Monday, December 26, 2016

A Christmas rant

Ho! Ho! Ho! And a bottle of rum...

Err...maybe some wires got crossed. It is unlikely that Santa Claus comes roaring down chimneys, singing 'Ho! Ho! Ho! And a bottle of rum'. Fat chance he would have of locating stockings to put his toys in, if he did. Especially if that bottle of rum had already watered his innards.

Not that he actually has any stockings to put things into these days. I mean, if he insisted on them being hung up he would probably have a zillion people suing him for lack of customer care. After all, if it is his job to deliver toys on Christmas, is it not his duty to pack them appropriately in stockings instead of expecting the customer to supply the same? So what if it is even for is the principle of the thing.

Now that chap who did sing that 'Ho! Ho! Ho! And a bottle of rum' is unlikely to have any such issues. I mean a pirate is a pirate is a pirate. So, Long John Silver is more likely to ask you to walk the plank than deliver you the next best thing in iphones. AND, yes, if you were asked to bring along the plank yourself, you would fall all over yourself to oblige. After all, there are other options like keelhauling and the like, which he may opt for, if you failed to bring along the plank.

Which only goes to show that we really know where to complain and where to keep shut. So, the next time you feel free to rant about something to someone, just remember that you do feel that freedom because they are NOT Long John Silver!

AND, who knows, it may even strike you that you, too, could strive to make the other person choosing to express pleasure, instead.

Monday, December 19, 2016


If I move around in a permanent state of confusion, it is not my fault. Most of it is thanks to the fact that people are so complicated.

Just see what happens when someone writes a book. Everyone and his uncle starts screaming, “Where is my free copy?” By which, of course, you understand that they would all love to read his writing; it is just the price that is keeping them off reading it.

As usual, it was merely an interesting thing to watch as a spectator when it happened to others. When it happened to me, though, it required some action on my part.

You see, the problem is that I just could not afford to give so many free copies. And, yet, the thought of all these people thirsting to read my book, and shedding copious tears about their inability to do so, was so heart-rending.

In a bid to slake their thirst, I cast around for a solution. Then it struck me. They could not buy my book, I could not give away so many copies but I did write a blog and THAT was free for all. So, why not point them at it and save their lives by quenching their thirst for my writing?

I did so…and they sniffed at it, turned up their noses and walked away as though I had offered them the job of washing my dirty linen.

Why?? They want my writing for free but they would not accept what is available for free. I could not fathom it. They wanted to read me for free, I gave them the option and, now, they indicate strongly that they would rather remain thirsty.

There I was, cast back into my usual state of incomprehension, and would have been wandering around in a daze but for a stray memory from the past.

In the long gone days, when we lived in Neyveli, we had a servant maid who complained perpetually of a pain in her chest. My mom, generous always, took her along to the Neyveli General Hospital and used her connects to get a free X-Ray done (ECG? We are talking of 60s here and ECGs were for metros). When the result was negative for any major issue, the maid came out with, “It was free so it is not well done. Had it been paid for, they would have done it well and found the real problem.”

Aha! THAT was the problem! People wanted it for free ONLY because it was priced! That usual thing of, “If it has no price, it has no value” that seems to have emerged with Capitalism. If it is free, it must be free only because it has no value. So, in Oscar Wilde’s terms, we are all cynics now who know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Now I know, though, how to get people to clamor for my writing. I should make it a book, put it out at a price and then give them limited period offers to download for free…THEN there may be some value seen in the writing.

Should I start with charging a fee for this valuable advice to have people consider it valuable?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Words maketh a man

By now, I am sure, you are all convinced that the only mantra for success is to check out what I am doing and do the exact opposite. It is practically a social service for me to let you people know what I really do. Maybe time to write my autobiography...don't run away just yet. I have not started on it.

I have been mulling this thing of why people seldom get impressed by my contributions to a conversation. In the normal course, the polite chaps wait till I am done and take up where they left off as though I had never spoken at all. You know, like you pause your conversation to allow that growling monster of a truck to pass by and continue when you can be heard. The impolite...ah, leave them lie, when THEY start even I am not sure if I am speaking or even if I am really there.

Slowly, I came to realize why I never get my due (You wish the same? If I had got my due, I'd have been lynched long ago? Who asked you to butt in anyway?) It is all to do with the words I use.

I mean, take the case where someone says something which with I am partially in agreement. I generally tend to say, "I partially agree..." and leave the impression that the fact that I do not totally agree is because I am shy a few grey cells and cannot comprehend the rest. THAT word 'agree' tells the rest that the other chap is right and people, being incapable of seeing things other than in black and white, tend to see me as being in the wrong.

Consider the impact of "I partially DISagree..." There you go...the other guy has said something stupid and caused this rational, discerning chap to disagree. To have been so foolish as to consider both the same for so long...anyway, water under the bridge. I would anyway have mucked it up by explaining why I disagree. To sustain the impression, you should smugly say 'disagree' and leave the others to think that the only reason why you are not detailing the reasons is because the other chap is too stupid to understand them.

Take matters of Art. If I cannot appreciate something, I say something like, "I do not have the taste for poetry." THAT only causes people to see me as an inferior being with lack of good taste. Who would want to hang on the lips of a Neanderthal with no taste? (Never did understand this 'hanging on the lips'? THAT must be very painful to the owner of the lips, so why would he want others to do it? Oh! It means listen avidly, does it? Hmmm)

Consider, on the other hand, saying,"I am a very choosy reader." Ah! THERE is an artistic connoisseur, the very man before whom you hold out your bowl to catch every pearl of wisdom that drops off his lips. If you use that, be very careful not to say, as a follow-through, that you are so choosy that you read nothing but tweets.

Forget all these flights of fancy. I could not even master the simpler versions like, "If that is how you understand it..." The worst failing is not being able to be the first to say, "Let us agree to disagree." THAT one effectively is the equivalent of 'You think you are intelligent. I do not. So, let us agree to disagree" for the rest of the audience, who are sick of the two of you arguing, and the trick is to be the first to say it.

As with most things, the wisdom comes too late for me. AND, as they say, 'Those who can, do. Those who cannot...'

Monday, December 5, 2016

Outdated lessons

When, like me, you learn anything at all under protest and with much grief at being put through the torture, it is heartbreaking to find that you have spent all that effort in learning the wrong lessons. It is not even as if it was all because of this irritating technological advances - like the way it rendered my learning of how to use the log tables irrelevant. THESE lessons I could have learned properly anyway and, instead, messed up.

I had always been told that, when discussing something, argue or oppose the point that is being said. It is not merely bad manners but also useless to be criticizing the person saying it. It also shows an intellectual lack in you that you are unable to assess and counter a point and choose to call the other person names, instead. (You see what I meant in one of my earlier posts about not knowing the right words? I could have said 'ad hominem' and made myself sound SO erudite)

I adopted that as my norm for behavior and, consequently, have converted myself into a figure of fun. True, one always expects blind believers to end up calling you names instead of arguing the logic but I did expect that I would find some acceptance with the ones with some intelligence and an open mind. That lot used to be called liberals and there were a few of them loitering around Society when I started out.

Now, though, I find that I was all wrong about the idea of who is a liberal. If you argue against a blind believer, he would call you an idiot at best and an anti-national, anti-motherhood, anti-religious, anti-... at worst. THAT I knew. What I did not know was that if someone said, "Tell me, do you also believe that pigs have wings?" instead of outright calling me a fool, it was liberal of him. To think that I had not realized that an ability to insult without having to resort to crude name-calling was so necessary to being intellectual! To further think that I even lack the ability to see that they are different! And the crowning blow is that fact that I still do not realize completely that only the wimps and wusses still argued the issue, instead of insulting the person espousing them.

I should have known better. I never SAW the people, who advised me, actually arguing the issue. It was almost always,"What can I expect from you? Your reading is still at the picture-book stage" and things like that when they are opposed by anyone. The thing was that they told me,"Do as I say; not as I do" and I followed THAT instruction blindly.

NOW, I hear people say how the world is becoming intolerant of other opinions and how the need of the hour is for more tolerance and all that. I am wise to it, albeit belatedly. What they really mean is that those other idiots who do not agree with them need their minds opened, by surgery if necessary. Not that THEY should also become tolerant of other opinions. How can they even entertain the thought, anyway, since that other chap is merely an ill-educated, unthinking bigot or an anti-national Presstitute?

After all, we now live in times when, if he is MY Mahatma, he can do no wrong and, if he is MY Hitler, he can do no right. If there are any left in the world, who still do not believe in 'If you are not for me, you are against me' with no neutral ground permitted, they are probably still in Kindergarten.

Like me, mentally. No wonder people refuse to treat me as an adult. Thankfully, though, there seem to be a few more like me - even if they do not always agree with my own opinions - and we grown-up kids can hold requiems in our own social media echo chambers.

While the world at large screams intolerantly for more tolerance.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Choice confusion

Everyone seems to love the idea of having choices. I, though, have always been frightened of them. I mean, it is alright to have a choice between going to school and playing all day - it is a no-brainer there, you would elect to play. Or, say, between having to write an exam or not as a prerequisite to pass on to the next grade. Unfortunately, those are not the choices that you generally get faced with. In fact, those occasions do not even seem like making choices - it is obvious what you want to do, the other thing does not even seem like a legitimate choice.

The problem, more often than not, is that you either get faced with a set of unpalatable choices or a set of palatable choices. I mean, what sort of choice is studying Engineering or studying Medicine with goofing off not even one of the options? It is like asking 'Would you prefer being stretched on a rack or lying on a bed of nails?'

Otherwise, you get faced with, "Would you like an Alistair McLean or a Agatha Christie?" with 'Both' not an option. When I have read neither book, how do I balance a gripping thriller against an intriguing whodunit and come up with one answer? I am more like ", McLean..." Whatever decision I eventually make,  I end up regretting it as soon as I make it. The moment I have one book, the wonders of the other book shine forth in psychedelic splendor and the one I DO have dulls in comparison.

And, then, I enter the era of entrance examinations with those abominable multiple choice questions. I mean, all those exams that I HAD written, you could sort of disguise your ignorance of the answer with a deluge of words. These Multiple Choice Questions leave you no option but to hang out your ignorance in all its naked glory - except, of course, where your "Inky, Pinky, Ponky" happens to light upon the right answer.

More problematic is the ability of these questions to confuse you on even those little tit-bits where you have some shaky knowledge of the answer. I mean if the question was "What is the capital of India?" and I were one of those who was this "I know it sort of starts with 'D'. The name is on the tip of my tongue but...', then these are a huge help. "Ah! Delhi, it is", you can say, unless one of the other options is 'Dehradun'. But, take a guy like me, who sort of thinks that the answer is 'Delhi' but would not bet his life on it. Without any choices on offer, I'd probably put in 'Delhi' and breeze through. With choices, though...'Hmm! Could it be 'Mumbai', after all? Or, perhaps, 'Kolkotta'?' and, after messing around with it, select 'Varanasi', if only for the fact that THAT was the only choice which did not confuse you.

Having done with education - and even working - I thought I was, at last, free of the tyranny of choices. No more juggling this against that, those against these and going dizzy for me.

Alas! NOW is when I face the most problems...

"If you slip in the bathroom and dive head-first into a bucket, THIS the phone that will allow you to take the best selfie..."

"The phone which will dance a tango on your chest to wake you up (it takes two to tango, so dual SIM) and will shift to the tandav if you do not wake up soon enough..."

"The phone that will sing 'Happy Birthday' on your birthday and a Requiem when you slip and fall off a cliff..."

Ye Gods!

Monday, November 21, 2016


I have always wished that I had this ability to think on my feet. It comes in rather handy, you know, especially when, say, you have just broken Mommy's favorite china cup. If only I could say, "But, when my brother broke my toy, you said I should not get angry because he did it by accident. So why are you picking up that stick and eyeing my bottom like that?" Unfortunately for me, I can only think of the fact that she had expressly forbidden us children to even lay hands on the cups and I had done so, regardless, and broken it in the process.

This acceptance of your own guilt is a grave issue, I tell you. If you, yourself, accept that you were wrong, you do not have a snowball's chance in Hell of convincing others that you were not. It gravely hampers your ability to think up reasons to explain either why you were not at fault or why you should not be punished even if you are.

The movies did their very best to educate me but, alas, I am thick-headed enough to make my brain totally sound-proof. Like the pickpocket telling the cop who nabs him,"You will let all the big thieves, who steal crores, get away but nab little guys like me", in almost every other movie I used to see in those days. The most famous one, of course, is where the Big B rants, "Tell the man who tattooed me thus to surrender to the police and I will surrender" and so on and so forth. It was no help that the movies did not show either the cop relenting OR the mother relenting in the latter case, so I probably had reason to doubt the efficacy of the method. The problem, though, is that it is THAT attitude which is all-important to find these justifications. It could well have proved effective outside the movies, as indeed I have witnessed many a time.

Maybe if it had worked in the movies, it may have helped me. Like the cop saying, "You are right! Since I cannot nab all thieves, I shall stop nabbing any thieves" and helping the pickpocket board the next bus where he could ply his trade. Or the mother saying,"Quite right, son! Let us have all the criminals, from historical times to now, pilloried for their crimes and then talk of you." THEN I may have well learned the valuable lesson of how effective this ability to justify myself could prove in life. Alas...the way to Hell is paved with ifs and buts!

The easiest thing to do is the flipping Income Tax. I mean, you are almost always considered an idiot if you did not evade tax on at least a small portion of your income. It is you are somehow a low IQ chap, sort of a Neanderthal posing as Homo Sapiens, if you fail in doing this. And I...ashamed though I am of confessing it...just could not JUSTIFY it to myself.

Even when the chap, who advised me, said, "Everyone does it." Maybe it was spoiled by the fact that, on other occasions when I had used the argument, he had said,"So, if everyone jumps into a well, you will follow suit?" Strangely, though, the fact that everyone does it is so convincing an argument in the case of evading IT that no-one ever springs that jumping-into-the-well riposte.

Then, I tell myself, "I worked so hard for it and why should I give away 30% of it?"and it sounds hollow. I scream into the mirror,"Come on! I am getting nothing more out of the government than those other guys, so why should I pay more?" and it is still no help.

For me, the fact that I live in this Society means the tacit acceptance that I live by its rules...and I cannot justify breaking those rules, even to myself. Crazy, you say? Not something that I have not told myself repeatedly, especially when even telling myself that I am only giving the money over so that some politico will take it away does not help me do it. Stupid...but there it is. For me to break a rule seems like my approving of everyone else doing it, including that politico. Like I had chosen to join them instead of opposing them, even if it is only in my mind. Is it a wonder then that I can never justify myself on anything to anybody else, when I cannot even avoid feeling guilty myself?

It is a wondrous ability, this finding justifications. The thing, though, is that it starts with the ability to convincingly lie to yourself first. Once you convince yourself that you are right, it is a cake-walk to convince others.

Alas...yes, you guessed it...I never learned that art of lying to myself convincingly!

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Demonetization Derby

It is tough on us bloggers. If you ignore current happenings, especially when they are on top of everyone's mind, you are not being socially conscious. If you do write on them, you are hungry to ride the current fad. Hitherto I have done the former and been the chap who is utterly self-centered. This once, maybe, I should try the other one and ride my horse into the demonetization derby, alongside all those other opinions. The advantage is that there is this serious possibility that the one side that I decide to favor would share the post and the other side with all sorts of name-calling will make it go viral. (Yes! Negative publicity IS the best publicity on social media)

Unfortunately, though, I am a middle-of-the-roader - a vanishing species that still believes that one should make up your mind on an action based on the merits of the action and not based on who is doing it. Once upon a time, it was called a neutral view and lauded for its impartiality. NOW it is mere fence-sitting causing that unpleasant feeling in the crotch. The problem is that to assess any action on its merits you need to get neutral information and THAT is rarer than a unicorn's horn.

I cannot even make up my mind entirely on whether demonetization is good or bad. It is easy to dress up a thing as being necessary for things like fighting corruption or terrorism and get people to feel good about it. It is as easy to oppose it, since no action is a magic wand that will make problems go away, and, thus, there is enough scope to attack it on the basis of those portions of a problem that it will not tackle.

I see these views about how it did not work before - in 1978, most recently - and I think 'Hey! It is a bad move. Why don't people learn from History?' Then I remember that, in 1978, there really was no IT sector and no means of really tracking who exchanged how much, at least to the extent of identifying who is worth pursuing with raids and who is not. Now, since such tracking is possible, the lessons of History are not all that clear. AND no-one tells me exactly WHY it will not work NOW or, indeed, HOW they will make it work.

I see views about how black money is mainly stashed in Real Estate, Gold and foreign accounts. Sounds rather stupid to be attacking it with demonetizing currency notes. But if someone HAS bought Real Estate and Gold with cash, then THAT cash would still be lying around somewhere - with that seller, perhaps. I mean, I do know that the recipients COULD have brought it back into the so-called 'White Economy' but could they have brought it ALL back? Maybe they could, maybe not, but no-one is really telling me about that. No-one is really claiming that ALL the cash transactions currently happening are NOT the so-called 'black economy' transactions and no-one is also making ANY legitimate statement of HOW much of that cash would BE unclaimed because it IS black. AND no-one is also saying how likely is it that the people from WHOM this real estate WAS/IS bought by the big sharks would willingly deal in cash going forth - after all, not ALL of them are seasoned black money operators. OR what would be in place to track gold sales/purchases going forth.

Everyone talks about Hawala transactions as a modus operandi for getting money in and out of the country and claim that the big sharks would not be holding cash. But, exactly how much money do the Hawala dealers actually have to keep for operational requirements in order to do these transactions? No-one speaks about that or about what would happen to that money, now. The Hawala dealers will now approach a super-Hawala dealer or what?

But, really, it HAS got to be a political conspiracy since this move has served to destroy the campaign money of opposition parties. But...tell me, please, HOW much money has it destroyed? I mean, yes it is political and all that, but THAT money would still count as black money, would it not? If it can somehow be converted, please let me know how and how much is practically possible, and not things like 'They will find a way somehow' which any idiot can say, while sitting in a tea-shop, to his cronies. I don't need an 'expert' opinion in order to get THAT piece of wisdom.

It is quite possible that ALL this money would amount to a pittance and hardly worth the trouble. AND, even where there ARE benefits of a move, it has to be set off against the costs of the move. AND the costs - financial, social and economic - can be very high. The pain of transition is something everyone IS facing now, some far more than others, obviously. But where is any neutral stance on whether the transition is worth it? I do know that it probably is not ALL good but, unfortunately, any opposing view portrays it as ALL bad and THAT is not something that I can accept either.

If someone would ADMIT to the good AND the bad, weigh both without being dismissive about either side of the coin, then I may be able to believe him. Unfortunately, even where someone is willing to admit the good (or the bad) it is on the lines of 'Yes, this may happen but...' You can dismiss anything that way. I mean I could say, "Yes, studying at IIT may give you a great job and prospects but imagine having to spend almost all the year away from home for four years, facing the pressures of a competitive academic environment etc etc" and make it sound like it is totally worthless to do those who know not much about it. AND, of course, do it in the reverse, "Yes, you may have to starve for a few months but at the end of it you will be a millionaire." AND ALL opinions are patterned after this sort of one-sided crap, if not outright ignoring anything that is seen to favor the 'other side'.

The issue is that there is NO way of assessing the benefits and the costs, from any of the current reports/opinions. Rhetoric is merely mud-slinging unless when backed by facts; and, in cases of finance, facts are important only based on numbers. Every move has its pros and cons. Thus the mere existence of the cons cannot create the idea of the inadvisability of a move AND, of course, the mere existence of the pros does not make a move advisable. Any opinion on any action can only be made by weighing the pros against the cons and 'weighing' implies that you need to be able to put numbers to them.

Otherwise, it is like that hoary old question in probabilities - "The fan above your head can fall or not fall. Considering the risk, how can you sit beneath the fan?" The risk, in this case, is in the probability of the fan falling - which would be less than one-in-a-million, say. The question, though, asks you to implicitly assume that it is 50:50.

THAT about sums up the way people, on all sides of a debate with no exceptions, seem to discuss anything these days. Which is what makes the middle-of-the-roader throw up his hands, take up gardening, and leave all these socially relevant write-ups to other hands.

Monday, November 7, 2016

No means NO

When I found my Facebook page awash in Pink and found that there was this entire movie made only to teach that 'No' means 'NO', I was aghast. Whatever are teachers doing in Kindergarten, these days? Teaching emojis?

Then, I realized it was more of a translation movie - the Martian-Venusian kind. THAT sort of put it in perspective. When two species speak the same language but the words mean different things, you need all the help you can get to make them understand each other.

When words fail, you naturally start believing in sign language. Not that it gets any easier with it, especially in the absence of any commonality in the signs. In my youth, sign language was, apparently, the ONLY way in which girls communicated their 'romantic' interest in boys and, thus, like it or lump it you had to interpret the signs. Unfortunately, there was no convenient dictionary to look it up in. The subjects at school strove to teach you all about reproduction but were remarkably silent on the necessary communication that could lead to it.

AND, so, you learned all about it from your peers. AND, as when the blind attempt to lead the blind, the gems of wisdom you gleaned were like, "If she turns back and looks, then she is interested in you." So, a girl, who turned back to check if that moron was still following her, was automatically assumed to have fallen for his charms. Never mind that his friends had spent more than a decade  in vain searching for that elusive quality in him - charm, that is. They would all be convinced that the GIRL had located it in him at first glance. After all, girls being the mysterious creatures they are would have mysterious powers of observation too.

There was this other one about,"If she licks her lips when looking at you, it indicates sexual interest." THAT, probably, was why no girl could lick the ice-cream off her lips when exiting the parlor. If she was looking at a boy, by happenstance, she was dreaming of a night out with him. If, to avoid such a mistaken impression, she closed her eyes while doing it, she was actually transported into an ecstatic dream about it. The only option was to do the licking in the ladies bathroom or avoid ice-cream altogether.

AND then there was this thing about 'fast' girls. I mean, with boys it was all easy to tell. You always knew the guys who were 'fast'. Those were the ones who would drool at the sight of a sari on a washing line. The quasi-romantic ones were as easily identifiable. When a chap, whose only interest in the English class is to shoot paper-planes at the teacher, suddenly develops a serious attraction for the dictionary, you know that some girl is about to be the recipient of bad poetry written in incomprehensible words. But...with girls...

AND so..."If she laughs when she is talking with boys, she is fast."; "If she wears the skirt one inch higher than the knee, she is fast" and all those gems of wisdom floated around. The reason why I never could be bold enough to act on it was that I had a stupid brain. I mean, the dratted thing would kick in with "What if she only found that joke very funny?", "What if she has only grown taller after the skirt was stitched?' and all such nonsense. Of course, I believed still that IF she chose a short skirt THEN she was fast BUT did she choose? After all, everyone of my peers said so and no adult said anything different.

AND, yes, there was that thing, too. "When a girl says 'No', it does not always mean 'No'". Essentially, the idea was that girls WOULD say, 'No' - maybe to play hard-to-get or maybe because of the mysterious thing called 'Naanam' in Tamil or 'Haya' in Hindi (meaning modesty) - and it was up to you to bring out the 'Yes' that, presumably, was in their hearts and took its own sweet time to work its way to the tongue with some assistance from you. AND the assistance that you lent to the process, supposedly, was to stalk the girl - with soulful looks or teasing comments, as per choice and disposition; with flowers and bad poetry; and, if you go by the movies, massively orchestrated eve-teasing song-and-dance. Now, how helpful all this is I do not know but ALL the movies say it works, so, well...

Ah! You ask me why that 'always' in that sentence - A 'No' does not always mean 'No' - does not convey the fact that sometimes a 'No' CAN be 'No'? Those are pesky little words that only confuse. I mean if I COULD interpret which 'No' is a 'No', which 'No' is a 'Maybe' and which 'No' is 'Yes', would I be trying to learn it all from the movies? So, like every human being faced with an issue that he cannot understand, I conveniently ignore that 'always'. So much easier to act upon 'A 'No' does not mean 'No'" without mucking around with that 'always'.

But that was all then. NOW I thought that it was not all sign language by the girls, either. The issue, probably, is that the guys to whom no girl in her right mind would say 'Yes' prefer to believe that the 'No' is not really 'NO'. Of course, it may equally as well apply to those who are convinced that no girl in her right mind could ever say 'No' to them. AND, considering that boys always seem to learn about girls from the movies, it is probably appropriate that a movie needed to be made to teach them the new lingo of today.

Me - I was always convinced that 'No' meant 'NO', possibly helped by that strongly disbelieving and horrified look that invariably preceded it. What I want to know about the lingo of today is 'What does 'Yes' mean?'

Monday, October 31, 2016


There is this anecdote by Jerome K Jerome right at the beginning of "Three men in a boat" about the protagonist reading a medical encyclopedia for light reading. (Where is the damn straitjacket when you need it?). He gets more and more engrossed in the reading when he finds that he has every single disease listed in it, to varying degrees - the book almost seemed like his autobiography. At the end of it, he is rather perturbed by the fact that he has been basely prevented from claiming a perfect score by his body's recalcitrance to admitting to one disease - Housemaid's Knee.

Of course, at the end of it he wants some clarity about the situation and approached a doctor friend to see if anything can be done to save him. No doubt, he also wanted to take advantage of an attractive offer on coffins and cemetery plots, in case saving him was not possible. What happened after is not really germane to this post but, if you insist on knowing, the doctor advised him to eat a hearty meal and stop reading things that he did not understand. He, in order to complete his cure, went along with a couple of friends on a boat trip and inflicted this book -  'Three men in a boat' - on the world, thus forcing everyone without a sense of humor to pretend they found it funny.

I found myself somewhat in his position when I went to an event in Bangalore where writers honing their talent were reading out stories based on phobias. AND, would you believe it, I found that I had every single phobia that they spoke of. The problem, though, is that I could not see WHY these fears were at all called phobias. A phobia is an irrational fear, says the dictionary (or so people say but I do not know for myself since I have a phobia of dictionaries as well), and I found most of these fears entirely too rational. Take 'Sesquipedalophobia' for example. I mean fearing THAT word is entirely too rational, isn't it? So why then call it a phobia when you fear long words - for, after all, THAT's what that word means. (WHAT?? You do not believe that I have it, because of the sort of words I use? Well, 'long' is a word that means different things to different people. It is just that I am quite fine with three or, even, four syllables in my words and do not scream in panic at the first sight of a word with two syllables. You guys will do ANYTHING to deny me my achievements, won't you?)

There I was, walking out with Jean and Karthik, counting on all the phobias that I now possessed and dinner gave me yet another chance to brandish a fresh new phobia - Consecotaleophobia. Yeah - we walked into a Chinese restaurant and the first thing I saw by the side of the plates were...chopsticks. People who have seen me wield a knife and a fork find themselves out of breath gasping with laughter at the very memory of the sight. THAT, I assure you, is nothing in comparison to what I can do with a couple of chopsticks. (What was THAT angry face about? Oh! YOU are the guy whose eye I nearly put out that time? Hmmm - you have a mighty poor sense of humor if you are still fuming about that day). Tell me, WHY is a fear of chopsticks irrational? Especially for the 'angry-face' chappie from the parenthetical comment?

The problem with the world is that people, instead of going out and achieving something themselves, keep spending all their time in pulling down other people. What do you mean that a lot of phobias are the opposites of others and it is impossible for one person to have all of them? I am the guy who has both Claustrophobia AND Agoraphobia. Just because one fears closed spaces does not mean that one cannot fear open spaces. When in a room, I like to look out a window and be assured that there IS a world out there. THAT does not mean that I actually want to BE out there. It is like a lot of people liking rains. It only means that they like seeing it from within their houses, not that they want to go out and have all that nasty water drenching them.

Anyway, whatever people dispute or do not dispute, the one undisputed phobia I do have is Ergophobia. Anyone who has seen me in the vicinity of work will testify to it - and how profanely will depend on whether my fear of work will saddle THEM with the job of doing it or not.

To return to Jerome, he claims to like work, likes piling it up and looking at it, cataloging it etc - anything short of doing it. I like being more cautious. You can always find the way work is entering the picture by looking at the direction I am running away from. I leave the aesthetic appreciation of work to Jerome K Jerome and the doing of it to people with Ergophilia.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Romancing Bollywood style

It may surprise you to know that, in my youth (long gone, I know, you do not need to tell me), I was also inclined to these rosy dreams of romance. Explaining the way it was in those days will take too long and, to too many of the youth, will seem like fantasy. (Reactions like "Come on! Next thing you will be saying that you played Quidditch at school and waved wands around screaming things like 'Crucio'") I will confine myself to saying that compared to proposing to a girl, killing someone and dancing on the remains was considered less heinous, especially where I lived.

Yet, hormones will not be denied or, in other words, the inclination to stupidity in the teens far exceeds any commonsense a man may possess. The problem, though, was that there were no DIY books or manuals to help you do it. Asking someone for advice would probably get you the indigestion without the indulgence. In other words, what is the point in being pilloried without having even proposed?

Bollywood came to the rescue. Seeing that the boy invariably gets the girl (and a bad end more often than not but THAT did not weigh as heavily then on me), those ought to be the best moves to win a girl. There were multiple methods (Yeah! It surprised me no end, considering that I could not even think of one) proving that there is more than one way to skin the cat (Though why would someone even want to....leave it).

The method that seemed the most suitable to me was this looking soulfully at the girl from a distance and singing mournful songs about beauty and love. If she was not around, you looked at the horizon, as though someone has painted her portrait on the clouds, and did the same. True, in most of those cases, the chap ended up singing mournfully till the end, growing a beard if he could, and wetting his throat periodically - and with increasing frequency - from a bottle of liquor of his choice. The girl generally waltzed away with someone else but...and this is the important part...she did it with mournful looks at the soulful chap.

The major attraction of this option was that it gave me plausible deniability. After all, if someone accused me of mooning after the girl, I can always say I was only trying to remember my chemistry lessons. THAT would rather neatly account for the pained look on the face as well. Trying it though produced markedly different results. The lass of my dreams walked over and asked me,"Why are you making faces at me and bleating like a sheep?" So much for the soulful look and singing.

I summarily abandoned the 'Moony lover' option. It was time to take stronger steps. I need to take the 'Serenading Lover' option, along with letters, roses and the works. More risk, of course. It would really take a liar of genius to explain why he was recollecting his chemistry lessons under a girl's window every day, especially considering that he would also need to explain exactly how roses aided his memory. All that even if written evidence cannot be produced that the chemistry that he had in mind had nothing much to do with what was taught in school.

I decided to try it without much of the other evidence. The serenading, alone, could possibly be explained away. All you do is stand and sing under the girl's window - without the violin or the guitar, since I possessed neither. No-one could readily point fingers at me, at least on the first day. So, off I went, and did my thing.

"What is that howling out there?"
My lady love screamed back, "It is only Suresh practicing his animal imitations, dad."
"Ask him to do it somewhere else."

That, then, was that.

The other two schools of thought involved too much energy and conflict. The 'Macho' hero school involved saving the girl from goons. If you get tired lurking around waiting for goons to assault the girl so that you can rush in and save her, you could always hire the goons yourself. The latter option had the added attraction that you do not risk being beaten up by the goons and the girl dancing off with the macho option of the victorious goon. The problem, though, was this - I knew no goons and had not even heard of any that would do it just for the love of it. And someone who does not even have money for an ersatz get the picture.

The other school depended, like Hercule Poirot, on the 'psychology of the individual'. Given the assumption that women are contrary creatures and do exactly the opposite of what you want them to do, you went around trying to make yourself as obnoxious to her as possible. Ergo, since you appeared to want her to hate you, she would love you.

The idea is that you had to look at her, not soulfully but as though you are planning her murder. You had to tease her and it is especially effective if you can do it with a full song and dance routine with a huge crowd dancing along with you. My imagination got in the way of this 'Eve-teaser as lover' option. With difficulty, I could see MYSELF dancing, but that crowd...I'd probably gather the crowd but only to stand in a ring around me throwing stones. Besides, the issue of hating you or loving you only works if she first NOTICES you.

There was the last option - the 'You are my life' one. It worked on the lines of 'If you do not accept my love, I'll commit suicide'. The point is that it could involve standing on precarious heights making out as though you would fall off it - and, given my perfect sense of balance, I'd probably fall off even before she has time to answer. (You see, it is tough carrying around a rope and finding a convenient tree to hang a noose on, if you choose that variant of the 'committing suicide' option. As for poison, even the ones that have a huge 'Poison' written on them with nothing much else on the label, girls do know that bottles need not always represent the contents - unless you are after a truly STUPID girl in which case she may be stupid enough to accept you. THIS jumping from the heights IS the tried and tested method, though you would find it difficult if you came across the girl on a grassy plain.)

The other problem is that I had nightmares of the girl saying,"I was considering the option of accepting your love. But your proposal to commit suicide, if I do not, is an offer that I cannot refuse" and where would I be, then?

I do not know what modern Bollywood teaches the youth of today. From the little I have seen, all of these options still linger around but with the extra proviso that the men also wax their bodies, a la Chetan Bhagat, AND build six packs around their waists. The more popular ones seem to be the 'Tumble in Bed and talk of love later' option, which works based on pick-up lines; or the lesser option of 'Accidental embrace/kiss'. But what do I know, I am an old fogy now.

Anyway, I truly hope it offers more effective lessons than it did me!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The ability to quote

God must have been having an off day (AND the mother of all off days) when He made me. The number of things that He seems to have left out in the process is truly mind-boggling and it is a wonder that He did not skip putting in the heart, too, while He was at it. (NO! It is NOT a pity) Among the various things that He left lying on the shelf was this ability to quote. (Why don't I stick to only the things He put in, so that you can save time in the process of getting to know all that He did not? Well, who said I was interested in saving time, anyway?)

Take this ability to quote, for example. To have a memory that is word-perfect in pulling out from the archives something that you have read. If only I had this ability, I'd never have suffered so much in life.

It all started at school - like it usually does. You happily write an exam, thinking you have done well, and when the D-day comes, your paper is full of red ink. And why? All because I can never replicate anything as it is and will always end up writing it in my own words. To me, "If there is a certain quantity of gas, increase in pressure will decrease the volume and vice versa" seems the same as "For a certain mass of gas, pressure is inversely proportional to volume" but, alas, not to my teacher. Just because I wrote the former in place of the latter, my knowledge of Physics was valued at zero.

I did not expect this problem to dog me at IIM as well. But there it was again, like Mary's little lamb, at its post even there. Take this one from where I had to write a book synopsis on Male Chauvinism. "Male Chauvinism is the domination of women by men", I started out, fully confident that I was quoting the author from the book. Nope - there went the red ink, again. I seek to find out why my definition had been bloodied, to find that the book says, "Male Chauvinism is the domination of men over women". What is more, I had apparently totally reversed the definition because either 'over' and 'by' meant the same thing or having women before men in the sentence automatically meant that the former dominated the latter. Once again, my inability to quote and, instead, putting things down in my own words had ruined me.

In as simple a matter of my own reading habits, I got looked down upon. I make a comment about reading books every day, with nary a thought of putting myself up on a pedestal, but again I get egg on my face. I just cannot quote a single thing from those I consider my favorite authors and, in no time, I am seen as this pretentious social climber claiming erudition when I barely know the names of the authors. God! You have a lot to answer for.

Of course it continued to bother me all my life. In my profession, quite naturally, since wise words were more important than concepts. In arguments, most certainly. There is nothing that beats down the other guy than saying, "Like Oscar Wilde said, '.....'" Say the same thing yourself in your words, and people look at you with all the pity due to someone who had gone for a hike when they were distributing brains. Oscar Wilde did say, "Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit" (Yeah! I googled it. So?) but I had not realized that it was the ONLY evidence of wit.

If only I had had the insouciance of another friend of mine. HE would say things like, "Like Marx once said, '....'" and push his point. I asked him, rather enviously, how he managed to remember so many quotes. He tells me, 'I just throw in the names. Most people do not know any better. People cannot think for themselves, anyway, and assume you cannot either. So, unless you throw in names, they do not take you seriously." I did not know whether to be upset by the cynicism of attributing quotes or the cynicism about people, and settled for being aghast at the risk he was taking. "B..but what if someone knew he did not say it?" He laughed and said, "Ah! Well! Then I say, 'It must have been some big shot like Marx. Why are you concentrating on small things like who said it? What is said is more important'." THERE! God! At least THIS you must have given me.

The fact remains that I still do not have the ability to quote. AND what a handicap that is, only someone like me can know.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Impressing people

I know you must think that I am a glutton for punishment because I keep going to friends for advice when it has never really worked well for me but what would you do? I mean, you have a problem, you do not have a solution and googling for it gives you so many contradictory options that you need someone to sort it all out for you. End of the day, you HAVE to go to someone for help.

"Ah! So, you want to be more impressive to others? I can see why. It must be tiring to be putting up your hands and pleading for people to listen. And being interrupted after the third word, even if you get a chance to speak. Though it is great practice for being a guest on Arnab's show."

I mumbled assent. Yes, this portrayal of me as a timid schoolboy putting up his hand for his teacher's attention was not really pleasing but what can one do? It is but natural for people to sit on their high horse and look down on you when you ask for advice. After all, THEY get very few chances of putting themselves on a pedestal.

"It would have been a help if you had some charm and charisma. Then, you would not need to learn anything. You would just have to be yourself and people would flock to you. But..." His look said that if, indeed, I had charm and charisma, it was of the sort that made people's eyes slide over me as though I did not exist.

Yeah! Yeah! THAT was news to me, this idea that I did not have charm. Of course, I had, otherwise, been thinking that I was like this Ranbir Kapoor chappie, oozing charisma and all, till this dude opened my eyes to reality. AND, naturally, this blindness to my own lack of charisma is why I needed to come to this guy for advice about how to impress people.

THAT's one of the most annoying things about people. If there is something positive to say about you, they assume that you know it anyway and there is no need to say it. If there is something negative, they WILL say it ten times a day and twice on Sundays, even though it is pretty obvious that you would know it. ("You are going bald. Your hairline is receding", when I still had some hair, over and over again, for example. Yes! Like I had specially ordered mirrors that lied to me about my face and scalp and, so, I needed them to tell me about it.)

"You know, you really do not know what is the right way to act to impress people."

Yes, of course, I did not know that. I needed to hear that from him, which is why I was here.

"It is a wonder how you always manage to do exactly the wrong thing."

Hmm! Listen to my friends and you will believe you know exactly how to succeed in life - watch what I am doing and do the exact opposite!

"Take the way you react to someone telling a joke."

"Yes? I show him that I too have a sense of humor. By capping his punchline with one which is more funny."

"Exactly! Who do YOU think has a good sense of humor? The guy who knows to laugh at your punchline or the guy who keeps talking after that?"

"Obvious! If you do not get my punchline and laugh at it, then of course you do not have a sense of humor."

"Precisely!" and the idiot gives me a look as though he has made an important point. I don't get that at all. Is this the Zen of something or the other that only the saints can get?

"And then take the way you react at work. You point out every single flaw in someone else's work."

THAT was rich! Considering that he had been doing nothing but pick on my warts since I came to him, HIS saying that was like that some vessel calling the some other vessel black. Pot and Kettle, was it? Maybe, I am not up to date with all these housekeeping matters.

"THAT proves I am intelligent, does it not? That I have been able to locate those flaws?"

"Yes? Tell me, when you put up that report and Vivek pointed out..."

"Vivek! THAT fool. He could not see the ingenuity with which I found a way to solve that problem. Just because he keeps harping on a minor error in methodology on one of the..."

"Precisely", says he, with that stupid knowing smirk on his face. Ye Gods! Do all these guys take training with that Confusers or something (Confucius, was it? Well, you know, I have been boycotting Chinese these days), or maybe the same Zen thingy, to speak in parables? I prefer someone who calls a spade a spade. Not someone who tells me a story about a grave digger and expects me to deduce from the clues that he is talking about a spade.

"So, what are you saying? That I should go around praising people always?"

"Well! If you can do no better than you are doing now, yes! IF you want to impress people. The best way to impress is to praise with discernment - of what would have been difficult to do for them AND which they have managed to do. It is easier to be impressive to people when you praise them for what THEY think deserves praise. THEN, when you find fault, they are likely to take it more seriously."

I come to this chap to make myself more impressive to people. AND he gives me advice on how to BE impressed by people!

"But..that...THAT is SO difficult to do. I mean, I have to KNOW their area of work, figure out what is difficult and what is easy in it..."

"I said I would give you a solution. I said nothing about making it easy."

There you go. NOW you know why I think all advice is useless!

Monday, October 3, 2016

A writerly rant

If only I had known that they had totally changed the job description of an author, I may never have set foot into this area. From childhood onward, I had always lagged behind in being up to date with the latest trends but never has it cost me as much as it has now.

When I was young (Yes, I WAS! I did not spring up, all bald and pot-bellied, one fine day), the most difficult thing about the job was the writing. Editors in publishing houses were these all-knowing chaps who could see the merit in a piece of writing and selected or rejected based on quality. So, once you had the writing done well and pushed it off to these paragons, your work was done. If they rejected, no problem. You just sent it on to the next guy and then the next guy till you got tired of enriching the post office. (Oh! There was that issue - no email submissions)

If you got selected, there could be a problem. The editors could well say, "This scene needs a bit of tightening" and such other things that editors are wont to say. It is not like you can say, "Oh! I take in a couple of inches around the waist?" and get on with the job. You probably engaged in a ding-dong of either discussion or multiple rewrites and, eventually, end up with a finished product.

THEN, you can heave a sigh of relief and let the publisher unleash the book on the unsuspecting populace. Even mysterious incognito authors were still in vogue in those days. So the author did not need to walk the ramp, have pics taken in suitably intellectual poses, rub shoulders with Page 3 people and things like that, in order to be accepted as an author. It was enough if he had written a book that was accepted for publication and THAT, by any standards, was as difficult a job as any you can think of, so he was entitled to relax, one would have thought.

Then, apparently, readers were not content with what the book had to offer. They wanted to know the so-called face behind the book. And you know how it goes...if you do not KNOW the author, you could sort of presume you would like him and, thus, buy the book. If you actually MET the damn guy, THEN you really needed to like him and be impressed by him. (You don't think so? Ever heard of an author's personal enemies buying his book? So, there).

So, then there were the book launches, book readings, book signings and all that. You know, in selling other products, things are easy. You can always pick an attractive model to front for the product - it is not like the chemist who worked on 'Fair and Lovely'  had to be its Brand Ambassador as well. With a book, though, the author HAS to be the Brand Ambassador, apparently. AND, if I held a book launch and expected my charm and personality to enthuse people, my charm would certainly ensure that they queued up - to inquire whether they could turn in their copy and get a refund. This need to have charm and presence, in addition to being able to write, had me on the ropes already but that was not the end of it.

Apparently, like they used to say about women in the male chauvinistic days, an author's job is never done. He also needs to give a hand to the over-worked publisher in marketing his own book. You know the problem, right? If you are selling MTR pickles, you are a professional doing your job. If you are selling YOUR own pickles, you are a nuisance, at best, and...well, let us leave it lie about what the worst is. So, what would come easier to the publisher - and would seem a professional discussion - comes laden with all sorts of emotional overtones, when the author has to do it.

To be sure, there are those authors who can push their book with an air of doing YOU a favor by allowing you to buy their work. They may well seek a review from you in such a manner that you feel grateful to them for having given you the privilege. Alas, THAT is another of those seemingly necessary attributes of an author that seems to have bypassed me. Consequently, when I was faced with the situation, I had nightmares of starting my day, begging bowl in hand, crying piteously, "Review de de, Behenji! Bechaare author ko review de de, Bhai sahab!" and have responses ranging from "Aaj nahin hai...kal aanaa" to doors slammed in your face; then, after pausing a bit to wryly smile at all those daydreams of people chasing you with autograph books and pens (Yeah! Old fashioned, I know! My brain talks of selfies and all, but it has still not permeated my dreams), metaphorically pushing my cart of books on Social media, screaming, "Books for sale! Great satire, Goodreads 4.6 Stars, 50+ ratings, only Rs. 99/=", to the tune of people saying, "Here he comes again, making a nuisance of himself!" (Thank God! All nightmares do not come true.)

AND then I ran into this other requirement. This taking criticism thing. No, I am not even talking of the fact that someone will trash your book with a 1 Star rating on Amazon because the distributor delayed delivery - something like trashing the book because the salesperson was rude in the bookstore. (Not a huge issue for someone who gets ratings in bushel loads but to someone who gets them in the tens at best...) I am talking about the fact that everyone and his uncle tells you that, as an author, you need to know how to take criticism. As though learning from criticism is the peculiar need of authors alone.

You know what, I have not seen ANYTHING in life where constructive criticism will not help you grow. Like, when I joined an office, I obviously was learning the job and, as obviously, I had my boss come down on me at times. Naturally, if I took every criticism of his as a personal affront and refused to learn from my mistakes, people used to tell me that I needed to know how to take criticism. But there was a difference.

If my boss just said, "You are an absolute idiot" without any specific reference to the particular idiocy that had prompted the comment and, more so, if he could not point out any such idiocy, I could always scream and rant about it to my colleagues. They would say, "Yeah! He is a jerk. Know what happened the other day..." and things like that. There would be none of this "It is his right to voice his honest opinion. You need to know how to take criticism." If I had found a damn good negotiation point in an ongoing deal and put it up, and all that my boss had to offer was, "In that third sentence, why have you typed 'oguht' instead of 'ought'? Why can't you be more careful?", I could find comforting shoulders when I rant about the lack of appreciation for the work done, and would get none of this, "Don't you see, you should have taken care. Obviously, if he has not criticized your negotiation point, he must have appreciated it." AND if my boss did it to everyone, someone above him would pull him up and say, "YOU need to learn how to criticize to manage people better." So, it was permissible to react differently to different types of criticism, and it was acknowledged that the fault in how you react to criticism may not always be yours; that the fact that you rant does not necessarily mean that you are not learning from the criticism; and THAT the people who criticized did not think that they were always in the right and were absolved of any need to take care in how they criticized.

I know, they probably mean that it is counter-productive for YOU to rant, as an author, because there could be too many such comments and to take them all to heart would stress you out; to ignore all of them would stunt your learning; and, theoretically, it is YOU who are better known and your ranting would spoil your image. But what seems to have happened is that people think it does not matter what or how they write about a book; the author is not supposed to be hurt or angry about anything, failing which he is NOT really an author!

A person who grins and bears abuse, and continues to care for the abuser; pleases everyone around, no matter how arrogantly or abusively he gets treated; never gets angry and never hates anyone no matter how they behaved - the last I saw such a paragon was in the yesteryear Indian movies playing the 'Sati Savitri' style wife. Apparently, now that they are looked down upon as characters in movies, they have shifted to books - as authors! Or so the world seems to think.

So there was the description of this ideal author. You needed to be good enough with the written word to bring to life your fictional world; sufficiently sensitive to get to the emotional pith of your characters BUT insensitive to hurt from criticism; with the charm of a Brand Ambassador; and the persistence and thick hide of a door-to-door salesman. It would help if you are also a Saint, since you need to turn the other cheek, and then be grateful, too, for the learning.

In other words, 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.

I look in the mirror. What looks back at me does not seem to tick any of these additional boxes that an author is supposed to tick. As in everything else, I am late on this - I should have been born half a century back! THAT way, the only thing that may have happened is that my manuscript may have bounced on my face on its way back from the publisher.

Monday, September 26, 2016

I love tech

I know I am of the age where I am supposed to go, "In the good old days..." and progress from thereon to how the world is going to hell in a hand-basket now. Well, they WERE the good old days and the World is going to hell rather more rapidly than being carried in a hand-basket can manage, but I still love tech.

I know it does some silly little things like improving efficiency in business, could possibly improve efficiency in governance if the bureaucrats would let it and all that, but I do not intend wasting time on all these inessentials. (WHAT?? You think they are essentials? Shows how much you know. Tell me, where do the brightest brains go - into social media and gaming or into these petty jobs? If THEY think it is unimportant, then that is good enough for me.)

You are surprised that I should love tech because of social media? At my age when there probably would be no point in my seeking 'fraanships' with every unwary woman on FB? THAT shows how little you know about how life was before all these things came into being.

It was SO tough to maintain relationships those days. Imagine actually having to remember the birthdays and all of people. THAT meant that you really had to remember them quite often during the year, you know, on the basis of, at least, asking someone, "Say! Vinod's birthday is in March, isn't it?" and then having it rubbed in your face that you were off by a matter of 8 months. Still, you can see that you had to remember Vinod a few times in the year just to wish him on his birthday. hardly even need to KNOW the guy. Up pops the notification and, if you are in a particularly niggardly mood that day, you type in a 'HBD' and, presto, you have maintained a friendship.

If THAT were all, I would still not be so happy. Think of all those relationships where you had to actually GO to functions. I mean, getting all dressed up, fighting your way through traffic, pressing flesh, the works! THAT was the only way you could express your close friendship. NOW...ALL you have to do is download a suitable image from the Net and paste it on their wall and, presto, you have attended their function, virtually. Which accounts for why, when someone is hosting a physical event near the North Pole and invites you, and you are marooned on an ice floe near the South pole with only a Net connection to tell you that you are alive, you can still say that you are 'GOING' to the event!

And as far the rest, most relationships can be maintained by clicking 'Like', 'Love' or what you will. Most people KNOW that it is idiotic to expect the relationship to extend to more than one click at a time. There are, of course, those Netiquette illiterates who post links and, to really know what you are 'Liking', you need to click twice. Fortunately, it is not necessary to click on the link to 'Like' the FB post so that can be handled readily.

Tech really has made life easy. The problem, though, is humans are such an irrational species and so bent upon mucking up things. I mean, imagine the guy getting back to you and saying,"Did you read the link?" Any polite person will know that it is not even expected of a wife to actually click twice on her husband's FB post and, if the husband insists, it will count as mental cruelty in the divorce courts.

AND these antediluvian chaps, who come and say, "But I also sent you an invitation and called up to invite. I thought you were a close friend and you did not turn up for the wedding." Despite that lovely wedding wishes card that you spent half an hour hunting up on the Net AND that Amazon Gift Coupon? Really, what did he expect - that I should use up vacation time, drive across the city and sweat it out in a crowd? AND, I am sure, also rack my brains about what would be the best thing to present? Anyway, Amazon Gift Coupons would be better than those bouquets - what, exactly, does one do with some 173 bouquets in a hired wedding hall?

Someone did say it truly. It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. I still love tech but it is time someone educated all people about the new age etiquette!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Fishing for compliments

I have never been any good at fishing, except when I fish for compliments. THEN I am all enthusiasm, baiting my hook and dangling it into the stream of Society waiting to hook a compliment. Considering, though, that I generally only lose the bait with no compliment to compensate for the loss, I ought to remove that qualification - I have never been any good at fishing, period! (Oh! I first wrote 'angling', instead of 'fishing', and ended up having nightmares of people accusing me either of not knowing my English or of spending days on the Thesaurus to find the most obscure words possible. Apparently, the phrase 'angling for compliments' is assumed to mean bending the body at right angles and begging for them - not 'fishing for compliments'.)

You know what - I have figured out why angling proves so unproductive in this (I know! I know! But I thought I had just told you what it meant, so you cannot complain about my making you hunt up a dictionary). It is just that people are so diffident. When you say, "I don't think I sang that very well", for example, you expect to hear, "No! That was a lovely rendition". What you get, though, is probably silence, if not enthusiastic agreement with what you said ('Yes! That was really pathetic singing' and things like that). It is not necessary that they agree with you, it is just that they do not want to set their own opinions above yours or they are too considerate to disagree with you.

I have tried and tried to tell them that disagreeing with me, when I am being uncomplimentary to myself, does not make them disagreeable to me, but to no avail. I mean, come on, there MAY be some people who are so wedded to their opinions that they will brook no opposition, even if it is complimentary to themselves, but everyone who knows me knows that I am not one of them, considering the way I salivate at even the thought of receiving a compliment but still...

You know, people can be real strange that way. This strange bashfulness for expressing a contrary opinion seems to work in a rather funny way. I mean, people are all too shy about disagreeing with you when YOU are being uncomplimentary to yourself but, comes that time when THEY feel you are being too complimentary to yourself, that shyness takes a holiday. Try saying that you did something extremely well, when they do not share that opinion, and you will hear "Says you" or "Only if you were a retarded 3 month old donkey" or "I think you need to check up on the meaning of 'extremely well'" and things like that. Not a sight or sound of the 'How can I hurt you by disagreeing with you' syndrome.

No, it is not that people do not like to compliment and prefer to put others down, though it may be true of some. Nor, indeed, is it because they foolishly think that you would love to have them agree with your denigrating yourself and hate to have them agree with your praising yourself.

I rather feel that it is because people think that you know yourself best BUT you are likely to project yourself in the rosiest light possible. So, when you compliment yourself, and they feel otherwise, they have more confidence in assuming that what YOU say of yourself is wrong. When you downplay yourself and they disagree, they think that, if THIS is the rosiest light in which you can see yourself, THEY must be wrong in seeing you as better than you, yourself, do.

Which is why, whenever you do fish for compliments, all that happens is that people swallow what you say of yourself hook, line and sinker and junk their own opinion.

AND, alas for me, I am the chap who writes what is called self-deprecatory humor...which, in effect, means that people may...MAY...laugh at the humor  but think of me as a joker.

I should take up fishing, instead. I am never going to hook compliments but, who knows, I may hook a fish some day.

Monday, September 12, 2016

I, the orator

As an orator, I make an excellent gymnast. Better by far than any of the gymnasts winning Olympic medals, since they only seem to do one feat at a time. The moment I step up on the podium and speak into a mike, I do multiple feats all at once.

Let us take a roll call of the feats I perform. My vocal chords attempt some synchronized skating inside the throat and tie themselves up in knots, making it feel like I am strangling. The tongue decides it is time to hang upside down and goes and sticks to the roof of the mouth. My heart decides it is time to practice the Produnova - with scant success, considering the confines it is working in and, consequently, either bounces off the diaphragm or gets stuck in the throat. My spine, though, adapts itself well to a gymnast's requirements, turning all rubbery. Meanwhile my hands...I suppose you get the point. Unless you raise nit-picking objections about whether 'I' can be used for each individual part of the body - instead of only the whole, you will have to agree that I outdo any gymnast you can think of.

The first time I had to speak - at school, it was - I started off (after the gymnasts decided to take a break) with "Respected Principal...uh, sorry, I should mention the Chief Guest first...Teachers and...maybe it is better if I refer to my notes, after all, haha...laddies and..oh, no, it is 'Ladies' handwriting is so bad that even I cannot read it sometimes, haha..." and was roughly shoved off the podium by my PT master (the most physical guy of the teachers who, alas, was close to me that day).

Everyone and his uncle told me about how jokes are useful to attract audience attention and keep them interested but no-one told me about the problems in using them. There I was at IIM, in a course called "Written and Oral Communication" giving a public speech to my batch-mates for the first time. I start off with a joke and look around expectantly for laughs. Everyone stares back gravely at me as though I had just announced my grandmother's death. Nonplussed, I say "Hahaha" just to encourage them all to laugh and it comes out like a bleat. I do succeed in capturing their attention, for they all lean forward in interest, only to subside back in the seats upon realizing that I was continuing with the speech and had not switched over to doing animal imitations. Meanwhile, the Professor is frantically writing in his notepad - a memo to himself, I suppose, that he should push for a public speaking test too in the selection process, in addition to the usual Group discussion and Interview, so that people like me could be filtered out.

There is a certain problem with acquiring certain degrees. People have these stereotype ideas of certain profession, which is certainly a killer for the person who does not fit the stereotype. I mean, call yourself an Engineer and people expect you to be a good enough handyman around the house - or used to, till Infotech came in and saved the day for those who did not know one end of a screwdriver from the other. Quite similarly, if you are from IIM you are expected to have the gift of the gab - after all, that's your sole expertise as far as most people know. Not that I run totally dry in that area as anyone who has had the misfortune to be caught in what I call a conversation, and he would call a monologue, knows. It is just that I prefer to talk sitting rather than standing and there is something about the magnetic field around a mike that dries my vocal chords. Or, if you prefer what the uncharitable say, where I suffer from verbal diarrhea in private, I suffer from verbal constipation in public.

You know what - this open, honest, manly confession does not avail me a thing. If someone wants me to give a speech, he is all praise for my modesty in disclaiming expertise in this area. Modesty!! My foot!! I am only being honest. Story of my life: When I am being honest, people think of it as modesty. Where I am really being modest, people see it as honesty!

Meanwhile, I have taken to writing know what...a writer is ALSO supposed to be good with words. Egads! A writer AND an IIM grad? I am expected to scintillate!!! Me - about the only thing scintillating would be my head if someone shone a spotlight on it. AND if I fail to speak well - a cast-iron certainty - then obviously I cannot write well or manage well - such, indeed, are the assumptions of the world.

Maybe I SHOULD take up gymnastics instead!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Master of Big Issues

I have figured out why I have not set the world on fire, getting people to run around after me waving selfie sticks. The problem, as usual, is luck - the luck that put me, a born master of big issues, in a situation where I had only small things to do.

I find ready solutions to handling the Kashmir issue. I know exactly what is wrong with the education system, as befits a person who perpetually teetered on the edge of failure, and know how to set things right there. As for industrial policy, the fiscal deficit, curbing inflation - those are things I can solve in my sleep and would, if I can figure out a way to be drinking tea and chatting with my friends while sleeping. With all these multitudinous talents, what am I handed out? These pesky little problems that cross my office desk that my vast brain cannot stoop to finding solutions to, that's what.

You think it is easy doing these big things? I have to get into the minds of the armed forces and police in Kashmir and see their motives - how they love the idea of blinding and killing people there and switch off the inclination the moment they get posted elsewhere. I have to get into the skin of the finance minister and see how he, like Marie Antoinette, casually dismisses inflationary pressures with, "Let them eat cake." I also have to realize how the government is too stick-in-the-mud to devise individual educational philosophies for each citizen. And you casually dismiss my multitudinous achievements merely because I am unable to crawl into the mind of the chap sitting across the table from me and determine whether he is serious about asking for LIBOR + 3.75% or whether he will settle for just a 2% mark-up? You do not realize that it is just that I prefer traveling in exalted terrain.

What did you say? "Nothing is impossible to he who does not have to do it"? Or was it "The confidence of a man in his solutions to problems is in direct proportion to his confidence that he will not be called upon to implement them"? So, you think that I can be confident only about things where I can comfortably TALK about what to do and not where I have to DO them? How typical of people like you! You only know how to troll. I am NOT the 'Master of Big Issues; Loser in Small Things", I will have you know. "MOBI-LIST"? What is with you guys and acronyms?

Okay, you superior guys. Let me ask you one question. You are SO sure that you know what God wants you to do; how He wants you to behave and what He wants you to condemn in the people around you. Tell me, do you know what your spouse wants you to do; how your spouse wants you to behave; what your spouse wants you to condemn in the people around you?

I didn't hear that! What did you say?

Oh! You, too, are a Master of Big Issues?

I thought so!

Monday, August 29, 2016

What's in a name?

I never really did bother about names and, if I ever had stopped to think about it, I would probably have shrugged my shoulders and said,"What's in a name?" THAT, though, was more in my childhood than later in life.

You know, India is sort of surprising. AND it was even more so in the past. You had TV news-people who mastered the enunciation of 'Slobodan Zivojinovic', but stumbled and stuttered over 'Palaniappan Chidambaram' - so much so you would have thought that the former was from India and the latter from the outer reaches near the North Pole. But, then, sitting comfortably in the south of India, it was all as remote as though it was happening in Outer Mongolia, since Doordarshan was in Delhi, which was 'door ast' - 'far', for those who do not recognize the allusion.

When I shifted to Delhi, though, the fun started. Not immediately but around the time when the Election Ids got issued. Since the chaps came around verbally asking for information and filling the forms up themselves, the fun was not really apparent till I got the Election ID. In Hindi, the name was not bad - except for the fact that the North firmly believes that an 'an' does not belong at the end of the name and so, I was 'Chandrasekar Suresh' and not 'Chandrasekaran Suresh'. THAT, though, did I tell you, was only in Hindi. In English it got rendered as 'Chandarshakhar' AND THAT it remains there, since I did not have a year or two at my disposal to educate the concerned officials about how to spell my name.

One would really think that we people in the south, who have no surnames - only the names of our native town/village and/or our father's name as initials - are a small obscure tribe numbering in the hundreds at best, going by the fact that no government forms ever bother to specify exactly how this is to be entered in any uniform manner. So, with the expand initials in one, name and surname in another and so on and so forth, my name keeps changing from Suresh Chandrasekaran and Chandrasekaran Suresh, when it does not get a thorough make-over like Chandarshakar Suresh.

Also, there is this strange issue. I daresay that people who get knighted are far lesser than the population of people with my style of naming and, yet, it is known that they get called 'Alec' by friends and 'Sir Alec' by others - and never 'Sir Baldwin' or whatever their surname happens to be. The same, though, I am unable to drive into the minds of the same people - that I am 'Suresh' to friends and 'Mr. Suresh' to others and NOT 'Mr. Chandrasekaran', which would be my dad, who had enough people troubling him to not want my lot adding itself to the mix. Now, of course, I have a chance of things changing for the better. I'm sure P.V. Sindhu will not favor being addressed as Ms. Pusarla and will start a change of attitude. (Though, to be sure, even C.V. Raman did not manage it. Even when knighted, he was still Sir C.V. Raman and not Sir. Raman)

Now, I need to tackle a new set of issues. When I was leaving Delhi for Bangalore, my passport was near-expiry and I had it renewed in a hurry. Having stayed within the shores of this country, I have had hardly any reason to look at it till now, when it needs renewal. AND, presto, I find that, though the passport office was RENEWING a passport in the name of 'Chandrasekaran Suresh' and my form was filled in the same way, the passport I now hold is for 'Chandra Sekaran Suresh'. No doubt they took pity on my being deprived of a middle name and decided to gift me one but...

I want to reclaim my name. I find, though, that since the passport HAS been the base for my PAN Card - they too have granted me a middle name, gratis, despite, yes, my filling the form WITHOUT adding that superfluous spacebar between Chandra and Sekaran. Unfortunately, I had opted for the card with a mere 'C. Suresh' on it and, thus, I never knew that this had happened till I tried to align my Aadhar ID - which had the name the way it should be - with my PAN Card.

There I go - now I need to reclaim my name. With a choice between 'Chandarshakhar' and 'Chandra Sekaran' in two ids and with only the latest one - Aadhar - having it the right way, I do not know how it is all going to end.

So, soon you may all have to revise your opinion of what my name is...and so may I!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Do it well?

Seivana thirunda sei - Tamil Proverb

Translation(sort of) : What is worth doing is worth doing well

I would love it if, just once, there is one of these proverbs that will support me. But, no, everything that the wise have said always seems to run counter to what I want to do.

When I first heard this one about doing anything well, I was SO ecstatic. So, the time when my mom wanted to send me off to buy vegetables, I happily quoted this one at her and said,"I want to live by this proverb and since I cannot do this well, I'd rather not do it."

I thought I had the winning argument since, after all, the last time I bought some tomatoes, she took one look at them and said,"So, you paid him money and picked up all the rotten tomatoes that he  had thrown into the garbage?" Sounds more caustic in Tamil, actually - Avan vendaamnu vitterijadhai kaasu kudutthu porukkindu vandiyakkum? (Something, I bet, that SHE was told by HER mother in her day!).

So, did I win my point? NO WAY. All she told me was that it only meant that I had to do things to the best of MY ability and NOT necessarily in the best manner possible. So, I still had to go out to buy the veggies with further advice ringing in my ears - "It ALSO means that you learn from your mistakes and keep improving, not that you can always scrounge around in the garbage for vegetables, after paying the shopkeeper for the privilege." Parents!! They always find a logic to make you do what you do not want to do!

After that signal failure of the proverb to help me in any manner, you would have thought that I would abandon the advice it gave as being totally useless. I suppose I would have but some things seem to stick in my mind, as though they were coated in Fevicol, whether I like it or not.

So, yes, comes my working days, my boss used to be dancing around impatiently saying, "It is not really necessary for you to work out everything to 20 decimal accuracy. I need to give this in half-an-hour or be roasted over a low flame for days", while I was meticulously checking why the figure on the left column was 2874.99999999999, while the one on the right was 2875. To this day I think he blames me for every single white hair he has on his head though, to my knowledge, he has never yet featured in a barbecue as the center-piece because of me.

Over the years, I realized what my problem was - why I had to do as good a job as I could always. You see, the world has two types of people - those whose job is to DO and those who job is to tell how others have done. You need to get into the latter band-wagon as soon as possible - then YOU can make a nice living complaining about others not doing their jobs well and stop bothering about whether you are doing yours well. If, though, you get stuck in the first category...

It was much later in life that I did manage to reach the level that I always aspired for, from the time I heard this proverb. Since I can do NOTHING well, I DO!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Olympian regrets

Goal of Team India at the Olympics: Rio jao. Selfies lo. Khaali haat wapas aao. What a waste of money and opportunity.

I know that there is this almost insane interest in gaining publicity at any cost. There is this intense fascination with getting something to go viral on social media that borders on obsession. What I had not realized is the lengths to which some people can go in pursuit of this obsession; the sheer callousness with which they can hurt and calumniate others for what they see as their place in the sun. So, yes, this tweet above was an education.

To be sure, there are apologists; people who see this as a bitter exposition of the truth of Indian Athletics. I cannot see this as being so, either. If it had been a statement on how India has failed to produce world-class athletes, it would have been a commentary on our own sporting infrastructure. Had it been a criticism of the ability - physical or mental or both - of our athletes, one could see it as a possible conclusion from their performances, bitterly though we may dispute those conclusions or offer the lack of sporting facilities as the reason.

But, no, it was a comment on their dedication to their sports - not merely of one or two but a sweeping character assassination of ALL the athletes in 'Team India'. With no reason for that conclusion - no stories of late-night partying the day before the competitions or athletes neglecting their practice routines or whatever - the statement almost borders on slander. To seek cheap publicity based on such a vicious statement, and one can see no other purpose served by such sweeping assertions,...suffice to say that I cannot think of leading a joyful life with a sewer for a mind.

Decency in public life is becoming a thing of the past and in no small part thanks to people like this who are more intent on coining a phrase than in checking for the legitimacy and veracity of what they say. Being controversial cannot be an end in itself; controversy always causes hurt and, when you cause hurt, it better be for a cause, else you are no more than a sadist. And when the cause is no more than publicity-seeking...

One thing people like this forget - no-one is a loser, who puts in his best efforts, no matter what the result of his efforts are. As a country, yes, India should be able to identify and hone sporting talent that can vie with the best in the world. The lack of a sporting culture and sporting infrastructure in the country does make India a loser in the arena of sports, because as a country we certainly are not putting in our best efforts.

At the individual level, each athlete who performs the best that he or she can, given the circumstances - and most, if not all, of them do - IS a winner and should be respected as such, even if his or her best  efforts on the day is not enough to win. THAT is something which would be clear to any self-respecting person.

A big part of what ails this country is precisely this. Someone, regardless of the odds against, attempts something. If he/she succeeds we are ALL too willing to take the success as our success and revel in it. If he/she fails is not merely his/her fault but he/she is a duplicitous person out to cheat us of our tax money. When we have done scant little to support the success, we really have no right to revel in it; AND, when we not only do scant little but also revel in successes, then it is only right that WE accept the responsibility for the failures and do not foist it on them.

It is only when we recognize how little we ARE doing to foster success that we will develop a sporting culture in this country. As long as we rest content in blaming those who try for not succeeding, nothing can change...for the better. As for reveling in the successes - be it a Sania Mirza or a Sundar Picchai - time enough to be doing it when we AND they see the environment of this country as the prime reason FOR the success. People can succeed 'despite'; it is when they succeed 'because of' that the country has reason to feel a participant in the success.

But as long as the self-proclaimed 'opinion leaders' of this country will prefer to shoot the messenger for the message, there can be no hope. It is ironic that precisely those, who are letting the country down, are the ones who are most vociferous in complaining about others doing so.

But, then, THAT is the nature of humanity. People who love holding the mirror up to other people seldom have the honesty to look in it themselves!