Monday, December 31, 2012

Flawed Indian equality

"My parents would disapprove if I marry a boy from a different caste"

"He is dark. There are better looking men"

"She is a girl. She has to go back early, someone should drop her at home"

"That religion itself is like that" 

This is the world we live in. Indian notion of equality would put the very word to shame. Probably there should be a separate dictionary for Indians to interpret equality. For we as a society discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, caste, religion, class and what not! It is this interpretation of equality and its attendant consequences that we are reaping day in and day out. When we are confronted with cases like the recent gang rape and death of a 23 year old girl, we act as if we are surprised. Are we really surprised? Sadly, we feign surprise for we know deep down that we are capable of such cruelty.

How many educated men accept dowry? How many educated men think their careers are more important than their partner's? How many educated parents give and accept dowry? How many educated parents expect a girl to leave her job after childbirth? How many educated families think a girl should be accountable for all her 24 hours? That she should give a hour by hour report? That she should not expose her body by going out without a duppata or wearing a t shirt? How many educated families think a girl should not drink or party because if she does, it would be difficult to find the right guy for her? How many guys have yardsticks against which they judge their girlfriends?

Equality and respect for the notion of equality begins at home and begins with our families and relatives. It depends on the books we read, friends we have, the attitudes and behavior of our relatives from which we learn as children, the movies we see, the songs we listen to and the communities we grow up in!

In India, many families still think that a girl child is a burden. They expect a girl to be obedient, silent, conservative, traditional, "homely" and what not! They expect girls to be a saraswati, a lakshmi or a durga. Yet they subscribe to songs that treat girls as nothing more than mere bodies and sex objects. Oh, the duplicity! They foist their stereotypes and expect their daughters to live up to them. They think a dark complexioned girl is difficult to marry off. They think that their communities would ostracize them if they let their wards marry into other communities. If only they know how to treat a girl as a human being! So, Where does that leave equality? In the dustbin...

Law is a deterrent only if discipline and apt behavior is practiced within the four walls of the families we grow up in. Gang rapes will continue to happen, girls will continue to die at child birth, husbands will continue to rape their wives, educated girls will continue to languish at home after marriage, men will continue to view women as pieces of meat, we will continue to have ladies compartments and ladies seats, we will continue to talk about women's empowerment and women's reservation, we will continue to think of dowry as entitlement and we will continue to practise this equality for we presumably know no other until the day we ourselves become change agents. Let today be that day!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Poor email etiquette

This is a topic that is pretty close to my heart. I sincerely believe that written communication says a lot about the professionalism and competency of an individual. So when I see shoddy, poorly drafted mails, my blood boils! After all, you either make or break with the impression you create with your communication!

Spellings -  Some people think words like informations and feedbacks actually exist. I request them to please run the spell checker. Similar to furnitures does not exist, informations too does not. Worse, a few talk about "2 informations"! God save them! 

Salutations - A "Good morning" is valid only in the mornings and the same applies to a "Good afternoon". If you are writing a mail that is addressed to people operating in a different timezone, please refrain from using salutations like this. 

Formatting - Beginning a sentence in lowercase, confusing , with . with ; and ending up with all sorts of possible wrong usage, frequently employing U, B or I, inter capitalization, half finished sentences, this list can go on...Avoid these mistakes and make others' lives bearable.

Commonly used phrases - "PFA" , "Please find the attachment", "OOO", "ASAP", "Hello together", "Hello both" and so many other equally funny, wrong, irrelevant phrases and abbreviations have seeped into the usage of some people. It would be better if one consciously weeds them out.

To and CC Fields - This is meant to be used very judiciously. If there are people who ought to take some action on the message one is sending, they ought to be in the 'To' field. Or this field should be used to include people with whom some information (that adds value) has to be shared. In Cc, one includes people who ought to be in the "know" but from whom no action is required. Without this basic knowledge, people misuse these fields and randomly include every tom, dick and harry in these fields. Before sending any mail, if only these men and women pause and recheck the recipients in these 2 fields!

Subject relevance- Some people have the habit of writing the email subject after drafting the mail. I don't advocate this because it is better to start composing a message after defining its boundary and scope. 

Writing for an audience - Before clicking 'send', many people hardly pause to check whether everyone marked in the to field would understand the message or not. Someone might need more details to grasp a message whereas somebody else might not. 

Paragraph size -  A mail in a professional context is not a poem and neither is it a fictional account of an interesting story.  So, if you are someone who is verbose, please break, structure and organize the information you intend to convey in logical parts.

Signatures - E mail signature is meant to convey one's role along with a standard sign off phrase. But I wonder why people again write their email address in their signatures. It is also not very prudent to have a 2 para signature that tells a recipient where they work, what the exact address is, what the mission statement and vision statement of their organization is! A few extremely polite people sign off with "Thanks and best regards". They would have drafted an escalation mail. Now, go figure out why they do it!

Out of Office messages - These messages sometimes start with "Thank you for your mail". I have never been able to figure out why someone should be thanked for sending me spam, junk, trash and rubbish! Or why should I thank someone without knowing any reason. If you are someone who starts your out of office message with a "Thank you for your mail", I beg you, please don't! One other point is about blindly copying the same out of office message for people within and outside one's organization. Another annoying observation is a set of options that people tick off. It reads something like "I am out of office"
    1.  On vacation
    2. On business travel
    3. In a workshop
    4. Blah
    5. Blah
Now who needs all these options? Why should someone be stressed to the point of being  forced to read through a long rubbish list like this?

Managing by email - Email is the most potent weapon in the hands of someone who does not know how to manage his team. He instructs all his team members to make sure that he is copied in all the mails they send so that he knows what is happening, who is doing what, who is working, who is not working, who is procrastinating, who is escalating and who is following up! Well, these managers are insecure individuals who don't know the meaning of the words accountability and trust. 

I am sure many of you would be able to add to this list. Please feel free to do so in the comments section.