Saturday, April 11, 2015

Don’t judge a nation by the actions of a few!

Recently a German professor alluded to rape problem in India as a reason not to offer internship to an Indian student at a German University. She is not companion-less in stereotyping an entire nation or a race; there are many people across the globe tend to frame images based on one or few things they watch or read and become judgmental.

I am not refuting that there is a serious issue of violence against women in India, oh yes there is, similar to serious issues of paedophilia and racism in the western world. Is women’s safety worse in India than the west? Most definitely it is! Can we blame Indian upbringing for this problem? In some cases may be but not in all. Can we call all Indian men misogynist rapists? Hell no! Just like we can’t name all priests as paedophiles or Germans as Nazis.

While it’s wrong to have prejudices, it’s a monstrous human rights violation to act based on those and harm innocent lives. I understand we all have our prejudices and these prejudices tend to affect our decisions and actions but we must do everything in our abilities not to let them hurt righteous minds. In my opinion, ignorant people are more prejudicial than others. It is not because ignorant people are bad people, that’s again stereotyping, but it is because they have limited knowledge about others and make opinions based on those. Partly media and unwillingness to learn yet judgmental people need to be blamed for stereotyping. If there were fair and balanced reporting on all aspects of all societies we would not be living in this divisive world.

Recently BBC has aired a documentary titled India’s daughter. In that documentary, one of the rapist accused that molested victim was responsible for the heinous attack he committed. And then it goes on to document about Indian men’s attitude towards women. I am not refuting any aspects of what was presented in the documentary and I think it is decent piece of reporting. For some obscure reasons Indian government wants to ban the documentary. I do not support any kind of banning however controversial may be the issue. Freedom of expression is absolutely vital for a vibrant society and in no way one’s views must be curtailed because those views may hurt some peoples’ sentiments. Having said that, there must be balance in every reporting; and it essentially becomes the responsibility of the media. When English Defense League organizes match against immigrants in the UK, government allows another protest march from liberals supporting legal immigration. In the same way western media should give equal time on how men in India are fighting for the rights of women, how they struggle to get help for women in patriarchal India and report about Indian women presidents, chief ministers and CEOs. I understand it would not be necessary had western media not been portraying India just as a land of hungry children, yoga, snake charmers, and elephants and as a rapist capital of the world.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Scientists have a life of their own likings:

“If I am not working, I am not happy” - Donna Tartt

India's new Primer Minister Narendra Modi used an analogy of ‘scientist obsessed with work’ when asked about his stretched working hours. In an interview with Fareed Zakaria CNN, he said “Work gives me relaxation too and I draw pleasure in governance”. Often people, who are passionate about their work, quote scientists when it comes to long working hours. But some people have a perception that if you are working longer hours than required either you are not efficient or you have no life. I have a disagreement with them: Life is labeled by ones own likings. For some life is about seeing and exploring the world, for some watching television day in and day out and for others helping the needy? Of course life is about doing some thing that you like or love. One needs to work to do some thing they love for monetary reasons. But some LOVE their work; as they are passionate about what they do, they do not count the number of hours they spend at their work places. Again, one can love many things and do not necessarily give preference one thing over other. For example, work and family life, both are equally important to some and if one is spending few extra hours at one place don’t mean he/she gives a second preference to the other.

Like in any profession, there are different kinds of scientists. Some people work diligently for how many ever hours they are ought to and they too are passionate about their work. These people would surely get annoyed if someone says they are not real scientists. By the same token scientists working long hours also get offended if some calls them inefficient or do not have a social life. I clearly understand when some people work long hours they place others in a predicament. But that should not be a reason to hold ill will against them. If you are pleased with your performance and working hours and you go by the rules you should not be bothered about others. Bottom line is let people live their lives however they like to and let them have freedom of choice, don’t impose your idea of life on someone else.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's the Right thing to do?

What’s the right thing to do? –Part I

I am a huge fan of TED. While I was surfing most favorite videos on TED.COM I stumbled upon Michael Sandal’s talk on Justice. It was quite an interesting talk; he talked about hypothetical moral dilemmas. I was curious to know more about moral philosophy, so I bought a book titled “Justice” by Michael Sandal. I loved the book immensely. Having read different views of various philosophers from Aristotle to John Rawls I summarize here my views on “what is the right thing to do”:

I am going to start with the issue of Equality. I believe Equality in our society is not a choice but necessity. And by Equality I don’t mean every household’s income should be similar, by Equality I mean all citizens should have access to basic essentials of good life. We can only achieve Equality by taxing the affluent. Some people think by taxing the affluent we are stealing their money i.e. their time thereby promoting slavery (working without getting paid). On the contrary I believe that by not taxing the rich we are promoting the slavery. Let me give you an example; Usain Bolt, world’s fastest runner earns 20 million dollars per annum. While I believe that he deserves to some extent the kind of monetary appreciation he receives, I feel it is total injustice to many others who live in poverty. I do not believe in the notion that Usain deserves his income because he works very hard; there are many runners out there who probably work as hard as Usain does. What perhaps make him stand out is/are his genes and/or his techniques? It is not in other peoples’ choice about their genetic makeup, so it is not fair that one lives in luxury while others suffers in poverty. Hence the question is how are we going to achieve the equilibrium? Simple and straightforward answer is by taxing Usain Bolt. I am not saying that Government should tax him in such away that his income matches rest of the community but to an extent that Usain Bolt still enjoys his success by living off well and letting ordinary citizens also enjoy the basic amenities we as human beings deserve.

Let me give you another example on why we should tax affluent. Let me take the case of Walton family who owns over 50% of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart profits are in billions of dollars annually. Millions of people who work for Wal-Mart pay almost next to nothing as tax to Government because they earn so little. But they all use Government provided roads or public transport to get to work. So indirectly Wal-Mart is making money by using facilities provided by the Government. Hence either Wal-Mart should pay more taxes or increase their workers salaries so that they pay their respective taxes. Either ways Wal-Mart has to shell out some of their profits.

One may ask why is it important to have equality in our society. As Prof. Sandal points out if we let the income gap grow any further, which is happening as of now, there will be a time when rich and poor will live in a separate societies. Then rich do not want to support public institutions as they no longer use them. There will not be any communication between these two societies and further increase in income gap leads to animosity between them that eventually lead to civil wars and loss of human lives.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Blissful Experience With Pain – Part II:

My Blissful Experience With Pain – Part II:

Strolling down the memory lane, recalling when I ran my first marathon in Philadelphia I then wrote a blog post “My Blissful Experience with Pain” about my trials and tribulations. At the end of that blog-post I concluded, “Running can be an addiction”. It turned out to be right, at least in my case; I did Philly marathon again the year afterwards and several other races thereafter. Running, which I have eventuated as an avenue to raise money for charity (AID, India), has become my passion. I know I am not super-duper at running, but you do not have to be exceptional at any thing to enjoy it. I realized I was going rundamental (mental about running) when I signed up to do 40mile walk/run from Keswick to Barrow in the Lake District last year. I was precarious of my sound mind when everyone else from the institute decided to back out and I was still pining the race. And to my utter dismay I decided to join some random team I stumble on K2B facebook page and finished the race. I must say it was a great experience coursing through the nicest part of UK, although it could well be recommended to enjoy the spectacular surroundings by shunning the race. Weather, for the most part, was nice, met some interesting people, exchanged few conversations and it was fun. Although last few miles were a drag but I should be a bonehead to expect a smooth sail till the end, come on its 40 miles for crying out loud. Well, that was last year. I posted on my facebook wall “I have done IT, will do IT again, 40 miles in 7 hrs. 39 minutes! ’’

Keeping my word I decided to do K2B this year again. To everyone’s wonderment around 30 people from our institute decided to walk K2B. Unlike last year, I started steeling for the race this year. Its not easy preparing for a 40-mile race when you have to work on weekends, do house hold chores and go for a long run. But for the love of running, I chose to take up the challenge. My hopes weren’t high about my expected timing (7 hrs) when I read about the weather conditions on the race day. All weather forecast channels said the same thing; it was going to be cloudy all through out with some heavy rains. So I prepared myself for the bad weather, better safe than sorry, isn’t it? But I never know we can never be too prepared for English weather. We had dinner with the fellow walkers from the institute on the night before the race. I went to bed at around 10:30 and I could not sleep. I was too excited; like a kid in the candy store. I probably would have slept an hour or two. I wanted to get up early but did not want to disturb Koorosh with whom I was sharing the room. In the morning (3 am) I thought eating porridge would help during the run, so I forced porridge down my throat. Good heavens, why would human being eat porridge? It wasn’t palatable at all and I will never eat porridge again! I got on to bus to get to the starting point i.e. Keswick. Good lord, the bus ride was horrendous, I thought I was going to puke; may be it was the porridge doing! I controlled myself and was fine when I got down. Around 5:30 in the morning, off I started. It was drizzling; I did not put on raincoat thinking it is not so bad. Well, after 10 or 15 minutes, I realized I do not want to be soaking wet for the next 7 hours, so I put on my raincoat and took off. It was all right for the first 10 miles, I met Dr. Crispin Miller at the first support checkpoint Grasmere, got my energy gels and drinks and set off running. It was raining bit heavily by then but I turned a blind eye and kept on going.

Just when I thought I was going great guns, at around 18th mile, I started having my initial leg cramps (devilish things!). I was expecting cramps but not so soon for I have taken magnesium tablets to prevent them (Thanks to Dr. Bertram Kohler for that advice). I got food and drinks from Mrs. Roberts at Coniston (kind of her to support our teams) and decided to visit first aid, even if the visit takes up few minutes from my timing. My idea was that any aid to ease my cramps might save me some time in due course. I thought probably it was only time I have to pay them a visit, little did I know I will have to visit them at every checkpoint thereafter. First aid was not set up by then, so I waited for some time, they sprayed some thing on my legs and I was fine and dandy. I went about running for another 10 miles with occasional walks when ascending. I did not stop for lunch at 20th mile; I thought it’s a waste of time having lost some time during my first first-aid visit.

Amy was there at third support checkpoint with the welcome sight of my food and Gatorade; I thanked her and set off again. After a few minutes I stopped to spend a penny, that’s when I started having excruciating pain because of severe muscle cramps all over my legs and stomach. Went to first aid, the lady staff who was attending me tried to give me some massage (an euphemism for manhandling if you will), she was making me cry like a toddler (I wasn’t crying literally though☺), but I gave in thinking manhandling my legs might help. She said to me that I must be thinking she is a witch, I was saying to myself -Dear Madam you don’t want to know what I am uttering in my mind. I set off from that place, in about 5 minutes after that my cramps were so bad that I could not walk. After every minute of walking my both calves would cramp, I would just stand still for few seconds and then walk. Just about that time it was getting so cold and was raining like crazy. Since then I did not surpass anybody. To add insult to injury, kids as young as 10 years outdistanced me, and my moral fiber was weakening. I was walking at snails pace; walking probably not right word I would say limping along. Making things worse, there was a hailstorm for short period and it was brutal. At that moment I thought NEVER AGAIN, this is the last time. One kind lady (K2B angel perhaps!) offered me some hot beverage, some biscuits and a blanket. I thanked her immensely for I was freezing and I needed some thing warm. So I dragged my feet for the next 7 miles with a blanket over me; and it felt like month of Sundays. Many people offered me to sit and rest for a while in their vans sensing my predicament, but I decided I should not sit and rest else I would sit there for good. My cramps were going south, especially when I stopped walking for longer than a minute. At about 35-mile checkpoint, I paid my last visit to first aid. My pain was so agonizing that I was hurting the medical attendant’s hand, which I was holding. They did provide some assistance, which made things better; I walked next two miles all right.

At last, weather was getting better; I threw my blanket and was feeling ok. I started running a bit again and the last mail was much better, I ran most of it and finished the race. I was disenchanted as I took 8 hours 34 minutes but then I thought at one point I was planning on quitting so I gave myself a pat on the back. Went to hotel, took a long shower and then back to the finishing lane to see what my other colleagues from the institute are up to. I was glad to know all of us who started have finished the race. And we all were accomplished but limping souls for the next few days. Thanks to my running mate Colin for the ride back home, else it could have been a painful commute on bus for four hours. Now, if you ask me will do IT again? , I say YES, why the hell not! One must always learn lessons, next year I will be well prepared for the drudgery and probably take 10 hours to finish ☺.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Women and Religion

Women and Religion:
I believe I am right in saying religion is the root cause of many women’s miseries across the world. Yet it beats me to see women are more churchly than men in general. And when I say religion, I mean all major religions in this world without barring and they all treat women as second class citizens.

Few years ago, a right wing activist group in India called Sriramasena lambasted eight women for entering in to a pub. Those self-proclaimed kosher people believed men can drink alcohol but not women. Many of these Hindu god men/women and their allies are a DISGRACE to the nation and its people. The fact that several of Hindu practices are backbreaking to women is in the open. If you had the misfortune of reading one of the old Hindu scripture called Manusmrithi, you would understand how biased Hindu religion is towards men.

“Hundreds of Afghan women jailed for 'moral crimes'.” I suspect most of the Afghan men should be incarcerated if the law was to apply for men and women likewise. Even women who had been through forced sexual assault are also put away for no foible of theirs. What kind of message Muslim clerics in Afghan and across the world are sending to their fellow believers when they say woman’s testimony counts half as man’s. School going girls are thrown acid on their faces, drinking water in girl schools are being poisoned. Women’s life is going south as we speak in South East Asia.

Conservatives in America believe it is a sin to go for family planning. Even if a woman conceives by the act of rape, she cannot go for abortion. If some brave lady stands up to these atrocities her character will be scrutinized, she would be called slut. There is legitimation of abuse of women in Christianity. “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” - How can anyone say, this is what Jesus believed in, but Christianity is not biased against women?

It gnaws at my vitals to see how we let half of our race to suffer despite our scientific and philosophical developments over the centuries. In all honesty, why any religion should have separate dictums for men and women? Why should religions treat women less than human? People say religion is abused by some egocentric minds for their own benefits. I agree to that partly, but why the man upstairs is letting people use its name for the wrong deeds. In my books, the main reason is that there is no God; it is invented by men to suppress the fairer sex. I hope women across the world one day understand this ruse and kiss religion goodbye for keeps, I am sure world will be a better place to live.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Prostitution and Porn:

Prostitution and Porn:

What I believe in may offend few sensitive minds, I apologize to them. In my opinion, porn and prostitution are one and the same. If you watch porn (obviously you enjoy, that’s why you watch), you basically should not have any issues with prostitution. I am not saying one should become a prostitute, all I am I am saying is you should not judge prostitutes. Here goes my reasoning. Porn actors get paid for what they do in front of camera, so do prostitutes in their private space. Willingness to engage in these acts is questioned in both cases; they mainly do it for monetary benefits. I feel, if one thinks prostitution is immoral, then so is acting in porn movies. Now, if you watch porn and still think prostitution is immoral, you are being hypocritical. You cannot say prostitution is immoral and continue watching porn without a sense of guilt. I think it’s fair to compare it to paying money to get something done illegally and thinking you are free from blame. The reason I say this is because, you watch porn that means you are directly/indirectly promoting it, so you should have no issues with porn actors and subsequently prostitutes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Racial Prejudices

Racial Prejudices

That was a beautiful Manchester evening (really, believe me!) and I was on my way back to United States after giving job interviews in England. I must say my trip was successful for I have got the job and joyful as I have met my best friend whom I had not seen in a month of sundays. I was supposed to catch a flight from London Heathrow to JFK New York the following day. As there were no flights that reach London very early in the morning from Manchester, I had to take a bus from Manchester to London. The bus was to leave Manchester by mid night, so I had a nice and relaxing dinner, chicken ticka masala (apparently national food of Britain) for which I paid only 5 pounds. I was happy to know that Indian food is popularly priced in UK in comparison to USA. I reached the bus station sooner than expected. Having heard from people that Manchester is not very well guarded I did not dare to adventure in the city all by myself that late in the night. So there I was, waiting in the bus station, perusing “Is it just me or its nuts out there” by Whoopi Goldberg on my kindle (thanks to my wife for that!). Seated in front of me was a middle aged Indian looking man dressed to nines. After a while he looked at me and smiled, and I smiled back. He said in Hindi “aao idhar bhaito!”, I thought no harm in chatting up with a fellow citizen , so I accosted him and started making a conversation.

He introduced himself as an assistant professor working at Lahore University, Pakistan. I was delighted to know that for I had never met anyone from Pakistan till then in my life and I held no animosity against citizens of my neighboring country. We started talking about general things; much to my surprise began with weather (getting English habits even before I moved to UK). And the topic in cards came up in our repartee, i.e. RELIGION. I said I accede peoples’ faith in God and I have no qualms about it. I also told him about my atheistic views. He tried to argue with me, not about Allah but in general about God, how the presence of almighty God would make everything peaceful and calm, how solacing it is to believe in man upstairs and things alike. But when I took my weapons out he was not successful in putting up counter arguments. We were at logger heads about the subject matter and decided to give the slip. We then moved on to different aspects of our cultural history and politics. How bad politicians in both our countries are and how corruption is the root cause of our miseries.

Our focus suddenly shifted to getting bureaucratic work done in fair and simple way, with special reference to obtaining VISAs and also the way we are treated at airports. He started talking about how challenging it is for him and his fellow mates who truly believe in Islam. He said just because few people do something awful in the name of religion, everyone else has to suffer. I said I knew people who have gone through the ordeal. I agreed Muslims have tough time especially when in abroad. He proceeded to say he was doing some studies in France and he had hard time getting VISA initially. And when he finally got it French consulate refused to give VISA to his wife who was obviously wishing to join him. He was telling all agonies about not having his better half with him and how important it is for him to do the research in Europe. I said I know how he feels and I told him I am in the same boat. He continued to say it’s not fair to generalize things to which I agreed with him completely. I told him how awful it is to know just one thing about one community and treat everyone else in that community based on that one single idea. In fact I suggested him to listen to author Chimamanda Adichie’s talk on Dangers of single story.

After a while couple of Romanian girls were passing by. He immediately pointed them out to me and said be very careful when you are around them. I was puzzled having not known beans about them. I asked him “why must I be cautious?” He said Romanian girls are thieves and they have no moral values. I was slightly taken back and said surely not all Romanian girls are like that. And I told him we were just talking about stereotyping and he is doing the same. I also said he is doing the same thing that he was accusing others doing to him. I did not feel right in embarrassing respectful old man any further and tried to talk something else.

In reality I do not blame him completely for his remarks. It is instinctive to stereotype things. I am not saying it is right thing to do. All and sundry have prejudices against a particular race, religion, cast or nationality. Very few good people on earth probably do not generalize things. Majority of us consciously or unconsciously have presumption and prejudices but refrain from acting in any way that negatively affect others. Very few bad people do things that harm others, not because they are preyed upon, but pure rancor propels them to do awful things. Researchers have found that racist behavior is primary cause for many hate crimes. On the other hand racial prejudices, which many of us have, are mostly because of ignorance. It is not exactly racist to have racial prejudices. Racism and racial prejudices are different. Little learning about anything is dangerous, so it is very important to bring awareness about any prejudices, so that we do not become racists. As Chimamanda mentions it is important, very very important indeed, to learn about all aspects of a community, so that we do not judge people when we meet them.