Generation Equality 2020

Road 10

Rajasthani woman.

Every year, March 8 is “Women’s Day”. Therefore, decided to post on gender issues today. The theme for International Women’s Day this year is: “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.” Am again sharing an old post that I had posted three years ago, on March 3, on my FB page 🙂
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Coming to the topic of “Women’s Rights” – my favorite topic of late  😉 I want to clarify a few things, and for clarity’s sake, I want to make this rather simplistic statement:

Battle for Women’s Rights = (Women + Good Guys) versus Bad Guys

I think that it’s important for women to admire and acknowledge the “Good Guys” because they’re a minority (in India), and very important allies in this battle. And the biggest problem lies in identifying the “Bad Guys” because all guys pretend to be “Good Guys”.  🙁

The second biggest problem seems to be that even the “Good Guys” seem to be quite unaware of the day to day hassles and discrimination women face and seem to think that all is rosy and fine. I can’t relate recent experiences because I’m spending most of my time at home in front of the computer, but we all read about the different incidents happening around us.

However, I have some very interesting experiences from my college days that I can share. Right after Std 10, I joined a college that was erroneously recommended to me by a well-wisher, because it was very good at getting “ranks”.

This college had been a “boys only” college for many years and had only recently started admitting girls. Thanks to this, the mostly male faculty and administration had very little experience and knowledge of co-existing with women, though they tried very hard.

Since I was from a well balanced co-ed school, it was a very baffling and exasperating experience for me. The first issue was with the “freedom of seating”. They made a rule that girls could sit only on the first two benches and nowhere else. Having been a last or penultimate bencher most of my life, apart from being discriminatory, this rule was terrifying for me. I protested that girls should be given equal rights as the boys to sit where they pleased, but they didn’t agree.  🙁

Next, I was always interested in quizzing and had been a member of my school quiz team, so I formed a team with two other classmates – who happened to be guys, and we attended a few inter-college quizzes (bunking classes because we couldn’t hope to get permission for them since studies and ranks were all that was important). After doing well in a few quizzes and winning prizes, we wrongly thought that the college authorities might be happy about it and asked them for formal permission to attend the next quiz.

What came next was totally unexpected (!!): I was told that it would not be possible for them to give permission only to me, because they couldn’t let a girl along with two other boys go around town attending quizzes!!  :O I was also given a talking to in private warning me of the dangers. This was unimaginably ridiculous because the two other teammates were really nice, and decent fellows. In addition, I had been a member of my school quiz team for many years, and all my teammates had been boys – we had never spared a thought regarding our genders then.

However, the last straw was “Women’s Day”.  🙁 The administration decided to hold a “women’s day” function to make the girls happy. This was also ridiculous because their idea was to have cooking, vegetable carving, table setting, painting, etc. and other suchlike competitions on this day – and that too only for girls! I refused to participate in any of those competitions and tried to convince the other girls that they also shouldn’t unless these competitions were open to the boys as well. However, only some girls agreed with me.

Not surprisingly, I realized that I didn’t “fit” into this place and shifted to another college the following year – losing a year in that process  :(. However, this illustrates how narrow mindsets were and I wonder how much has really changed. Of course, there are many progressive pockets in India, but there are many more regressive places. If all this happened with me in a metro, one can imagine what circumstances would have been like in small towns, and villages.

Apart from the above-mentioned problems, there are even more serious issues like female foeticide, infanticide, eve-teasing (it was a day to day occurrence in Bangalore), gang rapes, dowry deaths, and domestic violence, etc. that need to be addressed. It’s very important not to turn a blind eye to them and assume they don’t exist.

My New Digital Blog

sunset

Have started another blog exclusively on the current “Digital Landscape and Social Media” – adigitalgenius.com

Do check it out if you are interested in that area. Have a Great Day!! 🙂

Let’s focus on Botticelli and Tversky

venus

I was dreading waking up today morning and reading all the terrible news about Delhi riots. But, thanks to a wonderful suggestion on Facebook by a brilliant and thoughtful professor – Dr. Vijayabhaskar Marisetty, at the University of Hyderabad who is a great painter himself, it’s going to be a wonderful day!! He suggested that all of us should stop thinking about politics for some time and instead focus on “art”, and he assigned me the Italian Master “Sandro Botticelli” (1445 – 1510) who is a master of mythological scenes. This is one of his most famous paintings “The Birth of Venus” which is in the Uffizzi gallery in Florence, Italy. It depicts the Goddess of Love – Venus arriving at the shore after her birth when she had emerged from the sea fully-grown.

Initially, I didn’t like his suggestion because I was simmering with anger and sadness at what’s going on and wanted to focus on my negative feelings, but now I realize the wisdom in his words. Especially, since I’m reading up on SocialMedia, FakeNews, etc. and already know a lot about it. This idea will beat the intent of those vested interests (whoever they might be) who are deliberately causing all this trouble and occupying our minds with negativity – so that they can profit from it.

Do you know that Fake News travels many times faster than truthful news on the Internet and social media? That’s because fake news is crafted at leisure with ample imagination, using all the tricks, without having any constraints like the truth and actual facts, and it turns out to be more persuasive and appealing than the truth. (I’m not making this up, I follow a guy called Tristan Harris who has made it his mission to expose Fake News and the dubious happenings in media & social media). I’m planning to write about it in detail in my book. Please do follow him on Twitter and other media.

In addition, I’d like to introduce you to one more point apart from Italian paintings and Botticelli – the “availability heuristic” 🙂 🙂

“Heuristics and Biases” that lead to faulty judgments and decisions are common knowledge among management, and psychology Ph.D. students and scholars, but I believe that in today’s world, everyone needs to be aware of them. Media most commonly exploits these weaknesses of ours. Heuristics are shortcuts that our brain uses to make judgments in the interest of time.

Thanks to the “availability heuristic”, we give utmost importance to the stuff that has top of the mind recall in the brain. For example, news that is shown 24/7. Didn’t you wonder why the same news, focusing only on one tiny portion of a country, one small locality in a city, is repeated again and again and again? Why don’t they show you other news and happenings as well (more logical right?) – both positive and negative? – To trick your brain into believing that nothing but this is happening all over the country 24/7, because that becomes your “top of mind recall” right now. So please, stop, and check if you are falling prey to the “availability heuristic”, and once you realize that you are – smile to yourself, be brave, and focus on art, or music, or whatever else you might love. Have a Wonderful Day!!  🙂  🙂

Hope you like the painting! Look up some more of Botticelli’s art on Google today – art and beauty are better options to focus on……… please flood your social media with positive news to counter the negative and fake news in the country right now. Ban the divisive words “Hindu” or “Muslim” from your vocabulary, and spread communal harmony. 🙂 Thank you!!

References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandro_Botticelli
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primavera_(Botticelli)
Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability; A Tversky, D Kahneman – Cognitive psychology, 1973.

PS: Image of Venus, courtesy Wikipedia. To see the full painting, please Google it 😉

In Whose Interest?

Western powers proclaim to be the paragons of peace and democracy across the world. But does this match up to their actual policies and actions throughout decades?

Do watch this informative video that elucidates why we shouldn’t encourage Western countries to interfere in our internal affairs. They don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart. BTW, why should they? Unlike some of our intellectuals and politicians, they’re thinking about their own interests – like they should be.

I wonder why some of our intellectuals (who spend years in universities) are not aware of these facts? Why do they rejoice when Western countries with bad track records give us lectures, and why do they invite them to interfere? Really baffles me!!

https://freewillibrary.blogspot.com/2020/02/in-whose-interest-documentary-film.html?fbclid=IwAR3NPQsL8kriW-Ya3B6w8Z0alCVdQwbiKS0Kavq4vx_28F13s-KobQO_M-k

“Basics” of International Relations by a Dummy (Me) 

citypalaceMany times, when I read the News, I get really baffled by what’s going on around me. Therefore, I like to stick my finger into subjects that I don’t have much expertise in and try to analyze them. Simply don’t understand that irrespective of party affiliations, political ideology, ethnicity, etc. why we shouldn’t be on the side of our own country, instead of on the side of a non-secular state (if secularism is indeed cherished by us). Why is it considered politically correct to side with an enemy whose aim is to break us apart or weaken us?! Absolutely baffles me!

Great that at least someone in the opposition agrees with the government and makes total sense, unlike some others. (refer to the link below) Long back, a very senior person involved in national security explained to me that Western powers don’t consider Pakistan as a threat, but would love to do anything to contain India’s and China’s power because they are perceived as future threats. Hence, many politicians in the West support Pakistan on several issues even though it is obviously not secular and supports terrorism (however, they might be doing it legitimately, in the interest of their own countries). It’s an easy way to contain India (China does the same). So, its foolish of us to take their (Western diplomats) preaching on any issue seriously, especially when they’re such big hypocrites themselves and are thinking only of their self-interest.

But, what I don’t understand is why some Indian intellectuals and journalists support the efforts of Western powers? (Many of them, curiously, live in the West). Do we want to be subservient to the West even after gaining Independence? Can’t we think for ourselves and have some self-respect? Shouldn’t we be thinking about what happens to our national security if we succumb to their unscrupulous moves?  🙁

Isn’t it time for Indians to adopt an independent and intelligent perspective over issues without blindly following the West? I think we are fully capable of doing so. However, I’m not a scholar in Political Science or  International Relations, hence I might be very wrong. Would love to hear the counters……….. I’m open-minded and always willing to learn 🙂

Reference:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/every-attack-on-india-s-sovereignty-must-be-thwarted-congress-abhishek-singhvi-backs-debbie-abrahams-deportation/story-EHHEE7vuguFYP9sL4fKtFL.html?fbclid=IwAR0eC6B6ON9uuhBc0VY257Uu4Sh2s6wBa5pXH_6ojVciTA87X5mCKSwij9c

Scientific Temper

Nobody is going to pour truth into your brain. It’s something you have to find out for yourself. – Noam Chomsky

I feel deeply distressed when I see that condescending and obviously racist articles like this written in the foreign press are shared with great fervor by some Indians without bothering to check for their veracity and logic. In essence, what these guys are doing is perpetuating the efforts of the British to destroy our pride and our self-respect, which they did so that they could rule over us – make us feel ashamed of ourselves, and hence appear superior. It would be somewhat acceptable if the same people also highlighted the positive contributions of Indian scientists and mathematicians to the world of science. And, If they looked objectively at different issues, with more depth.

My undergrad degree was in science and I can’t help notice the difference in attitudes between the top scientists in India, and some of the so-called liberal “intellectuals” here (Liberals in the US are more logical and believe in science- eg: Noam Chomsky) who get to write many articles in the press. Most of them don’t seem to have a science background, or scientific temper, any curiosity for new subjects, or open-mindedness. They have preconceived prejudices and clear agendas to propagate their prejudices – very, very unfortunate indeed  🙁 🙁

In contrast, the “intellectuals” that I used to encounter in IISC, Raman Research Institute, and ISRO (all in Bangalore), when I used to haunt those places since I had intentions of pursuing a Ph.D. in physics long back, were totally different. They were so open-minded, always curious, childlike even though they were in their 50’s and 60’s, creative, interested in the arts and humanities and other subjects as well, also proud of being Indian, and somewhat patriotic – without being communal or dogmatic. It used to be a pleasure to talk to them, learn from them, and inspiring to be with them. They never had agendas – were only interested in the “truth”.

For example, some Indian intellectuals look at “nationalism” with a binary viewpoint. Nothing can be further from the truth. To start with, in reality, there are many different kinds of nationalism!! And they refer to only Germany and Hitler, but comparing India to Germany is like comparing apples to oranges! We were colonized, Germany wasn’t, and there are so many other differences like size, history, etc.! European nationalism is very distinct from Indian nationalism. Nationalism in Europe generally refers to when the people in Europe rose against their own monarchial rulers with an aim to establish democracy. Whereas, nationalism in India emerged as an opposition to the foreign (British) rule.

Without nationalism in India, we wouldn’t have ever gained independence!! Therefore, an inclusive, benign, and positive version of nationalism might actually be great for India – to cure us of our colonial hangovers, from the pain of partition, and the other problems that we are facing now. At least, why not be open-minded and discuss the idea before you trash it? Everything in this world is far from being binary – there are many layers and dimensions to everything, and those coming from the humanities should be aware of that!

I sincerely feel that there is a dire need to reintroduce scientific temper and intellectual honesty into our educational system, and most of all into our media. And more and more scientists should take an interest in the humanities, and vice versa.

PS: I don’t support a cow dung cure for coronavirus, but in the article below, the view of someone in the fringe of whom I’ve never heard before has been deliberately given undue importance and made into international ridicule.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-cow-dung-cure-for-coronavirus-11581378967?fbclid=IwAR2hIHYh9sDJrkpELb_2xwWDLhZFLCyLEVjBs67HeZKAR9OPh05NCUYSWPY

Unconventional Valentine Advice

DSC03759-002Wish you all a very Happy and Vibrant ValentinesDay!! 🙂 🙂

However, I’d like to play the devil’s advocate today. Having studied both psychology and marketing, I can’t help being this way 😉

I simply don’t understand why we have to earmark a single day or week in a year for something so exotic and expansive as love! Why not choose days of our own liking and convenience each year to celebrate this emotion? Why should we succumb to marketing tactics and celebrate it only with roses, chocolates, or special Valentine’s Day items – do it in your own original fashion instead of following the herd. Buy all other flowers except roses and any other sweets or desserts instead of chocolates 🙂

Now coming to what exactly “love” means, it’s a very cryptic word having different meanings and connotations for different people: I think that the most accurate definition comes from biochemistry and it’s nothing but a temporary cocktail of hormones in your head that drives you crazy and makes you feel on top of the world. And this kind of crazy, romantic, and exhilarating love has a shelf life of around 6 months to 2 years and cannot last beyond that, it eventually transitions either into a soberer long-term love or God forbid, a break-up. I’m not joking, there’s vast research evidence to back this statement 🙁

There’s also a very interesting and philosophical angle as to why love is so convoluted and elusive. Many great people have discovered and stated the same in different words:

Starting with the famous French author Marcel Proust, he said that – “On n’aime que ce qu’on ne possède pas tout entier.” (One can only truly love what one does not possess entirely)!

Oscar Wilde said the same in different words: “The very essence of romance is uncertainty.”

And luckily, he also gave an acceptable remedy to this problem: “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”

That’s undoubtedly a great piece of advice. So go ahead and have a lot of fun, but make sure that you keep a level head always, and also remember not to buy either roses or chocolates……
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In addition, here’s some additional practical advice for Valentine’s Day 2020:

Some of you might be in love with, or interested in and considering approaching that special someone today, but not doing it because you’re afraid of being rejected. However, the worst thing you can do to yourself is waste all your time mooning over someone and then find out after a few years that it’s not going to work.

There’s a great reason why you no longer need to be afraid of rejection – Crocin/Tylenol (paracetamol/acetaminophen)!! Like I mentioned earlier, a great part of love is nothing but biochemistry, and recent research has revealed that Crocin works really well on heartbreak and the pangs of love, just like it does on other aches and pains! In case of rejection, all you’ll need is a week to 10 days course of Crocin and then you’re fit enough to start looking again for your real soulmate or that dream boy/girl! There are always a lot of worthy fish in the sea, and it’s more fun to explore rather than waste all your time on one obscure person.

Also, it’s very important to grow mature and learn to “forget” – a very essential part of life. Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet who wrote some of the world’s most passionate love poetry also gave some equally great advice, he said: “Let us forget with generosity those who cannot love us.”

Now that you’re armed with this information, go ahead and make your moves…. All the Best! 🙂 🙂

However, it’s a good thing that many of the poets, writers, and painters weren’t aware of Crocin, because we would have really missed all the great works they churned out during heartbreak……

On Polarization in India

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, or in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. – Thomas Jefferson

Irrespective of whether we support the left, or the right, most of us are unhappy with the extreme polarization that we see in India nowadays. So am I. It’s almost terrifying, especially on Social Media.

What worries me most is that the space for “centrists”, or those who would like to “think deeply” on issues before they take a side is really shrinking, or almost non-existent. We make instant judgments and decisions based on our affiliations, we outrage at the drop of a hat, and we’re all being forced to fit into stupid stereotypes; for eg: “Urban-Naxals” or “Bhakts”. We now eulogize “diversity” in name only and have forgotten that there can be “diversity” in ideologies as well. Ideology can be a continuum from left to right, instead of consisting of just two groups at opposite ends that hate each other, and call each other names.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, a “liberal” used to be a person who could accept and evaluate all points of view before he drew conclusions (only in reference to India, might or might not apply to other countries). However, nowadays we seem to have forgotten that there are always two sides to a coin. Take for example the CAA issue (or any issue) – we only get to see articles or opinion pieces that are strongly in favour or strongly against it. Yet to see an article in any publication that honestly evaluates both the merits and the demerits, and suggests solutions. Alarming that intellectual honesty (or intelligence) is almost non-existing in the media, and very sad that most TV News is heavily skewed either way.

Never really understand why we have TV debates between politicians or their obviously biased representatives who always espouse a particular view without ever bothering to question it. The debaters on TV are more like the Roman gladiators whom bloodthirsty audiences egged on in the middle ages, and both sides would literally love to see the guy on the opposite side butchered. We don’t care anymore about actually hearing the debate because our minds are all made up – and unlikely to change.

No wonder we’re polarized!!!

Instead, why can’t we start by assuming that each and every issue needs to be debated objectively, and might have both pros and cons. Most issues do – which is why even the CAA was supported in the past by some opposition leaders who are now vehemently against it (there is ample proof on paper and in video). Once we evaluate both sides, then we can find solutions that transcend the problems.

Surprisingly, I’m a JNU alumnus (!!) and it’s especially difficult for me to come to terms with what is going on. Luckily for me, back then, I was totally disinterested in politics and never even knew the meaning of “left” or “right”, or couldn’t care less. Thanks to that, the two most amazing years of my life were spent there. I met the most amazing people and learnt so much. I could observe a lot of political activity and knew that there were many student parties, but, If I ever voted, I voted for the “Free Thinkers” party that didn’t support any major political party, and also never won any elections 🙂 🙂

Got interested in and started following politics much later. Of late, have been cutting myself out and avoiding the subject again because the acrimony is really depressing. But, as a die-hard optimist, I sincerely wish that we could stop being so prejudiced and hypocritical, and start to debate issues more deeply, with a desire to understand the opposing views, and where they come from. We need to do it on an issue by issue basis and feel secure in having our own individual opinion on a certain issue, even if it doesn’t always ascribe to that of our political party.

Irrespective of whether we’re on the “left” or “right”, one can be a “liberal” – by deliberating on issues individually, and by having the courage to differ from the crowd at times. We’re not “liberal” if we always follow a group or party blindly. We should be able to accept “constructive criticism” and be willing to change our minds on and off. I rue the fact that we have become a nation of shallow thinkers and hypocrites, who decide without deliberation, and outrage and hate easily.

The above are my opinions, but I’m willing to listen to anyone who has anything to add or denounce – as long as they don’t call me names, and they’re respectful. I don’t believe that my opinions are invincible, or that I can’t be wrong at times.

Sharing an article that offers some insight into one reason why we might be so polarized in India. It states that while many of our universities are excellent in many respects, they’re skewed to the left and follow a Marxist model, and as a result, those trained with that lens, refuse to be open to differing perspectives. This is worrisome. If this is true, we also need people who’re trained in the hard sciences, those who believe in scientific temper, and look at problems with a sense of impartial and objective inquiry, to step in, study, and comment on issues of importance. Only then can we have truly intellectual debates and a non-polarized society.

In addition to the above point, I think what colonization did to our psyche and our geography etc. is another important factor. Our history makes us unique – therefore we can’t blindly apply theories from one country to another, without taking into account their unique histories.

Would love to hear your views on what I’ve said.

Excerpts from the article whose link I’ve provided:

For free-thinking JNU, lack of diversity in faculty, students, courses has been a curse

“JNU has won the President of India’s award for being the best university more than once in the last five years……….But there is also room for constructive criticism even as we find many reasons to celebrate JNU, like most recently, economist Abhijit Banerjee’s Nobel Prize. A university must project diversity as its core goal – in faculty, students, courses and politics. JNU has been lacking this to a large extent. During its formative years, faculty appointments at JNU were seemingly made keeping a candidate’s Left-wing leanings in mind, sometimes at the cost of academic standards…………..Most humanities and social sciences curriculum in universities across India and the world have a Marxist model of interpretation. The model has its merits but it should not be the only lens through which disciplines should be examined………”

To Jaya Bacchan…

Today’s top headline all over the media is that MP Jaya Bachchan advocates that “the Hyderabad rapists should be brought out in the public and ruthlessly lynched.” While I do empathize with the emotion and the angst behind her suggestion, I wish she would also reflect a bit more deeply on this problem, and come up with some much-needed suggestions for Bollywood, Tollywood, and the other Indian movie industries (to which she belongs), and contemplate on how they continuously perpetuate misogyny, and shamelessly objectify women.

Certainly, the movies are not solely responsible for the atrocities in our country, but they do play a very important role in determining popular culture, and they represent and influence our underlying beliefs and attitudes. The right kind of movies has the potential to be an immensely powerful driver of societal and attitudinal change.

Most movie songs nowadays are so vulgar and cheap, that at times, it’s downright embarrassing and uncomfortable to watch them in public. Yet, women have to put up with them all the time in public spaces (videos playing in gyms, buses, cabs, autos, etc.), and no one has any consideration for their sensibilities. Almost everything in Bollywood is projected from a male-centric view and things that might cause acute distress to a woman in the audience or embarrass her are happily overlooked and normalized. To describe this phenomenon, Gloria Steinem once remarked that “A woman reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual.”

For example, whenever I go to the gym nowadays – the first five minutes are always stressful and unpleasant. I forcefully insist that they switch from the Hindi music channels that play some really vulgar songs (including item songs), to travel, sports, News, or English pop channels. Sadly, have to admit that though English pop music has nudity and sexual content, it’s not as irksome or vulgar as some Bollywood music.

Thanks to my aggressiveness – I usually get my way and the channels are changed, or the trainer ends up playing some recorded music on the audio, but on certain days I don’t succeed  🙁  🙁 There are some really thick-skinned fellows who insist that they will only train while listening to stuff like “Sheela ki Jawani” or “Chikni Chameli”, and other similar songs playing on B4U etc. (yuck). These guys need to be given some education on how to co-exist with women in public spaces and realize the fact that women might have their own point of view regarding this kind of music.

I’m all for freedom of expression, and okay with item songs as long as they are seen in homes, theatres or parties – but not okay with them in gyms, public transport and such like. And especially, if a woman says she feels uncomfortable.

It’s not just Hindi movies, the same problems exist in Telugu. Apart from some really trashy and demeaning music, even the scripts and stories are very male-oriented.

I don’t get a chance to watch too many Telugu films, but there’s one that I can never forget when it comes to vulgarity and violence. Ironically, this movie “Arundhati” had a female lead and was glorifying this mythical queen.

There was one scene that was terribly disturbing in this movie, and it shocked me and scared me whenever I thought about it for the next few days. I saw it about ten years ago, so the details are not very fresh but it was something like this: Arundhati’s dance teacher is murdered for some reason by the villain, and he does so by stabbing her in the stomach with a huge sword. And while she is bleeding, writhing in pain and dying, the rogue rapes her and ends the scene with the dialogue “you gave me immense pleasure even in your death” (or something similar). I found this whole scene and dialogue absolutely revolting – how could anyone write this and film it? What kind of entertainment is this? How could the censor board allow it? Unfortunately, this is our mainstream cinema  🙁  🙁

It’s really important to address the misogyny and lack of sensitivity in our movies. I’m not advocating that we become prudish, but we need to certainly raise our standards. Sexual content can be more tasteful and artistic, without being so vulgar, demeaning and violent. Why do top heroines need to wear scanty clothes and gyrate and twerk in the most vulgar manner? Can’t we think of better ways to tell stories?

Otherwise, the less educated and the youth might end up thinking that treating women in this manner is absolutely fine. Hopefully, next time, Jaya Bacchan will speak up about these issues as well.

Once upon a time…

sundial

The Largest Sundial in the World, Jantar Mantar Observatory, Jaipur.

My recent trip to Jaipur revived my interest in Indian history and got me thinking in many new directions. Sharing a few thoughts today 🙂

When you tour the magnificent palaces and forts in Jaipur and visit the ancient observatory “Jantar Mantar”, it’s very obvious that once upon a time, we were really proficient in the sciences, mathematics, astronomy, and architecture, among other subjects. Many of the Jaipur Maharajas were also “polyglots” (knew several languages) and encouraged the arts and literature. For example, Jaipur has a very remarkable tradition of miniature paintings, blue pottery, and marble sculpting.

The Maharaja “Sawai Jai Singh 2” (1688 – 1743) who founded the city of Jaipur, was supposed to be an exceptionally talented individual, with many capabilities. He was a genius in mathematics and astronomy, and also proficient in several languages. According to our guide, he knew French and Persian apart from many Indian languages!!

This kind of linguistic openness and proficiency among our rulers was not rare. In the 16th century, Sri Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagar empire was also supposed to be a polyglot and a great writer/poet. At the same time, in Hyderabad, Sultan Quli Qutb Shah, was also a polyglot poet, a great patron of literature, and well versed in both Persian and Telugu. There will be many more fine examples when we look up our history books.

Hearing about Jai Singh’s prowess made me feel a bit depressed as to why nowadays in India, we have lost this respect for each other’s languages, and spend so much time trying to denigrate them. Instead of learning our own language and preserving the associated literature and culture, we spend more time bashing up other tongues.

Like I wrote previously on this topic of Indian languages, it’s very natural for human beings to be multilingual and being multilingual has several benefits, and it also makes us sensitive and respectful to other cultures.

Apart from the deviousness of our politicians, I think this problem has something to do with our colonial past. The British wanted to colonize not just our land, but also our minds, and impose the idea of their cultural superiority on us. They managed to do this by adopting an education policy that favoured English over all other Indian languages. In addition, they also subtly undermined our ancient learning and literature by incorporating certain hypocritical ideas. Our linguistic squabbling might be a result of their efforts – at least partially.

Thomas Babington Macaulay – who introduced the English system of education in India, had a prejudice against Indian languages and literature. For example, here is one of his quotes where he treats Arabic and Sanskrit in a shamefully condescending manner:

“I have no knowledge of either Sanskrit or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanskrit works. I have conversed both here and at home with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.”

Another quote that illustrates how the British thought:

“We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, – a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”

Am not at all against English education, it is certainly very valuable. But, the time has come to question the “Macaulayism” that it has given rise amidst us. Probably the reason why so many English-educated intellectuals in India think its “cool” to deride everything about Indian culture, the use of Indian languages etc., without even making an attempt to study or examine them in a fair manner.

Its time to learn to respect our own languages and their literature as equal to those of European languages, and relearn and readopt the ways of our illustrious forefathers who were polyglots and respected each other’s tongues.

That’s all for today, but I will write more on this topic 🙂 Not all was rosy about our kings and our past…a lot to examine…. Do let me know whether you agree…….am open-minded and would love to hear your opinions 🙂

PS: Do check out my earlier posts on Indian languages.

Reference:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Babington_Macaulay

 

Amber Fort

The Amber experience

Recently spent a few days in Jaipur, Rajasthan, visiting all the imperial palaces and forts 🙂 It was a wonderful adventure, going back into the royal ages and trying to relive the grandeur of the past. The Pink City is so enthralling and has so much to offer that the five days I spent there didn’t seem to be enough and I can’t wait to get back!

Here are some photos of the Amber Fort – one of the most prominent attractions there. This fort was built several centuries ago and has a very colorful history. You can get to hear the entire story during the “Sound and Light show” there.

Do hire a good guide when you visit, so that you get to know all the important aspects of the fort. We spent an exhaustive three hours touring the fort and ended our visit by having lunch at the wonderful restaurant in the fort called 1135 AD.

Next, visited a handloom store nearby and checked out some local “Bandhej” or “Bandini” saris. This was the best possible way to end the outing 🙂

 

On His Blindness – Milton

citypalace

On His Blindness by John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.
———————————-

PS: This is a famous sonnet by the English poet John Milton (1608 – 1674). Milton became blind at the height of his career – at a very young age, and had to deal with the disability for the rest of his life. In this poem, he describes his struggle and the frustration that he feels with his condition. The last line “They also serve who only stand and wait” is the famous philosophical conclusion that he arrives at 🙂 🙂

This line sums up that everyone in this world, irrespective of their abilities or disabilities, has a purpose….. even those who are spending most of their time battling adversity in a brave manner and merely being patient, are faithfully serving their purpose. It’s very inspiring to note that he went on to write “Paradise Lost” – one of the greatest epic poems in English, after he became blind, and did not let his disability hinder his creativity.

 

Quote of the Day

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. ― George Bernard Shaw bryce5

The Sad Truth

woods

If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. ― Henry David Thoreau

PS: A wilderness trek near Sedona, Arizona, USA.

The Seeker

I entered with a pained heart

my soul clouding with despair

and my racing thoughts seeking silence

 

I looked at the flower-bedecked image

overpowered by its beauty

I absorbed the pervading incense

and listened to the holy chants

the mumbling priest came with his silver platter

and extended the flame

I reached out for the warmth

imbibed the holy water with my parched lips

donned the vermillion on my forehead

and tucked the flowers into my hair

like a warrior donning his armor

against the raging world

 

I walked around the nine posterns of fate

but skeptic still

unable to unlearn years of education

never questioned

I rested on the temple’s steps

reminiscing, reflecting

and stepped out

knowing I could always come back