Monday, July 18, 2016

Familiarity breeds contempt

Now! Now! Is that polite of you? I start off with 'Familiarity breeds contempt' and is it nice of you to say, "With some, the first sight counts as familiarity for this purpose" and direct meaningful glances at me? What did I ever do to you?

It is sort of true though of a lot of people. Like your film stars for example. You see them all aglitter on screen and on stage and you fall head over heels. Getting closer, though, could be a problem. I mean, after knowing that it takes three hours and a ton of chemicals to make that face look that lovely, it is a shade more difficult to swoon at it. All art is like that. When you see only the end result, you are taken by the beauty; when you see the effort, you start dissecting the artistry. (Not to mention the fact that it is rumored that the ONLY way you can see some people as they appear on screen IS on screen - till they find a way to photoshop the real person and not only the image.) So, yes, familiarity can take the glitter off a person.

Those, though, are not the only celebrities who are so affected. In the more mundane world of writing, there is still the problem. Hear of a school-friend who has a book out and what immediately springs in your mind? "Arre! THAT chap who had to keep holding his shorts up in order to keep them in place? You mean he expects people to actually spend money on his writing?" Exactly what the vertical position of his shorts in his childhood had to do with his linguistic and other abilities is something that everyone else seems to understand. So, there is the case - if you are familiar with a person, you hold his art in contempt, more often than not. Even if you are too kindly a person to hold anyone in contempt, a stranger's art is likely to get respect whereas a friend's art gets, at best, indulgence. Which is why an author probably should aim for respect for his writing from rank strangers and not friends.

You need not be a celebrity in order to be faced with this issue. After all, when they said in Hindi "Ghar ki murgi daal barabar" ('A gourmet meal at home gets no more respect than a burger' - Loose transliteration), they were not speaking only of celebrities. Ever had your advice sneered at when you gave it only to later on find that the same advice, given by an external consultant, is treated with all the respect that Moses accorded to the 'Ten Commandments'? THAT is your lesson on how familiarity breeds contempt.

Now that I have convinced myself that familiarity with people is counter-productive, I must start standing aloof. As a first step...

"Do I know you?"

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A bad workman blames his tools

It is so nice to come across one of these wise phrases that cannot injure me in the ego. Everyone in the past seems to have spent his time in coining phrases that appear to be mainly intended to make me feel like crawling back under the stone from which I had just crawled out. This one, though, was a pleasure to read -  'A bad workman blames his tools' - because this was one I could always point at someone else happily, with the sublime confidence that no-one could point it at me.

There you go, misunderstanding my meaning as usual and muttering about swollen-headed idiots who overestimate how good they are. The problem with you is that you are totally lacking in analytical thinking. The moment I say you cannot apply something about a 'bad workman' to me, you go thinking that I consider myself a 'good workman'. It never crosses your mind to think that to be any sort of workman at all one should, in the first place...ah! NOW the light dawns...exactly! How can I be a bad workman if I never DO any work?

Though, to be sure, I find it difficult to actually use this against people. Too much empathy, that's my problem. If I were to work, like say carpentry, I am sure that my chisels would be blunt, the wood rotten and the varnish too dilute...all to explain why my chairs look like pieces of useless lumber in someone's scrapyard. If I took to plumbing, it is those stupid spanners and low quality pipes and valves that are the reason why the taps weep so inconsolably. If I were a...(Oh, you got the point? How was I to know that you had such an acute intelligence?)

You know what...this chap who coined this phrase, he was not really holistic in his approach. I mean, blaming tools is all right but what about suppliers, customers, subordinates, bosses? It is all that technical outlook to life in those times, I tell you. They completely forget the human element and thereby miss a rich variety of reasons why work can get messed up, without you being at fault.

I am more intelligent than that chap, much though my friends may like to say that the only difference between a snail and me is that the snail is more intelligent. But, then, THEY base their opinion on the fact that I do not understand the books they read while I KNOW it is all the authors' fault that they do not keep their vocabulary down to the kindergarten levels. AND it is obvious that one cannot write for those few eccentrics, who seem to speak of vague terms like infinitives, gerunds, participles, tenses and all, owing to a childhood misspent by reading 'Wren and Martin' when they could have usefully played marbles, instead.

With everyone and his uncle, not to mention aunt, getting on and mouthing off on social media, what a good thing it is that I do not do any work. Otherwise...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Nothing succeeds like Success

There I go, searching for the route to success and someone pops up with this one - Nothing succeeds like success. Indeed! So, if I want to succeed, I must have already succeeded? Eminently sensible and easy to do, of course. Now, why didn't I think of that?

As a route TO success, it is about as useful as cold water is to start a fire. is not entirely senseless as most such aphorisms turn out to be when you think of them.

Talk of success and, as a Tamilian, Rajnikant sort of pops up in you mind with the inevitability of the night following day. There, possibly, was a time when a director may...MAY...have told him that his Kannada-accented Tamil was a handicap. (Said director would stoutly deny any such accusation today. Lynch mobs are not exactly the sort of spectacle that you want to wake up to in the morning). Today...I am sure that, somewhere in Tamil Nadu, there are elocution classes for wannabe actors training them in THAT wonderful manner of dialogue delivery.

I also wonder about how much the going rates were for the bribes to get to be a conductor on the same bus route in Bangalore that Rajnikant once sold tickets on - as a surefire way to break into stardom. The point about all this, I hasten to add, is the fact that when someone succeeds, it is automatically assumed that ALL that he was and is are necessary characteristics of success. So, Success means that you can successfully get social respect for ALL your characteristics as well. (Actually, though, I must also hurry to say that all this was before he was deified. Today, to even dream that ANYONE could emulate Rajnikant is a one-way ticket to the nearest cemetery, if someone can patiently gather together all the pieces.)

THAT, though, is not the end of it. You succeed in one thing and, presto, you are the fount of wisdom on ALL things. Your views on politics, on society and on history will ALL find takers; and, even those who deride your views, will...well...actually deride your views instead of merely ignoring them. If you chose to write a book on the String theory or Einstein's General theory of relativity, it would probably outsell Stephen Hawking - so what if you consistently flunked every physics exam you were forced to attempt, not to mention that the fact that your physics teacher did not commit suicide after one tuition session with you can ONLY be because he was an abnormally strong character?

Unfortunately, though, the day has not come when people start doubting Hawking's views of the Universe on the grounds that 'Trump says the stars are God's daisy chain' or some such, but it is on its way. The physical sciences are so unwilling to change, unlike the more forward looking social sciences. THERE we have successful businessmen, actors, and whoever having THEIR opinions treated with appropriate seriousness - on politics, sociology, history - and without piddly considerations about whether they have the knowledge to make those comments. Why should these physical science guys be any different?

Soon, the day will come when Hawking WILL have to defend his physics against such critics. We have made a start with Darwin...we will get to Einstein et al as well.

THEN will come the day, like someone once said of someone else, when Trump can repeal the law of gravitation.

And THEN we can indeed say...

Nothing succeeds like success!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Letting go

I cannot be held responsible if you automatically think of the peculiar adhesiveness of people in power and their respective posts, the moment I say 'Letting go'. Yes, you guessed it right, I AM going to talk of the difficulty of 'Letting go' but WHY that should automatically lead you to think of people who bemoan the abolishing of crowns, I do not know.

Yes! Yes! I, too, find it difficult to let go. Especially, when I am engaging in conversation ('Oh! You call your monologues conversation?" you mutter. I heard you!) with someone. Short of holding the person by his button, I do everything to keep him around. So would you, if, like me, you are faced with fast disappearing backs every time and have been lucky enough to snag one unlucky victim. But THAT is not exactly the 'letting go' that I intend talking of, either.

AND then there was the time when I mentioned this in a post

So, every time I approached a girl, this is precisely how I felt and, when I opened my mouth to talk and only managed to mewl, the lady of the moment fastidiously wrinkled her nose and moved away, assuming that I was about to barf. Needless to say, this did put a minor spanner in the works and, in retrospect, I find much reason to feel grateful that there was no Valentine's day in my days for me to be outside looking in forlornly at all those "Couples Only" places.

If I have given the impression that I am the strong, silent lover or, more likely, the mutt who comes running to fetch and carry when his idol crooked her finger and played the uncle, who became a horse or elephant as per choice, to her kids, I must admit such could have been the case but for a chance biological discovery. I found that the heart, being a muscle and not a bone, does not actually break and, thus, after a suitable interval, I always found another girl to mewl at.

A lady comments something sarcastic on Facebook, which seemed to say that, because I had not grown an unkempt beard, taken to drink and died of a broken liver (Yeah! Well! Hindi seems to associate emotions with the liver more than the heart - jigri dost, jigar ka tukda and all that), I was a mere butterfly flitting from flower to flower. So, even if the girl rejects you as something unfit for human company, she will still not let go of you apparently; you have to be a satellite revolving around her, with or without the help of liquor.

I also hear that parents find it difficult to let go of their children. First they find it rather tough to let go of the idea that their children can have opinions different from their own; then they find it tough to see them flit out of the nest and make a career elsewhere; and then they find it difficult that they have ceased to be the center of the universe for them. It is almost as bad for them as for the Sun to find that the Earth has decided to take up domicile in another star system. I do not even speak of those parents who think that their children have been sent down on Earth for the explicit purpose of fulfilling the dreams that they themselves failed to achieve, which goes to show HOW difficult we also find to let go of our dreams even when it is long after their expiry date.

THAT, though, is ALL hearsay for me. What I can vouch for is the difficulty in letting go of a job. Suddenly, you find yourself bereft of an answer to the question, "What do you do?" It is not exactly like I am Rip Van Winkle who does totally nothing (though I aspire to be) but apparently brushing my teeth, drinking coffee, reading books, watching a movie or even blogging are not answers to THAT question. If I give them those answers, I get a "Hahaha! But what do you REALLY do?" as though I had been regaling them with a fictitious account all along. I mean "I am retired" or "I retired as..." says nothing about what you are currently doing but those, apparently, are acceptable answers - provided you are old enough.

The worst case of not letting go of your office is when you keep visiting it after retirement, much like the tongue keeps visiting the vacant spot of a drawn tooth. THAT can be very traumatic, you know. Just as you are trying to digest the fact that your fond hopes - that your absence has caused your organisation to collapse - are misplaced, someone comes in and says, "You know, we were all pretty astonished that your absence could make such a huge difference. Efficiency almost doubled!" THEN, indeed, you are forced to let go!

To let go of what we have all accustomed ourselves to consider social obligations is probably tougher by far. In your doddering seventies, you still think that YOU have to go to the help of your sick child - even when all he is sick with is the flu - and even when the said sick child probably has children, who are gainfully employed and quite capable of taking care of it (AND screaming about the addition of a golden oldie to the 'take care' list? Sometimes, that too!). There comes a time when you need to face up to the fact that your social obligations are also at an end and it is about time for you to allow people to fend for themselves or seek such help as can be received from other more nimble people around. But, would you? No way!

You learn to let go of almost all of these; and, if you do not, the thing that you are grasping so possessively just yanks itself out of your grip and moves on. There is one thing, though, that ONLY death can possibly make you let go - THOSE opinions that you form without ANY reason for forming them. THAT is the friend which will NEVER leave you as long as you grasp it tightly.

Strange, isn't it, that the one thing that you need to be letting go of is the one thing that is so easy to hold on to? C'est la vie!