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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Farewell, Michael Jackson

This is the song that I would like to remember him by.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I agree, President Obama

Presented below are a few extracts (which I agree with completely) from the speech that President Obama of the United States recently delivered at Cairo University, followed by the manner in which each of these is relevant to the social and political realities in India:

"I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality."
Relevance to India: Women who mostly wear traditional dresses (or dress conservatively) are generally looked down upon and treated as less than equal, many a time despite being highly educated and/or having outstanding achievements to their credit in their chosen fields of work, by women who adopt a more Westernised mode of dressing (quite frequently comprised of clothes that are excessively tight and/or revealing). Derogatory terms like behenji (which, otherwise, is a form of address for an elder sister) are often used to refer to the former, by the latter.

"I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice."
Relevance to India: Women who take up traditional roles like the 'housewife' or 'home-maker', even if they do so of their own volition and are very successful at raising a family, are often thought of as having put their talents to waste and are not always considered as 'modern' or 'advanced' as those who choose to work outside of the home.

"I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations - including my own - this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities - those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures."
Relevance to India: The emphasis on censorship and bans appears to have been far greater than genuine attempts at preservation of a distinct culture. At the same time, anything that is phoren (foreign) is thought of as superior, whether it be language or food or dress or literature or, of late, even social mores, by a substantial proportion of the population.

"It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us."
Relevance to India: Religious minorities are like the children of a lesser God in this country, despite the equal status envisioned for all citizens by those who drafted the Constitution of India. Mosques are razed to the ground, Gurdwaras are burnt and Churches are attacked with impunity. Thousands of innocent Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are pulled out of their own homes and hacked or bludgeoned to death or burnt alive and their houses set on fire, without the culprits having to fear any kind of punishment. In fact, many of those accused of such grave crimes against humanity not only contest, but also win elections to become members of parliament or state legislative assemblies. Some of them even go on to become ministers in the government of India or in the various state governments.

The resulting sense of persecution and lack of hope for justice can and often does help provide fresh recruits for terrorist organisations, from the minority communities. Thus, the vicious cycle of violence continues.

Incidentally, the 'masterminds' responsible for terrorist violence are almost invariably apprehended as well as prosecuted, unlike those responsible for communal violence.