Monday, December 11, 2017


I thought technology would make life easy for me. "Aha! That's what YOU think", they say, and get to work to ensure that life becomes even more complicated.

Take this recent rush of Aadhaar seeding for all investments. (Ah! No! No! 'Bhakts' need not foam at the mouth nor 'sickulars' drool, this has nothing to do with Modi.) I sort of thought that, what with technology and all, linking PAN card with Aadhaar would suffice to ensure that Aadhaar would be linked to all investments because a PAN card has sort of been mandatory for making those investments all along.

No, not so! Well, Government works in mysterious ways and one of those mysterious ways is a penchant for making people enter the same thing in two different places so that they can tick them as being the same. They would feel sort of lost without having to do that ticking - that special sort of reverse tick that seems to have been most of their training on the job!

So, Ok, here I go linking the Aadhaar (seeding Aadhaar they call it. I wonder what sort of tree it will grow into) all over the damn place. Having a memory like a sieve and the organizational ability of a particularly confused moron, I have no track of what I have 'seeded' Aadhaar in and what I have not. Matters are not helped by the fact that most of them reply that it is under process but almost none bother to email if it has been done successfully.

And then comes December, the 31st of which is the last date. I keep receiving emails to link Aadhaar now from almost everyone. I do not know which I have done it for, which I have not and, obviously, I am also worried about which has 'failed' the process. But I am damn sure that SOME of these I HAVE done it for, and successfully. Even with my limited exposure to databases, I know it is a fairly simple process to cull out only those who have NOT seeded Aadhaar and send mails only to them but THAT apparently is not the way they work. Never mind that the 'culling' program would anyway need to be written so that differential treatment may be given to those who have not seeded Aadhar by end-December and never mind that it would make things so much easier on the nerves of the customers that they so ardently seek to serve.

Well - I click on the links, expecting that the form, at least, would show whether Aadhaar has already been seeded or not. No way - there is an unhelpful 'Edit' option to enter/change Aadhaar. Now what? Has Aadhaar been seeded, have I not ever tried to seed Aadhaar for this investment, or has the seeding process failed? No idea. To be on the safe side, I do the process again and NOW the form does not accept the OTP sent by them. Over and over and over! Shit!

There matters lie, with me wondering whether it did not so accept because Aadhaar had already been verified or whether there is some breakdown in the system. Whether this is an investment where I had already seeded Aadhaar and, now, by this process had ended up 'unseeding' it or...

I am a total nervous wreck and all thanks to technology.

Why blame technology, you ask? If only it had been the snail-mail era, without the benefit of all these digital monsters, the same process would have been done manually. Someone would have to type in the letters to 'seed' Aadhaar, someone would have to frank them all - costing them postage - and someone would have to dispatch them. So, they would have found it less work, and less cost, to even laboriously cull only those, who had not seeded Aadhaar already, from their manual registers and send letters only to them. I mean, if YOU had to dispatch only 500 letters instead of 2000, you would have been all for that option.

NOW? It costs you nothing to email, you need to type the letter in only once so why bother to even write a mini-program today (even if you HAVE to do it tomorrow) to cull out that 500 from the 2000?

Nothing - NOTHING - is going to make life easy. Especially not technology! WE will always find a way to ensure stress, all in the name of customer service.

P.S: What?? Extended to March 31? Another 3 months of this customer service? Ye Gods!

Monday, December 4, 2017

A trek to Kudremukh

 When you board a train for a trek and, within minutes find someone else claiming, "25 is MY berth" only to later find that his berth is 26, it can be smiled away. Half an hour later if another person comes and says indignantly, "25 is MY berth" and later discovers that he has 27, you may laugh it off as a funny coincidence. YOU may, I cannot. For, after all, when you have the reputation of a disaster magnet - natural or man-made disasters, as witness my presence when Leh got cut off, Uttaranchal faced cloud-bursts and Burhan Wani's killing set Kashmir afire - even when the start of the trek was not ominous, you start shivering in your trekking boots when a trek starts off like that.

When you land in Mangalore five minutes before time and anticipate a longish wait for the other guys to reach by their train only to find that THAT train arrives more than half-an-hour early, you may feel that luck is running your way. YOU may...ME, I start worrying about all that remains of my good fortune running out in this manner.

The journey to the home-stay was fun, though. My stomach behaved itself though I, as usual, kept singing all the way to ensure that the only thing that came out of my mouth was words. AND, wonder of wonders, there were even people in the van who actually found the singing good and, a miracle this, even said so!

Did I forget to mention, though? Chandru, who has made a habit of dropping off from the trek at the last moment these past few times by the painful manner of breaking a bone or so, did it in a less painful manner this time - he just missed the train! Vinod and his second daughter Deeksha had boarded the train but Varsha and her husband also managed the same feat as Chandru. Though, knowing Vinod, they SHOULD have caught the damned train instead...for missing the train only let them in for an all night bus journey and, of course, listening endlessly from Vinod (he was still at it when we parted ways after the trek!) about how they ought to have left in time to board the train!

The group I trekked with this time was the Trichy Trekkers - an offspring of the trek group with which I initially trekked in the Himalayas. Barring Ramesh Kamak and Ram Prabhu, the entire group was new to me - except, of course, Vinod and family. And what a wonderful group they were (NO! It is not only because they professed to like my singing!) The group was actually composed of people from Madurai, Coimbatore, Chennai AND Trichy, of course. The common factor seemed to be a couple of things - you could call for Gopal and have half the group turning to you or call out Doctor and find the other half paying attention - or so it seemed to me. Made it difficult to remember names, let me tell you, so I remember Sundars, Aravinds and Karthiks!

We arrived at the Home Stay by noon. The distaff side and a few of the males were put up in one home and the rest of us in the other. A light lunch and we were off to the nearby waterfall. Anyone who has so far been through my trek chronicles knows full well that a buffalo has nothing on me when it comes to wallowing in water. There would be no real point in belaboring the joy of getting into water that pummels you like a seasoned masseur, so let us give that the go-by. (AND thank your lucky stars that nobody sent me a pic of MY wallowing in the water else I'd have inflicted THAT on you instead of this one. If you are really masochist enough to want that, you will find enough evidence elsewhere in this blog, though not in Kudremukh, of course).

Back to the Home stay and I found that there are perils of being seen as the only one knowing Kannada. Apparently we had quite a few trekkers who were interested in decimating the population of chickens in the area whereas the initial organization was only for veg meals. So, the Brahmin (who must confess that chickens are not entirely free of HIS attentions either) had to set about organizing the slaughter.

There was a bonfire in the evening, more specifically to celebrate the wedding anniversary of a co-trekking couple after which...yeah, how did you ever guess, I was also asked to contribute to the festivities with my singing. A strange experience for me to meet with a group, near fifty strong, which manfully and womanfully restrained itself from hooting and catcalls while I wrung every single verse out of every single song that I 'sang' till it started bewailing ever having come into existence. I may have held them for hours more but for Vinod artfully asking me to sing 'Mere naina sawan bhadon'. Just as I had all my tonsils on view rendering 'Phir bhi mera man pyasaaaaaaa', the wind gently blew a lungful of smoke from the bonfire down my fully opened throat, ending that rendition with a 'Pyasa..huh..huh..huh'. THAT, thankfully, was THAT for the others who gratefully took to their heels before I recovered.

The next day we started on the trek. About 10 Kms of ascent and then the same 10 Kms to be retraced back to the Home stay. Sharan, the local trek organizer and guide, said,"Initially, we will be walking on flat terrain for some 4 Kms after which there will be a bit of an ascent. Then, after a while, there will be a zigzag path upwards. After that, it is again flat till nearly the end of the trek, where we will have a bit of a climb to the summit." AND, promptly, we start huffing and puffing up a 30 degree incline.

I really think someone has to take these trek guides in hand and teach them some common English. They have some weird ideas, really, of what constitutes a flat terrain. I mean, really, I know flat on the mountains is not exactly a road in Delhi but 30 degrees? They really publish a different dictionary for these guys - all of them use words in the same manner - as also witness their idea of what a half-an-hour walk is when you ask them how long it will take to reach the end of the trek!

After a longish bit of huffing and puffing the path actually eased out to what you and I could think of as flat - especially if you have just been crawling up an incline like that. I sped past people rushing onward, leaving behind awed comments about my trekking prowess. Well, whatever else being a 'veteran trekker' had taught me, the one thing it HAD taught me is to make speed where I can so that, when I am up an incline, with snails passing me contemptuously, I do not still have to spend too long in the sun.

I love streams en route a trek. There is something about a gurgling stream crossing your path under a canopy of trees, starting from some mysterious place above and heading to some mysterious destination below, always flowing, always there, that speaks to me. It speaks to me especially eloquently when I am steaming with heat and perspiration, for then I pour water over my head and down my neck, wet my hat, and feel like I can possibly live for a few more hours after all. The Kudremukh trek had us crossing multiple streams periodically and they were life-savers, let me tell you, absolute life-savers.

The problem, though, is that the higher you get the less your chances of encountering streams, especially the ones that flow amidst trees and give you the hope that the world is not always a hot and tiring place. So, while I was enjoying the brief bursts of coolness from the streams, I knew that it was too good to last and I would come to where the sun would have its way with me relentlessly. (If you are wondering why so much time is being spent on the Sun, you do not know me. I am the guy who finds the morning sun of a Delhi Winter too hot to handle. You ain't seen no sweat till you have seen me sweating. And to think I was brought up in Neyveli, not exactly known as a Hill Station!)

And, as promised, the incline duly arrived. (THAT's another grouse for me. When these chaps say 'flat', it never IS flat, but if they say something is an incline, then...). Ever seen a Bullet Train turn into a Bullock Cart? If you want to, just trail alongside me as I hit an incline after a relatively flat track, while on a trek. Of course, I huff and puff like a steam engine but then the bullock probably does the same, if you paid any notice to it.

And midway through that damn incline, disaster struck. Not anything minor like my twisting an ankle or such, which would have given me a graceful excuse to abandon the trek. The sole of my left shoe came off the front portion and started flapping around like the mouth of a crocodile. I did have a tube of FeviKwik (another of those veteran trekker thingies which you carry around to impress but hope never to depend on) and stuck the sole on with it. Well, the tube did live up to its name. It was as Kwik to come off as it was to stick on, so, within another 100 meters, the crocodile was flapping its jaws around hunting for prey again.

The next hundred meters or so gave me a good idea of what Hitler's soldiers suffered with their goose-stepping. About the only saving grace was that I did not have to shoot up my hand and scream, "Heil whatever". By then, I was ready for ANY solution so when someone asked me why I had not just yanked it off, I ecstatically carried it out. (As an aside, when I was whining to Vinod about the consequences of doing that, the chap tells me, no less than 20 times within the minute, that I should have tied it on with laces. I should have known better than to seek sympathy from him. HE is the guy who will sit by the bedside of a man recovering from a heart operation and tell him what he ought to have eaten since age 5 to avoid the problem! You know the sort who, when you are drowning, will be so busy berating you for not learning swimming that he will fail to notice when you are floating away free of all care).

And so, I experienced how it would be to trek with one leg shorter than the other by about a couple of inches. You either plonk the soled foot too hard or you shift weight to the soleless one when it is still in the air. No amount of pleading with the powers above that I found trekking difficult as it is, and there was really no need to add to the trauma, helped. So, where I used to stop to catch my breath once every ten steps, I was now stopping once every two steps. Of course, when someone else was nearby, I was only stopping to taking in the view. (This being known as a veteran trekker, I tell you. It turns you into a second-rate actor, if nothing else). Thankfully, even if my acting failed me, the views did not and, so, the idea of stopping so frequently to take in the sights was eminently believable.

On I trudged, lungs screaming and feet jarring on the ground with uneven steps, hoping forlornly that the trek would come to an end soon. Not before I climbed that zig-zag path, of course and I hit it fairly screaming at the thought of having to climb up that lung-buster. (To be honest, in the normal course, that sort of incline is what you eat for breakfast and ask for more. It is just the lack of soul...err...sole and, perhaps, age catching up. Young at heart and all is fine but it seems to cut no ice with the body.)

 By the time I hit the ridge, I was too tired even to enjoy the relative peace of the ridge-walk. No lung-busting, true, but no shade either and the Sun was at its noon-day high. I went on, the views around me the only solace in what seemed like an endless treadmill. (Whinging a lot, am I? Yeah, I know it was MY choice to trek and, in the normal course, this would have been very pleasant indeed, bar the heat, but I really had not bargained for the difference that the lack of a 'sole' makes to the body). But, yes...the views...

Eventually, you come to what you consider is the end of the trek and there rears a massif. Yeah, I know, on my return I did tell some trekkers who were walking up,"If there is no climb at the end, why would THAT be considered the summit?" but that is the sort of thing that you comfortably say when you have done it and are on your way back. Looking at it as a prospective climb, though...

Still, you know...that veteran trekker thingy. The idea is to look at your feet and put one in front of the other and keep going. To look up to see how much more remains is a surefire way to tire yourself even more than you already are. Still, you do look up at times and envy those cozily sitting up there.

Eventually, I did land up at the last. A pity that no pic of my feat is here, though.

Been there, done that! NOW the descent should be a breeze. "Oh! Yeah!" whispered some imp of Satan. AND, I started back down...

When there is only a couple of millimeters of leather separating your foot from the ground, it is not too much of a problem ascending...except if you step on a sharp stone or a thorn, which I had not. On the descent, though...

For one, without the sole, the shoe does not grip well. So, you tend to skid and slip on sand and gravel. For another, there are too many damn places where your next step is a foot or so lower and you land on stones. Not exactly the sort of joyous feeling that the foot is used to, with us city slickers, at least. So, there I went, trying to put the soled right foot forward in all such cases. The issue, though, is that it was a trek path not a bloody stairway. Most times the only foot that can land without your having to twist yourself in ballet poses is the sole-less one...and anyone who has seen me will die laughing with the mere mention of me and ballet poses in the same sentence. I mean Sumo Wrestlers are Sumo Wrestlers and Ballet dancers are Ballet dancers and the twain will never meet and all that...

But, needs must. So ballet poses it was, and the consequence was that, more often than not, my ankle turned or my left foot landed on a sharp stone or...enough said. It suffices to say that a running commentary of my descent would exhaust my entire vocabulary of swearing and, this time, I ended up at the Home Stay with pains in all parts of the body, including some that I never knew that God had seen fit to put into the Human anatomy.

The rest, as they say, is anti-climax. An evening of camaraderie - including finding that Arvind was ten years my junior at my school in Neyveli (THAT was probably the previous night, but there was more bonding this day) and Lourd had worked in Neyveli for three years...surprising to find two Neyveli connections in one trek. We traveled back to Mangalore the next day and scattered to the four winds.

Till the next trek brings us together...

Photo Credits: Co-trekkers. NONE taken by me, as usual.

Monday, November 13, 2017


I have never understood why we are so unjust to some words. I mean, look, we have words meaning practically the same thing and one word we sort of consider embrace like a long-lost friend and the other we twitch our skirts away and walk around as though it is a turd lying on your primrose path.

Take this word 'parsimony' for example. You have that other word 'frugal' which means about the same thing. But call someone 'frugal' and he preens as though he has been given the Nobel Prize for literature. Or, more to the point, the top award for conservation. Frugal seems to indicate the sort of chap who abhors waste and uses his resources carefully to the best effect.

Parsimony, on the other hand, is the poor cousin. To call someone parsimonious is to accuse him of being the sort of chap that becomes the butt of jokes. Somewhat like that kanjoos father and son. (WHAT? THAT word - kanjoos - has not yet entered ANY English dictionary? How remiss of them!) The son is proud of having run after a bus all the way home and saved twenty bucks and the father chides him for not having run after a cab thereby saving two hundred. THAT sort of chap gets called parsimonious. (Come to think of it, kanjoos is a much better word - easier on the typing fingers.)

In other words, when you are frugal, you are the sort of person who does not waste food on your plate. When you are parsimonious, you are the sort of chap who thinks that a slice of bread is too rich a dinner and saves half of it for breakfast. How totally unjust to poor old parsimony.

Though, I suppose, that parsimony will still have the last laugh. Frugal has been basking in praise all this while but, alas, good things do not last...even for words. We have now entered an era when frugal will face the music.

There is a saying in Tamil. It is ideal to have Kuber (the Lord of Wealth) and Sudama (the byword for poverty) possess equal wealth; it is difficult to convert ALL the Sudamas of the world to Kuber; so, we decided to convert Kuber into another Sudama. That was a colorful way of making fun of the idea that, if bringing the poor at par with the rich is the ideal and enriching the poor is difficult, it serves just as well to impoverish the rich.

AND, thus, since giving parsimony a good reputation is tough, we have decided to convert frugal into another bad word.

Vive le EMIs!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dogged by the discerning

Into everyone's life some rain must fall. The problem, though, is that when it comes to my life it falls continuously and with all the fury of a Bombay monsoon. This particular occasion, though, I intend shedding copious tears about how little appreciated I am.

You know, everybody seems to have a crowd of people who are not too discerning and, if discerning, not too nitpicking about their efforts. Probably, in childhood, when they bleated, "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" there was a chorus of people telling them and their parents, "He is the future Mohammed Rafi." When they started on A for Apple, they were the next Salman Rushdie or Chetan Bhagat as per choice. When they first got their crayons and the walls squirmed with the fear of their attentions, Picasso could take their correspondence course. When they...hmmm, you got the point? OK.

Comes to me, though, I seem to be surrounded by the most nitpicking of critics every single time. I mean, I sing a film song and out comes my audience with "On that third line, you should use the soft 'Ri'" I was not even aware that I was using ANY 'Ri', regardless of its texture but...and, no information about whether, but for that 'Ri', whatever it meant, the singing was pleasant or not. These chaps, though, count as the best of the lot, believe me. There are those who clutch their ears and run as though someone was pouring hot oil into them. Somewhere in between are the guys who egg me on to sing and then start vociferously chatting with the others as though to drown out the braying of...forget it, I am sure you know the animal which brays. So much for encouragement.

And then I start writing. Here, at last, I thought I may not fare too badly. I happily share my writing and..."In that third line in the fourth para, there is an unnecessary comma." AND, of course, not a word about how it was otherwise. THAT, of course, was from a discerning reader who actually bothered to get back to me. Else...even a stone sinks into the water after causing ripples.

You know, it beats me how I manage to find all these people and ONLY them. The ones with so fine-tuned a taste that a 'Ri' of the wrong texture or a misplaced comma completely ruins their day. Somewhat like that Princess in the fairy tale who lay down atop some 20 mattresses and tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep, because a single solitary pea under that whole stack was irritating her sensitive skin. I could do with a little less discernment in my audience but, what can I say, if you went only by MY audience, you'd think that only animals could have any lesser discernment.

What was THAT? I have had my share of people praising me? Even those who comment DO comment, they do not ignore? I should learn to count my blessings? So, when was the last YOU counted YOUR blessings? Ah...I thought so. You are currently too busy counting your curses that you have not yet got around to it? Exactly! THAT's the way with me as well.

Anyway, I am still waiting for some uncritical admiration...and it is still raining!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Low hanging fruit

There are two ways to be considered learned. One is to know things that most people do not know. The other is to talk of things in a manner that people do not know or readily recognize. You would be pardoned for thinking that all of management consists of finding out pithy terms for things that everyone knows already so that you can speak of them in a 'learned' manner.

Take this 'low hanging fruit' for example. All that the dratted thing means is that you should try to make money in the easiest way possible - something that any town drunk could have told you centuries before people had even thought about such a thing as management. Picking the low hanging fruit, forsooth!

But then there IS a reason why a pithy term for this idea became necessary these days. In the not too distant past, people were lauded for the difficulty of the tasks that they attempted. Edison did not try to corner the whale oil market and make money - he tried endlessly to invent the electric bulb and succeeded eventually. But then he did not have the benefit of a management education or, even, a management consultant. Poor chap! No Hillary would climb the Everest. Ah! No! The local hillock would do very well for 'low hanging fruit'.

Oh! Well! I know what you will say. That getting the 'low hanging fruit' does not mean that you leave all the ones higher up to the monkeys. But...consider...did we, in the past, leave the 'low hanging fruit' to the monkeys and chase after ONLY those hanging higher up? Why does it even need saying? What, the metaphor does not really mean that things are as clear? The fact that it IS 'low hanging fruit' is not as apparent? Perhaps...but then consider the consequences of the metaphor. Everyone and his uncle prowls the jungle looking for 'low hanging fruit' and disdains the effort to go any higher. If this tree's easy-to-reach fruits are all taken then it is better to search for another tree than to climb up this one. You look such a fool putting in so much effort when everyone else is merely reaching up for fruit. AND, if you are truly the guru, you blame the fruit and the tree for the fact that the fruit is NOT low-hanging!

And, thus, you have people who want books written in the words that they already know because it is too much effort to learn new words. You have citizens wanting news and analysis squeezed into 140 characters because it is too much to expect them to read a couple of pages. You have marketers who want a product that they can readily sell because it is too much effort to craft a strategy to sell a product that the customer is not already known to want. You have...well, you have a world full of people all looking for fruit to fall into their mouths conveniently.

I should have made a meme out of this...THIS sort of long piece certainly does not count as 'low hanging fruit'!

Monday, October 23, 2017

This game called Bridge

Ever heard of this card game called Bridge? One of the stupidest games I have ever heard of, let me tell you. I mean, yes, I know games need not necessarily be about real life. Like, nowadays, people seem to play about in dungeons with dragons and all, so, yes, it can get real weird with games is the thing...there ARE some common factors in know, some...human elements. But this game...this Bridge...

I mean, come on, how can the damn thing call itself a card game when winning and losing is not determined based on the luck of the draw? To be honest, though, there have been sensible people who have put in place a version of the game - rubber bridge, they call it - where the winner gets decided based on the cards that they are dealt...of course, you need to PLAY them well as well but if you are as able as the other team and you get the better cards then you won. Simple...and just as things should be.

But...there IS this thing called 'Contract Bridge' which is used in tournaments and, boy, is THAT a mind-bender. I mean, hey, these guys actually decide winners after taking out the element of luck as far as they can. Like, you and your partner play your cards and, if they are, say, the Ace to five of spades, and the other three Aces, you could bid '7 No Trumps' and sort of lay down the hand and claim a win. (What is 7 No trumps....? Give it a rest, just take it for granted that it happens. What's the point learning a game where luck does not play a part?). High points and all, yeah, but here is the hitch. There is a sort of round robin with the same hands dealt for the four seats...and your opponents here would play THIS hand against some other team, as will THOSE guys against someone else and so on and so on and the teams will be ranked on the basis of who made the maximum points with the SAME hands being played. Given THIS hand, it is only a total brain fade that will cause ANY team to not make '7 No Trumps' so you really are at par with everyone else.

All that luck of getting the best possible hand and still no victory...does that sound like a legit game or some sort of mind-f***? I mean, come on, what is this crap about how I PLAYED my cards mattering more than what cards I got? Do you ask Mukesh Ambani how he would have played HIS cards if he had started out life like you did? Of course not! Then what's this shit about playing my cards in this card game?

Things get even funnier with this damn game. I mean, there would be this team which sort of managed to top the charts and one partner would be ripping the other guy apart.

"Why did you play for the Queen in North's hand?"

"Well, it WAS there, was it not? So we got a couple more tricks and that won us the tourney."

"Nonsense! There was NO reason to know the queen was in North's hand. We would have made the contract safely without the finesse. And if the finesse had failed, we would have been down three tricks."

"It did not, did it?"

"Just luck. Any partner of mine who depends on luck..."

Ye Gods! Absolutely NO luck? You get ripped apart for trusting to luck even when you win? These Bridge players seem to belong in some fantasy world.They do not even seem to know that only losers talk of luck. Winners always talk of a judgment call, after a careful assessment of all possible factors.

Any game that respects its players only on how they play their cards and whether they played without depending on guesswork is, like, more fantastic than fantasy. It is...heretic that is what it is...absolutely heretic, this belief that you should not judge people by the results but by how well they apply themselves. 

I mean, give me a dungeon, with a dragon, to play with any day!

Monday, October 16, 2017


You know, it is difficult to imagine what the world would be like without acronyms. Especially in the social sciences. I rather fancy that 90% of the work of social scientists is devising the acronyms to capture the attention of people.

It certainly seemed that way in Management. There was this time when an 'alphabet series' was all the craze. When first someone devised 'Product, Price, Place and Promotion' as the four Ps of marketing management and it caught the fancy of the world, they set off a revolution. Soon, every single management theorist worth his salt had picked up his alphabet of choice and started on his own theory on that basis. 7 S, 9 this, 5 that...

THAT, though, is not really acronyms. Politics, especially Geopolitics...Well, the days of the cold war were full of wonderful acronyms. SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks), START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and so on. They really got the attention of the public and THAT made the citizens invested in the process. Too often, though, you DID find that your leaders thought that having devised a catchy acronym, their job was done and nothing further was needed but still...

I rather feel that this Climate thingy is suffering from a lack of attractive acronyms. I mean, take that UN nodal agency - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I can quite see Donald Trump starting off with UNF and wondering how many Cs came after that. It was not like UNICEF where he could roll it off his tongue with no-one the wiser about the fact that he was not sure about whether it was a 'C' or an 'S' in the middle. No wonder he wants OFF the entire Climate thing only to avoid mucking up with UNFCCC.

Just imagine if, instead, the UN had named that agency United Nations Framework for Using Climate Knowledge (UNFUCK). THAT acronym just rolls off the tongue. AND Trump could find it rather handy when he is caught swearing ('Oh! I was speaking of Climate change. You just did not hear that UN there'). It also leaves the issue delightfully vague as to what use you would put the climate knowledge to, leaving the back-door open for a retreat. Of course, it intrigues the common man, if any such exist. He starts wondering about how one could undo an act that everyone thinks of as irreversible. THAT creates a climate where...err...climate can be discussed.

You need to devise dinky little acronyms for the actions of the agency as well. Like, say, Polluting Industries Suppression Strategy (PISS). Or, to take another example, Crackers Reduction Universal Drive (CRUD). Or, even a proposal for nations to act upon - Suppression of Harmful Irritants Tariff (SHIT) and, possibly, a Suppression of Nitrogen Oxides Tax (SNOT).

Can you not see people discussing on the streets like this...

"CRUD, I think, is a necessary accessory to PISS"

"I think that SHIT is an important adjunct to PISS"

"SNOT, I think, should go hand-in-hand with SHIT"

There you go, make the thing popular and you get a buy in from global citizenry. But the UN seems to have totally lost the fine art of creating acronyms. Or, maybe, they just do not realize that social re-engineering is ALL about proper acronyms.

No wonder, the world is knee-deep in shit (the non-acronym version) on this issue of Global Warming!

Disclaimer: Please do not read a Trumpesque disdain for Climate change into this and uncork vituperation. IF I can write self-deprecatory humor, I CAN make fun of my own stands on social issues, too.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Freedom of Speech

I wish I had been born a generation later. So many things have changed for the better for the child that it would have made a tremendous improvement to my childhood experience if only I had not been born too early to take advantage of it.

"Suresh! What is Boyle's law?"
"It explains why milk boils over while water does not."
"Wrong answer! Stand up on the bench."

And, being born too early, I had no choice but to stand up on the bench for the entire period. Now...ah, now I could have told the teacher, "You cannot punish me for exercising my freedom of speech."

How handy it could have been in inter-boy relationships too. AND on the consequences of the inevitable ructions that occur in such interactions.

"I love Chess, Suresh"
"Namby-pamby! Only cricket is worth any interest."
"I understand that. Chess requires brains after all"

I smack that guy for restricting my freedom of speech and the issue, obviously, gets escalated up to the parents.

"Why did you beat him?"
"That #@&! said that..."
"Suresh! What have I told you about using swear-words?"

AND when I get spanked I cannot even tell my parents that using corporal punishment to restrict my freedom of speech was a grave violation of my fundamental rights.

Not that it would have been any help with parents. They WILL bring in the fact that I smacked that guy, too. Parents really have no grasp of nuances. Have you seen that? They do not understand, that when I smacked him, it was in defense of my right to speech whereas when they spank ME it is a contravention of mine.

What was that? This freedom of speech thing that I hear of is from ADULTS? Not children?

Come on, they say it when someone is only saying that what they say is wrong? Even when they  speak of 'freedom of speech' when all that they need to do is prove that they are right?

They are really adults

How can that be? I mean they say it even when someone is merely disagreeing with them. Since when have adults thought that disagreeing with them is tantamount to stopping them from what they want to say?

They. Are. Really. Adults.

You are joking, right? I mean, like they are on Facebook, in groups that give out a mile long list of what they can say and cannot say and do not consider THAT a restriction on their fundamental rights. But, if someone opposes what they say on that someone's own post, they remember their constitutional rights?


Oh! All Right! If you say so...

Though I must say that what you have been doing so far is a restriction of my freedom of speech!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Argumentum ad populum

THIS should certainly have got the academics into hot water. I mean, 'Vox Populi, Vox Dei' (The voice of the people is the voice of God) after all and these guys have the gall to say that to consider something correct because it is the popular belief is a logical fallacy? Come on, did anyone bother to get their brains examined?

They really need to be reminded of Galileo. Everyone KNEW that the Earth was the center of the universe, so obviously it was true. And, yet, that chappie persisted in putting the Sun at the center of the solar system and look what happened to him. It is a different thing that, once everyone started believing that the Earth was NOT the center of the Universe, God changed things around to make THAT true. After all, Vox Populi Vox Dei...or, in this case, the action of Dei.

Never mind, though. God still has human beings as the center of the Universe...everyone says so. And THAT shall BE true till such time as everyone starts believing otherwise. As though we would. Anyone who dares say that we are NOT the center of the Universe will be hounded out of life, unless an alien species conquers us.

To more mundane things...Everyone KNOWS that we shall ALL benefit as long as we all pursue our own goals to the exclusion of everyone else's. THAT is what keeps the wheels of commerce running and that is absolutely important for the world to keep spinning on its axis. Till some day the wheels come off...

What beats me though is that, nowadays, people do not all seem to believe in the same things. But, never mind, we have what are called 'echo chambers'. Everyone who believes otherwise than we do is cast away into the outer darkness viz blocked, unfriended, whatever, and we are surrounded by people of whom we can say 'Everyone believes as I do'. That is, indeed, the ideal world to live in...and some day we shall enter the outer darkness and exterminate those vermin.

It is surprising though that people say that this is a logical fallacy - that to believe that what everyone 'knows' is necessarily true - and that they have proof that will Trump our belief. As though any proof ever can! Vox Populi IS Vox Dei, after all, and even God cannot make us believe otherwise!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Survivorship bias

You know, there are some things that seem so apparent when someone says it but never as clear when it happens in real life. Take this 'survivorship bias' for example. It is a widely prevalent logical fallacy. Like all logical fallacies, this too is one of those things which you nod wisely when you hear of it while going about committing it with gay abandon.

"You know I think that jumping off the sixth floor is not at all fatal"
"Why do you say so?"
"Well, everyone I have met, who has jumped, is still alive"

I was flabbergasted. I mean, come on, faced by something like that too many questions jostle your mind for you to be coherent. How many such people could he have met? How did he meet even one? AND how on Earth did he expect to meet someone who had NOT survived?

THAT is the easiest example of the 'Survivorship Bias". If the only people you meet after something like that are the ones who survived, how can you draw a conclusion from that?

By now, you are all nodding and finding it funny that ANYONE could draw a conclusion like that. Let us try another one on you.

"I think you can easily make money playing on the stock markets."
"Yup! I met some twenty people in a stock market seminar who knew nothing about it before and have been making money on it for the past five years."

Nice. You are the next Warren Buffet. But...if 80 other people had also started off at the same time and become bankrupt do you expect to meet them at a seminar on the stock markets? Obviously, you did not also pursue your research with the beggars at the traffic lights. (Exaggeration, of course, but then separating a writer and exaggeration IS tough!) Could it be survivorship bias...those who survived and thrived DESPITE not knowing anything about the stock markets?

"Bill Gates is a school drop-out and look at him. I think your chances of being hugely successful is better without education."

Really? AND how many school dropouts have you studied other than Gates?

"To become a successful writer you do not need to know good English. Or even be a reader..."

Ye Gods! Now, go back to the first example and STOP laughing at THAT guy!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Argumentum ad baculum

Academics are such spoilsports. If you find an easy way to do things, they find a way to tell you why it is wrong and why you should not be allowed to do it. Of course, not that what they say stops you from doing what you really want to do know, it is sort of nice to also have people applauding you for doing things and these guys get in the way of that.

"I think this movie is the best that we have ever seen."
"Because I will smash your face in if you do not agree."

How nice to get your way without long dissertations about the stone face of the actor, the mumbled dialogues and all the rest of it. But no...they call it a logical fallacy...'argumentum ad baculum' is the phrase they use. AND, as you know, someone throws a word like that you are too flummoxed by the phrase to even come back at them. Of course, they do it from the safety of THEIR homes, else you could bash some sense into them.

Argumentum ad baculum apparently means an appeal to force...that a conclusion has to be accepted because the consequences of not accepting will be...err...detrimental to your health. Though, yes, it could also mean detrimental to you in some manner other than health, as well.

Not always is it that straightforward. There is this prevalent anti-Muslim rhetoric that has a hold in the hinterlands of India.

"These people are dangerous. We need to impose population control on them."
"Why so?"
"They have this plan of producing so many children that they will become the majority and again rule over us."

Conspiracy theories of this sort are always an appeal to force. Accept this conclusion and work accordingly or the consequences will be horrendous.

Then, of course, every single blind believer is fed on a pure diet of 'argumentum ad baculum': Allow women to wear this and that is the death of our culture; Allow people to do that, and that is the end of our Nation...

Such a useful philosophy for the leaders of the world. AND the academics HAVE to get in the way.

Never mind them, though...NOW they are being taught to understand that argumentum ad baculum can be used on THEM as well. So, yes, soon you can expect to see this mentioned, not as a logical fallacy, but in the list of supremely logical methods of debate!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Tu quoque

(There seems to be a promo by Amazon of my book "A Dog eat Dog-food World" which has been made available at about 25% of the list price. So, for a princely sum of Rs. 29/= you can possess and read the ebook. Click on the yellow book-cover to the right)

Have you wondered why common things tend to have uncommon names? Or get referred to by uncommon, rather hifalutin terms? Must be because telling it in an everyday manner makes it sound so...ordinary...that saying it does not get you those oh-what-a-genius looks. AND, of course, really being a genius is sort of beyond you.

Take this one for example. Sounds like a logical fallacy that only an expert would come across or understand, right. 'Tu Quoque'...roll it round your tongue. Feels important, does it not?

THEN, consider this...

"You better buckle down and study every day, sonny! Life is competitive and the earlier you learn that the better."

"But, Grandpa said you never opened a book through school except when forced to..."

There are times when you wonder why your parents never get off your case. Just as you thought that, at last, they had lost their hold on your life...

Now, if sonny thought that studying every day COULD help him in life but YOU were preaching what you yourself did not practice - somewhat like knowing that a controlled diet is important for good health even while laughing at the fact that the guy who was preaching it was known to have a meal every hour on the hour - well, if sonny thought THAT, then you do not get to roll that 'Tu Quoque' off your tongue. For there is no flaw in his logic in calling you a hypocrite...though, yes, you would get back with "Do as I say, do not do as I do".

The problem is when he decides that the advice is incorrect because YOU did not practice it. In other words, if the chap who is putting forth a point is hypocritical enough not to apply it in HIS life it does not necessarily invalidate the point. To consider that the hypocrisy of the one who proposes a course of action necessarily invalidates the correctness of that course of action is the 'Tu Quoque' fallacy.

Of course you could simply say, "Just because the preacher is a hypocrite, you cannot consider what he preaches to be wrong". But then, that sounds only like common-sense. Say 'Tu Quoque' THAT practically shrieks of Wisdom!

Monday, August 28, 2017


I have always been a big fan of living life vicariously. Real life is so damned messy. I mean, it is much easier to do things vicariously - people behave in predictable ways when it is all in the mind. You know, like parents can go all gaga and support love marriages on movies cos they know that, there, the guy IS a good guy, the girl is a nice girl and all the rest of it. No need to worry their heads about what sort of hooligan their daughter is bringing into the family. In real life, though...

So, yes, it is rather nice to live the life of a spy through James may not get to woo the girls yourself but then you do not have to get beaten up either. Not to mention that Bond may love 'em and leave 'em but in real life you may be saddled with a breach of promise suit or in-laws...either of which may not particularly be as interesting as they seem when you read of THEM.

True, I may not really mind the 'jaunting across continents and sailing on my yachts' portion of a business tycoon's life. The problem, though, is that you also have to run a damn business, fend off politicians and competitors, deal with employees and recalcitrant machinery...the whole mess of actually doing business. Unless, of course, you generally gallivant around the place and run away to London when your business goes down the flush. How true that life would be much more fun but for the other people in the world! So, much simpler if you live THAT life vicariously, too. Then your chap can have all the hell of dealing with scheming friends and disloyal spouses while you pump your fists at his victories.

The thing, though, is that I generally do a halfhearted job of even this vicarious life or so it would appear. Yes, I like the vicarious highs of pulling off victories in cricket or badminton but am unable to make it so much a part of me that if the team loses I feel that they have disrespected my nation and go around throwing stones at their houses or hurling abuse on social media. Or, perhaps, it is just that I am so used to living a vicarious life that I get the experience of doing even these things vicariously.

But my real failure is in setting goals. I mean, I do not seem to be able to vicariously pick what I ought to like from what other people seem to like. In what passes for my brains likes and dislikes form of their own when what I ought to be doing is pick that also up from outside. Keeps me out of sync with the rest of the world since I cannot convince myself that I really LIKE designer labels or Italian food or whatever it is that others like.

Perfection is not given to mortals, alas. And I seem to be more imperfect than most. So, now, you can all enjoy the joys of being imperfect...vicariously!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Life is like this!

Fate does play some scurvy tricks on you. I mean, you do know that sort of thing. You visit someone's house along with friends, the meal is...err...the sort of thing that you have to swallow like medicine with copious draughts of water and one of your friends makes fun of the cooking. You, later on, tell him off for being rude and hurting the hosts. AND, the very next time they come home for dinner IS the one time that you burn your rotis and double dose the salt in the biryani. The whole lot of them then think, and some say, "Ah! So THIS is why you were so worked up the other day when we made fun of Smita's cooking? Because you knew that you could handily beat her in the bad cooking competition."

You can keep screaming till Armageddon that your food is normally something that people queue up to eat and that you made that comment the other day ONLY because it was rude but...All you can do is blame Fate for it, you are never going to change the minds of people about why you said what you said on that day...that it was not meant as a self-serving statement.

Not that you did NOT want the same treatment for yourself, mind you. It is just that you did not INTEND that as a means to GET that for yourself. But just try convincing people of that...they will only say,"So, you really do not mind it if we rubbish your cooking in public? Ha!" If you say you do not mind it, there will be laughter like a herd of horses being told a joke. If you say, you do but you did not say it that day to serve your purposes, the house will reverberate with boos and catcalls.

So, now, I am just fresh off screaming about 'Unsung geniuses' and how people ought to sing their praises while they are alive...and, presto, there is this thing coming around - the Indiblogger Awards. I did NOT know this was coming, I wrote that in the heat of the moment in the aftermath of the death of another person I know, and then...well, I am no genius but here comes the need for people to let me know IF they like my writing and, if they do, how much. So, yes, I am kicking and screaming that I did NOT write that for THIS purpose (NOT the 'Pakkatthu Elaikku Payasam' in Tamilian parlance - and, for the non-Tamilians, I am not the chappie who wants the sweet dish but thinks he will be considered greedy if he asks it for himself and, therefore, calls for it to be served to his neighbor. Anyone who knows me will find it ridiculous to even consider the fact that I may not be greedy). YES, I DO want to know. Writing in a vacuum is a brain-numbing thing, when there is NO feedback about whether what you are writing appeals or not. I CAN understand, though, that people may NOT have the time OR the words to write about each post I put out.

THIS time, though, it IS but ONE comment...and generically about my writing. IF you did like my writing, you can make me very happy by clicking on this poster below and saying so in the comments THERE.

Yes, you CAN comment here but THAT will only tell ME. So, if you liked my blog enough to tell so to others as well, please comment THERE.

The Indian Blogger Awards 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

Unsung geniuses

There is a story that once the Goddess of good fortune - Sridevi - and the Goddess of misfortune - Moodevi - appeared in front of a Brahmin asking him which of them was the more beautiful. The Brahmin was frightened. Obviously, he wanted the former to stay with him but, if he called Moodevi beautiful, Sridevi may get angry and go away from him. The problem with making Moodevi angry was not that she would go away but that she would not.

And then he had his Eureka moment. "O Divine Goddess Sridevi! You look the more beautiful when you are coming. And O most awesome Moodevi! You look the more beautiful when you are leaving." Which pleased both Goddesses and, of course, they wanted to appear at their most beautiful to the Brahmin and thus...

Anyway, I remembered this tale thanks to some recent incident. About many people singing paeans about an unsung genius. That has always been intriguing to me - what IS an unsung genius?

I mean, yes, I am hearing people singing of him, which is why I at all know about him, so how is he 'unsung'? AH! You mean he was unsung while he lived and all these songs are getting sung ONLY after he passed away? Somewhat like Moodevi's beauty, his genius shines through only after he is gone? Else, you could well have sung it all when he was alive and made him a 'sung' genius!

To be sure, there is a lot of static in the world...and even those who genuinely sang his praises while he was around could not be heard above all that noise. Especially because the mikes are thrust into their faces and the loudspeakers are at full volume ONLY after he has passed away, so in his lifetime their voices are as effective as a lark singing in a gale-storm. In other words, media gives you space for it only when it becomes NEWS!

There is also that other thing. It is easier to praise someone dead. HE is no longer competition...not necessarily in your own field but generally in what we call success. It makes you feel all warm and selfless when you do it, without the concomitant niggle of finding him grow bigger than you and having yourself compared to your detriment with him.

Of course, it also very difficult to acclaim a genius when he is alive. Much easier to pull down someone since, after all, perfection is only given to divinity and, being ordinary mortals, there will always be some imperfection in our work to peg the criticism on. To praise - especially against the run of things - is to prepare to defend any and all such imperfections and it takes a very courageous and confident person to do that. Much easier, again, to praise after someone is dead...Nil nisi bonum and all that and so there will not be many who will oppose your praise then.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is also something in the way that humans are wired that to add to the stature of someone they do not know, even when it costs them nothing, seems like profligacy. We can be all praise for people we love, and people we call our friends, where we feel the likelihood of shining by reflected glory but a rank stranger? "What is in it for me?" Except, of course, when the rank stranger IS already celebrity when we will gladly add ourselves to the fan following, talk of how you KNEW he was a genius even when he was sucking on his all-day sucker...

The words 'Unsung genius', 'Unsung hero'...anything with that damn 'unsung' in front sticks in my throat. It is a matter of shame that there should be a genius or hero or whatever and he should BE unsung. There is something very wrong about the rush to sing it in the Obits, especially when the first time you raised your voice in song IS in the Obits. It is a black mark on Society that it has failed to recognize and reward its geniuses...and lost not only what they could have offered but also lost ten others who may otherwise have followed their footsteps.

Yes, all of us have our lives to lead and so, yes, we probably do not have the time to render compositions in praise of others. Fine...but why waste the time in the hypocrisy of raising an unmusical ruckus after the chap is dead, when you couldn't care less about whether he was alive when he was?

It is, maybe, that we prefer to keep them unsung so that we can all proudly sing in chorus when they die...

Monday, August 7, 2017


It's a strange world we live in. Very happy, almost deliriously so. Log onto to Facebook and you see people leading such brilliantly happy lives. Going by the pics, we prance around in pristine environments, we deck ourselves up like ramp models before entering the kitchen, we prepare food and serve them like celebrity chef contestants, we go to lovely restaurants with such wonderful friendly company - in short, life is a 24x7 delight. Not exactly the sort of life where catharsis has any role to play, really. After all, one wants to regurgitate nasty smelly things which stink like rotten food, not that fluffy french pastry that you had for dessert. In other words, you want a cathartic experience to rid yourself of grief. Whoever heard of someone hankering to rid himself of joy?

On the other hand, though, going by what people like to read...well, dystopian fiction seems to top the list. I mean, give us a world where leaders model themselves after Hitler, businessmen love to behave like a cross between Scrooge and Voldemort, friends measure your back for the precise location to push the stiletto in and spouses enjoy the process of making your life miserable while making out with the neighbor - in short, any book which describes the world heading to hell in a hand-basket and we cozily curl up with our beer and popcorn, and prepare to enjoy it. Now is that because our lives are so great that we need a break from all this monotonous joy - in our reading at least? A sort of catharsis for happiness?

Or - an earthshaking thought, this - is it because that there IS a world outside Facebook? Are we blessed few a joyful minority in a sea of hell-bound people getting dragged along into the maelstrom of sulfurous smoke? Haplessly and, thus, needing to rid ourselves of the grief that lies beneath our current happiness by reading of others in similar trouble?

It has always surprised me, this idea that the best way to deal with your grief is to read of other people in even greater grief. The 'I bemoaned the fact that I had no shoes till I saw a man with no feet' syndrome. I mean, really, come on, do you love a guy who gets happy because you are in trouble? Even if he kindly explains that it is not merely the fact that you are in trouble but that you are in worse trouble than he, himself, that makes him happy?

Me - I do not get any cathartic feeling this way. Far from feeling, "Ah! But I am better off than that guy", I get to thinking "Oops! And I thought nothing worse could happen to me than what has already happened," and start worrying about losing what I DO have. Which is why I prefer reading non-dystopian fiction. THAT way, I can always think, "Ah! So Life is not ALL thorns. There CAN be roses, too."

But, then, I have always been a screwed-up sort of guy. Like, when people set up idols, I do think I have to make the effort to measure up to them, instead of the normal process of immediately checking their feet for even microscopic deposits of clay and saying, "Oh! They were not all that good, after all." Missing out on the chance of feeling that blessed catharsis from the guilt of being less than you ought to be.

Maybe it is that problem of not being able to cry for yourself for fear of being called a whiner. Switch on that mega-serial and ostensibly cry copious tears for the heroine, who seems to have the knack of inviting trouble for herself in perpetuity.

It IS cathartic to rid yourself of the burden of gloom and grief. But to go in search of greater gloom and grief in order to do so...well, you know all sorts of things strike me as funny!

Monday, July 31, 2017

If Then Else

Now that the IT sector is swamping us all, it seems like people also love the 'life' of a computer/digital device. I mean, it is a rather stress-free life if you could work your way down a flow chart and come to a decision. Well, it seems like most people think that it IS possible to live like that. Not that they are a new species, there were always a few around, but they seem to be proliferating nowadays. AND, like the dinosaur, I and my ilk will probably have to make way to this new vigorous species that can make up its mind based on 'If Then Else'.

There is no issue - economic, moral or political - that fazes these If-Then-Elsers. All they need to do is apply it to their decision tree and, presto, they know what to think. The simplest of these options is this one :

IF 'My leader supports this action on this issue = Yes'
THEN 'My Opinion = This is the best thing to happen to humanity since the invention of the wheel'
ELSE 'My Opinion = Only a nuke hitting you directly on your head can be worse'

There...decision taken. Though, you should understand that this satisfies only the simplest ones. The more sophisticated If-Then-Elser would have a more detailed flowchart to deal with. Like checking if his leader is neutral and, if so, whether the action is supported or opposed by a leader he hates...things like that. But, end of the day, get a few 'Yes/No' answers to a series of questions and you have an opinion. None of this stupid reading up on the issue and cluttering up your mind with unnecessary information.

In one thing, my times were great. On one subject, there WAS only one If-Then-Else

IF 'Job offered = Yes'
THEN 'Action = Accept'
ELSE 'Action = Starve'

There was none of this, "Is this the best job for me?"; "What are my prospects?" and all that angst. But THAT is only a consequence of lack of choice so it is not a great advertisement for how we were experts at If-Then-Elsing.

So, it is not like we had this total confidence that the following If-Then-Else was a sufficient mantra to guide us through life.

IF "Enjoyment in doing X > Enjoyment in doing Y"
THEN "Action = Do X"
ELSE  "Action = Do Y"

Rather a handy and nifty way to make choices, one would have thought. But, we antediluvian chaps...

"X does seem better than Y but are we sure that we have looked around for all options? Maybe there is a Z or even a A, B or C..."

"X seems better TODAY. But...I mean it should not turn out like that time when I went to a movie instead of Rahul's wedding, because I liked going to a movie better. AND now...not just Rahul, but Varun and Sushant also have ceased to be my friends. If I had known..."

"Well, it seemed so much fun to shoot coke up the nose, so I chose to do it that day. Now..."

AND the worst of the lot is when, "Ah! X does seem more enjoyable, on second thoughts Y may be better...but, then, I am forgetting that X will give me this that Y won't...but...."

So, there is the problem. It has nothing to do with not being an IT chappie - in fact it is not necessary to be an IT chap to be an If-Then-Elser OR the vice versa - it is just like I have said often before.

It is only the new model of human that is better equipped to handle all this.

Monday, July 24, 2017


There was this exciting sport which used to be practiced by Italians, more specifically attributed to the Sicilians, called the Vendetta. Apparently, if some chappie took it into his head that another chappie was just the person needed to complete the Heavenly Harpists group and decided to send him there with the benefit of the lupara or some such...well, the entire family of the newly-made Harpist would take it upon themselves to add this guy too to the Heavenly Choir. Some families, apparently, took a more wholesale view of the issue. They would feel that the maker of Celestial Harpists would do a better job of being a Harpist himself if he had his entire family along with him. Accordingly, they would pledge to send all of them to join their own dear departed in torturing the Harps of Heaven and sending angels flying in every direction to avoid the cacophony.

Legal luminaries across the world, either because they are not musically inclined or because they prefer the music to be played here rather than up there, frowned upon this sporting endeavor. Or, perhaps, it was a problem because it could not be marketed like other sports. After all, the other sports worked, eventually, on the basis of personality cults. I mean, come on, if every tournament threw up a different winner and, even, had a wholly new set of participants do you really think that you could get to be interested in it? Where would tennis be if Federer could win only one tournament in his lifetime, as would Nadal, as get the point. This Vendetta game is somewhat like win one, you become the target of your victim's family...till you are dead and your killer becomes the target of your family...well, where is the fun in that? And all that the players would be good for is to endorse how much funds can you raise from endorsements from Undertakers alone to keep the sport going?

So, for whatever reason, legal luminaries sort of stomped down on the sport. Apparently, though, it still thrives in secret but...well, if it cannot be televised or discussed threadbare on social media, it may as well not exist, right?

But you cannot keep a good idea down, can you? Even if it has to morph a bit in order to keep in with pesky laws.


"This idea is unsound and illogical..."

There goes that vile chap who just attempted the murder of the idea that you and your friends espouse. "VENDETTA", we all scream and...

"It is a pity that your father and mother met the one time they did..."

"A face so ugly that even a mother cannot love..."

"What did you use to blackmail your teachers into passing you out of school?"

"You have friends? Which gutter did they crawl out of?"

"So you took time out from beating your wife and raping your children and came here to talk nonsense about our ideas?"

The Italians and Sicilians were milksops. I mean, come on, their son is killed and all they can think of is kill the killer or at best his whole family. We, if he even dares touch our ideas, we can convert him into a bastard born of a one-night stand, ugly as sin, blackmailer from childhood...we rewrite his entire history from birth onward; vilify his whole family and friends and neighbors and servant maids and the person who takes out his trash; denigrate his clothes, his car, his choice of pet and even the lamp-post opposite his house; in short, we can make him know what a fate worse than death really is.

Those guys who lay claim to the parentage of vendetta would do well to take our correspondence course on the subject.


Monday, July 17, 2017


I am slowly realizing that if something does not have an e-avatar it might as well not exist. That, though, is not likely to be a fate that Narcissism will suffer. In fact, it is quite likely that it IS Narcissism that drives all of social media interactions. At least, it is that way with me.

I mean, come on, I did not start blogging - which is where I started off with my social media voyage - because I thought of a blog as some sort of a private storage space, a sort of external memory storage, for my thoughts. Of course, I was there preening about how well I write and wanting the world to echo my thoughts. Self-absorbed? But then what did you expect of me? To not be narcissistic?

The problem, though, was that everyone else in the world (of blogging, at least) was also too busy preening to watch MY feathers. So, it was like I had to go and admire other people's feathers so that they could, in turn, come and admire mine. You know what, these others, they are such dumb creatures. Instead of understanding that their function in the world was to come over and admire me they seemed to think that I existed to admire THEM! Such self-absorbed narcissistic people as I had never expected to see.

And then I came upon Facebook. Here, at last, I could find myself an appreciative audience. I showcase my brilliant thoughts, throw out quips by the dozen, and find no takers. What the hell was wrong with these guys? Then, I realize that the same damn thing was wrong here as well. I mean, this preening all day is sickening I tell you. If people cannot take time off to be entranced by MY preening, they must be too selfish for words. Back to the old grind, again. At least, it cost less effort here to go admire others. In blogs I had to read them and give 'meaningful' comments. Here, a 'Like' sufficed, though some were too narcissistic to be satisfied with them...they needed comments, too, greedy folks that they are.

And, meanwhile, all these chaps think I am fool enough to be taken in by just 'Likes' on my post...especially my blog posts. As though I did not know that you could scatter 'Likes' like confetti without even being aware who had posted what. I mean, if they do not even write a comment...

As you may well be aware, I had not risen to the stratospheric heights of being 'Shared' as well. Well, to 'Share' is human, to be 'Shared' is divine...and everyone seems to aspire to divinity rather than humanity! AND they say there is something called Twitter and other such media, each of which would have its own equivalent of how to let someone else know if you admire their preening so that they may watch you preen in your turn, hopefully.

Apparently, there was this chap called Narcissus who caught sight of his face reflected in a pool and fell in love with it. Every time he tried to touch his 'love in the waters', his love also leaned towards him but vanished as soon as he touched 'her'. He kept pining for her till he turned into a lovely flower of the same name.

I rather think that if I do wither away like that guy, I may end up being a noxious weed. Though, from the 'Likes' I get when, rarely, I post a pic of myself one would think that I was as handsome as that fella Narcissus.

No wonder the world of social media is so Narcissistic!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Flummoxed by reviews

You know, I never really wanted the world to look up to me. I was quite content if it did not look down on me...well, even if it did, as long as it kept the opinions away from my awareness, I was fine. What can be more modest than that - just asking to be left alone? But, no, even that is too much to aspire for, apparently.

Well, you see, I read books (What else does one read? No need for the sarcasm - there are newspapers, cinema hoardings, advertisements, user instruction pamphlets...). Harmless and certainly not an area where I thought I would be facing anyone bothering to look down on me. And then..."Ah! You say you read thrillers and have never read Baldacci? Tch! Tch"; "Hmm! Ok, so you read Ludlum and Clancy and all those potboilers. Fine. Anything better than that?"! (I have said this before? So? You do not repeat yourself, often? No? Well, you cannot expect everyone to be as peculiar as you.)

And then people told me there were such things called reviews. You could read them and get to know what books to read and all. Sort of guidebook to books, you know what I mean?

And, then...

"....if only the author would not keep writing tired old tropes...."

What was that? I would not know a trope, whether tired and old or young and energetic, if it bit me in the nose. How was I supposed to make out whether this book was good to read?

"...the author almost manages to bring to life, with words, Daliesque scenes..."

What the hell was that? I go searching for enlightenment and discover that this Dali chappie was someone who messed around with paints. What had that got to do with books? Oh, you mean it gave the same sort of feeling to read the book as when you see Dali's paintings? Yeah, I feel the same way whether my cousin shoves the scribbling of her dear daughter in my face or someone drags me through the irresistible urge to escape. So, how does that help me understand the book? Am I supposed to be a connoisseur of paintings as well in order to understand which book to read?

I really think it is not as bad as a friend caustically said once, "Reviewers forget that they are supposed to inform you about the book and not about what they know about everything else but the book." He was of the firm opinion that they sought to highlight their own knowledge and not what you ought to know about the book. Not true, I think. It is merely that people feel special when they use the jargon of their profession, they feel 'professional' only when they do it and, as a consequence, they end up writing reviews that only other reviewers can understand. Or, maybe, there are these beings called discerning readers though, to me, it appears as though they will use up all their discernment in just understanding the reviews. I must be wrong, of course, I usually am.

So, then I think perhaps the readers who give opinions will be a better bet in getting to know if a book is worth reading. The process though reminded me of Wodehouse. Writing from America, about the new wave of movie Westerns, which believed less in the six-shooter and more on the analyst's couch, he says that the Sheriff calls in the town badman, psycho-analyzes him and discovers that the reason why he holds up the stage, robs the bank and shoots up the Malemute Saloon on Sundays is because someone deprived him of his all-day sucker at the age of six. I needed to do something like that to find out what these reviews said of the book, too.

For one, "I could not engage with the characters" could well mean, after analysis, psycho or otherwise, that the reader did not like the fact that the female character wore stiletto heels and the male character sported sideburns. I may be averse to sideburns but may not think that necessarily disqualifies the person from being a protagonist. As for stiletto heels...let it be, as it is I get bashed up without having male-bashing added to the list.

And then, "The heroine...she is so sexy, I loved the story". Ye Gods! THAT's like loving the movie merely because Sunny Leone features in it...the sort of movies she features in THESE days, I mean. I know that 'fans' is a word that is merely a short form of 'fanatics' and there are such who will follow their darling star through any trash that they may act in but to have that happen in books too?

Anyway, you will now realize that I am still reading any and every arbitrary book. Look down upon me all you will...I am done with reviews.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Ladders everywhere

I must have some sort of vertigo, though it does not seem to be the conventional kind. I mean, I can climb up ladders, literally, and even look down upon the ground. Yes, there is that dry feeling in the mouth and shivers down my spine and all that. I certainly would not prefer to cross over to the next building on a tightrope but, get this, my head does not start spinning nor do I feel the pressing need to end it all by taking a swan dive into eternity. But THAT is only when it comes to physical ladders.

The problem with the world is that it is too damn full of metaphorical ladders. You run into them the moment you hit school. (You probably run into them even before on the "Oh! Your Chintu started walking only at xx months of age? My Montu did it in xx-2 months" basis but, at that time, your parents do not get on your case, berating you for your tardiness in toddling around the house breaking glasses). School...Ah! 'Look at Kumar! Always comes first, scores 90+ in all subjects. You...Even if I total up all the marks in all the subjects, you do not equal his score in one subject' These, of course, were the days that grades had not come into the picture though, I am sure, there is an equivalent of this even now. So, there you were, bemusedly wondering about the fact that people saw you squatting on the lowest rung of a ladder that you could not even see.

By around the time you got ready for college, you HAD started seeing those ladders too. IIT - top rung; Medicine at JIPMER/MMC - top rung with a strong case for putting it a notch above even the IITs; NITs next rung and so on till you reached the abysmal depths at which you were positioned. By then, of course, I had developed a definite aversion to these ladders, considering that it seemed like whichever rung I occupied was the last possible rung in everyone else's opinion.

About the time I joined the ranks of the wage slaves, I found out the ultimate bitter truth. Life was a perpetual ladder climbing expedition. You never got off it. You could only fall off it and be stamped upon. First, you are on a ladder of a starting salary comparison, slowly you are on another ladder where your position relative to batch-mates/friends/relatives and the man on the street was important; then, of course, it is position in WHICH company; then your lifestyle; then the sort of people who you know and who know you, then...

Well, sitting at this end of seeing a job as only a way to earn money to eat, drink and be merry, I was lost in the bleak contemplation of an endless life of being the play-piece on an infinite Snake and Ladders board. THAT is when I developed that vertigo, this swimming sensation in the head, the pit of the stomach nausea and an irresistible desire to take a swan dive into eternity.

AND then I realized that I could just refuse to climb them...pile up enough to suit my modest needs and walk away. Which I did.

AND I thought I was safe. Books, I thought, were safe enough a refuge and nerdy book-lovers a solace from all this endless ladder climbing.

"Ah! You read John Grisham and David Baldacci? No Murakami, no Paulo Coelho...Tch! Tch! AND you do not like Rushdie..."


"If you have not delved into the layers of meaning in the Kafkaesque prose about an Orwellian universe..."

Now, what was all that? I thought the damn thing was a good read. What the hell is Kafkaesque prose and is this Orwellian universe a flat Earth universe or a Copernican one or dangling on strings or afloat in quantum foam?

"What? You only know that you liked the book? Come on, you should be able to tell me whether it ranks for literary quality with a Jane Austen or depth of characters with..."

Ladders here as well! AND, as usual, I am on the bottom rung!

Does being descended from monkeys mean that we should be climbing something always? Ye Gods!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The humor writing business

Making people laugh is no laughing matter. Someone should have told me this before I...oh, wait, a lot of people did but, as usual, I never take advice that runs counter to what I want to do, like most other people. Until, of course, not taking the advice sets your...err...fundament on fire and THEN I berate the people around me for not insisting on my taking their advice.

Let me please clarify a bit. Making people laugh without tickling them, I meant. (You mean that should be obvious since no-one has yet developed a e-tickling APP? You really do not know the absolute weirdos that you can come across in Social media. Even God would stoutly refuse to acknowledge them as His creation. Of course I do not mean you!) I had no idea what problems I had invited on my head when I blithely decided to write humor.

You see, the first thing about writing humor is that you have to hit bull's eye every time. I mean, sure you have written a moving tale, and the reader looks sad as he reads it. You automatically assume that your writing has moved him to sadness when, possibly, he is only sad because he has been forced to read it. No such chance of getting good vibes with written humor, though. I mean, come on, a guy pulls a long face as he reads it and you can think he is laughing his ass out? It requires more imagination than I possess. With other genres, ‘somewhat tragic’ and ‘somewhat thrilling’ works as a compliment. Somewhat funny? THAT’s a kiss of death. You, what, sort of say “Ha” and stop trying to laugh?

On top of it, you yourself can find almost nothing funny when you read it after you wrote it. Like, say, when is the last time you laughed when you remembered the entire joke as soon as someone started telling it? Except politely, of course, as can happen when it is your boss telling the same joke that he pulls out every time in a party, ever since he joined office in the days of Aurangzeb. It is the unexpectedness of the punch-line in a joke and the descriptions in dry humor that makes it funny. AND for it to BE unexpected to the guy who wrote it, the guy has to suffer from the Ghajini-style memory loss, which unfortunately is not one of my mental afflictions. So, there you write it laughing all the while, read it dead-pan and put it out wondering whether it is really funny or not...

To face up to no reactions. You sort of feel that, maybe, people read and enjoy it but do not always think to write and let you know that they did. But, you know, THAT seems like the same sort of thing you used to tell yourself when you were infatuated with the class beauty. Just because she was smiling when her eyes encountered your face (in stunned, disbelieving and nauseated surprise? Not really. I, of course, refused to see all that!), you delude yourself into thinking that she loves you madly and devotedly...till the day she crosses the road to avoid you and spits at the sight of your face. So, yes, having made a habit of deluding yourself...

Then you put out a humor novella. People known and unknown buy and praise it...but all too few it seems to you. You salve yourself thinking that people just like things for free and do not like paying...and there is this nagging feeling inside that says that, even if people do read you, they read you only because it is for free but do not think that it is worth paying for. So, what is the worth of your writing after all?

But, then, yes you have been listed in the Top 5 humor blogs in India by Blogadda. Perhaps there ARE a few who do laugh when they read your posts. THEN you find that Baggout has listed your blog in their Top 13 humor blogs. It gives you a lot more pleasure, because you had not even been aware that they were into any such exercise and that your blog came to be considered not because of any action of your own...except writing it, of course.

And then when, equally as surprisingly and without effort on your part, your blog gets listed in the Top 100 funny blogs and websites in the No.55 in a list that includes staffed websites and You-tube channels...

There MUST be something right about your writing after all!