Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Generation Gap?

The one thing that every young person is sure of is that the old suffer from 'generation gap' sickness. The old, of course, are equally as sure that what the young suffer from is 'chronic disrespect'. Despite the fact that I belong to the 'old', I am here to prove, conclusively, that 'generation gap sickness' IS the truth. What is more, I shall call upon my good friend Billy, the Bard, also known as William Shakespeare to help me prove my point.

There is this piece of advice Billy has a parent give to his son and, in modern days, a more utter set of absolute stupidity masquerading as advice can never be heard. If this does not prove that what one generation thinks of as the epitome of wisdom is arrant nonsense for the subsequent generations, I advise you to take recourse to your shrink and, if possible, just do not emerge into the world again.

There is this scene in "Hamlet" where Polonius advises his son Laertes about how he is to comport himself.

See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

Huh! What did the man think I would do for FB status updates and tweets. If I keep silent about my thoughts, the world would think I am dead and start mourning me (rejoicing is more like it, maybe, but allow me my illusions).

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade.

Hmm! Whatever happened to "What have you done for me lately?" I mean, I may have tried the adoption of a few friends - based on how copiously they have admired my blogposts - but if I grapple them to my soul with hoops of steel, how am I to disentangle myself when they stop their commenting?

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.

Yeah! Right! Now I cannot even go around yelling at people for known and imagined slights - what did the man think FB existed for? And, what does he mean 'opposed beware of thee'? When I find too few Likes on my status castigating someone, I am not allowed to gracefully vacate the scene by apologizing? If I follow this crap, 'unfriending' me would be the world's favorite pastime.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.

This is antediluvian advice. WHAT? Listen more, talk less? Get yelled at but do not yell back? Is this man for real? If I followed this, I would be drowned in an ocean of words AND every Tom, Dick and Harry (This is once that I won't get the women yelling at me for not using every Jane, Tess and Mary) would take turns at yelling at me for all the injuries done by people at whom they dare not yell.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Now here is a fine piece of advice. I have no clue how it is in France, but the 'apparel that oft proclaims the man' is unlikely to fit in to 'thy purse' - unless you are Dhirubhai Ambani's son. And what is that guff about 'not express'd in fancy'? Dressing up IS all about fancy. Just remember those tail coats - did anything resemble fancy dress any more than that?

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Fine - lending IS a dicey affair but does the man mean that I should not work in a bank? AND, ever heard anything as stupid as that last line - 'borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry', indeed! Does he even realize that we scrimp and save on everything in order to pay our EMIs? That, but for those loans to be repaid, most of us would enjoy more leisurely lives and not work as hard? It is borrowing that keeps the world running at a hectic pace and the chap thinks it would 'dull the edge of husbandry'. Nonsense.

This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

THAT is the crowning stupidity of this piece of advice. Whatever gave this man the idea that anyone would not want to be 'false to any man'? I mean, just imagine the entire swathes of the economy that would be destroyed. What a dull world it would be with no marketing professionals, no advertising, no financial advisers - all of whom rely on the fact that the Truth is injurious to the health of Society. AND, if you agree with this idiocy because you are none of the above, stop and think. Without advertisements there would be no TV and no social media - now does THAT pinch? AND, everyone knows that, to lie convincingly, you must first convince yourself that it is NOT a lie. Which means that this advice ought to be 'to thine own self do lie, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not be caught out by any man'

The fact that this advice proves so inappropriate does not prove the existence of generation gap sickness? Why so? Ah! You think that Billy used this in THIS play to prove the conclusive insanity of the advice, considering the number of people who go insane in it, and die, kill or get killed? Hmm! That is YOUR point of view. Me - I think it is conclusive proof - so there!

Whatever else we may disagree upon, on one thing we shall have perfect agreement. From that day to this day, parents are very generous with advice and niggardly with money when children would prefer it the other way around.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

God save me

You are safe from no-one these days. The one truth that we all live by is the fact that we can safely blame God for anything without any comebacks from Him. When it comes to me, though, even THAT truth fails. There I go, happily blaming God for being remiss in some things, and the next thing I know He comes over at night to tell me off for it.

God: Where do you get off blaming Me for being remiss?
Me: Wait a minute. Ain't I got no privacy? You been spying on me - that's against the privacy laws.
God: Really? Ever heard of My being omniscient? There IS no privacy when it comes to Me.
Me: You have nothing better than to eavesdrop on me? No wonder the world is going to Hell in a handbasket.
God: Wait a...ah! Contact with humans is corrupting. Why am I sounding off on My powers? After all, you put that up in the public domain, so what is all this nonsense about privacy?
Me (embarrassed): Well - I didn't know you were active on Social media, so how could I know You would know?
God: You had the gall to blame Me for sending different instruction manuals? All of them are similar with only minor differences.
Me: Come on! You do not even have the same appearance in all of them. Some have you looking like You now do - an old, wise man; others have You with supernumerary hands and even heads; still others make You look like ...
God: Why not? You call Me omnipotent, don't you?
Me: What has THAT got to...
God: Do you think, then, that I HAVE to be in one shape? Omnipotent in everything else but forced to remain in one shape?
Me: Not exactly...I could also see you as a Lion, for example.
God: Named Aslan, I suppose. Well - no matter what you think - I can appear and have appeared in any shape I choose to anyone. So, what about it?
Me: Then, what was that about making Man in Your own image?
God: Any image IS My own image, so what about that?
Me: That is as it may be but what do You mean all instruction manuals are similar. They are vastly different. They all seek different behavior from us.
God: Yeah? Tell me. Is not Greed a sin in all of them? Envy? Do I not ask you to love your neighbor..
Me: Come on Lord! Of course, You do not mean that. You meant that I should love him IF he believed in the same things I do, looks the same way I do, talks the...
God: What is this? Some sort of amendments to the Commandments? I do not remember putting in any exclusion clauses to My Commandments.
Me: You must understand that what You ask IS impossible. How can I love my neighbor? If You had known him..
God: I might have excluded him from the requirements? Is that not what you always say? If he gave you all you wanted, looked as you would have him look, behaved as you wished him to behave, and asked nothing in return, why should I even need to enjoin you to do it? Does a starving man need a diktat to make him eat food?
Me: Well - my neighbor is an atheist. Surely You cannot mean that I should love someone who insults You?
God: You really DO think I am like you. But then, when you keep saying that I made you in My image, all you meant was that you conceive of Me as being made in your image. Do you think that I care more for whether a man worships Me than whether he lives the life I seek humans to live? That, unless he is My follower, he is a bad guy and whatever he does is evil?
Me (changing track): Your instruction manuals do say different things about how to treat woman, treat different types of people...YOUR messengers said so and THEY ought to have known what is the right way to live. BUT each one has said a different thing.
God: I hear that there was a man called Einstein, who once said, "When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity"
Me: You know I hate physics and are trying to confuse me. What has Einstein got to do with this?
God: Do you think that Einstein said that because he knew that THAT was relativity or was he communicating to suit the audience?
Me (pretending to think): Hmmm...
God (relentlessly) : Or do you think that Einstein was saying that the courting experience ought to be enjoyable ONLY to the man and NOT to the girl?
Me (confused): I do not get your point.
God : You have no intention of getting it anyway, so why do I bother? The point is that My messengers can only open a window on Reality for you. It is for you to see what you will. AND, practically none of you bother to look through the window to see and understand Reality to the extent you can. As far as I can see, the best you do is to start worshiping the window, and fighting about whose window is the real window. Most of you do not even bother to do that - you worship the messenger who opened the window for you, and do not heed either the window or the Reality behind.
Me: You can't say that. Why, we have been insisting on all the rituals prescribed by you, the dress codes, the...
God (despairingly): AND that is all that you have learnt of My Word? You see Me merely as a fashion guru crossed with a finishing school? AND a further exclusion clause on my omnipotence, that prohibits me from making any changes in even the dress code and social behavior from time to time?
Me (soothingly): No, Lord! We have allowed certain modifications to suit the modern world. You know, we have deleted all the seven deadly sins from the list. And that thing about non-violence; that thing about respecting your elders; that thing about caring for your parents in their dotage....

There was a Cosmic sigh and God vanished.

BUT - was it God, really? I mean, could it be God if, when it came to people who did not adhere to his code of conduct, He would be against my beating them up or beheading them as per choice? It must be some trick of the Devil. God save me from the blandishments of Satan.

Meanwhile, I must stock up on a lot of garlic!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Guidelines, please

I really think God has been very remiss. He sent me down on Earth but neglected to put in an appropriate instruction manual on how to lead a life - more specifically, how to deal with my fellow-man. It really would have been helpful to know, say, that if a man has green eyes and long sideburns, he should be trusted; if a woman had long tapering fingers, she would be compassionate etc. etc. I mean, if you knew where you stood with people you could live an easier life. Like, when you have money to invest, you could just scroll through your list of friends for one with a wide forehead and prematurely graying hair, and if you wanted great company, you could look for one with a bulbous nose and bloated belly...things like that.

It is all very fine to say that you have brains to judge people with...the thing is that YOU may be equipped with a Quadcore processor and all that; what if all there is in my head is only data storage. Shouldn't I be equipped with at least a minimal app that has clear guidelines about how to select from a given set of options?

Thankfully, this unpardonable omission by God has been rectified by some great people, who may or may not claim to be speaking for Him. I learnt of how useful they can be, along with the reassuring fact that I was not alone in my predicament, when I was at a friend's house and his sis, who was then a House Surgeon at AIIMS, came in distressed.

"What a dismal day! There was this man from Haryana, who was operated upon today and we had put in tubes to evacuate his urine and feces. When he learnt that I had done the surgery on him, he yanked out the tubes before anyone could intervene. When I told him how dangerous it was, he casually says 'Put it in'. Had I been a man, he probably would have taken me seriously. Now, he is unlikely to survive"

Clause 23 A, Chapter 3 of the instruction manual provided to the man must have said, "Women belong in the kitchen and can do nothing worthwhile in the outside world." I envied him his confidence in dealing with women - a confidence that could not even by touched, leave alone shaken, by any of the stupid fears of personal safety that afflicts the bravest of us in hospitals. See, how confident the existence of an instruction manual made him? True, his confidence, probably, cost him his life but that was not the fault of the manual - it is the fault of people who had failed to live by it - the women who stepped out of home, the hospitals that employed them etc.

I ached to get some instruction manual that would rid me of all need to worry about people. Something that said in clause 27 E, Chapter 3, that women who dressed in anything other than a sari, were promiscuous; in clause 14 A, Chapter 5, that people born black could not understand physics; in clause 6 F, Chapter 8, people who could not speak English in YOUR accent had no brains - things like that. I am not too nitpicking about the clause numbers OR the chapter numbers OR even the nature of guidelines - as long as there were some.

I was still searching. Though I did not find the manual for myself, I did find a lot of people who had found it and were living by it. AND, by God, the confidence it gave them! The unshaken sense of superiority with which they could deal with people, who had not had the brains to choose to eat 'Makki da roti and Sarson da saag', and had settled for stupid things like idlis and dosas - or the vice versa; the sense of deference for people who had invented the fork and the knife and taught them the best way to eat their aloo paranthas - or their masala dosas; the obdurate belief that women existed to serve men; the inviolable feeling of superiority by way of being born in a 'superior' caste - I was missing out on a whole lot by not having laid my hands on THE instruction manual.

You see, things would have been easier for me if I had known of only ONE instruction manual. The problem is that I knew that God, in His wisdom - if indeed it was He who sent out ALL those messengers - seems to have couriered different manuals by different messengers. NOW therein lies a problem. Were ALL of them messengers and were ALL those messages properly transcribed? Could it be possible, horror of horrors, that some of them were NOT His messengers and, even where the concerned people believed that it was a TRUE messenger, could they differ on what is the proper transcript of the message?

Confusion! Some of the followers of messengers claimed that ALL others were spurious messengers; within followers, there were differences on what the right transcript of the message was. Some instruction manuals were modified to suit the modern world, and others disputed the modifications. People went to war, set off bombs and threatened non-believers with Hell and damnation, if THEIR instruction manual was not adopted and followed.

The choice of the right instruction manual became SO vexing that it seemed easier to figure out how to act with people on a case-by-case basis. There were less people in my life than there were instruction manuals, after all.

I cannot help regretting the fact that I read too much and came to know about all the varieties of instruction manuals in the world. I should have kept my reading to just one. I would have been a far more confident person. It is easier to be confident when you are following a clear guideline than when you follow your own uncertain judgment. It also helps to just stop your brain from thinking.

Unfortunately, I seem to have a processor fitted in, after all, and cannot avoid thinking. Any guidelines on how to shut it up and fit in THAT minimal app?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A substantial issue?

I look into the mirror. A small sphere, set atop a much larger sphere, looks back at me. I may not exactly be as broad as I am tall - yet - but I have certainly made substantial progress towards that goal.

"Tubby or not tubby, that is the question", I say to myself.

This happens once every year with me. No, it is NOT love (nor is it Dove, by the way). I know that the Bard may have said, "It is not Love which alters when it alteration finds", but mankind, as usual, considers that when Billy said 'alterations', he did not mean to include alterations in weight and bank balance. (Much like people believe that when their scriptures said, 'Love thy neighbor as you would love thyself', it could not really have meant THEIR neighbor). So, when you put on weight and your lady love takes one look at you and says "Ewwww! I don't want to see you again", you would be advised not to be quoting the Bard. She would only say, "Yeah! So it never was love, so what?", and you would have lost love retrospectively as well as prospectively.

Where was I? Ah! Telling you that it was NOT love, wasn't I? Anyway, it is really not love. It is just that, once a year, I trek in the Himalayas and lugging all this weight around at those altitudes makes me feel more like a porter than a trekker. So, the idea of 'not tubby' seems more attractive around that time. Why I did not trek when I was lath-thin (I really was, you know! Like my beard, my girth too developed long after I was born), I will never know.

So, yes, Billy's sayings did come in handy for a while. "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them", I used to say to explain how I was not responsible for my weight gain, since the damn thing was thrust upon me. I believed it, too. Though, I would have preferred that, when it was thrust upon me, it had been targeted more evenly across my body. There are those, who have even achieved greatness similarly but, since it has been achieved from head to toe uniformly, they only look substantial whereas, in my case, getting all that greatness around the waist has made me look fat. (I still prefer that word to obese - it sounds close to obscene and who wants to be known as looking obscene?)

The problem with education is that there are always those guys who know more than you do. So, up comes a guy with a quip to beat my 'greatness thrust upon me' quote. I say that thing to him and he gets back with "Not that he loved slimness less but that he loved dining more", misquoting Brutus. It certainly did not help that this happened when I had just heaped Biryani on my plate, in what I thought was modest quantities and what others seemed to think was enough for a family of four.

And then people started giving me all sorts of scary news. Apparently, these fats were not content to park themselves around the belly. They also parked their LDLs haphazardly on the sides of the blood vessels causing traffic jams of blood corpuscles. Sometimes, it could result in gridlocks in the blood vessels supplying the heart or the brain.

For a while there, I seriously considered reducing weight - even without the prospect of a trek. The problem was with the process. It was gratifying to know that there was, at least, one thing in the world that was easier to acquire than to lose. You know, with wealth and reputation, it is the other way round. Surprisingly, though, it did not make me happy at all. Why is it that the only thing you want to lose is SO difficult to lose, and the things, that you would rather not lose, dissipate like mist? Life is a b****!

THAT phase did not last long, though. Life is a journey towards death, anyway, and I am a man in a hurry. Or, if you prefer quotes, "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die". I could never bring myself to obsess about how long I could live and lose the chance of living that day. Or, in more pompous terms, I was incapable of postponing current gratification for a future benefit.

So, 'Tubby or not tubby'? Well - the trek is only in October and, meanwhile, that luscious pastry is staring me in my face NOW.

Tubby it is going to be!