Freedom and Responsibility!


Freedom means the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Responsibility means the state or fact of being accountable, or to accept blame for something. We hear these words regularly, especially regarding the Press or the digital media. In the autocratic regimes, the word freedom is meaningless as everything right or wrong is decided by the governments. In a democracy, there are disputes about these words. Freedom is well explained by a funny anecdote. A Russian and an American are discussing freedom of expression in their countries. The American says, “In my country, I can bad mouth our President. Most likely, I will get away with it.” The Russian smiles and says, “We also have equal freedom in my country. I can curse the American President anytime. I will definitely get away with it.”

Two important events took place recently in India and the United States of America, the two largest democracies in the world. In India, the Press Trust of India published a news item; they interviewed the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi. In the interview, the Ambassador made a one-sided statement and blamed the Indian Government for the fracas that took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese Army at Galwan. PTI gave this news. With the current strong sentiments against China, Prasar Bharati, a government-controlled news agency, blamed PTI. They said that PTI published a news item which is anti-India. PTI is a cooperative which gives the yeomen service of news collection and distribution. It is established as a reliable news agency. Prasar Bharati pays about Rs.6.5/ crores (65 million) to PTI as its contribution every year. If Prasar Bharati breaks the pact with PTI, PTI will be in big trouble, financially.

The second event took place in the US. Based on the policies of Facebook, Coca Cola, Nike, and many other companies decided to stop advertising on Facebook. The reason was the policy about banning hate speeches or about the false news. FB started censoring hate speeches after Floyd episode, but they did not act on similar statements or expressions made by President Trump. Their argument was that when the President says something, it is a policy matter for the nation. Should the President’s policy statements be banned? So according to them, it was important news. But FB business is entirely dependent on the advertisements given by organisations like Nike and Coca Cola. Ultimately they have toed the line, and now Trump hate speeches also get banned.

It is a very critical situation, and honestly, I may not have the right answers. In the complex world, the news gets gathered in different ways. There are rules and regulations which many follow, but some do not comply. What is right or wrong, history will judge. It is a well-known fact that newspapers, news sites, TV channels have corporate policies. These policies are based on the “corporate board” or the owner. The news items will show the “colour” approved by the top bosses. In crude language, the entities are sold. So when you hop from A to B to C, we see different versions of the same news. At the end of the day, an average person gets confused. Then there are mouthpieces owned by some political parties. Mouthpieces “advice” the world on subjects of how to run the country. They teach the generals how to fight a war in the harsh terrain of Himalayas. It is okay if their party cannot run a city government efficiently. Such editors, the anchors of news channels and the “analysts” of all hues always ride on a high horse. For them, everything is one article away or one grilling interview away.

I am not saying that we should ban these entities. They have a definite role to play in a democracy. Many valuable news items that remain hidden in the debris of news that gets generated. Some organisations, some authorities or governments are trying to hide them. Investigative journalism helps bring out many such hidden items. Bofors case during Rajeev Gandhi’s time was a classic case which needed to be exposed. Such exposes are necessary for any society and must be brought out. Even this one example that I have quoted can become controversial because of the people connected with Rajeev Gandhi, and his party will not like what I have written. My idea is not to write something sensational or controversial but to try and analyse the need for such investigations. The investigations, in my opinion, are an essential part of our society. But I want to share a couple of stories that I saw on a news channel.

There was a piece of top breaking news sensationalising the failure of the central Government to procure sixty thousand ventilators in time. A tender was floated for this item and orders were placed on 14th May to be completed by 30th June. Ventilators till then, were all imported. Due to Corona pandemic, it would have been challenging to get them from abroad. Many companies developed them quickly, locally. Based on the feedback of their capabilities, orders were placed for fifty thousand ventilators. By 30th June only one company supplied its quota, and all others failed due to various reasons.

A highly complex product was being tried by Indian companies, including some large organisations. But they collectively were unable to supply their quota within a stipulated time. Now the news headline is “Government failed to procure ventilators on time.” Twenty thousand ventilators were procured, and the completion date was 30th June. The news item was discussed on 5th July. One company completed its quota and must have told the news channel that we have no orders though we have completed our contract. (This company can supply 2500 ventilators per month) The news channel generalised the news and blamed it on the Government. The last date for completion was 30th June, the performance needs to be analysed. Based on this data, the new orders can be placed. TRP, jingoism, channel policy? Your decision, friends.

The same channel has this story about a COVID patient who died because the Ambulance came late. Bangalore has suddenly seen the surge of COVID patients. Ambulances have a protocol that after each COVID patient is taken in the vehicle, it is thoroughly disinfected and sanitised. Bangalore is not geared up for the surge; hence there is a shortage of ambulances. The Ambulance reached the home and was told to park away from their home. It was done to avoid neighbours knowing about Corona infection. Is Corona infection a stigma? The patient tried to walk towards the Ambulance. Half-way through he collapsed and died! So much for delay caused by the Ambulance. But the story continued in the same vein on the channel.

Why sensationalise something when there is no sensation? Could TRP be the only reason? Or the ego does not allow these channels to say, “Oh! Sorry, it was our mistake.” They are never wrong!

After writing the piece, I am still confused! What is important, the news or a piece of suitable news? Ultimately, FB and Twitter of this world check for the hate speech using algorithms. Algorithm before Trump episode condoned the President even if he promoted hate speech or shared the fake news. Specifications for the algorithms are written by a human being who follows the company policies. Is sharing the Chinese Ambassador’s blaming India right thing or it should be treated as anti-national? If political parties keep bickering about everything in this world, how the generated news should be treated? They talk against the Prime Minister of the country as well as the armed forces. Should this be treated as treason? I am not sure. The jury is still out!


Should we really bother?

There is a news item in today’s newspaper that Twitter had suspended the Twitter account of Amul for some time, yesterday. The reason was that the above advertisements did not fit into the policies of Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are two mediums which have become popular as social media apps. There are many differences in traditional media and these new social media apps. Unless we understand the differences, it will be difficult to understand the impact of specific policies and decisions. I am not sure if the image below reflects the correct media status.


Creation and dissemination of content done by traditional Media are based on the principle of one-to-many. An editor decides what news, which news reports should be published in the day’s newspaper or which stories should be telecast in the next bulletin is. The news consumers that is the readers and viewers have no role to play in the creation or dissemination of content.

Social Media, in contrast, is a media that works on the principle of many-to-many. Any individual can create and share content. It makes the content creation process more democratic.

Focus or purpose of social media is a media where people come to interact with friends, relatives, acquaintances etc. It need not be news-based. A tiny part of the Social Media universe is devoted to the creation or dissemination of news.

Traditional media is primarily a news media. It has traditionally performed the function of gathering and disseminating news, and continues to do so.

That is why the two media are like chalk and cheese.

Interactivity: Social Media allows users to comment on content created by their friends, relatives or peer group. No Big Brother is watching you. All comments are in real-time. They enrich published content and empower people to share views.

Traditional media is tightly controlled. All communication is one-way: from the editor to the readers. The most that a reader can hope is to get a letter published in the Letters column of the newspaper. There is no guarantee as to how much of the message will be edited before it is published. This interactivity is even more limited in the case of television.

I will share with you an interesting story about two news items published in Pune’s Daily Sakal. These stories are from the late ’80s of the last century. Two professors from the Fergusson college had fought in the college, yes it was physical slapping and all. Sakal published it on the first page with their names. The reason was one of the professors had an affair with the others’ wife. There was another news on the same page; another “Maramari” (fisty cuff) that took place in a washroom area of a Latif’s restaurant in the camp area. The fight was between two ex mayors of the city. One of them was drunk and passed lewd remarks about the other person’s wife. Now both these items were on the first page of Sakal with biggish headlines. Both news items had become public since a police case was registered in both cases. But the names of the ex mayors were not printed. I saw this anomaly and as a naïve person wrote a letter to the editor of Sakal. I said, “Both these news items were in the public domain, but you have published the names of the professors but not of the ex mayors. Since you call yourself a fearless newspaper, at least publish my letter.” I dropped the letter in their letterbox. That was the end of the story. So much for the fearlessness!

Speed: Social Media is instant. Reports published on Social Media sites can be accessed instantly.

Traditional media takes time to disseminate information. In the case of newspapers, this is limited to once a day; television or radio can update reports more frequently. But they cannot match the speed of Social Media unless they go live.

Why so?

Cost of creation: It costs a small fortune to set up a newspaper, radio or television station. Few individuals can, therefore, hope to become publishers.

Social Media platforms allow free posting of content. Anyone can, therefore, become a publisher or broadcaster.

Reach and numbers: The reach of Social Media is staggering. It connects billions of individuals across the globe.

In contrast, the reach of traditional media is limited to the number of readers or viewers that individual newspapers or channels may have.

Now that we have understood the similarities and difference, we can understand the issues involved.

A couple of events occurred in the last couple of weeks on Tweeter. Tweeter marked one of the tweets by President Trump with a caution note. As expected, Trump and his team were furious.

Twitter highlighted two of Trump’s tweets that falsely claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, appending a message the company has introduced to combat misinformation and disputed or unverified claims.

“Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” read the message beneath each tweet. It linked to a curated fact-check page the platform had created filled with further links and summaries of news articles debunking the assertion.

Twitter said the move was aimed at providing “context” around Trump’s remarks. But Twitter’s unprecedented decision has raised further questions about its willingness to apply the label to other Trump tweets consistently. The tweets have been deemed misleading by third parties, particularly as the president has lobbed baseless allegations against former Rep. Joe Scarborough regarding the death of a congressional staffer years ago.

Does this mean that all Tweets published by Trump before were with no issues? He has 55 million followers on Tweeter, and he is using Tweeter for keeping in touch with his electorate and followers. He and his team have understood the dynamics of the Tweeter handle so well that he has milked it to his advantage.

But what happened suddenly to the dynamics between Tweeter and Trump’s team? Why did the labelling suddenly start? Let me tell you how the “labelling” or the locking of accounts is done. They have an algorithm to track the content of what people write. The policy is decided by the “management” or in this case of Dorsey- Twitter boss! Dorsey has said in an interview that he thinks left of centre about the world. Trump is a showcase right-winger always discretely talking of white supremacy. What took so long for Dorsey to change Twitter policies? Now, do you understand why Twitter locked the account of Amul? It was about discretely pushing Indian products as against the Chinese ones. After all, Amul is our most reliable brand, so why not? And it was not about politics. But then the algorithm is a tool written by a company and by a group of people. Naturally, it has its leanings; in the current case to the left!

But should we bother so much about Twitters and Facebooks of this world? They only publish whatever you and I write; they do not have their views. The algorithm does what it is told to do- and it is created to push Dorsey’s views. But Zuckerberg is even worse. He is endorsing Trumps’ views by not saying or doing anything about Trumps’ vitriolic statements or is behaving like Daily Sakal! When Facebook has so much power, their “not saying anything” against Trump is as good as endorsing it! The latest news is that FB has finally removed Trump’s campaign video where he is trying to use “Floyd” protests to advantage- on one side he is calling the army and wants to crush the demonstrations!

Should we really bother about Twitter and FB? I do not think so! These apps are not the creators of news like Newspapers and TV channels. These are used by you and me to share our views. But apps have a responsibility, and writing algorithms is their prerogative, and these will be decided by company policy! They are NOT creating false news, but anybody can try to create false interpretations or views of real matters. Trump’s video is an attempt to create content on Twitter! So who cares? But newspapers and TV have to care. As per the current trend, the advertisements are getting diverted to social media, print and TV media better be careful.

 




Social Distancing! Become an Ostrich!

SD2

Someone hiding their head in the sand, like an ostrich is said to be foolishly ignoring their problem, while hoping it will magically vanish. The ostrich does many things, but hiding its head in the sand is not one of them. Coronavirus situation tells us to metaphorically become an Ostrich and quarantine ourselves.

But in today’s scenario of Coronavirus pandemic, becoming an ostrich is not such a bad thing. Hide from social contacts, avoid gatherings-and sincerely hope that the problem goes away on its own.

To make this a better world, we always say that become social, (but not a social animal), meet more people and so on. But the current situation tells the human race to become incommunicado, physically!

Every society is fluid, and each generation has a new way of doing things. In my grandparents time more than a hundred year ago, the socialising was done a different way than what we do today. In those days, people found various ways of meeting each other, but these occasions were religious. You got invited to attend a pooja. Then there were some occasions where husband-wife were invited for lunch to satisfy some deity. Then in our parents times, there were different occasions for inviting people. But they were less religious.

In today’s times, the occasions have become celebratory. Birthday’s, promotions, wedding anniversary, 70th  birthday, and so on. Many times people are just invited, there may not be any occasion! But Coronavirus brought a new concept of social distancing!

Social distancing encompasses non-pharmaceutical measures for controlling the transmission of infectious disease through a reduction in the frequency of physical contact between individuals. Large-scale methods of social distancing include public education on hygiene and cough etiquette.

From social animal of the 21st century to social distancing is a big leap. Coronavirus has created significant turmoil in the world after the proliferation of social media. We have twitter, WA, Facebook and online news; the Internet facilitated most of these.

Coronavirus issue started in China. Even China, with its dictatorial regime, could not hide what was happening in China. News started trickling out, and over time China began to give official figures. Okay, nobody is sure how much suppression China has done about the real spread. But the first new phrase that started being used was Lock Down, in social context! After that, another term that is being used is social distancing. But what is social distancing besides the way it is defined above? I have made interpretation suitable for Jaya and me. We are both around 70, so complete lockdown makes a lot of sense. But there are questions galore. What should different age groups do? Who decides that? Oh, simple! WHO (the United Nations body) decides this. They give advisories, and it is a good idea to follow them. Here is the usual disclaimer, I am not a doctor, and I don’t understand much health sciences. But I am going to use common sense to discuss further.

Children are young and innocent. What happens if they play together? With schools closed, how to keep them busy?

All said and done, any human being who can move out of home independently is a potential carrier. Keeping children busy is the family’s job, so do it. It is frustrating to be with them all the time. It is tiring too! If you are lucky and can work from home, you need to explain to your kids the importance of not mixing with other kids. Howsoever frustrating it maybe you are responsible for their health and avoiding the spread in society.

89519190_10158531823223352_3913660541842751488_o

I have borrowed the above graph from someones Facebook post. We should attempt to reach graph B. In the case of graph A, there is a sudden increase in number of cases. The graph B can be achieved by correct lockdown! There is a reason. Assume that Coronavirus spread has just started in your city. The government gives suggestions, puts banners about social distancing. The real results are seen after about four weeks and after that. If your city follows the social distancing or lockdown rules seriously, the chances of more cases get reduced. You may have ¼, ½, ¾, 7/8th  lockdown. These figures mean that these many people (one in four to seven in eight) from the population have gone into social distancing mode. Since China was the first country to face this, they took some time to understand the importance of social distancing. Hence before they knew what hit them, the pandemic spread exponentially- means more and more people got affected rapidly. The more the numbers means more carriers and chances of spread are very high.

In India, we are still in phase one. If we rapidly go into social distancing, the spread will happen at a slower rate and tapering off will be faster. It will also ensure that a small number of people are affected. Please understand that it depends on us, the government can only be a facilitator, but we must act.

I am writing below some scenarios in QA format for the ease of understanding.

Should I limit my physical interaction with my partner and family members?

As far as possible avoid but if all of you are under the same lockdown, then maybe it is okay.

Should I avoid common spaces in my apartment?

Yes and no. If you must go then go at a time when not many people are around, say 6 am. But avoid touching the surfaces like benches.

Should I avoid haircut?

It is a tricky one. But if you can discuss with your hairdresser, and suggest to him the use of sanitisers, disinfectants and provided he shows no symptoms you get the hair cut but reduce frequency.

Should I stop visiting elderly relatives?

Yes, definitely. Since this group is the most susceptible, they should be allowed more quarantine. You could be a carrier. Or maybe you designate someone from the family, and only that person should visit if the person is without symptoms.

We, siblings, are all 70 plus, should we meet once in a while if we have no symptoms?

Honestly speaking, you should avoid meeting if you are living separately. You are in the most susceptible range.

Should we cancel wedding receptions or birthday parties?

It is better to err on the safer side. There could be pregnant women too, who are equally susceptible. In large gatherings, it is not practical to ask everybody about the health condition.

Should I avoid public transport?

Yes, if it is possible. Anyway, avoid going out. But if you must, you may think of using Uber etc.

I am healthy and young. Should I go to bars?

I would say no. Your condition would be helpful, and you may not get infected. Your body will fight the virus quickly. But you could become a carrier and may become a party to spreading the virus.

What items should I store for emergencies?

Store routine eating stuff, medicines and paracetamol, drug suggested for Coronavirus. But definitely don’t horde toilet paper! Why normal people behave in a funny manner is difficult to explain. I have read enough toilet paper stories from the world over. Let the system stabilise for the new norms. Grocery, pharmacies, hospitals and all essential services are going to remain open!

From IT, many companies are telling their people to work from home. In Pune, Tata Motors became the first engineering company that allowed their purchase team to work from home. Working from home is an excellent concept if people work sincerely and earnestly. I hear from many that people take disadvantage of this concept, sometimes. The current pandemic is a unique opportunity for IT companies to study the “working from home” concept in details. They may realise that in normal circumstances too, xx percentage of people could always work from home. If the current scenario continues for an extended period, new SOP’s (standard operating procedures) could be created, and these people could be asked to work from home, always. It could be an excellent cost-saving for businesses as they will need smaller buildings, and people will drive less. It will be useful for the environment. There will be many such advantages.

After all, the  Ostrich will be not be hiding his head in the sand. It is putting it’s thinking cap on!

Happy New Year 2020!

The favourite blogs, yours and mine!  

Happy new year to all of you! 

HNY

Retrospection is my favourite activity! WordPress site where I publish my blogs has an excellent statistical tool! I was going through the data, and it gave me surprises! So, I will share with you the information about which blogs have been favourite among the readers. Along with that, I will also share my favourite blogs! Along with the link, I will write briefly, the background behind writing these blogs! In the link, you can see when the blog was published. The blogs I wrote about personalities are of course my favourite, as they were written from the bottom of my heart. For example those on Shashi Kapoor, My Rakhi Sister Pratibha, Maheshbhai, Manas Sen!

Your favourites: 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/paranormal-behavior-or-angat-yene-or-devi-ana/ 

The most favourite blog of all my blogs! It is way ahead of others. I attended a family puja. During this event, hymn chanting was going on. One of the middle-aged ladies from the family started swaying to the rhythm of the hymns and the music played! In Marathi/Hindi, it is called “Angat Yene or Devi Ana!” I had always thought it happens in the case of ladies from different strata; I thought that they mostly did it for money! But this lady continued to do it till the music stopped! She was tired after the music stopped and was profusely sweating when the event was over. The top viewership is a surprise to me.  

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/moving-ranges-of-diabetes/ 

I am not surprised that this one is liked by many. Our health is an essential aspect of our life! So people were interested in the subject. There was a lot of discussion on this blog. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-i/ 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-ii/ 

I published these two blogs on two consecutive daysThese are about the saga in my friend, Prakash Nirgudkar aka, Pakya’s life! I wish nobody has ever to go through the health issues that Prakash had gone through, ever! But at the same time, the events proved the saying, “When going gets tough, the tough get going!” The way Prakash and his family handled the situation, we must read to believe. I am sure not many could have dealt with this situation, the way Nirgudkars did! Prakash was an epitome of patience and courage! The world where people like Prakash are around, can not be evil 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/parijatak-%e0%a4%89%e0%a4%b0%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%ab-nyctanthes-arbor-tristis/ 

The above blog is written almost five years back. I had started taking my baby steps in blogging. I was naive at that time! I was more like the Parijatak tree! My thoughts were not very fluent in those days, nor my writing. But now I realise that this one is one of my better blogsIt shows because many people are still reading it! If the world is full of people who are like Parijatak, I would never want to leave this world! It is called Shefalika in Sanskrit and Harsingar in Hindi! We find Parijatak is found in many states in India. There must be reason for it! God wanted to spread its simplicity, fragrance and low cost of ownership! If the humans in India follow these traitsthen our country will be in a perpetual state of bliss. 

My favourites: 

For me, it is tough decision to decide which blogs I like the best! It is like asking a mother which child do you love the most? But when I write something spontaneously, I like it the best! There are many such blogs. I will share a few with you. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/dance-of-civilization/ 

The blog is my most favourite one for a specific reason. From this blog onwards, I started getting a good feel of how to write blogs. For me, this was the changing moment. I used to take my granddaughter Rhea to Vitthal Mandir near our home to play; she was two years old then. I could reach it in a couple of minutes. But with Rhea around, we would take ten to fifteen minutes. I started looking at the world from her eyes and perspective! started looking at the civilisation differently. The blog gave me great satisfaction on completion. I hope you also will like it. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/turn-into-cotton/ 

The blog is based on a poem by Kedarnath Singh. The subject of going back to roots is explained very well in the poemWe do a lot of work in certain areas, and the time comes for us to withdrawIt is not very easy to walk in reverse. In the poem, the poet uses mattress and cotton as perfect metaphors.  

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/01/12/%e0%a4%ad%e0%a4%be%e0%a4%a4%e0%a5%81%e0%a4%95%e0%a4%b2%e0%a5%80%e0%a4%9a%e0%a4%be-%e0%a4%96%e0%a5%87%e0%a4%b3-winding-down/ 

The blog is about changing our thought process as we growHumans remain entangled in life and don’t keep away from the life of their children. We must do it. When our time to go from this earth, we anyway have to withdraw. We are automatically removed, whether we like it or not! So, why not get into withdrawal mode step by step? These steps make life smoother for both you and your children!  

 https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/01/06/quis-custodiet-ipsos-custodes-who-will-guard-the-guards/ 

The current state of the nation is well-explained by using lyrics of the famous Hindi song, “Chingari Koi Bhadke”! It talks about the guards who are supposed to guard us! But who will guard the guards, if they don’t do what they are supposed to do! 

Friends, as usual, please share your comments.  From my archive list on the blog page, you can see the list of blogs. Let me know which blogs are your favourites.  

What is my new year resolution? As usual no resolution! The world is full of good, bad and the ugly. But I think how you see, how you behave, how you react to something shows you the proverbial mirror! I hope the god gives me the strength to see good, behave decently, and react correctly. Bad and ugly part these are days is because of the anonymity of social media. Twitter is a classic example of what I am saying. The messages can be sent very quickly on twitter. I see many bad and ugly things said on twitter about good people like Harsha Bhogale and Anand Mahindra. By doing this, these people are showing bright light on their own face and are exposed.

May God bless all!

 

Social Media, a re-look!  

 

Social4In the last decade or so, we don’t even know when we were caught in the tsunami of the social media world. Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and their brethren invaded our lifeSuddenly we realised that it was okay if we did not have food or something to drink. It was okay if there were no tea or AC! But lack of internet or connectivity for short duration gave us a feeling as if we were getting drowned. We felt claustrophobic due to the absence of those few vertical lines or if the page took “time” to get loaded. The delay, mind you, was sometimes ten seconds. Oh, my God! Ten seconds, somebody call an ambulance, please. Get me admitted to a hospital. I might die! (Hopefully, hospital wi-fi is working)!  

But Social media now is becoming too toxic for me to handle. The quality of debate and discussion is unfortunate, to say the least, the pitch is too shrill and most posts are driven by nothing but the spirit of oneupmanship. The world was full of issues and problems even before social media. We discussed issues animatedly. But when we are face to face with anyone, we stay within limits of decency. The leading cause is that the discussion is not anonymous. Very rarely, we crossed the threshold of decency. 

I look around and my friends, family and real people who I deal with on a day to day basis continue to be what they were. Their identity to me is the role they play in my life and this world, the work that they do and the kind of human beings they are. I have never been bothered by their religion, caste, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity and other famous labels of identity. I don’t apply any of these to define my identity, other than gender; I see as something of consequence but also hope that someday even that will not matter. The world that I exist in is real. It’s not always positive or hunkydory. But it does not allow for such toxic behaviour and effort to prove a point and put the other down.    

We may be divided by opinions and beliefs, but we all still need to find a way to agree to disagree gracefully. My way or highway attitude of selfproclaimed knowalls in my friends’ list and on my timeline is beyond my capacity to bear. Why is this so?  It is because now my “friends” are called “friends” because Facebook says so! I have no qualms in becoming “friends” with people. Since last few years, I have stopped sending friend requests to people! Still, my friends list grew by onethird of what I had before. Why did it happen? In trigonometry, there is a termThe function of a function is a composite function. I got requests from a long-lost person, spouse or son or a daughter of someone! It would have been impolite not to accept such requests! But out of my list, I interact with less than five per cent people sometimes, or at least once in a while! Out of these five per cent, at least half are my family or reallife friends whom I meet face to face. Majority of the other I may not ever meet them face to face barring some quirk of destiny. It is because we move in different “Solar Systems” of life! Currently, my usage of social media is regular as I use it to publish my blogs. But other than blogs, I do not use it much.  

I have no qualms in admitting that some issues need more nuanced understanding than others; some are guided by individual perspective and one’s experience. As responsible, citizens we should not believe everything that the powers that be tell us, we should also not write off everything with cynicism and prejudice. But most of all we need to connect with our circles, our people, our neighbours, our colleagues, our acquaintances and realise that we breathe, drink, eat, feel and act to sustain the same struggle of life. These relationships are the ones that matter, and if we can make this struggle easier for each other, we need not fear and frenzy about the rest of the things. We should ignore the posts of people who write toxic things, both for or against everything. The toxicity is the result of anonymity! I am sure these persons will not be as toxic in real life, as their writing.  

Social media and media, in general, is creating a smokescreen which I can’t breathe through at the moment. I feel like a word of caution is required for all who want to express every thought, opinion, support, protest and brainwave like it needs to be broadcasted. There are some very sensible people out there too! Harsha Bhogale, the cricket commentator, tweets only about cricket. He is an expert in that field and never replies to anything toxic to get into controversy; very rarely he has written about issues not related to cricket like he has written today. 

I read tweets by  Anand Mahindra, which are interesting, funny and down to earth. But these are never controversial. Those who don’t know Anand Mahindra, he is the chairman of Mahindra group. But from his communications, you will feel as if he is like you and me! But there are many like film stars, who communicate on subjects which are well beyond the scope of their expertise. Many people want their opinions on BJP and Congress, CAA and NRC! They are not in this field so they should not express their ideas in the public domain, on an unrelated subject. Such bytes create easily avoidable controversies and toxicity!  

So I find that there are poisonous people and toxic people. Then there are idiots. Like I read a post by someone who is a senior working officer in the armed forces. He has written a post on Facebook wall praising a close relative for taking part in protesting about the current hot political topic; his language was vicious. It is sheer stupidity. Even though he is working in government, our democracy allows him to have his views. But it is idiotic to write them on the Facebook Wall.  Will these people ever change? I don’t think so!

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Before the deep penetration of social media in our lives, I was aware of different views– they are healthy for a democracy. Citizens punish the politicians for their wrongdoings in elections. But I was not aware of deep-seated hatred that comes out in the open. Governments world over keep track of social media to handle terrorist’s threats. In the US visa application, they ask you to share with them your social media identities. I am sure they check them randomly or do the audit check.  I am sure that what I am writing in blogs could be tracked by someone. When we know these things, should we be so explicitly expressing our extreme views; these may be either for or against an event 

Will this toxic behaviour go away? I don’t think so. Is there any benefit of having a war of words? Do we benefit from such discussions? When we do not benefit from something, is it not worth remaining away from such posts?  So what is the solution?

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It is what you can post!

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Luckily, I am not a serious twitter user. Otherwise, I would have received a tweet about one of my blogs. “You dumbo, why do you write some stupid stuff, which nobody reads, anyway!”  

 

Was somebody raped? 

The title is similar to the title of a movie, “Nobody killed Jessica!” The movie was the real-life story of Jessica Lal who was murdered in a public place. But initially, the culprits were released because “there was no evidence”! All the witnesses had become hostile because the culprit was rich and powerful!

I was reading twitter exchange on the subject of Unnao and Hyderabad rape cases. People have become cynical about rape events and the ecosystem surrounding us, which includes various authorities and society in general. One person said in his tweet, “It is straightforward. If the victim is from financially lower strata and perpetrators are rich, kill the victim. If the alleged perpetrators are poor, kill them.” The whole of India was shocked when Nirbhaya was raped and murdered in Delhi in 2012. It was not about murder or rape. It was the way the event took place. The rapists were cold-blooded in the act and selected the victim randomly. Another shocking part of the story was that one of the culprits was a sixteen-year-old boy. Others got the ultimate penalty, the death penalty, the boy was a juvenile so, he was remanded to a juvenile institution for three years and is leading a normal life.

The boy had the gumption to insert a steel rod in the lady’s organs; he should have got the death penalty whatever his age was. But then that is the law of the country. Another institution that we talk about is fast-track courts. Today seven years after the event, the culprits are still to be hanged.

In the Hyderabad case, a different scenario came up. The police took the alleged culprits to the site where they burnt the body of the victim. Police claim that the culprits attacked them, and took their guns. They started firing. Police started firing in retaliation, and all four died in the exchange of fire. A couple of police officers had minor injuries which seems to be a very convenient story. But the reaction to this story was a celebration all over India. Even in the parliament in India, the MP’s congratulated the action taken by the police.

In the rape case in Unnao, the lady who was on her way to the court for the court hearing, and was caught and burnt to death.

We read about rapes all over the world, but the cold-bloodedness by the culprits appears to be unique in India. Any rape is a horrible event. The statistics show that relatives of the victims or people known to the victims are involved in more than 75% rapes. It is a horrible mental sickness that has spread all over the world. In most cases of rapes or indecent behaviour, the victims do not report the event, as they feel ashamed, though it is not their fault. The victim is treated as if it is her fault.

I feel both numb and angry at the same time. There are so many angles to such events that you feel frustrated. Let me assure you many of the arguments are right also. Supreme Court Chief Justice Bobde made a very valid point that justice can not be instant. When the event takes place, there is a need to lodge FIR. There is a facility to lodge Zero FIR as per law in case of events like rape. Zero FIR means any police station can register the FIR, and then that police station should transfer this Zero FIR to the appropriate jurisdiction. Such an action can save time in critical cases like the one in Hyderabad where time was of the essence to at least to stop the murder. But I am doubtful how many police people know this procedure. People are made to waste a lot of time locating the correct jurisdiction.

The second thing is social. In large cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune there is large migrated population. Such migration gives anonymity, and this anonymity allows people to act in whatever manner they think is right. No person will behave funnily in his or her village or town or city. It is because they fear that someone from the family or relatives or friends of the family might see you doing the wrong things. But due to anonymity, they don’t have that fear. They feel that they can get away with anything. The situation is common for both men and women.

In a housing society, where I was the Chairman, three young women used to get drunk every Saturday night. When they would come back in an auto, their condition was always very embarrassing to even security people. Security people complained to me. Once I gave instructions to stop them at the gate, took their photos. It was at midnight. I ten minutes, the father of one of the girls called me from Delhi and started throwing weight and told me that I would face the consequences. Once he finished talking, I asked if I could send him the photographs of the girls in their current condition. He realised what I was saying. Next day he called to apologise to me and requested me to give them a month to move elsewhere.

I am all okay with personal freedom etc., but the freedom comes with a responsibility. If one does not behave decently, anything can happen. We should not forget that in the patriarchal society, men treat the women in their homes and the community, poorly. The women do not get the respect they deserve. Parents should teach the girls to behave decently, but it is more important to teach the boys to behave. The boys are given undue freedom during their growth phase while girls are under unnecessary restrictions during the growth. These boys who have grown up in such households cannot handle when they see women doing work independently and confidently. The boys probably grow up, thinking they can get away misbehaving since they have gotten away to some extent in childhood. Such growing up ends in Nirbhaya 1 and Nirbhaya 2 and I don’t know how many more Nirbhaya cases.

The Unnao case is a classic case. First, there was an error by the court. The court released the perpetrators on bail with a warning that they should not harass the victim. The victim was from a low-income family. These people doused the girl with petrol while she was going to court and burnt her. They were so confident that they did not even run away; they were found at home when police came to search. They had expected police not to act as they were from affluent families. How do we handle such errors? Should the judge be punished for a severe lapse? But will this punishment bring the girl back to life?

I have already said above that I feel both numb and angry at the same time. How will this vicious cycle stop? How does society learn to respect their daughters? What needs to be done by all to improve the situation? There are comments made that girls wear revealing clothing, but how do you explain when someone rapes four or six-year-old girl? The child does not even understand the meaning of sex.

There is a cynical joke. Two families go on a picnic, and their children are a 4-year-old boy and a girl. They play in the lake water while changing the clothes they see each other in nude. The girl next day tells her friend in school, “Yesterday, I came to know the difference between Protestants and Catholics!”

The more I think, the more I am getting confused and worried. How is this going to stop? Why are people becoming cruel? In one case I read today, a girl was held hostage by a boy and his friends. They regularly raped her. They demanded ransom from her parents. The girl’s family did not have the means to organise the money. The boy decided to kill and burn the girl. The mother of that boy helped to organise the killing and burning.

I am now more numb, more angry and cynical! Friends, how to change this trend? How to make this mass change in society? Police, Courts come later. How to ensure the rapes will not happen? We refer to rapists sometimes as beasts. Sorry! I disagree there. Beasts never rape; they mate only during their mating season. They do not wait at the toll plaza looking for a victim. They don’t travel on the buses at night, and create a Nirbhaya! Fast-tracking of the cases is after the event has happened. Nobody seems to have the solution to prevent the events!

Let us all pray and hope that things will start changing slowly in future!

Are you not proud of your nation?

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As usual, let me make a disclaimer! I don’t care which party is ruling our country! Whatever I am writing in this blog is apolitical! We were under the British rule for 150 years before the independence we got on the 15th of August in 1947! Thanks to strong personalities like Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, we became India or Bharat as we are known in the world todayOur national wealth was looted by the British under the garb of collecting taxestaking away raw materialBritish presence (and their final going away) did a few good things for India. We became one nation, we had railways, we had an established all-India administrative and police services.  

In Nehru era Public Sector units, Irrigation got significant importance. Indira Gandhi broke Pakistan into two, thereby correcting the problem created by the British by at least 50%! Kashmir issue resolution opportunity was lost; it could have been achieved in the Shimla Agreement. Indian population showed great maturity in overcoming Emergency, the black patch on the Indian Democracy! Jayprakash Narayan led the movement though he was old by that time.  

Next twenty years were tumultuous, but India somehow overcame the same, though we did not have strong leadership. India’s jumping the IT bandwagon successfully started the financial growth processAlong with fast economic growth, crony capitalism and corruption at different levels increased at breakneck speedCheating the government with shell companies was at peak and was used for money laundering.  

All the governments did a lot of good things in their times and bad things too! Then came the Modi Government in 2014 and looks like it will run till 2024! They have had their ups and downs. They have also done some good things and some bad things. From this angle, it is not much different than the previous governments.  

Along with fast economic growth, crony capitalism and corruption at different levels increased at breakneck speedCheating the government with shell companies was at peak and was used for money laundering and diverting funds. These issues created a need for strong actions.

There are specific actions taken by this government which were never considered by any other government before. These were essential for a mature democracy and were generally discussed previously with a glass of Chivas Regal. Nobody ever thought that it was possible in India. 

Yesterday, I shared a certificate displayed below with my friends. The reactions to the certificate were varied! “I have already done it” was message sent by many. Some people sent me a congratulatory messageMy friend Shrikant appreciated this very strongly, and that is what led me to write this blog. 

Certificate ofCommitement

He wrote an elaborate message which I am sharing verbatim!  

“What did you do? Please elaborate?? Such certificates are sent by IT/Vigilance department of Govt of India, to persons having an impeccable track record of regular tax payments & no offences registered, in Govt data tracker! Just a law-abiding citizen. I am also told this is an initiative to motivate/thank taxpayers while furthering the stated objective of putting a high premium on honesty. I have received two such certificates already. Many others also must have! 👍😊 

An individual or an organisation can go to the website https://pledge.cvc.nic.in/ and take this pledge if one desires so. When I went to the site, it also shared information that 85,86,062 individuals and 123,138 organisation have taken this pledge. In the discussion  on our WhatsApp group, somebody said, “Why do you need a certificate?”  

Then a thought came to my mind. We always ask the question what has my nation done for me? But should we not be asking the questionwhat have I done for my nation? I feel that the British have, along with many things, ensured that our pride for our nation was killed. Even today some people say, “We don’t deserve to run our nation. The British should be brought back to run it.”  

The current government has taken many actions in international diplomacy, where people listen when India talks! Now, do we not feel proud of the nation? One major historical correction by India of removing article 370 provisions for Kashmir got allround support in the world. Except for Pakistan’s all-weather friend China, all major countries have supported India. China too is looking at Pakistan from strategic and commercial point of view. Let Pakistan default on repayment to China then it will be interesting to see what China does!  

From the beginning of the 21st centurythe concept of media changed drastically. We started having TV news Superstars” who considered themselves knowledgeable in everything. They started behaving as if they were Gods of media; all others were treated by them as mere mortals. Sycophancy was at its best during this phase. Corruption, both material and moral, reached its peak. There formed a group of people who had jumped the free jaunts bandwagon. They would travel with ministers and the Prime Minister. They ended up giving sermons to others — Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, et al. added to this list. You and I were immaterial. 

Now this government has started the initiative of pledging integrity to the nation. It is like saluting when Jan Gan Man is sung or keeping your hand on your heart! I felt proud to take the formal oath; I felt proud of my nation. All through my life, I have always tried to avoid paying bribes for personal work or business. Sometimes I failed as I was not the final authority to take that decision; I was an advisor to some companies. But in my software and furnacerelated business, I have never paid a single Rupee bribe.  

Some of my friends were cynic about this drive. India has had a poor record as far integrity is concerned. Sometimes, we say God Promise; similarly, here we are saying “Nation Promise”! Till date, not even one per cent of people have taken the pledge mainly because many may not be aware of this initiative. When we say God Promise, do we break the promise? The same logic can be and should be applied to your nation. Assume that even 5% of people take this pledge, will it not make any change in India? Will you beak your new version of “God Promise”?  

What have to say to the cynics? For those who tried to make fun of the certificate, I shared, I will say in the endI can understand the doubters because things have not been as they should have been, so they feel that people will take the pledge but keep on doing what they have been doing! We are always going to have Naysayers who are fashionably called Liberals! Liberals group was not very much against government stuff as they were getting their foreign jaunts and were able to run Nalanda Vidyapeeth-just to give an example.  

Government has started a new portal for a portal http://www.pgportal.gov.in/ The portal is used as  Centralised Public Grievance Redressal Monitoring system 

Such an initiative has never been tried before.  

External affairs ministry under Sushma Swaraj was helping individuals stuck in foreign countries due to some issues. Mr Modi makes it a point to spend a day during Diwali with soldiers on the borders.  

I am not at all saying that it is hunkydory on all fronts. In many areas, issues and problems continue. To run a nation as big and as diverse as India is not going to be easy. On top of that, the British had looted our wealth for 150 years and made us a developing countrywhere famines were a part of life initially. But the green revolution, white revolution (Milk and Sugar) have taken place. In many areas like infrastructure, India is progressing fast. Metros are being built in many large cities. Let’s not forget ISRO!  

To me, the definition of naysayers is a bit different, besides the conventional oneThese are the people who after having toilets at home, want to go to the fields because they feel manly. It is those people who routinely break many laws and rules of public life, like parking, wrong side driving. These are the people who behave rudely with service providers like waiters; they cut corners at every possible opportunity in public lifeThese are the people who follow every general rule just after taking a fivehour flight from Mumbai to Singapore!  

About the friend who made fun of my statement about the certificate should go and ask the Sahara Boss, DSK Boss, Unitech Boss and many other such socalled big people if things are funnyMallya and Neerav Modi are enjoying their new status as fugitives and are forced to take shield behind the slow legal process in Britain. I am sure they have very high social status in the British page, three people!  

Income tax department sends certificates to people who pay personal Income Tax above specific value and appreciates them for being honest and proud citizens.  

Government is trying to push honesty culture, and if people find it funny, they must laugh loudly! If someone finds that it is a joke that I am proud of being an Indian, so be it! Some people have queer sense of humour!  

 

 

 

What did “Howdy Modi” achieve?

As you are aware that I am not much into political discussions. But to me “Howdy Modi” an event held on 22nd September 2019, at Houston, Texas was a game-changing event in the history of India. I am not bothered if Prime Minister Modi is from Party A or Party B. Till the end of the last century, India was that dirty country, under-developed, chaotic Place, and of snake charmers. We almost went into bankruptcy in 1992, till we were bailed out by a large loan against national gold reserves.

IT service industry was the first Indian show of technological prowess, well-proven by Y2K and India’s large English-speaking workforce. Rest as they say is history. Not everything is hunky-dory with us even today, but the significant change in our thinking and confidence of all us as a nation, is seen as a substantial change by the whole world. The change has not happened suddenly. There have been reasons as to why this is happening. People of my generation, those born just in 1947 or just after, were a docile lot as far anything foreign was concerned. But some of us were not as docile as they were thought to be. The change started with people like Sunil Gavaskar who looked international players eye to eye and would sledge back. Sachin Tendulkar was born in 1973, and his generation was even more confident; Sachin “screamed” with his bat. Today people of Kohli’s age create fear in the minds of players with their prowess, aggressive and polished behaviour when required.

Such changes started taking place slowly in every field. Finally, the real difference is observed in international diplomacy. In 50 s and 60 s of the last century, we were busy in NAM (non-aligned movement), the favourite baby of Nehru. It was frankly a group of nobody’s; they were neither on NATO side nor the Communist side. India had no identity, and we had forgotten the principle that it’s a power game in this world. But we had no power, including electricity; we were coming out of our problems post-independence and post-emergency. We were meek and weak, and our leadership reflected the status of the nation. We had the leaders we deserved.

During the last twenty-five years, India jumped the fast-growth groovy train. We managed good yearly growth of around 7 to 8 % for some time; even the current low rate of growth is still at about 5%! India managed to give the first non-coalition majority government in many years, and that helped the government to implement many schemes which supported the masses. India is also coming up with decisions that will help new businesses to come up and old companies to grow.

The complete change in the atmosphere was also helped by the strong leadership provided by Modi! Re-election of Modi in 2019 has further helped India to become more confident. We have a large diaspora living in various countries and doing well for themselves as well as for their adopted country. In the last few years, the Indian government provided simple procedures for NRI’s to acquire PAN card and now Aadhar card.

How is this helping India? With confidence, a person or a nation can take bold decisions, make bold statements. Others start taking you seriously and listen to what you say and do! After 5th August action on article 370, Rajnathsingh was asked about dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir. He boldly declared, “We will have a discussion with Pakistan, but it will now be about Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) only.” External affairs minister answered similarly on the subject recently. He said, “ We are willing to discuss with Pakistan but not with Terroristan!” Except for the terror aspect, Pakistan is not even there on India’s Radar.

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Howdy Modi was a Bollywood style show where India managed to invite the President of the United States to share the stage with Mr Modi. Some people may call it showmanship; some may call it histrionics. Some liberals have already started comparing this event with Hitler’s Goebbels style propaganda before starting the second world war. The above picture shows Nazi rally in Madison square garden; such pictures and dialogues are already being circulated by “liberals” on the social media. The comparison shows the beauty of democracy. Your own countrymen and your enemies are allowed to show dissent. Dissent was seen outside the stadium in Houston.

What did Trump’s decision to give a speech and then be with the spectators in the first row indicate? It showed that the most influential country in the world and democracy to the core is now actively backing India.  Mind you, many people hate Trump, but he is no Hitler, neither is Modi! As typically happens in world diplomacy, Trump had a meeting and a press conference with Imran Khan, Pakistan PM,  the next day, in New York. In this conference, Trump said that Mr Modi is capable of solving the Kashmir problem.

AnandMahindra2

I am not going to display any pictures from Houston show, but Imran Khan press conference presents a vital facet of the situation. While Trump was talking about Kashmir, Imran Khan was seen counting prayer beads. These prayer beads are called Misabaha. Imran was either hoping that now only Allah can help him and Pakistan, or was it a show for Islamic World that he is the most devoted servant of Allah and the leader of the Muslim world. Is this the same Imran Khan, the playboy, the Casanova of 80s and 90s? I have purposely not reduced the size of the picture so that you can see the beads in Imran Khan’s hands!

 

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I respect Anand Mahindra for his maturity, openness and sense of humour on Twitter. He has aptly expressed the feelings of all Indians in his Tweet above! If Anandaji says this, I am sure of many of us will believe in the effects of Howdy Modi event.

What next after all the showmanship is done? Next day in New York, there was a United Nations conference, Indian top brass met  top brass of more than 20 nations on the side of the meeting, mainly to discuss bilateral cooperation. Kashmir issue might have been discussed too! But India’s stance on Kashmir was boldly declared to the global audience from Houston meet.

Another important effect of Houston meet is that there were fifty thousand plus Americans of Indian origin present. They must have felt really proud to see their Bharat  projected in a very effective positive manner. The diaspora will become more confident and try to see how they can help push India’s interest forward. They now know that there is a robust system that is getting established in India under the current government. They see the effect of transparency by way schemes like Visa on arrival, Passport in seven days and so on. They are also observing the fate of corrupts and cheats irrespective of their social and political status. They know that the government means business.

In case if some of you are not aware of efficient ways systems are working, I will share two examples.

On the last day of filing Income Tax returns 31st August 2019, fifty lacs (5 million) returns were filed. In 24 hours we have 86400 seconds. It means on an average, 58 returns were being filed every second!

State Bank of India has a customer  base of more than population of many nations. Now they have started a new system for ATM withdrawals. Before leaving home, send a request for withdrawals (max Rs ten thousand per day) from an App. You will be sent an OTP (valid for 30 minutes). Go to any ATM, currently owned by SBI, punch your OTP, and you are done. Transaction time at ATM must have come down by 75%, is my rough judgement!

Jaihind!

To Agree or to Disagree!

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As the human brain started evolving, new thought processes started getting evolved too. A few centuries back, only the “intellectuals” would write about various thoughts and theories and this process was limited to a very few people. There were reasons. The thought process did not spread much due to nonavailability of technology and printing was not very easy and was expensive. Circulating hand-written stuff to a large number of people was difficult. When people disagreed on somethings, they simply fought and sometimes killed. The majority of the people stopped interacting with intellectuals, who wrote about things, about which most disagreed. 

Technology has changed a lot in the last hundred years, which helped people to disagree vocally or in writing instead of taking extreme steps. The development has helped in the spread of thought or knowledge much quicker than the olden days. In the last 15 to 20 years, the technology galloped at a breakneck speed. People could share their thoughts with others electronically, privately as well in public. I am talking of WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Blogging. These technological changes have made things more comfortable, and now writing the thoughts or expressing views has not remained the domain of intellectuals. You and I can say things, write about anything under the Sun. We can share our experiences easily; we can share our experiences, our knowledge and even some new theories or thoughts with the world.  

In this scenario, since it has become easy to write and publish, it has also become easy to make comments on such writings or disagree on the writings of others. Twitter is classic example of briefly writing about something; if you are famous and have a lot of followers, there will be instantaneous comments and rebuttals.  

If we’re all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it sensibly. What does it mean to disagree well? Most can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages of disagreement. So let me attempt to make a disagreement hierarchy. 

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Name-Calling, the method for disagreement is quite straight forward and blunt. The method is quite crude. People can and do have difference of opinion on many issues, but instead of doing so in polite or sophisticated way, people will call you Names, they may tend to use bad words. Is it necessary to be crass? But some people are born that way and behave in such ways in other aspects of life too!  

Ad hominem is a word typically refers to a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided, by attacking the character, motive, or other attributes of the person making the argument. The persons associated with the discussion is attacked, rather than attacking the substance of the case itself. The terms ad mulierem and ad feminam have been explicitly used when the person receiving the criticism is female. Probably it is a form of misogyny or malchauvinism. 

 In some form of criticism, people tend to be judgmental about the tone of writing. When one writes something, it is the right thing to comment about the writing rather than the way what is written. But this criticism is better than the first two methods discussed above. 

The contradiction is the stage, where we finally get responses to what was said, rather than how or by whom. The lowest form of response to an argument is to state the opposing case, with little or no supporting evidence. The method is still the only contradiction rather than arguing why one wants to contradict. 

Contradiction can sometimes have some weight. Sometimes seeing the opposing case stated explicitly is enough to know that it’s right. But usually, evidence will help. 

The writer can ignore these types of methods because they do not offer any constructive criticism. These methods may indicate a different viewpoint, but it will be difficult to judge what the argument is about. 

The counterargument is contradiction plus reasoning and evidence. When aimed directly at the original case, it can be convincing. But unfortunately, it’s common for counterarguments to be aimed at something slightly different. More often than not, two people arguing passionately about something are arguing about two different things. Sometimes they even agree with one another but are so caught up in their squabble they don’t realise it. 

There could be a legitimate reason for arguing against something slightly different from what the original author said: when you feel they missed the heart of the matter. But when you do that, you should say you’re doing it. But one also should not forget that the original author may mean something different than what you are arguing.  

Refutation is the action of proving a statement or theory to be wrong or false. The most convincing form of disagreement is a refutation. It’s also the rarest because it requires the most efforts, it needs to study and have knowledge about the subjectHence, we will see that this method of argument is sporadic 

To refute someone, you probably have to quote them. You have to find a specific passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it’s inaccurateWithout pinpointing the details, we will be back to square one where the argument is vague or maybe crass. 

But some people are mistaken that by quoting parts from the writing, they are refuting something. But without substantiating an argument, simply quoting has no meaning. 

The most potent form of argument is refuting the central idea of the writing.  

Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point or at least one of them. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is. So a truly effective refutation would look like the writing below. 

I disagree with your basic idea “xxxxx yyyyy” for the reasons given below. I disagree because of the following points.  

You will wonder why I have tried to classify the arguments and create a hierarchy! It is simply done to describe the way your writings may get thrashed, sometimes by methods like namecalling. But sometimes you will be lucky enough to get great feedback from a knowledgeable person who could improve your thoughts and writing. Criticism is the best way for improvement in life if done constructively. 

In Marathi, there is a saying, “निंदकाचे घर असावे शेजारी”  which means that it is good to have your critic as your neighbour! Various criticisms will teach us how to handle life in general. It is not only about ones writings, but it could be about your decisions, your acts, your behaviour. Done constructively, there is no better teacher than your critic!  

criticism3

 

 

 

The Genesis of Enigmatic Society!

प्रत्येक वस्तुला जागा

प्रत्येक वस्तू जागेवर

कराल असे तुम्ही

तर कामे होतील भराभर

This is a saying in Marathi that Jaya remembered from her childhood. Renowned social worker Gangutai Patwardhan used to say this! It translates as below.

Each thing has its own place

The thing should always be in its place

If you follow this

All your work will be done quickly

This is exactly what Japanese concept of 5S says. 5S is a method/Japanese concept for organizing a workplace, especially a shared workplace (like a shop floor or an office space). See the yellow box! The blue box is equally important!

5s-explanation_med_hr

Our society, our lives are like a workplace. Rich and the poor share the same roads and infrastructure. So it is a responsibility of rich, poor and the middle-class to maintain the infra properly, and follow the rules of the society. To me, it is the responsibility of middle-class as their number is large, they are educated and many of them have seen the world.

But the more we change the more we remain the same. I remember when the whole world was holding its collective breath when 1st January 2000 dawned and Y2K was supposed to get things crashing world over, due to the supposed computer glitch. Indian computer companies made a giant-killing by providing a fantastic solution. There were high hopes that in the 21st century finally, India urf Bharat will look forward to getting its deserved place in the world order.

Where are we today at the end of 2018, almost twenty years from the beginning of the new century, but has our society improved? As usual, we have taken two steps forward and three steps backwards. This morning, I was standing in my balcony on my 7th floor home, chatting with my friend Dilip on phone. I saw a scooter stopping in front of a bungalow. An apparently educated lady simply dumped her garbage and drove off. I was observing for the next 15 minutes and saw ¾ more people do the same.

This is a very normal happening in India. We are in Yo-Yo mode all the time, we improve in certain areas and we go back two steps in another area. We have a global company chief in Nadella, Sundar Pichai and Indra Nooyi. We have ISRO sending Satellites after Satellites in space. Then we have people throwing their trash as they wish. We have Municipal Corporations dumping drainage water in rivers without processing. Industrial waste is also dumped in rivers without processing any many places. Under the garb of religion, dead bodies are dumped in the river Ganga!

When Anna Hazare started his Journey for Jan Lokpal Bill in the year 2011, not many had given him a chance of getting through without a great struggle, if at all. But one point which almost nobody had budgeted for was the great awakening of the Middle Class because of this movement. This middle-class was to be the vehicle for India’s journey towards “advanced” society.

Who are middle-class people and what is middle-class mentality? I would define a middle-class person as a person, who is like you and me, who is coming up in life. When one heard TV discussions read articles in those times, it was felt as if being middle class was really rude. The intelligentsia on panels was shocked to see the middle class coming on the road to express their views and argue when middle-class was supposed to be docile.

Now that the awakening had taken place, the same Middle class was being blamed as being too vociferous, too impatient, too aggressive and so on. The intelligentsia had hoped that the middle class will always remain dormant and never go against the proven theories of remaining mute. But with new electronic mediums of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, SMS and so on, this group found a way of expressing their views and communicating openly with others.

There is a flip side to this. Not every cause needs Anna’s intervention; the local issues should be handled locally but the onus is still on the middle-class to lead.

You don’t need Anna to get local roads repaired. You don’t need Anna to solve your daily water problems. You don’t need Anna to clear garbage on the roads! Let Anna handle national level issues like Lokpal. But we don’t bother about our own behaviour. We spit betel leaf juice anywhere. We have unique behaviour on the Pune Mumbai expressway. There are two toll stations on the expressway. After each one, there are washrooms. But some of us drive about 5 Km ahead and then urinate in open. Our government has made laws, especially for villages, which ensures that any person who wants to stand for elections must have a toilet at home. People were still found going to their fields for morning ablutions, some men said they felt manly if they used the field instead of using toilets!

While chatting with friends, the subject of “State of our Nation” always comes up. The conclusion is always the same. Everybody is confused. There is a saying in Marathi, “हे असच चालायचं!” Things will never change. Someone I know was a sophisticated trainer in world’s renowned airline. Every Saturday, he would go a Mandir and offer a small container full of oil to a deity. It was poured in an area from where it would go down the drain. I don’t know how much oil was wasted every day; this could have been given to charity instead of wasting it. This is a story of a highly trained engineer. If the so-called educated people take part in such rituals, remain stuck in such beliefs, how will we ever reach the “Developed” state? I have seen many roadside tea stall owners performing a ritual. They brew their first cup of tea for the day and throw it on the ground. I asked a few of them why they did it? I was told that it gives them good luck for the days business. I asked them why not give it free to someone deserving instead of wasting it, they had no answer.

For our country to become “advanced” what needs to be done, I do not know. Every person’s definition of “advanced” will be different. As long as we don’t come out of the mentality of two steps forward and three steps backwards, the so-called advancement is not possible. For the last 15 years, we are showing economic growth of 7 to 8 % year to year. Effects of this growth are visible but our “backward” thinking dilutes this progress. According to me, the middle-class is the growth engine of the nation but this class also still remains in Yo-Yo mode. In technology, in modern methods, the middle class shows the forward thrust; at the same time the rituals, acts of blind faith are celebrated on a much larger scale because now there is money around. Even in today’s times, I have seen a lady, our relative, go into trance during a religious function. She is a normal college educated lady like ladies we meet normally, but still, she went in a trance, which at least I thought was happening only in uneducated class. The blog below gives my thoughts on such events.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/paranormal-behavior-or-angat-yene-or-devi-ana/

Let me as usual end up on a positive note. We have terrific enterprise, enthusiasm. Our nation is a nation of young people with energy. Let us put this energy to proper use and make sure that we don’t take any backward steps. If everybody folllows the Marathi lines above, then trash will always go in trash bins, vehicles will be parked in their places, roads will not be required to be repaired after every monsoon! We may start “looking” like a developed nation.