Handcrafted Book Summary of Ten Judgements That Changed India

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                  Ten Judgements That Changed India

   Zia Mody

Penguin India

256 pages; Average reading time 3 hours 37 min

This bookbhook book summary will take not more than 13 minutes

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This bookbhook summary has been handcrafted by Surbhi Kasid and the editors at bookbhook.com.

This handcrafted book summary will help you learn

  • The judicial history behind the recent Supreme Court judgement on triple talaq
  • How the Court interprets the fundamental rights of the citizens of India?
  • How Vishaka guidelines led to safer working conditions for women?

We the people of India

The people of India gave themselves The Constitution of India on 26th January 1950 with these words ‘We, the people of India’. The Constitution is the bedrock of the world’s largest democracy and this holy grail of democracy is interpreted from time to time. The interpretation of the Constitution goes through various levels till it reaches the ultimate interpreter- the Supreme Court of India.

As the name suggests, the book 10 Judgements That Changed India is a concise account of the way the Indian judiciary evolved over the course of time. It is important for us to understand how the various liberties and the safe recourse that we enjoy came to exist. The Constitution forms the back bone of Indian democracy and the apex judiciary is the cornerstone of the unflinching faith that the Indian citizen has in getting his or her voice heard. Since independence, the Constitution has been interpreted on numerous occasions by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. The 10 judgements discussed in this book are regarded as the turning points in the Indian legal system, and are somewhere or the other, linked with the Constitution.

In this book summary of 10 Judgements That Changed India, we will cover three out the ten landmark cases. For a detailed perspective of these four judgements and to read the other six judgements, please buy the book.

 Mohammad Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum

‘The law’ & then personal laws

India is a democracy and hence the right of equality is extended to every citizen. However, where matters such as marriages, divorces, and property settlements are concerned, there are different laws for different religions. These laws are also referred to as personal laws. Even before this case, the Supreme Court had passed several judgements regarding providing maintenance to a divorced Muslim woman by her husband but this case flared up the communal atmosphere in the country.

A divorce

In 1978, Mohammed Ahmed Khan divorced his wife of over forty years, Shah Bano, by pronouncing ‘triple talaq’- a Muslim religious custom that gave Mohammed Khan the right to do so, as long as the husband paid the pre-agreed amount mahr. The mahr amount was Rs 3000, something that would not help Shah Bano live the rest of her life without any financial support.

Shah Bano filed a petition under Section 125 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure), claiming maintenance from her husband as the mahr amount was grossly inadequate to help her lead the rest of her life.. The Judicial Magistrate at Indore, Madhya Pradesh, ordered her husband to pay a meagre sum of Rs 25 every month. Shah Bano then moved to the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which revised the maintenance amount to Rs 179.20 every month. In response to this, Mohammed Ahmad Khan challenged the Madhya Pradesh High Court decision at the apex court- the Supreme Court of India.

The problem

Mohammed Khan’s claim was that as per Section 127 of CrPC, since he had already paid the amount of mahr, he was not entitled to pay any further maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC. While Section 125 required a divorced woman (as long as she did not remarry) to be paid a monthly allowance of up to Rs 500, Section 127 of CrPC states that if the woman was paid any money under personal religious laws, then she could not claim any allowance under Section 125.

Section 127 aims to ensure that dual monetary allowance probability under both Section 125 (all citizens) and Section 127 (religious or personal laws) is reduced to zero. Mohammed Arif Khan claimed that since he had paid Shah Bano the mahr of Rs 3000, Shah Bano could not claim further support allowance under Section 125 of CrPC.

Is iddat enough for the dependent’s future?

The two judge bench hearing the Mohammed Khan’s petition decided to form a five judge Constitution Bench as the judges believed that the previous judgements in similar cases were not robust. Out of these five judges on the Constitution bench, four were Hindu and the fifth judge refused to be categorised under any religious label.

The question faced by the Supreme Court was a difficult and emotional one. Does providing financial support during iddat (the period set by Muslim personal law till which time a husband has to provide for his divorced wife), however meagre it may be, absolve him of his duty to provide for his divorced financially dependent wife’s future? In April 1985, the Supreme Court delivered its judgement on the Mohammed Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano case.

The verdict

The verdict of the Constitution Bench said that Section 125 of CrPC aimed to prevent dependents from financial penury and the struggle of living without financial support, irrespective of religious identity of the dependents. The judgement then distinguished between personal laws and Section 125 of the CrPC.

The Court said that while personal law declared that mahr should be paid, but the personal law did not take into account how the divorced dependent wife would lead her life beyond the iddat period, and hence the need for the divorced to get financial support under Section 125, irrespective of religious identity. The Court also said that in case of any conflict between Section 125 of CrPC and Muslim personal law, CrPC would take precedence over personal law.

The court asserted that mahr was not a payment similar to divorce settlement. Just because mahr was paid at the time of death or divorce, it did not classify as a divorce payment. Thus, the Constitution Bench granted the maintenance amount as decided by the Madhya Pradesh High Court and additional legal costs to Shah Bano Begum.

Soon after the judgement, the cauldron of communal affiliation and dissatisfaction started getting stirred. The judgement, delivered to improve the lives of dependent women after their divorce, became an issue of interfering with religious customs and practices. While there were vociferous protests from Muslim community, there were many liberal Muslims and Hindus who supported the judgement.That the Constitution Bench interpreting Muslim personal law did not have a single Muslim member also became a bone of contention. There was a scathing attack on Shah Bano and she dissociated herself from the case.

Facing the political heat

More than the judgment, it was the way that the judgement was delivered became the point of uproar. Did the Constitution Bench need to interpret the Muslim personal law? Could it not have taken the decision just on the principles of The Constitution and the CrPC? Around the same time that this judgement was passed, the ruling Congress party, led by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi suffered electoral defeat in state legislative assembly elections. Fearing that supporting the judgement in the Mohammed Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum would lead to loss of the Muslim vote bank, the Rajiv Gandhi government enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights in Divorce) Act, 1986- also called the MWA.

The MWA, in a sense, reversed the judgement. According to the MWA, mahr and maintenance for a Muslim divorced woman was to be paid only during the period of iddat, and not beyond. The MWA did not explain what financial support the dependent divorced woman would get after the iddat period was over. It also closed all doors for Muslim women to seek financial support under Section 125 of CrPC after divorce.

Polarisation of the social fabric

This enactment of the MWA, as a response to the Supreme Court Constitution Bench judgement in the Shah Bano case, changed the history of India. This was the beginning of the rise of religious fundamentalism in post-independence India.

The MWA was challenged in 1994 and a petition was filed to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) that would overrule all religious and personal laws. This petition was rejected by the court saying implementing UCC was a matter of the legislature, not the judiciary. The debate over MWA’s provision of providing financial support to a Muslim divorced only during the period of iddat was interpreted by courts as the amount being given only during iddat, but the amount being sufficient enough for the dependent to be able to lead the rest of her life or in some cases, reach out to her relatives or the Muslim Wakf board for financial support.

In 2001, the  Danial Latifi v. Union of India case challenged the constitutional validity of the MWA as the MWA  did not stand up to Articles 14 & 15 of The Constitution ( which guarantee right to equality) and Article 21 (which guarantees right to life) . The Supreme Court did not accept this argument but highlighted that the under the MWA, the husband would not only provide financial support during iddat, but also ensure that this payment is sufficient for the dependent divorced woman to lead the rest of her life.

In yet another decision later, the Supreme Court ruled that a divorced Muslim woman can file a petition under Section 125 of the CrPC. These two rulings, after the MWA came into force, ensures that the divorced Muslim woman is free to either seek financial support under Section 125 of the CrPC or claim a reasonable lump sum alimony (an amount that is fair to help her lead the rest of her life) under MWA act.

Bookbhook.com editor’s note: On 22 August 2017, the Supreme Court of India declared the practice of triple talaq as unconstitutional by a 3:2 majority. The bench comprised of five judges who belong to different religions, including Islam.

Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985)

Please move, we want to help you

In July 1981, just when the monsoon clouds started hovering over the skyline of Bombay (now Mumbai), the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra A.R. Antulay announced that all slum dwellers and squatters in the city would be evicted out of Mumbai if they cannot prove their identity (with photo identity cards).

 Bombay then, even more so Mumbai now, is a city creaking at the limits owing to massive population influx with most migrants being part of the informal economy as daily wage earners living in slums or the footpaths. The Chief Minister believed that his decision would help the squatters and slum dwellers avoid the troubles associated with Mumbai’s rainy season. The irony was that the slum dwellers were being evicted from their place of stay (and work, as most of them stay close to their working area) to help them avoid the inconvenience of rains. The Municipal Commissioner of Bombay went about executing the order of the Chief Minister under Sections 312-314 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act (BMC Act) and started evicting the squatters and encroachers.

It’s about right to life

In response to this forceful eviction by the BMC, two groups of slum dwellers filed writ petitions in Supreme Court against these forceful evictions. These slum dwellers argued that it was against their right to life and liberty. As most of the slum or pavement dwellers moved from other villages of the country for finding work and basic sustenance, it was essential that they lived close to their work area. This was about right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of The Constitution, and not just about the need to live in the streets or slums.

More so, the slum dwellers, did not live in slums and on the streets out of choice but due to their limited economic means in a city like Mumbai. Hence, the BMC should provide them alternative accommodation. The BMC countered that these encroachments led to a rise in crime, were a hazard to public safety, and increased pollution and hence, should be demolished and the residents evicted. For the Supreme Court, this was not just about the eviction of encroachers but about guaranteeing the fundamental right to life. But can one have the right to life if he or she does not have the right to a livelihood?

A fundamental right

Human civilization in most parts of the world recognises first generation civil and political rights as core rights enforceable by a court of law. On the other hand, second generation rights like socio-economic rights (e.g. right to health) are more as guidance for the state, known as directive principles in India.

Olga Tellis V. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985) is a landmark case that brought socio-economic rights within the ambit of fundamental rights. In this case, the Court had to decide between the right to life of the slum dwellers and the overall right to health and safety of the community. In its judgement on this case, the Supreme Court not just gave a judgement but also made observations that influence the debate on fundamental rights.  The Supreme Court made some stark observations regarding the life the people on streets lived and pronounced that the right to life includes the right to livelihood. How will a person live if he cannot sustain himself via earning a living?

Right to shelter

The Court, however, did not say that the procedure of BMC for evicting the encroachments was unjust, but that this eviction exercise had to be carried out based on constitutional principles. The Court thus ruled in favour of BMC only after the assurance that basic accommodation and rehabilitation schemes shall be provided so that the weak and the ignored sections of the society have equal opportunities. The Court also ruled that at least one month’s notice should be given to slum dwellers before evictions. The ruling, in this case, became one of the first instances where the Supreme Court of India while looking at a civic body procedure of eviction of encroachers, invoked it as a discussion on fundamental rights and broader policy issues of governance. The Olga Tellis case became the cornerstone for interpreting right to shelter as a constitutional obligation of the government, under Articles 19 & 21 of The Constitution.

Dilution of the spirit

In subsequent cases through the 1990s decade, the Supreme Court also laid down the need to ensure the minimum quality standard of the alternative accommodation for the impacted people, linking it to a certain level of quality of life. Olga Tellis case linked right to shelter to the right to livelihood, given that the under privileged need to stay close to their place of work.  However, by the mid-1990s, the Supreme Court shifted its stance on the displacement of the disadvantaged people, especially in the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) Sardar Sarovar Dam stand-off.

The NBA filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging that the dam would lead to forced displacement of weaker sections of the society like the tribals, as well as lead to environmental degradation of the area. After extending a stay on the construction of the dam, the Supreme Court allowed raising the height of the dam in 2000, thereby ignoring its earlier precedent set in the Olga Tellis case.

 In recent times, the Supreme Court has further tilted away from the Olga Tellis precedence by comparing alternative accommodation for pavement dwellers with ‘rewarding pickpockets’ (Almitra Patel V. Union of India)

Providing adequate shelter to its citizens is now seen as a right across the globe. While Olga Tellis precedence is being weakened by the judgments of the Supreme Court itself, the fact that the Court took this as a case of not just civil eviction procedure, but as the bigger cause of right to livelihood, and thereby right to shelter, being a part of a citizen’s right to life, it is a strong example of the Court stepping in to protect the human rights of the underprivileged.

bookbhook.com editor note: On August 25, 2017, the Supreme Court passed landmark judgement that has far reaching impact on the fundamental rights of Indian citizens. The Court declared in its judgement that privacy is a fundamental right unless it concerns matters of national security and distribution of scarce resources

Vishaka v. the State of Rajasthan (1997)

Prosperity & women at the workplace

As the Indian economy unlocked itself in the early 1990s, it also opened up avenues for women to go out and seek employment. However, sadly, as the number of women in the workforce started to grow, the cases of sexual harassment against them also started to rise. Cases have been reported from private and public enterprises alike, be it police, defence, BPOs, or MNCs.

Bhanwari Devi versus society

Bhanwari Devi was a grassroots worker, locally known as saathin, in the state of Rajasthan. As part of an effort to remove the deplorable practice of child marriage, the Rajasthan government ran a focused campaign against child marriage in which the saathins like Bhanwari Devi played a major role at the village level.

In 1992, Bhanwari Devi made an effort to prevent the child marriage of a one-year-old girl but failed. However, in this effort to resist a deep rooted social malaise, the entire village turned against Bhanwari Devi. The village socially boycotted her family, and then in September 1992, Bhanwari Devi was sexually assaulted and raped by a group of five villagers. The local police were not much help, and the trial court in Rajasthan acquitted the five men. 

A group of five NGOs under the name of Vishaka then filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with the Supreme Court of India, asking it to define how sexual harassment of women at work could be prevented via judicial process. While there are international treaties on safeguarding women, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) that India signed in in 1980, there was no judicial process in India regarding sexual harassment at work. So, the Supreme Court relied on CEDAW in interpreting Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of The Constitution as well as a decision by the High Court of Australia and its own earlier decisions to formulate a guidance on sexual harassment of women at work place.

Because under Article 141 of The Constitution all decisions of the Supreme Court are treated as law, the guidelines issued in the Vishaka case became a judicial mandate to be implemented at all workplaces till suitable laws were made.

The Vishaka guidelines consist of eight guidelines with the first one being ‘The employer and/or other responsible people in a workplace are duty bound to prevent or deter sexual harassment and set up processes to resolve, settle or prosecute in such cases.

Vishaka guidelines as the law

Today, these guidelines form the very basis of the human resource policy in every company as Article 141 says that decisions by the Supreme Court are the ‘law’. After Vishaka guidelines were formulated and implemented, many cases sprung up across different High Courts and sometimes even the Supreme Court.

In the Apparel Export Promotion Council v A.K. Chopra case in 1999, the Supreme Court used the Vishaka guidelines to deliver the judgement. In this case, the chairman of the Council was accused of sexually harassing his secretary. Basis her complaint, the chairman’s services were terminated. The Chairman then filed a petition in Delhi High Court, which then observed that since he had never made any physical contact with his secretary, he cannot be charged with sexual molestation. The Apparel Export Promotion Council then made an appeal to the Supreme Court, which reversed the High Court decision and duly recognised that under the Vishaka guidelines, any physical contact is not mandatory for sexual harassment. Anything that compromised the dignity of a woman at her workplace is an act of sexual harassment.

A double edged sword

The Vishaka guidelines are a comprehensive and inclusive set of laws that make workplace safe for women. It is not that this law does not have its negatives. In the case of Usha C.S v, Madras Refineries, the Madras High court heard the complaint of an employee of Madras Refineries alleging sexual misconduct by her manager. She said that she was not allowed a paid study leave, promotion, and salary because she rejected the sexual advances made towards her by the manager.

The Court, after careful examination of all the facts, came to the conclusion that the allegations made by the employee were not true. Further, as per the Vishaka guidelines, a complaint investigation committee was set up, and the female employee had constantly delayed appearance in front of the complaints committee. Did the Supreme Court take on the mantle of the legislature by issuing the Vishaka guidelines, thereby making them the law under Article 141 of The Constitution? The Court issued guidelines when both legislature and the executive did not take up the mantle of creating laws to make workplaces safe for women.

Justice Markandey Katju said that the Court could not keep addressing all social issues for which there are no laws framed by the legislature. Justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly, however, said that such judicial intervention is okay if there is a legislative void and if accomplished jurists share this belief of existing void.

bookbhook.com editor’s note: In 2013, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal Act, 2013) was enacted as law by the Parliament of India. This Act plugged the legislature & executive void which was being done by the Vishaka guidelines from 1997 till the time the new law came into force in 2013.

This book summary covered just three of the ten judgements that changed India. To read these three in more detail and to read the other judgements, please buy the book

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 Eat Move Sleep : Why Small Choices Make a Big Difference

                                                Tom Rath

Perseus Books Group

256 pages; Average reading time 3 hours 24 min

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This bookbhook summary has been handcrafted by Nandini Shanbhag. Nandini quit her corporate job of 17 years to pursue her passion for reading and writing. Nandini believes reading opens the doors to unknown realms and widens our horizons.

This handcrafted summary will help you learn

  • What are the myths around the food that we eat
  • What are the small ‘nudges’ that will help us towards a better lifestyle ?
  • How eating, moving and sleeping right helps us stay healthy?

Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath is a New York Times best seller that is a must read for all of those who have taken life choices for granted. We blame our busy lifestyles and jobs for the unhealthy choices that we make and our genes for getting diseases like diabetes or cancer.

 

 

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Why book summaries?

In this tl;dr world, you are running short on time. There”s hardly any time to read for a few hours at a stretch. And yet we are in the knowledge economy, where knowing more is equal to more success at work. How can you, then, know more without reading more? book summaries are one way to grasp knowledge in nuggets. After all, you need to read it all quickly.So how long is too long to stop reading? Is tl;dr about the (l) (adjective) or about the ‘(dr) (verb). As per a recent report, the average attention span for humans seems to have dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000, to 8 seconds in 2016. At 8 seconds, our attention span is less than that of a goldfish. In simple words, we cannot focus on a task beyond 8 seconds without getting distracted. And this drop in attention span was across all age groups and gender. The number one reason attributed to this societal trend is penetration of multiple devices-smartphones,laptops,tabs.smart watches and the endless list.

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bookbhook.com curates non fiction books for you and then converts them into handcrafted short book summaries. But why book summaries? Because in this age of distracted attention, a book summary helps you grasp the book abstract and essence of the book in just a few minutes. bookbhook handcrafted book summary is available via one of the best book summary (book summaries) app and website-bookbhook.com. Like blinkist in Europe and getabstract in the U.S., bookbhook converts non fiction books into handcrafted short summaries. The bookbhook service is designed for the tl;dr world- with bookbhook you do not need to read more to know more.  Why should a Hindi medium educated young entrepreneur in Aligarh miss out on Peter Thiel’s Zero to One? bookbhook brings the Hindi summary of the startup bible. Do not like reading at all, not even a 10 min summary? Hopefully a book summary video will get you to know more without reading more?

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                                          Brick by Brick

                          David Robertson with Bill Breen

       Random House Business

320 pages; Average reading time 4 hours 32 min

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How LEGO came about?

In the aftermath of the Great Depression, Ole Kirk Christiansen founded LEGO by combining two initial letters of the Danish words ‘leg godt’ (play well), in the small town of Billund in Denmark. The company’s motto ‘Only the best is good enough’ emerged when Godtfred, Ole Kirk’s son, told his father that he had used two coats of varnish instead of the regular three, while making wooden toy ducks. This angered Ole Kirk so much that he ordered his son to go back to the train station and repaint the wooden ducks. The lesson inspired Godtfred to immortalize his father’s values by carving the motto onto a wooden plaque and since then it has been the signpost of the company.

In 1950, the father-son duo mutated the ‘Self-locking Building Bricks’ into an ‘Automatic Binding Brick’. LEGO had now moved from wood to plastic but this change failed to provide solidity to the LEGO bricks. They persevered and it was not until 1958, when Godtfred came up with the stud-and-tube coupling model, which had tight tolerances, enabling the studs to retain connectivity through friction. LEGO bricks as we know it, were born. Over the years, LEGO has maintained a relentless focus on its values and its ability to innovate via experimentation. In doing so, LEGO has seen success and failure, learning some important lessons in innovation management, on the way.

Is there something like ‘too much innovation’?

In 1997, in an attempt to keep up with the license-driven US merchandise market, Peter Eio, Chief of LEGO (USA), decided to collaborate with Lucas Film Ltd and came up with the concept of LEGO Star Wars toys. The sceptical Billund executives however, felt that the venture would violate the core values set by Ole Kirk: ‘to never let war seem like child’s play.’ Eio persevered, and armed with a customer survey that asked parents if they would welcome the LEGO-Star Wars tie-up, succeeded in rolling out the now extremely popular Star Wars LEGO merchandise. LEGO realised that the world was moving fast from free-play building blocks to franchise driven innovation.

 

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In this tl;dr world, you are running short on time. There’s hardly any time to read for a few hours at a stretch. And yet we are in the knowledge economy, where knowing more is equal to more success at work. How can you, then, know more without reading more? book summaries are one way to grasp knowledge in nuggets. After all, you need to read it all quickly. So how long is too long to stop reading? Is tl;dr about the (l) (adjective) or about the ‘(dr) (verb). As per a recent report, the average attention span for humans seems to have dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000, to 8 seconds in 2016. At 8 seconds, our attention span is less than that of a goldfish. In simple words, we cannot focus on a task beyond 8 seconds without getting distracted. And this drop in attention span was across all age groups and gender. The number one reason attributed to this societal trend is penetration of multiple devices-smartphones, laptops, tabs, smartwatches and the endless list.

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                    On Balance: An Autobiography

                                          Leila Seth

Penguin India

496 pages; Average reading time 7 hours 01 min

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This bookbhook summary is handcrafted by Gayathri Manikandan. Gayathri describes herself as an ex-software engineer, book lover, craft enthusiast and a proud citizen of ‘Imagi’nation.’

This handcrafted summary will help you know

  • More about India’s first female chief justice
  • How Leila Seth managed work and home
  • Challenges that working women face, even at higher levels

Some sentences have been quoted from the book. These are marked in green

My parents

Much to the delight of my parents, their longing for a daughter came true on the day of Diwali on 20 October 1930.  They already had two sons Raj Kumar (or Michi), Sushil Kumar (Sashi) and I was named Leila. It was the pre-independence times, and my father was in the Imperial Railway Service run by the government. My mother was from a westernised background, her father was a doctor and was remarried (after my grandmother’s death) to a young and educated woman.

My father, on the other hand, was from a more Indianized background brought up in a village in present day Uttar Pradesh (UP). His mother was a young widow with seven children and wasn’t educated. She pawned her only piece of jewellery to educate my father. He excelled in his studies and remained with Imperial Railway Service until he died in 1942.

East meets West

In the 1930s, the years of my childhood, the British Raj was ruling over India and western education by Christian missionaries was most sought after. Gandhi, Nehru and Bhagat Singh were well-known figures. However, my immediate family favoured English & English became the language I think and dream in. It was not until my college days, when Hindi was made compulsory in post-independent India that I took up Hindi in college (though I failed the exams).

As my father was employed in the Railways, we also had the opportunity to live in Punjab and Bengal apart from UP. The small railway towns and the railway colonies in bigger towns ranged from sprawling bungalows to tent houses.

Friends

My parents had an active social life and played tennis and threw dinner parties. After a car accident, when I was about four, my mother became apprehensive about cars and suffered acute headaches. Because of this, my father rented a house in Darjeeling where we all lived, visited by my father for six months in a year. I went to the Loreto Convent, which had children from different countries.

In Darjeeling, we became close with the Dutts family. Later when my father was seriously ill and died in Calcutta, and my mother had to be there to take care of him, I lived with the Dutts as I always did when father and mother went on trips. The Dutts were very kind in accommodating us in their home while my brothers were in boarding school in Darjeeling. They were careful about not letting us feel the weight of their generosity and had secretly paid for my brother’s education, which we were made to believe was a scholarship from the school.

Quest for a suitable boy

I was nineteen when I met Premo. He had come to visit a family friend on his return to India from England after doing a course in boot and shoe manufacture. A year later, I visited Delhi for an extended New Year holiday, and a meeting was arranged at Kanpur for Premo to see me. Though he liked me and found me unassuming and intelligent, I was hesitant. I was not bowled over at our first meeting.

With permission from my mom, Premo started writing to me, and the correspondence helped me know him better. He was orphaned at a young age and was raised by his uncle and aunt, who he thought were his parents until he was the age of eight. He left home in protest against getting him married to his widowed sister-in-law. He joined a Bata shop in Ambala as a shop-boy and was later recommended as an assistant in a Bata shop in Mussourie.

Like my father, Premo appeared to be honest, steady and sincere. However, we were nurtured differently. While Premo’s grandmother was of the opinion that anything to deal with leather and shoes were best left to low-caste people, my mother’s view was that it was no disgrace to be a shoemaker but only for a shoemaker to make bad shoes. We eventually got married on 13 March 1951, 13 months after we first met.

In the family way

After we had been married, we lived in Batanagar near Calcutta. Moreover, for a short while, I continued my job as a stenographer at the Assam Rail Link Project. I had chosen a second-hand car over a romantic honeymoon at Switzerland, but little did we realise that we had spent all our money in buying the car and we had no money to buy petrol! We had to borrow money from the car seller to fill petrol for our drive back to Bata Nagar. It was amidst this financial situation that I discovered, much to my shock, that I was pregnant. Ma told me that each child comes with his food and fate and that I should not worry unnecessarily. Thus came Vikram, into this world.

The accidental career

When Vikram was not yet two, Premo was given an opportunity to work in Bata Development Office in London. We were naturally very pleased but decided to leave Vikram behind until we settled down in the new place. I was mostly seasick throughout my journey and remained in bed. After a little less than two weeks of travelling, we arrived at England greeted by the grey overcast English sky that looked depressing. The cosy image in my head with pictures from Beautiful Garden and Homes were all shattered by our poky little hotel room that was gloomy, grey and bleak.

My house-hunting trips, after Premo left for work, ended in disappointments owing to rejections on racial grounds and homes with no baths or shower. We eventually settled down to a flat with the property owner living downstairs. After upsetting our property owner with ringing doorbell, loud laughter, Indian music and creaking steps, we decided to move out as were planning to bring Vikram.

When I arrived in London, I had decided to do a six-month Montessori diploma course hoping to start a nursery school when I returned to India. Later, I decided to apply for admission to the Bar because the attendance requirements were not too strict.

Clearing the Bar exams

Vikram arrived in London when he was three years old, was not too sure of us and took some time to bond. Soon, he felt at home, and we enrolled him in a school. A year and a half later, Vikram and Ma (who came unannounced on a cheap chartered flight ticket) returned to India due to tension over the Suez Canal. Therefore, when his little brother Shantum arrived, Vikram was not there. At that time, I had already passed Part I and the final Bar examinations were due in a few months.

 We soon hired a baby-minder and we left Shantum every morning at her place and brought him back in the evening. With all these preparations, I took my exams relaxed though not as well prepared, as I would have liked. The day the results were out, I could not believe myself that I had come first in the Bar examination. Moreover, with that Bar Final results, my dream of starting a nursery school ended.

Young woman, go and get married

Shortly after completing my law studies, we moved back to Batanagar near Kolkata, and I was busy setting up the home and Vikram had started school. Once that was sorted out, the next task in hand was to find me a senior who would take me in his chambers. Pupillage is an apprenticeship to a senior, enabling one to acquire a proper knowledge of the technique of the profession. Moreover, that meant following the senior around like a shadow.

After consulting a list of barristers who were willing to take pupil, I chose Mr. Sachin Chaudhari and thought I would call him for an appointment. However, his calls were filtered, and there was no way for me to reach him. After a month, I finally booked an appointment with him. When I met him and asked me to join his chambers, he said ‘Instead of joining the legal profession, young woman, go and get married’. I replied that I was already married, to which he asked me to have a baby. I said I had a baby, and he said I should have another one. I replied ‘Mr. Chaudhari, I already have two children’. Taken aback, he said, ‘Then come and join my chambers, you are a persistent young woman and will do well at the Bar’.

So, this woman who not only wore a sleeveless blouse but also drove a car joined the chambers and completed one year of pupillage, picking up Vikram on the way back home from my brother’s home where he went after School. Late evenings, my attention was with Shantum who had been looked after by his Ayah, with a lunchtime visit from Premo.

My law practice

Premo moved from Batanagar to Pune for work and so did I and started practising at the Pune High court. I was one of only two women in that court at that time, the other being Dharamshila Lal. She was unafraid, bold and forceful. In short, she was the sole female star. We lived in a beautiful old house that once belonged to the Maharaja of Chainpur (owing to my husband’s position in Bata Shoe factory). Moreover, I arrived at the court in a chauffeur-driven black Plymouth. People could not understand why I was roaming around in the dusty corridors and courtrooms spending time with uncouth clients. However, Dharamshila Lal put me in my place when I complained to her about the musty toilet with bats flying about.

In due course, I found my feet and appeared for many cases including a rape case and a case involving death sentence, that gave me moments of deep dejection. Another case was that of a train engine driver convicted of criminal negligence and sentenced to 2 years rigorous imprisonment. He was unaware of a tragedy that happened when the train passed through a low bridge smashing and severing passengers sitting on the rooftop of the train unknown to the driver. I won the appeal, and my ultimate recognition came when the driver, not having the means to show his appreciation in a material way, brought his entire family to meet me and insisted on touching my feet.

After having two wonderful boys, we longed for a girl and had Aradhana. Vikram and Shantum, by this time, were in boarding school. We had difficult times when there was a clash between my duties as a lawyer and a wife and even told Premo one day about quitting my work. He replied, ‘I know that your work is one of your hands and that the family is the other. How can I ask you to cut off one hand? No, no, you must work, and we will adjust.’

My turn: Delhi

Premo was transferred back to Calcutta from Pune. Though I was less enthusiastic about the move, it was a very important one for Premo. I, on the other hand, worked very hard but did not make too much headway. There were gender specific challenges. It was difficult for a solicitor to brief young female lawyers. My brother who was a senior executive at Andrew Yule & Co sought my opinion only informally as his company preferred briefing a male lawyer.

On the personal front, our stay in Calcutta strengthened our family bonds. My brothers were living in Calcutta, my mom came over for Sunday lunches, and we had a large circle of friends. We also found our gardener Sona, who stayed with us for thirty-five years. He lovingly tended garden after garden, as we moved homes. Our children learnt to love flowers, trees and enjoyed peaceful gardens.

In Calcutta, Premo too was reaching a sort of dead end with Bata. We decided to move out of Calcutta but the question was where we should go. It was essential for me to stabilise my practice in a single place and we zeroed in on Delhi, as both the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court were there. Therefore, I moved first to test waters. Premo had to settle for a transfer as Factory Manager to Faridabad, which was a bit of a comedown for him.

First woman judge in the capital

In early 1978, I was recommended as a judge for the Delhi High Court. Until then, there had only been one-woman judge, Anna Chandy who served as a Judge in the Kerala High Court during the late 1950s. Since then there were no women judges, and this issue had been under discussion and became more prominent during 1975, which was declared the Women’s International year.

The only two women who qualified for being a judge at that time were Urmila Kapur and me. Nevertheless, fate and destiny made me the first woman judge of Delhi High court on 25 July 1978.

There were interesting incidents when I was sitting as a Judge with Justice T.P.S Chawla who insisted a lawyer to address the court correctly. Justice Denning in England had issued directions that a woman judge has to be addressed as ‘My Lady’. The lawyer, however, had no idea what to do and when explained what was expected out of him, he simply chose to turn his face towards Justice Chawla and answer as if he had asked the question.

On another occasion, I was disturbed by shuffling of feet and the soft murmur of many voices. When enquired, I came to know that the dozens of people staring at me were a group of farmers whom Prime Minister Charan Singh had invited to Delhi to see the sights. They had visited the zoo and then came to see the woman judge at the Delhi High Court!

Women’s economic empowerment

Since the beginning, I had refrained myself from appearing only for cases about women. I had, by choice, taken up civil and constitutional work. However, as a judge, I wrote judgements for cases that had a woman’s angle (whether Silver utensils and Gold ornaments were considered ‘Jewelry’), a dowry-death case, and a custody case and so on.

In the dowry-death case, I was appalled at the alacrity with which the man remarried while he was still on bail and the parent’s mindset to give away their daughter to such a man. The law can only help. It is for parents of young girls to change their mindset about marriage being the be-all and end-all of their life. The education and economic empowerment of a girl are necessary.

Once, when I had asked a good friend who rose to very high judicial position, if he will give a dowry to his daughter, he answered that he would as it was nearly impossible in his community to get his daughter married without a dowry but at the same time he would not take dowry for his son. Though it was not what I wanted to hear, it was one small step forward.

Meanwhile, on the personal front, my daughter Aradhana was over 25 and was making commendable progress with her career in films. However, I could not help my apprehensions and fear about her landing up with someone unsuitable or worse, no one at all. My eldest son Vikram had his Tibetan journey compiled and published as a book and was working on his novel, The Golden Gate. My other son, Shantum, on the other hand, pursuing his search for an alternate lifestyle and a path of peace.

First female Chief Justice of India

11 years after being a Judge, in 1988, I was elated to know about my recommendation to be elevated to the Supreme Court of India. However, by a twist of fate, Ms.Fathima Beevi was recommended in place of me and she went on to become the first woman to be a judge at the Supreme Court of India. On the other hand, I was the senior most judge in line to become the Chief Justice. In 1991, Ranganath Misra, the then Chief Justice of India, decided that I should be made the Chief Justice of the High court of Himachal Pradesh in Shimla.

Unlike male judges whose families would follow them to their places of transfer, mine would not be able to give up their assignments. However, I was going to be the first woman Chief Justice of a state in India, and I did not want to pass up. I accepted the move and had the new experience of the entire household revolving around me. In my earlier homes, everything revolved around the needs of the man of the house, and for the first time I felt like I am a person in my right. It was in Shimla, Vikram completed his revision of A Suitable Boy.

As my sixty-second birthday approached, and so did my retirement, my memories came rushing back to me and I indulged myself in memories of the past.

Retirement is not the end

After my retirement, we moved to our own house in Noida with its tiny garden, which is my great joy. We had decided to move to Noida, as we did not have the sort of money to buy a house in Delhi.

About six months after retirement, I started getting depressed about not being able to have a routine anymore, and I could find no sense of purpose. Therefore, I joined a nine-month course of study to do a diploma in environmental law at the World Wide Fund for Nature. When I completed it, I was invited to be a member of the Board of Trustees and later became its Vice President.

In 1997, when I was busy with my arbitration work, I was appointed a full-time member of the 15th Law Commission. The Law Commission’s work was to look at particular areas of law suggested by the Government or Supreme Court or taken up by ourselves and prepare a report to be submitted to the government regarding the reforms that need to be done.We prepared several reports covering a wide range of subjects.

I did face difficulties and challenges in my legal career, but there were brave women, both in India and in other countries, who inspired me with their courage and determination. I feel humbled when I think of such luminaries.

I remember my mother who would feel upset when she was left out of activities of her children, and I was determined that I should have a life of own, so that there is no expectation of reciprocation of attention from my children. This did not mean I did not give my children affection or time; it was just that it was not to the exclusion of everything else.

The balancing act

This balancing act has not been easy. However, I have realised that if you are sincere with your work and love your family, you can share your problems and difficulties with them and it is surprising to see the solutions that emerge through consensus. In addition, I felt it was less stressful doing two different kinds of work. You could switch between your work and household, the change itself becoming a form of relaxation. The fame, the privileges, the recognition are fleeting, and I bring myself down to earth with a remark Premo made to me when we were first married: ‘It is better to spend time making something of yourself than socialising’

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Handcrafted book summary of Blockchain Revolution

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Book summary of Blockchain Revolution by Tapscott
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                    Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money,Business & the World

                                       Don Tapscott & Alex Tapscott

Portfolio Penguin

368 pages; Average reading time 5 hours 12 min

This bookbhook summary will take not more than 9 minutes

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This bookbhook summary has been handcrafted by Shawna Guha. Shawna is a banker with one of India’s largest banks and believes reading helps in widening the horizon of hopes, and handcrafts book summaries for India’s favourite book summary app.

This handcrafted summary will help you learn

  • What are the seven principles of Blockchain technology?
  • What is Ethereum?
  • How will Blockchain affect business and governance in the future?
  • Can Blockchain help in inclusive growth and development?

When did Trust become protocol?

After the whirlpools of dot com, big data, social media, cloud computing and the like, it is now time for another massive technological wave that is imminent in the near future -the ‘Blockchain Technology’. This started as a brainchild of Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonymous person who ‘outlined a new protocol for a peer-to-peer electronic cash system using a cryptocurrency called Bitcoin’. In other words, the concept of cryptocurrency or digital currency, which is the key factor related to Blockchain technology, will erase the presence of any ‘trusted third party’ during the process of distributed computations thereby enabling the data integrity. The same will percolate into every single level of businesses, governments, privacy advocates, journalists and much more.

The digital currency will work like a ledger that will be visible to everyone as it will be present in a distributed network and hence, the processes will likely to become much more streamlined with higher speed, accuracy, optimised costs, and security. The Internet of Information will in a way get transformed into the Internet of Value or Money via the Ledger of Everything. Banking and financial services have already embraced Blockchain technology in the form of distributed ledger technology.

Where presently the virtual trust resides through the intermediaries like banks, governments, PayPal, Visa, Uber, Apple, and Google, Bitcoin may revolutionise this whole concept as the trust will rest on the very objects of the network. The Internet will rise in a brand new avatar where every individual will have a personal identity or the ‘black box of identity’. It will help to create a trusted peer-to-peer sharing economy, protect economic rights, and reconfigure the financial system ensuring speed and inclusion.

7 Blockchain principles

The Blockchain technology not only focuses on safeguarding the privacy of people but also ensures rights like the right to property and recognition of a person. Satoshi Nakamoto formulated seven design principles that have become the primary Blockchain principles:

  1. Networked Integrity: Trust and integrity go hand in hand and therefore, are equally intertwined in the Blockchain economy concept. This is important to protect the privacy interests of the commoners along with inculcating a sense of undiluted trust amongst them. The Proof of Work or PoW mechanism of Bitcoin ensures strengthening the trust and integrity along with other relevant mechanisms like proof of activity, proof of capacity and proof of storage. The overall socio-economic and political activities will be benefitted by the same
  2. Distributed Power: Gaining inspiration from the HashCash by cryptographer Adam Back, Satoshi Nakamoto devised a distributed power principle sans a single point-of-control. In fact, the Bitcoin protocol can be downloaded by anyone for free, and a copy of the same can also be retained. The society at large can participate owing to the effective peer-to-peer network.
  3. Value as Incentive: The participants or holders of the Blockchain tokens will receive the financial incentives for participating or adding value to a particular activity in any and every kind of field. The Internet of Things is an example of this.
  4. Security: Safety and security are the two most threatened aspects regarding digital platforms nowadays. The Bitcoin Blockchain is supposed to eradicate the same by imparting the necessary cryptography throughout the network without which one cannot proceed at any cost.
  5. Privacy: Every single individual’s right to privacy is taken care of by Satoshi’s Bitcoin The identity of a person remains as a pseudonym
  6. Rights Preserved: The preservation of rights in all forms is another major aspect of Bitcoin Blockchain in every sphere such as physical assets, intellectual property, personal BlackBox of identity and the like. There is an appropriate rights management system in-built in this new technology that arms the users with the adequate knowledge about their rights.
  7. Inclusion: The Bitcoin Blockchain technology works on the distributed capitalism concept that makes the economy work for everyone in the society. In other words, effective inclusion is the primary paradigm of this technology, which drives overall prosperity.

  Blockchain in financial services

The domain of global financial services is severely lagging behind owing to the age-old technologies that still prevail here whereas the world outside is dynamically digitalizing by leaps and bounds. The onset of Blockchain technology and the impact that it is going to have on the financial services sector will revolutionise financial services. The major factors that will transform are attestation or establishment of adequate trust while taking up financial transactions, cost optimisation, speed, value innovation and above all, the implementation of open-source technology.

The financial services sector starting from the banks and financial institutions to stock exchanges will undergo a massive metamorphosis altogether. Eminent global banks such as Barclays has already started exploring Blockchain technology to modify their financial operations. In fact, 2015 witnessed a historic event when world’s nine topmost banks – Barclays, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, State Street, UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland, BBVA and Commonwealth Bank of Australia joined hands towards establishing ‘common standards for Blockchain technology’ by bringing the concept of R3 Consortium.

Ethereum

The world saw a historic milestone being achieved with the onset of the Blockchain platform called Ethereum. Ethereum came about from the Brooklyn office of Consensus Systems (ConsenSys) which is ‘one of the first Ethereum software development companies’. Ethereum is the brainchild of the 19-year old Vitalik Butterin, a Canadian of Russian descent.

According to the website of ConsenSys, ‘Ethereum is a platform that runs decentralised applications, namely smart contracts, ‘exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference. Ethereum is like a Bitcoin in that it either motivates a network of peers to validate transactions, secure the network, and achieve consensus about what exists and what has occurred. However, unlike Bitcoin, it contains some powerful tools to help developers and others create software services ranging from decentralised games to stock exchanges.’

ConsenSys has eliminated the concept of hierarchy based working by replacing the same with a ‘hub’ nature of the environment. This facilitates even more seamless and smoother open communication with the help of Blockchain technology. This can, therefore, be taken up by the several firms in the future for more even distribution of power, increased transparency, enhanced user privacy as well as anonymity.

 Apart from all these advantages, the transaction costs are also going to be optimized by collaborative transformations of the three types of costs in an economy as specified by Nobel laureate Ronald Coase –’The costs of search (finding all the right information, people, resources to create something), coordination (getting all these people to work together efficiently) and contracting (negotiating the costs for labor and materials for every activity in production, keeping trade secrets, and policing and enforcing these agreements)’.

Distributed applications (DApps)

Blockchain will be revolutionising the way the businesses run today. While the basic operations of the businesses remain the same, the overall interface will be transforming with Blockchain. These Blockchain based business applications will be named distributed applications or DApps, which are nothing but ‘a set of smart contracts that stores data on a home-listings Blockchain’. The transactions through this Blockchain based interface will simplify even more and become seamless. It will be a peer-to-peer based network that will ensure much more privacy of data, reduction of risks, enhanced reputation, provision for identity verification and other smart features like insurance, payment settlement, and property access using Smart Locks (devices based on Internet of Things). After the evolution of the software applications from the client apps, server apps, virtual private network (VPN) and cloud computing, it is time for the distributed applications based on Blockchain to take over.

With the help of these, uploading of any program in the Blockchain platform followed by self-execution of the same backed by a tough crypto-economical guarantee will become easier, and this will not be residing inside any particular entity or organisation. Rather, it will be a public platform that will keep on performing in a secured manner. This will be made possible with the help of collaborative action of the Open Networked Enterprises (ONE), Distributed Autonomous Enterprises (DAE), Smart Contracts, and Autonomous Agents of the Blockchain technology.

In other words, the companies and organisation at large will have to take part in this transformation phase driven by Blockchain economy to survive amidst the change by value creation (through entrepreneurship) and value participation (through distributed ownership of the firm).

Blockchain & the internet of things

With the advent of Blockchain technology, the software and technologies related to the Internet of Things will be revolutionised as intelligence can be inculcated within the infrastructure with the help of smart devices so that these can communicate easily with each other through the peer-to-peer network of Blockchain. This will make the system more robust, cost-effective, and economical. The basic backbone underlying the configuration will be a mesh network unlike the conventional ‘top-down models of organisation, regulation, and control’.

Since the concept of a centralised organisation or entity is rooted out in the Blockchain technology, therefore, the system tends to become more secure with enhanced privacy. The power and distribution system will become much more streamlined as the digitisation of the power nodes will lead to the creation of a peer-to-peer structure that will ensure efficient energy consumption and storage in a particular neighbourhood.

It is speculated by several technology companies that Blockchain will help in tapping the potential of the Internet of Things technology to the maximum possible extent where every single node or device of business will act as an independent, self-sufficient ‘micro-business’ unit. This sphere will separately be known as the industrial Blockchain. In other words, the Internet of Things that require the Ledger of Everything for operating efficiently and effectively will be driven by Blockchain. This will in turn help in taking care of the nine facets of Ledger of Everything, namely: Resilient, Robust, Real-time, Responsive, Radically Open, Renewable, Reductive, Revenue-generating, and Reliable.

 In short, the actual objects of the real world are ‘animated’ and placed in the Ledger of Everything, which then comes alive and starts communicating and responding by taking appropriate action as well. Networked intelligence as specified in The Digital Economy will be the main keyword of Internet of Things thereby redefining businesses altogether.

Can Blockchain be inclusive?

The ultimate success of any form of technology lies in its ability to percolate to every single stratum of the society. It is only with the growth and development of all the levels of the society that overall economic prosperity can be attained. Consequently, the Blockchain technology too has got the immense potential that can be utilised in unveiling the unbanked strata of the society that comprises of the poor and destitute who are leading lives depending upon agriculture, livestock, fishing and other allied sectors. It is understood that all these are simply assets that ought to be utilised for gaining money by exchanging value, which can be possible with the help of Blockchain Bitcoin.

This technology can work with even tiniest of pennies, and therefore, even the meagre assets of the individuals can prove beneficial by enabling them to go for the hassle-free opening of bank account, followed by utilising all the necessary benefits of deposits and credit backed by Blockchain. In fact, availability of ‘a mobile phone and some Internet access’ is enough to start participating in prosperity build-up using Blockchain technology.

Apart from these tools of abundance, persistent identity and democratised entrepreneurship are the pivotal points related to prosperity through Blockchain. The domains of microfinance, asset ownership, payments, and settlements are going to be revolutionised with Blockchain that will, in turn, lead to a concept of distributed ownership and investment. Added to these factors, it will become easier to the government organisations, NGOs and other philanthropic entities to distribute funds to the needy section of the society for their betterment and well-being.

Blockchain & good governance

In Estonia, digital identity is central to governance and administration. This is possible using an electronic ID card with a chip carrying information on identity authentication as well as a digital signature and a personal identification number (PIN).Estonia has also digitised information on a seamless platform across sectors such as education, health care, transportation systems, social services, and overall administration. The blockchain is the basic building block for this type of scenario that ensures that the technology spreads uniformly across all sectors of the society thereby achieving inclusive growth and prosperity.

Blockchain steps into metamorphosise the present nature of ‘the state’ concept into a much wider and more inclusive concept by inculcating integrity, public power, the value of the votes, preservation of privacy and technology inclusion. There are two major areas where Blockchain will play a major role- ‘integrated government and the public sector use of the Internet of Things’. The common people will be empowered in such a manner with Blockchain that they will be able to serve themselves as well as other fellow beings around them. The infrastructure will be more secure, and hence, a stream of open and trusted data, public value creation, and utilisation of the smart social contracts in case of political reputations will be possible.

What about Intellectual Property?

Blockchain technology can also be utilised to make the most of the intellectual property and therefore, enrich the concept of culture largely. In other words, the artists are supposed to be sole gainers under the purview of Blockchain while they get to express freely and at the same time, are financially benefitted as well. Blockchain will provide the platform for achieving this fair value by creating the appropriate intellectual property aimed at the well-being of the artists at large. The complications of the music industry and other allied cultural domains are likely to be simplified with the help of smart contracts of Blockchain technology.

A fresh genre of music ecosystem will be developed with the help of Blockchain not only powered by the smart contracts but also backed with the concerned artist’s reputation, integrity, and transparency that will, in turn, allow for the seamless deal making, privacy, and security, respect of rights and fair exchange of value. The Blockchain will be coming with value templates, inclusive royalties, transparent ledgers, micro-metering, micro-monetizing, rich database, usage data analytics, digital rights management, auction/dynamic pricing mechanism, and reputation system. Other features are basic copyright registration, digital content management system and the new artists and repertoire that work jointly to facilitate freedom of speech, privacy and freedom of press driven by Blockchain.

It’s not all good news

Blockchain technology being another nascent concept is likewise facing some major challenges at present that either may become roadblocks towards its successful implantation or can be averted to make the most of Blockchain benefits. This is first because it is still a complex concept that is hardly comprehensible by the all and sundry. At the same time, it comes with some other cons such as it can reduce the need for workforce thereby cutting down jobs, its energy consumption is not sustainable, insufficient incentives compared to the distributed mass collaboration work, privacy issues, malicious use of Blockchain by anti-social elements. Overall, it’s a mammoth task to make Blockchain operational. However, if the pioneers of Blockchain can stay firm regarding professional promises, then a new era of technology is possible.

The road ahead

It is not the job of a single entity like a government or another private sector to lead the Blockchain led evolution. Rather, the primary players in the market throughout the world have to come together and join hands to make Blockchain happen. These players include the Blockchain industry pioneers, venture capitalists, banks and financial services, developers, academic people, governments, regulators, law enforcement bodies, NGOs, users, and women leaders of Blockchain who have a crucial role to play in the successful functioning of Blockchain. The world will be interconnected with several networks like knowledge networks, policy networks, advocacy networks, operational & delivery networks, networked institutions, watchdog networks, platforms, governance networks, global standard networks and Diasporas under the purview of Blockchain. Together, the countries worldwide have to unite for enforcing Blockchain to the ultimate extent in the society.chnologies and drugs when they are needed, but also understands how our mind controls our physiology by making us better.

 

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bookbhook Handcrafted Summary of Redrawing India

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    Redrawing India: The Teach for India Story

Kovid Gupta & Shaheen Mistri

Random House

286 pages; Average reading time 3 hours 41 min

This bookbhook summary will take not more than 12 minutes

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This bookbhook summary has been handcrafted by Nandini Shanbhag. Nandini quit her corporate job of 17 years to pursue her passion for reading and writing. Nandini believes reading opens the doors to unknown realms and widens our horizons.

Teach for India is a fascinating story in many ways-how an 18 year old discovered her purpose in life despite living a life of luxury, how the desire to make a bigger impact got Shaheen to explore models like Teach for America in order and how an NGO can be managed in a professional manner with well-crafted values and guiding principles.

 

How Shaheen Mistri discovered her purpose

My schooling was done in ten schools across five countries, spanning multiple school systems. Summer vacation visits to orphanages, arranged by elders around me, taught me to appreciate all that life had given me and question on why others did not have the same. And the time I spent at the blind school helping out, taught me to look beyond what one can see. All these experiences threw up numerous questions in my mind on the inequity that existed in life.

It was a summer vacation, while I was at Tufts University, which changed my life forever. The year was 1989 and I was 18. I stayed back for one more week in Mumbai as my parents went back. One hot day, I was travelling in an air conditioned taxi and it stopped at a traffic signal and small kids ran up to my window begging. In that moment it dawned on me that I would have a more meaningful life if I stayed back in India exploring the vast canvas that these kids offered me.I called up my parents and explained to them about my wish to stay back in Mumbai. Upon my insistence, they agreed on the two conditions-that I get myself enrolled into a good college in Mumbai, and later complete my graduation abroad. My admission to St. Xavier’s College proved to be something of a hurdle. With the conviction to try and achieve my dream, I blurted out to Father D’Cruz on how my life depended on his granting me the admission. I answered his questions on how my life ambition was to ‘do something’ for the children of India and finally was admitted into the St. Xavier’s College.

I started my journey in a community, a little away from my grandparents’ apartment where I saw Pinky, aged around six or seven in outsized clothes but with eyes that spoke volumes. I finally entered the shanty of Sandhya, an 18 year old, where I went every day after college. Soon my first class started with the kids in this shanty. I quickly realized the everyday challenges that these kids and their families faced. I understood that I could not leave this commitment and let down the kids. Shaheen Didi was their only chance to make something of their lives.

Sowing seeds of a movement

Shaheen decided to get her class out of the community so they could concentrate on their lessons. The first Akanksha centre started in the Holy Name High School in Colaba, Mumbai. The kids got their first school bus ride to their class as Shaheen managed to raise funds for renting the same from her family and friends. The sight of the left out kids running behind the school bus reminded Shaheen of the enormity of the job in hand.

 ‘Together we can make a difference, come teach’ was her appeal to students. The name Akanksha, meaning aspiration, with the sun as its logo was chosen as it identified with the mission they had set out for. The volunteers spent time in the community and came face to face with issues these kids dealt with daily. Alcoholism, domestic violence and gambling added to the burden of poverty and lack of education.Though many teaching volunteers quit due to the multiple challenges faced, Shaheen and her team slowly realized that teaching was actually much beyond teaching. The story of Salman who sold books on the street-side and his journey through Akanksha to admission in a top Mumbai college stood out. Four years after Akanksha started, Shaheen completed her post-graduation from Manchester University. Her M.Ed thesis was ‘The role of India’s college students in the educational development’, in line with her dream.

An NGO was set up in order to formalize Akanksha. Fund raising was solved through ‘Sponsor a Centre’ idea. They taught English, Math and Values and slowly expanded to Arts, Sports and Computers. The Akanksha Christmas and Diwali sale and the Akanksha musicals were a runaway success. Teachers worked relentlessly against all odds becoming the Didi or Bhaiyya whom the kids looked up to for their bright future.

 Bringing the purpose alive

In its 17th year Akanksha had 60 centres with over 200 staff serving around 4000 children. This was achieved through a model where Government provided a building and Akanksha ran it with its staff members with a high degree of accountability on all counts. Students were admitted through a lottery system and were taught for free. Akanksha also invested in teacher training inculcating values, culture and pedagogy. The first school of Akanksha that taught till grade 10, had a 100% percent pass rate, thereby providing the children with a world of opportunity in their lives.

The safe delivery of a pregnant Akanksha student raped by her father and her continued education; Sumeet who tried committing suicide multiple times and finally, with help, ended up opening an NGO of his own; Prashant Dodke appearing for his 10th standard exams despite his father’s death the night before; countless other similar stories brought meaning and purpose to Akanksha’s vision.Vandana Goyal, CEO, Akanksha mentions about how unfair the lottery system of admission felt at times making them wonder on what more can be done. By this time Shaheen herself had married and separated, with two daughters Samara and Sana. The two kids grew up in Shaheen’s world of Akanksha and at 12, Samara took her first class at Akanksha.

Scaling up a social purpose

Shaheen had discussions with her close friend Anand Shah on inequities in society and how it was linked to education. Anand told her about Teach for America. It was a successful model launched by Wendy Kopp who had also written a book about the journey called ‘One Day All Children’. On the 20th anniversary of Teach for America Shaheen saw the tremendous work undertaken and the power of the alumni who had gathered. She read the book overnight and visited Wendy next day with her vision.

Wendy visited India a few months later on Shaheen’s request. An intense visit to top tier colleges in the city, government schools and even the corporate sector was organized. By the time Wendy left India, it was understood that Teach for India had to happen. Anand and Shaheen were joined by a few more people like Archana Patel, Anand Piramal, Vandana Goyal, Nandita Dugar and Puja Sondhi who along with Ashish, Ramya, Ruchi, Vivek and others from McKinsey set out to create a blueprint. After countless discussions and debates, they agreed that a Teach for India Fellowship model would work. The two years long Fellowship would follow the stringent recruitment policies like that of Teach for America and place the Fellows in chosen schools.

With the blueprint ready and months of search for a person to lead not yielding results, one day Shaheen decided to do it herself.

 Setting Teach for India in motion

Simultaneously Wendy initiated a Teach for All global network and Mariyam Farooq came to India as part of this to help Shaheen set up Teach for India. The team agreed on the initial core values-Critical Thinking, Reflection, Resourcefulness, Empathy, Respect and Humility, Integrity and a Sense of Possibility. What drove this team and the mission forward were Commitment to Transformation and Commitment to Educational Inequity.

Fresh challenges were posed before the team every day starting from the recruitment of Fellows to finding schools to teach in. Another problem was the reluctance of school principals in entrusting their students to inexperienced college students in place of the qualified B. Ed teachers. There was the added challenge of convincing the families of the Fellows. In order to attract the right people, the team drew up posters and also sought media help through the chief editor of Times of India, Jaideep Bose, who identified with the cause. The ads in the Times of India helped them get the best possible for their planned launch in Mumbai and Pune. They also went on recruitment drives to colleges. Finally in May 2009, 3000 students across 34 schools started their classes, taught by 87 fellows.

On the lookout for a symbol for their mission, Shaheen happened to see a man selling on Firkis on the chowpatty beach in Mumbai.  And that is how at Teach for India’s first opening ceremony, each of the 87 fellows were handed a Firki in welcome. This was a symbolic gesture that called upon them to find the many colours that resided in each and every child across the next two years

The first change agents

The batch of 2009 was called The Niners. Each of them had a reason and a belief in opting to join hands with Teach for India. Many even left lucrative jobs to join in. They walked into the first ever Teach for India’s training institute which had designed a five week residential course to prepare them for the journey. They embarked on a new kind of learning that had nothing to do with teaching. They were given simple to impossible random tasks to complete. Sometimes all they did for a day was to observe an orange. The tasks like feeding people without money, creating something meaningful out of garbage etc. were done wearing Yellow Hats that symbolized possibility.

The team was made aware of the educational inequity through many interactions. They were made to teach in summer classes, post which they would gather, discuss and debate on the challenges and the solutions. After intensely long days and nights of multiple sessions, discussions and activities, the Niners were ready to march on a path that would end up as a movement.

 Creating social impact

The first day in class brought the Niners’ face to face with the harsh reality of the task in hand. Mounds of garbage, reeking school bathrooms with no water and communal differences of the kids were just a few of the problems encountered. However, there were also families in the community that welcomed them wholeheartedly.

Leaking tin roofs, lack of blackboards or even a proper classroom added to the unruliness of the kids, who at times even abused the Fellows. After a series of exasperating days, the team learnt to focus on anything positive in any child-true to the Firki they were handed.At the end of 6 months, driven by her immense faith in Jayeshbhai to whom she turned to in times of crisis, Shaheen took her Fellows to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. Jayeshbhai’s father had been a good friend of Gandhi. Through spending time with the communities there, the Fellows understood ‘Seva’ and had their faith reposed in their mission.

The second half of the first year was better. However, Shaheen faced a testing time as she was handed a list of complaints about Teach for India by a small group of Fellows. Though initially aghast, she soon realized that it was their commitment to the cause that made them do so and soon set about addressing the issues raised by the Fellows.The students’ achievements at the end of two years were amazing. In the nationwide competitive ASSET test in Math, 12 students scored a 95%. Few published a book in English, another few had read 200 books in two years and few others did a 90-minute performance of The Lion King.

The taste of meaningful success

Teach for India was now a real movement. The Tenners (2010) and Eleveners (2011) set out on a transformational mission to end the educational inequity in India.

Shashank Shukla, a 2010 Alumnus, and the chairman of Gurukul Group of Institutions, speaks volumes about the transformations that the Fellows, along with their kids, went through. Shashank spent his second year at Ummeed, a residential school for integrating street and juvenile children back into society. Shashank told his kids that they should not hide behind a false sense of pride. He exhorted them to change themselves so the people who called them names would be forced to respect them. The result was amazing as all 12 of his kids covered 4.5 years of studies in one year and secured admission to Class 9.

Teach from India continued to grow in strength, processes, systems and technologies and its budgets too started growing. The first batch of Teach for India Fellows went into ambitious projects. While Ashish Srivastav set up a Fellowship similar to Teach for India in a remote tribal area, Prakash Mishra launched Youth Alliance in Delhi to engage youth in the societal change. Gaurav Singh pursued a vision of building 100 excellent schools for children from low income families and Sana Gabula joined McKinsey’s education practice. Saahil Sood took on the mantle of setting up the Hyderabad operation.

Building systemic interventions

Teach for India now started wondering about how to bring in systemic changes on a large scale. Chennai and Hyderabad were chosen to be the next launch sites. Led by Srini Srinivasan, an alumnus, Chennai soon made progress despite all challenges. This was also supported by Mr. T N Venktesh, Joint Director of Education. Hyderabad too witnessed drastic transformation, spurred by the first Government funding in the form of Vidya Volunteer Scheme. The Fellows overcame Telangana riots and communal tensions in order to keep the mission on-course.

Teach for India now started associating with the central government too. Shaheen was invited to be a committee member of a national level body for teacher education across India called the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). Inspired by the Teach for America’s Sue Lehman Award that recognized transformational teaching, Teach for India set up Transformational Impact Journey. After intense, thorough inspection of lesson plans, classroom footages, vision statements and discussions, Nirali Vashist, Archana Iyer and Sapna Shah’s classrooms were chosen.

The founding values of Teach for India

Shaheen had first met Jayeshbhai when she took a group of Akanksha students to visit Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. Shaheen attributes her idea of impact through small acts of kindness which led Teach for India to him. Jayeshbhai had narrated the story about how his father Ishwarbhai, a Brahmin, associated with Mahatma Gandhi’s movement had been entrusted the responsibility of sanitation. The thought that no work was below him was inculcated in Jayeshbhai quite young. Shaheen remembers how Jayeshbhai would smilingly arrange all randomly strewn slippers of the kids in a neat row every time without reprimanding them. Then the kids themselves started arranging the same. There were many inspiring stories associated with Jayeshbhai. Polio afflicted Raghubhai who started a tiffin business & Anjali Desai who started a school in Ahmedabad for street children are just two of them. Shaheen learned a lot from her visits to Jayeshbhai whose loving nature enabled him to cross the many boundaries of societal divides.

Shaheen also explored visits to Baba Amte’s Anandwan, Sevagram Ashram, Barefoot College and Auroville in order to ensure all Fellows and staff had transformational experiences. Ahmedabad also inspired Design for Change initiative. Mahatma Gandhi believed in being the change he wanted to see and he wrote about his life experiences and the learnings. Teach for India tried to replicate this in their classrooms through experiential teaching.

Building the roadmap for future

One of the three leadership values that drove Teach for India was Commitment to personal transformation. Extreme circumstances are what spurred inner growth and personal transformations.  Teach for India Fellows were taken through many challenging tasks which pushed them to rise above their fears. The second leadership value was Commitment to collective action inspired by the ‘many to many’ concept of Nipun Mehta, founder of Servicespace.com. Fellows were encouraged to build relationships and partnerships that helped them overcome the challenges they faced.

The Teach for India path was categorized into 3 phases. Phase I (2009 to 2013) ensured that the concept started off through Fellowships and Alumni movements. Phase II starting in 2014 would strive to be one of steady growth, depth and deeper systemic impact. Through a constant sense of commitment, love, leadership, teaching and transformation, Teach for India classrooms became hubs of learning.  The impact of this incredible movement was being felt through the achievements of the kids. For Phase 3, the objective is that 50 years hence each and every child in India would have access to excellent education, thus ending the educational inequity.

Shaheen’s search for light

I am deeply moved by my journey that started through Akanksha and resulted in the magic of Teach for India. Each and every child’s life that we touched through this movement is a story of hope, courage and compassion. However we cannot rest on our laurels for the journey is incomplete. The number of children that are left out, waiting for someone to reach out to unleash their potential is simply too much. The newspaper headlines mentioning statistics on children still out of school, class 8 students who cannot read, lack of toilets in schools, forged degrees, child brides etc. force our conscious into thinking on the way forward.

The mid-day meal schemes, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan by the Government of India and Right to Education (RTE) are stepping stones in the right direction. However we are still faced with a sorry state of affairs on the education front in this country.  The Teach for India Alumni had set out on a journey to bridge the gap and solve the educational inequity puzzle, piece by piece.

I had a favourite student Latif who wanted to be a Bollywood star. He was the star of the show ‘Kabir and the Rangeen Kurta’, in which he held the audiences with his riveting performance. A year after the show, I got a call that he was very unwell and by the time I reached he passed away. His grandfather said that he had been gravely ill. But he refused the lifelong savings of his grandpa to take treatment at a private hospital. In that moment Latif taught me about the limitless heights of human capacity to give and love. He had perhaps sacrificed his life for the sake of his grandfather’s security to be able to live without working any more.

Every child holds this potential. It is only opportunity provided that separates the ones who manage to find their light. And importantly, it is only the driven people like you and me who can make this difference by creating these opportunities. I look beyond and try to imagine, but only time will tell if fifty years hence, we will indeed have India redrawn.

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You can read this handcrafted summary on this page till Friday, 13th Jan’17.

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bookbhook Handcrafted Summary of You Can Make Your Dreams Work

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                       You Can Make Your Dreams Work

Shalini Umachandran

Penguin Books

240 pages; Average reading time 3 hours 24 min

This bookbhook summary will take not more than 13 minutes

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This bookbhook summary has been handcrafted by Sagnik Basak. Sagnik loves reading and believes books are time machines that take you into a world far unlike the one we live in.

What does it take to leave a career built on years of hard work and go seek something that you are passionate about? How do people decide to kick a well-paying job and opt for something that does not earn the same money, but helps you build something you enjoy? Author Shalini Umachandran takes us through 15 profiles, who are people like you and me, and yet are driven by a purpose that operates at a different level, which made them heed their calling.

In this handcrafted bookbhook summary, we take you through 4 out of the 15 interesting profiles that Shalini has researched. Do buy the book using the links to know about the 11 other profiles that are part of the book.

 

 1. Rahul Devesher’s Quest to Fly

 

Nursing a 20 years old dream

After spending four years as a media planner, Rahul Devesher made his twenty year old dream of flying come to life. He will never forget those eight minutes as he flew solo for the first time in a small Cessna.  He has a photograph on his phone of the shirt he had worn that day, now all covered with congratulatory messages and scrawls from instructors, friends and peers at the flying school. This shirt is a reminder of his journey from being a media planner to a pilot. He looks closely at the photograph as if trying to remember every little detail and recalls that day, ‘The instructor took me out as usual and after the third practice run, he said, ‘kar lega?’ and I replied  Of course!’ The instructor then informed the Traffic about this rookie’s first solo flight. ‘So I went. I was so focused on doing everything right that it didn’t sink in. It was only after I landed that I felt the exhilaration’, Rahul recalls.

After serving for six years in Jet Airways, where he began as a trainee and then became a flight officer, Rahul is currently a captain with Indigo airlines This is a realisation of a dream that was twenty years in the making. From his childhood onwards, all Rahul did was want to fly planes. He saw a performance of the fighter jets at the Republic Day parade and it became an obsession.

Early days

Rahul Devesher was born in 1977 in Punjab and moved around a lot because of his father’s job. Growing up in the era before the Internet, he would decorate his rooms with cut outs of military and civil aircraft from magazines and newspapers. After finishing school, he decided to join the National Defence Academy but his application was rejected because he wore power glasses and was underweight.

His hopes rose again when he saw the advert for a flying school in Chennai and whilst going through their prospectus was entranced by the Rs 50,000 fee for a commercial license. When he approached his father, his father pointed out that the fee was actually Rs 5 lakhs and that was the end of Rahul’s dreams for the moment. He became unfocused and as a result his studies suffered. He pulled himself together and completed school in 1996 and after college he joined Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmadabad, MICA. After his time at MICA, Rahul joined a media agency called Mindshare in Mumbai.

A gift of wings

Rahul flew for the first time in his life in 2002 when he boarded the Air India Airbus A310 to fly home to Chennai during his job.  That short flight rekindled his dream once more. He then began giving serious thought to the idea of switching careers. At that time, many of his colleagues were quitting their jobs to start their own ventures or pursuing their own interests. He would look at the wallpaper on his computer, the inside of a cockpit, for hours and look at his boss’ cabin and ask himself if that is really where he wanted to be in five or ten years? In Mumbai, he had access to information that he lacked earlier and he began his search to obtain a private pilot’s license.

His father was initially opposed to his idea of quitting his job and Rahul therefore kept him out of the loop. He made a trip to the Ahmedabad Aviation and Aeronautics and learnt that a private license was available for Rs. 2 lakhs and sixty hours flying time and a commercial license was available for Rs. 9 lakhs and 200 hours flying time. He appeared for the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) exam, but failed the first time. That was an eye opener because he realised that purely a love for aeroplanes would not be enough. As the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) training involved the same study material as the PPL, he started his preparation and decided to attempt the CPL exam as it would enable him to switch careers.

Soaring up above

He quit his job, took a loan from his mother, shifted to Ahmedabad and began his training. He recalls that it was odd being the only 28 year old student in a class of people just out of high school.  For the first few months the lessons were devoted mainly to theory. It was nearly a year into the course before he flew solo the first time. He then had to fly cross country with an instructor and complete a minimum of twenty hours of night flight and thirty hours of flight based only on instruments. It was only then that he could take the exam conducted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). It was finally in 2007 that he earned his license and within two months he joined Sahara Airlines.

His father, though sceptical and unsupportive in the beginning, has now come around since Rahul had got his license. After eight months of training, Rahul upgraded to flying a Boeing 737 jet. He found this daunting, ‘The jump is crazy. You are just not prepared for it. The engine gives you the power and the wings make you fly.’ A Cessna flies at 100 km per hour whereas a jet lands at 200 km per hour. Rahul compares commercial flying to a well-choreographed dance because of managing the weight, passengers, weather and all other factors like fuel, radios and flight equipment. Despite all the difficulties and challenges of commercial flying Rahul is confident that he has made the right choice and his passion still intact.

 2. Dinesh K.S & Wildcraft

Early days

Dinesh K.S. was twenty years old when he first read ‘Annapurna’, a book that details the expedition of French mountaineer Maurice Herzog and Louis Lanchenal as they tried to conquer the Himalayan peak. Dinesh’s first trip to the Himalayas was in 1982 whilst he was still a student of electrical engineering in Bangalore (now Bengaluru). The long hours at the library were spent reading all types of books and thus developed his love for the outdoors. His trip to Nepal was way beyond his expectations and he admits that he lost all interest in engineering and spent all his free time trekking and climbing the hills around Bangalore.

Before joining a television company, Dinesh treated himself to a month long course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. During one of his expeditions, he met a fellow climber who told him about the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in the U.S. Dinesh saw this as the right opportunity as it would enable him to earn, as well as follow his passion. He was all set to leave but fate had different plans as he broke his ankle in an accident.

The purpose

To keep himself occupied during his recuperation period, Dinesh decided to focus on how to make an aspiring climber’s life easier. He understood the importance of good equipment and how important it was to those who had a passion for the sport. In those days there was a severe dearth of good equipment in India. Most trekkers had to purchase second hand boots, tents, rucksacks and other equipment from Nepal. These items were mostly surplus gear left behind by European and American trekkers. It was a big hassle going north of the border to procure gear and getting them through customs on the way back. Designing equipment was easy for him as he had used some of the world’s best gear and he also understood what features a climber wanted on his equipment and which parts would endure the most stress.

Wildcraft- the beginning

Dinesh began Wildcraft in 1993 in partnership with two friends. While the two friends had their own careers, he focused full time on the venture and was responsible for material, designing, fabrication and sales. Till 1998, it was essentially a one man show. Dinesh would finalise the designs and then head out to procure the materials. Then, he would take the materials to a friend’s factory nearly 20 kilometres away where in lieu of a nominal sum of money he was allowed to use the sewing machines. Initially he faced a problem with materials but instead of settling for low quality local fabrics he began importing in fabric from Korea. To instil the love of adventure among the youth, Wildcraft held many rafting and trekking camps but realised that it was more of a one-time thing with most people rather than a passion.

By 2000, Dinesh had built a company that had garnered enormous goodwill as a provider of good quality outdoors equipment but had failed to grow beyond Bangalore. He was a little disheartened at the fact and left India to pursue a career in NOLS. While he was away, two MBA graduates, Gaurav Dublish and Siddharth Sood, bought a stake in the cash strapped adventure gears company. When Dinesh returned in 2003, he was unsatisfied with the growth and with the help of these two new ‘investors’, he started to get the company back on track.

Scaling up

To increase revenues, Wildcraft opened three franchise stores in 2004 and by 2006 they had three successful franchise outlets and one company owned store. The company had reached Rs. 2 crores in revenues.  Dinesh then called Siddharth and Gaurav and informed them he had reached his limits and it would be up to them to drive the company further. The two of them, then, left their jobs at prestigious companies and joined Wildcraft fulltime. The initial few months were quite hectic for them. But soon they got used to the new atmosphere and focused on a steady business plan and thanks to their help the company reached the 50 crore mark in 2011 and the 100 crore mark by 2013. Dinesh is now involved in product designing, Gaurav handles the marketing and sales and Siddharth deals with the financial operations. The company now has around 120 exclusive stores and 2500 multi brand stores spread over more than 200 cities.

Dinesh is no longer a majority stake holder in the company. He is now content that the company is in safe hands and has delegated all the important duties to Gaurav and Siddharth. Though he still has a say in important decisions, he is mostly involved in designing. He also takes his staff on yearly treks in an attempt to make them fall in love with the outdoors, just as he once fell in love with the mountains.

3. Ramakrishnans and Whitcomb & Shaftesbury

Chennai to London

Suresh Ramakrishnan gives a tour of his century old house on St George Street in London, a cornucopia of fine tailored suits since 1911. As he recalls the story of the landlord’s father, who was the inspiration for John le Carre’s The Tailor of Panama, he walks into the tailoring room, covered in a rich deep blue carpet with the tailors sitting in a corner, busy on their worktables stitching Grey Tweed and Merino wool, labouring over the clothing of some of the world’s finest dressed men.

Half a world away his twin brother Mahesh Ramakrishnanm, is giving a tour of his bunglow cum workshop in Chennai’s Mahalingapuram. He points out to the workshop where the tailors are busy at their worktables, they laugh and trade gossip as they keep stitching Grey Tweed and Merino wool, labouring over the clothing of some of the world’s finest dressed men.

The Ramakrishnan brothers are the owners of Whitcomb and Shaftsbury, a bespoke tailoring company from Saville Row that operates in London and Chennai. In addition, they also run a workshop in Andhra Pradesh where they train the under privileged women in the area in the art of bespoke tailoring, creating a piece of clothing from numerous precise measurements. The brothers’ list of clients include famous heads of state, leaders of large corporations, rock stars, sports stars, Hollywood celebrities and members of royal families.

From corporate to tailoring

Mahesh and Suresh never thought they would be tailors. About fifteen years ago, they had promising careers, Suresh as a vice president at Goldman Sachs and Mahesh, a managing director for an IT company. This was when they started habitually wearing suits. Once while shopping, they came across two Armani suits which were exactly alike except the price, one was $ 700 the other was around $ 3000. This was when they realised that there is more to a suit than just fabric. They began their research and soon learnt about the variations of fabrics, the fused suit where the canvas and fabric are ironed together to the canvas suit, canvas wadding and horsehair are meticulously stitched with silk thread, the kind Saville Row specialises in.

The art of suit making was perfected in Saville Row for over 300 years. They began as outfitters for the army and were commissioned to create uniforms that would make the soldiers look indomitable. The uniforms had square shoulders and broad chests which carried an air of might and authority. This design slowly underwent changes over time to become the gentlemen’s suit. The English tailors perfected this art, which was then copied by the Italians, who perfected the art of making mass produced suits using light fabrics. The English have dominated the art of hand making custom clothing and it is this tradition that the brothers are teaching the underprivileged in India.

Mahesh believes that a good suit should, ‘camouflage your flaws and highlight your strengths’. And it is this thinking which goes into the creation of their suits. The love of fine clothing had helped them make friends with some of the most renowned cutters and tailors on the row and they gladly shared their advice.

By 2004, they had both quit their jobs and had started the groundwork for the business. In the same year, a tsunami struck India and the brothers decided to start a tailoring workshop as a way to rehabilitate the victims. Out the many that signed up, many left, some were poached by established tailors but only a few stayed behind and continue to work on the suits to this day. Master tailors would come in from London to conduct the workshop. All the suits that were produced were given away.

Opening shop

By 2006 Whitcomb & Shaftsbury was ready to open. The name was inspired by the names of two London streets, as a store with an Indian name would have been out of place among the century old tailors in Saville Row. Their first clients were friends who knew about their love of good suits and soon through word of mouth and recommendations the customer base started to expand. The world of bespoke tailoring is like private banking.  One gets in only on recommendation. The brothers were then approached by a friend who asked if they could open a similar workshop in Tada, in Andhra Pradesh.

The Tada complex has become a workplace devoted mostly to rural under privileged women, who have learnt a useful skill and are somewhat better off. Many women often drop out of the course halfway, often due to family pressure and the unfamiliarity of having a job. Mahesh says they are hoping to have a team of sixty women working for them fulltime but they have to be patient.

Patience has been a crucial part of the business. It was only in 2011 that the Chennai workshop sent its first suits to Saville Row. The preferences of the customers are also changing. When the suits first came out, the customers would ask the difference between those and British suits. John McCabe, the head cutter would reply ‘70 percent of the quality at 50 percent the cost.’

They felt that the hardest part has been the uncertainty. One month business might be good but the following months might go dry. And the interim costs pile up. Mahesh says that he misses the certainty of a pay cheque and Suresh misses the camaraderie atmosphere of a workplace but is getting used to it. In 2014 they entered the Indian market in partnership with Evoluzione and later that same year they unveiled a range of ethnic wear in partnership with designer Tarun Tahiliani.

4. Apurva Kothari and No Nasties

Finding the purpose

India has one of the worst farmer suicide rates in the world, with one farmer committing suicide every half an hour. It was statistics like these that came as a revelation to 39 year old technology manager Apurva Kothari, or Apu as his friends call him, and made him an organic advocate. Growing up in Bombay, Apu did not really have big plans for the world. He just wanted to be happy. So he floated along the conventional path and after completing his engineering and a Masters from the University of Texas, he worked in a host of jobs. He had a well-paying job, vacations around the globe and no worries till he came across an article in 2007. The write-up talked about how 270,000 cotton farmers had committed suicide in Maharashtra since 1995 because of bankruptcy, high debts and unfair trade prices. These facts and numbers got stuck in Apu’s head like a thorn till he could focus on nothing else except the thought of helping these poor people.

 The beginning

Apu began making plans for something big, just writing a cheque or starting an NGO just would not cut it. He began his research and found that, despite the best efforts of the government at grass root level, many farmers were reluctant to switch from genetically modified seeds and pesticides to organic farming. There was not a very high demand for organic products.  Since there is little demand, buyers tend to have the upper hand in the pricing. The aim of the fair trade movement is to get the customer and the producer to partner.

Apu wanted to set up his own line of clothing to prove that fair organic trade could be made affordable and could stand up to big brands. After toying with the idea for a couple of years, it was his wife Shweta who give him the push. They returned to Mumbai and in 2010 Apu began his search for partners to create a line of ethnically manufactured everyday clothing. He finally settled on T shirts, since they would be easy to make and would connect with young people. He did not expect people to change their lifestyle to support organic products but rather designed products that matched the design and fashion sensibilities of the consumers, letting them wear what they normally wear and just help them with informed decisions whilst shopping to support the organic culture.

No Nasties

Apu met designer and photographer Diti Kotecha and they decided to band together. Apu admits that ‘I don’t have a brain wired for business, I’m more creative.’ He deals mostly with the designing of the products. An investment of Rs 8 lakh and a ‘get started and things will happen’ approach led to a lot of fumbling about in the dark and happy accidents. Eventually, he managed to form connections with farmers’ groups and fair-trade organizations.

Finally in April 2011, Apu launched ‘No Nasties’ to market his brand of T shirts. From the first day onwards, he decided to make No Nasties an e-commerce platform as he wanted to speak directly with the customers. To this day, he directly speaks to each buyer either through phone, email or Facebook. One of the benefits of selling online is that it helps small business owners get instant feedback. Apu says he feels great joy whenever he receives messages from customers saying how much they have enjoyed his products.

The cotton, fabric and dyes all being used by No Nasties meet the requirements of the Global Organic Textile Standards. In 2013, he got a licence from Fairtrade International, the organization behind the principles of fair trade. The licence gives them a sense of confidence and they are the first Indian T shirt company that has gotten past the strict filter and acquired the licence.

To infinity and beyond

The initial uphill climb was a struggle but UnLtd India, an incubator for social entrepreneurs, gave No Nasties a funding and helped them along. Apu’s experience with the web and technology eased the creation of their online presence. By 2014, they had shifted the headquarters from Mumbai to Goa as the tranquil atmosphere helps with the work and the expansion of the business. They have also expanded their line from only T shirts to tank tops, polo shirts and dresses. This has been possible as the customer base expanded to include middle aged professionals and urban youth.

Despite the business doing well, Apu does not take home a salary but relies on the investments made during his corporate days. No Nasties today is India’s first 100 per cent organic, fair trade clothing brand.

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