Saturday, June 16, 2018

The art of happiness

A disclaimer first, this post has nothing to do with the book "The Art Of Happiness" written by Dalai Lama, I have not read the book, but only came to know about it when I was searching if anyone has already used this title and no surprise that Mr. Dalai Lama has already written a book about it. The post is about my own experiences and struggles, it has nothing to do with the above-mentioned book.

If we look at the history of human civilization, the level and type of stress change generation by generation. We improved our physical comforts a lot because of progress in technological aspects of our lives. Our generation has more access to travel, education, clean water, food, information, medicines, and many other things compared to our previous generations. However, our generation also has more complicated psychological problems. We also have two parallel worlds now: the real world and a virtual world in which we live simultaneously. In spite of all this progress in the physical world, why are we struggling to keep up the same speed in the psychological or mental world? Why suicide rates are going up? Why are we not happy and more connected with each other and help each other in moments of need and desperation? Questions are many, and each individual need to search an answer for himself or herself, the matter of the fact is, we humans are extremely complex organisms and hence our problems are complex and their solutions are going to differ from person to person.

Can we learn how to be happy or is it something depends entirely on our surroundings? Is being happy is a habit or an art? I think one can definitely learn how to be happy. Happiness is extremely personal and this is what people are forgetting, they are getting more into comparative happiness. I see that many people base their own happiness on how happy others are around them. They want to buy that dream house because everyone in their age group has such house, they want that car because that's a status symbol, they want to have a job with six-figure income because that's what they are being told is a successful career is. Many of these perceptions and beliefs are acquired without giving any serious thought what do we want, what are our own needs and desires which make us happy? The biggest problem is that this conditioning of mind starts so early in our lives that we don't even develop a capacity to think about our own needs and desires. This conditioning wires our mind in such a way that we knowingly or unknowingly we start walking on a path paved for us by culture, religion, media, society, or people around us. And mind it, this conditioning is very intense and organized, it's not easy to escape it.

So, how to learn the art of being happy? The basic question is, do we even know what the real happiness means? Is pursuit of personal happiness worth the effort it will take, or it is better to surrender to what our society dictates to us? Why anyone should believe whatever I am writing is the right way to think about the happiness? Actually, that's the whole point of the post, the post is not about to educate you what is happiness and how to be happy, but it is about recognizing the problems which are prohibiting us from being happy or illuding us on a fabricated path of happiness. The first step which anyone can take is to stop engaging in comparative happiness. Not everyone has to go on a vacation, not everyone needs to own a house or a car; we all are different and there is nothing wrong with it; our sex, sexual orientation, race, nationality or any otehr trait doesn't make us any better or worst, we all are unique and recongize this aspect not only about yourself but about others around you as well; education is important not from which college or university you get it; it is important to have fun while doing your job, so if you are dragging every day yourself to work then it is not the right area of work for you try something different. There are many small-small steps which we can take to take control of our own life. 

We need to enjoy the journey, struggle, efforts, preparations as much as we enjoy the destination, success, and achievements. If we focus too much on the end-product then we miss so much which is equally important and on which we spent more time than the end-result. We need to recognize that failures, fear, anxiety, depression, stress, joy, and grief all are an integral part of our lives. These emotions are bound to come we need to recognize them and be conscious of our mental hygiene. We should give equal importance to our mental hygiene as we give it to our physical hygiene. All these things will help us to learn the art of happiness. But please remember, there is no universal formula to learn this art. Everyone has to find their own way, you can only tell and decide what makes you happy or sad. You can only decide when you want to buy the house or what type of profession you want to choose, others can always help you to take this decision, but the final decision should be yours and yours only. 

Learn to spend some time with your self, try to understand your own identity and value. We get too busy in our daily struggles and get so lost in our surroundings that we don't get time to understand who we are and what we really want. If this post kindles a desire to search for your own path of happiness, then it has served its purpose. No matter how different that path is, how weird you think you are, try to be yourself, try to spread love and compassion. Imagine the world where all are happy and no matter how impossible that task looks we can at least give it a shot. Let's try to make this word a happy place, and let's start by making happy ourselves first. 

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

For good policies, you need good politics.

Many countries in the world struggle to accelerate development or to make sure that the benefits of development can be enjoyed by most of the population. One of the main reason for this problem is lack of good policies. All these countries are not ruled by dictators or going through civil war or something like that, many of them have well established democratic election system which seems to be working the way it should, elections happen regularly, people seem to participate in the electoral process, and elected governments seem to enjoy people's support for their policies (that's why they vote for them). India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka are some such countries where it seems no matter who is in power nothing much changes on the ground, parties win or lose but it seems country always looses in every election. Every party thinks about their own political future first. They all use their country as a tool to solidify their own political base, to win an election, to propagate a personality cult, to suppress opposition, but never to bring any important reforms, never to take some forward-looking steps which might harm politically but are good for the country's future. I was excited when current Indian government came to power and even wrote a post about their historical election victory.

For good policies, you need good politics; and for good politics, you need well-functioning institutions of various branches of the government which perform their work independently. This doesn't happen in most of the countries who struggle in spite of being democratic countries for so long. I have seen this happening in India. Corruption on various levels cripples most of these countries. When I say corruption, I am not just talking about the bribe culture, I am talking about the culture of corruption. A country where not allowing a largest political party to form a government is not unusual, horse-trading to buy legislatures of other political parties to gain a majority is not considered as a wrong practice, open collusion between various branches of the government doesn't disturb people, political opponents are not only ridiculed but branded as anti-nationals, where one political party talks about eliminating their oppositions from the country. These are not signs of good politics, and no wonder India still struggles to get a government who can dare to implement good policies. As I said I was hopeful about this government that they will implement some good policies but after five years all I can see that they spent all their time in establishing their brand and winning state elections, nothing else. I am not bothered by some mistakes which happen while taking some radical steps (like demonetization), but I am surprised that government which so many resources at its hand can't figure out the possible outcomes of their actions before taking that step and take all precautionary measures. Announcing any reform is not a big deal, making sure that it gets implemented to produce its desired result is where all the skills of governance and management are required and I am still waiting to witness this in India. One such opportunity was lost in 1984, where few reforms (like telecommunications and introduction of computers) were performed, but nothing spectacular was done as far as political and social reforms are concerned, and now this is another opportunity which didn't live to its expectations. Please remember, "for good policies, you need good politics."

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

When religion of the rape victim becomes more important than her pain, there is a serious problem.

Two rape cases created a big splash on India news channels and on social media. One was rape and murder of eight-year-old girl, another was rape of 17-year-old girl by a lawmaker from the ruling party of that state. Both cases are equally horrible and condemnable. But, surprisingly on social media, there was extensive discussion about the religion of one of the victims and perpetrators of the crime. Some people accused people who were protesting about this case for their selective outrage. I wonder how these people come up with such twisted logic. There was huge outrage in India after Nirbhaya rape case, that time no one was accused of selective outrage, no one said that there are so many rapes happening in the country so why are you just protesting about this one case? But it seems just because in one of these cases rapists and the victim are from different religions this question about the religious identity of the victim and accused suddenly became relevant.

I wonder in which direction that society is moving where the religion of the rape victim becomes more important than her own and her family's suffering? In which direction that society is moving where lawyers and lawmakers participate in a protest march in favor of accused persons? There is no doubt that every accused of any crime must get a fair and transparent trial, the law should treat everyone equally. Every accused deserves a legal support and representation to defend their side. But this is not even an issue here, there are people who are trying hard to justify this heinous act. They are questioning motives of people who feel outraged by such incidents, and this should worry any society where outrage over heinous crimes depends on from which religion victim or accused come from. Reactions on social media and some debates on news channels should stir the consciousness of every Indian no matter which religion they belong or which political party they support. 

I hope polarization created due to political propaganda doesn't create an unbridgeable gap between different sections of society that they can't even come together even to protest against overtly criminal acts. When your every discussion ends up getting connected with the religion, then there is a problem. When we look for person's caste, nationality, race, or religion before showing your outrage to a crime, then there is a problem. We all are humans first, and then political supporters or religion followers. If we forget our basic human qualities of empathy and compassion towards our fellow human beings and look at everything through the prism of politics or religion then why type of people are we becoming? I think we all need to question ourselves about this and look for the answer within, maybe our conscious might help us more than these social media posts or news channel debates or statements from some senseless politicians. I request everyone reacting to this issue to see if they are reacting like a compassionate human, a responsible citizen, a blind political supporter, or a blind religious follower. In the end, the choice is always yours, and I hope humanity is still the most attractive choice for most of us.

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Six years..

It has been six years since I started writing this blog. I published my first post on 5th March, 2012, the blog has now more than 400 posts. The main aim to write a blog is to share your thoughts and not to publish something regularly. This journey was started with an intention to share my views on various social, political, and personal issues while getting feedback from readers about their own views about these things. It has been a very rewarding experience for me so far. I hope to continue it as long as possible, the frequency of posts might get reduced based on how busy I get with various other things in my life, but the blog should remain active place to share ideas in near future also. 

As I already mentioned, so far, this has been a really rewarding experience for me and I hope all blog readers also enjoyed reading the blog. Please feel free to share your thoughts, it is very important for all of us to express ourselves in whatever medium we feel comfortable with, this is how we educate each other and learn from each other.

Thanks for reading and encouraging me. I wish happy reading to all readers.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Peer pressure- good or bad?

We all face or must have faced "peer pressure" at some point of our lives. Peer pressure is not only the pressure one feels from their friends during high school or college which force them to do the stuff which they don't want to do or when they take drastic steps to fit in the stereotyped definition of "cool person," it is the pressure which we feel from people from our age group. It can be in school, college, workplace, society, family, or on online social media. In today's era of social media these people don't have to be our school or college friends, they can be anyone from anywhere in the world, and this aspect has broaden the group of people who can exert peer pressure on us. I see many people get affected not only by their friends and relatives which are part of their inner circle, but also by people whom they only know from social media.

Is peer pressure good or bad? If it is only bad then why people succumb to it or get affected by it so much? The truth is, many of us need continuous validation from people around us. We crave for recognition, praise. Why? Because it motivates us, makes us feel happy and valuable. And this is where peer pressure kicks in, in order to get that validation and recognition one needs to cater what is demanded by the people around us, especially the ones who are in our peer group, people whose validation we crave the most. This why we try to fit in stereotyped definition of beauty, try to achieve success in ways the society defines it to us, try to live the life the way it is being advertised, even our definition of happiness and success is heavily influenced by the advertisements and market forces. Today, there are so many things apart from real people around us which can create peer pressure on us.

If this pressure encourages you, helps to work harder and motivates you to wake up everyday and go to your work, then it is good for you and it is helping you. But, if this peer pressure is making you frustrated, feel overburdened with expectations of people around you, feel dejected and worthless about yourself, adding to your anxiety, making you depressed, then definitely it is hurting you and is bad for you. It can work either as a motivator or depressor depending on how you react to it.

The first step is try to recognize what this pressure is doing to you and based on that one can plan how to deal with it. The best way is to immunize yourself from it so that it can't affect you in any way, but in this case you also lose the positive effects of it. Another way is to be aware of its existence and use it only in positive way and consciously avoid getting affected by it negatively. It is not that easy, but I think it is necessary in today's expanding world that we keep focus on our mental hygiene as much we focus on our physical hygiene. There is lot of help available (books, blogs, and online forums) to learn how to use peer pressure to our advantage. So take advantage of all these resources and make peer pressure work for you, and don't get consumed by it. The truth is, it is very difficult to avoid to, so better learn how to deal with it so that it can help you rather than drag you down. All the very best.

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Being a devil's advocate.

To be a devil's advocate is not that easy, normally while doing so a person tries to defend a less popular view or a minority stand. This is not an easy task and also not that popular for obvious reasons. Some people do it just for the fun as they love to engage in any sort of argument, but there are many good reasons to do this. I do this with my kids, not because I love to engage in argument with them, many times they really get mad at me when I do this, but as a parent I think it is my responsibility to make them realize that there can be another side to every issue or every opinion. At the same time, when I challenge their stand I my main aim is to know on what grounds they are basing their opinion: is it a very superficial and weak base like, just because everyone thinks like that I also believe in it or is it because of peer pressure or they really thought about the issue seriously before reaching to their conclusion. By being a devil's advocate in front of my kids I make sure that they are not blindly following either me or someone without testing those opinions independently. My aim is to initiate that mechanism where they start considering alternative opinions which are contrary to their own.

Actually, I didn't start doing this consciously, it happened over the period of time. I observed that there are families who follow same political ideologies for generations, just like their religion. They become so devout to that particular ideology that they can't even imagine that other side has anything good to offer, it almost becomes like a religion for them. Parents and kids share same political and social ideology, religion, dietary restrictions, and even superstitions. I felt that many families are becoming factories where carbon copies are produced under the name of culture and traditions. I don't mean to say that following culture and traditions is wrong or parents should not guide their kids, I just want to emphasis that these things also should be challenged and refined to tune them with the changing time. Not every tradition is timeless which can survive the test of time, but if we make them immune from any attack then off course they will survive for generations. This cannot be called the greatness of that tradition, but rather should be called weakness of that culture, society, religion, or group who failed to modify or change with the changing time. 

Being a devil's advocate doesn't mean you have to defend each and every unpopular issue, there are many things which can't be defended. May main aim is to bring forward unrepresented view to that discussion-if it is pro-republican setting I try to highlight some democrat policies which make sense and vice versa. If it is anti-Trump group, I try to present some policies of his organization which look very promising. If it is a pro-BJP group I try to question the performance of the BJP govt so far and want to know if their supporters are analyzing it in same way or blindly following it. The list can go on, the real point is I try to project another side of the issue or spectrum to the group which may not bother to look at it under the normal circumstances. I try to engage in discussion in such a way that they realize that other side also has some valuable ideas which as a society we need to consider and shouldn't ignore just because it is coming from our opposition. Opposition and diversity of views are very necessary for any society to progress. A society with monotonous views or where there is no opposition runs into the risk of living under blissful ignorance that they are always on the right path (which may or may not be true).

I should also give one warning for everyone who want to try this method, the risk is that it might make you less popular in that particular group. People normally don't like when their core beliefs or deep rooted political ideologies are challenged, they feel uncomfortable when you ask really difficult questions about their leader, religion, or political party. So, one has to be really careful as there is a very thin line between being inquisitive and offensive. You might even sound arrogant to some (especially when you question some religious beliefs) or elite (especially when you are trying to defend capitalism in a group who believes in socialism or communism). So one has to take the risk of being labeled by various names if you want to try to do this exercise, but I think it is worth that risk.

I think my kids got benefited by this exercise, at least they are aware that there can be an equally compelling argument from the other side which they should at least listen and analyze objectively before rejecting it. If you want to test this methodology with your kids, friends, or relatives just try it, at least you will know the tolerance level of people around you if nothing else :)

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

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.