Friday, September 27, 2013

We must try to understand real pain and agony of riot victims.

I recently read a blog post "We are more than our name" by Zahir Janmohamad, it's really disturbing, actually it's very disturbing and painful to read any riot survivors account, this one is more painful for me as I know about this incident very well. These riots happened in month of February, 2002 when I was in India and was supposed to travel by train from Varanasi (UP) to Pune (Maharashtra). I read this news about burning of train bogie at Godhra station in Gujarat which killed 58 people in news paper, due to possibility of communal tension in other parts of country my relatives were worried about my travel as it was during days following this incident. More than ten years have been passed since this incident happened, many people died during riots in Gujarat, this was not the only riot which happened in Gujarat or in India, there were many before and after that (like 1984 anti-Sikh riots after assassination of then prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi or Mumbai riots of 1992-93, or problem of Kashmiri Hindus who were forced to leave their homes because of communal tension in Kashmir valley and live like refugee in their own country or recent 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots) many people lost their lives and survives are still waiting for justice to be delivered.

This post is not about Godhra riot or any other riot, depending on which community or religion they belong people are more sensitive to some particular riots compared to others, their reactions are extreme if their community was at receiving end in any of the riots. I can understand their anger and frustration when people from their community suffered but can not understand when same people justify other riots where people from some other community suffer at the hand of people of their own community, so they feel pain and agony of some riots but are totally immune for others. Every communal riot or violent incident (including wars and terrorist attacks) leave behind victims and their relatives who suffered during that conflict and continue to suffer even after that for variety of reasons. Most people who are not directly affected by this incident read about it in news, watch it on TV, feel sad for sometime but move on with their lives, which is very natural. Even some people who get affected by these incidents also try to overcome that stress and trauma and move on, but there are many for whom memory of those painful days becomes a major problem in their life, it's very difficult for them to forget those events. Their physical wounds heal with time but their psychological wounds don't, those incidents leave very deep impact on their mind and affect them psychologically. Zahir's post is one such post which displays that effect, it shows pain of suffering mind, person who is still suffering from trauma which he faced during those days, his life is not yet normal as those painful memories are so deep rooted in his psyche that he cannot remove them.

In India some political party (which is heading the government) or leader gets accused for either instigating these riots or for not taking timely action to prevent it. There are some political leaders who owe their political careers to some of these riots, these infamous and tragic incidents made them famous, helped them to win elections and become very powerful leaders in their party or state. Many of these political leaders from various parties do get booked for some offenses related with these riots, some inquiry panel tries to investigate these riots, but yet I have not seen any single powerful political leader getting punished for his/her involvement in these riots. Most of them get clean chit because of lack of evidence, it doesn't matter which party they belong. I am not in a position to say whether any of those accused politicians were really involved in those incidents or not as luckily I have not witnessed any riot myself personally but there seems to be presence of reasonable amount of evidence which hints towards indirect or direct involvement of many of these leaders. Many of these leaders are very powerful and popular so it is very difficult even for investigating agencies to gather any evidence against them, they always get benefit of doubt but that doesn't mean they are not guilty.

It's easy to say 'move on' but in reality it's not that easy specially for people who faced such a horrible incident in their life and that too when they feel that justice is not delivered to them. It must be really difficult for them to digest the fact that people who they think are responsible for these riots (therefore are criminals according to them) walking scot-free, getting rewarded and not even regretting for what they did (or what happened because of them). It is easy for people like me who are not directly affected by these riots to look at them objectively, to analyze them, to talk about them and even debate about them, many of us do all the time, but how many of us really care to understand the real pain and agony of these victims which they go through during these incidents (irrespective of their nationality and religion)? How many of us who justify some of these riots as act of revenge are willing to put our self or our loved ones in that situation, just try to imagine that trauma and then try to justify them. I bet very few of us even bother to think like this, our emotions for revenge dominate over our emotions to feel pain and compassion for our fellow humans and if it is related with our religion or country then we passionately justify these things. Once we decide to justify these things then question of right or wrong doesn't matter much.

Off course most of the world will move on or even forget about these riots, but posts like Zakir's will remind us about that ugly past, about inefficiency and ineffectiveness of our legal system, it might make some of us uncomfortable but we can not blame people like him for digging into unpleasant past unnecessarily because for them it's so real, we need to allow people like him to express themselves, we should hear their stories if they are willing to share them, may be this will help to relive their pain to some extend, we all should try to understand the real pain and agony felt by people like him because of these incidents. I believe communal riots are avoidable incidents if we spread awareness about them and have strict laws and proper system to catch and punish the culprits, no matter who they are. As long as we allow people responsible for these riots to walk free, reap political benefits from these riots these things will keep on happening, names of leaders will change but whenever possible they will keep on using it as a tool to get political mileage. We need to diffuse this weapon in their hand, we need to make it totally ineffective so that they stop using it, as long as we don't do that we will be forced to read such articles  and wonder are we living in civilized world or some jungle?  

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

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fight for gender equality is far from over...

Most popular post on my Blog is "Chanakya and his views about women", I wrote that post with specific purpose, the intention was not at all to display Chanakya in bad light or to question his intelligence or to criticize him, I wrote intentions behind writing it clearly in that post, but some people may be blinded by their faith and love of their idols didn't even bothered to read it carefully. Many of those took the post as a direct attack on Chanakya and some how they also thought I am questioning his wisdom. They just couldn't tolerate my objections to some of his statements about women, they thought how can a person who was so brilliant and expert in many fields can make any mistake, and even if he made who am I to question it?

The post itself came into existence because of my two posts related with Prabhupad's book Gita as it is, in that book he (Prabhupad) used some of Chanakya's quotes about women to claim that women are generally not very intelligent and trustworthy (compared to men), he also claimed that women are more prone to (moral) degradation, ironically this all was written in a book in which he claims to explain Gits as it is. So the post "Chanakya and his views about women" was an attempt to show that an intelligent and wise man like Chanakya can also be biased  about women or may be it is possible that he wrote those lines purposely with specific purpose in his mind (to achieve his political goals, after all he was also a very good politician) but I was appalled to see that some people are misusing these statements to spread totally wrong message (Prabhupad's book is a ideal example of this). They are using it to suppress women, to hinder their progress, to restrict their freedom, so we all need to question misuse of these quotes, that's why I wrote that post. I thought it was very simple thing to understand but unfortunately some people failed to get it. This current post is not at all to defend that post or to justify it in any way, I don't think I need to do that but I want to share my experience in dealing with some people who aggressively commented on that post to defend these views of Chanakya, actually this was not totally unexpected but in that process they also claimed that women are indeed not equal to men, women have some 'natural flaws' which make them somewhat inferior to men, etc., so one can clearly see that even in today's world people are still nurturing that age old belief of gender inequality.  Surprisingly not only there were men who did this but also some women who claimed that indeed they are somewhat inferior (or weaker, having more problems, basically they meant inferior) to men. This clearly shows how strong is the prejudice against women in our society, years of brain washing and suppression has made even women themselves to think that they have some natural flaws which makes them less competent compared to men.

In last few years many laws are created to protect women from social and sexual abuse (this law includes others also along with women), these laws were required because there were many cases where women were harassed for dowry (specially in India) or exploited sexually (all over the world). These laws helped to reduce these cases to some extend, at the same time now a days there are many incidents reported in news papers for misuse of anti-dowry law and sexual harassment law. There are few women who use these laws to blackmail their partners for selfish motives. Misuse of any law is not a new thing, many people exploit some weak links present in any legislation, this is wrong and strict measures should be taken to stop or minimize it, but people should also try to understand that why in first place these laws were introduced? These type of laws were needed to stop those crimes against women and like many other laws some people misuse it for selfish purposes but that doesn't mean that we don't need these laws or only women misuse laws and men don't do it. Our society still needs these laws, we need to tune them as much as possible so that people can not misuse them, but few people misusing them can not be a reason to blame all women and conclude that all women are cheaters by nature and this is their natural flaw, it's very foolish to conclude something like this. This is just one example which shows how some people want to use certain incidents against women, based on few incidents they like to jump to conclusion that women should not be given total freedom and they should behave as per their traditional social status and role, so they are eager to turn the wheels of women liberation movement backwards.

Fight for gender equality is going on for decades, a lot has been achieved by many feminist movements but still lot needs to be done, it's far from over. We can clearly see that still there are many who think that men and women are not equal, they all want to force women to do only some particular jobs, want to put boundaries around her, suppress them just because of their gender but whether they like it or not those days are gone (or will be gone very soon). Women have already proved their capabilities and earned that respect and equal status in many societies around the world, societies where they still don't have equal statues they are catching up very fast, but as long as people with discriminatory mindset are there, doesn't matter what is their criteria for discrimination, it can be based on anything like race, gender or sexual orientation our fight for equality continues.

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

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Links:
1. Chanakya and his views about women 
2. Bhagadvad Gita-As it is or As it is NOT..Part-I
3. Bhagadvad Gita-As it is or As it is NOT- Part-II

Friday, September 20, 2013

We all are beautiful..

Recent Miss America crowning of Nina Davuluri, an American lady of Indian origin attracted lot of media attention in India as well as in US. Here in US it was some what controversial because of many racist comments on twitter about her origin (some thought she was Arab or Muslim or from some non American country), most of them were angry that how come person with non American looks can win Miss America beauty contest. I am sure this was not about whether she deserves this title or not, I am sure she is an American citizen, so all this was because of her looks and origin. I am personally no at all interested in these beauty pageants, they are heavily commercialized events and solely intended for marketing purpose of beauty products targeting specific markets, even these titles are awarded with intention of targeting markets of specific countries or ethnic groups, there is no real purpose behind these contests except to attract media coverage and make money, every country has its own version of Miss, Mr or Mrs something. But this post is not about these pageants or their relevance but about some people's obsession about fair skin, they are obsessed with it so much that having dark skin is considered as ugly and unfortunate. I already wrote one post about definition of beauty but in this post I want to focus on stigma associated with dark skin in some cultures.

Most contestants entering beauty contests fit into commercial definition of beautiful, as far as their bodies and looks are concerned the only difference which I see is in developed places like US or Europe skin color variety is more, one can find both dark and fair colored (and in between) contestants participating in the event but in most Asian countries by default all contestants are fair skinned even though in some countries (like India) most people are dark skinned. This is not because dark skinned people are not allowed to compete or being barred to participate but because they don't make the cut, they all get rejected in preliminary screening. The main reason behind this is obsession of people from these countries with fair skin. One can clearly see this just by looking at name of some of most popular skin care products in India like "fair & lovely" or "Fair & Handsome", companies or people who advertise and sell these products don't even see anything wrong in these names or in contents of their advertisement. 

I have no idea from where this skin color bias has originated, I think at least in India it can be linked to presence of British or Europeans, they were very powerful and ruled the region for long time, so I think people relate white skin with some kind of superiority, may be same logic can be applied for other places in world where white skin is considered as more superior than dark one. Apart from this I don't think there can be any other reason, according to me any skin color is beautiful white, black, brown, dark or fair all are beautiful, at least I can not pick one over other, so the preference to one particular skin color in people's mind must have some social reason as it has absolutely nothing to do with beauty. Heavy commercialization of beauty products has resulted in aggressive advertisement of all brands which these companies want to sell, in this process they don't care what they show in those ads or even what they claim their products can do, all they want is to sell their product at any cost and they take advantage of these type of social stigmas. They also encourage people to mold themselves to fit into their definition of beauty. In India I have seen with my own eyes stigma associated with dark skin, parents of children with dark skin worry about their kids future, specially how their kid will get married with person with fair skin, this worry is special concern for parents of girl child, they even have to pay more dowry in many cases just because of dark skin of their daughter, all this just because of a ark skin.

People who think fair skin is better or more beautiful than dark don't even realize that indirectly they are practicing some form of racism, calling someone ugly just because of his/her skin color is not less than racism according to me, we need to question this attitude and object to all advertisements who encourage such thinking no matter which company is making them and which actor or celebrity is endorsing them. These companies have total right sell their product in market but they should not advertise them in a way they are doing it now (at least in India). The advertisement which Shahrukh Khan did for 'Fair and handsome' cream is really disgusting, I wonder how he didn't realize it. I hope people get over this false notion of considering one skin color more beautiful than other, we all come in different colors, shapes and sizes, we all are beautiful no matter which advertisement says what. We need to remove stigma associated with any skin color in our society, person's skin color or external appearance should not be the only criteria to judge that person and brand him/her beautiful or ugly. I think our society has evolved to such a level where we can understand that beauty is more than just external appearance and we all are beautiful, no matter what shape, size or color.  

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

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing] 

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How can we justify any war?

Recently I came across this article (warning: graphic images) about effects of weapons used during Iraq war on general public, the images make you feel really sick and tell us the story how devastating a war can be even to survives. Any war or armed struggle on domestic or international level results in lot of physical and emotional damage to people directly or indirectly associated with it, but still people choose violence to settle disputes (specially international disputes which result in wars), people kill each other even for very trivial reasons (communal riots are ideal example of this). Violence is not new to humans we have seen many wars and massacres at various levels (including two world wars), each time when it happens we feel sad and devastated, we talk about futility of using violence to solve any dispute but again next time people forget everything which happened in past and engage in fresh violence in name of God, country or whatever reason they can find, expecting that it will produce better results this time, how futile it is to try same thing again and again and expect different outcome, but we do it all the time. Many great epics (like Mahabharat) are also full of stories of war heroics and bravery which directly or indirectly inspire people to think that violence is very legitimate and effective option to settle disputes or to achieve justice.

Any war or killing no matter what is intention behind it, who starts it or who is responsible for it results in pain and suffering, use of violence to curb violence rarely works, and even if it works or brings the peace most of the time it's temporary, it's just matter of time when violence in form of revenge erupts. Both groups involved in act of war often justify their position using their own logic and claims, normally both sides claim that they are fighting for justice and peace, this is what happens in most of the wars, communal riots and community clashes, both sides feel they are right, no one is willing to compromise and ultimately both suffer, but they still refuse to learn a lesson. People think that use of force or violence can bring quick solution to problem, it seems that use of devastating weapons by one side (like atomic bomb) can save many lives (from their side), people also think that long, tedious, very often complicated negotiations or discussion processes can not settle complicated issues between two nations and war looks like very attractive option to settle issues quickly, but in reality rarely it works like this, lengthy wars (which go on and on), repeated ethnic clashes, continuous communal tensions between two communities are examples to prove that violence rarely brings any permanent solution to problem.

It's like, we kill people who kill people, just to show that killing people is wrong, there is so much contradiction in this whole process, that is the reason it never works. There are few crazy dictators in this world, few fanatic religious leaders who don't hesitate to put their entire country or community at risk just for their own personal selfish motives, these people some how hypnotize people from their countries or community who then support their crazy ideas without even thinking about its consequences. According to me war is an unfortunate event and its result is always tragic, no matter who wins it, there are tragic scenes on both the sides, precious lives are lost, bitterness is created between countries or communities which last generations and people from both sides suffer.

Many people who support use of wars or violence against anything use lot of reasoning and logic to justify it, they feel it's perfectly fine to loose some lives to save many, there is also feeling that some people don't at all understand language of peace and only violence is the way to teach lesson to them. But this is not true always, somehow those 'lives' which supporters of war want to save (mostly people from their own country or community) seem to be more important than few which they are willing to sacrifice, most often winner is always right and looser is evil. But most wars rarely produce the result they are supposed deliver. For me any war or violent conflict is story of pain and failure of humanity, they leave permanent scars on our psyche.

I wonder when people will realize futility of using violence to settle any dispute? I wonder when will they realize that every human life is equally precious no matter which religion, race, caste or country they belong. After reading about any war I always wonder how people can justify any war? After all any war kills many innocent people for no fault of theirs, I can understand that sometimes on rarest of rare occasions we can not avoid war or violent conflict but I still wonder how can we justify violence on such a large scale? And if wars can solve the disputes, why we still have so many of them even after fighting so many wars to settle same disputes? Why every time some new dispute emerges after each war which results in some kind of violence (like terrorism) or another war? As I said, I know that sometimes it's really hard to avoid war or use of violence (specially to defend), but I fail to understand when people glorify and justify it as if it they did something great by killing some innocent people during this process, it is referred as collateral damage and I think this collateral damage itself should force us to avoid violence in all forms. Questions are many but answers are difficult to find..I am still trying to find proper explanation and understand why two sides want to engage in act of war and how people can justify it? 

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

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing] 

Links:
1. Iraqi birth defects worse than Hiroshima (warning: graphic images)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav" is it serving the purpose?

Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav or Ganapati festival is a public festival which is celebrated in different parts of India in honor of Ganapati (or Ganesh, a Hindu God). This festival is very popular in Maharashtra, celebrated in many homes privately as well as by various mandals publicly (mandals are public trusts who collect money and celebrate festivals like this). Public Ganesh festival or Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav as it's popularly known was started sometime in 1890s by one of great visionary and Indian freedom movement leader Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, his intention was to unite people from diverse groups, enhance their social belonging and instill feeling of patriotism while celebrating the festival. His aim was also to promote dream of Indian independence and home rule. According to me celebrating public festival in this manure was a brilliant idea to achieve that goal, that time under British rule people were prevented from gathering in large numbers, so public celebration of this festival gave people and their leaders unique opportunity to gather together and share their ideas without inviting wrath of concerned authorities.

This was all fine during pre-independence era or even few decades after independence, festivals like this helped people to get together and interact with each other socially but we see very different picture altogether if we look at this festival today (along with many other festivals which are celebrated publicly). The way this festival is celebrated today publicly is totally different than the way it was started, public education or spreading awareness is hardly a motive today behind celebrating this festival. I know that things change with time and different generations look at things differently but this festival has undergone drastic changes, except few honorable exceptions most mandals celebrate this festival for the sake of celebrating it, their main aim is to celebrate it as lavishly as possible that too by using public donations, hardly there is any noble motive behind it, collected money is wasted on useless activities, use of loud speakers creates lot of noise pollution in that area creating discomfort to elderly people and young kids who are sensitive to loud noise, while collecting donations for this festivals many mandals forcibly extract money from many business owners and who oblige under pressure to avoid any unpleasant scenario, many mandaps (pavilions in which idol and decoration is installed) are erected in such a way that they interfere with traffic and create inconvenience to commuters, there is one mandal at each corner of street, so instead of uniting people this festival today is dividing people because every neighborhood wants their own mandal and there is fierce competition among them to collect as much donation as possible and have grand celebration. During Ganapati visarjan its altogether different story, on that day thousands of idols, big and small are immersed in lakes, ponds, wells, rivers and sea, many of these idols are made of plaster of paris and use synthetic colors, immersing so many idols in streams create lot of water pollution and put lot of stress on our environment. These all are very serious issues and we need to address them properly, many other festivals are also celebrated publicly, which also create more or less same issues and most importantly now a days they tend to divide people, create some tension rather than bringing them together, so the main purpose behind celebrating these type of festivals is lost, what we see today is just waste of money and resources in name of God.

Unfortunately any effort to reform anything related with most of these festivals is seen as direct interference in people's right to practice their religion, it hurts their religious sentiments and this feeling can create protests and even communal riots. Because of this, it is considered as very sensitive issue and any government rarely want to interfere in it, in spite of all these things some rules related with use of loud speakers, construction of mandals, etc. have been introduced, many organizations encourage people not to immerse their idols in river or lake. Actually not all rules and regulations are followed strictly but some of these things are showing some positive signs and helping to reduce impact of such festivals on people and environment.

Fights between two groups because of some trivial issue during these festivals is also very common, this raises a important question, whether public celebration of these festivals is uniting people or dividing them? Are these festivals giving some people one more opportunity to create communal tension or to display their strength? As I mentioned earlier in this post celebration of religious festivals publicly was very brilliant idea when it was introduced, it was need of that time, but the current state of affairs raises a very  important question about all these festivals including this one which are celebrated publicly, do we still need it in its current form? Do we really need so many mandals? Can't we have just few limited mandals in each city and celebrate the festival without using loud speakers which actually play totally unrelated songs with full volume (rarely they play religious songs, mostly they play current hit songs from some Hindi or regional movies)? Can't we avoid all water and noise pollution just by taking few simple steps? Is it that difficult to change the way this and many other festivals are celebrated to take care of our environment and be considerate towards people living in that area? We also need to ask, in its current form is it the same festival which Lokamanya Tilak started? Is it serving the same purpose for which he started this festival? Many be answers to all these questions will force us to introspect and come up with some major reforms.

Last year I wrote a post about Ganesh visarjan, in this post I asked some questions about impact of this process on our environment. We need to ask similar questions about all these festivals and practices which put unnecessary stress on our environment and cause inconvenience to people, it doesn't matter from which religion they belong, we need to introduce some major reforms for all of them. Most of things related with this festival has changed, now a days money involved is huge, songs they play are from current movies, techniques used for decoration are latest, so why not to have a new eco-friendly way to celebrate the festival? What's wrong in it? Social interaction in friendly and healthy atmosphere is always a good thing, but, are these festivals providing that atmosphere? If not, why not? May be answers to all these questions will bring back that spirit of this and many other festivals which seems to be totally lost in all this glitter of lights and sound of loud music.

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

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Links:
1. Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav
2. Do we need to do Ganesh visarjan??

Monday, September 9, 2013

Don't use your wrong hand.

My son is a leftie, that means left hand is his dominant hand, naturally he uses his left hand for most of major tasks where he need to use his hands in day to day life (like writing, eating, throwing). Actually, if we look around, we can easily see that most commonly available things (like computer mouse, cricket gloves, musical instruments like guitar, etc.) are designed with keeping right handed people in mind, obviously the simple reason behind this is because they are in the majority. It is good to see that now left handed versions are also available for most of these things. this is a very good thing, because of this most of the time lefties don't face any major problem, there might be little inconvenience but things are available to cater their needs. But my son faces huge problem whenever he goes to some Hindu religious gathering or to some pujas (a religious ritual), there he is always instructed 'to use his right hand,' or instructed 'not to use his wrong hand' to perform all rituals (even in my own home), this used to create lots of confusion and trouble for him, especially since he became aware of these things. Now he is old enough to understand why people around him say this, reason behind this is right handed people are in majority so most of these things are designed by keeping them in mind. He understands this, but at the same time it is puzzling to him why it is wrong to use left hand during religious rituals? For him left hand is his strong and dominant hand, when someone forces him to use his right hand he doesn't understand the logic behind it. Many places he obliges and wherever possible he just ignores the instructions. If people are too rigid and admant on him using the 'right' hand then he tries to avoid those places because things don't make sense to him. He tries his best to avoid any confrontation on this issue (this was one of the reasons he stopped going to ISKON gatherings). 

There are some theories and logic proposed to explain why one should use right hand during rituals, one very common belief is that since the left hand is reserved for personal hygiene one should always use right hand as it's more clean (so more pious). People from India should understand what I mean by left hand is reserved for personal hygiene, but again this assumption is true for right handed people. In past proper methods of sanitation (like soap, sanitizer) were not available then this thing might have made some sense, but today with all these methods at our disposal to keep us clean, so this tradition to use 'only right hand' doesn't make any sense. It is also important to note that by insisting 'use only the right hand' we knowingly or unknowingly hurt people who are not right handed, or for some reason cannot use their right hand or sometimes both the hands. People who insist on this 'right' hand rule make all these people feel awkward and abnormal, I don't think this is the right thing to do, definitely not a sign of an inclusive society.

I explained to my son why people insist on the use of right hand, I also told him what are his rights as a person living in a free and democratic country. He is free to reject or accept things based on his own personal beliefs like others. I also offered him some suggestions on how to deal with these type of situations, but finally I leave it to him to choose his response and allow him to deal with these things on his own, I don't interfere unless he asks me for any help. I think now he understands people's attitude better, he is not confused or surprised by their comments anymore, but I think not all kids get this type of support or explanation. It is quite possible that they might start thinking that something is wrong with them or they are different than others just because they use different hand, this might affect their confidence and behavior. Actually, we all are different and unique in some way or another, but still we all are same, we all are equal because after all we all are humans. Minor differences like skin color, gender, race, use of right or left hand, sexual orientation should not result in any discrimination or discomfort. Every human should be treated with equal respect and dignity. I want my kids to grow in a society where these differences have no place in it, where one can use whatever hand or leg (for people with no hands) to perform any ritual (religious or non religious), for me this is a sign of a truly tolerant and inclusive society, I am willing to work towards building such society and culture, are you willing to be a part of this journey?

Thank you for reading and please share your views on this topic. 

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

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why different attitude towards son-in-law and daughter-in-law?

Some time back Chandu uncle (Chandrashekhar Vairale) shared status update by Pallavi Trivedi on my Facebook wall, I liked it very much and from that I got an idea for the subject of today's post, why most in-laws treat very differently their son-in law compared to daughter-in-law? Same can be said about son and daughter but in this case many times difference is not that sharp compared to this case. This is the case observed in most societies and cultures but it's specially true in Indian society. May be this is because I have spent most of my life in India and don't know in detail about other cultures, but still the question is very relevant no matter about which culture we are talking about. Normally son-in-law always gets preferential or even royal treatment whenever he visits his in laws home but similar treatment is not offered to their daughter-in-law (except when she arrives for the first time). Now before people jump with their emotional statements and arguments about culture and traditions I know that this issue is not as simple and straightforward as it looks, there are many aspects associated with it and that's why I want to discuss it on blog and also want to know what other people think about this topic. 

I also know that some people try their best to support this tradition or practice and I am interested in listening to their argument, I am not against all traditions or any culture but want to analyze things which directly or indirectly contribute towards developing attitude of gender discrimination, frankly I don't care from which culture or tradition they belong. I think the one justification people might provide is, as son-in-law visits house of his in laws rarely or on specific ocasions and that's why he is offered such a exceptional treatment but it doesn't make any sense to offer similar treatment to daughter-in-law as she is a permanent resident in her in-laws house. It sounds very valid and strong argument but in today's world when families are becoming more and more nuclear this scenario doesn't exist in many homes, there are not many joint families around because of so many reasons but even then it's expected from daughter-in-law that she should help in household work whenever she visits her in-laws home but same thing is not expected from son-in-law, isn't this a very classical example of difference in attitude towards son-in-law and daughter-in law? Does anyone smell problem of gender discrimination here?? Now according to me this is not the issue of culture or tradition or natural role assigned to man and woman by God/society/nature (or whoever else people might want to attribute it to), but this is a simple case of gender discrimination, this is convenience offered to men by themselves, because of presence of male dominated society for centuries we have many rules specially favoring men and biased towards women and this one seems to be one of them, it's a human design to favor particularly one gender.

Second point which people often raise is that most of these rules and restrictions are forced on women by women themselves not by men (ideal example is issues between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law), so it's not fair to blame men for everything bad happening to women. Again, it sounds very fair and valid argument, very convincing and there is some truth in it but this is not entirely true. The issue here is not about who is implementing or forcing the rules or traditions but who designed them and why designed them?? Most bullets fired on Indians during freedom struggle movement were fired by Indian police men but we don't blame them for this, all blame goes to British officers which gave that firing order. But some how in this case it seems it is justified to put entire blame on women just because some autocratic activities against women are performed by other women, but very seldom people want to look into matter carefully and understand the actual reasons behind it. I am not saying that women are not responsible for some of these acts, they are very much at fault, but at the same time we need to consider social conditions which force these men and women to behave in certain way, and I feel those conditions (which involve everything from religion, culture, traditions, etc.) are main reason for this type of behavior from both the genders, and burden of blame rests on shoulder of men more because they designed most of these rules because of their dominance in society.

Gender equality is need of today's world, men and women are equal in today's society, we need to change our attitude and modify all traditions and rituals which openly discriminate based on gender, race or any other thing. I am sure there will be resistance or even uproar against this change but without struggle there will not be any change. Son-in-law or daughter-in-law both are same, there is no superior or inferior here, they should get the same treatment, if everyone understands this simple fact then I don't think any sensible person will oppose this new tradition of equal treatment to both, let's start this new tradition and let's begin it from  our own home.

Thank you for reading and please share your views on this topic. 

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