Back to Bharat

March 17, 2018

Different rooms for men and women

Filed under: politics, religion, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 23:26

A few months back, I and my wife were invited to the 1st birthday of our friends son. The family was in India on a visit from the United States to renew their H1B visas. As part of the trip, my friend was celebrating his sons’ first birthday. As I reached the venue, I called my friend for directions; he told me over the phone: “Yaar tu pehle aajaa. Phir gaadi park karke famliy ko laana” (You come first, we will go to the car; I will show you where to park and drop the family).

I hugged him and said “Yaar, bhaabhi kahaan hai? Beta kahaan hai?” (Where is your wife? Where is your son?).  My friend pointed out: “Yaar, unka entrance is taraf hai. Woh hamaare me ladies alag baithte hai naa.” (Friend, the entrance for ladies and children is elsewhere. In our custom, women sit away from men). I was surprised. I was further dismayed to see that the location had well-lit promenade entrance for men. Women had to go through a dimly lit narrow lane, and take an even more narrow side door. A set of stairs took them through a narrow corridor up into a hall for the ladies. Outside the separate hall, all ladies had to wear burqa. The ladies also could not come into the enclosure where the men were dining. I protested and said: “Yaar, you never do this in the US. Why here?” He had no answer for me.

My driver later asked me: “Sir, why were there only men at the event? And why did madam go to a different location? That entrance was not good sir. Is this a Muslim event?”. I had no answer for him.

In parts of Hyderabad, several marriage/party halls have separate sections for men and women. They advertise this feature openly. Everyone in Hyderabad knows that in Muslim events, women rarely come out. Even if they do, they sit in a different place.  In some cases, there is also a possibility to have a different level of service offered in these two sections.

In an article written by Mr Harsh Mander,  he says: “…speakers lament the political consensus across the spectrum that Muslims are a political liability”. Mr Mander says that all Muslims are abandoned. But are they? Indian society is one of the most pluralistic. It has the third largest Muslim population in the world [Source]. The number of Muslims in India is close to the Muslim population of all the Middle East countries added together. India is the only secular democracy with such a wide variety of religions in significant numbers. True, countries like the US and France have secular constitutions, but their individual minorities are less than 1% of the population.

Modern society has identified many ways of grouping people: religious, ethnic, economic etc. Society MUST create secular framework to accommodate a common interest. But each group also MUST accommodate the requirements of secular society.

Mr Mander, the real sad part is this:

A entire community is not allowed to celebrate cultural events with both sexes in a single room. Leaders of that community openly support many other glaring discriminations in plain sight. And no political party has the courage to suggest that this needs to change. Every religion will try its best to interfere in the public life of an individual. And every Govt must deny that to every religion. It is dangerous for political parties to be partial and allow one or the other religion to take over public life. Till this partiality continues, we will have a Surya and a Sayyed who cannot share a common space. Till this partiality continues, we will have vote banks governing in the name of democracy.

No religious group is perfect. Hindu society is trying very hard to remove its own share of drawbacks. (I am not going to discuss the definition of Hindu). We are fighting female infanticide, dowry, discriminatory religious practices, and Inshaallah we will win against these ills. We need many like you to point out ills in the religious community and also point out possible solutions.

But in the name of Ram, Rahim, or maybe the Indian constitution,  will the Muslims accept reform? Will they say that we do not need to marry four women, we do not need a separate MPLB (Muslim Personal Law Board), or at the very least do not need different entrances to our marriage halls? Often times, burqa is defended saying that it empowers/protects women from unruly elements in the public space. I wonder what empowerment or protection is obtained by having separate areas in an event like birthday, marriage, engagement, eid, or for that matter in a mosque?

No group will leave its familiar customs and practices easily. They will use every rule and ruse to ensure that status quo continues to be maintained. Every group has to be coerced into following the common minimum. The Congress is completely complicit in ensuring that Muslims were never asked to introspect. Ergo, Muslims were never able to reform. In doing so, the Congress has ensured that these Minorities always stand out as a different group.

I dont know if the BJP will be any better. The BJP will cause more harm if it pushes the appeasement pendulum to the other side. Sections of the BJP are showing signs of rabble rousing. Secularism is a process of ensuring everyone reaches a common ground, while retaining their independent thought. It is a complex phenomena. Political parties have to raise to the occasion and be bi-partisan.

The full comment by Harsh Mander:

Over the past months, I have been urged to join a series of meetings called by Muslim leaders and youth. The mood is always sombre, submerged in despair. In these meetings, speakers lament the political consensus across the spectrum that Muslims are a political liability. Political parties are unwilling to field Muslim candidates, to speak of issues of violence and discrimination that afflict large Muslim populations, even to openly seek Muslim votes. In one of these meetings, a prominent Dalit leader said, “By all means come in large numbers to our rallies. But don’t come with your skullcaps and burkas.”

This article says that Darul Uloom Deoband has instructed Madrassas to not accept Govt grants because they do not want to follow Govt regulations. The Darul calls this “Govt interference”. Is this a right step for the unity and secularism of our country? To quote the article:

We have our own disciplinary codes, uniforms as well as syllabus to follow and don’t want the government interfering in these matters. We don’t want the government to ask us for details of daily attendance of students and teachers and other such things.

Advertisements

January 23, 2018

Different title, same content

Filed under: India, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 10:17

The same news article with a different title can give readers very different impressions to readers.

For instance, take this article in the Indian Express of Jan 23 2018. The title is:

Original version used by IE (Version 1): SC panel chief Ram Shankar Katheria ‘threatens’ cop in audio clip gone viral: Are you challenging Yogi? [This is clearly against the minister and favors cops]

Instead of this, let us change the title to the following:

Version 2: SC panel chief takes exception to cops who clear local SC/ST bazaar – Says Minorities commission will take action against errant officer. [For the minister, but paints cops as anti-SC]

Version 3: SC panel chief vs cops enforcing anti-encroachment. Who is correct?  [Borderline neutral in comparison with V1 and V2, but favors cops]

Version 4: SC panel chief pulls up cops who cleared minorities from the local bazaar. [Borderline neutral as compared to V1 and V2, but against cops]

Let the content be exactly the same, the title will totally change the readers perspective. And in these days of 100 media channels, who reads the article? At least in case of this specific article, it is mentioned that the minister was chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Caste. I have seen articles that much worse in taking journalistic liberties.

Disclaimer: I am not against or for any specific party, person. But I do feel media is wielding undue influence. The article is reproduced below for those who wish to read the whole thing:

In An audio clip that is being shared online, a voice, purportedly that of National Commission for Scheduled Caste chairperson and Agra MP from the BJP Ram Shankar Katheria, is heard threatening a policeman.

The clip begins with a man addressing Sub-Inspector Mahesh Pal Yadav, in-charge of Bodala outpost in Agra. He claimed he was calling from the “MP’s house”, and that several people had arrived there complaining that Yadav did not allow them to hold a bazaar in the area. He seemed to be referring to an anti-encroachment drive in the area earlier. The S-I is purportedly heard saying he was merely following instructions of the SSP.

The man then ostensibly hands over the phone to Katheria. “Mahesh Pal Yadav-ji, Yadav ho tou gunda to nahi na ho tum. Yogi ko challenge karte ho?… Naukri kha jaunga aur jail bhej doonga dubara bakwas ki to (You maybe a Yadav but you are no thug. You dare challenge Yogi?… You will be dismissed and sent to jail if you do any mischief again),” the voice is heard telling the S-I.

Jis SC ki tune pitai ki hai usse application likh kar commission se tere khilaf FIR karke jail bhej doonga aise gundai dubara ki toh. Woh ro raha hai jisko danda mara hai. Commission me likh kar usse application likha le to zamanat nahi hogi aur naukri mein kabhi promotion nahi hoga. (Will get an application from the SC person you assaulted and send it to SC Commission to register an FIR against you and send you to jail, if you try that again. The victim is crying… You will not get bail if he sends an application and you will never get a promotion.)”

A voice — purportedly S-I Yadav’s — is then heard saying that he had not assaulted anyone and neither did he have anything against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. SSP Agra Amit Pathak said an inquiry will be conducted into the audio.

Despite several attempts, The Indian Express could not reach S-I Yadav or Katheria for a comment.

 

 

 

 

August 29, 2017

Teenagers sell blood for food

Filed under: social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 18:29

It will not be surprising to see the above headline after a few decades, or a few years. If we go by this article on BBC, a Stanford/Princeton grad started a company called Ambrosia that is experimenting on injecting the blood of young people into older individuals. The claims, as per the article:

“It could help improve things such as appearance or diabetes or heart function or memory. These are all the aspects of ageing that have a common cause.

Each procedure costs $8,000 (£6,200) and sees the patient injected with two and a half litres of plasma – the liquid element of blood that remains after other cells have been removed – taken from young people.

I am fantasizing here, and grossly exaggerating. But, it still rankles me to think that several people actually came forward to buy the plasma. I guess this is civilization.

 

Same day, another article about a teenager (18 year old) girl committed suicide in full view of the social media. Apparently, 10 minutes before her death:

She spoke unsentimentally of her 19th birthday, which was to arrive three days after her death: “I was supposed to do something this weekend for my birthday. But in the end it’s not happening, I mean I can’t go – because of this thing.”

 

 

May 18, 2017

The mango cutter and his daughter

Filed under: daughter, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 21:38

mango_cutter

Early morning of a May day, a father and daughter in the market starting their day. The father is expecting his business to pick up. His equipment – a gunny bag, a cloth, and a large cutter that is used to cut ripe mangoes that will be turned into pickles.

I was reminded of a day when I took my daughter to work. And this is another father who is taking his daughter to work. Such a contrast. What did I do to deserve this differential treatment?

April 26, 2017

Artificial Wombs and Sperm Banks

An article in the verge claims that an artificial womb has been developed to grow baby sheep. It is estimated that even human babies can be grown in a similar fashion. It is absolutely dandy what technology has achieved. As per the article:

Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop — much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus — but right now, it has only been tested on sheep.

…..

It’s appealing to imagine a world where artificial wombs grow babies, eliminating the health risk of pregnancy.

artificial_womb_calf

It truly is appealing…

Frozen sperm in a bank, no need to hold, push, or yank.
It has been done for you well ahead,
A brochure of well endowed men to eliminate chance.
Well winnowed to weed out the idiots,
No foreplay, or even any kind of play needed.
Why leave this to randomness,
The best seed is available, 24/7, everywhere.

Wombs a-galore in glass enclosures.
Prepared, sterilized and ready to go,
Can they integrate with instagram?
The baby to be visible as it develops legs and arms.
When it is born, watch live on skype,
Why go for the normal when the exclusive is on order?
Select a unique name using google, why risk asking mother, or grandmother?

What a wonderful world, full of opportunities.
Enjoyment forever, due process to eliminate all worries.
No waiting, dating, or exchanging of vows.
Feminists can rejoice, MCPs can party,
True independence from all troublesome activity.
Life can continue un-imbibed with technologies,
Is it not awesome to live with these certainties.

Wait there is more to come.
Why cant we have someone pay for all this?
After all we end up working for a company.
Maybe they can grow the base of their employee.
Selected, trained, and groomed from the womb.
Manufactured to precession to follow every rule.
Such a world, so full of possibility…

McBabies, oh that would be so dandy.
We could select from a menu,
Maybe “make it a deal” with a toy to carry.

December 6, 2016

Treatment of parents

Filed under: common man, family, social change — neosurya @ 17:23

I had a friend (A) who posed a problem a few days ago: We were speaking about taking care of his father (B). B had a regular job, but did not take particular care of his kids. Each day after office, B came home for a short while in the evening, and stayed to himself. Income was regular, and the mother of A was efficient. So, the kids were able to get a good childhood. But it was very clear that B had no real role in their upbringing. A’s life was not ruined because B’s income was more than sufficient. B however, was totally disinterested in family life.

B (the father), and B’s wife (A’s mother) were living in Bangalore. A’s mother had recently passed away. Till the mom was alive, A and his siblings (a sister in India and a brother who was in USA) would visit B occasionally. Festivals and other customary visits were kept up. B and his wife regularly visited A and siblings also. For about 3-4 months a year, B and his wife would come and stay with A. But there was no real love lost between B and rest of the family.

B continued to visit his kids after his wifes death. But B was not a pleasant person to be with. His friends were no more, and he would continuously complain about one thing or the other. No major physical or financial damage, but there would be no fatherly (or grand-fatherly)  involvement as well. He would have an unpleasant face all through the day, and entering his room was like seeing a person who is sulking his way to the other world. B would be extremely particular about his schedule, food habits, and general preferences about daily life.

The challenge was that B was going to be over 80. There was no disease in particular, but he was getting old. Senility was bringing on other challenges.

A argued that B should be sent to an old home while B was still in OK health. Once health went down further, argued A, it will be difficult for B to adjust to an old home. B did not want to be sent to an old home. B was saying that to get his (substantial) self-gained property, A and his siblings must take care of B at home.

I had seen another father once like this. An old man, in his 80’s living near Tarnaka, Osmania University, Hyderabad. I had gone to him to seek legal advise. His room was on the first floor of the garage of an independent villa in Tarnaka. The villa was his own, but he had given the whole place for rent. His servant lived downstairs in the garage, and he lived upstairs. The room had a desk with an old transistor radio facing a window that overlooked the street. An old teak bed had been set towards one of the walls with a grayed out mosquito net that had seen more regal times. There were about 3 chairs in the room, but only one was empty. The others had huge stacks of letters and legal correspondence. There was a bookshelf on one side which recessed into the wall. It also probably held his clothes.

While discussing the legal problem, I had mentioned that I was from such and such company. The father slowly got out his sons card, and said you know him – “He is the senior Engg VP of ***. Do you know him? He is also into IT.”. This old man’s son was a very senior executive in a global multinational company. When I say senior, really senior – like the VP of a major engg. division of a Fortune 500 firm. He could have been my bosses bosses boss. The father was speaking about his son with pride, but it was apparent that he could not live with the son either. The old father made a point to mention that all his grandkids visit him during major festivals. “Even if they miss some due to exams, they come during Deepavali for sure.”, he said.

I have seen some unfortunate mothers’, father-in-laws, and mother-in-laws also in the same situation. Maybe there were good reasons to do this. Maybe the women or men created unhappy situations in the family. Maybe the father or mother were more nasty and looked mellow to strangers. Maybe there are some worse family secrets. Maybe this is a necessary feature of our modern, liberal, urban lifestyle. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I wonder, If we cannot take care of a mother and father who gave us birth, can we be good to complete strangers? If we give second chances to a terrorist, a murderer, a common criminal, why not parents? Maybe it is wishful thinking on part of a liberal society that humans are good. Maybe there is no true love among humans. Maybe. Maybe not.

April 16, 2015

Awesome money spinning methods or Skimming of customers

Filed under: India, law, market, personal, social change — neosurya @ 12:00

Interesting call with my mobile phone service provider:

Me: I got this internet usage bill for Rs 700 for March and Rs 300 for Feb. What is this?

Rep: Sir, 2G internet usage sir.

Me: I use a Nokia 1616, it cannot have internet usage. —- For the new-gen folks who have only seen smartphones, this phone has buttons, 255-colors screen, you get the drift —-

Rep: Yes sir, my system shows you are using Nokia 1616 as we speak. But sir data is switched on in the phone.

Me: How can a Nokia 1616 use 400 MB of data?

Rep: I dont know sir. Maybe some app is running.

Me: Look, can you please disable 2G service on this connection?

Rep: No sir, 2G comes free with every mobile phone connection.

Me: Dude, Rs 700 a month is not free. And you tell me you will not switch it off?

Rep: You will have to move to a different service provider. Our company will by default provide you with 2G enabled connection only. — In other words, we paid a lot of money to TRAI to license this shit. Money has to be recovered from somehwhere. —

Me: OK. — Facepalm —

Rep: For the charges, you will have to visit our store. — A polite way of saying, You will have to go there and shout —

Me: OK. Thanks.

—————————————End of call————————————-

One of my friends used to work for a leading mobile service provider. One strategy to get more money was to call unsuspecting customers to install ring-tones, or other “value added services”, but not inform them that these services would have a costly monthly subscription, or that these services would be delivered over 2G. Maybe we fell prey to one such scheme. Maybe there was indeed some app on the phone that is accessing data. I dont know.

I did not like the business practice of cashing in on users not being able to switch off services. But, a lot of modern services run that way. Individuals who create such plans and schemes also make the most amount of money in corporate orgs. Of course, technical people make money. But it is peanuts compared to the money made by such planners.

Makes me retch. But who knows how I would behave if I wanted to buy the good things money can get, and I had only an MBA and a sales job to get me there?

March 16, 2011

Corruption, convenience money?

Filed under: social change — neosurya @ 17:31

If regulators in our country cannot control things like pilot licenses, can we trust them to run large projects like nuclear reactors?

In recent news, it came out that an Indigo flight landed with its nose down. Initially, Indigo placed this pilot “Captain Parminder Kaur Gulati” on a training program [1, 2]. Further inquiries revealed that the said pilot had used fake documents to get a license and a promotion for the post of a captain from a co-pilot [1]. The lady in question has been arrested; I hope that her flying career is finished and that she would be punished. Following this disclosure, another pilot has been arrested for fake mark sheets. It appears that there are several such pilots, and the rabbit hole seems to run deeper. To quote an article from ANI [1]:

Commenting on the recent detection of pilots for possessing fake CPLs (Commercial Pilot Licences) as qualified commanders,    Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari on Tuesday slammed the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for not being a stern regulator of the aviation sector.

…..

“The real problem lies with the DGCA itself. The fact of the matter is that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation is not an independent regulator. It is not mandated by an act of this Parliament. So therefore, they are susceptible to all kinds of pulls and pressure, which makes even the examining arm of the DGCA not talk to the licensing arm,” Tiwari said in the Lok Sabha.

“So, therefore there is no verification, whether a particular mark sheet is correct, whether a particular person has passed a particular test before a license is submitted (issued),” he added.

Co-pilots themselves are paid very well; If they cheated in order to be paid more, that speaks volumes about how corruption and greed is causing problems even in professional fields. Corruption is a known issue in large projects, especially in India. There is nothing new in that. The concern I now have is that increasingly, even professionals are starting to look at corruption as the way to go.

There is also an argument that corruption is just convenience money. If it is ONLY convenience money, I would prefer that it should be formalized across the board, for example like Tatkal tickets. But when convenience money is not made institutional, the line between corruption and convenience gets blurred.

It is also extremely lame if people cannot wait a while to get what they want. And this is worse when it concerns exams, degrees, job experience and other such. To give an extreme example, I find this behavior first seen in people who run after a “job guarantee with the least effort”. Students have often come to me and ask about what is the easiest way to get “a project”. Worse, people pay fake companies about 15-20K to give them equally fake experience certificates. The very same people will not be willing to pay this amount to their college for decent education. I find it difficult to explain that engineering requires hard work, that passing an exam or getting a fake degree is not a gate to smooth sailing. You have to put in reasonably good amount of work each day and people will see through your on the job performance. I then get a horrified silent look in return :).

Given the wide prevalence of such habits, I wonder if our society forgotten hard work? Or maybe, a majority do not see how convenience and corruption can closely go together. Or maybe, mediocrity has come to be accepted in our society (My earlier blog post on this).

October 26, 2010

India After Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha

Filed under: book, election, India, politics, social change — Tags: , , — neosurya @ 06:32

A must read for anyone remotely interested in Indian democracy. Guha does not go left, right, center, or anywhere else except trudge along the path of Indian democracy from 1947 all the way up-to 2000 (The date the book was published). Where the events demanded, he also went a little bit before 1947, for example to explain how the Lahore convention of the Congress was where the Muslim League was born. The references make for more interesting reading, but I followed up only a few of them.

Some reviewers say that the book should have had some analysis of events. But this book was meant to have a historical or journalistic flavor, and getting into an analysis mode is incredibly academic in nature. Most books out there wax eloquent on their preferred political leanings. Once Indian historians start writing an analysis, they end up making holier-than-thou statements. The reader is hopelessly lead into a particular view point, and the event itself is lost in the melee. Very few tell the story as it happened, and in words that the common man can understand. Guha rises up to the occasion in this book.

The book reads fast, and I could not put it down once I had picked it up. This may not be the book for individuals seasoned in contemporary Indian history. They may already be familiar with most its contents. However, this would be the book I shall recommend my daughter to read instead of the history textbooks that muddle our brain cells in school.

October 3, 2010

123 Kms of cycling and some social work

Filed under: personal, social change, travel — neosurya @ 19:29

On 2nd Oct, I and KP rode to the village of Tekulodu to visit proto-village, a project on village development (Pics here). Kalyan and a bunch of his friends are planning some pretty amazing work in this border village, and I wanted to see it first hand. Also, this was my first long cycle ride. Thanks to Mayank who helped me get a good bike. There was no way I could have done it on my Thunder MTB. Also thanks to my wife and kids, who had to stay back at a friends place at IISc.

The distance was approximately123 Kms (googlemaps) which we covered in about 6 hours:

4:30 AM: Met KP at Sanjay Nagar flyover.

5:20 AM: Crossed BIAL flyover.

6:00 AM: Stopped for a 10-min break at Jain temple.

6:50 AM: Saw the photo of a dosa outside a restaurant, decided to drive through Chikballapur in search of an eating place.

7:00 AM: Stopped at “Hotel Brindavan Garden”

9:46 AM: Crossed the AP check post. By this time, KP was ahead of me by about a kilometer or so. As I rode under an overpass at Bagepalli, KP yelled from the bridge – he was having a Sprite and wanted me to pull over. I continued yelling: “Cant stop now man, my body will refuse to get back onto this saddle.”

10:00 AM: Caught up with Kalyan who was riding from Hindupur toward the NH-7 – Lepakshi junction.Chatted for a while and started off for Tekulodu.

10:45 AM: Reached Tekulodu.

The regular hydration, and chikkis kept us in great shape. We were stretching all through the route and took a couple of minutes break every hour or so. We were energetic enough to walk through the village. There was one problem though – my left shoulder was aching, and I had pins and needles on my left palm. The shoulder pain went off after some stretching, but the pins and needles on my palm refused to go away till the next day.

We dropped by the house of one Harish, a youth from the village who was to be the host for the afternoon. The kids in the village were totally ga-ga over our bikes. In about a few minutes there were about 20 of them asking us all sorts of questions. Several of them rode our bikes.
Bikers !!!

We walked over to the primary school where a celebration about the ICDS program was on the way. Kalyan also spoke for a few minutes.

 

ICDS program

ICDS program

 

We had a long walk, where Harish (a youth from the village) showed us around the place. Kalyan and I discussed various problems going from water all the way to ecological housing. All the while, KP was getting popular with the kids:

 

KP getting popular with kids.

KP getting popular with kids.

 

We had lunch at Harish’s place. KP had to leave in the evening, and I stayed back for an SHG meeting. Most women of the village participated in the meeting. We discussed the flouride problem in their water. Kalyan described possible solutions, and recommended that they should plan on having a purification plant installed by Nov. end. He had already spoken to a firm in Ahmedabad, and went over the pricing details.

It was almost 10:00 PM by the time we ate our dinner. We climbed onto the terrace of a house that was still under construction, and settled down for the night – the bedding was sparse: a straw mat, a pillow, and a bed sheet. Nani, the Panchayat president’s son accompanied me and Kalyan. What a night – the sky was so clear that we could almost see the milky way.

A nice way to spend a national holiday, I thought. I and Kalyan left for Hindupur on Sunday morning. After breakfast at Kalyan’s place, I took the APSRTC bus from Hindupur bus stand to Mekhri circle.

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.