Friday, February 27, 2015

Murders of free thinkers...

When I read horrible news about murder of blogger Avijit Roy by few Islamic fanatics in Bangladesh I was really shocked. Avijit was a writer, a blogger on what subjects he used to write or whether he was anti-Islamic or not is really immaterial, the point here is he was killed for expressing his thoughts. This is another example of religious intolerance shown by fanatic groups. The problem is such groups are present everywhere, they are part of every religion, culture and country. Some places they are more aggressive and active because of political and social environment of that place and in some places they are dormant as they don't have much support from the establishment and people, but the truth is that they are present everywhere. 

Internet has given very reliable and open forum for many people like me to express their thoughts fearlessly. Avijit was one of many bloggers who use this forum every day to express their ideas and thoughts which otherwise are difficult to express in many countries and communities. One can very much disagree with these thoughts or argue against it but to physically harm the person is a extreme step which should be condemned by everyone and it should be punished by law. Such acts should not go unpunished otherwise we will see many Avijits getting killed on regular basis. Asking question is a basic right of any human in any civilized society, a society which doesn't encourage open and unrestricted questioning is not completely civilized according to me. We humans have differentiated our self from other animals of this planet not only because of our ability to imagine but also our ability to question things. Our ability to question is one of the major reason for our continuous progress in every area. But this ability to question everything has come under attack many times, even today we suffer from intolerance of disagreement. Religious intolerance is one of the major factor which results in such intolerant acts and all these murders are result of such intolerance.

Recent murder of veteran communist leader Mr. Govind Pansare was another example of such intolerant attitude of some groups towards people who dare to speak against fanatics of any community or religion. It will be terribly wrong to assume that such fanatics are part of only some selected religions or groups as I said they are part of every culture and community. It is very difficult for many to understand that there are some people who don't subscribe to any particular ideology, some people like me like (or dare) to question everything, we dare to take a stand and be very assertive about it without being aggressive, we believe in freedom of expression, so what is wrong in it? Why such people are targeted in every forum and in every meeting? Actually I don't mind intellectual attacks or questions, debates or discussions but such physical threats and hostile environment doesn't make things easy for many of us. It is not easy for everyone to be fearless and express their thoughts when there is a danger of loosing your life because of it. Very few are brave enough not to care about such threats and I really salute their courage and conviction. Whether it is people like Dr. Dabholkar or Mr. Pansare or Mr. Roy or someone else, they all died while fighting for what they believed was right. They didn't hurt anyone and were fighting their battle by using peaceful methods but people who don't believe in peace or dialogue or tolerance. These cowards didn't like strength of people like Dr. Dabholkar. These groups where scared of power and conviction of these people and that's why they physically attacked and killed them. As they could not fight their ideas they took shelter of cowardice act of murder to eliminate such brave people.

Such cowardice acts are blot on humanity no matter where they happen. Someone getting killed just for expressing their thoughts shows primitive level of thinking of that society. These things need to stop, we can not keep on saying every time that it is easy to kill person but not easy to kill their thoughts. Such groups or people are scared to hear the truth, they just don't want to tolerate any difference of opinion that is why they engage in such cowardice acts. But getting bullied by them is not an option. We all need to stand united against such barbaric acts then only such groups will be forced to abandon such ways. Only way to fight them is to keep on expressing our thoughts fearlessly on every forum. We have to stand united against such barbarism to eliminate it from our society.

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. Anti-Islamist US blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh
2. Kolhapur bids farewell to Pansare

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Am I important?

At some point of our life we all (or let's say most of us) get frustrated, feel dejected or depressed and ask this question to our self, am I important to anyone? This question is then followed by many other related questions like, what is the purpose of my life? Why am I here? Why I am doing this? What's the purpose of doing all this hard work? Does anyone care about what I think or what I do? Is this all going to change anything? Questions like these are many but there is no single or easy answer to all these questions. Depending on the situation or phase of life one might think about any one of these questions more than others but they all are somewhat related to each other. Once these questions dominate our mind, we start doubting our self, we question our abilities, we sometimes feel helplessness, we wonder why people don't understand our views or why they hate or dislike us or why they attack us unnecessarily, why? Some people also feel dejected or depressed under such situations. Actually all these questions are result of some not so favorable incidents happening around us. When our actions or best efforts don't produce desired results we doubt our capabilities. When we face unwarranted personal criticism just for expressing our opinion we doubt whether it is worth to express them in front of such a hostile audience. Sometimes too much personal attack (either in real world or cyber world) make people wonder about their worth. Such situations are not easy to handle for everyone, some people face so much trauma and agony that they take the extreme step like committing a suicide because of such depressing feelings. So for many of us these things might be a part and parcel of daily life but for some things get really serious and complicated, that is why it is necessary to address these questions and issues seriously.

There is nothing wrong in these type of questions itself but none of this should result in chronic depression or permanent self doubt. Many of us face this problem of self worth some time in our life. Whatever work we do, no matter how small or big it has some relevance and meaning. We all contribute towards our society in some way, big or small each and every contribution is meaningful and important. When we realize and understand that everyone one of us is equally important then we learn to respect each other as a person and also learn to respect each other's views. None of us have answers to all the questions, therefore we all are here to learn from each other and we should understand and acknowledge this fact. Intolerance towards each other is one of the major concerns today. This intolerance when crosses the limit in society takes form of communal riots, wars, genocides or some other forms of violence. At the same time we need to have personal tolerance level for all our positive and negative feelings. We should be able to handle success and failures with balanced mind. Our mind can be our best friend or worst enemy. It is not always possible to control or avoid negative feelings altogether, they are bound to come in some form and we need to deal with them. Once we believe that we are important citizens of this world and each of our actions can contribute towards building future of this society then we automatically recognize and realize our worth. We should no need anyone's validation to prove that worth, our own belief in our self is enough.

According to me the correct answer to the question which title of this blog poses is; yes, I am important and I am significant and so is everyone else. We all are important so none of us should underestimate our powers and significance of our role in this world. Sometimes we see the results of our efforts immediately and sometimes it takes time to see them. There are examples of many great people from history where their efforts showed desired results much later after their death but this didn't stop them from giving their best shot towards their goal. Things like self respect, ability to honor others, listen to others views, tolerance, etc. automatically come to us once we realize that we all are equally important. The question 'am I important' doesn't intend to display the feeling that others are not important, rather this question arises in mind when we somehow start feeling that we are somewhat less important than others. So, it may not be easy to avoid this question coming to our mind but it is easy not to get affected in negative way by such thoughts. This blog is just a small effort to provide simple answer to this complicated question.

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

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Is it necessary to know GOOD English?

I came across this discussion with Indian author Chetan Bhagat on NDTV. One of the topic they discussed was that is it necessary to know English or good English to make a mark in your professional and personal life? English is very celebrated and powerful language in India from decades. This might be mainly because of our colonial history but English commands a special status in Indian society. Person knowing this language and able to speak and write it fluently is often considered as a scholar and intelligent. Many people from India still think person is an intellectual just because he/she knows how to speak English. I myself learned to speak and write English very late in my life, my entire primary education was in Marathi and even though in college medium of instruction was English no one really spoke that language. I was first exposed to spoken English when I joined for my PhD at National Chemical Laboratory where people from all over India were there so Marathi was not a really option as a language of communication with everyone for me and from there onward I am constantly surrounded by people speaking in English. One can easily understand by reading my blog posts, comments, tweets or Facebook posts that English is not my native language. I am very comfortable with communicating in English as it allows me to connect with people all over world but I am also aware of the fact that my English skills are not that GOOD, but the question is, is it necessary to know GOOD English?

Having powerful command on any language is amazing thing, I really admire and respect everyone who have impressive command on any language. This skill gives that person a power to put his/her thoughts in very articulative way, they become master in craft of playing with words. Reading artistic expression of opinions, thoughts or articles and books is an amazing experience. Beautiful combination of words mesmerizes us, it leaves deep impact on our mind. That is why we have so few successful professional writers. But it it necessary to know good English or any other language in order to express your thoughts in it? I personally don't think so, we need some medium to express our ideas and thoughts and language is one of that medium. Purpose of any language is to allow us to express our thoughts in a manure which others can understand. If we can do that then we all are using that language effectively. I admire talent of people who are masters of expressing their thoughts in beautiful manure, I will keep on trying to learn their craft but not knowing that shouldn't stop me from sharing my views. As it is not only right of people with good voice to sing a song, it is not a rule that people with good command on that language should write in it. We all can express our thoughts in whatever language we feel comfortable. I see many people hesitate to communicate with others just because they think their language skills are not good enough, I always encourage them to at least give it a try and see how easy it is, you just have to get over that hesitation. Just get over that initial hesitation and start communicating in whatever language you are comfortable with, after all thoughts and ideas matter not the language in which they are communicated.  

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. Dialogues with Chetan Bhagat

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mr. Prime Minister please don't mess it up this time.

When BJP won decisive majority on its own in general elections of 2014 of India I was little surprised. I wasn't surprised that NDA won the elections, it was quite clear to me and many Indians that government of that time had no chance to come back in power but many didn't expect the clear majority to BJP as a single party. They won with 282 seats on their own (with ~31% vote share) and NDA in total won 339 seats with ~39% vote share. Actually it was really good to see that single party won the majority so the reasoning and excuse of coalition dharma to justify any decision or lack of decision must disappear now. Many governments from 1989 suffered decision paralysis because of this coalition politics. There was one person largely responsible for BJP's impressive success, it was Mr. Narendra Modi (chief minister of Gujarat that time). His presence made all the difference as other parties did not have anyone to counter the challenge posed by him, he rode on a wave of his popularity with enormous resources at his disposal, very well planned and executed campaign to secure absolute majority for his party, this happened for the first time since 1984. In 1984-85 general elections Congress won the election with absolute majority under the leadership of Late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. It was a landslide victory, they won 414 seats with ~49% of vote share, it was the biggest victory margin for any party till date. I don't think that record is easy to break in near future. Mr. Rajiv Gandhi had majority which no one enjoyed ever in parliament, many expected that he will bring much needed change in style and functioning of Indian politics. BUT sadly it didn't happen, a golden opportunity was missed. Mr. Rajiv Gandhi started on very positive note, made very impressive speeches about change in the beginning of his tenure but somehow lost his way somewhere in between and ended his tenure with corruption charges (Bofors scandal), Shah bano case disaster and Ram mandir issue. Rather than Rajiv changing Indian politics, Indian politics changed him. This was really sad, I really feel bad whenever I look back to this part of Indian history, it is not that his government didn't do any good work but the expectations which people had from him were not fulfilled. Difeat of Congress party in 1989 general elections started a new era of coalition politics, which resulted in many weak and unstable governments. So after 30 years now we have another prime minister and party with absolute majority in parliament. Like Rajiv Mr. Modi also started his tenure with very positive note, his speeches are mentioning all right things and people have lot of expectations from him and his government. I hope he is serious about changing the ways politics and political parties work in India, I believe he wants to create bipartisan style of political decision making, bring more transparency in political funding, reduce corruption...the list is too long.

According to me Mr. Modi have very unique opportunity in his hands, the same opportunity which Mr. Rajiv Gandhi had and missed 30 years ago. India and Indians have waited almost three decades to get a government with decisive mandate. Hopefully he means whatever promises he made during his election campaign. One thing which I am looking forward this government to implement is 'uniform civil code' (not Hindu civil law which RSS wants). India calls itself a secular country but there is very complicated system of personal laws. Each religion have their own set of personal laws specially in cases of marriage, divorce and adoption. BJP is talking about uniform civil code since long, I think it is time now they implement it. I am sure youth of country across the party lines will support this. Mr. Modi have majority on his side at least in one house of parliament and it is just matter of time his party gets majority in other house as well. He should initiate this process to show his commitment towards his party's promises. This one change can initiate a big social change. This is also a unique opportunity to change the long tradition of politicization different institutions and government bodies. If NDA or BJP keeps repeating same mistakes which UPA or Congress did in the past then what is the use of changing the government? If current government behaves in same way like previous governments then it is just a change of name not the change of governance style. Initial signs don't look that promising but may be they need some time to adjust and will get their acts together soon after initial hiccups.

I don't expect these changes to happen in overnight or even during first year of the tenure of this government but if no initial inclination is shown in this direction then I think it will be difficult to bring any change later on. This opportunity came after 30 long years and if it is missed this time then I don't know how many more years Indian people have to wait to see this happen again. Delhi assembly elections showed that voters don't have patience to wait, they want results and I hope Mr. Modi don't mess up this unique opportunity which history has offered to him. They are not going to get 60 years like Congress. Expensive and lavish suits, fancy dresses, charismatic and well delivered speeches are fine for PR campaign but people want results, so act fast and act with honest and integrity otherwise be prepared to get decimated. 

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/Uniform_civil_code_of_India
2. Uniform civil code: will it work in India?

Friday, February 6, 2015

If it's not your cup of tea, then don't drink it.

This tweet by Indian film maker Karan Johar grabbed my attention, he tweeted this in response to all tweets which criticized his participation in controversial episode of AIB knockout roast. While I enjoy watching some stand up comedy shows I am not very big fan of them. I think that they tend to focus more on negative aspects of life and use insult and vulgarity as a major elements to create comedy. But these shows and such type of comedy is very popular and I recognize why it is so popular. These comedians also push the limit to a extent that it sounds sometimes offensive or derogatory but that's how it is. These shows are not part of any TV channels which are meant for family audience and they give proper disclaimer before the show for people who don't know what are they getting into. This particular AIB roast also comes with proper disclaimer about its adult contents so all people who are not comfortable with such things should not watch it, it is as simple as that. 

Everybody claims to have a sense of humor as it is a cool thing to have but very few actually posses it. It is easy to laugh at others, pass comments about others but it is very difficult to laugh at yourself, very few people have capability and courage to do that. Comedy forms like satire and most of stand up comedy shows are not for people who don't know how to laugh at themselves. In India this form is relatively recent, it is not that we didn't have comedy shows but their format was different and focus was always on so called 'clean' comedy so I am sure many will find difficult to adjust to this new phenomena in comedy. I was stumped when I saw first such show on YouTube when I came to US, I was surprised to see that how come people can tolerate and laugh on such racist, sexist and insulting comments? But then I realized that this form of comedy is not everybody's cup of tea, I can't watch some of these shows as I don't enjoy the contents of it but that doesn't mean than I can tweet some nasty, utterly derogatory tweet about its participants like one of the current censor board member did. The tweet that guy posted was so derogatory that I don't want to mention it on the blog, but at the same time that particular person has right to express his opinion because of freedom of expression in the same manure as AIB have that same right. But I wonder how come a person with such a biased view about particular form of art can be on a body which is supposed to judge what people of this country should and shouldn't watch? Isn't this particular behavior questions his ability to judge artistic creations with unbiased mind?

I managed to watch this show when it was there on YouTube, it is funny, I enjoyed most of it and yes, it is really vulgar and filthy at times but the show puts this warning right in the beginning so you know what to expect. I have no complains about the contents of this show, if I didn't like something from it that's my problem. I can't demand an apology from participants for using abusive language towards each other, that will be stupidest thing to do. There are many things which we see around or watch on TV or in movies or any other place doesn't suit our taste, we are free to reject them and even to register our protest in strongest possible words. But to question person's wight to express their thoughts or question consenting adults commenting about each other is a sign of regressive mindset. I hope this controversy is settled soon, this was totally unnecessary stuff, India has much bigger issues to deal with than worrying about the contents of some comedy roast. I even found some parts of very popular comedy show from one of India's TV channel 'Comedy nights with Kapil' as very sexiest and insulting to women, so I stopped watching it and if I watch it I do it at my own risk. I hope adults learn to behave like adults and stop wasting time on such petty issues. Like Karan Johar tweeted, if it's not your cup of tea, then don't drink it. If at all you drink it even by mistake then don't cry foul or abuse the makers just laugh at your own stupidity and move on and be careful next time.

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

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Internet and religion.

Various religions ruled this world for last so many centuries unanimously and without any serious threat or challenge (apart from conflicts between each other). Empire of religion grew as it became more and more organized. As it became organized, it also became very powerful, so powerful that it was very easy for them to crush any opposition in name of blasphemy. It became a big enterprise, more like today's cell phone market. As everyone needed this product called religion different versions of it became available depending on time and need of that particular place. Some survived and some perished as they couldn't compete with big guns. Very few philosophies survived who dared to challenge concept of religion or God, so the empire of religion has ruled this world unanimously for so many centuries. But it seems there is one thing which is threatening the empire of religion like no one ever did before, it is not any organization or any new philosophy but it is a open and free information source called "internet". Internet is quite recent discovery but in last 20 years or so it has changed the way people collect information and the way they communicate with each other. It has changed the way information is generated and shared. This marvelous discovery in the field of information and technology has provided access to vast amount of information to almost anyone with a internet connection on any electronic device. Ignorance and lack of reliable and verifiable information was major reason for rise and spread of all religions. People had many questions but no answers and religion easily fulfilled that vacuum by providing them some explanations about the things happening around them which people struggled to explain with available knowledge of that time.

Today people can get answers to most of their queries by using any search engine on internet. They can find various views and opinions about any given topic by reading various discussions, blogs or articles freely available on different websites. Actually readers can choose how much information they want, they are no more limited with only one sided view or argument about any topic. This has challenged the propaganda run by different religions for centuries. Many people with open mind and lot of questions found internet as a vast ocean of information. Before it was very difficult to get hold of some book or a person who can provide some reliable information about many questions because of limited resources in many parts of the world but now it is  not that difficult. I can say these things based on my own personal experience. I started questioning religious practices and concept of god when I was in college, but no one bothered to answer those questions but rather I was told that it is wrong to ask such bad questions. Then I started reading books based on such subjects during my college days. I was lucky to have access to library and I am glad that I utilized that. Those books challenged my beliefs, questioned my faith and forced me to think, they forced me to raise questions even though no one was willing to answer them. I found some of the answers in those book and then some of them were discovered when I started learning about science and its amazing discoveries. Next level was attained when I came across the phenomena called 'internet'. It gave me lot of information and connected with many individuals who also think like me. I used to think I am the only one who find many problems with the way religion (in my case it was Hinduism) is practiced but I realized that there are many who are raising these type of questions. Internet helped me to educate myself without help from anyone. I was able to read a lot and collect lot of information, some was useful and some wasn't but it was my choice what to accept and what to reject. That information cleared lot of my doubts and also provided me a platform to share that information with others, this blog is a result of that effort. In this amazing journey on internet I also got connected with many people who whom I would not have met otherwise. It was really great experience to interact with them and get to know their views. It enriched my thinking for sure.

I have no doubt that internet is going to be a major force to challenge the authority of all religions. After realizing its potential and reach all religions are also using this as a tool to propagate their faith and many of them are doing it very effectively but at the same time it has provided a unique and safe platform to all who always faced threats and intimidation from powerful religious institutes. These powerful institutes now can't execute people on internet for blasphemy, they can't intimidate them like they used to do in past. So the game is on and now the fight appears to be fair at least in cyber world. Many people are getting more vocal and assertive with their views against bad customs and rituals from every religion which was not possible just few decades ago. This alternate voice which never had any stable platform can not only be heard but can also match the pitch and every note of that powerful and dominant voice which enjoyed unchallenged run so far. I am glad to see that slowly but steadily this alternate voice is forcing religion to change its attitude and modify its stance on many issues. I am sure this is just beginning and we are going to see more tolerant form of religion in coming years. Destruction of faith or religion should not be a motto but to make it more tolerant and flexible should be the purpose of challenging it. Religion has to change its intolerant attitude or it will perish slowly. I am sure it will prefer to change rather than to perish, after all who will like to destroy such a vast empire built over centuries at the cost of defending few lines from some ancient books. Thank you internet for giving us the space to raise our voice.

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. Why the Internet is slowly strangling religion