Monday, April 22, 2019

A reasonable contempt?

 "You know, you are a very reasonable chap."

I was surprised and a shade apprehensive. Yeah, by now you guys know why I would be apprehensive. It is quite unusual for any friend of mine to be complimentary to me so, like me, you are also wondering what is the 'but' that is coming next.

"Which, essentially, means that you will always be held in contempt."

Ah! I knew it. There had to be an insult hanging on to the coat-tails of that apparent compliment. But...

"I don't get it. Why should my being reasonable make me an object of contempt?"

"Of course you don't get it. If you did, would you be such a wuss?"


"What did you say the other day? That this chap was a great manager even if his poetry is pathetic?"

"Yeah, so?"

"From sunshine to moonshine
I will be fine
Because, my dear
You are near", he sneered. "The guy writes three pages of things like this and calls it poetry. How do you expect him to be able to run a company?"

Uh? Put like that, it seemed silly of me to think that the guy who could write bilge like this could even run a tea-shop. I shook that dizzy feeling and said, "But, come on, since when does one need to write or even know good poetry in order to make and sell potato chips?"

"Yeah? Then, this chap manages a nation-wide company with a turnover of a couple of thousand crores...and you think you know better than him about what is good poetry?"

Ooooh! I never thought of it like that. I mean, it is sheer hubris on my part to think...hey, but wait a minute. If I started thinking like that, Gates, Zuckerberg, Bezos et al should be considered a Shelley or Byron if they spouted anything and called it poetry.

"This is nonsense, you know! Just because a guy is a good businessman it does not mean he is a great poet."

"Really?  You think so? So, then why do you think that people are always asking Film Stars about solutions to social problems? If they thought being good at one thing does not automatically make them good at others? Or for that matter Cricketers about Kashmir, say? Of course, if you can tonk balls over the boundary line repeatedly, you would obviously be good at sorting out boundary problems."

"That...that's kinda stupid, you know."

"Really? Well, we are talking of respect, which is not something you assume for yourself. Others have to give you that. So, who is going to respect you for your opinion? The guys who hate your man will sneer at you for considering him a good manager. The guys who love him will consider you a pathetic specimen for not understanding the true beauty of his poetry."

Sheeit! I never thought of it that way. Time to take some lessons in getting respect. Thankfully, my friend was in an obliging mood.

"See, let us say you have a politician and people are talking about his hairstyle. If you want the respect of those who support him, and his hairstyle is truly beyond defense, you say, "What is important is what is IN the head not what is ON the head.  He is a man who would rather care for the welfare of a billion citizens than these others who care only for the welfare of their hair'. That proves how good a leader he is."

"And if it is the other lot..."

"Well, if you want the respect of those who oppose him then you say, 'Do we really want a man, who goes around like rats had nibbled at his hair at night, representing the country internationally?' There, THAT will prove how unfit he is as a leader."

" mean that I can admit no wrong in the person of my choice. AND no right in the person I oppose?"

My friend smiled encouragingly.

"Yes, yes!" he said, enthusiastically. "You get the point."

"Then...that's why no politician ever admits to making any mistake, is it? I mean, he would get all this 'Do you want a man who failed his Maths paper in the 7th grade running the Commerce Ministry?' and things like that."

"Quite! Of course, every action sets off a series of consequences, some desirable, some not..."

"But all this...hairstyle, school leaving certificate...I mean, instead of discussing the issues at hand, are we not attacking the person. What they logic?"

There was a look of utter despair on my friend's face. He buried his face in his hands. A mumble came from the bowed head.

"And I thought that, at last, I had managed the impossible. To drive in a concept into this head of solid ivory..."

"What's the matter? I..."

He lifted his face with such a look of wrath on it that my words dried up.

"You IDIOT! You do not know even the first thing about it. You DESERVE contempt."

"But, why...what..."

"Don't you understand? It is ad hominem ONLY when the other guy does it."

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Listicle menace

"Tell me, what are the top ten things you like about me?"

Ye Gods! Here I am, wondering about how I ever managed to get a girl to be interested in me. Where was the time to think about what I liked in her when I was spending all the time bemused about what she could have found to like in me?

Telling that to her, I have discovered, is a sure recipe for disaster. You think you will be patted on your back for your self deprecation or, at least, earn brownie points for humility and...

"So, you think I cannot get a better boyfriend than a wuss like you?"

Well, after THAT finished off one relationship, I did manage to take the time to list 'all the things I loved' in the next one. Didn't work either. I had either left out what I should have said ('So, you don't appreciate my sense of humor' when that sort of got left out in the top 10) and said what I should have left out ('You men! There is only one thing that you are interested in', all because five of those 10 had been about how she looked).

But I really don't get it. When I was at school, I used to hate these 'Top eight things...', 'Six important differences...' and things like that. I mean, you could write pages of answers for general questions and come out feeling you had done the exam well. Keeps you happy...till the results come out, that is. But with these lists, as with mathematics, you are stressed out all the way. Like, if you could only think of three where the examiner will not be satisfied with less than ten, it is tough to fool yourself that you have done a great job of the exam.

So, I developed a pathological hatred of lists of any sort, broke out into a cold sweat every time I was faced with one, and thought that the rest of the world reacted the same way. Till Social Media upped and proved me wrong. Now it is all 'Top ten reasons why you should not eat rice', 'Six important reasons why Dhoni is a great captain' and so on and so on. (WHAT? You mean that lists are not as intimidating when you know that you will not have to write an exam on the subject? Maybe, but why should it turn into such an attraction?)

Though, yeah, when someone puts a number to it, it sort of gives an impression that the chappie has put in thought into it, collected a vast amount of knowledge on the subject and culled out the most important things for you to be enlightened by. Yes, when you get to the sixth reason for Dhoni being a great captain and have '6. Dimples! Because...DIMPLES', you have sleepless nights wondering what the rest of the world finds so obvious as to require no explanation about how dimples contribute to cricketing success.  Of course, it could just have been bunged in to make up six. (Not that I even know if the chap HAS dimples, you know, but...)

True, it was tough to find that the rest of the world was so different from you as to be mad after listicles, but I could have lived with, indeed, I have learned to live with the fact that people seem to think it necessary to have brains when I have pulled along for so long happily unaware of the need. But, then, that was when these listicles STAYED in social media and did not enter my so-called real life with all this 'top ten things you like about me' business.

At that, I am happy that I was not asked the three things I disliked about her. Now THAT would have been the path to perdition without an escape. You say 'Nothing', then you do not take her seriously. You start citing things, you will get scorched with the top 100 things that she never liked about you and, mind, it is only the TOP 100, so there is a lot more that has just not made the cut. Who was it who said, 'Marriage: A process of finding out what sort of person your spouse would have preferred to marry'? Rem acu tetigisti, old chap, you hit the bally nail on its bally head! And it applies to girl-friends too.

Maybe I could say, "Just the fact that you are not always with me" and get away with it. The problem is that the right things never strike me at the right time. (AND, of course, THAT could well lead to a listing of all the times when YOU were not around her, so it is not like it is a panacea.)

Perhaps it is time to look up that 'Top 21 things women like men to tell them'! May help, provided I can remember them all.

Alas, I never managed to remember them even in exams, when I had all 3 hours to try and recollect AND without someone glaring at me all the while.

These listicles...they are still a menace, I tell you.

Monday, April 8, 2019


Kedum perukkamum illalla nenjatthu kodaamai saanrorkkani - Tirukkural

Losses and gain come and go; to remain steadfast in principles is the hallmark of the wise - Loose Translation

Of all the things that Tiru said, this one must rank very high as being totally impractical. I mean, come on, the chap really thinks that my own value systems should be unchanged regardless of what happens to me in life? Really?

But, then, what exactly are principles? That, of itself, is a big question. AND, being analytical, I have always managed to find that principles are as elastic as I need them to be. Like, say, this honesty thing. I mean, come on, if I made a muck-up of a computation by mistyping some figures, and the decision turns wrong thanks to that, who does it injure if I merely blame the change in some circumstances instead of admitting my error? Well, even if I DO blame the guy who gave me the figures, what of it? HE can always blame the telephone system for my mishearing him.

Or, take compassion. I mean, this neighbor of mine created such a ruckus when I parked my car in his spot by mistake. Why the hell should I drive him down to hospital in the middle of the night, because he had a heart attack. Am I my brother's keeper? It is not as though I am the only neighbor, there are others. So why is it my responsibility?

You get the point. Principles are easier to alter to suit, somewhat like sizing down clothing. To keep steadfast in them, regardless of loss or THAT is like trying to size UP clothing. You run out of material sooner or later.

Tiru, though, would want you to disregard the cost to you and remain steadfast. He also probably means that you should not use the losses or gains in life as an excuse to abandon your principles OR to blame your principles for those losses and gains. Somewhat like the devotee blaming God for not ensuring that his life is a path of roses, despite his devotion.

In one way, Tiru's advice can make things easy. You do not have the stress of identifying what your current principles are, every now and then. Somewhat like the way you feel when you get back to math after a day of trying to figure out how to use your new mobile. You know the feeling of 'Thank God there is something I do not have to relearn every time. 2+2 is still 4!'

But the real comfort of Tiru's advice comes when everyone around you is 'wise' in his terms. THEN you can be sure of them for their principles would be unchanging, making it easy to trust them.

To paraphrase Julius Caesar

'Let me have about me men and women who are wise in the way Tiru defines it!'

Monday, April 1, 2019


Samanseidhu seerthookkumkol pol amaindhorupaal kodamai saanrorukkani - Tirukkural

Like the needle of a balance, the wise should be impartial in judgment - Loose translation

The thing about Tiru is that he expects the impossible from people. Well, in this case he probably is right to expect the impossible. After all, to expect wisdom from an outright irrational species like humans IS to expect miracles.

There was some chap whom I read recently who sort of claimed that objectivity is impossible for humans - or did he go so far as to say that it was not even desirable? Yet, THAT is precisely what Tiru says is the hallmark of wisdom. That a wise man assesses things impartially without regard to his own biases.

The problem, though, with people like that chap is that they tend to mix up things. I mean, yeah, it is sort of impossible for you to disregard all your biases in setting up the standards for assessment. Like, given two courses of action, one of which would decimate the human population but would be greatly to the benefit of cockroaches, and the other that would benefit humanity at the cost of our unwelcome multi-legged house-guests, a human being is bound to be unable to see that the Universe could well be better off with more roaches than more humans. THAT, though, is a bias inherent in setting up desirable GOALS based on which you intend assessing options.

Bias in setting up the yardsticks based on which you evaluate different courses of action is, probably, impossible to eliminate. So, yes, someone may feel that losing Freedom of Expression in pursuit of a Society aligned with the morality of the past is worthwhile; someone else may feel that the morality of the past needs to be modified to suit the present; and a third person may see FOE as a prime constituent of any morality.

Your personal belief system could well be the reason for a bias in determining the desirability and priority of goals. THAT is a given and that is not even due to the irrationality of the species. It is precisely those differences in individual value systems which make humanity so creative though, yes, the creativity can sometimes be cruel.

But to confuse bias in setting yardsticks  and bias in assessing options even by your own yardsticks, and to consider the latter impossible or undesirable to aspire for - that is stupidity. I mean, it is one thing to say that a course of action is incorrect because it sacrifices right to property in pursuit of economic growth (when the other may feel it is worth it because such is HIS yardstick). It is quite another to say that the course of action is incorrect merely because so-and-so proposes it without even bothering to assess it by your own yardsticks OR despite the fact that it serves the purpose for a goal that you yourself find desirable. THAT is not even worth calling a biased analysis, it is just knee-jerk reaction.

The Tiru-style wise man would probably go a step further in his impartiality. He would say, 'I assess it this way BECAUSE my yardsticks are such. Others may see the priorities differently and, for them, this would seem a good option.' But, then, as I have often said, Tiru is possibly dated. AND, of course, he was setting up a standard to shoot for, a standard which people could aspire to reach even if there were none who had actually reached it.

But, then, 'Nobody can be like that' was probably not a statement which excused people from not even trying to reach those standards in his day. Thank God we live in more lax days. It would be SO difficult to outrage on Social Media otherwise!

Monday, March 25, 2019

The seeds of happiness?

Nandrikku vitthagum nallozhukkam theeozhukkam endrum idumbai tharum - Tirukkural

Good behavior/thoughts/habits is the seed of happiness; bad behavior/thoughts/habits leads to sorrow - Loose translation

You know, I really hate these words that seem so simple and peel off in layer after layer of meaning. I break out in tears much like I would when I peel that pungent vegetable which also has so many layers.

You cannot blame Tiru much though for using them. For some weird reason, he HAD decided to give all his advice in couplets (for those of my compatriots who prefer the foreign to the Indian one may call them sort of haikus) and if he had to cram so much meaning into so few words, he had to squeeze each word for meaning till it cried 'Uncle'!

This 'Ozhukkam' is one of those words. AT first sight, it means discipline. The problem is that it does not stop there. It means morality, behavior, attitude (NOT the attitude that teens so love. It means the way you view and interact with the rest of the world, not color streaked hair and tattoos) and what not. You need to read it to mean the sum total of your character - thought, word and deed - rather than merely a list of dos and donts that you need to stick to.

So, essentially, Tiru says that the seeds of happiness lie in being a good person, in thought, word and deed. AND not being good always leads to unhappiness.

Very questionable, isn't it? I mean, we live in a world which largely equates being good to being a loser. Though, yes, in Tiru's time they had a sort of long view of happiness - they tended to see it as something as applied both in life and in the after-life, so perhaps they meant that overall being good would equate being happy. Largely in the afterlife, maybe.

But, then, I am not too sure, overall, that Tiru is wrong about the happiness while you live. Yeah, to be sure, being wealthy seems a better prescription for happiness than being good, so one tends to see the latter being sacrificed in pursuit of the former. The issue, though, is...

Well, there is this story about Duryodhan and Yudhishtir. The former was asked about the people in Hastinapur. He said most of them are knaves who would do anything in the pursuit of their own goals. When Yudhishtir was asked the same question, he said that they were all good people pursuing dharma. The moral (yes, that damn thing does tend to crop up in such tales) being that each saw others as a reflection of who they themselves were.

THAT is the issue. I mean, if I am bad, I live life in suspicion about all those around me. If I am good, I am more willing to trust, more likely to make meaningful relationships. (AND, thank you, being good does not mean being STUPID, so it does not always mean that I would end up becoming a pauper). Which of the two is a happier life is left to you to decide.

The most vexed thing about this whole issue is the definition of good and bad. Right from the clothes you wear to the food you eat, there is always someone ready with a classification of good and bad...and willing to kill for it. As far as I am concerned, anyone who only lives up to HIS classification is good; anyone who tries to impose his classification on others is bad. Period.

I tell you one thing for sure though. If all the people around me were 'good' THAT is not merely the seed of MY happiness, it is a whole ORCHARD!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Educated idiots?

Ulagatthodu otta ozhugal pala katrum kalladhaar ariviladhaar - Tirukuural

He, who knows not how to get along with the world, is an idiot, no matter how well-educated - Loose Translation

Well, well, well...and I thought that this Emotional Quotient thingy was something that the West kindly developed only recently and handed over to the rest of the world to marvel over. This chap, Tiru, seems to have got on to it centuries back. Though, to be sure, he fails miserably on the only count that matters. He does not realize that what is said is unimportant. What is important is to label it nicely. This bloke never bothered to label it at all and see...nobody knows he even said it.

Nice, though, to find one thing that has quite a modern ring to it. There he goes saying that you could be a genius at Physics but if you cannot get along with people, you will only count as a fool. True, you can get that warm feeling that the rest of the world is wrong and you are right. The essence of discovery or invention, though, is how far it advances the knowledge or well-being of mankind, not merely in your own opinion of your scintillating genius. If the latter were the only criterion, you can always have the opinion without necessarily having the genius.

Actually, with all pithy sayings, this does not mean that a successful quest for popularity trumps all knowledge. Though, to be sure, it does seem that such is the case these days. The point Tiru makes covers the gamut of social get along with people, to be able to communicate effectively with them, to even lead them. Essentially, all those abilities that are packaged under the so-called EQ.

Tiru was a wise chap. HE did not think that if someone is a great warrior, he would also be a great orator, a great farmer... Of course, HE did not live in the days of TV where, because he wrote Tirukkural, he would be interviewed on his views about which crop to grow at which place, whether Raag Yaman Kalyan was more mellifluous than Raag Hamsadhwani, which of the various court dancers was the best exponent of Bharatanatyam, yada, yada, so he could hold the view that expertise in one area did not mean expertise in all areas. So, it is unlikely that he expected phenomenal EQ in someone with phenomenal IQ to not consider him a fool. But, yeah, he certainly considers a minimal competence necessary.

Me? I am safe. Let them bother who have the IQ and are worried about not having the EQ. When you do not even have the IQ...

Monday, March 11, 2019

To do or not to do?

Seithakka alla seyakkedum seithakka seyyamai yaanum kedum - Tirukkural

To do what you ought not do and to not do what you ought to do both lead to disaster - Loose translation

I have always been a master of 'Strategic Inaction'. Oh well, for all you non-management chappies with no real appreciation of jargon it is what you would call the 'Ostrich syndrome'. (I? I call it that only when OTHER people indulge in it. When I do it, it is always strategic) You know the thing. 'Bury your head in the sand and hope that the problem will go away' strategy.

To be sure, it is a big help when adhering to the first half of Tiru's sage advice. If you do nothing, there is no way you will be doing what you ought not to do. When I read this one, halfway through I was patting myself on the back and giving myself high fives in the mirror for having avoided disaster. And then, Tiru ups and spoils it all.

There is such a thing as what I ought to do? And not doing that will also lead to disaster. Ye Gods! Is there no way an ordinary man can escape disaster in this vale of tears? (Not an ordinary man? Me? What do you mean? That all you ordinary guys go leaping and bounding, joyfully doing things all the time, and I am the lone guy who is attached to his bed with Fevikwik? Nonsense. If you did not have spouses chivying you out of bed and making you do all sorts of things I'd like to see what you would do. Opening a beer-can, a bag of popcorn and switching on the TV is about all you will manage before collapsing in inartistic poses onto the Lazy-boy, totally exhausted by all that strenuous action.)

But, yeah, I should not take all this advice personally. Impersonally, as applied to other people in the world, I can see what Tiru means. I mean, like the government does not build good roads in time, there will be traffic jams and accidents. If I do as I ought not, as in not maintaining any sort of lane discipline, there will be traffic jams and accidents. If I do not do what I ought to not stopping at a red light when I ought to...there will be traffic jams and accidents.

(What?? Why this obsession with a traffic jam metaphor? Well, THAT means you have never traveled on Bangalore roads. Take it from me, for someone who has, it is a telling metaphor.)

So, yeah, perhaps Tiru does have a point after all. To do and to not do can both lead to disaster.

Now, if only I can rub out that sneaking suspicion that Tiru meant it for me to apply as well...

Monday, March 4, 2019

Look before you leap

Ennitthuniga karumam thunindhapin ennuvam enbadhu izhukku - Tirukkural

Consider well before you decide on a course of action; to decide first and consider later is folly - Loose translation

Tiru has generally been considered a wise old bloke. Yeah, to be sure, I have had reason to believe that his advice suited his times better than they suit ours. But, even in his times, I doubt that people would have lauded his wisdom if he had asked a fellow to think long and hard before tossing his pants off if they were on fire (Veshti, if you want to be too literal about it, given that pants were not what a well-dressed Tamilian of his times was used to wearing).

So, yes, I am sure he really did not mean that you had to hold a round table conference and chart out a full project report before you reacted to an emergency situation. He would not have wagged a finger at you and called you a fool if you ran out of your house in your underwear if the roof was falling down.

What he probably did mean with this wise old saw is about those things that you did have the time to think about the options. THEN there is a point to actually studying the pros and cons, to decide on a course of action, to anticipate possible problems and be prepared with ways to tackle them and all that rigmarole BEFORE you set the ball rolling. You know, just like that English proverb about looking before you leap (Yeah! I know, there are those very wise people who come out saying 'I did look. It still did not help when I fell into the well. I'd have been better off learning to swim.' THAT comes of taking things too literally. Of not understanding that to look before you leaped did not mean that the leaping should inevitably follow the looking. That you could choose not to leap if the looking showed you that you would certainly fall into the well if you leaped.) Tiru, though, goes further and says you need to think and plan, to not merely come to a 'Yes' or 'No' decision but also to know how to carry out the action in case you decide on 'Yes'.

The problem, though, is what I would call 'Other-Handitis'. I am a major sufferer from this dread disease. Any time I need to take a decision, I am like 'On the one hand, it will help me in this' but 'On the other hand, there will be this problem' know how it goes. My head keeps oscillating between this hand and that hand till it goes all dizzy and the decision gets taken for me because the time for action is long past and I am still vacillating between hands. (What? People call that 'Analysis-Paralysis'? Let them. I call it 'Other-Handitis'. So there!) So, if anything at all gets done by me, it is only when I leap first and then tackle issues as they come.

Quite naturally, my work ends up full of sticking plaster. I mean, it is like I start building something, there is a leak there so I apply sticking plaster on that, go on finding something else has developed a crack, apply sticking plaster on that...and so on and so on. Which, essentially, is what Tiru warns of. But, hey, however rickety it is, I did build the damn thing, even if it all falls apart within a week. Otherwise, nothing would have been done.

Bully for me, yeah, but that is not exactly the sort of person organizations should look for, is it? I mean, like, you would not really love a mobile, say, which breaks down every other day, redirects your GF's Whatsapp messages to your parents, drops calls whenever it is not in the mood. Not even if the operator says 'Hey! Count your blessings. You do have a mobile, don't you? It has still not burned to cinders, has it?' You kind of expect the guys backing it to have 'looked before they leaped'.

Tiru is spot on. Except, of course, that he expects ME to do it as well! If only advice applied exclusively to other people...

Monday, February 18, 2019

Turn the other cheek?

Inna seidharai oruthhal avar naana nannayam seidhu vidal - Tirukkural

To avenge yourself on he who does ill to you, shame him by doing good to him and, then, forget both the evil he did and the good you did in return - Loose translation

One does try to see Tiru as still a worthy adviser in contemporary times but it is certainly an uphill task. I mean, yeah, even when someone advises you to turn the other cheek, you tend to ask what if he hits that one as well. Clearly, you think of even that advice as rank idiocy. Except, of course, if the guy who is advising is actually keen on getting you thoroughly beaten up, in which case you are the idiot if you act on that advice.

And Tiru goes way beyond even that. I mean, if someone slapped you, you not only have to keep from hitting the guy back but you also have to reward him for having slapped you. Let that impression of you get out and people will be queuing up to beat you.

And what was that thing about 'shaming' the guy? Really? Far as I can see, if someone hit me and I went out of my way to do good to him, all the chap would think was that he had frightened me so much that I was trying to please him. Far from feeling shamed, he would probably preen about it.

You know, perhaps Tiru did write it for different times. Yeah, the chap himself may not have felt shame even in Tiru's day but....see, it was probably a time when everyone knew everyone else in the neighborhood. So, the evil he did and the good you returned would all be visible to everyone around you, so he would be shamed in Society. And, yeah, if you went around harping on the evil and the good yourself, opinion would not favor you. So, it is best that you yourself totally forget both. Nowadays, when you hardly lift your head from your smartphone to even see where you are going, cannot identify three neighbors to save your life...what society, what shame?

Maybe what Tiru thinks is that all other people around us are not villains. That if someone hurts you, it is more likely a misconception about you, than outright villainy, that causes him to hurt you. So, yes, if you forget the hurt, help him when he is in need, he is likely to be ashamed of having given in to a misconception and hurt you, whereas, if you went on a rampage, it would most likely end up with him feeling vindicated and an enmity sealed for life. In any case, hugging the hurt of the evil someone did to you, periodically taking it out for inspection and burning yourself up with it...well, it is like opening the scab on a wound over and over again, never allowing it to heal and, possibly, causing an infection. So, of course, the chappie wants you to forget it.

Now, THAT is a crucial assumption. That people who cause hurt to you are not necessarily doing it because they take sadistic pleasure in hurting innocents but because they feel they have reason to do so. If that is true, then possibly doing as Tiru says could cause them to revise their opinions.

But...I mean, like, how could anyone feel any reason to want to hurt such a lovable person like me. Unless they are black villains. And be a sort of boy scout to these villainous people? How stupid do you think I am?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Open minded

There are these words which make you feel all fuzzy inside. Take this 'open minded', for example. The moment someone says that some chap is open minded you are all ready to embrace the guy as a bosom pal. I used to be the same as well but...

You see, the thing is that, like in all things, there is the right sort of open-mindedness and the wrong sort. Giving me the sneer down your nose and the wrinkled lip, are you? Well, cannot really blame you for I would have been equally as contemptuous before.

Perhaps you guys have never come across the wrong sort. If you have only had the right sort coming in your way, no wonder you feel that open-minded people are the salt of the earth and only a moron could not like them. They are the guys who may start off saying that the moon is a satellite of earth, made of similar material but, if you say that it is made of green cheese and has an old man living in it, they are willing to consider the matter seriously and admit that they have no direct knowledge of the moon being a satellite and all that jazz, and that they are going largely by hearsay evidence. Yeah, what is not to like about people who hold a diametrically opposite view from your own but are open to seeing the possible logic of your position?

But, then, there is the problem of the wrong sort, which you perhaps never have come across. I don't know whether you have come across a situation like this one.

Me: "Vijay is a *@#$. He promised me a loan on Sunday, I was depending on it and, when I go to him on Sunday, he coolly says he does not have the money to lend."

Open-minded Friend: "Maybe you are right and he never intended helping you. But, why don't you see that he may really have not had the money? Why are you assuming things and calling him names?"

Me: "So why the hell did he promise me? And wait till the time I went to him to say he cannot?"

Open-minded Friend: "Come on! You are acting as though it is your right to expect a loan from him. If he did not have the money, or did not want to lend it, that is his prerogative, isn't it? Why do you think he is answerable to you?"

One thing is for sure. I could become friendly with Vijay again, perhaps, but with this open-minded 'friend' of mine...

You see the problem? The right sort of open-minded guys are the ones who are open-minded enough to VALIDATE your point of view, even though their own ideas were in opposition. The wrong sort are the ones whose open-mindedness leads to their OPPOSING or DISAGREEING WITH your point of view.

If only the world were not so full of the latter...

Monday, January 28, 2019

The unhealing hurt

Theeyinal sutta pun ullaarum aaraadhe naavinaal sutta vadu - Thirukkural

The body heals from the burns caused by fire; the mind, when burnt by words, does not - Loose translation

This one, I am sure, Tiru wrote after a heated argument with Vasuki. I mean, after hearing from her about how he hurt her by what he said twenty years back about her sambar, how he derided her dress eleven years back and so on and so forth, he must have been convinced that the hurt caused by words linger forever while burns heal sooner or later.

But, then, is it not really true of everyone? The male sex may not be able to pull it out like that in an argument but is it really because the wounds have healed or is it just that the data retrieval jams at crucial times? Or is it just that ideas differ on what is truly hurtful and what is not?

Be that as it may, I know very few people who do not have a few hurtful incidents which they cannot get over all through their life. The wounds seep blood every time they are reminded of it. AND, you know what, MOST of those incidents have to do with words, not action.

For once, Tiru got it spot on. But, then, in THIS case that mental orientation thing does not get in the way. Here he is talking of the hurt YOU feel and THAT is something that we all vibe with. We prefer to think of ourselves and our own well-being, so when he talks of THAT, he can never get outdated. It is when he seems to think that we need to consider moralities or other people that he sounds quaint.

But then, maybe, what he was saying here is YOU should be careful not to cause OTHERS hurt with YOUR words.

Let us give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was only talking about how others should not hurt you with THEIR words. Can't have the poor chap feel all depressed about failing to strike a chord every single time!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Sweet speech?

Allavai theya aram perugum nallavai naadi iniya solin - Thirukkural

If speech be sweet, motivated by good intentions, your vices diminish and virtues flourish - Loose translation

Aha! At last. This is one of Tiru's sayings which vibes with the modern world. Flattery gets you everywhere as we all know. I mean, what earns you more friends on Social Media than 'Likes', 'Shares' and praise in comments, all of which is the modern equivalent of 'sweet speech'? Perhaps, Tiru is not totally outdated, after all.

But...wait! What exactly did the chap mean when he said 'motivated by good intentions'? I mean, yeah, I go wholesale praising people all over facebook and Instagram because I want them to come back to do the same to me. Does that count as 'good intentions' and will that diminish my vices and allow my virtues to flourish?

Knowing Tiru, I am afraid not. The chap probably knocked off flattery with that phrase, counting any intent for back-scratching as a 'bad intention'. For that chap, the only good intentions that would probably count are ones that benefit THAT other guy who is getting praised, or society or some such thing. Really, he is harder taskmaster than any boss of mine ever was.

So, yes, Tiru actually wants me to be a sweet spoken chap for the sake of the happiness of others. Yeah, if I were careful with my words, using them only to benefit others or make them happy, obviously I would really have no bandwidth to indulge in any vices. I mean, come on, is it possible for you to simultaneously want the happiness of the other guy AND stab him in the back? Really, how self-deluded could you be to think that poking around a knife between the shoulder blades is calculated to make him happy?

Got to agree with Tiru there...that WOULD diminish vices and allow virtues to flourish all right. Which of you is aiming for it, now? You can practice it on me.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Blame Game

Edhilar kutrampol tan kutram kaangir pin theethundo mannum uyirku - Thirukkural

If you could see your faults in the same way as you see others', you will be safe from evil - Loose translation

I think that there is a problem of mental orientation when it comes to Tiru. Like I have had occasion to muse before, maybe it is that the people of his day all suffered from the same problem.

You see, when Tiru says that seeing your faults in the same manner as you see those of others will keep you safe from evil, there is a problem of exactly what evil he is talking about. What do you think of immediately? Yes, right, you are thinking of the evil that others can do to you and wondering how this attitude will keep you safe from that.

It is like saying that, if you are involve in an automobile collision, you should see that you turned right without indicating the turn and that was as much a problem as the other guy traveling on the right lane when he wanted to go straight. And you should not barge out of the car screaming, "Dimaag hai ki nahin. Seedha jaanaa thaa tho is lane mein kyon aa rahe ho?" ('Do you have any brains? If you wanted to go straight, why were you driving on this lane?'). Instead, you should admit, "I should have indicated a right turn. And you should not have been traveling in this lane." And THAT will keep you safe from evil? Fat chance!

But then, what Tiru sees as evil is, you see, a totally different thing. He is talking of a mental state of virtue. Of YOUR mind being free from evil, free from anger, hatred, greed and the likes. He talks of your ability to see your own faults with the same clear eye as you see those of others as a remedy for feeling superior to OR angry with others for their faults; as a barrier against unreasoning hatred, since hatred arises when you see your 'pure and innocent self' assaulted by vicious others; and as the first step to redressing your own shortcomings.

See what I mean? The chap, and possibly the people of his period, actually seem to think that the evil that you need to cure is the one within you. When any sane modern person can tell you that the only important thing is to ward off the evil that others can do to you.

After all, ALL the evil in the world is caused only by other people!

Monday, January 7, 2019


Vaanuyar thotram evanseyyum thannenjam thaan ari kuttrappadin - Thirukkural

What's the use of acting and appearing holy when your mind dwells on what you know is sinful? - Loose translation

There are times when one truly despairs of Tiru. I mean, yes, he lived in a different age and all that but, really, were people not more interested in appearances than in the truth, even then?

Take this one for example. If a man is steeped in sin in his mind, Tiru would have it that it is no use to appear like a holy man. When everyone knows that, in modern India, appearing like a holy man is exactly what has helped so many people to actually be able to indulge in their sins. To the extent that the holy men, who actually ARE holy in and out, are now being tarred with the same brush. And Tiru would have it that it is no use to appear holy if you are really a sinner in your mind.

But, then, perhaps he was not talking of 'usefulness' so much in terms of what you can get out of it. Maybe what he was talking about of is that a external acts of virtue, when the mind steeped in sin, would be useless in actually MAKING you virtuous. Maybe, in those weird old days, people were really concerned about whether they were really moral and virtuous people. If so, things have changed rather radically since then.

First, we said - in the metaphor of Christianity - "'Though shalt not get caught' is the only commandment', thereby ensuring that power and/or cleverness is all there was to morality. Then, we expanded the ambit of the only morality we respected by converting it to 'Though shalt not be caught AND legally or morally convicted' which essentially meant that you are moral as long as you are caught but your crime is not proven OR your crime is legally proven but you are not caught. Either way, you are still good.

Then, of course, we realized the essential stupidity of adding 'morally convicted' when the whole of morality is a question decided based on whether you are caught and legally convicted. After all, as long as there is wiggle room, there will always be people who will believe and vehemently uphold your innocence, especially if you are rich and/or powerful. So, of course, we binned that too.

So, yes, it is rather cruel to be blaming Tiru for it. His advice was probably good for his times, when people still wanted to BE moral themselves. It is dated nowadays, now that we have decided that we are as good as we have made the world think us to be.

Even if we have to buy or beat that opinion out of those who cohabit this planet with us!