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Is Anna another Gandhi? Should such labels matter for a national campaign?

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Even as Anna recovered from health issues, his criticism from detractors and worship by followers shows no signs of abatement. Given that the government sympathizers are hell-bent on proving that Anna is no Gandhi, it is important to ask if there are parallels between Anna and Gandhi. More important than the comparison between the two heroes, is to ask, if it really matters whether Anna is Gandhi. Most importantly, we need to worry if we are too focused on personalities rather than on issues.

The anticorruption campaign spearheaded by Anna has had a rather forceful yet ridiculous slogan “Anna nahi ye aandhi hai, yahi desh ke Gandhi hai”. Ridiculous it certainly was but no more ridiculous than the slogans of many other social and political campaigns, including the most transformational ones. More than ridiculous, this slogan was an effective one. In a nation full of gods, demigods, saints and mahatmas it is not a surprise that Anna Hazare, a great hero, was compared to the sacred cow image of Gandhi and a lot of colorful slogans were used in the campaign. It was an effort to raise the stature of one very effective human hero, a person of his time, with great leadership qualities and many failings, to the level of the godly image of another exceptional leader of his time. Just as Gandhi stood up to the need of the hour so did Anna in galvanizing support for a mass movement. Given that Indian public is always ready to drink the kool aid of sainthood and personal vilification, Anna’s detractors have been busy proving that one undemocratic mere-mortal Anna Hazare is not comparable to their great savior Mahatma.

Anna Hazare Mahatma Gandhi

The main claim is that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi believed in heart transformation of his opponents, while Hazare wants his enemies to conform. Let us examine the claim. Gandhi, at times, successfully forced British to conform, instead of changing their hearts but enough has been written on those achievements of his, so for a change, I would give you some less than favorable examples of the conduct of father of Indian nation. A look at forcing Subhas Chandra Bose to quit the position of president of Congress when Gandhi could not get his candidate elected can be an eye opener for anyone wanting to see Gandhi’s willingness to twist and bend his opponents will instead of relying on heart transformation and democratic means. Gandhi’s differences with Tagore are often hyped but Gandhi’s reluctance to budge in that equation is again not hidden from any student of modern Indian history. It was not with heart conversion that Gandhi forced a secular, socialist, non-violent champion of unity of South Asia – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the red shirt alliance leader of Pathans, to accept the dictates of Jinnah’s partition plan. Ghaffar Khan, a lifelong Gandhian appropriately wrote of the betrayal and complained of throwing the fate of Pathans to the hounds of separatism exploiting religion. By no means, I am putting the sole or even an overwhelming burden of partition on the shoulders of Gandhi but I am trying to make it clear that it was not just those who should be considered opponents of the Indian independence but also even those who championed the cause of India, who were forced to conform by Gandhi. I would also urge readers to realize that for many differences between Gandhi and Subhas or Gandhi and Tagore, one should not see their interaction in just black and white of antagonism but in the shades of grey that also involved tremendous corporation. So the charge on Anna, forcing an irresponsible and dictatorial government to budge through non-Gandhian means is untrue, not because Anna is not sticking to heart transformation alone but because even Gandhi did not. In fact, Anna has been less stubborn than Gandhi and Gandhi would have acted no different than Anna in a similar situation.

Just as the association with Gandhi gave some people credibility so does the association with Anna. In fact, now all of the politicians in opposition are attracted to Anna as are bees to the nectar. Similar to Gandhi, Anna has a handpicked team, some with genuine mass support and some without a base. While the charge of non-elected representatives trying to voice Indian concerns is somewhat (not completely) true but for all the pretense of our founding fathers being answerable to people, a look at the electoral play of Congress and Muslim League for much of 30s and 40s will make one realize that it is a repeat of historical mistakes but not a deviation from the sorry existing pattern of South Asian politics. I realize that my last point is an aside, as I am talking of people who run the show on name of a credible leader, instead of the leaders themselves, so it is not a valid comparison of the two people: Hazare and Gandhi but I am just trying to draw historical parallels. Back to Hazare and Gandhi, Anna has been criticized for his lack of inclusiveness. It is somewhat true. He has taken support of progressive forces simply for granted but bent over backwards to allow sectarian Mullahs and Sanghis to share his dais just to make the movement look like a rainbow coalition. This top down approach of getting communities involved by bringing in his fold their leaders has been a plague of all Indian struggles. Such short cut has in part been a reflection of an immature culture of putting too much faith in some leaders by the followers and treatment of followers by the leaders as some kind of sheep herds. Gandhi’s lack of sufficient inclusiveness and acceptance of progressive, freethinking and modern elements, apart from a token self-proclaimed modernist Nehru, who was preoccupied with pushing other agendas of personal ambition more than modernist causes, is similar in this campaign too.

Both Anna and Gandhi have not been secular in true sense of the word. Instead of keeping religion at bay they both have used the Indian logic of balancing different religions. This spirit is unfortunately even summarized in Indian constitution as “sarvadharma sambhava”, which translates to equal respect for all religions instead of secularism: a clear separation of religion and state. Gandhi, a devout Vaishnav, was in part responsible for turning Muslims away from a Congress that transformed under his leadership from a secular but elitist organization into a rural Hindu spiritual organization with mass following. There is no denial that this transformation also catalyzed mass enrollment that otherwise would have taken a longer and harder road of enlightenment and education leading to a modern, progressive and all encompassing struggle. This pro-Hindu bias of Gandhi was not just present during the early change of character of congress that in part sowed the seeds of partition but there are also instances of Gandhi turning his back on Muslims during communal strife, especially at the time of British and even Hindu reaction to the atrocities of Mopla rebellion. No, I am not justifying the heinous dimensions of Mopla rebellion that involved killing of non-Muslims but I am talking of Gandhi’s response to it. Apart from Hindu appeasement, Gandhi was equally responsible for Muslim appeasement at the cost of Hindus interests at multiple times. Inclusion of the Khailafat movement that demanded respectable treatment of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, instead of being concerned with the fate of poor Indians at the forefront of anti-British coalition during the First World War ended up encouraging separate Muslim and Hindu identities instead of promoting a united Indian identity. It consolidated the schism between two non-concentric circles of faith tearing the Muslim identity in the subcontinent: one centered on South Asia: ones motherland and other centered in the foreign Turk and Arab lands associated with mythologies and religion. One can only regret a lack of secular approach that would have excluded all religious demands – Hindu or Muslim from contaminating Indian interests. This compromise of yielding to the backward Muslim feudal religious identity that was more concerned with the fate of Turks than Indians during World War one was not the only compromise of Gandhi. Who can forget Gandhi giving Jinnah the legitimacy of becoming the Quaid, capable of speaking on behalf of whole Muslim quom? In total, Gandhi may not have leaned more to Hindus or more to Muslims, if viewed in totality but in this case the average or the sum total of his leanings hides more than it reveals. Instead of having no business with either faith or having equal disdain for the stupidity of faith based politics, Gandhi tried to balance his biases and leanings. Just as Gandhi dealt with leaders as representatives of Hindu or Muslim community instead of bottom up approach of building true mass base everywhere, when confronted with challenge of inclusion of separatist forces, Anna has not taken a much different road either. Anna is willing to court Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists and religious leaders alike, just as Gandhi did. Anna, like Gandhi is not a secularist or progressive in the modern sense of the word. Who can forget the well-orchestrated publicity stunt of children of underprivileged caste and of Muslim faith helping break Anna’s fast to provide a photo finish to the fast?

In his village, Anna acts like a patriarch, a benevolent dictator who knows what is best for everyone. Anna like Gandhi believes himself to be on some kind of God ordained mission where instead of skeptical secular questioning to evolve solutions, he clearly knows what is right and what is wrong based on his faith. Apart from the obvious weakness in the nature of campaigns due to inclusion of people with religious fundamentalist and separatist interests and overall damage to Indian subcontinent due to backward religious thinking there have been some positive dimensions due to this contamination of religion in mass movements too. Given their unwavering religious faith, both Gandhi and Anna have put all their personal life aside for the sake of what they consider right and necessary sacrifice for their country. The spiritual leader facet of both the leaders has also resulted in them being regarded as a miracle cure to problems by the wide-eyed public. This provides for instant galvanization of support that through secular, educated and questioning means would require longer struggles. Both men did not show any problems being minted as saints. This embrace of sainthood can only come from either religious conviction in ones “right path” or sham performance to grab power. Neither Gandhi nor Anna are in the struggle for iota of personal benefit so clearly this embrace of sainthood comes from their religious convictions.

In his private life Anna has in fact been more of a Gandhi than Gandhi could ever be. Both humans, with obvious failings have within the human bounds bravely experimented with the nature of what they consider ‘truth’. Anna never married, tried addictions, visited prostitute, and verbally and physically assaulted his immediate family member to embrace his way of life, at least nothing comparable to the path of metamorphosis of saint of Sabarmati into a Mahatma. In public life, imposition of ones way of life by Gandhi and Anna has been undeniable. So one should note that though justifiable personal vilification of Anna is easily possible but it is more difficult than that of Gandhi.

Many accusations of Anna not being Gandhi have come from explicit and implicit charge that Anna is not sticking to the principles of non-violence. There is a need to address the question of the use of non-violence as matter of principle or pragmatic policy. One needs to ask where such approach is more successful than others. Indian experiment has been an amazing example of the demonstration of both the pragmatic as well as moral strength and weakness of non-violence. I think examples of success of non-violence such as in salt march and of utter failures as in the inability to prevent Churchill from causing genocide of over 5 million East Indians during the Bengal famine is relevant for a detailed discussion elsewhere. Let us discuss here if Anna is deviating significantly from Gandhi in the use of violence. Just as Gandhi faltered at times in containing the anger of masses so has Anna. Did Gandhi condone violence more than Hazare by considering Bhagwat Gita, a call for arms for sake of ones duty, as his spiritual guide in comparison to Anna’s mere statement on a slap to Sharad Pawar by an angry citizen? Minor deviations aside, up till now Anna has been more successful than Gandhi was in containing people’s anger from spilling over and turning violent. Given that people read what they want to read, for the record, I would also like to state clearly that by defending Anna’s non-violence, in this article I am not defending, condemning or condoning the possibly destructive and violent potential of the wide eyed angry crowd.

I hope that I have shown you the stark similarities between Anna and Gandhi, sufficient to respond to the unjustified criticism of Anna not being Gandhi. I also hope that you realize the need of the comparison of the two is equally as silly as is the criticism. The reason that this comparison of the two is silly and very sad is because it shows how Indians needs justification of one person to be legitimate leader only if one can be connected to a higher unquestionable image, instead of being a questionable human hero. Unfortunately one needs sacred cows, just as Gandhi needed to be minted into a saint, for him to have a mass appeal. It reflects how majority is not willing to support and oppose something in an issue-based manner. How is it different than acceptance of Nehru Gandhi Royalty with dodgy citizenship credentials, unaccounted assets, criminal records and false educational degrees, as having a special place in Indian politics?

I hope that you will admire and criticize Anna whether he can be compared to Gandhi or not in your eyes. Anna being Anna has done a great job and should be credited for it. He has also failed at many instances. When Indian population starts questioning and caring, more Hazares and Gandhis would spring from our soil every day than have sprung in centuries of struggle, because it is everyone in the Indian youth who has the transformational potential and not some specially ordained ones to carry the tricolor to glory at the world stage.

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Dr. Sukant Khurana is a New York based scientist, artist and writer of Indian origin. His basic research involves neurophysiology, computational neuroscience, sensory perception, addiction, learning and memory, while his applied research extends into many areas of drug discovery and problems of the developing world. Both his visual art and writing explore the issues of modernization, displacement and identity.

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Humanity Endures During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Photo by Press Information Bureau, Government of India

The world changed exponentially since the pandemic broke out. We changed too. Emotions are running high. We have learnt to take one day at a time and have stopped expecting changes to happen overnight.

“COVID19 is menacing the whole of humanity – and so the whole of humanity must fight back”
A clarion call from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is a call to unity and solidarity. Already plagued by natural/manmade disasters and wars, many countries seem to bite the dust for want of resources in the fight against the virus. Warning each other against complacency is appreciable but never a blame game to cover up a dysfunctional response. Not all update themselves on the governments, new economic policies and R&D on Covid vaccine. Many we come across seem to be making wise individual choices. No matter how badly the tiers of government fail us, there will always be thousands of people working to make things better. Besides, finding reasons and faults on policies for the spread doesn’t help. A virulent strain of flu had managed to spread within a few months to the remotest corners of the world infecting half a billion people – more than a quarter of the human species in 1918 long before the current age of globalization.

Separating, alienating and forswearing the endless moments of contact that knit society together thrust us into frightening new realities. The good is still there. Social distancing is nothing but taking a step back to literally give breathing space to others. Going by news & views, we understand that amid concerns of rising numbers of positive cases in frustrating circumstances, acts of kindness and solidarity are burgeoning. Yes, it’s been extremely sad and sobering to watch this all unfold, but watching people share resources and supporting one another in every conceivable way has made us feel more connected to our local communities. Whether singing a song together out on balconies, getting groceries for the elderly or calling a friend to alleviate anxiety and fear, each one I know play a part and take comfort in a sense of togetherness. We are steadily aware of our limitations yet don’t hesitate to free our wells of compassion. Do we think twice and thrice to make an online contribution to save the lives of people we don’t know and will never know!

Sadly, it has taken an invisible virus to help us belive once again that we are strongest only when we have the welfare of others in our mind. Halfway through quarantine and self-isolation a phone call, a kind word, an opportunity to reach out, a breeze, bird calls, one good news and loss of a loved one, we are hit with the necessary humility and awe we ought to feel and appreciate just how beautiful our world is and precious life is.

Post pandemic recovery will be better and bigger if life goes on with this beautiful idea, of humility, inwardness – as an ethical relationship, for the sake of others. For better or for worse, we have learnt that one can’t be an island unto himself. Lives are intertwined and are bound together. We, humans produce more rubbish than any other species. The growth in the human population is part of the explanation, but cannot account for all of the extra rubbish, a result of haste and greed both which almost skinned humans of humanity.

Unity among countries must ensure that all countries are equipped to trace, isolate and treat people infected by COVID-19. Only a global effort can avoid the collapse of any country’s medical system. Sanctions that affect health care should never be imposed. Development in one part of the world should not rob another country of it’s resources. Humanity gains the upper hand over invisible predators through the sharing of reliable scientific information, global solidarity, vaccinations, antibiotics, improved hygiene and a much better medical infrastructure. Today,it doesn’t take too much to figure out that global sharing and caring is the best defense. The Jing Si aphorism, “Good actions require everyone’s cooperation. So let’s not cling to personal biases” holds good for all times.

Stories of good samaritans are aplenty. To know humanity is still alive and kicking and is at it’s best when united assures us that we’ll come out of this “abnormal” time with a new normal. In their own unique ways, humans respond to protect life and health and ensure respect for fellow beings. ‘single-nucleotide polymorphisms’ are no joke. From handing over meals, survial kits, medicines, home made masks to calling on an old couple across the street, everything is humanity in action and it is the power of this humanity – humane behaviour towards other humans – that we seek to celebrate, improve and increase, especially during crucial times. Remember “A person with a generous heart and compassion for all beings leads the most blessed life”.

With thousands of migrant workers taking it on their chin, vehicles filled with food and ration along highways reach the needy and stranded and canteens serve free food. Rays of sunshine! We see through hypocrisy and deceptions, hear excuses for inefficiency, inadequacy and inflexibility and within the tumult and uncertainty we are doing much, much better in life than we thought we can. Quietly. Kindly. Gently. Being able to spare a part of us to help someone live is worth being thankful for. ” Giving with an expectation for return brings misery”. May we give generously, but don’t guilt ourselves if we can’t. If we have nothing left to spare, let’s go slow and kind.

The world is being taught a lesson, the harder way. This lesson is not about rich and powerful versus poor and powerless but about leadership that treasure the common wealth and common good, above private greed and profit and above protecting the privileges of a handful elites.

None of us are actually going anywhere. Might as well stay. The conclusion we draw from this crisis is that all humans matter equally, that we need to give a hand, raise one another, flourish or perish together- no matter what our limitations are, we’re capable of a great deal. This virus backlash is nothing short of a fleeting lesson to all leaders about how sane, humane societies should function all the time. Those who regard themselves as wonderfully favored of leadership, power and pelf are called to do great things. Anything that constantly arise to cause conflicts or disunion must be questioned, criticized, denounced and judged.

Be it a forced contemplation of our mortality or a sudden urge of self denial or an awareness of the passage of time and life, this screeching halt is proof that humans are designed to be more productive when connected, even in isolation. So, not all hope is lost. The time has come when we must know for ourselves why we believe in humanity as we do.

“Do something good for somebody today; the people who are trying to make the world worst aren’t taking days off.”

Gestures to honor humanity are varied, aplenty. A flypast in India is a cruel joke on the already tumbling down economy and on the selfless humanitarians who spare nothing to reach out. We can only wish the trail of showered petals, if showered will guide the departing victims of COVID19. Flying past/over ground realities is a highly irresponsible act of governments. Also, a misuse and mismanagement of meagre resources.

Was it a premonition that urged saint Thiruvalluvar, celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher to get on with kural 578 which when translated into English goes as

” The world is theirs (Kings) who are able to show kindness, without injury to their affairs, (administration of Justice).

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Congress’s Electoral Enervation

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BlakeShramster / CC BY-SA

Lately, the Grand Old Party of India has been suffering from severe political lacerations. It is bleeding profusely but it still refuses to recognize and feel the pain of its grisly wounds. The Congress party is obstinately practicing political podsnappery and this is further eviscerating its relevance. Slowly and steadily, its ideological roots are being chipped away. We are witnessing a kind of dilemmatic democratic party, which is strangulating in the ever-shifting tectonic plates of Indian politics. The fresh act of defection by Jyotiraditya Scindia foregrounds the ideologically weak aura which now surrounds the Congress.

In every period of its history, a particular type of ideological encrustation surrounded the Congress and illuminated its charm among the Indian voters. This ideology rooted it firmly in a vast network of ideologies. This ideology, for the most part, has been secular and liberal and acted as a strong bulwark against a xenophobically framed anti-secular strategy. But now, this prodigious party has shrunk to a miniscule group. This cataclysmic contraction has happened primarily due to the elitist imagery to which it was tethered. Congress’s political rivals portrayed it as an inherently elitist group by harping on its corruption scandals like the Satyam Scam, Coal Scam, Chopper Scam, Adarsh Scam and Tatra Truck Scam. All this overemphasis on the financial impurity of the Congress led to the citizens believing that the Congress party is an aristocratic admixture of kleptocracy and bogus secularism.

The political dynasticism of the Congress further solidified this elitist imagery and soon, Congress became the ‘suit, boot ki Sarkar’. The usage of the aforementioned epithet successfully established the presence of the Congress party as a technocratic liberal party, accustomed to high-handed bureaucratic methods of administration. The attribute of a ‘pro-people party’ was snatched away from the Congress and it was represented as a technocratic group, largely unconnected from the material conditions of the citizens.

Apart from the political and financial palm-greasing, the Congress has also been disemboweled due to its confounding ideological quagmire. The Grand Old Party is stuck in a regal fort, where it is continuously wavering between a secular strategy and a thinly-veiled contrivance of religious pandering. It has already flip-flopped on its ideological plank by pitching Rahul Gandhi as a religious leader which actually backfired because people at once understood that he had suddenly become a synthetically Hinduized leader.

And now, it is lending its support to the Anti-CAA protests and has all of a sudden, arrived like a knight in shining armor, chaotically shouting secular slogans. Opportunistic acts like these cause severe trust deficit and the party incurs widespread odium for its electoral opportunism. So, due to the Congress’s ideological shilly-shally, its attempt to provide guidance to the Anti-CAA protests is seen as a crude act of politically hijacking the protests. To say succinctly, the Congress has been utterly passive in reacting to some major political events and has not even tried to extend its sinews to drag itself out from the quicksand of financial dissoluteness and ideological vacillation.

Due to all the above mentioned iniquitous inadequacies, Congress is withering and losing its elephantine presence on the electoral platform. This is the most appropriate time for the Congress to recognize its Achilles heel and try to overcome this deficiency. The defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia highlights the fact that now, an ideological string no longer ties any Congress member and the party needs to alter its highly feudal organizational structure which is identical to a form of royal structure, based on monarchical munificence. The Congress party can utilize the following remedial measures to perform the medical operation which is indispensable for it to regain its health.

Constitutional Struggles

It should try assiduously to interconnect itself with the common masses and change its political behavioral pattern by staging what can be called ‘constitutional struggles’. These constitutional struggles will essentially be democratic demonstrations, aiming to recover the lost sheen of the constitution. These protests should be able to blend constitutional patriotism with a Gandhian non-violent idea of struggle. In this way, the Congress party would be successful in politically fructifying its vast receptacles of historical significance and will harmonize its history as a torchbearer of freedom with the present calamitous conditions. One important reason behind the need to make Mahatma Gandhi the vanguard of Congress’s recuperation struggle is the vast space which he occupies in the collective imagination of the Indian citizens. By spotlighting Gandhi, the Congress party can easily initiate a resistance movement whose objective will be to find the Gandhian truths in this age of political prevarications and fabrications.

Change Organizational Configurations

The Congress party needs to change its organizational configurations. The sybaritic structure of dynasticism should be superseded by a bottom-up approach which is decentralized. The present organizational architecture is extremely centralistic and all the members of the Congress party are seen as the supine members of a sycophantic entourage, revolving around the singular nucleus of nobility, which has invariably been the Gandhi family. The senior members of the Congress party such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel and Manmohan Singh are depicted as the servile stooges of the Gandhi family who possess an unbreakable fidelity to the dynastic autocracy of the Congress party. The congress leadership is also currently rudderless. During the elections, it played the role of a dabbler. After Indira Gandhi, all the Gandhis (Except Sanjay Gandhi) were reluctant politicians. They were compelled because the Nehru – Gandhi name was associated with the party. All these aspects of party functioning need to be radically changed so that non-Gandhi members are not seen as mere appendages of the supposed undisputed overlord which is the Gandhi family. (3) A coherently unified ideological political programme needs to be built. The lumbering party is in a state of delirium and is unable to properly specify its political stance. It should solidly settle this predicament by choosing to continue with its former political posture as a truly secular and democratic party, committed to constitutional values. If this operation is not undertaken, the Congress will be finally consigned to the political graveyard, where it will die with its shambolic ideological structure.

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5 Ways to Strengthen Sibling Bond

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siblings relations

Blood is always thicker than water. This is one of the most appropriate proverbs one can find.

Blood relations always prove to be the most important and everything fades away when it comes to your own blood. Sibling bond is one of the closest bonds one can have.

During childhood any child with a sibling can understand that bond and feel the closeness on that bond. In Spite of endless fights, disagreements, siblings love each other the most and are very protective of each other.

It is very easy to maintain this bond while you are younger and living together, the challenge comes to maintain that bond while you grow up and start moving towards your own social and domestic life. Here are some tips how you can strengthen your sibling bond while still handling your work, social and domestic life:

1. Plan Holidays Together:

Make a pact that every year you all will get together and plan a holiday either with family(if married) or just all the siblings together. it will make sure that you are taking time out for yourselves and not getting faded in everyday life.

2. Have a Private Group Chat:

Siblings can make sure that you all initiate private group chats and make sure you share your everyday routine, happiness, problems etc in order to keep everyone in the loop of your life.

Group chat makes sure that you are catching up on each other on an everyday basis and is a constant part of each other’s lives.

3. Send Gifts to Each Other:

Siblings can plan to send each other gifts on different occasions that will help in building a close relationship with each other. Sometimes, it is possible your sibling might be based far away or in a foreign country. There are so many online platforms available where you can send a gift to your siblings whether its online birthday cake delivery or online rakhi delivery etc. everything is available on online portals.

4. Help each other in Reaching Goals:

Siblings are the most important people who can push you towards your goal. Siblings can encourage each other towards what is the best course to take for a bright future. Sometimes a sibling can recognise your potential much faster than you yourself can. Thus it is important that you share your goals and aspirations and listen to each other in order to go forward in your life.

5. Cultivate Friendship:

It is very important that siblings should cultivate not only sibling bonds but become best friends and should be able to confide in each other. This is only possible if they work on developing only  siblings but a friendship bond. A good friendship will ensure that it becomes very easy for siblings to communicate with each other and discuss any issues they might face. It is important that the friendship is of a level that when one sibling needs help they should reach their sibling in the very first course.

So, these were some tips that can strengthen your singing bond. If you follow these tips, you can make sure that you will become best friends with your siblings and will have a great relationship despite a life of your own.

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