Monday, May 29, 2017

How I stayed a bachelor

(My very first guest post on another blog, long ago. Now reproduced here)

“Just tell me what sort of girl you want to marry. Leave the rest to me”

When I looked at myself in the mirror in the morning what looked back was certainly not something that girls would be queuing up for the chance to marry. In fact, as Wodehouse could say, it was something that girls would probably run a mile in stiletto heels to avoid marrying. What gave my aunt the confidence to make a promise like this beat me especially since she had not even a nodding acquaintance with electoral politics.

I was young then, folks! Now, of course, I realize that it is one of the regular party games in South Indian weddings. The aunt, whose worst nightmare would be to really have to find a girl for the good for nothing misshapen gargoyle in front of her, has to act as if finding a match for her nephew was her only ambition in life. The good-for-nothing misshapen gargoyle, whose fondest daydream is to be able to hoodwink a girl and family into considering him an adequate bridegroom, has to act as though the very thought of marriage was anathema to him. It was a game with serious hazards – for the aunt. If she failed, nothing was lost. If she succeeded, however, she had a choice of either actually finding a girl or disguising herself as a flowerpot every time her nephew or his family hove to on the horizon.

Even if all the other descriptions applicable to the nephew also applied to me, the one thing that did not was that intense desire to make the life of a girl miserable by ensuring that she woke up to my face every morning. I am coming on all too altruistic here. It is not really concern for this unknown girl but concern for my own self that made me feel not inclined to marrying. Make no mistake, I like women and love all the positives that people associate with marriage. The problem, however, was that if I married I would have to work! Now that was too high a price to pay!

Meanwhile I have this aunt to deal with and a whole gaggle of relatives on the sidelines eagerly watching the match(-making!).

“Well! I want a beautiful, intelligent, rich, talented, considerate and loving girl”, I said.

“Good! Good! We will soon find one”, said my aunt, though the sickly look on her face belied the enthusiasm of her words.

“But, then, if she is all this and will marry me how can she be called intelligent? And if she is not intelligent, how can I marry her?”

That gem of logic gave me the game, much to the relief of my aunt! In fact, with that one single piece of logic I have successfully fended off all efforts at getting me married. There is, certainly, one girl in this world who owes me a huge debt of gratitude!!

Monday, May 22, 2017


"Vinu is weak in Maths, Rohit. I think we need to send him for some Maths tuition"
"As though that is going to jump his marks up from 40% to 100%. And improve his Physics, Chemistry and Biology scores from 60% to 90%"

Yeah, Right! And the wife was probably thankful that he did not want the Maths tuition to make Vinu bat like a Tendulkar, bowl like Shane Warne and field like Jonty Rhodes as well. (Yeah! I know...old fogy, so dated comparisons. Thank your lucky stars that I did not start on acting like Dilip Kumar and all that jazz!)

There are these guys who have no other job than to hunt around logical fallacies and give them a name. Given that human beings operate more on fallacies than on logic (Remember the number of times people have smugly smiled at you, after uttering some totally idiotic gem of illogic, and touted their victory in an argument? So there), these chaps probably find 24 hours per day too few to be going on.

Anyway, they have managed to get around to this one. In fact, they claim that our man has managed to hit two related fallacies in his one piece of dialogue. First, he sees the tuition as useless if it will not jump that performance from 40% to 100%, as if jumping it to anything less, like say 90%, is hardly worth the effort. THAT, they have named the 'Perfect Solution fallacy' - that if the solution does not eradicate ALL the problem, then it is not worth it. Like, you know, not cleaning your house at all unless you can be sure of ridding it of every single speck of dirt.

AND, not content with one piece of illogic, our man has gone on to attempt an entry into the Guinness book of world records with another. Not only should the solution be perfect for THAT problem, it should eliminate ALL related problems or it is not worth it. THAT they named the Nirvana fallacy. (WHAT? You saw the title and expected me to talk of how the soul achieves...You been here before? Yes? AND expected it of me? Ever considered going to a psychiatrist?)

Essentially, the chap, who holds onto the Nirvana fallacy closer than to a lover, prefers no solution rather than a solution that will not bring about instant Nirvana. Somewhat like not cleaning the house at all, even if you will rid it of every speck of dirt, because it will only get dirty the next day anyway. Unless a solution can be found that will clean the house and ensure that it will never get dirty, let no-one try ANY solution.

In a land of quick fixes our man is a lone lamp of perfection. And, these idiots will ridicule his attempts to make the world perfect by calling it names?

But wait...

"The pipe to the kitchen sink is corroded and is leaking, Rohit. So is the bathroom pipe"
"Get me that M-seal..."
"Why do you always go for these jugaad solutions?"
"Come on. You want a magic solution to all problems? You know what is wrong with you? You suffer from the Nirvana fallacy."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Follow the Leader

You know what, every time you really enjoy something, there is always some spoilsport who rains on your parade. But this one really took the cake. I mean, all of us know that the world's favorite pastime is 'Follow the Leader', so you would have thought that no-one would dare point fingers at that. Goes to show that there is nothing really safe and dependable these days.

There you are comfortably assuming that if your leader says, 'Sugar sucks', you can count on it to 'suck'. AND, if later he says that what he actually said was 'Suck on Sugar', you can be sure that it is YOU who misheard him. In other words, you are sure that just following your leader will lead to Heaven on Earth and straight to Heaven after death - if, that is, your leader will allow your death to happen. And then there is this foolish notion in a science that some idiot calls 'Logic' which talks of something called 'Authority bias'.

Apparently, when your revered leader says something and, of course, you KNOW it is right, then you MAY be suffering apparently from 'Authority bias'. THAT you take something to be right only on the strength of your leader saying so is biased thinking; that the leader can be wrong (horror of horrors!) sometimes, or even all the time. Of course, they do say things about any authority - like your teacher, your religious book or whatever - but you do know that all that is only a snide attempt to hide the fact that they are trying to make you disbelieve what your leader says.

The next thing they will do is that they may ask me to believe that the other stupid fellow, who claims to be a leader, can be right at times or even all the time (Oh! You mean they already have? The perfidy of these people). The hell with them. If they do not know my leader is always right, we will beat the idea into their heads!

Literally! THEN they will develop their own Authority Bias or whatever they call it!

Monday, May 8, 2017


Life is just one problem after another. When I was young, people expected me to acquire knowledge; now that I am old, they expect me to impart knowledge. Ah! No! Not on the basis of teaching the young about the ways of the world. The way things have gone, it is the young that teach the old the ways to today's world, from the language up. (Seen that auntie making a cartoon of herself with her 'Yo' in that Dettol ad? Bad student of her son...)

It is that other thing that people think the old may know, the purpose of life and all such deep things. Or, maybe, it is just that they are thrown in the company of the old and don't know what to talk to these senile idiots and pick on this topic. However it goes, you end up getting asked all sorts of crap and you have to make out like some sort of guru...

The problem, though, is that since childhood you learned nothing. Your brain seems seated safely behind some totally impermeable membrane and allows no knowledge to sully its pristine beauty. Makes it rather tough to spout knowledge when there is none to spout. Like the optimist who opens the municipal tap in India and expects water to come out...

It is not for want of trying, I assure you. All my life I have been thinking and thinking of this thing - what is the purpose of life? What is the best way to live life so as to achieve that purpose?

"Hey! Coming on a trek to the Himalayas? Will be great fun?"
"Nope! I need to figure out what the purpose of life is...and whether going on treks will help me achieve that purpose?"
"Eff it, yaar! Enjoy yourself. As long as you do not hurt anyone, it is a good life."

Hmm! How do I know I am not hurting anyone? Maybe, because I am trekking, someone in Somalia may be deprived of a meal...Chaos Theory, you know.

"Hey! What are you doing wasting your time? Take a course in programming..."
"I need to figure out what the purpose..."
"No time to talk with you. I need to rush to the leadership seminar..."

Ah! This is the man who is going to set the corporate world afire...Should I opt for...but is that worth it?

"Are you meditating? Good. The spiritual life is the only real life. Everything else is Maya."

Ah! Perhaps he is right. But this spiritual thingy...even if you are sure that this is the thing to do, you cannot assess whether you are progressing. You have to take it all on faith. If only I had enough faith...

I studied and studied and studied...and before I could come to a conclusion on what I wanted to do with my life, there was hardly any life for me to do anything with.

And you want me to give you messages on how to lead your life? What do you think I am, a messenger boy? Find it for yourself. For only you can find it for yourself.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Serve my neighbor

There are these wonderful social lessons that most people in my generation learned in their childhood and applied effectively all their lives. Something, though, always seems to go wrong in the works when I try to apply them. Story of my life.

Take this 'Serve my neighbor' thing for example. It is more pithy when I say it in the Tamil original - "Pakkatthu elaikku payasam". Literally, it means 'Serve kheer to my neighbor' and it generally is meant as being used in a festive occasion when a huge crowd is being fed simultaneously.  The intent of using that phrase is to say that you do so to ensure that YOU get more of the sweet dish and not because you are worried that your neighbor at the meal will feel deprived. (I know, that the current generation probably finds it a quaint idea that you cannot ask for it for yourself if you want it. My generation, though, felt it would appear too greedy on your part to do so, especially when you had to scream out aloud for what you needed, with a crowd listening in.)

Even in the literal sense, it never really worked for me. I mean, the idea was to call for the payasam for the benefit of the guy sitting next to you and, when the server came around with the dish, you could ask him to serve you, too, sotto voce, without letting the entire world know of your sweet tooth. Everyone around me used it very effectively but when it came to me...

The first time I tried it, the idiot next to me screams that he has diabetes and he certainly does not want any more of it. The second occasion was entirely my fault. I tried it without noticing that the guys sitting on either side of me had finished their meals and walked away, leaving no real neighbor to be pining for the payasam. The third time, the server came like a whirlwind, served the indicated neighbor and was nearly 100 meters away before the words, "And some for me, too" traveled the distance from my vocal chords to my mouth.

Given this track record of failure when I tried this thing literally, is it a wonder that I could not use it to any great effect when I figuratively applied it? Like the time I was making the case on Facebook for why people should comment on blog posts when they like it. I thought people would understand that it was also indicated that they comment on mine (primarily meant for that? Shhh!). SO many people came around to 'Like' that post and agree wholeheartedly with it that I was ecstatic. As it turned out, though...Well! My fault for not realizing that all those people meant that they should also GET comments, not that they were agreeing to GIVE them.

Needless to say, it works the same way with books. The plight of co-authors so moves me - that people would spend their money, read and review books by known authors, even if only to pan them, while the newbies would have to keep pleading for reviews even after giving away free copies; and all the while would also talk of how new authors had to be encouraged - that I post a plea on that. And find, as usual, a lot of people loving the post usual, it is all authors who only want to GET reviews - not GIVE them. (What about me and what I do? Stick to the point, will ya? I don't like all this whataboutery!) Where o where is the serving that I expect to get out of it?

But, then, I am expecting too much of the poor chaps. I mean, much though they like my writing, even clicking on a link to read my writing tires them so much. So, how can I expect the poor chaps to open a link, pay money to buy the book, open the link again and leave a review? When they only want to rest content after praising my writing, when it is free and easier to access! So, yes, maybe this 'Serve my neighbor' is pretty unlikely to help even other people so I cannot really blame my peculiar abilities for why it does not work for me. Where it has worked, it probably has only because they were people who were the sort to do it anyway.

There is this friend who tells me that the whole problem with me is that I make it too obvious that my intention is only to help myself. Somewhat like screaming 'Serve my neighbor' while violently gesturing at MY own plate. Maybe. If acting abilities were being distributed when I was getting made, I probably was snoozing around then and missed my quota.

Considering that, anyway, I am not good at this 'Serve my neighbor' business...