Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Indian Women and Political Awareness – Do They Ever Meet?

During last Thanksgiving, we went to an American family’s house. My wife and I were the only Asian guests in that house and others (about twenty) were all Americans. On the course of the dinner we had a lot of good discussion about a lot of things. Prominent among them were the war in Iraq, possibility of an American recession, the chances Hillary Clinton had in the presidential election, happenings in Africa especially in Darfur, fighting in Sri Lanka, India Pakistan relationship, issues in Middle East. We covered almost the entire world in those four hours. The most important aspect of this discussion was that most of the discussions were initiated by women especially those concerning America. They were so much interested to talk/debate about the daily politics of their country.

This is not the first time I am having some kind of political discussion with American women. Since a teenager I have always liked to be part of any political discussion and I had umpteen numbers of them with my friends/colleagues while in India. But none of the discussions/debates involved a girl. They were just not interested. But things were much different with Americans. If I am having a political discussion with Americans majority of the time women are also involved.

I am not telling that all American women are politically conscious and all Indian women are not. If you take 10 Americans (five females and five males), two men and two women may not even know who the current US president is. Another one man and one woman may not care about politics of his/her nation (like Indian women). The other two men and women will be have high knowledge of politics/governance happening in this country and are willing to debate on any issue that affect them.

If we take 5 Indian men and women each, at least 2 men will be politically conscious but I am sure 4 of the women will never take any interest in understanding the various political issues around them. They hate talking about politics. I never had an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion with an Indian woman about politics.

If talking to an Indian woman, bring the topic of politics and expect the following: “I just hate politics”; “Politics is bad”; “I have more important stuff in life than understanding politics”; the list goes on.

This scenario is diametrically opposite if the discussion is about the latest soap opera, latest Bollywood masala or about the latest fashion – their face virtually lights up! Talk to them about inflation or upcoming Karnataka election or latest Union Budget or global price rise of food grains – they will give you the most weird look as if you are talking to them in a very different language. I don’t think they understand the fact that a Bollywood movie or latest soap opera can give them happiness for a very short time while most of the political decisions made by our elected representatives may have effects on the generations to come. So I believe it is necessary from the part of every responsible citizen to understand the politics of ones country.

When Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh brought in economic reforms I couldn’t understand anything about it. Talking/reading about it helps me to understand the vast opportunities available as a result of the opening of the Indian economy. With the help of the hundreds of discussions I had, I could understand how the stock/share market works and how to invest in that. Knowing what the government does, makes me to appreciate the good things done by the government and criticize the wrong doings of the government, that will help me to make a better choice the next time I go to vote.


Why do Indian women think that politics is for politicians and they have nothing to do with it?

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Lesson Learnt!

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My wife and I know an American lady about 75 years old who owns a small business. She calls herself a computer illiterate. She has employed an office assistant who prints out her emails. She goes through the print out and writes the reply to it and gives it to the assistant to type it and send the reply back to the email. Sometimes the lady types email in an old typewriter in her office and gives it to her assistant who will retype all those and send the email. I asked her once - "If you could type in an old typewriter then why can’t you do it in a computer? It is at least 1000 times easy".She replied “I am used to typewriter and I feel more comfortable with it”.
I thought she was really silly to use the typewriter rather than computer to compose her mails. I even thought how foolish people can be.
I have been in graduate school from 2001 to 2007 and I used to take courses from 2001 to 2005. It is almost 5 years since I took any course from my school. Now my wife is studying in the same school doing her Masters. I am shocked to see the advancement in the use of technology in the last 2 years in my school.
I have never seen my wife use paper or pen/pencil to write anything. Everything is done using computers – assignments, exams, projects. I have taken about 18 courses in my school and in all those courses I wrote all the exams in paper using a pencil. My wife writes all the exams in Microsoft Word! The professor uploads the question paper online at the time of exam. You need to log in, download the question paper and then use MS Word to write the exam. I can’t even imagine solving a math problem for an exam in MS Word. It is just not possible for me.
My wife just loves this way of writing exam and one day she asked me “when you have a laptop it is 1000 times easy to write the exam using that, rather than using paper and pen”. My wife gave me the same look I gave to that lady when she told she prefers typewriter to computers. For my wife I have become so old fashioned that I still prefer to write the exam the traditional way. The same way I thought about that 75 year old lady.
After this incident I could appreciate what the old lady told me. When I started my MS in US, a laptop, a cell phone, a wireless internet connection were something we couldn’t even dream of. Now it is so common and it is tough for the old generation people to really get deep into it.
I am pretty sure that from now onwards if someone says that he/she prefers to use an old technology to a new advanced one I will not look down on them.
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