Friday, November 29, 2013

Did Mahabharat really happen?

Many times I see people arguing about whether some events from some epic books really happened or not, specially from scriptures like Mahabharat, Ramayan, Bible, etc. Normally these arguments are really passionate and heated (because many people really emotional about these things) with both sides trying to make their points furiously very often without any reliable and unbiased evidence. Many times I find this as a totally unnecessary ordeal, total waste of time unless it's whole purpose is to do a time pass. I often wonder why people waste their time in arguing about stories or incidents mentioned in these books really happened or not? Why does it matter to them? What will they gain or achieve if they prove or disprove that these incidents really happened? I myself read many of the stories mentioned in these books but I read them like any other book, for me its not at all important whether these stories or incidents are real or not, if they teach me something useful they are relevant to me, I am totally fine even if it's a work of total fiction, if they don't teach me anything useful or relevant then they are like many stories which I don't even bother to read or just read for the sake of entertainment and then forget them over the time, whether they really happened or not is not at all relevant for me. 

History is documented for many reasons, one of them is to have it stored for future generations so that they can get some clue from past incidents and learn relevant lessons which will help them not to repeat the same mistakes again. But many of these scriptures are not studies under the branch of history but they are classified under mythology or theology and that's why I think it's waste of time to discuss whether they are fiction or non-fiction, whether they really happened or not. I like many characters from these epics, I relate to many of them, for me it's really insignificant whether they really lived in flesh and blood on this planet or not, even if they didn't then also it doesn't reduce my attachment or affection for them even a little bit. The message what authors of these books wanted to deliver is the most important thing for me, I take whatever I want and whatever is relevant for me (depending on time and need) and leave the rest, I don't get into unnecessary technical details like how did humans flew without airplane, how the bird or snake spoke, how a person became alive again after being killed...etc. for me these all are semi fiction stories written long back by one or set of authors over the long period of time, the main purpose of them was to educate people and entertain them at the same time (so that they remain interested). Some of them are so old that it's very difficult even to find out who wrote them, but they all have something useful in them that's why people still read them. But when people try to enforce them on entire society as a rule book, there is a problem, there is a conflict and unnecessary tension. I am against this practice, many these books not matter how good, educating are written thousands of years ago (or at least 100s of years) and many things mentioned in them are no more relevant, rather some of the things are outdated, even many scientific discoveries or papers published in journals many years back are no more relevant anymore, some of them are even proven to be wrong. These books are good educating tools but they are not rule books or science journals which are updated periodically so to follow them or to expect others to follow them blindly is absurd, wrong and totally unreasonable.

So let's not worry or argue about technical details about these books, there might be many technical glitches in them but that should not be the deterrent for anyone to read them. These books are treasures from past, they actually don't belong to any particular religion or sects but belong to all humanity. Linking them to any particular religion or sect limits their use and is gross injustice to their potential. Story of Mahabharat is one of my all time favorite stories, all characters in this are so human that anyone can relate with them that's the reason I like it more than any other epic. Many stories and characters from them have inspired me during various stages of my life and they still continue to do so, this is why this epi is relevant to me not because it happened in India or because I was born in Hindu family, I equally love some biblical stories or some concepts from Quran. Let's not worry about technical details of these stories, let's try to catch the real essence of them, this will be a great tribute to all those authors and real use of all these books.

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

Links:
1. 5000 year old Viamana craft was found in Afghanistan
2. Were Our Ancient Ancestors Scientifically Advanced?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Casteism and ME..

I have expressed many times my dislike or antipathy for casteism, I started hating this system when I saw some people were discriminated or treated as inferiors just because either they were born in particular caste or were performing certain jobs (like cleaning, leather works or some other so called inferior tasks). I couldn't understand the fact how can a family in which person is born, on which person has no control can decide the social status of person for the rest of his/her life? None of us can not choose our biological parents or family, we are born randomly in some family by the act of reproduction and based on that our caste and religion is decided, one can change that but for the most they are branded as A or B based on which family or parents they are born to, this tag sticks to them for rest of their life as per current nature of this system. I was trying to remember the day when I came to know about my own caste (or sometimes called Jati) and what effect it had on me and what was my reaction to it.

I have to travel deep down in my memory lane to recollect that instance, as far as I can trace my memory I think I was in 3rd or 4th grade and one day I don't know why or for what reason some teacher in my school decided to ask everyone in our class their caste, most kids knew what caste they belong but I was among few who didn't and I was really embarrassed by this. So I came home and asked my parents what is our caste, they told me it was Thakur, which is also my last name, but then I had doubt that why other people have different last names than their caste name, then my dad explained that this particular last name is also used as caste name in northern parts of India (from where my family originally belongs) and this comes under warrior section of varna system (Kshatriya). I was relieved to know that our caste is not at the bottom of that hierarchical system, it was big relief for me at that time!! Over the time I was also told (by various sources) that I should be really proud of my caste as we have long history of brave warriors and great rulers etc. etc. Actually all this information had some effect on me, suddenly I stated looking at people around me from the angle which caste they belong, whether they were from Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra varna? This might sound very disgusting and racist but that's how it was when I became aware of my own caste and believed in that system. I started making fun of some friends who belonged to some other castes and were physically weaker than me (so I knew they cannot beat me for teasing them), I even laughed at some because they can not fight war and there ancestors were not brave enough just because they belonged to some other caste, when I look back to these incidents I feel really embarrassed and disgusting even to share them, even though I did all these things as ignorant and naive kid I was not the only one doing this, insulting people by mentioning their caste or abusing them using their caste name in derogatory manure was very common around me, so I didn't feel I was doing anything seriously wrong. I think one day I took it too far and one of my friends started crying because of my taunting and he complained to his mom, after knowing why was he crying his mom gave me a big lecture. I don't remember what she said to me but that effectively ended my disgusting stint in casteism, I do not claim that her reprimand enlightened me about evil of casteism but it had some positive effect. I think it took few more years, few more visits to my ancestral village where I saw more open practice of casteism which slowly infused utter dislike and disgust about this system in my mind. Then there was also a issue of reservations when I was in college (kind of affirmative action for socially backward sections of society in India) which brought this issue back in my life where people from so called upper caste were at recieivng end and I thought I was discriminated because of my caste in secular country like India (where everybody is supposed to be equal irrespective of their caste, religion or gender) and believe me whenever someone discriminates you based on your caste or race it really hurts, just listen to complains about reservation or affirmative action from people who think they are affected negatively because of these policies.

The post is not about history of casteism (see links section of this post for more information about this), but it's about my own personal experience with it and reason why I dislike it and chose not to follow this system. There are many who are ardent follower and defender of this system, I am sure they must have their own very good and convincing reasons for doing this but I couldn't find any reason to either believe or follow this system, for me this is no less than racism and I am totally against it. The system which gives some individuals feeling of superiority just because they are born in particular family or clan is just not acceptable to me, it doesn't matter what was the original intention and how it got corrupted, current system which is practiced even today is highly flawed and outrageous, I think it's damaged beyond any repair and should be discarded totally. 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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_in_India 
2. Casteism: Essay on Casteism in India
3. Vedic Friends Association Position on Casteism

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tarun Tejpal, Tehelka and sting operation against AAP...

Two breaking news headlines grabbed my attention yesterday, one was sting operation against newly formed political party AAP by some website called Media Sarkar, and other was sexual misconduct or rape charges against Tehlka's editor in chief Mr. Tarun Tejpal. In both the cases integrity and actions of entire organization or party was questioned because of misconduct of few individuals, no doubt the questions raised in both the cases are serious and they need to be addressed but that should not be the reason to target the entire organization and try to bring it down to which these people belong. 

No doubt that Tarun was integral part of Tehelka (I understand that he resigned from his position so he is no more with Tehelka) but Tarun is not Tehelka and Tehelka is not Tarun, people should learn to differentiate the organization from the individual, the magazine has done lot of good work in past and all that work is result of many creative and courageous journalist, whatever Tarun did is wrong and disgusting, it's his own responsibility and he should face the law and whatever punishment comes his way, it is also true that in a way this whole issue was handled by Shoma Choudhary, managing editor of Tehelka raised eyebrows, people expected somewhat better and strict action from them rather than something which looked like an attempt to downplay the incident or a coverup, I hope they don't intend to do this otherwise it will be sad to see one entire organization going down because of action of few people. Sexual harassment at workplace is very serious issue, Indian government as well as private organizations need to do lot of work in this area so that these type of crimes are promptly reported and investigated to punish the culprits, no matter who they are, victims of these crimes (male or female) need all the support and encouragement they need. Tarun Tejpal's case looks pretty black and white as per media reports, it seems he himself accepted his mistake, now law enforcement agencies need to take proper action and deliver the justice. As per reports he showed his willingness to cooperate with investigating agencies, this is also kind of positive reaction (only silver lining in this whole shameful episode) because in past many celebrities or politicians didn't even accept any such incident when similar charges were leveled against them, but this doesn't reduce seriousness and shameful nature of his crime, such behaviour should be condemned and punished. Many times such crimes go unreported because of several reasons, there has to be a proper system and mechanism to detect and monitor such crimes.

Another news was about sting operation against AAP, a newly formed party which is creating big waves in Delhi assembly elections, both Congress and BJP (two biggest national political parties in India, with huge backing and money power) are facing tough competition from them, actually no one (including me) expected AAP to get so much popularity and to create such a impact in their first election. Sting operations are integral part of investigative journalism, this technique is used to expose crimes which are difficult to prove otherwise, by definition sting operation is a deceptive operation used to catch a person committing a crime. This method has been used successfully to expose many bribery scandals, corrupt practices in politics and bureaucracy. At the same time edited versions of video footage of these operations can be used to project certain image  of a person or party (positive or negative) by using technique of selective editing or cut-paste technique, therefore any inquiry paned investigating allegations based on these type of operations likes to see raw (or unedited) footage of any such sting operations, this is very common practice. AAP is demanding the same and I think they are within their rights with this demand, they also promised strict action against anyone who is found guilty after examination by their own panel or any independent constitutional agency (like election commission). Timing of this sting operation is also questionable and looks very motivated to malign image of AAP just before the election. I think their response was fairly positive and they are willing to accept that there might be something which needs immediate attention, but they are in this dirty game of politics where it seems anything is fair as long as it helps you to win power, this is how political games are played in India. This party entered the political arena not only with an intention to win but with intention to change the rules of the game, to make it more transparent and fair for everyone. Today in India politics is considered as dirty game, politicians are assumed to be corrupt and greedy by common people, may be if more good people enter this profession they can change its image and this is what I want AAP to do, they should force other parties to field good, honest candidates with clean records, at least make them not to give tickets to people with serious criminal record, or people who are facing serious cases against them in court, if they can do this, this itself will be a huge improvement according to me.

Time will tell what will be the result of both the investigations (hopefully very soon), but in both cases entire organization should not be blamed for misconduct of few people involved with that organization. I still don't think that it's correct to label all leaders from BJP or Congress as corrupt because many of them seem to be like that, there are many sincere and honest people in all these parties also but as these parties are huge percentage of corrupt people are also more, so I am against gross generalization. But at the same time I am not happy in general with double standards used by these parties and also with their very complacent attitude towards corruption, they are directly or indirectly responsible for institutionalizing the corruption. I hope this situation will change in near future and people of India will get more accountable and clean government which they desperately need and deserve, I hope parties like AAP act as a catalyst to initiate this reaction of cleaning the system on larger scale, the question is not only about AAP or dreams of Arvind Kejriwal, the question is about expectations and hopes of millions of Indians who are waiting for the day when they get really clean and accountable government and I think their hopes deserve chance, their dreams deserve consideration.

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. Mission Lokpal by Media Sarkar
2. Tehelka's Tarun Tejpal: Sex scandal batters India's top investigative title
3. http://www.tehelka.com/statement/
4. Tehelka case: Tarun Tejpal had totally different version, says Shoma Chaudhury
5. Why Sting Operation on AAP came just before Assembly Elections?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sachin Tendulkar and Bharat Ratna..

Last week Sachin Tendulkar retired from all forms of cricket, this put an end to his amazing journey of 24 years on cricket field which included making and breaking of many records and achieving many milestones for India as team member of one of the most successful Indian cricket team, he played his last test match against West Indies and received grand and emotional farewell. I am big fan of his batting and sportsmanship, I witnessed his career since beginning, he is one of the most celebrated and admired cricketer till date and according to me he deserved all admiration and adulation. On the day after his retirement Indian government announced him Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, this announcement was bound to create some controversy and some uproar, undoubtedly cricket is the most popular sports in India and because of this cricketers receive more admiration, media coverage, fame and money but that doesn't mean they are the only achievers in the area of sports who make India proud, therefore many people will ask the question why Sachin, why not Dhyanchand or Abhinav Bindra or Anand? Is it just because he is famous or because he played cricket? There will be many questions like this. Government did try to play balancing game to award celebrated scientist Prof. C. N. R. Rao along with Sachin but Sachin's award is going to create some controversy and people are going to push their candidate and ask why not him or her?

I believe the decision was emotional one, entire country (at least who follow cricket) was feeling sad that Sachin is retiring from cricket, the game which he dominated for last 20 years or so, they all wanted to give him memorable farewell and may be our government thought this award will be like valuable cherry on his farewell cake, but did they get their act right? definitely not, there are many more deserving sports person who deserve this award before Sachin or at least along with him. By selecting Sachin's name government itself showed the inherent bias which exists in India against other sports compared to cricket. Field hockey is India's national game and achievements of major Chyan Chand in that sports are unparalleled and I wonder how come his name didn't pop up when government decided to give this award to a sportsperson, according to me he was the most deserving person to get this award in the area of sports, but unfortunately this didn't happen.

Actually if any one take a look at the list of Bharat Ratna awardees one often wonders why some people even got that award and why it took so many years (even after their death) for some very deserving people to get this award. The award looks very politicized, depending on which government is ruling people get it. Almost every prime minister who ruled for more than couple of years got this award, the list is heavily populated with politicians, mainly this is a political award, awarded sometimes to eminent artists, sports is recently included category in the list, Sachin is the first sportsperson to receive this award and he is also youngest to receive this award. I am happy for his success but at the same time feel that other more deserving people also should get the recognition and admiration which they deserve. I know that there is bound to be some controversy related with these type of awards, there are more than one deserving people at any given time but there is no restriction of number to this award at least, I hope our government will realize their mistake soon and take some corrective measures, if they don't then we have to satisfy our self by saying that some people are greater than this award, so they don't need it. I also noticed that even Mahatma Gandhi didn't receive this award, I am glad that he didn't get this award (like Nobel peace prize) because there are some undeserving names in both the lists (Bharat Ratna and Nobel peace) so it's good that his name is not there along with them, actually he doesn't need any award or recognition (and I really mean in his case) but others might need it for the sake of that sport (like field Hockey) or honor, so at least those names should be considered before it's too late.

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. Bahrat and Ratna (article from Marathi news paper Loksatta)
2. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/
3. तेंदुलकर, ध्यान चंद, राजनीति और भारत रत्न

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Asaram Bapu devotee syndrome.

The title of today's blog proposes a new syndrome, I named this syndrome like this to explain people's reactions during my discussions related one recent incident in India, the arrest of self-styled Godman Asaram Bapu for rape and sexual harassment charges (he is one of many who is in this business of selling spirituality, religion, and God). Some (or many) of his  devotees/followers protested against his arrest and demanded his immediate release, I think they did this because they all sincerely believe that their guru or God (most of them consider him God or incarnation of some God they worship) is wrongly framed for this crime, they also believe he is actually innocent and that is why he should be released immediately. Some of them might even believe that as a God or incarnation of God he is entitled to do whatever he wants and laws framed for common people doesn't apply to him. They also expect police and others should show some respect to their guru because of his godly (??) nature. Many of my friends and family members criticized this attitude of these devotees, they were particularly surprised that even after knowing what type of crime Asaram did all these people are still supporting him, they also asked the question that how come these people are following him so blindly that they cannot see his obvious mistakes or crimes. Actually, I must say that this is a very valid question to ask in many such cases.

I agree with them that whatever Asaram did was disgusting and criminal and he should be punished by law for his crimes, I also agree with them that many Asaram's devotees are behaving like blind followers and because of that they are not willing to listen anything against their guru or even not willing to accept the reality which is right there in front of their eyes. In spite of all the evidence and proof, they all chose to turn a blind eye to everything and continue their devotion and worship of their guru, this is why I gave the name Asaram Bapu devotee syndrome (ABDS). Actually, one can put any famous controversial name with a huge fan following, I just use this name because of I thought about it after Asaram's arrest. But, when I discuss with many people that this quality or syndrome is more or less present in everyone who calls her/himself a devotee of any sect, religion, God or cult movement, or person; as usual, they disagreed with me. They all think that their devotion has a logic, it is rational and reasonable, but Asaram's devotees are fools and morons. Now, we can call this as an anti-ABDS, in this condition, people feel whatever they do is legitimate, thoughtful and rational but if similar things are done by others then they are foolish, irrational, or thoughtless.

This type of behavior is very common everywhere in the world, many people on one hand think that their beliefs, their God, their scriptures, their gurus, their leaders are all great, pious, legitimate, authentic and above any criticism, no one should criticize them or even question them. Whatever their God did (as per their scriptures) was all need of that time and legitimate (very much like ABDS) but at the same time they don't hesitate to question others scriptures, criticize other's beliefs, make fun of them, object to similar actions of other's gods, gurus or leaders (symptoms of anti-ABDS). Many times both symptoms are displayed by the same person or group, and for me, this is an amazing scenario to watch. Actually, we all become victims of these syndromes sometime in our lives. I try hard to not to become a victim of both these syndromes, but you never know, it is not easy, so we need to be careful. When I offer criticism about anything (even if it's constructive criticism), I have to be ready to receive criticism directed towards me and my views, this is what I try to follow on my blog, any counter view or other side of story is always welcomed as long as it's related to the topic. Blind faith in anything is dangerous, and we need to challenge it, question it, but we should also remember that when we question others, they have right to questions us, and we should be prepared to answer those questions if they are related to the subject of discussion. Only such healthy debates, discussions, and confrontations will induce any desirable change, there is no better option than this.

Blind supporters of Asaram are wrong in supporting him even after knowing about his crime, no doubt their demand to release him is irrational and illegal, but these devotees are the product of the same system which has created millions of other devotees which behave in a similar manner. Devotees who are ready to kill their fellow citizens in communal riots to protect their religion, followers who are ready to justify any action or statement of their beloved leader. The only difference is that some believe in something which happened thousands of years ago and some place their faith in something which is current, but both don't see anything wrong with their god, leader, or guru because they all think their idol is divine. Asaram's followers also think that he is divine and can not do anything wrong or may be even worst they might be thinking whatever he did was not wrong at all, as a divine person he is entitled to behave in whatever way he want, after all, he is a god. This attitude is a result of the same system which makes people believe that our idols or leaders are above everything and can not be questioned. This system is equally at fault along with the devotees who follow anything blindly, let's fight with this system and then these type of devotees with irrational demands and attitude will automatically disappear, as long as this system is there it will give birth to some Asaram and his devotees, who will follow him blindly and unconditionally. This type of behavior is similar to crazy fans of some celebrity which are a result of similar attitude, I also like many artists or writers, but none of them I worship or follow blindly. ABDS and anti-ABDS are not different they are different sides of the same coin, let's get rid of that coin itself. Praise or criticize someone or something based on the merit, not based on who they are or what is their status in society. Be aware of both of these syndromes, because many who are suffering from these don't even know that they are affected by these.

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

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

Links:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pu La and Sunita Deshpande...people who transformed me..

Purushottam Lakshman Deshpande (fondly known as PuLa, पु in Maharashtra) and Sunita Deshpande, was a couple who had huge influence on my thinking and many other aspects of my life. I don't have to introduce these two personalities to people who come from state of Maharashtra in India, these two or at least PuLa is a household name in Maharashtra, especially in a city of Pune where I was born and raised.

My parents never used to speak Marathi in our home during my childhood, they immigrated to Pune from small village in UP (Uttar Pradesh) where I was born and spent my entire life before moving to US, I studied in Marathi medium school and lived in Marathi speaking neighborhood and this is why Marathi became my mother tongue, I used to think and talk mostly in Marathi for first 30 years of my life. My school and our neighbors introduced me to rich cultural side of Maharashtra and that's how I came to know these two amazing personalities. PuLa's books and his 'katha kathan' (which simply means story telling, in his case he used to read some chapters from his books) are very popular among Marathi speaking people and are full of humor and at the same time comment about various aspects of life in very subtle way. Characters which he portrayed in his stories, books and plays are very real and leave strong impact on readers. He was also a great actor, narrator and musician, I think very few people have such a diverse talent. I still enjoy his books, listen to his audio and video clips and enjoy them as much I enjoyed them before, I think they are timeless and have capacity to entertain and educate number of coming generations of Marathi speaking people. He didn't believe in conventional definition of religion or god but his personal beliefs never ever reflected directly in any of his writings, anyone can easily relate with characters from his books, they are so human and real that people feel he is talking about them and their life when they listen to him or read his books, I guess this is the main reason for his huge popularity.

I read Sunita Deshpande's book "Aahe Manohar Tari" (आहे मनोहर तरी..) much later, after reading many books by PuLa, initially I read it because it was written by PuLa's wife, but when I read it I was totally surprised, it left me stunned, actually I was completely blown away, till now I must have read it multiple times. I don't think anyone expected such book from PuLa's wife. It was totally different, something which I never read before, PuLa is known for humor, he had knack of finding humorous side of any situation in life, but this book was very serious and up to the point and brutally honest, actually the book is about her memoirs, she is very clear and straightforward about her opinions not only about herself but also about other people in her life. She didn't try to hide that she is an atheist and really proud of that, which many people hesitate to do just not to hurt people or in fear of losing fans. She also made very honest comments about her own personality and her behavior under different circumstances, she also discussed about her own strengths and weaknesses, I never read such a honest self assessment before in my life, she also wrote some critical comments about her much celebrated and adored husband. As expected this book created some controversy and also received some criticism from readers including many PuLa's fans, they all thought she was wrong in criticizing him for being lazy or for being a typical husband who expects his wife to take care of him and his home, after all he was such a popular and beloved author of Maharashtra and as a gifted artist, as a husband, a talented person he deserved some special treatment. PuLa was her biggest supporter against all this criticism when this book came out and defended her right to express her views, not that she needed his support but it was nice to see such mutual understanding between the couple. I was amazed to read about such a brave and bold women who was much ahead of her time in thinking. Her approach towards life was also very unique and impressed me a lot. She managed to live her own life, pursue her own interests and hobbies without getting affected by success and popularity of her celebrity husband. She narrated almost every major incident of her life with so much honesty without worrying about reactions of her husband, his fans or other readers, whether it was about her thoughts about euthanasia when her mother was suffering in hospital, her pregnancy and abortion, her thoughts about God, about some qualities of her husband which she didn't like, the book also contains many other interesting incidents in her life, it will be very difficult for me to summarize entire book in this post, I would like my readers to read the book if possible. When I finished the book I was not the same person which I was before reading that book, such was the impact of that book on me. I don't claim that it will have same impact on everyone who reads it, may be there will be some who may not like that book, but it transformed me, helped me in many ways. I hope everyone finds at least one such book in their life.

Actually these two people helped me in many ways indirectly, these were only people who were not related with me or my field of study and I didn't meet personally but I still acknowledged them in my PhD thesis, such was their influence on me. They still remain huge source for inspiration for me but I don't worship them or don't follow them blindly, I totally understand that there might be many people who don't care about them or may be even dislike or hate them for whatever reason they have and I totally understand this, I have my own opinions about them and others can have their own and it's not necessary that everyone's opinion should always match with mine, this what I believe. I am thankful for both of them for transforming me, because in a kind of situation or neighborhood I was living it was highly impossible for me to meet with people like them but I was lucky to know them through their books, that's also one of the reason why I believe that books or blogs are such a powerful medium which have power of transforming people. I get lot of inspiration and strength from many books and articles which I read almost every day, they teach me and transform me in many ways, this is such a powerful medium and these two people played very pivotal role in starting this amazing journey for me. Thank you sir, thanks mam, love you both.

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

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

(image: from Google images)

Links:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunita_Deshpande
2. http://www.indiainternational.com/pulabahurupi80/index1.html
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pu_La_Deshpande

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Is AAP anti-national?

Recently Bharatiya Janata Party leader Dr. Subramanian Swamy (Dr. SS) called Aam Aadami Party (AAP) as anti-national party. Dr. SS is very well known for making controversial statements as well as sensational accusations, he is doing this for long time but most of the time media used to ignore his statements. Now a days he is again popular figure in Indian politics because role played by him in 2G spectrum scam case which resulted in arrest of Mr. A. Raja (minister of communications and IT, 2007-2009) and few others, the case created lot of controversy and media hype, because of all this now a days his statements are getting lot of media coverage and attention. This man always amazes me with his statements and articles, he is such a talented and intelligent person, with lot of good intention and nice ideas to make India better country, but because of his sectarian views and personal hatred for some people (like Gandhis) and groups he sometimes makes such horrendous statements that one is forced to wonder about his mental state. I think his recent statement related with AAP came because of somewhat different views of some AAP leaders on Kashmir issue and recent meeting of Mr. Arawind Kejriwal (AK) with controversial cleric Tauqueer Raza Khan, who allegedly issued fatwa against Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.

Dr. SS didn't like that one of the members of AAP Mr. Prashant Bhushan said that plebiscite can be one of the solutions which can help to reduce alienation of people of Kashmir. AAP had distanced itself from Mr. Bhushan's views calling it as his personal opinion and not the party's stand, but in India it's very rare to see a politician who can have totally opposite or different view on any sensitive topic than his/her party's view. Actually I like this aspect of AAP where a person is not forced to accept party's stand if he/she is not agreeing with it, he is not penalized for expressing what he believes, this should be allowed and welcomed in true democracy, people with different opinions can also team up and work together for betterment of society and country, I don't think there is anything wrong in it. It is like a joke that Dr. SS who now belongs to BJP, a party which had its own share or controversy regarding, Ayodhya issue or corruption charges, etc. is calling party like AAP as anti-national.

AAP has tried to maintain complete transparency in their financial dealings as well as candidate selection for election. No other party including Dr. SS's own party operates in such a transparent way, many antisocial elements, people who are facing serious criminal charges get tickets to contest elections from these national parties in the name of political compulsion (if we don't give the ticket some one else will give it to them), at least AAP is not playing this dirty game and should be applauded for that. As far as Mr. AK's meeting with Tauqueer Raza Khan is concerned, if AK did it only to gather Muslim votes then he and AAP will pay the price for it, but if he did this just to reach every section of society then there is nothing wrong in it, after all he is an Indian citizen, he and whatever community he represents is part of our country, treating any person like untouchable is not a solution. This is same BJP who is trying hard to make their prime ministerial candidate Mr. Narendra Modi acceptable to whole India (specially to Muslims), they claim he should not be branded as a communal just because one riot which happened during his tenure in Gujarat, but Dr. SS is not willing to apply the same criteria when it comes to leaders of other communities, how hippocratic one can become? And if Dr. SS is doing all this just to create some controversy and media attention then this is really pathetic and not expected from him, may be recent media exposure and popularity has created some sort of pressure or desire in him to remain in constant limelight, if this is the case then it's a sad end of an intellectual who had much more potential and  capability in him than just to make some controversial and sensational statements.

I hope people like Dr. SS concentrate on future of their own party and work towards building strong India. If people like him are going to judge parties based on personal opinions of some of its members then I hope they apply same criteria to their own party also and they accept if someone calls them party of criminals or rapists or porn watchers (just because some members in their party are accused of such acts or were caught on camera performing some of them), if not, then they should just stop using such double standards and if they want they can offer some constructive criticism. AAP with all its problems and drawbacks is at least trying to do something different, something which never happened in Indian politics before, I can understand discomfort of all national parties, I see that they don't appreciate this and like rise and popularity of AAP but trying to malign them in such a way is not what people expect, at least from person like Dr. SS, I am sure such accusations will ultimately help AAP and expose double standards of other political parties. We all know that even AAP is not perfect but at least please don't stoop to such a low level in an effort to malign them, it looks pathetic.

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

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

controversial cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan, who had issued a fatwa against Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.

Read more at: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/bjp-accuses-aap-of-attracting-antinational-elements-to-the-party/432473-80-258.html?utm_source=ref_article
controversial cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan, who had issued a fatwa against Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.

Read more at: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/bjp-accuses-aap-of-attracting-antinational-elements-to-the-party/432473-80-258.html?utm_source=ref_article
controversial cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan, who had issued a fatwa against Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.

Read more at: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/bjp-accuses-aap-of-attracting-antinational-elements-to-the-party/432473-80-258.html?utm_source=ref_article
controversial cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan, who had issued a fatwa against Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.

Read more at: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/bjp-accuses-aap-of-attracting-antinational-elements-to-the-party/432473-80-258.html?utm_source=ref_article
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Communal riots happen all the time, what's so special about Godhra?

Communal riots happen all the time in India, what is so special about Godhra riots? Why it gets mentioned for so many times in media? Why to give it a special treatment? Why can't people get over it, after all it almost happened a decade ago (in 2002)? Hindus also die in these riots so what a big deal, why to make such a big issue out of it? Now a days one can hear lot of questions and statements like this, specially because Mr. Narendra Modi is prime ministerial candidate of BJP for upcoming national elections in India and Godhra riots is one of the major issues he is going to face during his fight for the top post. I remember hearing similar type of questions many times before, in 1984 when massacre in Delhi happened after unfortunate assassination of then prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, that time late Rajiv Gandhi said these infamous lines, "When big tree falls, earth shakes", these words seem to somehow try to justify things which happened after Mrs. Gandhi's assassination, similar statements were made after Babri demolition, after riots which followed it, after Mumbai bomb blasts...the list is too long to mention, almost after every riot there is lot of anger, emotional drama and blame game, justifications offered, motives questioned, some parties get political mileage and others wait for next riot to get their chance to score some points for their side, this is a tragic and vicious cycle going on for several years in Indian politics, neither political parties are interested in breaking this cycle nor people seem to be interested in understanding that they are being used like cards in this whole game and are ultimate sufferers. Literally people are used just like cards, nothing else, cards which are used to kill other cards, which can be sacrificed if necessary to save some important cards, anything can be done to these cards to win the game, but the strange thing is not only players who play this game but even cards seem to be loving this cruel game may be because they are not aware of their pathetic situation.

So what is wrong with all these questions? Why I feel they are are insensitive and some how try to legitimize or justify these riots? First of all these statements seem to assume that if something is happening regularly then it's OK and even if it's wrong, cruel or inhuman we should get used to it, but according to me just because it's a routine event, it doesn't deserve acceptance. Another assumption some people make is two wrongs can make one right, so if Muslims along with some Hindus get killed in riots or vice versa then it's OK because both sides suffered the loss, such a strange logic. Have we become so casual and insensitive about plight of victims of these events? Every riot, every murder, every death in this manure is wrong, they are tragic and unfortunate doesn't matter which caste, race or religion those people belong. Political parties and religious leaders both take advantage of this rift between people of different faiths, many of them doesn't seem to be interested in narrowing this gap but they want to widen it more, so much that there should not be any scope of reconciliation, they want to do it by using either Mandir issue or Masjid issue, by fatwas or moral policing, communal riots are part of this game. It is for investigation agencies to decide whether Mr. Modi was involved in Godhra riots in any way or not, he should not be treated like criminal without any strong evidence against him but at the same time he is answerable to questions related with these riots because he was the head of that state when this thing happened. His silence on this issue or his refusal to apologize for not only displays his compulsion to play for his vote bank but also displays the perception that even though whatever happened was sad but it was not completely wrong or criminal, it was an act of revenge and no one could have avoided it, even powerful administrator like chief minister can not prevent such things and therefore we should ignore failures like these and move on, but the question is how many times we need to ignore such failures and move on, how many times more?

Whatever happened in 1984 was wrong, whatever happened with Kashmiri Pandits was wrong, any riot is wrong, period, it doesn't matter victims belong to which religion or party, every incident should be investigated, every culprit should be punished, if this doesn't happen these things will get institutionalized like corruption and will keep on happening regularly. That is why Godhra riots are serious, so are Muzaffarnagar riots, so are 1984 riots, Malegaon blasts, Mumbai blasts everything is serious, how can we even compare or say one is less worse than others? Based on number of deaths? Based on reason why they happened? Based on which party was ruling during that time? What criteria people use to categorize them? Why they even try to do this, every such incident is slap on our country and its secular constitution, slap on our inclusive culture but no one seems to mind it.

How can people even justify punishing entire community for some stupid acts of few people from that community or on the order of few fanatic religious leaders? Terrorists do this, rioters do this and surprisingly even after performing such a gruesome and cowardice acts both find some sympathizers and supporters in our community, when is this madness going to stop? If I question Godhra these people ask why am I not questioning Mumbai blasts or anti-Sikh riots? If I raise question about Kashmiri Pundits I am asked about why I am not talking about plight of Muslims killed in Kashmir? Whenever someone questions about some "X" incident he/she is asked why they are not questioning about some"Y" incident. In the end neither victims of that X incident get justice nor victims of Y incident, riots keep on happening, leaders win or lose election because of them, people keep on getting killed in these incidents, no one knows when all this will end? I am sick and tired of all this, whom I should blame here? Politicians who make inflammatory speeches? Religion and religious leaders who spread fanaticism? People who follow these leaders blindly? Poor investigations, inability of our legal system to punish culprits? or all of them? Gandhi had said once, 'an eye for an eye only ends up making whole world blind'. Are we going to do something to stop these riots or wait to turn whole world blind before taking any action? We have to start somewhere so what can't we start with this particular incident, if we ignore this one then there will be some other reason to ignore next one also, if want to put an end to all this we all must act, by we I mean everyone involved in this including our judiciary, politicians, people, everyone.

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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Saturday, November 2, 2013

A tale of two Mundans in my family...

The incidents about which I am writing actually happened long time ago, almost nine to ten years ago in my life, it's the story of mundan of my both kids, this ceremony is very common and is known by different names in different parts of India, I should also add that it's not only common in India but also performed in various other cultures and societies under various names, it seems some how first hair cut has some unique significance in every culture. So according to tradition followed in my family a boy or a girl should get their mundan (first hair cut) done either before their 1st birthday if not then in 3rd year, I don't understand the logic behind these age restrictions but this is what they believe, no one explained me why? Because of this belief, many parents don't give haircut to their kids for first 9-10 months and then one fine fine day whole family goes to some temple and child's head is shaved or first hair cut is offered along with some rituals and prayers, normally this haircut costs way more than normal haircut, many times family has to travel to distant temples or to some rich and famous venue (like Tirupati Balaji which is very famous for this), so basically there are many other things involved in this elaborate affair, it's not just a simple hair cut.

The reason I remembered all these incidents after so many years was the discussion about mundan of my friends son on Facebook, he was debating to go for it or not. Back then, I didn't face any dilemma about this issue as I was totally against it, according to me to perform such a elaborate ceremony at temple or to travel miles to some temple just to give a haircut to child is really a bizarre idea, I don't understand the logic behind it, may be there was some good reason to do this thing (first haircut) this way 100s of year ago but I don't see any reason to do this now. Why to spend so much money and effort for the thing which can be performed with professional help at any saloon?

So for my both kids before their first birthday this issue came up for discussion, my daughter had very thick and beautiful hair that time, she looked adorable (as all kids look at that age), I registered my protest against shaving her head because I thought it was totally unnecessary. People give all kinds of reason to perform mundan, starting from original hair (womb hair) are not good in quality, they are thin, so if you shave the head of kid he/she is supposed to get nice and thick new hair, there is no scientific backing to this theory but may be in some cases it works, there are some other reasons like womb hair are associated with undesirable traits from past lives, etc. But major question was, why to go to some temple just for a simple hair cut and waste so much time and money? Why can't we do it in some saloon? But the hold of some traditions or rituals on people's mind is so strong that they are scared even to think about an alternative or more logical way, I have seen this attitude in many cases and this is one of them. But the problem was my wife wanted to do mundan for her, and as a parent she has equal say in what decision we take about our kids. I can express my opinion, register my protest in strongest possible ways, argue over it, stand my ground but I cannot force my views on my wife or on anyone. If I start forcing my opinion on others then there won't be any difference between me and many others who force these so called traditions and rituals in  name of culture, religion or God. So there was a debate and heated discussion about this issue and everyone came to know my opposition to this ritual, I don't think it was surprise to anyone in my family but I guess they were thinking that it's easy to talk about reform and change, many people do that but when it comes to their own kid or own family people compromise because of so many reasons the major one is to avoid unpleasant scenes or not to hurt anyone in their own family. I find this reason really strange because people who don't hesitate to use strongest possible words to criticize or question many things when others do them, like excessive spending on marriage, following some superstitions like this one, or role of women in family, etc. but when their own family does these things then somehow they find some reason to defend, some excuse or even justify these actions. So my family was somewhat surprised that I am putting on such a resistance to spoil such a important ceremony for my own daughter. To cut long story short, even after all this mundan happened, I didn't attend the ceremony, I don't regret at all missing the ceremony but I do regret somewhat that I failed to convince my own family not to perform this stupid ritual, but failures like these are part of battle I am fighting.

Second time similar thing happened in my son's case, but this time I was not in India, but everyone knew my opposition for this ritual, but it was easy for everyone this time as I was not physically present there, in my son's case it was done twice within a month (again without any logic and reason), one in Mumbai and one in Balaji- the famous Tirupati temple where everyday thousands of people go to shave their head, they offer their hair to God, I don't know why that God needs so many hair from so many people but I know many people who go there every year and shave their head. My kids still ask the question why this thing was done to them to all who were involved in this ritual but they didn't get any satisfactory answer till date, only answer they get is, this is part of our tradition and everyone does it so we also do, it was even done to your father, but this explanation is far from satisfactory. At least they think that there is no any sensible rational behind this ritual so they will try not to do this with their kids. So this was the story of two mundans in my family.

According to me this ritual is one of many traditions and rituals which people follow blindly (a superstition), they don't even think whether there is any reason or logic behind this, just follow blindly. I personally can't do this, ignorance might be a bliss for many but for me it's not an option, I don't believe in forcing my opinion but that doesn't mean I don't express them, so I express my disagreement whenever I face these issues in my family or somewhere else, and try not to attend these ceremonies. Many people (even who can't afford) spend lot of time and money for these things but same people don't have time or money for community service or charity, this is particularly sad in a country like India where there is strong feeling for following culture and traditions but not that much for doing charity and community service. So the mundans still happen but I hope this tradition will end soon, this will also save lot of time and money for many. I hope more and more people will choose to follow more sensible path rather than usual path.

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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