Social Issues

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Is Something Seriously Wrong With Us?

Published May 9, 2016 by vishalvkale

A DANCE OF DEATH…
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…




IS SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG WITH US?
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?
THIS IS A HABIT WITH US…
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!
WHY BYSTANDING IS WRONG
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….

EDUCATION, POLITICS – AND PATRIOTISM

Published February 28, 2016 by vishalvkale

PREAMBLE AND PERSONAL THOUGHTS

Recents events have brought students and universities {well, one particular university at least} to the forefront of the public discourse and media attention, alongwith all its sad and regrettable consequents; this has given rise to yet another impassioned debate in Social Media, Media as well as normal homes  – with both the Pro BJP and the anti BJP lobbies again rising to the occasion, as it were. FB posts, Whatsapp updates in support of the BJP, or questioning it are the order of the day once again, after a short breather…
Next, the Government : I am a middle roader. I criticize where criticism is warranted, praise where praise is due. I have begun to note a clear polarisation of camps into pro and anti BJP, and that makes me highly uncomfortable; both camps claiming the other is wrong, and both sides being demonstrably and completely wrong in at least some of their contentions. Having been questioned by close friends and family on this, I intend to keep my peace. The way forward cannot be arguments with the people you love. Some of my readers have stated I am dodging the issue…
What you call dodging is in reality steering clear of issues where no clear evidence is available for me to take a defined position; that is why I have avoided the specific issue of Mr Kanhaiyya, and have transposed it into the larger College issue. I do not have access to information that enables me to take a stand, and taking a position based on opinionated Media peices is not me. Neither is such a position fair, nor is it desirable.

THE EPISODE

On what evidence are we saying Kanhaiyya is guilty? Conversely, on what evidence are we saying he is innocent? I have seen nothing that confirms either way. If he is guilty, frankly, as a proud Indian, I stand solidly with the pro-BJP camp on this. No one  can be allowed to shout anti-India slogans, and that is my stated position on this : note the the clear and big “if”
Conversely, if he is innocent, {as well as the others}, then he should be exonerated. Then the public will be justified in asking the Government for answers on the episode – not before. I can raise many questions – droves of them – on either side of the coin, none of which has satisfactory answers. Thus, if I am to state an opinion basis available data that I have run across, it would be erroneous.  If he is innocent, far more good would be done by first approaching in a calm manner, laying the complete facts before the public…
It would be really tragic if he turns out to be innocent; that I readily grant. Then, the questions will be asked. The question is how can I as an individual help in such a scenario, given I dont know him, or anything about him? Answer : keeping my peace, hoping in and trusting the Judiciary, and God. Time will tell. It would be a capital mistake to fan emotions by taking any stance in the absence of direction and information. That way lies a path none of us want to take…

 

THE LARGER QUESTION OF OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

 

HISTORY : LETS US MOVE ON

I draw your attention to Mrs Irani’s speech, specifically the third part on youtube. Watch it carefully – not for her intonations, and skills – but for the facts she states. She raises several interesting – deeply interesting – points. I would rather you read it than listen; I prefer reading speeches minus the emotion that distorts understanding. Try and answer those points: Mahishasur, Dalit, Aryan, Aurangzeb, Shivaji and others; all making reference to History. That is one. Then look at the books she shows used in our classrooms, or were used at any rate. That is two.
Moving on – there are two sides : or rather three. History,  Common Sense, and Politics. Regarding History and its related matters, it would be best for me, as well as others, to maintain silence, at least on matters with modern relevance, as these have many parameters than need negotiation, and is thus beyond the scope or recommendation of a blog without a proper detailed study. {Look at my history articles to get an idea of what a study entails; and such dicey matters require far more solid research before any attempt at penning an opinion can be made}

PATRIOTISM AND EDUCATION

Much has been said about nationalism and patriotism; you regard Universities as places of Patriotism? The people who run away from India, change citizenship come from our universities, dont they? What are we doing wrong in our education system? Are we creating Indians, or are we creating people who place self above nation,  who run away, people for whom professional achievement is above national purpose?
The ones who choose self above nation, are ALL highly educated. How many IITians have joined the Army, pray tell? {Just an example}. So yes, the ones who run away DO come from Universities, and . the damage from these has never been calculated; if it were done, I for one would not be surprised if the number beats hollow any benefits accrued, and then some. But let us leave this line of thought here, lest we digress from the topic at hand.
Sure, the Universities produce patriots as well; I could name them at length, for years and years, the list is so long. But few of these are patriots because of what they learnt in college. Statement of simple fact. Do we teach nationalism, patriotism, tales of sacrifice and courage in our Colleges, outside of History Graduation? We dont. QED.
Why do you attend college? To study, get an education – or to indulge in sloganeering? I too have been to college, and never did anything of the sort. Why are politics allowed within the colleges is not the point; what the hell are students doing is the point. I dont buy the nonsense of student activism; students are meant to study, play and get skilled for the nation – not indulge in politics, in my humble opinion
It is for this reason I have a total lack of connect with any students who indulge in this nonsense on any side of the debate. Sorry. Our parents dont send us to college, sacrificing sweat, blood and toil for us to scream slogans against real or imagined injustices. Not done. Period; Try doing politics in your offices, and see how long you survive! Open Challenge!
Was there over-reaction? Maybe. Were they guilty? No idea; on balance – unlikely, but am no expert. Did they deserve the public thrashing? Obviously, no. That does NOT absolve them in my mind in soiling the halloed place of learning we should rightly be calling a Gurukul, a place where we should be on our knees in front of The Goddess Saraswati {for Sanaatanis} … and giving our thanks for giving us this opportunity that was not given to more than 70% other Indians!
My views may not be shared by you; fine by me. But to me a place of learning isnt a bloody political battlefield, but a place next only to a Temple, a place of dedication and worship no less than a Temple. As a matter of fact, to quote my friend and senior Amitabh Sinha, Vishal, if you’re a Sanatani – as you claim you are – you know that a temple is anywhere where the Sanatani performs his karm pooja. So when you say the University is ‘next only to a temple’ I’m afraid you make a mistake. A University IS a temple for it is here where the teacher and the taught both offer their karm pooja. Is this the way to behave in a temple? Othermay have their views, but this doesn’t fit in mine. Go ahead, Call me an idealist…
{For the record : Me and Amit Sir have our differences of opinion, and the above quote is part of a much longer argument or discussion, with all its varied mutual disagreements}
We scream blue murder just on the question of flying the beloved Tricolor above our universities! The thankless people who go away, after feasting on scarce tax-payers money, scarce seats : where are they from? The UNIVERSITIES. What value and moral education is imparted? Lessons on patriotism, and the sacrifices people have done so that these students can study? This isnt taught – and that is fine. So, by corollary, how can politics be acceptable? First introduce value education, nation concepts as a part of the curricula, and THEN think of politics.
Sure politics has a place in every feature in life; but not active politics. Therein lies the difference. At best, places of learning can be places where opinions are formed, to be expressed later in more mature fora; but wasting the time of your Guru, your teachers, the nation, your parents is not done. Can you hold such enclaves in the workplace? Why not? Then how is something not allowed in the office be allowed in the Temple of Education? We cant have double standards!
Would the Army allow such sloganeering? Why not? Would Infosys? Brittannia? Nestle? Hero? Parle? TCS? TISCO? Tata Steel? Godrej? Bajaj? Reliance Group? Cello?  What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. As it isnt allowed, obviously there is some very practical reason for it: call it what you will. What are we doing in places of education indulging in something that 95+% of the time will have zero positive career impetus, and will in fact, as has proven to be the case, become a major career hindrance?

I can only indulge in a fervent and innocent hope that this incident is a one-off, does not represent the trend in our colleges and Universities, that 95%+ of our educational institutions are actually free from political interference in a major way at least insofar as performance of the core function of imparting knowledge to students is concerned… it may be an idealist hope, sound far-fetched… but then, optimists and realists have never changed the world…

The Absence Of A National Dialogue

Published January 19, 2016 by vishalvkale

The Absence Of A National Dialogue
The title will surprise many, but that is precisely my contention; that we lack a national dialogue; a consistent, strong and clear discussion on the matters that really matter to us as a people. We are very quick to discuss on Social Media issues relating to Religion, BJP Government, AAP {particularly denouncing it}, Rahul Gandhi / Congress, Arvind Kejriwal, Indians Abroad… but are almost totally silent on any number of issues that are far more relevant, important and critical to us


AGRICULTURE

You will not find many posts, mentions on agrarian distress, drought conditions in several districts, condition of Small and Marginal Farmers, lack of farm profitability, abysmally low farm-gate prices, lack of facilities in the agrarian belts, the problems faced by the farming community etc. And yet, even the smallest step taken for the emancipation of the above problems gets highlighted excessively.

That the positives are highlighted is welcome – but this happens without an attendant and equally vocal attention to the problems being faced by farmers. Therein lies the problem; you cannot have a complete picture of the ground reality without a full picture. What we see is an abundance of noise and adulation on steps taken for farmers – but almost zero attention to the reality of the farming scene in India…



THE ECONOMY

Similar is the case with the Economy; let me take just one small example to make my point. The structure of the Indian Economy is skewed heavily towards the Small and Medium Enterprise; as previously pointed out on my blog, the contribution of the unorganised sector to the Indian Economy is in excess of 40%, in the range of 45% – 60% {Refer the review of the book India, Uninc by Prof Vaidyanathan for full details}

And yet, a glance at the Pink Papers, Media, Social Media would completely belie the above in its totality. Rare is the article that goes deep into this aspect of our economy, which employs more people, contributes more to the GDP as well as to savings, and is the engine of India’s growth as well as consumption and savings juggernaut. Anything to do with Corporate Business gets immediate attention; is analysed threadbare – but not on this most vital of sectors of our Economy.

Its needs, wants, bottlenecks and requirements never reach the educated classes, So much so – it took me, an MBA with a regular reading of News and Books well over 14 years work experience to get introduced to the scale & scope of the Unorganised Sector and its contribution – and even that took a book that I spotted in a mall {mentioned above}



EDUCATION & HEALTH

This stands as the most neglected sector of all, with near-zero attention; in my opinion – even more neglected than Agriculture. The fact is that we spend very little {as a % of GDP allocation in Budget} on Education & Health gets a mention – but few people question this. Conversely, politicization of education – by any party – gets headline news for weeks – but the lack of attention to both these factors nationally hardly merits a few erudite articles and analyses in some select serious media outlets!

We rarely stop to think how can we improve the lot of the people among the not-so-lucky; how can they partake in the improved opportunities that growth brings without good health and education! Is it due to the blind spot we have – being educated, living in Urban Agglomerations, with good jobs {mostly} – leading us to forget that there are others who don’t have the advantages we have had due to our lucky parentage, which is strictly speaking an accident of birth?


THE CONCLUSION

Each of the points above ideally needs a dedicated article unto itself to do it justice; furthermore, there are other relevant issues that can be included in the list that get ignored. The list above is neither representative, nor is it exhaustive. Sadly, basis what we have seen and read till date on Media and Social Media both – you have to hunt for updates and information relating to these vital aspects of our nation.

How is Religion, Pro- or Anti-BJP, Pro- or anti-AAP etc going to influence the direction of policies in any way? Regardless of how much social media noise is generated, regardless of how much attention and coverage these generate, how is it going to help in any practical and definable way? In fact, in some cases it stokes arguments and verbal duels as can be seen in comments on facebook updates {as an example}

If we can focus so much attention on these frankly irrelevant and unimportant matters, post updates on them in Social Media, attempt to influence your readers, friends etc, or inform them – then why cant we also show due interest to real matters, matters of far greater relevance? We can update a deluge of updates praising one Government or the other, and yet maintain complete silence on real matters – Education, Agrarian Distress, Rural-Urban Gap, Health, Indian Armed Forces, Economy?

Similarly in the Media, one can read threadbare and in painstaking detail {or watch to be fair} news relating to so-called “current events”, in minute-by-minute breaking news and updates – but almost nothing by relative comparison on these real issues. How difficult could it be, just increasing space and/or time for analytical articles and snippets on these real issues, factors that will determine the pace of our growth?

What is happening is that as a result, there is a complete of a national dialogue around the real issues that matter to us as a people, as a nation. The lack of awareness of the people at large {basis personal experience of my own self} leads to a total silence on these matters, compared to a deluge of information on the other matters, which are relatively minor – and some might even be called debatable as being “matters” of relevance.

If the belief in the people is that by sharing updates on Religion and related matters, Historical wrongs, Pro- or anti- Government, Personality-specificity etc – one can influence public opinion, then the same holds true for the real issues. And if you don’t believe in the power of Media, then why share on your social pages, and why write or create on your Media?

And, if this medium does hold power – both Media as well as Social Media – then what does our silence on the real issues say about us as a people? Why are we sharing and reading avidly on Religion, Political Parties – but ignoring the really important issues, issues that are vitally important to the nation? What does this behaviour say about us? 

Insaaniyat Kahaan Hai?

Published December 15, 2015 by vishalvkale

The title says “Insaaniyat Kahaan Hai?” That is my question to all of my readers. Insaaniyat kahaan gum ho gayi hai? Where is our feeling of humanity, of oneness, of compassion, and of love-  all those lovely feelings humans are supposed to have – heavy emphasis on the word supposed? For, even a cursory glance at contemporary society would prove beyond any shade of doubt that not one of these is in common prevalence…
This is a society that can watch a Nirbhay {May God Bless Her Soul and Grant Her Moksha}  lie naked and bleeding on a road in a cold winter morning; this is a society that can watch a wounded man writhe in agony on the road, or can watch a man bleed to death – and yet do nothing.These are just examples;  does no remorse ever touch such people? Doesn’t their conscience prick them, and say anything? How is it that we as a society have become so insensitive?
This is a society which can rise and raise a hue and cry when a question is raised on a political leader – any leader with a following, to be frank; the level of the noise rises with an increase in popularity. This is a society that can cry themselves hoarse, throw insults and worse on the slightest criticism of a political leader, or party, or perceived national image {intolerance, anyone?} – and yet remain totally silent on such callous and insensitive displays of so-called “human” behaviour as we have seen in the above examples!
Where is our indignation when such things happen?  Where is the high-decibel shock, condemnation and disgust that was in evidence earlier – when such {and many other} displays of apathy and insensitivity occur? Where is our collective conscience? Why the profound silence, and why the noise when someone – whether famous or not – criticizes the Government, any party {note – ANY party}, our culture, our nation, our heritage? Or is it the contention that such finer feelings are reserved only for such idea, notions and feelings rather than clear human tragedies?
A couple of days ago, a similar such {similar, not comparable – please!} incident occurred in New Delhi, which might also have resulted in the sad death of a baby {matter sub-judice, we don’t know}. A clearly legally correct action on people occupying Railway Land; they had no right to that land. I don’t think that is in question here. But the manner this was done – destroying settlements in mid-winter – has shocked me to the core of my being. What is going on?
This was done without any alternative arrangement – and that is the true horrifying shocker in this entire sad tragedy. Other questions – like was it too hurried {the death of the Baby – why it happened etc} are there; but they are more to do with administrative and legal matters; and we cannot comment without more information. The Honourable High Court is now looking into this matter; and its initial scathing observation and questions on The Government is telling, but we cannot and should not comment till more information is available.
The reason was : A Passenger Terminal, among other things. A passenger terminal is more important than providing for those poor people who have nowhere to go? Couldn’t someone have found a way to do both? Where was the need for such horrifying and mind-numbingly shocking action on a hand-to-mouth people, who have no hopes and nowhere to turn to? Is this the excellent implementation culture we have been hearing about? I am stunned at this action, and could not sleep all night, as I recalled that incident, my mind was numb with disbelief, A Passenger Terminal!!!!! Couldnt it wait? Couldnt someone have first made alternate arrangement – this is mid-winter, man! Shocking!
And now where all those indignant noises that we heard against Aamir, or against those who were saying we are intolerant? If we believe that raising a voice against a perceived or real event can be effective – then why the silence now? Where are all those people who were raising a voice that India is Tolerant? Where are those people who were saying India is Intolerant? Where are all those people who talk of GDP growth, amenities and facilities? Where are all those people who chat about inclusive growth? No, Nothing, Nada, Zilch, Cipher, Zero, Silence. Absolute, Complete and Total Silence.  
Or are such niceties reserved only for important things, like Culture, Tolerance, GDP Growth, Amenities, Facilities? What happens when you see such sad examples as above? Every odd day, we hear a news of bystanders doing nothing as accident victims bleed – everyday examples of apathy. Why the silence  – the total silence – on every social media of note on such issues? Why we ignore such mind-numbing cruelty? For this is cruelty – letting someone die, and doing nothing.
This is also poor implementation – not making arrangements. But  I forget – good implementation is only for your swank malls, large factories, lovely roads, big ports, isn’t it? You put pressure on the Government for these; high time you also put pressure on the Government for the other aspect – good implementation in terms of displaced people in projects, good and hassle free implementation of accident victims treatment, and lessening the fear of the people.
But no, that isn’t important, is it? Your GDP, Factories etc are far more important, right? I am not talking of the Government – I am talking to you, the people of India. Frankly, this pusillanimous display of lack of plain humanity in the people is only convincing some among us that this Government is A Suit-Boot-Ki-Sarkar. I would like to remind everyone here that this Indian behaviour has been in evidence, this apathy has been present regardless of the which political party is in power!

I can only ask : Insaaniyat Kahaan Hai? Where is our feeling of being Human? Aapas me gam baante, Jo ham phir na rahe aise  sitam… Kahane ko insaan hai… Insaaniyat kahaan hai??????? 

The Intolerance Debate and Its Genesis

Published November 27, 2015 by vishalvkale

The big question in front of us as a nation is how do we proceed, given the recent spate of events around tolerance and intolerance perceptions? We are seeing the emergence of two clear camps – which I prefer to call The Tolerance Brigade and The Intolerance Brigade. Each sides sees no merit in the others’ position, with one side actually pulling out all sorts of tactics-  both logical & cogent, as well as illogical and insultingly extreme bordering on direct personal verbal and written abuse. At times, this abuse goes beyond all controls to become extreme and personally targeted and attacking on Social Media as well.

THE DEBATE

First, the great Debate. One and a half year ago, there was no hint of any debate, any thought, any link or any movement or even any fear of the rise of intolerance, by and large. The discourse was around corruption, development, discontent with ruling powers, the rise of NaMo and the debate is caused, and the national mood was around positive aspects. Even in the debate around NaMo, it can be argued that there was no polarisation – at least nothing as compared to what we are seeing nowadays around intolerance; sure there were politically charged statements flying around, but that is a far cry from what we are seeing currently.

So how did the situation come to this scenario, this extremely vitiated scenario that we see? There is some merit in the statements of the Tolerance Brigade that this is impacting India’s image, truth be told. What has happened in the interim that justifies such a vitriolic response around this entire debate? How did this debate actually arise? What is its genesis? Why are some people feeling the need to voice their insecurity, cutting across Party and Religious affiliations?

For one thing cannot be denied – this cuts right across the cross-section of our society, with people from all walks of life giving urgent voice to their discomfiture, which includes people from a variety of political parties in addition to the normal people from all places. By no stretch of imagination can such  a variety of people speak up just for the sake of it, or just for publicity, or just like that. Further, given that I have also met a number of common people who are also feeling the heat, in their views, of rising intolerance, this is a potent question that needs answering – the question of intolerance.

 What has transpired in the past few months since this new Government that explains this rising debate? What is its genesis? Readers are free to connect the dots, everyone is aware of exactly what has transpired since May 2014. Irresponsible utterances by fringe elements of the Hindutva Brigade, leaders which has been picked up by the Media as well as Social Media, are just one example. {Note – I did not single out any party here, not even the RSS, which is doing a great job in the social arena, spreading our culture & religion, fighting Westernisation as well as fitness through its shaakhaas}

There have also been some sad and even tragic incidences that have happened; the aftermath of those incidences, as well as the utterances could have been handled much better which would have stopped or at least delayed this debate and this polarisation; but what is done is done; no point crying over spilt milk. What we need to learn from this immediate past is what is pertinent for us as a nation.  The point for us, the take-away is the undeniable fact that  there have been some incidents that provide a base for the feeling of intolerance; statements which both are and were completely avoidable, in addition to some sad incidents.

A lot more lies to this; this alone cannot explain the tide of statements and reactions this has let loose in Social Media as well as normal discourse in addition to the political potpourri it has curdled. The silence of the Government, or at least perceived silence, is another aspect. It is beyond debate that a stronger response right at the start would have stopped this; let us hope the Government listens to and learns from this – which I am certain it will, given its overall mature approach. Nothing stated so far in this article explains away the current deluge of opinions and debate on this issue. Beyond all of this, beyond the Government, the utterances, and the incidents, are we the people. And we stand indicted today; indicted today by the present deluge…

WE THE PEOPLE

It has been stated by the Tolerance Brigade that the incidents alluded to above do not mean the entire nation is intolerant –  something I ascribe to fully. A series of articles have appeared from a range of normal Indians hauling coals over the Intolerance Brigade; statements and articles from Sanaatanis, Muslims etc. A few sporadic incidents and statements do not, should not and cannot be the basis for the indictment of an entire people – that I completely agree with. India, that paragon of Tolerance, cannot be indicted as an Intolerant nation.

But these same people would do well to remember that we are a democracy, and people are entitled to their opinion – just as you are to yours. The Intolerance Brigade has as much right to its views as the Tolerance Brigade has to its views. And, given that their fears are based on hard facts and incidents, their position has to be taken into consideration and granted; that there does exist some problem,  some issue that needs to be tackled. Ridiculing them is not the solution; doing so is in fact quite dangerous, as it completely ignores the fringe elements that have caused this.

The response to this entire spectrum, right from the start, has been focussed around personal attacks, insults, targeting, ridiculing and outright ostracization attempts. Is this any way to build a dialogue or solve an issue? Or is it actually exacerbating the problem? Ok, so the person {some person, any one – any Tom, Dick or Harry} is feeling slightly edgy – how do you tackle this? By attacking him and ridiculing his feelings? This will reinforce his earlier feeling of insecurity! So what even if the insecure person spoke publicly? Isnt it feasible to counter his or her arguments in a controlled and logical manner – while also granting that the base feeling of intolerance is present, but only in a fringe segment?

In place of logical arguments, the Intolerance Brigade gets responses like “Haraamzaadaa”, “Kamina”, Go to Pakistan, Who asked you, and much much more. The person’s integrity is questioned, patriotism is questioned, and far more. What is the impact of such irresponsible statements? Rather than sit across the table, talk and assuage concerns, r the people with their ridicule and personal attacks vitiate the atmosphere. Is voicing your opinion  a ground for asking to quit India?

Even I have been taunted with that!  Does it justify calling personal insults? Who is being more mature here?Even if you grant someone makes an irresponsible statement on the other side, does that call for an even more ridiculous and immature answer – or does it call for a measured answer?  Even if you grant that the initial statement should have been taken up privately, the uncalled for response from the public is also wrong. And two wrongs do not make a right.

And that is why, we as a people, stand indicted today in front of all. The Intolerance Brigade with its vocal statements should be more mature; given that I feel they are actually more mature than others, it is expected that they control themselves. And the Tolerance Brigade with its stupid, insulting and arrogant remarks are only serving to further muddy the waters vitiating rather than solving anything. All of us – we, the people – stand indicted. 


In line with my arguments above, I shall now not place any article on my Blog on this matter for the next few weeks or months… One cannot argue or speak logic in such an atmosphere, when the tiniest comment leads to taunts of Go To Pakistan. and/or personal insults, when even the most simple article leads to massive arguments with some of my close friends and family. The only way to deal with this is disengagement, and let things settle down for now. There is no point in further muddying an already muddy lake… 


Are We Really Tolerant As A People?

Published November 26, 2015 by vishalvkale

A series of both known as well as common people have spoken up against intolerance in the past few weeks and months – as also against this debate; with each passing week, we get a new face on either side of this intolerance debate.  Each side, to be fair, has cogently placed its point in front of the audience. This, to be frank – is not worrying; it is in fact a great development that at least a debate, an open discussion is being taken up in the Media and among the public; and in that debate lies a sense of hope…
The problem lies not in the cogently presented arguments; an argument, albeit misinformed – can be countered with facts and logic only if it is presented in a logical and controlled matter; but, if it is put forward in an insulting or attacking manner, the scope for logical arguments getting through to either side reduces to near zero, creating a vicious circle of point and counter-point, an argument without a logical end or a defined direction in sight. And that is what is happening in India as of now, in my humble opinion!
I will not take sides directly in this article; the reason will become apparent in this article itself.  Some people have said India is becoming intolerant, while others have risen in anger against such statements. It is fine if you don’t agree; but the way you present your arguments matter one hell of a lot. Ok, fine – so the intolerance brigade is crazy, out of its mind, wrong and easily impressionable. But does that mean the tolerance brigade respond with illogic and insults? Is that a sign of tolerance – or are you proving your intolerance by hurling insults?
The intolerance, in my opinion, is not in the Government – but in we the people, and at a much deeper level than previously thought . Intolerance is in not allowing that there might be a viewpoint that differs from yours; that others have a right to an opinion that is at variance from yours. Intolerance is in not granting the other side a respectful listening, and instead targeting it with ridicule, insults and pointed taunts going right upto leave India. Intolerance is in not in the hero-worship of an individual – everyone is entitled to a role model/s. The intolerance is in not granting that there may be people who don’t agree with you, and not granting them that leeway; rather, targeting them. That is true intolerance
THE GOVERNMENT & THE INTOLERANCE BRIGADE
A lot has been said against this Government; but I cannot find a clear instance where the Government has been  directly or indirectly intolerant. Fair is fair- let us criticise the Government by all means; we are a democracy. But let us not go overboard. There is a difference, a vast difference between the Government and some of its elements. In fact, the very worst thing the intolerance brigade can do is call the Government intolerant – that is serious stuff, and is not done.
That said, the silence on several questionable and at times outrageous statements and utterances by several leaders of the ruling party at the most inopportune moment {Is there really an opportune moment for outrageous remarks? I wonder!} is a cause of deep concern.  I have no doubt that at some point a message must have gone to the errant leaders to reign in their views; but this is not in the public domain.
The worst that this Government can be faulted for is its inexplicable silence, which is getting more and more deafening with each passing moment. I wish the Government, and specifically the PM, gets vocal, talks down the nonsense emanating from the ruling party’s fringe, faces them down and calls their statements publicly in strong terms. That would go a long way in redressing the increasing disquiet in some corridors.  It is this interminable silence that is causing deep concern and worry. Eventually, I have no doubt that our PM will speak up, given his handling over the years. I only hope he speaks up as soon as possible – and in strong terms, which will quell the debate.
THE TOLERANCE BRIGADE
This is where things get interesting. The tolerance brigade, seemingly firm believers in India’s justified reputation of religious as well as intellectual tolerance, are up in arms at the seeming insult they feel at India being called intolerant. That in itself is fine – an open debate and discussion is welcome, as it can help clarify matters. The problem is the level of stridency in the response from this tolerance brigade, which leaves zero scope for engagement for mutual benefit and conflict reduction. If anything, the conflict of the ideas escalated.  
Ok, so you don’t agree with the views of some of the people. Does that mean you tell them, taunt them to leave India and go to Pakistan? Does that give you the right to call them desh-drohi and a traitor? {Not talking of Aamir or SRK, please! I don’t watch Hindi or English movies, only selected few make grade that open my pocket! I am a fan of Marathi movies – and to me, Swapnil Joshi, Mukta Barve, Vikram Gokhle, Subodh Bhave, Ajinkya Deo are bigger stars}
Does that mean you insult the other side? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade call the other side a “Haraamzaadaa”? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade make a comment ”I will help you and drop you to Pakistan”? Does that mean they make pointed jokes and taunts – not once, but consistently at the other side? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade call into question their patriotism? Have the Tolerance Brigade considered that the Intolerance Brigade may be as patriotic a side as the Tolerance Brigade? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade makes it an issue of national pride and national image?
This is one of the most disingenuous arguments that can be made; the shrill response from the Tolerance Brigade is actually equally harmful, as it does not encourage dialogue. In fact, of the two sides, it is the Tolerance Brigade that is more  shrill, personal in their attacks, insulting and deeply wounding in their response. This is equally harmful to national image; a calm and considered response would have settled the hash of the intolerance brigade once and for all.
National image is the composite of all elements within a nation; sporadic statements don’t hurt as much as a shrill and strident response does. Furthermore, the personal level of the insults being hurled, the taunts and the baseless go to Pakistan nonsense is actually proving the Intolerance Brigade right;
Google defines intolerance as intolerance as : ɪnˈtɒl(ə)r(ə)ns,ɪnˈtɒl(ə)rəns/ noun unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour that differ from one’s own. This is the same definition that is found in Oxford as well. So, who is being intolerant? Arent we proving the allegations right by our utterances, strident statements and personal aspertions? Think about it.
CONCLUSION
There isn’t any; not yet, anyway. But, given the personal attacks, insults and strident, non-stop insults and taunts being hurled by the self-professed professors of Tolerance, I am stepping out of this nonsense. I don’t see how you can engage with a side that cannot be engaged with, and insists on deep wounding barbs, citizenship taunts, insults.
Equally, I cannot see how I can take sides with the other side,  as it will only lead to further arguments. What is happening isn’t a debate, it is a joke, and a sad, tragic and deeply worrying joke – a joke caused by the stridency of one side. There are flashpoints, but these need calm reflection, not insults. And the presence of these flashpoints cannot be denied or wished away. Maturity demands an immediate de-escalation, and a calm, controlled re-engagement at some later date.
Some have stated their fears of rising intolerance. To echo the protestors,  I too am feeling scared.  Not of the Government,  which is a good one.  I am scared of the public and it’s hyperbolic euphoria, its deep taunts, complete refusal to engage in constructive dialogue. That is why I have decided to stop penning on these matters.  I will stick to book reviews,  Foreign affairs, selected current affairs of a non-political nature,  but nothing on Religion,  and now these matters as well. 

Yes,  I am scared.  Scared out of my wits by the public euphoria and clearly visible intolerance to views not conforming to their own. The level of stridency is scary; and beyond anything in my experience. So, I step out. The vicious and targeted approach of the protectors of our Tolerance have won the day.  

Caste, And Reservations : An Examination

Published October 18, 2015 by vishalvkale

We need reservations because of the history of inequality and injustice that has preceded our current generations, for at least the past 200 years, if not more. That requires some rebalancing. Further, there are some areas in India where discrimination was practiced; if some reports are to be believed, pockets still exist. Until our society grows out of this scourge, we have little choice.
The question is : why compromise on quality? Why cant we stress both reservation and quality, impractical though it may sound?

Note :
::
The earlier casteism was softer, and did not acquire its present shape then. It was entrenched in a system of hereditary vocations, with relevant skills for each vocation being passed from generation to generation. This built deep intra-caste relationships and inter-caste dependencies, based not on oppression but on a workable and eminently but brutally efficient methodology, that rivals and beats any and every modern system with a modicum of ease.
::
This is what ensured India’s dominance for close on 9000 years – it built a system that was extraordinarily hard for anyone to break into. The proof of this is the presence of guilds that existed for centuries {Thapar, 2004/05 – will need to check precise year of her book}. Another proof comes in the writings of Sujan Rai from 1689 or 1696, who has described a flawless system of cash transfers that puts our modern IT hot-shots and western / eastern management geniuses to shame. {Habib, 2012}
* From my Blog : Casteism – A Fresh And Objective Analysis : Casteism – A Fresh And Objective Analysis

The above is another factor : the hardlined and clearly demarcated lines of no-crossing {which developed during colonial rule, but were based on increasing and steady hardening immediately preceding colonialsim}. This created a deep division, entrenched into stone. This also cultivated selective competencies in selective classes

{Prof. Vaidyanathan in India, Uninc has brought to the fore the relevance of these selective competencies even in modern Business in India : India, Uninc}

Thus, my contention is in support of reservation on demographic, historical, cultural, economic, Skill-sets, and competencies parameters. In order to create an equal society, we really do have no choice. That is what sets us apart as a nation : unlike others, we are at least trying to say sorry, to set things right.

On annihilation of caste – that is frankly, impossible. The term caste has a multitude of cultural connotations, and is a reality of the social landscape in India, It is not going anywhere anytime soon – and that is the truth.

The differences between cultural practices in castes, {even sub-castes} is unassailable, and unbridgeable – and range from practices related to religion, to even standard things like outlook towards life, and other traits. This is due to centuries of inbreeding. I myself can trace my family tree all the way to approximately the 1400s, in one single unbroken line of authentic succession. In my own caste, there are but 57 family trees, with exceedingly well documented histories and practices.

The cultural and other practical differences between castes are rock-solid, and hued into stone; centuries of deep inbreeding within castes has set in stone the practices, so much so that some traits are now almost genetic; and easily identifiable. Case in point being my own caste : Kokanasth, which is a very small caste of Chitpavan Brahman tree. You dont need to know the name to pick out one of us, most times. Those who live around us can tell us a mile away; and most Maharashtrians can tell even more easily! These have now been coded into Genetics, almost – and is not going away; not for centuries.

Caste isnt going anywhere! More to the point, it is the outlook of how we look to castes that needs to change.


Caste wont go away; the differences in various castes ensure that this is a concept that will stand the test of time in at least the next couple of centuries, The differences between even related castes are huge; boys and girls, even today, are known to prefer same-caste spouses by choice rather than parental force. The exception proves the rule.

Technology and modernity arent just equalising castes – they are also solidifying them. Case in point : I am a member of my Family Tree Whatsapp Group, constituting far-flung members of the extended Kale family tree. The same development that is breaking barriers is also fuelling easy connectivity between constituents of the same caste. I know several means of reaching my own caste members through technology. This is fueling a deeper connectivity within castes, which might just solidify rather than equalise. The same forces of change that are breaking barriers are also acting on the other side of the coin.

The same technology, for example, will enable a member of the Kale Family to check relationships with another Kokanasth and check back to how many generations ago a Kale had married,say, which Patwardhan and which Branch of which Patwardhan. Relations are till the 5th Generation; marriage is feasible thereafter. There exists documented and extensive family histories, well chronicled on the internet. I myself have accessed it!

A corollary can be found in the rapid rise of the vernacular film industry; far from Hindi becoming the lingua franca, there is actually a reverse trend of rapid technology driven rise of local languages everywhere across India. Remember : Technology and Development operate equally on all sides of a socio-cultural equation. That is why I state : Castes are here to stay.

Change your outlook towards castes. I see no issues in a Kokanasth marrying a Kokanasth; just as I see no issue in a Kokanasth marrying a Kshatriya or an OBC, or any other caste. I see no difference between a Brahman and a Vaishya or any other SC, ST or OBC. In fact, we should stop calling them SC, ST etc; the constituents have their own culture in their own castes, like we Kokanasth. Can’t we accept all castes as equals?

Change your outlook towards caste, and how you view it. But Caste will not go away. We can undo the damage to the caste system due to colonialism {Refer Maria Misra’s monumental research on this topic} – but you cannot take way caste. Modern forces ensure that.

The root is the caste issue; that is the origin. Problem is we arent even trying to change our outlook towards caste, and are, as a people, beating around the bush, swinging like pendulum from one extreme to the other. At one extreme you have the dreams of remove caste from society brigade, and at the other you have the vociferous defenders of reservations and of the status quo. Given the ground realities, it is impossible to remove reservations, and neither is this recommended.

What is required is a sea-change in administrative delivery and capabilities, and a lot less chalta hai, which is harming India no end. That is the only real solution – good governance and deliverance of the results of governance to the people. That will help percolate good ideas and people development; and that is precisely what none among is even willing to contemplate. We need to remove the concept of discrimination from our society, and that requires education.

Even our sacred texts make the reality specific : I quote from The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta, Shri Bhagwaan Uvaach :
CHAATURVARNYAM MAYAA SRUSHTUM GUNKARMVIBHAAGASHAH |
TASYA KARTAARAMAPI MAAM VIDDHYAKARTAARAMAVYAYAM ||
The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta, Shlok 13, Adhyaay Chaturth,
This shlok explicitly tells that the caste system was based on “Guna” and “Karma”; these are Shri Bhagwaan Uvaach, the words of the Lord and Creator himself. Why cant all of us understand and accept this as a cornerstone of our thought process? That your status is a straight function of your own individual abilities? That would allow us to focus on and create a system wherein the intrinsic qualities of each individual come to the fore? Isnt this doable?
How far have we come from this shlok in our lives? The need of the hour is the education of the people, and enlghtenment; which isnt happening. Caste as a cultural concept is now irreplaceable, given the cultural practices and norms that are now almost genetically coded. But we need to stop viewing caste as anything other than a cultural realm and reality, and not as a status symbol, or as an achievement, or indeed a means to an end.

Crafting this is not going to be easy, and at this juncture sounds highly idealistic; that said, we as a people do not have any other option. Rather than question reservations, we would do well to look at the discrimination which does have a historical basis to it; we would do well to look at the demographics; we would do well to look at ground realities; we would do well to look at the full picture and modulate our response accordingly.

The current system isn’t perfect – that is beyond question. That the emphasis should be on quality is pretty much a given; that we should move to ensuring quality intake is also simple logic. But is this so simple to do? The question that we should, as a people, be asking is : how can we ensure that the discriminated castes {I dislike the terminology SC, ST, OBC} can get up to speed, and produce the same level of results like the others? What is stopping them?

I appreciate and accept the need for some sort of reservations, given the history of discrimination; but shouldn’t we be trying to develop their long-term capabilities by investing in proper education not at college level, but at Primary, Secondary school levels, so as to ensure capability development? Shouldnt we be focusing on channelling our energies at that question? Shouldnt we be asking what needs to be done that everyone, regatrdless of caste status, can meet the same bar, rather than lowering the bar, thus defining a new paradigm in the reservation system? Shouldn’t we be examining if this is possible, as it would solve most problems, and trying to craft a course towards that ideal?

Make In India : A Need For Introspection

Published October 15, 2015 by vishalvkale

In the previous article {Make In India} , I introduced a look  at Make In India’s loopholes – not from the GOI, but from we the people.  Therein, I had concluded, We, the people, just don’t seem to care about these basics. Quite frankly, we just don’t care. While the chosen words are a bit strong, the fact remains that corruption – unless it is tackled, MII will remain a pipe dream. By the same token, unless administrative reforms are taken up, MII will remain a pipe dream.
Take a small example. I have consistently referred to RBI report on the states finances; the report of 13-14 clearly identifies good movements in state budgets, with increasing responsible states. But the very same report makes a  certain observation of off-budget expenses and their possibility of presence, as also highlights the laggard states and their irresponsible behaviour. The report of 14-15 once again clarifies the vast gulf between the various states. The differences in the state of finances in the document amply indicate the need for differential and targeted plans, as also the evidence of our own eyes as we traverse this Holy Land we call our Mother, our India
Now the central government has devolved a higher share of revenues to the states, and not touched or perhaps reduced in real terms expenses on Education, among others. Without a concurrent increase in state budgets allocations on education, there will be no improvement in the state of affairs; and without an improvement in the performance of government servants and their accountability, on-field situation will never improve. These administrative reforms are urgently required – are they happening?
On education, how can a poor uneducated person benefit from MII? What is in it for him? Hundreds of Millions of Indian live outside the top 200 urban agglomerations {around 86%. Not for me the artificial classification of urban-rural. Visit any city outside the top 100, let alone 200, and try and spot the similarities between rural India and them!}
How will they benefit? They arent educated and lack skills. And skill development cannot substitute for education, which opens the mind, develops its faculties, and broadens perspective. Short term few-days skill development is no comparison. The answer is education; it has to be a proper education for true development to percolate to all levels of the society. Even skill development requires a certain basic level of education or skills that can be honed. Even in low-level technical jobs, some basic education is a prerequisite.
What kind of job will these poor people get? Menial jobs and / or low-level jobs, most likely. What will these jobs pay? Some {hopefully most} will earn more than previously, but questions will remain. Will they earn enough to create enough wealth to ensure a far better future for their families? Further, how many people will benefit, in absolute numbers as well as in percentage terms? Is there a guarantee of the continuance of these wages for long, given that they are unskilled employees, and as such easily replaceable? Are we or are we not risking more migrant people drifting from place to place?  
And what about the impact on ancillaries and Small and Medium Sector units? These lack the capital to upgrade technology; and new world-class manufacturing facilities will require even ancillaries to upscale and upgrade. What about their capital requirements and problems? How will that be facilitated? What about skill levels in employees in these units, which  will require major upgradation? Is there a risk of job losses in Small and Medium units arising out of this? What about the rampant cash transactions that are prevalent in this segment? How will you push them towards cheque and other more modern methods of transactions? Even if it will eventually lead to greater monetary returns to India, what about the short-terms pains? Is there any plan to mitigate any pains that are certain to arise from the course of development?
These are all genuine questions, and not allegations or critical statements. And these questions will need to be met and answered for MII to be a true game-changer at all levels for society. As more and more facilities come up, it will require inputs, some of which will be taken from the local populace, like land.
The pressure will be on these new units to add back  to society in a demonstrable fashion so as to smoothen the introduction and facilitate their setup. Frankly, there is no choice:  these questions will have to be answered; we are a democracy.
And further, do we have the means to ensure corruption will not happen, and that these people will get their true wages? Or that the wages will be enough to provide for their families needs like education of children? Or that percentage of Cash transactions will go down? Or that land is acquired without corruption? That there is no cutting of legal corners in the entire process, and that all rules are adhered to? That there will be no revelation of scams thereby ensuring smooth operations? That everything operates above board, and that no bribes are paid? Or that, if bribes are paid, the same never comes to light?
We dont, and that is a fact. How then do we ensure that this will be implemented? We cant! The reason that this is a major stumbling block is simple : a revelation of the truth will lead to legal as well as social ramifications, stalling projects. It will also adversely impact efficiency as the entire system comes to a screeching halt with reference to that project, as any officer will be want to be extra careful lest he or she be found guilty!
This isn’t fault-finding; just a humble request for deep societal introspection. Please ask yourselves these questions, and look at what we have become as a people, what values we stand for and what values we are giving our children by our behaviour!
That  is the case of corruption. In the increased activism among the media, as well as the anti-corruption mood in combination with investigations, exposures and actions of law-enforcement and investigative agencies, scams are certain to come to light. That means a full and final grounding of any project that is scam tainted. Unless corruption is systematically reduced, questions relating to MII remain; and will need to be tackled and answered.
Furthermore, we all of us demand and ensure top education for our own children – we can afford it, by the grace of God. Then why dont we demand that the Government give education to those who cannot afford it, that education happens properly, and not the farce it is in some places? We give our family the best, because it is our family. We call India our mother, and then ignore the educational needs of the less fortunate among us!!!!! Why are we, as a people, so consistently ignoring education?

And we call India our mother?? Who will take care of our own brothers and sisters if we dont??

Changing Gender Equations In India

Published September 22, 2015 by vishalvkale

Sexual violence in India and its increasingly relevance to the public discourse, that is frankly a comparatively smaller problem in comparison to the major problem facing our society : that of Gender roles, and their redefinition in the changed world. The reality may even be that it is the percentage of reported rapes and sexual misdemeanour that are increasing. This, far from being a problem, is actually a welcome development, if that is indeed the case. It means that the stigma is receding, at it is being perceived as a plain and simple crime. This cannot be viewed in isolation, but has to be seen in the complete socio-cultural mileu, especially if we are to label an entire society.

The major aspect that needs attention, in my opinion, is the concept of Gender Roles in Indian Society, and especially how the Man {including I Me Myself} views this. The Challenges and questions being posed to the Indian Family Unit due to this need answering. Further, we need to move away from accusation and self-accusation, and blame games; this isn’t Gender Suppression, although that is also a factor in some cases, to be honest. It is just that I cannot say how prevalent Suppression is…

Suppression is when the act is one-sided. A lady once said to me categorically, “Women are also the ones responsible for it”. It was a statement that initially stunned me, but is increasingly making eminent sense. A Hindi movie from the 50s had a very interesting scene in it, when the lady defends her husband beating her by saying that he also loves her deeply {which was a fact as shown in the movie}. This is but one parameter of the problem. I have seen this quiet acceptance in many a household, and majorly in the educated classes, rarely in the lower classes.

And the solution isnt empowering women : that is an insult to women in general. The women does not need “empowerment”. That statement itself implies the inherent superiority of the male of the species. The need of the hour is education of the male mind, and engendering equality of the sexes right from childhood. That means social programmes to educate society and the parents. And, unless you understand the level of the full problem, its deep-seated nature and its genesis, all such outreach programmes are bound to be less effective. That is why understanding why this arose is so important.

Just who is the male to “give the women power”? Is he God? Or, does he own the woman? If not, how can the male give something which anyways does not belong to him in the first place? There are many, many parameters to this issue, which get lost out in the brouhaha.
People say Women should not tolerate abuse, But what about the attendant issues? Some women, just to take one tiny example, tolerate abuse for the children. What happens to them – the Women and The Children? Their lives get destroyed, that is what. That act of sacrifice makes the women far stronger than the male, and a far better human; but that comes at a high cost to the individual lady. Point is that there are a myriad set of parameters involved here, all of which need consideration. Unless all questions are answered, even a majority of women will {might} not support, and that is a sad fact.
That also indicates the solution cannot be just plain empowerment, or legal remedies etc alone. What is truly needed is a combination effort of legal remedies, laws and their implementation, social education programmes, setting exemplars of everyday women and men who have reached a balance, {not your famous women, people dont relate to famous personalities}, This involves changing mindsets, and is a very tall task
Why is this so? The answer lies in the socio-cultural constructs of our society and its historical experiences, whose current impact is a matter of studied and documented research. For example, castesim, once thought to be a core sanaatani construct, has been proven as a hard-core colonial creation in more than one solid research, one of which I have read. In it, the impact of history on the modern world and society has been effortlessly traced. I refer to Maria Misra’s Vishnu’s Crowded Temple – {Vishnu’s Crowded Temple Book Review}
Thus, if we are understand this problem, we have no choice but to go back to its genesis. Societal trends, norms and behavhiours only change over the course of generations, and if you have to alter the course of society, you perforce need to understand the history. Then and only then can a solution emerge. Then key question here is why is this so in Modern India? Since when has it become so? Why did this emerge?
If the emergence is recent in history, relatively simple steps like laws are the answer. But if the genesis lies deep in history, then there is no solution apart from a combination of laws, education and social change steps that need to be taken.

It isnt a Power issue, it isnt an issue of men wanting power over women. This is a deeply ingrained cultural attribute, whether or not you like it, or anyone else for that matter. Gender Relations and Balance is a fundamental construct of Society, more so a stratified and hierarchical society like India’s. Indian Society is at its core hierarchical, with strictly defined roles, norms, modes and behaviours and styles of conduct.
This hierarchical structure has both good and bad points, just the same as any other structure. One cannot only look at its negative ramifications and blame the entire structure for it, forgetting the other good points. Any structure will be definition have both good and bad points. This isnt Power; it is a simple case of hard-wired behavioural parameters, ingrained into collective memory over generations.
It has been said that the current dispensation is against Dignity; while I don’t deny that there may be some cases where this is true, but the questions remain. A person’s dignity is non-negotiable, granted. But how do you define dignity? Does the other person accept your definition of dignity? Your definition of freedom and independence? If not, then you are also imposing, and this cannot lead to a solution! This is a classic western concept, sorry to state; and does not apply to eastern constructs of society with its many shades, parameters and nuances. If the people themselves do not accept such imposition willingly, we are back where we started.
This is a highly subjective and relative issue, one that cannot and should not be discussed off hand without proper lines of thought. Furthermore, if the respondent does not accept the imposition, the result is a backlash. This cannot be ignored, or forgotten. Individual dignity is again a core societal construct that arises from roles, mores, morals, hierarchies and their inter-relationships nuances and other cultural parameters. Solving this complex equation will take generations, not less – as it is a painstakingly slow process that involves a variety of solutions and approaches

Add to this the purely eastern concept of Honour, and dignity takes on exceedingly complicated hues that defy definition. The interplay of these two in society determine a lot of what we see, more so in the Indian Context. And that fact of the matter is that these two are exceedingly powerful forces in Sanaatani Society – Honour, and Family.
Thus, in order that we understand this situation, we perforce have to cater to the ground reality. And Western constructs, theories, views do not apply on the Ground in India, that much is an absolute. Till lately, this was so deep-rooted that even crimes went unreported; I refer to rape and wife-beating. So strong, so hard and so deep are the bonds of honour and family that even heinous crimes went unreported.
The very fact that unreported crimes are now on the decline proves that our society is actually moving in the right direction. This is actually not a problem – honour and family are what define our uniqueness, and the two have a massive range of practical and powerful ramifications in the Modern Context. So much so, that they are actually a massive plus of our society. But each plus has some attendant weaknesses; the challenge before us is to remove the attachment of these two from crimes. And that is happening at an ever-increasing rate.
If you look at the increasing participation of ladies in the workforce, as an example, and juxtapose it with the continuing and in fact strengthening hold of honour and family in the Indian context, it can be readily seen that Indian society is changing quite rapidly , adapting itself without compromising its uniqueness, and its basic precepts.
What is happening is that increasingly, there is a subtle redefinition of constituent roles in the family unit, with the male increasingly shouldering some increased burden. I dont say that this is happening willingly in all cases – again, honour and family interplay force change on males as well, who are notoriously slow to change {genetic defect in the male? 🙂 } – but change is happening. And newer forms are emerging, adapted to the newer reality, making for a much better India.

And, speaking as a Man, what it requires is for Males to accept that the equations between the Genders are now changing; it would be better for all of us males – starting with Myself – to accept this change, and adjust, change ourselves for the benefit of the Family’; the same Family for which Women have more than frequently given their all…

Being Indian – 5 : National Narrative Versus National Ethos

Published August 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

Concluding part of the series “Being Indian” – previous part found here : Being Indian – 4 : The Ultimate Triumph Of The West



India is a land that, as all of like to repeat ad-nauseum, is known for its diversity as well as its unity both; in fact, Unity in Diversity is the justified by-line for our Nation, our national ethos,  that is what, essentially, India stands for, and our ethos, our culture is what we are exceedingly proud of. This unity rests on the unique Socio-Cultural fabric of our nation, which has been crafted out of several Millennia of inter-mingling, living together, interacting and even fighting together. While India the nation, the political unit, may be a relatively new construct – Hindustan, or Bharat or Hind is a concept as old as this land itself, as is borne out by the scores of period documents as well as in the writings of the visitors to this holy and blessed land.


But, if you dig deeper, one can easily spot a narrative that is at complete variance with this stated ethos, and many contradictory themes emanating from within this unified cultural milieu, many inconsistencies that critics use to label us as being not quite so unified – namely, the fervent desire of a small section of our society to become a Hindu Rashtra, or the entire language debate {to be taken up in an independent article}, or the imaginary oppression during the Muslim rule from around 1150AD, or the politically charged debate around Casteism.


It isn’t my objective to defend “Unity In Diversity”; I see no reason to be defensive about my lovely nation to anyone. If the non-Indian thinks otherwise, he or she is welcome to his or her several impressions. I think all of us know what India is, at the core – so why be defensive? It is far better to ensure that we make this holy land where we have been blessed with a human birth an even better and even more strong place than it was before. And doing that requires tackling the present inconsistencies, challenging them, setting the narrative right – and taking corrective action.


That we are defensive on the topic of India and Being Indian is easily seen and can be readily observed everywhere: from our unhealthy penchant of following NRI-PIOs abroad, highlighting their achievements. This can be seen in our pandering to Western standards, rather than setting our own cultural standards based on our culture; this can be seen in our sheepishness on seeing songs in Movies,  or even in our going gaga over Indian cultural fests abroad or in the ardent following of Temples and their events abroad.


At the core of this defensiveness lies a deep-seated inferiority complex, the roots of which lie deep in our past, and are now firmly entrenched in most people, which is a real tragedy. Why should we go gaga over the achievements of people living abroad, as a small example? These are people who chose another nation over India for their life; what is the message we are giving people? Why should we care overmuch if some Tom, Dick Or Harry makes it big in The UK or The USA? Don’t we have enough success stories in India? Cant a nation find success stories locally? Why is it that NRI-PIOs routinely make front page, whereas the local successes almost never feature in any news? If you cover both with equal vigour – that is fair; but if only is found newsworthy, then this is a manifest inferiority complex.


Similarly, why should we, as Indian Citizens, care about Temples and Hindus in The USA or The UK? Of what concern is it to us? Why should a Barack Obama Diwali party hold relevance for us? Why should we follow the growth of Sanaatan Dharm worldwide? Is our religion a proselytizing faith? If it isn’t – then why can’t we leave well enough alone? And why focus exclusively on The USA, The UK and developed countries? Why not trace the growth in outlying countries, Eastern countries, or African countries? Come to think of it, why don’t the success stories of the Indian Diaspora in other parts of the World become headline news, like the cases in the USA or the UK? Is this what Sanaatan Dharm teaches us? Or does it teach us something different? Is it the contention that only PIOs in the Developed World are successful? What are we displaying by this frankly idiotic behaviour?


On an equal note is the most disturbing trend of the slowly rising – but thankfully currently minor – scenario of the Hindu Rashtra; or the habit of some among us to regard Muslim rule as being worse than British Rule. I have dealt with this extensively earlier here : Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery ; so shall not elaborate. The sad disregard for and ignorance of the evil that happened during British Rule, and the complete inability of even our Media to tell the full story is the most enduring tragedy of Modern India. What is needed is a balance, a complete and truthful exposition of all that happened during both the periods – Muslims and British; such an examination is certain to knock the sails out of the 1000-year slavery myth.


This is what this Being Indian mini-series has been about, focusing on the present inconsistencies, trying to make the reader ask himself or herself some hard questions about what it means to Be Indian. Does Being Indian mean that you have to settle abroad? Does Being Indian mean you have to study and live here just to go away? Does Being Indian mean that you are a Sanaatan Dharmi? Then what about Dr Kalam, or Paramveer Abdul Hamid, or any number of other Muslims, Christians and Sikhs? Does Being Indian mean that you have to follow Western norms? Does Being Indian mean that, by contrast, perforce have to follow Indian norms? What does it mean to “Be Indian”? What is our national story, our national narrative, above and beyond the clichéd term “Unity in Diversity”? And do we, all of us, understand, display and believe in this narrative?


How many of us can identify a snap of Kalpana Chawla – and how many of us can recognize a snap of Paramveer Nirmaljeet Singh Sikhon?  I cant recognize the latter – and that is, perhaps, the worst possible comment on us as a people, and what we value. One person, {if some records and wikiis correct} quit Indian Citizenship for the US, and the other gave his life fighting to protect us. The US citizen’s face is plastered all over our Media, which doesn’t even care to look at Kailash Satyarthi {let alone someone from the past like The Great Nirmaljeet} till The Great West awards a prize, when we suddenly discover him! {God Bless Her, her achievements were tremendous indeed – but she wasn’t Indian, and I therefore take no pride or otherwise in her achievements. And not just for her : the same applies to any PIO. They aren’t Indians}


How many among us quote the ills of The Muslim Rule and the raids of Chengez Khan and Mahmud of Ghazni? And how many of among those know and quote of the 1857 Genocide, or the Bengal Holocaust, or the Famine of the 1760s which killed an estimated 30% of the population of Bengal? How many of us quote the Industrialised India of the 1600s and the 1700s? And how many among us quote and send messages on social media and whatsapp on the ills of that period? And how many of us quote the stories of the weavers, the potters and other products of India, and of the Merchant trade – and how many just reproduce verbatim the sporadic killings of that period?


What is the actual national narrative that we are displaying by such behaviour? Is it in keeping with what we perceive as our national ethos? Why do we ignore the real heroes of our nation – those who stay in India work in India, give their lives for India? And why do we ignore the full story of the past, and concentrate instead on one part story, which is by definition a biased approach? Why do we idolize ex-Indians or even NRIs who quit India, and ignore our heroes at home? Why do we chase after stories of Temples abroad – how is it important to us as Indians? Why do we place Western Culture on a pedestal – when our oft-quoted assimilative culture specifically equates all cultures as one? Why then cant we be accepting of our own identity, and be confident of our own selves? Why this manifest effort to be someone and something that is at complete variance with what we profess to be?


Therein lies the key – our professing to be one identity, and then belying it by displaying behavior that is the complete opposite. Unless we develop a national narrative that is in keeping with our national ethos, this dichotomous behavior will remain. Ethos means “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations”; while narrative means “A representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values”, or in short – A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.


In this series – Being Indian – I have attempted to look at some disturbing aspects of our national narrative that are not in consonance with our National Ethos – In simple terms, our behavior vis-à-vis our words at what we profess to value.  I have attempted to lay bare the inconsistencies; areas where we need to bring our narrative and our ethos into one… That is the subject of the next mini-series ; Developing a National Narrative