#MeinBhiChowkidar Movement and Dignity of Labor

In April 2015, when our PM Modi visited Canada and addressed the NRIs over there, he spoke about the dignity of labor (the lack of it) in India. From what I read, he has talked about this topic earlier as well but this was the first time I heard about it from him. I ended up writing an article about that at that time as well.

Fast forward to 2019, when I heard about the #MeinBhiChokidar campaign, that speech of his replayed in my mind and this topic was one of the earliest thoughts that occurred to me. A campaign that started as a response to the filthy sloganeering by the Congress Naamdaar, led by the PM himself and seconded by pretty much all of his ministers, received a resounding response from the general public too. It may or may not have been intended as one, but for me, it was a great experiment on the dignity of labor and the change in the mindset of the Indians. They (public) didn’t do it consciously but it was a step in the direction of establishing dignity of labor in the Indian psyche. It was one of those occasions, when a title, that is normally associated with a seemingly low-quality job in the traditional Indian mindset, was adopted by thousands (perhaps millions) of Indian as a part of their identities. People were not hesitant to call themselves a watchman, English equivalent of the word, in its spirit and embraced it wholeheartedly.

While the prime minister clarified that the term “chowkidar” is in the essence of the duty of the security personnel in general, which is that of guarding whatever piece of the entity that they are responsible for, in his case, it was the whole nation. The fact that it was embraced by many was a good example of how, we as a nation, is opening up to the idea of giving respect do any kind of work that is done honestly.

A few years ago, there was a good debate on the “pakodas” where the Prime Minister said that the person selling snacks on the road in an honest manner is equally entitled to the level of respect any other person doing a corporate job is. We, as a nation, should respect the honesty of the person and it’s work irrespective of what that work is as long as it is not harming anybody. This is a very important idea that needs to be included in the mindsets of Indians who generally have inhibitions on a certain type of work based on their own understanding of their identities, mainly social.

The dignity of work is something which I witnessed more in the Western countries (at least compared to India). It was a part of Indian civilization when the society was divided into “varnas” and everybody was free to choose whatever skill they want to acquire and contribute to society. This was before the whole society was divided into classes and castes and races by the Britishers in order to rule India more conveniently using the policy of “Divide and Rule”.

I remember the first glimpse of the dignity of labor when I landed in the US for the first time and was standing in the immigration queue. On the screens placed right above the counters, they were explaining the whole process of immigration and what things people need to take care of during the process. They were also proudly explaining the importance of an immigration officer in ensuring the security of the nation and how they are the first line of defense to ensure that the unwanted people do not enter the country. It was such an important idea, something that doesn’t occur so naturally unless mentioned explicitly. The amount of respect, in daily lives, all these people who made the community safe, clean, and beautiful receive is commendable.

For example, the Indian police which is often at the receiving and of many complaints, we forget that they are the first line of defense whenever any kind of attack happens in the country are any other kind of law and order situation arises. In the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Mumbai Police was the first one to respond to the situation and in fact, a brave constable, Tukaram Omble, lost his life while managing to capture the lone live terrorist in the police operation. We take certain things for granted and do not realize and its importance unless it is not there. People who help us in our daily lives like the security guards, people who pick up the garbage, the sanity workers, the firefighters, the traffic police and many more. These unsung heroes who make our lives easy and safe on a daily basis really should get the recognition they deserve. In the western world, some of the critical services like the firefighting, the paramedics, and the police I known as first responders.

Unfortunately, a part of the culprit is also the terminologies used for these people. For example, the person who picks up garbage every day from our houses, we call him or her kachrawala/wali instead of safaaiwala/wali, which is more correct because we are actually throwing the garbage and they are cleaning it up.

Two years ago, on one of the Facebook groups, I came across a post by a lady who shared the summer activity of her two kids who made some money by starting their business in the neighborhood. What was the business? They charged some dollars for picking up the trash from the neighborhood and putting it out in the common bin. It was really amazing to read. This household was not poor. The kids did not really have to do the job that they were doing. However, it was their mother’s way to make them start earning money rather than just having it from the parents. It also inculcated a sense of respect in the kids’ minds for the people who do similar kind of work an understand how hard working these people are who clean up the entire community. In a way, such activity imbibes the dignity of labor in kids.

I guess that’s where it should start. I hope this idea of the dignity of labor spreads well across India and Indians.

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Why I Pray the IAF Disclosure Doesn’t Set a Poor Precedent

As I woke up in the morning today, the ritual of checking the phone was the first thing happened. And as I unlocked it, the first Google News flash appeared “Amid Calls For Proof, Air Force Shows Radar Images Of Pak F-16 Encounter” from NDTV. IAF held a press conference where they showed radar images and electronic signatures of the IAF aircraft MiG-21 Bison and the three F-16 aircraft of PAF, one of which went off the radar, indicating it being destroyed. This was further substantiated with the initial claim by the Pakistan armed forces as well as PM Imran Khan himself when they declared that two IAF pilots were captured but it turned out it was only one. The information about the other pilot was suppressed cleverly.

While the junta rejoiced at this news, as I could read from the Twitter reactions, my heart sank a little.

I just hope this doesn’t end up becoming a bad precedent set by IAF because now, for every operation in future, there will be proofs sought and this example will be provided to ensure the proof-giving-exercise happens every time. Information that should not be public, would be made public and that is not a good sign for national security. It pained me to see that we have reduced ourselves to a nation that is seeking proof from our armed forces of their heroism.

It is sad that, within India, we have people who are asking these questions under the pretext of questioning the government but their questions are essentially directed at the armed forces. Their worry is not the national security but ensuring that the slightest benefit of these actions do not end up benefiting the present government, even if it means helping the enemy state. This questioning comes at the cost of national security.

While, to the relevant international/foreign organizations and governments, IAF and the Indian government may still need to provide the proofs, it should still be an administrative and secured communication and not public. We may need to send the proof to Pentagon since the US made aircraft are involved in the whole episode but what is the need to distribute such information through a press conference?

Firstly, this kind of technical information hardly understood in it’s purest forms by the general public. Secondly, such information can expose our capabilities to unwanted entities, which is not good for our security. While, I am pretty sure IAF would take care of the second point, but as a citizen, I would still not want them to waste their time in ensuring only the relevant information is distributed. Thirdly, there is absolutely no need for any kind of information about the military operation specifics to be distributed in the general public. There is a reason why this kind of information is kept secret.

People say that it is their right to question the government. If they really want to question the government, the questions should be regarding the lapse in the internal security that led to Pulwama attack and what the government is doing to prevent it in the future? What did the government do and did not do to prevent the attack? Since when did the government have the information on the Balakot terrorist camp? If it was before the attack itself, what took the government so long to act on it?

Unfortunately, instead, questions that require sensitive information to be disclosed are asked because people know that when they will be refused they can easily mask military secrecy as something fishy which opens the doors for them to create stories that suit their agenda.

I would just want to end this by apologizing to IAF as we, the Indian citizens, failed to uphold our nation’s security to the highest levels. While we give sermons about freedom of speech, we fail miserably at the responsibility of speech.

Featured Image Source: Zee News

Understanding Marriages

A couple of days ago, I received a forward on WhatsApp which talked about the “divorce culture” that’s supposedly growing in India. It was basically venting out frustration on women largely and holding them responsible for the growing situation – not really surprising.

This post is for those who haven’t taken pains to understand the issue. A large part of the perception behind the divorces is based on personal biases, superficial knowledge, and cherry picking incidents that suit the desired conclusion. Like, the forward I received, blamed the entire situation on western influence, women not taking care of the house but going for a job outside, love marriages, live-in relationships and so on. Everything but the actual reasons.

Divorce

It failed to recognize the changing social fabric of society with respect to gender roles and growing equality. However, while the parents have taught daughters to go out and earn, they haven’t taught sons to fulfill their fair share of duties at home. While historically, it was pretty much the set up of India and the idea was not to oppress but distribute responsibilities in a way that men took care of bringing money into the house and women were responsible to manage it in the best manner possible. Things changed eventually as the nature of jobs in the world became less labor intensive because the machines took over that part and it became more intellectual where it was a level playing field for both the genders.

Now, this is my own theory, which might be true, might not be true. But somewhere in between this change in the work nature, the importance of household work started to diminish and because now, within a single gender, we had two more categories – the women who took care of home and the women who went out and did a 9 to 6 job – it created an atmosphere where the women who took care of the house became a subject of ridicule by the other category. In addition, the new competition at the workplace made the men insecure and all the more committed to making sure that women stay at home. How do we do that? By destroying the confidence of these women. This, further, received the stamp of approval from the society who invented reasons why women shouldn’t be out at work – most commonly, child care.

It also led to a change in the upbringing of daughters who were raised to be submissive and sons were raised to be dominating. And after marriage, the status quo was maintained and there weren’t many divorces due to power in favor of one gender. Ladies knew that they’ll be the victim as well as the culprit, parents doors would be closed for them, social stigma around divorces will make it difficult for them to get on their feet alone (top it up with poor education), social ostracization would be just waiting. Hence, it was obvious that divorce wasn’t really an option when they had nowhere to go. However, as times changed, education and greater financial freedom made women more aware of their rights. And as your awareness increases, your tendency to put up with bullshit decreases.

Secondly, just because marriage hasn’t resulted in a divorce doesn’t mean it’s a success either. So many marriages get dragged for every single reason other than the fact that one of the two or both the people in the marital bond are suffering, mostly silently. While, historically, we have been successful in keeping the marriages from failing, we probably don’t realize that we’ve failed at many levels to make marriages successful. It was only a matter of time before those failures crossed the tolerance levels.

Also, not all failures mean a bad thing. Divorces have been projected as a monster and almost equated to end of life unnecessarily. Not to say that it doesn’t have a devastating effect, especially for the two people separating, but then, as Einstein once said, “There is a great value in disaster”. Sometimes distance and space give people a chance to become a better version of themselves. We, as a civilization, have stressed enough on finding our true selves and the meaning/purpose of life. But sometimes, if there is a toxic environment around us, it just doesn’t allow us the freedom to do that.

Love marriages end up in divorces as well. True, because some (or maybe many) of the marital problems aren’t exclusive to arranged marriage. It’s just that the confidence of success is greater in the case of love marriages. Sure, not all of them would be very thought through but then that happens in arranged marriages as well. Humans make mistakes all the time. While it is true for kids, it is as much true for parents. And human relationships never come with a guarantee. But using those failures to keep scores will not help anybody.