Monday, November 29, 2021

The route to success?

A friend had shared a piece with me which talked about how reading classics was needed to acquire a patina of sophistication - especially knowing Greek and Latin to read the then classics in their original language. Also that the sophistication was required to move in the circles of the high and mighty, thereby leading to your own success. Oh, yes, the piece WAS talking about practically prehistoric times when there was this quaint idea that how cultured you are depended on what you knew and how you behaved.

As we all know, it is a stupid definition of culture. Culture is all about the car you own, the locality you live in and the way you dress. As for what you KNOW, all that matters is that what you know enables you to earn the money needed to own that car, live in that locality, buy those dresses etc etc. And, when we talk about behavior, it is not these namby-pamby ideas about how courteously you treat people, especially those less well-off than you, or how considerate you are of others and such. It is about knowing to use the right forks, knowing what wine to drink with what food, knowing what music to appreciate and what to ridicule, things like that. (Music you LIKE? Like really? Don't you know that, if you are to be seen as cultured, you are not ALLOWED to like or dislike anything unless it checks with 'cultured behavior'?)

One thing has not changed, though. I mean if, say, Mukesh Ambani chooses to lick his plate clean, do you really think that HE will be called uncultured? Or that the definition of culture will change to look down upon people who do NOT lick their plates clean? And have people giving etiquette lessons on the proper way to lick a plate clean? (Alright, that's an exaggeration. But, yeah, think of him wearing pajama-kurtas as the normal wear, driving an Alto, living in Bandra...will any of that make mango people call him uncultured?) After all, the whole PURPOSE of appearing cultured is to curry favor with the 'high and mighty', is it not? So, yes, there are the people who 'jahan kade hote hain, vahinse line shuru hota hai' - or, in English, the queue starts from wherever they stand; and there are those who then have to stand behind them to form that queue. Thus it was even in those prehistoric times when people read classics to get ahead in life (according to that piece). The 'high and mighty' had scant idea of the classics, it is just that they liked being SEEN as appreciating them. So, those who sought to curry favor HAD to read what those who were already 'successful' only paid lip service to.

The most heartening thing in this whole thing is that you have ONE standard route to success, spanning generations and geographical boundaries. Particularly pleasing to us guys who have immense respect for those who can say, 'Jaanta nahin ki main koun hoon' which, for the 'Hindi is not even my second language' guys means 'You do not know who I am'. Which, inevitably, leads to subsequent sentences, not about WHO he is but WHO his parents, siblings, uncles, friends or neighbors are.

And so, you ask? Well, the point is simple. Success is ALL about who you KNOW. Curry favor how you will, what you are aiming at is knowing people whose names you can throw around in order to ascend a social ladder. All you need to do is pick whose favor you want and how to curry favor with them. Voila!

What?? Easier said than done? Now, come on, whoever said success comes easy? And you, who spend good money on all those books on success, pay up for training which teaches you to succeed and never once think to tell THEM that it is 'easier said than done' will complain about that when I am giving it for free?

You just don't know who I am!

Monday, November 22, 2021

Crucified by the truth?

By now you must be wondering why I persist in calling people 'friends' when the only reason they come to me at all seems to be to pull me down. It is not exactly masochism, it's just that it is easier to type 'friends' than 'acquaintances', even with spellcheck helping you with the spelling. (You have guessed that this post is again about a friend who has popped in of a purpose to point out another of my idiocies? I never realized that people, with IQs qualifying them for Mensa, land up on my blog.)

You know, the truth can pretty much be crucifying if you are me. I mean, there are such a lot of things that a man is supposed to be, which I am not, so it is a rare truth that actually ends up not being detrimental to what little reputation I have managed to cling on to. But you know what burns me up? When people actually LIE using the truth and I am unable to refute it.

You think that the Truth is the Truth and the Lie is a Lie and the twain will never meet? Or, in other words, it is impossible to lie using the truth? Just shows how little you know about abilities of the friends that I have.

Take this one for example.

"From the time he joined my section, we have had nothing but problems."

Yup, your Mensa IQ must have told you that the 'he' there is me. AND what does that statement tell you? Especially when I cannot deny that I did join the section on day x and from day x+1 there had been a spate of problems? That I was RESPONSIBLE for those problems, right? Wrong! The problems related to work done BEFORE I ever knew that this was the section that would have the honor of being graced by my presence. I can say THAT and refute the implied accusation, right? Yeah, right, and end up being labeled a jinx for ever, instead of merely as an incompetent idiot. Did my dear friend say the truth or used the truth to lie and imply that I was responsible for the problems? Depends on whether you get the jitters if a cat crosses your path or not.

Or consider this one.

"Well, this is the guy who adds up 2 and 2 and gets 5." Of course in the days when people actually knew how to do addition instead of leaving it all to computers. AND, yes, the 'guy' there is you know who.

Truth? Yup it did happen ONCE. OKAY! Once! In about a 100 odd statements with some twenty computations each in the period we knew each other. So, truth, really? But does it say anything of the fact that I made an error ONCE in 2000 computations? Nope. So, what is it you get from that statement? That I am a mathematical nincompoop. You still believe that the truth cannot be used to establish a lie? Why do you think that courts have people swearing that they will tell the 'Truth, the WHOLE truth, and NOTHING but the truth' but for the fact the people are quite capable of telling partial truths and mixing truths and lies in order to establish a lie by way of implication?

What's worse is that he said to my subordinate. And I cannot even vent about it to any other friend without that chappie getting on my case with 'If it was the truth how does it matter where he said it?' I mean, in the days when body shaming was still considered humorous, did anyone ever make fun of the height of a short guy to another short guy? Exactly! By the very fact that he made that joke with that chap, he indirectly indicates that he thought that guy as the Ramanujam of mathematicians compared to me. (That implicit comparison with the other guy does not exist if the other guy merely happens to overhear it.) And I am supposed to see it as the same as if he had just told it to me alone? Especially when that other chap mucks up his computations three times out of ten? What if he had said it to my clients, would it still not matter who the truth was told to? Really!

You know these logical fallacies that I keep going on about? 'Post Hoc ergo propter hoc' is the fallacy which he depends on people to make when he said that thing in the first example. 'After I came in, problems occurred, SO problems occurred BECAUSE of me'. The second is the common one of generalizing. You have seen worse uses of the latter. Like "He cannot even speak good English" which seeks to establish that lack of knowledge of 'good English' somehow makes the person bad at everything. AND it DOES establish that in the minds of a lot of people. Truth can lie because people are prone to logical fallacies. Which is how it is popularly used by rhetoricians, politicians being the best known of them. The problem, though, is that there ARE those who are themselves prone to logical fallacies and genuinely believe the conclusions that arise out of faulty logic and quite innocently indulge in what is a rhetorician's tool to manipulate the gullible.

When you do it too often, though, YOU get generalized as well. If people see what you say as a lie, even if they are unable to see exactly WHY it is a lie, YOU get the reputation of being undependable. And THAT gets generalized, so even the truths that you say will be taken for lies. No matter how innocent and well-meaning your intent, no matter that you did not even realize that you WERE lying by implication on a few things, or because you genuinely believed them to be true.

Well, unfortunately, my friend does it only to me. It is easier by far to say something is factually incorrect rather than establish that the implication is incorrect. So...

"What? Actually, the problems started from the time YOU joined. My misfortune is that I joined six months later in the same section."

"No way! It's actually YOU who did that and I had to tell you that 2 and 2 add up to 4. It took me half an hour to convince you!"

Well, if the chap WILL be clever and lie by implication and I am not as clever, the only thing to do is to give the lie to his facts!

Monday, November 15, 2021


This purpose of life idea, as you all know by now, has always defeated me. I mean, like, from a very young age, I have been screamed at for not having any ambition. And ambition, as far as I understand, is to set and work towards a goal. And how the heck do you even set a goal without purpose? It's not like you can say eating idlis is your goal without making a purpose out of it - like saying I want to get into the Guinness Book for eating the most idlis at one sitting. (Though I have seriously felt that something must be wrong in the wiring of the brains of people who actually want to record these things, it's an opinion that seems to be more unpopular than otherwise.)

When the world was young (well, younger than now drat it. Asking me for the exact birth date of the world!), people had all sorts of questions in their minds. How do I know I exist, what is life, what is its purpose yada, yada. I mean, there are those who are content to chew the cud and there are those who HAVE to know why you chew the cud, where is the cud coming from and so on and so on. The rest of those questions is the reason why you have to suffer through subjects like Physics at school.

This 'purpose' thing, though. THERE was the root of philosophy (Though philosophy, originally, was what they called this inquiry into ALL those questions. There is a reason why you get a PhD - Doctor of PHILOSOPHY - in all subjects). AND, dare I say, Religion! So, you had a whole array of possible purposes - from heading towards Heaven or Hell to achieving oneness with the Creator and so on. Those were the days when you were up close and personal with natural forces AND were at their mercy. So, the ideas of 'purpose' tended to be as vast as the universe both in space and in time. The infinite and the eternal figured in the ideas. (Even these Heavens and Hells had infinite pleasures or agonies for an eternity, see.)

But, then, after we shut out the world by enclosing ourselves, Philosophy tended to shut out the rest of the universe and concentrate on humanity alone. In other words,  it tended to restrict itself to sociology. As in, what is the best Society to have - democratic, autocratic, capitalistic, communistic, whatever. So, the purpose of human life is to create an ideal Society and the purpose of an ideal Society is to foster human life. So, by perfect circular reasoning, we had found the Purpose! 

Why do we live? To create an ideal society. Why do we want an ideal Society? So that we can live. QED!

Anyway, that's for people who love to only talk about things with no intention of doing anything OR for people who are not content with managing their own lives and want to manage everyone's life. For the rest of us mango people, though...

"You need to have a purpose in life. What do you want to become - a doctor, engineer...what?"

Now THAT was what I was faced with. It was always what I wanted to BECOME when all I wanted them to do was to let me BE. (I have said that before? So? I mean, you are the guys who troll people for contradicting what they said before and you have a beef even when I say exactly what I said before? There's no pleasing some people, really!)

But Society has progressed a long way since the time when I was at school. All those ancient philosophers will be extremely gratified to know that humanity has at last found a universally acceptable answer to the purpose of life. The purpose of life is to...

...get the maximum Likes on Social media!

Monday, November 8, 2021

Acquiring a taste

You know, I never have understood this 'acquiring a taste' business. I know that these Amazons and Flipkarts seem to be selling anything and, in festive times, selling at a discount so enthusiastically that they deluge you with messages all day long. But can you place on order for, say, 'a taste for Sushi', say? How does one go about acquiring a taste for something which the cognoscenti choose to call 'an acquired taste'?

What was that? I have already written about 'Acquiring Taste' and you are in no mood for my repetitive senile maundering? That's the problem with the world, full of arrogant know-it-alls who will rush in with comments even before they learn the 'A' of a subject. There is a frigging difference between someone wanting to be seen as a 'person of taste' and someone acquiring a taste, say, for ballet dancing or aquavit or some such thing. THAT one was about the former, this is about the latter.

I seem to have got the cart before the horse, really. Like, I started wondering about WHERE to acquire a taste for, say, raw fish before even considering WHY I should acquire one. I mean, you try something, you like it, you do it. You dislike it, you avoid it. Why at all should you dislike something and bother to put in the effort to get to liking it?

And, no, don't give me that guff about 'having to do it'. Yeah, I had to worry myself senseless about 'balancing balance-sheets', finding that elusive Rs. 1347.69/= by which the left hand side exceeded the right hand side, but I did not 'acquire a taste' for balancing balance-sheets. I couldn't care less if they never did balance and became unbalanced sheets, not as long as my job was not at stake. And, when they came in with programs that would do it automatically, I did not bemoan the fact that I could never spend sleepless nights chasing that elusive Rs. 1347.69/= in the morass of ledger entries. THAT is the sort of thing you call 'have to do it' - meaning WORK.

These acquired tastes, they are about things that you choose to call FUN. Now, exactly HOW is it fun to go around doing things that you dislike in the process of acquiring a taste for it? Catch me plowing through the prose of Rushdie, going dizzy wondering what was happening really in the here and now, what was happening in the long gone past and what was happening merely in the mind of the character. There are those who like him, more power to them, but why on Earth should I work my way through his books when I stoutly refused to do the same with my text books even though the promise of a glittering future by getting into IIT was at stake?

So, yeah, forget about WHERE to acquire a taste for, say, roasted bugs. Tell me one good reason WHY I should acquire a taste for anything I do not like.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Honestly Real?

You know, some words are really strange. Like, take this word 'honestly' for example. Or its first cousin, 'really'. Nice words that you expect to be oozing with genuineness. But, unfortunately, when it comes to real life usage, you seldom come across any other words which are so surrounded by the fog of disbelief as these two.

No? Tell me, when you hear someone say, "I honestly wanted to come to your party, you know. Unfortunately, at the last moment, someone landed up home...", you believe him implicitly? Or does that word 'honestly', right at the beginning, trigger off the feeling: 'Here comes the lie - white or otherwise?'

Even if, indeed, the chap is telling the truth, the words reek of disbelief. Or, more to the point, the fear of disbelief. I mean, when is the last time you used 'honestly' or 'really' when you said something truthful? Do you say, "I really had my breakfast". Never. UNLESS, of course, you are declining someone's hospitality when you are saying so. AND, in that case, you feel pressed to add that 'really' or 'honestly' because you fear that they may disbelieve you and take offense, otherwise.

Thanks to the fact that everyone does it, and more often than not to cover a lie, saying that is EXACTLY what causes people to disbelieve you. All that saying it does for you is to portray you as a sort of wuss. Either because you are going through life expecting people to be disbelieving you OR because you are seen as a coward who tries to weasel out of any possible conflict by lying OR both.

Take it from me. Use 'honestly' and 'really' too often and, with nary a lie uttered in all your life, you will acquire the reputation of being undependable.

You honestly do not believe me? Really?