Friday, May 25, 2012

Don't tell me how to dress, tell them not to rape.....

'Don't tell me how to dress, tell them not to rape' 'Nazar Teri Buri Aur Parda Mein Karoon?'

These lines caught my attention while reading one news article in Times of India. The article was about the protest against the relentless stream of rape cases that have rocked the National Capital Region in recent times. With 465 rape cases registered in Delhi in 2011, 489 in 2010 and 459 in 2009 (on average more than one rape per day), one can clearly see that something is not right. No one can justify occurrence of so many sexual assault related crimes in capital of India. The slogans above are not only against rape but also against moral policing which many times blame women for the crime committed against them. Many people advice females to dress up properly, they insist that females should dress in ‘proper’ way to avoid unnecessary attention, or not to provoke emotions of males around; they should control their behavior and limit interactions with males…so the problem of males of not being able to control their animal instincts is conveniently blamed on females. In any free country and civilized society everyone one has right to dress up in a way they like (as long it’s not offensive or disturbing to others or against the law). Most of the societies give freedom to males to dress up the way they want but want to put restriction on females in as many ways as they can, this practice is going on for generations.

Use of dress code is not uncommon in society, many events or functions have dress code associated with them and people follow it gladly. Normally this dress code is recommended for certain functions and parties and people can choose not to follow it. But the dress code about which I am talking about is forced upon certain sections of society and often sanctioned by government. In many countries these compulsory dress codes (especially on women) are enforced by armed groups or self declared moral police or other non state actors. According to international human rights law every person has rights to freedom of expression and freedom to manifest their religion or beliefs. Many times the way people dress can be very important for them to express their religious, cultural beliefs or personal identity. As a general rule, in many countries where rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression exists, it means that all people should be free to choose what they do or don’t want to wear. Our governments have an obligation to ensure that every individual’s fundamental rights (freedom to express their beliefs and identity are one of them) are protected and respected. Religions and cultures can be interpreted in many ways; many people have interpreted so called holy books (scriptures) in many different ways. Interpretation of culture or religion or these holy books cannot justify imposing dress code on people, this is unjust to people who want to dress differently. Its government’s responsibility to create a healthy environment where every person can exercise their basic rights. Apart from state (or country) law no other agencies should be allowed to interfere with people’s basic rights, but it seems that many times authorities fail to do that. People’s religious beliefs are their personal thing, it cannot be imposed on whole society.  I know that there are many more important issues for government to look after than how people should dress. But when situation goes out of hand and stats clearly show that there is some problem then they should do something to protect their citizens. They should take measures to protect individuals or communities from being forced to dress in specific ways by their family members, religious groups, leaders or community.

Normally ideas associated with dress codes is one of the ways to stereotype gender identity, most of the time victims of this are women because somehow society, family members and even state (or authorities) believe that they are entitled (or have moral duty or right) to regulate women’s dress and behavior. They consider women’s image as the symbolic reflection of community’s values and culture. People who think like this even don’t care or bother to check whether these beliefs are shared by people on whom they are enforced. Enforcement of dress code can be a result of age old biased views against women which resulted in discriminatory attitude towards them and also reflect desire to control women's sexuality and behavior. I don’t know whether society or people who are doing this even realize that they are objectifying women and denying them their personal freedom. Many times whenever women are victim of violence, sexual or physical assault or are stigmatized for not abiding with dress codes they are told that the blame lies with them. These incidents are often used as reason to emphasize importance of dress code. This is unique scenario where victim is blamed for perpetuated crime against them rather than offender.

Statements mentioned above show us other extreme, when victim who is always blamed, most of the time for no fault of theirs retaliate then such reaction occurs. I can understand this rebellious attitude of women who are targeted continuously and forced to carry moral burden of society on their shoulders, it seems that males are free to do whatever they want but women should not cross their line. I think our society and culture has evolved enough to understand that we need to respect others beliefs and choices. As long as it is allowed by country's law every one has right to practice their right to express themselves in whatever way they want. Let's stop judging others by their external appearance, let's not stereotype any gender, community, culture or country. Along with our body and surroundings our thinking should also evolve, we can not live in 21st century with 1st century's mindset. Respecting our fellow citizen's feelings and rights is not such a big expectation to have, let's try to become law obedient, respectful and aware world citizen....

Thanks for reading and please share your comments.

Reference:
1. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-05/delhi/31586102_1_protest-march-jantar-mantar-house-station

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Is love towards God one way process?


This post might only make sense to people who believe in existence of super natural entity God, people who don't believe in it, who are self realized and happy in their own way...:) may not find anything useful in it unless they just want to kill time...:)

I think people's love towards God is one way process as they don't see real God or even don't know for sure whether it exists or not. But if it exists then it's believed that God loves everyone, it can not single out any particular person and love him/her selectively. People offer their prayers, love and dedication (bhakti) to God, and naturally it’s up to him/her to accept it or not, offering is in their hand and then they don’t have control over it. Everyone thinks and believes that God loves him or her and it's a beautiful feeling and they should feel that way but feeling that God should favor me over others is little selfish. 

Love of God is available for anyone who seeks, it's a pure psychological thing. Whenever its cold weather (winter) or it rains, whoever is outside in that weather he/she feels it but we don’t think that winter or rain is particularly there for us, whoever want to experience it can come out and experience it. I think true love for God is like that, it’s available for everyone and whoever seeks it will get it for sure. It’s a one way process and still it feels beautiful if you don’t expect anything in return then it becomes a blissful experience in spite of being one way process. We should offer our love and devotion selflessly to God but that doesn’t mean that believe blindly whatever is written in so called holy books or scriptures, we need to think rationally accept the truth and reject the rest. God or that power (nature or whatever name you like to give it) does not reside in any book or scripture, it’s inside us, all these books are just for guiding purpose. These books are written by some individuals who wanted to share their philosophy and methods with world. One can find their own path without using any book and they also will get the same love of God. As I said God loves everyone so we cannot say that his love is more for particular group of people and less for others, how you fare in your life has nothing to do with your devotion or love for god, your professional success and other things are in your hand to large extend.

We can offer our unconditional love to God and this world, it's pure selfless offering, God don’t need anything so I don’t understand why people try to offer so many things to God, money, food, land etc. etc. why? What God will do with these things and first of all we are temporary owner of these material things, are we trying to bribe him/her? Or trying to strike some deal by offering such gifts? What’s the purpose of it and normally these gifts are proportional to the amount of money particular person or family makes (sort of commission), so does that mean rich people love god more compared to poor people?. The land or money or anything which we are offering will be somebody else’s tomorrow, food if you offer will rot if nobody eats it (God won’t eat it for sure) so what’s the use of such offerings? All we own is our consciousness and our selfless devotion and if we can offer it, that will be real gift for God and he/she will be happy to receive it because then you are offering something which is really yours. This power of devotion and offering is given equally to everybody rich, poor, small big everyone have it we just have to realize about it.

If at all we want to offer anything to God we should offer our love and devotion to him/her. By doing good deeds we offer our services to God. Our consciousness is our guide in our journey. All humans are equal and have equal opportunity to love God, so there should not be neither any hatred among people nor any discrimination (based on race, religion, economy, education or anything) that’s true service to God. God is nothing but true, selfless love, pure consciousness and everyone has capacity to get that love and offer it.

Thanks for reading and please share your comments.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at vvt1974@gmail.com)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is technology making us more connected or isolated?

Recently I heard TED talk by Sherry Turkle where she presented a interesting scenario where use of technology is helping us to be more connected but at the same time making us more isolated. Its a very fascinating talk, I liked it very much. All these social networking sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, my space, Orkut are now very popular among people from all age group (I myself use most of them). Since their launch many of these have become immensely popular with increasing number of users every day, some of them have more users than populations of many small countries. I think they are creating parallel planet of their own, a virtual planet where we live and interact with each other in very unique way, many have separate personalities and identity in that world. These social networking sites (or progress in digital technology) along with revolution in device manufacturing allowed us to use all these functions on our tablets, phones which we can carry in our pockets almost every where. Now almost everybody lives at least two lives one is real life and another one is plugged in life where we are with computer or these little devises constantly updating our status, tweeting out thoughts, posting on our blog or texting our friends, parents, etc. These little devises which entered our lives very recently are psychologically very powerful, they dominated our lives totally even before we realize that they are there. They also now make us to do the things which we normally never used do, like texting or checking FB status during any meeting or presentation or during class, parents and kids texting during dinner or whenever they are together and then complain about lack of attention from each other. These little devises changed not only what we do but also who we are, how we interact, they are even redefining our relationships. 

No doubt that these technologies and devises have done many good things to us, they help us to reach to people who are geographically distant from us, helped world to come closer, made us aware of many issues around the globe and definitely improved our understanding of world. But all this came with some side effects, now a days I see that many kids are more comfortable with texting each other than talking with each other face to face. Many of us like to connect with each other but not to talk with each other, our understanding and meaning of conversation is changing. We are more comfortable with emails, texts, tweets or status updates as they allow us to edit our feelings and opinions before posting, they allow us to present our self as we want to be. Normal human conversations are often spontaneous and emotional. They take place in real time and many times we don't have control in which direction it might go. Our relationships are very demanding, even messy sometimes, require lot of commitment. These new techniques (texting, email, social networking) are pretty amazing and very useful but they can not replace face to face conversations at least within family.

We get a chance to understand each other better during face to face conversations, I know that its not possible to interact with all our friends and relatives like this but the problem is we are not doing it even with the people around us. This technology has definitely helped us to reduce the distance with our distant relatives, locate and reconnect with lost school friends, collage mates but at the same time it has distanced us from people around us. We want to be at many places at the same time, and these devises have given us the opportunity to exit and enter any place we want as per our own convenience. We pay attention only to the part of conversation or meeting in which we are interested and conveniently ignore the rest, some may call it efficient time management but at the same time by doing this we are getting more connected with machines than people around us. Slowly these phones and these other little devises are becoming our best friends for many of us, many phone companies are now developing software which they claim will make these devises our best companion and friend, and I think people believe in that. I am not at all against cell phones but still don't have one which I can call my own. I use them as per my need, may be I am still old fashioned guy...:)

We want to be connected with people but don't want them around us, we are now afraid of physical intimacy. Not many days before we used to remember people, used to get emotions and feelings and then call them to express them but now a days people want to have feelings to update their status, want to have something so that they can always present it on their wall. It seems that we started believing that being lonely is a problem and we need to solve it immediately. People forgot solitude, they don't like to be with themselves anymore, they don't know what to do when they are alone, they always want to remain connected. As Sherry Turkle said in her talk we have to reclaim those sacred places in our homes where conversations used to take place. We can't replace people with machines everywhere, at least not in our personal relationships. We can't operate from behind curtain all the time, good to get new technology and use it but we should not loose our old good ways of communication, we don't want to live with robotic companion, do we?

Thanks for the reading and please share your opinion.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Can Sita be an icon for today's woman?

Recently I read the news where Mumbai High Court judges used example of Sita, great character from epic Ramayana to advise wife to follow her husband where he was transferred because of his job. They want her to relocate with her husband against her own wish. The statement created lot of controversy, many people called it innately sexiest and many people defended it by saying Sita was an ideal women so whats wrong to quote her example. 

The story of this particular case is something like this, this couple who had an arranged marriage some 11 years ago and has 9 year old kid. The couple was staying at Mumbai, but after some years of marriage, man was posted to Port Blair at Andaman & Nicobar Island. The wife refused to join him, so husband filed a divorce case in court on the grounds that his wife is unwilling to relocate to his new place of work. During hearing of this case, the Bombay High Court judges invoked the Ramayan to persuade this woman to join her husband. Media reported that high court judges want that all married women should take a cue from goddess Sita, who followed her husband Lord Ram even during his exile. She stayed with her husband whether in palace or in forest. It seems that they think a wife should be like goddess Sita who left everything and followed her husband Lord Ram to a forest and stayed there (but they forget that she did it willingly not on her husbands order or wish). 

Ramayan is a great epic, many versions of Ramayan exist but the most popular one are Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas and Ramayan by Valmiki. It is believed that Valmiki's Ramayan is the original one and all other versions were written after that. Tulsidas was devotee of Ram and he wrote Ramayan as devotee, so obviously he didn't find any fault with Ram and his actions, he projects Sita as very devoted and obedient wife, his version is more religious where as original Valmiki's version is more secular in nature may be because he wrote as a contemperory not as a devotee. When judges refered to Sita, what kind of image of Sita they were referring to? Is it obedient, devoted, submissive wife, who follows her husband wherever he goes, suffers silently without protesting? Or is it independent, courageous, bold, fearless, powerful Sita who fought with her husband to accompany him to forest, faced aggressive and powerful Ravan, raised her kids as a single mother, refused to go back to her husband after he deserted her? Tulsidas's version of Ramayan is more popular than other versions. Today Sita is only looked as a loyal, faithful, devoted women or wife her liberal, fearless and independent nature is conveniently ignored. The question to ask here is why we put so much pressure on women to be perfect? Why we even need perfect (ideal) women or man, whats wrong with real women or men?

Whenever we want to look for any ideals we always tend to look into past as if there are no role models in today's world. Actually there are many role models in today's world to whom we can relate very easily, who are living or lived in similar conditions in which we are living today. Why we expect that texts written long ago, in totally different era and time will have relevance in all aspects even today? Mythology and these texts or epics are fascinating for number of reasons, they teach us many valuable lessons but to expect them to provide answers for all our problems in modern world might be expecting too much from them. We don't live in the same era in which these texts were written so why we expect to find all those values in today's world.  Some people advocate that we should totally get over these myths and beliefs but I don't think its possible, their hold on society and our culture is so strong that it is impossible to ignore them. We should use them in positive manure rather than using it for selfish purpose as per our convenience or to suppress certain class.

Today's women face different challenges than Sita or Draupadi faced in times of Ramayan or Mahabharat,  both these women had difficulties in their lives and fought their way out. There might be some similarity in certain situations but value system and society structure is totally different today, so may be Sita and Draupadi can not provide all the motivation necessary for modern women to excel. Whenever Sita's example is revoked, most of the time it is with intention to tell women that they should behave in very polite, obedient manure and follow their husbands instructions without any protest, as Sita does in Ramcharitmanas. Its always with intention to constrain them to show their boundries and to remind them that they should not cross so called Lakshman Rekha. Valmiki's projection of Sita's character is very strong character compared to Tulsidas's but people conveniently ignore strong characteristics of Sita's personality and only try to project her as obedient and faithful wife, which is very limited representation of her total personality.

One aspect of Hinduism which I like is that it allows to have many versions of truth. It doesn't project world in either good or bad (black or white). It says that good can become bad and bad can also become good, there is lot of grey in world and many times its very difficult to differentiate good from bad. Today people are trying to jacket Hinduism to give it particular look, people want to see heroes and villains in men, they see either goddesses or whores in women there is nothing in between. May be ideal man or woman is a myth, which we only see in books or movies.

Society is not static, it changes over time. Even though content of books might remain same, its understanding and interpretations changes over time, every era interprets them differently. Many times people who think they are in-charge of religion or consider these books as a property of certain religion or sect try to freeze opinions, they insist that these books which were written long ago, in totally different time and era should be interpreted in same way as they were interpreted thousands of years ago. They even insist that they are all relevant even in today's world also, any objection or different interpretation of these books is heavily criticized or even criminalized. Whether people like it or not, every generation will interpret and understand these books according to their own need, requirement and judge them accordingly. If we want to get inspirations from these books then lets take all positive things and try to leave the stuff which is no longer relevant in today's world. This won't dilute the impact of these books, its characters or its not their insult, its proof of their greatness that we still study them and use them as one of our guides. May be Sita from Ramcharitmanas is not very ideal example for modern women to follow but many of her qualities like fearlessness, faithfulness, independent nature are certainly useful even today, Sita of Valmiki's Ramayan lived very independent life and women today also want to live independent life, so there are many similarities and we all can take lot of inspiration from her. But please don't force any idols on society, let society or that particular individual decide what he/she want to become, whom they want to follow, advice should be offered whenever it's required but let people have freedom to accept or reject it. Lets stop using these characters as per our own convenience for our selfish motives, lets study them so that we can learn what they actually want to teach us and if we agree with their teachings then use it otherwise just move on there are many things around us which can provide us inspiration and guidance why to insist or depend on just one source.

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

References:
1. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-09/mumbai/31640952_1_divorce-plea-family-court-computer-training
2.http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/the-buck-stops-here/is-sita-an-icon-for-the-woman-of-2012/232452

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Do we need a Guru?


It’s an important question…do we need a Guru??? I think, yes, we do, not one but many... Actually we have teachers everywhere around us, we just have to look around. There are so many things people around us can teach us directly or indirectly. We have to be open to ideas and try to grasp whatever good we see. People often expect that they will meet or find someone in life who will be their real 'Guru' who will be able to answer all their questions and solve their problems. Whereas its not wrong to have such expectation, but very often it is not easy to find such person  and we also don't know where to search for such Guru and everyone is not so lucky to meet them. Many times we get so focused in our search that we tend to miss many nice things which we come across during our search. We become so focused on the target that we forget to look around and fail to notice many beautiful things along the way. It's good to be focused but at the same time we should not miss many small small beautiful things in our life which are equally important.

In Mahabharat there are some interesting stories about teacher student relationship. I want to mention here story of Ekalavya. He was son of tribal chief, he belonged to hunting tribe but he wanted to become a warrior. That time society was divided in four classes (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras). People from  fourth section (Shudras) for some reason were not treated equally with other three sections of society. They were discriminated because of their profession. May be original intention was noble for this division but it resulted in horrible cast system and untouchability in Hindu society, I am personally against such division and discrimination. Ekalavya was born as a shudra, but he wanted become archer/warrior. Skills required for archery were taught by very professional and talented teachers often belonging to Brahmin section of society. Ekalavya was determined to become best archer in world, he started learning on his own without anyone's guidance. His aim was to acquire as much knowledge as he can on his own so that whenever he asks any teacher for their guidance it will be impossible for them to reject him (because of his talent). He knew that his 'varna' (shudra) won't make it easy for him to get admission in any Gurukul. He wanted to be discipline of Dronacharya, who was very celebrated martial arts teacher for Kuru princes (Kaurav and Pandav) and was considered as one of the best in the world. Drona was impressed with his talent but he refused to accept him as his student, he rejected him because of his 'varna', Ekalavya's talent didn't help him. This rejection was disheartening for Ekalavya, but he didn't give up, he was determined to achieve his goal, he went to forest, made statue of Drona and in front of that statue practiced his skills of archery, he got all inspiration he need from that statue. He continued learning on his own and soon became very expert archer. News of his great skills spread everywhere. Drona wanted his favorite student Arjun to become best archer in world. Arjun was very skillful and one of the best archer but Drona wanted his favorite student to be 'the best'. During their next meeting Ekalavya credits Drona for all knowledge he acquired and calls him his guru even though he didn't directly learn from him. Drona really impressed by the progress of Ekalavya surprisingly asks for his right thumb as a 'gurudakshina' (sort of tuition fee). Ekalavya like a obedient student compiles with Drona's demand without any protest and in turn destroys his prospect of becoming best archer in world. There are so many theories on why Drona did that, some justify his action, some criticize, but he definitely failed here as a Guru of Ekalavya.

This is a very interesting story where we see a dedicated student, his search for Guru, his dedication towards his Guru even after getting rejection, his thirst for knowledge, his achievements and then there is also this "Guru" one of the best in the world, who acts very selfish and destroys life of one of his talented student for the benefit of his favorite student. This story is a unique mix of dedication, determination of student and selfishness and betrayal of his Guru. No doubt that this is a very ugly story but there are many lessons to learn from this story. There is no doubt that we need a teacher, a guide or a mentor who can inspire us, guide us, help us to acquire required knowledge and skills. Teacher-student is very important relationship, commitment and dedication should be from both sides, it doesn't work if it's only from one side (either from student or from teacher). Student and teacher both have responsibilities to fulfill, only one way dedication can produce very disastrous consequences like it did in the story of Ekalavya. For Arjun guru like Drona was blessing but same guru proved to be a curse for Ekalavya, so we should be careful while selecting our Guru.

Sometimes our wait for right Guru can be endless, if he/she has to come they will come but no need to wait for that. One of lesson from this story is that we can learn a lot on our own or from people who inspire us (or from books). Almost everybody around us including kids, adults, books, internet all have something to teach us, the only problem is whether we want to learn from them or not. It's very difficult to find one person who can acquire and deliver knowledge from all the fields to us. Some people are very good in science, some in maths, some in history, some in psychology, some in medicine and some in philosophy or religious studies or something else. Every field is now exploding with knowledge, we are inventing or discovering new things every day. One person can not specialize in all fields but its always nice to have some general knowledge about other fields apart from our specialization, it definitely helps. There are some advantages as well as some risks involved in surrendering totally to one person and believing all his/her teachings blindly. Wherever we feel doubt we should ask question, according to me a good teacher won't mind honest questions from his/her student. Asking questions is very important part of being student and very often we forget that. Asking our doubts or putting forward our hypothesis (even if it doesn't match with our teacher's hypothesis) is not insult to our teacher or any authority, rather its a part of learning process for both teacher as well as student. Actually teacher is also a student but in advanced stage compared to his/her students. . Aim of teacher (Guru) should be to bring students to their level and then inspire them to go for higher level, there should not be clash of egos between student and teacher.

We should not restrict our self because of our age, religion, gender or anything else to acquire knowledge, it is a endless process. We don't learn only in school or college but our life it self is like a school where we learn new things every day. We need knowledge to overcome our ignorance, to understand things in better way, Wayne Dyer said "The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don't know anything about". Our generation is lucky to see such a huge transition in a system of acquiring and distributing knowledge. We have this great tool, internet which has made very easy to learn and share things.  We should keep our mind open for everything, learn as much as we can, and use those things in real life. Knowledge remains only a piece of information unless it's utilized for betterment of oneself and society. Life is a unique school, it first takes exam and then teaches a lesson, sometimes its hard but we should not miss the lesson. Knowledge is more important,not its source. Let's try to learn new things and also share our knowledge with each other, knowledge and happiness are only things which multiply even after sharing.

Thanks for reading and please share your comments.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Are you kidding Dr. Zakir Naik?

Few weeks back while surfing on the net, I came across few YouTube videos of Dr. Zakir Naik's seminars and Q&A sessions. I heard him long ago when I was in India on cable TV and was impressed by his sharp memory and accuracy but not with the content of his talks, surprisingly after almost a decade his style and contents are still same. During his seminars he continuously throws verse numbers, page numbers, book names, and many other details for all lines (or verses) which he quotes from ancient scriptures of major religions of world. He became very popular and influential figure among Indian Muslims and even started his own channel to propagate his views. He claims to do comparative religious study, which according to him is to compare every other religion with Islam and try to prove how Islam is best compared to them (aren't most fundamentalist do the same thing?). His style sounds very impressive in the beginning (you get impressed by his memory) but then he overdoes this thing so much that after sometime his speech becomes irritating, monotonous and utterly boring with so many page numbers and verse numbers in them, all you remember from his speech is 'this guy has sharp memory' nothing else. His speeches are rich in quotes, literature citations (bibliography) but mostly poor in contents. If one want to know who wrote what, particular lines are from which book, then his speeches are good source to know it, but now one can find all these things easily online so why to tolerate his torture? He does a good job in translating verses but many times his justifications, comparisons and interpretations are totally without any logic (or he uses his own logic most of the times). One thing which I don't like is when he tries to intimidate questioners especially from other faiths by ridiculing their belief, questioning their knowledge about their own faith by throwing lot of bibliographic information and verses (no doubt that he knows lot of them). He tries to prove his superiority over them. It seems he draws lot of pleasure in scoring brownie points against them and feels satisfaction in humiliating the questioner, he doesn't even try to listen to their point of view but it seems his only intention is to force his opinion down to their throat. 

This post is not about Islam or Qur'an, their mention is only in context with Zakir Naik's this particular talk which I want to discuss. Recently I heard part of his speech where he tried to justify polygamy allowed in Islam (ref. 1).  One should watch that video to see how pathetic was his attempt to justify something which is totally outdated in today's world. According to him it seems that whatever is written in Qur'an is law and then he takes the task of justifying them. No doubt Qur'an is wonderful and very well respected book. It's basis of one of the popular religions of the modern world. According to me there is very specific reason why polygamy was allowed in Qur'an, I think social and political situation at that time resulted in huge difference in male to female ratio (in favor of females) and to maintain social balance polygamy was permitted. All religious scriptures were written in certain era, they all have many things which are still relevant today and we should study them for our own benefit, but at the same time we should also understand that most of them have many things which are out dated now and are not relevant in today's world. It's surprising to see that many people expect us to take these scriptures verbatim, and follow each and everything mentioned in them

He justifies the practice of polygamy first by citing the verse from Qur'an which says 'marry women of your choice in 2s, 3s or 4s but if you can't do justice then marry only once' (ref. 1). He also claims that only Qur'an tells person (male) to marry once (if possible) rest all scriptures from other religions doesn't say anything like this about marriage (marry once, if possible!!) and it seems allow as many marriages as man wants (no one is giving females any option here). He further claims that even though at birth male to female ratio is equal, it seems female infant is stronger than male!! and according to him because of this there are more deaths of male child compared to female child (I don't know on what basis he draws this conclusion). So, according to him in children it self male to female ratio is in favor of females (which is not true, check the table below and in ref. 2). Female survival rate is more because of so many reasons males die in larger number compared to females (alcohol, accidents, war, stress, etc.) which is true but if we look at the table still ratio is in favor of males in most of countries for age group 15-65, it shifts heavily in favor of females only after age 65. Then he further claims that due to all this there are more females in the world compared to males except in few third world countries like India (but now we know the exact reason behind this). He does a good job in criticizing female feticide and infanticide in India which affected this ratio, good to see that he  speaks against it. Then he continues his argument and puts one hypothetical scenario where because of more females than men, particularly he takes example of USA, if all males select their female partners then there will be still some females left without any male partners. Here he conveniently ignores gay and lesbian couples. These poor females are now in a world or city without any bachelor males (as they are all already  engaged, wow fiction at its best!!). It seems now they have only two options, one is to marry with already married male (become a second wife) or become a 'Public Property'. I don't know what he means by 'public property'. Also notice how he puts that women questioner in awkward position and tries to force her to accept his logic, even if he want to justify polygamy I think he can do better job than this.

Now lets see whether his argument contains any truth or its all crap. If you look at the list of countries by sex ratio (ref. 2), it's very clear that in most of the countries male to female ratio is greater than 1 for most of age groups (that is more males compared to females) except for the group above age 65, in this age group (65 and above) in most countries females are in much larger number compared to males. We all know that mortality rate is higher in males compared to females in later stages of life (after 65) due to various reasons. Lot of research has been already dome in this area and there is lot of literature available about this for any one who is interested in reasons behind it. So, this argument of Dr. Naik about being more females per male in world and specially in developed countries doesn't stand rather its totally opposite scenario (in 15-64 age group).  Even if we take example of some Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE we can see in all age groups (except age group above 65) M/F ration is greater than 1 (in UAE it's 2.74 for age group of 15-64). Let's have a look at data for some selected countries from ref. 2. 
 
Country/region
at birth
(CIA estimate)
under 15
15–64
over 65
total
at birth
WDB estimate)

Afghanistan
1.05
1.05
1.05
0.92
1.05
1.06
Brazil
1.05
1.04
0.98
0.73
0.98
1.05
Canada
1.056
1.05
1.02
0.78
0.98
1.05
India
1.12
1.13
1.07
0.9
1.08
1.08
Iran
1.05
1.05
1.02
0.92
1.02
1.05
Pakistan
1.10
1.06
1.05
0.88
1.09
1.05
Saudi Arabia
1.05
1.04
1.29
1.06
1.18
1.03
United States
1.05
1.04
1.00
0.75
0.97
1.05
UAE
1.05
1.05
2.74
1.82
2.19
1.05
UK
1.05
1.05
1.03
0.76
0.98
1.05

Now after looking at this table who has possibility of becoming 'public property' by his logic, male or female? And based on this logic will he support polyandry (one female marrying more than one males) to maintain social harmony? I don't understand what is his aim behind misguiding people like this? Why he is doing this? If he wants to preach Islam or spread teachings of Qur'an, there is nothing wrong in it, but why he intends to show that other religions or scriptures are inferior compared to his own? What he want to achieve by doing that? He claims to study comparative religion, but comparison for what? Do we need to compare them? There are many people who do similar things (compare their own beliefs with others to show how theirs is better and best) and Dr. Naik is also one of them. I don't know why people like him believe that they have to prove all others wrong to show that they are right. He is using all his talent or knowledge for wrong purpose, sooner he understands this it is better for him. Millions of Muslims follow him, he can use his influence to do something better than trying to convert people from other faiths to Islam.

Lot of research has been done in the area of anthropology and social science. Many marriage systems (like polygamy, polyandry, group marriage, monogamy, etc) have been studied and researched, based on all this research it's is clear that with experience our society evolved from polygamy (or polyandry in some cases) to monogamy (one spouse at any one time), scriptures or books have nothing to do with that. In modern world every country and society has laws to control these things and it should be respected. Everything in our life can not be controlled by any single book. Scriptures are valuable and they are very good guiding tools but they should not dictate what we should do in our bedrooms, what we should eat or wear, common sense is enough for this. Scriptures are for spiritual guidance and should be used for that.

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

References:
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sex_ratio

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Amir Khan…actor with brain as well as guts


Today I saw the first episode of Amir Khan’s TV debut show ‘Satyamev Jayate’ (Truth alone triumphs)…and what can I say. I am speechless, salute to him for his effort that’s all I can do. Issue of women suppression was always close to my heart. I saw it happening around me since my childhood, it happened in my family, in my neighborhood, I could see it everywhere around me. It was expected that Amir’s show will be somewhat different than others, he himself promised that and I must say that he didn't disappoint, actually it was beyond my expectation. It's not only different, I think it's also unique. Many stars and great actors made their debut on Indian television before him, some were very successful and for some it didn't work that well, but all their shows were related with entertainment, relied heavily on their personality and charisma. I was curious where Amir will stand in this illustrious lineup but he did something entirely unexpected, he didn't stand in that line, he started his own line. Now we have to see how many of others have guts to stand behind him in this line.

First episode of Satyamev Jayate dealt with the subject of ‘female feticide’, the subject closely related with female suppression. Last few posts on my blog were related with women suppression and I tried to focus on few reasons behind so much bias or prejudice against females in our society and particularly in India (where I spent most of my life). It's sheer coincidence that first episode of Amir’s show dealt with the similar subject. According to me female feticide, the crime committed openly in Indian society today is a result of a social mindset which resulted because of centuries of male dominant environment.


I was shocked to know from the show that it was the government program which started female feticide in India. In 1970s couples were producing too many kids in a hope to have a male child. Government tried to implement family planning program but with very limited success. Desire to have so called heir for family (son) was too strong and people cared little about population growth and its effect. May be government authorities working in population control department thought reason behind birth of many girls/kids was couple's desire to have a son (as a heir to family). They thought of eliminating this byproduct (baby girl) for those couples who only desired to have one or two sons (and were willing to go on producing kids until they fulfill their desire) and hoped this would bring population growth under control. They gave them a option to abort unwanted child (girl child in these cases) to limit the number of kids and avoid population explosion. Many individuals and organizations opposed this practice. Government realized its mistake soon and stopped this practice of sex determination during pregnancy but by that time the damage was already done. Diagnosis of the problem itself was wrong so no wonder the treatment failed and apart from that it also resulted in horrible side effect which turned into major disease itself.  They opened doors for huge illegal market for this business. Their plan failed because they didn't try to understand the root cause of the problem, why do couples desire  only to have a ‘male child’? What is the reason behind it? Is the situation of females in society responsible for this desire? Was government doing enough to support them?

When I wrote in my post ‘Who is guilty?’ that I can understand why a women being female herself wants to abort female child, why they are so scared to bring female child into this world? Did I support their action by this statement? NO, not at all, but I want to point out the reason behind this act. We all know whatever they are doing is wrong, but then why are they doing it?  WHY? We might think that this problem is more among uneducated/poor class, but that's not true, actually in every section of society, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, urban and rural, this problem exists. What is that fear? From where it comes? Are all these mothers involved in this crime culprit or the victims? It’s very difficult question to answer. Many of these females who commit this heinous act are not offenders but I think they are victims themselves. From their childhood they have seen the horror of being female, discriminated because of their gender..this stays deep in their psyche…after marriage they are supposed to produce heir for family (boy)..pressure is huge, expectations are high and failure to fulfill this duty is not accepted very kindly..what is the result of all this??...they want to prove their worth, want to make people around them happy at any cost, be respected in their family and it all depends on what they deliver (male or female child). This creates that 'fear'. Sex of child they deliver is key for their own survival, this makes mother to kill her child to save herself from humiliation, torture which she might have to face after delivering a girl. Yes, it's shameful but many times she doesn't have a choice. If we can remove this 'fear' from her heart then we may not need any law to control this crime, it might stop automatically. 


Amir’s show did a excellent job not only in highlighting the problem but also in suggestion the possible solution. He didn't just show us the problem, we all knew it, he offered us the possible solution and promised to be a part of it. That’s what I like about him; he wants to be there with us when we fight this social evil. It’s not a fight against few individuals or some ruling class or some invaders. It’s fight with ourselves, our won people, our own family members, their beliefs, our own society which is conditioned to think in certain way and we have to break that mould without breaking the society.


This program left me not only with tears in my eyes but also with lot of hope and lot of courage. I knew that I am not alone who thinks like this but now I am sure, people are not only talking about this but they are willing to act. Together we can change, I want readers of this blog to think about it, watch that show if you haven't already, contribute your share, no contribution is small. One person cannot bring the change but he/she definitely can initiate it. I think Amir and his show intends to do that, hats off to him for doing this. He alone can't do it, we all have to be part of that effort. And please don't make this a fight or a war against few individuals, hate the sin not the sinner.


Thanks for reading and please share your views. 


References:
1. http://satyamevjayate.in/

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 

Do we need 'Social Activism'?

Recently I read a very interesting article by Yoginder Sikand titled “Why I gave up on Social Activism. It’s very honest post and I think everyone who wants to bring social change or is a social activist should read it. I could relate with many points author mentioned in his post. I went through similar phase at one stage of my life. Like author I was not born in rich family or don’t have any privileged background, rather I was right in the middle of those ‘oppressed communities’ about which author is talking in his post. I also intended to fight against social evils like 'caste/class oppression', 'gender injustice' and 'imperialism'. I dint get chance to become professional social activist or study that subject academically but I saw those things happening right in front of my own eyes, in my neighborhood and even in my own family.

I can understand and relate very well with feelings of the author when he says “But all that came with a heavy personal price. The more I identified with the 'Revolution' of the 'oppressed', the more unbearably negative I became as a person.” Many times when we decide to fight some sort of social evil or cultural prejudice our fight becomes focused against people who we think are responsible for those activities. Our whole efforts are targeted to criticize them, prove them wrong and hope that our all these efforts will bring the desired social change. Many times we forget that it’s not those people which are problem but the culture or the mindset of society.  If we analyze closely we can see that even in the ‘oppressed class’ they also don’t treat women fairly, there are also strong and weak sections within them and often strong section exploits the weak. I even saw women who struggled in their young days or during their childhood, when they become head of household or get some commanding position in family behave in similar manure as their male counterparts, absolutely no difference. They also expect other women to fall in line, suppress them and obey so called social norms to protect honor of their family. All these things made me think deeper about these problems. It's not the gender which is responsible for this attitude. I think it’s the human tendency to dominate and exploit the weak for their own benefit, it's a part of our animal instinct. 

Many individuals who are involved in these socially evil acts or these oppressive activities are not bad people (total villains), they behave perfectly normal most of the time and technically there is nothing wrong with them. But their minds are so conditioned by social environment that they see nothing wrong in their beliefs and their actions. They think that whatever they are doing is right thing to do, that's why they are so convinced about their actions. Just opposing them without listening to their side of story didn't help me to proceed any where apart from landing into lot of arguments. All of them were endless arguments, where I was opposing their views and actions and they were fiercely justifying them by saying how it's their culture or religion or even duty to behave like that. In my endless pursuit to bring that revolution and change I totally forgot that I also need to work hard to make myself a better human being. I was so busy in reforming others that I almost forgot that I need to reform myself also, after all I was also the product of same society. This made me to introspect, to pause and think all over again. I realized that just opposing my family or people around me and fighting/arguing with them won't solve many problems rather might create some more problems for me. They can ignore me very easily, I may cease to exist for them and they for me, but will that solve the problem? So I decided first to listen to their point of view and look for answers in their beliefs and actions. The problem was not with them but was in their thinking and beliefs, it was in social structure which formed those beliefs. I was hitting the wrong target. Now I don't hate them, I try to understand them and then try to talk with them. I don't force my ideas on them but try to show that there might be some problems in their beliefs and there are better alternatives around. Many started feeling about the issues I was talking, everything was happening around them all the time but now they also started noticing it, I noticed that their consciousness was still alive, they started relating with me, it took time but slowly they started acknowledging the problem. My aim is to eliminate the problem not the individuals.


I believe that I am heading somewhere, process is slow but I think it is working. I am willing to wait and continue my efforts. Many people have dedicated their lives for these type of social causes I can definitely do my bit. I encourage my blog readers also to look around and be part of the change which they want to bring, just thinking about it won't help, at least start the process, results are not in our hand they will follow sooner or later.

According to me we definitely need a social activism, but in what form that's up to us to decide. Nothing wrong in making social activism a profession I am not against it. I think it's like medical doctor's profession; they fight human diseases and social activist fight with social diseases. But money making cannot be a sole motive behind treating a patient in both the cases; we need social activists like we need doctors. The good part of social activism is that we all can be a part of it, we don't need any degree or training to participate in it, so let’s begin, together we can bring the change.  

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

References:
1. http://www.countercurrents.org/sikand190412.htm

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)