Interview

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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 don’t even women 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 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 friend circle or social group is a good place to start this.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.6360144016262232072009090495_sexism-in-India-3-1024x683

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.

Relationship is a Mirror.

Self-knowledge is not according to any formula. You may go to a psychologist or a psychoanalyst to find out about yourself, but that is not self-knowledge. Self-knowledge comes into being when we are aware of ourselves in relationship, which shows what we are from moment to moment. Relationship is a mirror in which to see ourselves as we actually are. But most of us are incapable of looking at ourselves as we are in relationship, because we immediately begin to condemn or justify what we see. We judge, we evaluate, we compare, we deny or accept, but we never observe actually ‘what is’, and for most people this seems to be the most difficult thing to do; yet this alone is the beginning of self-knowledge.

 

India at Olympics- always waiting for some miracle.

Since I started watching sports on TV I always loved to watch Olympics, for me, it is a symbol of ultimate human struggle and triumph symbolized in the form of sports. We get to witness epic struggles and ultimate triumphs, old records are broken and new records are set.Sometimes it is enthralling to watch and sometimes it is heartbreaking to witness an athlete missing a medal by a whisker. Today, I have a luxury of rooting for two countries in Olympics (India and USA), but I never watched Olympics for supporting any one country. For me, it was fun to watch spectacular performances of athletes all over the world. Maybe, I developed this attitude as India rarely used to win any medal in Olympics, there were some like P T Usha who came very close to winning a medal but there was nothing worthy of mention.
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India started participating in Olympics in 1900, since 1920 they are sending their players regularly to Olympic games. India’s first Individual Gold medal came in 2008, by a shooter Abhinav Bindra. Last Olympic games (2012) was the most successful event so far when India won six medals, two silver, and four bronze. India has won total 28 medals in Olympics so far (out of which nine are gold, eight for field hockey and just one individual gold), not a spectacular achievement for one of the most populous countries of the world. Just for the sake of comparison, we can compare India with the most decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps of USA has also won 28 medals in just four Olympics, and 23 of them are gold medals! What can be the reason that such a big country can not match the achievement of an individual? Definitely, large population or lack of resources and money cannot be the only factors responsible for this, because even countries more populated than India (China) or poorer than India (like Kenya, Ethiopia or North Korea) also win medals at Olympics consistently. It is also not true that Indians are not passionate about any sports, India is considered as a superpower in cricket, it is one of the most lucrative markets for this game and Indian Premier League (IPL) is the most successful league for cricket all over the world. Is cricket responsible for killing all other sports? Many love to blame dominance of cricket for pathetic infrastructure for all other sports, but then how come all other sports flourish in countries like USA where basketball, baseball, and American football dominate so much? India even has a dedicated sports ministry to look after countries sports activity, I don’t think in US there is even a position called the secretary of sports.
The major difference I found between both countries is that in US kids start playing competitive sports at very early age and there are professional private facilities available to them for almost any sport. Sports is a part of culture as well as school curriculum, and most kids are either directly or indirectly involved with some sports activity. For many sports earlier you start better it is, in India many primary and middle school don’t even have their own playground, playing is often considered as a waste of time. I remember that we used to get punished if my dad caught us playing cricket instead of studying,which according to him was much more essential activity than playing any game. I don’t think my dad was an exception as many of my other friends also used to get a similar treatment.

During every Olympic games, a question pops up that how come country of more than billion people cannot produce even few Olympic gold medalists? It is fiercely debated, cricket and government are blamed, but if some athletes win any medals because of their own hard work and efforts they are hailed as heroes and saviors, they are showered with gifts and rewards from all over the country and everything else is forgotten until next Olympic games. This is going on for last so many years, so regularly that this activity has become a regular drill for many Indians and they all perform so mechanically. Whether it is Sindhu or Sakshi or Abhinav or Sushil, they all won their medals, not because of infrastructure and sports culture, but despite that. They defied all odds against them and triumphed at international level, but how long a country of more than billion people can depend on the efforts few brave individuals to bring ultimate recognition in sports? During every Olympics entire country expects some miracle to happen and at least one of their athlete wins some medals. If USA can do it, China can do it, Brazil can do it, why not India? Something needs to change if India wants’s to compete with these countries in the medal count, sports should become a regular activity, only then talent can be recognized at an early stage and can be groomed to compete at intensely competitive international level. Lots of perseverance, dedication, and hard work is required to achieve success at international level in any field and sports is not an exception. Let’s hope that achievements of Sindhu and Sakshi act as a wake-up call and not as an opium dose which makes entire country high and forgets about ground realities. Let’s celebrate their achievements with an intention of making it a regular event, not just a pleasant surprise for which entire country depends to celebrate.

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