Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chemical free products..a myth.

Now a days the term 'chemical free' is used by many manufacturers to attract new customers, they want their customers to believe that their product is totally natural and hence chemical free which in turn means very safe to use (off course according to manufacturers). All natural doesn't at all means chemical free (as many people like to think), nature contains many chemicals and there are many complex chemical reactions going on in nature continuously, many of these reactions and chemicals are very essential for our survival (like photosynthesis). This tag line (chemical free) has become selling point for many processed food items, beauty products and many other consumable items. This way advertisement seems to be working because many people do feel that all chemicals are harmful to them and because of this the phrase 'chemical free' works like a magic on their psyche, many people buy and use these products without even checking validity of the claims made by manufacturers. Actually any processed food, cosmetic or any product which is packaged and sold in stores undergoes some processing and most of processing techniques involve use of some chemical either to increase shelf life of the product (preservatives), improve texture, flavor, appearance, etc. some chemicals are added to enhance quality of products (like vitamins in fruit juice and milk, iodine in salt, etc.), even water (H2O) is a chemical, so technically it is not only hard but almost impossible to find any product which is entirely chemical free. Calling any product chemical free is a absolute lie and is an attempt to purposely misguide customers.

But then why this phrase is used in so many advertisements? Why it works so effectively? Why people get attracted towards so called 'chemical free' products? May be the main reason behind this is overuse of some chemicals in day to day life which cause some harmful side effects on humans (like Bisphenol-A), some chemical disasters (like dumping harmful waste close to residential area by some chemical companies, or accidents like Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984), some side effects associated with some medicines, use of chemical weapons in wars...may be all these things have created some sort of fear about all chemicals in people's minds. But the truth is there are good chemicals and bad chemicals for humans and effect of bad chemicals get highlighted more often in news which helps to create this fear about term 'chemical' in people's mind. Poor knowledge about science and it's application makes this situation more complex. Due to emergence of processed food industry now a days people are consuming unprecedented amount of processed food, most of the crops are also genetically modified, so everything we consume or use contains some chemical, this all has created fear of over exposure to some harmful chemicals in people's minds, and there is very good reason behind this fear. Many of these things (like cosmetics, genetically modified crops, processed food, etc.) are launched in the market without proper testing on humans, they don't have to go through rigorous and extensive clinical trials as most of the drugs sold in the market have to (to get FDA approval). Most of these products (even though consumed by large section of population) don't require FDA approval, this makes them a very attractive business for big corporations and they earn enormous amount of money by selling these things. But these products because of poor regulations also put lot of people at risk by exposing them to cocktails of many chemicals whose actual effects no one knows (as they are not studied extensively), I guess people are willing to pay this price for the sake of convenience and comfort that's why very few care to educate themselves or care to ask questions.

Actually not all chemicals are harmful, in a same way as not all bugs are dangerous, we have many friendly bacteria inside our body which help us to digest food and remain healthy. Similarly there are many chemicals which are essential for our life and we need to consume them (like water, vitamins, proteins, etc.), basic building block of our body is a amino acid which again is a chemical, but at the same time not all chemicals are good for our health. There are many chemicals which are harmful or even poisonous, we need to stay away from them, some are very harmful for our environment also, we need to monitor consumption and disposal of these chemicals. Heavy commercialization of consumer products and tough competition has resulted in use of many cheap (but not necessarily safe) chemicals and techniques in many businesses and this is what makes some products harmful for our health and environment. Poor monitoring and regulations make situation more worse. Actually excessive use of anything is bad, if anyone is eating lot of processed food it is going to affect their health today or tomorrow, similarly too much sugar or oil is bad (but it's good to consume them in limited quantity), once we understand this simple rule then I think it will be easy for everyone to strike balance in their life. Actually we are surrounded by chemicals and we our self are made from chemicals, so technically it's not even possible to live in chemical free environment but we can try to create safe and healthy environment by eliminating or regulating harmful chemicals.

Rather than trying to misguide people by claiming chemical free products companies should try to educate their customers about their product, they should try to give as much information as possible about contents of their product. Effect of many commonly used chemicals in these industry on humans should be studied and published regularly for everyone to read. There is no harm in labeling GMO products, let people decide what they want to buy. This all will help people to decide if that product is suitable for them or not, this will work in a same way as doctors decide if certain medicine is suitable for particular patient or not. So let's try to get as much facts as possible and then base our decision on those facts rather than believing on some myths, as I said it's impossible to live in chemical free world but with proper use of them we can make our planed a safe and beautiful place for all.

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

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

1. BPA Among Toxic Chemicals Driving Up Health Care Costs, Experts Say
3. How did Vioxx debacle happen?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kanyadan or giving daughter away, example of gender bias or a tradition?

There is a tradition, custom or ritual (or whatever label on want to give) of giving away the bride in Christian weddings, where father walks bride to groom, so it's like transfer from one home (father's) to another (husband's), similar ritual in Hindu marriages is Kanyadan (Kanya = daughter or girl, dan = donation, so literally it means donation of one's daughter), both are symbolic rituals where father gives away his daughter to a man to whom she is getting married. I have seen this ritual happening in most of the marriages which I attended, even they show this in movies (Indian movies and Hollywood both), the scenes are often very emotional, very few feel there is anything wrong in it (or there is any gender bias in these rituals), even during my marriage I witnessed this scene when my father-in-law and mother-in-law together did this ritual, donating their daughter to me, telling me symbolically that this (girl) was in our possession till today and from today it's your property (or responsibility), as a man (or husband) I need to take care of her. For most of us there is nothing offensive or objectionable in this entire process, after all this is just a symbolic ritual, our culture and tradition, going on for centuries [like Baptism, Mundan (shaving off head), thread ceremony, etc.] we need to respect it and follow it, but after carefully looking at this process I disagree with this tradition. One of my mentor and friend said to me after marriage of his daughter that while performing all those rituals as a father during the marriage ceremony he was feeling that his daughter is now going away from him or he is giving away his daughter, every ritual reminded him that now she belongs to some other family. This raised question in my mind, did my dad felt same or will my friend will feel the same during or after his son's marriage? I think answers is 'No', after all there is no ceremony called 'giving away the groom' or 'Putradan' (Putra = son) during marriage.

As I said the ceremony itself is very emotional and is performed at very important junction of life of people involved in this, marriage is very important and emotional event for all involved in it and no one likes to question this ritual during the marriage to spoil the the mood and atmosphere of the function. I can understand this hesitation, I my self never objected to it as long as I was not aware of gender discrimination aspect of this ritual, even after becoming aware of this aspect I never objected to this ceremony during any marriage for same reason (not to cause any disturbance) but just stopped attending this ritual as I don't agree with it. But I wonder how come as a society we never object to such rituals, we never see anything wrong with practicing them? Is it just because they are part of something emotional and romantic event like marriage? Or as a society we are still OK with some discriminatory rituals like this which indirectly give secondary status to females?

Some traditions like this might look harmless but they have deep impact on thinking and psyche of people, this is how husbands start thinking that wives are their property, no one tells them this, they just assume this from whatever is happening around them, it happened to me, it happens with so many men and women, they just become part of this patriarchal system without even knowing it. That is why I feel we need to question any ritual, any custom or any tradition like this, if these things are really needed, are important and unbiased then I have no doubt that they will survive. I have no idea what will happen during marriage of my daughter, I have duty and obligation to stand for my beliefs and will do what I believe is right but at the same time I don't force my ideas on anyone, she will be free to choose what path she like. I can always register my protest and opposition but I also know that change will be slow and will require lot of persistent efforts, I know that I can't change things overnight but that doesn't mean I stop trying. Another reason people give me for not opposing such rituals is that they don't want to hurt their parents or elders by opposing or questioning these traditions and rituals, they claim that as their parents are so touchy or emotional about these rituals they do these things just to make them happy. This is very noble thought, I don't think anyone willingly wants to hurt their parents, this is always the last option, but may times situation demands some action, one needs to take a stand. Sometimes it's not possible to bring the desired change without hurting someone's feelings, and many people are OK with this but they also think that it should not happen in my home, with my parents or my kids, so they want the change to come but don't want to struggle or suffer to bring it, it's like they want to save their country from enemy but my kids are not going to fight in war someone else's kid should do it because life of their own kids is too precious to waste, their parents are too sensitive to hurt their feelings, but this is not how change will come, this is not how we can bring social reforms or save the nation, this is rather a hypocrisy. I believe in Gandhi's sentence 'You must be the change you wish to see in the world' whoever understands meaning of this sentence for them I think this post will make some sense for all others it might sound offensive, anti-tradition or anti-religion.

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

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

1. Giving Away the Bride: Traditions and Alternatives
3.  Gaudaan... Vastradaan... Annadaan... Bhoodaan... Kanyadaan?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Follow your dream...

The title of this blog is very lovely line to read, I don't know who said it but we all must have read it many times, at many places, we specially hear this line during motivational talks or can find it in any motivational material. No doubt it's meaning is very beautiful and it's one of the very inspiring quotes, but how easy it is to practice this thing in real life? How many people are lucky to have just one dream in their life which they can chase? What to do if one has more than one dreams, how can one follow or chase all of them? There are many questions like this and this is my attempt to find some practical answers at least for some of these questions and also try to explain what message I understand from this quote. This is by no means my recommendations for others but just my point of view about following one's dreams, everyone needs to derive their own meanings from these type of lines.

At least in my case my dreams kept on changing many times in my life till now, during various phases of my childhood and teenage I wanted to become someone based on who influenced me during that phase of my life. I didn't even consciously choose my current career path, actually this was not possible at least for me because of various reasons, I never had this luxury. I am sure very few at that time or even today do this (choose career path of their own interest) in India, there can be various reasons for this like market demand and scope for that particular field, fierce competition, lack of awareness or options, etc. I just walked in direction in which life took me, gave my best possible efforts and expected for good results and landed where I am today, I have no major regrets for that and I am very happy with my overall journey, so far it is exciting and very rewarding experience for me. Eventually I started liking the field which I choose and today I love it (chemistry, drug discovery), but honestly it was not my dream or conscious choice to work in this field, I am sure there are many like me who must have traveled similar path in their life as far as their career choice is concerned. Now I dream to discover a drug which can cure some major illness, want to work towards making people understand usefulness and limitations of drugs, want to explain them how and why drugs work or fail and what they can do to remain healthy, but honestly none of these was my passion or dream when I entered in this field as I had no clue about any of these things that time.

Follow or chase your dream is easy advice to offer but can be very confusing to follow, no doubt it sounds very romantic and inspirational and can motivate many people to pursue their own interests. This advice helped me many times in my life and this blog it self is the result of my dream to share my thoughts with others on larger canvas. But sometimes situation or our own limitations stop us from doing what we want to do, then depending on situation it's better to take a pause and think about our next step and if required keep our dream on hold (but this doesn't mean to forget or to squash or kill it completely) so that we can get to the situation where we can give it a try to bring it in reality. This is a practical way of pursuing our passions without getting too much in trouble, because very few of us have courage to put it all on the line to chase our passion. Many times things done only and only with emotions without much serious thinking may not produce desired result (by this I don't mean emotions are not important, we need to strike proper balance). It's also true that people learn from mistakes so one need to make them to learn from them but one should try as much as possible to avoid making mistakes, learn from others mistakes if possible, but if this route is not available one should not be scared to take risks or make mistakes after all we live only once and we need to make most out of it.

I chase my dreams as much as possible, I take some calculated risks and so far this approach has suited me, produced desired results for me. I see some people take enormous risks to chase their dreams, I admire them and respect them but so far I am not one of them (but you never know). I hope everyone finds their dream and figure out their own way to chase them, because dreams are important, they give us new aims and new goals, give us reason to wake up and work hard and I guess we all need this.

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

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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Difference of attitude in science and religion.

Tussle between science and religion is not new, this is age old fight which is still going on. While attacking each other people from both sides have very strong arguments to prove their point. Even after so many years of conflict on so many different levels both fields still exist and are very popular among masses. The debate becomes very intense when someone questions existence of super powerful God, because concept of God is one of the basic element for most of organized religions, they all believe that he (in most cases it's He) is the creator as well as controller of this universe and there are some books which he delivered to dictate his message (known as holy books).
Now is this debate any useful? Will it lead to any conclusion, if yes, then what and when?? these are some of questions which some people who are tired of these discussions and arguments often ask. Normally people are too scared to change their beliefs for some obvious reasons, so most these discussions often turn into arguments where both sides try to convince each other that other party is wrong or try to change each others opinion rather than understanding each other and this makes all effort useless because it doesn't produce desired result for both the parties involved in this discussion. For me it's a simple question of personal need, many people still need religion in their lives, they are very much dependent on it, they feel their existence depends on it and questioning it scares them, makes them angry, worried, when questioned they become either defensive or offensive depending on their personality, rarely people manage to stay neutral on this subject. I think no one should object people following any religion as long as they keep it a private affair. At the same time many people don't need religion anymore, they all have moved on, they don't find this concept of any use to them so they question it, challenge it but they also sometimes become too aggressive while doing this which complicates the situation, they need to show some patience while questioning these age old beliefs. People who challenge or question religion are increasing day by day because of this the argument is also getting more intense, before it was easy to silence challengers as it was really a minority group but now a days even minority has a strength and importance, I think this has changed everything.

So what is the major difference between science and religion? According to me it's the attitude to look at the things and deal with the things, this is the major difference between these two fields. Let's consider one hypothetical scenario, consider two groups of people (or societies) totally disconnected with each other but simultaneously existing (like life on two different planets). Imagine one following only science and on only religion (doesn't matter which religion, one can assume whatever he/she likes), now imagine that both of them discover something like 'fire' for the first time, initially both groups were amazed by the beauty of fire, at the same time astonished and scared by huge power associated with it. Religious group considered it as a creation of their creator because some knowledgeable person said so, that person even wrote a book describing nature of fire and how to deal with this supernatural, most powerful thing. They started worshiping it, they consider it a divine creature, they even use it for purposes which they think don't make their creator angry (like cooking, heating, etc.) and follow that book for this purpose. They have one constant burning source of fire from which every one borrows the light to lit their own fire, as this is divine creature no one is supposed to create their own. After some time some one from some where came with a lamp to this community, suddenly they felt threatened by existence of another source, they tried to blame this lamp carrier a blasphemous guy who is challenging their creator by trying to create the thing which they believe only their creator has power to create. So, now there was a competitor and with competitor came conflict, few people got attracted towards concept of smaller, nicer and pleasant flame and started following that lamp guy, both groups started hating each other because each thought that other group is totally insane and then rest is the history which we all know, I don't have to go on with this story any more, I think most readers got the point which I want to make, this is what current state of organized religion is.

Another group also goes through same emotions in the beginning after discovering the fire (surprise, amazement, fear, etc.), but they were also curious about how this fire is formed, how can it be used for their own good, this was not a sacred item for them, they studied its properties and discovered that they can even make their own fire, this opened up many more avenues for them where they can use this fire for their own good in many ways. They made many instruments and machines which can use power of this new entity. Here also a new person with knowledge of microwave radiations arrived from somewhere, she/he showed them that in some aspects this source works better than their fire, everyone was happy to see the new invention, they all welcomed the new idea, some even thought of collaborating with that person to see if two ideas can be combined to form something better. Some challenged this invention, their view point was also given due consideration, they also performed some experiments to confirm that the new invention is the real thing not hoax. This resulted in formation of many more new branches which attracted many people who were skeptical about new invention in the beginning, but none of this created any rift, hatred or fight but rather increased debates, discussions. This is very simplified example which I chose, but this is what I see happening around me in today's' world, now few people will say religion was really good in it's 'original form' but that original form is thing of past (if at all it was there), I based my opinion on things which I have seen from my childhood and even I see around me today, anyone is free to present their view on this I will be interested in knowing it.

So according to me both the groups react differently to similar incidents and that's the major difference between these two areas, their attitude towards looking at the things is totally different. Now it's up to an individual to decide which approach (or combinations of approach) he/she like or prefer. I personally choose science because for me it sounds very logical and rational, whereas religion has become private property of some institutes and organizations which act in dictatorial manure, I don't like this so I don't follow them, everyone is free to choose what they like.

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

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

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why I decided to support AAP?

Last month results of assembly elections in five states in India were declared, most results were as expected except for result of India's national capital New Delhi, there a rookie party AAP came second, surprisingly it won 28 seats, only 8 short from getting absolute majority in 70 member assembly. Their phenomenal success surprised many including me, I expected some impact by them but unexpectedly they created a huge impact, it was so huge that now there is a government by AAP managing administration of Delhi. During that election I did one thing which I never do during any election, I openly supported AAP, I endorsed this party openly and even campaigned for them via phone calls to Delhi voters, this was the first time I campaigned for any political party directly. I voted many times during various elections (state, national, municipal) in India, I voted for different parties in different elections, I never supported any single party blindly, my choice was based on situation and need of that time, during local elections I voted for Shivsena candidate even I don't agree with many of their policies or their ideology, I voted for them just because their local candidate was really helpful and supportive to our entire neighborhood, like wise I chose different parties at different levels (state, national, etc.). I was impressed by honesty and youthfulness of Rajiv when he entered in politics, VP Singh's anti corruption drive attracted me, Manmohan Singh's economic policies after 1991 created lot of change and hope, Vajpayee's honesty and sincerity impressed me, even I had really high hopes from Manmohan Singh as PM of India, not every time I was right or my expectations were fulfilled but I was never (and still I am not) die hard fan of any one political leader or party. I support good candidate or policy, it doesn't matter from which party they come. So why I decided to support AAP this time? What made me to change my stand of not supporting any party openly, why I didn't keep my political inclination a private affair this time?

During every election campaign all parties promise so many things which they never even try to fulfill, they try to field winnable candidates, they even field candidates with very questionable background just because they have power and capacity to fight or win elections, every major political (state or national) party does these things there are very few exceptions to this. From the beginning AAP was different than all of them, first they declared their all funding sources and amount, everything was available online for anyone to check till date no other political party in India did this, it seems they have too much to hide, AAP was first to do it. AAP was also the first party to disqualify their candidate from their party when they found some corruption charges against that candidate, they did this even after the deadline of withdrawing nominations expired, this was again a unique step. Like this they showed their uniqueness and transparency from the beginning, all these things were enough for me to believe in their sincerely. I don't agree with some of their populist policies, I am even not sure if they will live up to all expectations, but at least they are trying and they are trying sincerely and that's the main reason I support them, I am also not expecting any overnight change, it will be very long and difficult battle with many ups and downs. In past many parties which came out of some movement and claimed to work to deliver social justice immediately surrendered to current political system and became integral part of it once they got power, they didn't even try to change the system. Now they all are busy in navigating their way to the top using same old techniques and methods, AAP didn't do this, and this is what made me to support them.

This was first time I felt that any political party in India is not playing politics of caste and religion during election, this was for the first time when some party talked about over all system reform not just offering good rule, as Amir Khan said in one of his interviews this was for the fist time when some party promised not to offer a good 'rule' but to act as people's representative and execute what people want. This was for the first time when any party did referendum to ask people whether they should form a government with outside support of the party against which they fought the election (this was done because it was major change of policy). This party seems to care what people like me think, they seem to listen to our demands, they didn't go and settle in VIP culture after getting elected, they look very accessible and approachable. For the first time people seem to have power to challenge the government, ask questions, demand action and pull it down if they don't like their work. For the first time any CM has to change his official residence because many people disapprove his choice, many see this incident as a weakness and lack of leadership for me it was walking the talk (remember their promise that people are in charge). For the first time ministers declined the security cover (however personally I feel this is unnecessary), for the first time ministers won't travel in cars with red beacons. Some politicians practiced many of these things individually but for the first time any political party included these things in their rule book and followed it. For me these things are enough to show that currently this party is different than many others out there and as long as they remain different, don't deviate form their path I will support them. For me no one is untouchable in politics so form which party they take support is not important as long as they follow their own agenda. The day they deviate from their path, engage in same old tactics, become totally corrupt I will be the first to question them, I will be the first to criticize and oppose them because my support is not blind and unconditional, I am not a devotee but just a supporter who is with them to built great and prosperous nation.

Actually I am waiting for the day when all other parties will become totally transparent in their activities and policies, field clean candidates, try to fulfill their election promises, and if presence of AAP forces them to do this then I think this will be greatest contribution by AAP to Indian politics. If this happens then uniqueness of AAP will diminish and every other party will become like AAP, there will be competition to provide honest and non corrupt governance to people and that will be true democracy. I wait for that day, I hope AAP stays on its path till then if they deviate or change their direction drastically they will loose support of me and many people like me, it might happen as nothing is guaranteed but as always I am optimistic.

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

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


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Motherhood- a personal choice of any women.

Recent judgement in relation with premarital sex by court in Delhi has sparked some debate about right of adults to choose their sexual partners, in India still there is a very strong connection between marriage and parenthood, specially motherhood. Actually I am little surprised by the court commenting on the morality aspect of the act rather than legal aspect, I don't understand why any court cares about what any religion says about anything? How things mentioned in any religion or religious texts are relevant legally? We also need to understand the effect of these type of judgements on our society, actually these type of judgements increase the bias against the people who don't follow these so called moral norms. One of the issue directly related with this judgement is issue of motherhood of unmarried adult women, this is a big NO in many societies (including India), people look down on unmarried pregnant women, they have to face lot of humiliation, their character is questioned and even their own family might disown them because of stigma and shame associated with this incident. It is almost difficult for them to survive with this label in most conservative societies. So the question is, do adult and independent women have right to decide about when and how they want to become mother (or pregnant) or society should decide it? May be this question is irrelevant or unnecessary for many but this is very important for many women who want to become mother, want to have honorable place for their kids in our society but can't find suitable partner with whom they can marry to satisfy that minimum criteria of marriage imposed on them by religion and society to become mother, this is very crucial question for all those working, independent adult women and we need to discuss this and find some practical solution. 

Many independent, working women sometimes find really hard to find ideal life partner, who can really understand them and support them totally, this is all because independent and opinionated women is a recent phenomenon and not all men are comfortable with this, they want outgoing, smart and so called modern women but ultimately they expect her to remain within their control. It seems still our society is not ready for totally independent women, a women who can decide about everything related with her life. Even in today's world no organized religion gives fair and equal treatment to women, this is just because all religions are quite old and product of patriarchal society, because of this all of them are heavily biased against women and obviously we cannot use the standards used by all these religions today, this is true especially about issues related with women and their rights, at least I expect honorable courts to be careful about this. These type of judgments help to make already existing prejudice against women more strong, they even legitimize it, that's why we need to question them, debate them. Some issues like motherhood or homosexuality or casteism or racism might be non existent or non relevant for some people but for people directly getting affected by these issues it's a matter of great concern and as a society we need to be sensitive about their concerns.

Motherhood should be a personal choice of adult, independent women, every child should be legal and legitimate. Actually any adult should have right to decide about major things related with their own body and life. Marriage, choice of partner and motherhood are part of women's personal decisions and she should have total control over these things, definitely people around her can help whenever she needs or asks for any help, this can assist her to take proper decision but she should have right to decide what she want to do, I wonder how come any person with rational mind and common sense can oppose this? Why there is such a strong desire and desperate need to control women? Why some people are so scared with totally independent women, what's wrong with them? Women are almost 50% of our workforce, making them independent and strong is going to help us in building strong and vibrant society. It's always better to have society which is equally sensitive towards needs and concerns of every section, I guess everyone would love to live in this type of society. We all need to work towards it, at least people who believe in gender equality and oppose any kind of discrimination should work tirelessly towards achieving this goal. 

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

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

1. Premarital sex 'immoral', no religion permits it: Court

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Curious case of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

I don't need to give any introduction for 'Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose', at least in India almost everyone knows him, most of us study about his heroics in history books in Indian schools, also his tussle with Mahatma Gandhi when Bose became president of Indian National Congress is very well known. He took different path of armed freedom struggle when the rift between him and Gandhi widened because it was difficult for him to remain in Congress and pursue his agenda, story of his journey outside India and his struggle to obtain support from other countries for his fight to obtain freedom for India is very interesting and story of his life is subject of many books and also few movies.

There are many people who think India would have performed better under his leadership instead of Nehru's or Gandhi's, they all also feel armed struggle (even if it didn't produce any desired results) was better approach than Gandhi's non violent movement. Many of them also ridicule Gandhi for his no violent teachings and think that he was weak and pro Muslim compared to other leaders like Bose and Sardar Patel, according to me these all assumptions are very biased, because Patel and Bose were leaders from same political party (Indian National Congress) to which Gandhi belonged, if they didn't subscribe to ideas which congress believed then they remained in that party? Having difference of opinion is not a bad thing at all, and both these leaders didn't criticize Gandhi or congress in their lifetime but their so called supporters or people who want to use their name for political gains propagate these things about them.

I find Netaji's case unique because he was the only leader from India who tried to get military help from other countries to fight against British, specifically he traveled to Germany and Japan (two very strong and well known enemies of Britain during world war II) to get their direct or indirect military support. He even did not hesitate to ask help from controversial leader like Hitler, I have no idea whether he knew that time about Hitler's attitude towards Jews or not, but for him Japan's aggressive attitude towards some countries in Asia or Hitler's attitude towards Jews was not a deterrent for asking their help. I wonder whether Netaji Bose's supporters are OK with this attitude of his, I am asking this because many other leaders like Gandhi and Nehru are criticized for many things like pro minority attitude or for India's partition or not saving few freedom fighters from capital punishments, etc., but I don't see any criticism directed towards Bose for asking help from these countries with very barbaric attitude towards their own people and neighbors during world war II.

He used very simple logic, enemy's enemy is a friend, he never bothered what enemy's enemy is doing in his own back yard, no one can doubt his good intentions behind this, he was very passionate to win freedom for his motherland, for him end justified the means he wanted to use, unfortunately he died untimely death before one can see final results of his efforts but I always feel curious about the scenario what could have been the result if allied forces might have demanded his trial after world war-II because he sided with Hitler and co? How could have he defended himself? Actually these all are hypothetical questions and it's very difficult to find answers for them, answers will vary from person to person but these are the things which make me curious about Netaji Bose's life, even his death was very controversial and still there is lot of debate going on that issue. I would be interested to know what others think about all these issues.   

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

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


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lean In...very inspiring and thought provoking book.

Recently I finished reading book "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg, it was very refreshing and learning experience for me. I liked the book lot because it was very honest perspective of very successful women about the challenges she faced, difficulties she experienced from every quarter of her life like family, culture, social taboos, traditions, etc. It was very open and honest discussion, very rare thing to find these days. Without any hesitation I recommend this book to everyone, specially to those who are interested in knowing about tremendous progress women have achieved and also about their continuous struggle to achieve equal and fair treatment in our society. 

One thought which I liked the most from the book is her point that we need to respect choices of people, we need to respect choices of women who choose (out of their own will and desire) to stay at home, look after their family and make this as their primary job as well as women who prefer (again out of their own will and choice) to go out, pursue career in any field they want and become successful in it.

[We all want the same thing: to feel comfortable with our choices and to feel validated by those around us. So let’s start by validating one another. Mothers who work outside the home should regard mothers who work inside the home as real workers. And mothers who work inside the home should be equally respectful of those choosing another option].

At the same time choices of men who choose to do any of above mentioned things should also be respected, we need to change heavily stereotyped gender roles, redefine them and make choice of any job as a matter of personal choice

[The gender stereotypes introduced in childhood are reinforced throughout our lives and become self-fulfilling prophesies. Most leadership positions are held by men, so women don’t expect to achieve them, and that becomes one of the reasons they don't].

As this book is about her personal experiences in day to day life it sounds very practical and logical, problems and possible solutions mentioned in the book sound very real and doable as they are from real life experiences, this doesn't sound like some manifesto of some ambitious feminist movement or too much preaching which I think is a big plus for this book.

She also writes about fears which women face  
"Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter." she also goes on to say "for women, “self-doubt becomes a form of self-defense. In order to protect ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievement".

I also like when she questions society's attitude towards women, she writes,  
"It’s up to us to end the self-fulfilling belief that 'women can't do this, women can't do that.' Throwing up our hands and saying 'It can't be done' ensures that it will never be done." 

Along with society's attitude women's attitude to themselves matter a lot and is going to play key role in determining their role in future society. She also writes about women's attitude towards other women, often this is used to show that women are real enemies of other women, she offers very valid explanation for this where she emphasises that women can be both victims and perpetrators of gender bias,
"Women’s negative views of female coworkers are often seen as an objective assessment—more credible than the views of men. When women voice gender bias, they legitimize it. Obviously, a negative attitude cannot be gender based if it comes from another woman, right? Wrong. Often without realizing it, women internalize disparaging cultural attitudes and then echo them back. As a result, women are not just victims of sexism, they can also be perpetrators." 

 She also comments about gender stereotypes and questions many indirect gestures which condition our mind to stereotype both genders,
"Other cultural messages are more blatant. Gymboree once sold onesies proclaiming “Smart like Daddy” for boys and “Pretty like Mommy” for girls."

The book contains many situations and examples which are really interesting and thought provoking. She also shares many successful examples from her friends lives where couples break traditional norms and share the responsibilities or even switch traditional roles to live peaceful, happy and successful life.

I would like to end this post with very optimistic quote from the book, "The hard work of generations before us means that equality is within our reach. We can close the leadership gap now. Each individual’s success can make success a little easier for the next. We can do this—for ourselves, for one another, for our daughters, and for our sons. If we push hard now, this next wave can be the last wave. In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders."

I wish everyone works hard to make a society a reality where we have equal opportunity for everyone irrespective of their gender, this will be first step towards creation of discrimination free world.

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

1. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
3. Sheryl Sandberg: So we leaned in ... now what?