Saturday, December 22, 2012

Humanity!! Where art thou?

Humanity :- noun,
1. all human beings collectively; the human race; humankind.
2. the quality or condition of being human; human nature.
3. the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence.

I started this post by explaining the meaning of the word "Humanity" cause the new arising from all around us I get the feeling we have forgotten what it is to be human this week.

On 14th Dec 20 children were killed in Connecticut USA, closer home on  16th Dec a student was gang-raped and thrown out of a moving bus in Delhi. These case were widely reported in the media. It chills me to think of what else has happened in this world, how else has weak and unfortunate people been exploited.

I wonder what makes us, Humans behave like animals. Why does our sense of compassion, pity and mercy go for a toss? I agree it is not right to paint the entire human race with the same brush because of a few rotten apples among us. But as they say "A rotten apple spoils the whole barrel".

I don't want to write anything about the Connecticut shoot-out, not because my heart doesn't bleed for the loss of innocent life. But because I can't understand a culture which is obsessed with Guns. It is not right nor fair on my part to be sitting miles away with no understanding of the culture to pass any judgement on them. My prayers go out to the children, and I hope USA passes a stricter gun control rules before further such incidents take place. Coming to the Delhi Gang rape case, I am guilty again for being a arm-chair critic of the system and society and there has been enough written about the disease and the cure for the evils of rape. 

But being an Indian male, I would want to apologize to not only the victim, but also to all the rape victims in India. (I hate using the word victim, but don't have a better word). I would want to apologize to all my sisters in India for the guys who stare, for men who make it uncomfortable for you to use the public transport, For the inequalities suffered by you at various stages in your life. I know my apologize to you nor this blog post is going to make a drop of difference But this is my way of telling you that all the apples haven't rotten yet.

Coming back, to the question where has the humanity in humans gone? Why do we keep hearing such cases? What will it require for all of us to live and let others live? People might give various answers like the  loss of humanity is due to the effect of drugs, alcohol, loss of morals and drifting of humans away from God. But none of these answers justify why a child reached home today, why a girl can't walk freely in a so called free country. why there are statistic individuals still living among us?

It is said the culprits of the rape were confident that they wouldn't be traced or punished for the crime. This calls in question our laws, laws are required not just to punish the guilty but also to deter people from straying form the correct path. For e.g Singapore is said to be safe due to the strict enforcement of rules. But looking at the shootout in USA, its clear that the guy knew he would be punished or killed yet he went to kill 20 kids. My take is that rules / laws are important but what is more important is change of mindset and thinking. Its not how you act when you are watched but how you act when you are alone shows the maturity of the society.

My hope is with education and more empowerment of people the thinking of society will change. In the future with better rules and enforcement young frustrated individuals get a chance or dare to go on a gun rampage or destroy a innocent girls life. My prayers are that this day comes soon. My prayers are with all the oppressed in the world.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The End of Poverty? Possible?

Being an Indian and if you havn't seen Poverty you are blind, you see it all around you, beggars on the roads  a row of slums by the rail tracks, even if you travel by air, when you land in any of the major Indian cities you will see a poverty surrounding the airports. We all know that India is not the poorest country in the world. There are countries in the world which fare much worse than India.

If in India there is so much of visible poverty, wonder how much poverty is really there in the world? So have we taken poverty as a part and parcel of human existence. From when history begins there has always been inequality existing. The Kings / Pharaohs / Emperors lived in absolute comfort while ordinary folk toiled under their yoke. A kind of extension now where Industrialist and Capitalist enjoy from the labor of workers.

But it can be said, a normal individual now is living in more comfort what the King of England had lived in the 18th Century.  Life expectancy in western Europe in the 18th century was about 40 years. Right now according to CIA world fact book there are only 3 countries in the world having a life expectancy of less than 40 years (Zambia 38.63years, Angola 38.2 years, Swaziland 31.88 years).

Basically what I trying to say is that that every generation is living a better life than a generation before. We might have experienced it, our parents talking to us about the hardship they faced, studying in candle light etc. But we don't experience that much hardship as they did. On a whole how much ever war destruction is there in the world Humans have been marching into a better quality of life slowly but steadily.

Given here is a Map of world poverty by country, showing percentage of population living on less than $1.25.
Its noticeable that majority of the poor is concentrated in Africa, South America & South Asia.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume you are not a part of this population living on less that $1.25 (About Rs. 70) daily. But just because we are living in comfort is it that we can forget about our poorer brothers? But as I said above Poverty is a part and parcel of life especially if you are living in the developing world. So what do we, a normal average individual do? Apart from the few helps we can give here and there to the poor we go on with our daily lifes

I was also thinking the same until I read the book "The End of Poverty" By Jeffrey Sachs. He has defined how it is possible in our lifetime, basically by 2015 which I feel is not possible as the world has been able to pursue the Millennium Development Goals properly but considering the way he has explained I have high hopes of the end of poverty by 2030. Thats in less than 20 years. Cool Right?

Reading this book, I have got hope. From my earlier thinking of Humans, do we only try to survive and reproduce  to my feeling now that humanity has a chance, its not by fluke that we are the dominant species on this planet.

A Situation where all developed countries just contribute 0.7% of their GNP that is out of every $ 100 earned by a developed country if they contribute just 70 Cents we will be able to remove extreme poverty within next decade. Given the amount we spending on weapons for each others destruction I really feel this is not a very difficult amount.

More-so Right now the major threat the world is facing is not from enemy countries going to war, but from non state actors, i.e terrorists. Further if its noticed terrorists are not born, they are made. Poor improvised youth are brain washed to become terrorists. So if poverty is reduced, education is available for all then I am pretty sure we can win the war on terror. The way to end violence is never more violence.

So, End of poverty, can a day come where poverty is just a word in the dictionary? Jeffrey Sachs gives me hope, I hope I am not wrong.....

Friday, August 31, 2012

India a Peaceful Country: A Misnomer?

From our youth we have been brought up studying that India is a a peace loving country (well truthfully which country loves war?) But India has always tried to show itself as the most peace loving country in the 21st Century.

India gained independence from the British rule by a non-violent struggle lead by one of the most peace loving man ever born, our Father of our nation: Mahatma Gandhi. But the birth of this great nation was  not so very peaceful as every one knows, The partition of India filled the country with violence, riots, butchering of people and other atrocities a peace loving country will never tolerate.

But independence of India was a time of great change, and all great change are preceded by chaos, But then also we can't thus say and forget about the violence during the partition of India. But to continue on independent India fought 5 recorded wars, 

  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1947
  • Indo-Sino war of 1961
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1999 (Kargil war)

We have learnt that India was never the aggressor in any of these wars which may or may not be true, I also may conceded that these wars might have been necessary to keep our hard won Independence. But here I need to mention the borders of India are not yet peaceful, and the borders with some of our neighbours are not yet well defined which might lead to the cause of the next war.

Still these are issues between nations and a lot of high politics and one man ship happens between countries, so lets not consider these to decide if India is a peace loving country or not, Because I agree how much ever you love peace, you need a strong Army to protect yourself in this world. Which is why I agree to India having a nuclear weapon and am also proud of the fact that India has said "No First Use"

But that still doesn't explain why India as a whole is not the peaceful, it is said 40% of India is under grip of naxalites, a area know as the red corridor. Schedules of trains are changed so that trains don't run through these areas at night. In no way would I call this as a sign of a peaceful India. 

There have been more than 50 riots in Independent India, (get the full list here) with the latest being the 2002 Gujarat riots. These 50 doesn't include the minor fights/riots which happen in India like the latest set of violence in the North-East. These again prove that we living in a sudo peaceful country. 

Another thing which I would like to point out is the fascination with guns majorly among the northern states of the country. Even thought there is heavy regulation against carrying guns in India, Guns can easily by procured in the states of UP, Bihar. where carrying guns is actually a status symbol. No where in the world is Guns a Peace symbol.Still I haven't talked about the violence against women or any of the weaker casts, cause lets face is no country anywhere in the world is completely at peace, even Vatican has its own police. 

India is the worlds biggest film maker, but again when I look at these films violence is glorified and only if the hero shows violence does the film gross numbers. Consider film from the south (Rajnikath films) main stream films (Dabang) or any bojpuri films from the north. Violence is always there. And as these films actually are successful I would only say that India actually loves violence.

In the latest concluded Olympic games 5 out of the 6 medals were in boxing, wrestling & shooting. Sports which can be considered as violent sports (if there is something like that).

Seeing all this I begin to wonder if peace is really in India's genes, Lets look into the history. Its said India never attacked any other country but herself has been a target of many invasions. From Alexander, to the Moghuls to the British. But what if all these invasions took place just cause India was always in war within itself, history teaches us that India has always been ruled by Kings/Princes who warred among them-self. A house divided within is always a happy hunting ground for invasions. 

But my point being considering the history present India has never been a peaceful land, so is India a Peaceful Country: A Misnomer?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Nitu

Class Topper and parents Pet,
Without her support am as good as dead.
How much she a hates a peg,
That much she loves to pull my legs.

Wisedom gathered beyond her years,
Flows from her eyes, mouth and ears.
19th century principles in my mind you try to Drive,
Sorry dear but I have only a life to live.

Who is the girl you may ask,
My sister is she behind this mask.
Bossing and nagging me is what she loves to do,
Teasing and bugging you is my reply to you.

Hurtful things to each other we say,
In jest we take it and go our way.
Cause our hearts know and feel,
Love for each other is stronger than steel.

Happy Birthday Nitu, My dear,
Your Brother wishes you a wonderful year.
Flow to you  happiness and joy,
Like a baby running to her toy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Satyamev Jayate - Just another TV show??

Majority of my friends know that I am not a guy who watches TV much, Yes plenty of people have expressed surprise how a modern day Indian boy doesn't watch Television. But then it is also true that I don't like cricket. Go Figure!!

Satyamev Jayate
Anyhow, the show Satyamev Jayate of Amir Khan has been getting some good reviews online, in Newspapers and my friends raving about how different the show is I had to watch it. I am writing this post after watching 2 episodes  Well I agree to the fact the the show is different, and if there are more shows like this might be TV won't remain a Idiot Box.

But the question is still is it all just a talk? What is Amir doing? He is talking on various issues in India which are common knowledge but still people want to keep it hidden. Everyone knows the laws against female foeticide and Dowry, but still its common knowledge that these things are still practiced in India.

So is Satyamev Jayate just another show to gainer eyeballs, push up the ratings and earn money for the big entertainment industry on India? Or does this show make a actual difference in the life of an actual Indian?

Its said the donations to various NGOs working against female foeticide increased after the 1s episode of the show, An awareness against various evils in our society like dowry, malpractices by trusted doctors, the crime of falling in love is being highlighted. What remains to be seen is if this awareness is transferred to actual action on the ground, or will it remain just a Sunday afternoon wakeup call for people.

What I am scared of is if this hype will become like the Anna's anti-corruption movement and the Jan Lokpal Bill. Populist rhetoric does not generate nuanced solutions. On various issues, Satyamev Jayate chose a populist ‘truth'; but failed to push the envelope and convert it to a difficult, deeper, much needed conversation with India.

But like its said, something is better than nothing right? Hopefully due to the show an awareness is created and India changes for the better. Hopefully Satyamev Jayate stands for what it is "Truth Alone Prevails" and doesn't decent into a program only for eyeballs, touches real issues and discusses solutions to these issues. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Broken Window theory

Broken window theory was put up by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, in an article titled "Broken Windows".

Basically the theory is explained as follows

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside”

Basically if something appears to be uncared for there is greater chance the destruction will be more. If I feel no one else cares for something even I won’t care for it.

Put yourself in this situation, “A small fair girl of 5 years old, well dressed but roaming lost in a mall with tears in her eyes, what do you do? You mostly will ask the girl whats wrong and try to trace her guardians”
But now consider another situation, "You are at a traffic signal, a small girl of 5 years in shabby clothes is sitting across the road with a look of hunger in her face, what do you do? Roll up the window?"

Why this discrimination? Is it just cause of the location? Think about it, in both cases the child was a 5 year old girl.

Not convinced about the theory? You wondering what if the broken window is in a upscale location? Rich people don’t go about breaking windows, do they?

Let me put another extract from the same article
“We arranged to have an automobile without license plates parked with its hood up on a street in the Bronx and a comparable automobile on a street in Palo Alto, California. The car in the Bronx was attacked by "vandals" within ten minutes of its "abandonment." The first to arrive were a family--father, mother, and young son--who removed the radiator and battery. Within twenty-four hours, virtually everything of value had been removed. Then random destruction began--windows were smashed, parts torn off, upholstery ripped. Children began to use the car as a playground. Most of the adult "vandals" were well-dressed, apparently clean-cut whites. The car in Palo Alto sat untouched for more than a week. Then we smashed part of it with a sledgehammer. Soon, passersby were joining in. Within a few hours, the car had been turned upside down and utterly destroyed. Again, the "vandals" appeared to be primarily respectable whites.”

Basically its not the location, Humans just enjoy breaking stuff (how much ever you deny it). The difference in reactions was explained in the article, I quote

“Untended property becomes fair game for people out for fun or plunder and even for people who ordinarily would not dream of doing such things and who probably consider themselves law-abiding. Because of the nature of community life in the Bronx--its anonymity, the frequency with which cars are abandoned and things are stolen or broken, the past experience of "no one caring"--vandalism begins much more quickly than it does in staid Palo Alto, where people have come to believe that private possessions are cared for, and that mischievous behavior is costly. But vandalism can occur anywhere once communal barriers--the sense of mutual regard and the obligations of civility--are lowered by actions that seem to signal that "no one cares."

How’s it we humans with our superior intellect still governed by the basic instincts (Humans, do we only try to survive and reproduce?) ? Why is it that if a message No one else cares is conveyed even I won’t care? Can't I think for myself?

It is often complained about India that we keep our homes clean but dirty our surroundings, Isn’t it possible we keep our homes clean only cause we care and dirty our surrounding because no one cares. If you have noticed all India is not dirty, there are islands of clean neighbourhoods.
Which can be explained by  considering  this examble of a pavement.
If some litter accumulates and its cleaned at once the road remains clean but if its not cleaned, soon more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash and the whole road becomes a garbage dump.
In Mumbai, Take Powai for e.g. In the Hiranandani complex everything is clean but step outside, just near IIT campus you will see the litter. It’s the same people who pass through both areas but why the difference? I belive its cause of the above Broken Window effect. No one bothers to clean up outside IIT but Hiranandani complex is always kept spick and span

But why am I rambling this? I don’t know, Might be cause of the Broken Window in my head which needed fixing :P

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Un-selfish good deed: Do they exist?

Ok! This topic has been running in my mind for quite some time, Is there a Un-selfish good deed? In “Friends” one episode Phobe tried to prove to Joey that there is a unselfish good deed. The question again came up in a talk with a girl that love should be like the sun; always giving out warmth and energy getting nothing back in return.

So the question of this blog  is, “Is there a Un-selfish good deed?”. Starting out scientifically 

Theory of Evolution states that some behaviours are encoded into our DNA, Animals feel discomfort when they're hungry, signalling it’s time to eat. A plant might shed its leaves in winter to create a protective barrier for the winter. Both plants and animals survive by looking out for themselves. By this logic, an Un-selfish good deed shouldn’t even exist.

Basically what I mean to say is that helping others at a cost to us goes against the order of natural selection. Why improve the life  of another living being at cost of something to us? After all natural resources are limited, so the lesser competition the better chances I have of surviving, Right? 

Let’s take the most quoted example of an un-selfish good deed i.e of a mother caring for her child, but isn’t that just a motherly instinct; something I feel a extension of the genetic code that forces us to procreate so that the species as a whole can survive. Some or may be majority of mothers may be of the thought process  that the child will grow up and take care of her in her old-age.

Or yet another example of giving "Alms" (something I absolutely disagree, better to teach a man to fish than give him fish for a day), The money I could have used on myself I am using to help someone else in need. So amn't I doing an un-selfish good deed heret? No, I say. You are giving alms to feel good about yourself and might be sometimes even with religious reasons thinking "I will sacrifice now and  give alms now and my sins will be forgiven securing my future in heaven". Which again makes it a selfish deed?

So does un-selfish good deed exist? My explanation : Before doing any deed we think, we might be aware of some thought process; but before other deeds our thought process may be completely sub-conscious. But there is always a mental calculation which sees some or the other positive return for any action of ours before we take it. 

I don’t feel there is any human interaction which is an one way exchange. There will always be some or other expectations of a return favor.

I feel every human is Selfish in his/her own way. But even if we are rewarded/ or expect to be rewarded one way or another by performing an so called unselfish act, it still remains up to the individual whether or not to perform one. 

The main question to answer is "If by helping someone we feel good, does that make that action any less worthwhile?"