Tag Archives: #binary

Choice and Democracy: Musings on Elections 2020

It is official. Joe Biden is the 46th man to occupy the Oval Office.  Well, at least as official as it can get given the incumbent’s congenital aversion to concede.  My first reaction to this victory was of course one of elation. Elation at the thought that policy by tweet could no longer be an acceptable ethos. Elation at the idea that vast swathes of people in legitimate opposition would not be summarily dismissed in crudities that normally are left unspoken in even impolite company. It feels good!

Speaking only for myself, Joe Biden is the kind of gritty, hard-working, ethically uncompromising, and compassionate person that I would have preferred to have grown into. While policies and politics are important for all of us given their implications for our livelihoods and socio-cultural experiences, there’s more to life. Joe’s way of life is what is likely to generate harmony, goodwill, and an involved camaraderie in all our lives. It transcends policy, laws, and free of political legerdemain. That is a big relief in the aftermath of this election. One that cannot be understated.  One that has been missing for a while in our lives. One that people of many political affiliations welcome. One for which I’m grateful.

Yet it feels odd to feel so good. And likely, in time, the feeling will regress towards some ineffable mean as the natural high of a change in power is overcome by the real-life effects of policy implementation, debates, reasoned advocacy, special interest group admonitions, conspiracy-mongering, and other “features” of a rollicking democracy. But there’s more: The often unmentioned idea that one’s preference of a presidential candidate is a proxy for an unqualified endorsement for all things from his (God, I wish for this to be replaced by a “her” pronoun soon) party, is personally the most disillusioning part of today’s politics. At least for me.  The political organization of this country has largely been fixated around the twin poles of the Republican and Democratic parties. While each has a big tent which presumably accommodates views with impressive majorities and trifling fringes and everything else in between, the constrained choice of just two in a diverse polity is too unsettling to fully enjoy any moment of elation. This Hobson’s choice makes it hard for us to exercise electoral choices in a more piecemeal manner.  

Let me explain with some hypotheticals: What if I were fiscally conservative who is also a strident pro-choice voter? What if I were for prayer in schools as well as for LGBT rights? What if I were for a significantly reduced spending in defense capabilities and using the money towards paying our teachers more? What if I believe in school choice policies designed to open up the diversity of options available for our children? What if I believed that our role as a global leader and policeman is both superfluous and disingenuous? What if I truly believed that law enforcement personnel are the true heroes amongst us yet feel the need for police reform? A lot of these questions, or parts thereof, have found homes in either party and no doubt can be argued for and against by anyone far more knowledgeable than I. But that’s not the point. The point is, because of this two-party death grip in our lives, we are forced to unnaturally prioritize our many competing wishes and end up with electoral outcomes that feel somewhat disenfranchising.  

Now as an alternative, what I am asking for is some reasonable dissipation of the bi-polar American order to something that includes a few more options.  By no means am I suggesting forming single-issue parties geared towards short term outcomes.  But surely there has to be a different conception of our lives that is governed by a plurality of thought yet unencumbered by a constrained choice of political parties. Having more parties can engender important benefits to us all:  

  • One, a lot of us will find platforms that are more customized to our desires. 
  • Two, theoretically, the effect of big money politics is likely going to be splintered across a wider constituency of interest groups and so less lethal. 
  • Three, and perhaps my favorite pipe dream, is that voter participation in our vaunted electoral process could likely increase when each individual feels that there is a policy machine that is calibrated well towards their unique predilections.

Now, all of this could also deliver Italian style governance with perpetual coalitions or politically expedient partnerships.  But that’s happening anyway today albeit shielded with a cloak and dagger intimacy of horse-trading that only underscores the unseemliness of our politics. At least with a multiparty democracy, all such pretenses of serving in the big tent are gone. And all said, more of us can go to a home that reflects our tastes rather than being mucked over by a dozen designers with lofty ambitions to one that just isn’t ours.

But I’ll forget it all for a moment and savor this moment in history: the vociferous resurgence of decency and yet another color barrier was broken heralding the ascendancy of a Black and Indian woman to the second-highest office in the land.  Now I have big hopes for my daughter too.


Sri Raghavan is a San Francisco Bay Area corporate minion with a passion for political and cultural analysis and loves to quote from classic rock lyrics in his personal writings, AC/DC excluded. Email him at [email protected] for more conversation.

Indian Matchmaking’s Pradhyuman Confronts Toxic Masculinity

If you have watched a reality show lately, chances are it was Indian Matchmaking.

This particular contestant wowed many of us. He wowed us with his miso paneer recipe, his with nitrogen fox nuts, but he really wowed us by keeping his cool under pressure. Dishing out his rich boy charm with a big dollop of humility, Pradhyuman Maloo‘s name managed to stay on in our conversations even after the Indian Matchmaking season one reunion wrapped up. 

Pradhyuman, the young jeweler, is someone you might think most people would view as a great catch for a girl looking for a boy.

Not only will any future ‘match’ have bling galore, but she would also have a partner who whips up all sorts of irresistible yummies the latest being sushi inspired cocktails.

What’s not to love about a boy who knows his jewelry and loves to cook?

Well, apparently the fact that knows he his jewelry and loves to cook.

Yes. Pradhyuman was trolled for not being manly enough. The Insta-fam he never chose proclaimed that he must be gay. He can’t be straight if he likes cooking and jewelry so much…

So how did he cope with this insensitive line of questioning? Well, he used his words – with an Instagram post. A post that made us see him as more than just a celebrity aspirant but as someone who expands the conversation beyond himself. It said, “People will judge you for not being ‘manly’ enough, but I want other men to know that it’s okay to be who you are & do what you love. Stereotypical masculinity is not the rent we need to pay to exist in this world.”

What made you take on the bullies head-on,” I ask in my early morning interview from California, and for him, the end of a long day of work in Mumbai.

“It is something we really have to take on as a society that whatever we speak, whatever we do, has a consequence. Luckily due to my business and upbringing, I have been hard skinned. I can imagine someone not handling that pressure…I have some friends who are gay and can imagine how difficult it is to deal with this kind of criticism. After the show I got DMs from straight men and gay men asking, are you okay. I was wondering why are they asking me if I am okay? And it struck me, what if that person was really gay and had a difficult time opening up to society. This thought really worried me,” Maloo answered.

Pradhyuman Maloo

By taking the reins of the dialogue around sexuality, Pradhyuman has deftly has taken online negativity and channeled it into some really productive chatter online.

“It is time we re-think what we consider ‘manly enough’. I think what people consider manly enough is what people consider very strong. Physically, mentally. It is what people consider “Haan yeh to mard hai” or yes, he is ‘a man’. It determines that men cannot show emotions, men cannot be weak. They don’t realize that being really strong does not mean that men cannot show emotions. If you overcome those weak times then you are strong and you are man enough.”

Showing emotions is what Pradhyuman is getting a lot of people to do, and it seems to be working from everyone chiming in to answer his questions about everyday feelings to what makes someone ‘beautiful’.

“The ability to stand up and speak your mind is beautiful. Empathizing instead of judging is beautiful. Not making excuses is beautiful. Self-care is beautiful.”

Did Pradhyuman wonder how the world outside India would react to grown men and women being guided so closely by their parents in their search for a partner? The stereotype of Indians and arranged marriages?

“When I was abroad people asked why I stayed with my parents. When you stay together as a family, you operate as a family. Today I might take a life partner and I wouldn’t want to do it without my parents’ point of view…I trust their judgment and value their opinion…I would take it in a positive way and not like a push.

Pradhyuman is evolved and insightful. He doesn’t worry so much about what other people think and is guided by his moral compass. I can’t wait to see more of him!


Amrita Gandhi is a Lifestyle TV host who interviews inspiring personalities on her show ‘So, What’s It Really Like‘ on her Instagram