Sunday, September 6, 2015

Gender equality and safety

As part of my work, I happen to travel to interior villages and not so forward minded taluks. On one such visit when I was delivering a training at Gubbi taluk, I felt threatened in a very long time. For the past few years, I've been blessed with the company of rational and egalitarian individuals. I've revelled in conversations that challenged, refined and pushed me to be a better individual. As a result of these exalted opportunities I've come to strongly believe in a society that celebrates free and equal individuals. But this recent experience violently woke me up from my slumber.

Upon finishing the training, I sat with my team to have lunch. One enthusiastic participant who held respect for me came to serve food to the place where I was sitting with a big vessel. A young fellow in my team discarded the entire scene as one that of patronising a girl. He rashly commented that all those people who complimented and showed respect to me in various trainings (there are about 10+) did so mainly because I was a girl. He felt that people admire me only for me being a girl. In the process, this young villager belittled my expertise in content, public speaking and interpersonal relationship in one single statement. Not only was my pride hurt but I felt extremely inconsequential. There were few others in the team who enthusiastically agreed to this man! This interaction highlights the following facts in villages:
1. After all that a woman does, her gains of the game are associated to society's tender feelings for a girl
2. A woman is expected to fill in the shoes of the stereotypical girl

I still believe there is merit in me being me because:
1. Upon seeing a girl who doesn't fit the traditional roles of a girl, the people will take notice of the progress society is making in gender equality
2. If I deliver good results irrespective of gender, the villagers will have a fine woman role model
3. My gender atypical actions might inspire someone who is trying to break free of gender stereotyping

Women do not highlight such subtle discrimination in their day to day life. A typical reader might now feel that I'm coming out too strongly by stating the above pointers. But I see my role beyond the confines of my job description. I'm not there to just provide guidance to village teachers about curriculum and pedagogy. I see every human as a potential force to alter the mechanism of this world. If my stubbornness to defy stereotypical roles brings about a subtle change, then I believe I like many other people in the world hold a power to influence others. And as Spiderman says "with great power comes great responsibilities". I will not allow any one experience to kill my spirit of achieving equality. I demand equality and thereby hold the responsibility to deliver equality myself.

On the same day I had to halt in the town to deliver one more training the next day. After a tiring visit to the village (35km away from the town. A village with no running tap water, electricity for 1-2 hours of the day, food still cooked on firewood) of the same young man mentioned above, all I wanted was to crash on bed and nourish my tired body with a good night's sleep. The hotel I decided to stay at was a newly constructed, comfortable and clean one. I was immensely grateful for this! But the whole experience was uncomfortable. A male colleague also decided to stay back, although he confessed much later that he did so to ensure my safety. And guess what! I was glad for that gesture since I was the only girl to stay in the entire hotel, which had about four floors and some 10-15 rooms on each floor and my colleague's presence gave a soothing assurance of safety. Where ever I walked that evening in the hotel I had different eyes set on me wondering what exactly I'm doing! When you have so many people looking at you trust me it is not a welcoming feeling outside your home city, in a strange small town.

In my opinion, nobody should  feel unsafe just because of their gender. I might be comfortable walking travelling alone in the cities I've lived in. But it's disheartening to accept that I don't feel safe travelling alone in small towns and villages, particularly at night. Will this condition change? Yes. I'm definitely hopeful of that. Whether that change is going to be one at high speed or at a snail's pace is left for the villagers to decide!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ultimate solution to educational crisis

A religion focussed solely on education is the ultimate solution to end all the educational woes of our society. 

I recently finished watching Zeitgeist and reading the book Rise of Kali by Anand Neelkantan. What's prominent in both these intellectual discourses is that dominant people in the society fabricate the rules and ways of a religion to influence and manipulate the commoners.

Theists who lead life within the constraints of a religion follow anything that the priests/religious authorities put forth as the good code for life. Imagine a religion based purely on making the population rational thinkers set out to create a free and equal society. The followers of such a religion based on the ideals of democratic education would definitely solve problems in our education system.

If anything can save the doom of education then it is a strong blind faith that will make people believe in any tough way of life and fanatism that will fuel the minds with a craziness.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


There are days when I am simply at bliss and to my good fortune, these are frequent. Yesterday was one such day where I travelled to a serene place 100km away from Bengaluru. I waited for bus with this to accompany me:

For a stretch there was nothing but tranquil glimpses of paddy fields, coconut farms and the horizon adorned with a few bulges of hills. 

My work was to train 80+ teachers on the innovative use of low cost experiments for their teaching. The training room overlooked this scenery:

I witnessed pure joy of learning and curiosity when these adults immersed in building their own scientific toys.

I can daresay that even if two out of these 80+ classrooms empower kids to construct scientific toys on their own then my purpose is served!

I chance across many interesting conversations during my field visits and one such conversation took place yesterday when this lady proudly announced that her son, in spite of scoring 98% in 12th choose to study law for his undergrad opposing everyone in the family and she along with her husband supported his decision. Now this proud mother dreams of seeing her 16 year old daughter trace her brother's footsteps and choose anything of her choice and succeed at it.

Throughout the day I challenged 2 of them for their caste biases and strtongly encouraged women participants to not shy away from speaking out and held counsels with a few women regarding the status of women teachers in rural areas. The day ended with talking to a young man about his struggles in the metropolitan Bengaluru city while he earned a decent life for himself.


"I admire the achievements you have made in this young age, what caste do you belong to?"

"You carry yourself very confidently madam. Which caste do you belong to? I have a suitor for you"

"Madam I'm hailed as the most eligible bachelor of my village. When I get married, I want to look after my wife very well. I don't want her to take trouble by working outside house. Let her find peace in building my home."

"Yes, we all enjoy eating together. We are from caste A."

"My sister is more beautiful than me Akka. She is white!"

"My girlfriend dumped me because I couldn't earn more than 80k a month."

Should I stay contented at the outward nobility of all these people or burn with rage at the inherent casteism and sexism? My interactions with people from varied backgrounds has given me some patience to listen to everyone's stories but I still haven't gained the maturity to not judge what I think is blatantly wrong for the society. I have begun to engage each such individual who emanates sexism or casteism in a conversation. I adopt the process of enquiry with open ended questions. I like listening to the elaborate answers that people churn out. Just when they think I am convinced with their argument I throw another innocent question that contradicts their own belief.

I am sure that these mindless conversations with strangers will at least sow the seeds of transformation in at least few people's minds. Why do I even care to attempt engaging in such conversations?

I want a world where

  • I can move about people who wouldn't display sexism
  • Friendships are based on like mindedness and not just caste
  • People value merit more than status 
  • Girls can feel comfortable in their own skin no matter what color or texture it is
Will one person doing this deed bring about a difference? Yes. I strongly believe that humans are connected to and influenced by each other in a way we cannot comprehend. I believe that my humble attempts at establishing humanism and equality will create a positive vibe in a small part of our vast world and someone braver, kinder and more intelligent person will carry this forward. It is also true that I am fanning a flame of equality triggered by other great minds. Trying to contribute to a never ending intellectual quest for equality in my own way. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Why people don't change!

Here is an excerpt from a book that I have absolutely enjoyed reading:

"When  a belief is  an ideology , used  to justify group  the way of life of a  social , it  will be  difficult  for the members of that  community to  consider it objectively.  There  will be  strong  social  pressures  to conform to it  and  acknowledge it.  People  will feel  that  their set of beliefs, even  if perhaps open  to some  theoretical  difficulties, contains  vitally  important insights,  and  a vision of  essential truths that  have  practical importance.   For  many  people  to question  their theory of  human nature is  to  threaten  what gives  meaning, purpose and hope to their  life, and thus  to cause  them psychological discomfort  or  distress.   Inertia,  and unwillingness  to  admit that  one is wrong, often  plays a  part here.   If  one  has  been brought up in  a certain belief and its associated way of  life, or if one  has converted  to  it and followed  its  precepts, it takes  great courage to question or abandon one’s life commitment."

Ten Theories of Human Nature, Leslie Stevenson and David.L Haberman

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Far Side Gallery4 by Gary Larson

This book is hilarious. The humor is wasted on those whose G.K is poor. One needs to be aware of
  • World and American history
  • Pop culture
  • Animal and plant kingdoms (chracteristics of different animals)
  • Major events 
  • Literature
But if you enjoy geeky literature then grab this book in the humor section. Here is a link to the snippets of jokes from the book.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

These are a few of my favorite things :)

Days fortunately spent among children, children of angelic age of 5 to 11.
Greetings every morning with kids running to me and hugging any part of me that they can get hold of.
Pleas for chocolate and another story book.
Shy comments about how pretty I look that day.
An additional layer of kajal and a new earring can make me feel like a beauty queen among these tots.
A running, messy child.
A Soheil from grade 1 who is every so slovenly and ever naughty.
2 feet tall Arpitha from junior KG who gives me the best smile every day.
The kindest helper didi whose day doesn't begin without a hug from me.
Juveriya, who is always late to the class.
Juveriya, who is ever feisty.
Juveriya, who is the best dreamer of my class.
Juveriya, the name that fills most part of my heart.
Mr.A with collar button neatly done, leaving open the rest!
Crazy Anas who calms down with one touch.
Ronak, who refuses to ever give me a hug.
Aryan, who wins the award for being matured than the rest.
Chotu, whose front teeth haven't grown for the past 4 years.
Naziya, who places a kiss on cheeks every time she meets me and declares that I am the best didi in the world.
Yaseen! How I wish he were a little shorter to fit in my pocket.
The red dust of playground that chokes me, yet is like a breath of life.
Tears on a silly quarrel of pencil box.
Swear words and the apologies.
Reading time. That magical moment where I can hear the breathing of every single child.
The excitement over unopened book parcels.
The complaints over hand pain and leg bruises.
The sweat, dirt and smile after a football match.
Mufid, the ebony colored child with the dazzling eyes.
Mariam, who chides me for missing many of our evening one-on-one conversations.
Sakshi, whose sincerity puts me to shame every day.
Firdos, who retaught what kindness and joy are in life.
Souliha, the proud girl.
Guddu, the frivolous and the cutest looking child ever!
Asif and Fardeen, the undisputed sweethearts.