Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stop being offended...

I see lot of people feeling offended by very small small reasons. They get offended during discussions, after reading a book, an article or listening to someone's speech. You criticize or question their religion, they get offended; you criticize their political party or leader they feel offended; you question their beliefs, they feel offended; the list can go on, the point I am trying to make here is people get offended because of many reasons and many times this creates some problems. Because of all this people develop tendency to get offended, their tolerance level decreases and their feelings get hurt very easily. Hurt feelings are one of the main reason to feel offended. Whenever these type of people see that next person doesn't agree to their logic and raising questions it, they don't like this. Many of them feel offended just because of disagreement of others with their views. Many try to convince others by various ways like discussion, debate, argument but if nothing works and other person is still critical and disagrees with them they feel offended. Some have tendency to feel offended even by a small objection to some of their core beliefs, somehow they feel that everyone should believe in what they believe. Once people feel offended their behavior changes, their tone, language both become different, even their tolerance level decreases. This is not very ideal situation for any discussion, that's why I try to avoid as much as possible any discussion with people who have tendency to get offended. Once they feel offended they lose their sense of logic and then it's all about emotions without any sound logic or rational.

Some people mistakenly think that feeling of being offended is directly linked with their self respect, that is they have self respect that's why they feel offended. This is so wrong, there is absolutely no link between self respect and feeling offended because of criticism. This feeling of offense is actually a sign of frustration. Frustration because of inability to convince others. Frustration because of people questioning their views or even rejecting it. This frustration then leads to the feeling of offense. No one can attack or diminish your self respect in any discussion as long as you don't allow them to do so. Discussions and debates are not places to do any personal attacks on anyone. I personally don't ever feel offended by any remarks against my posts or views, sometimes people call me names even use some nasty words and get very personal in criticism during discussions or arguments but I don't mind all this because it displays their state of mind not mine. During any discussion my aim is always to share my views and get to know others. If there is any difference of opinion then it can be solved via discussion in nice polite, civilized way or we can always agree to disagree with each other. If everyone follows this policy then imagine how nice every debate or discussion will become. People won't be shouting top of their voice just to convey their message, they won't make any personal attacks while discussing ideologies and policies, no one will get angry and feel offended. Discussions or debates will sound like some civilized exchange of thoughts not some street fight or bar brawl.

I hope people try to take efforts to increase their tolerance level and stop being offended. Imagine the world where people don't feel offended, it will have less anger, less violence, less hatred, less grudge...sounds amazing..right? Let's try to bring that in reality. 

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

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Self discipline is the best discipline..

Most of us struggle to bring some discipline in our day to day life. There are few lucky or really strong minded people who can manage to live very disciplined life but most of us struggle. We all want to exercise regularly but find some excuse not to do it, want to read books but watch more TV, want to eat healthy food but can't resist temptation of ice cream or delicious cookies, etc. etc. We try to search around to get some motivation to bring this much needed discipline which is can make our lives better. Some find remedy somewhere to this problem others keep on struggling to bring that much needed discipline.

I feel major problem here is that we always look for solution outside, as if the problem is imposed on us because of some external force. The actual problem is that I indulge in all these not so good (or bad) habits myself no one forces me to do these things. I prefer to eat not so healthy food, I choose to watch TV instead of doing exercise so it should be me who need to believe that this is wrong and should be changed rather than some one else doing this. As long as I feel that I am a victim of these bad habits and not the perpetrator who is doing this I always blame those habits but not myself for whatever effect they have on me. Smoking is bad, eating lot of sugar is bad, watching lot of TV can have bad effect on health (sedentary lifestyle), we all know this then why we still do these things? I agree that some of these things are really addictive and sometimes it's really difficult to control but truth is we all know the bad effects of these habits and still we do it. There are many articles, research papers, books which explain side (or bad) effects of these things on our health, most of us read about them somewhere, we are aware of these things but still fail to act accordingly. Rarely anyone of us is forced into these habits, we all choose them ourselves. Aggressive marketing by food companies, heavy advertising on internet and TV affect our mind and influence our choices but I feel all this happens mainly because lack of self discipline.

Initial part of our life is often spent under some adult supervision (our parents or legal guardians), they protect us, they also try to introduce some discipline in our life. This external force (our guardians) impose some rules and regulations on us. Most of us learn many good habits while going through this process, but many of us also try to break some rules for various reasons. Many times these instances are really trivial and the effects are not so serious but sometimes these things can be the reason to loose direction in life. Once their control on our lives gets reduced (college days and life after that) we can do whatever we want. This is where self discipline becomes really important. Self discipline is very necessary when there is no external control. When there is no external force or pressure who can stop you from doing something (right or wrong) then self discipline plays major role. It's only our own mind which has ultimate authority, it controls which way we go. There are many laws, rules and regulation but still people commit crime, break laws, that's why I feel self discipline is must for everyone. It teaches us how to behave, what is proper or improper under given circumstances. Self respect and self discipline can help people to respect each other, value each others opinion and make our society a better place. Patience, tolerance, humility are some of the qualities which are becoming rare and rare. External force or pressure works only up to certain extent, no one can force anyone to be humble or respect others opinion, this feeling has to come from that person's mind. Any number of rules or laws can not eradicate all corruption or discrimination from  our society, only self consciousness and self discipline can do this, that's why I believe that self discipline is best discipline.

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

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

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thank you Kalki...


When I watched video by Indian actress Kalki Koechlin, it left me speechless. I was amazed by the way Kalki presented such complicated and sensitive subject in so effective manure. Actually I saw not only one but two amazing videos on that day second one was by Tracey Spicer. I suggest readers to watch both of them, they deal with totally different subjects but believe me you won't regret watching them. The first one was more special because I think this was the first time I saw an Indian actress commenting so boldly about issues related with gender discrimination in our society. She touched almost every area related with this issue (religion, politics). Its not the first time that I saw or heard talk like this, there are many like this on internet but mostly by some non Indian celebrities or some feminist activists. Normally Indian movie celebrities are very conscious and careful about their image. They don't want to give any comments about any sensitive issue which can become controversial or hurt someone's religious or political feelings. Somehow these religious and political feelings of many people get hurt by almost anything. They can get hurt by a book, a movie, a stage play, a painting or even some cartoon. But surprisingly these feelings don't get hurt by communal riots, inflammatory speeches, fatwas, pathetic attempts of conversions (converting people from one religion to other), discriminatory practices or rituals. Somehow they get hurt only by some criticism directed to them in any form. I applaud courage of Kalki, she dared to do something which no other actor or actress dared to do in the beginning stages of their career. Maybe she will be branded as atheist or feminist who is painting negative picture of our society, maybe she will lose some of her fans because of some comments she made in this act about religion and society but I think she cares little about all this. Actually I read this monologue few days before, but it was not that effective because it was too lengthy to read and it didn't have same effect which it had when I watched it. The video is much more effective and hard hitting, may be because the way she presented it. I have seen some plays like this in Marathi but this was first act by some mainstream actress (Hindi cinema). Please watch the video, listen to the message it wants to convey. Thank you very much Kalki for this, I hope you become prominent voice against any type of discrimination in India.

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. An intense piece about the truths of womanhood kalki performance
2. AIB: It's Your Fault
3. The lady stripped bare: Tracey Spicer at TEDxSouthBankWomen

Monday, March 17, 2014

Is there life after death?

"Is there any life after death?" this question is debated for centuries and still we don't have any conclusive answer. There are many speculations from different groups who believe in after death events about what might be happening to a person after his/her death. Some of them sound very interesting but at the same time they sound more like a fiction stories than reality. I never bothered about this question because it really never caught my attention. But recently I heard few wonderful of lectures of Professor Kagan from Yale University where topic of death was discussed in somewhat detail and during listening to some of those lectures this issue came to my mind. I thought blog readers might be interested in this topic as it's closely related with most of religions. Many religions talk very interesting things about life after death. I also see many people are worried about this, sometimes they worry about this more than their life before death. Curiosity of people in this subject prompted me to do some more reading in this area. Personally I am not that much interested in this subject directly but as this subject is very closely related with organized religion I think it's worth discussing it here.

It will be interesting to see how we define death? Normally end of life is considered as death. Whenever anything stops working completely (for whatever reason) and can not be revived under any circumstances we pronounce it as 'dead'. Basically 'death' is considered as 'end of life', so how there can be a life after end of life? The question itself doesn't make much sense, it sounds very contradictory. According to Professor Kagan this is like asking is there any food in plate after I finish my food or is there any movie after end of movie or something like that? Either you have not finished your food (so it means it is still there) or you finished it (it's not there), in a similar way either you are alive or you are dead. These two events are totally separate from each other, they are two ends of one linear thread. But many people still believe that there can be a life after end of life, they don't see any contradiction in this belief. This means either definition of death as end of life is wrong or no one really dies (as according to them life continues after death). For many people and religions it is not a full stop (end) but a comma (intermission). Some religions (like Hinduism) believe in many cycles of life and death but in this case also there is no very clear definition of life and death. For many other religions death is the end and there are no life-death cycles. According to them after death there is real evaluation our personal performance (about what you did in your life on this planet).  Based on your balance sheet you get a reward or a punishment. So there are quite a few different theories and concepts. They all try to tell us according to them what happens after person's death. Many of them also believe that there is something called soul, which continues to exist even after our death.

It will be also interesting to know how we understand presence of life? On what basis we say that particular person or thing is alive? We normally use certain parameters (like pulse rate, heartbeats, etc), check for certain signs and then based on results  we can say whether that person is alive or not. Can we use similar tests to check presence of life after death? The answer is "no", because lack of these signs itself is considered as death, so as long as any of these signs are present the person is considered as alive and only when these signs disappear we declare them dead. Again this question doesn't hold its ground because of inherent contradiction in it.

According to most religions who believe in after death events all these post death events happen with our soul (because our physical body is useless after death). There is no scientific (direct or indirect) evidence about any of these no matter from which religion or scripture they come. These things should be argued and discussed rather than believing them blindly. There are some news reports and even published books which talk about near to death experience of some people. Based on these accounts authors of these books try to claim that their scriptures give accurate descriptions about heaven or hell. These books or interviews are often cited as a proof of their religion's claim about existence of after death life or some extra terrestrial world where their Gods live. But the truth is that there is no substantial scientific evidence to any of these theories and claims. Even though some of these books are written by professional medical doctors, they lack real unbiased scientific analysis of many claims made in them. These type of books don't serve any real purpose but they make many people to believe in concepts like heaven and hell. I didn't find any reliable evidence which confirms presence of heaven, hell or life after death. I think this is more of a philosophical debate rather than scientific. Concept of life after death offers people some solace in the event of death of loved ones. It also helps them to overcome fear of their own death. This gives them ray of hope that not everything is lost after death of their dear ones, they are somewhere safe and sound and one day they will meet with them. This thought of after death life is very beautiful and comforting concept for many, no wonder that people love it. This thinking or belief definitely helps to take away some pain and suffering from tragic event like death, that's why I think it's very popular.

The purpose of this post is not to hurt anyone's feelings but just to have some discussion about this age old question. I personally feel that whatever good or bad exists, it exists here on our planet earth. We live our entire life on this planet, our life begins here (we all are born here) and ends here (with death). We all, as a individual or as a group or as a nation create all good or bad things around us. We can categorize or label them as good or bad deeds (or karmas), virtue or sin. Most of us face reactions of our own actions, they produce favorable or unfavorable results for us. I think that if people want to find they can find their own heaven (things that make them happy) or hell (things that make them terribly sad) on this planet it self, no need to look somewhere else. I feel we need to worry more about our lives before death than about any life after death.

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

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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Black, white or brown all are beautiful...

I already wrote couple of posts in past which are somewhat related with this topic which I wanted to discuss today (please see the links below). The topic is about skin color and perception or definition of beauty. I was born in a society obsessed with fair skin, I think India is the world leader in sale of fairness skin products (products like fair and lovely or fair and handsome are very popular brands). I have a dark skin by birth. I guess I have darkest skin complexion among all three siblings of my generation in our family. As a kid I always used to get consolation that even though my skin is dark it's not that bad, so I should be happy that it's little bit fairer than 'X' (some cousin in family or neighbor who is cited as an example for being darker than me). I was also consoled that as I am a boy it won't be a much of a problem for my marriage as my gender itself gives me upper hand (superior status) in marriage bazaar. Just because I am a male I can easily demand or choose a fair skin bride to strike a balance in next generation (!!). This might sound ridiculous or crazy but this was how it was, but luckily for me I never felt any inferiority complex any time in my life because of my skin color or physical appearance. I never bothered much about anybody's physical appearance, may be because of influence of books I read or may be because of my 'I don't give it a damn' attitude towards these type of comments. I can't say exactly what was the reason but I never felt guilty or inferior because of my skin color, rather more people commented more proud I felt about it.

I know and understand very well now that skin color doesn't matter at all. No one should feel any bad about their skin color. Black, brown, white or anything else all are beautiful and unique in their own way. This is now easy for me to say, but back then when I was a kid it was not that easy, I saw many people feeling depressed or inferior just because of their skin color. It is not easy to ignore when people around you comment about your skin color negatively every time they discuss about your physical appearance. It is not easy when your skin color is used to tease you or humiliate you. Rather it's quite possible that these people start thinking that something is wrong with them that's why I totally understand the situation when I read news about girls going in depression because of their dark complexion, or people's desperate desire to make their skin fairer in order to look beautiful by using whatever means are available to them. This all happens because of tremendous social and psychological pressure created on these individuals by this hippocratic behavior of society around them. We need to diffuse this pressure, as I said it's not easy for everyone to understand that skin color really doesn't matter, most advertisements of fairness creams are completely racial and are examples of pathetic attempt to earn money by demeaning and insulting dark skinned people. As some of these products are endorsed by some famous celebrity more people start believing on these ads and get trapped in this racial prejudice.

I still remember when my mother used to put lot of white talcum powder (only cosmetic product which we can afford) on my face so that I look little fairer during any photo shoot or social function (like marriage ceremony or festivals). I know that she did all these things out of concern about me. She was worried that someone might comment about her son's dark complexion. She didn't want someone call her son ugly because of his skin color. This worry was instigated in her by society around her. That's why I feel campaigns like 'dark is beautiful' or people like Lupita talking about their experience related with stigma associated with skin color are very important. This post is also a small effort in that direction, there are many issues in world about which we need to worry but our skin color is not one of them, no matter what these advertisements say every skin color is beautiful. We need to question and challenge these prejudices about skin color which still exist in our society. These prejudices are propagated by many advertisements, some programs of TV (in many comedy shows in India they always make fun of dark skin people and also overweight people). Now whenever someone tries to console me for my dark skin, I tell them not to worry about my skin color, rather I insist them calling me dark skinned or black person. I take it as a compliment as I am really proud of my skin color. I make very clear to them that I don't need their consoling or sympathy about my skin color. I love my skin color and I advise everyone to love theirs. Let it be black, white, brown, fair, dark or whatever they all are equally beautiful and adorable. Lets kick this prejudice out of our minds which is largely result of some racial marketing of some beauty products and enjoy this colorful world. Remember "we all are beautiful".

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. Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong'o's Speech On Beauty
2. What is real beauty?
3. We all are beautiful.
4. http://darkisbeautiful.blogspot.com/

Sunday, March 9, 2014

We live in amazing times...let's appreciate it.

When I read this blog by Adam Frank thoughts expressed in it immediately resonated with me. I always used to wonder why people complain so much about small things when there are so many amazing things are happening around us? Why some people get upset over minor things when there are many big issues which deserve our attention? Actually we all are witnessing most advanced era of our civilization. We have best possible physical comfort and problem solving tools which were not available to any of our previous generations. I agree that we still have many social and economical issues which need our attention but at the same time there are so many amazing things which are going around us. We miss to appreciate them while busy in complaining about some minor things.

If we look around us there are lot of amazing things happening around. Some amazing things are discovered in last few decades; for e.g. air travel is very common now and relatively very safe compared to 100 years ago, sea travel is also exciting and full with fun (just look at cruise ships). If you look at some amazing and cool inventions in many areas then you will understand what I am talking about. There is explosion of inventions in the area of information technology, medicine, health care, travel, crop production, food processing, etc. Some of these inventions we misuse and create problems for ourselves but the inventions as such are really great. Internet and social media has opened al together new universe for all of us. There are so many things to do that even one life time seems very short to experience all these amazing things. The most wonderful part is many of these inventions are easily accessible and affordable to all of us, they are not restricted to very few rich and famous. We all can experience them and appreciate them. I still feel amazed whenever I travel via aeroplane. Wireless internet thrilled me when I used it for first time. We used to que up to check our emails on common computers and used to use department email ID, no individual email ID can you believe it? I was so happy and thrilled when I opened my first email account on yahoo, it was huge improvement from telnet account which I was using before that.

Whenever I fly on plane I still can't stop wondering that how come such a heavy object, carrying so many people and cargo can fly so high in the sky. I still wonder how satellites transfer wireless signals so fast. How people live in space? As a scientist I understand all the technical aspects but still these wonders fascinate me. I feel lucky and fortunate that I live in such amazing times where so many wonders are happening every day, I enjoy every bit of it. I agree there are many problems to fix, many issues to address, we all have to work hard to solve these problems but all these things don't stop me from appreciating amazing things around me. We witness these miracles every day but still somehow fail to appreciate them. So let's appreciate happiness around us, let's enjoy the roller coaster ride rather than complaining about the wind.

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. Everything's Amazing And Nobody's Happy- Adam Frank
2. Everything's+Amazing+ +Nobody's+Happy-Youtube link

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On the occasion of second anniversary of the blog..

Today is second anniversary of this blog. Two years have passed since I started this amazing journey. I enjoyed every bit of it and I hope all readers also had a similar experience. I started writing this blog to share and express my views about various issues which affect our daily personal and social life. In continuing pursuit in the second year, I tried to share my opinion about various topics which are of my interest; women empowerment, discrimination, sexual abuse, politics and religion. All these topics are linked with many socially relevant issues, many problems which we face today are directly or indirectly linked with at least one if these. All these areas affect everyone's life either directly or indirectly, therefore we need to be aware of several issues related with these topics. We need to educate ourselves with various aspects of these topics and that is why I discuss them on blog. Only through discussion we can solve problems which our society is facing today. This blog has also taught me many things; one of them is I now appreciate and enjoy good articles and books even more, because I know personally how difficult it is to express your thoughts in a way which people can connect to it. I variety of books on various subjects. I read articles, listen to many talks, discussions, debates. I enjoy reading, it's my hobby since I was a teenager. Amongst all things around me I can vouch that this hobby has resulted in tremendous changes in my personality and thinking. This blog also taught me the importance of expressing my own thoughts and concerns and sharing them with others. It also taught me importance of debates and how to deal with hostile commentators who can go to any extent to criticize you just because you don't agree to their point of view.

Topics like women empowerment, discrimination in name of gender, religion, race, caste, sexual orientation or any other thing, malpractices of organized religion or cult movements and politics were some of the subjects which were mainly discussed on the blog during last year. Politics was new entrant last year as I feel it is very important subject. Political parties which come in power affect our lives directly or indirectly, that's why I chose to discuss some political topics last year and will try to continue to do this in future too. I also tried to update blog very regularly by posting at least six to eight posts every month not as a rule but to keep steady flow so that readers have something to read, interesting and thought provoking every time they visit the blog. The journey for me has been eventful in its own way. There were some intense arguments about some topics, some heated debates too, but they all taught me something, they all taught me how difficult the struggle to bring any change is and how difficult it is to change age old system or beliefs. The battle against the system whose ill effects have become traditions and many people are so used to them that they endorse it in name of tradition. It is not going to be easy to change these things in a short time. It is very tough to challenge these so called traditions or even superstitions. One is always going to get abused or criticized from some section of society for doing this. Any activist or reformer who tries to do so goes through this phase. Knowingly I expected many of these comments. I am not trying to claim here that I am any activist or reformer. I am just a simple person trying to do his bit to make our society a better place, but it was definitely very interesting to see to what extent some brainwashed people can go to, in order to defend what they think is right.

The blog will continue as always. I want to sincerely thank all readers for their time and specially to all those, who took efforts to share their opinions and concerns with their comments. Your comments are very important and they contributed something to my knowledge, thanks again for that. I also received lot of encouragement from many readers whom I also want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for their kind words. Sharing and discussing each other's ideas is very important aspect of liberal, civilized and progressive society. Tolerance towards each other's views and ability to discuss any disagreements in civilized manner is very important and this blog is a small effort towards that direction, I welcome all disagreement and criticism, these things help me to to grow and perform better, so please keep reading and sharing your views. Together we can make this world a better place for all.

Thanks for reading.

Links:
Some popular posts of blog,
1. Chanakya and his views about women
2. Does Religion Divide or Unite People?
3. Worshiping while Menstruating- What's wrong in it?
4. Where was God when I was raped and murdered?

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

* Thanks to Mr. Chandrashekhar Vairale for suggesting corrections.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Stereotyping...effect of listening to a single story.

When I heard this TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I was really impressed by the way she explained the phenomena of stereotyping in very simple terms by giving very relevant examples from her own life. I wanted to write about stereotyping for a long time and this talk gave me an opportunity to discus about this issue. I remembered many instances from my own life where I had been a victim of knowing only a single story about certain people, religions or cultures and I formed my opinions about them even before completely understanding those people or places. I am sure this happens with many people, we all read about so called popular beliefs, social customs, myths and stories. All these things impress a certain image about many things in our mind and then we start giving some labels to those people and communities. We stereotype them, knowingly or unknowingly we judge them or express our opinions about them based on that stereotype which was created in our mind based on some incomplete and inaccurate information. I still remember when I was surprised to meet an atheist Muslim who used to follow many things from his religion or culture but didn't believe in god. I was surprised to see a female bus driver for first the time in US because I have never seen any women driving such a big vehicle in India. Somehow I was under the impression that women can't drive these big vehicles. There a are few more things which I can include in this list but the post is not about how many stereotypes I used to believe in but why I believed in them and how that belief was formed? All stereotypes may not be wrong but definitely they don't tell the entire truth.

As Chimammanda nicely explains in her talk, these all stereotypes or misconceptions were formed because I only knew single stories about those things. I only saw women working at home, rarely saw them stepping outside the house. I saw them doing only certain type of jobs which women were supposed to do. Therefore I never imagined that they can drive a bus or can also become a pilot. I was only told stories about fanatic Muslims and about their strong religious beliefs, I was informed that they are anti-Hindu (the religion in which I was born). I never thought that there could be an atheist or a progressive Muslim person who respects all other religions; these are the few examples from my own life to illustrate the effect of listening to single stories and believing in them. Since some of the stereotypes in which I believed turned out to be completely wrong I started questioning every stereotype I came across, and believe me, I found each of them based on wrong or incomplete information. There might be some element of truth in them but certainly they don't represent the complete truth. That's why we need to question and challenge every stereotype we come across. They create a wrong image of people, communities, or countries in many people's minds.

I have stopped believing in any stereotype long back. I question all of them, may it be about any gender, race, religion, community or country. This approach changed my outlook towards looking at things drastically. It helped me a lot to overcome my inhibitions and misconceptions. I am always interested in other side of story or want to know more than one story. I always want to do my own research to explore all angles of any topic before forming my opinion about anything that I hear, see or read. I am also willing to change those opinions as I get to know about new facts. According to me change is the only constant factor in life. When people stereotype anything then they give some permanent label to those things, attribute certain set of characteristics to them and believe that those things don't change. They start believing that there are some common qualities for that particular community or gender. Stereotyping is completely wrong, so let's stop doing this, this will definitely help making our society better and inclusive place. A place where everyone is special in their own way.

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. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story