Sunday, July 21, 2019

Chandu Uncle

"Chandu uncle" or Chandu kaka, this is how I called "Chandrashekhar Vairale," we knew each other for almost a decade, but the length of acquaintance may not be able to define the depth of relationship we have. My younger brother Umesh introduced me to Chandu uncle when we moved to our new home and it was an instant connection and beginning of a strong bond from that day onwards. We used to meet during my every India trip and discuss various social, political, and personal issues. His advice and opinions were always balanced and he never hesitated to criticize whenever it was required or whenever he thought it might benefit me. Even though we lived in different continents, miles apart, this distance never affected the strong bond of friendship which we formed. I cannot find a better term than friendship to define it, he was sort of a mentor, but also a great friend, with who I can discuss almost everything and expect rational advice. He took a personal interest to take me to places like "Snehalaya" and "Maher" where great social work is being done by some great people, introduced me to some aspects of society which I was not aware of and also showed me how one can help people as much as one can without expecting anything in return. His friend circle is very vast and diverse. I was impressed to see that he knew so many people and had direct access to them. He always encouraged me to take up new challenges and also helped me as much as he can. When I started writing my blog, he was one of the first who started reading it, offered suggestions to improve and commented on posts which he found interesting.  

I heard about his illness a couple of months back and also chatted with him about it, but never knew it was so serious. His sudden demise is a personal shock to me and may of his friends. I left a vacuum which is hard to fill. It is true that the world will move on and it should, but there are some people who leave a permanent mark on lives of people with whom they interact and I think Chandu uncle is one of them. It is hard to explain some feelings and some losses as one cannot describe them in words or quantify them. I will miss him for sure, but his memories and suggestions will always be with me.

Thank you for reading. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

More than 100 kids died, and the country didn't even blink

Last month, I read the terrible news about the death of more than 100 kids. It was a massive tragedy, more than 100 kids losing their lives due to a totally preventable cause, it was personally shocking for me. What was more shocking was that this was happening regularly for a quite some time and administration never bothered to go to the root cause of the problem, never tried to find out what was the real cause of these deaths, and the most tragic part was that the entire country didn't even blink when such a massive tragedy was happening, and I am talking about a country who is roaring to claim its place among developed nations of the world. How a country can even dream about becoming a developed nation when 100 kids die regularly and no one, from administration to common people even show any concern? Was it because it happened in a state like Bihar? Was it because there are no elections around and therefore no political party was interested in this incident? Was it because all these kids belonged to poor sections of society, therefore, there was no one to create enough media buzz about these deaths? I cannot find any reason which could justify why a country like India ignored this tragedy. I am surprised how and why states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who are politically so important that any party who want to dominate national politics exclusively focuses on them, probable candidates for Indian Prime Minister position make sure that they fight their parliament election from one of these states, but when it comes to issues like health, education, crime, basic infrastructure these states are treated with so much contempt, ridicule, and ignorance that they are one of the most undeveloped states in India; and no matter who is in power this situation doesn't change.

Any developed country would have been outraged to witness the death of more than 100 kids due to administrative failure to take care of things in the area of public health. This tragedy did not happen due to sudden natural calamity, or due to something which never happened in last so many years, but it happened due to something which they knew happens almost every year but no one cared about it, even death of more than 100 kids was not enough for a nation to stand up and question, WHY? A country where the injury to a cricketer from a national team can become a national issue, worthy of a newsroom debate and a tweet from the Prime Minister, but the death of so many children didn't produce any ager or concern. This tragedy only resulted in some stupid and encroaching journalism by some hyper and ignorant journalists who barged into the intensive care units where doctors and nurses were struggling to deal with this massive challenge with the help of severely limited staff and more severely limited supply of medicines. These journalists not only defied all medical safety norms but also aggressively asked questions to the doctors who were in no position to answer them. Not one of them bothered to ask questions to people who really should be answering those questions, but poor doctors were made scapegoats as if it was their responsibility to have enough beds and medicines in the hospital, and as if they were in charge of state's health ministry. This tragedy not only exposed state and national government's failure at so many levels but also exposed how much public health is given priority in India, not only at the government level but also at the social level. The entire country moved on as if nothing happened.

I hope such a tragedy doesn't happen again, and if it does happen again, then at least India responds in a way it should because each citizen's life is precious not of just a few and privileged.

Thanks for reading and please share your opinion about this topic. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

The myth of the "varna system"

If anyone has ever participated in a discussion related to the caste system and casteism in India, then they know what is meant by "varna system." The basic argument goes like this, the current caste system which is as disgusting as racism is not the original system, the original one, the Varna system was a much better and smart idea. Casteism, where one gets discriminated just because of the family in which they are born is impossible to defend, but it is still very much in practice, people just label it a derivation of the Varna system. The original system, the varna system divided the society into four broad categories. Varna (वर्ण) was considered to be a noble, well-intended, flexible, efficient, and a just system which was designed for the smooth functioning of a society. The blame to spoil the original idea is put on the invaders by many supporters of the Varna system. It seems the invaders messed up that system which resulted in horrendous caste-based practices like untouchability, and surprisingly that horrendous system is what's in practice, not the so-called original well-intended one, and that too even after India celebrated it's 70th Independence day a couple of years back. Some people blame it on British, some on Mughals, but I have not found a person who can accept that the original system itself was prone to exploitation and misuse, and it never worked as people claim it to work for any significant period of Indian history.

Now, why I am blaming the concept of the varna system for the current casteism in India? Aren't all societies have some social class or divisions based on economic status? Yes, they do, but none of them have resulted in something as ugly as the caste system in India and none of them justify such division as a well-intended and genius creation for the smooth functioning of a society. I always ask people who argue that the varna system was a brilliant idea and it was a flexible arrangement which allowed people to move from one Varna to another based on their education and profession to give me a single example of a period of history when this system was functional in the real world. Even in mythological epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, all we see is the rigid caste system, where people get a birth-right to become a king or queen just based on the family in which they were born not by their virtues or education. The point to be noted is, all these epics were written well before invaders even knew about India, so, tragically proponents of the varna system can't blame invaders for polluting or manipulating these great books. People who really bothered to study or read about the varna system might cite some example of some Shudra king and claim that it was because of the varna system that a Shudra could become a king. Shudra was supposed to be the lowest strata of the four layers of the Varna-based society (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras). Ironically they still address that king as a Shudra king and claim that him becoming a king shows that the system was flexible. If the system was flexible, there would have been much more examples of this, not just a few exceptions. There are always some exceptions in any society who break the conventional ranks and achieve something extraordinary, not because society encourages it, but they achieve great things in spite of society being hostile towards them. If any reader knows about any time-period from the ancient history of Indian civilization when this Varna system was at work as people claim it to be, I am interested to know about it, please share the factual data with references. It will give me another perspective to analyze what went wrong that the Varna system got converted into a caste system and if the original system was so great why people did not revert back to it.

According to me, the original system is as flawed as the caste system. As I said the division of society based on economic status and profession is not something new. It happens on its own and people do move from one economic layer to another based on their income, education, inheritance, and other things. This is not a system but just a way how people feel comfortable to associate in a group of people who they relate most. Rather, to make such an association into some kind of a system a horrendous idea, it is like encouraging and legitimizing segregation, and this is why I feel the Varna system, like a caste system, was wrong. Once again, if anyone thinks I am wrong, please provide factual evidence so that I can correct myself. I hope the caste system goes away, it has been diluted in certain parts of India due to economic progress, but in general, it is still strong and very much present in most parts of India. The ways and methods which people use to discriminate based on caste have evolved, but sadly it still exists. I hope that defenders of the Varna system work to eradicate the caste system instead of wasting their energy to defend something which never delivered its promise.

Thanks for reading and please share your opinion about this topic. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Marriage can be a liberating expereince

This month I and Reena will be celebrating our 21st marriage anniversary. So far, it has been an amazing journey for both of us, full of excitement and challenges. I couldn't have asked for a more supportive and understanding partner who not only supported me in all my endeavors but also took up each and every challenge which I threw at her with a lot of spirit and courage and I hope Reena also feels the same way.

Ours was a classically arranged marriage, we did not know each other personally before a marriage proposal came to my parents from a common acquaintance who knew members of both the families. This was a traditional way arranged marriages used to work before the emergence of matchmaking agencies and online matrimonials. I met her only once before we got married and that too only when I insisted on that meeting, I really had to take a stand that I am not getting married to anyone without having at lease one-to-one meeting with that person, this was a shocker to all elders in my family as something like this never happened before and everyone was wondering what will I achieve by talking with a girl in person? Isn't photo enough to see how she looks? Isn't what her family tells about her enough to judge that she is going to be an obedient wife and daughter-in-law? What am I going to talk to her? Does it really matter? Yes, it did matter to me, I wanted to tell the person who was going to marry me what type of person I was and what was she getting into. I knew from the beginning that my marriage is not going to be like all other marriages around me. This was all that I told Reena when I met her at her home in Varanasi during the only meeting which we had before our marriage. I explained to her my views, I told her about my family, my Ph.D. work schedule, and my other future plans. I also conveyed to her my expectations about my partner and asked about her expectations, not to my surprise she had minimum expectations like her husband should not be alcoholic or abusive. I did not know back then how she felt about my insistence on meeting her, later she told me that it was a bit surprising for her that I talked about all these other things rather than where to go for honeymoon and other typical stuff which people ask their prospective brides.

Anyway, we got married in 1998, and since then Reena has been my partner. I see many people complaining amount of restrictions their marriage put on their lifestyle, there are many jokes about marriage being the end of freedom for a man/woman, but nothing like that happened with us. Our marriage has proven to be a liberating experience for both of us. I never felt restricted from anything, rather I have more freedom as I have someone to share responsibilities and support me apart from my parents and brothers, so I have more support after marriage than before marriage. As far as our personal relationship is concerned, we both give each other enough space, we recognize and acknowledge that we both have our own circles from before our marriage, and we need to maintain those relationships without diluting our relationship with each other. This is not an easy balance to strike, but also not difficult if both partners try honestly. A lot of understanding, transparency, and discussion are needed to achieve this and we both never hesitated from initiating complicated or difficult conversations no matter how complicated or sensitive the issue is. We are poles apart on certain issues, but that never affected our personal relationship. Imposing our own views on each other was never our intention, we believe in agree to disagree and move on. We value and encourage independence, but this was not easy in the beginning as it was a shocker for Reena when I told her to decide about her personal issues, like when to visit her family, I know that many people will think that's such a trivial matter, but even this much freedom is not offered to women in many societies, they need permission from their husband or in-laws even to visit their family. I must say that Reena took this challenge very graciously and worked really hard towards it. It was not easy for both of us as it created family conflicts and other challenged, but we did it. This is what I mean by marriage can be a liberating experience, we both are free and independent, not independent of each other, but independent within a relationship which binds us together. We value and respect each other's space, even in disagreement we support each other's right to have different beliefs. We recognize each other's complexities and do not try to make it more complex, but try to support and understand. We discuss and debate a lot, but not always to convince each other, but many times to understand each other. We do need to strike a balance but it is from both the sides I do not get the upper hand for just being a husband and she does not have to compromise just because she is a wife. We try to fight many patriarchial notions together, we not only believe in gender equality but we also practice it. There are many small and big things which contributed to making our relationship really special. Marriage was never a burden or a cage for both of us, and I hope other married couples feel the same way. It all depends on both partners, if they want, marriage can be a liberating experience.

Thanks for reading and please share your opinion about this topic. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

All scientific knowledge is uncertain, and that's why it's of a great value

Prof. Richard Feynman said that all scientific knowledge is uncertain. When I read this statement for the first time, I really didn't understand its meaning, but when I started conducting research in the field of chemistry I understood the importance of uncertainty in the field of science. Actually, uncertainty is what makes scientific knowledge different than any other field. The possibility that anyone can challenge any hypothesis, anyone can propose any rule, anyone can experimentally prove or disprove any theory. Anything, no matter proposed by who or how long ago can be proven wrong by anyone by enough data is what makes research fun and exciting endeavor. Scientists are used to dealing with doubt and uncertainty, otherwise, how can one dare to solve a problem which has never been solved before? How can one propose some new rule or predict some new theory? How can one try to find a cure for something which was untreatable before? This is why the experiences with doubt and uncertainty are very important for any scientist or a science student, someone should explain this inherent feature of sceit=ntific knowledge. 

When Feynman called scientific knowledge uncertain, he did not even remotely mean that it is unreliable. Uncertain doesn't equal to unreliable in this context, it just means that it is subject to change and nothing is fixed in stone. Now, this concept might be difficult to digest at first. How can something be uncertain and still be reliable at the same time? However, this can be the case, and if we look at the process of generating and evaluating the data in science we can very well understand how and why. Here, the uncertainty is not because of the content, but due to the process by which it is generated. The process has an inbuilt mechanism to challenge the status quo, encouragement to improve things and push the lines, start new frontiers, take up the new challenges, and finally, try to prove things wrong, and this what Feynman meant by calling scientific knowledge uncertain, it is not static, it's in a continuous flux. Once I understood this uncertainty, I really enjoyed my research and learned a lot from many failures which I faced while conducting it. Failures, actually, many of them, are an integral part of every researcher's life and acknowledging the inherent presence of doubt and uncertainty makes their journey more enjoyable and rewarding. Remember, this uncertainty is what stops from scientific knowledge becoming dogmatic. So, embrace the uncertainty and enjoy the journey of exciting scientific pursuit.

Thanks for reading and please share your opinion about this topic. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Balancing physics, chemistry, and biology of a relationship

If we analyze the dynamics of any relationship we will find they do involve elements of physics, chemistry, and biology. I don't mean that they literally involve basic concepts from these amazing branches of science, but any relationship, especially our relationship with our partner does involve important aspects of these three branches of science.

Let's first take chemistry, we need to have compatibility in any relationship, especially with our partner. Without compatibility, it's tough to live happily together. Imagine a relationship where people argue or fight continuously because they are not compatible with each other. Compatibility also doesn't mean you need to be very similar to each other or your things have to match on every point. People can be very different and still could complement each other very well. This is very chemistry becomes important, we all have certain traits and characteristics which we value or want to preserve, find a person who values that, who give you enough space and freedom to be yourself.

Next is physics, there are physical aspects to every relationship, this is an ignored and tabooed subject in most of the societies. People are not very open to talking about the physical aspects of the couple's relationship, but it is as important as any other aspect of the relationship. This aspect requires a lot of compassion, love, care, as well as respect. Consent should not be taken granted and wishes of each other should be respected to have a healthy physical relationship. Ignoring this aspect of the relationship could have a serious effect on other aspects of the relationship. 

Lastly biology, which many times we can control and many times we can't. This part requires some care, precaution, and knowledge. Without properly knowing the biological consequences of our actions, it is easy to make mistakes and then regret, some mistakes are correctable because of the help of medical science, but not always. It is better to be safe than sorry and this is true at every stage of the relationship. I am not just talking about the biological aspects of sexual behavior, but also about the effects of negligence towards personal health. Unhealthy habits are bound to show their effects at some stage, it is always better to be aware of our own personal health challenges and work to mitigate any health-related issues.

Striking the balance between all three aspects of a relationship is not easy, people often struggle with one aspect or other. Sometimes they get the chemistry right but mess up with physics and biology, and sometimes it's the other way around. There are no right or wrong formula, every couple has to come up with what works best for them. This required participation of both the partners, unilateral solutions rarely work. Also, this is a continuous and never-ending process, it continues as long as that relationship exists, and we need to tune the balance at every stage of life. This is always work in progress, but very important work. Please don't neglect it.

Thanks for reading and please share your opinion about this topic. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Find your own Everest and try to conquer it

Everest summit is a challenging expedition to anyone and under any known standards, it's not only dangerous, but also financially, mentally, and physically very demanding process. Everyone can't dream to attempt this adventure, one needs proper training and expertise to try this, and even after this, there is a no guarantee of success. This post is not know-how about how to climb Everest successfully, but it is about the fact that we all face some challenges in our lives which are as difficult and challenging for us individually. Sometimes these challenges are so tough that we can compare them with the Everest summit.

Is this comparison fair? I think it is. Everyone has their own Everest to climb, it doesn't have to be the Mount Everest for everyone, for someone it can be learning how to speak English, or how to drive, for someone it might be to switch profession or change jobs, for someone it might be to fight discrimination or some other things. Depending on the stage of our life and pour individual characteristics and circumstances things can be incredibly challenging to achieve. My advice is, find your own Everest and try to conquer it, it will take a lot of training, hard work, determination, and persistence, success may not be guaranteed, but that rewarding journey is worth all the effort. If you manage to finish the task, don't forget to celebrate the achievement, cherish the success, it is important to enjoy the journey as well as celebrate achievements. We often undermine our own struggles and triumphs. Not everyone wins the Olympic Gold, no doubt, that's a great achievement, but so is overcoming some individual hardship and conquering something which was considered unachievable for us. Also, remember that each individual's Everest is different, someone can speak English or Spanish easily doesn't mean it's easy for everyone, for someone it could be a dream of their life to master that language, for them that's their Everest, the ultimate goal to achieve, for someone it might be to learn how to drive, for someone it might be to fight against some disability. Find your challenge and pursue it, give it your blood, sweat, and tears, and then see how it feels when you achieve it. All the very best with your Everest Summit.

Thanks for reading and please share your opinion about this topic. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Importance of healthy relationships in our lives

Humans are social animals. We prefer to live in groups, many of our oldest institutions like religion, marriage are the result of our need to have some sort of organized social and familial structure to live as a community. As a result of this communal need, we also believe in building and cultivating relationships. This is the reason we not only cherish and value our biological relationships but we equally care and value our social or non-biological relationships as well. The fact is that no matter what type of relationship it is, it takes time, effort, honesty, and sincerity to cultivate it and make it strong. Every relationship goes through ups and downs, there can be rough patches along with smooth sailings, but there are going to be variations, and during these ups and downs our patience, persistence, and sincerity are tested. 

Each and every relationship has to be a two-way exchange, one-sided relationships don't last long, and if they do, then one person gets exploited as another person has no contribution towards nurturing that relationship. I think we all need to pay special attention to our professional and personal relationships. Both of them occupy two major spheres of our lives, one is a personal and another one is a professional sphere, both are equally important. If we tilt the balance in the favor of one at the cost of another then the ignored part is going to hurt us. People might think why am I giving so much importance to professional relationships? After all, work is work how can it be so important? Actually, it is very important. Not only for your survival but also for a healthy and vibrant workplace where others feel comfortable and welcomed so that overall performance of the organization is enhanced, and not only we personally get benefitted, but society in large gets benefitted. 

Developing and maintaining a healthy relationship is hard work. It demands a lot of our time and effort, but if we look at the long term benefits of having strong bonds with people around us we won't complain about all the efforts we have to put to develop those bonds. My only suggestion is, no matter what type of relationship it is, biological or nonbiological give it a fair chance, participate wholeheartedly and honestly, keep things sorted and simple, don't make things complicated when they don't have to be. Enjoy the relationships don't feel burdened by it because when we enjoy things we don't care how tough they are or how much effort they take, be happy and try to make others happy. But remember, it is important to be happy first, then only you can make others happy.  Everyone needs companionship and support, and it is not that difficult to get it, just follow the right path. Relationships are important, so treat them with the respect and importance they command. A healthy relationship makes our journey of life more exciting, after all, we all are going to become a memory one day, make sure that you create a good one. 

Thanks for reading and please share your opinion about this topic. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Seven years...

Today is the seven anniversary of this blog. Seven amazing years of learning and sharing through this unique platform. The journey so far has been really rewarding for me and I value a lot what I learned in this process. Like any journey, there are ups and downs in this journey also, some mistakes made, many lessons learned. There is no doubt that this is helping me to become a better human being and I thank all readers for their help for making this possible, especially the ones who share their views in the comments section or via emails or on other social media platforms. 

It is true that the frequency of posts has reduced, but that's a natural consequence of many other things going on side by side. I don't intend to increase the frequency of posts but do plan to continue to write once in a while as new ideas come to my mind or if I find something worth sharing on this platform. Once again a big thank you to my all readers and please keep on sharing your views.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

You are the navigator of your wellness, take control of it

We all have a tendency to blame others for our problems and miseries. We conveniently chose a suitable target to blame, some of us blame it to our busy schedule for not finding any time for exercise, some blame it to stress for our various addictions, some blame it to the pressure to remain connected for our addiction to social media, some to family pressure, some to boss or job related stuff, and the list goes on like this incorporating a variety of reasons. Most of the time, we blame it on everything except ourselves for the problems we face, especially the problems related to our wellness. It gives us a false sense of belief that we are trying our best, but the situations and people around us are making it difficult, or there is something beyond our control which is responsible for the way we live and behave. But the truth is, we are the primary beneficiary of our wellness so we should be able to navigate it and manage it better than anyone else, and we should blame ourselves first if something is not right.

Wellness is a personal issue, others can definitely help but only the concerned person holds the key to start and restart the engine which drives it to do something and gives it a direction. Also, wellness requires some simple initial steps: healthy diet choices, regular physical activity (it doesn't have to be a gym or rigorous sports, one can choose from simple walking to competing for a marathon), regular sleep schedule, and stress management. I agree that drastic changes introduced in our lived due to tremendous technological development have made many of these things which were part of our regular lifestyle just a few decades ago extremely challenging, but this cannot be an excuse to compromise our health and wellness. The major benefit of improving our lifestyle choices could be felt in all aspects of our day to day lives. The extra strength and energy which we get could be used in doing things which we enjoy, staying disease free, and being healthy also allows us to help others if they need any help. These are just a few benefits among many which can be listed.

So, what's stopping you from taking control of your wellness? Remember, you are the prime beneficiary of your wellness, so think twice before blaming it on something else for your bad lifestyle choices. Take the responsibility and contribute towards having a healthy and happy society. 

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