thanks to a recent post at Sunday Posts, I came to learn about the 500-million-rupees lawsuit filed by an admissions recruitment agent and a leading business school against Delhi Press’ Caravan. The article has since been taken down, thanks to a court injunction, but like good porn or pirated music, is not that hard to find. It makes a fascinating read, not only from the perspective of the organization and people it speaks of, but also from the standpoint of the negative-balance morality that society is plunging headlong into.

I was struck by the closing paragraph of the article, (which, for all legal purposes, doesn’t exist any more), where the writer wonders why the right thinking people of our times, the ones struggling to make a difference to our social fabric, and the ones desperately fighting to save a planet that policy makers no longer seem to care about, come across as misfits and losers when compared to the “thought leaders” and success stories of today. I hope this will stimulate your curiosity to search for Sidhartha Deb’s article called The Sweet Smell Of Success. Finding the answer to Siddhartha’s wondering is simple; figuring out what to do with the answer is not. This, however, is not the only question that is ringing the bells of the enlightened masses.

80th Death Anniversary of The Lion Of The Desert: Omar Mukhtar

The Arab spring has brought the charismatic leadership of Omar Mukhtar back into focus in an ironic chain of events. Yes, the bearded and bespectacled scholar-like man whose face looks back at you from the 10-dinar bill is Omar Al Mukhtar, whose life has great relevance to those studying the contemporary Libyan crisis or peoples’ movements in general. In India, Anna Hazare typifies another type of a protest against another type of colonization, that of governmental and corporate corruption. Both these leaders come from spiritual backgrounds, and both have been underestimated by those they were fighting against. Both have been conned into submission by their adversaries at different points in their struggle against the powers that be, but both refused to give in to these attempts to subvert their cause. At a time when the world is in need of truly capable and upright leaders, people like Omar Mukhtar need to be remembered and their beliefs and values re-examined.

Omar Mukhtar was a leader of the Libyan Resistance against their colonization by Italy. He was born in Janzour, in Eastern Barqa on August 20, 1862. He was captured and hanged by the Italian forces eighty years back on this day, September 16, 1931. He was a teacher of the Quran, the holy book of the Muslims, who used his understanding of the land and the people to ignite their national pride and organize themselves into a resistance against the invaders.

Not Broke Don't Mean Don't Need Fixing

This year, I almost broke a 20-year-old tradition. For 20 years, including ones where I was traveling, indisposed, or committed at high security facilities, I have made it a point, on this particular day, September 5, to carry a gift to all the people who have taught me the lessons that have helped me become who I am. On most years, it would be in the form of a box of sweets that I would visit my teachers with. This year, in spite of all being normal, I almost deviated from the norm. The reason for this was that one of the greatest lessons I have learned in the recent years is that sometimes things need fixing even if they are not broken.

The Comfort of the Familiar
I have been blessed to have spent nearly 5 years towards the beginning of my working life working with the terminally ill and their families. This is a very strange thing to say, since every human being, without exception, at the end of the day, is terminally ill. The only difference between the general population and those identified as terminally ill is the acute awareness of the fragility and impermanence of life that the terminally ill have. However, that is not the focus of this post. During this time, my primary role was that of an educator and counselor. People much elder to me would tag a “da” (elder brother in Bengali) or a Sir after my name.

This was followed by my choosing to switch over to the field of training. I was entrusted by my mentor in my career with training language specialists for the healthcare documentation industry. Once again, the role placed on me the mentor’s mantle and the mandatory suffix. With time and organizational growth, both the mantle and the suffix grew in stature and my head had to grow at the same pace to keep a snug fit. As time passed, I found myself becoming reluctant to rock the boat when it was the right thing to do, and looked the other way when things around me violated my own principles. Strangely, this same compromise was being played out in my personal life too, where I was becoming more and more comfortable creating and pursuing a life that I did not agree with in principle. Since every morning woke me up to a wonderful day, and nothing “terrible” was happening, I failed to find a reason to question any of this. I came with my box of sweets on Teachers Day year after year, and traded it for flower bouquets and shiny plaques with pretty words written on them.

One morning, some years ago, I woke up and realized that I was sacrificing all that I believed in for the comfort of familiarity. Even though I felt strongly about things, I did not have the courage to make the changes I needed to make in my life. As the little bird kept waking me up with its insistent chirping, I slowly started to see what a sham my life had turned into. Even the box of sweets had been robbed of their symbolic acridness! I was doing everything that I was doing out of a sense of a mechanical ritual to keep things as they were, to keep myself from questioning the system I had become a part of, to keep up an outward appearance of success and happiness. Yet, even after this awakening, I did not have the courage for several months to make a decision to change it. In spite of my life being turned upside down at every level - financial, emotional, mental, and social - over the next couple of years, I was still willing to hold on to the belief that the solution lay in clawing my way back to the middle of the road, to the comfort of familiarity, to the accepted and acceptable norm.

Strip Search of the Spirit
Like a nestling hesitating to fly, I had to be pushed off the tree to finally find my wings. This blessing came in the form of drastic life changes. I found myself in prison on criminal charges, and battling a legal process that would not only drag for years, but also suck up all my time, energy and resources if justice was to be my goal. At the cost of wiping out the last possibilities of a materially and financially comfortable future for myself and my loved ones, I chose to settle the charges out of court, and decided to test my faith in the fairness of the law of cause and effect.

The next several months saw me witness further losses, as I went about closing doors on the past. As each protective filter was removed, the light of reason shone sharper and brighter, frequently driving me nuts. I began to see clearly how I had strayed from what I believed in as the purpose of my life, and traded it for the numbness of material security and overconsumption. I also was shown how my selfishness had led to the struggle and suffering of all those who shared my journey, and how hollow the assurance that it would look different in the long run sounded. On the other hand, I had also been shown the hollowness of all that I had been pursuing. I had been shown how easy it was to disguise greed for power and possessions as value creation, and selfishness as altruism. I had been shown that the highest degree of corruption was practiced by those claiming to be free, by training or by genetics, from all selfishness.

So here I was, halfway through life, my lust for life unhampered, but with most of what I believed in about others and about myself contraindicated by objective evidence. While I desperately clung on to my belief that there was fundamental value in the findings of this strip search, I was absolutely unable to see it.

Winter Always Turns to Spring
For those who believe in the devil, there is an all important lesson that can be learned from this concept, and this is one that is universal to all religious thought - the devil never gives up. The place where I stood in life at this point in time, there was not much godliness I could feel about myself, so I used the devilish attitude to hang on to my faith. I refused to give up. I realized that in order to find a sense of purpose, I had to start by living a life that could serve as a model to others. And while it was not something that I could do “some day” after my filial responsibilities have been taken care of, it was also not something that could be done at the cost of one’s filial responsibilities. Keeping this balance in mind, I set off with my tools, that of being a communicator, an artist and an educator, but this time without the mantle or the suffix, into the new unfamiliar dawn.

Almost all that you will find in this blog, and to a great extent in my other blogs, The Curious Hat, The Operative Note, and The Story of Parth, are my humble effort to reverse the damage that has been caused by my reluctance to follow my heart and live a life of simplicity, responsibility and gratitude. I thank the universe for my family who walk with me, sharing my vision. I am thankful to those of you who follow me in my journey, since I know it is not an easy path to travel.

The greatest resistance to change comes from the grip that the past has over us. As September 5 drew close, I struggled with my decision to not take my box of sweets to my teachers this year. Habits die hard, but they do die. Using my belief in the principle of turning poison into medicine, I allowed the past to temporarily win over me once again, as I share this box of sweets with you. Thank you for teaching me to open my eyes to my infinite potential!

Corrupt Legal Practices Claim More Lives

In India, the payment of a dowry was prohibited in 1961 under Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498a of the Indian Penal Code were enacted to make it easier for the wife to seek redress from potential harassment by the husband's family. However, these laws have turned into a major point of controversy as they are misused for personal gain and harassing the husband and his family more often than used for true justice and protection.

Under these laws, one can file a complaint upon which the accused can be arrested without any investigation or proof. 498a cases make up almost a third of the undertrial population in jails. Though no official statistics are available, and given the fact that these cases can drag on for years, it is difficult to estimate how effective these laws are. However, as of date less than 5% of 498a cases filed since 1983 have resulted in conviction, with most of the rest being out of court settlements.

While organizations have been formed to deal with this menace, the tortuous process of the law and the corrupt practices prevalent at every level of law enforcement and the legal system make it daunting for anyone to seek justice through the system. Most victims of this abuse end up choosing peace and closure instead of justice, a telling comment on the criminal justice system in our nation.

What is tangible, however, is the ongoing abuse of this law in the form of steps that many of the accused are being forced to take in their effort to deal with the problem. The fact that most people are unaware of the laws and their rights makes it easy for the perpetrators and the police to get away with doing what they want.

Pradeep Jain, a 32-year-old man from Rajasthan became the latest victim of this legal terrorism as he ended his life unable to deal with the harassment.

If you want to know how to go about dealing with this law, you will benefit from The 498a Survival Guide, a free ebook made available by victims of 498a accusations. You may also want to contact the local offices of Save Indian Families, a support organization for those victimized by this law.
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