Racism-the uncouth behaviour!

https://www.indiatoday.in/trending-news/story/conductor-asks-girl-to-get-off-train-in-new-zealand-for-abusing-indian-passenger-speaking-in-hindi-1580618-2019-08-14 

I read this disturbing news in India Today, the other day. A person of Indian origin was travelling on a train in New Zealand. He was speaking on his cell phone to someone in Hindi. A sixteen-year Caucasian girl did not like this and told him, “You go home to your country.” The incident was reported by another passenger to the lady train conductor. The lady reached that compartment. The girl was still ranting. There were arguments, but the conductor was very firm. She made the girl get down mid-way. She also said that the girl might be paying customer, but that does not give the girl a right to misbehave with other passengers. The train was held up for almost twenty minutes, but other passengers did not mind that.  

I had complex thoughts in mind. I was pleased with the approach of the conductor; at the same time, I was distraught with the behaviour of the sixteen-year. The young girl has hardly had any worldly experience, but what made her behave the way she did. In the modern world, we see a lot of immigration. People migrate for better opportunities, or for seeking political asylums. People get posted to different countries on projects for three to six years. But then I realised that there are various  “isms” in our lives since time immemorial. We have casteism; we have “colour” ism!  

The most famous incident of racism was when Mahatma Gandhi was asked to get down from the train in South Africa in 1893 from “whites only” compartment. The event made a remarkable influence on Gandhi’s thinking about racial discrimination. But it took another hundred years for apartheid to end in South Africa. The trouble with these changes is that they sometimes go to other extremes. Cricket team in South Africa must now have a certain percentage of people of colour. The result is that many white players in South Africa now retire at a young age when they see that they may never get to play for the nation and move to England to play county cricket. 

It is very similar to casteism issues in India. But all these isms are there from mythological days in Indian history. The origins of the caste system in India are shrouded, but it seems to have originated more than two thousand years ago. Under this system, which is associated with Hinduism, people were categorised by their occupations. Although originally caste depended upon a person’s work, it soon became hereditary.  

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All the points mentioned in the above slide are self-explanatory. But I was not aware of the Guild theory.  

The guild is an association of craftsmen or merchants formed for mutual aid and protection and the furtherance of their professional interests. Guilds flourished in Europe between the 11th and 16th centuries and formed an essential part of the economic and social fabric in that era. 

The details of evolutions explain to us how such practices came into existence, but the natural differentiation based on various things were used by some groups of people to their advantage. Some over a period decided that a particular group of people was better than some other groups. A specific trade was thought to be superior to other groups. You had fishmongers and ironsmiths. You had traders, and you had warriors. As time passed, some of these trades started appearing sexy! A warrior was always thought to be superior to most other people. They started looking down at other people. Many things and events were not understood by people due to lack of scientific knowledge. Some people who had better intellect started the concept of God to explain mysterious things in terms of God’s wrath. You had floods, the rain God was angry with you. You had significant fires; fire God must be appeased.  

This concept of God and religion was taken over by some smart people. They learned the written scripts and became priests. Religion and Priests created Brahmins who took the position at the top of the pecking order. They chanted hymns; they had an explanation for unexplained troubles. They were considered one rung below God. Such pecking orders became caste systems and depending on their importance,  the people earned respect 

At some stage, people also started understanding that nature has an evolutionary system. Theory of Darwin, The Survival of the Fittest, began to be recognised by humanity. In some cases, the humans became physically healthy, and in other cases, they became mentally superior.  

The classic definition of Brahmanism is the complex sacrificial religion that emerged in post-Vedic India (900 bc) under the influence of the dominant priesthood (Brahmans), an early stage in the development of Hinduism. 

But any group of people who had better intellect created progeny with even more superior humans as far as intelligence was concerned. It was well explained by Darwin’s theory. Families of warriors produced even better warriors. Families in trade had better traders in the next generation. The evolution continued.  

But worst of the thinking in evolution remained based on colour. The Gods shown in pictures always had fair skin; demons had dark skin. Male Gods were cleanshaven, but the demons had big moustaches! Scientifically, the colour of the skin was explained by the areas where humans lived. Where the Sun was harsher, the more Melanin was present under the human skin. The people living in cold climate had less Melanin as the Sun was rarely harsh. So we have Goras and KalasOn top of this, the white race became meat eaters because of the weather conditions and other circumstances. The eating habits lead to the white race becoming bigger and stronger. The white people because their colour and healthy physique were looked at as a superior race. Let us not forget that the discrimination based on colour is followed everywhere. The Dilliwalas call people from Southern states in India as “Madrasis”, as people from old Madras have been traditionally dark in colour. Ratna Rajaiah, my favourite blogger, who lives in Mysore, has written a funny take on how South Indian ladies use talcum powder to look fairer, called “Ode to Talcum”!  

https://ratnarajaiahblogs.blogspot.com/search?q=let+us+talc 

Will these “isms” ever go away? I don’t think so. After a couple of hundred years after the abolition of slavery in the USA, do you think that thinking about darkskinned people changed in the Southern States of America? In northern states in India, especially in Bihar and Bengal do you think feudalism is dead? No way! You need to go 30 km from major cities, and you would know that things have hardly changed. The hierarchies will continue based on Caste, Colour, Occupation and Religious hierarchy. Mind you, some things never change.  

I will share a story with you. Jaya had led a team of engineers more than 30 years back to the USA. There was one smart engineer who was from the state of Bihar. During training class, he would have his coffee with a loud slurping soundAfter a couple of days, at the hotel, Jaya brought this out in discussion and explained to the gentleman to avoid the noise. He immediately agreed. He said, “Madam, you know that I come from Bihar and nobody ever told us about public manners. But now that you have explained, I will immediately change. For me, coming to Pune for the job itself was like coming to the US! Now in the US, for me, it is like arriving on the Moon. How much can a person change? But I will try my best!”  

But my blog cannot be an ode, but it shows the bad aspects of our beautiful world! 

 

 

 

 

 

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Primary help, Really?

 

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We went for dinner to young couples home. Both are smart, efficient go-getters. They have a two-year-old daughter. It’s an ideal family. Luckily, they both get support from two sets of parents. All is well! During dinner, the discussion came up about managing work-life balance. Neeta, the lady looked at her husband Deepak and said adoringly, “Oh, he is such a great help! Without his help, I don’t know how I would have managed to juggle between career, the daughter and home.” Deepak gave her a thumbs up!

Discussion put my grey cell into the act. You must be wondering what is Pramod thinking? All our life Jaya and I have lived similar lives. Taking this forward, we have also been supporting Priya, our daughter, in her initial phase of the career, to look after our granddaughter Rhea. Something was not right! What was bothering me? All seemed well with Neeta and Deepak. Next day in the morning when I woke up, I knew what was bothering me. It was the word “helpful”. The connotation of the word helpful was bugging me.

Here was a couple doing great, each trying to ensure that the atmosphere at home remained least stressful. The term “Helpful” indicated or meant that Neeta was the primary source of running the show and Deepak was “the help”. Is that the right description of this family? To me no. Humans have been running families in a patriarchal society from time immemorial. Men would go for hunting and women would manage home and bear and rear children. By Darwin’s principle of survival of the fittest, the male started becoming better in some areas and the female in other areas. There is one area where the woman has no competition, that is the childbirth! Even the fittest and the most evolved of Darwin’s male will never be able to give birth to a child. Giving birth to a child is no doubt at the top of the pile of things humans do, in the list of tough things in life!

The patriarchal society led to a tricky situation. Ladies have been there in the general workforce for a long time. But in last hundred years, they are taking up positions which were supposedly male bastions. Armed forces, surgeons, pilots, CEO’s, Head of Universities the list is unending. Such positions brought females out of their homes for a much longer duration, and they started getting less and less time to look after homes. Male from the patriarchal society got confused, stressed and did not know what hit him. Like happens typically in some situations, males started taking up roles they were never used to; some would take up the part only when they were told, others would most of the times ignore the need. Non-participation by males in the home activity led to a situation where even some strong women just gave up, others somehow managed it but had great stress all the time due to lack of male support. A tiny percentage of males adopted well, and their situation was like that of Neeta and Deepak. They adjusted well and “helped”! But to me, Deepak “helped” Neeta and Neeta “helped” Deepak in running the home. Somehow, I am not comfortable with Deepak “helped” Neeta sentence. They both helped each other.

I know of boys or men who are good at cooking, washing, changing diapers and what have you. I know of ladies who are terrific in investments, banking, managing cars. Both men and women have picked up activities or chores which were supposedly specific gender dominated. I know of a family where a teenage daughter is equally comfortable with both her parents to discuss her monthly women related issues. It is about the convenience, availability of time that will decide the work. If it is easy for the lady to give the car for servicing she should and will do it. As against this, the man may have to take a long detour to a service station on his way to the office. The child is unwell; whoever has a more relaxed schedule on that day should take up the responsibility. The child has a fever; both parents can and should share night vigil. Our daughter used to wake up early every day when she was a baby. Since I am an early riser, I would spend time with her in those days. It was no big deal. Neither the male is helping, nor the female is assisting. Both are taking equal and joint responsibility for the smooth running of the home ecosystem.

It is well proven that females can take up tough jobs. What can be the way forward to change the societal thinking from a patriarchal society to a society which will give equal importance to both the genders?

The discussion reminds me of the famous idiom, “Child is the Father of the Man.” It is a line from the famous poem by William Wordsworth, “My heart leaps up when I behold the rainbow in the sky!” What does the idiom mean? We pick up all the traits from our personality as children. As the child becomes a man, many characteristics continue to be as they were in childhood. Hence the poet has used the metaphor “Child is the Father of the Man.”

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I thought it is important to share the meaning of the word progenitor: A person or thing from which a person, animal, or plant is descended or originates; an ancestor or parent.

Parents need to take special care to imbibe a thought process which emphasises the equality of genders. At the same time, the child should be explained the biological difference between genders. These differences are natural, and there is nothing to be ashamed or proud of the difference. The male child likes to play war games, dinky cars and female child plays with dolls and house. Nature has created them to think and behave in that manner. But if a girl wants to play war games and a boy wants to play with dolls, it is ok. But chores in the house should be equally shared. I remember an incident that had happened ages back. We had gone for lunch at a friends house. After lunch, my son who was seven years old then, picked up the used plate and asked the lady where he should keep it? The lady said, “My child, you are lucky to be born a boy; these things for girls and not for boys!” If the child is brought up in this manner, then the boys will always be “helping”!

My friends, many times, the odd behaviour that we see in society is dependent on how you bring up the child! To me I think Neeta and Deepak are a perfect couple, Neeta only needs to brush up her English. Then she would say, “Oh, he is such a great friend and shares all the chores with me! Without him, I don’t know how I would have managed to juggle between career, the daughter and home.” Deepak would then give her a  double thumbs up!

What to do with galloping Technology?

Exponential

The curve above is representative of how technology is developing at a breakneck speed. The title is neither a rhetorical question nor a controversial statement. This thought came to my mind while I was reading about the galloping speed of progress in many areas the humans are making. In the movie “Back to the Future” (1985) the person goes back to the year 1955 using a time machine. The differences he sees are interesting but not surprising. There was nothing exceptionally different or path-breaking in those 30 years. Had the movie been produced in 2015, the time machine would have taken the person to 1985, with 30-year logic. That change would have been exceptional for the person to guess!  What is the meaning of life with no PC’s, no Cell phones, no Internet, no WA, no FB? The person would not believe that life only 30 years back was so different.  

Just imagine that a human being was transported from 12000 years back, pre-farming era, to the year 1500. The cities, the carriageways, farming equipment would be such a big change that this person suddenly exposed to so many changes, might die of shock. A person from the year 1500, will be reasonably shocked to be taken to the year 1750 but he won’t die! How much change can human mind accept and absorb at a time? The rate of change is really galloping in the recent past. Change from the year 1500 to the year 1750 and the change from 1750 to 2015 cannot be compared. Change of scene that we see in the year 2015 compared to the year 1985 is really vast. But the human mind will not be able to accept changes from 1750 to 2015, the person could also simply die! It initially took 12000 plus years for such deadly changes to occur but later it took only 250 plus years for similar deadly changes. We can call such changes as “Deadly Change” (DC).

This comparison tells us that the rate of change is dependent on how advanced the society is at that time, it is the datum level that is important. For obvious reasons, we see terrific changes happening in the Bay area in the USA. We know that such change was happening in the area of Electronics, Computers and the Internet; but along with these changes, it appears that this area may also surge ahead in Car manufacturing as indicated by Tesla! We really don’t know where Apple and Google are the car domain but one thing is sure, they have technical wherewithal, passion and money. All changes are not DC type but the rate of change is galloping.  

If such changes have happened in the first 18 years of 21st century itself, what is lying ahead, we simply do not know. The changes that happened between the year 2000 to the year 2015 could get squeezed to seven years between the year 2015 and year 2022! Enormous changes can happen initially in 7 seven years, then in 3 years and then one year and then one month and then one day! Friends you may think that Pramod is dreaming and writing a fictional scenario of how things will change. But I get a feeling that changes that are going to happen in future will take an exponential curve.

The curve shown above displays the rapid speed at which things are moving.

  1. The rate of change can be represented up to the year 2000 by the slope at value –1 on X axis! What we are going to get in future will be slope after that! The high growth slope at +1 value is due to Microsoft, Google, Facebook coming in the picture during that time period between years 2000 and 2005. 
  2. Our historical perspective has been up to –1 value so we keep on thinking and expecting that the change will always be gradual and slow!  
  3. We are “Old people” of the gone era and I am talking of people in 50’s too! We are stubborn and we say that change can happen only so fast! How can change happen exponentially?  

But something is already happening in the background; you, me and the general public think that AI is something that is shown in Sci-Fi movies. It is for graduate students to take up the projects as a requirement, it is not real life! When we talk of AI, we always think of Robots; Robots are containers for AI stuff. AI is the brain and Robots is the body. When we talk of AI, we always think of computers but do not forget that another area which is making progress in leaps and bounds is biotechnology. The progress in this area is the result of tremendous progress made in the last 30 years; along with this terrific progress is made in the medical field too! These technologies are going to be the drivers of rapid change.

All this lead leads to a question of how much is the shelf life of technology? To me, some will evolve slowly and the concept will continue for a long time. For example, aeroplanes. Aeroplanes have been there for more than hundred years, only major has been jet engine! But no other path-breaking stuff is visualized. The telephone also has been around for a similar time but this technology has also changed slowly. The change now is faster after cell phones arrived on the scene. But now cell phone is really evolving in a different animal, fast! It is getting converted into a personal tool which might do everything for you, from phones to camera, to photo repository, to the music system, to chat system, to a chequebook and a bank! This change has really happened fast in the last 15 years and what form and shape it will take, only God knows. 

Biotechnology and medical fields are progressing rapidly! Last hundred years have seen some major breakthroughs in reining in epidemics. People dying in hundreds of thousands or in millions due to illnesses,  was a norm, in old days! There was plague, there was black death. The systems and the doctors just could not contain them and the way was you die or you run away elsewhere! Medicines and cures were, more prayer and faith-based than science-based. Last fifty years have seen the dramatic change in this scenario; when AIDs became rampant, doctors found basic details about it, in 2 years and now they know that it is an Auto Immune thing and per se is not as dangerous as it looks. A person with AIDs dies with other infections! Had AIDs appeared 500 years back, half the then population of the world could have been wiped out. Ebola came but was reasonably well controlled, quickly!  

This speed is good for humans but technology changes in day to day stuff can be difficult to handle with galloping speed. We have seen in front of our eyes, pagers come and go, so did fax! Cameras with the film are a history and music pieces can be composed in two different continents and a song gets created in the third continent.  

Some of these changes, humans will handle well and others can be tough to absorb. The working population will have to get themselves reskilled every ten years (am I too optimistic?) or perish. You can’t become a banker and a chartered accountant and work lifelong in the same career. Block Chain technology may eliminate such concepts! Experts may make a lot of money by the time they are 40 and may want to retire! And do what? Some young friends of ours are already contemplating this scenario.

Average Deepak or a John did not have face Cancer or Heart Attack because he never lived that long. With better products, diagnostics tools,  and cures, better solutions from biotechnology, the lifespan of Deepak and John is increasing rapidly. With better cures, these dangerous diseases are also more controllable and many times curable. Now more people die of old age instead of dying due to illnesses.  

Friends, I am very positive that humans will find a way to handle these galloping changes but some thoughts and concepts will change on their heads! Don’t be surprised if you meet a banker friend of yours after ten years and find him growing organic farms or has become potter of beautiful ceramics! We always find our path, some find it quickly, some find it late and some don’t find at all! Darwin’s theory of “Survival of the fittest” is one thing that will never change!  

 

 

 

Faith or Facts?

Discussions are always going on about how advanced science and technology was in our old civilization; there have been references like use of Pushpak Viman by Lord Ram. Honestly, one does not really know how to handle such discussions. Discussions about old civilizations are mainly based on religious dialogues and sentiments. Religion is a matter of faith not knowledge. When you try to marry the two there is confusion. This issue is perhaps there, in every faith. However, the problem is accentuated, when to this mismatch of knowledge and religion, politics is added. 

Tripura Chief Minister  Biplab Kumar Deo made a statement that there was internet during Mahabharata. Mr. Deb is not the first politician to claim that modern day technology existed in mythology. In January, Satyapal Singh, a junior education minister in PM Modi’s cabinet, criticized the theory of evolution, claiming “nobody saw apes turn into human“. In February, he said mantras‘ had codified Newton’s Laws of Motion. 

Now this is a topic that is always going to generate heat, and heat it is generating. What is correct and what is wrong is individual choice; this sometimes is blinded by faith, every body has his own justification and thought process. Probably it starts with people who are totally religious and those who are atheist! Two ends of the spectrum. Most will be in between. But the thought process about mythology depends on whether you are scientific minded or not. Those with scientific mind will heat everything in the crucible of thought and analysis. It is possible  that for some people who are trained in science still may not want to analyze it scientifically. It is the faith element in those persons which is stronger that the analytical part. 

But do we make fun of people who have stronger belief in faith than in thinking logically? Do we say something which we normally don’t say to each other? No way! Let us be fair to each other. You may try and have a dialogue with such people, try to explain to them your point of view if it is different. It is normal way of life, we have difference of opinion on a subject. Why should there be excitement in saying or writing on such issues?  

But then another thought comes to my mind. I tend more towards atheism and I am also trained in science side of life and have been working all my life in the same area. So my mind veers towards analyzing everything, including religious things. There have been many inventions that were claimed to exist during times of our old civilization. But I feel that this thought process is made by people who believe in it and is presented to suit and strengthen their arguments. These and many more abstracted truisms are just based on optical and physical observations and concentrated analytical thinking, in olden times. The disadvantage these people had was that they had to study without the help of instruments, now available to the scientists! So, we can claim that we knew about a lot about things terrestrial but I do not think we knew real details! Another thought that always comes to mind is that written records of history are a recent phenomena, compared to the time frame of our civilization. I am really not sure about the authenticity of the records, as there have been no written records. All the knowledge, information was passed on verbally to next generation. Similar was the case of other sciences like medical treatments. The quality of passing of this knowledge depended on the person who passed on the knowledge and the person who received the knowledge. In Marathi, there is saying ध चा मा! A king gave an order to his juniors to arrest someone; one change in the alphabet in that order, indicated by ध चा मा, ended up killing that person instead of being arrested. These small errors could have multiplied as the knowledge was passed on from generation to generation, in absence of written records. This is profoundly reflected in Ayurveda. Ayurveda had an advantage of being around for a long time, compared to other medical pathys. But in absence of such record keeping, many good treaties and treatments may have been lost or got diluted. This of course, is another subject for discussion because Ayurveda fell behind later due to lack of research. 

I must write about how people go overboard about things supposedly present during mythological times. Lord Rama started to go to Ayodhya from Sri Lanka, after killing Ravana, on Dussara day. When he reached Ayodhya, people were ready to celebrate the event by putting lights or Diya’s everywhere! Of course, I am talking of Diwali. They said that this is the reason Diwali is celebrated 21 days after Dussera, time taken by Ram to reach Ayodhya from Srilanka. There was a google map in circulation,  showing the path followed by Lord Ram to reach in 21 days. It was straight as an arrow passing through jungles and mountains and crossing large rivers. We find it difficult even today, to traverse certain paths with modern roads and vehicles but… Secondly, how were people in Ayodhya ready for the arrival? Internet, cell phone, of course we had them during those days.

Ex Police Commissioner of Mumbai and now a Junior minister, Satyapal Singh says that Darwin’s theory is meaning less because he has never seen apes getting converted into humans. Now when people like an ex commissioner of police of Mumbai and chief minister of the state say such things for political purpose, it is more of an embarrassment and not correct. Of course we can then say that Dhritrashtra was getting all the information from the war zone, sitting in his palace, by live streaming! I am ok with someone who says that my life is better if everyday I go to a mandir! Perfect, nothing wrong in that. It is the faith of that person. If someone claims that his life better as he chants mantras every day, I am ok. He says these things after the event! Someone’s belief in faith is acceptable. But the above mentioned statements by Ministers, are rather difficult to digest, freedom of speech and all count but there has to be some logic behind what one claims. 

I met a person recently who was doing some archeological study in interior of our country. After digging deep they found some artifacts which were probably 2000 years old. I asked him what was his conclusion. He said, that they concluded the old civilization definitely had WiFi during those days because they did not find anything like cables etc!