Monday, February 28, 2011

Let us not steal credit!

Daily News and Analysis has recently started a campaign where it labels the positive news stories as ‘India Positive’. While this is indeed a commendable initiative, I just hope that they dont get carried away as in the past where media has celebrated as ‘Indian’, feats and events of people who are only nominally Indian or related to India. Also we must take care not to create false positives by glossing over facts and taking pride in small things. 

India had a female PM and female President before the United States
In 2008 when Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was making headlines, I often heard some people point out with pride that India already had a woman president (Pratibha Patil became the first woman president of India in 2007). While the above is factually true, it is a gross misrepresentation to then go on to conclude that India is more accepting of women in power.

Pratibha Patil was indirectly elected to a largely ceremonial post and ironically Indira Gandhi is the exact opposite of being an example of how women can easily make to the highest echelons of power. She is the fine example of how family ties and connections are the most important political assets in India. Ours remains a patriarchal society and women still face gross discrimination and lack of opportunities in India. We must not kid ourselves and gloss over these facts by idle boasts about Indira Gandhi.

Sunita Williams & Bobby Jindal
I am always amused to hear the name of Sunita Williams as an Indian who has been to space. Here is a woman who is a US citizen, who was born and brought up in the US and who went to space as a part of the US space programme. Yet the Indian media played up the event with a lot of hype. She is Indian only by race (ethnicity) and has no link to the modern Indian nation. I feel that it is completely inappropriate to hail her as an Indian icon. Same case with Bobby Jindal often mentioned as the first Indian to be a state governor in the US.

India has low divorce rate = Indians are happy people
Another argument that I have heard, mostly from elderly Indians is that since India has a super low divorce rate as compared to Western countries where it is very very high, it is a sign that Indian culture is much better and Indians are a happy lot. One must be rather wary of this argument because while at first look it seems very true, the underlying assumption is not really solid.

A lower divorce rate does not necessarily indicate happy marriages. It could also mean that Indians just tend to avoid divorce and endure with bad marriages, which is not a very heartening thought. NGOs claim that the incidence of domestic violence in India is not very low so. This along with the fact that divorces are harder to get due to the lethargy and complex rules of the Indian judiciary might be evidence that the low divorce rate is not necessarily a cause for celebration. While divorce rates of US and western Europe are extremes which I hope India never reaches, I feel that there is no point being over excited in the current low rates.

Stats from -
India – 1.1%
United States – 50%

There are a lot of things in Indian culture and Indian heritage to be proud of and we should rightfully take pride in them but let us just make sure that we do not get carried away!

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Thursday, February 24, 2011


Until very recently, the only poetry that I had read was the poetry found in school textbooks. I read lots of fiction but never even thought that poetry could be interesting. So I was surprised that when my friend recently showed me a poem, not only did I read it to the end without getting bored, I also liked it! Turns out that this is a really really famous poem, but just incase there are others who like me have never had the pleasure of reading it before, here it is -

‘IF’ by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

Sunday, February 13, 2011

DNA gets rid of its editorial page!

Just a week ago my grandfather mailed a cheque of Rs. 199 for a two year subscription of DNA (Daily News & Analysis newspaper). So I was pretty much shocked and distressed to find out that they have gotten rid of their editorial page because they think that it is no longer important as not many people read it anymore.

While many have welcomed the move and some even think that other newspapers will follow, I think that it is a grave mistake by DNA.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The boy who cried wolf – 21st century version

I am sure that you remtories as a child and imagining yourself as the characters in them. Well, you should take note that you are very likely a character in story that is unfolding right now! This is because “Forward First, Think Later” culture of today’s internet users is going to land us right into the age old story of the shepherd boy who used to shout out “wolf” just to see other villagers come running hastily for no reason. In case you do not remember, the villagers who wisened up to his tactics soon stopped trying to help him when he shouted. Finally, on the day that a wolf really attacked his herd, nobody came to help him and all his sheep (and in gorier versions, the shepherd too) was slaughtered by the wolf.

Forward First, Think Later”
The number of email hoaxes and chain mails is incredibly large but more shocking is how successfully they circulate despite the fact that many of them are blatantly fake. This success can be attributed to the attitude of the people who do not even bother to take five seconds to verify what they are forwarding. Amongst such ridiculous chain mails was a one urging people to forward to their friends an email warning about the dangers of “dihydrogen monoxide” which if you take a second to think about is just water! Equally ridiculous are the emails that claim hotmail/gmail/yahoo/facebook will close inactive accounts due to their financial difficulties if an email is not forwarded. Ironically, I once received such a message on facebook while I was reading a story about Facebook’s expansion plans and investment bank GoldmanSachs’ investments in Facebook.

The ‘WOLF!’ effect”
More worrying than the chain mails is the attitude shift that they lead to. Most if not all of such chain mails have subject lines with words like -‘warning’, ‘important’, ‘do not ignore’, ‘read at once’, ‘urgent help required’. As most of such emails turn out to be hoaxes or chain mails, I tend to read mails with such subject lines last and that too only if I have time. To complicate the matter further many of my close friends and relatives i.e. the people I love and value a lot, have over the years sent or still send me several such chain mails. What I fear the most is that I might ignore an email from a friend who is genuinely in trouble and needs help because of the tendency to automatically ignore such emails which appeal for blood/money required in far away countries. This could happen to anyone and has become more likely these days with many people having friends all over the world who use email and facebook as their primary medium of communication. In short, sending a chain mail reduces the importance of your emails in the eyes of the one who receives.

What should you do?
I urge everyone who reads this to verify before sending any forward and if a chain mail is fake (as most of them are), to send a reply to the sender enlightening him about the false claims that he is endorsing and also about the danger of others ignoring his emails in his time of need. Verifying the details of any email is very easy thanks to our good friends Google and Wikipedia.

Here are some of the things commonly claimed in chain mails spam emails and how to verify them.

1. Email / Social Networking companies are deleting accounts
– If they actually start deleting accounts of those who do no forward chain mails, it will make headlines all around the world. Anyway, you can verify by reading this, this, and this

2. Kurkure (indian snack) has plastic in it
- Read this

3.Nigerian millionare needs postage money to send you lots of cash
- Read this

I hope you give this some serious thought and kindly refrain from sending me hoax emails and chain emails.   :)