Monday, October 16, 2017

Acronyms

You know, it is difficult to imagine what the world would be like without acronyms. Especially in the social sciences. I rather fancy that 90% of the work of social scientists is devising the acronyms to capture the attention of people.

It certainly seemed that way in Management. There was this time when an 'alphabet series' was all the craze. When first someone devised 'Product, Price, Place and Promotion' as the four Ps of marketing management and it caught the fancy of the world, they set off a revolution. Soon, every single management theorist worth his salt had picked up his alphabet of choice and started on his own theory on that basis. 7 S, 9 this, 5 that...

THAT, though, is not really acronyms. Politics, especially Geopolitics...Well, the days of the cold war were full of wonderful acronyms. SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks), START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and so on. They really got the attention of the public and THAT made the citizens invested in the process. Too often, though, you DID find that your leaders thought that having devised a catchy acronym, their job was done and nothing further was needed but still...

I rather feel that this Climate thingy is suffering from a lack of attractive acronyms. I mean, take that UN nodal agency - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I can quite see Donald Trump starting off with UNF and wondering how many Cs came after that. It was not like UNICEF where he could roll it off his tongue with no-one the wiser about the fact that he was not sure about whether it was a 'C' or an 'S' in the middle. No wonder he wants OFF the entire Climate thing only to avoid mucking up with UNFCCC.

Just imagine if, instead, the UN had named that agency United Nations Framework for Using Climate Knowledge (UNFUCK). THAT acronym just rolls off the tongue. AND Trump could find it rather handy when he is caught swearing ('Oh! I was speaking of Climate change. You just did not hear that UN there'). It also leaves the issue delightfully vague as to what use you would put the climate knowledge to, leaving the back-door open for a retreat. Of course, it intrigues the common man, if any such exist. He starts wondering about how one could undo an act that everyone thinks of as irreversible. THAT creates a climate where...err...climate can be discussed.

You need to devise dinky little acronyms for the actions of the agency as well. Like, say, Polluting Industries Suppression Strategy (PISS). Or, to take another example, Crackers Reduction Universal Drive (CRUD). Or, even a proposal for nations to act upon - Suppression of Harmful Irritants Tariff (SHIT) and, possibly, a Suppression of Nitrogen Oxides Tax (SNOT).

Can you not see people discussing on the streets like this...

"CRUD, I think, is a necessary accessory to PISS"

"I think that SHIT is an important adjunct to PISS"

"SNOT, I think, should go hand-in-hand with SHIT"

There you go, make the thing popular and you get a buy in from global citizenry. But the UN seems to have totally lost the fine art of creating acronyms. Or, maybe, they just do not realize that social re-engineering is ALL about proper acronyms.

No wonder, the world is knee-deep in shit (the non-acronym version) on this issue of Global Warming!

Disclaimer: Please do not read a Trumpesque disdain for Climate change into this and uncork vituperation. IF I can write self-deprecatory humor, I CAN make fun of my own stands on social issues, too.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Freedom of Speech

I wish I had been born a generation later. So many things have changed for the better for the child that it would have made a tremendous improvement to my childhood experience if only I had not been born too early to take advantage of it.

"Suresh! What is Boyle's law?"
"It explains why milk boils over while water does not."
"Wrong answer! Stand up on the bench."

And, being born too early, I had no choice but to stand up on the bench for the entire period. Now...ah, now I could have told the teacher, "You cannot punish me for exercising my freedom of speech."

How handy it could have been in inter-boy relationships too. AND on the consequences of the inevitable ructions that occur in such interactions.

"I love Chess, Suresh"
"Namby-pamby! Only cricket is worth any interest."
"I understand that. Chess requires brains after all"

I smack that guy for restricting my freedom of speech and the issue, obviously, gets escalated up to the parents.

"Why did you beat him?"
"That #@&! said that..."
"Suresh! What have I told you about using swear-words?"

AND when I get spanked I cannot even tell my parents that using corporal punishment to restrict my freedom of speech was a grave violation of my fundamental rights.

Not that it would have been any help with parents. They WILL bring in the fact that I smacked that guy, too. Parents really have no grasp of nuances. Have you seen that? They do not understand, that when I smacked him, it was in defense of my right to speech whereas when they spank ME it is a contravention of mine.

What was that? This freedom of speech thing that I hear of is from ADULTS? Not children?

Come on, they say it when someone is only saying that what they say is wrong? Even when they  speak of 'freedom of speech' when all that they need to do is prove that they are right?

They are really adults

How can that be? I mean they say it even when someone is merely disagreeing with them. Since when have adults thought that disagreeing with them is tantamount to stopping them from what they want to say?

They. Are. Really. Adults.

You are joking, right? I mean, like they are on Facebook, in groups that give out a mile long list of what they can say and cannot say and do not consider THAT a restriction on their fundamental rights. But, if someone opposes what they say on that someone's own post, they remember their constitutional rights?

THEY. ARE. REALLY. ADULTS.

Oh! All Right! If you say so...

Though I must say that what you have been doing so far is a restriction of my freedom of speech!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Argumentum ad populum

THIS should certainly have got the academics into hot water. I mean, 'Vox Populi, Vox Dei' (The voice of the people is the voice of God) after all and these guys have the gall to say that to consider something correct because it is the popular belief is a logical fallacy? Come on, did anyone bother to get their brains examined?

They really need to be reminded of Galileo. Everyone KNEW that the Earth was the center of the universe, so obviously it was true. And, yet, that chappie persisted in putting the Sun at the center of the solar system and look what happened to him. It is a different thing that, once everyone started believing that the Earth was NOT the center of the Universe, God changed things around to make THAT true. After all, Vox Populi Vox Dei...or, in this case, the action of Dei.

Never mind, though. God still has human beings as the center of the Universe...everyone says so. And THAT shall BE true till such time as everyone starts believing otherwise. As though we would. Anyone who dares say that we are NOT the center of the Universe will be hounded out of life, unless an alien species conquers us.

To more mundane things...Everyone KNOWS that we shall ALL benefit as long as we all pursue our own goals to the exclusion of everyone else's. THAT is what keeps the wheels of commerce running and that is absolutely important for the world to keep spinning on its axis. Till some day the wheels come off...

What beats me though is that, nowadays, people do not all seem to believe in the same things. But, never mind, we have what are called 'echo chambers'. Everyone who believes otherwise than we do is cast away into the outer darkness viz blocked, unfriended, whatever, and we are surrounded by people of whom we can say 'Everyone believes as I do'. That is, indeed, the ideal world to live in...and some day we shall enter the outer darkness and exterminate those vermin.

It is surprising though that people say that this is a logical fallacy - that to believe that what everyone 'knows' is necessarily true - and that they have proof that will Trump our belief. As though any proof ever can! Vox Populi IS Vox Dei, after all, and even God cannot make us believe otherwise!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Survivorship bias

You know, there are some things that seem so apparent when someone says it but never as clear when it happens in real life. Take this 'survivorship bias' for example. It is a widely prevalent logical fallacy. Like all logical fallacies, this too is one of those things which you nod wisely when you hear of it while going about committing it with gay abandon.

"You know I think that jumping off the sixth floor is not at all fatal"
"Why do you say so?"
"Well, everyone I have met, who has jumped, is still alive"

I was flabbergasted. I mean, come on, faced by something like that too many questions jostle your mind for you to be coherent. How many such people could he have met? How did he meet even one? AND how on Earth did he expect to meet someone who had NOT survived?

THAT is the easiest example of the 'Survivorship Bias". If the only people you meet after something like that are the ones who survived, how can you draw a conclusion from that?

By now, you are all nodding and finding it funny that ANYONE could draw a conclusion like that. Let us try another one on you.

"I think you can easily make money playing on the stock markets."
"Really?"
"Yup! I met some twenty people in a stock market seminar who knew nothing about it before and have been making money on it for the past five years."

Nice. You are the next Warren Buffet. But...if 80 other people had also started off at the same time and become bankrupt do you expect to meet them at a seminar on the stock markets? Obviously, you did not also pursue your research with the beggars at the traffic lights. (Exaggeration, of course, but then separating a writer and exaggeration IS tough!) Could it be survivorship bias...those who survived and thrived DESPITE not knowing anything about the stock markets?

"Bill Gates is a school drop-out and look at him. I think your chances of being hugely successful is better without education."

Really? AND how many school dropouts have you studied other than Gates?

"To become a successful writer you do not need to know good English. Or even be a reader..."

Ye Gods! Now, go back to the first example and STOP laughing at THAT guy!


Monday, September 11, 2017

Argumentum ad baculum

Academics are such spoilsports. If you find an easy way to do things, they find a way to tell you why it is wrong and why you should not be allowed to do it. Of course, not that what they say stops you from doing what you really want to do but...you know, it is sort of nice to also have people applauding you for doing things and these guys get in the way of that.

"I think this movie is the best that we have ever seen."
"Why?"
"Because I will smash your face in if you do not agree."

How nice to get your way without long dissertations about the stone face of the actor, the mumbled dialogues and all the rest of it. But no...they call it a logical fallacy...'argumentum ad baculum' is the phrase they use. AND, as you know, someone throws a word like that you are too flummoxed by the phrase to even come back at them. Of course, they do it from the safety of THEIR homes, else you could bash some sense into them.

Argumentum ad baculum apparently means an appeal to force...that a conclusion has to be accepted because the consequences of not accepting will be...err...detrimental to your health. Though, yes, it could also mean detrimental to you in some manner other than health, as well.

Not always is it that straightforward. There is this prevalent anti-Muslim rhetoric that has a hold in the hinterlands of India.

"These people are dangerous. We need to impose population control on them."
"Why so?"
"They have this plan of producing so many children that they will become the majority and again rule over us."

Conspiracy theories of this sort are always an appeal to force. Accept this conclusion and work accordingly or the consequences will be horrendous.

Then, of course, every single blind believer is fed on a pure diet of 'argumentum ad baculum': Allow women to wear this and that is the death of our culture; Allow people to do that, and that is the end of our Nation...

Such a useful philosophy for the leaders of the world. AND the academics HAVE to get in the way.

Never mind them, though...NOW they are being taught to understand that argumentum ad baculum can be used on THEM as well. So, yes, soon you can expect to see this mentioned, not as a logical fallacy, but in the list of supremely logical methods of debate!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Tu quoque

(There seems to be a promo by Amazon of my book "A Dog eat Dog-food World" which has been made available at about 25% of the list price. So, for a princely sum of Rs. 29/= you can possess and read the ebook. Click on the yellow book-cover to the right)


Have you wondered why common things tend to have uncommon names? Or get referred to by uncommon, rather hifalutin terms? Must be because telling it in an everyday manner makes it sound so...ordinary...that saying it does not get you those oh-what-a-genius looks. AND, of course, really being a genius is sort of beyond you.

Take this one for example. Sounds like a logical fallacy that only an expert would come across or understand, right. 'Tu Quoque'...roll it round your tongue. Feels important, does it not?

THEN, consider this...

"You better buckle down and study every day, sonny! Life is competitive and the earlier you learn that the better."

"But, Grandpa said you never opened a book through school except when forced to..."

There are times when you wonder why your parents never get off your case. Just as you thought that, at last, they had lost their hold on your life...

Now, if sonny thought that studying every day COULD help him in life but YOU were preaching what you yourself did not practice - somewhat like knowing that a controlled diet is important for good health even while laughing at the fact that the guy who was preaching it was known to have a meal every hour on the hour - well, if sonny thought THAT, then you do not get to roll that 'Tu Quoque' off your tongue. For there is no flaw in his logic in calling you a hypocrite...though, yes, you would get back with "Do as I say, do not do as I do".

The problem is when he decides that the advice is incorrect because YOU did not practice it. In other words, if the chap who is putting forth a point is hypocritical enough not to apply it in HIS life it does not necessarily invalidate the point. To consider that the hypocrisy of the one who proposes a course of action necessarily invalidates the correctness of that course of action is the 'Tu Quoque' fallacy.

Of course you could simply say, "Just because the preacher is a hypocrite, you cannot consider what he preaches to be wrong". But then, that sounds only like common-sense. Say 'Tu Quoque' fallacy...now THAT practically shrieks of Wisdom!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Vicarious

I have always been a big fan of living life vicariously. Real life is so damned messy. I mean, it is much easier to do things vicariously - people behave in predictable ways when it is all in the mind. You know, like parents can go all gaga and support love marriages on movies cos they know that, there, the guy IS a good guy, the girl is a nice girl and all the rest of it. No need to worry their heads about what sort of hooligan their daughter is bringing into the family. In real life, though...

So, yes, it is rather nice to live the life of a spy through James Bond...you may not get to woo the girls yourself but then you do not have to get beaten up either. Not to mention that Bond may love 'em and leave 'em but in real life you may be saddled with a breach of promise suit or in-laws...either of which may not particularly be as interesting as they seem when you read of THEM.

True, I may not really mind the 'jaunting across continents and sailing on my yachts' portion of a business tycoon's life. The problem, though, is that you also have to run a damn business, fend off politicians and competitors, deal with employees and recalcitrant machinery...the whole mess of actually doing business. Unless, of course, you generally gallivant around the place and run away to London when your business goes down the flush. How true that life would be much more fun but for the other people in the world! So, much simpler if you live THAT life vicariously, too. Then your chap can have all the hell of dealing with scheming friends and disloyal spouses while you pump your fists at his victories.

The thing, though, is that I generally do a halfhearted job of even this vicarious life or so it would appear. Yes, I like the vicarious highs of pulling off victories in cricket or badminton but am unable to make it so much a part of me that if the team loses I feel that they have disrespected my nation and go around throwing stones at their houses or hurling abuse on social media. Or, perhaps, it is just that I am so used to living a vicarious life that I get the experience of doing even these things vicariously.

But my real failure is in setting goals. I mean, I do not seem to be able to vicariously pick what I ought to like from what other people seem to like. In what passes for my brains likes and dislikes form of their own when what I ought to be doing is pick that also up from outside. Keeps me out of sync with the rest of the world since I cannot convince myself that I really LIKE designer labels or Italian food or whatever it is that others like.

Perfection is not given to mortals, alas. And I seem to be more imperfect than most. So, now, you can all enjoy the joys of being imperfect...vicariously!


Monday, August 21, 2017

Life is like this!

Fate does play some scurvy tricks on you. I mean, you do know that sort of thing. You visit someone's house along with friends, the meal is...err...the sort of thing that you have to swallow like medicine with copious draughts of water and one of your friends makes fun of the cooking. You, later on, tell him off for being rude and hurting the hosts. AND, the very next time they come home for dinner IS the one time that you burn your rotis and double dose the salt in the biryani. The whole lot of them then think, and some say, "Ah! So THIS is why you were so worked up the other day when we made fun of Smita's cooking? Because you knew that you could handily beat her in the bad cooking competition."

You can keep screaming till Armageddon that your food is normally something that people queue up to eat and that you made that comment the other day ONLY because it was rude but...All you can do is blame Fate for it, you are never going to change the minds of people about why you said what you said on that day...that it was not meant as a self-serving statement.

Not that you did NOT want the same treatment for yourself, mind you. It is just that you did not INTEND that as a means to GET that for yourself. But just try convincing people of that...they will only say,"So, you really do not mind it if we rubbish your cooking in public? Ha!" If you say you do not mind it, there will be laughter like a herd of horses being told a joke. If you say, you do but you did not say it that day to serve your purposes, the house will reverberate with boos and catcalls.

So, now, I am just fresh off screaming about 'Unsung geniuses' and how people ought to sing their praises while they are alive...and, presto, there is this thing coming around - the Indiblogger Awards. I did NOT know this was coming, I wrote that in the heat of the moment in the aftermath of the death of another person I know, and then...well, I am no genius but here comes the need for people to let me know IF they like my writing and, if they do, how much. So, yes, I am kicking and screaming that I did NOT write that for THIS purpose (NOT the 'Pakkatthu Elaikku Payasam' in Tamilian parlance - and, for the non-Tamilians, I am not the chappie who wants the sweet dish but thinks he will be considered greedy if he asks it for himself and, therefore, calls for it to be served to his neighbor. Anyone who knows me will find it ridiculous to even consider the fact that I may not be greedy). YES, I DO want to know. Writing in a vacuum is a brain-numbing thing, when there is NO feedback about whether what you are writing appeals or not. I CAN understand, though, that people may NOT have the time OR the words to write about each post I put out.

THIS time, though, it IS but ONE comment...and generically about my writing. IF you did like my writing, you can make me very happy by clicking on this poster below and saying so in the comments THERE.

Yes, you CAN comment here but THAT will only tell ME. So, if you liked my blog enough to tell so to others as well, please comment THERE.


The Indian Blogger Awards 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

Unsung geniuses

There is a story that once the Goddess of good fortune - Sridevi - and the Goddess of misfortune - Moodevi - appeared in front of a Brahmin asking him which of them was the more beautiful. The Brahmin was frightened. Obviously, he wanted the former to stay with him but, if he called Moodevi beautiful, Sridevi may get angry and go away from him. The problem with making Moodevi angry was not that she would go away but that she would not.

And then he had his Eureka moment. "O Divine Goddess Sridevi! You look the more beautiful when you are coming. And O most awesome Moodevi! You look the more beautiful when you are leaving." Which pleased both Goddesses and, of course, they wanted to appear at their most beautiful to the Brahmin and thus...

Anyway, I remembered this tale thanks to some recent incident. About many people singing paeans about an unsung genius. That has always been intriguing to me - what IS an unsung genius?

I mean, yes, I am hearing people singing of him, which is why I at all know about him, so how is he 'unsung'? AH! You mean he was unsung while he lived and all these songs are getting sung ONLY after he passed away? Somewhat like Moodevi's beauty, his genius shines through only after he is gone? Else, you could well have sung it all when he was alive and made him a 'sung' genius!

To be sure, there is a lot of static in the world...and even those who genuinely sang his praises while he was around could not be heard above all that noise. Especially because the mikes are thrust into their faces and the loudspeakers are at full volume ONLY after he has passed away, so in his lifetime their voices are as effective as a lark singing in a gale-storm. In other words, media gives you space for it only when it becomes NEWS!

There is also that other thing. It is easier to praise someone dead. HE is no longer competition...not necessarily in your own field but generally in what we call success. It makes you feel all warm and selfless when you do it, without the concomitant niggle of finding him grow bigger than you and having yourself compared to your detriment with him.

Of course, it also very difficult to acclaim a genius when he is alive. Much easier to pull down someone since, after all, perfection is only given to divinity and, being ordinary mortals, there will always be some imperfection in our work to peg the criticism on. To praise - especially against the run of things - is to prepare to defend any and all such imperfections and it takes a very courageous and confident person to do that. Much easier, again, to praise after someone is dead...Nil nisi bonum and all that and so there will not be many who will oppose your praise then.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is also something in the way that humans are wired that to add to the stature of someone they do not know, even when it costs them nothing, seems like profligacy. We can be all praise for people we love, and people we call our friends, where we feel the likelihood of shining by reflected glory but a rank stranger? "What is in it for me?" Except, of course, when the rank stranger IS already celebrity when we will gladly add ourselves to the fan following, talk of how you KNEW he was a genius even when he was sucking on his all-day sucker...

The words 'Unsung genius', 'Unsung hero'...anything with that damn 'unsung' in front sticks in my throat. It is a matter of shame that there should be a genius or hero or whatever and he should BE unsung. There is something very wrong about the rush to sing it in the Obits, especially when the first time you raised your voice in song IS in the Obits. It is a black mark on Society that it has failed to recognize and reward its geniuses...and lost not only what they could have offered but also lost ten others who may otherwise have followed their footsteps.

Yes, all of us have our lives to lead and so, yes, we probably do not have the time to render compositions in praise of others. Fine...but why waste the time in the hypocrisy of raising an unmusical ruckus after the chap is dead, when you couldn't care less about whether he was alive when he was?

It is, maybe, that we prefer to keep them unsung so that we can all proudly sing in chorus when they die...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Catharsis

It's a strange world we live in. Very happy, almost deliriously so. Log onto to Facebook and you see people leading such brilliantly happy lives. Going by the pics, we prance around in pristine environments, we deck ourselves up like ramp models before entering the kitchen, we prepare food and serve them like celebrity chef contestants, we go to lovely restaurants with such wonderful friendly company - in short, life is a 24x7 delight. Not exactly the sort of life where catharsis has any role to play, really. After all, one wants to regurgitate nasty smelly things which stink like rotten food, not that fluffy french pastry that you had for dessert. In other words, you want a cathartic experience to rid yourself of grief. Whoever heard of someone hankering to rid himself of joy?

On the other hand, though, going by what people like to read...well, dystopian fiction seems to top the list. I mean, give us a world where leaders model themselves after Hitler, businessmen love to behave like a cross between Scrooge and Voldemort, friends measure your back for the precise location to push the stiletto in and spouses enjoy the process of making your life miserable while making out with the neighbor - in short, any book which describes the world heading to hell in a hand-basket and we cozily curl up with our beer and popcorn, and prepare to enjoy it. Now is that because our lives are so great that we need a break from all this monotonous joy - in our reading at least? A sort of catharsis for happiness?

Or - an earthshaking thought, this - is it because that there IS a world outside Facebook? Are we blessed few a joyful minority in a sea of hell-bound people getting dragged along into the maelstrom of sulfurous smoke? Haplessly and, thus, needing to rid ourselves of the grief that lies beneath our current happiness by reading of others in similar trouble?

It has always surprised me, this idea that the best way to deal with your grief is to read of other people in even greater grief. The 'I bemoaned the fact that I had no shoes till I saw a man with no feet' syndrome. I mean, really, come on, do you love a guy who gets happy because you are in trouble? Even if he kindly explains that it is not merely the fact that you are in trouble but that you are in worse trouble than he, himself, that makes him happy?

Me - I do not get any cathartic feeling this way. Far from feeling, "Ah! But I am better off than that guy", I get to thinking "Oops! And I thought nothing worse could happen to me than what has already happened," and start worrying about losing what I DO have. Which is why I prefer reading non-dystopian fiction. THAT way, I can always think, "Ah! So Life is not ALL thorns. There CAN be roses, too."

But, then, I have always been a screwed-up sort of guy. Like, when people set up idols, I do think I have to make the effort to measure up to them, instead of the normal process of immediately checking their feet for even microscopic deposits of clay and saying, "Oh! They were not all that good, after all." Missing out on the chance of feeling that blessed catharsis from the guilt of being less than you ought to be.

Maybe it is that problem of not being able to cry for yourself for fear of being called a whiner. Switch on that mega-serial and ostensibly cry copious tears for the heroine, who seems to have the knack of inviting trouble for herself in perpetuity.

It IS cathartic to rid yourself of the burden of gloom and grief. But to go in search of greater gloom and grief in order to do so...well, you know all sorts of things strike me as funny!

Monday, July 31, 2017

If Then Else

Now that the IT sector is swamping us all, it seems like people also love the 'life' of a computer/digital device. I mean, it is a rather stress-free life if you could work your way down a flow chart and come to a decision. Well, it seems like most people think that it IS possible to live like that. Not that they are a new species, there were always a few around, but they seem to be proliferating nowadays. AND, like the dinosaur, I and my ilk will probably have to make way to this new vigorous species that can make up its mind based on 'If Then Else'.

There is no issue - economic, moral or political - that fazes these If-Then-Elsers. All they need to do is apply it to their decision tree and, presto, they know what to think. The simplest of these options is this one :

IF 'My leader supports this action on this issue = Yes'
THEN 'My Opinion = This is the best thing to happen to humanity since the invention of the wheel'
ELSE 'My Opinion = Only a nuke hitting you directly on your head can be worse'

There...decision taken. Though, you should understand that this satisfies only the simplest ones. The more sophisticated If-Then-Elser would have a more detailed flowchart to deal with. Like checking if his leader is neutral and, if so, whether the action is supported or opposed by a leader he hates...things like that. But, end of the day, get a few 'Yes/No' answers to a series of questions and you have an opinion. None of this stupid reading up on the issue and cluttering up your mind with unnecessary information.

In one thing, my times were great. On one subject, there WAS only one If-Then-Else

IF 'Job offered = Yes'
THEN 'Action = Accept'
ELSE 'Action = Starve'

There was none of this, "Is this the best job for me?"; "What are my prospects?" and all that angst. But THAT is only a consequence of lack of choice so it is not a great advertisement for how we were experts at If-Then-Elsing.

So, it is not like we had this total confidence that the following If-Then-Else was a sufficient mantra to guide us through life.

IF "Enjoyment in doing X > Enjoyment in doing Y"
THEN "Action = Do X"
ELSE  "Action = Do Y"

Rather a handy and nifty way to make choices, one would have thought. But, we antediluvian chaps...

"X does seem better than Y but are we sure that we have looked around for all options? Maybe there is a Z or even a A, B or C..."

"X seems better TODAY. But...I mean it should not turn out like that time when I went to a movie instead of Rahul's wedding, because I liked going to a movie better. AND now...not just Rahul, but Varun and Sushant also have ceased to be my friends. If I had known..."

"Well, it seemed so much fun to shoot coke up the nose, so I chose to do it that day. Now..."

AND the worst of the lot is when, "Ah! X does seem more enjoyable than...no, on second thoughts Y may be better...but, then, I am forgetting that X will give me this that Y won't...but...."

So, there is the problem. It has nothing to do with not being an IT chappie - in fact it is not necessary to be an IT chap to be an If-Then-Elser OR the vice versa - it is just like I have said often before.

It is only the new model of human that is better equipped to handle all this.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Vendetta

There was this exciting sport which used to be practiced by Italians, more specifically attributed to the Sicilians, called the Vendetta. Apparently, if some chappie took it into his head that another chappie was just the person needed to complete the Heavenly Harpists group and decided to send him there with the benefit of the lupara or some such...well, the entire family of the newly-made Harpist would take it upon themselves to add this guy too to the Heavenly Choir. Some families, apparently, took a more wholesale view of the issue. They would feel that the maker of Celestial Harpists would do a better job of being a Harpist himself if he had his entire family along with him. Accordingly, they would pledge to send all of them to join their own dear departed in torturing the Harps of Heaven and sending angels flying in every direction to avoid the cacophony.

Legal luminaries across the world, either because they are not musically inclined or because they prefer the music to be played here rather than up there, frowned upon this sporting endeavor. Or, perhaps, it was a problem because it could not be marketed like other sports. After all, the other sports worked, eventually, on the basis of personality cults. I mean, come on, if every tournament threw up a different winner and, even, had a wholly new set of participants do you really think that you could get to be interested in it? Where would tennis be if Federer could win only one tournament in his lifetime, as would Nadal, as would...you get the point. This Vendetta game is somewhat like that...you win one, you become the target of your victim's family...till you are dead and your killer becomes the target of your family...well, where is the fun in that? And all that the players would be good for is to endorse coffins...so how much funds can you raise from endorsements from Undertakers alone to keep the sport going?

So, for whatever reason, legal luminaries sort of stomped down on the sport. Apparently, though, it still thrives in secret but...well, if it cannot be televised or discussed threadbare on social media, it may as well not exist, right?

But you cannot keep a good idea down, can you? Even if it has to morph a bit in order to keep in with pesky laws.

So...

"This idea is unsound and illogical..."

There goes that vile chap who just attempted the murder of the idea that you and your friends espouse. "VENDETTA", we all scream and...

"It is a pity that your father and mother met the one time they did..."

"A face so ugly that even a mother cannot love..."

"What did you use to blackmail your teachers into passing you out of school?"

"You have friends? Which gutter did they crawl out of?"

"So you took time out from beating your wife and raping your children and came here to talk nonsense about our ideas?"

The Italians and Sicilians were milksops. I mean, come on, their son is killed and all they can think of is kill the killer or at best his whole family. We, if he even dares touch our ideas, we can convert him into a bastard born of a one-night stand, ugly as sin, blackmailer from childhood...we rewrite his entire history from birth onward; vilify his whole family and friends and neighbors and servant maids and the person who takes out his trash; denigrate his clothes, his car, his choice of pet and even the lamp-post opposite his house; in short, we can make him know what a fate worse than death really is.

Those guys who lay claim to the parentage of vendetta would do well to take our correspondence course on the subject.

THIS is real VENDETTA.

Monday, July 17, 2017

e-Narcissism

I am slowly realizing that if something does not have an e-avatar it might as well not exist. That, though, is not likely to be a fate that Narcissism will suffer. In fact, it is quite likely that it IS Narcissism that drives all of social media interactions. At least, it is that way with me.

I mean, come on, I did not start blogging - which is where I started off with my social media voyage - because I thought of a blog as some sort of a private storage space, a sort of external memory storage, for my thoughts. Of course, I was there preening about how well I write and wanting the world to echo my thoughts. Self-absorbed? But then what did you expect of me? To not be narcissistic?

The problem, though, was that everyone else in the world (of blogging, at least) was also too busy preening to watch MY feathers. So, it was like I had to go and admire other people's feathers so that they could, in turn, come and admire mine. You know what, these others, they are such dumb creatures. Instead of understanding that their function in the world was to come over and admire me they seemed to think that I existed to admire THEM! Such self-absorbed narcissistic people as I had never expected to see.

And then I came upon Facebook. Here, at last, I could find myself an appreciative audience. I showcase my brilliant thoughts, throw out quips by the dozen, and find no takers. What the hell was wrong with these guys? Then, I realize that the same damn thing was wrong here as well. I mean, this preening all day is sickening I tell you. If people cannot take time off to be entranced by MY preening, they must be too selfish for words. Back to the old grind, again. At least, it cost less effort here to go admire others. In blogs I had to read them and give 'meaningful' comments. Here, a 'Like' sufficed, though some were too narcissistic to be satisfied with them...they needed comments, too, greedy folks that they are.

And, meanwhile, all these chaps think I am fool enough to be taken in by just 'Likes' on my post...especially my blog posts. As though I did not know that you could scatter 'Likes' like confetti without even being aware who had posted what. I mean, if they do not even write a comment...

As you may well be aware, I had not risen to the stratospheric heights of being 'Shared' as well. Well, to 'Share' is human, to be 'Shared' is divine...and everyone seems to aspire to divinity rather than humanity! AND they say there is something called Twitter and other such media, each of which would have its own equivalent of how to let someone else know if you admire their preening so that they may watch you preen in your turn, hopefully.

Apparently, there was this chap called Narcissus who caught sight of his face reflected in a pool and fell in love with it. Every time he tried to touch his 'love in the waters', his love also leaned towards him but vanished as soon as he touched 'her'. He kept pining for her till he turned into a lovely flower of the same name.

I rather think that if I do wither away like that guy, I may end up being a noxious weed. Though, from the 'Likes' I get when, rarely, I post a pic of myself one would think that I was as handsome as that fella Narcissus.

No wonder the world of social media is so Narcissistic!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Flummoxed by reviews

You know, I never really wanted the world to look up to me. I was quite content if it did not look down on me...well, even if it did, as long as it kept the opinions away from my awareness, I was fine. What can be more modest than that - just asking to be left alone? But, no, even that is too much to aspire for, apparently.

Well, you see, I read books (What else does one read? No need for the sarcasm - there are newspapers, cinema hoardings, advertisements, user instruction pamphlets...). Harmless and certainly not an area where I thought I would be facing anyone bothering to look down on me. And then..."Ah! You say you read thrillers and have never read Baldacci? Tch! Tch"; "Hmm! Ok, so you read Ludlum and Clancy and all those potboilers. Fine. Anything better than that?"! (I have said this before? So? You do not repeat yourself, often? No? Well, you cannot expect everyone to be as peculiar as you.)

And then people told me there were such things called reviews. You could read them and get to know what books to read and all. Sort of guidebook to books, you know what I mean?

And, then...

"....if only the author would not keep writing tired old tropes...."

What was that? I would not know a trope, whether tired and old or young and energetic, if it bit me in the nose. How was I supposed to make out whether this book was good to read?

"...the author almost manages to bring to life, with words, Daliesque scenes..."

What the hell was that? I go searching for enlightenment and discover that this Dali chappie was someone who messed around with paints. What had that got to do with books? Oh, you mean it gave the same sort of feeling to read the book as when you see Dali's paintings? Yeah, I feel the same way whether my cousin shoves the scribbling of her dear daughter in my face or someone drags me through the Louvre...an irresistible urge to escape. So, how does that help me understand the book? Am I supposed to be a connoisseur of paintings as well in order to understand which book to read?

I really think it is not as bad as a friend caustically said once, "Reviewers forget that they are supposed to inform you about the book and not about what they know about everything else but the book." He was of the firm opinion that they sought to highlight their own knowledge and not what you ought to know about the book. Not true, I think. It is merely that people feel special when they use the jargon of their profession, they feel 'professional' only when they do it and, as a consequence, they end up writing reviews that only other reviewers can understand. Or, maybe, there are these beings called discerning readers though, to me, it appears as though they will use up all their discernment in just understanding the reviews. I must be wrong, of course, I usually am.

So, then I think perhaps the readers who give opinions will be a better bet in getting to know if a book is worth reading. The process though reminded me of Wodehouse. Writing from America, about the new wave of movie Westerns, which believed less in the six-shooter and more on the analyst's couch, he says that the Sheriff calls in the town badman, psycho-analyzes him and discovers that the reason why he holds up the stage, robs the bank and shoots up the Malemute Saloon on Sundays is because someone deprived him of his all-day sucker at the age of six. I needed to do something like that to find out what these reviews said of the book, too.

For one, "I could not engage with the characters" could well mean, after analysis, psycho or otherwise, that the reader did not like the fact that the female character wore stiletto heels and the male character sported sideburns. I may be averse to sideburns but may not think that necessarily disqualifies the person from being a protagonist. As for stiletto heels...let it be, as it is I get bashed up without having male-bashing added to the list.

And then, "The heroine...she is so sexy, I loved the story". Ye Gods! THAT's like loving the movie merely because Sunny Leone features in it...the sort of movies she features in THESE days, I mean. I know that 'fans' is a word that is merely a short form of 'fanatics' and there are such who will follow their darling star through any trash that they may act in but to have that happen in books too?

Anyway, you will now realize that I am still reading any and every arbitrary book. Look down upon me all you will...I am done with reviews.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Ladders everywhere

I must have some sort of vertigo, though it does not seem to be the conventional kind. I mean, I can climb up ladders, literally, and even look down upon the ground. Yes, there is that dry feeling in the mouth and shivers down my spine and all that. I certainly would not prefer to cross over to the next building on a tightrope but, get this, my head does not start spinning nor do I feel the pressing need to end it all by taking a swan dive into eternity. But THAT is only when it comes to physical ladders.

The problem with the world is that it is too damn full of metaphorical ladders. You run into them the moment you hit school. (You probably run into them even before on the "Oh! Your Chintu started walking only at xx months of age? My Montu did it in xx-2 months" basis but, at that time, your parents do not get on your case, berating you for your tardiness in toddling around the house breaking glasses). School...Ah! 'Look at Kumar! Always comes first, scores 90+ in all subjects. You...Even if I total up all the marks in all the subjects, you do not equal his score in one subject' These, of course, were the days that grades had not come into the picture though, I am sure, there is an equivalent of this even now. So, there you were, bemusedly wondering about the fact that people saw you squatting on the lowest rung of a ladder that you could not even see.

By around the time you got ready for college, you HAD started seeing those ladders too. IIT - top rung; Medicine at JIPMER/MMC - top rung with a strong case for putting it a notch above even the IITs; NITs next rung and so on till you reached the abysmal depths at which you were positioned. By then, of course, I had developed a definite aversion to these ladders, considering that it seemed like whichever rung I occupied was the last possible rung in everyone else's opinion.

About the time I joined the ranks of the wage slaves, I found out the ultimate bitter truth. Life was a perpetual ladder climbing expedition. You never got off it. You could only fall off it and be stamped upon. First, you are on a ladder of a starting salary comparison, slowly you are on another ladder where your position relative to batch-mates/friends/relatives and the man on the street was important; then, of course, it is position in WHICH company; then your lifestyle; then the sort of people who you know and who know you, then...

Well, sitting at this end of seeing a job as only a way to earn money to eat, drink and be merry, I was lost in the bleak contemplation of an endless life of being the play-piece on an infinite Snake and Ladders board. THAT is when I developed that vertigo, this swimming sensation in the head, the pit of the stomach nausea and an irresistible desire to take a swan dive into eternity.

AND then I realized that I could just refuse to climb them...pile up enough to suit my modest needs and walk away. Which I did.

AND I thought I was safe. Books, I thought, were safe enough a refuge and nerdy book-lovers a solace from all this endless ladder climbing.

"Ah! You read John Grisham and David Baldacci? No Murakami, no Paulo Coelho...Tch! Tch! AND you do not like Rushdie..."

Omigod! 

"If you have not delved into the layers of meaning in the Kafkaesque prose about an Orwellian universe..."

Now, what was all that? I thought the damn thing was a good read. What the hell is Kafkaesque prose and is this Orwellian universe a flat Earth universe or a Copernican one or dangling on strings or afloat in quantum foam?

"What? You only know that you liked the book? Come on, you should be able to tell me whether it ranks for literary quality with a Jane Austen or depth of characters with..."

Ladders here as well! AND, as usual, I am on the bottom rung!

Does being descended from monkeys mean that we should be climbing something always? Ye Gods!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The humor writing business

Making people laugh is no laughing matter. Someone should have told me this before I...oh, wait, a lot of people did but, as usual, I never take advice that runs counter to what I want to do, like most other people. Until, of course, not taking the advice sets your...err...fundament on fire and THEN I berate the people around me for not insisting on my taking their advice.

Let me please clarify a bit. Making people laugh without tickling them, I meant. (You mean that should be obvious since no-one has yet developed a e-tickling APP? You really do not know the absolute weirdos that you can come across in Social media. Even God would stoutly refuse to acknowledge them as His creation. Of course I do not mean you!) I had no idea what problems I had invited on my head when I blithely decided to write humor.

You see, the first thing about writing humor is that you have to hit bull's eye every time. I mean, sure you have written a moving tale, and the reader looks sad as he reads it. You automatically assume that your writing has moved him to sadness when, possibly, he is only sad because he has been forced to read it. No such chance of getting good vibes with written humor, though. I mean, come on, a guy pulls a long face as he reads it and you can think he is laughing his ass out? It requires more imagination than I possess. With other genres, ‘somewhat tragic’ and ‘somewhat thrilling’ works as a compliment. Somewhat funny? THAT’s a kiss of death. You, what, sort of say “Ha” and stop trying to laugh?

On top of it, you yourself can find almost nothing funny when you read it after you wrote it. Like, say, when is the last time you laughed when you remembered the entire joke as soon as someone started telling it? Except politely, of course, as can happen when it is your boss telling the same joke that he pulls out every time in a party, ever since he joined office in the days of Aurangzeb. It is the unexpectedness of the punch-line in a joke and the descriptions in dry humor that makes it funny. AND for it to BE unexpected to the guy who wrote it, the guy has to suffer from the Ghajini-style memory loss, which unfortunately is not one of my mental afflictions. So, there you go...you write it laughing all the while, read it dead-pan and put it out wondering whether it is really funny or not...

To face up to no reactions. You sort of feel that, maybe, people read and enjoy it but do not always think to write and let you know that they did. But, you know, THAT seems like the same sort of thing you used to tell yourself when you were infatuated with the class beauty. Just because she was smiling when her eyes encountered your face (in stunned, disbelieving and nauseated surprise? Not really. I, of course, refused to see all that!), you delude yourself into thinking that she loves you madly and devotedly...till the day she crosses the road to avoid you and spits at the sight of your face. So, yes, having made a habit of deluding yourself...

Then you put out a humor novella. People known and unknown buy and praise it...but all too few it seems to you. You salve yourself thinking that people just like things for free and do not like paying...and there is this nagging feeling inside that says that, even if people do read you, they read you only because it is for free but do not think that it is worth paying for. So, what is the worth of your writing after all?


But, then, yes you have been listed in the Top 5 humor blogs in India by Blogadda. Perhaps there ARE a few who do laugh when they read your posts. THEN you find that Baggout has listed your blog in their Top 13 humor blogs. It gives you a lot more pleasure, because you had not even been aware that they were into any such exercise and that your blog came to be considered not because of any action of your own...except writing it, of course.

And then when, equally as surprisingly and without effort on your part, your blog gets listed in the Top 100 funny blogs and websites in the WORLD...at No.55 in a list that includes staffed websites and You-tube channels...

There MUST be something right about your writing after all!


Monday, June 19, 2017

The bad old days - Adult

Old age is when almost all that remains of life is reminiscences. (Not that I am old, you know. After all, a chap who has remained single is always young. As in, check out any marital ad. It is always "Boy aged 54...." and NEVER "Senile dolt aged 54..."). AND once you get on to the 'old days' it is not only about when you were kicking and screaming about your dad refusing to buy you your toy train. It is also about the time you found the missing decimal point and saved the day for your company.

You know, those were the days when it was either Engineering or Medicine or, quite likely, finding out the joys of unemployment. Of course there WERE other jobs - it is not like people wanted ONLY engineers to turn lathes and only MBAs to fill in ledgers, but there were not enough going to be sure of employment. (Going by what I hear, THAT is more true of these days! People seem to NEED engineers even to change bulbs, going by what people employ engineers for!) I love unemployment and have always regretted the need to work but the problem was that I also loved to eat with reasonable regularity. The pity was that this need to eat sort of overcomes all other needs if it is not satisfied...so, yes, things were sort of stressful in the bad old days.

The problem, though, with these days is that, unlike then, the stress does not END with getting employment. THEN, once you were employed you were all set. There was scant little you could do with money beyond a point. Once you got a color TV, a fridge and an ambassador car, you had achieved the acme of success. You could wait till 40 before you started thinking of owning a house and, generally, you could afford one. By and large, a job meant that you were set for life, except if YOU chose to change it. The ultra ambitious anyway vanished beyond your ken by taking themselves off to foreign shores and restricted themselves to bringing 'Dove' soaps and Toblerone on their annual visits home.

Which roughly meant that, once you had become an Engineer (and wonder of wonders, an MBA too) and got a job, you were a guaranteed gold-plated success. AND if you did not, a lot of the people around you were sailing in the same boat. Plus the ones who did manage also realize that 'There, but for the grace of God, go they'. So, there was none of this 'You loser, I winner' thing. True you may starve but you starved without someone sneering at you for starving.

NOW - the day you joined a job, you have to get a vehicle on loan or you are a loser. Within a couple of years or so, you buy a house or you may never be able to buy one with dwindling outstanding years of work and escalating EMIs. Gadgets, household goods, foreign vacations - keeping up with the Joneses (Guptas?) is a full-time expensive proposition. AND, above all, the Damocles' sword of losing your job and needing to get one that pays enough to keep up with the EMIs! Thank God I lived in the 'bad old days' for the most part of my life.

AND, going to office through THIS traffic...no, I am not going there, after all I am not into writing horror!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The bad old days - T(w)eens

There is some things certain to be common between 'old days' and 'new days' in the teens, I suppose. Adults generally seem to make no sense; your peers are wiser than Socrates; the music you love is invariably seen as cacophony by your parents and theirs sound like funereal dirges to you; in short, adults think you have no sense and you return the compliment in spades. So, yes, all of this was just about the same then as now.

There is one certain advantage that the 'new' days have over the old. The advent of Infotech, smartphones and all most certainly ensured that you were more CONFIDENT about knowing more than the previous generation. We preferred to think so but the lack of conclusive proof left a certain sediment of doubt, the niggling possibility that we were only fooling ourselves in thinking so. Today, though...though, how long it will last no-one knows. Just as my generation had the curse of feeling inferior to the parents in childhood and to children in adulthood, the current generation may well have the blessing of feeling superior to their parents AND their children, if technology does not keep changing lives at the same pace.

But, I have the joy of knowing that in one thing at least we were better off. After all, we only had to juggle with a handful of friends and worry about the 'He likes me, he likes me not' and generally feeling unwanted and unloved. This generation...If I had been born in this one, my spirits would fly and sink (generally sink) with each FB post, with each tweet. (I put up that pic on me eating breakfast and only 24 Likes? Have people not seen it or is it that lesser people like me? AND that there stupid idiot puts up the pic of his bike and he gets 103 Likes, at the same time! So people do not like me! Despair!) Thank God!

AND this pressure of getting girl-friends/boy-friends! It was such a pain in my times, this boy and girl thing. Up to a point, when you actually hated girls, everyone pushed you into their company. Why teacher even used to punish you for talking in class by asking you to sit between girls, when you washed your hands if you even touched a girl's desk accidentally. (What the girls did to deserve having your smelly self sitting in their midst, no-one said). AND then you discover that girls are strangely attractive creatures and, presto, everything changes. NOW the adults are on your case if you talk to girls for any length of time and if, by chance, you started trying out becoming a Shelley by writing to them, you were liable to suspension and worse. (Those were the 'Spare the rod and spoil the child' days, so...) Is it a wonder that we thought of adults as strangely contrary, slightly mad creatures who wanted you to do only what you do not want to do?

This generation probably has it better. But, for me, probably mine suited better. I mean, getting a FRIEND was difficult enough for me. Getting a GIRL-FRIEND? If it had not existed, any girl I asked would have probably invented that phrase, "If you were the last man on Earth, I would probably prefer a monkey". So, I was safe in my times since hardly ANYONE had a girl-friend and the ones who did were considered the 'bad boys' anyway. Now...that word 'Loser'...it is not the most musical of words to hear when it is applied to you. So...

So, yes, ANY times are enjoyable to someone or the other and NOT to someone else.

AND, of course, the old days are ALWAYS good to those for whom they are the 'old days' of their OWN life!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The bad old days - Child

Once you hit a certain age or, more to the point, once the next generation hits a certain age, it becomes customary for you to start saying things with the preface, "In the good old days..." Were the old days all that good?

Back in my long-gone childhood, in Neyveli, I could still remember how few avenues for entertainment we had. Once you had seen the movie in the lone theater, which would not change for the next 3-4 months if it was a hit, and listened to the cricket commentary on the crackling static-ridden transistor, which happened at best 2-3 times a year, you had sort of exhausted all avenues of BEING entertained. Unless your family made a trip to Chennai or Bangalore, where you had more theaters and, thus, more movies. (TV? What is THAT? And I'm sure you are intelligent enough not to ask about computer games, Internet, Smartphones and other such works of sorcery.)

Yet, somehow, I do not remember being bored. I remember the lot of us neighborhood kids rambling through the woods all day - on holidays - and parents assuming that we will come back in the evening, dirty as usual. (AND not even bothering to say "Surf Excel hai na?" to excuse the dirt. Being dirty was a given for kids!). Between lunch and dinner, a variety of food would have found its way into our bellies - the raw tamarind that we knocked off the trees by pelting stones; the lone half-ripe guava, acquired after a five minute fight with Senthil, along with a half dozen unripe ones; The sucked nectar and petals of hibiscus flowers (Sorry! We kids saw EVERYTHING in terms of eating it); gooseberries, raw mangoes and even cashew fruit. What is more, our parents used to assume that we did not go hungry. And bored? No-one ever heard of a bored kid then - except when sick and kept to his bed. As long as he/she could go out, there was no question of being bored. (I believe things have changed now. NOW if they are allowed to stay in bed with their smartphones they are not bored, apparently; what bores them is being forced to go out. But what do I know? I get my info from parents and they are obviously prejudiced.)

As for games, the toy scene was pathetic then. I mean, a top and a handful of marbles just about completed the entire toy set of an affluent kid. The less well-off used to make do with ball bearings scrounged off the streets, and with bicycles being the main mode of transport other than walking, there was no dearth of them. (Oh! Did I forget the bows and arrows? Made of casuarina branches and twine, with broomstick twigs for arrows. We were a total menace to passers-by.) Such a poverty of toys must have made for really pathetic entertainment (not to mention lack of mental stimulation.)

And yet...yes, they sufficed. There seemed to be an infinity of games that could be played with those small spheres of glass (or iron) and we played them all. Everyday, we could hardly wait to toss off our school-bags and rush out to join the gang. If we lost our marbles (not figuratively, only literally) we could always engage ourselves with our tops. And without tops, there were still games without props - I spy etc. No, I do not remember that even having NO toys ever hampered our joy. AND, when, after relentless pleading, your parents deigned to replace your lost marbles, the excitement, the squeals of joy! There was none of this "Oh! This one is old, has only 57 games. I thought you would get me the latest" about us!

The rush of joy when you heard the tinkle of the ice-candy man's bell. The thrill you felt when, for once, your dad thinks that he can spare the 25p for the cup ice-cream instead of the customary 5p candy. (No 'Oooh! You bought strawberry icecream. I like only chocolate') A life where blueberries and roasted groundnuts were treats and almost all savory snacks and sweets were homemade and you drooled with the anticipation as the smells of cooking filled the house.

The old days were not all that bad, after all!

Monday, May 29, 2017

How I stayed a bachelor

(My very first guest post on another blog, long ago. Now reproduced here)

“Just tell me what sort of girl you want to marry. Leave the rest to me”

When I looked at myself in the mirror in the morning what looked back was certainly not something that girls would be queuing up for the chance to marry. In fact, as Wodehouse could say, it was something that girls would probably run a mile in stiletto heels to avoid marrying. What gave my aunt the confidence to make a promise like this beat me especially since she had not even a nodding acquaintance with electoral politics.

I was young then, folks! Now, of course, I realize that it is one of the regular party games in South Indian weddings. The aunt, whose worst nightmare would be to really have to find a girl for the good for nothing misshapen gargoyle in front of her, has to act as if finding a match for her nephew was her only ambition in life. The good-for-nothing misshapen gargoyle, whose fondest daydream is to be able to hoodwink a girl and family into considering him an adequate bridegroom, has to act as though the very thought of marriage was anathema to him. It was a game with serious hazards – for the aunt. If she failed, nothing was lost. If she succeeded, however, she had a choice of either actually finding a girl or disguising herself as a flowerpot every time her nephew or his family hove to on the horizon.

Even if all the other descriptions applicable to the nephew also applied to me, the one thing that did not was that intense desire to make the life of a girl miserable by ensuring that she woke up to my face every morning. I am coming on all too altruistic here. It is not really concern for this unknown girl but concern for my own self that made me feel not inclined to marrying. Make no mistake, I like women and love all the positives that people associate with marriage. The problem, however, was that if I married I would have to work! Now that was too high a price to pay!

Meanwhile I have this aunt to deal with and a whole gaggle of relatives on the sidelines eagerly watching the match(-making!).

“Well! I want a beautiful, intelligent, rich, talented, considerate and loving girl”, I said.

“Good! Good! We will soon find one”, said my aunt, though the sickly look on her face belied the enthusiasm of her words.

“But, then, if she is all this and will marry me how can she be called intelligent? And if she is not intelligent, how can I marry her?”

That gem of logic gave me the game, much to the relief of my aunt! In fact, with that one single piece of logic I have successfully fended off all efforts at getting me married. There is, certainly, one girl in this world who owes me a huge debt of gratitude!!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nirvana

"Vinu is weak in Maths, Rohit. I think we need to send him for some Maths tuition"
"As though that is going to jump his marks up from 40% to 100%. And improve his Physics, Chemistry and Biology scores from 60% to 90%"

Yeah, Right! And the wife was probably thankful that he did not want the Maths tuition to make Vinu bat like a Tendulkar, bowl like Shane Warne and field like Jonty Rhodes as well. (Yeah! I know...old fogy, so dated comparisons. Thank your lucky stars that I did not start on acting like Dilip Kumar and all that jazz!)

There are these guys who have no other job than to hunt around logical fallacies and give them a name. Given that human beings operate more on fallacies than on logic (Remember the number of times people have smugly smiled at you, after uttering some totally idiotic gem of illogic, and touted their victory in an argument? So there), these chaps probably find 24 hours per day too few to be going on.

Anyway, they have managed to get around to this one. In fact, they claim that our man has managed to hit two related fallacies in his one piece of dialogue. First, he sees the tuition as useless if it will not jump that performance from 40% to 100%, as if jumping it to anything less, like say 90%, is hardly worth the effort. THAT, they have named the 'Perfect Solution fallacy' - that if the solution does not eradicate ALL the problem, then it is not worth it. Like, you know, not cleaning your house at all unless you can be sure of ridding it of every single speck of dirt.

AND, not content with one piece of illogic, our man has gone on to attempt an entry into the Guinness book of world records with another. Not only should the solution be perfect for THAT problem, it should eliminate ALL related problems or it is not worth it. THAT they named the Nirvana fallacy. (WHAT? You saw the title and expected me to talk of how the soul achieves...You been here before? Yes? AND expected it of me? Ever considered going to a psychiatrist?)

Essentially, the chap, who holds onto the Nirvana fallacy closer than to a lover, prefers no solution rather than a solution that will not bring about instant Nirvana. Somewhat like not cleaning the house at all, even if you will rid it of every speck of dirt, because it will only get dirty the next day anyway. Unless a solution can be found that will clean the house and ensure that it will never get dirty, let no-one try ANY solution.

In a land of quick fixes our man is a lone lamp of perfection. And, these idiots will ridicule his attempts to make the world perfect by calling it names?

But wait...

"The pipe to the kitchen sink is corroded and is leaking, Rohit. So is the bathroom pipe"
"Get me that M-seal..."
"Why do you always go for these jugaad solutions?"
"Come on. You want a magic solution to all problems? You know what is wrong with you? You suffer from the Nirvana fallacy."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Follow the Leader

You know what, every time you really enjoy something, there is always some spoilsport who rains on your parade. But this one really took the cake. I mean, all of us know that the world's favorite pastime is 'Follow the Leader', so you would have thought that no-one would dare point fingers at that. Goes to show that there is nothing really safe and dependable these days.

There you are comfortably assuming that if your leader says, 'Sugar sucks', you can count on it to 'suck'. AND, if later he says that what he actually said was 'Suck on Sugar', you can be sure that it is YOU who misheard him. In other words, you are sure that just following your leader will lead to Heaven on Earth and straight to Heaven after death - if, that is, your leader will allow your death to happen. And then there is this foolish notion in a science that some idiot calls 'Logic' which talks of something called 'Authority bias'.

Apparently, when your revered leader says something and, of course, you KNOW it is right, then you MAY be suffering apparently from 'Authority bias'. THAT you take something to be right only on the strength of your leader saying so is biased thinking; that the leader can be wrong (horror of horrors!) sometimes, or even all the time. Of course, they do say things about any authority - like your teacher, your religious book or whatever - but you do know that all that is only a snide attempt to hide the fact that they are trying to make you disbelieve what your leader says.

The next thing they will do is that they may ask me to believe that the other stupid fellow, who claims to be a leader, can be right at times or even all the time (Oh! You mean they already have? The perfidy of these people). The hell with them. If they do not know my leader is always right, we will beat the idea into their heads!

Literally! THEN they will develop their own Authority Bias or whatever they call it!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Enlightenment

Life is just one problem after another. When I was young, people expected me to acquire knowledge; now that I am old, they expect me to impart knowledge. Ah! No! Not on the basis of teaching the young about the ways of the world. The way things have gone, it is the young that teach the old the ways to today's world, from the language up. (Seen that auntie making a cartoon of herself with her 'Yo' in that Dettol ad? Bad student of her son...)

It is that other thing that people think the old may know...you know, the purpose of life and all such deep things. Or, maybe, it is just that they are thrown in the company of the old and don't know what to talk to these senile idiots and pick on this topic. However it goes, you end up getting asked all sorts of crap and you have to make out like some sort of guru...

The problem, though, is that since childhood you learned nothing. Your brain seems seated safely behind some totally impermeable membrane and allows no knowledge to sully its pristine beauty. Makes it rather tough to spout knowledge when there is none to spout. Like the optimist who opens the municipal tap in India and expects water to come out...

It is not for want of trying, I assure you. All my life I have been thinking and thinking of this thing - what is the purpose of life? What is the best way to live life so as to achieve that purpose?

"Hey! Coming on a trek to the Himalayas? Will be great fun?"
"Nope! I need to figure out what the purpose of life is...and whether going on treks will help me achieve that purpose?"
"Eff it, yaar! Enjoy yourself. As long as you do not hurt anyone, it is a good life."

Hmm! How do I know I am not hurting anyone? Maybe, because I am trekking, someone in Somalia may be deprived of a meal...Chaos Theory, you know.

"Hey! What are you doing wasting your time? Take a course in programming..."
"I need to figure out what the purpose..."
"No time to talk with you. I need to rush to the leadership seminar..."

Ah! This is the man who is going to set the corporate world afire...Should I opt for...but is that worth it?

"Are you meditating? Good. The spiritual life is the only real life. Everything else is Maya."

Ah! Perhaps he is right. But this spiritual thingy...even if you are sure that this is the thing to do, you cannot assess whether you are progressing. You have to take it all on faith. If only I had enough faith...

I studied and studied and studied...and before I could come to a conclusion on what I wanted to do with my life, there was hardly any life for me to do anything with.

And you want me to give you messages on how to lead your life? What do you think I am, a messenger boy? Find it for yourself. For only you can find it for yourself.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Serve my neighbor

There are these wonderful social lessons that most people in my generation learned in their childhood and applied effectively all their lives. Something, though, always seems to go wrong in the works when I try to apply them. Story of my life.

Take this 'Serve my neighbor' thing for example. It is more pithy when I say it in the Tamil original - "Pakkatthu elaikku payasam". Literally, it means 'Serve kheer to my neighbor' and it generally is meant as being used in a festive occasion when a huge crowd is being fed simultaneously.  The intent of using that phrase is to say that you do so to ensure that YOU get more of the sweet dish and not because you are worried that your neighbor at the meal will feel deprived. (I know, that the current generation probably finds it a quaint idea that you cannot ask for it for yourself if you want it. My generation, though, felt it would appear too greedy on your part to do so, especially when you had to scream out aloud for what you needed, with a crowd listening in.)

Even in the literal sense, it never really worked for me. I mean, the idea was to call for the payasam for the benefit of the guy sitting next to you and, when the server came around with the dish, you could ask him to serve you, too, sotto voce, without letting the entire world know of your sweet tooth. Everyone around me used it very effectively but when it came to me...

The first time I tried it, the idiot next to me screams that he has diabetes and he certainly does not want any more of it. The second occasion was entirely my fault. I tried it without noticing that the guys sitting on either side of me had finished their meals and walked away, leaving no real neighbor to be pining for the payasam. The third time, the server came like a whirlwind, served the indicated neighbor and was nearly 100 meters away before the words, "And some for me, too" traveled the distance from my vocal chords to my mouth.

Given this track record of failure when I tried this thing literally, is it a wonder that I could not use it to any great effect when I figuratively applied it? Like the time I was making the case on Facebook for why people should comment on blog posts when they like it. I thought people would understand that it was also indicated that they comment on mine (primarily meant for that? Shhh!). SO many people came around to 'Like' that post and agree wholeheartedly with it that I was ecstatic. As it turned out, though...Well! My fault for not realizing that all those people meant that they should also GET comments, not that they were agreeing to GIVE them.

Needless to say, it works the same way with books. The plight of co-authors so moves me - that people would spend their money, read and review books by known authors, even if only to pan them, while the newbies would have to keep pleading for reviews even after giving away free copies; and all the while would also talk of how new authors had to be encouraged - that I post a plea on that. And find, as usual, a lot of people loving the post but...as usual, it is all authors who only want to GET reviews - not GIVE them. (What about me and what I do? Stick to the point, will ya? I don't like all this whataboutery!) Where o where is the serving that I expect to get out of it?

But, then, I am expecting too much of the poor chaps. I mean, much though they like my writing, even clicking on a link to read my writing tires them so much. So, how can I expect the poor chaps to open a link, pay money to buy the book, open the link again and leave a review? When they only want to rest content after praising my writing, when it is free and easier to access! So, yes, maybe this 'Serve my neighbor' is pretty unlikely to help even other people so I cannot really blame my peculiar abilities for why it does not work for me. Where it has worked, it probably has only because they were people who were the sort to do it anyway.

There is this friend who tells me that the whole problem with me is that I make it too obvious that my intention is only to help myself. Somewhat like screaming 'Serve my neighbor' while violently gesturing at MY own plate. Maybe. If acting abilities were being distributed when I was getting made, I probably was snoozing around then and missed my quota.

Considering that, anyway, I am not good at this 'Serve my neighbor' business...

"SERVE ME, PLEASE!"

Monday, April 24, 2017

Post Hoc

These Latin tags are addictive, you know. Or, maybe, it is that 'Look how learned he is' looks that I got the last time. Ah! There were sizable component of 'Is it really this moron talking?' mixed in but still...

So, here I come with what is referred to as the 'post hoc' fallacy. 'Post hoc ergo propter hoc', I say knowledgeably, and you all nod in appreciation. Ah! Not appreciation but incomprehension, was it? Well, the phrase says, "Afterwards, therefore because of", that's all. In other words, if you think that just because one incident happened before another incident the second incident was caused by the first incident, you are falling into this fallacy. Unless, of course, it is true.

Well, like you switch on the fan and the fan starts rotating, you are right in assuming 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' - it IS your putting the switch on that caused the fan to rotate. But if you switch off the fan, and the entire area blacks out, can you assume that your putting the switch off CAUSED the black-out? IF you do, THEN you are committing the post hoc fallacy in logical thinking.

Almost all superstition rests on this fallacy. It is Friday the 13th and I stubbed my toe, so it is BECAUSE it is Friday the 13th that I stubbed my toe. Like Friday the 13th has been declared the "Stub my toe' day. He sneezed in the morning when I left for office, and my manager rejected my leave application. So, it is his sneezing in the morning that sent some vibrations over to my manager and disturbed his mind. Chaos theory never works as nimbly as when it comes to personal life and its superstitions.

Add to the mix that thing I discussed earlier in this blog - Confirmation bias (I really must find a Latin tag for this) - and these things get cemented in place. Any day something good happens when the other chap sneezes is forgotten - you do not even bother to think back if he sneezed if something good happens - and every day when something bad happens gets added to the evidence and written in stone. And, of course, when something bad happens and he had not sneezed in the morning, it must only be because he sneakily sneezed silently! So, post hoc IS ergo propter hoc, even if the entire world opposes your conclusion.

Well, sometimes post hoc IS ergo propter hoc, but not as clear to all as the switch-fan combo. AND if you want to tell others that it is so, you should not overstate your case. Like saying, when your favorite party is in government, that everything from the monsoons to the success of Rajnikant's movie is because of that. AND when the party that has earned your antipathy rules, anything from the Indian cricket team's losses to your pet dog's illness is because of that. In all that wide list, SOME things would well be 'post hoc ONLY ergo propter hoc' but a lot of it is likely to be fallacy. If you attribute everything then you become like that chap who cried 'Wolf'. No-one believes you about the wolf, even when you can show the place where a chunk of flesh was bitten off your bottom.

But that has never stopped anyone, has it? People still do it even if it is like saying that the chap standing behind me in a queue is my son (After me, therefore because of me?) AND get furious when they are not believed.

If someone changes after reading this, miracle though it may be, would it still be a fallacy to say 'post hoc ergo propter hoc'?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Random queries

People are so unjust. I, too, am a curious chap and have a lot of doubts about the world around me. If I do not make a nuisance of myself asking people to clarify my doubts, and thereby proving that I am observant and analytical, it is merely because people have this unnatural habit of braying laughter when I ask my most serious queries.

Take this for example. I have never really understood why girls pose in photographs as though someone had yanked the straw out of their mouths just as they were about to suck on their soft drinks. And most times it is not even like it is a soft drink advertisement where I could assume that they are supposed to look angry at being deprived of their favorite drink. I seek clarification on this. The women 'unfriend' me and the men share the post with a 'Can you believe this moron?' Come now, is it fair? Others ask questions and you praise them for raising important issues. When I do...

But then I had not understood this interest in photographing oneself. I mean, even in the past, people used to go to great lengths - tying strings to pull and click themselves, setting timers and running like a hare to position themselves in front of the camera, and what not. So, yes, when the 'selfie' thing came around, making it easy to click oneself, I sort of got why it became so popular. What I never did get is WHY human beings so loved clicking themselves? I mean, the professional photographer would do a better job than you, so why did you so want to click yourself? I raise this query on this important facet of human psychology and all I get is, "Of course you would not know. YOU would dread looking into the mirror, so why would you want photographs of yourself?" Ah! Shades of Narcissus!

Maybe the only way I would learn about the deep meaning of all this would be if I started doing it myself. If you cannot learn from others, you perforce have to learn from experience.

I hold my phone at arm's length and purse my lips as though I was about to suck on a straw. I look at the image on my phone...

You guys thank your lucky stars that I dropped my phone and screamed in fear...before the pic was clicked!