Saturday, July 09, 2016

Frog in a pond

A Kenathu thavalai - effectively means someone, who is relatively limited, because of the exposure they have.

A Kenathu thavalai - someone I thought I was never going to be, as I moved from my small town to a bigger city and kept reading books and interacting with people every day. 

Technology is supposed to have made the world a smaller place and opened us up to different cultures and thought processes, significantly different from ours. Unfortunately, my recent observation is that, with the advent of personalization, the opposite is happening. 

Take your Facebook news feed for example. You keep receiving updates from people you interact with the most and those whose viewpoints you usually agree with through liking a post or commenting on one. Take the news articles you are fed in your apps for example. The headlines and the news items that might interest you are also customized. So much so that you might never know about what happened in Baghdad (might not even know where the place is too) and still think you are quite aware of things happening all over the world. You have a view point, google it and you are going to find thousands to support your view. Even if it is something like how drinking everyday is very good for your health. Never mind that there could be millions opposed to it. You can choose to be influenced by things that are closest to what you want to believe in. Not necessarily as well researched as you think it is. 

There was an article circulating in my newsfeed. A supposedly viral one about a lawyer's lament that his wife was not working when he was struggling day and night. Taken in isolation, it can be perceived to be something a majority are agreeing with. While in reality, it is the majority, who interact with you, that is actually a miniscule population which can afford to have a 14 hour day in a comfortable office and earn enough in a day that people sometimes take years to earn.The majority out there, is still trying to get a damn toilet built so they can actually go somewhere in privacy and are struggling to go work in houses/construction sites when they have a tiny baby at home. Are educated young professionals like us truly aware of the world? 

Take something as basic as maternity leave for example. We all expect companies to give us the three months, but how many of us think that a maid who works for us might need it too? While we are going around flushing twice without thinking, in swanky offices, people in the very next street are not having enough water to drink. While we are spending thousands shopping for clothes and feeling bad about our inability to afford something new, someone out there doesn't even have a tear free dress. We only see our friends wearing smarter clothes, going around in bigger cars on more expensive vacations every single day. That to us, becomes an aspirational state. 

Our struggles and issues are real to us, but we are all frogs in a pond, maybe one of intellectual snobbery, maybe one of privilege (having food, water and a house to live in is a privilege. Make peace with it), but a pond nevertheless. While the best minds in the world are figuring out how to make someone click on a button, millions are starving. 

This realization sunk in recently, when i was going through a personal crisis and a lady I met pointed out to children in a slum nearby and asked how they survive. I was ashamed to admit I had never even noticed them that day as I was lost in self pity. Unwittingly, I had left one pond only to jump into another and become a frog in that one. 

My only promise to myself is this - to see if in some small way, I can try to make the world a better place. I have been seriously contemplating something for a while now and I hope that by the end of the year, i have a plan in place. Or maybe, I am going to love my pond so much, that I will just stick to it - as I am way too comfortable and getting out of my comfort zone is not something I am ready for. 

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