Monday, July 29, 2019

Fruity Friends?

"I think friends are like fruits", said my friend, musingly.

I looked up in alarm. He did say 'fruits', didn't he, and not 'fruitcakes'? For some unknown reason when a person is called a 'fruitcake', some chaps think that he means that the person is a shy a few brain cells. And you do know what my friends generally think of me.

"Some are like apples. Just like you can readily enjoy an apple, all the way through, you feel immediately comfortable with them and can freely speak of anything with no problem of running into no-go zones or being made to feel unwanted. Except, perhaps, at the core."

"Apples can be over-ripe, under-ripe, spoilt..." Philosophy may be beyond me but apples I do know to an extent.

"Shit", he said irritably. "You do bring in the most inconsequential things. At that, you have a point maybe. People very seldom start out being the best that they can be. The point about the 'Apple' friends is that they CAN become a great apple and you can help them become so."

I was about to start off on the inadvisability of biting straight off into the apple, without washing off pesticides and wax and what-not but I refrained. Somehow, it seemed to me that he was not likely to be receptive to such important nutritional information at this point in time.

"Others are like...err...guavas, I suppose. You can readily bite into a guava, just like with an apple, but there will always be seeds. So, these guava friends are people with whom you can get along readily but the interaction will always have periodic friction."

"The moody types, you mean", I was getting interested in this fruity discussion.

"For once, you get it. Moody or with certain opinions which you cannot oppose without getting into a fight. Things like that. You CAN help them be better 'guavas' but they are certainly never going to become 'apples'. So, if you only like apples, stay away from them so that you do not muck up your happiness and theirs."


"The Orange types are difficult to get close to but, once you do get in, they allow you in all the way."

With varying degrees of sweet and sour and you could not always expect things to go your way, I thought but did not say. It would just be inviting sarcasm to say anything at all.

"Then I suppose you have the mangoes." 

I'd have thought mangoes would have featured much earlier on the menu but...

"They are sweet, can be readily eaten but then you will hit the seed and cannot go beyond. So also with these guys. Sweet on the surface but intensely private people."


"Then the Jack-fruit lot..."

"Don't tell me. Difficult to get close to, moody, and private as well but with periodic bouts of sweetness."

"Hmmm. You really outdo yourself today."

It must have been the compliment that made me do it. I got drunk on it, I suppose, since compliments come my way so rarely.

"So, what sort of a fruit am I?"

I could have bitten off my tongue almost as soon as I asked it. I ought to know that if you fish for compliments all that happens is that YOU get gaffed. Now this guy was going to say, 'You are a grape. To be squashed and allowed to stew in your own juices' or some such.

"You? You are inedible."

Monday, July 22, 2019

Self-satisfying philosophy

You know, the problem with most philosophy is that it wants you to do things that you do not want to do; and not do the things that you do want to do.

Religion, for example. I mean, like, you are not to allowed to gorge yourself, not allowed to boast about how you got the better of your neighbor, not allowed to leer at anyone other than your own spouse...No wonder it took burning at the stake, and other such raps on the knuckle, to keep you sticking to it; and no wonder that you stopped paying more than lip service to it the moment you knew there was no punishment in the here and now for it. (Eternal damnation? We will finesse our way around it when the time comes or, perhaps, it is only bad PR that makes it sound that terrible. Anyway, all that is worrisome only if this thing about our having souls is true.)

So, when I first came across capitalism, it was a breath of fresh air. You know how it is in your teens. You can hardly believe that anything matters other than your own needs and wants. And, honestly, you really do not need the aggravation of people telling you how you need to be less selfish, less self-centered, whatever. And here was this economic philosophy that said that the greater good of society would be achieved even if you were selfish. In fact it almost seemed like you HAD to be selfish in order for society to prosper. So much for the 'unscientific' views about being unselfish.

And then came Ayn Rand. Wow! What a philosopher! At last a philosophy that vibed totally with me. As long as the 'markets' were willing to pay me money to make a living, I was being useful to society. And I was entitled to all the money that came my way. You know, I used to have that niggle about not being charitable. Rand made it clear that charity was almost a sin. I mean, if someone is feckless enough not to provide value to society and, thus, is poor, then it is only right that he starves. At last a philosophy which made me feel quite comfortable being who I was and did not pester me about becoming a better person or guilt trip me.

There is a lot of problem with growing up, it messes up your happiness. I mean, you tend to ask yourself all sorts of idiotic questions like 'Is it Ok for the children to starve because the parents are feckless?', for example. Or, 'If someone gets cancer early and has no means to treat it, is it Ok for Society to allow him to die untreated?" Or, 'Is the value I am providing society not a function of the expensive education which my dad provided me? So, how can I call that guy lazy just because his dad could not afford it?'. Or, even, 'What if AI displaces me from MY job? Should it be OK for me to starve, even though I am willing to work, because the world has no work for me?'

Then it starts seeming to you that, maybe, not all solutions for all possible problems lie with capitalism, or any 'ism' for that matter. And you find that there is a lot of need for you to tune your way of life, that you cannot merrily be selfish and expect the world to become a utopia thanks to your selfishness. That it is your clamoring for packaged goods that creates a demand for plastics; your love for luxury cars that pollutes the atmosphere. And, even perhaps, your untiring efforts to grow your company which, by fostering consumerism, is destroying the Earth.

You know, growing up is a pain. I mean, there I was, happy that all I had to do was please myself, as long as the 'markets' paid me enough to please myself with, and also help Society. Which meant I did not need to worry about pesky things like purpose in life and all, for did not whatever I did to suit myself automatically make for a better life for others? Was not whatever the 'markets' gave me fair for me to get? And, then, I grow up and find myself doubting if it really did serve society, if it was really fair.

A philosophy, propounded by someone in such terms as seem erudite and worthy of respect, and also leaves me self-satisfied with exactly who I am! When will another such come my way?

Monday, July 15, 2019

Better to have loved and lost?

"It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all", says this friend and smirks at me. Why smirk at me? It's obvious that I have not 'loved and won' or, at least, held on to my 'winnings', considering that I am single (And put a sock in your mouth if you are about to bleat 'ready to mingle'.) But exactly why should he assume that I am of those who have 'never loved at all', for otherwise he would not be smirking at me.

You know, this is about the only thing, though, where to not win does not make you a loser. In almost any other activity, if you lose, all the guys, who would never even dream of trying, will line up and chorus 'Loser' at you. But this? Apparently, for once, it is better to have lost than to never have tried! (I have heard cries about having lost only the love without losing the person, from those who 'won' and married, but I would not know about that. I suppose it goes to show that, as in many things, people like the thought of having it, chase it vigorously, but have no clue what to do with it once they get it. Lucky are the few who do.)

Whether you consider them wise or poor deprived souls, it is not like I really belong with the 'never have loved at all' gang. And I am not even talking about my swooning over Sridevi, mooning over Madhuri, and so on. I know how highly you guys estimate my IQ but even I know the difference between romance and fantasy.

The first time I loved and made bold to tell it to the girl, she was curious about whether I was acquainted with the mirror. As in, she asked me, "Ever seen your face in the mirror?" ("Kabhi shakal dekhi aayine mein?" sounds much better, really - not when it is addressed to you, of course!) Now, just because I do not shave, why do people think that I avoid mirrors totally? Of course I had seen my face in the mirror. Two eyes, tick. One nose, if you really look for it, tick. And, since the food that I push in between all that facial hair disappears inside me, I presume that I do have that opening which people call a mouth. So, exactly what was she wondering about? Anyway, I got a sort of hint that, if there was a blissful future of nappy-changing in my life, it was unlikely to be with this girl.

And then there was this girl, who occupied my fantasies, when we regularly traveled together in the bus to our respective offices. And one day we happened to sit beside each other. I cleared my throat and started off with 'Excuse me'. She turned to me with a bright smile and said, "Yes, Uncle?"

In all my extensive reading, I have seen girls addressing their dream man with all sorts of words but 'Uncle' was never one of them. So, it did not seem likely to me that I was going to walk hand-in-hand with this lady into the sunset. And when the 'uncles' became ubiquitous, it was clear that the absence of a few strands of dead protein on the head was having a disastrous effect on any possibility of 'loving and winning'.

But, well, I had loved and lost, hadn't I? More often than most, really, considering that if you loved and won the first, you really have done it only once. (AND, if you have held on to your 'winnings', you better make sure that you claim it is the first time when love REALLY struck you.)

What? You don't think I have loved and lost? That to lose something you must have it in the first place and I never had it? What do you mean? I loved, I lost.  Multiple times. If you mean that the other person never loved me, and so it does not fit, you should have said, "Better to have BEEN loved and lost it, than to have never been loved at all." THEN I would agree with you.

AND if you allowed love to find you (I don't mean waiting for the person but waiting for the emotion to be felt for whichever of the people you meet), instead of going around trying to find it, maybe you would not be losing it and then justifying why it is still good to do so. So there!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Confusing proverbs

It may only be me (which, as we all know, means 'Of course, it is not only me') but I really do think that there are these proverbs put in primarily to confuse people. It is almost like two people with diametrically opposite views started firing proverbs at each other. AND, instead of organizing it in two separate 'isms', people put it all together higgledy-piggledy and peddled the whole thing as wisdom.

You see, I was always a great believer in 'Haste makes waste'. Which accounts for why, whenever a job came my way, I kept looking on at it, like Jerome K Jerome, admiring the complexity of it. I mean like, if I did not make haste, a lot of times the need for doing the job goes away so I avoid a lot of wasted effort. (A lot of THAT happens in corporate life, let me tell you, with urgent humongous jobs being thrust on unwary subordinates only to be forgotten before the end of the day.) And if it does not, why then I bloody well have to get down to doing it in a hurry but, hey, I did not make haste after all so it is all good, isn't it?

And then someone comes and screams at me for 'leaving everything to the eleventh hour'. Unfair, I tell you, and untrue as well since my general procedure is to leave things for the thirteenth hour. But, apparently, this is a bad thing because...well, mostly, these things end up on the basis of 'because everyone says so'. I'd like to meet up with this 'everyone' which invariably seems not to include me. Makes me feel quite a pariah, let me tell you, to find myself outside of this 'everyone' who says things that run contrary to my own inclinations and mess up my life. It is like I am the only guy who has no vote on what rules get made. (Funny thing is everyone I met feels the same way, so exactly who is this 'everyone' which seems to include no one?)

Anyway, between 'haste makes waste' and 'not leaving everything to the eleventh hour', life is thoroughly mucked up. Which am I to believe in? If I do things fast, I am making haste; if I delay, I am leaving everything for the last minute. There seems no way to win.

Someone said that this is a very digital way of looking at things. To not be hasty does not mean that you need to delay things till the last hour, apparently. And he threw in a third proverb the mix - 'Slow and steady wins the race'. Ah! Well! As if I needed any further help in getting confused.

Me, I think it is only the way you present what you are doing that matters. I mean, if you said 'A stitch in time saves nine' instead of 'Haste makes waste', there you are, being wise and virtuous.

And never say 'Leaving things to the eleventh hour'. You are only 'taking things deep'.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Do thine duty

You know what, it is astonishing how we have such a keen eye for what other people's duties are and how they are doing it. As for our own...well, truly, do you really expect me to do anything?

But that is what I set out to talk about. It is more about that thing everyone spouts from the Bhagavad Gita - 'Karmanyeva adhikaaraste maphaleshu kadachana'. Yeah, the same 'Do thine duty, bother not about the fruits thereof'.

This, I thought, was the one thing that I understood completely without someone bashing me up on how I mucked up thoroughly. (You know, I sort of deserve a Nobel for perfection. All my friends are agreed that I achieve perfection in mucking up things.)

So, when I first was employed, I knew what to do. Just concentrate on doing my job and the raises and promotions will automatically come to me. (You know, I do my duty and the fruits will automatically accrue? Exactly). It, somehow, did not work that way. I mean, yeah, I was doing my duty but there always seemed to be someone around who thought, or at least claimed, that it was he who deserved the reward and, presto...

As for me, you know that thing? Work is its own reward? (It was Virtue, not work, huh? No matter, the principle is the same.) That's how it worked for me. So, I do a good job and, as a reward for it, I got more work.

Then someone kindly advised me that my definition of 'duty' in that 'Do thine duty' was too narrow, which is why I was failing. So, accordingly, I adjusted the definition of duty to include shouting out my own achievements and things became better for a time.

Good things never last. It is easy enough to define and convince people about your achievements when you are lower down the ladder. I mean, if you make a chair, it is there to see, to sit in and identify whether it is a good chair or no. It is not quite as easy when you are managing a team of people who are analyzing the relative chair-making efficiency of your multiple branches.

So, there, I still stuck to the 'Do thine duty' thing. Even to the extent of doing my best despite not getting the raises and promotions I deserved. But when it came to not even getting praise for a tough job done...or even being blamed despite doing a good job merely because the results did not suit the man above...

And, then, this chap tells me that it is not about 'allowing the results to take care of themselves'. It is about not even needing the raises or promotions to motivate myself to do my best. AND, would you believe it, he says even the expectation of praise IS a result and to need that means that I am really not living by the tenets of the Gita.

Ye Gods! This thing was not as easy as I thought it would be. So, now, I need to do my duty only for the satisfaction of doing it well. That is hard. Especially when the daughter is lining up an expenditure of crores for a medical seat and the son wants to go to Paris for furthering his fabric design career and you bloody well need a huge raise if you want to continue to eat after all that...

I could still see that as a sort of ideal to shoot for, you know, this thing about doing a job only for the satisfaction of a job well done. Maybe not immediately possible for me but...

And then comes this last guy with a huge bombshell of a revelation. He says that 'Do thine duty' says that you need to do what is there at hand for you to do regardless even of the possibility of success! Eeeps! I was, like, come on, if I knew it would fail, why would I even start on it? He sneers and says that I am not even to spare of thought to assess the possibilities, only just get to doing it. I scream that it is idiocy to start doing something without looking ahead.

What he said, then, though, I could not counter. He said that it was all a question of what I considered my duty. If, say, you wanted to remove racism from your society, or corruption, or casteism, does it ever work if people will think first of how likely they are to succeed? And abandon it because they think they won't? Is that not why most people do nothing towards the important things, because they feel too small or the challenge too high to attempt...and, so, no-one actually attempts it?

Hmmm! Well, I have been saying this 'Do thine duty' all my life, thinking that I understood it totally but...

Nishkaamya karma. Work without being MOTIVATED by any desire. Yet, desire is what drives human beings and the most basic one (if one is not starving, that is) is the desire to measure progress in the work at least. To keep working without even a desire for feedback...

Is this something that is really being expected of human beings to be or become? No wonder, a person is considered a Saint if he manages it.