Of Barriers

Now that the Nobel Prize winners are being announced, we are back to recording statistics on the number of female winners, the last time a woman won the Prize in a particular category, the nationalities and religions of the different winners. India, as usual, will fuss over the honour being bestowed on an ‘Indian-American’, there will be lectures, ‘exclusive’ interviews and telephonic conversations with politicians. A debate will be launched on how chromosome study can advance research in medicine in India- talk, and more talk, until it’s time for the next installment of The Perfect Bride.

We love to take pride in the achievements of people born on Indian soil, and maybe it isn’t entirely unjustified, but why can we not replicate them at home? Dissatisfied students go abroad for education, unhappy with the infrastructure or frustrated with policies and quotas. It isn’t a wonder that they choose to settle there and work in more conducive environs than at home. Education in India reeks of divisions.

The Nobel Prize hasn’t seen too many female winners. Would it have something to do with the fact that women in many parts of the world are still struggling for emancipation? It is rather baffling, considering that a large number of women write and pursue research and social work. I’m not talking of any conscious discrimination against women in awarding the honours, but just trying to figure out why it is that, despite their having made huge strides in various fields, women still don’t feature often on the lists.

And finally, does it really matter? What sense does it make to talk of Polish immigrants or Hebrew-speaking winners or orientation or gender, when all that is important is if a person’s work has really made a difference, contributed to the improvement of the quality of life? To me, a book is about how it enriches and moves me, not about the religion or nationality of the writer. When we try so hard to do away with religious boundaries, why do we persist with barriers based on nationality or religion? Being biased is ingrained in our nature, we cannot really help it, but that isn’t valid reason to make one sort of discrimination, or identification, to put it politely, more acceptable than others.

Human beings. We’re incorrigible.


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