Monday, June 29, 2015

Work Hard, Play Hard

Ever since I heard that, if I did not 'Work Hard, Play hard', I was not really living, I have been having nightmares from which I wake up in cold sweat and shiver for the rest of the night. Avoiding the need to work hard has always been my lifetime ambition. Just the idea of working makes me feel fatigued. In fact, I rather think that 'work hard' is a redundancy - working IS hard for me, anyway. Anything I enjoy doing I used to call play.

Which is the reason for my nightmares. Play Hard! Hitherto, I had the impression (mistaken, I am sure, as I am on most things) that playing was something you do as a leisure activity and, thus, it was something that you do in a leisurely manner, and by choice. In fact, I had sort of developed the idea that what you did from necessity was work; what you did by choice was play - without regard to which you were getting paid for (Ever heard of any man think that mowing the lawn was play, even if he did not get paid for it?). Apparently it is not so - you HAD to play hard (AND it is NOT play hard to get, which is merely a game). So, the moment you took off from office you had to start playing. So, choice cannot be the determinant of what constitutes play.

Playing what? I mean, hitherto, my idea of play was to listen to music, watch movies on TV or read a book. Would that do? And if it does constitute 'play', would that also count as 'play hard'? Maybe I should figure out a way to play the zip files, instead of the MP3; to watch movies on fast-forward; and to skim-read books, jumping ten words for every word I read so that I can qualify as one who is 'playing hard'. It is a hard thing to ask a middle-aged (Old? Well, in THIS context, I will accept old) man to suddenly change his habits but, as I ought to know (but don't), Life is not fair. (I know, maybe even my gossiping with friends ought to be in Twitterese, but THAT I do not think I can do. I mean, I cannot even see the logic - maybe saying 'LOL' instead of actually laughing may be faster but, for the life of me, I cannot see that saying 'Gee Enn' instead of 'Good Night' will be any faster, especially considering that I would also waste some time in thinking of it. So, it will only end up with my wasting precious time, which could have been used to play something else hard.)

Or am I totally wrong in assuming that these things even constitute play? Maybe the only thing that constitutes play is chasing balls of various sizes and shapes, across various shapes of grounds, with various implements. Too late for me. I would have groaned with self-pity at my utter inability to be WITH IT - but for the fact that I am reasonably sure that, if any such redefinition applied, it would only mean that you did all that chasing the ball by twiddling your thumbs over a handset - something that I can possibly learn. If only my eyes would permit it!

There is this variation - 'Party Hard' - and, maybe, when people said 'play' they thought ONLY of parties as play. This, I could possibly do but...wait...would they accept it as 'play hard' if I merely perched on a bar-stool and sipped a beer. Was I supposed to do twenty gyrations a minute on the dance floor and drink twice as much in half the time? AND, if as a consequence of the combination of both these activities, I end up barfing hard, would that elevate me to the ranks of the super-achievers?

Now, you understand why I wake up with nightmares. This 'play hard' business is stressing me out. It must be my age but you must forgive me if I find it too much

Monday, June 22, 2015

Old words; New meanings

The problem with language is that the damn thing just does not remain still. Just as you finish mucking around with the dictionary and the thesaurus, and start feeling smug about having found the meaning of a word, you find that someone has messed with it and it means altogether something else now. If it is just your neighborhood auntie, who thinks that 'homely' means someone who is good daughter-in-law material and not a euphemism for 'ugly', you can ignore her - until you find that the entire nation believes the same. The odds, though, are that not every such mistaken impression will cause you to curse the dictionary for misleading you. That complacency, however, is misplaced when it comes to journalists.

Of course, sometimes even they do not make a mark. There was once a concerted attempt to make 'rule the roast' stand in for what used to be 'rule the roost'. The culinary metaphor did not quite succeed in dethroning the poultry-based one, though, probably because it was still a male-dominated society in the eighties. If, however, you thought that every single such innovation bit the dust, you would be sorely mistaken.

Take for example the fact that, in India, 'wood' has been converted to mean 'film industry' (Anyway, since we are doing away with all the trees, the old meaning would be useless). The US has its Holly-film industry, we have our "Bolly', 'Molly', 'Tolly' etc. ones. I am quite thrilled, though, by the fact that the Internet spans the world. Left to our own devices, videos shared on Blogs would have become 'Bloggywood', a word that makes me retch - or am I being too hasty? Maybe that word is in the works and shall make an appearance soon in daily parlance giving me another reason to barf, besides motion sickness.

Of course there is a school of thought that says it actually is 'ollywood' that means film industry and you just add an alphabet before it to denote either the place or the language to derive the actual word for a specific film industry. USA, irrational as ever, may have added 'H' before the word, for no reason that anyone can fathom but we are more scientific. (WHAT? Hollywood is the name of the place from before there was a film industry there? I don't believe it)

Ever considered the word 'Breaking News'? Initially, it redefined the meaning of 'breaking' since it was rather loosely used even when the news was not so much 'breaking news' as 'broken news' - what was being touted as breaking news was probably hours old at least. So, if it was News, it was considered to also be 'Breaking'. Technology, though, made more things possible. As I found out when I sat in front of a TV with breathless journalists yelping "There is a car coming in" and a flashy scroller screaming "Breaking News: Car enters street. Which VIP is coming for Aishwarya-Abhishek wedding?". NOW - it is 'News' that has been redefined because, as you can see, IF it is breaking, it HAS to be News. Seems to me, though, that all journalists have gone to the same journalism school that taught ONLY one lesson - "News is telling people that Peter is dead, when they did not know or care that he ever lived."

The latest word I have had to learn is 'gate'. Apparently, it means 'scam' or 'scandal' but it cannot be used independently that way. It needs to be attached to some other word : Coal-gate (Warning: you use this one to whiten your teeth at your own risk); Bribe-gate etc. Way back in history, Nixon in the USA indulged in Water-gate - probably a scam related to bottled mineral water (WHAT? Breaking and Entering in an office complex called Watergate to eavesdrop on the opposition party? You must be joking!) From that day on, apparently, you are still permitted to use the word 'gate' to denote that thingy you push (or pull) to enter the compound of a house BUT the more appropriate use is to add it to some other word to talk of a scandal.

Alas! I forgot that thing about 'Freedom of Speech'. I have my freedom of speech but YOU do not have the freedom to question anything I say. THAT certainly does not constitute 'freedom of speech'. AND, sooner or later, I am sure that 'speech' will be expanded to mean HOW I speak in addition to WHAT I speak, thereby ensuring that you cannot question how I use words either.

Which means that I am probably likely to figure in 'Blog-gate' - unless, of course, I somehow manage to go viral on 'Bloggywood'. One way or the other, I shall be figuring in 'Breaking News'!

Monday, June 15, 2015


The number of things normal human beings are expected to do, which I do not do, simply amazes me. For example, I believe that the process of maturing involves collecting beliefs - like a child collecting marbles - till you reach a state of acceptable maturity. Nobody told me! So, I ended up being inadequately equipped with beliefs to function like a normal human being.

To be accurate, it is not that I did not collect my share of beliefs. So many of them were floating around that I did manage to snag a few of my own. What could be considered an adequate collection even if it did not reach the exalted heights of someone who could find a belief to guide him in every problem - specifically other people's problems. The issue was that I failed in the most significant part of collecting a belief. I failed to convert all of them - or even some of them - to iron-clad convictions.

The way words get used these days, I must clarify what I mean. I speak not of facts here and, by facts, I mean things that you KNOW about the world. I speak of beliefs which, to me, indicate ideas about the world that you THINK are correct. And, convictions are things that you THINK you KNOW about the world. The surprising thing about human beings is that they are more confident of their convictions than their facts.

The one major belief I failed to imbibe is something I have talked of in detail earlier. Apparently, doing anything is of value only if you get paid for it. Otherwise, what you do is useless indulgence and, if you do not agree, you are a loser. In the recent past, I have had people going starry-eyed when they hear I am a blogger and ask me, "How much do you earn?" The moment they hear that I make nothing from it, the stars turn to black holes and they lose interest in my blogging, and lose respect for me as well. As indeed is right for who respects a loser? THAT is the result of my not acquiring the seminal belief, leave alone making it a conviction, that "If it has no price, it has no value".

The other thing that I fail in miserably is in having opinions about leaders. A belief about a leader is a potent thing. Of course, human nature being what it is, a negative belief about a leader marks you as a discerning person and worthy of respect. But, even if you hold a positive opinion, it can still work - especially if the leader is considered the major, if not sole, champion of an ideology that is universally accepted. This much was possible for me. The problem is that I never could rise to the heights of, thereafter, also believing that the same leader could do no wrong and, if he was an apostle of Ahimsa, say, he was also an able administrator, a champion of gender equality, and kind to dogs and the elderly in his spare time. Nor, indeed, could I acquire the religious fervor of assuming that anyone who dares point out a single fault in the leader of my choice, is the devil incarnate and, if he does not have horns, tail and a pitchfork, it is merely one more sign of his duplicity. No wonder, I am considered sub-human by most people who know me, since I have not been able to acquire the smallest sign of mature beliefs.

What beats me, though, is this innate need for people to hold beliefs where no beliefs need be held. I mean, the money thingy I can understand because people want to make money and seek to make friendships with people who can help them do so. One who does not himself make money is unlikely to be of use to them. Likewise with the leaders - people want a Society that suits them and they believe (Illogically? There you go poking your nose in with YOUR belief) that the leaders will lead them to such a Society. I may disagree with their motives but I can understand what motivates the belief. There are beliefs, though, where the motive simply escapes me.

Let us assume that the people around you believe that Eskimos will treat you well as guests,if you put up a daily status message praising Eskimos. Let us say everyone around you has started doing so. You do not want to be their guest anyway, you also do not believe that it will help, why you do not even believe that there are Eskimos! So, do you vehemently say that "I am an anti-Eskimoist" or do you just say "I have no interest in guesting with Eskimos. Leave me alone." Ah! Leave me alone, huh? I thought so!

What, then, makes people behave differently when it comes to 'ism's? Take Theism, for example. There are people who pray to God and want to be with Him in Heaven. You do not want to go there, you do not think prayers will help, why you do not believe there IS a God. THEN, instead of putting that time spent in prayers to better use, you spend time yelling "I am an Atheist!" instead of merely saying,"I have no interest in your Heaven or Hell. Just leave me alone." Why, I have seen Atheists spend all their time spewing venom against a God that they insist does not exist. What sort of person spends a life hating a being that he is sure is nonexistent? I have found most Theists spend less time thinking about God than some Atheists and, if there IS a Heaven, they may surprise themselves by landing there after death! In their place, it would seem best to me to just sidestep the believers and go on to a discussion about "Piku" or something, but that is me, the ab-human!

So, yes, in some 'ism's like Atheism, I have never managed to figure out WHY people feel the need to choose that 'ism' but then, as someone said, when people have no rational reasons to fight each other, they will always find irrational ones. Or, maybe, it is just that you HAVE to call yourself some 'ist' or other, in any choice of 'ism's, for people to consider you adult.

That, though, must have conclusively proved how unfit I am for human society. I mean, not having beliefs is one thing but not even knowing WHY beliefs are necessary is certainly beyond the pale. No wonder I find myself talking to myself most of the time - since I hardly ever find an audience.

Good for me that I like the sound of my own voice. At least, that is what I believe about myself.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Self Image

You know, this thing of self-image is a lot more than just the face you see in the mirror. (You know? Surprising!) Even when it comes to the face alone, you can, in the mirror, see a face that a gorilla would embrace as a long-lost relative, and think that Bollywood missed out on a great option when you chose not to try and become a romantic hero. (That's me? Not at all! George Clooney envies me my looks). You can look at a face that Katrina Kaif wants to possess in her next birth and wish that you were not so ugly. The image you carry of even your physical self - you know the "I am ugly" or "I am God's gift to mankind" - may really vary widely from what's there for the world to see.

If that can happen with faces, what can be said of other things that are much less visible? You know, in the days when I was at school, other kids used to sort of cold-shoulder me and I found myself thinking, "What is so unlikable about me?" Really! Even such a charmer like me could create such a wrong self-image for himself. ("Charmer? You?" you sneer? Who asked you to butt in, anyway?) Once you KNOW you are a charmer, you know the right way to think. It took a while for me, though, to realize that the right thing to ask myself was, "Why are these poor kids so nervous about making friends with me? I am not all that picky!"

The teens are about the worst age for messing up with your self-image. Yeah, I know, you develop this rather cool attitude of laughing AT other people, and calling that a sense of humor, but you develop a very distorted view of your own self. I mean, Casanova could have taken my correspondence course on how to attract women (and without even the aid of deodorants, which were conspicuous by their absence in my teens) but I used to feel that I was repellent merely because they had this quaint way of expressing their attraction by wrinkling their noses and making retching noises when in my vicinity. "I am not good enough for them", I used to think. Later, when I recovered the right way of viewing myself for the woman-magnet that I was, I realized that the truth was that the poor women avoided me because they were afraid that THEY were not good enough for me!

In short, over a period of time, I understood that it was my own self-image that was making me think, "What is wrong with ME?' whenever the rest of the world acted in any manner that seemed contemptuous of me. If I had a strong enough self-image, I would know that the right question to ask would be "What is wrong with THEM?"

There are pitfalls to even that, though. Take the man who shoots up a place or places a bomb that kills men, women and children indiscriminately. Does he view himself as "I am a callous killer?" Not at all. His view of himself is, probably, that of "I am doing God's work on Earth, eliminating the impious and the unworthy" and, obviously, he expects angels to roll out the red carpet and God Himself to award him the 'Distinguished Service Cross' or whatever, and seat him where he can hear the harp concert to its best advantage. One would almost think that the human race still believes in a God, who ought to be propitiated by the blood of human sacrifice, but have abandoned the puerile idea that it is necessary to conduct the sacrifice in any specific manner.

The thing about a self-image is that, if you allow others to draw it for you totally, you end up staring at a gargoyle. If you draw it all by yourself, you could end up looking on yourself as either a monster or a goddess. The trick is to sketch it in for yourself but allow the world to color this bit and add a line there and erase a curve here. Balance, that is the word, I am looking for - it is balance that will make for a self-image that keeps you sane AND keeps you reasonably happy as well.

How sad, then, that I cannot even balance myself when I am lying flat on my back!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The numbers game

I must be humorous. Really! At least, officially! This blog of mine has been listed as one of the "Top 13 Humor blogs in India". Well, last year Blogadda had listed it in the top five humor blogs (That badge by the side? THIS is what that is all about), and therefore to say that I must STILL be officially humorous is more to the point.

So what if I can count the LOLs and ROFLs in my blog on the fingers of one hand, with fingers to spare (and I have ONLY five, not even six)? THAT's only because my readers are laughing so hard that they have no energy to even type in the LOLs and ROFLs. Lately, I must have got a lot more humorous - my readers are so exhausted with laughing that they are unable to even type in their comments, leave alone the LOLs. But they know that I know they are coming around, and reading, and ROFLing. (I don't, really, but that is a general problem with the human race, innit? What you think I know and what I actually know very seldom coincide)

That, though, is not the purpose of this piece. ('Ah! Your pieces HAVE a purpose? News to me', you say? I am immune to all this. Been there, heard that, too often). This whole episode set me wondering about this numbers game thing.

Ever heard what the guy says who is ranked the first in anything? Does he say, "I am in the top five"? Nah, nothing of that sort. He says, "I came first". Precision, that is what he is all about. The guy who came in second? Also a votary of precision, unless of course the race was run only between the two of them.

What of the guy who came in third? (Well - actually my blog was listed in third place in this list but I did not read all that much into it. 'Got that in? Good') Does he believe in such precision? Maybe, but, if he is like me, he is more likely to say, "I am in the top three", coyly, and keep his fingers crossed that the audience would believe that he came in first and is too modest to say so. (Not likely with me, you say? I will have you know that I have a reputation for humility and modesty, carefully built up over the years on account of the fact that I have much to be humble and modest about).

Then you run into the next peculiarity. The man, who comes in fourth, acquires a lot more modesty than he otherwise displays. He may be the guy who jumps in the air and beats his chest, like the first cousin of our eons-old ancestors, when he comes in first. When he comes in fourth, though, it is very seldom you hear from him that he was in the top four (Unless, of course, there were only four in the list.) Overcome by an unnatural modesty, he says, "I was in the top five".

Now that strikes me as strange. We may not all be mathematical geniuses but we, at least, know all the numbers from one to ten and in the right order. Yet, somehow, when it comes to this 'top this-or-that', we skip from three to five and five to ten ("I was in the top seven"? Does that seem like something you heard recently, unless it was a list of seven) and so on, forgetting all intervening numbers and, even though saying so may lead your listener to believe that you were less than you really were. (Horror of horrors! They may think you came in fifth instead of fourth and it still does not put you off). Human beings are a very peculiar race indeed!

There is yet another problem with this numbers game. 'Top 13.....' of what total? I find that I do not know almost all of the others and I am sure that most of them are equally as astonished to hear that I, too, pollute the atmosphere they live in. How, then, am I sure that the judges knew ALL possible humor blogs? AND the people who adjudged the blogs had fine enough discernment to precisely measure the worth of them all? Were there blogs that did not feature merely because they went unread and were there blogs equally as good, if not better, which lost out only because they were not to the taste of the judges? Unlike Athletics (even there, it is the ranking among the participants only. If you came in first in Tamil Nadu, it did not make you faster than Bolt), most other things in life do not seem to admit of a clear identification of merit.

So, of course, when it comes to listings that do NOT count my blog in the top few, it is because the judges did not cover ALL the blogs OR their judgment is flawed OR both. But this one? Of course, it was manned by meticulous judges who went through ALL those millions of blogs with a fine discernment of quality - else how would they have found the incomparable merits of my blog?

Nothing gives you a better appreciation of the ability and stature of the judges than for them to find merit in your performance. It has always surprised me that people think that finding fault with other people's performances will gain them the reputation of being discerning in the eyes of the very people they find fault with. (If I were to say Peter was great and Paul was average, which of the two thinks I am the wisest person since Solomon and which thinks that it is a pity that God gave the gift of speech to people whose IQ was in the single digits? Of course, if I were also to say WHAT exactly was great about Peter, it helps cement my reputation, but it is not necessary with most people. On the other hand, if I say WHAT exactly is wrong with Paul, it would, at best, ensure that he thought of double digits - LOW double digits, of course - when he thought of my IQ.)


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