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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Knowledge is power ?

Has been a busy week, with more work, a conference in San Francisco and the usual happenings at home. I have been attending this conference almost every year for the last 13 years! This conference is usually a week long event. I get to attend it for two or three days every year. Ever since I started working, even those two days are marred by frequent phone calls and beeps on my pager. In spite of the interruptions, I feel so alive at this conference. I get to listen to the latest and greatest breakthroughs in my field of research, meet people who have similar interests, and get to overload my brain with all the information.

The hour long drive to and from San Francisco also helps clear my head and give me time to process the information. Yesterday I met an old friend and the conversation steered towards education. On the way back from the conference, my thought process was wandering around

why I did not become a professor
Importance to Knowledge
Aaavani Avittam
Mandal commission
affirmative action
white LED's
% success in Research projects
role of policy in education

and after going through a full circle I just realized I was just tired and the little hamster insdie my head needed some sleep!

But a couple of thoughts were stuck there for some time.

What Aavani Avittam ceremony is supposed to do for me and fails, this conference does! All Brahmin boys, renew their commitment to the learning process once every year at this ceremony. I do that ceremony mechanically because I am not well versed in Sanskrit or study Vedas and Upanishads for a living. I do love learning though! This week has been an extended Aavani Avittam for me! I get to meet the high priests of materials engineering, chat and debate with fellow researchers and realize the value of what I do for a living!

A second train of thought was that somehow in the back of my mind, I do always feel that the caste systems successful survival and stubborness to be eradicated in India has to do with how it makes people believe that they are special. More specifically Brahmins are proud of their commitment to learning or their belief of "knowledge is power". I am not discriminatory by nature and I am definitely not elitist or snobish because I am a brahmin. However, I have made statements in the past of how proud I am to believe that "knowledge is power" and that is somehow a very Brahmin thing to believe! I also realized that every caste tries to one up the others by making their speciality a secret. If brahmins believed that Knowledge is power, the right thing to do would have been to spread knowledge and empower everyone. Yet we know only a handful of people like Sankara, Ramanuja went along those lines. The vast majority decided to keep education to themselves and their clan and made the rest of the population dependent on them to even read and write! I could say similar things about all other castes except the poorest and lowest castes who by default got the shaft from everyone else.

I also keep thinking about how researchers are confronting politicians in faith vs science debates today, similar to the power struggle dynamics between Brahmins and the Kshatriyas.

It would have been great if everyone knew how to read and write, everyone was well versed in martial arts or had self defense skills, everyone knew how to trade and do business and of course everyone knew how to wash their own clothes, clean their own toilets or cut their own hair!! or at the least have a mutual respect for every other profession and professional!!

The hamster is on overdrive and needs to rest! Enough rambling....


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I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

And I thought I thought too much:-) How does your mind go through so much in one drive?

Frankly, I have thought in the same line as you everytime I read someone saying that Brahmins are an intelligent community. They should be, since education has been available and hoarded by that certain community for ages. I never am impressed with educational achievements of this community, because I know that there is really no yardstick to measure with any other community. Until some time back, a bare minimum of others had the opportunities for good education, nor thought it necessary to edge a living. So I am always enthusiastic when I read about children from disadvantaged communities scoring well. It would be great if everyone in India had the same access to all resources. I am glad education is finding importance with everyone. The only problem is, today's society and educators are teaching everyone to give importance to syllabus, but not grow intelligently as a thinking person(does that make sense:-)). Everytime I read about the attrocities that happen all over India, I wonder if active thinking citizens are still around.

Then again, I guess this curse of keeping ones skill within family/community is the problem. But I see this line diminishing slowly. And as far as cleaning toilets are concerned, I think everyone cleans their own in the West, mostly, regardless of who you are.

*When I say disadvantaged, I mean socially and economically from a community that is not well off, in the environment the person comes from.


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 6:00 AM, Blogger ada-paavi!!!! wrote...

well, everyone, caste/corporation survives by keeping their knowledge a secret. its not just the brahmins.

and the caste system will survive only in india, outside india, amongst the hindus it seems to have dissolved.

human need to feel unique

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 9:23 AM, Blogger Munimma wrote...

touchy subject here!

I guess it is a result of gene selection, marrying within your kind, etc, etc. But I disagree with Kajan saying that brahmins are beyond the common yardscale. Intelligence and knowledge don't mean the same.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 2:54 PM, Blogger Prathima wrote...

After reading your blog...I recalled a movie i watched recently..called ANTARMAHAL..its a bengali movie..i would recommend everyone to watch it...its scary...to see what caste system and blind belief ..can lead to.
I believe its not the caste system(if u consider it as classification based on nature of work) in itself thats the problem, but ignorance, manipulation and blind belief of the people.

Only way to get rid of that is conscious evalaution of every belief system by each generation

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 9:20 PM, Blogger Kavi wrote...

That was a thought provoking post! Your mind did 'ramble' in a very interesting direction. I have often found that when i verbalise my thoughts, i find that they move from the depths of my mind to the heart of my soul!

It gives me great happiness in connecting with folks like you having a great yearning for learning. With a materialistic inclination all around me, i am, many a time talking to myself if i am 'ok' with this l(y)earning orientation !

The India of the past had a strong economic socialism and intellectual capitalism! But with education becoming largely accessible, and boundaries breaking down economic capital is being created !

It would be indeed great if everybody knew everything. But its grea to keep learning too !

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 11:13 PM, Blogger Raaga wrote...

I came here for the first time and I must admit that I have mixed feelings. I agree with some things which you said and don't agree with some.

But Kajon says he/she is never impressed with the achievements of brahmins... I beg to differ. I think that in terms of money power, brahmins are also extremely poor. Not all, but there are enough people who are disadvantaged. OK, so for years atrocities were committed... but why should this generation suffer? In this age of reservations, I think the forward communities are the ones that truly need help. Despite reservations, if brahmins actually come forward, I think it is no mean achievement.

The dynamics are fast changing. I know of enough brahmins who run successful businesses today and I know of enough shudras who are in the teaching profession. Maybe everyone is not learning everything, but the lines in our world are fast dimishing. After all, caste has nothing to with which family you were born into, but everything to do with the profession that you choose.

I have random thoughts of my own now... running in my head.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 10:10 PM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan wrote...

thanks to all of you who have brought out interesting thoughts.

I do agree that economic stata is woven into the caste thing also, there could be a genetic bias (this is similar to the argument that people of some races are better at athletics!), the gap is closing as we keep moving forward.

I also think that the british get way too much credit for Divide and rule policy. that credit should go to the people who put the caste system in writing (Manu et. al.).The Brits started doing this only in the 1500's.

Prathima, Raaga , welcome to this blog.

happy tamizh new year to all of you.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 11:32 PM, Blogger noon wrote...

You may not even see this comment. In any case - enjoyed this ramble post as you call it. Nakamura - amazing perseverance andha manidhar! Your comparing your conference to Avani Avittam was great. Ok so I think I will tell B to go to a conference during AA and tell my mom that he performed AA to his satisfaction! :) You have summed up a lot of my thoughts in your last comment here..


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