Monday, December 30, 2019

Here it comes again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Very Happy New Year 2020 to all of you.

Monday, December 23, 2019

How not to preen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 16, 2019

To preen or not to preen?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 9, 2019

Preemptive illogic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said as much.

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

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

Saying that to him unleashed a furious assault.

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

Put that way, of course...

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

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

"THEN it is about time I started changing."

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

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

"Besides..." he said and stopped.

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


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

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

Monday, December 2, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it a wonder that I am flummoxed?

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