Monday, October 31, 2022

The virtue of remembering?

There you go again. I say 'remembering' and you can only think of that one thing. NO, NO, NO! I am not about the start on the virtues of remembering chaps who pop in thirty years after you last saw them and croak, "Remember me?" I mean, come on, how does one look at a bald, overweight, wheezing wreck of a man and recollect the svelte 16 year old who won the 100m race back at school? (Am I not a wreck too? So I am but I am not the one asking the other guy to remember me. And I will have you know that I did NOT win the 100m race either, my only success in athletics being that of applauding the loudest from the sidelines. So there!)

It so happened that I came across one of those WhatsApp videos about the design of the bullet train in Japan. Apparently, initially the sonic boom of the train exiting a tunnel used to be problem for the neighborhood and, therefore, an engineer was tasked with cutting it down/out. Being a birdwatcher, our man realised that the kingfisher dives down at such speeds to get fish and neither creates a sonic boom nor splatters upon hitting water. And, so, he based his bullet train design on the beak of the Kingfisher.

Being the sort of innocent-at-large who believes whatever he comes across, I assume that this is true. Though I'd not be surprised if someone popped out and said that it is one of the top lessons from WhatsApp University which is guaranteed false either. Any way, my point would still hold.

You see, when you KNOW you want to know something (like knowing the movie in which a song featured), you can google for it. So, it's not a big deal if you cannot remember it. The issue is that knowing AND remembering something can come in handy in a totally unrelated area where you'd otherwise not even think to check it out. As in, does a locomotive designer automatically google for questions in ornithology when faced with a problem in design? It is only when you already know AND remember facts that you can put it together creatively.

I have had to face a great deal of issues, though, because of doing it. As in, people do not even think school algebra is worth remembering. So, on a matter of policy, where the procedure looked right on the face of it but my school algebra proved that it would be wrong in application...ah, I was initially looked on as a trouble-maker trying to create problems where none existed in order to push myself into prominence. AND, later, when the problems did surface, I was suddenly the genius. GENIUS? For remembering school algebra, I ask you.

But, yeah, in a day when the job of remembering has been shelved off to Google, the chap who can actually remember IS a genius. AND only he can be a real genius.

For, after all, most of genius IS thinking out of the box. AND, normally, you will only google for in-the-box (as in what you know you ought to know but don't know) facts! How then will you be creative?

Monday, October 24, 2022

Guessing Games

People seem to be going gaga about technology and all the benefits it gives the common man. Maybe it does but t0he dratted thing has also stolen some of the simple pleasures of life. Things that perhaps will become legends which will be disbelieved by the generations to come.

We used to have such fun playing guessing games. Ah, no, no, not that sort of guessing game where someone accosts you in a wedding with that question, "Remember me?" and expects you to guess it right in one. THAT is no fun, to be frank. If you know the person, it does not last long enough to be fun; if you cannot recollect him, it is no fun squirming and saying things like, "I remember the face, the name is at the tip of my tongue but..." and other such white lies which stand in as socially acceptable versions of "I do not know you from Adam (or Eve, lest I be called out for being a chauvinist) and couldn't care less."

I mean the fun we used to have were guessing games of another sort. You know, someone hums a song and you try to recollect the movie in which it featured and cannot remember it offhand. You ask the crowd if anyone remembers the movie and, if nobody does,...voila! Each one tries to make a guess; someone remembers the hero or the heroine; another remembers the singer; a third remembers the music director; then you try to put it all together and start off guessing the movie. The conversation, most times, digresses into other good songs by THAT hero/heroine/ music director. And, whether or not you guess the right movie at the end of it, you'd have had a fun conversation lasting hours. All set off by a guessing game.

And now...NOW, if I ask the same question, some idiot whips out his smartphone, types in the question and pops the answer. Now WHAT's the fun in that? I mean, just imagine that there is a quiz show, a question is asked about the capital of Sierra Leone or some such, and your competitors just google the answer and give it to you, would you be keen on watching it? Gives a whole new meaning to that 'fastest finger first'...he who googles fastest wins! (By the way, do quiz shows still exist? I am the antediluvian fossil who has not kept up to what's on TV these days, ever since Arnab Goswami and his clones caused me to take sanyas from the idiot box.)

Anyway, Google and the Smartphone have spelled the death of guessing games of this sort. Well, I suppose they are dead anyway cos who converses these days? You cannot play these guessing games on WhatsApp, especially not the way it used to digress and traverse the length and breadth of moviedom.

My only hope is that they will soon find a way to kill off the other guessing game as well. Like, the chap pops into your ken, asking you, "Guess who?" and you whip your smartphone, take a pic and google him.

Meanwhile, on that, I still have to squirm and mutter, "Your name is stuck in my throat like a recalcitrant bit of phlegm but I am unable to spit it out."

Monday, October 17, 2022

Of discussions and arguments

 I never did like arguing. I mean, really, what's ever been the point in arguing with just keep on spouting beliefs, he keeps nattering about his and, at the end, both walk away completely convinced that they are right. About the only thing that possibly changes is that both end up being convinced that the other chap is too stupid to be considered human. (IF, of course, you did not start out with that conviction in the first place.)

Discussions, though...they are a different cup of tea. THERE you keep an open mind, try to learn something about the other guy's point of view, convey the logic of your own position and, perhaps, both of you could end up modifying the way you saw an issue. So, yeah, I did like discussing things although my contribution to any discussion where multiple people were involved was to pathetically bleat, "Say, listen..." only to have the whole lot treat it as background noise.

The thing is that discussions end up becoming arguments very often indeed. And, almost all the time, it is because instead of discussing an issue, you start calling the other guy names. THAT, generally, is the resort of the chap who wants the last word. Which essentially means that there is ALWAYS someone in any discussion who is there only to establish the rightness of his position and not to see why the other person holds the point of view that he does.

The funny thing is that the very chap who sets off the furor blames the others for converting a fruitful discussion into an argument. Like, he would say, "Only a fool will think that way" OR "THAT is the sort of opinion that arises from out of unthinking ignorance" or some such mild criticism of the issue under discussion. AND will be upset and aghast that the others seem to think that he was calling THEM fools or ignoramuses when he was only discussing the issue at hand. He laments that people cannot take criticism of their ideas and take it all personally. 'Alas! Where are those who understand that the rejection of their ideas is not a rejection of them as people," he cries after having set off a maelstrom which converts a discussion into an argument.

Of course, there were also the thin-skinned for whom that held true. You could hardly say a thing against whatever opinion they held without their assuming that you were calling them names. Just say, "You know that was how I thought till yesterday. Today, there is this news..." and they will start screaming, "So, you are telling me that I do not care to read the news? Just because I think differently from you, you start calling me names." And, there, that USED to be a discussion but is now an argument.

But, then, those were kindlier times.  We sort of thought that, perhaps, he is human but mistaken and can be brought around to thinking the right way. (Yeah, there is this theory that there ARE people who actually hold opinions but think that, maybe, the other guy has a point. Those mythical beings...maybe Rowling would write a book about them some day.) I mean, we did not START assuming that, if a guy holds an opinion different from ours, he is de facto someone who is too stupid to be human.

NOW that seem to be the norm. And, so, discussions...what ARE they? We know only arguments!

Monday, October 10, 2022

Play by the rules?

I have always been one with a great respect for rules. Respect? I actually effing depended on them so that I knew what to do under any given circumstances. Otherwise, I would only blink blankly like your smartphone would if there were no operating system in it to tell it what to do.

Now, these digital monsters have it easy. I mean, they have their rules written in code and, as long as they do what the code said, things were hunky-dory. I mean, yeah, their users could get frustrated and pull their hair out because the digi-monster was not doing what THEY wanted it to do but what does the digi-monster care anyway about that.

But, when you are a human...I mean, yeah, there are rules, alright but the thing is you are not always supposed to work as per the rule. I mean, there are times when the rule says you can do something but you are really not supposed to do it without getting the skin ripped off you. Like, say, your office hours may end at 6 PM as per rule, you may have nothing to do but if you promptly leave at 6 PM, your boss will tear a strip off you the next day for lack of dedication or some such shit. (Well, for you lucky non-working guys, it's like that run out for backing up. It's there in the rules but you are not supposed to do it. See?)

And then there are those things which are specifically prohibited in the rules but...I mean, like we guys were not supposed to indulge in bribery of Govt Officials and it's not like you have an expenditure head 'Bribes to Govt Officials' like you have, say, 'Salaries'. Try getting anywhere by sticking to the prohibition laid out in that rule, though. (Again, for the lucky drones, it's like sledging, you see. NOT allowed but...)

So, yes, there are these rules and there are these unwritten rules. You need to first learn the rules, then learn which of them are against the 'spirit of the game', which are prohibited by the rules but are IN the 'spirit of the game' and...

Around there, I get so dizzy that I do not know whether I am coming or going. And THEN they start talking about unwritten limits to unwritten rules...I really had lost it as far as office went, so let me give you the non-working can call a man any names when you sledge, except...and the exceptions will be based on who is doing the 'excepting'. On one occasion, 'Maaki' was considered more acceptable than 'monkey'. In South India, at least, one would probably see the former as more insulting than the latter.

Broadly, one may say, people fall between the extremes of 'Do nothing that is not explicitly permitted' and 'Do anything that is not explicitly prohibited'. But the leaders are those who believe in 'Do anything that does not invite instant punishment'...thereby proving that a law is only as good as its implementation. And, then, what they do and do not do becomes the unwritten rules of behavior!

What with rules, unwritten rules, unwritten exemptions and limits to unwritten rules yada yada...Life would be simpler as a Smartphone!

Monday, October 3, 2022

Words Matter!

The single most important reason why I am not a Jeff Bezos or a Elon Musk is the fact that I never really understood the fact that words matter. (Other than minor things like lack of talent, drive and the unshakable belief that anything is better done tomorrow than today? Yeah! So?) If only I had realized it early in life...hmm, what's the point moaning about that now?

You see, take the least little thing that you discuss in your office. I mean, like you got a sales target and you call your team to discuss it. So, I walk in saying, "Come on, guys! Let us discuss how to sell more potato chips." Is that the sort of thing that gets people to bust their asses working sixteen hour days so that they can get called into meetings like that? There is this thing...ah, importance, that's what I was looking want to grow into roles where you feel important. And it's rather tough to think of it as a worthwhile ambition to reach a position where you get called to meetings where you plan to sell more chips.

On the other hand, there is this colleague of mine who beat me hollow in the ladder-climbing game. He'd walk in and say, "Let's head to the war-room asap! We need to strategize about how to improve our market share." Now THERE is a worthwhile ambition. You'd sell your grandmother so that you can rise to these stratospheric levels where you are called in to help develop strategies for the whole company, improve its market planning how to sell more chips!

Words...MATTER! Therein lies the thing. You see, people need to feel way or the other. You do, I do, everyone does. From the guy who says, "If I am not there for one day, the entire department looks for me"...because work doesn't start unless the morning cuppa is downed and HE delivers the morning cuppa TO the guy who HAS to have a phone call a minute to keep reminding him that he is the CEO...everyone needs to feel important. THAT's why retirement is such a bane for people. The idea that nobody cares whether you exist or not, THAT's anathema! And words is how you make people feel that they are important and, more to the point, what they do is important.

You see, by and large, what you do could well be of no great importance and you, yourself, may be a replaceable cog even in what you do. IF, however, you are brought face to face with either or both facts, you'll rage. Words...yeah, you know by now!

It's when you actually do something important...if only by YOUR definition, if not in the general it working in socially relevant areas a la NGOs or in an area of work that you feel is important, be it pure scientific research or making documentaries, that you cease to be worried about whether others see you as important or not. If you are there, words may not matter to you.

For everyone else...words matter!