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American elections and future of US involvement in West Asia

The situation in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon reflects Iran’s strong influence, which remains a
concern for the US and its allies. Hence, US involvement in West Asia will largely focus on
making sure that the balance of power in the region would be in favour of America’s interests.

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The US presidential election now has come down to a close-run contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. With several focus points in the ongoing debates regarding the future of the US and its role in the evolving global geopolitics, these elections remain crucial at the backdrop of conflicts and crises in West Asia. The challenges ahead for the new administration concerning West Asia would largely be regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean, withdrawal of the US military troops in the region, and ending the civil wars in Yemen and Syria that have created humanitarian catastrophes. 

Washington is more likely to maintain strong relations with Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region regardless of who gets elected. However, Biden has been vocal about his disagreement with the present Saudi government concerning their military intervention in Yemen. The Trump administration did not pay heed to its European allies in restricting or suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia at the backdrop of alleged war crimes in Yemen. Nonetheless, the larger consensus about Iran as a sponsor of terrorism is shared among both Democrats and Republicans. Hence, stabilising the alliances with Saudi Arabia and the UAE would be a priority especially when there is a converging security concern. 

One of the most important disagreements between Trump and Biden has been regarding US policy towards Iran. Reacting to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from JCPOA, Biden has stressed that if he gets elected, he would change Washington’s policy towards Tehran and he will commit in trying to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. However, the situation is complicated since the election in Iran strongly suggests that a hard-line government would come to power as the Guardian Council had rejected the candidacy of several popular leaders from the moderate camp. So, even if Biden gets elected there are high chances that the renegotiation process would be difficult in the current context especially after the killing of General Qassem Soleimani that prompted the Iranian parliament to designate Pentagon as a ‘terrorist group’. 

Republicans and Democrats also differ on the issue of bringing back US military troops deployed overseas. Biden has argued for a strategy he calls “counterterrorism plus” that emphasises on fighting terrorist groups using limited US military forces and aggressive airstrikes instead of large military deployments. Biden had earlier criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw forces from Syria and his policy towards the Kurds who fought along with the US military against ISIS. If Biden gets elected there will be renewed efforts to restore US relations with NATO and this invariably will affect the strategic imperatives of US troops in West Asia. 

Since within the US the debate on calling back the US troops and ‘getting out of endless wars’ has gained some momentum this could further push the Democrats to adopt a policy that stresses on reducing the US troops in West Asia. One of the hackneyed accomplishments of the Trump administration concerning West Asia is Abraham Accords. It is indeed a historic development considering the security dynamics of the region which has for a long time been susceptible to the clashes between Arabs and Israelis. However, the recent developments indicate a new regional political framework and it is highly unlikely to see a back-pedalling concerning the Abraham Accords even if some public sentiments reflect sheer disappointment. The emerging geopolitical dynamics in the region draws our attention to the convergence of security and economic interests of Israel and UAE as both have similar concerns regarding Iranian hostility and aggression in the region. There are some considerations that Biden has reiterated at the backdrop of the Abraham Accords. Drawing references from the Barrack Obama presidency Biden might adopt a strategy to include Palestinian leaders in negotiations and talks. Biden has indicated putting more pressure on Israel to engage with the Palestinians to gain a more palatable solution. This probably might also reflect in the US position in UNSC concerning the Israeli settlements Democrats come to power. 

US involvement in the region remains vital since the larger security dynamics of the region is dependent on US policies. The regional powers of West Asia would only be able to do business with its Asian partners when they can mitigate the security risks involved in businesses and maintain overall stability. Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Manama, and Doha need active engagement with Asian powers to secure long-term strategic and economic partnerships especially amid a spree of domestic changes and in many cases under rising new and young leaderships. For a long time, US military forces have played a vital role in averting regional risks for its allies and this has enabled the regional powers of West Asia to maintain stability and accentuate its ties with the military and economic powers of Asia. Hence, US policies towards West Asia remain a strong concern for the ruling regimes of West Asian powers.

 The outcome of the elections remains uncertain and the continuities and changes of policies vis-à-vis West Asia remains crucial. The ruling regimes in West Asia are closely watching the elections and are aware of the implications of a Trump administration as well as a Biden administration for their regional aspirations. However, there is much certainty that no matter who wins the election, traditional allies of the US will calibrate their foreign policies to continue working closely with the US.

 The direction in which the Trump administration has engaged in the regional affairs of West Asia has minimized the prospects for plausible negotiations with Iran and also has reemphasized its commitment to protecting Israel militarily and diplomatically. A possible Biden administration would although navigate in the same direction the manner in which the engagement can evolve could be different especially concerning the policies towards Iran. The Saudi government has engaged with the Trump administration realizing the strong strategic convergences and the volatile security environment. Trump’s visit to Riyadh in 2017 signalled a change in Washington’s approach towards Saudi Arabia that was prevalent during Obama’s presidency which urged to improve some of the human rights conditions within the Kingdom. Trump’s approval and admiration of strongmen like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi further indicate his priority of having secure businesses and strategic partnerships and not impede it with human rights concerns especially in the backdrop of increased Iranian hostility. 

The situation in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon reflects Iran’s strong influence which remains a concern for the US and its allies. Hence, US involvement in West Asia will largely focus on making sure that the balance of power in the region would be in favour of US interests and contesting Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean regardless of who wins the upcoming elections.

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Abhimanyu Dassani prepared himself for ‘Nikamma’

Uday Pratap Singh

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Touted as the biggest masala entertainer of the year, Abhimanyu Dassani’s Nikamma has created a huge buzz amongst audiences for its entertainment quotient. Packaged with action, romance, comedy, and drama, Abhimanyu Dassani encompasses all elements for the ideal massy hero, a space ruled by Govinda in the 80s and 90s.

Preparing for his role, Abhimanyu Dassani re-watched a lot of Govinda films to get into the skin of his character. Recently the trailer launch of Nikamma, Abhimanyu revealed the preparation for the role included watching Govinda’s films to immaculate the mannerisms and style of his character.

Sharing about his preparation process for Nikamma the actor said, “The genre of this film is so different from the other genres that I’ve done. I needed a lot of workshops with Sabbir sir, to cater to this character. I watched a lot of commercial cinema, I enjoyed re-watching a lot of Govinda sir’s films. He’s supremely talented and I enjoyed my afternoons, re-watching his films.”

Driven by Abhimanyu Dassani’s character Adi, Nikamma reveals the story of a young, jobless, carefree boy who transforms into a responsible and reliable person when it comes to his family. Co-starring Shirley Sethia and Shilpa Shetty, Nikamma is directed by Sabbir Khan and is slated to release on 3rd June 2022.

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IMPORTANCE OF GIVING MENSTRUAL HYGIENE EDUCATION AT AN EARLY AGE IN INDIA

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Menstruation is a normal physiological phenomenon, and the onset of menstruation is a sign of normal reproductive function. Menarche is the occurrence of the first menstrual period. Menstruation is the shedding of the functional layer of the endometrium that occurs when ovulation is not followed by fertilization. Menarche is a result of a complex interaction between hypothalamic, pituitary, and ovarian hormones. Physiological changes occur at the age of menarche. The pattern of menstruation is affected by genetic factors, age of menarche, nutrition, race, environmental condition, geographical location, health status, psychological factors, BMI, socio-economic status, parent education level, occupation of parents, loss of parents, child sexual abuse, physical stress, and smoking. Various studies indicate that the average age of menarche has reduced significantly in the last few years and there is a trend of early onset of menarche in developing and developed countries. Menarche is an important factor in health planning.

The mean age of menarche is 12- 13 years. The length of the normal menstrual cycle is around 24-38 days with bleeding around 4-7 days. The first experience would be fear, shame, or embarrassment. The problems faced include pain, heaviness in the lower abdomen, severe cramps, hygiene issues, infection, and anemia due to heavy bleeding or lethargy.

50% of girls in India know nothing about their periods until they start their periods. In India, it is reported that only 18% of women of the menstruating age have access to sanitary products. 82% lack awareness about menstrual hygiene. Every girl should know about menstruation before their first period; that is why girls should be educated by their mothers and teachers. From the time of the larch, i.e., appearance of breast buds, pubic and axillary hair, it is the duty of the mother of a girl child, to give her awareness regarding the forthcoming menstruation so that they will immediately report to the mother when first signs of bleeding occur.

This is the time family members or mother should teach the girl about change in sanitary napkins every 4 to 6 hours, discard the used sanitary napkins properly, wash the undergarments properly and wear clean and dry undergarments. If she is using cloth napkins, she has to be trained to use clean clothes, change them at frequent intervals, wash and dry it properly, and store them in a clean dry place before the next use. It is the responsibility of the mother or caretaker who has to find them a separate storage facility for this. In rural villages, they rely only on pieces of cloth, and may not have the facility of even washing and keeping it dry. These encourage microorganisms to grow and cause infection. Disposable pads are costly and not always available in rural areas. Only 5% of rural women are affordable to buy disposable pads.

Every school should have sanitation facilities that are safe, private and provide access to water, soap, and dustbin and enabling girls to change and dispose of their menstrual products and clean themselves. Schools should provide enabling environment where menstruation is treated respectfully by all. It is prudent to integrate sex education into the school curriculum so that children (girls and boys) learn about it at an early age and do not consider it taboo. Girls having better knowledge regarding menstrual hygiene and safe practices are less vulnerable to reproductive tract infections and their consequences. Schools can make facilities for sanitary napkins and vending machines.

Menstrual hygiene tips:

• Change your pads frequently

• Try to use cotton sanitary pads

• Clean reusable pads properly

• Keep the perineal area clean

• Wear comfortable, clean underwear

• Use correct washing techniques

• Discard used sanitary pads properly

• Consult a gynecologist in case of irregular or heavy bleeding

Menstruating days should be considered normal. Associating pain or mood swings should not keep girls away from going to school or work. They can consult a gynecologist in case of worrying symptoms, take an analgesic and get engaged in routine activities.

The author is Clinical Professor; Head, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi

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EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GOING THROUGH MENOPAUSE

Menopause is the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. The term can describe any of the changes you go through just before or after you stop having your period, marking the end of your reproductive years.
This is a battle with the self. It is indescribable to another, except for another sufferer, who will comprehend your constant low moods, unexplainable fear, and a sense of feeling less about yourself. This is like a deep dive from a cliff that is jagged and cruel.

The womb and the woman which has a symbiotic relationship of a lifetime journey. It starts with a fullness found in rivers that charts its course to finally its resting place at its ebbing emptiness.

Just like the river a woman too has to come to terms with the end of the journey with her fertility. With menopause women often face a symptom of depression, called anhedonia, which is forgetting how to take pleasure. Yet women in spite of this trauma still feel ashamed and hesitate to discuss menopausal anxiety and depression.

Perimenopausal anxiety among women is considered normal. Therefore women are continually discouraged to discuss mental health issues. Symptoms associated with menopause are a given for us to endure. Only the strength of a woman is applauded, when she can overcome all odds with a smiling face.

Women who seek support are often subjected to judgment. She is often shamed into feeling guilty, as though she is baring her genitals and nudity, for everyone to get a glimpse of her weakness. The taboo attached to menopausal mental issues along with vaginal health remains repressed as a topic.

This suppressed anxiety that sometimes women face from their late 30s till they turn 55, can result in varying illnesses in their later years.

Therefore women continue to lie about their reproductive health conditions. They postpone the conversation in their heads about the end of their tryst with fertility. Often resorting to external methods of superficial measures to stall the trauma attached to their aging identity as a woman.

The society too has meticulously carved her sense of self-worth from the lens of patriarchy. Women are worried to be labeled anxious. So to keep up appearances, mum is the word. The message on the wall is “learn to bear the pain if you can’t bear any more.”

As an author and a podcaster, I have done multiple interviews with women. In one such interaction, an interviewee confided in me. She looked down as she uttered her secret. She said that once she had negotiated an overdose of her sleeping pills, her hormones took a nosedive into an unending abyss of feeling extreme loneliness and anxiety.

Everyone around her told her it was the empty nest syndrome as her children had become adults and had moved countries. Her mother told her, that she too went through this as she lost her fertility. This would soon be over.

But she was struggling with fear and panic attacks for the last 7 years. She told me she felt more worthless and inconsequential as she sought support within her four walls.

She also felt ashamed and wanted to hide her aging with the endless sessions at the Botox and filler routine to plump up her skin and look younger. Her friends told her the uterus was bidding her adieu. She must learn to bear the dryness in her vagina, which caused her pain during sex accompanied by the constant hot flushes.

According to the World Health Organisation report of 2021. Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men.

Leading mental health problems of the elderly are depression, organic brain syndromes, and dementias. The majority are women.

The data increasingly indicates the need of the hour, to normalize conversations about mental health among women. It is to our benefit if we can delve into our collective consciousness to ease each other out of this saga of hormonal imbalances.

Maybe we need to take the initiative to form support groups. In these groups, women need to safely be able to discuss sleep loss, anxiety, weight gain, hot flushes, loss of interest in sex, and vaginal dryness. Sometimes as extreme as losing jobs due to forgetfulness which is also a byproduct of the hormone fluctuations.

As I researched further into the topic, I found that the fluctuation of estrogen and another key hormone, progesterone, in the body can cause feelings of anxiety or depression. Some women develop panic disorder too during menopause.

Possible treatments for menopause-related anxiety can include hormone therapy, antidepressants, psychotherapy, or supplements for a better mood.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has proven to be effective as a treatment for menopause. This model is based on the belief that emotions arise as a result of how our experiences are interpreted, thereby suggesting that attitudes and thoughts related to menopause mediate how menopause is experienced.

But the question that comes up is, are we as a society, ready to address this in its bloody candor?

Talking to Srishti Sinha, a psychologist from the mental health team at an NGO called KHUSHII (Kinship for Humanitarian, Social, & Holistic Intervention in India).

She said “there are ways to recognise anxiety.

In the context of a stressful or threatening situation, experiencing anxiety is completely normal. Any negative emotional reaction, whether it’s anxiety, fear, anger, or sadness, is linked to our survival. Anxiety becomes an issue when it becomes unbearably intense, and persistent and starts being triggered by innocuous situations. When we experience excessive anxiety, it becomes all-consuming and starts to interfere with our wellbeing and daily lives and it is at this point that it can be seen as a clinical issue.”

As I delved further into the topic with Sinha about how do menopausal women feel with the end of fertility?

She says “it is the loss of the reproductive potential and the gradual transition into old-age that can be a difficult change to adapt to, even on its own, but this transition becomes particularly challenging in a society that lacks sensitivity and information.”

Mental health among menopausal women is not just mediated by hormones but also psychosocial factors like losing the “gender race”. The pressure to juggle motherhood and career, in the context of unjust patterns of interaction in a patriarchal society, is one of the biggest contributing factors to depression among women.

Women’s psycho education and awareness about their bodies should be promoted. Advocacy of seeking help among women should be encouraged.

The mental health of women going through menopause can benefit immensely from adequate psychosocial support, in the form of free/ affordable mental health services, change in the social attitude toward menopause, and starting a more honest dialogue about women’s experiences during this time.

I hope India soon wakes up to be better equipped in the mental health sector where women suffering from endometriosis and menopausal anxiety do not feel isolated, suffer in silence, and get conditioned to be alright to compromise the quality of their lives.

Mohua Chinappa is an ex-housewife turned author

‘Menopause is a natural biological process. But the physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt your sleep, lower your energy or affect emotional health.’

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This is a battle with the self. It is indescribable to another, except for another sufferer, who will comprehend your constant low moods, unexplainable fear, and a sense of feeling less about yourself. This is like a deep dive from a cliff that is jagged and cruel.

The womb and the woman which has a symbiotic relationship of a lifetime journey. It starts with a fullness found in rivers that charts its course to finally its resting place at its ebbing emptiness.

Just like the river a woman too has to come to terms with the end of the journey with her fertility. With menopause women often face a symptom of depression, called anhedonia, which is forgetting how to take pleasure. Yet women in spite of this trauma still feel ashamed and hesitate to discuss menopausal anxiety and depression.

Perimenopausal anxiety among women is considered normal. Therefore women are continually discouraged to discuss mental health issues. Symptoms associated with menopause are a given for us to endure. Only the strength of a woman is applauded, when she can overcome all odds with a smiling face.

Women who seek support are often subjected to judgment. She is often shamed into feeling guilty, as though she is baring her genitals and nudity, for everyone to get a glimpse of her weakness. The taboo attached to menopausal mental issues along with vaginal health remains repressed as a topic.

This suppressed anxiety that sometimes women face from their late 30s till they turn 55, can result in varying illnesses in their later years.

Therefore women continue to lie about their reproductive health conditions. They postpone the conversation in their heads about the end of their tryst with fertility. Often resorting to external methods of superficial measures to stall the trauma attached to their aging identity as a woman.

The society too has meticulously carved her sense of self-worth from the lens of patriarchy. Women are worried to be labeled anxious. So to keep up appearances, mum is the word. The message on the wall is “learn to bear the pain if you can’t bear any more.”

As an author and a podcaster, I have done multiple interviews with women. In one such interaction, an interviewee confided in me. She looked down as she uttered her secret. She said that once she had negotiated an overdose of her sleeping pills, her hormones took a nosedive into an unending abyss of feeling extreme loneliness and anxiety.

Everyone around her told her it was the empty nest syndrome as her children had become adults and had moved countries. Her mother told her, that she too went through this as she lost her fertility. This would soon be over.

But she was struggling with fear and panic attacks for the last 7 years. She told me she felt more worthless and inconsequential as she sought support within her four walls.

She also felt ashamed and wanted to hide her aging with the endless sessions at the Botox and filler routine to plump up her skin and look younger. Her friends told her the uterus was bidding her adieu. She must learn to bear the dryness in her vagina, which caused her pain during sex accompanied by the constant hot flushes.

According to the World Health Organisation report of 2021. Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men.

Leading mental health problems of the elderly are depression, organic brain syndromes, and dementias. The majority are women.

The data increasingly indicates the need of the hour, to normalize conversations about mental health among women. It is to our benefit if we can delve into our collective consciousness to ease each other out of this saga of hormonal imbalances.

Maybe we need to take the initiative to form support groups. In these groups, women need to safely be able to discuss sleep loss, anxiety, weight gain, hot flushes, loss of interest in sex, and vaginal dryness. Sometimes as extreme as losing jobs due to forgetfulness which is also a byproduct of the hormone fluctuations.

As I researched further into the topic, I found that the fluctuation of estrogen and another key hormone, progesterone, in the body can cause feelings of anxiety or depression. Some women develop panic disorder too during menopause.

Possible treatments for menopause-related anxiety can include hormone therapy, antidepressants, psychotherapy, or supplements for a better mood.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has proven to be effective as a treatment for menopause. This model is based on the belief that emotions arise as a result of how our experiences are interpreted, thereby suggesting that attitudes and thoughts related to menopause mediate how menopause is experienced.

But the question that comes up is, are we as a society, ready to address this in its bloody candor?

Talking to Srishti Sinha, a psychologist from the mental health team at an NGO called KHUSHII (Kinship for Humanitarian, Social, & Holistic Intervention in India).

She said “there are ways to recognise anxiety.

In the context of a stressful or threatening situation, experiencing anxiety is completely normal. Any negative emotional reaction, whether it’s anxiety, fear, anger, or sadness, is linked to our survival. Anxiety becomes an issue when it becomes unbearably intense, and persistent and starts being triggered by innocuous situations. When we experience excessive anxiety, it becomes all-consuming and starts to interfere with our wellbeing and daily lives and it is at this point that it can be seen as a clinical issue.”

As I delved further into the topic with Sinha about how do menopausal women feel with the end of fertility?

She says “it is the loss of the reproductive potential and the gradual transition into old-age that can be a difficult change to adapt to, even on its own, but this transition becomes particularly challenging in a society that lacks sensitivity and information.”

Mental health among menopausal women is not just mediated by hormones but also psychosocial factors like losing the “gender race”. The pressure to juggle motherhood and career, in the context of unjust patterns of interaction in a patriarchal society, is one of the biggest contributing factors to depression among women.

Women’s psycho education and awareness about their bodies should be promoted. Advocacy of seeking help among women should be encouraged.

The mental health of women going through menopause can benefit immensely from adequate psychosocial support, in the form of free/ affordable mental health services, change in the social attitude toward menopause, and starting a more honest dialogue about women’s experiences during this time.

I hope India soon wakes up to be better equipped in the mental health sector where women suffering from endometriosis and menopausal anxiety do not feel isolated, suffer in silence, and get conditioned to be alright to compromise the quality of their lives.

Mohua Chinappa is an ex-housewife turned author

‘Menopause is a natural biological process. But the physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt your sleep, lower your energy or affect emotional health.’

Continue Reading

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POTENTIAL OF TECHNOLOGY FOR TEACHER TRAINING

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The quality of teachers has been a much-debated issue in India for decades now. The nation as a whole, as well as states independently have grappled with the quality of teacher training, trying to ensure that our teachers are learning, learning well, and are able to serve our children better.

Most states have elaborately planned training, often designed as a cascade model. This model involves top officials getting trained on teacher content, taking this learning and then training their immediate subordinates. This goes on for about 3-4 levels before reaching the teacher. While the intention exists and it solves for the vastness of this problem, the quality of content, the facilitation and the motivation to deliver gets diluted at each level of the cascade model. Now, with new approaches on curriculum coming out, the need to deliver content with minimum compromise on quality in an interesting and engaging manner, and also in a language that works best for a teacher, technology can play a very interesting role in addressing these gaps.

Before we get into what technology can do, it is also important to understand why it is important that we leverage this now more than ever. With India bringing out the NEP, there is an emphasis on making sure that teachers have access to quality capacity building and professional development that also takes into account relevant factors like continuous professional development and access to reference material, etc. Now that children need effective remediation post the pandemic, building a workforce of quality teachers who can ensure that foundational literacy and numeracy goals are met is critical. To do this at a fast pace, technology is the only enabler that can help us strengthen the existing model of training. This has been proven across various sectors and it is about time the educational sector adopted it as well.

During the pandemic, multiple surveys found that teachers catering to even the low-income communities had access to at least one internet enabled smartphone at home. This opens up opportunities to try and test integration of technology in teacher capacity building.

Below are some key advantages of integrating technology into training-

AUDIO-VISUAL RESOURCES

Online training makes it possible for teachers to access learning material in the form of videos. While content is present in the form of readings and papers, most teachers who seek learning are unable to access it in their preferred language. Videos provide this flexibility of adding voice overs in the identified language, allows replaying of content and overall require lower time commitment from teachers since they can consume knowledge in smaller bytes.

FLEXIBILITY IN TIME AND PACE

Online modules, once created, can remain accessible for an extended period of time. This provides the option for teachers to access learning content in small packets, at a time that is convenient for them and at a pace they are comfortable with.

PROVIDES IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK

Teachers require feedback to be able to self-correct which takes effort and time. Organising assessment for teachers to test their own learning is an ordeal in terms of finding a venue, communicating dates, managing travel etc. Integration of technology for this can make it possible for teachers to test their knowledge at any point from the comfort of their homes.

HELPS IN GROWTH AND LEARNING

Tech can be created to track the learning content teachers are accessing and the progress they are making. This can help the teacher see their own growth, and in turn, be more motivated to improve their classroom practices.

PROVIDES PROOF OF COMPLETION

Providing certificates to teachers has a number of logistical challenges which include tracking attendance, assessments, printing and delivering. Online modules available these days are able to automate and provide digital copies of certificates to teachers which they can access easily at any given time as long as they have internet enabled.

ENABLES PEER LEARNING

Tech can make it possible for teachers to connect with peers across districts and states and expand their perspectives on teaching practices. Online discussion forums, webinars and chats can allow for cross learning and a greater sense of community.

These features, if leveraged, can make capacity building of teachers less intensive on the trainers within the cascade, and can be scaled to provide access to remote areas easily. While the above solutions may not solve for enabling effective reflection, motivation and practice, they would definitely add value to the existing model of training by making trainers and officials more equipped to support teachers better in the classrooms. A hybrid model needs to be explored in order to make capacity building for teachers complete.

The author is Co-Founder and CEO, Key Education Foundation

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THE PARADOXES AT DAVOS 2022

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It has been interesting being in Davos this year. And, yes, it did feel different after a two-year pandemic-induced hibernation. Attendance understandably was down; but thankfully the temperature, it being May and not January, was up!! The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting returned with an appropriately weighty theme — ‘History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies’.

History indeed is at a turning point. Climate change, followed by the Covid pandemic, followed by global supply chain disruptions, then the ongoing war in Ukraine, followed by levels of inflation that the world has not seen for decades, has meant considerable panic and uncertainty. No one is even pretending any longer to know the answers. In this context, it was good to hear so many varied views at the WEF. However, it would have been even better to hear from those who were missing. Attendance from China, Japan and Korea was sparse this year and of course we heard nothing from Russia or much from Ukraine attendees. In fact, it was a rather one-sided WEF gathering.

And, frankly, this one-sidedness is a cause for concern. It reflects, perhaps, a growing close-mindedness that became a characteristic of the global response to the pandemic, as countries withdrew behind their borders. The response to the pandemic, around the world, has been a strange mix of ingenuity and global cooperation on the one hand and blatant selfishness on the other. Take, for instance, the speed with which vaccines were developed by scientists collaborating across borders (including in India) and contrast it with the deep mistrust, suspicion, prejudice, and greed inherent in the vaccine rollout, their availability and their pricing, leading to several layers of fracturing within nations and across nations.

The same pattern of response is evident in the turmoil over energy. Developed nations that were setting targets and giving stern lectures about climate change to the rest of the world now appear to be less censorious as their own energy security is threatened and prices spiral. Very few are willing to admit that there had been an overswing on the side of green solutions and technologies that were still in their nascent stage and that this fragility has been totally exposed by the crisis in Ukraine. Perhaps better sense will now prevail about what pragmatic energy transitions might look like as opposed to green transitions based on little more than magical thinking. It would have been worthwhile to have had more of this debate at the WEF, to have heard more about how we might realistically come together to enable a global green transition based on collaboration and mutual understanding rather than finger-wagging and scolding.

More than climate change, though, the topic several of the delegates I met at Davos ended up discussing was defence. Clearly, the world has been shaken by the war in Ukraine, as well as the pulling out of troops from Central Asia and the Middle East. When you overlay these concerns with resentment over the uneven distribution of Covid vaccines and the uncertainty around energy supply, it is understandable that nations (even those that are in NATO) are beginning to see sense in augmenting their border security. Almost every leader I spoke to acknowledged, and some even explicitly stated, that a new and more sophisticated arms race may now be coming on. Alliances will form and re-form around defence agreements and many countries may prioritize defence manufacture and procurement as a non-negotiable aspect of self-reliance.

This state of global affairs has forced us to confront the resulting realpolitik directly rather than hide behind a façade of global cooperation. On one side we are too connected now, bound together by trade and the brute logic of the supply chain. But on the other, a combination of the pandemic, followed by the war in Ukraine and the effort to limit climate change, has exposed the limits of global cooperation.

International alliances and pacts are mutable, built on slippery foundations of self-interest. Indeed, many of the most economically developed nations on the planet are scrambling to find alternatives to a world they have largely brought about, recognizing belatedly that in the quest for hyper efficiencies they have become too reliant on some nations to meet manufacturing needs and too reliant on others to meet energy needs. A flat world, we now know, was largely a fantasy. We must learn to navigate the bumps and the curves rather than assume a flattening of our world is possible or perhaps even desirable.

I went to Davos to learn how the world’s leaders saw this present time, and how they might define a ‘global’ agenda. For instance, if ‘sustainability’ is the agenda and the pressing concern of the hour, then the world’s convictions should not be swayed by either war or pandemic. We must accept that there is a price to pay to make the changes we say we must make. For me, sustainability is as much about the health of society as it is about the health of the environment. We must see that equality and dignity are crucial aspects of any effort to combat climate change. The time has come for global collaboration rather than cooperation. “You must cooperate with me” cannot imply coercion. Cooperation cannot only mean cooperate with the existing world order.

Therefore, as a response to global conditions, I am convinced that our Prime Minister’s Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme is precisely the catalyst India needs to step up and strengthen self-reliance across all sectors – be it vaccinations, defence or semiconductors. It is clear, in this uncertain time, that there is little alternative to effective, confident self-reliance and that we are now onto this era of self-reliance.

As we go through this process there will be pushbacks – and we will run into controversies in other parts of the world. So be it. Many will try to stop us building semiconductor plants. Many will dissuade us from investing a larger portion of our GDP in defence. Our principles will come under criticism. What we must keep in mind is that many of those who set targets for emissions reductions for India are also those that shy away from acknowledging the disproportionate responsibility borne by a small number of developed countries for the climate crisis. In other words, it is far easier to talk than to walk the talk.

I must admit that the very large presence of India at the WEF, even in these times, was reassuring. It showed that India is no longer shy about asserting itself in the global arena. It was a sign of our growing confidence. It was a sign of our belief in the India story, and I am glad I was in Davos to experience this for myself!

India is right to focus on self-reliance, while also seeking to provide an alternative to a world in need of alternatives. If there is a rejigging of the world order, it needs to be one that is based on respectful multipolarity. The world need not be flat. Not when flatness really just means that the world has been forcefully flattened. Instead, let’s seek a more stable world order built around countries that are self-confident, self-reliant and willing to speak to each other in terms of mutual respect rather than coercion and condescension. This is the paradox we must solve!

This piece was shared by Gautam Adani, Chairperson of Adani Group, on Linkedin.

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Kapila Vatsyayan: Of dance, space and time

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It is said that dance emerged as a fully formed art by the mere wish of Lord Shiva. Dance, if not seen as a spontaneous creation can be understood as a curious mixture of several art forms such as music, drama, acting, movement projected upon its chief instrument of expression: human figure. Dance is not a simple synthesis of all arts but a heightened and intense expression of the combination. Dance is also a composition of movements that issue from various parts of the human form: shoulder, hip and knee joints being the key points. Natyashastra, the great treatise on drama and dance, categorizes human body into two parts: major limbs and minor limbs. According to this classification, head, hands, breast (chest), sides (waist), hips, and feet constitute the major limbs. Minor limbs include eyes, eyebrows, nose, lips, chin, mouth etc. Interestingly it does not analyze the role of toes of the feet, belly, knees and ankles in the dance movement and only alludes to the wrist.

The sage Bharata is assigned the authorship of Natyashastra. Its dates are in between 200 BCE or 200 CE and is lost in the mists of time. It is our good fortune that a large part of it is still available for us to learn and enjoy. As is the tradition in India, a major text is continuously worked upon by subsequent generations thus developing it continuously, making additions as the time demands and circumstances dictate. Natyashastra was also subjected to this process. One of the major contributors to this process was Kapila Vatsyayan, who by her translation and understanding illuminated and contemporized Natyashastra and its understanding. In this sense, she stood as tall as other commentators on Indian art as Abhinavagupta and Sarangadeva. Kapila Vatsyayan was born in 1928 in Delhi, pursued English literature in her undergraduate studies from Delhi University and PhD from Banaras Hindu University. At the age of ten while she was performing a dance titled, ardhanarishwara, she was identified by the great Kathak guru, Acchan Maharaj who told her “You dance beautifully but you need training”.

She kept her interest in dance away from her college life and learnt other dance forms: Bharatanatyam from Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai and Manipuri from Guru Amobi Singh. She was simultaneously involved in running a dance school and gathering teachers of dance from across the country to Delhi, which included Pt Birju Maharaj and Lalitha of Kalakshetra. She considered her mother and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, the founder of National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Academy as her guru.

Later she went to America, where she conducted movement analysis with the help of Laban’s tools and Hanya Holm’s movement systems. She learnt from them, how self-awareness can be achieved through the movement of the body. She said in one of her interviews, “In the west we try to know our body whereas in India we use our body to transcend it, two completely different ways of looking at the same thing”.

Kapila Vatsyayan was at home with both Indian and Western traditions of dance and was therefore able to isolate that which is different and unique in each. In her analysis of the body movement within nrtta, as opposed to nrtya and natya, she elucidated the difference that is fundamental. Indian classical dance has three categories, nrtta, nrtya and natya. Nrtta is pure dance without meaning, where movements of body do not indicate towards any mood. Nrtya is body movements performed to musical notes whereas Natya is drama. She wrote that Indian dance conceives itself as the relationship between body movement and its response to the pull of gravity. It seeks to first arrive at the perfect position of balance, at a specific point of time and space along the vertical median also called the brahma sutra. She equated it to the idea of sama-bhanga in sculpture that places equal weight on both sides of the sculpture. This position is so important that all other dance movement springs forth from this original position and returns to this. A western dancer especially in ballet, leaps and glides in space and tries to free herself from gravity, even if for a few moments. She tried to eliminate or reduce space by covering as much of it as possible, by flinging oneself away from it and freeing oneself, by reaching out into space in both horizontal and vertical direction, trying to grasp and master space at the same time.

The Indian dance tradition looks at space, gravity and time differently. Here the preoccupation is with time. The striving is always for the perfect pose that conveys timelessness. The nrtta technique therefore depends on making intricate movements with body parts by manipulating time also called tala and achieve a series of poses with the perfect pose being a moment of arrested time.

Kapila Vatsyayan experienced in the sculptures of Khajuraho, the primal sources of Indian dance. To understand this experience, she began her doctoral studies at Banaras Hindu University, and analysed related manuscripts, photographs, artifacts, and sculptures. She thus began her journey of understanding human body as it moves in dance forms and composed her doctoral thesis as ‘Classical Indian Dance in Literature’ which she soon consigned to flames, realizing the audacity of her ambition reflected in the topic.

The author is Associate Professor and Director, Staff Training and Development, Anant National University

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