Again.

Disclaimer: Long Post. Don’t bother reading if you have the attention span of a meme creating troll, or even worse, if you have any political affiliations that you wish to strengthen using this as bait. This might make sense to you and boy, will that be a disaster?! Also, if you are a self-proclaimed moral ‘guru’, do let me know, so I can promptly remove you from my circle.

Call me cynical, but over the past few years of my transition from a teenager to a young adult, I’ve become increasingly convinced of a hopelessness with regards to the future of the Indian society. I do not expect much to change, even less to improve. The past week, events in and around my alma-mater have unfolded in a more or less expected fashion; much of it has cause my blood to boil, but then simmer and calm down. My cynical self, smiles at me with a snide, “I told you so.” I recall then, this post that I published four years back, (when notes were still a thing on Facebook) as I reflected on the horrific Nirbhaya case. (You may wish to read that and get some perspective here.) Still haunts me, and a substantial section of the female populous, I’m sure. While the memory of it still remains, the incident has now become lore and a scary story that I presume parents tell their daughters in the NCR and I know males use to instill fear in their female counterparts. It was sad and humiliating then, it is more so today years later when nothing seems to have changed. Sad and humiliating, for men and boys across our country. But, I digress.

I’m sure that what I have gathered from hearsay, about the events in BHU, may not be completely accurate and hence I refrain from mentioning any specific facts that may be in question. I do not stress on the mechanics of the situation specifically, for the simple reason that I wish to ponder more on the fundamental problem that stands the risk of being buried. I am sure some people will be taken to task, and people will pause to wonder about it all, even if only for the brief moment when the advertisement plays during a debate between political representatives, or some official from the university. It is in this pause that I ask you to think for a moment.
I believe this entire episode is a reflection of the sickness that ails the whole country and the society. There is an incident of abuse that is not dealt with in the strictest possible manner. Callousness is shown by the people responsible, and when the situation worsens, we end up resorting to name-calling and politicization. Meanwhile, the real issue is forgotten.

The Indian society continues to be plagued by a huge gender bias and nothing seems to be able to fix this. An entire half of the population continues to be downtrodden simply because they are of a different sex, and it goes unnoticed by the other half. It hurts my self-esteem as a male that we let our counterparts engage in a patriarchal thought process, that is already too deeply embedded in our psyche, and which results time and again in acts of such heinous nature, like this and several others, every hour across the country.

In the interest of being blunt, I personally believe that the flaw lies in the intentional ignorance of the ideas of sexual freedom and individual personal boundaries. Sex continues to be a topic we shy away from, and continue to view not just as a commodity, but also a luxury. The idea that you are in a position to exert power over another individual because you possess a reproductive organ of a certain kind, is simply absurd. That the biological design of the human body makes distinctions between the capabilities of the two sexes is clear, but to associate this difference with social ability is the basic flaw in the patriarchal mindset. And that this mindset continues to flourish in spite of humongous proof to the contrary is disappointing. The continued harping on about sexual objectification seems to have absolutely no effect on the actual target audience. We have come to the point where a significant section of the male populous now attaches no sanctity to the sexual act and simply views it either as means to demean the virtue of a female counterpart or as an achievement to enhance one’s own self esteem or reputation among other male counterparts. Is it any wonder then that sexual abuse is viewed as a means to exert ‘life-destroying’ power over a female?

I would have thought at a time that the understanding of sexual boundaries of a person, is simply non-existent in a very very large section of the society, but I have come to realize that this is not the case. In fact it is the opposite. It is the fact that violating these boundaries is associated with such consequences, that emboldens males to act upon their tendencies. This is fueled by the stigma attached with the act itself, more often than not being perpetrated by the elder generation. The idea that sex impinges upon the honor or virtue of a female but not on the male is again, absurd, for lack of an adjective. What is even more pathetic is that even females of the elder (not older) generation show absolutely no concern for a survivor of abuse or harassment.

I do still stand by the belief that until a discussion on the sexual act becomes a regular part of our upbringing (with the right perspective, of course), the sexual act itself becomes more commonplace and is integrated into our culture in a more respectable fashion, and the word ‘sex’ is not shied away from in our vernacular, there can be very little hope for substantial meaningful change. I am often cited as being irreverent of a glorious ‘Indian’ culture. And I repeatedly refer such people to Nehru’s ‘Discovery of India’, who in a pre-independence India had recognized that what remained of the culture was a mere skeleton and that we risk extinction if we do not evolve. What is the point of education and civilization when we are unable to recognize the flaws in our belief systems and work actively to remedy them? We are a culture of hypocrisy, a culture which worships the female form of the almighty in so many different forms, has absurd notions about the ideal female form, and even objectifies imagery associated with the Goddesses. A culture which has claims to have the utmost respect for the mother and has made the use of the most common expletive abusing the mother and the sister, mainstream in movies and songs.

As the social media explosion has penetrated the masses our ideas have been so conspicuously distorted in almost every sphere of life. Sitting behind a screen, people attach their religious identity to their names and then go on rants about sexuality that are not only misinformed and uneducated but irreverent to the very culture that they claim to be defending. But all this is an entirely different debate. As is the role of media outlets in cashing in on the female outrage and playing the sentiment to their own benefit.

I do recognize though, that in several respects I, myself am guilty of propagating patriarchal ideas. I apologize openly for that whenever I realize this. While that may not be enough, I do understand that there is an urgent need for us, Indian patriarchal males, to recognize that the solution lies in us, accepting that things are wrong, developing an understanding of how sexual equality is supposed to work, and making a conscious effort to change from our very fundamental ideas to our day to day actions. Feminism is a movement of the males, not the females. The onus is on our generation, for we are the future. I firmly believe that dialogue on these very fundamental issues is the best way to proceed, and I call for an educated unbiased discussion on the various aspects. If we can change the views of even a single person, that is a success. (My cynical self, smirks at me from afar.)

I’m sure the media will soon move on to bigger better more TRP-rich issues. But it is our social responsibility to keep this in the back of our minds and work diligently for a better future.

PS: If you had the patience to even gloss through the most of this, I’m eager to hear your views.

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#04

Over the course of time, man has evolved from a hunting and food gathering nomad into a settled civilised form of existence. The culmination of this process of evolution is visible in the form of high-functioning, well developed compact settlements of humans; cities. Whether or not, these cities are a reflection of the important characteristics of the society as a whole, is up for discussion.

On an individual level, I agree with the statement that to understand the most important characteristics of the society, one must study its major cities; to quite an extent. It is in these clusters of civilisation, that ideas from all around converge, merge and develop into something better (or worse), but not very different, from all the originals. In turn, it is these smaller units that end up driving progress and change throughout the society. To understand how the society works as a whole, it is important that we first understand how these harbingers of growth and development work.

The issue can be interpreted into two seperate threads for the purposes of this discussion. Firstly, we try to understand whether the major cities are an ample enough reflection of the society as a whole. Secondly, how importnat their functioning is to understand the functioning of the society. At this point it becomes apparent that depending on these two conditions, we are in agreement with the statement in question, even if only the second condition holds, and the first one doesn’t.

In trying to understand a society, we focus on some key factors that shape its structure and functioning; which vary from the hierarchy in its sub divisions, the lifestyles and living standards of its members, the customs they follow, the prejudices they adhere to, and the general beliefs on which they all agree.

Most societies and by analogy their cities function only by virtue of a harmonious co existence of several levels or sub classes in them. When considering the former we are likely to divide it into the working class, the business class, the ruling class, etc. Even when condensed into the smaller scale of a city, these divisions or partitions exist, and their existence is not a coincidence but an intentional attempt to maintain the structure of the society. This ensures a homogeniety in the governance and functioning of the organisation. Thus the hierarchy in a society and the sub divisions in it, whether on an economic level, or geographical, or political, or even on the basis of birth in some cases, are very clearly reflected in the cities. It can be termed as a basic human instinct to flock together in small groups the same way whether on a small or a large scale.

There will be some in a city who will be unemployed and dependent on other sections of the populous, there will be some who will be invested in some form of commerce, there will be some invested in providing labour to the other industries, some caretakers of law and order and some ordinary citizens. Now, this will not paint the exact picture of the society as a whole but the general divide between different classes, the level of prosperity of each group, the level of consensus in each group about various issues, will be very similar to what would be the case if one were to analyse the population of the entire society as a whole.

The essential link between a city in particular and the society in general is its population. The people in both cases are the same. The difference however is that the people in cities are a lot more well to do than those in the rest of the population, which goes on to say that the important characteristics of the economic standards and habits of the complete society will not be reflected. In fact, in a city, economies are usually more service dependent, rather than manufacturing dependent in smaller cities and agriculture or home industry dependent in the villages and small towns. If one were to only study the major cities two very important aspects of the economic pathway of the society would get overlooked, and in this case, they will not prove to be sufficient enough for study of all important characteristics.

This very reasoning, can also be applied to the general culture and customs of the people. These are heavily dependent on the economic status of the people, and because of the wide gap between economic strengths of the people residing in major cities to those in othe sections, the rituals customs and practices will be different. Even the social evils in a particular area will be different. While there might not be many incidents of dowry in the cities, they shall be prevalant in the villages, and the exact opposite might hold true for issues like women empowerment.

Thus we see that while the major relations and divisions between various sections of the society can be easily derived upon from a study of the major cities, a large amount of information regarding culture and economics might get overlooked if only the major cities were studied. Thus we see that major cities are not a very satisfactory representation of the society on the whole.

Next however, we come to the more important section, i.e. the impotance of cities to the overall working of the societal organization. In this direction we shall find that the cities are integral to growth of the society, and therefore their study is extremely important to understand the functioning of the society.

It is in the cities that new ideas are experimented, lessons are learned and then implemented into other parts of the community. Cities are the gateway, to the outside world, and it is through them that all people are exposed to what is happening outside of their community. Cities are the harbingers of change, and unless we can understand how cities function, we cannot hope to be able to learn about the society. Cities are more advanced than the rest in terms of science and technology, and this gives an opportunity to the people to reveal their more fundamental desires, aspirations, and tendencies. The people can be more easily understood, in cities because here they are far less hindered by the political, economic and technological restrictions. This is integral to an understanding of the society, which clearly establishes the importance of cities to this end.

To further clarify these claims we take the example of the Indian society. If one were to focus only on the villages, they would be hugely misled, because a large population resides in the cities, some of whom do not have a lot of connections to the villages and some none at all. What this implies is that the influence of these sections will get inadvertently overlooked. The same would not happen were we to study the cities, because villages and villagers will form a part of the community in the city and thus their impact will get considered. A lot of things that happen in villages are now obsolete in a major section of Indian society. The same can be said about the cities, that a lot of what happens in cities does not in the rest of the society, but what does happen can not be ignored as it is an important influence for the rest of the community.

Much of the effects of the opening of the world to technological marvels like the internet and globalisation are first felt in the cities, which makes them more important than the rest of the sections. The effect of these slowly seeps from the cities to the villages, hence the importance of the cities. Simple and ordinary changes like those in dressing trends, cuisine styles, even furniture and architecture styles first emerge in cities and then are adopted into the rest of the society. This is because of the openness of these cities to all kinds of influences, and the unique characteristic that cities allow a confluence of ideas from different sections whereas it is not encouraged in villages. While cities are not all there is to a society, they are an unignorable part of the societal structure.

The reasoning here is that while a study of the cities is not enough to understand the working of the society, it is an essential aspect and one cannot hope to paint the whole picture without studying the major cities. Therefore, one must study the major cities to understand the society in totality.

#03

I was asked to write about technology. More specifically, to debate the effect that growing dependence on technology will have upon the ability of humans to think for themselves. Debating this dependence while actually typing this text rather than writing it by hand, is somewhat ironic. In a world dominated by the technologically superior, one cannot dispense with this extremely important resource; which makes this whole exercise somewhat futile. Yet, one must make attempts to control the situation before it goes too far out of hand. And we definitely do not want a world with humans who do not have the ability to think, as the statement under question claims.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the issue it is important that we understand what is being debated here. Inspite of the idea being quite self explanatory, we do need to define some boundaries for our discussion. When we talk about human capacity to think the only yardstick available to measure it is the scientific, artistic, cultural and political advancements of the age, for these are a direct result of the ideas of the finest humans in existence at the time. When we talk of deterioration of human capacity ot think we need to understand that this cannot be measured over a few years or decades. The timeline therefore in consideration will span centuries of human society’s evolution. So, under the microscope here, is whether the achievements of the human race have been hampered by the technological advancements in this time? For it is these advancements that determine the level of thinking of a generation. And if actual developement of the society and polity is disrupted by dependence on technology, it surely is worthless. That luckily is not the case as shall become quite clearly evident in the following text.

Technology, in my opinion does no more than provide us with tools capable of reducing the time and labour required to perform a particular task. Since all technology traces its origins back to the human brain and its capacity to think imaginatively, creatively and progressively; it is highly questionable that technology by itself will deteroriate the human brain’s ability to think (unless humans who designed this technology intended to do that; which is a wholly different conspiracy theory up for debate). In general, the technological advancements to which the general populous is exposed revolve around smart gadgets and the internet. Before we delve further, we need to understand that technology is not limited to only these two, and that a major chunk of technological advancement is dedicated to scientific progress which in itself is aimed at expanding man’s understanding of the way things work; definitely not affecting his capability to think.

Technology is aimed at simplifying human lifestyle and making it more convenient. How a person uses it, is entirely upto the person itself. A gun in the hands of a criminal or in the hands of a police officer, is still a gun. How the person uses it, determines whether or not it is useful to the society. On similar lines, technologically smart devices have made life more efficient, by reducing the time and effort invested in doing things that were less productive to the society. Theses technological advancemets have helped improve a person’s productivity and efficiency in his contribution to the society.

With the increasing accessibility to the internet, one of the biggest technological wonders of today, a whole world of possibilities have opened up for us. While some will claim that this is making knowledge resources like libraries and bookstores obsolete, what needs to be understood, is that the information and knowledge of these old systems of learning is not getting destroyed. These are simply being replaced by a faster, more efficient system. In this particular case, this does not deteriorate the thinking capacity of the user because the same knowledge value is being delivered even through the improved systems, infact now it is more accessible to those sections of the society which were earlier not capable enough to access these. Now more time and labour can be devoted to actual utilisation of these resources, i.e. learning from them and evolving as better thinking more productive individuals.

Technological advancements, especially in the field of science, have now enabled us to carry out experiments in real time which were earlier restricted to theoretical predictions only. Technology has enabled the society to develop into a more secure and open one. Technoloy has enabled humans to reach beyond the confines of the planet, the solar system, even the galaxy. This has exposed humans to a world of ideas which were completely beyond his imagination, had there been no technology to expose him to the truth of its existence. Technology has given humans the tools to expand his curiosity and to satisfy it also. And to consider even for a moment that technology is responsible for deterioration of humans ability to think is preposterous.

Even a cursory glance through the past few centuries of history all over the world have revealed quite clearly that humans have progressed in all such fields. Human creativity has evolved alongside technological advancement. If the Taj Mahal is a marvel of the old times, the Burj Khalifa is one of today. Humans have not lost anything. In all spheres of society, technology has made the process more convenient, the world more beautiful and the people more imaginative.

The Forbidden Topic

Disclaimer: My ideas mentioned here have evolved with time, but I have kept the content as is for I find a lot of it still very relevant.

I feel like ruffling a dying bird’s feathers, but I really can’t help myself. I saw my city and virtually the nation brew in anger for almost two weeks over a kind of crime that questions our very claim to civilisation. And, yet I kept quiet. I saw my friends wear black and mourn over this, and yet I kept quiet. I witnessed posts and status updates, questioning the male psychology; I felt humbled and yet I kept quiet. I shivered in fear and concern for the women I love and yet I kept quiet. They say passion comes from either anger or fear. I felt both, and yet…

And now that I write it’s not something that will move you to the depths of your heart or maybe won’t even touch you. And it’s not at all because I am too mild or complacent about this whole issue. Believe me I was as much affected by all of this as all of you were. I just feel that the way everyone has responded to this issue is a bit misdirected. I don’t presume myself to be the guiding light of ‘Ra’, but I think a somewhat different approach to this will be much more useful.

So, let’s get straight to the point.

First of all I refuse to accept that any Indian male is so sexually frustrated that he might go to the extent of sexually exploiting a women in public and risking a death sentence. That’s just implausible. This is not my male ego, believe me. Sex to our gender is not as important as many females might feel. Surely not worth spending your whole life in prison. Agreed that even biological studies have confirmed that males are more easily enticed for sexual contact, but if you say that a testosterone-charged, sexually-hungry male is all it takes to get women raped, you are wrong. All I am saying is that stop viewing males as caged animals thirsty for sex. An incident as heinous as sexual abuse cannot be a product of simple sexual hunger.

It implies more of a psychological attack than a physical one. By saying this I am not undermining the impact that the physical act of abuse has on the survivor. Abusers use sex as a weapon to impose trauma on the other. It’s as simple and as appalling as that. Because sex is something personal and regarded intimate in our society, it is used to attack the person in the most hurtful way possible. Forcing sex onto someone will violate the person’s basic instincts, because it is regarded as something reserved. It is intended to harm the person emotionally not just physically. And guided by the trash we import from pornographic sites from all over the world it results in death. But before I get to that let me make one point to which we all shall agree. For someone who has been abused our reference as a ‘victim’ is a second attack on the ego, and this one is as abusing as the first one was. So, if you read this the one small change to which you can contribute is start viewing them as ‘survivors’. To go through a trauma such as that and yet have the courage to stand up and face life, needs a strength and integrity that demands respect, not sympathy. I witnessed sexual assault on a fellow classmate when I was twelve years of age. It is uglier than one can imagine, but the aftermath of the incident i.e. the pity or the marginalisation, is even uglier. My friend… He did not manage to survive. So if one purpose I want this piece of my writing to fulfil is to get the so called ‘victims’ be identified as ‘survivors’.

Now let’s get back to where we were. Rape or to go by the more appropriate term Sexual abuse, has more of a social and psychological reason. It’s the inherent belief ingrained probably in our genes that sex is luxury and the female is an object to be acquired. Ignore the bluntness but every single fairy tale or story from folklore portrays the male as more powerful than the female and the female is almost always portrayed as a beauty. How many stories can you name where the female is the protagonist who saves her handsome, clean-shaved male from demons? Even if there is any it won’t show the female in a state of power more than the male. It’s the basic notion of feminity and of manhood taught to us since the time of Adam. With that being taught to everyone, is the yawning gap between male and female psychology, really a surprise? And this is where the idea of sex muddles everything even more. The idea of male being a rung above the female pervades into this realm as well. The result being that every ordinary male believes in sexual supremacy over a female. And this idea has been so firmly ingrained that we acknowledge it without even thinking about it. Every girl dreams her prince, doesn’t she? And every boy dreams about saving his princess from whatever. I don’t say this is absolutely wrong. But I say that this sends the wrong message. So, you might try and think about the fairy tales you are going to tell to your kids. A utopia of equality between male and female cannot be established with these ideas being preached. I say ‘utopia’ because a reality of equality is too difficult to achieve. Not that we should stop trying, but in a society where more than one kind of element exists, there always has to be an upper and a lower level. What can be done is that this gap can be reduced.

Equality in sexual believes, however, can be achieved. Today we view sex as something that the female has to offer and the male has to demand. The belief that men or women are doing a favour by involving in sex, needs to be removed. So long as we continue to shy away from this topic, it will continue to haunt us. Sex education is something more than sexually transmitted diseases and protection from unwanted pregnancies. It needs to preach that a relationship is a partnership not a customer service.

The more we become aware about sex, in the general way, i.e. the less rare it becomes in our commonplace lives; the lesser it will remain a weapon of assault against anyone. Of course this doesn’t mean that one should start having sex left, right and centre; but at least it should not be marked as ‘the forbidden topic’ in our lives. For instance think of the number of times you actually say the word sex in one day, or in one week. Why make sex such a big deal? After all, it’s a biological activity; as ordinary as going to the washroom.

If a girl gets surrounded by a bunch of abusers, unfortunately there isn’t actually much she can do about it physically. The responsibility to stop abuse lies on the rest of the society more than, say the parents of the abusers. It wasn’t like, they were brought up to be abusers. Every person is a product of the society. When I see thousands of women and men protesting on the Rajpath, I wonder what exactly are they protesting against. Death penalty for those fiends is too ordinary. It will relieve them of the humiliation too soon. Sure they don’t deserve to live any more. But they deserve humiliation, much more than what they rendered on the unfortunate victim; because she did not survive. But that is not the solution. I saw a woman carrying a placard which said “Society teaches ‘don’t get raped’, not ‘don’t rape’.” I completely agree with her. But is protesting outside the Rashtrapati Bhawan the way to awaken the masses? We don’t need to awaken anyone except ourselves.

We blame the police forces, but I pity them. About fifty percent of our population is female. Even if we assume sixty percent of them to be in potential risk zones, we are looking at approximately forty million females. Two policemen with each female means eighty million policeman. That is eight times the entire strength of the armed forces. Impossible.

It is us who are to be blamed for every single case of sexual assault, because we have allowed sex to become a weapon to be used against someone. Rape fundamentally is a form of retaliation against the female, as if to say, ‘look, that’s what I can do to you.’ We need to make that claim ineffective. Men need to stop thinking that they are sexually superior and women need to grow even stronger. Strong enough to say, ‘if that’s all you can do, I pity you.’ It needs to be realised that sex is not a ‘give-take’ thing; it’s a ‘share’ thing. What these fiends did was murder; crude and simple. Sexual assault is designed to murder the person’s esteem. The only way to stop this is to stop letting sex become something that destroys you as a person. It’s a crude solution but it’s the only one there is. You can go on shouting ‘don’t rape’ – ‘don’t rape’ all your life; and no one would pay heed. (My mom has been telling me for twelve years to take studies seriously, I never did.) Our outlook towards sex needs to change. As individuals we need to bridge the gap between male and female psychology towards sex. And also the gap between the social status of women and men.

I don’t know how many of you have noticed but in all books published by the NCERT, for the past few years, wherever possible examples have been given in the female gender. It’s these small steps which can lead us to the utopia we all desire.

Hoping that if you cared to read this far, you might leave your comments. Do criticize if you don’t agree. Looking forward to a better future…

P.S. I used the word ‘sex’ thirty three times in this document. Hope you understand what I am trying to say…