Monday, December 30, 2019

Here it comes again

There is this peculiar phenomenon about these special dates - birthdays, anniversaries etc. They do not always affect you the same way as time goes on. Ah! No, no, I shall leave marriage anniversaries out of it, having no experience of it. If you expect me to say that you start out feeling 'Time just flies when you are happy' on your first anniversary; getting lambasted for not remembering it on your fifth; wondering how you endured so long on your tenth and so on, you are sorely mistaken. THAT I have done before and, this once, I shall refrain from exercising the privilege of my age by repeating myself. (I already have? Did not think you noticed.)

Take birthdays for example. You start off being blissfully unaware, except for the fact that you get new dresses and sweets on the day. Then you eagerly count the days to hit the teens, as though being called a teen is like being conferred the Nobel prize. THEN you eagerly count the days to becoming a major, whatever that means. After that it is all downhill.

When you near thirty, you are sort of indifferent to the age, except if you, like me, have started losing hair or find that your hair has got bored with its native hue and wants to change to silver. Even then, it is not like your birthday is specifically the cause of concern. Near 40, you start sighing. Yeah, I know, people chant 'Forty is the new twenty' and all that but THINK. Did you feel the need to say 'Twenty is the new ten' when you neared twenty or would you have been furious if someone said that to you? At that time, twenty seemed more desirable than ten; NOW twenty seems more desirable than forty which is why you like to fool yourself into thinking that, maybe, you can continue to think of yourself as being twenty after all.

Fifty arrives and, around then, you are more worried about the aches and pains in your body, your increasingly 'powerful' eyes and sundry such things to really bother about the age. Sixty and above, if you are lucky, you will remember your age. Or, perhaps, you have too much trouble even remembering your name to even bother to try and remember your age. Anyway, around then, you have come full circle and stopped bothering about your birthday.

And, so, with this New Year! You start off only thinking of it as a celebration. Around your twenties, you suddenly want to get on with life, whatever it means, want to improve yourself, whatever THAT means, and so you start making resolutions to improve yourself. By around fifty, after decades of religiously making resolutions and breaking them before you are done with the hangover, you stop making them, more especially because you have realized that, if you have not yet STARTED on becoming a Saint, there is no way you are going to get to where you can place orders for your saffron robes before your children have to organize a shroud for you. So much for improving yourself by resolutions!

Or so it should be. Me, I find that I am mentally (retarded? No, thanks, that's not the word I was looking for), still 30, so here the year comes and I fret about the resolutions I need to make.

Ah! Well! It does not matter anyway what I resolve. I'll break it anyway by Jan 2!

A Very Happy New Year 2020 to all of you.

Monday, December 23, 2019

How not to preen?

Ever noticed this strange fact? Whenever people start advising you about how to conduct yourself in Society, it seems like they just love telling you about the manner in which you are NOT supposed to do things. Well, if there is ONE right way to do things, it stands to reason that there are likely to be a million wrong ways to do it. Would be easier, one would think, to just tell you the right way instead of telling all the wrong ways that you are not supposed to do it in. And they are not even getting paid by the hour for it, which could account for their wanting to prolong the lecture, but still...

Anyway, though I HAD been told not to preen at all, they went further and told me at least one way of how not to preen. Matter of abundant caution, I suppose, just in case I decided to go ahead and preen anyway. (Perhaps, too, they realized that, like all such advice, it was too idealistic and would only be observed in the breach.)

So they told me, "Never show off what you know, especially by way of correcting other people's mistakes." I nodded solemnly, took the advice to heart and applied it in life.

Of course, you know how it goes. Where there is an advice, there is always a counter-advice. So, they also told me, at a different point in time, that a good friend is not one who always agrees with you but will criticize what you are doing wrong so that you become better. (Yeah, THAT happened when I went raging to them about the friend who made fun of the fact that I could add 2 and 2 and bring about a different result every time I tried!)

I did not want to preen the wrong way and, at the same time, I wanted to be known as a good friend. THAT was a muddle which I never really resolved. When Facebook happened, I thought I had found out the way at last. So, when someone made an error in his Facebook post, I diffidently knocked on his door, metaphorically, on messenger, and said, "I say, I think you made a typo. Instead of typing East you have North in your post, where you talk of where the Sun rises. Could you correct it?"

I hardly got anyone clasping me to his bosom, calling me his dear friend, for all that. The more I interacted on Facebook, the angrier I got about all the wrong advice I had been given in my youth, marring my social prospects. I found that it was quite OK to point out mistakes in public to rank strangers, even ones who you would never want for a friend if the two of you were the lone occupants of a deserted island. In fact, if you were the first to criticize a 'mistake' on someone else's post, even if YOU are the one who is totally mistaken, you got a reputation of being knowledgeable.

Essentially, because I took that advice about how not to preen and stayed silent in public, I ended up being a nonentity with everyone totally confident that I knew nothing worth mention. To think that I could have been feted and respected if only I had gone around correcting people left, right and center!

It is never too late, is it? So, the next time someone put up a post saying, "Off course one of my friend found it difficult to reign in his tears when we lost the match", I pounced on it. "That sentence should read 'Of course one of my friends found it difficult to rein in his tears...'" I commented, sure now that I had made a good start to making my reputation as a knowledgeable person.

And, then, to my entire consternation, I found one of the acknowledged wise men of Social media replying to my comment saying, "There is nothing worse than know-it-alls correcting English on Social media". Ye Gods!

Apparently, you can correct people in the names of birds, in their interpretations of books, in their knowledge of Cricket...well, almost everything under the Sun. You can do it politely or rudely, even call the person a nitwit, and it is all perfectly in order. The one thing that you CANNOT do is correct people's English, however politely.

How was I to know? Alas, there goes my chance of impressing people! About the only knowledge I have nodding acquaintance with IS English!

Monday, December 16, 2019

To preen or not to preen?

You know this thing about 'reading between the lines'? THAT's the one thing that God forgot to put in when he was making me. Or, maybe, He just did not realize that it was even necessary. I mean, He was probably the sort of chap who believed that what is said is what is meant to be shown in action as well. And, in THAT particular thing, He made me just like Him (Alas, not in any other, more useful, facets). And sent me out into a world where some things were said and meant; some things were only to be said and not followed; some things were to be acted upon but not said; and so on. And not even a rule-book for you to learn which fell in which category.

Take this preening thingy, for example. I was told, "Never boast about yourself or your achievements. What you do should speak for itself." I nodded solemnly and took it for gospel. And what happens? I enter the corporate world, do what I do and never talk highly of my own contributions. The word spread alright, among all those who had more than enough work to spare. "Psst! There is this idiot, who is quite competent at working but fool enough not to claim credit for what he does." AND I had people queuing up with work for me. Where the word did not spread was to those who had the goodies to distribute - salary increases, promotions, what have you. So much for religiously adhering to that advice.

The funny thing was that the dratted thing does not work even with those who GAVE me the damn advice. I mean, they ask me about what I do at work and I say, deprecatingly, "Nothing much. Just sort of push papers around, you know." And, far from thinking that I was actually pretty important at office and only adhering to the advice not to boast of what I was doing, they just took me at my word. And, thus..."I am sure you will have no problem picking me up at the Railway Station at 2 PM. You can push those papers later at office." Whereas a cousin who claimed that his office went into mourning whenever he took a couple of days off was treated with kid's gloves. "Would it be convenient for you if we landed up the next Sunday at 3 PM?" and things like that were de rigeur when it came to him. So much for looking down on people who boasted of their achievements or importance.

The problem was that deciding to preen was easy for me. The hassle was that I really had no training in how to do it. You do something difficult at office, it is no help galloping around the place, screaming "I done it! I done it!" THAT gets people to look at you askance and think that you were making tall claims. There is a certain ability to quietly claim credit, even for things that you just happened to witness when you were on the way to the water cooler, in a manner that makes people believe you. An ability that I have hunted for in my psyche in vain. Instead of telling me not to boast, they should have been training me in this. But, then, when is the last you ever heard anyone admitting that THEY made a mistake. (Of course, THAT is another thing they advice YOU to do while carefully avoiding it themselves!)

What I do not know to do, I advice YOU to do. Learn when to preen and when not to preen. AND, above all, HOW to preen. Or else...

Monday, December 9, 2019

Preemptive illogic?

"You will never really be a success, you know that? You believe anything you hear. Like, for example, you believe logic works."

By now, you know that there is a friend of mine doing a free psychiatric evaluation of me. Though he was not exactly doing a miraculous act of prescience, a la Nostradamus, in predicting my future success, considering that I am already in my mid-fifties and have shown no sign, yet, of setting the Ganges on fire. (Bellandur Lake? NO! THAT was not my doing!)

Yet...I mean, you'd still have that curiosity about why, don't you, if it had been about you? I did, too.

"Well, what is wrong with that? Logic, after all, should work."

"Logic in discussions? Arguments? Come now, are you mad? Those people who swoop down on you, blaming you for logical fallacies - ad hominem, straw man etc. Tell me one who never uses it?"

I cast my mind back. Nope, could not find one in the near future. Way back. Way way back. Way way way...

"Not one, huh? You'll not find a single one. In fact, check it out and you will find that the guys who jump on you for it are the ones who are the first to use it on you."

Huh! Not so, not really. I mean, there were some who did, of course. But there were those who have never called me an idiot or a moron or whatever. In fact, these so-called friends of mine do it a hundred times a day and twice on Sundays but...

I said as much.

"So, they do not use ad hominem, huh? As in, they do not say 'You are a fool if you believe that nonsense.' But have they ever said things like, 'Beliefs like that have always swayed those who neither had the ability nor the inclination to assess the truth'?"

Hmmm! I suppose they had. But so what? It was not ad hominem, was it?

Saying that to him unleashed a furious assault.

"It isn't? You bloody nincompoop. What he was saying is essentially 'You are a stupid, lazy idiot, too blind to see the truth, if you believed that.' And you think THAT is not ad hominem? Is that an argument about why that belief is wrong or about what sort of person you are?"

Put that way, of course...

"Discussions and arguments are always won by the person who is the first to be nasty, the first to apply illogic. Especially since most arguments are about things where both sides are partly right and partly wrong. YOU, with your logic fixation, will always be on the losing end, appearing an ineffectual victim to everyone. How then can you succeed, when people will be reluctant to side or support a anything?"

For a moment, I was carried away by a righteous indignation.

"THEN it is about time I started changing."

"Too late for you. Unless you are nasty by nature, wanting to win even if you deeply hurt or insult an inoffensive person, you cannot do it at the right time, or in the right way, or for long enough to win arguments. So, forget it."

I'd have been forlorn but for the fact that I recollected that I was in my mid-fifties anyway and there was no real point in pursuing what people would call success. I loved my leisure more than the opinions of other people, as witness the fact that these are my friends, always full of 'friendly' advice, and I am still what I started out being.

"Besides..." he said and stopped.

That dratted thing which killed the cat reared its head. (Curiosity, in case you were wondering.)


"Well, go down that road and, in time, all you will have around you are other nasty people. You are better off without it."

Yeah, Right! Like I did not have them around me already, even without the benefit applying preemptive illogic!

Monday, December 2, 2019


This loophole business has always had me flummoxed. Whenever I have heard that someone had found a loophole in a law or a procedure of the government, it has always been in admiring tones, especially in corporate circles. The chap was a veritable hero, an intellectual giant to be looked upon with awe or envy, depending upon your nature.

As I understand it, if you want to do something and check out the laws and, if you find that the law permits you to do it, that's merely business as usual. So, when you read the law and identify that the government has no problem with your doing what you seek to do, you cannot join the exalted circles of those who have found loopholes.

So, what gives you admission into this exclusive club? It is when you know that there is a law that has specifically been put in place to make it illegal to do what you want to do that you should lick your chops and go through the clauses of that law to find the goldmine of a loophole. If you find it, create a way in which you can exploit it, and manage to do exactly that thing which the government was trying to ensure that you do not do, why you are a veritable Einstein and the envy of all your colleagues.

So, what's to be flummoxed about, you ask? Suppose there is a security system in a bank and you find a loophole in it and rob the bank. You may well be a genius to your other colleagues in the business of ensuring that banks are not overburdened with cash. You cannot expect Society at large to give you a medal for your accomplishments, though. Nor does the hacker, who finds loopholes in cyber-systems and steals data, find himself the darling of Society (except as a whistle-blower, I suppose, in which case his motives are supposed to be altruistic.)

And, like the naive innocent that I am, I assumed that ingenuity in subverting the legal intentions of government, in order to benefit yourself, would invariably lead to the person being considered immoral. (Even I am not naive enough to assume that it will invariably lead to punishment!) In other words, you may seek and exploit loopholes in laws, you may even benefit from it but the last thing you should want to do is boast about it because it should lead to social aversion to you.

What do I find, though? You DO boast about it, others praise you for it and, if you do it successfully and often, you may even get a Padmashri for it. It is as though it is a contest between you and the government, the government doing its best to not allow you to do something, and you doing it despite the government's efforts. Upon your success, the government is supposed to wryly smile and congratulate you sportingly. If, on the other hand, it retrospectively plugs the loophole and takes you to task, you AND Society get outraged at such unsporting behavior. As though it's all a game of T20 and the law was not made with the interests on Society in mind and your exploiting loopholes is not subverting the Social needs that the law was ostensibly put in place to safeguard.

Is it a wonder that I am flummoxed?

Truly the Law is...err...a law unto itself!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Misused sayings

If there is one thing that can be guaranteed it is that anything that can be misused will be misused. That applies to sayings as much as to anything else. The thing, though, is that there are sayings that seem primarily to be misused, especially these days.

Take this Tamil sayings for example - 'Aindhil valayathadhu aimbadhil valayumaa?'. Literally, it connotes that what is not flexible at the age of 5 is unlikely to be flexible at the age of 50. Originally, it probably was meant to tell kids to learn as much as they can, develop mental and flexibility, while they were still young, because it would become more difficult to learn with age. It, also, probably was meant to excuse the old for not being able to learn newer things. But why would someone use it to ridicule or discourage any old person when (s)he is trying to learn something new? Yet, there are those who do it. This saying, though, has not yet achieved the exalted status of being primarily misused...yet!

And then there is this 'Money cannot buy happiness' thing. The purpose of that is to say that merely pursuing money will not lead to happiness. What sort of moronic brain would think that it also means that 'Lack of money does not cause unhappiness'? Yet, apparently, it is being increasingly used to tell the poor that they ought to be happy because they do not have money. I find it difficult to believe that most people genuinely think this way but what do I know? Human irrationality is unfathomable.

The one saying that apparently has reached the exalted heights of being primarily, even exclusively, misused seems to be 'Handicap is all in the mind' as applied to people who have a physical handicap.

A handicap obviously imposes limits. But, then, you do not need to have a physical handicap in order to be limited in the options you can pursue. If you emit sounds like the mating call of a male donkey every time you open your mouth in song, your chances of being the next Mohammed Rafi is, to put it mildly, close to Nil. If walking to the water cooler makes you hold your sides and pant for five minutes, Usain Bolt need not feel threatened by you. And, yet, you do not feel that you are fated not to succeed nor, indeed, do you think any the less of yourself for that.

Which, precisely, is the point. That a physical handicap may limit some possibilities but the concerned person should not let that get in the way of his success. It is to convey THAT that we use this saying - Handicap is all in the mind; AND to say that seeing such people as useless is a handicap in YOUR mind. But, nowadays, I believe that the tendency is to use it to mean that there is no real problem for them because they cannot see, or hear or whatever. It is all in their mind! Now THAT is an attitude which would qualify you as mentally a more rational world.

The way things are going, I'll need to adopt the other saying. 'Speech is silver; silence is golden'. Till THAT one gets messed up, too!

Monday, November 18, 2019

A modern Utopia?

"I want everyone to be able to have food, clothing, shelter, education and medicare", said the Humanitarian.

"So be it! Let the brains of the world unite and work to that end", commanded the Lord of the Cosmos.

And long labored the brains of the Cosmos. Yet, amongst them, there was dissent about how best to achieve it. And, of course, about what was in it for them.

"There needs be recompense, lest the brains remain idle rather than work to the benefit of all", said the King.

"Yes, your Majesty! AND, of course, without profit who shall set up and operate these organisations?" quoth the Minister.

"Be it so. Let the fruits of their labors be sold at profit to those who can afford them"

And time rolled on. Mightily strove the brains of the world and wonders were created. Those who could afford sought more and more conveniences. Those who set up organisations chasing profits saw more in providing those conveniences than in providing food. AND thus...

"What do we do if the Lord asks us for progress? Most people do not yet have bread." wailed the King.

"If they have no bread, let them have free WiFi", said the Queen.

"They cannot afford dresses or houses, either"

"Give them affordable data", said the wise Queen.

"Education remains a dream to them."

"Give them free entertainment."

And thus it was.

Long and hard, day and night labored the world. WiFi was free, data was almost free, entertainment was cheap, the world was a paradise. AND, still, the masses carped about what they did not have, mundane things like food, instead of counting the blessings which the wonders of technology had provided.

"Is there no end to the demands of these people? Has thou a solution?" demanded the King of the Minister.

"A wise Roman once said 'Give the masses bread and circuses and they are happy'."

"We have given them the circuses. It's the bread that is the problem."

"Blame the Lord of the Cosmos", said the Minister.

And so it was. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Trekking near Dharamshala - II

When we left for Dharamshala, what we checked on the Net indicated the possibility of some three to four day treks. As it turned out, though, Triund Peak was expected to be a 4 hour trek from Gallu Mandir, up to where we could motor down. Lahesh Caves, another option was a 4 hour trek from Triund and beyond lay Indrahar Pass. Which essentially meant that we either trekked only to Triund or we gave up on returning each day to Club Mahindra. It is one thing to start off knowing you are going to rough it out. Quite another to find yourself having to abandon the idea of comfort on the fly, as it where. Vinod would have drooled at the thought - being the sort of weirdo whose ideas of enjoyment are totally warped; we frothed. And decided to do just Triund.

It was one of those early morning starts, when I perforce verify for myself that 6 AM really exists and is not merely a figment of other people's imaginations. That is one of the things that I could not avoid despite this being the most deluxe of deluxe treks. With four hours up and four hours down to do, one really did not want the Sun beating down on you while you are huffing and puffing up a mountain.

After breaking fast en route, we reached the Gallu Mandir, which was the starting point of the trek. (Yup, motored down, so?) And, as you all know, I did my celebrated imitation of a steam engine, gasping all the way as we started climbing. I had competition, though, since this time my companions were not really of the caliber of Vinod the mountain goat.

Nearly halfway up, by distance only, was a teashop where we sat down for a cup of tea. And the view.

This halfway mark on treks is a bloody tease, I tell you. I mean, it is all OK to say that you have covered half the distance but what these guides forget conveniently is that you have not climbed half the total height you are expected to climb. Not to mention the fact that if it is really half the distance and only a third of the height, you are in for increasingly steep slopes from there on.

It did not start out that way. For a distance, it was almost a ridge walk and one sort of started dreaming of casually sauntering up to Triund Peak and emitting a 'Yippee'. And, this time, with the companions I had, I sort of assumed that I could well be the first past the post.

Yeah, right, it did not turn out that way. After what seemed like a short distance, the trail turned out to be one of those which relentlessly climbed up. AND, Rammohan, blast him, was running up the slopes with me holding on to my sides, every now and then, and blowing like a bellows, with the blood thundering in my ears. ('Let me have about me men that are fat; Sleek-headed men as of waddle up mountains; yon Rammohan has a lean and hungry look; he runs too much; such men are dangerous' was the refrain running in my mind, with due apologies to Billy the Bard.) Chandru and Bala spared me my blushes, yes, but come on, they always do, so it does not say much now, does it?

Eventually, I did hit the peak to see Rammohan running about like a gazelle, clicking pics. (All the pics in these posts were sent by him, by the way.) Taxed with his abnormal speed, he gives a specious reason that his head was pounding and, so, he was running as fast as he could to get it over with. Sounded reasonable but for the direction. When my head pounds, I too run as fast as possible to get it over with but, damn it, I run downhill, not up. The headache must have addled his brains!

Bala and Chandru landed up leisurely and we lolled about, eating the ubiquitous Maggi and drinking tea, at the small shop there. And, then, the descent.

One generally tends to feel that, having hit the peak, the exertion of the day is done and all the rest is a cake-walk. Even after so many years of trekking, that subconscious feeling does not go. Which is why, every time, the descent seems so painful. (Sort of like you have written your school exams, think your job is done, and then get socked with qualifying exams for various courses? Yeah!) Age and creaking knees make it all the worse. The only entertainment is people on the way up asking you 'How much further?' and your smug feeling that THEY have to do the uphill part still AND then the descent. (The most interesting was the girl who, sitting on a rock, asked us this question and we said, 'One more hour'. Whereupon, she complained that she kept hearing that for the past hour from everyone. Well, if she had been sitting there for the past hour asking this question of various people, exactly what did she expect?)

Eventually, as it must happen, the descent was done and we, yes, motored back to Club Mahindra. A nice hot water bath and a couple of beers - now THAT was the sort of end to a trek that I really did enjoy, especially since it does not happen all that often!

Trekking near Dharamshala

There are those who feel that it is not a trek unless they crawl into a tent every night, stuff themselves into a sleeping bag and try to sleep on a sleeping mat carefully avoiding those couple of pebbles which lurk around on the ground waiting to give you an acupressure treatment when you least expect or want it. There are even those who believe that it is namby-pamby of you if you do not lug all your luggage yourself and erect your tent yourself before doing all that crawling in and stuffing yourself etc. However did you guess? I am not one of them.

So, when the offer suddenly came to go to Dharamshala, stay at Club Mahindra there and do day treks, I jumped at it. Walk up mountains, take in the Himalayan views and end the day with a hot water bath, a couple of bottles of beer and sleep in a comfortable bed?  And with good companions? Best of both worlds!

Well, as it turned out, it was more tourism than trek. It started out all right, bar the minor hiccup of a delayed flight from Delhi to Dharamshala. The first day we booked in for one mini-trek in the morning and one in the afternoon.

The trek in the morning was what Club Mahindra called the 'Waterfall Trek'. Buffalo that I am, when it comes to wallowing in running water, I was all enthusiasm to hit the waterfall. We duly motored down to the starting point and started the climb towards the waterfall. The entire path was full of rubble, slate is what the rock was called I think, but, barring that, it was practically a walk in the park. At the end though was this minor trickle of water falling down the mountain, with half a dozen people industriously chipping stone and shaping them in rectangular pieces. I do love plunging into water but...suffice to say that my idea of frolicking in water in not to lie around in water in a place that seemed more like a stone quarry.

The 'Himalayan Safari' of the afternoon was not something to write home about. Unless, of course, food bloggers consider Maggi and tea to be gourmet meals worthy of covering in loving detail.

We motored down (yes, again! If motoring down for a trek did not cause you to complain, what's your problem with motoring down on what is billed as a 'Safari'?) to pretty close to the stream which was to be the site of that Bacchanalian orgy (Remember? Maggi and Tea? That one). From thereon the guide took us on what was supposedly an optional trek. The others, rather wisely, decided that opting out was one way of exercising that option. Rammohan and I went ahead on the trek.

Somewhere around half-way, the guide pointed out a tree, halfway up the mountain, and said that THAT was the destination. Of course, I had to ask him what could be seen from know, treks end up at some viewpoint. The guide said that you could see the tree from up close there. Naturally, we felt that we had seen the tree anyway from here and felt no pressing need to improve upon the acquaintance. Back we went. Well, Maggi and tea sitting on chairs in the middle of the stream was fun...though we could not really make up our mind about whether we thought it worth driving up and down for the pleasure.

The next day our program was primarily touristy. What with the Tibetan monasteries(Norbunligka and Namgyal), quite a few Shaktipeets and Siddhapeets (Kunal Pathri, Naina devi, Chintpurni, Bhaglamukhi, Chamundi, Jwaladevi),  and Shiva temples - one where Arjuna was supposed to have received the Pashupatastra from Shiva (Aghanjar Mahadev temple) and another which was supposed to have been built by Ravana(Baijyanath), there was no dearth of touristy things to do. Not to mention the Kangra fort and the highest Cricket ground. Anyway, those formed the program, not only of day 2 but day 4 and 5 as well.

(Lest I forget, there is an option to do some paragliding at Bhir-Billing. We had planned it for Day 4/5 but there was some doubt about whether people weighing over 80Kg were allowed to do it or not. Considering that all of us comfortably exceeded it and considering that we had a quaint aversion to plummeting down rather than gliding down, we decided not to put ourselves through a 150 Km drive on such a chancy proposition.)

The one real day of trekking was the third day. Which we shall see in the next post.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Winners don't lose?

Being an inveterate reader, I cannot resist reading anything...even unto T-Shirt slogans. This habit of mine, I am sure, is going to lead to immense trouble, some day or the other, going by exactly where the slogans are printed, especially on women's T-Shirts. No matter my age, I'd find it rather tough going to explain that my focused staring is only an attempt to read the slogan. Which, I swear, it really is.

Be that as it may, this slogan that I read yesterday really got my goat. (THIS was on a man's T-Shirt, so there!) "Winners don't lose" it proclaimed to the world. One is not really expecting profound wisdom from T-Shirt slogans but one is not looking to see rank stupidity either.

I mean, really? So, a Federer, when growing up, never lost a single match? That would mean that he was careful to play only against people he could readily beat. Which, in effect, means that, from an early age (which means, as soon as he got taught that winners do not lose), he ensured that he was never stretched. That he ensured that he never had to face an opponent who showed him the limits of the skills he had acquired up to that point, just so he did not lose. Because if he lost, his quest to being a winner would be finished, wouldn't it?  If that is not a classic recipe to never ever improve on his skills, I don't know what is.

And, of course, the moment he lost a match it was all over for him. He can no longer say that he never lost, so he cannot claim that he is a Winner! Finis, career done, now he can go back, herd cows, and eat chocolate for the rest of his life?

A Winner is someone who is not afraid of stretching himself, of going beyond his comfort zone; someone who does not let fear of failure keep him from trying. Which essentially means that he WILL fail every now and then. And will NOT let that failure deter him from trying again to pursue his dreams.

'Winners don't lose' is as good as saying 'Winners don't try', which is a oxymoronic statement if not a moronic statement. Not trying IS the classic definition of a Loser, for a Loser is one who fears to try, not the one who tries and fails.

If there be a Society which actually believes that 'Winners don't lose'; if people in Society deride those who try and fail, then THAT is a Society which is geared to producing ONLY Losers.

Staying in your comfort zone is a time-tested way of never losing. But I am yet to see anyone praising frogs in a well for being Winners.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Work-Life balance?

Every time I hear of this Work-Life balance I get a weird feeling. (No, you @#$$, it is not because I neither have work nor life. If you choose to think that there is no work without a job and no life without a spouse, that's your problem, not mine.)

I mean, I get this strange feeling that, just as they start for work, people switch on the 'Zombie Mode'. And switch it off when they go back home. If you are balancing work and life, then obviously you think of work as something apart from life, don't you? Like you have to put your life of hold for so long as you are working, merely so you can afford the costs of the rest of the time when you are indulging in 'life'.

I get how it can be. I was not always into 100% life, as you may choose to call it, like I am now since I am not working. This 'life' portion of the day is when you are free to mix and match things. Your relationship with your spouse does not necessarily go into an irreversible tailspin just because you pop out for a couple of beers with a friend in-between. (Unless, of course, it invariably turns out to be 20 beers and you routinely need four people to pour you back into your bed so that you can sleep it off.) Nor does forgetting an birthday or an anniversary, every now and then, inevitably lead to divorce. (Though, of course, it can mean going through soul-harrowing experiences in the aftermath, or so I hear). With work, though, it is like you have to leave the rest of what's happening in your life at the door when you walk in. And deadlines, unfortunately, cannot be treated as casually as birthdays, not without bringing the relationship with your employer to an acrimonious end.

But, yet, such things can be said of marriage as well. THAT relationship is not the same as your friendships, say. It is more demanding than the rest as well and, yet, one does not hear of a Marriage-Life Balance. THAT's still a part of your life, on the right side of the Work-Life thingy. So what's with work that makes it not Life? Is it the fact that it expects you to leave the rest outside the office door but refuses to stay back at office when you walk out? Or the fact that it is not an emotional relationship like the rest are? Or, perhaps, the fact that there is always the feeling of power imbalance in it - that you need your employer more than your employer needs you?

Whatever it is, Work uses up at least half of the waking hours of the average person. It is one thing to use Work-Life Balance as a way to denote how you manage the requirements of the work and non-work portions of your life. But the very fact that this denotation has seemed so natural to people suggests that, somehow, Work is seen as 'not-Life'. To sort of mark time for nearly half your life, considering it as not living, is, to put it mildly, foolish. Life is what it is, limited in years, and it is best to make the most of whatever time you have. It's best to do the work that you can come to love doing, if you have the choice, OR to change your attitude to try and like as much as you can of what you have to do. In other words, Work IS a part of Life and it has to be LIVED, not merely endured.

If you get too used to switching on the Zombie mode, sooner or later it will refuse to go off when you want it to!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Money and Happiness

"You know, you suffer from the wrong notion that money is enough to be happy."

As usual. Here is another friend who knows exactly what is wrong with me. If ever the day came when a friend found something right with me, I'd probably die of the shock.

"Whoever said money can buy happiness just did not know where to shop", I said triumphantly. It is not often that I can remember the right quote at the right time, so I was understandably thrilled to be able to do it once.

"Yeah. Trust you to remember all the pithy sayings that sound clever but mean shit. So, you think if you have the money to go to the finest concerts, your tone-deaf ears will learn to enjoy music? If you can buy the finest wines, you will acquire the palate to enjoy them?"

It NEVER works for me, does it? I mean, quotes like this from others shuts off the contempt. For me, it only seems to convert a trickle to a Niagara.

"So, you mean that you can do without money and be happy?"

"If a doctor cautions you against over-eating does it mean he wants you to starve?"

"Exactly what is your point, then?"

"That money is a tool which can get you what you want. You need to count the cost of getting the money, though, otherwise..."

"What cost? If I am GETTING money, then..."

"See what I mean? You think all cost is measured in money?"

What the hell else do you measure cost in? Marbles? What an idiot.

"So, what do you mean by cost?"

"Well, assume that you are working day and night to be able to hike up all the mountains in the world. And, when you have enough money, what if you can hardly climb a flight of stairs without fearing a heart attack? Your money has cost you your ability to pursue what you wanted, hasn't it?"

Hmmm. Not so much of an idiot, perhaps but...

"The guy who works 24x7 all his life in order to be able to smell the roses after retirement. And, after retiring, makes a project out of smelling all varieties of roses, rushing from one to the other, muttering things like 'Ugh! This is the same rose I smelled two months and 4 days back. What a waste of time.' A lifetime of chasing money can mold attitudes which makes you incapable of enjoying leisure, can it not?"

"Well, all I can say is I'd rather be unhappy with money than without", I said gleefully. Twice in one day, I got the quote for the occasion! Yippee!

"Well, if you are resigned to being unhappy..."

Huh! This chap was too much for me.

"So you will say that pleasure and happiness is different and all that spiritual guff."

"Well, they ARE different. Pleasure is a temporary high caused by your senses. Happiness is a state of mind. But I would not waste my time talking of that to you. Why, I will not even bother to talk of relationships or love or compassion or charity. You'd only have called that sentimental guff."

"So, exactly are you talking about?"

"Remember, even your 'wise saying' says you can't do with money alone. You also need to know where to shop for happiness. I'd add a couple more things. You need to know WHAT to shop for and you need to keep alive the ability to USE and ENJOY what you buy."

These guys! They have to complicate everything!

Monday, October 7, 2019


"It's difficult to say when a Society is progressing."

"What's so difficult about that?" I could have bitten my tongue almost as soon as I said this. When will I learn that opening my mouth when in the company of friends, especially when it's a group of them like today, is a sure recipe for disaster?

"Ah! So what IS progress, O wise one?"

"Well...I suppose if success is achieving your goals, then progress is when you advance towards your goals."

"Ah! So easy, is it not? Tell me, does improving security in a Society count as a goal? That when Society advances towards lesser possibility of riots or terrorist activity, it's progress?"

"Of course it is." Was this guy an idiot? Who wants a Society where you are afraid to go out for fear of being beaten up or blown to bits?

"So, increasing security is progress? Even if that means security agencies monitoring all your conversations, your financial transactions, your social media interactions? After all, better information helps to nip terrorist activities in the bud. Even if it means that the Government restricts what you can say and where you can say it? So that hate speech does not lead to riots?"

Huh? Now what? I mean, yeah, security is great but...

"I think you are being unfair there. Of course there is need to balance..."

"And exactly what is the right balance? Ask the guys who want security and they will want to ensure absolute security and, after that, if there is some leeway for privacy and freedom of speech, they may grant that. The other guys would want personal liberties inviolate and the Government should somehow find a way to also ensure security without compromising on that. So, exactly where is the consensus?"

I interjected. "Forget that, politics is always messy. In economics and business there must be real clarity."

THAT was like throwing a stone into a hornets' nest.

"Yeah, right! If business finds it more efficient to use robots or AI, or outsource, is that progress?"

"Course it is."

"So, it is Ok if people get thrown out of jobs and starve? Nice."

"Of course not! But why are you assuming that..."

"I am NOT assuming. The point is YOU are assuming that improved efficiency of business will happen without any distress. That there is no choice being made there."

Another guy chimes in.

"Where do you deploy resources? To produce goods and services that people with money want, or to produce food for starving people who cannot pay for it?"

This was nonsense. I mean morbid speculation of this sort. I said as much. THAT set off a perfect cacophony of voices. Everyone screaming at once.

"Really? Tell me, do you know of any system, yet, where a minimal level of food, clothing, shelter, medicare and education has been guaranteed to every citizen regardless of their earning ability? To ensure that resources do not get diverted away from satisfying the minimal needs?"

"Yeah! But that would need, then, population control. If you guarantee all the basic needs to everyone, without limiting family sizes...And mandatory population control? That opens out a whole new can of worms."

"Every time anyone speaks of possibilities, people cry it down as dystopian speculation. Which is why nothing gets done till it becomes a crisis. Take climate change for example..."

"That's another thing. Leave it to business chasing profits, and you will soon have a desert for a planet."

"The market economy will take care..." I interjected, weakly.

"Yeah! Once we said God will take care. NOW we say the markets will take care of it. As though the Market is some sort of fairy godmother..."

"The only thing markets do is take care of goods and services. Not of the environment."

"Not even that. It is a long time since we had that so-called perfect competition that is supposed to make markets work. If it ever existed. Pharma carves out monopolies with its patents. Most business is turning big business, oligopolies if not monopolies. And now you have the e-business guys who seem intent on becoming monopsonies as well as monopolies - a combination that Adam Smith may not even have dreamed of..."

I was feeling dizzy. What was all this? I mean, one doomsday theorist was enough to keep me in nightmares for months. And here was a total army of them.

Looked like this social progress thing was too messy. Too many conflicting goals, no real agreement on any non-negotiable minimal levels for each of those goals, everyone wanting the maximum possible for their own goals and the devil take the short, humans behaving like humans, irrational and grasping.  And, in all probability, the rich and powerful getting their way as they always do. But there was that one thing that would be rational...

"Forget all that, guys." I said. "Scientific progress..."

Again that nasty chorus. Really!

"Nonsense.  The research that gets paid for gets done. From all reports, especially in medicine, the results that get paid for get reported."

"What scientific progress? Are our most important goals in Science to find out the origin of life or the Universe? Finding out habitable planets in our galaxy? Of determining the right Grand Unification Theory?"

What was all this gobbledygook? Of course, I was thinking about important scientific progress in AI/ML, even perhaps, you know, those space habitats around the sun when Earth gets too difficult to breathe in...

"Of course, he is thinking about scientific goals like innovations that will slash the price of his smartphone in half, get him Netflix for free...important things like that."

"I'm sure that, for him, society is certainly progressing and fast. After all, we certainly are progressing towards the day when you can get all your needs satisfied without getting out of bed. That would suit him absolutely."

Should I be happy? I don't know. I would have been, but for that crack about 'monopsony and monopoly'. I mean, if the same guy ends up being the only guy suppliers can trade through and customers can buy from, even if he delivers everything to my bed, will he deliver it to me at prices I can afford?

I sure hope so. These guys, though...they have given me enough nightmares to last me years!

Monday, September 30, 2019

The power of headlines

You know, one of the things I realized very late in life is the power of headlines in news of all sorts. If you, like me, are the sort to just generally browse the headlines - or what now flashes in 'Breaking news' - without bothering to go through all the fine print, you could end up getting a totally erroneous idea of what is happening in the world. Of course it is all to the good since everyone does the same and, after all, what everyone knows IS the truth regardless of what some strange people think is the 'real truth'.

You know, though, this is one of those things that we invented way back in the past and forgot to claim the credit for. I mean, this use of headlines to manufacture the truth hails back to the ancient Indian history (or myth, for all those who are now called pseudo-sickular or some such quaint name.)

Aswatthama Dead

Now that was the headline Yudhishtir flashed and Drona, like us modern folks, did not go beyond the headline and chose to abandon the battle and got killed. Of course he can claim that he had a legit excuse. That when the fine print about 'Was it the man or was it the elephant?' was being said by Yudhishtir, Krishna and the other Pandavas blew their conches and drowned it out. But then, hey, for us too, the fine print is all drowned out by the pinging of various notifications from our multiple social media sites, not to mention the fact that the phone goes around in circles trying to locate the fine print.

Really, though, it is not like we were all waiting for the modern folks and appliances to create the impression we wanted to create, regardless of the 'real' news. I mean, yeah, there were even those guys who read a few paragraphs of the news before jumping over to the next and, for them, we were prepared. So, the Aswatthama news would have been played out like this in the old days.

"The valiant Bhima picked up his mace and answered the challenge of the mighty Aswathhama. Twirling his mace with wonderful dexterity, he deflected every attack. The mighty blows of Bhima seemed to have little impact on his courageous opponent. Undaunted the son of Pandu pressed his attack on his invincible foe."

And so on and so forth, for five to six paras till at the last, we would end with

"And then fell the mighty Aswatthama to the valorous Pandava. When the dying breath of the mammoth elephant gusted out, the Pandava army roared with victory and praised the second son of Kunti, 'Hail, Bhima! Slayer of the great Aswatthama!"'

And there you were. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth...except that the 'elephant' has a 'blink and you miss it' reference. It has been statistically proven 999 out of a 1000 people would come out convinced that Bhima had killed Drona's son. (AND the thousandth? HE would yawn and say, 'Did you say something?')

Knowing this, and being such wonderful people in the PR department, it surprised me that the Finance Minister should have been talking of Auto sector job losses and said something like 'Millenials using Uber and Ola is also a reason for reduced demand'. Of course the headlines were 'Nirmala Sitharaman blames millenials for job losses in auto sector'. Naturally, no-one likes being blamed for anything and, if someone blames you, the mature mind always reacts by blaming that someone for everything from the great flood onward, doesn't it?

Now if only she had said something like "Millenials are environment conscious and, so, prefer ride sharing services in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Good though this is, it does have the effect of depressing demand for cars." That, at least, would have opened out the possibility of a headline like "FM praises millenials for environment consciousness." Now, you really cannot troll someone who is busy praising you, can you? (You can? THAT is probably an ability that they forgot to install in us older models!)

Anyway, this long an acquaintance with how a journalist can write ANY news so as to convey the message HE/SHE wants has left me in the 'No news is good news' frame of mind, where the 'good' is indicative of the quality of the news and not the nature of the news. This, even in the days when only the viewpoint was manufactured not the news itself.

But the one indelible impression I want to leave in your minds is that


Monday, September 23, 2019


I don't know exactly when I started getting judgmental about people. It probably started way back in school. You know how it is - every class has this irritating bunch of people who seem to think that marks below 90% (grades, these days, I suppose but it was all about marks then) do not exist and take it as a personal insult if they score less than 100%. It is too much to expect the rest of us to go around with hangdog expressions, looking up in awe at these lofty people. So, naturally, we judged them to be the sort who 'mugged up and vomited' (Memorized without understanding, for the uninitiated) and not really intelligent at all. We, the truly intelligent, could not stoop to such degraded practices even if we were inclined to drop playing hooky and spend time with books.

After that promising start, it is but natural that I scaled new heights. In office, the chap who ascended the ladder was, of course, invariably the boss' pet. I mean, not as in 'pet' because he was good at his work and, thus, ascended the ladder but ascended the ladder because he was the 'pet'. Sometimes, yes, it became difficult to not accept that the chap WAS good at his work but, then, hey the chap had such awful haircut, or had such terrible table manners or...well, usually there WAS something about him which was so rank terrible that he did not deserve to be where he was. Such a pity that such undeserving people got ahead in life. Life is so unfair.

The biggest problem, though, was with those people who are held up as examples. I mean, uncomfortable chaps like, say, Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. Those character elements and those achievements for which they are known and you are exhorted to try to live up to...very irritating. So, yeah, what would you do? Try to find if there is reason to believe that they did NOT do what they are said to have done, right? If you cannot find that, then go searching for SOME reason to pull them down, so that you can say they are not great idols to follow, right? After all, they are human, they must have SOME flaws. Precisely what I do. And if they are long dead, so much the better, since they are not going to be around to take you to court for slander or libel. Naturally, I did not rest till I found feet of clay in ANY idol. It is SO irksome to think that they can be, or become, better humans than me.

Do I judge myself, you ask? What nonsense. Why do you think I go around judging other people, if not to avoid judging myself? If I started down that slippery slope, then I would have to feel that I needed to improve myself or some such shit.

Such an uncomfortable thing to do!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Lost and floundering

You know, this brave new world of ours confuses me too much. Too often, I find myself totally lost and floundering when I try to make sense of it. (Yeah, yeah, I know you are murmuring, 'Why am I not surprised?')

I mean, take this climate thing for example. People are all groaning about our carbon footprint and all. So, I say to myself, 'Great! Now is when folks will be seeking people riding those scooters and motorbikes to switch to public transport or cycles.' And, you know what, within seconds of my thinking that, someone laments the fact that, because of the expense, people are not switching from scooters and bikes to CARS! Apparently, the auto sector is in a down spiral and it is important for jobs. Jobs beat climate change issues, I understand that. For, of course, it is more important to be able to eat even if you have to wear a mask to get out of the house. Begs the question, though, about what sort of species are we that we develop a system where jobs CAN come only at the cost of a healthy environment and we do not even start to search for an alternative system.

Then there is this whole brouhaha about plastic usage. There is hardly a thing that we use these days which does not have plastic in it, so I did think that people would start thinking about consumerism and its effects. Rank idiocy, I know, for the same chap screaming to stop using plastic is probably doing it on a brand new smartphone, which he bought because it took better selfies than his previous perfectly serviceable one. Apparently, reducing plastic usage only means taking a carry-bag to the mall. From chips to cool drinks, from shampoos to groceries everything we buy is packed in plastic but we will save the world by reducing carry bags. I mean, come on, if people stopped buying phones every other day, started consuming mainly fresh foods, juices and all, what would happen to economic growth? If we cannot grow without choking the planet with plastic, we will have to choke the damn planet. After all, the very chap pushing newer and newer products in your face, and enticing you with discounts, is building space habitats to which you can flee once you have gift-wrapped Earth completely in plastic.

I kept hearing 'Data is the new oil', a resource occupying the importance in today's economy that petroleum did yesterday. I was in awe about all these nerds collecting and analyzing data, possibly about the origin of the universe, possibly to efficiently use resources, possibly to pinpoint and solve critical problems. Some of that perhaps is happening but that is not the 'new oil' from what I understand. The really all important data that is collected seems to be about what shampoo I buy and how frequently, where I live and whether people in my area so desperately want to be fair or not, what movies I like, even perhaps when and how frequently I pee and so on. The most critical job that the top brains of the world are working on is how best to push an ad of the right product into my face at the right time, so that I buy it from that particular source. Though, to date, all they have managed to do is push the ad of the very product that I had just bought, twenty times a day every day of the subsequent week. They will get to when I get the ad from an Amazon or Flipkart, precisely when I am looking to buy the product and THAT will be the pinnacle of human achievement! The world holds its breath waiting upon whether I shall buy Sensodyne or Colgate Sensitive; from Amazon or from Flipkart!

But then, if you remember, I was the guy who never really got the seriousness of advertisements. An anachronism in a world which is run by ads. I mean, come on, people are running companies that are considered the most valuable in the world - Facebook, Twitter, Google, what have you - offering their ostensible main service for free and depending mainly on either advertising revenue or the data which helps companies target advertisements better. And, nowadays, they seem intent on converting everyone into an advertiser going by how much they pester me to promote my FB page or my blog or...

No wonder I am lost and floundering!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Too content?

"You know what's the problem with you?"

Again! And it had been a long while since I thought that 'the problem' meant that there was only one problem with me and all I needed to do was to sort that out. After the thirtieth time it had happened, each one outlining a different problem, even my optimism was not up to the task.

It was going to be a bad day today. It generally is, even with one friend playing psychoanalyst but now there were three of them.

"The issue is that you are too content."

"I would not say that", I said, idly. "I'd really like a larger house, be able to travel business class..."

"And what are you willing to do to get all that."

I reared up, as if stung. "Do? Me? What I meant was that if some fairy godmother would wave a wand and..."

"Exactly! Anyone can dream of being better. Like, say, wishing you could sing like Rafi with no real intent to become a singer. Unless you really want it, really feel dissatisfied with what you have, you do not put in the effort to get it. So..."

"It is not only that. The benefit is just not worth the cost, that's all."

"Not discontent enough..."

And as if one guy getting after me was not enough, another of these chaps butted in.

"Yeah, as though he could have become a...a CEO, say, even if he wanted to. It is just sour grapes, he just cannot become one so he acts as if he does not want to..."

"That's the problem with us guys. If he says he does not consider the benefits worth the costs, why not give him the benefit of the doubt? Why assume immediately that he is incompetent?"

I looked on the third chap, who had just said the last, with wondering disbelief. A friend who supports me? Where had he been all my life?

"Nonsense. If he could have, he would have. If only because of peer pressure."

"Peer pressure? That's the last thing I'd do things for", I said. "At school, I got pushed into engineering because of peer pressure. So, was that the end of the thing, the Holy Grail in my hands and the rest of life a sinecure? Nonsense, I find that I have a new set of peers, all engineers, and now the stakes were higher. So, I get into IIM. There...that settled it? NOW I have a hotshot lot of MBAs for peers, and the goals are even higher. All I have seen of succumbing to peer pressure is that I get pushed onto newer and newer treadmills which run harder and faster. I am all done with trying to satisfy pressurizing peers, anyway. I want people who will take me as I am, not make me feel that I need to battle every day to retain my right to be called their peer."

There was stunned silence. As was natural, considering that this was the first time I ever managed to say so many sentences at the same time in any meeting with my friends. The confidence that a teensy bit of support can give you, I tell you!

"So, you never really wanted to become a..."

"Become? Yeah, I too thought it was all about becoming. Becoming an engineer, becoming an MBA, becoming a CEO. The point is not about the becoming, the point is whether I would enjoy BEING what I had become. And I most certainly would not enjoy being on a perpetual treadmill all my life. Like, say, Ranjan here thought he would like BECOMING a retired person but he hardly found BEING a retired person to his taste, did he?"

"Ah! So you think we are all stupid fools running on..."

"Treadmill is how it appears to me. To you it could appear like paradise or, who knows, it may also appear a treadmill to you but you may actually feel ecstatic about running on it. Or you may need or want the rewards that running on the treadmill gives you. Unlike you guys, I do not think that the way I feel about life is the only right way and, if someone has not adopted it, he is either a fool or incompetent. Each of us are different and the only folly lies in not knowing what YOU want and pursuing it. Not in not adopting someone else's path."

"So, exactly what do YOU want in life?"

"Hmmm! What I have is quite fine - being a spectator to all your efforts. Except, of course, if that fairy godmother wants to exercise her wand and..."

Monday, September 2, 2019

I do? I understand?

Whenever there was this Workshop class at school, I used to get all tensed up. Ah, no, it was not only because I could not just sit in the back benches and sleep, as I did in other classes, though that too was a contributory factor.

There was this board in the workshop

I hear, I forget
I see, I remember
I do, I understand

Jolly good, I supposed, for all the people who had this strange urge to understand things. Me, I was quite fine with a bulb lighting up when I tapped the switch without needing to know why it did so, in all its excruciating detail. AND, even assuming that understanding could be thrust into an unwilling brain, it seemed to be based on the assumption that I DO. Me? DO? THAT seemed a bit of a stretch to assume about me.

Be that as it may, it did not matter so much at school that I never did do. The irksome thing, though, followed me into college. Maybe you think that if I went in for Engineering, then I jolly well ought to have known that 'Workshop' WOULD be a part of it.

But, hey, I was in there for Chemical Engineering. Exactly why was I, then, to work at carpentry and what would it make me understand? Unless, of course, we are preparing for the days when we may have to go back to doing chemical reactions with wood shavings.

Anyway, there I was with a block of wood and some weird thing called the planer or some such. The idea, apparently, was that I would shape that block of wood into a perfect rectangular prism with smooth faces. And all that merely by running this planer on each face, shaving off the roughness.

I did run the planer diligently but, you know what, somehow the face ended up sloping down. I switched ends and started operations only to find that that pesky slope also ended up reversing directions. Rinse and repeat the end-switching and planing till...

Well, at the end of the carpentry class it did seem like I thought I was there to convert wood to wood shavings. I thought it was useful but, then, as usual there was no meeting of minds between me and the powers-that-be. Something that has plagued me all my life.

And then, exactly why did I need to learn to become a blacksmith in order to become a Chemical Engineer? True, that we, as a nation, have found that even our appliances tend to believe in goofing off unless they get a whack on the head but...I mean, taking a sledge hammer to a reactor in order to encourage it to work is not precisely the prescribed corrective measure. AND to swing that same sledge hammer on the controls in a control room...well, the mind boggles at the thought of someone, who is interested in the continued welfare of that factory, actually thinking that THAT would help.

But, then, the mysteries of academia are well beyond me, so smithy it was. And there I was diligently fashioning a square-headed bolt as per demand. And I did successfully make one. As usual, though, the instructor would not agree with me. "There, one number square head", I said, pointing to the blob of metal in my left hand. "There, one number bolt." pointing to the roughly cylindrical piece of metal in my right hand. "Successfully done. What more could you want?" I said, bringing my case to a successful conclusion.

Apparently, he COULD want more. The chap makes the unreasonable demand that he wanted the square head AND bolt in ONE piece, not two. People in authority, I tell you!! I had to retire defeated.

Anyway, by the time I finished all that DOING, there was only one thing I UNDERSTOOD. That I could NOT do. Possibly that I could never DO.

And I spent a big proportion of my life, wondering what next. That board in my school workshop never mentioned anything about 'What if you cannot do'.

Finally I figured it all out. So, now my board would read

I hear, I forget
I see, I remember
I do, I understand
I cannot do, I retire