Sunday, July 29, 2012

How 'Satyamev Jayate' affected me....

Today (July 29th 2012) was the last episode of Amir's show 'Satyamev Jayate'...for last thirteen weeks every Sunday morning I waited eagerly to watch this show, I can only compare this excitement which I had with only two TV shows from past 'Ramayan' and 'Mahabharat'. I am sure there are many people who liked this show as much as I did and there must be few (or many) who didn't like it and must have their own reasons for it. I watched this show with my family, specially with kids, I wanted them to watch it to understand what problems Indians and Indian society faces even today, what are the burning issues in Indian society and also I was interested in their reactions on it.

Frankly Amir's show didn't tell us anything new, we all who spend their life in India know that these problems exist in Indian society (some of them are world wide issues like child sex abuse, alcoholism or drug addiction, domestic violence, excessive use of pesticides, etc.). So if it didn't say anything new then what was so special about this show? For me special thing was its presentation style...the way Satyamev Jayate's team did the research for each topic, their selection of topics was very interesting and the way they presented the issues on the show was unique, this was not done on Indian television before. Mnay of the issues were really sensitive one like female foeticide, malpractices in medical profession or manual scavenging and can generate quite angry and passionate reactions in India but they all were handled in very balanced way. Amir is  not the first Hindi movie star who came on TV, many big stars debuted on TV and were very successful in whatever shows they did, but his show was totally different than all other shows from past. For me it was very rewarding experience, sometimes it took me back to chawl where I grew up, sometimes it took me to my village in Uttar Pradesh (UP), sometimes it showed me the problems I faced in my own family, it was very unique experience for me. I have seen or experienced most of the issues or problems discussed in the show that's why I can relate with them and many be that's the major reason I liked this show. Many times I cried while watching the show, many times I got angry after listening to victim's stories, but this show also gave me lot of hope...show also showed me that people want to change, it showed me that there are many people who are working to bring that change. 

In the last episode they showed many examples where people or organizations working selflessly to bring that change. The main message it gave was that we can bring change, it's easy to blame the system, politicians or fate for the problems we face, it's easy to expect that someone will stand up and raise their voice against these issues or future generation might be able to solve these problems as they are better equipped and well informed...but that's not the case..we ourselves can fight and try to solve all these problems, we all with our parent's generation, our kids (future generation) can fight against these things together and win...and we can only win if we fight together but the change or fight has to start from single person and that is me..if I am not prepared to raise my hand to fight then I don't have any right to complain and don't have any right to expect that others might solve these problems for me so that my kids won't face these issues when they grow up. This is the major difference between this show and other shows, it not only raised the question in front of me but also gave me the solution and told me that 'I am the solution'.

Thanks a lot Amir for making this show, thanks a lot to your team for its efforts and research. I know that shows like this can't bring change or revolution in society but they can definitely catalyze it, they can initiate the discussion and create awareness that can lead to revolution and it can bring that change. This show has done its job and now we have to do ours...only greed, lust and desires can not dictate our behavior we need to think beyond all these things, we humans are result of millions of years of evolution and we need to behave like that

Thanks for reading and please share your opinion.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2012

How to handle criticism?

We all like to hear good things about ourselves, we all like to get praise from our colleagues, our family members and our friends. Praise or good words from others makes us to feel happy, increases our confidence, makes us feel that we are doing something important and in many ways motivates us to do the things which can generate more praise. But not all the time we get praise, many times we have to face criticism, directly or indirectly and there comes the problem...many people can not handle criticism properly, they take it as an attack on their personality or behavior. It is also true that for many of us its easy to criticize others but very difficult to praise them. If we ask any person to list some shortcomings of people they know they can list so many but they might struggle to list few good qualities of them. We tend to find fault with others very easily. It's very easy to criticize, I think it comes naturally to many of us but at the same time it's not that easy to accept the criticism. Why are we so unprepared when face criticism?

I think that there are two ways to motivate people one is positive way where you motivate a person by praising them, saying good things about them which makes them feel confident and instigates positive feelings in them, another way can be called as negative way, where you criticize them, show them their drawbacks and try to encourage them to overcome it or challenge them to prove you wrong. Both the ways have theri own pros and cons and depends on situation or person which one will work. As I said its easy to offer criticism but often very difficult to accept it and not all the criticism is with an intention to motivate him/her. Is dealing with criticism that difficult? I don't think so, it's not that easy but definitely we can use criticism directed towards us in positive way. It's a free service offered to us by people around us to show our shortcomings and chance to know what we lack to become successful person in life. It's also an indication that people around are noticing us and also thinking about us which is very good.

Criticism can be used like antivirus program in computer where others scan our system and let us know some bad traits of our personality and then it's up to us to clean our system by removing them or if we want to have them with us then also it's our choice. We also should be very careful and sensible while criticizing others, our criticism should be able to help other person to improve his/her behavior. Criticism out of jealousy or anger doesn't serve any purpose other than spoiling our relationship with the person we criticize. Most of the time our first reaction after receiving criticism is to get upset or angry or both, these things inhibit our rational thinking process, instead of thinking about why we got this negative feedback we put all our efforts in giving fitting reply to that person, very often it is another round of criticism from our side..and the game begins with no player getting benefit out of it.

Process of criticism can be compared with boxing training or practice, you want to give punch so that other person realizes his weakness and works to improve it but don't want to knock him/her out, so it's not like real boxing match but like training. But the truth is that rarely people can control their emotions once they get angry and start criticizing others and very often people turn this into real boxing match and try to knock out each other. We are not here to make scores even with each other but to help each other and make ourselves a better person. It's very necessary to maintain this balance while criticizing others so that our boxing practice doesn't turn into real boxing match, it's a double headed sword so we should use it very carefully. Once we realize the importance of this very effective tool we should use it to make things better for us as well as for people around us. Remember that everyone has to face criticism in their life at some point, great political leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, or many other great personalities like Jesus or Buddha faced criticism in their life at some point, but it didn't make them weak or killed their confidence rather it made them strong and more determined in their efforts to achieve their goal. We should learn to take criticism in positive way and also offer constructive criticism to others, by this we can help each other to develop into a better person.

Thanks for reading and please share your opinion.

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Why so much fuss about Gays and Lesbians?


Recently I read few posts about this subject (gays and lesbians)...at Speaking tree, a forum on the web edition of Times of India which deals with spirituality and related subjects. Even today homosexuality is considered as a taboo subject in India. Not only homosexuality rather anything associated with sexuality or human sexual behavior is rarely discussed at any open forum in India or even within a family. Things are slowly changing since globalization of Indian economy, people are becoming more aware about these issues and sections of society which were suppressed for centuries are now becoming more vocal about their rights and are demanding fair treatment in society. Movements started by homosexuals and transgenders are examples of this. I think in India it's really hot topic now a days because of so many things. This issues came into news recently when various courts gave some judgements in favor of gay or lesbian couples. This generated fierce debate among people at various levels mainly at online forums and social media. The discussion everywhere is about validity of these type of relationships and many also believe that its all because of western influence. I am surprised to see very primitive thinking about this subject. I discussed this thing briefly in my post about marriage, I personally believe that marriage in legal pact between two people who want to enter into legal relationship and these two people can be from same or different sex (traditionally it was people from different sex, male and female). I came to know about this issue (about gays and lesbians) or this type of sexual orientation very late in my life (only when I came to USA) but when I came to know about this, I studied about this subject in more detail and tried to understand this issue and related things. I was lucky to meet some people from this community and all people I met till now are wonderful human beings. I didn’t feel in any way that they are threat to our society or culture, I wonder why people think like that.

I also see people projecting gayism as some type of disease or addiction like drug addiction or something...really...I am still trying to find out on what basis people say that. There is lot of information available about what factors dictate sexual orientation in humans and there is lot of research material available to read. None of them projects it as a disease or addiction. Many people who criticize this type of sexual orientation have feeling that they are doing some service to humans by trying to eliminate this group. It is same mentality which makes people to think that it’s their duty to convert people from other religions into their own religion as they totally believe that their own religion is the ONLY right way to live human life. Human sexual orientation or behavior is very complex subject and I don’t think any religion or scripture deals with this subject, so using these books as a reference to deal with these type of issues is totally wrong, it’s like using physics book to solve some complex biology problem..

We all need to respect and tolerate each others opinion as well as choices. Whatever is allowed by law of land should be respected and followed. In democracy everyone has right to express their opinion but stereotyping any community without any reason or targeting them for no fault of theirs is wrong. I hope people will get over this prejudice  against certain sections of society and learn to live in harmony, after all we all are different and have different likes and dislikes. Lets live and let others live.

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

Reference:

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rajesh Khanna...the first superstar of Hindi cinema...

Today on 18th July Rajesh Khanna died, he was 69. He is considered as first super star of Hindi cinema. I don't belong to the generation who witnessed his super stardom or hysteria he created among his fans, his movie career was already on decline when I was born. I watched his movies on TV (on Indian national channel Doordarshan) but only understood his magic during my teen age days...then I understood why he is called as ultimate romantic hero of Hindi cinema. Many of his movies like Do Raste, Kati Patang, Aradhana, Amar Prem, Safar, App Ki Kasam, Bawarchi and above all Anand are just amazing..I still listen regularly songs from these movies and even though he was not singer or music composer of these songs his personality is integral part of these songs..for example, Manna Dey has sung very beautifully the song 'Jindagi kaisi hai paheli' in 'Anand' but whenever I listen that song all I remember is image of Rajesh Khanna (Anand) walking on beach with his chappals in his hand....he was unique combination of style and acting. Most of his movies which were released in 80s and 90s were flops and I don't remember any of them but it was not important because whatever movies he did during his golden era (1969-1975) were enough to show what he was...he was already on decline when I started watching movies but movies from his golden era made me realize why he became first superstar of Hindi cinema.

"Anand' is one of my favorite movie and I think it's his best. I don't think anyone can match his performance in Anand...that role was just tailor made for him or I think he was born to play that role....I am from the generation who adored angry young man (Amitabh), witnessed rise of Khan era...but there was special place for Rajesh Khanna...for me he was unique combination of Dilip-Dev-Raj (Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor)...and I think he is the only super star where all his good movies are also his super hit movies...very few stars are lucky enough to achieve this in Hindi cinema...his off beat movies like Bawarchi and Aavishkar were also very successful. Today he left us but he will always live in our hearts as king of romance and our first superstar...I remember one dialogue from his movie Anand...आनंद मरा नहीं, आनंद मरते नहीं...people like Anand never die..

Thanks for reading.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Is God really so insecure?

This article is not about God, everyone have their own understanding about concept of God, there are many religions our there which tell us different descriptions about God and its powers and all this has created certain image of God in peoples mind. I want to talk about general concept of God and its attributes which is more or less same in most of organized religions, I am not going to discuss specifically any particular religion or faith. If we look at the normal way of preaching in any religion we are told about some superpower which supposedly created us and universe around us and also controls our life and surroundings (universe). This concept of God as a creator and controller of our universe is common in most of popular organized religions, the description God or its qualities differ slightly from religion to religion.

We are most dominant animal species of this planet and also most curious one. We don't know anything about our about our future but we are very curious to know about it. Many times we don't know reason for many things happening around us but our mind is curious to know why particular thing is happening, is there any reason behind it? We have created many concepts and theories to satisfy our curiosity and these theories helped many people to feel that they can get answers of many of these questions which trouble their mind. So all these theories or religions and their hypothesis about God or origin of universe or purpose of human life helped many people to get peace of mind, control their anxiety about uncertainty in life. We all need some direct (laws) or indirect (concept of morality, God, sin, etc.) control to check our behavior so that we don't behave like other animals and maintain peace in our civilized society.

Most religions believe that there is a creator of this universe who controls everything related with this universe, this statement is difficult to prove but it's a harmless assumption, they further say that we need to please this creator and serve him. So far it's fine, then there are only certain ways one can please their master and if we don't do this or follow rules set by him there will be serious consequences (like charring our body in fire, some inhuman tortures, there are very graphic descriptions of these punishments in many scriptures). The problem is all religions claim their God to be supreme and the only controller of the universe and one should only worship him (most of them have male gender), if they worship any other God then they have to face those harsh punishments either during their current life, if not then after death and if you escape that then in next birth...the threat looms continuously, so better to comply with their rules and follow their path. Now the big question is can kind, merciful, loving God behave like some ruthless dictator? Then what is the difference between God and so many insecure dictators or dictatorial regimes which existed or even exist today in some countries? After all if there is only one god why he/she is so insecure about its position, why he/she is scared about competition? Do people even think about this?

If a ruler, any government or person forces citizens of their kingdom or country to follow certain rules which are concerned with their/his pleasure, and if they force their ideas of what is right or wrong then they are called as dictators, do we mean that God is also another dictator? Who is kind only with people who please him/her and ruthless with others. If not, then why these commandments, rituals and many of these scriptures sound so threatening? We don't threaten our kids to burn in fire if they fail to say good morning to us every day, but try to forget your daily prayers and check for the consequence in the rule books of any religion..how come God can be so cruel with his own children?..Please think over it...is God need to be so insecure and ruthless...why its picture is painted as kind and loving on one side and ruthless, heartless dictator on other side...is this the best organized religions can come up with description of their brand ambassador...they need to modify it and update the description. I am sure God must have evolved with other universe, so let them tell us now what updated version of God looks like.

I honestly believe that all this propaganda was a well thought marketing strategy by organized religion to sell their product and create loyal customer base. No doubt that this was very brilliant marketing strategy, a master stroke, I think its one of the best used till date. I see Apple using similar strategy very successfully to dominate the market, no doubt they have great products and they used this strategy to their advantage to establish their brand and conquer the market. They want their customer only to use their product, their software, buy apps only from them, their customers should walk on path paved by them any other things are not permitted rather are prohibited...:) sounds very familiar to what organized religion tells us to do....:) My only suggestion is to think over what we are being told to do or to follow. Question others and our own hypothesis, get satisfied with the answers you get and then only accept the things..once teacher from my daughter's philosophy class told  me 'don't be sheepole (sheep people), be people'...so don't get herded in group, don't accept anything blindly, don't get bullied by anyone but have your own opinion, learn to respect others, examine, analyze things before you accept them.

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

Reference:
1. http://www.speakingtree.in/public/spiritual-blogs/seekers/god-and-i/why-should-a-god-be-so-insecure

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

Friday, July 13, 2012

Why and how dowry system started?

Just mention of the word 'dowry' raises many eyebrows in India, it's very common practice, everyone knows that it exists and practiced widely but still no one wants to talk about it and want to pretend that it doesn't happen in their family. Many movies, documentaries are made, many articles are written about this issue, all this was to educate people and stop this practice. This is one of the reason female child is considered as burden on family, it's also responsible for female foeticide. Torture of brides for dowry is one of very common reason for domestic violence in India. Many times this torture ends with a death of victim either by suicide where victim kills herself as she cannot tolerate the torture inflicted on her or murder where greedy people involved in crime (most often in laws and husband of the victim) kill her so that they can trap another victim to satisfy their greed for money. Problem of dowry related torture and deaths is still serious and there is work going on at various levels to educate people about this issue. So my question is if this system is so evil then how come it's still going on, why educated or uneducated, rich or poor people are indulging in this practice? How this whole system of giving and taking dowry started? Is it another case of  something started with noble intention but people exploited it for their selfish purpose?

This whole issue if we trace its roots again leads us to attitude of male dominance and their desire to control women. From ancient times kingdoms, properties were inherited only by male child while daughters used to get married in another family of equal or higher status so automatically move away from their  own family (family in which they were born). Even in scriptures and all ancient stories there are mostly examples of male child as heir to family, inheritance of ancestral estate used to exclusively go to male offspring. After marriage females leave their own family and live with their in laws (their husband'd family), this event automatically used to terminate their rights to claim any share in their father's property unless there is no other male in family who can claim the inheritance. So in this social structure females were totally deprived of any share in their father's property or income, they were totally dependent on their husband after marriage, I think to solve this problem system of dowry was started. Dowry is nothing but one time payment of lump sum amount from father to his daughter approximately equal to her share in their ancestral property. It was considered that daughters won't claim their share in father's property (ancestral) after her marriage, so this arrangement was very convenient to provide them some support and relief (sort of way out to nullify the injustice done to them by that rule). Bur like many other traditions and customs this custom was not at all remedy for this gross injustice done towards daughters. Instead of giving them their due share in ancestral property this shoddy arrangement was made which had many loopholes and didn't help to solve the problem but rather became a big problem itself.

There is a law in India which entitles women to have equal share in their ancestral property, its amazing that government has to interfere and form this law to make this thing mandatory (recent amendment was done very recently in 2005 to remove gender discrimination). Still either because of total unawareness or social and family pressure most of women don't claim (or are hesitant to claim) their share of property. If they show courage to claim their share then their demand is not entertained, family members and other people call them greedy, selfish and what not and force them to withdraw their demand. But if same treatment is given to a man, then its injustice, share in ancestral property is considered as right for men but a privilege for woman, double standards!! Women need to stand against this unfair treatment, they need to oppose this dowry system and should demand their equal share in ancestral property instead. Asking for your right is not greed, if one women stands for this others will get courage but if they keep quite because of social pressure then this system will continue like this and they will be victimized to milk money as this has become major source of income for many families. This is one of the reasons for preference of male child, as even if he won't manage to do anything in his life his marriage can fetch some money to his family. Original intention of dowry system, that is to provide daughter her due (or part) of share from her father's ancestral property is long gone, people now demand dowry like they demand ransom money...there is no limit how much a groom's family can ask, now it not even doesn't depend on financial situation of girl's family. We need to break this mindset and women need to liberate themselves to have equal status in family as well as in marriage. Lets stop this practice which has plagued Indian society for so long and give girls their true right which they need and totally deserve.

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

References:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_Succession_Act,_1956

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

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nostalgia....my golden childhood....

This post was triggered by my recent discussion with my friend Vishnu, we were talking about our childhood days and various games we used to play as kids back home in India, he in his home town Parabhani and I in suburban area of Pune. I feel our generation is unique which has seen huge shift in lifestyle, we did not get shocked after seeing television set or refrigerator or radio, we knew about them but all these were rare possessions, very expensive...they were prestige symbol like BMW or Mercedes. We did not have any game consoles or video games and whatever games came were very primitive compared to games we get today but we had plethora of games which I don't know who invented, from where they came, their names used to be different depending on geographical locations but one this was common they all were extremely entertaining and made our child hood special...Yes, lack of land line phones, cell phones, cable TV, video games, amusement or theme parks...and many things without which today's kids cant imagine their life made our childhood extremely special...difficult to believe but I am sure many people from my generation will agree to this. 

So the question today's kids will ask without all these 'essential' tools of self entertainment and time pass how did we as kids entertained ourselves and passed our time? The beauty is we never got any spare time in had where we have to think about how to pass or kill the time, we never complained to our parents that we are feeling bored and don't know what to do..rather it was lack of time..we never had enough time in hand to finish our last Gilli-Danda (or Vitti-Dandu in Marathi, many consider this game as origin or cricket) game, or our last cricket innings, or our game of marbles and many things. Parents literally used to drag us to home from play ground to send us to school or feed us our dinner or lunch...so busy was our childhood...unbelievable..right and that too without all these fancy things...:)

What can I say about those games which we used to play, I don't think I can do justice in describing the amount of fun, excitement and entertainment they brought in our lives. In my neighborhood very few families can afford to but real toys to their kids...and if at all they buy the moment other kids see it, it used to become public property...but toys were never bought they were created even girls were not obsessed with Barbies or any other commercial dolls they used to make their own from household items and many of those dolls used to get married (in UP they call marriage of Guddi and Gudda) in mini marriage ceremony...we used to pluck fruits from trees to eat them, steal them if required (mangoes, tamarind, Awala, Jamun, Peru and many)...our creativity used to be at its peak during all those adventures. Many of our games like Kabaddi, Gilli-Danda (required just two sticks, one big and one small), Lagori (needs just a soft ball and pile of stones), Langadi (where you try to catch a bunch of players while hopping on one leg), game of marbles (only requirement is bunch of marbles which were dam cheap), Bhawara (spinning top)...list is huge..they all required minimum or no (as in case of Langadi) tools to play them. Then there used to be cricket..obsession of India...we never used to watch cricket as much we used to play (now a days the equation is reversed)....boy those tense gully cricket matches, intense fight to win 25 paise (Indian quarter, less than a penny in US currency) match, that tension, drama, excitement, those fights over run out decisions (every run out decision used to be controversial)...tremendous sense of achievement after winning the match or frustration after loosing it...all those incidents are part of our memory lane..I am sure everyone from my generation have many stories like this..

As I said our generation is unique, we saw technology taking huge leap. Technology revolution also happened during our parents or grand parents generation when TV, radio or telephone was discovered, man  landed on moon but those discoveries didn't become part of normal household because of so many reasons, mainly because those things were very expensive and were not marketed so aggressively. People lived their life as if these inventions didn't exist or thught they were luxury items only made for rich and elite. Sugary soft drinks were there in market during our childhood also but we used to get them only on very special occasions they were not substitute for drinking water. Chocolates, toffees, lolly pops all were there and we used to eat them whenever we get the chance (I am sure people remember Eclairs) but they never became reason for health problem for us. 


My generation saw technology slowly entering our lives and then taking control of our lives all together, refrigerator came and it substituted earthen pot which was used to cool water during summer days (I am sure people will agree with me that water from that pot used to taste much better), water heaters substituted old water heating systems, CD or MP3 payers substituted tape recorders, DVD's removed VCR and video tapes, computers, cell phones, video games, internet...so many things entered in our life and substituted one thing or the other and one can debate if it was for better or worse...our generation embraced many of these things with open heart. We all used many of them for the first time, our generation was first to play video games,  first to use cell phones, satellite TV or cable TV was launched in front of us, and many more things, most of them have enriched our lives, made them better, more comfortable I am not complaining about them but at the same time they kicked out many things from our life...some time when I look back I miss some of them. I know my kids will never understand why I miss them...what was so special in those games, what was fun in stealing fruits from neighbors trees (wasn't it illegal!!), they look so primitive in front of today's video games in high definition, those games make your hands dirty, there is safety hazard in some of them, we never used any precautions while playing cricket or Gilli-Danda...but they all are special....I will play them with my kids to show them how much fun one can get put of it. I am not dwelling unnecessarily in the past, I know these games will soon be part of history and  one can only found them in some history books (if at all they care to document them), but as they will stay with me forever...they are part of me.


Thanks for reading and please share your views.

References:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilli-danda
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagori
3. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/now-officially-a-sport-langdi-takes-giant-leap/562024/

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

Saturday, July 7, 2012

How we humans different than other animals?

We humans are one of the many animal species which inhibit this planet. Like other animals or living things on this planet our species (humans) also went through many evolutionary changes, faced many challenges and difficulties to survive on this planet. We did a great job in not becoming an extinct species in spite of having limited physical powers compared to many other animal species who inhabit our planet. Many species physically much more powerful than ours, very dominant when they existed on this planet (like dinosaurs) are now extinct, we only see their skeletons or models in museum, so what makes us so special that we survived so long on this planet and now considered as most powerful species of this planet, we literally rule over this planet.

I am not going to go too much in detail about genetic differences or similarities between humans and other animals, there is vast amount of information available on the internet and in many scientific journals about this topic, I have listed few links in reference section which specifically discuss about this topic.To the best of our knowledge we humans are only source of documented history of this planet and universe. Our civilization started like other animals, we used to live in herds and used to behave like most of other animals, and still have many of those characteristics, we also eat to survive, reproduce and do many things like other animals. We have physical needs like any other animal and also show physical changes like disease, old age and death like other animals but...and this 'BUT' is very important, our mental needs or our mental capabilities are totally different than all other animals on this planet. We have more developed brain compared to other animals and this fact has given us tremendous advantage  over other animals and is the reason of our ability to dominate this planet.

We have unique ability of thinking and imagination. This ability of imagination adds unique dimension to our thinking. Many animals can only think about the things which they see right in front of their eyes, they cannot imaging about the things which don't exist, they don't worry about their death, lions don't worry why  they can't fly..but we humans do..that's the difference. Most animals feed their babies until they are capable of getting food on their own but we humans worry about our kids future, we even worry about our grand kids future, because we can imagine what can happen to them if they don't have home to live, food to eat and this ability to imagine is the reason of most of our progress and also many of our problems. This ability of imagination has helped us to overcome so many of our physical limitations, it helped us to design airplanes to fly, ships to sail on ocean, even space shuttles to visit other planets, there is no limit for our imagination. This same imagination forces us to blow problems out of proportion, we can imagine space attack by aliens, our ever growing desires are also result of this imagination, so if I have to choose one thing which differentiates up from other animals it will be our ability to 'imagine'. Animals just have needs, but we humans have both need and greed..our every relationship has element of some selfishness in it, no matter what relationship it is and with whom it is.


I don't think there is any special purpose of human life, there is no any special reason for our existence on this planet, it's just a random event and a biological phenomena, we came into existence and evolved in similar way like many other species did. We are not different than any other animal on this planet as far as our origin and evolution is concerned. We all fight in this world for survival, many times we behave in selfish manure like other animals, we try to protect our possessions, mark our territories, attack our fellow humans and we call all these things as our 'animal instinct' and we all have this. What differentiates our feelings or behavior compared to other animals is again our more developed brain, we have formed certain rules and regulations to live life, we have some dos and don't s, we have developed concepts of morality, justice and many other things, with the help of these things we train our mind. This training helps us to behave in civilized manure, show compassion towards our fellow beings, forces us to overcome our selfish feelings and do what we call good work and many other things which other animals don't do naturally. Whenever we overcome this animal instinct and do anything we call it selfless act, unconditional love because we are not thinking only about our self or not expecting anything in return.


According to me our thinking differentiates us from all other species on this earth, it controls our behavior (good or bad), it gives us strength or makes us weak, makes us kind or cruel...most of these qualities are present in most of animals but they can not overcome their intrinsic nature or animal instinct totally but we can. Lion cannot stop hunting on its own and become vegetarian or deer can not suddenly start eating meat and hunting but humans can change their habits if they want. We can domesticate many animals by giving them proper training and teaching them controlled behavior but the problem is they can not pass on that information as a culture to their next generation because of limited ability of their brain, but we humans can do that or rather did that and that's how we built this civilized society which we see around us, so once again our developed brain made all the difference. Yes, we are animals but 'special animals' on this planet, we have learned to control animal in us and that's how we discovered humanity. 


We humans can go beyond our self and do many acts but if we look into the core of it we do everything to make our self happy, whether it's mother's love towards her child or charity or any other act, people do it because they want to feel happy, satisfied after doing it. Human brain carves for happiness and our most of the acts are centered around generating that feeling directly or indirectly.


I feel lucky to be a human, I love my planet and my species. I truly believe that we humans have capability to make this planet a wonderful place where all species can live in harmony, we can do this by using our intelligence, at the same time we have power to destroy everything because our greed and selfishness so the choice is always ours. With great power comes great responsibility

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

References:
1. http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/faq/compgen.shtml
2. http://www.actionbioscience.org/genomic/hhmi.html
3. http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Education/Factsheet_GeneticVariation.htm
4.http://www.eupedia.com/forum/showthread.php?25335-Percentage-of-genetic-similarity-between-humans-and-animals
5. http://realtruth.org/articles/090806-002-science.html
6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Long live USA, my second home...

Today is the 4th July, Independence day of United states, its a federal holiday and I am enjoying it in my apartment while writing this post. On July 4th 1776 USA declared its independence from UK. I came to this country in 2003 after finishing my education in India...almost 10 years now. This place has been my primary residence since then, I call it my second home. This country is called land of opportunities, many people around the world dream to visit this country or wish to come and settle in this country for better life. This country welcomes its visitors or immigrants with open heart, many people came to this country as visitors and then settle here to make it their permanent home (many come legally and unfortunately some enter illegally also). The post is not about USA or story of independence, I am trying to look back at my journey so far in this country, first encounter with this wonderful country and its lovely people.

Before coming to US I had very vague idea about this country mostly from what I watched in Hollywood movies or in news and you can see how naive I was. First time I saw real airplane was when I went to Mumbai international air port to take my flight to US, I was really excited and also travelling for the first time alone, that too out of country. My first airplane journey was uneventful except for the first time I ate non-Indian food...it was Delta air line flight and they offered Kiwi with lunch I didn't know whether to eat it with its skin or peel the skin before eating the fruit, my fellow passenger helped me with this dilemma and showed me how to eat Kiwi...:) so this was just beginning of many first in life things which I was going to witness in this country. I landed on Newark international air port in New Jersey and passed immigration check etc. without any problem..again this was first time in my life that I was conversing only in English and didn't speak any Hindi or Marathi line for almost 24 hrs (while I was awake). My English was manageable but not very fluent (still it's not great but much better compared to what it was 10 years ago) and people at airport did great job in understanding all my answers. I boarded the train to go to New Brunswick and it turned out to be a wrong one (which doesn't stop at that station) so I have to get off the train at some station and I was shocked to see that there was no one on the platform. People who travel by train in India can understand why I was shocked...empty platform..in India even in midnight platform is full of people..and here it was empty at 5 PM..I was only one with by luggage standing there...fortunately one fellow came and I asked him about the next train and how to reach my destination, it took some time for him to understand my English and also for me to understand his (accent..) but finally I boarded the right train and reached my destination. So the initial journey itself was very interesting and prepared me for many new things which I was going to encounter.

So far my journey in this country is enjoyable and full of  great learning experiences. I learned how to communicate in English, first time I gave public presentation of my research, I learned driving a car, bought my first computer and also lost my first valuable possession in life when that laptop got stolen from lab..first digital camera, first time I saw real bath tub and used shower...many things like this the list is big. But that's not the important part of my experience in US, I think anyone from small town visiting this country must  have had similar experience, so even though it was special for me I don't think there is anything unique in it. What I like most about this country is attitude of its people and their culture, and yes....they do have their own culture, some how I had an impression (and many people in India also think like this) that only old civilizations like India, China, Romans have their own culture and western civilizations are all about money, physical comforts and don't have their own culture or traditions. But I realized that it's not true, reason for phenomenal success of this country in many fields is because of its work ethics, social and economic policies and its culture. I can only compare the things with my own country as I didn't stay in any other country. Some things which impressed me are religion and law are separate here, no one is treated differently just because of their religion, in India we still don't have uniform civil court. Social status and financial independence of women is much better compared to India. People are more tolerant towards each others views, its not that they don't have difference of opinion (just listen to any debate on TV you will get an idea) but I never heard of any communal riot in US, they don't kill each other because of difference of opinion (at least in their own country). Quality of primary education in public schools is amazing and its free for everyone. Reading...one of my favorite hobby is valued tremendously in schools and society, I just love public library system here. People read a lot that's why books are also produced in that proportion, one can get almost any book or copy of it from any country if they want to read it, book collection of may university libraries is amazing. I started reading English and Hindi books after coming here otherwise I only used to read Marathi books. 

Like this there are many things which I learned here and they helped me to become a better person, my Indian upbringing taught me many good things and this country added so many other valuable things to my personality. Coming to US was definitely turning point in my life and I believe all my experience here has definitely contributed to make me a better person. I really thank this country, all my amazing friends in this country who directly or indirectly taught me lot of things and its people.

Thanks for reading, your comments are welcome.

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

Monday, July 2, 2012

What is definition of beauty?

We humans are beauty conscious and this definition of beauty differs from individual to individual. We all (or most of us) love to see beautiful things around us and also appreciate their presence. Definition of beauty changes drastically from person to person and I think that's why it's said  that beauty lies in eyes of the beholder....therefore one thing is clear that beauty is a man made concept like morality or religion, etc. it's different for different people, it depends how you look at things, what is your perspective, how you relate with things which you are looking at. There is not standard definition for beauty, one can say that whatever appeals or pleases to your mind is beautiful for you.

Today I see obsession in females about size zero figure, high heels and many other things which are supposed to make them look beautiful. Same thing is true with men who want waxed bodies, looking like those Greek statues. To cater this mentality there are almost racial advertisements selling fairness cream which try to say that having fair skin means more beautiful compared to dark skin?? Nothing wrong in being fashion conscious or having desire to look beautiful but it's a problem when you stereotype the term 'beautiful' and try to fit yourself in that description somehow. All this so called glamour and aggressive advertisement on internet and television has changed the concept of physical beauty totally, females are starving themselves to look thin, boys are taking steroids to look muscular, high heels to certain extend are OK but if you look at some of high heels girls wear now a days its impossible to imagine to stand after wearing them I wonder how people walk after wearing them. Our definition and conception of beauty is heavily conditioned and influenced by the images we see on those posters, magazines, advertisements, movies...we only think particular body shape, color or height is beautiful all other is substandard and should be altered by whatever means possible to match those so called standards to qualify as beautiful. Even if we look at the images of most gods and goddesses in India, they never look old, they are all in so called perfect physical shape and  are visibly attractive.

According to me everyone has to find their own comfortable zone, with which they are fine with their weight and looks. It should be a healthy weight range, it should not be 20 kg above or bellow recommended body weight for person's height and age. The concept of fair skin being more beautiful than dark is so ridiculous and racist, I hope many people who think like this get over with their extreme obsession with fair skin, it really sucks. Many girls in India or in some Asian countries suffer just because of their skin color, they fail to get proper match in marriage market, fair skin groom fetches better price in same market compared to dark skinned groom just because of his skin color, if this is not racism what is it?

It's true that beauty lies in the eyes of beholder, but some companies and their allies are trying to prejudice the vision of that beholder and they are getting quite successful in this, I feel that's not right. For me everyone is beautiful and I have not seen a ugly person (in physical terms) in my life and I don't think I will see any.

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

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

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Why religion is not a separate subject in school curriculum?

Religion is such an important part of many people's lives, according to many people it plays important role in keeping social harmony (or many times it also creates disharmony). Then the question is when there are so many subjects in school like history, maths, other sciences like chemistry, physics and biology), social studies which students study in very much detail. All these subjects are part of regular school curriculum through out the world but we can only see very little information about religion in books of the school curriculum...why? Why many intellectuals and governments don't feel comfortable to allow discussion of religion to its depth in schools? Why they feel it's not necessary to teach kids about various religions and help them to choose the one which they want? Most of us give them freedom to choose their profession, the field they want to pursue their interests or any hobby they want to pursue, then why proper training and choice is not given when it's a question of religion. These all are very interesting questions and very often they come to my mind. It's not that kids are too young to understand the complexity of this subject (religion), there are special religious schools (like Madrasah's, various Muth's to learn about Vedik knowledge and rituals, etc.) where one can get enrolled at very young age and even make a very good career out of that knowledge. So it looks like a very conscious and deliberate decision not to include religion as a separate subject in school curriculum, it is offered in many universities but not in schools. Kids learn about almost everything during their formative years in school but don't get chance to learn anything about religion systematically they get all information from their family which is totally biased towards the religion that family follows.

As I said I often wonder why it is so? Kids are taught religious traditions and rituals by their parents and other family members, they read many things related with their own religion and also about other religions but they never study systematically the history and social impact of religion on humanity. We all know about world war I and II, how many people died in those conflicts, which country bombed its enemies, freedom struggle stories about many countries, development of various civilizations and many other things, we study them as a part of our history. But some how there is not much detailed information provided about various religions and their progress (at least in Indian schools where I studied), in the books which I studies in my school days there was only little information about how some of the religions originated (like Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism) but nothing special about their struggle and conflicts. I am not a big fan of organized religion, I think it has created more rift between people than uniting them, but I didn't know this when I was in school. I also know now that none of the major organized religions were formed by the person who is credited for its creation, like Jesus didn't start Christianity, Mohammad didn't start Islam, these people just gave some message which they thought might benefit people around them or society as there were so many social problems that time. After their death their followers wanted to propagate that message and formed organized movement which turned into what we see today as those religions. In school days I knew approximately how many people died in each world war, when Hiroshima and Nagasaki was bombed, why Hitler got defeated and many complex things but nothing much about religion. 

I don't have any answer for why religion is not taught as a separate subject in schools. I don't even know if it should be there or not, but I am curious about what other people think about this issue. If religion is uniting force and it teaches us peace and compassion about fellow human beings then it should be taught in schools. If we think that it divides us, preaches hatred towards people from other religions then we should think about what went wrong with this institution which was supposed to bring us together and try to rectify those mistakes. Let me know your thoughts about this.

Thanks for reading.

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