Thursday, November 30, 2017

My first experience with American healthcare system

In my 14 years of stay in the USA, I never had to visit any hospital for any emergency or nothing serious happened in my presence so that I have to rush someone to the hospital emergency room. Whatever good or bad things I read about the American healthcare system I read through social media, news articles, and other people's experience. But this year, in the month of September I have to visit the emergency room because my wife got some bad infection from India and she was having a high fever which refused to go below three digit number. This was my first real encounter with the "American Health Care" system. I agree that the American health care system needs some urgent attention, there are some areas which need the attention from lawmakers, policy experts, and all other stakeholders of this system so that something can be done to make health care affordable to everyone in this country. This great country really has all the resources and capabilities to make this happen, it just needs a little bit of social and political will to fix the system. I firmly believe that, if the USA can't make the health care affordable to its people, then no other country can even dream about any such thing (I am talking about countries of similar size and population).  

I have seen two different type of health care systems, one in India and one in the USA. The best part of Indian health care system is there are many choices of different doctors so most of the middle class and even lower middle class can afford to bear the health care treatment costs. The most messed up part of Indian health care system is the emergency care. Hospitals can refuse to admit or treat a patient until the required amount of money is deposited, this is the case with most of the private hospitals where most people go in the case of emergency. Government hospitals are free in India, but hardy people chose this option because of lack of proper facilities or due to overcrowdedness. This is where the USA health care differs from Indian health care. In the US emergency room treatment is offered without any questions about the ability to pay for it. But, the downside of this is that emergency rooms are unnecessarily crowded as many people who don't have health insurance go there to get the treatment for any nonemergency reasons, and hospitals can't refuse to treat such patients as it's against the federal law. 

My wife received all the required treatment, medicines and other things (food, etc.) without depositing any single dollar at the hospital. They did ask for health insurance information, but that didn't affect the quality of her treatment. Offcourse, the treatment is not free and we did receive the bill in the mail a couple of weeks after her discharge. But hospitals don't refuse to discharge the patient for nonpayment of an outstanding bill or stop the treatment in the middle if they sense that this patent may not be able to pay for this treatment, this I feel is the big plus of American health care system. No doubt, that like many other good laws and policies, this law is also abused by some people who purposely misuse this system to get the treatment for free (they ignore to pay the bill). I think this is one of the main reasons why health care is so expensive, as people who can pay have to bear the cost of all nonpaid bills. Hospitals don't even ask for your immigration status, they don't care whether you are a visitor, an American citizen, or an alien (someone on a visa), they treat every patient visiting emergency room irrespective of their legal, social, or economic status. 

American health care attracts a lot of bad press, there are many people who complain about this system. But at the same time, there are many good things about this system. Emergency room care aspect of this system is amazing, saving someone's life when they need medical help in the medical emergency can't be valued in money. I wanted to share my personal experience to highlight this very important aspect of American health care. Offcource, health care in the America is very expensive and something should be done about it, but just because there are some problems with this system it shouldn't stop me from praising some good its aspects which are absent in many other countries (like India).

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What happened to civilized social communication?

There is no doubt that the social media has brought significant changes in ways we communicate with each other. Most people are constantly in conversation with someone on some online platform. This explosion in communication technology has opened many channels of communication for many people in the world. This was supposed to create some positive revolution in connectivity of human beings, most of us now have a very convenient medium to connect not only with our immediate surroundings, but also with rest of the world. Geographical boundaries which used to be a limiting factor don't matter much as far as verbal and written communication is concerned. All this should have brought us closer and opened many new ways to understand each other in a better way. But, what I find is that people are becoming more and more exclusive in a way they want to interact with others, they are moving away from each other by forming exclusive groups. There are many exclusive message groups, chat rooms, forums, and what not where only like minded people come together and criticize people who don't agree with them. It has become harder to communicate with each other in a thoughtful, civil, and constructive fashion. I am not denying that there are many groups where there is very thoughtful and useful discussion, where people help each other, or support victims of various problems, but it is really hard not to notice the polarization on social media.

Maybe, I am noticing this polarization more because I am part of many different groups as I don't subscribe to any particular ideology or religion. This might be true, but I also see that there are many who also are complaining about the same problem. What I noticed is, all these groups are constantly engaged in ridiculing each other, each want's other group to get lost from this planet, they absolutely don't see any positive thing in other side's argument, the communication in such groups is very partisan, rarely any dissent is encouraged or even tolerated. After reading messages from many of these groups, sometimes I wonder whether social media is uniting or dividing the world?

There is no doubt that social media has made it easy to communicate with people who are not in our immediate physical vicinity. Now we can pick and choose people from all over the world and form a group to discuss something which we like or endorse, we don't have to find like minded people within our friend circle or family to have a group chat. However, this doesn't mean we should become totally ignorant or dismissive about the opinions and views of people around us or people who don't agree with us. This newly found technological tool should not be the reason to shut the doors for alternative views and only engage with people who affirm or validate our opinions. This should not be the reason to conveniently ignore all the facts which don't support our argument, and shut the door for anyone who sounds contrary opinion to our views, or points out some factual mistakes in our argument. But, it seems many people are busy in exactly doing these type of things, open mindsets are rare, highly emotional conversations are common compared to rational ones, very few are interested in finding the areas of mutual agreements, people are quick to make assumptions based on limited data, they are in a rush to judge others, there is a lack of empathy, and most people are not willing to assume positive intent in other parties.

If it continues like this, I don't know how many political groups within a political groups, or religious sects withing a particular religion we will have. The danger is very clear, polarization of our society at unprecedented level. Now, we have to decide whether we want to continue like this or would like to bring some civility in our online interactions, especially while interacting with people who disagree with us on various topics. The choice is ours, as we are the ones who are going to enjoy or suffer the consequences of our choices.

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

When The President questions constitutional right of a citizen.

Kneeling of some NFL players during the national anthem created quite a bit of controversy last year, and President Trump's recent speech and tweets injected a fresh life into this controversy once again. NFL player Colin Kaepernick started protesting by kneeling during national anthem last year, his reason for the protest was police brutality and inequality faced by people of color. Now, we may or may not agree with his reasons or the way of protest. But, if he is exercising his constitutional rights to express himself, we need to respect his rights, if not his actions. I personally stand for any national anthem played during any function, but it is also true that no one can compel me to stand for it unless I want to stand. I voluntarily respect national anthems of all countries and it is my individual right to choose if I want to stand or not. The real respect has to be earned, it should be spontaneous and not forced or coerced. If someone is coerced to show respect to anything, it is not a display of respect, it is an obedience at most. An obedience out of fear of losing something, but definitely not a respect. Do we really want such respect from anyone?  

A few years back, during one of the functions at my daughter's school American national anthem was played, and in the entire auditorium, one third grader was sitting during the national anthem. I was surprised to see this, as I was not used to witnessing anything like this. In India, I was used to seeing everyone standing for national anthem and prayers, it was a rule and there used to be a strict punishment for violating that rule, there was no choice or freedom. I was impressed by the way individual liberty of that student was respected in this country (he was just a third grader). I really got curious about this incident, and when I read more about constitutional rights, I came to know that many expressions are protected under the First Amendment and freedom to protest is one of them. In one of the very pivotal AUpreme Court decisions (Texas v. Johnson), the Supreme Court held that burning of the national flag during a political protest was a protected expression under the First Amendment. 

Now, when the President of country questions NFL players right to protest and asks the owners of the team to fire them for exercising their constitutional right, that too when he does that using a very derogatory language abusing their mothers, it is really sad. It poses a very serious question, if the President of the country won't respect constitutional rights of its citizens then who else will? Off course, Mr. Trump has right to express himself under the same constitutional provision under which these players have that right. People should respect President's right to express himself, but it is also true that every position or job comes with certain obligations and responsibilities, and definitely, the US President's job definitely comes with lot responsibilities and obligations. As a President of a country like the USA, Mr. Trump has the responsibility to uphold the core values and principles of this great country. Individual liberty and respect for constitutional rights are part of the core identity of the USA, and if anyone dilutes these rights, this great nation might lose its unique identity. We need to respect other's rights not only when we agree with them, but especially when there is a serious disagreement, that is when our respect for others rights is really tested. I hope President Trump understand this, many of us, including him, may not agree with the choice of method to protest of these NFL players, but all of us should stand to protect their constitutional right. If not, then tomorrow it might be a turn of our constitutional rights to get abridged. Please remember, we need to protect others rights so that our rights also remain protected.

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

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Men need to save themselves.

"Men need to save themselves," my friend, Anand Pawar said this in one of his interviews related to gender issues. He is an expert on gender related issues, and I learned so many things about this subject during my interactions with him. This particular line resonated with me a lot because I saw men (including myself) struggling under a burden to fulfill the expectations of society, their family, and their own expectations from themselves because of this stereotyped image. Definition of masculinity is very stereotyped in most of the societies. Men need to fit into that definition, and if they don't, they struggle with social and personal contempt, rejection, frustration, and many other things. Many men put themselves under this burden of expectations which their society or culture hands over to them, and there is no easy way for them to escape this trap. Very few dare to challenge the stereotypes or traditional definitions of masculinity. Men really need to save themselves from this burden, it is crushing many of them, and only they can help themselves to break free from its shackles.

Expectations and traditional notions about gender roles are embedded in our social culture, these norms are part of many cultures, we don't have to choose them, we are born in these traditions. Some of these things are part of traditions so long that they have become sacrosanct principles. This is the very reason why even after feeling the burden of these expectations very few dare to challenge them, or worst, very few even feel that these are unnecessary or burdensome expectations. But, because of people like Anand and his preceders, these definitions are being challenged. I know Anand personally that's why I am mentioning his name, I am sure that there are quite a few people like him who are working in this area to help men to come out of this prison of patriarchal culture, and I appreciate all of them for doing this. It is a wrong notion to assume that patriarchy only hurts women. In reality, it equally hurts men, they just don't realize it. Patriarchy puts an unjustified burden on women by putting so many restrictions on them, at the same time, it also puts a burden of so many unreasonable expectations on men. At the end, it results in a society where both men and women live under some kind of burden of expectations, which they can't reject even if they want to. Their roles get rigidly defined and the scope of exchange of duties almost becomes nonexistent.

What is the solution to this complex problem? The only way is to challenge the traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. A woman can be a bread earner of a family and a man can be a stay home dad, there is nothing shameful if your wife earns more than you, women should get equal right to choose what they want to wear, women don't have to carry the burden of sacrificing their interest for the sake of family, woman's career is as important as man's, there are so many things which one can add to this list. The central point is, don't define gender roles rigidly, a suitable person in the family or society should perform the available role, their gender should not be a factor to decide whether they qualify for it or not. Men don't have to live under the pressure of fulfilling the roles of hero or a caretaker of the family, they can take whatever role they feel suits them, and yes, it can be a role of house-husband or stay home dad. I think the present generation is well equipped with all the tools it needs to tackle this problem. I am hopeful that they will do far better as far as achieving the gender equality is concerned compared to my generation. Women are challenging their stereotyped image for decades, and they are immensely successful in it, this is the time for men to challenge their stereotyped image, because MEN NEED TO SAVE THEMSELVES, and only they can do this.

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

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Charlottesville- Lessons to learn from this tragedy

Whatever transpired in Charlottesville on August 12th, 2017 should disturb any sensible person. It was not a pleasant site to watch those violent protests. Peaceful protests and marches are integral part of any democratic society. There is no doubt that each and every section of society has a right to express their views and can do so in legal and peaceful manure. As a supporter of freedom of expression, I agree with everyone's right to express their views on any topic, but this right to express doesn't involve the right to threaten or perpetrate violence against any group or person. This is why events in Charlottesville were very disturbing for me, the way mobs attacked each other was not the way to express you ideas. The way one man drove his car into the mob killing one innocent woman and injuring 19 others was an act of terrorism, no other word can be used to describe that murder. One can disagree with other's views or political ideology, but no matter how strong is the disagreement, no one has the right to attack anyone or even threaten anyone because of that disagreement. Three (one protester and two state troopers) lives were lost during these ugly protests, this should ring warning bell in everyone's mind who is concerned about this great country. Is this the way we want to move forward? Are we going to learn any lessons moving forward after this tragedy? Or still we are going to get consumed by our political ideology and hatred?

Hatred propagated by white supremacist and neo-Nazis was disturbing, but President Trump's failure to condemn these groups specifically during the press conference after the incident was more disturbing. When, as a leader of a country someone fails to condemn an illegal violent act of an act of domestic terrorism just because the perpetrator was allegedly supporter of that leader, it paints a very scary picture. This means the condemnation of any crime will be selective and based on the political or ideological positions of the perpetrators. This stuff happens in India all the time, and I am surprised to see it happen in the US. Political and ideological disagreements are very common, I have seen them in the US all the time. I have seen pro-life and pro-choice supporters protesting side by side passionately trying to propagate their view points. I have also seen them debating with each other very passionately, but I haven's seen them attacking each other due to ideological differences. Freedom to express and debate is a basic tenet of American society, and any erosion in this philosophy can prove very dangerous to the future of the USA. I hope everyone who loves this amazing country realizes this danger and act accordingly before it's too late.

Everyone is entitled to have their own opinion and express it on any public platform, it is their constitutional right. These opinions can be challenged and debated, but violence can't be an answer to resolve any disagreement. We can agree or disagree or condemn other's opinion, but we can't suppress their voices just because we don't like them, freedom of expression is an important constitutional right granted by the First Amendment to everyone living in the USA and all Americans need to protect this valuable right. As a leader of nation the President should be upfront to condemn hatred propagated by White Supremacist and other related groups, he should not mince words while calling spade a spade. All Americans need to learn a lesson from this ugly display of hatred by racist groups, make sure you make your voices heard, make sure your President knows that hate propagating groups will be challenged, and he needs to stand on right side when there is a question of racism and bigotry. Make sure that love wins over hatred, and social fabric of this nation doesn't get destroyed by few bad elements. Let's move forward with more resolve and determination to fight against discrimination, racism, hatred, and bigotry, this will be our true homage to all three people who died in Charlottesville on August 12.

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

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Diversity in communication.

"She sounds very grumpy."
"Be careful while talking with him, he doesn't like to talk with people."
"You have very strong Indian accent."
Many of us either make such statements or hear them daily during our day to day interactions with people around us. We all expect to have some homogeneity in our surroundings as far as communication styles are concerned. Most progressive societies welcome diversity of race, gender, and socioeconomic background; but when it comes to communication they want some homogeneity. Maybe this desire comes for the sake of maintaining the clarity or making sure that message is delivered effectively. In my family, my parents and I spoke different languages with each other. We perfectly understood each other, but never felt the need to communicate in same language, I know this is not very common. Actually, I never realized we were doing this until one day I realized this unique aspect of my family. My parents never forced their mother tongue on me, I also didn't insist that my kids should speak my mother tongue. My mother tongue is Marathi, and my wife's is, Bhojpuri, but our kids speak Hindi and English, they don't know either Marathi or Bhojpuri. Diversity in communication is not only a noticeable fact in today's world, but it is a need of today's world. Mobility of people has increased a lot, people move around the world for their education, employment, in search of better and safer place. This results in a formation of very diverse societies. Such societies are not only diverse in race, culture, religion, but also in the ways people communicate with each other. 

Different people have different styles of communication; some like to talk a lot, and some are very stringent with their word use. Some people are loud, and some are very soft spoken. Everyone has some sort of accent, either it is a local accent or a non local, therefore, I never considered having an accent an issue. Our accent is our identity, that's the unique way we speak. I never tried to change my accent and never expected that someone else should change their accent just to sound familiar to my ears. In a same way, different people have different ways to express themselves; some might appear aggressive, and some really mild. But, this all doesn't mean that one way is better than other. These all are different ways which people chose to communicate with others. Each way has its own flavor and its own specialty, we should learn to enjoy this diversity rather than trying to bring some artificial homogeneity. Try to understand others, be patient, recognize the beauty of diversity in communication, and then you will start enjoying every accent and every style of communication. 

Diversity in communication is very beautiful thing, as beautiful as diversity in opinions and diversity in population, let's embrace it.

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Be curious, it is immensely rewarding.

Curiosity is one of the reasons why humans managed to advance so much compared to any other species on this planet. It is inbuilt in our minds, if our surroundings don't curb it, we can remain curious throughout our lives, but in reality rarely this happens. Many things contribute to diminish our curious nature as we grow older. Children are way more curious compared to adults, and many times curios nature is attributed to being childish. Maybe adults think that they know it all and there is no need to be curious anymore. I am fortunate enough to not to fall in that group, I am gifted with a permanent curiosity gene, my curiosity remained fairly constant since my childhood, and this has payed a great dividends to me. I remember my kids used to watch a TV show "Curious George," a story of curious monkey who used to land in various troubles due to his hyper curios nature, I also loved that show as I am also a curios person. My curiosity might have landed me in trouble on few occasions, but by far it has benefited me way more than it put me in any trouble. 

Curiosity helps me to remain active, I get interested in different things, some interest remain forever, and some wane with time and new interests replace them. This continuous flow of curiosity keeps me away from chronic boredom, it helps me to find something to read, watch, or do where I can learn something new, helps me to explore ideas or things which I never did before, it helps me to study various issues including the opinions which I don't support or agree. I can do all this because I am curios about many things including: why people believe in certain ideology, why they need religion, how science can help to solve our problems, what is the role of the law in our society, and many more things. My curiosity led me to read many different books, listen to many seminars, and research many topics. In this process I got to know many amazing personalities, either through the books, seminars, or via personal interactions. I would not have known these people without my curiosity, many of them taught me things which I value a lot, and I credit my curiosity for all this. 

I encourage my kids to remain curios about various things and try to find answers on their own, I encourage them to take efforts to know as much as they can before forming any opinion about any issue. We should not follow any path blindly, don't be a Hindu just because your patents were Hindu, don't be a Republican (in the USA) or Congress supporter (in India) just because your parents used to support that party. Do your own research, analyze things on your own and then decide for yourself. This is a time consuming process, and a difficult route, but this is what I did, and this process has taught me many valuable lessons. The rewards of this process outweigh the difficulties associated with it. Remember, there is no substitute for hard work, ready-made answers are easy to get, but they are not the product of your own mind. If you want to churn out something from your own mind, then you need to go through the repetitive process of collecting and processing vast amount of information on your own, and without being curious one cannot perform this task enthusiastically. One of the lessons which I learned was that, there can be many right answers for some social and political issues, and there is no single ideology which can provide solution for all the problems. This also taught me the importance of diversity of opinion, importance of appreciating disagreement and encouraging debate. One cannot appreciate or understand diverse opinions without being curios about them, one can allow them to exist by being tolerant, but to really get benefited by diversity of opinions and ideas one needs to be curios about the views and ideas which are not our own. 

My curiosity has taken to me new areas, exposed me to ideas and views to which I may not have been exposed if I would have remained complacent. It prompted me to take risks, challenge my traditional surroundings and my own beliefs, it encouraged me to charter different path than what most people chose to follow. I am not claiming that everyone's curiosity will produce the same result, but if it makes you to remain active and enthusiastic about life, why not to give it a try?

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

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

Don't allow someone else to define the meaning of happiness for you.

We all live under various psychological pressures today. We have a pressure from our family to perform certain duties, and fulfill their expectations. We have a pressure from society, from our peers to confirm to their expectations, there is also a pressure from social media, pressure created by different advertisements, different products marketed which seems to be necessary if we want to be happy, and so on. The point is, someone is continuously telling us what to do to look beautiful, they want explain us what it means to be a cool person or a happy family. These things are explained in very vivid and glossy way. There are advertisements telling us how one should enjoy the life, many vacation package offering companies insist why we need to go on vacation very often to strike a balance between work and life. These messages are very tempting and often irresistible, not easy to ignore as lot of effort and research goes into making these advertisements. There are many such things going around us in real world as well as virtual world which try to define happiness for us. If you believe in all these things, then you have to have latest phone to be cool, you should look certain way and wear fashionable clothes to look beautiful, you need to have certain type of body or complexion, need to go on vacation, buy a home, get a new car as your old one is junk. This list can go on and on, but the question is do we really need others to define what it means to be happy for us?

Maybe many of us do need some advice about how to be happy as we may not know what we really want. In that case, these advertisement can be of help as they can help you to find something which you like. But, there is a catch in, these advertisements are made by very talented professionals using the information from the research and data based on human behavior. This is why they are so compelling that you end up liking what advertisement makers want you to like, not what you really like. This whole process is very confusing, because it is very difficult to figure out whether what we really want is a product of pour own needs and desires, or a result of influence from all these external factors. Many people, including me fall for these tricks. We all are bombarded on social media with such messages, our online search is continuously tracked, whether we are watching a movie or a TV we are continuously exposed to such messages which want us to do something or buy something. 

These messages are very useful if we use them to our advantage, but they are very problematic if we get used by them. When we start chasing the dreams designed by others for us, we may not get that feeling of achievement or fulfillment even after living that dream. It is better to spend time to look for our own needs and dreams rather than trying to be successful in society's eyes or in the eyes of people around us. At the same time, let me acknowledge that, it is not easy to resist the pressure to fit in. It is not easy to walk different path when most people around us try to follow the path paved by these consultants of happiness. I have learned to evaluate  most of my needs and desires objectively to see if I really need them or they are the product of pressure created by all the messages which my brain knowingly or unknowingly receives from my surroundings.  Many times I reject these things as I can't justify their presence in my life and many times I chase these ideas and try to fulfill those desires. Technically I am not a minimalist, I don't own only what I need, but I do try to limit as much as possible as per my own wish. If pressure to be a minimalist is created by some undue external guilt, then it is as bad as pressure to buy something or to spend on something which you may not need but are buying just because everyone else has it. 

Pursuit of happiness was comparatively easy for our previous generation, for us it is more complex and it is going to be even more complex for our future generation. This is why we all need to come up with our individual plan to pursue our own happiness. Humans are complex organisms, and our happiness is even more complex (because our brain is very complicated organ). It is not necessary that we all must enjoy or dislike same things, our choices can vary a lot, that there is nothing wrong in it. Try to define your own happiness, don't let these external pressures to dictate terms to you. Don't go on vacation unless you really want to go, there is nothing wrong to enjoy your work so much that you don't need a vacation. There is nothing wrong in loving your own body the way it is, or to work out hard to change its shape, provided you are doing these things as per your own wish, and to make yourself happy. Don't allow your surroundings to define happiness and force you to work for it. Define your own style, your own happiness, needs, and desires yourself, and then take help of people and resources around you to fulfill them. 

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

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sunita Deshpande- A woman who introduced me to feminism.

People around me, especially Indians and even many of my American friends wonder why I am so passionate (and even sometimes adamant) about the issues related with the gender equality and woman empowerment. Sometimes I also get the same question, from where I got introduced to the concept of gender equality? My family members in India think that it is because I came to the USA my traditional views about women got spoiled by the western influence, but this is not at all true. The USA did influence me a lot, it changed my understandings about concepts of liberty, freedom of expression, as well as feminism, but it didn't introduce me to all of these ideas, especially to feminism. I started expressing my views about gender equality before my daughter was born (in 2000), I came to the USA in 2003, so my immigration to the USA is not the reason for my feminist views, maybe it the reason why I express those views so strongly, but the USA didn't introduce me this idea.

India might claim pride in its glorious tradition of having the progressive and liberal society where individual freedom was celebrated and books like Mahabharata, Kamasutra were written, but today's India is completely different and has a lot to learn from developed countries about gender equality and individual rights. Gender equality didn't exist in the culture in which I grew up, there was a a complete male dominance. I can only think of two major reasons to why my views are so radically different than the society in which I lived and the family in which I was born.  These are also the reasons why I revolted against the male-dominated atmosphere around me. First, I saw a tremendous amount of suppression of women around me, and as a teenager it affected me a lot. Women were treated very differently than men, there was hardly any rights or freedom given to them, they were abused for no reason, they were considered as physical objects of lust and physical enjoyment. For the names sake that society worshiped female goddesses, but then it came to equal rights to them, there were complete different standards. These things raised many doubts and questions in my mind, I always wondered why women don't revolt against this subjugation and discrimination? I was too young to know about the patriarchal culture, but all these things made me very uncomfortable and angry.

The second reason might shock many of you, it was a book by Sunita Deshpande. Yes, this amazing lady introduced me to the concept of gender equality. When I read her book "Aahe Manohar Tari," (meaning: even though it's beautiful). I was blown off to know about a woman who was so independent, strong, and powerful to fight against the patriarchal system and live life on her own terms. The book is a very impressive and sincere narration of her own story. In a true sense, in her autobiography she introduced me to the concept of feminism and I am very grateful to her for this. Since then, every other book, and my immigration to the USA confirmed those ideas and made them stronger. I am a flag bearer of gender equality, I take immense pride in supporting this cause and this cause is a part of my identity. I am sure for everyone who supports the idea of gender equality there must have been some incident which triggered the thought process or some person who introduced them to this idea, in my case it was Sunita Deshpande. Since then this idea has become part of me, and I have become part of this cause. 

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

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The basic concept of "Liberty"

How you explain the concept of liberty to anyone? Do we need to explain this term in today's world where we believe that humans have progressed so much that we all understand and respect individual rights, do we do that really? If we look around, I am sure we will find many occasions where the term liberty or freedom is used to curb human rights rather than to protect them. It is also true that many societies, like the USA, have shown tremendous progress towards creating an atmosphere where individual rights are respected considerably, but the basic concept of liberty is still very hard for many to get a complete grasp of it. I agree that it is a difficult concept to grasp, it sounds very easy, but the real meaning of liberty is not that easy to fathom, especially if you are not exposed to real benefits of it. I value individual freedom more than anything else and that is why the concept of liberty is so dear to me.

Liberty is a basic tenet of any progressive society, human mind and efforts flourish when they have freedom to think and express their thoughts. I got attracted towards the concept of liberty when I realized the importance of having an ability to express my thoughts and live life on my own terms. Feeling of having an individual freedom brought radical change in my life and thinking, and I try my best to practice that within my own family. I sincerely believe that if we all create the environment of liberty within our homes, our society will automatically have individual liberty. The problem is, we all or most of us believe that our ideas, values, belief system, religion or political ideology is the best and others should also follow it, and if they don't follow then at least they should not criticize it. Without the freedom to criticize there can't be a freedom to express, criticism is one of the essential processes through which every idea and concept should go to prove its mantle. 

Actually, the basic concept of liberty is very simple, if you care and value your own individual rights, then you should equally care and value other's individual rights also. Unless others rights are not protected, there is no guarantee that you rights will remain protected. I and my wife are poles apart as far as our religious and social views are concerned, but her freedom to practice the religion of her choice is equally important in out home as much as my freedom of not to practice or even criticize any religion. If you can't imagine these things living side by side in harmony then you will find very difficult to understand the concept of liberty. This concept has nothing to do with tolerance, that is another, separate virtue where we tolerate something even though we don't agree, it is not necessary that for us to encourage or protect those views which we tolerate. For liberty, you not only tolerate, but go one step further we protect rights of people with whom either you don't agree or even strongly disagree. As a person who values liberty, I not only stand for not only my own rights but also for others whose ideas and views might hurt my feelings or challenge my views or offend me. Others right to express their ideas is as absolute and important as mine, no more, no less.

I wish that among this growing atmosphere of political polarization and racial and religious divide, people understand the importance of protecting individual rights. I would like to end the post with a very famous quote by Voltaire which is shared widely, but hardly practised in real life, "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it," if we all understand the real meaning of these words and try to practise it in real life, this world will be a more beautiful place for each one of us.

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

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