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]