Monday, December 10, 2018

Love only supports virtue?

Aratthukke Anbu Sarbenba Ariyaar; Maratthukkum akdhe thunai - Tirukkural

The ignorant think love is only a support for virtue; it is also a support for ridding yourself of your vices - Loose Translation

You know what, this chap Tiru really had ALL his marbles. In his time, at least, and for quite a few decades after that, this 'destroyer of vice' thing has been of great use for all the so-called 'bad boys' of the world. Or so, at least, popular literature would have had me believe.

There was this thing, then, about women preferring to love the 'bad boy' because they wanted the high of having their love 'redeem' him. How true it is I would not know, never having been a bad boy OR having had a woman in my life. And, yes, I was also of the 'ignorant' who thought that love would support the virtuous, though my definition of virtue was rather elastic. Alas, even so, it probably did not get into the really interesting territory of being a 'bad boy', perhaps!

If that is true, this idea of women loving bad boys because their love can then be a destroyer of vice, I suppose that the bad boys of the day had strong reason not to be redeemed. I mean, yeah fine, so the love kicked in to destroy their vice but, once the vice was destroyed, could they bank on it to stay on to be a supporter of virtue or not? If not, what was really the point in losing both the vices and the love?

But, yeah, all that in popular literature is probably so much gas...and patriarchal, let me say before others jump on me screaming it. Tiru was not all that much into this sort of exciting speculation, nor does his life history say anything about his wife Vasuki marrying him to 'redeem' him.

So, it is more than likely that what he means is that if YOU love a person, as in really love which means that you really take pleasure in making that person happy rather than in seeing what they will do to make YOU happy (Yeah! Think mothers and their children, if you find it tough to think that of spouses), THAT love will ensure that you not only stay virtuous but will also cause you to rid yourself of your vices. For your virtues and your vices will also reflect, in the eyes of Society, on those you love, even when they do not directly affect them (You know the sort of thing - she is that thief's mother, that drunkard's wife...things like that).

Well, he was living in more ideal times, of course. At least in his mind. It has been ages since your virtues or vices had anything to do with your social standing.

It is all about money, now!

Monday, December 3, 2018


I have discovered that the thing that is screwing up our happiness is mirages. You know, like that thing which appears like water from a distance, and, when you get close, you discover that it is the same damn sand that you had been trudging on all along.

In life though, this trick is played across time more often than across distance. I find that, when I am planning to do something the next day, it appears so exciting that I am all keyed up to get cracking on it. When the next day dawns, though, the same damn thing appears so tedious, so boring that I get keyed down (if I may coin a phrase) in a nanosecond. And people think I am procrastinating, when I have only been deceived by a mirage! Yet, somehow, the same thing appears as exciting when I think of doing it the next day. Life really plays scurvy tricks on you.

It is always like this, though, and I think for everyone. When I was a kid, I could not wait to get to college which seemed like a real cool place to be in. When I got to college, it seemed to be such fun to be earning your own money with the freedom to do with it as you please. I sort of cut short the next couple of steps - you know, that nice feeling of belonging and stability that seemed to come only with marriage (along with other things) and, then, that lovely feeling of being a parent with kids who looked up to you (the most deceptive mirage of all. Kids? Looking up to parents?). Then, you looked forward to the peaceful feeling of retiring from the rat race. Once you did that, what do you do? The mirage thingy does not seem to work as attractively with the total peace of the grave, so you look back and yearn for the innocent days of childhood. Life, I tell you! The bloody thing always shows such wonderful images...but only when you are distanced by time from it.

It is not just this. You look ahead and think how happy you will be once you get a two-wheeler. Then you get the two-wheeler and find that what you actually need for happiness is a car. You get the car and find that what you need really is a bigger car. now, you know how it goes.

If you are really unlucky, you can suffer a bigger shock. Like you work your butt off to become a surgeon, always dreaming of the joy of becoming one, and discover that this was not what you wanted at all and you really would have preferred to become a rocket scientist. Or, you dream of becoming an author, with fans stampeding to buy your books and mobbing you for autographs only to find that you have a tough time proving that you even wrote a book and have to go around begging door-to-door to get people to read it. Mirages, I tell you!

There is one mirage, though, that never let me down. Or, rather, it is not a mirage when you see water from a distance and it really proves to be water, is it?

I always thought I would love to be able to laze around all day and, boy, I do!

Monday, November 26, 2018

The problem with democracy?

It is not always that I go seeking my friends for advice. There are times they come seeking me as well though, yes, it is very seldom for advice. More often than not, it is primarily to sound off their own theories of life in the perfect confidence that the audience is incapable of punching holes in their pet theories.

"You know that saying 'When a man knows and knows that he knows, he is wise, follow him; when a man knows and knows not that he knows, he is asleep, wake him; when a man knows not and knows that he knows not, he is ignorant, teach him; when a man knows not and knows not that he knows not, he is a fool, avoid him'?"

I nodded warily, not sure where this was heading. Invariably, things like this ended up in my getting insulted. Like, this one, was there some way I had proved that I knew not that I knew not? No, it could not be, for in that case he should have avoided me, not sought me out like he did now.

"You know, when you are totally ignorant of your own ignorance is when you are the most confident about your own opinions."

"If I am ignorant, how will I..."

"Come on, you idiot. Has anyone seen God? Has anyone searched every nook and corner of the Universe and found He is nowhere? Yet, the one thing everyone confidently asserts as absolutely true is their own belief in whether or not he exists. Ignorance does not stop you from having opinions and ignorance breeds confidence. When you know, you also know reasons to doubt your own opinions, so you tend to be more tentative about what you say."

It sounded okay to me and, anyway, I did not want to set him off on what he really thought were the contents of my skull, so I nodded.

"And those who know that they do not know...who are they more likely to believe? The one who is confident about what he is saying or the one who is tentative?"

Now, these are the questions that I am afraid of. I mean, the chap is out to prove a point, that much was obvious, and he expects a certain answer so that he can establish his point. Give him the wrong one and he is likely to bust your nose for you.

"Hmm! I suppose...err...the confident guy will be believed."

He beamed and I sighed with relief. Right answer!

"And, between the ignorant who know their ignorance and the ignorant who do not, you have the majority of Society."

Thank God, this was an assertion. If it had been a question...well, I had never gone around collecting statistics of who was who.

"So, you have the blind leading the blind in a society that is ruled by the majority - this democracy of ours. No wonder the world is hurtling down a precipice."

Yeah, I know you are berating me for a coward for not smashing his face in for indicting a holy cow like democracy. But, come on, even the literal holy cow is not safe these days, so big deal about the figurative ones! Which is about what a lot of people seem to be feeling these days.

"So, your point is that democracy is bad?"

"You really do have an unerring ability to misunderstand things. I meant that an ignorant majority is the danger in a democracy."

Monday, November 19, 2018

Numbers don't lie?

The chappie who said, "Numbers don't lie" probably meant it as a statement of fact. You know, like "The Sun rises in the East" or some such thing that people do not like to dispute. The problem is that a lot of people have taken it up as a challenge. "Aha! You think we cannot make numbers lie? Just you wait and see." was probably their reaction. And they got to work on it.

Now this is not about lying about the numbers. Like the guys who create what now has the respectable name of 'Fake News'. Always wondered if it is fake, can it be news? You know, like saying '78% of the people in Timbuktu love koalas', when you do not know if Timbuktu even exists, cannot distinguish a koala from a whale, have no clue about how to work out percentages and put it out. 78% may be a number and this is a lie but THAT is a lie about a number but not a number that has been made to lie.

There are, then, the more obvious ways of making numbers lie. They call it massaging data or some such physiotherapy term. You know, like you check out with your spouse, your sons, your poodle and say '90% of people in India prefer Dairy Milk to Toblerone' or some such thing. No wonder, the first lecture on statistics for me started with, "You have white lies; then you have lies; and then you have statistics."

But what set this off for me is the latest use of numbers, which I keep bumping into on social media. You know the thing. Some government project is proposed and promptly you get memes saying, "For this cost you could have had 8 IITs, 16 IIMs, 32 primary schools etc etc". AND, you see, generally these chaps know how to use calculators, if not computers, and so the division is not erroneous. So, then, what's the problem?

You see, I belong to the old school and I like to know whether the objectives are desirable and whether they are cost-efficient. And, for me, these things say nothing about either, they merely obfuscate the problem.

You think not? That if at the cost 8 IITs can be put up, obviously the project is not worth it? I'll explain why I am confused, maybe you can sort things out for me.

For the cost of feeding one man, you can feed 4 dogs, 8 cats, a score of mice and thousands of ants, say. Now does it make it obvious that you should starve the man and feed the ants? No? Why not?

It is difficult to take a call on the welfare of men and ants, except perhaps for PETA? Okay, here is another question - "For the cost of setting up one IIT, you can set up 20 schools, feed 500 children...", say. Now?

Okay. A third question. If there is a decision to throw a 100 crores worth of copper into the Arabian sea, do you need someone telling you how many schools you could have built with it, or how many people you could have fed? When there is NO desirable goal, there is no need to compare shit like this, you just prove that the goal is undesirable.

Of course, things are not as clear as that normally. THEN, you need to discuss the fact that the goals of the project are LESS desirable than setting up an IIT etc, BEFORE throwing numbers at me. Otherwise, how am I to know that the numbers you are throwing at me is not the same as the 'how many ants can be fed by starving a human' thing?

Is your objection to the cost? Then compare the costs and benefits and tell me that the money is better utilized elsewhere. Or, how am I to know that it is not the same as comparing how many schools can be set up for the cost of one IIT?

If you will only put up this shit, it is only a way of making numbers lie. The numbers say nothing about either the desirability of the goals or about the costs and benefits of the project. AND, by indirection, you try to make the numbers tell me that the project is undesirable. (Witness, if the project is useless, it is useless even if the money will only allow me to set up 1/4th of an IIT or 1/2 of an IIM. But the comparisons never show anything LESS than 1. It is always multiples.) It is like seeing me buy a kilo of apples and telling me I could have got 5 kilos of Onions for the price and trying to make me feel that apples are not desirable.

With me, though, all that these numbers tell me is that you know division...provided you got your sums right.