Sunday, December 31, 2017

Dilemma of NRIs about moving back to India.

I immigrated to the United States in 2003, it was a life-changing decision for me and my family. There is a strong presence of Indian community in the USA. I meet many NRIs most of them work in science and technology field as I also work in the field of science. During most of the meetings, the subject whether to go back to India or settle in the US comes more than often. Many NRIs are in dilemma for a very long time about whether to settle in the USA or go back to India. A few days back I read an article on Quora about this subject. The article is a good attempt to tackle this subject. The author tried to offer his take on this subject based on opinions of people in his friend circle and his own experience. One thing which I found missing in the article is that the author didn't compare the data gathered in the US with the data of people in similar age groups who migrated back to India, this would have given some comparative picture. The article only presents one side of the story and draws conclusions based on only one set of data. What if people in the 21-28 age group are generally happy and enthusiastic towards their work and social life, what if people who are 50-and above are generally worried about their kids future and somewhat unhappy about their surroundings? If that's the case, then one cannot say that the feelings of NRIs are only due to the geographical location, but it could be also because of their age group, irrespective of where they live.

I want to share my own experience in this area. Maybe it will add something to this debate or help some NRIs to make up their mind to resolve their own dilemma. I immigrated to the USA with an intention to get some professional experience in the area of drug discovery and earn some money. Lack of access to sufficient money even for necessary things like education was a big hurdle for my family's economic progress. It was practically impossible for me to earn enough money by doing a job in my field in India and uplift my family's economic status. Moving to some other country was the most common path taken by many researchers back then to solve this money problem and this also helped to increase their job prospects if they return back to India, and that's what I did. My initial plan was to work in the US for 3-4 years and then go back to India and work in the area of drug discovery. As per my plan, I seriously considered moving back to India in 2007, but it didn't work out. There were two main reasons why I didn't move back. First, I didn't see any benefit in doing that, and second, I fell in love with this amazing country, the USA.  

I met some incredible people in the US who introduced me to great working culture and plethora of opportunities available for everyone. I also met my mentor and a great human being, Dr. Devraj Singh during my initial stay in New Jersey and it was another turning point in my life. I not only found a very good mentor, but also a caring elder brother who advised me on various aspects of life and introduced me to some great books and encouraged me to take new challenges. I am eternally grateful to him for this. His guidance helped me to smoothly transition into the US life. I wish every immigrant meet with some mentor like him in this country who can introduce them to most of the good things this country has to offer to every immigrant. I also consider myself extremely lucky to work with some great people in my area of research, my all bosses in academia as well as in Industry are extremely talented and wonderful people. They all contributed something meaningful in my life and taught me something which helped me a lot to become a better person. 

Apart from all these my personal experiences, my wife and kids got incredible opportunities which were impossible for them in India. This is especially true in my case due to my social and familial background. I understand that this may not be the case with everyone, but in my case, this was a huge plus factor for me. The kind of evolution I witnessed in my wife's personality and the way my kids enjoyed their schooling in the US education system made me love this country even more. So far my stay in the USA is an extremely enjoyable journey. As far as relatives in India are concerned, this is a big concern for most NRIs. This is one factor which makes most of NRIs to worry as they feel that the geographical separation and lack of their presence in India might affect and weaken most of their relations with their relatives in India. This concern is not unwarranted, this is a very genuine concern. I consider myself an introvert person, but even I also went through this worry. But for me, this geographical separation helped to strengthen my bond with my parents. I was born and brought up in a very conservative and patriarchal environment. There was no culture of having any meaningful conversations with parents. Parent-child relationship was very formal, there was a lot of fear (they label it as a respect), and gratitude because of all the hard work parents did. But, there was no frankness in that relationship. There used to be very minimal and only necessary conversation between parents and kids in the society where I grew-up. But now, I am in regular touch with my parents in India. I must mention that our relationship has become more strong and deeper than ever. I talk with them regularly on various subjects. Subjects ranging from women's rights (what we call feminism), politics, superstitions, casteism in India, many family issues, as well as their own personal issues. I don't know how much my moving to the US contributed in this, but this happened only in last 10-12 years. No matter how busy I am with my work or studies, I make it a point to find some time to call them or video chat with them multiple times in a week. This is a snapshot of my own story. 

The subject of moving back to India is a big dilemma for many NRIs. It is regularly discussed in Indian gatherings and I also participated in many such discussions. My own observation is that people want to have all the comfort and advantages which the life in the US offers them, and at the same time, they also crave for so-called Indian culture and geographical proximity of their relatives. Many NRIs also believe that India today is the same India which they left several years back. They willfully ignore all the socio-economic changes India has gone through during all those years since they moved out of India. The main reason why many NRIs don't want to move back is the same laundry list of problems like corruption, lack of opportunities for their kids, pollution, lack of discipline in social and public life, and many other day to day hassles of life in India. They complain about these things as if these things originated only after they moved out and hence India has become inhabitable for them, so they can't go back even if they want to. This reasoning doesn't make any sense to me. All these problems were present more or less when each one of us left India for better opportunities, maybe the intensity of some of the problems might have increased or decreased over the years since we left, but these problems were still there when I was contemplating to move back to India, but they were not the deal breakers for me. So, I can't cite these as a reason for my decision not to move back to India. Another reason is many NRIs keep on worrying about the effect of the US culture on their kids without even understanding what is the US culture. The US is extremely successful today because of its culture, not in spite of it. The freedom, individual rights, protection of a law, and opportunities which it offers to every individual is not available in other parts of the world (definitely not in India). Calling the US culture materialistic and Indian culture spiritual is plain foolish, Indian society is as materialistic as the US society and there is nothing wrong with being materialistic. This unnecessary fear of invasion of the US culture adds unwarranted tension in lives of many NRI's. The irony is that they fear to move back to India and they also worry about the consequences of moving back to India, it seems many of them feel like that they have two worst options to chose from.   

Many NRIs waste so much time in contemplating what to do that by the time they reach any conclusion it is too late, and they feel trapped. They feel trapped due to their kids, or career, or some other reason. This feeling of entrapment brings sadness, but this can happen even in India as well. You don't have to be outside India in fall in this trap. My parents moved from one part of India to another (from UP to Maharashtra), and they faced the same dilemma. Many people in India live away from their families because of their jobs and face same anxieties. I love the freedom which the life in the US offers to me. I am involved with my work, I am interested in politics as well as social and cultural life of the US. This is why I don't miss India as much as I used to during my initial days in the USA. This doesn't mean that I don't care about India or I have forgotten everything about it. I just can't because it's my birthplace and I have spent a significant part of my life there. It is always in my thoughts and will remain forever. But, the big change is that I love the USA as much as I love India. 

I have a simple advice for all NRIs who are trapped in this dilemma, first, decide what are your priorities (caution: this is not a simple task as it sounds), and then decide which country fits best to achieve those priorities. Everyone's needs and problems are different. There is no guarantee that what we plan will work for sure, but without working on that plan we will never know, so just work on it with full confidence. For some NRIs, India might be the best place to live and excel in professional life, and for others, it might be some other country. There is no universal solution which can work for everyone to resolve this dilemma, each individual needs to decide what is best for his/her family and act accordingly. One last thing, Steve Jobs said, "It's easy to connect the dots backward," learn from mistakes and move forward, don't worry too much about the past, look at the future as that's the only thing we can possibly change. 

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

Friday, December 29, 2017

Are we getting too political on social media?

There is no doubt that social media has changed the way we communicate in today's world. I don't think anytime in a history of humans there was a time when so much of our communication was in a written form rather than in a spoken form. Easy availability of internet and phone (or I should say smartphones) has made social media accessible to many, and this has revolutionized the way we share our views with each other. A vast number of people are connected with each other vis internet than any other medium before. This number is huge compared to what telephone or radio managed to connect when they were at their peak use. Various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram has made instant broadcasting of information very easy. Today, we can broadcast any event of our life live if we want to do so, and there is an audience for it from all over the world. I also notice that people are more eager than ever to share with the world what's going on in their lives, and the concept of privacy is not the same which it was just before a decade ago. Many gigabytes of data about out textual, audio, or video shares is generated every moment and stored in various places in the cloud. We don't even know where are our footprints on the internet, it is impossible to track them. This is all recent phenomena, we still don't know the pros and cons of this. Eventually, we should be able to figure this out in coming years, but for the time being, we all are witnessing this explosion of data generation and sharing.

Another thing which I noticed is that how much people discuss politics on social media. I see that many friends from my Facebook friend list post only something related to politics on their personal walls. No doubt, politics is an important part of our lives as it affects all of us. It is also important to share our political opinion and voice our views on various political and social matters. But, if all we share is our political opinion and nothing else, then that conversation becomes extremely monotonous and boring. There is nothing surprising in what we post, most people know what are our political views and what are we going to post based on our political leanings. Such postings might be helpful in initiating some fierce political discussions or arguments, but definitely, they don't help to expand our social circle or to have some meaningful conversations on social media. Such repeated political postings make our social media account to look like an unofficial mouthpiece of some particular political party or political leader. It seems that for many people there is nothing worthwhile to discuss apart from politics on social media. This trend really bothers me a lot, this is one of the reasons why I reduced my presence on Facebook. 

I do recognize the relevance and use of social media in keeping in touch with friends and relatives with whom it is impossible to interact one to one. This is why I joined all these amazing platforms and I am still active on most of them. Social media is of great help to bridge the distance gap and makes it possible to interact with people who are miles apart from us. I wish people use it to discuss various other things apart from politics. I want to have meaningful conversations about other issues as well, I want people to be less political and more social on social media. Let politicians discuss only politics, it is their profession and they have a job to do. We are not professional politicians and our social media posts should show that. We need to be conscious about not becoming unofficial spokesperson of any political party. This might also help to reduce the spread of fake news and rumors through social media. Increasing political nature of social media makes it possible for some people to use it to spread fake news and disturb social harmony. Only vigilant and alert social media users can stop such misuse, let's be more social and less political.

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

Friday, December 22, 2017

Prevalent sexism on social media

I have noticed prevalent sexism in social media conversations, especially on WhatsApp. Unfortunately, I notice sexism very easily and I am very sensitive to it. I notice it multiple times a day, in many WhatsApp messages. I receive, jokes which people forward to me, comments they make on various social media platforms, traditions they talk about, traditions they praise about, and many other things. I tirelessly try to point it out to people around me, especially to people from my own family because first, I should make my own family aware of this prevalent sexism before I try to change rest of the world. Many times people who forward or say those things don't even realize that there is something sexist in it. The main reason behind this mindset is a deep cultural history of sexism in every society. Developed nations are taking conscious efforts to remove this sexist mindset but in countries like India with strong patriarchal culture, these things still go unchallenged. To give a simple example about this, yes I have to receive a single husband-wife related joke in Indian groups where a wife is not depicted as a money spender, totally dependent on the husband, non earning partner. By default, every joke or message has this image of the wife, occasionally there might be a message to praise sacrifice of women and laud their tolerance and dedication towards their partner, but this is again very stereotypes description of women.

I always wonder why people don't try to offer somewhat different perspective? Why even women don't take notice of such stereotyped depiction of their image? Maybe it is true that in developing countries like India there are still many wifes who are dependent on their husbands. It is not because they are any less capable of working outside their homes, but because their family structure or social and cultural settings doesn't allow them to accept any job. They are so consumed by household work, which is equally important and valuable that they can't do any other work. Traditionally, household work is valued as much as it should have been, and hence the image of stay home wifes is that they don't earn anything. This notion also results in the image of wifes as a creature who survives on husbands hard earned money without doing any hard work of their own, and all these jokes and sexist TV serials just reinforce this image on men and women's mind generations after generations.

This sexist behavior and attitude need to be questioned, I do it from my side. I get into trouble because of this, many times people get annoyed because of my net picking small small things. But the reality is, that these small things slowly build a sexist attitude in boys and girls which subsequently becomes part of cultural nuances of our society. These things then create rigid barriers, glass ceilings, gender stereotypes, and many other things which stereotype gender roles. The only way to remove sexism is to point it out and make people aware of it. If even after that they want to continue with those jokes and that attitude it's their choice, but at least make them aware that they are being sexist. This is one basic thing we all can do to curb the prevalent sexism around us and our own family or freind circle or social group is a good place to start this.

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

My first experience with American healthcare system

In my 14 years of stay in the USA, I never had to visit any hospital for any emergency or nothing serious happened in my presence so that I have to rush someone to the hospital emergency room. Whatever good or bad things I read about the American healthcare system I read through social media, news articles, and other people's experience. But this year, in the month of September I have to visit the emergency room because my wife got some bad infection from India and she was having a high fever which refused to go below three digit number. This was my first real encounter with the "American Health Care" system. I agree that the American health care system needs some urgent attention, there are some areas which need the attention from lawmakers, policy experts, and all other stakeholders of this system so that something can be done to make health care affordable to everyone in this country. This great country really has all the resources and capabilities to make this happen, it just needs a little bit of social and political will to fix the system. I firmly believe that, if the USA can't make the health care affordable to its people, then no other country can even dream about any such thing (I am talking about countries of similar size and population).  

I have seen two different type of health care systems, one in India and one in the USA. The best part of Indian health care system is there are many choices of different doctors so most of the middle class and even lower middle class can afford to bear the health care treatment costs. The most messed up part of Indian health care system is the emergency care. Hospitals can refuse to admit or treat a patient until the required amount of money is deposited, this is the case with most of the private hospitals where most people go in the case of emergency. Government hospitals are free in India, but hardy people chose this option because of lack of proper facilities or due to overcrowdedness. This is where the USA health care differs from Indian health care. In the US emergency room treatment is offered without any questions about the ability to pay for it. But, the downside of this is that emergency rooms are unnecessarily crowded as many people who don't have health insurance go there to get the treatment for any nonemergency reasons, and hospitals can't refuse to treat such patients as it's against the federal law. 

My wife received all the required treatment, medicines and other things (food, etc.) without depositing any single dollar at the hospital. They did ask for health insurance information, but that didn't affect the quality of her treatment. Offcourse, the treatment is not free and we did receive the bill in the mail a couple of weeks after her discharge. But hospitals don't refuse to discharge the patient for nonpayment of an outstanding bill or stop the treatment in the middle if they sense that this patent may not be able to pay for this treatment, this I feel is the big plus of American health care system. No doubt, that like many other good laws and policies, this law is also abused by some people who purposely misuse this system to get the treatment for free (they ignore to pay the bill). I think this is one of the main reasons why health care is so expensive, as people who can pay have to bear the cost of all nonpaid bills. Hospitals don't even ask for your immigration status, they don't care whether you are a visitor, an American citizen, or an alien (someone on a visa), they treat every patient visiting emergency room irrespective of their legal, social, or economic status. 

American health care attracts a lot of bad press, there are many people who complain about this system. But at the same time, there are many good things about this system. Emergency room care aspect of this system is amazing, saving someone's life when they need medical help in the medical emergency can't be valued in money. I wanted to share my personal experience to highlight this very important aspect of American health care. Offcource, health care in the America is very expensive and something should be done about it, but just because there are some problems with this system it shouldn't stop me from praising some good its aspects which are absent in many other countries (like India).

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What happened to civilized social communication?

There is no doubt that the social media has brought significant changes in ways we communicate with each other. Most people are constantly in conversation with someone on some online platform. This explosion in communication technology has opened many channels of communication for many people in the world. This was supposed to create some positive revolution in connectivity of human beings, most of us now have a very convenient medium to connect not only with our immediate surroundings, but also with rest of the world. Geographical boundaries which used to be a limiting factor don't matter much as far as verbal and written communication is concerned. All this should have brought us closer and opened many new ways to understand each other in a better way. But, what I find is that people are becoming more and more exclusive in a way they want to interact with others, they are moving away from each other by forming exclusive groups. There are many exclusive message groups, chat rooms, forums, and what not where only like minded people come together and criticize people who don't agree with them. It has become harder to communicate with each other in a thoughtful, civil, and constructive fashion. I am not denying that there are many groups where there is very thoughtful and useful discussion, where people help each other, or support victims of various problems, but it is really hard not to notice the polarization on social media.

Maybe, I am noticing this polarization more because I am part of many different groups as I don't subscribe to any particular ideology or religion. This might be true, but I also see that there are many who also are complaining about the same problem. What I noticed is, all these groups are constantly engaged in ridiculing each other, each want's other group to get lost from this planet, they absolutely don't see any positive thing in other side's argument, the communication in such groups is very partisan, rarely any dissent is encouraged or even tolerated. After reading messages from many of these groups, sometimes I wonder whether social media is uniting or dividing the world?

There is no doubt that social media has made it easy to communicate with people who are not in our immediate physical vicinity. Now we can pick and choose people from all over the world and form a group to discuss something which we like or endorse, we don't have to find like minded people within our friend circle or family to have a group chat. However, this doesn't mean we should become totally ignorant or dismissive about the opinions and views of people around us or people who don't agree with us. This newly found technological tool should not be the reason to shut the doors for alternative views and only engage with people who affirm or validate our opinions. This should not be the reason to conveniently ignore all the facts which don't support our argument, and shut the door for anyone who sounds contrary opinion to our views, or points out some factual mistakes in our argument. But, it seems many people are busy in exactly doing these type of things, open mindsets are rare, highly emotional conversations are common compared to rational ones, very few are interested in finding the areas of mutual agreements, people are quick to make assumptions based on limited data, they are in a rush to judge others, there is a lack of empathy, and most people are not willing to assume positive intent in other parties.

If it continues like this, I don't know how many political groups within a political groups, or religious sects withing a particular religion we will have. The danger is very clear, polarization of our society at unprecedented level. Now, we have to decide whether we want to continue like this or would like to bring some civility in our online interactions, especially while interacting with people who disagree with us on various topics. The choice is ours, as we are the ones who are going to enjoy or suffer the consequences of our choices.

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

When The President questions constitutional right of a citizen.

Kneeling of some NFL players during the national anthem created quite a bit of controversy last year, and President Trump's recent speech and tweets injected a fresh life into this controversy once again. NFL player Colin Kaepernick started protesting by kneeling during national anthem last year, his reason for the protest was police brutality and inequality faced by people of color. Now, we may or may not agree with his reasons or the way of protest. But, if he is exercising his constitutional rights to express himself, we need to respect his rights, if not his actions. I personally stand for any national anthem played during any function, but it is also true that no one can compel me to stand for it unless I want to stand. I voluntarily respect national anthems of all countries and it is my individual right to choose if I want to stand or not. The real respect has to be earned, it should be spontaneous and not forced or coerced. If someone is coerced to show respect to anything, it is not a display of respect, it is an obedience at most. An obedience out of fear of losing something, but definitely not a respect. Do we really want such respect from anyone?  

A few years back, during one of the functions at my daughter's school American national anthem was played, and in the entire auditorium, one third grader was sitting during the national anthem. I was surprised to see this, as I was not used to witnessing anything like this. In India, I was used to seeing everyone standing for national anthem and prayers, it was a rule and there used to be a strict punishment for violating that rule, there was no choice or freedom. I was impressed by the way individual liberty of that student was respected in this country (he was just a third grader). I really got curious about this incident, and when I read more about constitutional rights, I came to know that many expressions are protected under the First Amendment and freedom to protest is one of them. In one of the very pivotal AUpreme Court decisions (Texas v. Johnson), the Supreme Court held that burning of the national flag during a political protest was a protected expression under the First Amendment. 

Now, when the President of country questions NFL players right to protest and asks the owners of the team to fire them for exercising their constitutional right, that too when he does that using a very derogatory language abusing their mothers, it is really sad. It poses a very serious question, if the President of the country won't respect constitutional rights of its citizens then who else will? Off course, Mr. Trump has right to express himself under the same constitutional provision under which these players have that right. People should respect President's right to express himself, but it is also true that every position or job comes with certain obligations and responsibilities, and definitely, the US President's job definitely comes with lot responsibilities and obligations. As a President of a country like the USA, Mr. Trump has the responsibility to uphold the core values and principles of this great country. Individual liberty and respect for constitutional rights are part of the core identity of the USA, and if anyone dilutes these rights, this great nation might lose its unique identity. We need to respect other's rights not only when we agree with them, but especially when there is a serious disagreement, that is when our respect for others rights is really tested. I hope President Trump understand this, many of us, including him, may not agree with the choice of method to protest of these NFL players, but all of us should stand to protect their constitutional right. If not, then tomorrow it might be a turn of our constitutional rights to get abridged. Please remember, we need to protect others rights so that our rights also remain protected.

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

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Men need to save themselves.

"Men need to save themselves," my friend, Anand Pawar said this in one of his interviews related to gender issues. He is an expert on gender related issues, and I learned so many things about this subject during my interactions with him. This particular line resonated with me a lot because I saw men (including myself) struggling under a burden to fulfill the expectations of society, their family, and their own expectations from themselves because of this stereotyped image. Definition of masculinity is very stereotyped in most of the societies. Men need to fit into that definition, and if they don't, they struggle with social and personal contempt, rejection, frustration, and many other things. Many men put themselves under this burden of expectations which their society or culture hands over to them, and there is no easy way for them to escape this trap. Very few dare to challenge the stereotypes or traditional definitions of masculinity. Men really need to save themselves from this burden, it is crushing many of them, and only they can help themselves to break free from its shackles.

Expectations and traditional notions about gender roles are embedded in our social culture, these norms are part of many cultures, we don't have to choose them, we are born in these traditions. Some of these things are part of traditions so long that they have become sacrosanct principles. This is the very reason why even after feeling the burden of these expectations very few dare to challenge them, or worst, very few even feel that these are unnecessary or burdensome expectations. But, because of people like Anand and his preceders, these definitions are being challenged. I know Anand personally that's why I am mentioning his name, I am sure that there are quite a few people like him who are working in this area to help men to come out of this prison of patriarchal culture, and I appreciate all of them for doing this. It is a wrong notion to assume that patriarchy only hurts women. In reality, it equally hurts men, they just don't realize it. Patriarchy puts an unjustified burden on women by putting so many restrictions on them, at the same time, it also puts a burden of so many unreasonable expectations on men. At the end, it results in a society where both men and women live under some kind of burden of expectations, which they can't reject even if they want to. Their roles get rigidly defined and the scope of exchange of duties almost becomes nonexistent.

What is the solution to this complex problem? The only way is to challenge the traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. A woman can be a bread earner of a family and a man can be a stay home dad, there is nothing shameful if your wife earns more than you, women should get equal right to choose what they want to wear, women don't have to carry the burden of sacrificing their interest for the sake of family, woman's career is as important as man's, there are so many things which one can add to this list. The central point is, don't define gender roles rigidly, a suitable person in the family or society should perform the available role, their gender should not be a factor to decide whether they qualify for it or not. Men don't have to live under the pressure of fulfilling the roles of hero or a caretaker of the family, they can take whatever role they feel suits them, and yes, it can be a role of house-husband or stay home dad. I think the present generation is well equipped with all the tools it needs to tackle this problem. I am hopeful that they will do far better as far as achieving the gender equality is concerned compared to my generation. Women are challenging their stereotyped image for decades, and they are immensely successful in it, this is the time for men to challenge their stereotyped image, because MEN NEED TO SAVE THEMSELVES, and only they can do this.

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

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Charlottesville- Lessons to learn from this tragedy

Whatever transpired in Charlottesville on August 12th, 2017 should disturb any sensible person. It was not a pleasant site to watch those violent protests. Peaceful protests and marches are integral part of any democratic society. There is no doubt that each and every section of society has a right to express their views and can do so in legal and peaceful manure. As a supporter of freedom of expression, I agree with everyone's right to express their views on any topic, but this right to express doesn't involve the right to threaten or perpetrate violence against any group or person. This is why events in Charlottesville were very disturbing for me, the way mobs attacked each other was not the way to express you ideas. The way one man drove his car into the mob killing one innocent woman and injuring 19 others was an act of terrorism, no other word can be used to describe that murder. One can disagree with other's views or political ideology, but no matter how strong is the disagreement, no one has the right to attack anyone or even threaten anyone because of that disagreement. Three (one protester and two state troopers) lives were lost during these ugly protests, this should ring warning bell in everyone's mind who is concerned about this great country. Is this the way we want to move forward? Are we going to learn any lessons moving forward after this tragedy? Or still we are going to get consumed by our political ideology and hatred?

Hatred propagated by white supremacist and neo-Nazis was disturbing, but President Trump's failure to condemn these groups specifically during the press conference after the incident was more disturbing. When, as a leader of a country someone fails to condemn an illegal violent act of an act of domestic terrorism just because the perpetrator was allegedly supporter of that leader, it paints a very scary picture. This means the condemnation of any crime will be selective and based on the political or ideological positions of the perpetrators. This stuff happens in India all the time, and I am surprised to see it happen in the US. Political and ideological disagreements are very common, I have seen them in the US all the time. I have seen pro-life and pro-choice supporters protesting side by side passionately trying to propagate their view points. I have also seen them debating with each other very passionately, but I haven's seen them attacking each other due to ideological differences. Freedom to express and debate is a basic tenet of American society, and any erosion in this philosophy can prove very dangerous to the future of the USA. I hope everyone who loves this amazing country realizes this danger and act accordingly before it's too late.

Everyone is entitled to have their own opinion and express it on any public platform, it is their constitutional right. These opinions can be challenged and debated, but violence can't be an answer to resolve any disagreement. We can agree or disagree or condemn other's opinion, but we can't suppress their voices just because we don't like them, freedom of expression is an important constitutional right granted by the First Amendment to everyone living in the USA and all Americans need to protect this valuable right. As a leader of nation the President should be upfront to condemn hatred propagated by White Supremacist and other related groups, he should not mince words while calling spade a spade. All Americans need to learn a lesson from this ugly display of hatred by racist groups, make sure you make your voices heard, make sure your President knows that hate propagating groups will be challenged, and he needs to stand on right side when there is a question of racism and bigotry. Make sure that love wins over hatred, and social fabric of this nation doesn't get destroyed by few bad elements. Let's move forward with more resolve and determination to fight against discrimination, racism, hatred, and bigotry, this will be our true homage to all three people who died in Charlottesville on August 12.

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

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Diversity in communication.

"She sounds very grumpy."
"Be careful while talking with him, he doesn't like to talk with people."
"You have very strong Indian accent."
Many of us either make such statements or hear them daily during our day to day interactions with people around us. We all expect to have some homogeneity in our surroundings as far as communication styles are concerned. Most progressive societies welcome diversity of race, gender, and socioeconomic background; but when it comes to communication they want some homogeneity. Maybe this desire comes for the sake of maintaining the clarity or making sure that message is delivered effectively. In my family, my parents and I spoke different languages with each other. We perfectly understood each other, but never felt the need to communicate in same language, I know this is not very common. Actually, I never realized we were doing this until one day I realized this unique aspect of my family. My parents never forced their mother tongue on me, I also didn't insist that my kids should speak my mother tongue. My mother tongue is Marathi, and my wife's is, Bhojpuri, but our kids speak Hindi and English, they don't know either Marathi or Bhojpuri. Diversity in communication is not only a noticeable fact in today's world, but it is a need of today's world. Mobility of people has increased a lot, people move around the world for their education, employment, in search of better and safer place. This results in a formation of very diverse societies. Such societies are not only diverse in race, culture, religion, but also in the ways people communicate with each other. 

Different people have different styles of communication; some like to talk a lot, and some are very stringent with their word use. Some people are loud, and some are very soft spoken. Everyone has some sort of accent, either it is a local accent or a non local, therefore, I never considered having an accent an issue. Our accent is our identity, that's the unique way we speak. I never tried to change my accent and never expected that someone else should change their accent just to sound familiar to my ears. In a same way, different people have different ways to express themselves; some might appear aggressive, and some really mild. But, this all doesn't mean that one way is better than other. These all are different ways which people chose to communicate with others. Each way has its own flavor and its own specialty, we should learn to enjoy this diversity rather than trying to bring some artificial homogeneity. Try to understand others, be patient, recognize the beauty of diversity in communication, and then you will start enjoying every accent and every style of communication. 

Diversity in communication is very beautiful thing, as beautiful as diversity in opinions and diversity in population, let's embrace it.

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Be curious, it is immensely rewarding.

Curiosity is one of the reasons why humans managed to advance so much compared to any other species on this planet. It is inbuilt in our minds, if our surroundings don't curb it, we can remain curious throughout our lives, but in reality rarely this happens. Many things contribute to diminish our curious nature as we grow older. Children are way more curious compared to adults, and many times curios nature is attributed to being childish. Maybe adults think that they know it all and there is no need to be curious anymore. I am fortunate enough to not to fall in that group, I am gifted with a permanent curiosity gene, my curiosity remained fairly constant since my childhood, and this has payed a great dividends to me. I remember my kids used to watch a TV show "Curious George," a story of curious monkey who used to land in various troubles due to his hyper curios nature, I also loved that show as I am also a curios person. My curiosity might have landed me in trouble on few occasions, but by far it has benefited me way more than it put me in any trouble. 

Curiosity helps me to remain active, I get interested in different things, some interest remain forever, and some wane with time and new interests replace them. This continuous flow of curiosity keeps me away from chronic boredom, it helps me to find something to read, watch, or do where I can learn something new, helps me to explore ideas or things which I never did before, it helps me to study various issues including the opinions which I don't support or agree. I can do all this because I am curios about many things including: why people believe in certain ideology, why they need religion, how science can help to solve our problems, what is the role of the law in our society, and many more things. My curiosity led me to read many different books, listen to many seminars, and research many topics. In this process I got to know many amazing personalities, either through the books, seminars, or via personal interactions. I would not have known these people without my curiosity, many of them taught me things which I value a lot, and I credit my curiosity for all this. 

I encourage my kids to remain curios about various things and try to find answers on their own, I encourage them to take efforts to know as much as they can before forming any opinion about any issue. We should not follow any path blindly, don't be a Hindu just because your patents were Hindu, don't be a Republican (in the USA) or Congress supporter (in India) just because your parents used to support that party. Do your own research, analyze things on your own and then decide for yourself. This is a time consuming process, and a difficult route, but this is what I did, and this process has taught me many valuable lessons. The rewards of this process outweigh the difficulties associated with it. Remember, there is no substitute for hard work, ready-made answers are easy to get, but they are not the product of your own mind. If you want to churn out something from your own mind, then you need to go through the repetitive process of collecting and processing vast amount of information on your own, and without being curious one cannot perform this task enthusiastically. One of the lessons which I learned was that, there can be many right answers for some social and political issues, and there is no single ideology which can provide solution for all the problems. This also taught me the importance of diversity of opinion, importance of appreciating disagreement and encouraging debate. One cannot appreciate or understand diverse opinions without being curios about them, one can allow them to exist by being tolerant, but to really get benefited by diversity of opinions and ideas one needs to be curios about the views and ideas which are not our own. 

My curiosity has taken to me new areas, exposed me to ideas and views to which I may not have been exposed if I would have remained complacent. It prompted me to take risks, challenge my traditional surroundings and my own beliefs, it encouraged me to charter different path than what most people chose to follow. I am not claiming that everyone's curiosity will produce the same result, but if it makes you to remain active and enthusiastic about life, why not to give it a try?

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

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

Don't allow someone else to define the meaning of happiness for you.

We all live under various psychological pressures today. We have a pressure from our family to perform certain duties, and fulfill their expectations. We have a pressure from society, from our peers to confirm to their expectations, there is also a pressure from social media, pressure created by different advertisements, different products marketed which seems to be necessary if we want to be happy, and so on. The point is, someone is continuously telling us what to do to look beautiful, they want explain us what it means to be a cool person or a happy family. These things are explained in very vivid and glossy way. There are advertisements telling us how one should enjoy the life, many vacation package offering companies insist why we need to go on vacation very often to strike a balance between work and life. These messages are very tempting and often irresistible, not easy to ignore as lot of effort and research goes into making these advertisements. There are many such things going around us in real world as well as virtual world which try to define happiness for us. If you believe in all these things, then you have to have latest phone to be cool, you should look certain way and wear fashionable clothes to look beautiful, you need to have certain type of body or complexion, need to go on vacation, buy a home, get a new car as your old one is junk. This list can go on and on, but the question is do we really need others to define what it means to be happy for us?

Maybe many of us do need some advice about how to be happy as we may not know what we really want. In that case, these advertisement can be of help as they can help you to find something which you like. But, there is a catch in, these advertisements are made by very talented professionals using the information from the research and data based on human behavior. This is why they are so compelling that you end up liking what advertisement makers want you to like, not what you really like. This whole process is very confusing, because it is very difficult to figure out whether what we really want is a product of pour own needs and desires, or a result of influence from all these external factors. Many people, including me fall for these tricks. We all are bombarded on social media with such messages, our online search is continuously tracked, whether we are watching a movie or a TV we are continuously exposed to such messages which want us to do something or buy something. 

These messages are very useful if we use them to our advantage, but they are very problematic if we get used by them. When we start chasing the dreams designed by others for us, we may not get that feeling of achievement or fulfillment even after living that dream. It is better to spend time to look for our own needs and dreams rather than trying to be successful in society's eyes or in the eyes of people around us. At the same time, let me acknowledge that, it is not easy to resist the pressure to fit in. It is not easy to walk different path when most people around us try to follow the path paved by these consultants of happiness. I have learned to evaluate  most of my needs and desires objectively to see if I really need them or they are the product of pressure created by all the messages which my brain knowingly or unknowingly receives from my surroundings.  Many times I reject these things as I can't justify their presence in my life and many times I chase these ideas and try to fulfill those desires. Technically I am not a minimalist, I don't own only what I need, but I do try to limit as much as possible as per my own wish. If pressure to be a minimalist is created by some undue external guilt, then it is as bad as pressure to buy something or to spend on something which you may not need but are buying just because everyone else has it. 

Pursuit of happiness was comparatively easy for our previous generation, for us it is more complex and it is going to be even more complex for our future generation. This is why we all need to come up with our individual plan to pursue our own happiness. Humans are complex organisms, and our happiness is even more complex (because our brain is very complicated organ). It is not necessary that we all must enjoy or dislike same things, our choices can vary a lot, that there is nothing wrong in it. Try to define your own happiness, don't let these external pressures to dictate terms to you. Don't go on vacation unless you really want to go, there is nothing wrong to enjoy your work so much that you don't need a vacation. There is nothing wrong in loving your own body the way it is, or to work out hard to change its shape, provided you are doing these things as per your own wish, and to make yourself happy. Don't allow your surroundings to define happiness and force you to work for it. Define your own style, your own happiness, needs, and desires yourself, and then take help of people and resources around you to fulfill them. 

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

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sunita Deshpande- A woman who introduced me to feminism.

People around me, especially Indians and even many of my American friends wonder why I am so passionate (and even sometimes adamant) about the issues related with the gender equality and woman empowerment. Sometimes I also get the same question, from where I got introduced to the concept of gender equality? My family members in India think that it is because I came to the USA my traditional views about women got spoiled by the western influence, but this is not at all true. The USA did influence me a lot, it changed my understandings about concepts of liberty, freedom of expression, as well as feminism, but it didn't introduce me to all of these ideas, especially to feminism. I started expressing my views about gender equality before my daughter was born (in 2000), I came to the USA in 2003, so my immigration to the USA is not the reason for my feminist views, maybe it the reason why I express those views so strongly, but the USA didn't introduce me this idea.

India might claim pride in its glorious tradition of having the progressive and liberal society where individual freedom was celebrated and books like Mahabharata, Kamasutra were written, but today's India is completely different and has a lot to learn from developed countries about gender equality and individual rights. Gender equality didn't exist in the culture in which I grew up, there was a a complete male dominance. I can only think of two major reasons to why my views are so radically different than the society in which I lived and the family in which I was born.  These are also the reasons why I revolted against the male-dominated atmosphere around me. First, I saw a tremendous amount of suppression of women around me, and as a teenager it affected me a lot. Women were treated very differently than men, there was hardly any rights or freedom given to them, they were abused for no reason, they were considered as physical objects of lust and physical enjoyment. For the names sake that society worshiped female goddesses, but then it came to equal rights to them, there were complete different standards. These things raised many doubts and questions in my mind, I always wondered why women don't revolt against this subjugation and discrimination? I was too young to know about the patriarchal culture, but all these things made me very uncomfortable and angry.

The second reason might shock many of you, it was a book by Sunita Deshpande. Yes, this amazing lady introduced me to the concept of gender equality. When I read her book "Aahe Manohar Tari," (meaning: even though it's beautiful). I was blown off to know about a woman who was so independent, strong, and powerful to fight against the patriarchal system and live life on her own terms. The book is a very impressive and sincere narration of her own story. In a true sense, in her autobiography she introduced me to the concept of feminism and I am very grateful to her for this. Since then, every other book, and my immigration to the USA confirmed those ideas and made them stronger. I am a flag bearer of gender equality, I take immense pride in supporting this cause and this cause is a part of my identity. I am sure for everyone who supports the idea of gender equality there must have been some incident which triggered the thought process or some person who introduced them to this idea, in my case it was Sunita Deshpande. Since then this idea has become part of me, and I have become part of this cause. 

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

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The basic concept of "Liberty"

How you explain the concept of liberty to anyone? Do we need to explain this term in today's world where we believe that humans have progressed so much that we all understand and respect individual rights, do we do that really? If we look around, I am sure we will find many occasions where the term liberty or freedom is used to curb human rights rather than to protect them. It is also true that many societies, like the USA, have shown tremendous progress towards creating an atmosphere where individual rights are respected considerably, but the basic concept of liberty is still very hard for many to get a complete grasp of it. I agree that it is a difficult concept to grasp, it sounds very easy, but the real meaning of liberty is not that easy to fathom, especially if you are not exposed to real benefits of it. I value individual freedom more than anything else and that is why the concept of liberty is so dear to me.

Liberty is a basic tenet of any progressive society, human mind and efforts flourish when they have freedom to think and express their thoughts. I got attracted towards the concept of liberty when I realized the importance of having an ability to express my thoughts and live life on my own terms. Feeling of having an individual freedom brought radical change in my life and thinking, and I try my best to practice that within my own family. I sincerely believe that if we all create the environment of liberty within our homes, our society will automatically have individual liberty. The problem is, we all or most of us believe that our ideas, values, belief system, religion or political ideology is the best and others should also follow it, and if they don't follow then at least they should not criticize it. Without the freedom to criticize there can't be a freedom to express, criticism is one of the essential processes through which every idea and concept should go to prove its mantle. 

Actually, the basic concept of liberty is very simple, if you care and value your own individual rights, then you should equally care and value other's individual rights also. Unless others rights are not protected, there is no guarantee that you rights will remain protected. I and my wife are poles apart as far as our religious and social views are concerned, but her freedom to practice the religion of her choice is equally important in out home as much as my freedom of not to practice or even criticize any religion. If you can't imagine these things living side by side in harmony then you will find very difficult to understand the concept of liberty. This concept has nothing to do with tolerance, that is another, separate virtue where we tolerate something even though we don't agree, it is not necessary that for us to encourage or protect those views which we tolerate. For liberty, you not only tolerate, but go one step further we protect rights of people with whom either you don't agree or even strongly disagree. As a person who values liberty, I not only stand for not only my own rights but also for others whose ideas and views might hurt my feelings or challenge my views or offend me. Others right to express their ideas is as absolute and important as mine, no more, no less.

I wish that among this growing atmosphere of political polarization and racial and religious divide, people understand the importance of protecting individual rights. I would like to end the post with a very famous quote by Voltaire which is shared widely, but hardly practised in real life, "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it," if we all understand the real meaning of these words and try to practise it in real life, this world will be a more beautiful place for each one of us.

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

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Some serious flaws associated with the way science fairs are judged.

Science is not just an academic discipline or a subject from school curriculum, but it is a liberating tool available to anyone and everyone. It liberates our mind from the darkness of ignorance, enables us to question things. It encourages us to learn by observation and also teaches us that there are many things which we don't know, and it's OK not to know about things and continue to look for answers. This is why I love basic elements of science, which encourage questioning, analysis, data generation and verification, and critical thinking. All these elements are not only helpful while we study science during our school or college days, but these things are extremely useful in our day to day lives. This is why I love the idea of conducting science fair for school children. The main intention of these fairs is not just to attract talented students to the discipline of science, but also to introduce school kids to all these elements of scientific analysis at a very young age so that they can use them in their day to day life. This is the reason whenever possible I try to volunteer as a judge in city and state science fairs.

While judging these fairs I observed few things which somewhat disturbed me. I saw kids whose parents belonged to science field taking undue advantage of resources available to them to perform science projects way beyond their grade level, whereas other kids who didn't have access to such resources lacked that sophistication and couldn't compete with this elite class of kids from families of parents from a science background. There is nothing wrong in encouraging your kid to take up challenging science projects or brainstorming with them to generate some relevant idea for their project. I am a scientist and I do that with my kids, but my role is limited to raise questions and make sure that they try to find something on their own which suits their level of understanding of science. Neither I generate an idea for them, nor I help them to select the topic, my role is limited to provide them with materials required for the experiment and make sure that they do it safely.

When there is no level playing field the competition becomes one sided, heavily biased towards kids with scientific privileges, and this thing bothered me. But, the question is how to balance this imbalance of resources so that all students get the fair deal? How to make sure that all students are competing on a level playing field? There is no easy way, it is not the fault of these students that their parents are scientists and they are helping these kids in a way they shouldn't be. We can't punish these kids for the well-intended help offered to them by their parents, but then how can we watch these other kids with no scientific help apart from their teachers and schools fail regularly in front of the kids from the scientifically privileged background? The only way out is to make disclosures of all help received mandatory: from where you got the idea, where did you conduct the experiment, who helped you, is any of your parents belong to science field? The list is not exhaustive, but these questions might give us an idea of the scientific privilege of such kids, and let them compete with each other, this will be the real test for them and it will be better for them. Maybe others have better suggestions to tackle this issue, but I feel this should be discussed before many kids move away from science just because they can't compete with few kids who come from scientifically privileged families. We need bright and creative kids to chose science as their profession, science needs creativity and imagination like any other field and as a scientific community, it is our responsibility to make sure that we create conducive environment to attract such talent.

The USA has a great tradition of scientific endeavors, we cannot afford to loose this advantage, this why we need to stop this field from becoming a monopoly of few privileged communities. The USA is a leader in science and technology and this is one of the main reason for its world dominance. If scientific community doesn't take serious efforts to increase diversity and reachability of scientific knowledge to each and every corner of society, this country might lose this edge to others who are rapidly closing this gap. Let's start with fixing the science education and the way many of these science fairs are judged. Please remember, prevention is always better than cure.

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

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

To understand is not to condone.

If I understand why people need religion, do I support it? If I understand why religion makes people kill other human beings without having any remorse, do I support such killings? If I argue for some issues propagated by some particular political party, do I support that political party? During regular discussions, while discussing various social and political issues whenever I try to argue about less popular side or another side of the issue of discussion, people often misunderstand that I support the side about which I am arguing. The explanation, that I don't support that side, but I understand it and I want to bring those points in discussion doesn't register very well with most people. Many think that you cannot argue for any side unless you support it. Well, this may be true with many people, but not with me, during any discussion, if there is no representation for another side of the issue then there is no point in discussing that topic. There are very few topics about which there is universal condemnation but for all others, it is very important to know about all sides of any issue before drawing any conclusions. As Alan Dershowitz puts this very wonderfully in his book, Letters to a Young Lawyer, he writes, "To understand is not to condone, but to enlighten and perhaps to prevent the same mistake others have made." It is very important to understand that "to understand is not to condone." There is a huge difference between understand any issue, argue about it, or represent it in any debate, and wholeheartedly support it. 

For me monotonous discussions are boring, I am not interested in praising any political party or political leader unconditionally to the level of worshipping them and projecting as if things what I support are the ONLY right things. I also don't like venomous one-sided criticisms without much rational and logic to an extent to project things in extreme bad manner. I like to have a representation from another side, if there is no one, then I volunteer to represent that side; in a liberal group, I represent a conservative side, and in a conservative group, I try to bring up the liberal point of view. This makes it possible to see why people criticize some particular ideology and how rational their criticism is. Very often people consider me a supporter of that particular ideology or political group (the group they oppose), which is completely wrong. Yes, I do have certain political preferences, but I don't support any particular political party or ideology.

Many people don't understand the importance of having a representation from another side in any discussion. This is particularly challenging in political discussions, as a politically independent person, if you try to argue good and bad points of each political rivals, people often get confused. The normal expectation is that a person will choose a particular political party or a leader and defend or attack them vehemently. People try to support their chosen party, no matter what, and try to criticize their opponents, no matter what. But, if they don't see such a clear loyalty or animosity, they get confused. I am the victim of such confusion many times, I don't mind this, as many times this is an unavoidable situation. I feel that if people understand and learn to look at both sides and try to understand good and bad points of both the sides in any argument or debate, we will see much less political polarization and much more bipartisan collaboration.

There is no ideology or political party which is perfect with answers to all the problems. Very often best answers to questions are scattered through all over the political spectrum and we need to consider many issues before taking a final decision on any major policy issues. But very often the political supporters of these leaders and parties don't understand this and fall in a trap of political polarization to the advantage of these parties and leaders. Polarization always helps someone to win an election, but it seldomly helps the nation to move forward. Please understand the need to be fair to people who you criticize, it is very necessary to understand opponents point of view clearly to be able to criticize it properly, point by point. Otherwise, that criticism has no value other than political rhetoric or angry passionate rant, which can be used in politically charged speeches for the supporters of that own party, but useless for any conducive political policy discussion. Try to understand opponents view first, before commenting about it, maybe it will help to shape your own views in a much better way.

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 10, 2017

Déjà vu- the politics of hatred.

Murder of an Indian immigrant in Kansas city was a very disturbing incident like any other murder or hate crime. This unfortunate incident got a lot of media coverage in India, obviously, this was due to a strong Indian connection to this event. Many relatives from India of people living in the USA got concerned because of this incident and I am sure it created a situation of panic in some people's family back in India. It is very sad to see anyone killed like this. Many feel that this murder was the result of the atmosphere of hatred or resentment against immigrants. There is a strong perception that the current administration is anti-immigrant, which I don't think is true. This anti-immigrant perception is created based on some strong statements made by Mr. Trump during his presidential election campaign. For me personally, these things are like a replay of similar migrant resentment phase which I witnessed in a state of Maharashtra in India. I even wrote a post about this politics of pitching one section of the population against another and expressed concerns about it before the presidential election. It worked in Maharashtra and there is no reason why it won't work the same way in the USA. The statements made during the election or the rhetoric used during campaign speeches help leaders and their parties to win elections. They substantiate and solidify their support by creating a very polarized political environment in an already polarized political atmosphere. But, after winning that election same leaders and parties find it difficult to control that anger and contain the hatred of the supporters who voted them just due to those feelings. After the election, somehow these people who voted for the winning party just for that particular rhetoric of hatred feel vindicated and get the notion that their feelings are now legitimized and they have right to execute their agenda.

These type of incidents are disturbing, but they don't define the character of this great nation. The USA is a very immigrant friendly country, immigrants feel safe and welcomed here and most of them try to contribute positively to the society and community where they live. The person who risked his life to save two immigrants from this murder was also an American, and I have no doubt that there are many in this country who will try their best to protect their fellow residents. Whether to attribute this incident to change of regime or not is a matter of debate I am not interested in it. Even in India, few people were killed for being a Muslim (Pune techie murder) or for allegedly eating beef (Akhlak murder). When my mom came to know about this incident, she freaked out and asked me why I want to stay in the USA? My simple answer was, I love this country, my kids are citizens of this country, and I don't think there is any better place than this country for people like me. Due to my political and social views, I can be a target in any country which doesn't encourage freedom of expression. I don't subscribe to ANY ideology, I am not a member of ANY political party and I don't follow ANY particular religion, and this makes me vulnerable to any attack from anyone who doesn't like my views or feels offended by them. In this country at least I have the freedom to express my views without being threatened just for expressing my opinion. The recent case of Gurmehar Kaur might explain what I mean.

As far as feelings hatred and resentment are concerned, I understand their origin and reasons behind them, and they are common no matter you live in the world. Resentment will get diluted once the economy gets going, but the politics of hatred is what worries me. If some group gets targetted just because who they are, then they don't stand any chance to defend themselves. No one should be forced to change their identity just to survive. If people have to change their name, religion, or skin color just to survive then I don't think that country is a free country anymore. I believe this murder was an isolated incident and people of the US still believe in their inclusive and tolerant tradition of welcoming immigrants. I also believe that immigrants are here to adopt American culture and contribute positively to it to make it more versatile and rich. 

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

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

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Five years..

Today is the fifth anniversary of my blog. Last five years of journey with this blog has been an amazing experience for me. I wish to thank all blog readers for their encouragement and appreciation, your feedback and shared experiences made this blog more special. Last year I wrote 40 posts, it was almost half compared to the previous year. It was not because I don't want to write, but I got busy with my studies and there was not much time to spend on writing the blog. This trend might continue for some time. It is not easy to manage a full-time work, part-time studies, and family responsibilities together. I am trying to strike that sweet balance and at the same time enjoying this phase a lot. It is stressful and demanding but at the same time very good learning experience. The main reason I can do this is because I always enjoyed learning about the new subjects and new areas. This adds new perspectives in my life and improves my knowledge. It is difficult to balance so many things at the same time but at the same time, it is very exciting and rewarding experience. I do plan to continue writing blog posts on relevant topics as the time permits.

A lot is happening around us socially and politically. We need to continuously register our opinions about things which we care about, the values we hold dear to our heart, and protest against any injustice. Many times it's not easy, it feels like our one voice won't make any difference, but remember that many revolutions were started with that one voice which dared to resist. Anyone of us can be that one voice which can initiate the change, we just need to have that courage and commitment. My blog is one small step in that direction, the aim is not just to share my views, but also start a healthy discussion, germinate a seed of independent thinking in the readers' mind and hope that it will create a novel stream of thoughts which might help to initiate the change for better tomorrow. This effort will definitely continue from my side. At this junction, when I pause and look back to my efforts to initiate that change, I feel quite good about it and want to thank readers of the blog once again for encouraging me to continue this amazing journey. I am deeply honored by your support and encouragement. I always try my best to answer your questions and will continue doing so. I am glad to read that many of you have got something useful from this blog and I hope you continue to get benefitted by reading this blog in future also.

This journey will continue from my side, I invite all of you also to share your opinion and voice your concerns on whatever platforms you can. Let's try to make this world a better place, full of more love, more compassion, more tolerance, and more people who value liberty and freedom of others.

Thank you very much for your cooperation and happy reading.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Indian American's political dichotomy.

During recent Presidential elections in the USA and last general elections of India, there were a lot of political discussions and debates on social media and outside of it. Especially due to heavy use of social media in both the elections these debates didn't have the regional and geographical restrictions, one could discuss with anyone available on the social media. I guess this is the new trend started from this election and will continue in the future also. I also participated in few of them, I noticed one critical thing during all those interactions with my Indian American friends (who are either residents or citizens of the USA), many Indians living in the US have very contradictory political views and they don't even realize this dichotomy in their political thinking. In India, there is a growing support for a right-wing national party BJP. I am calling them right-wing due to their social policies, as far as economic policies are concerned, all parties in India are socialist and I feel this should be one of the major concerns of Indian voters, they should know that based on the history of world socialism never works, you need some hybrid system with as less as possible governmental interference.

Many Indian immigrants in the USA support BJP wholeheartedly back in India, they passionately debate to support the current Prime minister Mr. Modi and his political party BJP. But, in the USA when Mr. Trump used similar rhetorics during his election campaign, most Indian Americans didn't like that. Many with whom I talked were worried about his stance against immigrants (even though he didn't target Indians specifically) and Republican's pro-Christian views. As a minority, most of them are Democrat supporters, many of these people are concerned about their religious freedom under the Republican rule. They want as much freedom and support government can provide to their activities. They want to celebrate their festival in the Indian way, some even boast that now they can immerse Ganesh idols in American lakes and rivers, just like they do it in India. They felt this all might be threatened if some conservative party and plus some unconventional leader like Mr. Trump comes into power. They loved the same combination in India but were very apprehensive about similar prospects in the US.

This contrast surprised me a bit, I asked many of them what is the difference between the campaign style of Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi? They both used the same rhetoric, they both targetted a certain group of minorities and tried to make use of feeling of resentment among certain sections of society against each other. So, why Mr. Modi was OK, and Mr. Trump is not? Is it because in India they all represent a majority group, and that is why they want someone who asserts majoritarianism, and as they are a minority group in the US they want the party who is a pro-minority? When I pointed out this contrast (or hypocrisy), only some of them agreed that indeed there is a contrast and very few of them offered any explanation for it. One of the explanations offered was that this is a survival tactic to survive in a nation where they are not in majority. I really appreciate this honest confession, it is not easy to accept such contradiction in your own behavior. I requested some of them to think about the behavior of minorities in India as far as political affiliations are concerned and compare that with their own behavior here and maybe they can find some similarities.

There is no right or wrong political ideology, one can choose whatever political party or leader they want to support. But, when there is a sharp contrast between people's political choice based on their demographic status, it is very interesting phenomena for an observer like me. I hope Indian Americans realize this dichotomy present in their political views and give some thought to find some reasons to why it exist and what can do to narrow that gap. This might help to bring some political harmony between minority and majority groups back in India as well as reduce their own anxiety and fears due to their minority status in the US.

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

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Recently I attended a conference where there were panel discussions about changes in government's position and other aspects of American society after the election of Mr. Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. I can understand the apprehensions and concerns of people to see a nonconventional candidate registering a surprise victory over a well qualified strong candidate, but I didn't understand irrational fear and phobia associated with Mr. Trump and some of his policies. It was pretty clear from the beginning that Mr. Trump is not a conventional candidate, the way he conducted his campaign and his speeches were enough to prove this. In the end, people from more number of stated preferred his rhetoric over Mrs. Clinton's and he won a bitterly fought election. Quite understandably Hillary's supporters were shocked to witness this, but I thought that they will get over this defeat and try to search for reasons why this happened so that they can fight back next time. This is what any political party should do after facing a defeat in any election, reflecting on what went wrong is very important to make sure that we don't repeat the same mistakes again.

The in general tone of most of the panel discussions was that the USA is moving towards a dictatorship, minorities will be targetted with government's tacit approval, there is a fascist regime in the White house and something else on similar lines. There is a change of regime and it is very clear that current administration has different outlook compared to previous one. But, this is what happens when one party replaces another, that's why we get to chose which party (hence, which policy) we want the country should adopt. This time people thought Mr. Trump might do a better job to forward American interest, let's give him chance to do that. Others, who don't agree with Mr. President, definitely have democratic means to protest against his policies and resist in peaceful ways. But, at the same time, it is wrong to spread unnecessary fear and phobia about a person who has not even completed 100 days in office. In a democracy, we need to respect people's choice, free and fair elections are a backbone of any democracy, and we should honor results of such elections. 

I also registered my strong opposition to Mr. Trumps' comments about women and his in general attitude towards them. I still have my reservations about some of his policies, but I also know that he has a clear mandate to be the President of this great country and will need the support of its citizens and residents to run it successfully for next four years. In 2020, there will be another election and there will be another chance for all Trump opponents to fight another electoral battle until then they need to watch his actions closely and appreciate the good work. Political opposition is necessary to make sure voices of all sections of society are being heard and interests of each and all groups are represented, but this opposition should not become such a huge hindrance in governance that nothing moves forward. Sonner people get over this Trumpophobia, better for the country. There was an Obamaphobia in certain sections of political circles for the last eight years, and now there is an emergence of a Trumpophobia, I believe such phobias are bad for a political and social health of the country like the USA. Let's give new President to prove his capabilities and be vigilant about country's interest first, there will be another election soon to take care of political interest, but let's focus on the country and its welfare first.

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 23, 2017

Women's march done- Now, what next?

Last week, there were quite a few protests who created a lot of buzz on social media as well as in mainstream media. Depending on their liberal or conservative inclination various media houses either reported these events aggressively or totally ignored it as if they didn't happen. I was little confused about the protests on the day of Mr. Trump's inauguration. He won a democratically contested election, the same system of electoral college which declared Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama, and all other previous Presidents declared him the next President of the USA, people need to acknowledge it and accept the reality. This is the beauty of democracy, it will be hypocrisy to praise democratic process only when it works in your favor. The Constitution gave Mr. Trump right to contest the election and he won it, he has a constitutional right to serve as the President of the USA, I didn't understand the main intention behind protest on inauguration day. If it was just to oppose Mr. Trump's victory because some people didn't like him personally then it sets a dangerous precedence for everyone. Oppose his policies if you don't agree, challenge his decisions if you feel they are wrong, criticize his statements, demand an apology, but don't try to question is rights, it is dangerous because tomorrow someone might question your rights also.

But, I do understand the intentions behind women's march, some of the comments made by Mr. Trump about women are derogatory, his so called locker room talk was disgusting. The excuses and the apology offered by him for some of these things are lame and inadequate. So, the women's march had a valid reason. It was good to see so many women coming together and marching to protect their rights and challenge misogynist views. The culture of patriarchy still exists in some form or other in all parts of the world and the USA is not an exception. It shows its ugly face in the form of sexist jokes, discriminatory rants, prejudiced statements, or so-called locker room talks. Such things need to be challenged. Many people might feel that this is a very hypersensitive reaction, or protestors are cherry picking the things just for the sake of making a big deal out of nothing. But, the truth is that things like patriarchy are so deep rooted in the psyche of our culture that it will need a lot of flushing to get rid of it completely. Women need to be vigilant about any behavior which even remotely tries to propagate such mindset because they are the main victims of such mindset. Sexual harassment is still a huge problem both for men and women, comparatively, women are more victimized and that's why this protest was necessary.

Based on news reports it seems that women's march was a huge success, not only in the US but in many other countries it was noticed. Now, what next? Just conducting one huge march or registering protest once is not going to solve these problems. This huge protest should not be the end, but the beginning of the new movement. Marches or protests are good methods to highlight any issue or spread awareness about the problem. But efforts should not end with one-time protest or one march. People (both men, women, and transgenders) should resist any attempts to demean any group by anyone. It is going to be a long march to achieve equality and I hope that everyone in support of it is willing to walk that long.

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

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