Sunday, March 26, 2017

To understand is not to condone.

If I understand why people need religion, do I support it? If I understand why religion makes people kill other human beings without having any remorse, do I support such killings? If I argue for some issues propagated by some particular political party, do I support that political party? During regular discussions, while discussing various social and political issues whenever I try to argue about less popular side or another side of the issue of discussion, people often misunderstand that I support the side about which I am arguing. The explanation, that I don't support that side, but I understand it and I want to bring those points in discussion doesn't register very well with most people. Many think that you cannot argue for any side unless you support it. Well, this may be true with many people, but not with me, during any discussion, if there is no representation for another side of the issue then there is no point in discussing that topic. There are very few topics about which there is universal condemnation but for all others, it is very important to know about all sides of any issue before drawing any conclusions. As Alan Dershowitz puts this very wonderfully in his book, Letters to a Young Lawyer, he writes, "To understand is not to condone, but to enlighten and perhaps to prevent the same mistake others have made." It is very important to understand that "to understand is not to condone." There is a huge difference between understand any issue, argue about it, or represent it in any debate, and wholeheartedly support it. 

For me monotonous discussions are boring, I am not interested in praising any political party or political leader unconditionally to the level of worshipping them and projecting as if things what I support are the ONLY right things. I also don't like venomous one-sided criticisms without much rational and logic to an extent to project things in extreme bad manner. I like to have a representation from another side, if there is no one, then I volunteer to represent that side; in a liberal group, I represent a conservative side, and in a conservative group, I try to bring up the liberal point of view. This makes it possible to see why people criticize some particular ideology and how rational their criticism is. Very often people consider me a supporter of that particular ideology or political group (the group they oppose), which is completely wrong. Yes, I do have certain political preferences, but I don't support any particular political party or ideology.

Many people don't understand the importance of having a representation from another side in any discussion. This is particularly challenging in political discussions, as a politically independent person, if you try to argue good and bad points of each political rivals, people often get confused. The normal expectation is that a person will choose a particular political party or a leader and defend or attack them vehemently. People try to support their chosen party, no matter what, and try to criticize their opponents, no matter what. But, if they don't see such a clear loyalty or animosity, they get confused. I am the victim of such confusion many times, I don't mind this, as many times this is an unavoidable situation. I feel that if people understand and learn to look at both sides and try to understand good and bad points of both the sides in any argument or debate, we will see much less political polarization and much more bipartisan collaboration.

There is no ideology or political party which is perfect with answers to all the problems. Very often best answers to questions are scattered through all over the political spectrum and we need to consider many issues before taking a final decision on any major policy issues. But very often the political supporters of these leaders and parties don't understand this and fall in a trap of political polarization to the advantage of these parties and leaders. Polarization always helps someone to win an election, but it seldomly helps the nation to move forward. Please understand the need to be fair to people who you criticize, it is very necessary to understand opponents point of view clearly to be able to criticize it properly, point by point. Otherwise, that criticism has no value other than political rhetoric or angry passionate rant, which can be used in politically charged speeches for the supporters of that own party, but useless for any conducive political policy discussion. Try to understand opponents view first, before commenting about it, maybe it will help to shape your own views in a much better way.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Friday, March 10, 2017

Déjà vu- the politics of hatred.

Murder of an Indian immigrant at Kansas city was a very disturbing incident like any other murder or hate crime. This unfortunate incident got a lot of media coverage in India, obviously, this was due to a strong Indian connection to this event. Many relatives from India of people living in the USA got concerned because of this incident and I am sure it created a situation of panic in some people's family back in India. It is very sad to see anyone killed like this. Many feel that this murder was the result of the atmosphere of hatred or resentment against immigrants. There is a strong perception that the current administration is anti-immigrant, which I don't think is true. This anti-immigrant perception is created based on some strong statements made by Mr. Trump during his presidential election campaign. For me personally, these things are like a replay of similar migrant resentment phase which I witnessed in a state of Maharashtra in India. I even wrote a post about this politics of pitching one section of the population against another and expressed concerns about it before the presidential election. It worked in Maharashtra and there is no reason why it won't work the same way in the USA. The statements made during the election or the rhetoric used during campaign speeches help leaders and their parties to win elections. They substantiate and solidify their support by creating a very polarized political environment in an already polarized political atmosphere. But, after winning that election same leaders and parties find it difficult to control that anger and contain the hatred of the supporters who voted them just due to those feelings. After the election, somehow these people who voted for the winning party just for that particular rhetoric of hatred feel vindicated and get the notion that their feelings are now legitimized and they have right to execute their agenda.

These type of incidents are disturbing, but they don't define the character of this great nation. The USA is a very immigrant friendly country, immigrants feel safe and welcomed here and most of them try to contribute positively to the society and community where they live. The person who risked his life to save two immigrants from this murder was also an American, and I have no doubt that there are many in this country who will try their best to protect their fellow residents. Whether to attribute this incident to change of regime or not is a matter of debate I am not interested in it. Even in India, few people were killed for being a Muslim (Pune techie murder) or for allegedly eating beef (Akhlak murder). When my mom came to know about this incident, she freaked out and asked my why I want to stay in the USA? My simple answer was, I love this country, my kids are citizens of this country, and I don't think there is any better place than this country for people like me. Due to my political and social views, I can be a target in any country which doesn't encourage freedom of expression. I don't subscribe to ANY ideology, I am not a member of ANY political party and I don't follow ANY particular religion, and this makes me vulnerable to any attack from anyone who doesn't like my views or feels offended by them. In this country at least I have freedom to express my views without being threatened just for expressing my opinion. The recent case of Gurmehar Kaur might explain what I mean.

As far as feelings hatred and resentment are concerned, I understand their origin and reasons behind them, and they are common no matter you live in the world. Resentment will get diluted once economy gets going, but the politics of hatred is what worries me. If some group gets targetted just because who they are, then they don't stand any chance to defend themselves. No one should be forced to change their identity just to survive. If epople have to change their name, religion, or skin color just to survive then I don't think that country is a free country anymore. I believe this murder was an isolated incident and people of the US still believe in their inclusive and tolerant tradition of welcoming immigrants. I also believe that immigrants are here to adopt American culture and contribute positively to it to make it more versatile and rich. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Five years..

Today is the fifth anniversary of my blog. Last five years of journey with this blog has been an amazing experience for me. I wish to thank all blog readers for their encouragement and appreciation, your feedback and shared experiences made this blog more special. Last year I wrote 40 posts, it was almost half compared to the previous year. It was not because I don't want to write, but I got busy with my studies and there was not much time to spend on writing the blog. This trend might continue for some time. It is not easy to manage a full-time work, part-time studies, and family responsibilities together. I am trying to strike that sweet balance and at the same time enjoying this phase a lot. It is stressful and demanding but at the same time very good learning experience. The main reason I can do this is because I always enjoyed learning about the new subjects and new areas. This adds new perspectives in my life and improves my knowledge. It is difficult to balance so many things at the same time but at the same time, it is very exciting and rewarding experience. I do plan to continue writing blog posts on relevant topics as the time permits.

A lot is happening around us socially and politically. We need to continuously register our opinions about things which we care about, the values we hold dear to our heart, and protest against any injustice. Many times it's not easy, it feels like our one voice won't make any difference, but remember that many revolutions were started with that one voice which dared to resist. Anyone of us can be that one voice which can initiate the change, we just need to have that courage and commitment. My blog is one small step in that direction, the aim is not just to share my views, but also start a healthy discussion, germinate a seed of independent thinking in the readers' mind and hope that it will create a novel stream of thoughts which might help to initiate the change for better tomorrow. This effort will definitely continue from my side. At this junction, when I pause and look back to my efforts to initiate that change, I feel quite good about it and want to thank readers of the blog once again for encouraging me to continue this amazing journey. I am deeply honored by your support and encouragement. I always try my best to answer your questions and will continue doing so. I am glad to read that many of you have got something useful from this blog and I hope you continue to get benefitted by reading this blog in future also.

This journey will continue from my side, I invite all of you also to share your opinion and voice your concerns on whatever platforms you can. Let's try to make this world a better place, full of more love, more compassion, more tolerance, and more people who value liberty and freedom of others.

Thank you very much for your cooperation and happy reading.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Indian American's political dichotomy.

During recent Presidential elections in the USA and last general elections of India, there were a lot of political discussions and debates on social media and outside of it. Especially due to heavy use of social media in both the elections these debates didn't have the regional and geographical restrictions, one could discuss with anyone available on the social media. I guess this is the new trend started from this election and will continue in the future also. I also participated in few of them, I noticed one critical thing during all those interactions with my Indian American friends (who are either residents or citizens of the USA), many Indians living in the US have very contradictory political views and they don't even realize this dichotomy in their political thinking. In India, there is a growing support for a right-wing national party BJP. I am calling them right-wing due to their social policies, as far as economic policies are concerned, all parties in India are socialist and I feel this should be one of the major concerns of Indian voters, they should know that based on the history of world socialism never works, you need some hybrid system with as less as possible governmental interference.

Many Indian immigrants in the USA support BJP wholeheartedly back in India, they passionately debate to support the current Prime minister Mr. Modi and his political party BJP. But, in the USA when Mr. Trump used similar rhetorics during his election campaign, most Indian Americans didn't like that. Many with whom I talked were worried about his stance against immigrants (even though he didn't target Indians specifically) and Republican's pro-Christian views. As a minority, most of them are Democrat supporters, many of these people are concerned about their religious freedom under the Republican rule. They want as much freedom and support government can provide to their activities. They want to celebrate their festival in the Indian way, some even boast that now they can immerse Ganesh idols in American lakes and rivers, just like they do it in India. They felt this all might be threatened if some conservative party and plus some unconventional leader like Mr. Trump comes into power. They loved the same combination in India but were very apprehensive about similar prospects in the US.

This contrast surprised me a bit, I asked many of them what is the difference between the campaign style of Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi? They both used the same rhetoric, they both targetted a certain group of minorities and tried to make use of feeling of resentment among certain sections of society against each other. So, why Mr. Modi was OK, and Mr. Trump is not? Is it because in India they all represent a majority group, and that is why they want someone who asserts majoritarianism, and as they are a minority group in the US they want the party who is a pro-minority? When I pointed out this contrast (or hypocrisy), only some of them agreed that indeed there is a contrast and very few of them offered any explanation for it. One of the explanations offered was that this is a survival tactic to survive in a nation where they are not in majority. I really appreciate this honest confession, it is not easy to accept such contradiction in your own behavior. I requested some of them to think about the behavior of minorities in India as far as political affiliations are concerned and compare that with their own behavior here and maybe they can find some similarities.

There is no right or wrong political ideology, one can choose whatever political party or leader they want to support. But, when there is a sharp contrast between people's political choice based on their demographic status, it is very interesting phenomena for an observer like me. I hope Indian Americans realize this dichotomy present in their political views and give some thought to find some reasons to why it exist and what can do to narrow that gap. This might help to bring some political harmony between minority and majority groups back in India as well as reduce their own anxiety and fears due to their minority status in the US.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Recently I attended a conference where there were panel discussions about changes in government's position and other aspects of American society after the election of Mr. Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. I can understand the apprehensions and concerns of people to see a nonconventional candidate registering a surprise victory over a well qualified strong candidate, but I didn't understand irrational fear and phobia associated with Mr. Trump and some of his policies. It was pretty clear from the beginning that Mr. Trump is not a conventional candidate, the way he conducted his campaign and his speeches were enough to prove this. In the end, people from more number of stated preferred his rhetoric over Mrs. Clinton's and he won a bitterly fought election. Quite understandably Hillary's supporters were shocked to witness this, but I thought that they will get over this defeat and try to search for reasons why this happened so that they can fight back next time. This is what any political party should do after facing a defeat in any election, reflecting on what went wrong is very important to make sure that we don't repeat the same mistakes again.

The in general tone of most of the panel discussions was that the USA is moving towards a dictatorship, minorities will be targetted with government's tacit approval, there is a fascist regime in the White house and something else on similar lines. There is a change of regime and it is very clear that current administration has different outlook compared to previous one. But, this is what happens when one party replaces another, that's why we get to chose which party (hence, which policy) we want the country should adopt. This time people thought Mr. Trump might do a better job to forward American interest, let's give him chance to do that. Others, who don't agree with Mr. President, definitely have democratic means to protest against his policies and resist in peaceful ways. But, at the same time, it is wrong to spread unnecessary fear and phobia about a person who has not even completed 100 days in office. In a democracy, we need to respect people's choice, free and fair elections are a backbone of any democracy, and we should honor results of such elections. 

I also registered my strong opposition to Mr. Trumps' comments about women and his in general attitude towards them. I still have my reservations about some of his policies, but I also know that he has a clear mandate to be the President of this great country and will need the support of its citizens and residents to run it successfully for next four years. In 2020, there will be another election and there will be another chance for all Trump opponents to fight another electoral battle until then they need to watch his actions closely and appreciate the good work. Political opposition is necessary to make sure voices of all sections of society are being heard and interests of each and all groups are represented, but this opposition should not become such a huge hindrance in governance that nothing moves forward. Sonner people get over this Trumpophobia, better for the country. There was an Obamaphobia in certain sections of political circles for the last eight years, and now there is an emergence of a Trumpophobia, I believe such phobias are bad for a political and social health of the country like the USA. Let's give new President to prove his capabilities and be vigilant about country's interest first, there will be another election soon to take care of political interest, but let's focus on the country and its welfare first.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Monday, January 23, 2017

Women's march done- Now, what next?

Last week, there were quite a few protests who created a lot of buzz on social media as well as in mainstream media. Depending on their liberal or conservative inclination various media houses either reported these events aggressively or totally ignored it as if they didn't happen. I was little confused about the protests on the day of Mr. Trump's inauguration. He won a democratically contested election, the same system of electoral college which declared Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama, and all other previous Presidents declared him the next President of the USA, people need to acknowledge it and accept the reality. This is the beauty of democracy, it will be hypocrisy to praise democratic process only when it works in your favor. The Constitution gave Mr. Trump right to contest the election and he won it, he has a constitutional right to serve as the President of the USA, I didn't understand the main intention behind protest on inauguration day. If it was just to oppose Mr. Trump's victory because some people didn't like him personally then it sets a dangerous precedence for everyone. Oppose his policies if you don't agree, challenge his decisions if you feel they are wrong, criticize his statements, demand an apology, but don't try to question is rights, it is dangerous because tomorrow someone might question your rights also.

But, I do understand the intentions behind women's march, some of the comments made by Mr. Trump about women are derogatory, his so called locker room talk was disgusting. The excuses and the apology offered by him for some of these things are lame and inadequate. So, the women's march had a valid reason. It was good to see so many women coming together and marching to protect their rights and challenge misogynist views. The culture of patriarchy still exists in some form or other in all parts of the world and the USA is not an exception. It shows its ugly face in the form of sexist jokes, discriminatory rants, prejudiced statements, or so-called locker room talks. Such things need to be challenged. Many people might feel that this is a very hypersensitive reaction, or protestors are cherry picking the things just for the sake of making a big deal out of nothing. But, the truth is that things like patriarchy are so deep rooted in the psyche of our culture that it will need a lot of flushing to get rid of it completely. Women need to be vigilant about any behavior which even remotely tries to propagate such mindset because they are the main victims of such mindset. Sexual harassment is still a huge problem both for men and women, comparatively, women are more victimized and that's why this protest was necessary.

Based on news reports it seems that women's march was a huge success, not only in the US but in many other countries it was noticed. Now, what next? Just conducting one huge march or registering protest once is not going to solve these problems. This huge protest should not be the end, but the beginning of the new movement. Marches or protests are good methods to highlight any issue or spread awareness about the problem. But efforts should not end with one-time protest or one march. People (both men, women, and transgenders) should resist any attempts to demean any group by anyone. It is going to be a long march to achieve equality and I hope that everyone in support of it is willing to walk that long.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Friday, December 30, 2016

The journey of Reena-from a shy village girl to an independent woman.

Reena and I got married 18 years back, ours was an arranged marriage, full of all uncertainties and concerns which any arranged marriage brings along with it. The journey was not an easy ride, we had our ups and downs, went through our own struggle to understand each other and adjust with each other. I learned a lot from her and I am sure she feels the same. I lived most of my life in patriarchal society in India where the status of women was not equal to men, I must also mention that in the USA situation is much better, but still, a lot of work is needed even in the USA so one can imagine the situation in India. I was raised in the environment of male superiority, but fortunately, it had an opposite effect on me, it made me a feminist. I realized the importance of making a woman an equal partner in any relationship. I realized that in modern world women are an equal stakeholder and they need to contribute like that.

Reena lived in a small village in Uttar Pradesh until her sixth grade and then she moved to Varanasi. Varanasi is one of the biggest city of UP, but the situation of women is not that different compared to other parts of UP. Definitely, it is better than many villages, but the difference is not that much. So when we got married, my first task was to make my wife independent of me. She came from the culture where the husband had the status of a demigod- the provider for her needs, the protector of her honor and dignity, the controller of her life and destiny, and what not. I needed to break all these myths, this was not an easy task for me as well as for her. It was confusing for her and very complicated for me. There was no easy way for both of us to maneuver through the maze of cultural mess which arranged marriage and patriarchal culture brought in our lives. When I told her that she is an equal partner in our relationship, which means she has equal rights and has to share an equal responsibility. The second part was more confusing and complicated for her (about the responsibilities). Rights without responsibility is a useless endeavor. But I must say that she responded with a lot of courage and responsibility. She took on this challenge head on after initial hesitation. Initially, she thought her responsibilities are limited to traditional household work which women were expected to perform, this was the way she was raised. But when she realized that her scope of duty involves many tasks which she never thought were women's job, she was little hesitant. There was a struggle, I witnessed that struggle, I refused to help on many occasions, but that was necessary for her to realize her own potential. She overcame many obstacles on her own, with no or very little help. I was just her companion, once she decided to take on this challenge, she did things on her own, she deserves the credit for all her success and failures.

When we moved to the USA, it opened many more new doors for her. She was free from all the social and familial constraints which were present in India. This made her embark on an exciting and rewarding journey. Today, I live with a totally transformed person, she is much more confident and independent person. We both support each other, our relationship is more balanced now compared to what it was at the time of our marriage. She is a very confident person and an independent woman who don't need her husband's support for her survival, and I am glad to see that she can manage her life on her own. She is a pillar of strength and support for me along with rest of my family and friends. We both compliment each other as a husband and wife rather than having a typical husband dominated marital relationship. It is not easy to write about your partner or parents or for that matter any person in just one blog post, but I want my readers to get an idea that it doesn't matter who we are or from where we come, if we decide and get enough support we all can achieve many things which may look impossible.

Reena's journey so far is not only a success story in its own way but also a source of inspiration for me. She still has many more challenges and many more obstacles to cross, but now she can do these things on her own. There are many successful people around us, but we fail to notice them. Normally we only recognize the success or failure based on media reports and very often ignore many inspiring stories of people around us. Many times no one bothers to tell these stories of common people like us. Many times we fail to notice some inspirational struggle or success story happening right in front of our eyes. We ignore just because these people don't become celebrities, they don't end up making millions of dollars. I am fortunate to notice and appreciate many such success stories around me. My family members, friends and colleagues faced many challenges and fought hard to overcome them. For me, all these struggles and triumphs are very inspiring. All these stories along with many others provide me the required self-confidence and optimistic outlook towards life, and Reena's journey is one such story. We all have someone around us who is making progress day by day and if we learn to recognize that struggle and draw inspiration from their struggle, life will be beautiful.

Thanks for reading.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The real meaning of American citizenship.

Citizenship of any country can be obtained either by birth or by being a resident of that country for certain period of time mentioned in its citizenship act. This policy is an important aspect of many immigrant friendly countries like the USA, where many immigrants choose to become a citizen, mainly to avail many benefits which these countries offer to its citizens. For me, citizenship has much deeper meaning apart from just a legal status, especially when someone chooses to abandon one citizenship and accepts another. Citizenship by birth is a right, but citizenship by naturalization is somewhat different. To choose to become a citizen of any country is a conscious decision. It should be done after a lot of deliberation and serious thinking. Because a citizenship is not only a privilege or right offered by the constitution of that country but also a big responsibility. Any person gets attached to his or her place of birth emotionally for various reasons, that place always remains special to him/her. But, if someone acquires a citizenship by naturalization, he or she has to develop a similar love, concern, and sense of belonging to that new country. If this doesn't happen then the benefit is one way, like it happens in an extremely selfish relationship, where one side gets all the perks without giving any commitment or loyalty in return.

According to me, the USA is one of the best places to live, it offers the best set of civil rights in the world among the countries which have a population more than 200 million (I am talking about rights like freedom of expression, practice or not to practice religion, etc.). The American citizenship comes with many benefits, but at the same time, it also comes with some duties. One of the major duty is to give up loyalty to your previous country of citizenship and be loyal to the USA. I have seen that some naturalized citizens fail to understand the importance of this duty. They feel that being a US citizen means having the right to avail all the benefits, but loyalty to the US is an optional requirement. This loyalty does not only mean support the country when it's under attack by outsiders but also being loyal to its constitution, and its values. Being American doesn't mean only to possess an American passport but also understand and promulgate American values and culture. If more and more people fail to understand these things then I feel the gap between various sections of this society will keep on increasing and this is not a good sign for the health of this great country.

The USA is an extremely tolerant country, it has accommodated various cultures and values gracefully. When I mean one needs to respect American values I don't mean a certain set of rigid rules, I mean the spirit of respecting individual liberty and right to choose. These two are the most prominent feature of American society which helped this country to achieve the status of superpower. The real meaning of being an American citizen is not just to hold an American passport but to understand and practice American values. Understand the reason behind the phenomenal success of this country, which it managed to achieve in such a short span of time compared to many other countries in the world. It is a duty of each and every citizen to continue to work towards making this country better than before. Being a citizen doesn't at all means surrender all you previous values or beliefs, this country gives a right of freedom of expression to every resident. Constructive criticism, political activism, opposition to the government and its policies, demostrations, and protests all are part of efforts to achieve this progress. The sense of duty to protect American values is important and I feel all current and future citizens as well as residents of America realize this. This country is a unique and one of the best places to live on earth and let's keep it that way. The real meaning of being an American citizen not only means being eligible to enjoy the benefits offered to its citizens but also perform all the duties expected of its citizens.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing.]

Friday, December 23, 2016

Is it possible to be politically independent in today's world?

The current political environment in most of the countries is very polarized. I can speak about the USA and India as I follow political scenarios in these two countries more than any other country in the world. Both these countries are vibrant democracies, but the current political atmosphere is so charged and polarized it is almost impossible to remain an independent and try to have a balanced and rational political discussion with any political party or ideology supporter. Most supporters of any party or leader are so passionate and blindly in love with their leader that they are not willing to hear anything even remotely against their leader. These people are very eager to brand their opponents anti-nationals, communal, secular (term secular used in a derogatory way), racist, islamophobic, misogynist, or by any other tag which they can think.  Because of these two things have happened, political discussions have become either like fist fights, where two parties fight against each other blow by blow without having any fruitful exchange of thoughts or it has become an almost devotee like the singing of praise of their demigod leader, where every good thing happening around is attributed to some action taken by that leader.

Politically independent people, who can throw light on both sides of the issue, or can debate over the good and bad aspects of the same policy, political party or a leader has disappeared from these discussions. I understand why they don't want to participate in any such political arguments. But, these debates are so predictable and boring because of an absence of any sane voice among all political devotees. Such devotees are required, there is no doubt that all political leaders and parties survive and thrive due to the presence of such devoted supporters, but the presence of such supporters only make that party gain or lose elections, it doesn't help in moving political discourse any forward. In such a politically charged atmosphere, very often there is a possibility of political deadlock, where both sides try to block even good policies from each other just to display their political muscle power. The interest of the country or its people takes a back seat and that leader's ego or interest of that party's  core voters becomes a most prominent factor. These things used to happen in past also, but now it is happening even after an increase in the education level of people and increase in accessibility of information due to the rapid spread of internet related technology (cell phone, computers).

I am a politically independent person, I don't support a single political party of a leader. In an election, of course, I have to choose one from the list, and I make my decision based on the important issues of that time and solutions presented by different parties, but at the same time, I know the weaknesses and drawbacks of my choice. I am willing to accept that the party for which I voted might have some terrible policies about certain economic and social issues, but in an election, you can vote only for one party and not voting (if I am eligible) is not an option for me. If the party I voted wins the election, then I should be ready to oppose any policy they try to implement which was either not on their agenda or which is obviously harmful to a certain section of society. I am not obliged to support whatever they do, just because I voted for him. This is how I deal with the politics, I don't think political parties would like to have voters like me, but this is how I protect my political independence. I am not bound by their core ideologies or their leader's demigod like status. Current politics has become so personality centric that it has become like a war between two cults.

Whenever I discuss politics in any group, I can see the desperation of people do defend their choices at any cost and their frustration when someone exposes weaknesses of their side or starts asking some uncomfortable questions and I can ask many such questions. I am a republican sympathizer in a democrat group and vice versa, I play a similar role in India also among BJP or Congress supporters. The politics is supposed to be there for the benefit of people, it was supposed to create healthy debate and discussion where something better for nation comes out from such debates. It was not supposed to create a war like situation within a country or a deadlock where the nation is stuck in policy paralysis, where nothing moves forward except vicious verbal attacks on each other. None of these things are healthy for any nation. Political differences and strong opposition should exist and no government should get an absolute right to do whatever they want. Every democratic country needs to have some checks and balances to curtail the absolute power. The presence of single ideology is dangerous no matter how good or rational that ideology sounds. I hope people understand the value and importance of dissent. I hope they understand that expressing dissent against the government doesn't mean that they are aginst the country. If a country needs to progress all of its people need to contribute, political opponents have ideological or policy based differences they are not enemies of each other, their existence should not be mutually exclusive. Politics needs healthy and efficient dialogue not monotonous, and vitriolic monologs.

I cherish my political independence and I am really proud of it. It is becoming a very rare trait day by day. I hope people understand the importance of constructive criticism and healthy dialog, until that this drama will continue and people like me won't find any difference between some news channels and channels who telecast dramatic soap operas. Protect you political independence if you can, and even if you become a supporter of some political party become a sensible supporter, not a blind devotee.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing.]

Thursday, December 22, 2016

My fear of needles and my blood donation experience.

I am not that comfortable with needles. I dislike the feeling of getting a flu shot or whenever they draw blood for testing. I am sure many people don't like to get poked by a needle, especially during a medical exam. Some don't like it because of some past bad experience, some due to pain, and some are just not comfortable with that feeling being poked with the needle. For me, it's not about the pain, because it doesn't hurt that much, many other injuries hurt way more than the pain which I feel because of needles, and normally the encounter with the needles is just a matter of a few seconds. I am also not scared of needles in general as I use them in the lab almost every day to transfer or add a variety of reagents in my chemical reactions. I just don't like that feeling, but it won't be wrong to say that I fear needles, this why going for a blood donation was a big challenge for me. I donated blood for the fist time in India when I was in the college, I don't recollect that I was worried or scared of needles that time, may be the presence of friends, a very young age or some other emotion took care of this fear. Since I came to the USA, I wanted to donate blood, but didn't get a chance to because Red Cross doesn't accept your blood at least for one year if you visit any country like India. For the last few years, I visit India almost every year, so I was not qualified to donate blood.

This year I was qualified as I didn't visit India. I went for donation and passed all their initial screening tests. Then the time came to go for actual donation. I was worried it was not going to be very easy for me to tolerate a needle into my arm for so long time. The needle was going to stay in my vein for at least 20-30 minutes if not more, and it was not a very comforting thought for me. The lab technician found the vein from which she wanted to draw the blood easily, but when she inserted the needle somehow she missed it and then she tried to search for it by moving the needle. It was a really uncomfortable feeling, it lasted for 1-2 minutes, but that process was the worst part of the entire blood donation. Eventually, they did find the vein and I could donate the blood successfully.

The nurse turned out to be a Trump supporter, she voted for Mr. Trump and initially she was hesitant to talk more about that. But when I told her that it was her right to choose the candidate, which she thought was suitable for the job and she should not be hesitant to talk about it just because she is living in a democrat state. We discussed quite a bit about the election and I told her my point of view about this presidential election. I clearly told her that I also liked some of Mr. Trump's proposed policy measures, and from the beginning, I thought that he was a dark horse of the presidential race. I even wrote a blog post about him a few months back. But for me that so called 'locker room' conversation was a deal breaker. She agreed with me that it was bad, but said that Hillary is also not that clean, she had her own mistakes which made her equally bad person. She also said that all these people have some skeletons in their closets. It was a fair counter argument, and she did say ultimately that she was OK with women being a President, but she was not OK with Hillary. Actually, many people have used this argument to justify their choice after this election and I fail to understand the real rationale behind it, but it is their right to choose the candidate which they like. This conversation was very helpful to me as it diverted my attention away from the pain of that inserted needle in my hand. We ended our conversation on a very positive note and I told her that I am looking forward towards presidency of her candidate, and I hope that Mr. Trump will honestly try to implement his policies for the benefit of citizens of this great country. She gave me thumbs up for this as well as for successfully completing my blood donation.

I felt a big sense of achievement after finishing the process of blood donation, that feeling was not just because I donated the blood, I know that many people donate regularly, but because I overcame my fear of needles and survived those 30-40 minutes without having a panic attack that too when no one who I know personally was around me. I did this by my own choice. I was not compelled to do this for any other reason other than my own desire to do it. The feeling of not allowing my personal fear or phobia to control my desire to do something good was great, and I think we all are capable of overcoming such fears or mental blocks. We all or most of us have some sort of fear or mental block, which forbids us from doing many things which we all can do for the benefit of society or people around us. If we try to take one small step at a time to overcome those fears, we all can conquer them. I understand that it is not going to be easy, but it is not impossible. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing.]