Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Celebrating outliers

Vartanama, May '15
By Pawan Dhall

Among dictionary synonyms for ‘outlier’ are words like ‘non-conformist’, ‘maverick’, ‘eccentric’, ‘dissident’, ‘iconoclast’ and ‘outsider’. According to Wikipedia, in statistics, outliers are data points that are further away from the sample mean than what is considered reasonable. Outlier data points may indicate faulty data, errors in statistical or mathematical procedures or inapplicability of certain theories. But they may also exist because that is the reality and not because of any anomaly, bell-shaped normal curves be damned. Moreover, statisticians value outlier data quite a bit and take great care before deleting or excluding them, if at all they do so and thank god for that!

If statisticians are not cold-blooded number crunchers and care so much for outliers, then there is hope for all of us. Each one of us can and should acknowledge, include and care for people who may seem like ‘social outliers’ and yet are one of us. In Margarita with a Straw that is Not Straight, Niladri R. Chatterjee talks about Laila, a film character who is a “woman, disabled and horny”. In Bhadu Calling, the focus is on a dwindling set of folk artists – trans women in Birbhum district of West Bengal who play act and worship a goddess believed to grant happy marriages and children to women.

The lead story of this issue, Engendering Change – Bit by Bit, profiles efforts being made by an NGO to ensure that the April 2014 Supreme Court judgement on transgender identities and rights gets implemented in letter and spirit, while Pallav Bonerjee in Senior Living: Coming of Age talks about a new concept that promises a more dignified living to the “silvers” of our society.

Here’s raising a toast to the outliers of gender, sexuality, ability, age and more – because life takes on new life in the outliers!

Pawan Dhall aspires to be a rainbow journalist and believes in taking a stand, even if it’s on the fence – the view is better from there!

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