Growing up

Growing up in life, I have heard a lot of adages. One of the things my dad used to say whenever I demanded things, just because my friends had or did, was — “If your friends ran and jumped into a well, would you do the same?”

I wasn’t bold enough to tell my dad this but I thought — “Of course. I have intelligent friends. If they’re jumping into a well, they would surely have good reason to do so.”

I think, growing up in life does not happen overnight. But it happens so gradually that you often don’t notice and from a person who’s at the receiving end of advices, you’re one day giving advices.

But some incidents in life (like this one), some peculiarly insignificant, makes you feel that you’ve grown up a little. In a moment’s passing, you feel you’re no longer the person you were just an instant ago.

One such, inconsequential incident occurred during my school days. While young, we were taught to be respectful to elders (sometimes to a fault) and admonished if we weren’t — so it was rather unusual to have youngsters argue or talk back.

Public buses on some routes were always full and getting a seat meant you had to hurry to be one of the first to board it. Many buses have a wider middle door with support bar in the middle that acted to split the crowd — people that alighted from the bus took one side and the ones getting on, took the other.

I remember hurrying and being the first, waiting for the door to open. When the door opened, I stepped inside and got irritated that a middle-aged man entered from the other side of the bus door blocking people from exiting. This caused mini-chaos. I turned to the man sharply and demanded why he did that. He replied saying — “So what? Everybody does it.” To which, I promptly, as if I was waiting for this moment to occur all my life, replied — “If everybody runs and jumps into a well, will you also do it?”

The person felt insulted and I realized I had done something that wasn’t expected of a person my age and froze. I quickly found an empty seat and sat. In that moment I had grown up a little. I realized I could question people when they’re wrong, irrespective of their age.

Now, after a dozen more years of growing up, I’ve realized that questioning such stupid people is of no use. Reminds me of a quote (allegedly attributed to Mark Twain) — “Never argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

Oh, the person from the bus did say something back to me along the lines of — “Hot blood. You’ll know better when you grow up”. I listed it down as another adage. *shrug*

ಈ ಕಾಲದ ರಾಜಕಾರಣಿ!

ದುಡ್ಡಿನ ಮದ ತಲೆಯೇರಿ,
ಅತಿಯಾಸೆಯ ಭೂತ ಬೆನ್ನೇರಿ,
ಒ೦ದು ರಾಜಕಾರಣಿ ಕೂಗಿದ,
ನಿಖಿಲ್ ಯೆಲ್ಲಿದ್ಯಪ್ಪಾ?

ರೇಶನ್ ಅಂಗಡಿಯ ಸಾಲಿನಲ್ಲಿ,
ತರಕಾರಿಯ ಮಾರುಕಟ್ಟೆಯಲ್ಲಿ,
ಒಮ್ಮೆಯೂ ಕಾಣದೆ ಜನ ಕೇಳಿದರು,
ನಿಖಿಲ್ ಯೆಲ್ಲಿದ್ಯಪ್ಪಾ?

ತಾತನ ತೊಡೆ ಹತ್ತಿ,
ಅಪ್ಪನ ಭುಜ ಏರಿ,
ಜನರ ತಲೆಮೇಲೆ ಕಾಲಿಡಲು ಬ೦ದಿರುವ,
ನಿಖಿಲ್ ಯೆಲ್ಲಿದ್ಯಪ್ಪಾ?

ಅರಹತೆ ಇಲ್ಲದ ಅಸ್ತಿತ್ವ,
ಬುದ್ಧಿ ಇಲ್ಲದ ಜ್ಞಾನಿ,
ತಾನೇ ಎದುರು ಬ೦ದಾಗ,
ಕನ್ನಡಿ ಕೇಳಿತು – “ನಿಖಿಲ್ ಯೆಲ್ಲಿದ್ಯಪ್ಪಾ?”

Nature makes the man

I have always wondered why people live in places with harsh climate – why struggle every day as if it’s a battle to be won? Having been in Sweden for a while now, has brought some perspective into that thought.

For most people, their place of birth is their home – the place where they feel most comfortable, experience a sense of freedom and a confidence of security. I miss this. How long before I can feel the same way here? I don’t know. If this is my feeling after choosing to be here, I cannot begin to imagine the plight of people who are forced to leave behind their war-torn homelands and start anew seeking asylum.

I truly believe that immigrants forced to leave their countries would happily return if social and economic safety is guaranteed, but that’s another discussion for another post.

Speaking of harsh climates, Sweden isn’t the toughest to live in. The winter was bearable – coming from an Indian, this is remarkable. However, my wife and my parents would vehemently disagree. The spring is beautiful and has brought everyone out of their homes.

Irrespective of the weather, Swedes generally have an active lifestyle. Soccer, ice hockey and skiing are the top favorites. There are people jogging at all times of the day, come rain or snow.

As a person who had never experienced temperatures below ~10°C, I couldn’t have imagined the effort that goes into keeping the roads and tracks working during the winter. Trains are still functioning, nevertheless with some delays and cancelations. I had taken a lot of things for granted.

With lesser population, manual labor is expensive the concept of DIY – do it yourself  – is the norm. People assemble their own furniture, fix almost everything themselves – from kitchens to roofs – and building an entire house isn’t a far-fetched idea. I feel like I’m inadequately equipped to be here.

I feel nature keeps people on their toes, challenging them every season to adapt and live many lives, plan better and be self-sufficient.

As a side note, I am yet to find a place which isn’t accessible by a differently-abled person. Every place has a ramp, elevator; busses are equipped with designated spots for wheelchairs. It’s so nice to know how disability doesn’t have to make a person lose access to the same life as everyone else. This is such a contrast from how pathetic things are in India. 😦

P.S.: A roller coaster ride had an elevator for persons on wheelchair! 🙂

The UN sexism Google search ads are wrong, technically

The truth is, we live in a male dominated society where men enjoy a privilege of exercising certain rights that do not extend to women. This culture has transcended generations and centuries. And it is going to take longer than that to clean up.

Why?

Why did things come to be as they are? Are we genetically so sexist? In the early days, the men used to hunt for meat while the women-folk would tend to the young ones and managed the caves. If perhaps, the root cause for sexism started there, it should have changed when civilizations evolved, correct? Nothing much changed during the times of the great kings and kingdoms. Further, during the industrial revolution, there was an explosion of many new jobs – engineers, architects, soldiers – most of them were reserved for men because either they needed an increased physical exertion or the necessary training for the required skill set was never extended to women. This was amplified by the fact that education was considered a “luxury”. Only the ones who would “use” the skills they learned at school, were educated. This is the reason why there were considerably lesser number of women scientists during the 18th century. Over the years, the patriarchal society got itself established as only men had “knowledge” of how the world “functioned”.

What changed?

Evolution in economies resulted in industries taking a background as the main money-making entities. People in industries were replaced by machines as a result of automation. Fields like science, technology, research, banking, took prominence. The jobs that are created for this generation of workforce are gender-neutral; they break the need for physical strength that the jobs during industrial revolution demanded.

So, now what?

Gradually, women began fending for themselves thus reducing their dependency upon men for basic needs. This “shift of power” was not welcomed by men and thus began the long struggle for women’s rights and freedom. This is yet an ongoing battle for equality not just limited to the under-developed or developing countries, but to the developed economies as well. Many organizations worldwide are doing a great job of making the world aware – like the UN.

UN Google search ads

un-ads-all

The entire premise of this post was the “powerful” advertisements by the UN which used the Google auto-complete (a feature that suggests popular search terms as you type your search query) to show the widespread prevalence of sexism in our society.

  • Is the problem real? Yes. Equality between the sexes is something that is truly necessary for a society!
  • Are ads like these necessary? Yes, very much.
  • Are they doing a good job of raising awareness? They are doing great!
  • Are they truthful? No.

Here’s what’s wrong

Google uses a certain algorithm nicknamed Google Instant to get popular keywords related to the terms that you are typing in, using data collected from earlier searches by many other people, and displays it, in the assumption that you may also be searching for something similar. By the way that it works, what Google suggests is in no way connected to what you would be actually looking for. For instance, when you search for “save water”, the suggestions shown are hardly practical, are they?

save-water
I haven’t heard of a single person giving up water and living on beer instead!

This article may help understand how the Google Instant suggestions work. Further, going by the Google Trends, the term “woman should” was searched for the most number of times just about after the UN ads were posted.

google-trends-women-should
The number 100 indicates that the point in the graph is the highest value ever.

Google suggestions can be easily misinterpreted

2013-10-19 12_32_45-Google
So, 25% of the people searching for “the world is” think that it is flat? If so, we may have bigger problems here.

This is interesting!
This is interesting. I’m more concerned about people thinking Oxygen is a compound!

I have many American friends, and this is hardly the truth!
I have many American friends, and this is hardly the truth!

My Take

Sexism is a real issue. Everyday there is news about how crimes against women have increased drastically, and how women are denied even basic rights by many Governments around the world. Yes, women are suffering and something needs to be done! By writing about the technicality behind the UN ads, I do not undermine the need for the awareness for this issue; I only felt that Google search suggestions are not indicators of how far-reaching sexism is.