Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's simple pedometer, but it changed my lifestyle.

Now a days various fitness devises are being launched everyday in market, some of these are really popular, there are also many apps for cell phones which can measure and store your physical activity data. I guess there is very compelling reason why these things are so popular and I can tell this from my own experience. When I got this little devise called 'pedometer' as a gift from our company I never knew that it is going to change my life style so much. For people who don't know about this devise, pedometer measures number of steps you take by sensing motions of your body, so in one way it gives you a record of how much you move in a day. I consider myself physically active person who prefers to walk or use bicycle rather than using a car or scooter. I was under impression that walking ten thousand steps every day would be like eating a piece of cake for me but when I started using pedometer, its reading crushed by belief. When I looked at readings of my pedometer I realized how little people like me walk in their day to day lives, I was just hitting mark of six thousand steps per day. So to achieve my daily target of 10k steps I decided to walk to office at least one way rather than taking the bus and also made sure that I do some exercise at home to makeup the remaining steps. Since I can see my progress in numbers, it made me very conscious and I try to make sure that I walk enough every month or every week to complete whatever target I set for that particular month or week. This was never the case before, I used to walk or do some exercise but there was no data for me to check if I am doing enough or not. With this devise I can quantify my physical activity and believe me it made a lot of difference, basically this data pushes me to set new targets and work towards it.

Now a days we all complain about how modern technology is affecting our lives, most of the times modern technology is blamed for many bad things happening in our personal lives. Some of our health problems are also blamed on our addiction to many of these gadgets. Our more sedentary lifestyle, changed mode of communication or too much addiction to games on phone and tablets is often highlighted as a reasons for some of our problems in many discussions but at the same time it is also true that each of these things have contributed something positive to our lives. We can use these things for our own benefit, they assist us to stay informed or be more physically active, choice is really ours. Lack of enough physical activity is really a big problem for many of us in today's world. Compared to our previous generation there is lot of physical comfort in our lives, different modes of transportations are very easily accessible to our generation. Our children are going to face this problem more severely than us, this sudden change in lifestyle has created lot of health issues like obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension), type-2 diabetes and other life style related problems. Apart from unhealthy diet, lack of enough physical activity is one of the reason for these problems, we get tired without doing much physical work. Many of us don't find time because of our very busy schedules to go to gym or to do some simple exercise at home. We all think that we have some genuine reasons for our inability to spare some time for physical exercise, may be those reasons are valid but definitely we all should try to incorporate some sort of physical activity in our day to day life. Walking is one such thing which most of us can include in our day to day life, just try to walk to any place which is at walkable distance (20-30 minutes). No need to walk one hour or 10 miles per day and get really exhausted but instead of taking elevator take stairs, if destination is just couple of blocks away then walk instead of going by car, these small changes can reduce our need to take out separate time for daily physical activity. I am offering this suggestion as it worked for me, may be it is not possible for everyone to walk to office or take stairs instead of elevator, everyone has to come up with their own way of being physically active. My pedometer has helped me a lot in this case, so much that every day I am eager to see that magical 10000 number on it which indicates that target achieved for the day, it gives me some sort of happiness and next day I am on my quest to achieve that task all over again. I am sure everyone can find some driving force which can push them to become more active, after all we have to do it for our own health. Let's try to become more active and more healthy, it is good for our body as well as our mind, please remember that old saying "healthy mind resides in healthy body."

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

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

Casteism, suicide of a student and politics of death.

Hyderabad University student Rohith Vemula committed suicide, based on his suicide note and some previous letters it looks like he was unhappy with the education system or society in general because of some incidents in his life. Him being a dalit might have played some role in this frustration which resulted in lost of all hope of justice and in that frustration he might have taken this extreme step. These things may or may not be true and may not be the real reason behind his suicide, but this is what everyone is predicting based on events transpired before and after his death. In his suicide note he doesn't blame anyone in particular for his death but there are many hints to conclude that system's failure to make him believe that justice can be done with him might be one of the reasons for this extreme step. Actually casteism still exists in India in various forms, people suffer from it and it is really sad. There are many attempts from all quarters of society to remove this evil but somehow it still exists. It is a form of discrimination like racism in western societies, so it is very serious issue which doesn't get as much attention as it should.

Actually caste starts playing its role in person's life in India since their birth. School admissions depends on it, their college admission hence which field they can chose for their career also depends on it, during marriage many people are very rigid about caste criteria so chances are that choice of their life partner also depends on their caste and we all know that it is a very important factor in Indian politics. So no matter how much people deny it, the truth is that caste and casteism still very much exists in Indian society and plays major role in people's behavior. But one thing has definitely changed, the way this discrimination is practiced now is very different compared to fifty years back. Now there are no separate wells for dalits or they are not treated as untouchables publicly as they were in past but discrimination is practiced in very subtle way. One can feel it in people's behavior, one can feel it during elections but superficially everything looks very normal until something tragic like this happens. 

Maybe we will never know the real reason behind Rohith's suicide, but we know that caste based discrimination still exists. When I say caste based discrimination then I am not just talking about so called lower castes discriminated by so called upper castes but it happens other way round also. Discrimination is discrimination it doesn't matter who is a perpetrator and who is a victim, it should be treated with equal seriousness. Actually these castes are nothing but one crude criteria to measure social status of particular community. Every society has this system in some form of other, in some countries it is in form of social class, where rich and powerful occupy certain space and hold powerful positions, in India it took form of caste system. In its current form class system is less rigid compared to the caste system, but whatever system society adopts any type of discrimination can not be justified. But in this particular case instead of trying to find real reasons behind it very ugly politics is being played by every group involved in it. Death of one university student has become a big political capital, many parties are trying to reap as much political mileage as possible from this incident. University student organizations are involved in politics so some sort of political power play was expected but the way HRD minister tried to present wrong facts to cover up their mistakes and other political parties are trying to take advantage of this situation is really sickening. The press conference of HRD minister was one such horrible scenario where she herself said that this issue should not be looked as dalit vs non-dalit and then herself mentioned the word 'dalit' so many times in her statement. The fact is that a student committed suicide, one can definitely blame him for taking the easy route to quit the battle instead of fighting it till end but we need to ask was this tragedy preventable? Is current social, political and educational system in any way responsible for this? If they are then we need to look at the system and check what are the things that can be improved to avoid such incidents in future. Government should recognize their mistake and try to take corrective action rather than offering some lame excuses and trying to save few people. Student life is full of many passionate debates, discussions about various issues. Many times these debates are about very sensitive issues and there can be very sharp difference of opinions among various groups. In any progressive society there should be ample scope to express dissent against anything, if dissenting voices are crushed then it can result in something tragic incident like this.

After Rohith's death everyone from our PM, to ministers, to general public and even media seems to be concerned about his family and his problems but why no one bothered to look into his problems when he was still alive? Why university administration was so insensitive towards him? Why farmers, students or any common person becomes so important after their death? All concerned people need to give answers to all these questions. When Mandal commission report was implemented in 1990s I have seen violent protests by students against it. Caste based divide or politics can create very serious situations sometimes and I hope concerned authorities take all the necessary steps before this issue becomes that serious.

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 16, 2016

If beef can be banned then why not Jallikattu?

Jallikattu is a bull taming sport practiced in some parts of southern Indian state Tamil Nadu for centuries. Recently Indian supreme court banned this sport because of complains about animal cruelty involved in it, animal welfare activists complained that bulls are tortured by using various cruel ways and are forced to participate in this sport. Court took notice of their complaint and banned its practice after looking into all angles of it presented by both the sides. But the problem is this sport has become tradition in those parts of India, many people are emotionally attached to it, so as usual this has become very sensitive and controversial issue. Just like beef ban, which was imposed by various state governments with help of court decisions animal activists were successful in getting a court order to ban this sport. But the problem this time is that both governments (center and state) are not in favor of this ban. In case of beef imposing the ban was a political issue and in this case not imposing the ban is a political issue, in one case governments were in agreement with court decision and in other they don't agree. To bypass this ban, central government of India issued special ordinance which was supported by all political parties of that state. This was the unique scenario where all political rivals who fight with each other even on many issues of national interest came together and supported something. The reason? there are state elections in Tamil Nadu soon and no political party want to create perception that they are against some religious tradition which can cost them significant amount of vote. But now the problem is that court has struck down that ordinance also, so it will be interesting to see what happens next. One interesting thing to note here is that people who supported beef ban citing reasons of animal cruelty and calling cow their mother want to support this sport, and some people who opposed beef ban saying that what they want to eat is their personal choice are supporting this ban on Jallikattu citing reasons of animal cruelty. It is very interesting to see how people switch their sides conveniently without even realizing sharp contradictions in their behavior. Actually one can not equate slaughtering of cows with bulls being tortured for some entertainment sports, in one case animal is killed for food and in other tortured to create some entertainment. But in both cases one can definitely argue that there is element of cruelty involved in it and I think that should be the topic of discussion, are we OK with both of them or we are OK with one but against the other and why?

In both the cases we are discussing here people's emotions are involved, in beef ban case people are sensitive towards cruelty towards one particular animal (cow) and want to ban her slaughter but in Jallikattu's case they want to uphold the tradition and continue that sport without being bothered by animal cruelty aspect involved in it. I personally appreciate sentiments of people who love animals and work towards animal welfare, it is a great cause and there are many groups who are committed working towards this cause. But the truth is animal and human lives are judged differently, humans use animals as objects made for their personal use: we eat their meat, keep them in zoos, attend various animal game and stunt shows, keep them as pets, domesticate them and use them for farming or milk production, we even hunt them during hunting season. So basically we use them for our own personal benefit in whatever way we want. All these activities which I mentioned are legal, cow slaughter might be illegal in many states of India but it is permitted in some states and many countries of the world but human killing is considered as a very serious crime everywhere. We should understand one thing very clearly that as a species we humans value our own lives more compared to any other animal of this planet. Therefore we should not compare humans and animals using the same scale because our laws don't do this and our behavior also doesn't justify this. The problem in these type of cases is that people are not consistent in their views and double standards used to justify one and criticize other exposes hypocrisy of our society.

If beef ban was required to save cows then how can you support eating of meat of any other animal? If beef ban was not for religious purpose but to stop animal cruelty then don't other animals also deserve the same protection?  How it is OK to support any sport where animals are tortured?  If we look at other side, if beef eating is your right to choose your food then why you are against people's right to choose the sport which they want to play? If cow slaughter is OK then what's wrong with bull taming sport? Actually, my personal experience is that people who do such flipflop don't like to face any such uncomfortable questions, Whenever they are confronted with such contradictions in their behavior, they either choose to justify their own hypocritical behavior by using their good oratory skills or get very aggressive to force their point on others. Such issues also expose lame attempts of various political groups to exploit such sensitive issues for their own advantage. It is not fair to expect from courts to pass judgements on every such issue, but unfortunately governments and civil society makes these things so complicated that eventually these issues land on the desks of various courts. Some of them like this one get resolved quickly but many such cases keep on dragging for years as it is very difficult for courts also to pass any judgement on very sensitive issues, Babri mosque demolition case is one such example. 

Actually at some point in our lives we all face where our double standards are exposed, we should learn from such incidents and try to improve our thinking. Such issues expose the hypocrisy of people in our society but somehow they are still not willing to learn any lesson. I am sure soon there will be another sensitive issue and another similar passionate and emotional debate where people will argue based on their emotions or political and religious affiliations rather than rational and logic, another deadlock and then another protest or court case.

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

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

Monday, January 11, 2016

Malda and Dadri, what is the difference?

Malda, a district in Indian state of West Bengal (WB) is tense, the reason is very trivial, some person said something about Prophet Mohammad and Muslim community of India didn't like it. I really don't know what was his intention behind saying those things, may be he was just joking or may be he really wanted to hurt feelings of Muslims all over the world for me this is not really important. But this guy said something which Indian Muslims or some section of them thought is very insulting and derogatory to their prophet, so many of them decided to protest. I don't see anything wrong happening so far, the guy who said whatever he wanted to say under his right of freedom of expression, people who protested used their democratic right to register their opposition to that statement. But the problem started when some people in Malda decided to attack police station, destroyed public property which resulted in serious law and order situation. Now one can easily ask, what was the intention behind all these actions apart from spreading the terror? If it was just a protest against some statement then it should have been a peaceful protest, there was absolutely no need of any sort of violence. As expected this violent behavior created atmosphere of fear and flared up communal tension in that region. So this can not be called a protest as it is claimed but it is an act of communal violence with clear intention of spreading terror specially among minorities of that area (who are Hindus and other religious group in this case). Surprisingly there is not proportional outrage about this incident like it was in case of Dadri incident, I wonder why? I agree that in Dadri someone died, one innocent man was lynched by violent mob, so far no casualty is reported in Malda but is this a valid reason not to offer equally strong condemnation for this act?

Actually such incidents are not rare, these things happened in past and it seems will happen in future also. This is an ugly truth which many people don't want to accept. Such incidents start occurring specially if some type of elections are around the corner, in this case there are state elections due in WB this year, so this may be warm up round to get ready for final battle for some political parties who are looking to appease their respective vote banks. Actually minority or majority appeasement politics is very common in India, political parties use whatever tactics they can to appease their core constituencies. If beef ban can be considered as majority appeasement politics then calling riots like Malda a routine scuffle between people and police is an example of minority appeasement. Such dirty tricks are always used and respective political parties or governments justify their stands by using their resources and talented spokes persons. Riots like Malda are as deplorable as Dadri attack or some library burning or any other mob violence incident. Just because no one died in this particular incident can not reduce its severity or cruelty, it is quite possible that it would have resulted in full fledged communal riot like Godhra, so one need to take any such incident very seriously. But the truth is as long as people are going to be selective in expressing their opinions about such incidents Indian society is not going to see any change in attitude of political parties who use such incidents as a tool to polarize voters for political gains. If at all people are interested in putting an end to use of such dirty tactics to win elections then they need to condemn any such incident equally without worrying about their political or religious affiliations. This can only happen in politically and intellectually mature societies, if this starts happening in India then only political parties will get clear message that any such act is not acceptable by people and it might hurt their prospectus of winning elections. But if majority somehow believes in those lame justifications like 'this is a reaction to certain action' or 'religious sentiments are hurt' or 'our idol or hero was insulted' then such acts will be repeated for whatever reason which is a valid reason for that mob, as they know that this thing works and they can get away with it. Unless we are ready to condemn any mob violence and any communal strategy by any political party this dirty game will not stop. So the choice is really in people's hand as they themselves are very important player in this game. So please think rationally and logically before supporting any such act, beware that any justification offered today might become the reason for regret tomorrow.

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

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