Monday, February 29, 2016

The Law of Equality?

I hate math much like most of humanity. (I know! I know! The very idea that you may share any trait with me makes you want to crawl into a hole and pull it in after you. But, before you start digging, just think. After all, you too probably have a couple of eyes, only one nose, one mouth etc. and so do I...) The funny thing, though, is that I shy away from it when it IS required but insist on using it where it is not applicable.

Take this Law of Equality, for example. When someone says 'If A=B, then B=A', my mouth opens in a huge yawn, my eyes turn up and I keel over. All of which ought to mean that I will never apply this so-called Law in life. And then...

Back in my youth, someone said, 'Truth is Bitter'. First of all, I assumed that Truth = Bitter. You know how it goes. Most of us cannot recognize the truth if it ups and bites your nose, most times. Especially when it comes from another person and especially when it is about you. So, here was a nice and simple test for the truth. If you disliked what they were saying about you, then it must be true. If you liked it, it would be false. Ergo...whenever someone praised me (it happened rather rarely, yes, but still...), I assumed it was only flattery. Whenever they insulted me, I assumed it must be true. So, naturally, I grew up into this self-confident, assertive person who mumbled his way through life, practically apologizing for being alive.

And then, of course, Bitter = True. Which effectively meant that I had to ensure that if I told the truth of someone, I had to ensure that it also sounded bitter to him. NO 'You have bright ideas, but you need to be more meticulous in your analysis' and all that. Just 'Who gave you a degree? You ought not to have been allowed to graduate from fifth grade". There - THAT would be bitter enough to be true! Naturally, after a lifetime of speaking the truth, I am awash in friends - who scatter like a flock of birds, when you throw a stone, at the first sight of me.

Law of Equality, forsooth! Now you know why I HATE Math. It just does not work in real life, I tell you!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lost and floundering

"All you Brahmins are like this."

I heaved a sigh of relief. So, I was not responsible for my actions, then. After all, if what I am was genetically coded into me from birth, could anyone hold me responsible for being who I am or acting as I did?

Apparently, they could. It was one of the earliest lessons in human relations for me and one I have still not fully internalized. If I had committed what my cohorts thought was a behavioral crime, it was quite possible that those criminal tendencies got attributed to my nationality, caste, community, state whatever, but that still did not absolve me of my own responsibility. Hmmm! Hardly seemed worth having a convenient community to blame things on, if this is how it worked. I mean, if I have to shoulder the guilt and blame for what anyone from that group had done since the dawn of life to date, it is only fair that I am, at least, relieved of personal responsibility, isn't it? Something on the lines of, "Poor chap! He cannot help acting the way he does, after all, since he was born so-and-so." Not happening.

Just as I was getting myself accustomed to this strange unfairness of life (Yeah! I know everyone says, 'Who says Life is fair?' but that does not mean that you readily digest the idea. Stupid to think that knowing something makes it palatable. It is not as though the fact that you know Chennai is particularly sultry in Summer makes you feel any more comfortable to be there, then), Life throws a curve-ball at me.

"Ah! You IIM guys can never really understand these things."

Huh! What now? One year back, it was alright for me to discuss the thusness of economics in India and say whatever I wanted. Now, just because I had spent a year at IIM (I would have said 'studied' but I am afraid of my mates and professors calling me a liar), I was suddenly someone incapable of seeing things, except in the IIM way, whatever that was. It is as though the place we study works on the raw dough of our personalities and turns out perfectly uniform cookies and, thus, the student of one becomes incapable of seeing the point of view of the student of another. (Maybe I was the exceptional lump of pre-hardened dough. That would explain why, whenever I say I passed out of IIM, people give me that peculiar look that as good as says that they are too polite to call me a liar to my face.) Either that, or it is that same thing of having to carry the collective guilt - which is the sum of all the individual guilt of all past students of IIM, as seen by Society. (Oh! What about virtues, you ask? I refer you to Bill Shakespeare - 'The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.') So, effectively, if I am from IIM, I was supposed to venerate the corporate and look down on the rest.

"What do you city guys, in your comfortable air-conditioned offices, know about the farmer's problems?"

My God! You just digest one thing and the next thing socks you in the face. Whatever was I going to say to this? Now I was also expected to achieve some sort of uniformity with all these millions of guys who live in my city or, even, with all those tens of millions of people living in all the cities of the world? Tough ask - especially since I would also have to carefully leave out people like this guy, who also lived in a city but was endowed with a mystic understanding of the farmer's problems that elude the rest of us city-slickers.

Needless to say, I find myself lost and floundering in this world of ours. Something has been royally messed up in my make-up, I suppose, since I do not seem to have the collective persona of all those things I am - TamBrahm, IIM grad, city-living etc etc. It seems as though every single cookie-cutter that I passed through has broken its teeth on me without making the slightest impression on my personality.

AND, of course, I have absolutely no perspicacity. I mean these guys know how Brahmins think and behave - without being Brahmins, themselves. They know how IIM guys react - without necessarily passing through IIM. And I, poor mutt that I am, have no clue about how a farmer feels because I am no farmer.

When I am at the Pearly Gates, I have a serious complaint to make.

And God will probably say...

"Oh! You mortals are all like this."

Monday, February 15, 2016


In my long gone youth (not exactly prehistoric times and, no, I never had to shoo off any dinosaurs), I used to be frightened of comedy movies in English. You know what I mean - these Americans and British do not know how to speak proper English like us Indians. They have such peculiar accents and use such quaint phrases that it is difficult to understand exactly what they are saying, so how is one to know when something is funny? (I mean, really! 'I am good'? Good at what? And exactly what is 'Whatever'? Just examples. In my youth, they had not yet descended to these levels).

So, yes, it was always difficult to know when to laugh and when not to. For me, that is. Everyone around me in the theaters apparently found no problem with it. Being left out is such an awkward feeling that I concentrated keenly and laughed once...into sepulchral silence in the theater. THAT was the only total tearjerker scene in the entire movie, supposedly. Ah! It was too dark to see the lovely rose that colored my cheeks though my ears did burn like neon lights making me fear that they would give me away to everyone and not merely the couple of rows of people around me.

Then I hit upon the formula. I just waited till someone started laughing, emitted a couple of 'Haha's and fell silent. Yes, sometimes, it did so happen that I found myself the only other guy laughing - the leader being one other such benighted soul, who ended up with ears burning like neon lights - but practice made me perfect. So, over the years, I lost the habit of looking bemused like a Hindi heroine (Yeah! Yeah! the dinosaur days) waking up from a swoon with a faint query about the exact geographical coordinates of her presence. (Well - the pithily expressed "Main kahan hoon?" which was the only usable dialogue if the heroine had not also been struck with amnesia, when she could ask 'Main koun hoon?').

Till I joined the Social media, that is. Especially since the hashtag revolution took over, I have a permanently bemused expression on my face, which could, in the past, well have caused Mehboob studios, or some such, to cart me away and cast me as the heroine of their movies, despite minor problems like my gender and looks.

Take this Indian genius in UK who has found a way to turn the clock back and bring down intolerance in the country. Apparently, all you needed to do was rename (or re-rename) Mumbai to Bombay and, presto, Hindus and Muslims would embrace each other and decide to live in perfect brotherhood. That guy really needs to meet up with that other chap who said "What's in a name?"; Bill Shakespeare (also, incidentally, an erstwhile denizen of the same UK and, maybe, one of the guys who would get resurrected when the clock turns back) really could learn a thing or two. Crackpots like this have popped up and spouted nonsense every other day - in fact, every other minute since the advent of social media - so why is THIS particular crackpot a trending hashtag and not the other guys, who KNOW that the Earth is flat and it is a historical conspiracy that had made us all think it is round?

As for intolerance itself, that is yet another puzzle for me. Two or three incidents in the country -deplorable, tragic and worth condemning - happened but, unfortunately, such has been happening month after month in this country, and indeed around the world. Yet, suddenly, this time it was worth trending as a hashtag and lead to people returning awards (the first time I knew that they GOT the awards in the first place, I am ashamed to confess) and film-stars feeling far more insecure in the country than they did when Mumbai was burning with riots. I sit at my key board, eager to restart the hashtag 'IntolerantIndia' when the news breaks of the reprehensible incident of the Tanzanian student in Bangalore, and the collective Social Media just shrugs its shoulders and moves on to some idiotic mess in JNU. What am I missing here?

I am quite convinced that there are some cheerleaders in Social media whom I am missing. You know - those girls who help the audience to cheer when appropriate, even when the audience knows nothing of the game. Like in the IPL, you know if the ones in red start dancing, your team needs to be applauded and, when the ones in blue dance, you need to boo the opponents. Something like that. So, if only you knew who those cheerleaders were, you could join in on the hashtag bandwagon, without that 'laughing in a sepulchrally silent theater' feeling.

Could some kindly soul please indicate where I am to look for these cheerleaders? I am tired of looking bemused and, if that crackpot manages to turn the clock back, I may end up being the only bearded heroine of Bollywood.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Satire in India

How can someone be funny and serious at the same time? It is like asking me to see a respected guru in a capering clown. But, then, that is exactly what a satirist aspires to be and do. Satire seeks to make you laugh and make you think.

The point of all satire is to show up the foibles of individuals, leaders, social systems, history or even society at large in a funny – even ridiculous – light and make people think about their flaws. To be sure, not all satires are funny. Dark and serious satires do exist but the commonly understanding of satire is that it is humorous.

Satire can be primarily narrative in nature. In fact, most of Indian satirical writing is only narrative satire. Satire writing in English, I hasten to add, for it would take a brave man, indeed, to make a sweeping statement about the literature in so many languages and I am widely famed for my…err…diplomacy, shall we say?

By narrative satire, I mean that what is being said is not particularly funny, but the way it is being said is what makes it funny. If I am sharing a bed with someone who snores, and I find it difficult to sleep, I could say, “It is difficult to get to sleep when you are sharing a bed with a cement mixer running at top speed.” If it is funny at all, it is because of the metaphor for, otherwise, all I am saying is that “His snoring was so noisy that I found it difficult to sleep.”

It does seem like it is getting to be a habit, isn't it? For the rest you need to go to the blog of Tales Pensieve.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Being Single

"Marriage – A process of finding out what sort of person your spouse would have preferred to marry”

It is not merely because I disliked learning that I stayed single. True, I am allergic to learning, especially about myself, since most of what I learn about myself is SO uncomplimentary. Still, it was not that at all.

To cut the long story short, it was my aversion to WORK that decided me on remaining single. Narayana Murthy’s son can choose to marry, even if he decided to be idle all his life. Me – I started off with zilch in inheritances and, thus, all that I spend had to be earned myself. Even in these gender-equal days, there is not much welcome for a husband who plans to live off your earnings. THAT part of gender inequality still remains, unfortunately. (Fortunately, actually. In my times, it certainly existed and I’d hardly be happy seeing a young kid of today happily living the life that I would have preferred to live.)

Sorry guys - for the rest of the post you will have to head to Vanita Bodke's blog