Friday, April 29, 2016

Stereotyping also happens for men, and it is equally bad.

Are men also stereotyped in our society like women? Do they feel pressure to fit in a certain image to define their manliness? Does society expect a certain type of behavior from them or associates certain set of qualities with their personality because of their gender? Do they face any discrimination because of their gender? Normally we ask these type of questions to point out gender stereotyping of women, but we can very well ask these questions about men also and according to me the answer to most of them is a big YES. I am sure both men and women will be surprised to know that men are as much stereotyped as women or transgenders. There is a certain perception about men in our society. Our media and movie culture has built a certain image of an ideal man, a masculine, fearless and ever hungry for sex are some of the characteristics which most of us associate with men. This image is the result of years of stereotyping of male behavior, and males grow with this image in their mind. The effect of this is very strong, knowingly or unknowingly men try to mold their behavior to fit into this image. The effect of this stereotyping is so much that if we come across any post or article adulating men the automatic response is "wish there are more men like this" or "we need more men like this". If you don't believe me then just check the comments section of any Facebook post or article adulating men or describing about any incident which doesn't fit typical stereotyped male behavior. This is strong evidence to show how much our society has generalized behavior pattern of all men.

The truth is that most men are kind and very well behaved people. Patriarchal culture all over the world has put a lot of pressure on them to do justice to their so called 'manliness.' Most of them try really hard to fit into that image, but very often all those efforts are not recognized or appreciated as it is expected from them as a part of their duty as men, especially their responsibility to feed their family. This happens with women also where they are expected to take care of their families and all their efforts in that direction go completely unnoticed as it is considered as their 'natural' duty. But unfortunately when men misbehave, commit crimes like murder or rape their gender becomes significant and many times that criminal behavior is blamed on their gender. Even ridiculous statements like 'boys will be boys' are often used to justify or defend some misbehavior. Sometimes while criticizing sexual harassment incidents people try to put blame on criminal's gender rather than accusing that particular individual for that mistake. The point is, men and women both face problems of gender stereotyping in our society and both get affected negatively because of this. Just because some men are misbehaving with women this type of behavior doesn't become a characteristic of all men. Just because some men are brave and masculine, this should not become a criteria to judge all men. Every person, whether it is a man, women or transgender comes with a unique set of qualities and emotions, particular gender might have a certain type of emotion which dominates in its group, but there is no hard and fast rule for these things. Humans are not robots, they are not manufactured in factories with a certain set of characteristics we all are different. Let's acknowledge and respect these differences. Such stereotyping of any gender can only result in feelings of low self-esteem and guilt among people who don't fit into those descriptions.

Stereotyping men is as bad as stereotyping women or transgenders. It doesn't serve any useful purpose, so we all should avoid it. Just because for centuries, certain things were expected from certain gender doesn't mean we should continue with such wrong traditions. Once we realize that certain traditions are wrong, we should dare to challenge them and change them no matter how old they are. Like women, men have also suffered long because of stereotyping and gender bias. Let's try to end this injustice. 

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

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Chanakya and his views about women- Part II

One of the most popular posts of my blog is 'Chanakya and his views about women'. I wrote it back in 2012, it is almost four years since this post was published, so now it is time to update it. Many people read that post and shared their views about it. I request readers interested in discussions related to this post to go through the comment section of it to see how different people perceived the post very differently. Let me warn you that it is very lengthy, but people who are really interested in such discussions might find it worthy of their valuable time. Some readers accused me of trying to malign the name of great Chanakya. I don't know on what basis this accusation was leveled against me, but let me clarify that Chanakya is a legend in many ways, but he is not above criticism, analysis or scrutiny by anyone like any other great historical figure, so there are and will be lots of articles, books or blog posts written about his work and my post is just one of them. It was not written with any bad intention and I don't think it is easy for anyone to malign the image of anyone like Chanakya. Some tried to defend the quotes mentioned in the post, it is all there in that discussion section, please go through it if you are interested. Recently I read one message sent to me by Mr. Tapan Joshi where he explained me why he thinks my post portrays wrong or misleading interpretations of Chanakya's views about women. I think this message is worth sharing. I always appreciate counter views, I think we all should listen patiently and attentively to people who disagree with us, it is very important. I like whenever people try to make a point by using rational approach. Whether I agree with their point or not is really immaterial, but I feel that anyone interested in any topic should try to read all possible sides of any topic to get the complete picture about that subject. This is the main intention behind sharing Tapan's comment about this topic.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.
Tapan sent following message to me, I am quoting his message with minimum corrections. He starts with warning me (or anyone) about dangers of wrong interpretation because of lack of good knowledge of Sanskrit (the language in which original works of Chanakya are written).
"What people need to understand is that Chankya's literature is in Sanskrit and those who have not learnt Sanskrit properly or the grammar, or cannot interpret Sanskrit should keep their opinions to themselves and not spoil literature of such kind.
A very fair warning, but I didn't interpret any of those verses as I don't understand Sanskrit, I just used popular translations of Chanakya's work available in the public domain, so if those translations are wrong or corresponding author misinterpreted anything then obviously I am also wrong. 

Then he makes a very good point, "A Sanskrit word can have multiple meanings and the meaning should be put in, in reference to the context. This message is for those people who have wrongly interpreted Chanakya Niti, and Arthashastr and other books like the Vedas, which has caused great ignorance and foolish beliefs.
It is true that many of these ancient texts, some of which are in the form of poetry can be interpreted in various ways. That is why we see many different interpretations of the same verse from the Gita or Quran or any other ancient book, but it is not an easy task to decide which one is the correct interpretation and which one is not. That's why we need to look into all interpretations and discuss them.  

He has provided very different interpretations of some of the verses which I quoted in my post (quotes from my post are highlighted in bold). They are very interesting. 

Coming to Chanakya's views on Women, in Arthashastr written by Arya (Noble) Chanakya BOOK 4 CHAPTER 12, 1) It is repeated many times ' No man shall have sexual intercourse with a woman against her will' 2) When a man refuses to stay in a marriage with a his wife as agreed upon, he shall be fined 200 panas. You will find many such instances in the book. Also, the verses from Chanakya Niti you have quoted are wrongly interpreted- 1) Chapter 1, verse 17, Women have hunger two fold, shyness four fold, daring six fold and lust eight fold compared to men.. You don't need to wonder anything here. It is self explained, but still if you don't get it, I'll interpret it for you, Women have 2 fold hunger- Well women give birth to children, help them grow, hence their food has to be nutritious, good and double that of a man. There is no mention of shyness in the verse, in fact, instead of shyness the word 'Buddhi' is used, hence the verse becomes women have four times more Brain, it is evident as women are doing better than men today (the sanskrit verse is-' striNaam dviguN aahaaro BUDDHISTAASAAM (no mention of shyness) chaturguNsaahasam ShadaguNam chaiva kaamoaShTaguN uchyate). Their daring is 6 times more than that of a man. Women are not that daring and strong compared to men, but if a woman shows some daring, then that is 6 times more powerful than a man. Now the word Kaam is used here not lust, there is a difference. Men who ejaculate during Reproduction, after ejaculation for some time their sexual desire decreases or comes to rest, but not in the case of a woman. Hence Kaam is 8 times more in a woman than that of a man. Such a beautiful verse wrongly interpreted by foolish, ignorant people who do not understand Sanskrit. 

2) One should not place trust in rivers, animals with horns, armed ones, women or in ruling familiesCongrats another wrongly interpreted verse (and that too not knowing what the Sanskrit verse says). Here is the verse and I will explain each word, ' naditire cha ye vrukshaha- the trees growing on the banks of the river, parageheShu kaamini- a woman who is not faithful by comiting adultry by going to other people's houses. MantrihinaaShcha raajaanaha- a king without ministers, shighram nashyantasamshayama- these without doubt destroy themselves very soon. Another verse copied and pasted from somewhere. Before finding fault with someone please ensure you are right and not mislead people. In fact Chanakya says chapter 4 verse 20- There are 5 mothers namely, King's wife, Teacher's wife (if applicable, it can be a female teacher), Friend's wife, own wife's mother (mother in law), and our birthplace. He also says- chapter 5 verse 9 -Satstriyaa rakshayte gruham- A woman is the one who protects a house. 

3) Fire, water, women, fool, snake and the royal family, beware of all these, they can prove fatalAnother baseless claim, there is no mention of the word woman in this verse, the verse is in chapter 9 verse 7- ahim- snake, nrupam cha- and King, shardulam- tiger or cheetah, kiTim cha- pig, baalakam tatha- a small child, parashvaanam cha murkham- someone's dog , a fool, sapta suptaan na bodhayeta-never wake up these 7 when they are in sleep. Also chapter 12 verse 13- the one who sees a woman as his mother, other's wealth as a heap of sand, and all animals same as him (they too have a right to live), he sees everything as it is. 

4) women who keeps fast without permission of her husband shortens the life of her husbandShe goes to hell and is punished with great horrors of hellAnother myth- so let's break it. This verse is found in chapter 17 verse 9- He only says those women who fast (that is not eat food) for no reason. In Ayurved you are supposed to fast only if you are unwell (like a stomach problem), so women who fast for no reason trouble the husband as he is worried about her and she herself suffers a lot from not eating anything. 

5) 'For good days one should save money, women should be protected even if it takes the money saved. But for self preservation the money and the women should be sacrificed!!.' Another claim not backed by proofs and lack of understanding. Chapter 1 verse 6-Aapadarshey dhanam rakshed- protect money for emergency situations, daaraan rakshedhanairapi- protect your wife more than money. aatmanam satatam rakshed- protect yourself more than money and your wife, daarairapi dhanairapi- because if you are not alive, than what is the use of money to you and the use of you to your wife. 

So you have quoted these wrongly translated verses from a foreign author who clearly has no knowledge in Sanskrit and is keen on giving Chanakya and Indian literature a bad name. So just see what you have done, you have wrongly accused Chanakya and spoiled his name and his book and mislead hundreds of people. I would like your response on this matter and please ask you to take you words back. My objective is just to know the truth and reject untruth. I was not able to post this as a comment on blogger so I decided to send u a message.

I ignore any personal remarks made against me in any comment if it provides any relevant or useful information related to the topic. There is no point in getting personal as it doesn't contribute anything to the topic of discussion. So I am going to follow the same principle here also. I still find problems with some of interpretations quoted by Tapan: 1. The explanation offered for women having kaam (sexual desire) 8 times more than men, doesn't make any sense to me. 4. Why is it assumed by scholar like Chanakya that women don't have an understanding of their own health to decide when to keep fast and when not? 5. Will Chanakya offer the same advice to women if they face such a difficult choice? If he will, then this verse should have been a gender neutral. 

I am not discussing number 2 and 3 as Tapan wrote that translations which I used are wrong, so as I mentioned already, if the translation itself is wrong, then obviously my criticism is not valid, but as long as these translations are out there in the public domain, and are published by reputed publishers people like me will always refer to them. The only way to minimize such occurrences is to publish correct and authenticated translations certified by some independent and reliable authority so that everyone has access to them. I am doing my bit by publishing alternative view on my blog, I hope this helps to continue our discussion on the important topic of gender discrimination.

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

Friday, April 15, 2016

Dr. Ambedkar- A visionary whose vision India failed to follow.

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, was first Law and Justice Minister of independent India. But, this description is not enough to describe the greatness of this man. He was not only a scholar, very well read and informed person, but also a social reformer and is known for his legendary work in the area of equal right movement for untouchables (known as Dalits). He was also a born Dalit, so he knew first hand what it meant to live as a Dalit person in Indian society. His education and sharp intelligence gave him a unique perspective towards the social and political environment of Indian society of that time. He used his experience and knowledge to fight for equal rights for all people who were struggling because of years of discriminatory traditions. He used each and every platform available to him to highlight the issue of untouchability and even fought with leaders like Mahatma Gandhi for their political rights. Many books and articles which he wrote about religion or social condition of untouchables or about Indian constitution are very informative. Anyone interested in any of these subjects or interested in knowing more about Dr. Ambedkar should read his books and articles or listen to his speeches. Without reading his work it is not possible to understand the greatness of this scholar and political leader of India.

He was also a chairman of the constitution drafting committee, even though the constitution was drafted with the help of various scholars who served as members of that committee, Dr. Ambedkar is given credit for various constitutional provisions as he was the chairman of the committee. He wrote extensively about his vision related to social reforms in India, which were necessary to bring required social change for upliftment of socially backward sections of society. If we look at current political and social environment of India then we can see that there is definitely some social change which he envisioned, one should credit him for initiating it, but still there is lots of work which is required to implement social reforms which this man envisioned. Indian society still suffers from evils like casteism and gender discrimination. This man fought against both these evils, but sadly people claiming his legacy are indifferent towards his ideals. The worst part is all current political parties and their leaders are only interested in using his image as a political tool to garner votes or appease a certain section of society, none of them are really interested in implementing his real vision. Even political parties who claim to represent backward sections of society are not totally honest to implement vision and ideas of this man whose name they use as if they own him. There is no doubt that the political class of India has failed to grasp the real essence of social reforms which this man imagined. Maybe they all are doing this purposely, as it is very clear that they all are busy using his name and image to suit their political gains. Even the social class for which he fought till the end of his life failed to understand his message, most of them are busy in worshipping him like God. Most Indians failed to follow a vision of this visionary leader. People like Ambedkar or for that matter any visionary personality should not be converted in demigod, it is the worst thing their supporters can do to them. Whenever people do this, they only create a cult, where the person is worshipped but not studied or critically analyzed and this results in the tragic end of all ideas of that person, tragically this is happening with people like Dr. Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi and others.

For me personally, Dr. Ambedkar was a great scholar and social reformer. He was expert in many fields like: economics, constitutional matters, religious studies, etc. I learned many things by reading his articles which are now available online. I hope people look at the great work of this person and study about him rather than garlanding his photos and erecting his statues. There is no doubt that symbols have their own place and importance in any society, but mere symbolism without any substantial action is useless. Understanding his ideas and discussing them objectively will be the greatest tribute to this scholar. I am sure he would have loved to see his ideas being used rather than his images or statues, so lets discuss issues which he raised, lets debate abpout them and try to find solutions rather than making him a political weapon.

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

Friday, April 8, 2016

Everyone is not born special, but we all can become one.

The tagline "everyone is special" sounds very good to hear, it is meant to be very motivational and inspiring for all of us. According to me this tern is heavily overused, especially motivational speakers use this a lot. But is it really inspiring? Or it is very confusing or even misleading? Many speakers who use this term want to make people feel good, they want their audience to think that everyone of them is equipped with special qualities and they should feel very proud about it. Actually, if we use the biological criteria, we all are unique, our fingerprints are different, we have different retina patterns, everyone's genome is unique, so in many ways we all are unique and special but that is not what this 'special' means. It hints that we all have some special talent or quality which makes each one of us a specially gifted person, I think this is not entirely true. Such statements sound very sweet and are made with extremely good intentions to motivate us or to make us feel better, but I feel many times they can also be very misleading.

Many of us fail to acquire any noticeable special talent when we complete our education. We acquire some professional degree or certificate, but not each one of us can claim that we are specially gifted in that area. We can list various reasons for this, we can even blame the school system for not providing a very conducive environment to spot and groom any such special talent but this is what happens with most of us. Actually very few people are born with some unique talent and even if we have very few of us have the capacity to understand very early in life about that special talent. It is not easy for many of us to figure out our true interests and start working passionately towards some definite goal very early in our lives. Not everyone can become a dancer and singer like Michael Jackson or a basketball player like Michael Jordon or cricketer like Sachin Tendulkar or singer like Lata Mangeshkar or Elvis Presley, there are very few people like them who realize very early in their life about the mission of their life and work tirelessly towards it. Most of us struggle to find the actual area of interest where we can utilize our skills, many of us struggle even to realize what type of unique skills we have. For most of us it is a very long journey to figure out what is that area where we can excel. Our education system, society and many times our parents make us to fit into various stereotypes and try to guide us to what they think is good and proper for us. This leaves most of us thinking about various options at various stages of our life. Some of us might think being a doctor is a great idea just because our parents are very successful doctors, in a similar way some of us might think being a lawyer or an engineer or an actor or politician is a great option without even evaluating whether we possess all required set of qualities to be successful in that profession. But I strongly believe that no matter what area or profession we choose, we can become successful in that area by working hard. It requires lots of hard work, patience and practice to achieve success in any field. Even all so called naturally gifted successful people from every field practice hard and go through very rigorous training to achieve phenomenal success in their respective fields.  Malcolm Gladwell has written about this phenomena very nicely in his book 'Outliers', the chapter about '10,000-hour rule' is a very interesting read, he has tried to explain the importance of practice to master any technique or talent we want to acquire.

I believe that even though we all are not born special, but each one of us has the ability to become special by our hard work and dedication. We all can acquire greatness, it is not a gift or genetic trait which we either possess or don't possess but it is an achievable thing. Just by thinking we are special we might feel good about ourselves, but to achieve it we need to work hard. Even a natural gift or a talent without proper practice and hard training can only help to a limited extent, we need to put lot of efforts to achieve our dreams. Let's work hard to achieve that specialness, we may not be that special today but definitely everyone of us can become one by our hard work and sincere efforts. Let the journey begin.

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

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

Friday, April 1, 2016

Dangers of being a 'fan'.

Let me start this post by mentioning that I know how it feels being a fan of someone as I was also one such fan. I am not just talking about some casual fan or admirer who just likes someone and is not crazy about them, but about a 'die hard' fan, for whom their idols are not less than any god. These fans have complete blind faith in their idols, just like a devotee. According to them these people are just perfect and can do nothing wrong. Such fans worship people who they adore and love. I was a one such die hard fan of two very celebrated artists from India, actor Amitabh Bachchan and legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, I adored them so much that no matter what I tried to watch each and every movie in which they contributed anything, also tried to read whatever I can about their work and their lives. At the same time I disliked anything written against them, I despised anyone who said anything even remotely against them, I hated and tried to criticize or demean any competitor who posed any challenge to their position in their profession. According to me they were the best, no one was even close to them, there was no doubt in my mind that these two people are legends and no one can replace them ever. When I look back today I realize how stupid and ignorant I was that time, this is the reason I totally understand the behavior of many ardent followers or fans of any political leader or artist. I don't get annoyed, frustrated or angry at these people, but I understand their situation and hope that they come out of that mental state soon.

It is not a very desirable situation to be a die hard or a fanatic fan of anyone, rather I believe it is a very dangerous situation because as a fan, you tend to shut your logic and rational completely when you deal with anything related with your idol. Fan's opinions about their own idols or people who talk or compete against their idol are devoid of any logic and rational. To take my own example, I admired Amitabh and Lata so much that I hated their competitors without even watching or evaluating their work. For me Amitabh was the ultimate hero and no one came even close to him, I disliked movies of Anil Kapoor who was an upcoming star at that time only because he was threatening the position of Amitabh as an angry young man. Similarly, I also disliked songs of Anuradha Paudwal who was again an upcoming singer with the help of music company T-series without even considering the merits and demerits of her performance just because she was getting more popular than Lata. I didn't care that these artists also have an equal right to display their talent and compete for that top space, I was just angry with these people because they challenged my idols and according to me it was the biggest crime anyone can do.

Any celebrity loved to have as many fans as possible, these fans create the buzz and euphorbia about that celebrity. These celebrities get fame, money and great careers because of their fans, but as a fan we don't get much except a joy of watching someone to perform. It is not a bad thing at all to like some actor or politician or any other person. It is not bad to read about them or try to follow their work and opinions. As a human beings we are bound to have certain likes and dislikes. But to take that like or dislike to a level where there is no scope for any discussion or debate is what differentiates a die hard fan from the rest of admirers. Today also I like Amitabh and Lata Mangeshkar, I love to watch his movies and listen to her songs, but I am not a die hard fan of them or anyone now. I know that someone will replace these artists today or tomorrow. I understand that there are people who are as good or may be better than them, I don't get angry if anyone starts to criticize them or point out some flaws in their performance or says anything bad about them. I am very glad that I came out of my 'fan mode' sooner than I expected. I wish all the fans behave with some sense and logic whenever their dear idol is criticized or defeated, it is natural to feel disappointed, but in our outrage should also be expressed in a proper way. If you support any particular political party, then please remember that other political groups also have an equal right to propagate their views. If you support any political leader or any artist then please remember that as a public figure these people are open for criticism from anyone, please don't react like a fanatic if anyone says anything about your dear idol. If possible, please don't become a die hard fan of anyone, believe me it doesn't help.

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

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