Thursday, October 19, 2006

Not People Like US

I had written this one for an essay writing competition but since i came out with my hands empty i thought i might as well put it up here for some others to express their views.

Rapid advancements in technology are doing much to bring people closer to each other and in the process making the world a smaller place to live in. Boundaries of nations are soon dissolving and in some instances are little more than lines on maps to enable governments take care of their administrative responsibilities. People come together across millions of miles to accomplish myriad tasks that may be deemed as anything from business to leisure. So be it the pursuit of education, a progression to a new job, search for a new market for products or simply for a vacation in a chunk of paradise, people seem to be finding reasons to travel to the other side of the globe. The world has been opened into a level playing field for all to explore a plethora of opportunity and find ones own pot of gold at the end of their rainbow of dreams. It is a world where there truly seems to be equal opportunity for all, irrespective of their caste or creed. So how different is this world than the world in which an average Indian lives out his life?
To live in a society that does not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed, sex or religion is but a dream. That dream is no closer to being realized than in my homeland. After hearing out all the debates and debacles against discrimination and recently and more popularly- reservation, my views are that we are possibly as close to social equality as might be humanly possible. I shall not incite the wrath of my detractors and would take a safer path by clarifying my views by narrating my own experiences.
I have been educated in a convent and for long had been holding my nose high above others I interacted with on grounds of being unbiased and advocating equality. I realized soon though that I was no different from the very people I spoke against for discrimination- because I too was differentiating against them. For a long time, I supposed them to be unreasonable people who seemed to lack the vision and respect for humanity as a whole. I deemed no difference between myself and another individual and believed that all should be viewed in the same light as me. I was following exactly what I had been taught by my teachers and what had been so extensively advocated for by the many great leaders and personalities we read about in our history books. So many have worked towards achieving equal rights and opportunity for women. Ironically, they had to establish institutes that catered exclusively to women. Yes, their efforts are to be applauded because they to a large extent, have liberated so many women and secured their basic rights but their work was flawed. How is a woman to feel like an equal if the very pedestal that is helping her towards the goal is to remind her that she is standing on it because she is a woman? How am I as a male to view her in the same light if I have been educated in a boy’s school? Yes, my teachers tell me that girls and boys are equal but I see no girls in my school. How am I to believe them?
As we try to secure admission into college, we find ourselves being discriminated against on the grounds of caste. Why should I be denied a position, which I thoroughly deserve on the basis of merit just because I do not belong to a caste considered backward in the eyes of the government? Why are we discriminated against on the grounds of some ancient method that divided society? Would it not be better to identify those people who are in financial despair and hence in need of encouragement as opposed to those who though are well off financially continue to get incentive only because they belong to a certain caste. Why am I paying a price for something in which I did not have a say?
When you step into the realms of college, you suddenly step into a world where the rules are slightly relaxed. The first things you notice is that the individuals you have spent the better part of your formative years with are much different than you. Their clothes are quite unlike yours and so are the financial capabilities. After all the lectures on the essentials of living in a healthy community which treats students as equals irrespective of their economic stature, I find myself incapable of dining a cuisine that the both of us may be able to afford. How then should I spend time with these friends of mine without discrimination? Soon enough, we seem to part our ways driven by the need to mingle with people who can share our lifestyle and hence whom we can relate to.
That brings another crossroad where we befriend members of the opposite sex. Invariably, some discover strong attraction and when such news reaches their peers, the reactions are varied form staunch opposition to those of support. As young guns who strongly oppose any discrimination, such opposition is viewed as a threat and to have it come from your peers seems even more disappointing. They could not be right, could they? A mature analysis soon reveals the truth. The union of two individuals in the institution of marriage does not involve a mere union of individuals but that of two families. It is essential that the families be compatible hence also the cultures. Soon enough these individuals receive a culture shock and are brought back to reality. The cultures may not necessarily be similar but it is essential that the outlook of the two is. Successful relationships are based not on finding similarities but on identifying the differences and respecting them, it does not matter then whether these relationships are between two individuals or several groups.
Is the society we live in backward based on my arguments above? The answer is a definitive no. On the contrary, it is everything but backward. A mature insight into the matters under discussion throws light onto the complexity of the structure of society which though seems to be on crutches at first sight, is actually firmly rooted on strong foundations. The argument that boys and girls are educated in separate institutions only serves as a barrier ensuring interaction between the sexes when both are mature enough to understand each other. It also imparts growing individuals a critical outlook capable of assimilating the importance of such a division and not only reminding them of the prevalent bias but also of the need to do away with it.
Reservations too serve a purpose of bridging the gap between rural and urban India. Although the seemingly dated classifications of caste seem a waste on the urban culture, the same is unfortunately prevalent in the rural culture. Yes, the system is due an overhaul but it has worked wonders in the first fifty years of independence and its contribution towards developing a modern and forward India cannot be ignored. The financial disparity that is evident to the youth as we grow up, only serves a reminder to both the sections encouraging them to consistently work harder and drive one group towards achieving success and the other towards maintaining it.
The culture shock is perhaps the most significant factor in the diversity of a vast nation. It is both religion and locality, which contribute towards the differences in culture. It is here that the wisdom of arranged marriages come to the fore, where not only are the individuals checked for compatibility but also the families. This method ensures that the individuals stepping into the institution of marriage belong to the same school of thought and hence to a large extent, share their interests.
These unique characteristics of our culture hold us in good stead and see us advance in this century as one of the fastest developing countries. As we move beyond the yonder in search of newer avenues, we carry with us knowledge of a diverse culture that has taught us to adjust to differences. A culture that has taught us that to be Indian is to treat our neighbors with love and respect reserved for our kith and kin understanding well, that they are not people like us.

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