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Posts Tagged ‘independence’

Must Read Classics -The Fountainhead

Posted by Sowmya on March 12, 2013

It all started with Viswaroopam. Like most people know, I was ranting to one and all about freedom of expression and the growing intolerance in the country. That’s when the husband remarked “Is Kamal a case of Rand’s Roarke?”

I have been meaning to read Ayn Rand for a long time now but some how another classic or a quick read fiction always presented itself as more interesting. This comment intrigued me enough to pick up The Fountainhead. And boy, have I love it!

Rand beautifully explains the mindset of a creator, of a person who just knows to do his job. Roarke is not someone who can network to get business or appear to be interested in his client’s hobbies to endear himself. Remember Joel Sutton who is a badminton enthusiast and Roarke and Keating’s opposing reactions to the information. Not surprisingly Peter Keating is the more successful of the two despite him not having the vision or capability of Roarke as far as architecture is concerned.

I was surprised at how much the book that was written in the fifties is so relevant in today’s times. We see ‘networked’ people being more successful than their more talented counterparts. It has reached such levels that networking is seen as a ‘must-have’ skill and these people getting preference for jobs and positions over others with equal or more skills. How many times would each one of us wished that we be taken purely on merit of our skill or craft and not on the basis of ‘soft skills’ or ‘contacts’? Why does an engineer need soft skills? Is it not enough that he can construct a building that lasts for the next fifty years? Should that not be the only criteria to judge him?

But to be fair, I am not sure there is a Roarke or a Keating amongst us. Most of us are partly both characters. There are times we are sidelined for someone not so talented and there are these other times when we take advantage of a friend or a relative to get ourselves that lucrative job or a fat wallet client. I am not sure how many people would be willing to take the path similar to Roarke; to not do a job as prestigious as the Manhattan Bank because it compromised on one’s ideals; to be willing to pay for the redevelopment of the Temple of Religion as a children’s home. It is amazing how Rand uses the term ‘practical’ the way we all understand it and then goes on denounce it and makes us question our definition of practical.

Though Rand uses the word ‘evil’ far more in Atlas Shrugged, the one character who is worthy of that term is Ellsworth Toohey. He is an intelligent and evil which makes it a deadly combination. I liked the character graph for him but seemed like he was let off lightly in the end. There still needs to be some story of what happened to Toohey thereafter.

What I did not understand in this book as also Atlas Shrugged is Rand’s definition and description of love and sex. I took it for granted after a point in the book that Roarke and Dominique are in love and made for each other. But I was not able to relate to their emotions for each other or their actions with regard to the other.

I loved Rand’s development of a relation between Roarke and Gail Wynand based on mutual admiration and respect. It is quite similar to Francisco and Rearden in Atlas Shrugged. Roarke’s dealings with others like Mallory and Mike was also deliciously crafted.  These relationships were a lot more exciting to me than the romantic ones described in either book.

The best part was, of course, the final speech by Roarke. So aptly put at the perfect time and pitch. It came at the time when the character had reached a stage of saying that. It was in beautiful contrast to the earlier appearance and actions of Roarke in the court for the Temple of Religion case. May favorite part of the speech is reproduced here –


“But the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual thoughts. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act–the process of reason–must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred.

“Degrees of ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man’s independence, initiative and personal love for his work determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man. Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn’t done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence.

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Women’s lib -Misunderstood, misused???

Posted by Sowmya on January 11, 2011

Probably one of the most mis-used words today is ‘Women’s liberation.’

Let me clarify at the beginning that I am all for equality of the sexes and independence for women. I may in the minority of women who can say that they are financially independent and are looked upon as equal to brothers or husbands and have not been drastically discriminated against by people significant in my life.


I want to take a moment to actually understand how women’s liberation is being viewed at presently. It started out well with equal pay for equal work and financial independence for women and more importantly freedom to make individual choices. Great! But what we should consider is that with freedom comes responsibility. Do we intend taking on the responsibility of making our choices or run for cover at the first sight of trouble. I am seeing women using women’s liberation as a manipulative tool -it is used when a woman wants to make a choice but when it comes to taking responsibility women remind the world that they are the weaker sex. It is presently used by many to harass men or families. Stubbornness, impulsiveness, rashness, ego are all blatantly used in the cloak of women’s liberation.

Women want men to take equal responsibility in the kitchen and household work but how many women are willing to marry a guy and let him be a house husband. We do blame society perceptions but are we, as women, willing to be the bread winner for the family? We want an income, financial independence and the liberty to spend money the way we want but we recoil at the responsibility of being the ‘bread winner.’ We say we are equal but liberally use the freebies of being a woman like a ladies queue or expect men to open doors and give up seats in the bus for us. These may be minor issues but it projects our attitude -we want the good stuff and not the boring ones. Let’s face it – we marry guys who earn more than us and the pressure of running the family is on the men. The woman’s income is supplementary and we always protect our right to quit the job whenever we want. When there is a wedding to be finalized, millions of questions are asked about the man’s earning and his earning potential but if the man does the same and insists on the woman working, it is seen as being mercenary. ‘How can he say that I have to work’ is the common refrain. I agree that women do contribute to the household expense and take joint loans with husbands to build the dream house. But the pressure to financially provide is not on the woman.

Another thought is about bringing up kids. I am not sure but sometimes I am inclined to agree with the age old system of fathers being bread winners and mothers bringing up kids. Don’t hurl those stones as yet. We embrace core competencies in the corporate world but not in the family. We believe that companies should concentrate on what they do best and outsource the rest. A significant percentage of our GDP depends on this theory. Is that not what was actually practiced in families centuries ago. Men were better than manual labour and women better at people skills. From what little I see of the world, I find that the immense responsibility of raising a child is misunderstood. If a woman does not earn money and stays at home to bring up her children she feels and is looked upon as inferior as compared to her peers who work and leave kids at day cares. I am not being judgmental here. But just as we women owe ourselves to fulfill our potential we also owe our children a good upbringing. Their initial formative years are most crucial and I am unable to fathom the pride in women who set records on returning to work after child birth.  I do not want to make any hasty statements on this since I do not have kids as yet and I am unsure if I will be capable of that compromise of quitting my job to take care of my kids in future. But I do know this -my mother is a homemaker. She has as such dedicated her life to my brother and my upbringing and it has definitely benefited me in a significant way. I know every child deserves that. All the air conditioners, cartoons, toys and music cannot compare to a smiling mother waiting at home for her child to return.

My question is only this  -Is it unacceptable for someone to want to take care of their child full time? Why is then housewife such an almost derogatory term? Is it not our responsibility to take care of the person we bring into this world? If we are not willing to do this, then do we have a right to have children at all? Are we then viewing children as either a ‘done’ on a ‘to do’ list or an achievement when we say to someone -“I have two kids and I still work and earn so much….”

Financial independence is not a bad thing but can we not work our way around it to fulfill our fundamental responsibilities to our own kids. I do not believe that a woman who is a man-hater, who vigorously competes with men on everything, who does things which are usually a ‘man thing’, who refuses to acknowledge that her own child is a priority is really liberated. Liberated women would be someone who accepts responsibilities for her actions, who prides herself on her womanhood, who looks to accomplish to the fullest of her potential (not just because it is a ‘man thing’) and who understands that when she demands equal rights she should be prepared for equal responsibilities.

Ok, go ahead and hurl those stones now 🙂

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