Thursday, March 26, 2015

No "Reservations"?

A conversation among friends on reservation for minorities lead to a comment on vote banks and corrupt politicians. The point asserted was the need to get rid of policies that foster minorities, creating a level playing field, thus reigning in corrupt politicians and their dirty tactics. This led me to think-----


Political parties may manipulate community groups and rely on vote banks to acquire or retain power and continue on with the cycle of corruption. This is definitely not good. But we cannot tackle the issue or outsmart corrupt politicians by simply getting rid of policies affecting minorities  and artificially creating a level playing field. Creating a level playing field is a great idea but not easy as one may think. The reason being, its not just economic disparity that is  in play here when we think of minorities and think of creating a level playing field. The social-cultural disparities are more deep rooted and tougher to tackle. The kind of mind set that still prevails (overtly or covertly, blatantly or subtly) towards the minorities, to say with the least bit drama is that it is shocking! Having had  lengthy conversations with my Dalit/minority/tribal friends, and when they talk about the prejudices they encounter in their daily lives it's not just difficult but inappropriate to think of quick fix solutions, especially the type that calls for doing away with policies that favor them. I draw parallels to the African American communities in the US. One would imagine as a progressive, developed society opportunities are found in a fair and square manner and that its a level playing field. But no, the truth  is far from it. When social prejudices remain deep rooted, it becomes tough to seek out opportunities even if the law prescribes all are equal and therefore all have equal opportunities.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Need to Get Away from Academics


The more I stick around the academic environment, the more I am convinced I must get away.  Here is the thing- There is nothing wrong with academics or sticking around in this environment. In fact it is a great place to formally acquire skills and knowledge that prepares you to understand the problems of the world and formulate solutions in a more balanced, structured, productive and effective way. But, once you feel you have acquired the skills then it’s important to decide whether to continue in the same environment or move to an environment that is more suitable to your goals and aspirations. This is a valid question one must ask oneself. The most natural transition (based on my observations) is to continue on the familiar path of academics, especially if you have spent a substantial amount of time in it, receiving formal training and receiving relevant degrees. I am such an individual who decided to continue on the journey just because the opportunity came and it seemed like a natural transition at the time. However, since then I have had the time to think and reflect and I have come to realize this is not what I want. I have enjoyed academics for the purpose it served- to help me develop skills and/or develop a sound theoretical base on the area that interests me. Once that has been reasonably accomplished (which is when you are generally conferred the degree) then how you utilize that knowledge is based on what drives you most. I have come to realize that I am a purpose/cause driven person. I feel motivated with the idea of using my skill/knowledge to be of use to someone and in situations where the outcome is more tangible and meaningful.

To put it in simple practical terms, I want to be out there with the people, on the field, facing issues head on, trying to  design and implement solutions, and experience the outcome process in person. I am not cut out for operating in a sterile, detached lab environment where your only access to the problem is through data sets and you ponder day in and day out on what to do with it, how to analyze it and what ideas or solutions can be generated out of it. My problem with this is not the process per se ( since it is integral to any research based solution), but how in the long run it gets reduced to the business of data collection, analysis, publication, citations, impact factors and h-indices. It becomes a rat race of career goals and moving up the academic professional ladder.  With the  occasional opportunity to teach a bunch of students, which perhaps gives you the chance to satisfy the notion of giving back or to be of some service, the academic environment does not evoke any desire or drive in me that makes me want to stay. I need to get away. *sigh*

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Annoyed and Reflective

So I  started watching the documentary "India's daughter" and could only do so for 15 mints. Too disturbing and I don't want to hear anymore the rapist asshole describing what he and his asshole buddies did to the poor helpless girl. I don't even understand why there is a stay or a debate on what to do with these animals. Just castrate them and hang them. As far as their defense lawyers and others who are arguing that the girl asked for it can take their moralistic fundas and shove it up their ass.

Now that my outrage is slightly under check I am in a self reflecting mood. I am in North America working in a research lab trying to understand and be part of solutions to local environmental problems (which I could also argue may have positive externalities with benefits beyond the immediate local). And yet, I feel this is not what I should be doing. My heart is totally elsewhere..elsewhere in terms of physical location and the kind of work I should be doing. Let me try and explain- Academics is great as you have a closer and quicker access to learn of a problem. It also helps you to think beyond the  immediate problem  and connect the dots; see the bigger picture or see how it's all connected and understand how prescribed solutions must consider both short term and long term benefits as well as consider its ripple effects. Now the trouble or rather the frustrating part is the time it takes from learning about the problem and understanding it to suggesting solutions that may potentially fix the problem. I just don't seem to have the patience for that. Also, you very rarely get to be part of the process of implementing your prescribed solutions. This makes me feel I am not contributing to fixing anything because by the time solution for one has been figured out a new problem has already cropped up. I suppose my point is I am not the kind of person to be sitting long hours reading, data crunching and analyzing, and just figuring out solutions. I am the restless kind who needs to be out, in the middle of the problem, working with the stakeholders, implementing the prescribed solutions in trying to fix the problem and perhaps use my academic background to evaluate and make improvements to the implementation process or provide more informed feedbacks. Despite having it all figured out in my head, I feel tied down and I don't know why.