Monday, December 30, 2013

Of Minds and Men: Some End of Year Reflections

A peculiar trait in human beings: anything we don't understand, or anything we find different from ours, we tend to put in boxes. Or, apply labels to it. Perhaps it is an aid to understanding, perhaps it makes us feel comfortable and in control over the vicissitudes of life in uncertain times. But in doing so, rarely do we consider the splash damage. Mental illness is one of those oft-used boxes, which we easily and cavalierly assign to things that we find ranging widely from grossly unpleasant to merely different.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sexual Violence in India: A Tale of Two Stories... for balance?

Some of us were shocked and outraged the other day when via CNN iReport, user RoseChasm, a South Asian studies student at the University of Chicago, shared with the world the horrifying tale of her harrowing experience of being sexually harassed, repeatedly, while in India.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Traditional Indian "Joint" Families: Are they quite the paragon of support?

In a recent post, noted Indian educationist and social commentator Meeta Sengupta has wistfully (as she herself noted) sung paeans to the traditional Indian family, also referred to as a "joint-family". Do read the eloquent essay in her blog, and I encourage you, dear reader, to interact with her. Understanding her point of view is important for another reason, too: it'd help clarify my position on this - in sharp contrast to hers. This is a matter of some significance to me, and hence I chose to respond via a blog post of my own. I think a disclaimer is important here: I greatly admire the wisdom and thoughts of Ms. Sengupta on different aspects of education, and we follow each other on Twitter. Rarely do I have an/any occasion to disagree with what she writes; however, this essay of hers seems one of those rare occasions, where I disagree with her thesis. This response is not to engender acrimony between us, but to present a viewpoint that is - as will be apparent - patently different from hers in this matter.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Noted Women Scientists of India - an attempt at enumeration

Priya Ravichandran (@binaryfootprint on Twitter), who is a program manager and writer with the Takshashila Institution, threw a challenge on Twitter the other day. She asked her followers to name top 5 women scientists of India without doing a Google search first. Easy-peesy, I thought. But as I tried to remember the names, I was mortified to discover that beyond Dr. Asima Chatterjee (a noted Chemist) and Dr. Sipra Guha Mukherjee (a noted plant biologist, who had taught us at the Jawaharlal Nehru University), I couldn't remember off-hand the names of any top tier Indian women in the pure sciences fields. Even in my dotage, this was embarrassing. So, I enlisted the help of my friends on Facebook (Viva la social media!) and asked them to come up with names. In this post, I am going to list those names that came up. One caveat: the list, understandably, may be slightly biased towards women in bioscience and related fields - since many of my friends and I are biology researchers. However, I'd love it if you, dear readers, could come up with other names, and leave them in the comments, along with a few words in description.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Towards infinity and beyond

On her newly-minted blog, my niece, a budding physician, was reminiscing the other day about the first time she set foot outside her family home, her city, her comfort zone - her first foray into the greater world beyond, in order to pursue her dream of becoming a medical professional. Under the Indian medical education system - quite different from the American system - one gets into medical schools right after graduating senior high school, what is known in India as the Higher Secondary, and represents 12 years of basic schooling. For her, then a teenager, this parting from the nest was a bitter-sweet experience, tinged equally with the fear of unknown and the determination to make her place in the world.

Monday, May 20, 2013

In Its Endlessness Life Abounds

A quick post this morning: I wanted to leave y'all with some beautiful, if poignant, thoughts from India's one of the most beloved poets of all times, the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Written originally in Bangla (the vernacular of the people of Bengal), this composition of his deals with the pain and grief we experience many times over in our daily lives, and speaks of the continuity of life and the importance of positive thoughts. This translation to English was done by yours truly a while ago; I hope you like it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Deeeep Rifffftz!!

Man! Carrying on a conversation on Twitter, especially one in which participants feel passionately, is hard. The restriction of 140 characters, the lightning-speed at which replies come and go - an old fogey like me sometimes finds it very difficult to engage in a meaningful exchange. Take this morning, for example.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Courageous Woman Speaks About Her Rape in India And Official Apathy

Rape. Sexual Violence against women. Gang rape. Happening daily in the glorious nation of India. I have been expressing my outrage about this through my blog posts and via Social Media (Facebook & Twitter) for a while now (See here, here, here, and here), trying to encourage - and engage in - activism against sexual violence in whichever way I can, not only in India, but elsewhere in the world, too.

I don't know if all that outrage, that anger, that activism, those protests against sexual violence ever achieve anything; certainly nothing seems to change in a country like India. Barring some token political maneuvers, nothing has been done in response to the nationwide protest against the horrifying ordeal and eventual death of Jyoti Singh Pandey, and the outrages continue to occur. Faced with an apathetic, callous and intransigent system, even people like me, who make an effort to voice these concerns and shine the spotlight on sexual violence, do run the risk of getting inured to such incidents after a while - due to the sheer volume of it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Science Funding and Future Prosperity of the Nation, All On the Line

How are y'all doing? Me, I am scared shitless. The exact situation that scientific bodies had warned about last September has finally come to pass. Late on the night of Friday, the 1st of March, the studied intransigence of the Congressional Republicans on fiscal matters bore fruit and President Obama signed the order that put the across-the-board, indiscriminate, $85 billion spending-cuts (a.k.a sequestration, or the Sequester) into grim effect.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Twitter-bullying, Indian ishtyle

Noted FreeThoughtBlogger Ophelia Benson, certainly no stranger to the harassment meted out online to women who dare to speak out, has written long and hard about it (See here, here, here, and here; Twitter is a medium which seems to especially bring out the very worst that humanity has to offer, the bottom-feeders, the misogyny-laden online trolls who revel in their power of semi anonymity and physical distance, which enables them to hurl slights and abuses at women who try to go against a patriarchal society and make a difference. Ophelia, a grizzled veteran of battling misogyny and idiocy online and off, has recently conceded that sometimes it does get too much - the relentless abuses, lies and misrepresentations, not to mention the thinly-veiled threats of violence and expressed wishes for harm to befall her.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

By the Grace of... Really?

For those not in the know, the Indian Institute of Management at Calcutta (IIM-C) is a premier educational establishment in the city of my birth. It is one of the top business schools in India, and according to the QS Global 200 Business School Report 2012, in the Asia-Pacific region as well. It offers several graduate (Master's and Doctoral degree and diploma) programs in Management and Executive Education.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's not about the Honey (Singh)!

The first time in my life I heard about 'Indian Rapper' Honey Singh was when a dear friend of mine circulated a petition on Facebook - which called upon the General Manager of some Bristol Hotel, in the city of Gurgaon to cancel a scheduled show by the said rapper, because he allegedly promotes misogyny and violence against women via his lyrics. An example was provided in the petition; the lyrics in Hindi, attributed to Honey Singh, describe rather graphically the kind of violent sexual abuse the male protagonist wants to mete out to some woman.

The Cup of Shame Steadily Runneth Over

Indian News Media was abuzz since a couple of days by a remark by Mr. Shashi Tharoor, the Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development, who tweeted his desire to have the new rape laws bear the name of the now-deceased victim of the brutal gang-rape outrage in Delhi. Under Indian laws, the identity of rape-victims are kept a strict secret, and the 23-year old victim has so long been referred to in the media variously as 'Delhi’s braveheart', 'Damini' (thunderbolt), 'Nirbhaya' (fearless), and 'Amanat' (treasure), perhaps to honor her desperate fight to remain alive after her grievous injuries. Now Mr. Tharoor has questioned the decision to keep the name of this rape victim a secret, indicating that the nation should honor her with her real name and identity. Expectedly, there have been a slew of responses on Twitter, supporting and decrying Mr. Tharoor's viewpoint in equal measures, while political machinations are already afoot to discredit him, with his own party distancing themselves from his remark in a cowardly manner. Let it be on record that I support Mr. Tharoor in this matter; our names form a large part of our identities, and if new laws are promulgated (and old one, strengthened) against rape and sexual violence against women, we as a nation can honor the victim by associating her real name with the said laws, as a mark of respect and remembrance. Similar practices exist in other civilized countries.