Monday, November 30, 2015

Much ado about intolerance

Call me stupid, if you will (WHAT? You do not need an invitation? You would do it anyway?), but I really did not understand what this brouhaha about intolerance was all about. I mean, humanity has always been intolerant. Comes of climbing down from trees but not leaving all the animal instincts behind, I suppose (that one, specifically, of fearing strangers). Anyone, who is not one of 'us', has always been an 'outsider' with his every action, that does not conform, an affront. Anywhere in the world, the polite people refrain from voicing it, the less polite express it and the fringe elements express it with physical violence. Truly tolerant people are an insignificant minority, or that is what I believed. It was a rude shock to me to wake up one day and find that the world was, actually, an ocean of tolerance with India the lone outpost of intolerance.

Even more shocking was the discovery that we had not always been intolerant. True, the adherents of every religion have, at some time or the other, been massacred by the adherent of some other religion (in modern times) and, to vary the monotony, castes have clashed with castes and communities with communities but, apparently, we were a lot more tolerant in those days than we are now. Everyone says so - intolerance in increasing, I believe. (Ah! Puhleeze! I am NOT, I repeat, NOT political and I speak not of who spreads intolerance and who does not. Those you can discuss elsewhere on social media, thank you).

BUT...there is a bit of confusion there. Everyone makes a lot of noise about increasing intolerance in India. And, then, says that if one complains about the PM and his governance, it should not be given the color of insulting India. I am easily confused and this confuses me all the more. I mean, is it increasing intolerance in India that is the problem here (which means you are effectively calling Indians intolerant and increasingly so) OR is it the behavior of government that is the point at issue here (which means that you are saying that the government is, by its silence or actions, encouraging the fanatic fringe)? On the one hand, you may claim that Indians are no more or less tolerant than the rest of the world BUT the government is ending up giving a free hand to the fanatic fringe to impose its will on Society. On the other hand, you claim that Indians are more intolerant than the rest of the world. Which is it? If the former, what is all this 'increasing intolerance in India' crap, which paints Indians as more intolerant than the rest of the world? If it is the latter, then why give the false impression that changing governments will suddenly convert this country into a haven of tolerance?

Yeah! I know - you will jump in saying 'Both', though how THAT fact gets established by a few criminals acting violently in some incidents, I cannot fathom. It is not as though such has not happened elsewhere in the world. Whatever statistics are out there do not seem sufficient to prove that the incidents of intolerance must be a consequence of both the government encouraging the fanatic fringe as well as an increasing number of intolerant Indians. If your argument that the government is, in some way, responsible for such incidents happening frequently (and I have yet to see convincing statistical evidence to prove such is the case. Yeah, I agree that Dadri and other such heinous crimes are unforgivable but if you will insist on 'increasing' intolerance, you automatically invite mathematics to the party), then isn't it obvious that the same percentage of fanatics can lead to more incidents and it is not necessary for Indians to be more intolerant as a people than anyone else? Sweeping generalizations based on insufficient data is rhetoric, not analysis, and when intellectuals take recourse to rhetoric, they cease to use intelligence.

Then I am informed that when the Khans of Bollywood made comments about intolerance, the reactions were intolerant; that people just did not seem to respect their freedom of speech. This freedom of speech is yet another thing that escapes my feeble comprehension. The chaps who retaliated against the Khans with the risible 'Go to Pakistan' sort of comments get called 'morons' and 'assholes' by those who opposed their opinion. Which would probably result in the former (the tourist agents for Pakistan) accusing the latter of not respecting THEIR freedom of expression and so on and so forth. After a point, all that I can glean is that everyone who agrees with my opinion, regardless of how he expresses it, should have his freedom of expression respected, and anyone who disagrees better be VERY polite about it, indeed, lest he be accused of being against freedom of expression.

Ah! No! I am NOT in favor of rude people in general. The point I am trying to make is that, as long as all these expressions are verbal and the original speaker is not legally constrained, freedom of expression is safe. In a social media where "What an imbecilic idea" seems to be the most polite version of what used to be "I disagree", I have learned to parse most of these things to "I am opposed to that statement". Strangely, though, the ones who are accustomed to disagreeing in more unrestrained phrases are the ones who read intolerance into every such utterance by others. True, there IS always a fanatic fringe which really does mean to be intolerant (AND, where such utterances have been made and the person known, does anyone really believe that THAT person is representative of Indian society?). If, say in the USA, someone makes a statement that can even remotely be construed to be anti-American, does anyone seriously think that the social media responses will not have a similar dose of high-decibel nonsense? So, whence comes this nonsense of 'intolerant India' based on the reactions to the Khans?

There has, most certainly, been increasing TALK about intolerance. AND the worst of it is that it is all said in an intolerable manner. I am reminded of that cruel childhood game where one gets after the other saying, "Do not be angry." The chap, who was not angry, says, "No, I am not angry." The instigator says, "Then why are you glaring? You are angry." Again the victim demurs. The other than says, "See. You are shouting." The victim then screams, "No! I AM NOT." THAT, in effect, is what we seem to be doing to ourselves now. Keep talking about intolerance, and in this sort of high decibel manner, and you will ensure that even the people, who felt secure here, will start feeling victimized AND the others get angry with the 'victims' for being unjustly accused (Such, indeed, are the vagaries of human nature. The ones who mouth off for their sixty seconds of fame are seldom blamed). What, in psychology, is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Are there intolerant people, intolerant organizations in India? Certainly, yes. Do I wish India were a more tolerant nation, as tolerant as it has been reputed to be throughout ancient and medieval history? Certainly, yes. Is India today intolerant, any more than the average nation in the world? Maybe but, as yet, I have not seen any rational evidence establishing it one way or the other, unless I should count screaming loudly about it in media and sweeping generalizations as rational evidence.

Yes - there IS increasing intolerance. Intolerance to differing opinions, intolerance to being rational - to the extent that we prefer seeing the facts in only the manner that buttresses our opinion - and, above all, an intolerant and outright rude manner of expressing our opinions, which shrieks, "You dare not oppose me." When intellectuals take recourse to this sort of behavior it shall not be long before even the most tolerant of societies turns intolerant. And THAT seems to apply to ALL the world, not just India.

When you want a tolerant society, you preach tolerance and act tolerant. You do not bring about a tolerant society merely by agitating against perceived intolerance and acting intolerant yourself.

Monday, November 23, 2015

My 400th post: Thank You

This is my 400th blog post. The trouble is to get people, who know me in person, to believe that I have written 400 posts.

"You mean you really know how to string words together to form a coherent sentence?", asks one, as surprised as though I had claimed to walk on water.

"Well! He is over 50. He must have learned something, I suppose", says the other, sounding not particularly convinced that I could have learned anything.

"Still!" says a third, "400 posts?"

"Hahaha! Yes, sounds a bit like that monkey tapping arbitrary keys on a typewriter and churning out the complete works of Shakespeare" is the contribution of a fourth to this flow of reason.

There you have it. There are some people who, when seen, impress as founts of wisdom and stand-ins for Solomon in the modern world. And then there is me, who so inspires people that they look on in slack-jawed amazement if I even demonstrate a capability to tie-up my boot-laces and, thereafter, refuse to accept the evidence of their eyes.

So, it came as no surprise when I first started blogging in 2009 and found each one of my 21 posts receiving precisely one reader - Me. Well , I did not actually realize it then. Since I used to pop into my blog and read my own words with admiration some twenty times a day, I did see stats about some 20 page-views every day and had pleasant dreams of twenty unknown chappies popping in every day to enjoy my pearls of wisdom. Till some spoilsport told me of this 'Don't track your page-views' option. THAT brought down my daily page-views to precisely zero, thereby killing all my interest in pursuing blogging for the nonce.

I had realized, of course, that the only way I would be getting someone to read my blog is if that person hadn't met me before. Then he/she would not be affected by this peculiar charisma, that I seemed to have, of convincing people about my utter incompetence in anything that I set my hand to doing. Which would give a fair chance of making him/her assess the writing for whatever it was worth. The problem was how to lure unwary strangers into my blog.

Then, in 2012, someone told me of blog aggregators - specifically Indiblogger - and off I went to brush the dust off my blog and started writing all over again. If, over these nearly four years, my blog has been selected among the 'Top Five Blogs' by Blogadda in 2014 AND 2015 AND among the Top Humor blogs by Baggout, it is largely thanks to a lot of people, who were previously strangers and are now friends. People, who knew me first from my writing, and most who still know me only from the writing. Even the few who have now met me in person seem to have been immunized to my peculiar personal charisma. My thanks to all the people who have been reading my blog over the years and to those who allowed me to scribble on your blogs. Some of you lost interest after a few months, some are now at the door waving goodbye, and some have stuck with me all the while. Thanks to all of you for making this blog what it is today.

Then I get ambitious. I write a book published by Fablery (Thanks Nethra) - 'A dog eat dog-food world' available in print here in India alone; as an ebook for Indian customers here and for others here. Imagine people, infected by my charms, and absolutely convinced that there is more sense in the scribbling of their five year old child/grandchild, actually buying a book written by me. Your mind boggles? Mine did, too, but whoever said that optimism is sane? What was very heartening, though, is the fact that they loved me and wished me well in making the book a bestseller. 'You may have a skull full of clay instead of brains, but nevertheless we love you' was probably the message. Thank you for caring about me and for being interested in my success, if success there is to be.

Honestly, it is heart-warming to have earned so much goodwill. But, since the post is more about gratitude for people who helped me on a writing journey, I will devote a shade more time on the people who put in efforts into making that wish for me come true. For, after all, for a book to become a bestseller, it must first sell.

My thanks, first, to all those who believed in my writing and actually plonked down the cash to buy the book.

My thanks to Kevan Dinn, Ramesh Grandhi, Saikumar Yerubandi, Chandru, Shashi Kadapa for not only buying the book but also giving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. To realize the nervousness of a debuting author about how well his book will be received and to prioritize a response was amazing. And all without being egged on by me to do so.

My thanks to Percy and Shubhangi for buying the book, reviewing it on Amazon and Goodreads as well as on their blogs. And for supporting me all through by sharing the book links in their circles, as indeed did Ramesh Grandhi. All three of them have made my aims for the book their own and supported me. As, indeed, has Mahesh.

My personal friends (Yeah! I know! They have MET me and still remain uninfected by my 'He can do nothing worthwhile' charisma) - Venkatesh and Sudhakar - who are imperiling their personal friendship with people by spamming them about my book. (Yes, indeed! They did buy the book, too!)

My thanks to my co-authors on a previous venture - Karthik and Radha - for supporting me all through. To buy multiple copies so that they could gift their friends the book in order to spread the word of the book; to actively spread word of the book both in Social media and email AND to talk to me about what to do with the book, as though it was THEIR success they were planning for as much as it would be mine - I have no words to say all that it meant to me.

My thanks also to all those who will be supporting me in my writing endeavors in future.

AND, yes, Life is not all about writing, though I must confess that, with a new book out, it currently seems like it is all about it. There are a lot of people around me, who are not much for reading, but stand by me through the vicissitudes of life. To all of them, my thanks.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The inimitable Oscar Wilde

The moment I think of Oscar Wilde I think of that scene in "The importance of being Ernest" where the prospective son-in-law tells the girl's mother that he has lost both his parents. The response is priceless - "To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness".

Oscar Wilde is one of the top humorists of all time. Otherwise, though, it is difficult to define the man. If you want to consider him an optimist, then he comes out with "The basis of optimism is sheer terror" so, unless you consider him a man living in perpetual terror, you decide he cannot be one. Consider him a pessimist and he goes, "Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both." That, then, puts paid to the idea of a Wilde pessimist.

Again, when you think of his quote 'What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing' and decide he cannot be a cynic, he also says 'I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability'. If you can beat that for cynicism about mankind, you are welcome to try. Add to that the fact that he also holds that 'True friends stab you in the front', it is difficult to see him as anything but a cynic. You may disagree with him about friends but, when he said 'Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much', he was spot on.

Whatever else he was, modest he was not. Whether apocryphal or not, the story is that when the US Customs asked him if he had anything to declare, he is supposed to have said, 'I have nothing to declare except my genius'. But then, that is par for the course for the man who said, 'Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess'.

He probably really did believe that 'Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about'. Something that you wish more people did, even if it meant that most of human conversation would get cut out if they did. But then, it is true that 'Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation'. Which, in effect, means that nothing much is going to be said that will shake the world. So, there would be no need to lament, 'I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect', because reason, brute or otherwise, is very seldom brought to bear on any issue being discussed.

In times where people are willing to die (and kill) for their beliefs one can only wish that someone convinced them that 'A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it'. The problem, though, is that when people die or kill for what they call their 'cause', they have this pleasant sensation of doing something selfless, when the truth is that 'Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live'. But, then, most people tend to believe that 'In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane'.

Maybe the issue is also that 'The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything'. AND, consequently, '...the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience'. It is not that the young are necessarily incorrect or that the old are necessarily wise, but it is a fact that, on the average, the old have more experience to weigh their opinions with. Yes, true, there are foolish old men but, then, it is mainly because they started out as even more foolish young men and not because age made them foolish - which, in effect, means that the young are not immune to being foolish either. So, it would not be true to brush all of the experience of the old aside with the view that 'Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes'.

When the world around you has changed, though, experience may prove an ineffective guide but the trick is to know where it is, and where it isn't, when you get advice. Unless you believe that 'The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself'.

Oscar Wilde makes me happy, though, with his advice that 'The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it... I can resist everything but temptation.' THAT has been the guiding light of my life, even if it so happens that 'There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it' and, consequently, one suffers the pangs of indulging while on a quest to avoid the pangs of deprivation.

AND, if you feel tempted to say 'Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go' and classify me among those who you would wish gone, all I have to say is 'To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance' and I AM a romantic that way.

After all, when 'The world is a stage but the play is badly cast' one can only be happy when he loves himself.

Monday, November 9, 2015


There are those days when you sit at the laptop and find nothing funny to say (Not all the time, thank you.) Then you see a friend's status about tolerance and what he says strikes a chord in you. The sort of things people want you to be tolerant about is, indeed, amazing.

I mean, suppose you hit your new school for the first day and your classmates say, "You are skinny and black while we are well-built and fair. Never mind. We will tolerate you", do you really feel all warm and fuzzy, and friendly with the lot of them? Or you move cities to take up a new job and your boss says, "Well - your English accent is kind of funny. But we will tolerate you, nevertheless", do you feel that THIS is the place where you want to work for the rest of your life?

The word 'tolerant' somehow gives me a feeling of a person holding his nose and swallowing his bile, while manfully trying not to scream out his dislike. The very word 'tolerance' gives me to understand that there is something to be 'tolerated' - as if it were something obnoxious and the other person is generously putting up with it. If someone did show 'tolerance' to me, I rather think that he will not endear himself to me.

But, surprisingly, it seems that the best that we humans can do, when it comes to interacting with people who are in some way different from us, is to be 'tolerant'. There is this quality of 'open-mindedness' - of being able to look on differences and embrace them, unless they are immoral, illegal or both, that seems to have been relegated only to the dictionary as being unfit for practical use. Hence, we all need liberal doses of tolerance to even deal with different dietary preferences and sartorial inclinations. So, it is not surprising that our 'tolerance' gets tested to the limits when skin color differs or, horror of horrors, the other person calls on the Divine by a different name.

I have always felt that the very word 'tolerance' holds within it the seeds of intolerance. The moment you talk of tolerance, someone or the other pops up and says, "How long and how much are we supposed to tolerate?", sooner or later. THEN, even a Rip Van Winkle, who had been in a coma for the last twenty years, realizes that he has been gritting his teeth and swallowing his bile, in addition to being in a coma. The fact that you were not even aware of all the suffering that you put up with adds insult to injury and you start looking around for the nearest cudgel to bash up these sly people who so troubled you.

The world can do with more understanding - and, above all else, the understanding that people, who are different in some way from you, are not merely to be tolerated but accepted. Tolerance, I suppose, is much better than intolerance but, if tolerance is the best that Humanity can aspire to achieve, it does not exactly say volumes about the goodness of human beings. I mean you are not really held up as an example of goodness if all you can do is weakly protest, "But I never did anything bad".

But, then, are we still living in times when human beings thought that they had it in them to be or become noble?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Of a book and reviews

Every time I put up words anywhere I, of course, assume that what I am writing is deathless prose. Since I also presume that I am a humorist, I also assume that I make people smile, if not laugh. (WHAT? You laugh at the thought that I could even think that what I write is humorous? You will get your comeuppance soon!) There is an additional idiosyncrasy that is, possibly, peculiar to me. I also think that I make people think. Aided and abetted in that illusion by a few people who comment on my blog saying that I really do.

There is no need to mention what I think of my writing when I put in the effort to write a full novella, which is meant as a parody of marketing management and its influence on Society. I had earlier shared the book link to the print book published by Fablery but, just so you feel too lazy to navigate back to that post (as you inevitably do), the link is here

The problem, though, is that there is this little guy inside who keeps murmuring,"Was it not you who also thought you were Kamal Hassan and Rajnikant rolled into one, while looking at the mirror in your teens?" THAT is a problem. What you think of what you have done and what the world thinks of it varies so much, sometimes, that it is difficult to believe that we are all talking about the same object.

It is a pleasure, then, to see that you are not so far off the mark when other people express not too divergent opinions about your work. For example, this opinion by Kevan Dinn

Nifty little piece of work. Hilarious. A refreshing change from what often passes for humour.
Or, maybe, this one by Karthik

This is one of the most humorous books I have read in recent times. I guess people who read Dilbert might have found some similarity in the cover design. The idea of the book is also similar - a corporate parody. While Dilbert consists of individual standalone comic strips, in this book Suresh has knitted it all together in one complete story line. The story is set in an imaginary world that Suresh calls the alternate history and gives funny explanations on the origin of various management concepts such as market segmentation, pricing, brand recall, market research, management consulting et al as the reader is taken through the fascinating tale of the business battle between the tycoons Tom and Spike. 

Suresh, a management professional himself complete demystifies all the complex management jargon in his totally irreverential take. The book has variety of humor that works at various levels - one obviously is the slapstick kind one can come to expect in a story that has something to do with animals. Then we have the ludicrous explanation for origin of management concepts that actually might be a reflection of the real origins. We also have funny situations in the story that any one who works in the corporate world can directly relate to based on personal experience. Then there are some aspects that along with making one laugh makes one reflects on one's motivations, professional choices and broader purpose in life. This is not all - there is further humor hidden in terms of the choice of names for characters and some of the throw away lines in the dialogue for the more perceptive reader. 

Overall I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is associated with the corporate world.
Or, Ramesh Grandhi here

A Dog eat Dog food world is no run of the mill book, and for readers starved for genuine humor and satire—I would recommend it without a moment’s hesitation. Blurbs claim a lot of things, promise even more, but more often than not a reader will feel cheated. In this case, the claim that this is a hilarious take on marketing management is amply justified. 

The way the characters are introduced and developed (keeping in mind that this is a novella) is remarkable. You begin to feel you are on a rollercoaster of subtle humor and for a change you don’t want to get off, you want the roller to coast along. Mrs. Fortune hoping that Death would stop hovering around and for a change do its darned job, Fortune’s reactions to the various options placed before him to escape from ennui, and the way he does a remarkable Don Quixote tilting at ‘tread’mills keeps you smiling. 
I have been and always will be a huge fan of PG Wodehouse, and I have long lamented the fact that there has been no one who has taken up his mantle. PG had a unique style of writing and he had the ability to make you smile and chuckle without trying too hard. I know comparisons are odious and will refrain from doing so, but I can’t stop myself from saying that Suresh Chandrasekharan in his own inimitable style brings back memories of the Master. The way he has melded different marketing concepts in a satirical way into a story that is gripping in and of itself is remarkable indeed.
Though knowing that this was a satire, a witty one, on marketing, I found myself rooting for Spike. I saw his transformation from a laidback hypochondriac to a raging trump’esque tycoon. How the mighty are fallen?! This transformation aided along most unwillingly by his nephew, Jerry, and provoked by his arch rival, Tom Rich is written with such skill and droll humor that it makes it almost impossible for you to put down the book. Fact—I read it in one go, and wasn’t really happy when it ended—book lovers will agree with me that a good book should go on and on! 
My sincere appreciation to this talented gentleman for his incisive wit, his admirable command over the language, his ability to marry humor with marketing strategies, which is by no means an easy thing to do -- Mark Antony wouldn’t have minded making the last speech.
It would indeed be a pleasure to recommend this book and I am pretty certain that readers in the corporate world and out of it too will find it quite an engaging read. 

Just so you know that I am not making all these up, you can check for yourself in the Goodreads link here

Those of you who prefer reading on a screen instead of from paper can now find the ebook available at the following links

I hope that the book lives up to these reviews.