All posts in the morals category

The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta and Leadership – 1

Published February 20, 2017 by vishalvkale

This is a realisation that came to me hard when I was doing my habitual morning reading of The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta; my thoughts on my learnings of two verses are tabulated below. 

Don’t try to change the world… Change Yourself…
The headline of this article says it all; this is the most common rejoinder people get when they try to set an example, with one single refrain – aap duniya nahi badal sakte; be practical, this is the way it is, and many other variations along this theme. Hidden in this lovely gem of a statement, this remarkably ignorant statement is a litany of problems, all of which hover around one single tragic theme in our society today. Some critics of this habit call it apathy, some selfishness, some a lack of confidence while some others blame it on the prevalent atmosphere. 
There are two aspects or parameters to this, in my humble view; the first is ideological, and thoroughly idealistic in both its intent and its wording. Simply put – if everyone thinks along these lines, then, ladies and gentlemen, the simple reality is that nothing will ever change in any aspect of human endeavour, be it society or be it science. Change is a constant, and it is the change agents who bring about that change. By discouraging the change agents, you can only delay the change, with all its attendant effects good as well as bad– not cancel the change
In any field of human endeavour, it has been the change agents who have brought about defining change, despite the fact that they were all, without exception, ridiculed and even called fools, to put it bluntly.  There is no change agent I am aware of who did not have to struggle to get the change in place. Even top scientists & famous leaders had to struggle, read their biographies. The choice is between selfish faceless mediocrity, and selfless service! And it is also a fact that only a small number of people from these change agents actually succeed – but isn’t the norm in any field, where success percentage is actually always a small fraction?
But the fact is that, as any biography will readily confirm, the successful change agents build on a series of previous change efforts put in my innumerable nameless and faceless people. That is why it is absolutely essential to continue to swim against the tide in a defined moral and/or scientific direction – you may not succeed, but you and countless others might {will?) become the cause of someone who does manage to succeed. This is true for any field of activity – Science, Trade, Society – any human activity. It takes uncommon courage to go against the tide – and my advise to those who do so is that you are special, a person of raw courage and guts. Never ever give up!
The others aspect is the one of leadership. Now we define leaders as business leaders, political leaders  etc – I am not referring to these. I am referring to any leader, which  includes the above and many more – society leaders, opinion leaders, role-models, teachers, etc. Anyone who leads or influences even one person is a leader. It is a known philosophical as well as scientifically established reality that people try to follow and emulate those whom they see as leaders. I refer you to this verse from our Holy Book, The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta, Chapter 3 Verses 20 & 21 :
कर्मणैव हि संसिद्धिमास्थिता जनकादय: |
लोकसंग्रहमेवापि सम्पश्यन्कर्तुमर्हसि || 20||
यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जन: |
यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते || 21||
By performing their prescribed duties, King Janak and others attained perfection. You should also perform your work to set an example for the good of the world. Whatever actions great persons perform, common people follow. Whatever standards they set, all the world pursues. Leaders of society thus have a moral responsibility to set lofty examples for inspiring the rest of the population by their words, deeds, and character. When noble leaders are in the forefront, the rest of society naturally gets uplifted in morality, selflessness, and spiritual strength.
I have given in the links below 4-6 commentaries; please go through them. They all talk of the same interpretation, and the role of leaders in forming societal values and norms. And this what the holiest of our Sanaatan Dharmi books tell us, written thousands of years ago. My personal definition of the word leader in the societal context is thought leaders, intellectuals, journalists, writers, filmmakers and actors, political leaders, social leaders etc.
Do we demand these qualities of our leaders – any leader? Do we judge them on such or similar parameters – or do we judge them by their status in terms of power, achievements and wealth? Arent we, as a society, placing a premium on the means of achievement attainment rather than the methods and values? What message are we sending society, what role models are creating? In the modern world, we set store by money earned, goods acquired, power attained – not on the values portrayed…
The least we can do is stop ridiculing the tough hard fighters who are trying to bring about change for the good; no one is asking or forcing you to emulate them. Change, true lasting change, cannot be enforced; it has to be embibed. It is a chain, wherein you add people one-by-one; it is inherently slow in the initial phases until it acquires critical mass.
Even our Scriptures, as also science, says the same; leaders have to show an uncommonly high standard of moral behaviour in any and all aspects. The least we can and should do is not discourage people who have the strength of character to be upright in these trying times. And the most we can do – choose leaders basis moral values, which,  as things stand today, is frankly a tough call…  
Agreed with the world – be practical, my friend. Dont change the world, but then, no one is trying to change the world. But you can and should set a moral behavioural example for the world. Now that is doable, isnt it? 

The Eternal Duties of a Human Beings – Geeta 3/21
Geeta as it is 3-21  
Holy Bhagvad Geeta 3-20/21 

Pink Movie – Asking The Right Questions Of The Man!

Published September 18, 2016 by vishalvkale

Image result for pink movie review

This week saw the epochal movie Pink hitting the movie halls and cineplexes, a movie that stands out as one of the most hard-hitting movies to come out from the Mumbai film industry. This is a movie that looks at deeply ingrained attitudinal problems embedded in our society, problems which have eluded quite a few reviewers on this movie; I attempt to place my viewpoint on these ignored aspects in this review. This is a movie that is, to my mind, more about Men than Women; we need to see the story from this angle and engage with the highlighted problems in a deep introspection

Image result for pink movie review
The plot is simple : three ladies meet 3 or 4 boys at a rock concert, share a drink or maybe two, go to dinner, and end up getting molested. A feisty one responds, and cracks a bottle right slam-bang on the “gentleman’s” head, and the three run. So do the four “gentlemen”, but then the nightmare starts for the ladies, as the threats and the intimidation starts. They are wrongly accused by the “gentlemen”, and one of them gets arrested. In  steps a retired top lawyer to the rescue, and fights the case for the ladies.
The above isn’t about what ladies wear, or indeed what they should wear; it isnt about ladies drinking, about going out with boys, about saying no to the opposite sex, about not equating sharing a drink with an invitation for sex; about smiling and talking being equal to something else; it isn’t about freedom of women, or about how much freedom is too much freedom; it isn’t about the invasion of western mores into our eastern society. This is a hard-hitting expose on the Male Chauvinistic Pig, and the frankly reprehensible male dominance in Human Society in general and Indian Society in particular.
It is a brutal expose on the Gender Equations prevalent in our society, and how lopsided they are. If it is not ok for the Girls and Ladies of your family to drink, then – as a corollary to that, it isn’t ok for the Gents to drink either. If it is not ok for the lady to have multiple partners in her lifetime as casual  or not-so-casual lovers – then it isn’t ok for the Gents either. If it is not ok for the lady to stay out late, then it isn’t ok for the Gent either. Why should things be so different for the two sexes? Why the completely variant value-judgements between males and females of the same Homo Sapiens species?
This is exposed very skillfully in the movie, in a gripping court-room drama in the second half; the first half having set up the climax in a riveting and mind-blowing series of events of shocking & jarring victimization that lay bare the other problems touched in the other reviews. But the second half strips our society bare, strips it stark naked in the blunt court room scenes that take your breath away. You get to see the Male of our Indian  society in all his resplendent nakedness and gory ugliness, and leave you feeling utterly disgusted at the prevalent chauvinistic attitudes that bedevil our society.
Few people, in my limited reading, have touched upon this : I agree with the other points raised; namely saying no is no; that dressing is not a barometer of character and neither is drinking, that ladies should have independence; and the point on morality judgement etc. These are obviously true and spot-on; but my point, my question, goes far deeper – why do women {and men} look for approval from society? Forgot the song – Kuchh To Log Kahenge; Logon Kaa Kaam Hai Kehenaa? By doing so, you are automatically placing the man on a pedestal!
Furthermore, why do we place emphasis on purity of women – just women, and not on men? Why not place the precise same moralistic judgmental attitudes towards men as you do towards the ladies? Why has no one ever thought to ask a man if he is a virgin? Why is no one asking as how can the same attitude be seen modern, forward, rough-and-tough in males but undesirable in females? Why has no one in our entire society ever questioned the sexual need in males and their now-established penchant for prostitutes? Why has no one ever questioned the so-called tough man when he has multiple affairs, or drinks, or dresses in a forward fashion? We have never ever questioned the man – not even in our movies, and that is a fact.

The problem isn’t that we need to stand by our women; that goes without saying. The real problem is that we need to question the Men, and make it unacceptable behavior  – or rather, have the same rules apply for both the sexes. You cant have differentiation. We know we are patriarchal; we know ladies have to suffer a  lot – is that news? That is a known and established fact! High time our movies took the next step and ask some hard questions of the Man. Don’t say we need to support our women – start by saying that I need to look at the boys and men in our family, and have true equality.
It has been cruelly highlighted how Meenal had mulltuple sexual partners in her history; what about the men she slept with? Did they not have multiple sexual partners? Why has no one in our society ever questioned the man? Why is it not an equally big question for the man? Is sex just a conquest for the men, involving no love? Or is drinking a solely male priviledge? It has been forcefully highlighted about the drinking by the ladies. Werent the men also drunk? How is it ok for a man to partake in drinks but not the lady of the house? These are the questions this movie raises – and many many more…
We need to highlight the differential approach towards the two sexes far more than other aspects in my opinion; like in that sad statement “unko aukaar dikhaao” or words to that effect. The difficulty is that we are a male dominated society, and unless we both support the women as well as make it less sexy and more intolerable for the man to misbehave, change will not happen. As it stands, the feeling is that for the man, drinking & flirting and sex is ok – duly supported by our movies in sorry portrayals. If drinking, flirting is ok for the boys, then it is ok for the girls. And if it isn’t ok – then both sexes are in the wrong – and it needs to be highlighted.
Most movies show the women suffering, or fighting against all to make it; this has basis in reality. But we also need to show how the man can suffer and lose everything, how his sick behavior harms him – not just in the end, but in his daily life. Make it less sexy to be patriarchal! Instead, we see the opposite – in our love stories, in our other movies about how the man goes after the girl etc along established moral codes and norms of society.

We are the same society which calls a decent actor a chocolate boy, in another example of the stereotypes that rule our minds. These stereotypes need to be broken down; need to be addressed; the man needs to understand his failings…  and that is where Pink scores, in the Court-room where the defense Lawyer highlights these very aspects in his epochal code-book for conduct, and the six points he raises about how society views these from different parameters for the two sexes…

image source : Google search

Is Something Seriously Wrong With Us?

Published May 9, 2016 by vishalvkale

Another day, another month, another year – and yet another display of cruel insensitivity by us Indians, this time watching as a person burns to his death on a crowded street, with no one coming forward to help. It is one thing if you try to help, and were not able to – or if you try to help but were prevented by the intensity of the fire, but just standing and watching is quite another. What were you watching? It wasn’t a street drama; it was a dance of death being played. Either you stop to help – or bloody well move on so that other, better people than you can help!
Insensitivity, callousness, fear – or all of the above? Just what is the problem that causes incidents like the one in the article from The Indian Express below? We have seen many, many such sad and cruel responses from the public over the years, some of which I myself have documented on my blog from time to time. Each time, I think and, rather, hope – that these are isolated incidents, ones which are reported due to their transparently callous and cruel nature; that we are a nation of 1.3 Billion plus, and that isolated incidents aren’t the barometer…

But when similar happenings take place again and again and again – one has to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with at least some people among us; that we need to look in a mirror and see for ourselves what we are increasingly becoming. We have seen it before – driving on by a couple of victims, watching accident victims and more; and have demonstrated magnificent inaction and the ardent followership of it-isnt-my-problem-so-why-should-I-care.
But what happened in this episode just beggars belief; a display of inhumanity and cruelty beyond words, beyond description and beyond comprehension. I am frankly stunned, with bile rising in my throat and shocked numbness in my mind as I read the unbelievably shocking display of inhumanity, crass selfishness, callousness & total lack of empathy, and mind-numbing insensitivity on display in this terrifying episode.  People just standing and watching!
If this was all there was to it – it would have been routine for India – as we shall observe later in this article; what takes the cake here is that not only were people watching, they were taking videos and further uploading them on Youtube! This is something that you want to have a Video of? What for, pray tell? What makes it so fascinating? A human being is burning to death, an agonizing and horrific way to go, and the best you can think of is taking a video? What happened to plain human decency and feelings? And let us not forget common sense, which, by current evidence, is highly uncommon?
We have seen this many, many time before; this shocking inhuman behaviour by Indians of all hues, colors, education, livelihood, age and gender. Everytime there is a small road accident- even a biker falling – you will see crowds gathering and watching. Watching – mind it; doing nothing, precisely nothing, and just watching. In doing so, they clog up roads, disturb and delay people, waste resources as well as time – but they watch all the same.
What curious fascination, what amazing pull others’ misfortune holds for us as a people, isn’t it? We unfailingly watch, each and every time. But no- we never, ever, stop forward to help, to lend a helping hand. Why do you watch – do tell? Is it fun? Someone is hurt, is in pain, or is dying – and you stand and watch? How does that help? What satisfaction do you get from it? And if it is curiosity – what good will satisfying your curiosity do? Why don’t you help – or move on, if you don’t want to help? Moving on it actually preferable if you cannot actually do anything to change the status quo!
In fact, the act of standing, of just watching, satisfying your “curiosity”, is actually quite harmful to the situation. This first of all prevents access to those people who are real “men” so to speak {sorry, ladies, no insult intended – just using an old English idiom}. These real men or women can help, want to help – isn’t it possible that their access is prevented by no-good bystanders who are creating a crowd? Further, crowd inaction might also dissuade those in the crowd with real humanity and guts, those who have feelings, but don’t act since the crowd isn’t doing so.
Not only that – let me go further. If you stop to watch even a small accident on the road just out of curiosity – please don’t. What good can you do? Either help – or don’t stop, be selfish – and move on. Clear the space for those who can help; that will be your contribution to the cause, and will be genuinely appreciated. What gets me is why be curious at all? It is fine to be curious, see and then lend a hand; it is not so fine if your curiosity leads to you watching! Why watch? You have seen the misfortune – so move on; why does someone else’s misfortune hold such a magnetic attraction? What does it say of you as a person? Not a lot, to be brutally frank.

If this article has touched you in any way – please think of how you respond and behave under such circumstances. This applies to me as well – I have also soul-searched, and asked myself – what would my response be? I know for a fact that I don’t stop if there are bystanders or a crowd, since it will only add to the clog and confusion; but how will I react when I am the first on the scene? I hope I never have to answer that. Whatever the reason for your inaction – callousness, cruelty, fear, other issues – they are your problems; the best you can do is not stop to watch, leaving the space for others who can help. And videos – boss, it isn’t cool to take videos of others’ suffering; it is cruel, callous, inhuman and shockingly sad….

Doing Something Real And Current About Poverty

Published May 24, 2015 by vishalvkale

The Curse Of Poverty… one can see it all around us; I have myself written about both how hopeless and helpless I feel, as well as how horrifying the poverty trap is… this is something that I cant get over,  can’t forget, and can’t overlook. And the reason is simple : wherever I go, wherever I visit, wherever I turn in any place in India, my lovely India, I can find the same gut-wrenching and heart-stopping scenes of abject poverty, and the total helplessness of the people trapped in it.

I was just walking out from a Bakery {My Choice, Annapurna Road, Indore} when I was approached by a lady with her clothes in tatters, and was solicited for alms. I looked at her, and could not say no… I had just spent 117/- Rupees on a Pizza Topping and Butter purchase, and had in addition visited Dominoes. If I could spend that much, surely I can give her 10/-, which I did. I don’t feel guilty about my expenses – I work all day for it, all week and all year; but… I cannot forget that this is due to the benefit of education, parentage, opportunity and providence…

And, yet again, the same thoughts crash through my mind, as I have written earlier as well : why, God, why? What have we as a people done that is so horrible that millions of my countrymen and women have to suffer such terrifying indignities and conditions? What have we done to deserve this? My mind goes vacant for a moment…

The sight of beggars on the streets, the young children with no hope and no future, the labourers working all day for a few rupees just to keep alive, the slums which dot the landscape, the poverty in the villages, the mud and slush in the villages’ approaches, the lack of amenities, the huts and dwellings which offer scant true protection make for a chilling sight that shock me into numbness and an infinite and indefinable sadness at the complete hopelessness of it all…

And then, I turn around – to see a very different, vibrant and tenacious India – the one of Education, Opportunity, Growth, Development, Cars, Bikes, Swank Offices, Rush-Hour Traffic, Malls & Theatres, fast-improving facilities and amenities, and a hope arises in my mind : firstly, there is still hope; a hope that one day the majority of my countrymen can enjoy the same facilities; that all of my countrymen can live a life of respect, sufficiency, confidence, and honour…

Secondly, a hope arises when I see people who have given their all for the betterment of the downtrodden – naming any one as an example would be insufficient – and understand that while I am still at the stage of shock and sadness, there are others who have shown the courage to act on their convictions, and place the lives, their careers on the line for these people.

To all such people – thank you; you are the future of India; you are the real hope for our India – you, the people who could have had cushy corporate jobs, but are doing what your heart tells you to do – a story that will go unknown and unwritten. But, collectively, when the results begin to show, you people will have done more than almost anyone else…

You are the people who highlight injustices, and, staying within legal limits, points systematic shortcomings; you are the people to reach out to these poor people and attempt to educate, treat them and help them or their children learn to grow. You are the people that drive change in the rest of society through the sheer power of your sacrifices, convictions and actions. You are the people who force the uncaring majority of Urban India and make them face their attitudes, selfishness and indefensible and deliberate ignorance of the plight of the poor of India. Verily, you are the people actually driving change – knowing fully well you will never get the credit. You are the people who are driving systemic change, forcing the uncaring and careless Urban Indian to abandon corruption, become more community conscious.

The question that now occurs to me is : will this alone suffice? How can we solve the problem of poverty if the poor are not in a position to either get employment, or start a business that can ensure respect and money enough to earn a decent living? Will the famed trickle-down theory actually work? The evidence of my eyes, as well as some data I have read, has led me to question the very basis of this theory; is the pace of change fast enough? How many more poor ladies and gentlemen {and their coming generations} will be forced into such terrifying conditions?

The development versus growth debate misses this one point : what will happen to the millions who are currently in distress? By not investing in capability development of this vast sea of manpower at the basic level, aren’t we creating a sea of future problems, aren’t we postponing the day of reckoning? How will increased factories and Urban Amenities benefit the poor, who aren’t educated enough to take advantage of the development? The conclusion is obvious : it the Urban Indian who stands to gain; while the poor will gain : the process will by definition be slow, as their growth will be through increased menial tasks become available, which will result in a slow improvement.

But this process creates a divergence: the Urban and Educated, through greater access to education and benefits, will clearly gain immediately. That is good – it will engender growth; but – it leaves the problem of the immediate amelioration of the conditions of the current lot of poor people. While the development – versus – growth angle is an unsettled economic debate, there can be no debate about this : that the current lot will not benefit. Therein lies the problem.  

One one side, we have a tribe of selfless people who are tirelessly working to ameliorate the conditions of these people, on the other side we have a growing economy, a vibrant democracy and increasing confidence in us as a people and as a civilization. Caught in between are the millions upon millions of poor people with no education, no hope and no chances – people whom life has never given any chances.   

The question for all of us Urban & Educated people should be – What Can We Do In Addition To What Is Being Done That Can Help? As Individuals, As People, As A Community, And As A Civilization? Isnt this worth doing? Shouldn’t there be a way where we can contribute? Our Mother, Our India gave birth to us; and gave us some benefits not available to others : how should we be using these benefits?

Choice is Yours, and Mine. 

Sick Mentality, Moral Depravity Or Just Plain Fear?

Published March 14, 2015 by vishalvkale

Sick Mentality, Moral Depravity Or Just Plain Fear?

Yet another accident… yet another victim… and yet again, our lack of decency, humanity, empathy and caring lie exposed. Yet again, we lie exposed for what we have become as a people – uncaring, depraved and self-centered people who care nothing for anyone not related to us, who feel no empathy and no pity for any person not directly emotionally connected with us. My head hangs in shame… what have we become as a people? How did we become so heartless, so cruel?

She lay bleeding on the road in front of St John’s Church at AJC Bose Road-Ripon Street crossing for about 25 minutes in rush hour. What makes it even more shocking is, people went about normally all around her. One flank of AJC Road was then packed with vehicles bringing students to two of Kolkata’s most reputable schools. On the other flank, buses carrying passengers to Sealdah and the IT hub of Salt Lake jostled for space.
Yet, no one stopped to help an injured woman.

If anyone thinks this is an isolated incident, think again… remember Nirbhay, and how no one came to help her? Or you can also do a simple google search – or go and read at least one more article on my blog itself. This is the fourth case I have documented of such brutal and heartless behavior of Indians towards their fellow citizens, fellow humans in dire need. This is what we have become – morally defunct, without any sense of humanity, decency, honesty…

I would like to ask all India – what would you feel like if someone you know and love {God Forbid} goes through a similar experience – and you chance upon him or her lying on the road, bleeding – and in need of help? What would you do? Take a snap, or just look, and walk away? No? If not, why not? And what would you feel like if you ran to people for help – and they just looked away, walked away? Shame on you, shame – all of you who walked away, or looked away in all such cases. If you are reading this, let me tell you – you are a disgusting and brutal excuse for a human. Even an animal tries and helps its own species in distress!

The mere thought of it makes my blood run cold… my mind freeze in shock at the sheer uncaring, inhuman and cold-blooded brutality displayed by everyone.  Are we so depraved, bled dry of all that our resplendent culture has taught us, devoid of all humanity and morality that we will let people die? This despite there being a series of commendable decisions by the courts supporting the helpers? How can such people go in front of their families, and face them? How do they manage to look their loved ones in the eyes? And what do they think that God is not watching? I am shocked… just plained stunned at this shocking display of selfish brutality by the average Indian! Chhi! Shame! Shame on us, all of us!

What lies at the core of this inexplicable display of moral turpitude, this display of depraved or wicked behaviour or character? Is it that the average Indian’s character has gone bad? Have we become the demons of our age, the Raavan or the Duryodhan of the modern age? The evidence would certainly support such an indictment; there can be no doubt of that. Walking away from a wounded and dying man certainly qualifies for a wicked character. That is certain. Except for one thing : Both the above were very learned and able men. We certainly aren’t either; we are worse, if anything – judging from the above.

The only other explanation – fear. Fear of hurt or loss to self due to a lack of trust in the systems that govern us. As I observed – this fear persists in the face of repeated court interventions and decisions telling people, exhorting people to help victims without fear. Yet, such horrifying displays of crass inhumanity persist, pointing to a large and yawning gap between the people and the system.

The need of the hour then becomes planning and executing steps that can be taken to bridge this gap; to lessen the fear in the minds of the people. This would involve educating and reforming the interface between the people and the system – the front-facing Government staff like the police and civil servants, and ensure that they are more receptive to the genuine needs of humanity.

However, having said that, these representatives also come from within our society. And if these people are still harassing the helpers {I don’t know that, to be honest- that is why the qualification “if”} it calls for deep seated reform within the system. But more pertinently, this also goes to prove that there is an additional factor beyond “fear”; that fear cannot explain everything. Had fear been the sole causative factor, then at least the interface would have been more friendly, and more caring.

And if they aren’t harassing the helpers, which is a distinct possibility given the many decisions, and the absence of media hue and cry on this – such cases goes to show that we as a people are unthinking and self-centered, and morally defunct and depraved. We just don’t care. Not even when there are such blood-curling cases happening. That is a simple conclusion that can be drawn. We all of us need a deep relook at our priorities, our morality and our lives.

If we assume that there is some fear factor that lies at the core, along with other problems, then the solution could be canvassing door-to-door or otherwise reaching out to the people – not impersonally through media  – but with the personal touch and assuring people that they wont be harassed in case they have to help. This requires deep and systemic reform within the police system and other administrative reforms, which will enable the police to be a bit freer to execute such tasks; but it is doable, and very practical. This will also go a long way in building trust within communities and rebuilding some character in the people.

But how can that happen, when we the people are ourselves  not wanting such reforms? Even the courts want them, the police themselves want these reforms, but no. Not we the people. We all go excited over nonsense and / or relatively unimportant aspects, but are not concerned about this very vital set of reforms that can redefine the way we live. We are too self centered in our ways, too idiotic in our approach to see how we are harming ourselves by such activities…