Monday, June 4, 2012

1. Overpopulation

When people describe the overpopulation of India, they are usually echoing what they have heard. Let us break this term apart into ‘Over’ and ‘Population’: the ‘over’ refers to the belief that there are too many people/population, and there are not enough resources for everyone.

1. In my view, the term refers to not only how many people are alive, but to how much they consume. This brings in the dimension of economics to H/SS. Normally people who talk about overpopulation may also think that too many resources are being used to feed, house, clothe educate etc. the masses.

2. When we examine consumption, however, I humbly suggest that we Americans /folks in Europe and North America are the ones who use a disproportionate amount of global natural resources, not people in China or India. Yes, China has a quarter of the world’s population, and India a sixth of the people. But in terms of consumption they rank much lower. The US consumes more per person than do either the Chinese or Indians.

3. The number of children a family has is a function of the family’s religious traditions and preferences. Can we impose one group’s beliefs on another?

4. Birth control methods are historically recent. Sex is pleasurable, for the rich as well as for the poor. Generally, every family wants the best for their children. If birth control methods are available, they generally use them. Also examine this paradox - as education and economic levels rise, family size often shrinks.

5. In the less developed nations, not all children survived and make it to adulthood, which also accounts for the tradition of parents having as many children as they did.

6. Many of the poorer, less developed nations do not have a social security system in place. A social safety net does not exist for the elderly. Parents, in their old age, expect to be taken care of by their children.

7. Children are a joy. Without them, life would be empty.

So for these reasons, I maintain that the term overpopulation refers to an equation. To do justice, examine both the number of people, and their consumption patterns. You may want to watch the YouTube video ‘The Story of Stuff’ to illustrate this. Explore all the complex, inter-related issues, then make up your own mind.

Beyond this, yes, we are a global society living beyond our resources. Theories abound, from the Malthusian to Gaia. We also have to accept that as humans, we do not yet have all the answers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Teaching About India, Made Simple


Rashmi Sharma Singh


For many, India is a difficult topic to teach. It contains too many contradictions and it’s diversity in its geography, its people, its economic disparity, its multi-religious traditions, and long history are staggering. This part of the Vidya (two vowels, pronounced with a short I, Vid as in Bid, plus ya) Books website is meant to make this task easier. Taking one issue, and often, one story at a time, this can be made more comprehensible, and even fun.


I write from the perspective of one who has Indian heritage, and was born and raised in North India. The blood of teachers and historians, for over two thousand years, at least, is part of who I am; I have done countless workshops about India to teachers at professional groups[1]. Additionally, as an immigrant to the US, I humbly bring my heritage, experience and expertise (based solely in student reviews at Sonoma State University[2]) as a University lecturer to this task. The California State University, where I have taught for eleven years, trains more teachers than the UC system. I am also the founder of, and a part of the nonprofit For a complete bio/cv, see About the Founder.


India is famous for its oral tradition. From the guru-shishya tradition come these anecdotes about ‘thinking outside the box’:

Example 1: The three sons of a King were lazy, and did not want to attend school. Their father, the king, despaired of leaving his kingdom to them. He asked a guru for help. This guru told the princes that all they had to do was listen to stories for a short time each day. Before they knew it, many of the lessons they needed as future rulers had been learned. (From the Punchtuntra stories, the basis of many Aesop stories. See background to The Blue Jackal.

Example 2: A thirsty man gets to a fast- flowing river. He complains that there is too much water, and from a distance, he despairs, asking how can he get a just one drink? He hears this response: By simply going to the edge of the river, and if he has nothing else, by cupping his hands, drinking a couple of sips at a time.

[1] Including multiple presentations at the California Council for the Social Studies, and the National Council for the Social Studies and at some school districts. (

[2] From student reviews: “Excellent”, “Need more of this kind of a class for all students,” ‘gives meaning to my four years at the university,’ …