Monday, December 31, 2018

Friendship defined?

Udukkai izhandavan kai pole; aange idukkan kalaivadhaam natpu - Tirukkural

A true friend extends help in need with the same instinctive speed as your hand stopping your robe from slipping off you in public - Loose Translation

That is one metaphor I really love. I mean, you can really GET what the chap means. Like, if you were wearing a towel around your waist and have to answer the door and the towel starts slipping off, it is not like you have to issue a request in triplicate to your hands saying, "There is nothing on below the towel and there is this delivery boy in front of me, not to mention the auntie in the opposite house. It would be embarrassing to have the towel fall off now, so kindly go over and hold it in place." AND, of course, have a return reply, saying "This is an automated reply. Your complaint has been registered. Our service representative will be in touch with you shortly."

No, the moment the towel shows signs of slipping off, and even before you have seen who is at the door, your hands are holding the towel in place. So, Tiru says, that a true friend is one who helps you with the same sort of instinctive speed, not waiting for you to express your need and seek him for help.

No, I really don't think that he meant that, when you press 'Like' the moment you see it is your friend's post, you are being a true friend. That sort of instinctive speed can be a problem, especially if the said friend has put out a message saying his mom is ill, say. The point is about doing the help that is NEEDED at the moment, not just any action. Like, it is not really the time for the hands to toss off the towel, as it would be if you were preparing to dress.

Pretty demanding on the friend, though. I mean, it requires both a continuous empathy and observation for the friend to realize WHEN you are in need of help and WHAT help is needed. More often than not, it is not like YOU understand HIS needs naturally. Like, you may stuff yourself with sweets when you are hungry, he may be a diabetic; you may laugh off some issue and the same issue may cause him to feel suicidal. To see the world from his point of view, to do what HE needs, whether or not YOU would need it in his place - that is tough.

But then, whoever said that being a friend is easy. I mean, like if all you had to do was keep liking and commenting on social media posts, you could maintain thousands of friends, easily. (And lose them as easily, if you are sick for a week and unable to do all that? Yes, of course.) Tiru probably had a more demanding idea of friendship.

You know, what? THAT's the sort of friend I love, really!

What about me? WHAT??? You mean you expect ME to be that sort of friend? Ye Gods!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Destructive speech?

Yaakaavar aayinum naakaakka; Kaavaakkaal sokaappar sollizhukku pattu - Tirukkural

Control your tongue even if you control nothing else; Else your ill-said words will come back to bite you - Loose Translation

When I first heard the first part of this, I was shocked. I mean, I LIVE for my tongue, for the taste of all sorts of food and this...thankfully, the second part kicked in. The man was only talking about speaking, not eating! Thank God!

Or, perhaps not. Diplomacy and I have ever been strangers, the former skulking out of sight whenever I appeared on the horizon. You know that story, the one about the King calling in an astrologer who predicts that all his relatives and friends would die before him? Thrown in jail for giving that terrible news? Followed by the second astrologer who predicts that the King would live longer than all his friends and relatives and is rewarded handsomely for being the bearer of such wonderful news? Yeah, I'm sure you have heard of it. Well, that first astrologer...he reminds me of myself so much that I shudder every time I hear that story.

But, yes, I do understand that this is not one of those things where Tiru's advice is dated. I mean, you actually can give offense just because you are not careful with your words even when you had no intention to hurt the other person. Like, say, saying 'Your work is error-free today' and leaving the other guy feeling that on all other days you were going mad correcting his errors. And, then, there are all those times when you shoot from the hip and repent later, taking offense where none was meant, and creating life-long enmities where silence would have allowed a small misunderstanding to blow over in no time. It is not like you can just say, "Oh! I am short-tempered and say things that I don't really mean" and expect it to sort out the issue. Your subordinates may have to act like they believed you but...well, just think how often YOU have believed it when your boss acted so?

And, then, later when it comes to bite you back you start feeling all outraged and rant at the world for not controlling ITS tongue! 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ideal forgetfulness?

Nandri marappadhu nandrandru; nandralladhu andre marappadhu nandru - Tirukkural

Never forget a favor; immediately forget any injury - Loose translation

This thing about gratitude really vibes with me. Who does not like receiving a benefit that one had no right to expect? And a favor is not something that you have bought and paid for, and can complain to customer service if you do not receive it. To forget favors received is to take them for granted, as something that you receive as your right - somewhat like the Government collecting taxes and hounding you if you fail to ante up.

But that other part - this forgetting injury the very same day...that seems sort of crazy. You know, like that 'good man' of yesteryear movies, who is cheated by someone, takes him back and signs over a power of attorney to him thereby becoming an overnight pauper. Yeah, seems like the sort of thing that made being good the same thing as being too stupid to live.

It is not so, apparently. Or, at least, Tiruvalluvar was not particularly inclined to be giving moronic advice. So, it is not like he would be asking you to forget the past villainy of people, give them a knife and turn your back on them, trusting them not to test the sharpness of the knife by pushing it between your shoulder blades.

What he was saying is, probably, more the normal things that break up friendships and cause schisms between loved ones. Things like a harsh word in an off-mood, or not coming over to an important family function, not showing empathy when you needed it (or not Liking your social media posts, not Sharing your Instagram pictures...? You mean it matters that much to you? Well, then, that too.)...stuff like that which you keep trotting out every now and then in your mind, every time you feel that you want to resent the other person. Tiru feels that it is best to forget it the same day, if not the same hour, instead of carefully storing it in a corner of your mind and taking it out and viewing it like it is some beautiful piece of jewelry which you wish to rejoice in, over and over again.

It is things like this which make me wonder whether Tiru really belonged to the Human race at all. I mean, we all know that Humanity is known for its irrationality. We know how happy it makes us to remember people being good to you and how it painful it is to remember people hurting you - and, so, we duly forget all the good that people did to us, and remember with absolute clarity every nuance of when we were hurt by people. And this chap actually thinks that people can do the reverse and choose to be happy.

Or, perhaps, he did not. After all, nobody goes around telling people to breathe because it is important to do so in order to live. You only give advice when you know that people are not already doing it.

And, as with all good advice, people nod in acceptance and duly pass it on. Without ever applying it themselves.

As I am doing now!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Love only supports virtue?

Aratthukke Anbu Sarbenba Ariyaar; Maratthukkum akdhe thunai - Tirukkural

The ignorant think love is only a support for virtue; it is also a support for ridding yourself of your vices - Loose Translation

You know what, this chap Tiru really had ALL his marbles. In his time, at least, and for quite a few decades after that, this 'destroyer of vice' thing has been of great use for all the so-called 'bad boys' of the world. Or so, at least, popular literature would have had me believe.

There was this thing, then, about women preferring to love the 'bad boy' because they wanted the high of having their love 'redeem' him. How true it is I would not know, never having been a bad boy OR having had a woman in my life. And, yes, I was also of the 'ignorant' who thought that love would support the virtuous, though my definition of virtue was rather elastic. Alas, even so, it probably did not get into the really interesting territory of being a 'bad boy', perhaps!

If that is true, this idea of women loving bad boys because their love can then be a destroyer of vice, I suppose that the bad boys of the day had strong reason not to be redeemed. I mean, yeah fine, so the love kicked in to destroy their vice but, once the vice was destroyed, could they bank on it to stay on to be a supporter of virtue or not? If not, what was really the point in losing both the vices and the love?

But, yeah, all that in popular literature is probably so much gas...and patriarchal, let me say before others jump on me screaming it. Tiru was not all that much into this sort of exciting speculation, nor does his life history say anything about his wife Vasuki marrying him to 'redeem' him.

So, it is more than likely that what he means is that if YOU love a person, as in really love which means that you really take pleasure in making that person happy rather than in seeing what they will do to make YOU happy (Yeah! Think mothers and their children, if you find it tough to think that of spouses), THAT love will ensure that you not only stay virtuous but will also cause you to rid yourself of your vices. For your virtues and your vices will also reflect, in the eyes of Society, on those you love, even when they do not directly affect them (You know the sort of thing - she is that thief's mother, that drunkard's wife...things like that).

Well, he was living in more ideal times, of course. At least in his mind. It has been ages since your virtues or vices had anything to do with your social standing.

It is all about money, now!

Monday, December 3, 2018


I have discovered that the thing that is screwing up our happiness is mirages. You know, like that thing which appears like water from a distance, and, when you get close, you discover that it is the same damn sand that you had been trudging on all along.

In life though, this trick is played across time more often than across distance. I find that, when I am planning to do something the next day, it appears so exciting that I am all keyed up to get cracking on it. When the next day dawns, though, the same damn thing appears so tedious, so boring that I get keyed down (if I may coin a phrase) in a nanosecond. And people think I am procrastinating, when I have only been deceived by a mirage! Yet, somehow, the same thing appears as exciting when I think of doing it the next day. Life really plays scurvy tricks on you.

It is always like this, though, and I think for everyone. When I was a kid, I could not wait to get to college which seemed like a real cool place to be in. When I got to college, it seemed to be such fun to be earning your own money with the freedom to do with it as you please. I sort of cut short the next couple of steps - you know, that nice feeling of belonging and stability that seemed to come only with marriage (along with other things) and, then, that lovely feeling of being a parent with kids who looked up to you (the most deceptive mirage of all. Kids? Looking up to parents?). Then, you looked forward to the peaceful feeling of retiring from the rat race. Once you did that, what do you do? The mirage thingy does not seem to work as attractively with the total peace of the grave, so you look back and yearn for the innocent days of childhood. Life, I tell you! The bloody thing always shows such wonderful images...but only when you are distanced by time from it.

It is not just this. You look ahead and think how happy you will be once you get a two-wheeler. Then you get the two-wheeler and find that what you actually need for happiness is a car. You get the car and find that what you need really is a bigger car. now, you know how it goes.

If you are really unlucky, you can suffer a bigger shock. Like you work your butt off to become a surgeon, always dreaming of the joy of becoming one, and discover that this was not what you wanted at all and you really would have preferred to become a rocket scientist. Or, you dream of becoming an author, with fans stampeding to buy your books and mobbing you for autographs only to find that you have a tough time proving that you even wrote a book and have to go around begging door-to-door to get people to read it. Mirages, I tell you!

There is one mirage, though, that never let me down. Or, rather, it is not a mirage when you see water from a distance and it really proves to be water, is it?

I always thought I would love to be able to laze around all day and, boy, I do!