Monday, April 12, 2021

Time and Tide

"Time and Tide wait for none", they scream. By and large, they mean only that 'Time is Money' and any time which is not spent in the pursuit of earning money, or equipping yourself to earn more money, is wasted. Why, even Billy, the immortal Bard of Avon, says "There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." There ye go. Where we only considered time as money, the Bard had to bring in Tide also to lead you to money...err...fortune, not just your itty-bitty few thousand bucks.

I used to think that I did understand the importance of timeliness when I was a child. Like, if I am late reaching home when the tiffin of the day was masala dosa, the odds of getting more dosa than masala, so to speak, were very high. It is one of the tougher things in resource management to identify the exact quantity of masala for all the dosas that will be consumed by the family in the day. Especially because it is impossible to precisely estimate the number of dosas each person would consume on any given day. Likewise, going late to class when some birthday boy was distributing chocolates was a good way to ensure you maintained your hourglass figure - because, of chocolates, you will see none except in other people's mouths.

And, then, I see all this 'Time is money' and all that rot and realize that I had got it all wrong. Like my parents were quick to let me know. Apparently, at school, I was supposed to get the maximum marks. Learning was incidental, though it was sort of assumed that marks meant learning but, more importantly, marks meant engineering or medical seats which meant that I could make money when I grew up. And on to college where, again, I had to concentrate on marks because marks meant a better job (Or even job, since not all of us end up in IIT where a job was a given and it was only a battle for the best job). And onwards to seeking 'marks', though it was called a good Confidential Report, at the job so that you got promoted. And so on and so on. Time and Tide are relentless, I tell you.

Me, I was born kinky. (You know that? Good for you but why are you assuming that I am interested in the extent of your General Knowledge? Do I look like a quiz master to you?) I mean, the way I saw it, school was the only time when I could be carefree, making friends and hanging out with them without worrying about who was trying to take advantage of me. When I neither had to bother about earning money or about where my next meal was coming from. College was the only time I had money that I could spend by my wish, without the bother of having to earn it, independently travel and have fun with friends, though, yes, the Damocles' sword of having to get a job at the end of it hung above the head.

The early days of work, though you did have to earn the money, was the period when you felt the richest (unless, of course, you had a rich father showering money like confetti while at college - which I did not) since you had no responsibilities making calls on your money. (Though, of course, admittedly I lived at a time when there were no personal loans on offer at all and, thus, I did not HAVE to buy a motorbike or a car and suffer through EMIs. After all, when NOBODY could do it, there is no peer pressure pushing you).

The early days of your marriage are the only time you get to feel romantic. For, after all, once it becomes routine, it ceases to be fun and devolves into perpetual wrangles about who does the dishes and who washes the curtains. It is only when your children are young that they are the most fun to be with. Once they hit their teens, you stop being their hero and start becoming the stupid heartless dictator against whom they are in perpetual revolt. By the time you guys sign the peace accord, they vamoose to college or work.

Time also sets limits on what you can do. You cannot mountaineer if you try starting on it when you are 40. Even if you are physically able to, your job will not permit long holidays and you will not want to risk the even longer ones if you happen to get injured. What will happen to those EMIs, then? It is a rare person who starts learning to fiddle after 50. When your co-students are in their twenties and you have become unaccustomed to being laughed at for fumbling attempts at a new skill...

When, with age, your ability to enjoy new things - food or whatever - has declined and you seek the comfort of the familiar, you are unlikely to love the idea of world travel. Oh, it's grand to put out the pics on Instagram and start every conversation with "When I was in Vienna..." but the only way you are actually going to enjoy the travel itself is if you have done it before and are familiar with it, not if you are doing it for the first time at 60. At 60, your reaction is more likely to be, "Kya Vienna-Shienna! Dang ka daal-chawal bhi nahin milta", if you are inclined to be truthful about how you feel.

Yeah, Time and Tide wait for none. And that is as true about all the experiences of life, not just for making money. If you keep taking tide after tide only to ensure that it leads you to fortune, you'll probably drown in wealth that you have no use for.

Or just drown your chance of LIVING in the humdrum of mere existence.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Relativities

Relatives? Nah! Read the title properly, willya? Relativities, it says. Einstein and all that? You must be new to this blog if you really think that I have the brains to talk of the theory of relativity.

Though, come to think of it, the theory of relativity could well be a breeze compared to what I am about to rant against. I mean, this Einstein chappie, he sort of had mathematical formulae to determine how relative time was or distance was or whatever...the speed of light comes into it somewhere, I know, but mathematical formulae and I...we sort of do not get along. Anyway, if there is a formula, someone can reliably predict this type of relativity. I daresay even Einstein gave up on being able to predict this thing. (He probably said so in so many words, if I remember right. He did say something like "There are only two infinite things - the universe and human stupidity. And I am not sure about the universe")

So, there it is...I am perpetually bamboozled with the relativities of human nature. Renders me unfit company for man or beast, I know. I ought to know, considering the speed with which people drop me. Hot potatoes cannot beat my record in the speed of getting dropped.

Anyway, it started off with 'Drop in any time', which people who have been masochists enough to frequent this blog will remember. Sometimes it means 'Ideally when we are not at home'; sometimes it means 'No guarantee about us welcoming you in, though'; sometimes it means 'You may even be welcome if we are really bored and cannot think of anything better to do'; sometimes it may even really mean that you can drop in any time and find a welcome. The thing is when is it which. I bet Einstein will confess himself defeated if he had to find a formula for it. The meaning certainly is relative but is it predictable? I think not.

Sort of floating on the fringes of any discussion is an education in relativity of the human sort, really. I mean the way people react to the same action is also...err...relative. Though, in this case, it does have something to do with their relations with the guy who does it or the guy who is the victim of the deed or both. If you like the doer but would not normally like the deed, you go "Yeah, that was bad but what could the poor chap do. The other guy forced him to extremes." If you like the victim of the deed, "No matter the provocation this is just not done." If you do not like either chap, "Of course this chap is just the sort to do such heinous things but the other chap deserved it." If you like both and you are a conciliator type you try to convince each guy about the validity of the other guy's actions and reactions and earn both their enmity. If you are not into conciliation, you just think they will sort it out themselves and studiously avoid the topic. With so many variations, it is rather tough to puzzle out which of the relativities obtain in a given case. (Esp in social media. You see what you think is an obnoxious comment, jump in with spiked boots expecting to earn brownie points and end up stomped on yourself by the very people you try to impress. How are you to know that the commenter is a dear friend of your target audience and, therefore, what seems obnoxious to you at first sight is not really obnoxious after all? These human relativities, I tell you!)

Despite all this, I still retained a child-like faith in the idea that there was something called the real truth. I mean, the WAY people see a thing may differ but there IS such a thing as how it really happened...or should be, no? I mean, a comment may seem racist, say, to one recipient; seem like something just in bad taste to another; seem like an innocent comment to a third. All of these are true only to the extent of the IMPACT the comment made on the respective recipients. The truth about the comment is the INTENT of the person who made it, right? Whether it is racist, in bad taste or innocent or whatever? Whether the truth can be ascertained or not may be moot. But there IS a truth there...or so I thought.

But, apparently, there is no such thing called the REAL truth. Anyone who is not directly emotionally involved on any side of the discussion and attempts to seek the real truth is merely a fence-sitter who'd have whitewashed the Nazis. Someone who is just unwilling to pillory possibly innocent people and is all for safeguarding possible victims - No such being can exist!

So, now, apparently there is 'my truth' or 'your truth' but nothing called the real truth. AND we have also canceled lies...err...absolute lies, I mean. They just do not exist. What it means, of course, is that 'your truth' is 'my lies' and 'my truth' is 'your lies'.

Relativities! BAH!

Monday, March 29, 2021

This Celebrity thing

I have never understood this thing about celebrity. ("It would only be a wonder if you understood anything", you say? If you spent less time making snide remarks and more time explaining things then, maybe, I'd understand more). I mean, yeah, these are people who are popular for some reason or the other but...

I mean, there is this fable about a queen looking for a bride for her son, but adamant on getting a 'true princess'. A princess lands up at her palace. The prince is all for marrying her on the spot (no doubt desperate because of how his mom was rejecting every possible woman) but the queen insists on a test to identify her 'princessliness', so to speak. So, that night, the queen arranges for her to sleep on a stack of twenty mattresses, beneath which there is a single solitary pea. The next day the queen asks the princess about whether her sleep was comfortable and the princess moans, "I could not sleep a wink. There was something hard which was poking me all night." THAT convinces the queen that this is a true princess and the prince, at last, gets a bride.

I always wondered about whether this test was one of whether the princess could feel the pea or whether the rudeness to complain to the host is what decides on the fact that she was royal. Whatever it be, the idea seems to be that princesses are made of a different clay and inconveniences, which you and I would not even know of, would bother them indescribably.

Which, sort of, seems to be our attitude to celebrities. Their problems, their acumen, their views on anything and everything (totally unrelated to what they ARE celebrities for) have an exaggerated importance, much as though they descend on earth from some different, much superior planet.

If you are at all on Social media, your timeline too should have been flooded by reams of prose about that celebrity interview, like mine, so you know what set this post off.

I mean, yeah, so they had another wedding...or not, so? I mean, really, if my neighbor told me that, about three years back, they had a private wedding before their public one, all I'd probably say is, "Ah!" and follow it with,"What are the onion prices today?", which is more important to me. I really cannot see why it is of such earth-shaking importance that I should be bombarded with all sorts of views on it. They could have married each other every day of the week and twice on Sundays from the time they met and it would make no iota of difference to me or the world. (Except, perhaps, the Guinness Book of World Records may show interest if they did that. THAT shows how important most of those world records are.)

And as for who made who cry about how the bridesmaids were dressed, three years back? Really? Even the most avid watcher of mega-serials would not be that keen on a rehash, years down the line, in any 'Kyunki jettaani bhi kabhi nayi bahu thi'. Yet, apparently, the world wants to know! Goes to show that the rules ARE different for celebrities.

I can really sympathize with the fact that the heartless father cut his son off without a penny, leaving him to lead a poverty-stricken life off the measly few million dollars that his mother had left him. Not, though, to the extent of getting upset about it for days on end. Why, even the billionaire chat show host did not feel too much sympathy. Else she would have been moved to help out the poor abandoned couple by giving them a fee for an interview which should net her a hefty sum.

Nor, indeed, am I able to understand why she should want her little child to be trapped into being a prince when she had, with great difficulty, just extricated her husband from that same web. Maybe it is just to give a purpose for her old age, to pass her idle moments extricating her son. I'll never understand celebrities, I tell you, or the way we see them.

Now, that racism thing IS serious. I mean, whether in small ways or large ways, if an act is committed based on a thought process of racism, it is to be denounced. But what makes me wonder is not her anguish, which is quite understandable given that it happened, but the persistent outrage about it. As in, the outrage about an act of racism, which takes lives in your own country, and is committed NOW by duly appointed officers of your government draws a couple of days of outrage from a few. And this one remark, purportedly made by one member of the figurehead royalty of another country, a couple of years ago, is worth a month or more of outrage by so many people?

I mean if, in your friends circle, a woman of color, in a mixed marriage, were to say, "You know, two years back, when I was pregnant with my son, one member of my husband's family made this one remark to my husband, 'What color do you think your son will be?'", do you really think all of you can sustain the outrage for even the length of the meeting? Sexist, Racist, Communalist remarks are ALWAYS reprehensible but, unfortunately, all too common in daily life. In the best of families, the best of communities, the best of offices, there is always someone who is either insensitive or racist/sexist/communalist or both. To the person to whom it happens, it can rankle and hurt for long. The rest of us, and even the affected party most of the time, have had to learn to brush them aside (some have more need than others, obviously and unfortunately), else we would be outraging 24x7. Much worse happens because of racism/sexism/communalism, lives are damaged or lost because of them, so there are bigger battles to fight. So, this issue of racist remarks does not seem worthy of prolonged outrage to the audience. Comes to celebrities, though...

(Given that I am on this subject why am I not talking of the tabloids? There you go, thinking that the whole issue is about the whys and wherefores of the concerned celebrities. My point, here, is about how we view what happens to celebrities with an exaggerated importance compared to how we would react if the same thing happened to everyday people. AND, comes to tabloid journalism, you really do not expect ordinary people to be the subject matter of that, do you? So, that's not germane to this post, except to underscore the fact that this exaggerated view of celebrities can work to their detriment as much as it can work in their favor.)

While on this same subject, there was this furor some time back about Rihanna and Greta tweeting support to farmers' protest in India. Now, from what I understand, the one is a singer and the second a teenage climate activist. I do not suppose that Rihanna has any knowledge of the agricultural economics in USA, leave alone India; nor do I think Greta is a well-known Swedish agriculturist. AND, comes to farmers' protest in INDIA, I cannot see why so much importance should have been given to their support. I mean, the affected parties here are the farmers themselves and THEY are protesting, so how does Rihanna's or Greta's support strengthen their point of view? The only people whose view ought to strengthen the protest, other than the affected parties themselves, are the views of subject matter experts. Which I do not suppose either of them claim to be.

Par for the course for we do seek opinions on such from our own stars and starlets and use those opinions as though THAT conclusively proves the validity of the point of view which they support. Really? Unless they ARE also subject matter experts OR they have some specific point to say, why should it? Any more than the support of any person who has access to Twitter?

Of course they can have an opinion and, of course, they have the right to voice them. I repeat, THIS post is not about THEM. It is about US. Why do we give exaggerated credence to their views as compared to the views of the man on the street? On some issues, the man on the street actually may have MORE credence. I mean, it is unlikely that a Shahrukh Khan's pocket is seriously pinched because of a petrol price hike. (AND why do we also deny celebrities the right to say that they have NO opinion because they do not have knowledge of the issue? A celebrity cannot even remain silent on an issue without being damned for it.)

There was a time when royalty was considered 'divine right'. So, kings and queens were considered divine, in a way. Which, of course, meant that they were to be treated as something apart from the general run of humanity. As in being able to be disturbed by a pea buried under twenty mattresses.

Now that we have, largely, done away with royalty, we seem to have substituted celebrities in their place. To misquote the immortal Bard, "Some are born divine, some achieve divinity and some have divinity thrust upon them."

And once we thrust divinity upon you, beware! For the very next thing we do is scrutinize your feet for the presence of clay. For as long as we fail to find your feet of clay, your every word will be gospel. Thereafter, it will be mud.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Random ranting

I believe that it is customary to look back on life on some special dates. Birthdays, anniversaries of other sorts, on your death bed...dates like that. Me, I suddenly feel the need to look back on my blogging and writing on some arbitrary day. One would think that April 10th, which was the date in 2009 when I started this blog, or 14th Feb, which is the day in 2012 when I revived my blog, may be better dates for such retrospectives. ('Better that it never happens', you say? Whose blog is it anyway?) But, hey, I am the guy whose eyes, with a fine disdain for clocks and calendars, started demanding reading glasses well before 40 years of age, which is supposed to be the customary age for such things. So why expect any calendar-dictated logic for anything I do?

So there I started, in 2009, writing nineteen to a dozen and expecting the brightness of my writing genius to draw readers in like flies. (Bad analogy, I know. I mean who really wants to be considered a fly. Could not think of a better one this time. Apologies. Though, considering that most of the 'readers' are bots...) And discover that the page-views I was seeing on the blog stats were all mine, eagerly visiting and revisiting the blog to see if anyone had condescended to land up. (Yeah, yeah, I know I should have set up the blog for not counting my own visits. I was new, wasn't I?) So, I summarily abandoned the blog for a longish while.

Then in 2012, I revived it upon hearing about blog aggregators - Blogadda and Indiblogger at that time - wherein one could attempt to get unknown people to actually read your blogs. (Now THAT is one of those business models that get created and destroyed within a tenth of your lifetime in this day of the internet. Those were the guys who saw value in being intermediaries between companies and 'blog influencers' on social media. Little did they realize what the advent of Facebook, Instagram etc would do to their business model.)

That was the golden period of my blogging. I always THOUGHT I wrote humor but, you know, there is always a niggling doubt. And fear of rejection, especially with humor. You can get away with being somewhat tragic, somewhat thrilling...you know, halfway measures are fine. Humor...you either hit the bulls-eye or you do not. Is a joke that does not make you laugh 'somewhat a joke'? So, it was very gratifying when my blog got listed among the 'Top 5 humor blogs' by BlogAdda; top 13 humor blogs by Baggout; when it was in the top 40 humor blogs by some Philippines website (Philippines? Now, how the hell...but why look a gift horse in the mouth? Especially when you do not know whether it is just about to barf). The icing on the cake was when a RSS aggregator, Feedspot, listed my blog in the Top 100 funny blogs in the WORLD! Considering that the list included 9GAG and all, that was when I really felt that, perhaps, I was not deluding myself when I thought I wrote humor.

Not that I thought that, of all the billions of people in the world, I counted among the top 100. I mean, come on, not even one post of mine had gone 'viral'. (A blessing, that, come to think of it. Viral posts ARE like Covid. Only happens when it is controversial and then...well, the aftermath is not particularly humorous generally, unless you are thick-skinned. Me, my skin is like tissue-paper.) The thing was that SOMEONE not only thought I was a top humorist but actually told the world so!

I must have allowed it to go to my head I suppose. True, I had a few stories out in three anthologies. True also that I was actually asked for a novella by a small publisher, without my having gone around submitting my work for consideration. But, without all this blogging 'success', I may not have ventured into writing a humor novella.

This thing about writing a book was a revelation, I tell you. In fact, if you have been reading my blog fairly regularly, I HAVE told you in great detail in another rant here. When I had my book - A dog eat dog-food world - published, I had no idea of all that I had to do to sell the damn thing. I ended up feeling that a good author is someone with the writing ability of a Shakespeare, the charm of a George Clooney, the salesmanship of a P.T. Barnum and the serenity of a Buddha. Now me, I'm none of the above, so...

And, yet, the book managed to sell out its first print run. (All 100 copies of it, thank you for the applause. I did say small publisher, did I not?) There was no second run, the publisher having gone out of business. (NOT thanks to me, damn you. I did say that she sold all that she printed, didn't I?) The ebook, which I still hold the copyright for, keeps sporadically selling a copy here and a copy there. Apparently not everyone believes that books rot with age, like food, and cannot be consumed unless fresh.

You know, the funny thing was that I got reviews comparing me with PG Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, Jerome K Jerome and what have you. Well, that's par for the course. If you write horror, you are the Indian Stephen King; write thrillers, you are the Indian Robert Ludlum and so on. And if you happen to be an American writing horror, it is likely to be 'Move over Stephen King; so-and-so is here'. So, it is but natural that a humorist almost automatically becomes the 'Indian PGW'. What astonished me was that, in a world that really knows only PGW as a humorist (other than stand-up comedians), everyone pulled out a different humorist for comparison. I was a bit peeved that they missed out Oscar Wilde (somewhat like Jerome K Jerome reading a list of diseases, finding himself afflicted by all of them, and miffed that housemaid's knee had somehow left him alone). But, then, if the only Wilde book they had read was 'Picture of Dorian Gray'...well, morbid was not what I wanted to be known for, anyway.

Where was I? Ah, being compared to great humorists and even having the book called 'the entire Philip Kotler dipped in gooey chocolate'. (Going by the size of the ONE Kotler book prescribed for Marketing Management, that would require MOUNDS of gooey chocolate!) The problem was that almost all of this was from relatively unknown people...social media friends and quite a few strangers; even Business Standard carried a review of the book.

Friends and family? Apart from the rare few (other than those I managed to badger into doing it), there was marked silence. Whether they felt it was a guilty pleasure (you know, like loving James Patterson but being ashamed of admitting to such low-brow interests and, thus, speaking only of Rushdie and Roy in public) or were diplomatic ('Why tell the poor guy that his book made me barf?') or would rather forget even my existence, leave alone my book's, I do not know. Considering that, with Whatsapp groups and all, your 'marketing' probably starts off with friends and family, I cannot help feeling that they possibly go "Ewww" like I am shoving a rotten fish into their face. Feeling like that, I am, quite naturally, a genius at marketing my books. ('IIM grad, writing spoofs of marketing management and a dud at it?' you ask? Why, pray, did you think that I chose to major in finance?)

What's the point of all this? Come on, you really expect coherence and a point in a RANT? Really?

So, anyway, it's been a while since I wrote, simply because I am not up to doing all the rest of what goes into selling a book. So, why I should have suddenly developed an interest in raking up my dead past, I do not know.

Except that, when I did, I found that I was STILL in that list of top 100 funny blogs. Hanging on by my fingernails, likely to drop off any time soon, but yet...

And, thus, hope springs eternal. Maybe I can egg myself on to write another book soon.

And you...you can start practicing your 'rotten fish' expressions!