Friday, January 26, 2018

Gender equality is as much about educating men as it is about empowering women.

It is a common perception that "gender equality" is all about women empowerment and equal rights for them. It is true, but that's not the entire truth, gender equality is also about making men aware about this changing environment and shifting of gender dynamics where there is no weaker sex anymore. This might sound trivial and obvious, and many might think why is it hard for men to understand this simple thing about gender equality? But it seems, it's not that easy for many men to grasp and adjust to this change. Many of them sincerely want to support gender equality but fail to understand to practice it in their private lives, especially during those special moments like going on date or during intimate moments like sexual encounters. Recent story about Indian American comedian Aziz Ansari is an example of one such behavior where things can go terribly wrong without malice from either side.

Why people fail to grasp the real meaning of gender equality? Why many societies and cultures fail to accept gender equality in its true sense? Even in developed countries who pioneered and fiercely advocated gender equality in the modern era, why there are many people who fail to treat their partners the way any society who believes in gender equality should treat? These all questions point towards only one  major problem, somehow men were not as involved in this moment as they should have been. Maybe entire focus was to make women aware about their rights and encourage them to stand up against the blatant discrimination practiced against them. It was a right thing to do, but at the same time it was also necessary to engage men equally in this process. After all, they are the rest of the 50% population who are equally important factor if as a society we aim to succeed in our efforts to develop a culture without gender discrimination. Lot of progress has been achieved towards gender equality, still it is not perfect but it is much better than just a few decades before. As women became aware of their rights and started demanding equal treatment, men also should have been made aware of changing dynamics of the man-woman relationship.

The concept of male as a dominant partner in a relationship is very old. Men were supposed to take initiative, they were supposed to initiate the relationship and were supposed to play aggressive or lead role even in sexual encounter. The concept of enthusiastic consent was alien to most couples, but now times have changed for good and every individual participating in any relationship must make sure that he or she is aware of these changed notions. There are initiatives undertaken by many Colleges and Universities in the USA to make their students aware about these things. These educational tools are useful for everyone and I think everyone who is willing to be in a relationship should go through these materials to learn what is proper and what is improper conduct. Old social norms won't change unless people get aware about new norms and educate themselves. I hope Aziz Ansari incident acts as a wake up call for all who didn't bother to educate themselves about importance of enthusiastic consent in any relationship. Relationships are beautiful only when both partners voluntarily participate in it, one's enjoyment should not become other partner's trauma. Gender equality is as much about educating men as it is about empowering women, and without their education we will not be able to achieve true gender equality.

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

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Dilemma of NRIs about moving back to India.

I immigrated to the United States in 2003, it was a life-changing decision for me and my family. There is a strong presence of Indian community in the USA. I meet many NRIs most of them work in science and technology field as I also work in the field of science. During most of the meetings, the subject whether to go back to India or settle in the US comes more than often. Many NRIs are in dilemma for a very long time about whether to settle in the USA or go back to India. A few days back I read an article on Quora about this subject. The article is a good attempt to tackle this subject. The author tried to offer his take on this subject based on opinions of people in his friend circle and his own experience. One thing which I found missing in the article is that the author didn't compare the data gathered in the US with the data of people in similar age groups who migrated back to India, this would have given some comparative picture. The article only presents one side of the story and draws conclusions based on only one set of data. What if people in the 21-28 age group are generally happy and enthusiastic towards their work and social life, what if people who are 50-and above are generally worried about their kids future and somewhat unhappy about their surroundings? If that's the case, then one cannot say that the feelings of NRIs are only due to the geographical location, but it could be also because of their age group, irrespective of where they live.

I want to share my own experience in this area. Maybe it will add something to this debate or help some NRIs to make up their mind to resolve their own dilemma. I immigrated to the USA with an intention to get some professional experience in the area of drug discovery and earn some money. Lack of access to sufficient money even for necessary things like education was a big hurdle for my family's economic progress. It was practically impossible for me to earn enough money by doing a job in my field in India and uplift my family's economic status. Moving to some other country was the most common path taken by many researchers back then to solve this money problem and this also helped to increase their job prospects if they return back to India, and that's what I did. My initial plan was to work in the US for 3-4 years and then go back to India and work in the area of drug discovery. As per my plan, I seriously considered moving back to India in 2007, but it didn't work out. There were two main reasons why I didn't move back. First, I didn't see any benefit in doing that, and second, I fell in love with this amazing country, the USA.  

I met some incredible people in the US who introduced me to great working culture and plethora of opportunities available for everyone. I also met my mentor and a great human being, Dr. Devraj Singh during my initial stay in New Jersey and it was another turning point in my life. I not only found a very good mentor, but also a caring elder brother who advised me on various aspects of life and introduced me to some great books and encouraged me to take new challenges. I am eternally grateful to him for this. His guidance helped me to smoothly transition into the US life. I wish every immigrant meet with some mentor like him in this country who can introduce them to most of the good things this country has to offer to every immigrant. I also consider myself extremely lucky to work with some great people in my area of research, my all bosses in academia as well as in Industry are extremely talented and wonderful people. They all contributed something meaningful in my life and taught me something which helped me a lot to become a better person. 

Apart from all these my personal experiences, my wife and kids got incredible opportunities which were impossible for them in India. This is especially true in my case due to my social and familial background. I understand that this may not be the case with everyone, but in my case, this was a huge plus factor for me. The kind of evolution I witnessed in my wife's personality and the way my kids enjoyed their schooling in the US education system made me love this country even more. So far my stay in the USA is an extremely enjoyable journey. As far as relatives in India are concerned, this is a big concern for most NRIs. This is one factor which makes most of NRIs to worry as they feel that the geographical separation and lack of their presence in India might affect and weaken most of their relations with their relatives in India. This concern is not unwarranted, this is a very genuine concern. I consider myself an introvert person, but even I also went through this worry. But for me, this geographical separation helped to strengthen my bond with my parents. I was born and brought up in a very conservative and patriarchal environment. There was no culture of having any meaningful conversations with parents. Parent-child relationship was very formal, there was a lot of fear (they label it as a respect), and gratitude because of all the hard work parents did. But, there was no frankness in that relationship. There used to be very minimal and only necessary conversation between parents and kids in the society where I grew-up. But now, I am in regular touch with my parents in India. I must mention that our relationship has become more strong and deeper than ever. I talk with them regularly on various subjects. Subjects ranging from women's rights (what we call feminism), politics, superstitions, casteism in India, many family issues, as well as their own personal issues. I don't know how much my moving to the US contributed in this, but this happened only in last 10-12 years. No matter how busy I am with my work or studies, I make it a point to find some time to call them or video chat with them multiple times in a week. This is a snapshot of my own story. 

The subject of moving back to India is a big dilemma for many NRIs. It is regularly discussed in Indian gatherings and I also participated in many such discussions. My own observation is that people want to have all the comfort and advantages which the life in the US offers them, and at the same time, they also crave for so-called Indian culture and geographical proximity of their relatives. Many NRIs also believe that India today is the same India which they left several years back. They willfully ignore all the socio-economic changes India has gone through during all those years since they moved out of India. The main reason why many NRIs don't want to move back is the same laundry list of problems like corruption, lack of opportunities for their kids, pollution, lack of discipline in social and public life, and many other day to day hassles of life in India. They complain about these things as if these things originated only after they moved out and hence India has become inhabitable for them, so they can't go back even if they want to. This reasoning doesn't make any sense to me. All these problems were present more or less when each one of us left India for better opportunities, maybe the intensity of some of the problems might have increased or decreased over the years since we left, but these problems were still there when I was contemplating to move back to India, but they were not the deal breakers for me. So, I can't cite these as a reason for my decision not to move back to India. Another reason is many NRIs keep on worrying about the effect of the US culture on their kids without even understanding what is the US culture. The US is extremely successful today because of its culture, not in spite of it. The freedom, individual rights, protection of a law, and opportunities which it offers to every individual is not available in other parts of the world (definitely not in India). Calling the US culture materialistic and Indian culture spiritual is plain foolish, Indian society is as materialistic as the US society and there is nothing wrong with being materialistic. This unnecessary fear of invasion of the US culture adds unwarranted tension in lives of many NRI's. The irony is that they fear to move back to India and they also worry about the consequences of moving back to India, it seems many of them feel like that they have two worst options to chose from.   

Many NRIs waste so much time in contemplating what to do that by the time they reach any conclusion it is too late, and they feel trapped. They feel trapped due to their kids, or career, or some other reason. This feeling of entrapment brings sadness, but this can happen even in India as well. You don't have to be outside India in fall in this trap. My parents moved from one part of India to another (from UP to Maharashtra), and they faced the same dilemma. Many people in India live away from their families because of their jobs and face same anxieties. I love the freedom which the life in the US offers to me. I am involved with my work, I am interested in politics as well as social and cultural life of the US. This is why I don't miss India as much as I used to during my initial days in the USA. This doesn't mean that I don't care about India or I have forgotten everything about it. I just can't because it's my birthplace and I have spent a significant part of my life there. It is always in my thoughts and will remain forever. But, the big change is that I love the USA as much as I love India. 

I have a simple advice for all NRIs who are trapped in this dilemma, first, decide what are your priorities (caution: this is not a simple task as it sounds), and then decide which country fits best to achieve those priorities. Everyone's needs and problems are different. There is no guarantee that what we plan will work for sure, but without working on that plan we will never know, so just work on it with full confidence. For some NRIs, India might be the best place to live and excel in professional life, and for others, it might be some other country. There is no universal solution which can work for everyone to resolve this dilemma, each individual needs to decide what is best for his/her family and act accordingly. One last thing, Steve Jobs said, "It's easy to connect the dots backward," learn from mistakes and move forward, don't worry too much about the past, look at the future as that's the only thing we can possibly change. 

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

Friday, December 29, 2017

Are we getting too political on social media?

There is no doubt that social media has changed the way we communicate in today's world. I don't think anytime in a history of humans there was a time when so much of our communication was in a written form rather than in a spoken form. Easy availability of internet and phone (or I should say smartphones) has made social media accessible to many, and this has revolutionized the way we share our views with each other. A vast number of people are connected with each other vis internet than any other medium before. This number is huge compared to what telephone or radio managed to connect when they were at their peak use. Various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram has made instant broadcasting of information very easy. Today, we can broadcast any event of our life live if we want to do so, and there is an audience for it from all over the world. I also notice that people are more eager than ever to share with the world what's going on in their lives, and the concept of privacy is not the same which it was just before a decade ago. Many gigabytes of data about out textual, audio, or video shares is generated every moment and stored in various places in the cloud. We don't even know where are our footprints on the internet, it is impossible to track them. This is all recent phenomena, we still don't know the pros and cons of this. Eventually, we should be able to figure this out in coming years, but for the time being, we all are witnessing this explosion of data generation and sharing.

Another thing which I noticed is that how much people discuss politics on social media. I see that many friends from my Facebook friend list post only something related to politics on their personal walls. No doubt, politics is an important part of our lives as it affects all of us. It is also important to share our political opinion and voice our views on various political and social matters. But, if all we share is our political opinion and nothing else, then that conversation becomes extremely monotonous and boring. There is nothing surprising in what we post, most people know what are our political views and what are we going to post based on our political leanings. Such postings might be helpful in initiating some fierce political discussions or arguments, but definitely, they don't help to expand our social circle or to have some meaningful conversations on social media. Such repeated political postings make our social media account to look like an unofficial mouthpiece of some particular political party or political leader. It seems that for many people there is nothing worthwhile to discuss apart from politics on social media. This trend really bothers me a lot, this is one of the reasons why I reduced my presence on Facebook. 

I do recognize the relevance and use of social media in keeping in touch with friends and relatives with whom it is impossible to interact one to one. This is why I joined all these amazing platforms and I am still active on most of them. Social media is of great help to bridge the distance gap and makes it possible to interact with people who are miles apart from us. I wish people use it to discuss various other things apart from politics. I want to have meaningful conversations about other issues as well, I want people to be less political and more social on social media. Let politicians discuss only politics, it is their profession and they have a job to do. We are not professional politicians and our social media posts should show that. We need to be conscious about not becoming unofficial spokesperson of any political party. This might also help to reduce the spread of fake news and rumors through social media. Increasing political nature of social media makes it possible for some people to use it to spread fake news and disturb social harmony. Only vigilant and alert social media users can stop such misuse, let's be more social and less political.

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

Friday, December 22, 2017

Prevalent sexism on social media

I have noticed prevalent sexism in social media conversations, especially on WhatsApp. Unfortunately, I notice sexism very easily and I am very sensitive to it. I notice it multiple times a day, in many WhatsApp messages. I receive, jokes which people forward to me, comments they make on various social media platforms, traditions they talk about, traditions they praise about, and many other things. I tirelessly try to point it out to people around me, especially to people from my own family because first, I should make my own family aware of this prevalent sexism before I try to change rest of the world. Many times people who forward or say those things don't even realize that there is something sexist in it. The main reason behind this mindset is a deep cultural history of sexism in every society. Developed nations are taking conscious efforts to remove this sexist mindset but in countries like India with strong patriarchal culture, these things still go unchallenged. To give a simple example about this, yes I have to receive a single husband-wife related joke in Indian groups where a wife is not depicted as a money spender, totally dependent on the husband, non earning partner. By default, every joke or message has this image of the wife, occasionally there might be a message to praise sacrifice of women and laud their tolerance and dedication towards their partner, but this is again very stereotypes description of women.

I always wonder why people don't try to offer somewhat different perspective? Why even women don't take notice of such stereotyped depiction of their image? Maybe it is true that in developing countries like India there are still many wifes who are dependent on their husbands. It is not because they are any less capable of working outside their homes, but because their family structure or social and cultural settings doesn't allow them to accept any job. They are so consumed by household work, which is equally important and valuable that they can't do any other work. Traditionally, household work is valued as much as it should have been, and hence the image of stay home wifes is that they don't earn anything. This notion also results in the image of wifes as a creature who survives on husbands hard earned money without doing any hard work of their own, and all these jokes and sexist TV serials just reinforce this image on men and women's mind generations after generations.

This sexist behavior and attitude need to be questioned, I do it from my side. I get into trouble because of this, many times people get annoyed because of my net picking small small things. But the reality is, that these small things slowly build a sexist attitude in boys and girls which subsequently becomes part of cultural nuances of our society. These things then create rigid barriers, glass ceilings, gender stereotypes, and many other things which stereotype gender roles. The only way to remove sexism is to point it out and make people aware of it. If even after that they want to continue with those jokes and that attitude it's their choice, but at least make them aware that they are being sexist. This is one basic thing we all can do to curb the prevalent sexism around us and our own family or freind circle or social group is a good place to start this.

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

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]