Monday, June 17, 2019

A human resource

The sort of things which make people happy leave me stumped. Especially when it comes to the corporate world. No wonder my managers found me impossible to manage.

Like, take this 'Human Resources' for example. Employees of an organisation were dealt with by what used to be called the 'Personnel Department'. I never had realized that to consider people as 'Personnel' made them inferior to the machinery or raw materials or finances. (I should have, perhaps, going by Bollywood movies where the rich boss would find a worker had lost his hand in an accident and would scream about the damage caused to the machine.)

Till, one day, someone realized that such was indeed the case and decided to redress it - by renaming it as the 'Human Resources Department'. I suppose there were celebrations and parties for days on end with all the erstwhile 'personnel' dancing in the streets exclaiming, 'At last! I am the equal of the water cooler and the diesel genset! Yippeee!"

Now, I really could not see that I had great reason for joy to be considered at par with, say, a bank loan or a bale of cotton. As a 'resource', in short, instead of a person. Which explains why I never really fit into the corporate structure with any degree of comfort.

As in, the managers of human resources were the ones who had to 'oil the squeaking wheels'. The problem, though, was that it could well be that the resource is a 'square peg in a round hole', which is why the friction was causing it to squeal. So, they either chose to 'oil' or chose to switch it around or, if they thought it was faulty, chuck it out with that kiss of death - 'You are not a team-player'. As an employee I was sort of like Hamlet, always wondering 'To squeak or not to squeak, that is the question' because a quest for oil may get me the oil, get me tossed around or even tossed out.

You see, I just could not see how to be seen as a sort of motor which had to finds its right function for the greater purpose of turning out more potato chips, say, was such an elevation from being considered mere 'personnel'. You could be a wonderful party companion ('Employee has great PR skills') or a great father ('Employee could make a good mentor') but, as far as the company was concerned, you are a resource to be used for improving the bottom-line. (What was that? As far as children went you were only an animated ATM machine, with the disadvantage that, when they swiped the card, you first spouted advice before spouting the money? That is as may be. I wouldn't know about that.)

Yeah, I know, a company is not a club or a group of friends, it is a commercial organization and, so, your ability to do card tricks or mimic Amitabh Bacchan is irrelevant to them. The point is that I could not see how calling me a resource makes me happier than calling me 'personnel'. It made me feel that all the difference between me and the coffee vending machine was the same as the difference between an android and a robot - I was biological, the machine was electro-mechanical and that was all the difference there was. (Yeah, yeah, you also consider that the coffee vending machine was far more useful than I could ever be. So?)

Anyway, given that I never could fathom human beings, it is no wonder that the esoteric joys and sorrow of Genus Corporatis evade me totally. It was with a great sigh of relief that I quit the world and, I am sure, that the sigh was echoed by a storm of relief from my organization.

Seemed to me like I had reclaimed being a person. Human, even if not a resource, at last.

Monday, June 10, 2019

I am illiberal?

You know how it goes when you are in your teens and tweens. You just love the idea of labeling yourself - atheist, cynic, what have you. More often than not, it is a label that is the in-thing for the day, for what is the point in troubling to label yourself only to be a rank outsider for all your peers? And, in my time, liberal was the thing to be and, so, I counted myself a liberal.

Generally, once you label yourself, you tend to stick to the damn thing like Fevikwik, because it is normally too much trouble to change labels. The fact, though, is that I never ever felt the NEED to change it, for I liked liberalism and would have been a closet liberal if it had not been the in-thing of the day. (Yeah, right, I never did have the guts to wear an unpopular opinion on my sleeve, so?)

To my utter and complete surprise, I am now discovering that I really am no liberal nor can ever be one. A few run-ins on social media and I find that I had been duping myself all along thinking that I was a liberal when I was no such thing after all.

I mean, there was this Sabarimala issue and I venture an opinion saying that I really did not see where 'Right to Worship' was such a huge thing there. I probably lack imagination but the way I saw it was this. You are a person who believes that your benefits - spiritual, material or whatever - derive from worshiping ONE specific deity out of all the multifarious deities which have temples in this land (It is not like this country is stingy with its deities, nothing like the only ONE which other religions have to make do with. You even have some who admit devotion only by women.) AND that there are certain specific benefits conferred by the deity when you worship THAT deity in THAT specific temple and not in the other ones where you are not prohibited from entering. So, you have belief in that deity's powers to confer benefits on you but NOT in its powers or intent to punish you for breaking a prohibition which is supposedly put in place by the wishes of that deity. An atheist would believe in neither and, thus, dare to enter but an atheist really does not want to worship so no right to worship is involved, is there? But someone devout and, yet, believes in the benefits and not the negative consequences? How many such people can there really be, whose right to worship is affected? And, so, I said that the brouhaha about it probably cost far more in the antipathy it generated about feminism, even among women, compared to the benefits that it could give.

You know what, the very people who scream 'ad hominem' (attacking the person instead of attacking only his ideas), when it is practiced on them, started calling me male chauvinist and bhakt and what have you. I mean, even when you say I am 'mansplaining' what you actually mean is that I am the sort who mansplains, which is a personal attack and not an explanation of WHY what I am saying is mansplaining. (Not that I may not be mansplaining but, if I am, I really do NOT know where I am wrong nor was I enlightened by the responses I got.) If I had only been vituperative or dismissive, if I had offered no argument of my own, I can understand the reaction but not when I had some reason to offer. THEN I expect my reasons to be demolished, not my character.

And then there was the time I took the stance in favor of capital punishment. For me, it was more a discussion of the pros and cons and, in my opinion, the pros outweighed the cons, which may only mean that the importance I give to the pros may be more than what others did. And, then, I was called a 'bloodbayer' and such, to my total consternation. (Well, as it turned out, comes Nirbhaya case, a lot of those who did not favor capital punishment turned 'bloodbayers' too, which just goes to show that the weights we assign to the pros and cons of any social idea CAN change with circumstances.)

There was this other time when, again, I offered a contra-view to what was being postulated by someone. That person, apparently, periodically checks for whether India is still a democracy and kindly made me privy to the fact that the last he checked it still was. And that it conferred a Freedom of Expression which I had no right to interfere with. Strangely, though, when they offer a contra opinion on MY posts, and I even just argue against it, AGAIN it is THEIR freedom of expression that is under threat. After long exposure to Social Media, I have had to conclude that EVERYONE ELSE has freedom of expression except me.

Quite possibly true that. I have gone dizzy tracking the terms of liberalism, which keep sprouting every other day, and I tick all the wrong boxes. There is cis (I thought I had left it behind in college, where cis-isomers and trans-isomers were one of my banes in Organic Chemistry. Never realized that they would use 'cis' to indicate those who are not transsexuals), there is 'het' (heterosexual, I think), then there is male, and there is Savarna - and I tick ALL those boxes, the wrong ones. So, yes, I probably am disqualified by my birth from being a liberal and probably also from being allowed freedom of expression.

So, now, I need to be silent and watch for what the general consensus is about any issue and carefully nod assent to them. OR just remain silent. With all those strikes against me, thanks to my birth, my membership in a liberal club is perpetually at risk. A slight misjudgment and I will be a Savarna privilegist or a male chauvinist or a cishet or whatever, ad hominem or no ad hominem.

Par for the course for someone who totally misunderstood liberalism and probably really does not belong in that club. From where I came, liberalism was not a dogma with laid out acceptable beliefs to be followed. It was the idea that one should be open to ALL opinions on ANY sociological phenomenon, assess them on their merits, without regard to or taking recourse to ANY dogma. It is that OPENNESS which formed the basis of liberal THINKING. Liberal IDEAS are a shade different, they are a consensus of what is right (which, again, can be debatable. For example, which side would you take - sanctity of life or the right of a woman over her body, when discussing abortion rights?) If they are not to become just another dogma, then the openness to question them MUST continue to exist.

THAT, unfortunately, has been my downfall, this mistaken idea of what liberalism is all about. For, you see, the way I think of liberalism is impossible to practice. Most ideas and opinions of people are a consequence of ingrained conscious or unconscious biases, and most people are seduced by the idea that they deserve the privileges that society confers on them by birth. So, it means that it is necessary to change the way people THINK and not merely to enforce IDEAS.

To propagate liberal thinking and, thereafter, liberal ideas is a hard grind, patiently explaining their errors to the well-meaning, whose unconscious biases will cause them to make many missteps, and slowly grinding away at the systems that confer unearned privileges depending on birth. If, at the first sight of a misstep or even a different opinion from the well-meaning, you call them a right-wing fanatic, you may as well try to teach a child mathematics by calling it a brainless idiot every time it makes a mistake. All you will cause is, at best, a silent resentment.

The worst, of course, is what is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Just like the child would come to believe that it lacks brains, these people would BECOME what you call them - right-wing fanatics.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Unreasonably reasonable

Maybe it is only me (I KNOW this is usually used as a euphemism for 'Of course if you do not agree, YOU must be crazy' but I REALLY mean it at face value, believe me) but I find that most of the so-called virtues, when practised by others end up being vices as far as I am concerned. (Yes, of course, virtues are defined as what does good to me and vices are those that do not)

You know, like the honesty my brother used to practise invariably ended up with my having to admit that I broke that glass, with the consequences attendant upon such...err...damaging admissions. Or the professionalism shown by my school Cricket captain resulting in my doing fielding...outside the boundary line. Things like that.

Take this being reasonable thingy for example. Everyone loves a reasonable person...or so they claim. Perhaps they really do and, maybe, it is only me...

But take this for example.

Me: "Damn Rohit! I thought he was a friend and he just rudely refused to lend me his assignment to copy"

Friend: "Maybe he was just in a bad mood."

Me: "Yeah, he was happily laughing till then, and the bad mood struck him just the second before I asked him..."

Friend:  "Perhaps, he had not completed the assignment, yet."

Me: "Then he would have said so. Instead of just yelling 'No'"

Friend: "Anyway, you ought to do your own assignments. He is right if he thought he should not help you copy."

There! This chap was a reasonable guy, according to my parents and all, but he is reasonable only about others, as far as I can see. This brand of reasonableness made him widely disliked in class, so maybe it is not only me.

You know, this writing books comes with its own set of problems. Like someone thinks your book is garbage and you can only take solace from the fact that she also thinks that Cervantes' 'Don Quixote' stinks only slightly lesser than yours. If I did not like a genre, I generally give a wide berth to it (like my striking off any Booker Prize winner from my read list, as I have had occasion to mention before), so I do find it tough to understand why someone would read parody after parody when they have no taste for it. But, as they say, it takes all kinds...

Anyway, to get back to the point, a writer has to be this Buddha-like serene guy who can take any criticism on his chin and thank the critic for helping him learn his craft. Well, turning the other cheek I find impossible and, having only one chin, I really do not have any other chin to turn, so...

Anyway, taking a leaf from the politicos, writers too end up having a public persona and a private persona. In public, they are forced to be all honey, saying things like, "Every reader is entitled to express his opinion. As for me, I try to take it in the right spirit and learn from it." In private and especially in the right 'spirits', the reactions generally tend to be, shall we say, unprintable. (THIS is, of course, NOT about those who get thousands of reactions and have time only to look up the overall ratings, if that)

Anyway, I too have learned to zip my lips in public, but there are times I am fit to burst and have to let off steam. And who can you do it with, if not a friend? Social media is ruled out, of course, because it is as public as it can get and you can do irreparable damage to that Buddha image you are trying to establish there.

Me: 'I write a pulp fiction action tale and people diss it for not being Lit Fic. What nonsense"

Friend: 'They are only giving their honest opinion. If they did not like it, do they not have a right to say it?"

Yeah! Like I did not know it. Come on, when a chap is blowing off steam, is it too much to ask for you to keep your comments down to 'Hmmm' and 'Aaaah'. As if you never got all butt-hurt and angry when someone criticized you, even legitimately, and had to cry (and the male version of 'cry' seems, unfortunately, to have been defined as acceptable only if it is shouting and screaming, and not going 'Boohooohoo') on someone else's shoulder? Just to get your emotions under control? So, I come to let off steam and you sit firmly on the lid and refuse to allow me to let off pressure? Is THAT reasonable?

I have said all this before? Or some such equivalent thing? Perhaps, but then I am nearly at an age where repeating myself is almost a sine qua non, failing which you will believe that my birth certificate is a fake. (Google that 'sine qua non', don't complain about Tharoorisms. I, as I have just told, do not even have a friend to help me let off pressure with, if you start criticizing my language).

Anyway, THAT for reasonable people. Their idea of reasonable seems to always be reasonable about the other chap's actions, never about mine. Unreasonably reasonable the whole goddamn lot of them.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Convincing Insults?

There was this time, in my long gone childhood, when I had a rooted conviction that 2+2 equaled 5. At that time, between my father and my math teacher, I probably learned every possible synonym that could be used to call someone mentally deficient. After being so insulted I eventually conceded that 2+2 may well be equal to 4 after all.

I believe that there are countries in the world today where my math teacher would be out of a job and my father be bereft of one son for such insulting behavior. Considering some sons (like me? NAAH), the father could well consider it a blessing, with the added advantage that the government would also be getting its comeuppance, having to handle that son. (Now, Now, do I look like a Emigration consultant that you want me to urgently send you the information about which those countries are? Google it, guys!)

Anyway, that is a digression, something you guys must be used to from me, by now. The point was that THAT was the last time I ever changed any opinion as a consequence of being insulted. Ever since I became an adult, or hit the age when it pleases Society to call me one, I don't remember learning anything different because I was insulted.

Stands to reason, right? I mean you and I differ on something, you tell me that my brain rattles in the head every time I shake it, what do you expect me to do? Would I rather think that YOU are a fool because that makes it sure that you are wrong in both opinions - the subject at hand and the size of my brain? Or do I accept your opinion about the size of my brain and reassess the subject? Most often, all that happens is that we end up discussing the relative sizes of each others' brains, ranging from pea-sized to nano-meters, and forget what set us off on this biological expedition in the first place.

And, as usual, I assumed the world was all like me. Only to find that, in Social Media, people actually try to convince others by calling them names. Ye Gods! I mean, really, you will call me a congenital idiot and expect me to change my opinion so that you can change YOUR opinion about my genes? Really?

I may be wrong, though. A friend suggests that there is no real intention to try and change people's opinions. There is that strange rush of pleasure, apparently, which comes when people unite to insult someone else. Never felt it myself but then, going by the same friend, I was apparently THAT someone else for all my friends, so there is that.

Or, perhaps, people think that whoever disagrees with them had to be a child...and insults work with a child, as witness the first paragraph. But, then, even with children it works only when it comes from someone they look up to. And if they looked up to you, how could there be a disagreement in opinions?

Anyway, I am antediluvian as everyone knows, so maybe, these days, insults do convince people of how wrong they are.

Or, maybe, even though most of the messages seem alike, I am getting only all those messages intended only for children.

Awright. I am convinced by whatever whoever says. Now stop the insults, sil vous plait?

Monday, May 20, 2019

Thrashed?

"PM thrashes journalist in TV interview"

I had heard that news on television had become very interesting but I had not realized that it had become as good as a Jackie Chan movie. So, when the link to a Youtube clipping popped up on my Timeline, I leapt up with a 'Yippie' and hastily grabbed some popcorn before clicking on the video. Time for an action reality show - The Prime Minister and the Press.

Yeah, I know, all you know-it-alls, who are glued to news channels all day long, are sneering right now. Of course, it was a damp squib, mainly a short chat-fest with nary a blow or a kick. AND what sort of climax is it to a show, billed as a thrashing, to end with 'Dosti bani rahe'? Like one of those erstwhile MGR movies where, at the end, the villain suffers a change of heart (Of course 'suffers' is the right word! If you saw the look on his face in that scene, you would not doubt it) and becomes the hero's best friend.

"Trolls ask actress to go to Pakistan. Check out how she shuts them up. Epic!"

The visual media let me down. Words, now...they are more reliable. I'm sure that the actress must have said something pithy in response to strangers trying to reorganize her travel plans.

Maybe on the lines of what Disraeli did when Gladstone tried his hand at fortune-telling? Gladstone apparently forecast to Disraeli that "You will either die of syphilis or be hanged for treason." In response Disraeli said, "That, sir, will depend on whether I embrace your mistress or your principles." or some such.

Or, perhaps, like Churchill purportedly responded to George Bernard Shaw? Shaw, apparently, sent a couple of tickets to the opening show of his play but was then plagued by a serious doubt. He enclosed a note saying, "Use one of them for yourself. Bring along a friend, if you have one." Churchill, could not attend the the opening and, while RSVPing, was plagued by a doubt in his turn. So he, apparently, sent a note saying, "Unable to make it to the opening show. Shall attend the second, if there is one."

An epic put down would be like that, no? Not like that dumb 'thrashing' show. I eagerly look up that epic riposte.

"Breaking News: I am going nowhere. Last I checked, India is still a democracy."

Epic? Ah, well! I am too old, my definitions of what is epic and what is not is probably totally out of date.

Sickened by this let down of all my hopes, I am about to shutdown when this headline catches my eye.

"Journalist thrashes nervous PM"

Maybe I should not be hasty. These bhakts cannot be relied upon, they will say anything, but the other guys...they are dependable, are they not? I seize the popcorn again with renewed enthusiasm and click on the link.

Ye Gods! It is the SAME damn clipping. The same 'Dosti bani rahe' climax. Shucks!

It looks like thrashing, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Even unto who is the thrasher and who is the thrashee, if I may coin a word. And, I...where these guys SEE a thrashing - except a minor disagreement about who thrashed who - I find myself still looking around desperately trying to locate the thrashing. Much like I was desperately searching for the tiger which everyone except me could see in Bandipur.

But, going by what appears in the headlines on my timeline, Jackie Chan and Jet Li have a lot of competitors on the Net. Everyone is thrashing everyone else, shutting down others, kicking ass and what not.

All the World is a battleground and all the men and women epic tweeters!

Monday, May 13, 2019

The biggest sin?

I was engrossed in my book when a voice spoke from behind me, "You cannot stop a man who knows he is right and keeps-a-coming? What rubbish."

If you read books, you will know that rush of anger which sweeps through you when someone trashes your favorite author's words. The same thing rushed through my veins but, unfortunately, all I could manage was to bleat, "Why do you say so?"

"Of course, you believe it. You are the sort who would believe a Hitler is a saint if he had a way with words or a sense of humor or both. 'Where there is the gift of the gab, there can be no sin' is how your pea-sized brain thinks."

"What's with the insults? Why don't you just explain why you think it is rubbish?"

"Oh! I am sure that, in the story, that heroic dude is really in the right and you can jump in your seat with excitement as he keeps-a-coming, without any guilt. In real life, though...tell me, how often have you KNOWN that you are in the right? And how often have you really been in the wrong when you thought you KNEW you were right?"

These are generally vexing questions for me. I mean, perhaps there are people who archive every single second of their lives in their minds and can readily retrieve data as necessary. In fact, I am sure most people can do it, as witness the readiness with which they can recollect every single time I messed up in life. But, I...a sieve is no competition to my memory, the way everything just seems to slither off and vanish into the dark unknown.

"See. How difficult it is to even remember when you were last sure that you were right?"

Well, my problem was just that it was difficult to remember. But why admit to more incapacity than the guy was granting me?

"Looks like you have some redeeming qualities, after all", he continued. "Otherwise, you would be sure you are in the right...oh, in maybe your ideas of what one can eat, or what way people should dress, or how it is righteous to clamor for freedom of expression in one thing and silence it in another or whatever."

"So...so people should not have opinions? Is that what you mean?"

"Opinions...they are fine. If you only had an opinion about dietary practices, you would not lynch someone for differing with you. AND will even feel furious at someone who does."

"So, what's your point, then?"

"A man who knows he is right and keeps-a-coming? THAT's a self-righteous man. A man who thinks he is fighting for truth and justice. On the side of the angels, against the evil whelps of Satan. THAT's a man who will say anything, do anything and not even feel remorse. For if what he is fighting for is right, anything he does in the process is righteous, isn't it?"

"You mean...somewhat like the Crusades? Like, supposedly, the Crusaders were immune to sin, even if they pillaged and raped, as long as they were fighting to reclaim Jerusalem?"

"Ah!" he said approvingly. "You probably do have a brain, much though I have doubted its existence so far. Yes! Every religious war - crusades, jihad, call it what you will - is fought by tapping into that vein of self-righteousness which exists in every human. There is nothing like it to convert an ordinary human being into a monster from the pits of Hell. Especially if you can also encourage him to think of those who oppose him as imps of Satan."

"But in ordinary life..."

"Hmmm! What made you, the other day, yell rudely at that chap who dropped a bit of plastic on the pavement? Self righteousness. In the normal course, you would have said the same thing politely."

See what I mean? These chaps can just pull out things like this. And I...

He went on, in a musing tone.

"I suppose it is the biggest sin, this self righteousness. All the other ones...when you sin, you know you are doing wrong, your conscience probably keeps nagging you. There is a possibility that you will change. This, though. When you KNOW you are right, you keep-a-coming. You do things that you would never do otherwise. Your conscience falls in line right behind your every action, and you feel a glow of satisfaction at the end of it. There is no redemption because you do not even think that you need to be redeemed."

"Ah! I get it! So, THAT's why people started saying 'Greed is good' and all that. Convert the sins themselves into righteousness and..."

He looked at me in shocked wonder. "Well! Well! Well! You are positively scintillating today."

"Anyway, you cannot blame me of self righteousness. My ideas are ratified by most people on my timeline..."

"Just as I thought you were halfway human. You live in an echo chamber, which parrots the ideas of whichever leaders, and trot along behind, bleating 'Baa! Baa!", and think you are not being self-righteous."

I cleared my throat to put in an 'Objection, your honor!' but he just steamrollered on.

"If you refuse to consider the possibility that you may be wrong, and refuse to even hear any argument against your views, you are self-righteous. If you think that the pursuit of what you feel is right absolves you of all normal human considerations - be it politeness or respect for life or whatever, you are self-righteous. And, if you are self-righteous, you have the seeds of the same sin in you that made the Nazis what they were."

"Say, why do you keep insulting me?"

"Because I am RIGHT!"

Monday, May 6, 2019

Neo-Scientific thinking

This thinking thing, apparently, is not merely sitting in your armchair and musing about the thusness of things. It is supposed to be used to come to conclusions about all sorts of things. Including, but not limited to, what you should have for lunch.

In the initial days, when people had not gotten around to complicating things, conclusions were derived based on 'Oh! That is what it says in the Holy Book' or, even, 'My grandfather says so' or some such thing. If there was any dispute about the correct conclusion it was resolved on the basis of whose grandfather was more respected. Failing that, the conclusion depended on who was better at fisticuffs. (Why not based on which of the disputants was more powerful, without dragging in grandfathers? Ah! Well! If one the the two was himself more powerful, would there even BE a dispute?)

That, apparently, was not the scientific way of doing things because the science of fist-fighting was not acceptable as the correct science for these purposes. So, then, people started looking down upon coming to conclusions without the facts. The right way, apparently, was to collect and analyze the facts and allow them to lead to a conclusion. If there were insufficient facts, as normally proves to be the case, you were allowed to form a tentative conclusion - called a hypothesis. The funny thing was that they insisted that you should discard the conclusion/hypothesis if a fact does not agree with it where the natural thing is to discard the damn fact.

I mean, come on, if a brick sticks out of a building do you discard the damn brick or the building? But, no, scientific thinking says that it is the building that is wrong, not the brick! And, you know what, the number of metaphorical buildings that have turned out to be wrong, or not completely right, because a brick would not fall into place is truly astounding.

There are always people, though, who do not like being lead. So, of course, this idea of facts leading them by the nose to whatever conclusion they chose was very irksome for them. This scientific thinking was too raw, too tame, and needed refining. So, they decided to improve the method.

You know, facts can be interpreted multiple ways. Like, the soup can be too salty OR the eater can be the one who likes lesser salt in his soup. So, at first, the easiest way to stick to scientific thinking, and still not allow the facts to dictate the conclusions, was to simply reinterpret the facts.

That did not suffice. Some solution had to be found for those stick-out bricks which brought down buildings. You know, those inconvenient facts that did not fit your conclusions. So, the next step of refining, obviously, had to address them. A twofold approach of refinement was added to the process.

The first thing was to ensure that you never did anything that could locate such a fact. You know, like you never do a study that checks for the impact of sugar intake on health but concentrated on what fats do. The second thing, of course, was that if you DO stumble on such a fact, you ignore it totally. Over a period, you could become such an expert that no such fact intrudes itself on your attention even if it bit you in the ass.

That worked for quite a while but, when everyone wanted to come to their own conclusions without waiting for experts to lead them, it became a problem. It took long practice, from childhood in some cases, to become an expert at selectively noticing and interpreting facts in a truly refined scientific manner. Not something everyone could do, so...

Neo-scientific thinking was born. The hegemony of facts was done with. Why should we allow conclusions to be the slaves of facts? From now on, facts shall be the product of conclusions. We will CREATE the facts that suit our conclusions. (Somewhat like my practicals at engineering college. I KNEW what the results ought to be, thanks to ten bucks to the lab attender, but I could never get the experimental readings that would allow me to get those results. So, I used to work out what the experimental data should be, based on the results, and voila...)

What do you mean that it is old wine in a new bottle? That, in all probability, those original guys who said it was in the Holy Book had probably not even laid their eyes on that tome, even if they knew how to read, and were only creating their facts? Or that their grandfathers' only communication with them was a kick on their backside, so all that rot about what the venerable gentlemen said was a fact created to support their conclusion? That there is nothing new or scientific about 'Neo-Scientific thinking'?

Isn't that precisely the point, you dolts? If it is not there in the content, at least put it in the label!

Monday, April 29, 2019

The value of scarcity

You know, I find myself at odds with what most people seem to think. ('So what else is new?' you ask? It never strikes you to ask yourself that when you trot out your political or social views ad nauseam, does it? So, why me?) I mean, people seem to feel that more of anything is a good thing and scarcity is some sort of evil plague to be rid off...and I, somehow, do not completely agree.

A part of the problem is this pesky education which pushed my face into some truly odd stories. Like this one which was excerpted in my English lessons.

Tom Sawyer is asked to whitewash the fence as a punishment. When his friends come around, Tom acts as though he loved the idea of whitewashing the fence and was granted the privilege by his aunt with great difficulty. And was pestered by his friends to allow them to do a bit of whitewashing, which he reluctantly grants after being bribed by them with apples, marbles and what have you.

By which, Mark Twain actually seems to indicate that making something appear scarce is the best way to make it seem desirable. And, of course, he is right. Go around checking for all the products which are sold at ludicrously high prices and if you do not see an the aura of 'exclusive' hanging around it, I'll eat my hat. (I don't have one, yes, so what, you literal *#$@). And 'exclusive' is just another way of saying 'scarce' cos it essentially means 'not everyone can lay hands on this'.

Yeah, true, most of such products essentially are as desirable as getting to whitewash a fence though, in real life, you 'whitewash fences' in a different place in order to be able to afford these 'scarce goods',  but if the same thing were freely available to everyone, you may not even want the dratted thing. In other words, in quite a lot of these things you pay through the nose for the 'scarcity' and not the product or service itself, because THAT is what makes it seem worth that astronomical price.

Not to mention that, even where you work, you are lead by the nose by the same 'scarcity' thing. As in, they say "These meetings are highly confidential and only select people can attend" and you bust your ass working fifteen hour days, weekends thrown in, so that you can be one of those 'select' people...and then earn the privilege of working eighteen hour days with the annual vacation gone bust as well. (No? I mean, I did put it rather crassly but what exactly is a Board, a Cabinet, whatever, but a talk-fest which has 'scarcity' value?)

Plenty is all too nice to contemplate but it is scarcity that really has value. If everyone had everything, nobody would really appreciate anything. And then you feel the need to keep running after pie in the sky because the pie on the table seems so boring. You need to be deprived of something before you see value in it. If pie on the table were relatively scarce, you will not get a crick in the neck drooling at that pie you think is there in the sky. 

Let there be scarcity, then. Not so much that you starve, but enough so you appreciate what you get.

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?"

"BUT WHY?"

"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."

"But...you 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 call...ad hominem...in 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 it...as, 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

Steadfast?

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 gain...now 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

Balanced?

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 interaction...to 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 do...like 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' but...you 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!