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]

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Some serious flaws associated with the way science fairs are judged.

Science is not just an academic discipline or a subject from school curriculum, but it is a liberating tool available to anyone and everyone. It liberates our mind from the darkness of ignorance, enables us to question things. It encourages us to learn by observation and also teaches us that there are many things which we don't know, and it's OK not to know about things and continue to look for answers. This is why I love basic elements of science, which encourage questioning, analysis, data generation and verification, and critical thinking. All these elements are not only helpful while we study science during our school or college days, but these things are extremely useful in our day to day lives. This is why I love the idea of conducting science fair for school children. The main intention of these fairs is not just to attract talented students to the discipline of science, but also to introduce school kids to all these elements of scientific analysis at a very young age so that they can use them in their day to day life. This is the reason whenever possible I try to volunteer as a judge in city and state science fairs.

While judging these fairs I observed few things which somewhat disturbed me. I saw kids whose parents belonged to science field taking undue advantage of resources available to them to perform science projects way beyond their grade level, whereas other kids who didn't have access to such resources lacked that sophistication and couldn't compete with this elite class of kids from families of parents from a science background. There is nothing wrong in encouraging your kid to take up challenging science projects or brainstorming with them to generate some relevant idea for their project. I am a scientist and I do that with my kids, but my role is limited to raise questions and make sure that they try to find something on their own which suits their level of understanding of science. Neither I generate an idea for them, nor I help them to select the topic, my role is limited to provide them with materials required for the experiment and make sure that they do it safely.

When there is no level playing field the competition becomes one sided, heavily biased towards kids with scientific privileges, and this thing bothered me. But, the question is how to balance this imbalance of resources so that all students get the fair deal? How to make sure that all students are competing on a level playing field? There is no easy way, it is not the fault of these students that their parents are scientists and they are helping these kids in a way they shouldn't be. We can't punish these kids for the well-intended help offered to them by their parents, but then how can we watch these other kids with no scientific help apart from their teachers and schools fail regularly in front of the kids from the scientifically privileged background? The only way out is to make disclosures of all help received mandatory: from where you got the idea, where did you conduct the experiment, who helped you, is any of your parents belong to science field? The list is not exhaustive, but these questions might give us an idea of the scientific privilege of such kids, and let them compete with each other, this will be the real test for them and it will be better for them. Maybe others have better suggestions to tackle this issue, but I feel this should be discussed before many kids move away from science just because they can't compete with few kids who come from scientifically privileged families. We need bright and creative kids to chose science as their profession, science needs creativity and imagination like any other field and as a scientific community, it is our responsibility to make sure that we create conducive environment to attract such talent.

The USA has a great tradition of scientific endeavors, we cannot afford to loose this advantage, this why we need to stop this field from becoming a monopoly of few privileged communities. The USA is a leader in science and technology and this is one of the main reason for its world dominance. If scientific community doesn't take serious efforts to increase diversity and reachability of scientific knowledge to each and every corner of society, this country might lose this edge to others who are rapidly closing this gap. Let's start with fixing the science education and the way many of these science fairs are judged. Please remember, prevention is always better than cure.

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 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

Trumpophobia.

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]