Monday, December 25, 2023

Desiring suffering

You know, I am not aware that, anywhere else in the world, philosophers were so down on desire. A stray chap, here and there, may have sort of moaned about desire being the root of all evil but he generally got drowned out by the cacophony of others shouting the opposite. In India, though...I mean go to Hinduism, Buddhism, whatever and, sooner or later, up pops a diatribe about desire.

Can Tiru, then, be far behind on this issue? And so...

Avaa Illaarkku Illagum thunbam aqdhundael thavaa adhu menmel varum - Tirukkural

Those without desire are without suffering, If there be desire sufferings shall follow endlessly - Loose Translation.

So there. Tiru may not talk about desire leading to expectations which in turn leads to disappointment etc etc. He just takes the shortcut and directly says that desire causes suffering endlessly and lack of desire equates to lack of suffering.

The problem, generally, is in understanding desire. When these chaps talk of desire, it is normally desire of the senses OR desire that arises out of comparison with others. It is THAT desire which they are all so down on. Because it is that sort of desire that leads to the negatives arising out of desire - greed, envy etc. Which, as anyone will readily agree, are the root of suffering.

There are desires relating to character. To excel, to become a better person, whatever. Those are not the desires which Tiru is against nor are those the desires which he think leads to endless suffering.

Especially if you follow the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. You set your course by the goal of your desire. But you travel without any specific expectations about your progress towards your goal.

Effort is in your hands; have no expectations about the fruits thereof.

Monday, December 18, 2023

The limits of fortune

This question of Fate and Fortune is a never-ending thing with none giving a satisfactory answer. I mean, if you are fated to lead a certain life and achieve a certain level of success, then why bother to put in effort? On the other hand, if everything is dependent on your own efforts, how do you explain the role of luck in it - the chap in a bad mood who denies you a bulk order which leads to your bankruptcy OR that accidental meeting with a friend who helps you get financing when all seems lost?

Tiru does not provide you a clear and convincing answer to the conundrum either.

Pariyinum Aagaavaam Paalalla Uytthuch choriyinum pokaa thama - Tirukural

No matter how you safeguard, that which is not fated for you will be lost. No matter how you scatter it away that which is fated for you will stick to you - Loose Translation.

And THAT is all he has to say. That you will have no more than you are fated to have. And, thankfully, no less.

This leaves no real role for your own effort. As in, if he had at least prescribed a range for what you are fated to have, you could assume that your efforts would push you to the upper end of the range. But this kural, at least, does not mention anything that makes you think of a range.

There is an alternative interpretation to this same kural. That what is not yours will leave you and what is yours cannot be lost. Wherein it is more about whether you can retain what is not legitimately yours and whether you can lose what IS yours. That explanation does not really suit because this set of 10 kurals is supposed to be about 'Fate' and this alternative interpretation will not suit the subject matter.

I'd rather assume that there IS a range for your success, implicit in the kural. That the lower limit and upper limit cannot be breached but your effort can determine where you reach within that range.

Or, of course, it could just be the Tamil version of 'Waqt se pehle aur kismat se zyaadaa kisiko kuch nahin milta' i.e 'What you get shall come only WHEN it is due and to the extent it is due'.

Your choice!

Monday, December 11, 2023

True charity

No matter how little you think you have, there is always someone who has less. This is especially true of anyone who reads my blog, I'd say. If you can truly spare the time to read patiently through my verbosity, I'm sure that you cannot be a starving morsel of humanity.

So, when Tiru talks of charity, you are not likely to approach it from the point of view of the recipient of charity. Which is all to the good since this Kural is all about he who gives and not he who receives.

Innadhu irakkappadudhal irandhavar inmugam kaanum alavu - Tirukkural

To suffer when a suppliant seeks help, till your help makes him smile with relief, is the hallmark of a true man of charity - Loose Translation.

Well, you know I do suffer the moment someone asks me for help. I mean, not being gifted with the ability to say 'No' in a convincing enough manner for the chap to let me off, it is a real pain till I see the back of the chap. THEN I am happy...provided I have managed to send him off without causing serious damage to my wallet.

THAT, though, is not what Tiru is talking about. Nor is he talking about the dozen calls a day you get asking you for money and how that causes you pain. I mean, yes, you suffer alright, but you do not satisfy the second condition - suffering till your help makes the other chap smile with relief.

Tiru is talking of a level of empathy where you feel the suffering of the other person as your own; feel hurt that the other person has been pushed to the extreme of having to seek help elsewhere; and feel that pain till you actually help him and make his problems go away, causing him to smile.

Now THAT is his idea of a true man of charity. Not someone who feels pride in the fact that someone is seeking help from him but someone who feels the pain of the other person till he causes the pain to go away.

Those must have been truly different days. I mean, really, if I cannot take a selfie with that chap and post it all over social media about how I helped someone, what is even the point of my charity?

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Not stupid even when wrong?

To be wrong is to be stupid, isn't it? That is if you are not actually villainous. I mean, come on, you are either lacking in knowledge and/or understanding OR you belong to the others who are in opposition. What can be clearer than that?

Yet, Tiru actually thinks that some people can be wrong and, yet, not stupid. AND, in his time, they were not enlightened enough to consider anyone who differed from you as outright villainous, so he does not even bother to express an opinion about the villainy of those chaps.

Pizhaitthunardhum pedhamai solla rizhaitthunarn theendiya kelvi avar - Tirukkural

Even when they misunderstand an issue, those who listen with a discerning mind will not speak foolishly - Loose Translation

So, apparently, there exist this class of people who are accustomed to listening with discernment, appreciating the nuances of issues etc. And these paragons, even if they do happen to misunderstand something, they will still not say anything stupid.

Which, of course, is sort of easier in Tiru's times since people of his era had no pressing need to troll on social media just to keep yourself relevant. When a chap has a discerning mind and is used to applying it to anything he hears, it is but natural that he is used to thinking that the same subject can appear in a different light to different people. Thus, even if he has misunderstood the issue but thinks he is right, he is also used to thinking that there are more than one way of assessing any matter.

Such a person, then, will talk of his understanding of the issue in terms of questions, rather than as incontrovertible statements of fact. You know, like, "People say that this will cause damage. Is it true?" rather than, "This is the worst thing that can happen to us..." So, even though he IS saying the same thing, he does not appear stupid even when he is totally wrong.

But, then, THAT is a luxury available only to those times. Such wishy-washy statements cannot go viral on social media. So...

Better stupid than irrelevant!

Monday, November 27, 2023

The certain destroyer

The biggest problem with all this sage advice is that it is seldom something that can conveniently be shoved on someone else to do. I mean, come on, why can't they give suggestions about how your neighbours or parents or someone else can sort your issues? It is ALWAYS about how your character is the reason and how you should change it for things to go well with you. As though people find it that easy to change character traits.

Tiru falls within the same category of sage advisers. If you asked him, he'd ask you, 'Did you think achieving success was easy?" Ugh!

Azhukkaru udaiyaarkku adhusaalum onnaar vazhukkaayum kedeenpadhu - Tirukkural

If you be filled with envy, it shall destroy you even if your enemies fail to do so - Loose Translation

It is sort of surprising for me, though, to hear that from Tiru. Because envy has a way of creating additional enemies for you and, eventually, they will bring you down. After all, the difference between envy and ambition is that ambition is makes you aspire to achieve what you do not yet have; envy causes you to feel that those who have achieved are less worthy than you if not outright unworthy.

Essentially, your friends can never achieve what you have not yet achieved because the moment they do you'll start envying them and talk ill of them. Which, in effect, means that you can be friends only with those who have achieved lesser than you, never with those who have been more successful.

So, yes, Tiru is right. You get opportunities only from those who can GIVE them to you. Which would mean that those people are likely to be more successful than you. If you are filled with envy, you end up alienating exactly those people who can help your progress. They do not need exactly to hate you or consider you an enemy. It is sufficient for them to see you as not worthy of the opportunities that they may be able to give you.

So, yes, even if enemies who will actively work to destroy you fail to do so, your envy will cause your downfall by alienating you from people and drying up opportunities for success. It is better to learn from success than to merely envy it.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Love begets friendship?

The idea of love begetting friendship is probably anathema in today's world. I mean, it sort of gives vibes of being permanently friend-zoned, which spells L-O-S-E-R in caps for most of today's youth. But THAT is a consequence of reading only one meaning for 'Love' - romantic love.

Romantic love is not exactly what Tiru is thinking of when he said this:

Anbu eenum aarvam udaimai; adhu eenum nanpu ennum naadaa sirappu - Tirukkural

Love begets interest in your fellow beings; that yields the excellence of friendships - Loose Translation

So, 'Love' here should be translated as affection, perhaps. Or, perhaps, it is more appropriate to consider it as 'genuine care'. Thus, in essence, if you are the sort to genuinely care for your fellow human beings, it automatically makes you take interest in them and their lives. Such genuine interest earns their friendship for you though you may not be evincing the interest with the specific notion of befriending them.

You know, this chap Tiru seems to have anticipated management theory well in advance. Though, in his defense, he is not exactly propagating how to get work done from others in this couplet. He is more into telling you to be a genuinely caring person by plugging the incidental benefits.

It is tough, though, to avoid comparison with man management gurus and their teachings. Like how a good leader should learn what motivates their people and align their goals with the corporate goals, yada yada. And, invariably, as a coda to all the advice, they mention, 'It should come from a place of genuinely caring for their people' lest they be seen as teaching ways to con people into doing what they want. Even when THAT is exactly what they ARE teaching.

When the entire interaction comes from a space of genuinely caring for the people, the dos and donts of human relations tend to be irrelevant...except in ultra-litigious societies where what matters is only what a court of law will judge and not how the majority of employees themselves feel about at it. It is when the interest in others is only self-serving, and not genuine, that you need to dot every 'i' and cross every 't' of behavior.

In other words, if you can live up to Tiru's words in real life, you can junk the entire verbiage on how to be a good manager insofar as man-management is concerned. But if your interest is ersatz, THEN you better learn it all...for THEN you cannot just BE yourself, you need to ACT a part and, for that, you need to put in all the hard yards.

But, then, it is always seen as easier and/or cheaper to modify your behavior than to modify your character, no?

Monday, November 6, 2023

No EQ or SQ?

"You know what your problem is? When they were distributing EQ and SQ, you were on a bathroom break."

THAT is not my biggest problem. My biggest problem is that I have friends like this who come around telling me about the problems I have when I was quite content with life and not aware that I had ANY problems. Maybe THAT is a sign of low EQ and/or SQ - the fact that I end up with friends like this.

"Look at the way you behaved with Raj yesterday."

Now THIS is a guy who keeps talking without a smidgeon of encouragement from me and HE dares tell me that I am lacking in EQ/SQ. If he was looking for someone who lacked Emotional Quotient and Social Quotient, he need not have looked any further than his mirror.

"Every joke the poor chap told, you were trying to cap with a joke of your own."

Which poor...? Ah! Raj!


"It did not cross your mind that laughing at a chap's joke makes him happier than trying to top his jokes?"

"As it probably did not cross yours that it was not Raj I was trying to make happy?"

"VERY wise of you. The other guys are not going to remember the whole episode for too long but Raj...even if he forgets the specifics, you probably are registered in his mind as an undesirable character. Way to win friends and influence people," he said applauding.

Yeah, yeah, you don't need to tell me that the applause was meant sarcastically. No matter what you think about my EQ/SQ, I'm not quite THAT stupid.

"AND the other day, with Mahesh."

Now what was this with Mahesh? Cannot be jokes since Mahesh could not recognize one if it was giftwrapped and labelled 'Joke' in size 72 font. In any case, he was an office colleague who we interacted with only in meetings.

"He came up with that great idea in yesterday's meeting. And you picked on the one or two minor flaws to elaborate on, without a word about the rest of his presentation."

Really? I mean, you are there in these meetings to get noticed for YOUR contributions. How was I going to get noticed for applauding along with everyone else?

"You probably thought you were showcasing how intelligent you are. You do the same thing when your own boss OR a senior colleague from another department presents something. You think they are going to be appreciative of how sharp you are."

Well, of course they would, no?

"All you are doing is getting a reputation as a naysayer. And that kiss of death - 'Not a Team man'."

Ye Gods! THAT is dangerous.

"So what do you think I must be doing?"

"Praise where praise is due. AND find something new to praise or a new way to praise if you want to stand out from the crowd."

"How is that going to help establish MY intelligence?"

The chap looked me over and I curled up inside. Here comes the usual 'WHAT intelligence?"

He must have been in a mellow mood. So...

"Well, what man wants to think that the person who is praising him is an idiot? After all, the worth of the praise depends on the worthiness of the person who is praising. So, naturally, you will be considered smart," he said with a meaningful look that completed the sentence with, "instead of the dumbf**k that you really are."

Ah! Well! Perhaps they DID distribute the EQ/SQ when I was in the bathroom after all!

Monday, October 30, 2023

Impartiality and success

You know, there are some words that automatically link themselves in your mind with certain type of jobs. Like this 'impartiality'. You automatically think of it as associated with 'judges' and, by and large, you care two hoots about someone preaching to you about how judges can succeed. After all, issues relating to other people very seldom interest us; it is OUR success that we care about.

But then, is it really true? When Tiru says this, does he mean the advice to apply only to those who are sitting as judges to uphold the law?

Keduvalyaan enbadhu ariga than nenjam naduvoreei alla seyin - Tirukkural

Know that you are headed to destruction when first you decide to be partial rather than fair - Loose Translation

At first sight, it does seem like it is all about judges though you are not quite sure that, in this day and age, impartiality will lead to success for them. But is that really true?

You are the CEO, let us say, of a tech start-up. There are a few bright chaps working with you and you are in a discussion about a minor modification of your APP. Now the guy whom you like comes up with a sub-optimal idea and the guy you do not really take to comes with an optimal solution. Because the issue it not serious and because you want to take down the latter a peg or two you choose the sub-optimal version. What ensues?

The other chap may quit or stay put. Your group as a whole gets the idea in their heads that there is no point suggesting alternatives when your pet has put forth a suggestion. Especially true if the same thing happens a few times OR your pet is your nephew or some such or both. Slowly you end up getting only suboptimal solutions to ALL your issues. AND therein lies the 'heading to destruction'.

You can play that tale out in multiple other scenarios and will find that it heads the same way UNLESS you keep your biases under strict control.

Tiru does not say that it happens just because you act biased. Bias is inevitable if you are human. But bias should not blind you to facts; ONLY to interpretation of facts. So, Tiru predicts destruction only when you KNOWINGLY opt for the wrong choice by choosing to act in a biased manner. What doing that also implies is that you have prioritized your biases over success. And if THAT does not lead to destruction, what will?

Monday, October 16, 2023

The greatest good?

By and large, all those who dispense advice seem to hand out advice which is easier said than done. No wonder, Oscar Wilde once said, "I always pass on good advice. It is very seldom of use to oneself" or words to that effect. Which the meme-makers and forwarders of the day follow assiduously by passing on all the good advice that they receive. Thus Wilde's advice about advice proves better advice than most advice since people do really use it themselves.

Kaakka porulaa adakkatthai aakkam adhaninoongillai uyirkku - Tirukkural

Safeguard self-control above all wealth for nothing else brings greater good to the living - Loose Translation

So, yes, Tiru talks of self-control as the greatest wealth to be kept safe since it is the well-spring of all good to a human. As though self-control is the easiest of things to achieve.

I mean, really, people talk very readily of self-control. But do they really understand what it means? You need to control your anger, control your lust, control your pride/arrogance, control your fear, control get the picture. ALL emotions! Every single one!

Not that you are not allowed to feel any of them. Tiru does not really expect you to be a sage. What he does want you do to is to keep them under control. As in, if you are angry, do not let the anger take control of your words and actions; if you are greedy, do not allow your greed to control the way you conduct your business; if you feel lust, learn not to drool all over the place; if you are...I suppose it IS over-kill to keep on like this, by now you can fill in the blanks on all the rest.

Fact is, yes, if you can achieve self-control then THAT is worth a lot really. You are unlikely to invest your entire inheritance in a Ponzi scheme because you got too greedy; nor piss off your main customer because you could not hold your temper; or get the Government on your back because you couldn't help being snooty to a bureaucrat or politician...

Now, yes, to achieve perfect self-control is to aim for the moon. But why are you giving in to the nirvana fallacy - that since you cannot hit perfection, you'll not even start trying?

Self-control IS the route to holding on to all the good in your life, so you can hold on to some of it, even with partial success, if you try to control yourself!

Why be bitter?

There are times when I surprise myself. Like, it is sort of usual if I hold the exact opposite idea of the world as compared to the wise. I mean, well, they ARE the wise, aren't they, and I am probably as far from wise as you can get while still counting as human. But then, there are those times when my ideas vibe with theirs. Possibly, like a clock that has totally stopped, I am allowed a couple of times when I can be right, every day.

As has happened in this case where I was surprised to see that Tiru has voiced the exact same thing that I have always felt.

Insol inidheendral kaanbaan evankolo vansol vazhanguvadhu - Tirukkural

Having enjoyed the joy of hearing sweet speech what sort of person would choose to use bitter words? - Loose Translation

Exactly! Having found how pleasing it is to hear sweet speech AND how hurtful harsh words are, why would anyone choose to use the latter over the former when he speaks himself? Tiru, for one, echoed my own ideas and thereby proved that he, too, could become naive in his idealism!

I mean, have you heard of ragging in colleges? Ever heard of anyone who actively enjoyed being ragged, especially when it verged on bullying? AND, then, how many of those who suffered the process refrained from ragging their juniors in their turn? Cannot hear you,,,yeah, a bit louder please...EXACTLY! None!

Did you, perchance, see a previous Kural post where we talked about how showing anger is easier with inferiors than your superiors? THAT is the point with this as well. You can be rude and hurtful only with people who cannot hurt you, not with those who can. Yeah, yeah, there ARE those who are all-round rude but those are the exceptions. The rule is that you are wary of being rude to those who can give back more than they got.

Which is WHY people are rude knowing full well that they are being hurtful. Because they CAN be and it gives them a sense of superiority, a sense of power. So, yes, they KNOW they can make the other person happy by speaking sweetly but see no reason why they should bother to do so. (Yup, that applies only when it is a persistent behavior and not one-off rudeness in a moment of stress. Though, be aware, that most of the time even a stress reaction comes based on your own idea of your relative power position vis-a-vis the person to whom you are rude.)

Of course, I AM assuming that Tiru is talking about where sweet words and harsh words can be objectively defined. I mean, if you have reason to criticize your subordinate and he is the sort who takes ANY criticism as rudeness...OR when you have to pass on bad news and are unable to come up with a positive spin to put on it...yes, there ARE times when the harshness in the words is more perceived than real.

Where it is real, though...AND, perhaps, Tiru IS pointing out at the type of person who could do be harsh by saying "What sort of person...?", instead of calling him names, thereby living up to his own dictum of not using outright harsh words!

Monday, October 9, 2023

Timing is everything

The importance of the right timing for every action is something that one keeps hearing over and over again. This is especially true of ideas. Ideas can be ahead of their times and fail on that account. Or you could fail because someone else took the first-mover advantage and you ended up having to unsuccessfully play catch up.

It is not merely in ideas or in new ventures that timing is important. That which we dismiss as routine is as timing dependent as anything else. In fact, the very word 'routine' means a set of actions that need to be done at set timings. Failing to do them in a timely manner can have equally serious consequences. Just because they are not as glamorous as new ventures, and the failures are not spectacular crash-and-burns, does not mean that they are any less important.

Paruvatthodu otta ozhugal thiruvinai theeraamai aarkkum kayiru - Tirukkural

Doing all efforts in timely fashion is the rope that binds success to you - Loose Translation

You know, in general, it is easier by far to keep track of the big-ticket happenings - in life, business, wherever. It is the nitty-gritty, the things that one needs to do every day, day after day, that is trouble. It is especially true in organizations. I mean, you have hired guys who are all agog to make a name for themselves, make an impression on their bosses. Do they really think that doing where they are going to be hailed as heroes? Routine, by definition, means that doing a good job is taken for granted; and only mistakes come to the attention of the brass. So, the guys who DO get handed the routine are the less...ambitious.

And, yet, routine mishandled can scuttle an organization. If you do not handle your cash-flows properly - recoveries from customers, payments to suppliers, inventory management yada yada - you can go down real damn fast. Established companies do not have an issue normally cos they have put in place systems for all of that. Unless they are badly mismanaged. Start-ups,'s just not glamorous enough for the high-fliers to bother about, you see. And, yet, this pesky Tiru...

And THAT also applies at home - managing EMIs, credit card payments, yada can truly mess up your finances if you fail to pay attention to the routine.

And, thus, if you wish to not just earn but keep your wealth...ALL efforts need to be timely!

Monday, October 2, 2023

Knowing limits

The moment you talk about limits, you are necessarily seen as an old fogy. I mean, it is generally the aged who start feeling limited in what they can do. The young generally feel that there is no limit to what they can do. Which, by the way, is not untrue of me, after all. I am no spring chicken, no matter what they say about 'Sixty being the new twenty' or whatever is the catchphrase these days. But, whatever the young may feel, limits exist for everyone.

Tiru, another old fogy, has this to say:

Nunikkombu erinaar aqdiran thookkin uyirkkirudhi aagi vidum - Tirukkural

If the man who has climbed to the tip of a branch attempts to climb further, it will spell the end of his life - Loose Translation

For once, Tiru just states the metaphor trusting his readers' intelligence to understand the lesson that needs to be derived from it. That, if you have the reached the limit of possible progress, to attempt more is certain suicide.

And at once there is a clamor. That this is conservative, this is how all progress is stymied, yada yada. Not really true. I mean, like, if there is a cargo boat and you have loaded it to the limit, of course you'll be told that you ought not to load any more lest the boat sink. Which IS legitimate advice that HAS to be heeded. Now, does it limit the amount of cargo you can ship? Not at all, not if you can find more boats. Does it mean that there is a permanent limit on how much cargo can be shipped per boat? Not if you can design a bigger or better boat.

In other words, the fact that a known solution poses a limit to what you can do does not mean that you cannot find a solution that allows you to do more. The point, however, is that you have to acknowledge the limit posed by the current solution and not blindly insist on loading the existing boat with more cargo. OR, as in Tiru's metaphor, attempt to climb further after reaching the tip of the branch that you are climbing.

To acknowledge limits is not to cease to persist in solving your problem. It is only a caution to avoid butting your head persistently in a dead end!

Monday, September 25, 2023

Dangerous rage

The problem with anger is that everyone seems to be down on it. I mean, have you ever heard ANY advice in support of anger? Ever? And yet it is a very common emotion. There is hardly anyone who has not felt it. And, yet, there is nobody who really supports the idea of feeling anger no matter how justified it is.

Given that, it is not surprising that Tiru, too, joins the bandwagon of people who oppose the idea of being angry. Or, more to the point, against the idea of expressing anger.

Sellaa idatthu sinam theedhu sellidatthinum il adhanin theeya pira - Tirukkural

Anger is bad even when directed at those it cannot injure; where it can injure nothing is more evil than that - Loose Translation

Of course, expressing anger to those who you are powerless to injure is bad. I mean, come on, do you really think that yelling at your boss is going to have good consequences? OR screaming at the traffic cop who's pulled you up for speeding when you cannot call on anyone more powerful than him in the time-honored 'Jaantaa nahin main koun hoon'? OR at the professor who is guiding you on your research? I mean, really, does it need a Tiru to tell you that expressing anger in such circumstances is a form of suicide that needs an IQ in the single digits to commit?

But what's the big deal about expressing anger where you have the power to injure? Was Tiru worried about your subordinate taking you to HR for screaming at him? OR you suing the traffic cop for racial discrimination or the Prof for harassment? I daresay not. Not only did Tiru live in simpler times when Authority was always one way and clearly defined but also that, if he had conceived of these things, he would have categorized these relationships also as 'Sellaa idam' meaning places where you are powerless.

So, then, what exactly is the evil he warns you of when you are expressing anger at those who are in your power? THAT, precisely, IS the problem. That expressing anger at them could soon turn into bullying. That you would become the sort of person who misuses his power, who ceases to care for their feelings and use them as whipping boys.

The evil that Tiru warns of is the way that expressing anger like that can warp your character. A far worse evil, in his view, than facing the consequences of showing anger to the more powerful. After all, in the latter case, you'll be taught the lesson that it is a mistake by the immediate consequences!

Sunday, September 17, 2023

No desire for success?

To not desire success is not merely rare, it is close to impossible. More often than not, when you see someone who seems immune to the lure of success, what you see is only someone whose idea of success is different from the conventional idea of success (Like, you know, teaching the slum children in his area rather than setting up a Byjus; like climbing mountains instead of a corporate ladder). To have NO idea of what constitutes success for you in the future AND, thus, to not chase anything in life is given only to the self-realized Saint (who has ALREADY succeeded in getting where he wanted to get) OR those who think no more of life than to eat and sleep it away. (AND even THEY will have an idea of success IF they had to strive to get enough to eat!)

Yet, Tiru defines some people as not desiring success who fall into neither of these categories.

Aranaakkam vendaadhaan enbaan piranaakkam penaadhu azhukkaruppaan - Tirukkural

He who envies rather than rejoicing in others' success is to be seen as someone who neither desires virtue nor success - Loose translation.

Tiru, therefore, says that anyone who truly desires success in any field will be rejoicing in the success of others in his field and not envying them.

I think you need to really understand what Tiru thinks is 'desire' before you can understand what he is saying here. Like, yeah, I mean you'd like to be the next Shahrukh Khan and the only thing that is stopping you from becoming one is the fact that nobody has, as yet, come to your doorstep with superstardom on a platter. Desire of THAT sort everyone has. I mean, even Mungerilal had his haseen sapne where he dreamt of becoming the next Adani.

But Tiru is a very finicky guy. When he calls something 'desire for success', it is not merely this fleeting fancy for all the good things - wealth, fame, whatever - that will come out of achieving success; It is a desire to BECOME the sort of person who will say and do the things that are needed for that success to come your way. In other words, he calls it desire for success ONLY if you are willing to put in the hard yards in order to pursue success AND not merely drool about the pleasurable life AFTER you achieve that success.

In that context, it makes sense that if you keep looking at others' success with envy, you're unlikely to be actually putting in the effort in honing your own ability and skills to achieve success. To the man who is actually working to succeed, other people's success is an inspiration as well as a lesson in how to succeed. To the man who merely toys with the idea of success, anyone else who has succeeded is an obstacle to his own success. I mean, if you feel that YOU control the metrics of your success by how you act, you learn from others; if you think success is handed over in a sort of lottery, THEN someone else getting it seems like your being deprived of it by them. THEN all you feel is only envy.

If you have ever heard words of envy, you'll always hear the seeds of failure in them. "Of course, he will succeed! He is the MD's relative after all." There! You have already decided that since you are not related to anyone important, you are never going to succeed. OR "People like him find a way to suck up to the bosses and climb the ladder. Us straightforward people..." You as good as say that you will NEVER succeed. If you decide that you can never become the sort of person who succeeds, then can you really claim to desire success? You are unlikely to even try to do what is in your control.

It is not that the world is fair; that none of that nepotism OR flattery works. Of course, they do. But if you truly desire success, you'll not waste time in envy. You'll seek to see whether what you CAN do will also get you success. OR change your place of work to where you can still pursue success.

OR, perhaps, you can reset your idea of success to achieve excellence in the number of people you can actively envy!

Monday, September 11, 2023

Action and words

I was traveling by a SETC bus in Tamil Nadu and the bus passed by a political meeting where the speaker was promising Heaven on Earth once he came to power. Which was an ironical time for my eyes to land on this Thirukkural written in the bus. (Those who know Tamil Nadu will know that all government buses have one or two Thirukkurals written in them).

Solludhal yaarkkum eliya ariyavaam solliya vannam seyal - Tirukkural

Speech is easy for anyone; what's rare is to do as you say - Loose Translation.

THAT in the context of a political speech was very funny indeed. I mean, it essentially says, "Making promises is easy; delivering is difficult" and, in the backdrop, a politician was making promises!

But THAT's not all that it was saying really. I mean, you could interpret it as, "Giving instructions is easy. Carrying them out is rare." Now THAT strikes close to home. I mean, like, "I want this done and I want this done yesterday" is sort of easy to say. But tough to do unless you know time travel. (I know, I know, it is metaphorical but, come on, how often have deadlines been realistic?) It is a fact that a lot of times, the so-called instructions are only a wish-list and no real help for anyone who actually has to do the job. Like, "This should be zero defect, scalable, yada yada" Easy to say; tough to do.

Worse still are the things that we say related to character. Working without regard to outcomes, not being judgmental about people, hating the sin and not the sinner and so on. I mean, easy to say, easier by far to share memes but to live up to that? Absolutely impossible to actually do for most people.

Which is why some things keep going round and round forever as memes. EVERYONE agrees with the words, nobody is able to translate it to action!

Monday, September 4, 2023

Medicare unnecessary?

You near the time when you are respected (OR, to be realistic, discarded) as a senior citizen, you tend to worry more about health than anything else. When you were a kid, people would tell you 'Health is Wealth' and you would scoff at it saying, "How do I buy a car with health? Unless I sell my kidney?" actually start realizing that, even if health cannot create wealth, ill-health can melt it faster than anything else. And so...

Marundhena vendaavaam yaakkaikku arundhiyadhu atradhu potri unin - Tirukkural

You'll not need any medicine if you eat only after your previous meal is completely digested - Loose translation.

Now, Tiru is a wise man. He certainly does not mean that if you break a bone, all that you need to do is to eat only when you are hungry for the bone to set itself. Nor, I presume, is he really assuming that Covid will not bother you as long as you watch your diet.

They lived in kindlier times. So, what bothered them, primarily, were the so-called lifestyle diseases. And lifestyle diseases were, by and large, a product of bad dietary practices and lack of exercise. So, Tiru has a point when he says that not stuffing your face at all times is a good way to remain healthy.

Ah, now, there you go. "As long as I am hungry when I eat, I'm Ok? No problem with how much I eat?" Well, not really. Tiru probably anticipated that you'd say that, so he followed through in the very next Kural:

Atraal Alavarindhu unga aqdhudambu petran nedidhuykkum aaru - Tirukkural

Once hungry, eating in moderation is the key to the embodied surviving long - Loose Translation.

There you go. No overeating, sorry. "Aha! But I CAN eat ANY food in moderation. Tiru has no problem with junk food." you scream in delight. You ought to know better. When has ANYONE giving dietary advice given pleasing advice? Advice that you can feel happy about?

So, yes, Tiru follows through with this one

Atradhu arindhu kadaipiditthu maaralla thuykka thuvarappasitthu - Tirukkural

Ensuring completion of digestion and when you are truly hungry eat agreeable foods - Loose Translation

And, therein lies the problem. Like your modern doctors, Tiru also is disinclined to think that burgers and french fries, pastries and colas are 'agreeable foods' no matter how agreeable they seem to your tongue. He only means foods that are agreeable to your health.

Leave's too depressing. Why is it that what's enjoyable is so seldom healthy?

Monday, August 28, 2023

Avoid the unknown?

The general trend in advice is that it tends to be conservative. As, indeed, it ought to be especially when it is general advice meant for public consumption, like in a book, where there could be a wide variety of recipients. I mean, like, you are going to play it very safe if you do not know whether the guy who is reading your advice is the sort who has no clue about the existence of common-sense. Even if you do not live in litigious times, it's not something you'd feel comfortable about doing.

Theliviladhanaith thodangaar ilivennum edhappaadu anjubavar - Tirukkural

They who fear for their reputation do not embark on a course of action with uncertain outcomes - Loose Translation

Tiru isn't merely making a passing comment about people who fear reproach. He's actually saying that you ought not to do things with uncertain outcomes lest you end up losing your reputation.

Which will quite jibe with people who live off their reputations, you know. I mean if you are a professional, someone considered an expert in an area like a lawyer or an investment advisor or such, you'd be better off not entering into actions with uncertain outcomes. For THAT could lead to you losing your reputation and, thus, your livelihood.

The problem is when you try to apply it to innovation and technology. I mean, really, do the possible outcomes of this mad rush to AI seem predictable? Or even necessarily all good? And, yet, people in that field...their reputations get MADE on pursuing a course of action with uncertain outcomes.

To be sure, you could also end up getting a reputation of a Frankenstein for having created a monster. But THAT is a risk humanity has always run when it pursued knowledge. For, knowledge IS the apple in the Garden of Eden which Adam ate and it has always been a double-edged sword.

But, yes, there is validity in the conservative point of view which adjures you from a rash pursuit of unknown outcomes. It's fine that you rush into fires recklessly as long as you DO know that fire can burn you and that it IS fire you are rushing into with such haste.

And, so, Tiru has his cautionary word to say about the vice of rushing pell-mell into unknown territory. Not that it has ever helped keep the brakes on humanity!

Monday, August 21, 2023

Useless effort?

There is this thing which has always struck me as quaint. I have heard it quite often, especially when it comes to movies that failed. People who are involved in the movie industry tend to say, "You don't know how much effort goes into it. You cannot be so dismissive about it."

I mean, come on, do you really think that no effort went into making that horrid food in that restaurant? Or that pathetic excuse for a mobile...did that thing just pop out of thin air for that brand to sell? In every area of human endeavor, there is effort, some successful, some not. The fact that effort went into something cannot automatically inoculate it from criticism.

Aaatrin varundhaa varuttham palar nindru potrinum potthuppadum  - Tirukkural.

If work be not done the proper way it'll fail no matter how many people help in the process - Loose Translation

You do not build a proper house by heaping bricks higgledy-piggledy. No matter how hard you worked at it and how many people helped you to do it. It takes proper planning, and it takes proper process to do a successful job of building a house...or any other piece of work for that matter.

The intent to work and the dedication to do so may be laudable in a person. But for the end result to be worthy of appreciation, it is never enough to merely work hard. And Tiru knew it.

So, Tiru, in his times, knew the difference between merely working hard and working smart. THAT's why the man remains relevant even unto this day.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Risky Investment?

One of the most popular things you can do on social media or, indeed, media of any kind is to offer investment advice. Though, to be sure, it is more the kind of advice that says 'Buy this to double your money in days' sort of advice that really attracts eyeballs and not the parental sort of thing about how to be careful while investing.

But, then, Tiru lived in times when being parental was the in-thing. And, so...

Aakkam karudhi mudhal izhakkum seyvinai ookkaar arivudaiyaar - Tirukkural

The wise do not encourage risking your entire principal in the hope of high returns - Loose Translation.

You see, Tiru was a with-it sort, who had advice to offer on all facets of life and not merely about what people call spirituality. One does not suppose that there were stock-markets in his time, so he is probably talking of investments as in real on-the-ground investments like shops, trade goods, land etc.

The thing, though, is that it appears that, even in his times, there have been people offering stupendous returns and decamping with your money. So, here he goes warning you against Ponski schemes, telling you to avoid risking all your principal because someone is holding out a carrot of huge returns.

Actually, come to think of it, it need not necessarily be a fraudulent offer. There can be legit high risk high return schemes - like, say, participating in shipping goods to another country in his times with the attendant risk of losing the entire ship to a storm. So, what Tiru has to say is that even if you risk a bit of your funds for high returns you should not get so carried away that you risk your entire principal on it.

Who'd have thought that this antediluvian chap could give you sane advice on managing risk in your portfolio of investments? But, then, that's Tiru for you!

Monday, August 7, 2023

Everybody knows?

I made the mistake of saying "One of my friends..." in a conversation and the group 'Grammar Nazi' (G.N. for short) was all over me about how the right usage was 'One of my friend...' I mean, yeah, I know that this is how it is being used these days, but the proper usage of yore was the way I used it. I should have just let it go but was fool enough to argue. You know how that would have gone...the G.N. gave me the horse's laugh and said, "Everybody knows that the right usage is..." to a chorus of assents. Some gave me sympathetic looks pitying me for my ignorance; others sneered at me in contempt. And THAT was that.

You know how irritating it is to be the brunt of a G.N assault even when you are wrong. To not only be assaulted by a G.N but to be pitied by the junta when you are actually in the right...but THAT is the power of 'Everybody knows'. When everybody 'knows' a certain 'fact' then anything that contradicts it HAS to be wrong. Galileo (remember him?) was blinded for his folly of opposing what everybody knows. THAT is the power of the logical fallacy called 'argumentum ad populum' - the argument that what is popularly known is right.

Now, you see, Galileo was not talking of which politician was the better ruler or some such item of opinion which you could easily have a strong conviction against because you do not like the way he wears his moustache or some such important reason. Nope, our man was talking about the sun and earth and moon and about what went around what...and he backed it with observations. What, you see, we call science and what we assume is not subject to opinions. (An idea that scientists would scoff ANY point in time scientists HAVE held opinions, it is just laymen who think there are no opinions in science. Einstein famously said, "God does not play dice" when faced with quantum physics or, more specifically, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Today there are multiple opinions about the nature of the universe - string theories, membrane theories, multiverse theories, what have you. Yet, people think of Science as absolute. The Truth MAY be absolute but what we KNOW as Science...THAT is different.)

So, if Galileo can be blinded for proclaiming a scientific discovery which the populace did not agree with, what's the point of fighting the populace on issues related to man-made things - like linguistics, governance, social norms etc? Yeah, yeah, I hear you, you say that Galileo was blinded by the Church and are off on your rant against religion. But, pray tell me, IF the populace had not believed that the Church IS right always and HAS the authority to act as it did, could the same thing have happened? No.

The ONLY thing which can fight argumentum ad populum is another logical fallacy - Authority bias. IF someone in authority opposed the popular opinion, the populace can be swayed. But, remember, authority itself HAS to be granted BY the populace. As in, the true authority on Science, of the two, was Galileo and not the Church. But the populace granted authority to the Church to decide on matters of science as well. Ergo... (WHY do I call Authority Bias a fallacy even when it supports the right thing? Because, the people who ACCEPT the ruling think it is right ONLY because an Authority has said so and not on any other rational basis.)

Now, the populace makes itself heard very loudly indeed thanks to social media. One only hopes that, where it is wrong, an acceptable authority stands in opposition to correct the error.

Otherwise, one fine day, we may find ourselves expecting to float in the air because the populace has repealed the law of gravitation!

Monday, July 31, 2023

Ephemeral Fame?

It is not what you think, drat it. It's not effing sour grapes. I'm not dissing fame because I have no way of getting even a modicum of it in any manner whatsoever and, so, want to say that it's useless to get it.

I was just thinking about the way this fame game seems to progress. I mean, first the chap who gets fame - be it in politics, cricket, the movies or whatever - can do no wrong. I mean, he could get called a saint or even God and everyone practically sings bhajans set to his name.

Then, slowly, they start finding that he has feet of clay. This stage normally occurs around the time when he ceases to either be successful or relevant. At this time, people start off saying, "Ah! Fine that he did all these things. But he also did this. Do we give him a free pass on all his negativity merely because..." Note that his achievements/sacrifices/whatever have already converted to a 'merely' thing...something so insignificant that it can be brushed aside without much notice.

The chap can count himself lucky if he stays put at this stage. The unlucky guys move along further. When that happens, all that remains of the chap is the negatives. The positives are mere accidental occurrences, the negatives are all that define his character. So, a Sunil Gavaskar will only be remembered for his 36 n.o in a 60 over ODI AND for walking off with his team when he was given out in Australia. All the rest of his batting is something even a schoolboy could do OR was useless because it was all in selfish pursuit of personal goals. And so on. 

Once you reach this stage you can have peace of mind. There is no recovering from here, your journey will only be downwards from then on, so there is no uncertainty to stress you out. From here on, the negatives in your character will keep getting magnified till one day you could find the saint being characterized as a Hitler and nod your head in approval.

Makes you wonder whether this fame game is worth all the effort. I mean, if you are obscure nobody is certainly going to praise you but nobody is likely to revile you either. Seems a far better way to live, no?

But then, it all depends. 'Praise me or blame me, just don't ignore me' is probably the way most of us feel. To be praised or to be blamed is to be acknowledged. To be ignored, though...

Unless you can live the way the Gita asks you to seeking not the fruits of your labor. But then, THAT's only good for memes. Who can really live like that?

So, yeah, if you seek fame or have fame thrust upon you, resign yourself to the fact that first they'll make an idol of you; then strive to find your feet of clay; and then concentrate on the clay to the exclusion of everything else!

Monday, July 24, 2023

Recency bias

There is this strange thing about who people choose to call the G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Times, in case you are still under the rock from where I just recently crawled out). It always happens to be someone who is currently alive and performing at the top of his ability. It's like, somehow, we are lucky to be alive at the exact time when the G.O.A.Ts in all spheres have graced our planet with their presence. It's such a pity that our forefathers did not produce any G.O.A.T in ANY sphere and, what's worse, our children will also not produce any G.O.A.T in ANY sphere since our own lot are not only the 'greatEST' but also the greatest of ALL times!

Or, perhaps, there have been greats, even greatests, in all times. Perhaps, Viv Richards, Gary Sobers and Don Bradman would also qualify as greats and Virat Kohli, Babar Azam, Steve Smith et al may only be AS great as these chaps and not the GREATEST. What gives credence to this bizarre idea that ANYONE from the past can be as good as Virat (OR Babar OR Steve OR...) is this strange thing in logic called 'Recency Bias'.

Apparently, human beings are wired to consider what happened recently as more important, better, whatever as compared to what happened earlier. OR, like our movie villains, especially those who play politicians, often say...'Public Memory is short'. Which is why you tend to value today's performers as far better than anyone from yesteryears. AND, yes, an accusation of corruption today will send voters rushing back to favor the people accused of genocide yesterday. THAT is recency bias in logic AND politicians, especially, thrive on it because ANY crime, as long as it does not result in a punishment long enough to disqualify them, will be forgotten or condoned pretty damn quick.

Which is also the reason why old fogies like me hardly find conversational traction except among other old fogies. I mean, you could have saved a townful of people in the eighties from a pandemic but all that talking about it will get you is a huge yawn and a 'there he goes again'. Meanwhile, the chap who created an APP to buy chips faster yesterday can talk of it practically incessantly...till, of course, the next sensation knocks it off the pedestal. Recency bias at work...and you thought logic wasn't of any relevance to your life.

Now that you know it, do not pass off this "What have you done for me lately?" attitude of your colleagues or family or friends as mere selfishness and lack of gratitude. It's recency bias at work!

Monday, July 17, 2023


I had always assumed that 'better' was better than 'good' and 'best' was the best of them all. Stands to reason, does it not? I mean, what is being merely 'good' as compared to being the 'best'? (I have said that before? So? What I am about to say is different from what I said before, so there!) After all, positive has just escaped being negative whereas comparative has beaten others at the game. As for has beaten everyone, hasn't it?

Or has it? The way things go for me, nothing ever works the way it is supposed to.

There was this time, for example, when my Maths teacher at school was doing that dreaded thing - handing out test results. She called out my name and said those sweet words..."This is your best performance in my tests till date, Suresh". I practically strutted to her and...found that I had still fallen short of the pass percentage by a couple of marks thus discovering that your best can still not be good enough.

Or that other time in the 100m race when I was better by a whisker than this other guy...but the two of us trailed the field by about 50m. Or the time when a classmate was the best athlete from our class but did not qualify for the school team.

All this 'better' and 'best' business is about who or what you are being compared to, it would seem. I mean, yeah, a snail can be the best 'runner' among all snails but it is unlikely that it will compare favourably with a cheetah comes to running speed. You can be the most knowledgeable person on astronomy in your IT firm canteen but would you be good enough for ISRO to consider you a potential astrophysicist? And so it goes...(You will see I am careful not to mention politics or sociology where EVERYONE considers himself not just good but far better than any of the political/social commentators they see on TV)

It would seem that 'good' is not so bad after all. In fact, it could well be better than 'better' and 'best'. So...

Be positive! The comparative and superlative will take care of themselves.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Tempering temper

When it comes to anger, almost everyone who dispenses advice seems to be against it. I mean, yeah, some are quite fine with it, provided you do not act on it in haste - the 'Vengeance is a dish best served cold' gang. There is the other extreme - the 'Hate the sin, not the sinner' types, who would have you understand the person you are angry with rather than think up ways to do him in. Very few are happy with the idea of blowing your top and continuing to do the Vesuvius act in the vicinity of the man who set off your wrath. Most are against the very idea of your wrath being set off at all, no matter the provocation.

Sellidatthu kaappaan sinam kaappaan; allidatthu kaakkil en kaavaakkaal en - Thirukkural

He, who restrains his anger where he has power to hurt, has restraint; where he has no power, what does it matter whether or not he reins in his temper? - Loose Translation

Assuming that one does see a controlled temper as a desirable thing, it makes sense, doesn't it? I mean, like, if my subordinate pisses me off and I let loose at him, he has no choice but to take it, right? (Unless, he is in the unionised cadre, where I need to be wary of the Union ripping a hole in me where already have one and do not need a spare. OR, of course, if he is a key and irreplaceable element of MY performance). So, if I refuse to get angry and I am all sweetness and light with him, I CAN put in for a halo. If, on the other hand, I boast that I got angry with my boss and manfully restrained my temper, are you likely to circulate an appeal to sanctify me?

Though Tiru is being rather dismissive of the after-effects of NOT showing restraint where I do not have power. I mean, yeah, if I get angry with Xi Jinping and let loose in the canteen with my friends, it is no skin off either my nose or Xi's and the net result would be the same as if I had NOT let loose. THAT way, yes, it matters little what I choose to do.

BUT...and THAT is the BUT which bothers me...if it is my boss I am angry with and I scream at him, I'm afraid it is not the same as if I had NOT screamed at him. Unless he is totally hearing impaired AND not reading my face. So what does Tiru mean when he says that it is all the same?

Tiru seems to be taking the point of view that your control over your anger there only shows that you are being pragmatic; not that you have improved your character to the point where you have started to get rid of your inclination to getting angry. Therefore, it is no different from having showed your anger as far as any change in your character goes. And THAT tells you that Tiru sees anger as, in and of itself, a sin which you need to avoid.

It is the problem with all philosophers, really. They tend to get so concerned with what your actions and behaviour are doing to your CHARACTER that they totally ignore what it can do to your physical well-being.

Therefore, do NOT assume that screaming at your boss OR the traffic cop or whoever will lead to the same consequences as NOT screaming. There is no point in blaming Tiru while clutching that pink slip or traffic ticket or whatever. Tiru will only tell you to avoid getting angry with him as well!

Monday, July 3, 2023

Deliberate, then decide

This beast called management, and all its associated importance, may well have been defined as such, segregated as a separate field of study and taught in the recent past but the dratted thing has probably been around since the time primitive man hunted mammoths. I mean, like, it is unlikely that a group of men just went about doing their own thing and just happened to kill a mammoth. There must have been some element of coordination of efforts to get it done without the lot of them getting stomped into mush.

What was that? That, post-facto, the distribution of the meat also needed management? Ha, yes, that's the pith of the matter, isn't it? And, no doubt, those who arrogated to themselves the right to distribute the meat ended up with most of it as payment for their valuable services, naturally. Which is why most of management education is geared to get people into that end of the job. Almost all management is about getting other people to do the job while you 'coordinate', no?

Where was I? Ah, yeah, I was talking about how, possibly, management always existed. It is the codification of its principles that can be considered 'modern'. Though Tiru would have something to say about it, unless you count him as modern in comparison with the Cro-Magnon man.

Therindha Inatthodu therndenni cheyvaarkku arumporul yaathondrum il - Thirukkural

There is nothing impossible to he who discusses the project with chosen cognoscenti, then thinks for himself and thereafter acts - Loose Translation

At one level, this Kural may read as though Tiru is talking of discussing only with trusted friends. considering that he is talking of how kings should operate (because in his times CEOs were not yet invented), that is as good as saying talk to you sycophants and you will succeed at everything! Which, to be sure, can well be true since you will only HEAR that you have succeeded from your sycophants, no matter what was happening in reality. But Tiru is not given to idiocy like that.

So, when he talks of 'therindha inatthodu' it can mean both 'those YOU know' AND 'those who KNOW'. Pithy man that he is, he probably means both - that they should be both those who are knowledgeable AND those whom you know and trust.

AND, despite all those discussions, he expects you, end of the day, to think about it yourself and take your own call. Unless YOU take ownership of the decision, you will not proceed with confidence AND persistence. The moment you have others to blame for failure, your push to succeed is that much weaker.

In modern terms, Tiru is asking you to brainstorm with knowledgeable and trusted friends; THEN think, decide and take ownership of your decision. IF you do that, there is nothing impossible for you to achieve.

Now THAT does not mean you cannot ever fail. Only that failure is NOT inevitable no matter what you set as your goals.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Analysis before action?

I have not been a great fan of picking on the Bhagavad Gita, say, and drawing management lessons from it. I mean, really, there are some texts that are meant to teach you to transcend your daily life. If you do not want to transcend it, if you'd rather enjoy your Netflix and your Glenfiddich (as I do? Quite!), why then you just duck into the nearest alley when you see Gita heading your way. But to use the Gita as a sort of manual to help you get more that never did appeal to me.

I cannot say the same about the Thirukkural, though. Tiru was an eminently practical chappie and there is this entire 'Porutpaal' (which is one of the three divisions of the Thirukkural. The other two, even if you did not ask, being "Arathhuppal" and "Kaamatthuppaal". The former is related to dharma/morality/ethics and the latter to love life) which is entirely related to earning wealth and management. So, Tiru actually was the Drucker of his times (Alas! It should be Drucker is the Tiru of our times but such is the value of branding that...).

Azhivadhoom Avadhoom aagi vazhi payakkum oodhiyamum soozhndhu seyal - Thirukkural

Analyse what will be expended, what received and what gained before you act - Loose Translation

Now that is Tiru just telling you 'Look before you leap'? Not really. As in, yes he is telling you to look before you leap alright but he is not JUST telling you to do that. The whole point about the generic advice you get at your local tea-shop and from the expert is that the former can give you only platitudes. Any idiot can tell you 'Be careful'; it takes the expert to tell you what to be careful about. Likewise, it is the expert who can tell you what to look for.

And Tiru does that. He asks you to look for what you will lose, what you will receive and whether you will gain from the process or lose. And THEN decide based on whether there is a gain in acting or not.

Yup! Exactly! Cost-Benefit Analysis told pithily way back in History! THAT is Tiru for you, which is why he is still remembered and respected to this day!

Monday, June 19, 2023


The idea of a multiverse has always been fascinating to me. Don't ask me why, though. I mean, like, it is not as though I have a complete experience of the universe that we inhabit, to the extent that I am bored with it and want the additional novelty of multiple universes. It is probably just the idea that more always means better that we humans seem to believe in implicitly.

Or, perhaps, I am giving myself too much credit for being like other humans...being 'normal' so to speak. It is just as likely that I am not pleased with my place in this universe and not too sure that knowing more or traveling within this universe is in any way going to make me the pivot around which the world revolves. AND, you know how it goes. Perhaps I'm the lost Prince from another universe in this multiverse, the frog who is waiting for a princess to kiss so that I can turn into this handsome price, the...ah, well, you get the drift about the fascination of the possibilities a multiverse opens out.

You know, the funny thing about this idea of a multiverse in human minds is that we, somehow, believe that we will be the central feature of it all. I mean, like, we have always believed that we are central to the UNIVERSE despite physicists telling us that we are a speck of dust circling a small star on the peripheries of a galaxy which is itself one of millions and just as ordinary as your star is in this galaxy...Physicists can din it into your ears till Kingdom come and, probably, even they believe, in their innermost hearts, that we are still the pivot around which the universe rotates. I mean, like, "Mr. Universe', 'Miss Universe' yada yada? Really?

So, yeah, I'm sure that we will also consider that the multiverse has been made especially for our benefit. Perhaps our religions already have done so. With the 14 worlds concepts, the seven nether worlds being hells to punish us and the seven upper worlds to house the beings which exist to reward us OR worlds which exist to reward us after death or whatever.

But, of late, I am starting to believe that we have decided to take matters into our own hands. What better way to be the centre of a multiverse than to create it ourselves. It all, probably, started with Marvel. And, like the 'woods' of India which started with Hollywood, we now have the universes: YRF Spy Universe, Rohit Shetty's Cop universe, Lokesh Cinematic universe, Astra-verse what have you. All you need is to marry all this to VR and...nirvana!

No need to depend upon a God or gods, if he or they exist, to do the right thing and create a multiverse which suits us.

We will have our own multiverse centred upon human beings!

Monday, June 12, 2023

Never Wrong?

"You remember making fun of subtitles in movies and shows? The one where you were joking about 'Eerie music' etc?"

"Of course I do," I said. More than resenting the slur on my memory, I was thrilled that someone read and remembered any of my blogposts.

"Did it cross your mind that those subtitles were not idiotic? That they were meant for the aurally challenged to know what was going on?"

Uhoh! I should have known. People only remembered anything I did in order to criticize me.

"Yeah, really? I mean exactly what use would it be to them?"

"You just cannot admit it when you are wrong, can you?"

This was priceless! When was the last time this chap had ever admitted that he was wrong? When anyone in your vicinity had ever done it? I mean, really, it is something that everybody says that one should do but nobody ever really does. And I am to blame because I am just like everyone else?

See, if you are in the wrong and challenged by someone in authority and have no wiggle room; like your boss, like the traffic cop who caught you speeding, get the gist; THEN you admit that you are wrong. And ONLY then. mere social circumstances while waxing lyrical on your views about the world...I mean, like, do people really exist who admit they are wrong?

Of course there are people who get caught on the wrong foot. But, when they do, nobody ever really says they are wrong in so many words, do they?

Let's not even talk about the teens' favorite reply when wrong-footed: "Whatever". The more 'adult' responses also come nowhere close to admitting error.

You have the chaps who will swiftly change the subject. The 'Let's change the subject, no point in friends fighting each other on such trivial things' lot. So, they'll switch from whether India need a Sengol to why Ashwin was dropped...and set off a different fire.

You have the chaps who will remember an important appointment. "OH! I have no time to waste on these fruitless arguments. I need to be in an urgent meeting within fifteen minutes" gang.

Then you have the varieties of people who will start talking about your personality instead of the subject at hand.

"Ah! You always have to have the last word."

"As though you never made a mistake. Remember the time..." THIS is probably the closest you'll get to a tacit admission of error.

"You people always take this tack." And that 'you people' is the diplomatic version of 'Sanghi', 'Fascist', 'Libtard', whatever.

Among all this variety, you'll hardly ever find someone who'll outright admit in so many words that he was wrong. If you find one, quickly cart him to a Zoo; he is an endangered species.

Because, in this world of 'If you do not agree with me, you are against me' AND 'Anything does not support my point of view is from WhatsApp University', everybody is never wrong. He's only talking to the wrong people.

Echo chambers zindabad!

Monday, June 5, 2023


Ah! No, no, no! If you walked in here expecting me to either talk of the importance of the Sengol or to lament the iniquity of its treatment in the past OR to rant about how it was never an important symbol of the transfer of power and how it represents the hunger to become a dictator instead of a democrat...where was I? Ah! IF you were expecting anything of that sort, please walk right out again. People who regularly come here know that I am this wishy-washy chap who prefers not to talk about things on which the populace is already polarised and refuse to be convinced otherwise even if their own deity comes to do the convincing. (The if-he-tries-to-convince-me-otherwise-he-is-Satan-disguised-as-my-deity school of thought, you know?)

Kodaiyali Sengol kudiyombal naangum udaiyanaam vendarkoli - Tirukkural

He who gives what's needed to the deserving, who speaks softly even with his enemies, who is unwaveringly just, and who protects and cares for the weakest sections of his people is the doyen among kings - Loose translation.

Let's have one thing clear first. Sengol IS the sceptre but, more to the point, it is almost always understood as the RIGHTEOUS sceptre. (The opposite, in case you are interested, is Kodun-gol and it is I who hyphenated it for clarity's sake. And, NO, I will NOT take responsibility if people start using THAT term to vilify their political opponents!) In fact, in THIS kural, Sengol is used in the metaphorical sense of being am impartial judge (though, yes, you can understand it more as righteousness in thought and action rather than merely justice as handed down in a court of law. Thus, a righteous judge of ALL issues, not just legal disputes).

This being soft-spoken to even your enemies is probably dated advice these days when being polite even to your well-wishers is considered a sign of weakness if they happen to oppose any of your whims. And you do not even need to be a 'ruler' for you to spew venom. (Oh, yes, the idea is that you are more powerful when you are a ruler which means you can actually spew MORE venom - in words or in action.)

But it does appear like Tiru gave timeless advice; advice that in Tamil Nadu at least, political parties can quote to justify what they are anyway doing. 'Give what's needed to the deserving'. Now THAT automatically means, in today's politics, giving biryani and liquor and cash to people, which is what they need, so that they vote for you. AND who, indeed, is more deserving than someone who votes for you, pray? AND, by giving all that, you PROVE that you are a worthy ruler, so what more can you ask for?

THAT last thing from this Kural was an eye-opener. The King is supposed to care for the weakest sections of his Society? Now if THAT is not a socialistic idea, what is? Welfare state, anyone? But, then, it is not surprising since the kings of yore used to open their granaries in times of drought, they were responsible for hunting predators if they affected the flocks of their populace and so on. So, now, we have THIS as well to add to the list of things that we have always had in this country long before the West even thought of it. (Ah! No! I am NOT making fun of advanced thought in ancient or medieval India. Thought has ALWAYS been advanced here. You have even had democracy in Licchavi, Atheism as a school of philosophy, yada yada. What I doubt is in actually creating flying machines and nukes and whatnot. Maybe true, may not be true, but, hey, to doubt is free as much as to believe is free. AND the surprising thing is we tout that which can be disputed but do not even KNOW of the ideas that we have birthed. Shows how little we value ideas as opposed to material things.)

Tiru ALWAYS stays relevant, somehow. The surprising thing this time is that he came to the fore in a political debate of the day. THAT much relevance even he may not have expected or wanted. But, then, WHO can claim to be safe from the polarising of today. I will not be surprised if there is a #CancelTiru hashtag on the Net soon!

Monday, May 29, 2023

Music has no language?

I did not understand this 'Music has no language' thingy to start with. I mean, music meant essentially film music for me and I could hardly enjoy it unless I could sing along with it. (Bray along? There you go, indulging in ad hominem right away. This voice-shaming should also get people cancelled, I tell you.) And I could hardly sing along in a language that I did not know, especially when others around me could know the language and take exception to the way I was mangling it...and not just verbally.

So, I chugged along, assuming that this 'no language' thing was another of those Zen things that everyone said, or nodded to, wisely with nobody really understanding what it meant...or if it even meant anything. Till, one day, the meaning of it sort of lit up like a lamp above a cartoon character's head. (Apt analogy for the me? Who asked you?)

(Intense music playing)

Those were the All India Radio days, when TV was talked about in the same hushed whispers as Armstrong landing on the moon. And, AIR in its wisdom used to suddenly take to hour long classical music concerts every now and then. The day I caught myself nodding my head and tapping my feet to one such WESTERN Classical symphony, possibly Mozart's 40th or some such, is the day I realized that I could enjoy music without language.

Yet, the same had never applied when I had tried to listen to music in other languages. Perhaps, for me, it was NECESSARY to ensure that there was no language distracting my attention before I could just appreciate the music. Else I seemed to need to appreciate both...or I rejected both.

And, as it happens, I took it as axiomatic that music had no language. That music directly communicated to the emotions without any need to know any language. Till recently, that is, when I suddenly discovered that I was wrong after all...or, to be accurate, right in my original assumption and wrong in changing my mind.

(Suspenseful music playing)

This change in attitude came out of watching movies on OTT. Those subtitles, really, put paid to all my erroneous notions about music being some sort of universal language. I mean, after all, people do not get paid to explain what sort of music is playing at any point in time if music directly communicated to the emotions without having to have a language translation running in the mind. Which meant that music was, probably, something that needed decoding, too. Such as 'eerie music', 'tense music', 'music of pathos', yada yada...without which the listener may break into a jig when funereal music is playing on screen.

Or, perhaps, like a friend of mine says, music probably does communicate directly to the emotions but, in these modern days, people have so lost touch with their emotions that they need someone to tell them the identity of the emotion that they are feeling. Seems quite plausible to me.

(Joyful music playing)

Monday, May 22, 2023

Intermittent Fasting

You know how it goes. You have never heard of a thing and are quite blissful not knowing about it. Someone mentions it once in your vicinity and, suddenly, it seems as though the world is obsessed with it going by how often you hear of that dratted thing over the next few days.

This is exactly how it went with me and intermittent fasting. Over the past few days I could hardly spend a minute without 'intermittent fasting' poking me in the nose from somewhere or the other. I go to a function and there it pops up in a feverish discussion among people who have just taken it up. I go on Youtube and there it appears again making it seem like half the world is trying to make a living teaching the other half about intermittent fasting. I go on Facebook and...ah, well, don't yawn, I can take a hint.

So, apparently, there are ways and ways of doing it. You can opt for the so-called 5:2 method where you eat normally for five days of the week and fast for 2 days i.e. consume about only 500 calories. You can opt to fast for a longish period of time every day. The 14:10, 16:8 or 12:12 methods where, unfortunately, the bigger number denotes the consecutive hours of fasting every day. (Yeah, yeah, in 12:12 it is all the same, so?) So, you fast for 16 hours and eat only in the other 8 hours if you opt for 16:8. You have alternative days, the 24 hour fast where you eat only once a day, the warrior diet...

So, when this feverish discussion was happening in that function, I piped up saying that I has been doing it all my life. I mean, like, it was not like I was shovelling food into my mouth every minute of the day. Between breakfast and my midmorning snack, I fasted; between my midmorning snack and lunch, I fasted...I mean I WAS fasting intermittently all day for all my life, so what was the big deal. There was such a concerted set of sneers in my direction that I shrivelled to a tenth my size (now if THAT does not show you how intermittent fasting helps reduce weight...). There was such an outpouring of how the long fast periods reduced insulin resistance and improved insulin sensitivity, about something called the Human growth hormone, about improved metabolism, yada yada, that I fled the battlefield in utter defeat.

But, you know what, the thing is all these great health changes was not why people wanted to go in for intermittent fasting. The primary...and, I daresay, sole...purpose was to lose weight. All the rest of it were only talking points. If the rest existed and weight loss did not happen, or was not needed, Intermittent fasting would only be as popular as a dose of castor oil in the morning.

Me, I fast intermittently. When my body threatens to outgrow my current wardrobe (Which, by the way, I keep as flexible as possible to circumference by using tracks for all purposes), I go on a crash diet and bring it down. Then it is business as usual till the next time the stitches on my tracks threaten to give way.

What was that? Yo-Yo dieting? Keep that for the kids. At my age, I cannot associate myself with marbles, tops and yo-yos. I need a for what I do, so it shall be called fasting intermittently.

What's in a name? Really? When this self same 5:2 was being called a Vrat by my Mom, it was silly superstitious nonsense which I would not be caught dead talking about. But Intermittent Fasting? THAT I can write blog posts about. THAT is the importance of names. After all, we live in times when the product is less important than the label!