Monday, May 30, 2022


I think I have said this before. The problem with digitization of the world is the people seem to have also decided to go digital. I mean, like, we used to sort of think of things in an 'analog' fashion before. It was not like 'Success' or 'Failure'; it was more like you got placed somewhere on the continuum between failure and success.

Like, you could be more successful than a few, less successful than most; more successful than half, less successful than the other half and so on. NOW, if you are not a 'Winner', you are a 'Loser', there ends the tale.

But this 'either this or that' seems to span almost every topic discussed. Take Failure for example. There is a difference between 'I failed at something' and 'I am a failure'. Failing at something can happen because of a variety of reasons; to be a failure would mean that YOU are doomed to fail at EVERYTHING. And, to the extent that you ASSUME that you are a failure when you merely have failed at something, you WILL be a failure. There is such a thing called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This, though, sort of seems to reduce itself to 'It's not my fault that I failed' and 'It's only my fault that I failed' when people consider it. Cos, they assume, that to think it is their fault is to dub themselves a failure. And, so, IF you only failed at something and do not consider yourself a failure, it seems to automatically mean that the failure happened NOT because of rained at the wrong time, the VC was in a bad mood that day, yada yada.

THAT is the problem with a digital view of the world. See, 'I am a failure' may not be correct because THAT says you are no good at ANYTHING. But that does not automatically mean that any failure happened despite you doing everything right.

To not let repeated failures to cause you to define yourself as a failure, we always hark back to Edison and his repeated attempts at creating the electric lamp...till he succeeded. But was his second attempt the exact same as his first, hoping that the universe would grace him with success this time? Or did he try to see WHAT could have gone wrong in what he had done the first time, try to change things around...over and over till he got it right?

THAT is the point more easily seen when it is an technology thing, but not as easily visible when it comes to your own attitudes, aptitudes and character. You may fail because you lack sufficient talent to rise above the crowd in THAT area; you may fail because your approach was wrong; you may fail because you failed to carry your people along...the point is that every failure needs to be evaluated for what you need to change in the way you work - is it the wrong area, do you need expertise which you currently lack, do you need to do things differently, what?

Failures are stepping stones to success, yes, provided you use them as learning experiences. Otherwise failures would only be the treadmill on which you keep running till you drop...out!

The gap between 'I have failed' and 'I am a failure' exists ONLY when you (a) refuse to see YOURSELF as a failure because you failed at something and (b) Understand what your own specific failings were that contributed to that failure and correct them.

Fail to do that and that gap vanishes. And you could be the person, who cannot carry a tune in a bucket, trying to become the next S.P. Balasubramaniam or Mohd. Rafi!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Last I checked...

The way language changes can get pretty much dizzying. No, no, no, this is not that usual diatribe on how 'hv' is standing in for 'have' and the rest of that drama about the ways of social media. (Though, yes, THAT is another of my pet peeves but I'm not harping on it this time)

Like, there was a time when 'gay' stood for being happy. Now, of course, if I said 'I am gay', hardly anyone is likely to think that I'm talking about how I'm jumping up in the morning and singing like a lark out of sheer joie-de-vivre. (What was that? THAT would make a lot of people around me unhappy? Was I talking about MY happiness or theirs?)

Of late, I find that 'huge' is out of favor. I can understand. I mean, like, 'huge' is such a small word to indicate something massive. So, quite naturally, everyone loves to say 'humongous'. Now THAT seems like something really large, does it not? Though, yeah, in time, I suppose, people will accuse me of using difficult words in my writing, making them rush to the dictionary, if I used 'huge' instead of 'humongous'. But then that is nothing new to me.

But this usage of 'inhale' for eating has me worried. Maybe it is just that I'm coming across it just now, but I see a lot of 'He inhaled a couple of burgers' and 'After inhaling a pizza...' and so on, these days. I'm apprehensive nowadays especially about eating out. I mean, how do I know that, post-Covid, it is not considered unhealthy to take off your mask totally, even for eating? And, therefore, people have developed a way to keep the mask over the mouth and push food through their nose? I have nightmares of being ejected by bouncers from a restaurant for committing the unpardonable crime of eating with my mouth instead of inhaling my food.

Though, perhaps, I am over-thinking things here. After all, these days people also devour their books, not being content with merely reading them. To think that, nowadays, people prefer chomping on their books...even what passes for my mind boggles. So, perhaps, it is just that people use nasal words for what they do with their mouths, oral words for what they do with their eyes and so on...I wish someone will let me know what people do with music these days.

To be sure, a bit of what has changed has changed because of social media. Or so I think. (Oh, NOT about the spelling, really, though that is always there.) Like, there was a time when someone puts up 'learned' arguments for why the Earth is flat and I said, "You have convinced me. Now I'm afraid of falling off the edge", almost everyone would understand that I am being ironical. Nowadays, though, you'd find a battalion of guys calling you names for being a flat-earther. So, you add a 'Not' at the end, thus: 'I am afraid of falling off the edge. Not.' Just to ensure that your irony is understood as irony and not as your scientific conclusion about the nature of the Earth.

But there is one thing, though, worthy of appreciation these days. People keep checking up things. Like, if you countered someone's opinions, they'd come across with 'Last I checked, India is a democracy and I have Freedom of Expression.' Alas, I'm so lazy that I do not periodically check on such important things like they do. (Though, yes, when YOU express an opinion that THEY do not like, they would shut you up. Those must be the times when there was a time delay in their checking process and they must have assumed that FoE was suspended for the nonce.)

Things like this 'Last I checked..'; like saying 'Sue me' when someone complains about your being late to a party...I think of them as jokes gone stale. The first guy must have used it humorously and raised a laugh. But they have been SO overused that you cannot even raise the energy to groan now about their usage.

What was that? You are getting bored with my old man diatribes? I shall stop them. Not. Last I checked, India is still a democracy and I have FoE. I'm putting you to sleep? Sue me!

Monday, May 16, 2022

Do what you enjoy?

The world of memes beats me really. Including, of course, the wonder and appreciation they seem to invariably invoke despite the fact that the things they say are banal AND that, even when they are true, they are not the whole truth!

That's the reason why the 'wisdom' of the memes very seldom seem to be useful to people in real life. The surge of energy and enthusiasm which pushes you on day 1, peters out almost before the sun sets on that day. Because wisdom is not readily acquired in convenient bite-sized (or is it byte-sized these days?) mouthfuls of chocolate-coated words.

I mean, take this 'Do what you enjoy and you will never work a day in your life'. Seems apparent, does it not? If you love what you are doing, then doing it does not seem like work, does it? Nice, easy, simple and so stupid that people do not adopt such a easy route to happiness!

You LOVE cricket? Nice! And you are going to do it and not work a day of your life? Great! Love the idea of getting up almost before the sun and practicing in the nets? Fielding practice - does that seem like work or play? A couple of hours at the gym every goddamn day - your idea of joy? Cannot gorge on your favorite biryani when you please, that's just what you were looking forward to in life? Going out of form, bowlers finding a  way of exploiting your weaknesses, reengineering yourself by diligent practice to iron them out...that has you singing and dancing all day? And...

Love being an actor? How about starving yourself and working out to get those six-packs? About dancing in summer clothing when the weather is freezing? How about having to act joyous and bubbly when you have a fever?

And, please note, I have not even talked about all that you may need to do otherwise to GET to be a cricketer or an actor...and STAY one! Like having to stay polite to trolls, for example!

Nothing, but nothing, in life is FULLY enjoyable! Success in ANY area comes only when you are as willing to do those portions which you do not like - with the same dedication - as those portions which you DO like! This STUPID idea that you will 'not have to work a single day in your life' is the biggest stumbling block to success. Unless you can make yourself LIKE what you originally did not!

For every successful man in any area there are a hundred who, with the same or more talent, failed. Misfortune may well be the reason why the others failed...including the misfortune of having believed that they 'ought to' enjoy every day of their life. And, therefore, refusing to do what they did not like, but which was necessary to do, in pursuit of success in what they did love to do!

Yup, it's a joy to work in an area which excites you. To expect EVERYTHING, which you need to do in the process, to be fun...THAT is stupidity.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Good, Better, Best

This business of praising people, I thought, was a certain way of only giving pleasure to others. Till, of course, I actually started practicing it. Ye Gods! The amount of ill-will you can actually create, the raging battles that you can set off merely by the act of praising someone!

You know, way back in school, I was taught this thing about the positive, the comparative and the superlative.(What was that? Drat it, I do so remember what I was taught in school - so what if it is one lesson in a hundred?) So, yes, you can call someone good, you can call someone better and you can call someone the best in order to praise them. And you sort of get the impression that 'better' is...err...better than 'good' and 'best' is, of course, the best of all!

So, yeah, your spouse whips up a damn good sambar and do you just say, "Wow! This is good?" Come on, what sort of praise is THAT? So, of course, you have to say, "This is better than my mother's sambar" and...well...your SPOUSE may be pleased but your mother...! AND, if you are really really messed up (Or, as they say, if Saturn is controlling your tongue) you'd say, "This is the BEST sambar I have ever tasted," and invite the wrath of the entire lot of cooks in your family!

And so it goes! Virat Kohli cannot just be a great batsman; he HAS to be either a better batsman than Sachin OR the best batsman ever. (What's that technical term? Ah! Greatest of all times - GOAT! Though, when a different person is a GOAT depending almost on the day of the week...) Dhoni cannot just be a great captain, he has got to be a better captain than Ganguly if not the best ever! And the battle rages all over social media thereafter!

It seems like some sort of curse that people cannot praise someone without pulling down someone else. If not pulling down EVERYONE else! Reminds me of what they say about the gunfighters of the West. Apparently, people used to talk of who was the best, who would kill who if they fought each other, and so on and so on...till they created the situation where the twain met and one died. It's not that they are bloodthirsty, it's just that they HAVE to argue and it never crosses their pea-sized brains that a man has to die to prove them right...or wrong!

Comes to praise, 'good' is good, 'better' can get bad and 'best' can get downright ugly!

Monday, May 2, 2022

Small Talk

I never really ever like what people call small talk, perhaps because I never was good at it. Small talk seemed mostly to involve the weather when first I had it used on me. 'Kya garmi hai' was where it used to start when I first hit Delhi in the month of May.

On the first day, of course, I joined in vigorously, having never before encountered the furnace heat that Delhi specialized in. True that Chennai, from where I had set out, is nobody's idea of a hill-station but it did provide some relief in the mornings and evenings with the sea-breeze. Delhi's breezes were, if anything, hotter than the Sun itself and, on their more enthusiastic days, laden with sand. So, yes, the first few days, it was all new and interesting to talk about.

But, you know what, after the tenth day of entering the office and responding to 'Kya Garmi hai' from some twenty people, it started palling on me. I mean, if the dratted place was going to KEEP being hot for most of the year, it does get monotonous to keep talking about the same thing every day. And, then, comes winter and you exchange 'Kya garmi hai' to 'Kya tand hai' and keep doing it for the next two-to-three months.

See what I mean? You need a special gene to say the same thing day after day and also FEEL like you are imparting some new and interesting information to the rest of the world. Not to mention the fact that EVERYONE is in the same city and is expected to be experiencing the same weather but you should say it with all the enthusiasm of a TV reporter telling his audience the 'Breaking News' that not only he, but every cohort of his, have been blathering about for the past 6 hours. THAT is an ability that must have been distributed when I was taking a loo break for it never was given to me.

Anyway, I never did take to small talk and used to be impatient with it. Conversation, I had always felt, should have more substance, something informative, something of relevance to Society.

Till I ran into people talking such things. And I find that, these days at least, people seldom CONVERSE about things of relevance. As in, they do not DISCUSS such things. They merely use those things to judge others, to troll them, to wish them ill, to fight them and, generally, to convert what should be a social drama into a full-fledged Arnold Schwarzenegger mayhem movie. Now THAT is a shade too...bloody...for me.

So, now, I have come to pine for the good old Small Talk. When people just talked about how hot it was and agreed companionably. Now I realize the virtues of small talk.


'Kya garmi hai'

'Haan! Jabse Modi PM bane, it is getting hotter by the day.'

'Nonsense! When Nehru was PM, the country suffered from drought for consecutive years. Since 2014...'

Ye Gods! NOTHING is safe these days! Nothing!