Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's all in the mind - GP for Alka Narula

Every now and then, I let my beard flow down untrammeled (untrimmed?), put on my saffron robes (metaphorically), sit in a padmasan and pontificate on the thusness of things. Sometimes, I do manage to get my tongue to my cheek; at others, I am serious enough to seem like the understudy of Swami someone-or-the-other. (Not that any Swami, worth his saffron, is likely to even consider acknowledging my existence, leave alone actually knowing me.) A full list of my pontificating posts is indexed in this page.

It is not as though I wait upon encouragement to unleash my 'wisdom' on the unsuspecting populace. But, if there is someone who actually does encourage you, I must admit that it does lend a certain credence to your self-illusions. For lending me that credence, I must thank Alka Narula, who had been kind enough to publish my guest posts more than once, as witness "Does suffering negate the possibility of a compassionate God" and "In defense of Ram".

Once again, she invited me into her blog and once again you have the pleasure (dubious? I am not responsible for your doubts) of seeing my 'saffron-clad avatar'.

Not just happiness - even virtue and sin are all in the mind.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Singular Lessons: Guest post for Sumeetha Manikandan

Every now and then I am surprised by someone, who is kind enough to think that what I write is worth carrying on their blog. Sumeetha Manikandan went one step further. She even thought that I may have a lesson or two to communicate to her readers. She may well be ruing that misconception by now, but now is too late - at least if you are a polite person and, unfortunately for her, she is.

What she and her readers thought of my lessons from bachelorhood I know not. What you think of it you can judge after reading it.

The first time I ever openly said that I may choose to stay single, I was faced with the simple question, “Why?” You may blame me for being unnaturally obtuse, but I saw no reason why I should have a reason. My answer was, “Why should I have any reason to merely continue the same way as I am now? It is for you to explain why you want to change states and marry.” After all, it is the chap who is changing his job who needs to explain why he is doing so and not the guy who is continuing in the same job.

The issue, though, is that most people reacted as though I was a larva refusing to become a butterfly. Though, I am sure that no-one ever polled the butterflies about whether they would have preferred to remain larvae or not – the poor things just never had a choice. In more human terms, it was like I was refusing to pass out of school even after hitting my twenties.

And, if you still want the rest, you can read it here

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Of stubbornness and persistence

Someone up there really does not like me. I mean, I am a pretty harmless sort of chap and I really cannot understand why someone should concentrate on messing me up at every turn. It is sort of gratifying that I am considered worthy of specific attention but, every now and then by way of varying the monotony, I can only wish that things could go right for me.

You see, back at school, they told me this story of Robert Bruce whose school-teacher was a spider (and, mind you, that was not even a fantasy tale) which taught him that 'If at first you do not succeed, try, try, try again' or some such thing. And my school teacher, who was not a spider (more is the pity, since lessons would have been more interesting that way and, if they got too boring, you could sort of squash the teacher), called this thing persistence.

It sort of seemed like persistence was a thing that you ought to acquire. I tried. I really did. The problem, though, was that when it came to me, they invented a new word for it - they called it stubbornness and, apparently, it was absolutely uncool to be stubborn.

That, in a nutshell, has been the story of my life. When it came to the other guy keeping on at something, he was called persistent and everyone patted him on the head and held him up as an example of what you ought to be. When I kept at something, I was called stubborn and everyone glared at me and held me up as an example of what you ought not to be. If this is not conclusive proof of malice from above, I would like to know what is. Seemed to me that if you kept pegging at a thing and succeeded in the end, you were called persistent. If, like me, all your repeated efforts only ended in failure, you were called stubborn.

Of course, there were always my friends who did not agree with my diagnoses. (That is another of my grouses. Am I the only person in the world, whose friends treat him as though he was brought up by parents, whose idea of parenting a newborn babe was to bounce him on his head sixty times a minute?) On one of my persistent attempts at solving a problem, all the sympathy he offered was, "If you keep assuming that two and two add up to five every time, I can hardly laud you for your persistence." (I am NOT stubborn. I offer up as proof the fact that, on my next attempt, I assumed it was six and NOT five, and still could not solve the problem. So there).

This chap sort of gave me the impression that sticking to a goal may be persistence BUT to stick to the way you went about chasing your goal without learning from your mistakes was to be stubborn. Of course he would say such things - he was lauded for HIS persistence merely because he eventually succeeded, so he was unlikely to accept that it was only injustice that did not land me on the same pedestal.

Anyway, I have found that, whenever I chased what I thought other people would prefer me to have, and was persistent at it, it was ALWAYS stubbornness. The malice that dogs me seems to have started with producing me with a kink in the brain that refuses to understand exactly what others would want of me. SO, I ended up chasing things with little success and got labelled stubborn for my efforts.

Then there are the things that I wanted. It is not that chasing them made others call me anything other than stubborn - but I found that I just did not care what I got called. When has a person with a sweet tooth ever bothered about what people said while bowling over others in his effort to snag the last piece of sweet on a buffet table? Even if he did fail, he would only regret the failure but not the effort. Something like that.

So, after this long, my philosophy has changed to "If at first you do not succeed, just give up" for all the things about which I even felt the need to think about whether I should persist or not. When it came to the things I REALLY wanted, the thought of giving up never crosses my mind.

After all, it is sort of idiotic to learn your lessons from spiders - blindly!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Guide to becoming an effective Talk-show guest?

I NEVER watch talk shows, particularly about politics. Or mega-serials. Not by my choice, at least. (So, of course, I feel competent to talk about how to become a talk show guest, you murmur? Don't jump the gun.  It may go off in your face.) Sometimes, though, guests at home inflict these things on me.

After having had a surfeit of political talk-shows, I derived some important lessons about what qualifies you to become a talk-show guest. I must warn you at the outset that you are solely responsible for any consequences arising out of following these lessons. I also absolve myself of the blame for what you may, in your turn, inflict on the unsuspecting viewers - not that it seems likely to be any worse than what they already appear to be enduring enjoying.

1. You must have an unswerving conviction that people holding the opposite opinion are, in your charitable moments, congenital idiots or, at all other times, black villains sent down by the Devil to Earth expressly for the purpose of tormenting normal people. It helps to have as few charitable moments as possible.

2. People holding the same opinion as you may have their hearts in the right place. You may even get to like them BUT for the unfortunate fact that they have also been given mouths AND they use them to speak. No-one can articulate your side of the tale with such perspicacity and clarity as you, and it is such a pity that they will not acknowledge that and leave the field to you. You must FEEL but nobly refrain from voicing, "With friends such as these, who needs enemies".

3. It is perfectly all right to keep talking, even if four others are also exercising their vocal chords at the same time, and you should train yourself to continue to do so till the anchor cuts in with a commercial. It helps if you have selective deafness that will only permit you to hear the anchor interrupting. Why that is important will be dealt in the next session.

4. You must always have an opinion about everything but that's unnecessary to say since, without that, you would not WANT to be a talk show guest in the first place. What is more important is that you should always say, "In my opinion..." in such a tone of voice that the others understand that what you are really saying is, "Of course this is not merely an opinion but incontrovertible fact, certified by God, but I can hardly expect people with IQ in the single digits to understand that."

5. You are not allowed to use those words that can only be written as "@#&$" - YET - but you are permitted, nay encouraged, to enunciate the names or positions of the others in a way that sounds like "You @#$&# so-and-so". You will find that 'the honorable so-and-so', rather than just the name, gives you more scope to enable you to sound quite the way you are 'encouraged' to sound.

Those are lessons that, properly imbibed, would qualify you for talk shows BUT, as you can readily understand, to get on THE premier show, you need to be something special. After all, the manners that you can get by with in an ordinary aristocrat's house would hardly suffice to be the guest of a king.

1. You must rise every day, go to the mirror and practice saying, "Arnab" in as pleading a tone as you can manage. Check your face to see if the expression looks like a starving beggar desperately seeking alms. Your only chance of getting a word in edge-ways in the middle of Arnab's monologue is if he takes pity on you and allows you a nanosecond to talk. Never mind if you cannot get the right plea in your voice. Statistics (that I gleaned out of a five minute segment, which I saw as my friend was channel-surfing) say that more than 90% of what other people say on his show consists exclusively of "Arnab", so you can be happy that you have had your say.

2. Strangely, some things are easier on the King of all shows. You really do not need to have an opinion. All you have to say is, "In my opinion..." and Arnab will fill in the rest with his "I know what you want to say..." (In that, he is different from the others. They only know what you meant and not what you intended to say. Say, "The sun rises in the East." and they will say, "So, you mean that you believe that the Earth is the center of the Universe and all Science starting from Galileo is so much hogwash?" You would never have known that you had any opinions about science at all, but for their kindly enlightening you about your own thoughts. Arnab, though, will also supply the 'Sun rises in the East' part along with the rest,.thereby easing your burden.)

3. Now comes the reason why you should have an ear out for the anchor's interruption. You may get away with talking on despite the anchor's interruption on other shows but it is an unpardonable transgression on Arnab's show. Fail in this and you will be put through the horrendous experience of Arnab looking at you like a stern headmaster, wagging an admonitory finger and lecturing you on manners - all on Prime time TV. (Oh! And, by the way, you are NOT supposed to learn your manners from Arnab's own behavior. Manners are for the hoi polloi and they ought not to ape the king.) Unsubstantiated rumors also claim that transgressing guests have to write, "I will never interrupt Arnab again" a thousand times before they are allowed to leave - and no copy-paste allowed either.

4. If, for some unaccountable reason like needing a sip of water, Arnab is silent for a second, the one thing you NEVER do is contradict him. The grapevine says that this act of lese majeste counts as one of the 'rarest of the rare' cases, which are eligible for the death penalty, and what substantiates the rumor is the fact that no-one can deny that it happens VERY rarely indeed and, thus, will certainly qualify as the 'rarest of the rare' - the 'rare' being where other anchors are contradicted.

5. The most difficult thing to master is the tightrope walk that you need to manage. You must retain sufficient of your childhood memories to not mind someone treating you like a truant schoolkid but, at the same time, be adult enough not to respond with a "Sorry, Teacher! I promise not to do it again". Arnab may well like the latter but the problem is that it is all being telecast and he would like the viewers to have at least the impression that you are free to express your own opinion.

But, then, why would you ever have an opinion that contradicts the man who knows what the Nation wants - on an everyday basis? It only shows that you are an idiot to end all idiots and do not deserve to be even an ordinary guest, leave alone achieving the exalted position of a talk-show guest and on Arnab's show.

"Arnab! Arnaaab! Arnaaaaaaaab!"

Don't tell me you are in front of the mirror, already.

"Arnab! Arnaaab! Arnaaaaaaaab!"

Omigod! What on Earth have I unleashed!