Monday, September 8, 2014

Guidelines, please

I really think God has been very remiss. He sent me down on Earth but neglected to put in an appropriate instruction manual on how to lead a life - more specifically, how to deal with my fellow-man. It really would have been helpful to know, say, that if a man has green eyes and long sideburns, he should be trusted; if a woman had long tapering fingers, she would be compassionate etc. etc. I mean, if you knew where you stood with people you could live an easier life. Like, when you have money to invest, you could just scroll through your list of friends for one with a wide forehead and prematurely graying hair, and if you wanted great company, you could look for one with a bulbous nose and bloated belly...things like that.

It is all very fine to say that you have brains to judge people with...the thing is that YOU may be equipped with a Quadcore processor and all that; what if all there is in my head is only data storage. Shouldn't I be equipped with at least a minimal app that has clear guidelines about how to select from a given set of options?

Thankfully, this unpardonable omission by God has been rectified by some great people, who may or may not claim to be speaking for Him. I learnt of how useful they can be, along with the reassuring fact that I was not alone in my predicament, when I was at a friend's house and his sis, who was then a House Surgeon at AIIMS, came in distressed.

"What a dismal day! There was this man from Haryana, who was operated upon today and we had put in tubes to evacuate his urine and feces. When he learnt that I had done the surgery on him, he yanked out the tubes before anyone could intervene. When I told him how dangerous it was, he casually says 'Put it in'. Had I been a man, he probably would have taken me seriously. Now, he is unlikely to survive"

Clause 23 A, Chapter 3 of the instruction manual provided to the man must have said, "Women belong in the kitchen and can do nothing worthwhile in the outside world." I envied him his confidence in dealing with women - a confidence that could not even be touched, leave alone shaken, by any of the stupid fears of personal safety that afflicts the bravest of us in hospitals. See, how confident the existence of an instruction manual made him? True, his confidence, probably, cost him his life but that was not the fault of the manual - it is the fault of people who had failed to live by it - the women who stepped out of home, the hospitals that employed them etc.

I ached to get some instruction manual that would rid me of all need to worry about people. Something that said in clause 27 E, Chapter 3, that women who dressed in anything other than a sari, were promiscuous; in clause 14 A, Chapter 5, that people born black could not understand physics; in clause 6 F, Chapter 8, people who could not speak English in YOUR accent had no brains - things like that. I am not too nitpicking about the clause numbers OR the chapter numbers OR even the nature of guidelines - as long as there were some.

I was still searching. Though I did not find the manual for myself, I did find a lot of people who had found it and were living by it. AND, by God, the confidence it gave them! The unshaken sense of superiority with which they could deal with people, who had not had the brains to choose to eat 'Makki da roti and Sarson da saag', and had settled for stupid things like idlis and dosas - or the vice versa; the sense of deference for people who had invented the fork and the knife and taught them the best way to eat their aloo paranthas - or their masala dosas; the obdurate belief that women existed to serve men; the inviolable feeling of superiority by way of being born in a 'superior' caste - I was missing out on a whole lot by not having laid my hands on THE instruction manual.

You see, things would have been easier for me if I had known of only ONE instruction manual. The problem is that I knew that God, in His wisdom - if indeed it was He who sent out ALL those messengers - seems to have couriered different manuals by different messengers. NOW therein lies a problem. Were ALL of them messengers and were ALL those messages properly transcribed? Could it be possible, horror of horrors, that some of them were NOT His messengers and, even where the concerned people believed that it was a TRUE messenger, could they differ on what is the proper transcript of the message?

Confusion! Some of the followers of messengers claimed that ALL others were spurious messengers; within followers, there were differences on what the right transcript of the message was. Some instruction manuals were modified to suit the modern world, and others disputed the modifications. People went to war, set off bombs and threatened non-believers with Hell and damnation, if THEIR instruction manual was not adopted and followed.

The choice of the right instruction manual became SO vexing that it seemed easier to figure out how to act with people on a case-by-case basis. There were less people in my life than there were instruction manuals, after all.

I cannot help regretting the fact that I read too much and came to know about all the varieties of instruction manuals in the world. I should have kept my reading to just one. I would have been a far more confident person. It is easier to be confident when you are following a clear guideline than when you follow your own uncertain judgment. It also helps to just stop your brain from thinking.

Unfortunately, I seem to have a processor fitted in, after all, and cannot avoid thinking. Any guidelines on how to shut it up and fit in THAT minimal app?

32 comments:

  1. You manage to say so much and with such fun! Loved reading this piece. This line particularly made me laugh out loud - "I am not too nitpicking about the clause numbers OR the chapter numbers OR even the nature of guidelines - as long as there were some." While the rest of the piece goes on to convey some thought-provoking ideas, it was this line that made me stop and go - Awww...look he is so adjusting after all, why can't gods be nice to him and finally give him the manual that he so badly needs :)

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  2. As rants go this is right up there.... I agree wholeheartedly. There is a confidence that comes from accepting that the only manual that works is the manual that is in your hand and is the only one you've read. The conversation "my manual is better than your manual" is at once simpler and can have only one conclusion. "Me right, you wrong", if Edgar RB would forgive me.

    I used to work with a guy who had everything down to a Boolean expression. There was only 1 correct way to solve a problem. I wrote about that once upon a time.... too lazy to post a link. I think it was called "Decided not to decide" or some such.

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    1. Ah! Me Tarzan,You Jane, huh? :) And, yes, I hv seen the 'My way or the highway" too often in life with very little rationale :)

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  3. Ah Suresh I will give you a clear guideline --just live by my blog-JEETERAHO!

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    1. So to hum karte hain, Indu ! Jeeyo aur jeena do ke hi tareeka doond rahe hain :)

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    2. Actually that is precisely what i meant but since time was short i could not elaborate.Can you mind read?

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  4. It is frustrating that we are out to destroy our world for the existence of pluralism when that is the very mantra of our sustenance. Such mindless waste when so many better things can come up! I really appreciate this post.

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    1. Thnaks Ilakshee! We do manage to find support for our insularity from any evidence :)

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  5. Now wasn't that a wonderful way to sum up a lot of the discrimination that happens around us :)

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    1. Thanks Seeta! I sure hope I managed a bit of it :)

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  6. There are so many stereotypes and I suggest lets burn down all the manuals that exist. Only then will the world be what God intended it to be. Maybe that is why we all came without manuals - so that we can figure each other out without prejudices.

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  7. The best satire is the one that makes you feel very sad after you've finished reading it. This made me just that.
    God just had to give us humans all these wonderful qualities. And then spoil it all by giving us brains! Could there be an irony more cruel than that?

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    1. At times, it seems like God was in an unusually capricious mood when He made Man :)

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  8. Seriously, it would have made life so much easier. What a mess we humans have created?

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  9. Just wonder if all the robots in the movie I-Robot, which looked alike and did everything the same way would also degenerate into behaving like us human beings, by virtue of their inbuilt AI.

    Lovely tongue-in-cheek post which conveys a serious message with humor laced to ease the hard blows you give in it.

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    1. Thanks Jairam! Yeah - as long as we live life based on instruction manuals, we may as well be robots :)

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  10. I burnt my manual so that I can enjoy confusing people ..........

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    1. You should have given it to me :) Would have made my life easier :)

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  11. When you find that manual, I want to borrow it too :) People with manuals definitely have a far easier life..isnt it much more easier to be sure of something one 100% rather than the vexing situation when one is always in doubt looking at nebulous shades of grey

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    1. Not to mention the fact that the others tend to give in, more often than not, when they realize that you are so certain of the verity of your manual that you just cannot be convinced otherwise

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  12. As usual you shine a light on a subject with humor while letting the truth seep into our heads. Great post.
    Around 25 years ago, I was a computer software programmer. I went with my boss to a large client. We sat with at least six male representatives from their company. Although I wore a suit, I admit it was a very fashionable suit with high heels, long hair, and make-up. They threw questions at me left and right, and I quickly answered them. Then I proved their top IT guy wrong when he said I made a mistake. I think they learned not to judge a book by its cover!

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    1. Glad to have met a fellow-fashion plate :) Those guys must have been ones uncertain about their manuals :) Had they been certain, they would have thought that the Devil was prompting you :P

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  13. haha and that's how you pack a punch and write about the discrimination around us...

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    1. It sure makes me happy to hear that I 'pack a punch', Naba :)

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  14. This is a perfect Sureshesque post...making us smiling and thinking all the way... :-)

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  15. Amazing post again Suresh! life would have been easier for all of us if everyone just burnt their manuals.

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