Buying your dog a birthday gift? Keep the dog’s interests in mind

iFetch Interactive Ball Launchers for Dogs [Courtesy: Amazon]
When it comes to household animals, dogs continue to be the preferred choice of pets globally. And wherever there is a home with a canine, the dog is usually considered a member of the family. So it does not come as a surprise when more than a third of dog-owning Americans admitted to buying birthday gifts for their dogs (with the occasional celebrity building a two-storey mansion for her dogs). With the global pet products and services industry surpassing the $100 billion mark for the first time in 2016, electronic toys and gadgets are being considered as must-haves for the “tech-savvy” dog (?!)

Consider the following gizmos: TailTalk is touted “the world’s dog emotion sensor” by capturing tail movement and translating it to the emotions that our dogs want to convey. FitBark monitors activity levels of your dog and calculates calories burned. Whistle is intended as a “smart” way to keep track of your pet’s location.

But did our dogs ask for these “gifts” in the first place? Do they even understand these technologies? More importantly, what do these gadgets mean for the autonomy of the animal? By subjecting our pets to technologies that we use daily, are we prioritizing the comfort and entertainment of the owner over the welfare of the animal? Continue reading “Buying your dog a birthday gift? Keep the dog’s interests in mind”


Confronting realities: The girl child and retinoblastoma treatment in India

A child with a white eye reflection as a result of retinoblastoma [Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]
Not all diseases get the same kind of attention from the global medical community in their search for potential cures – for various reasons. But is the availability of an effective medical cure enough to treat the disease? Pankaj Sekhsaria deals with this question in his recent article How Users Configure Producer Identities: Dilemmas of Retinoblastoma Treatment in India (Economic and Political Weekly, Oct 7, 2017).

Retinoblastoma, a malignant eye tumor was associated with certain death until a century ago. Thanks to sustained efforts and medical advancements, the survival rate increased from 5% in 1896 to 81% in 1967. Yet infant children in India continue to suffer due to this form of cancer, retinoblastoma being one of the top five childhood cancers in the country. Sekhsaria attempts to explore why India continues to have the highest number of children with retinoblastoma in the world. Continue reading “Confronting realities: The girl child and retinoblastoma treatment in India”

Describing nature to a daughter – from a prison camp

1934 Sketch by Alexey Wangenheim [Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]
Ever since humanity stepped into the era of the Internet, the art of letter writing began its slow descent into oblivion and is now lodged in the limbo of pleasant nostalgia. The jury is out on whether we ought to feel sad about the loss of the handwritten letter but many of us would acknowledge that some of the best known works in literature came to us in the form of letters. More specifically, history looks favourably upon those literary works that emerged from within the four walls of a prison cell.

Long before he became the first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru spent several years in prison for dissenting against the government in British-occupied India. Like  his mentor Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru also spent his days in prison, writing – specifically, writing letters to his daughter Indira. Among these letters, those introducing his daughter to the vast expanse of global history hold particular relevance in the literary world. This collection of letters was published as Glimpses of World History in 1934.

In 1934, another father holed up in prison began writing letters to his family, particularly to his daughter. But this father was not as fortunate as Nehru was, for he ended dying in prison. The man was Alexey Feodosievich Wangenheim, the meteorologist who was sent to the Solavki prison camp in 1934 for alleged counter-revolutionary activities against Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. Continue reading “Describing nature to a daughter – from a prison camp”

Knowledge Swaraj: an Indian manifesto on Science and Technology

ksThe Knowledge Swaraj manifesto is a document developed through a collaborative effort of academics and activists of the Knowledge in Civil Society (KICS) network in India. The key points of this document are presented in this post. The complete manifesto can be read online on the KICS website.

  1. What is “Knowledge Swaraj: The Indian Manifesto on Science and Technology”?
  • It is a document inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and asks what Swaraj means for the domain of Science and Technology (S&T) in 21st century India.
  • It argues for Indian self rule of a knowledge democracy, which draws its agenda for S&T from the needs of the Indian people

Continue reading “Knowledge Swaraj: an Indian manifesto on Science and Technology”

Exploring the concepts of spirituality IV: Roots in Hinduism

Hindu monk in Bangladesh [Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]
Beginning with an attempt to explain why spirituality is such a craze today, we then explored the roots of spirituality in Judaism and in Christianity. Moving towards the East, Margaret Chatterjee finds that despite its pre-Christian roots, the concept of spirituality is essentially a Christian one in character. If we are to borrow this concept to other cultures, then we ought to be a bit careful.

The closest root terms that we have to spirit and spirituality in the Indic group of religions are atman and sadhana. While the Christians distinguish between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit (with a capital S), the atman does not see any such distinction. Sadhana shares a similarity with spirituality in that both refer to a path or a goal. Yet Sadhana has its goal as moksha or liberation, while Christian spirituality talks about salvation or redemption from sin which finds no mention in Hindu theology (say, the Upanishads). Continue reading “Exploring the concepts of spirituality IV: Roots in Hinduism”