Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sometimes We Are Just Tired

"Why carry on?"

This is one of those questions that I've never been able to answer. Not satisfactorily anyway. Yes, we are the generation that lives in the future. We hop on from one trend to another, live on the edge, have experiences that our previous generation wouldn't have dared imagine in their time. Yes, we are a leap ahead on all counts. But sadly, we are the most depressed lot of youngsters that ever walked the earth.

No, I'm not talking about the suicides that keep increasing. I am talking about something a lot more commonplace. I'm talking about fatigue.

Not more than three hours ago, I was standing at a traffic signal doing the job of a traffic policeman who was (BTW) drunk and ignorantly missing from his post. Not to mention, I was doing his job for free since I was doing it as a concerned citizen connected to an NGO. The job wasn't much, I just had to throw my body in front of speeding cars so that they did not jump the red light. Then I had to urge them to keep their vehicles behind the zebra crossing. It is not so much of a tough job, in fact it is quite simple and straightforward. That is, until the people start abusing you and arguing with you about traffic rules. 

It is quite a surprise really, how we risk our lives and the lives of others on a daily basis and then hurl expletives on someone who is taking out his time to work for the benefit of the society. And then there was this lady. We stopped her at the red light. She waited for 50 seconds, her vehicle turned off. Then, she suddenly jumped the signal with 10 seconds still remaining on the timer. I mean, seriously? This logic can only be found in Indians. And let's not even go to the awesome habits people have like interfering in other people's personal lives, gossiping about everybody, praising people in their presence and then criticizing them with their backs turned. In this world, there is no room for being a good person, because everybody has ulterior motives. That is why it so happens that the few good people give up on their best qualities. Because all they get in return is headache.

So when somebody asks me "why carry on", I'm left speechless. The truth is, there is no right answer to that. This world is unfair. The worst people lead comfortable lives and the best ones suffer for trying to bring a positive change to the order of things. But it is those people who are respected when all accounts are sorted out, when the dust settles. The best current example would be our nation's celebrated hero Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. If he hadn't gone through all those hardships in his life, would he receive the honor he does even after his 119th birthday? Not all people are lucky. Some of us have to struggle more in life to earn the respect we deserve. And many a times, all we see ahead of us is disappointment, frustration, depression. But we are defined by the best of our qualities only when we muster the courage to exhibit them in the worst times. Happiness or sadness is a state of mind, getting respected is a state of being. Your mood will change with the dates on the calendar, but your respect in someone's heart can only be changed by your actions. That is why great people carry on even when everything seems without any purpose. And again, good days and bad days are a random variable in life's equation, but greatness is a choice we can make whenever we like. That is why our strongest side appears when we are tired and disappointed to our extreme. That is why we have that saying "the night is darkest just before dawn".

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Talent - The Fairytale We All Read Backwards

"The word talent is but a lie. There is nothing called talent. There's just people who believe in themselves and those who don't."

Okay, before I start boring you out with the "lecture", let's just sit back for a while and play a game. Take a paper and pen...

Done? No? What's wrong with you? I'm serious. I give you another paragraph change, go get a pen and paper.

Are you back? Good. Now, list 5 things in life where you have been a total screw-up (for example, Academics, Relationships, Love, Confidence). You can write more if you can think of more such things. After you're done, cross out those things that you believe are NOT absolutely necessary for your survival in this big, bad world. For example, you can very well be a rich and powerful person even if you're not a particularly confident person (so you can cross it out of your list).

Now that half of the picture is clear, start listing those things which you are good at. And they don't have to be universal constants like singing, dancing, acting, painting. You believe that you are a people's person, one who can handle nasty situations with wit and intelligence? Add that to the list! Okay, you don't know how to cook but make a mean Pasta? Good, add that too. Every little detail is important. Add every single thing that has ever earned you praise from your friends, your parents, your neighbours, things that have been mentioned with your name because somebody out there believes that you are "good" at them.

I think you know what the next step of this exercise is. Take your list and compare the two sides. The pros against the cons, the weaknesses against the strengths. Oh, and please don't add weight to the attributes you are comparing. "Academics" is more important than being good at "making a rangoli" should not feature in your comparison. In your list, every trait is equal, the relevance of any of those traits is not something to think about.

Do you see what happened here? The number of things you are good at beats the number of things you totally suck at. You might deny this entire exercise due to the fact that we very systematically limited our critical angle on things that you are not good in, and placed extreme emphasis on the things that you do well. So, I will, very vaguely, quote something from the last episode of the superhit American series True Detective - "technically speaking, there is more darkness in the universe and all the stars are just tiny dots scattered in the vast blackness". There will always be more darkness, but life is all about holding on to the little trickles of light. 

So, yes, being an average student might give you the feeling that you are hopeless and talentless. But there is more to you than you give yourself credit for. What makes you average is not your modest skill-set, it is your attitude towards yourself.

We are now at the final step of this exercise. Turn your clock backwards and try to remember the last time you said - "I wish I was as talented as _____". Now remind yourself this, the person who fills this blank was not born talented. Okay, maybe she (or he) was. But Albert Einstein alone did not take the world into the 21st century. Just like there are different kinds of people, there are different kinds of talent. And you don't need to be an expert at something right away to call yourself talented. 

So, that is the moral of the story. Talent is not what you carry in your genes, it is what you do with what you have. You are born into a society that sits at the pinnacle of millions of years of evolution, that in itself is a talent. I don't believe you need any more. What you need is self-belief and the passion of wasting your time on doing things you are good at.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why We Sink Our Own Ships

There are times when a writer doesn't really have an idea what to write about or too many ideas for them to pick one. In those perilous times, a very good idea is to cut to the few latest (or earlist) good movies or books you have gone through. If you don't have good ideas, simply borrow from the unending plethora of hidden messages that our civilisation has amassed over the course of history. 

That brings me to one of the most favourite ideas that movie-makers and writers have pondered upon timelessly -- the tendency of mankind to cut the branch they're sitting on, as a race and as individuals. Our self-destruct habits as a society are quite obvious already, most discussions on the internet these days is about how we are leading a lifestyle that dooms us all. But we often forget that despite all the variations between one person and another, the society is made up of individuals, and each one of us represents mankind in our own way. So, if we are destroying ourselves by the second as a civilisation, it means YOU are destroying yourself by the second as an individual.

So let's just cut to the chase and see the reasons Why We Sink Our Own Ships:

1. Show Off - "There are those who cry alone when they feel sad, and there are those who feel sad with Angel Priya and 55 others". This has to be one of those trending posts on social media that deserve a 'Truth has been spoken' card. There was a time when we shared our problems with our friends and loved ones, now we have the means to share them with every Tom Dick and Harry who uses the internet. And we make 'BIG' deals of 'little' problems, and in essence, worsen our own situation. And yes, the little achievements we make become a big deal on social media. Also, if someone so much as taunts us in a comment, it is full-fledged war right out in the open (I've had a few of those myself). It points us to a simple question - don't we have anything better to do?

2. Love, or our own twisted version of it - It is believable if a person has more than one relationship these days, that's pretty much the way the world is today. But what is really surprising, and weird, is the fact that most relationships are never even planned to last. We make tall claims of love and loyalty, but our relationships simply don't survive, and we are all 'broken inside'. Yes, of course, you flirt with every girl you see because you were cheated on by the one girl you really loved, so it is not your fault. And yes, every guy you meet knows that your relationship had no chance of surviving your 'family issues' (which mostly is just another term for a caring family) but it was his fault for expecting too much when you had 'made it clear in the very beginning' that there was little hope for a future. 
Guess what guys, you have no right to make one bad experience an excuse for being an ass. Think again girls, little is more than enough when it comes to hope. And we claim that we have experienced love, claps!

3. Interest Issues - A lot of people I know tell me that I am very talented. I try my best to be modest (I'm not, but it leaves a good impression). But I often hear that people complain how they have been forced into making a life over things they find boring or don't enjoy, and all those things they like are left in the dust as they have no time for it. Guess what, a last year engineering student also doesn't have time to write a blog about life lessons, and here we are! 
If you want to write, take a pen and start writing. It is going to be boring as hell, all the way down to the last word. But when you read the first good article or story you made, you'll realise why it is worth it. Don't make excuses of NOT being able to do something. DO what you love, and you will experience how it feels when you LOVE what you do.

4. Abandoning Things - It is easy to run away from things when they get hard. That's why we have so many suicides, so many unfinished projects, so many great ideas that never saw the light of the world. We are so good at running away and so bad at facing our realities. Consider this, you start a popular gaming app on your friend's recommendation. You love the game initially, there are quick level-ups and fast progress. The game stays on your to-do list for a few weeks or months. Then, by which you have reached level 30, the game suddenly turns boring. There are not many rewards, levelling up takes an eternity, and you simply fall out. There are so many new games out there, isn't it?
Good policy for casual gaming, but bad policy in real life. It's not unnatural to leave things when they get tough. But doing that in projects that you actively undertook (like a relationship or a professional choice) begs the question, when will we learn to face reality rather than attempt to overturn it?

Life is choices, we make them all the time. So, if you wonder why things seem so pointless, stop to think for a while. Are you making decisions that are destroying you? If yes, it is time to step up and take command of your life. It is your ship, after all, you can save it if you realise that the biggest enemy you face is you!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A World of Greys

As a kid, I loved mythological stories. They were so simple and informative. Every story gave you something to learn, something to take home. Every story had a purpose, and it was to highlight the difference between right and wrong. And, incidentally, to show that good deeds are rewarded and bad deeds are punished.

Then I grew up, and all of that went to hell!

Oh, was that a little too radical? I guess it’s all the testosterone and adrenaline that makes me a bit restless. Let us begin again. When we were kids, the world used to be a simple place. There was right, there was wrong, and they were so very easy to distinctly identify. The stories we loved and grew up with were all about happy endings and / or lessons about what happens to people who do malicious and evil deeds.

As we grew up, those stories started to get more twisted and complex. We started to realise that sometimes stories can end up on a bad note, the good guys won't necessarily always win. And then there was always reality, giving us all kinds of twisted stories to observe and experience. We soon found out that darkness and light are not two separate entities that divided men into distinct categories. No, every man held his own share of good and evil, and there was no way to know other than to judge him on the basis of his actions. A clear picture of reality soon started forming in our minds when we secretly (and then rather vocally) started rooting for The Joker as much as we rooted for Batman, when we started to like the bad guys more than the good ones, because let's face it – villains are so very cool. They get to blow up the town, they spend more time with the pretty girls, and they win for the larger portion of the act.

We live in a world where war makes headlines more often than peace, where violence sells more than sensibility (don't even think about mentioning love stories, I know you have all enjoyed the burning cars and flying goons that make up most of the screen time in Rohit Shetty movies), where video games are not complete without murder with no consequences.

But that's all what you already know. The bigger question is, what is right in today's world? There are so many fanatic groups that support the Hindus / Muslims, General Castes / STs / SCs / OBCs, socialists / communists / nationalists, democrats / republicans, seculars / non-seculars, the list has not even begun. According to the pundits of all known truth in the modern world, the media are liars, social-media is paid media, history is all but a lie fabricated around the whims of powerful people, and the law is up for sale, politics is corrupt, governments are all propaganda and bullshit. The question is, if everything is wrong, then what is right?

If you didn't close your browser so far, it means that you want answers rather than an increasing list of problems our society has. To answer your question, actually, there is only one problem. Our wishful desire to divide the world between good and evil, light and dark. We try a very mathematical approach to study humans, which is wrong. And then we extend those studies to cover ideas, which leads us to nowhere but endless discussions. It is said that reality is multifaceted. Then why can't there be several right ideas about how to lead our lives? The point is simple, you might be right about how you want to lead your life, but you have no right to interfere with someone else's lifestyle. Two men falling in love and getting married are not going to call God's wrath upon your house, a couple kissing in public won't destroy your heritage and culture, a Muslim following his traditions in a Hindu colony won't upset Lord Krishna, and a painter who paints naked Goddesses doesn't need to be punished by mortal men.

“Sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niramayam, sarve bhadrani pashyanti, ma kaschitt dukhbhag bhavet.”
Let everybody be happy, let everybody be healthy, let everybody be good, let nobody suffer sadness. (That's a rough translation)

This Sanskrit shloka was the gift of our Indian culture to the world, and yet we forget its significance in our daily lives. The world is not made in black and white, so we should stop trying to paint it so. Let people choose their own religion, their own political views, their own choice of food and clothing, as long as they don't interfere with other people's right to freedom. It is that simple. One bad politician doesn't make politics bad, same goes for media, countries, and religions. Judge people on individual ideas, not universal interpretations of them. You will see colour return to this world of greys!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Osborne Principle

I assume all of us watched Toby Maguire play spiderman in our childhood days. And his Spiderman movie is what gave me the idea for this post. The Osborne Principle!

Today, you'll read how lack of confidence can jeopardise your career, your future, your life, and how a person who lacks confidence ends up being the reason behind everybody's success but his own.

Let's take a scene. Movie - Spiderman. Scene - The Museum. Peter Parker, the nerd, is charmed to be in the museum while his friend, Harry Osborne, is not quite interested.
"Did you know that this is the most advanced electron microscope in the state," Peter nudges Harry, who couldn't care less.
Enter Mary Jane Watson, the girl Peter secretly likes. Harry catches Peter staring at MJ and asks him to go talk to her. Peter doesn't.
"Hey MJ! Did you know that this is the most advanced electron microscope in the state?"

Do you know who said that? No, not Peter. This time it was Harry Osborne who said it!

And that brings me to the Osborne Principle. Its quite simple, actually. It says - 'If you don't have the confidence to use your knowledge and your ideas where they can make a difference, I assure you that somebody else will use them where you couldn't. And then they would be successful.'

Of course, it's unfair for anyone to steal your ideas. But what would you rather be - successful or pitiable? The world is unfair, and it works on a first-come-first-serve basis. If you don't use the weapons you have, someone else will steal them right before your eyes.

That is why confidence is so important. The backlash of failure is always hard, but it is nothing compared to the regret of someone who had a chance but didn't take it.

There is no point being a genius if you can't come out and show it. There is no use being a master if you don't have the guts to challenge even the novice. No, successful people these days are often the mediocre ones who behave like veterans. That's how crucial self-confidence is. It is not something to be taken lightly.

So, the next time someone asks you to sing a song and you feel that you're not on top of your game, someone asks you to go speak up on stage and you feel your knees shake, the next time you feel afraid in the face of an opportunity, just remember the Osborne Principle. If you don't go out and chase what you want, someone else will take it, and they are very likely to implement the same method that you were too nervous to use.

That's your lesson right there. Don't be confident, that's irrelevant. But always show that you are confident. Appearances play a lot of tricks, there is no harm in using a few for yourself. You may not be a genius, but you can always behave like one. That's what all successful people do!

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Consider a situation. You are on the Black Pearl with Captain Jack Sparrow (don't we all love him?), headed out for a memorable adventure in unknown seas. After passing through a storm, the navigator comes up and tells you that you are headed in the wrong direction. What will Jack Sparrow do?

"Well, he'll ask him what is the right direction then," you say? You are right. And then the navigator will say that you're off by, say, 5 degrees. The captain will adjust the heading and, Voilà! Back on track!

So, what's the point of making up this situation when its so damn simple? Well, anyone could solve this, its common sense!

But alas, when this kind of situation arrives in real life, most of us do not follow proper common sense and follow a very coarse, absurd course of action. And that is today's topic. The Curse of Overcorrection.

Let's go back to our example. What would you think if Captain Jack Sparrow, upon being told that the ship is headed the wrong way, would get up the mast and say - "Turn the ship backwards!"

"Are you freaking nuts," is that what you're thinking? But think about it again. Captain Jack Sparrow has just said something profoundly intellectual. Haven't we always been told that right is the opposite of wrong? So, considering that, the right way must be the opposite of the wrong way!

Downright stupid! The world was made in three dimensions. If you started walking backwards every time someone told you that you were going the wrong way, you'd end up absolutely nowhere. And yet, in practical life, that is what most of us do.

They say - "You're too emotional." You say- "Then I'll become more practical." They say - "You are naive." You say - "Then I'll stop trusting people." They say - "You speak too much." You say - "I'll keep quiet then." And there you are, painting this colourful world in the black and white drapes of right and wrong. There you are, walking backward and forward on a planet that's supposed to be spherical. That's overcorrection!

Think about it! What happened to ingenuity? What happened to originality? If all we have is a choice between two opposite roads, then why was the world map created with four directions? All our lives, we rebel to be free, and yet we remain slaves to the idea that right must be the opposite of wrong, that the two cannot be two very similar ideas, or even the same at times.

I'll come straight to the point. Whenever we try to do something out of character, like the polar opposite of who we generally are, just because someone told us that we had been behaving wrongly so far, we fall prey to the malpractice of overcorrection. In definition, overcorrection is the act of consciously defying one's fundamental nature because of the fear that it may cause them trouble, hurt or unnecessary confrontation. I'd like to extend this definition a bit. Overcorrection also includes consciously showing the exact opposite of what you're actually feeling because you think that your actual feelings might produce an annoying situation.

Come to think of it, we are all dabbling in overcorrection a lot. Which is unhealthy. Because even though you do it to avoid getting or inflicting hurt, that is exactly what will happen in the end.

I don't have any answers when it comes to this problem. You can think for yourselves how this habit affects our lives. Also, no matter how much I want to, I won't say that you should not do overcorrection in your life. After all, it was I who made the point that the right thing is not the opposite alternative of the wrong thing. No, it is a different alternative, that's all.

Hopefully, next time you catch yourself overcorrecting, you'll think about the cruise with Captain Jack Sparrow that I mentioned earlier, and you'll realise how unscientific and illogical it is as a solution.

Till then, drink me up yo hearties!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Censored To Fit - Modern Media

This post comes in response to a suggestion from my dear friend Aishwarya. Honestly, I thought you'd give me something related to feminism. But this works just fine. Hence, the topic for today is how media alters reality rather than exhibiting it, thanks to modern customs of censorship and favouritism.

Honestly, this topic is so obvious that it did cross my mind many times, but I never had any idea how to even begin approaching the horrors of the the stupid things our beloved media keeps doing. In our era, where we all look up to ideals like equality and freedom of expression, the very mascot of these fundamental rights is trashing them on a daily basis. And we are nothing but oblivious!

Ours is an era of publicity and endorsement. Everything needs to be sold in order for it to survive. And since everybody is doing business, truth itself has become a commodity that is bought and sold on a public portal. It doesn't matter if it is important or not, it must be glamorous or controversial. A very good example is a sting-survey conducted by a foreign journalist who promised to pay several leading national dailies to publish a fake news about himself on the front page. The price was steep, but the real issue is that many newspapers actually agreed. That's Indian media for you. You can actually buy it.

I don't really blame them, though. Even the media needs to pay it's employees and fill their stomachs. And there is simply too much competition. The result is a frantic, lunatic, pathetic struggle for attention between different channels, brands, national dailies.

Whose fault is it, then? Why is it that we are unable to rid ourselves of a meaningless circle of hypocrisy and exhibitionism? The answers lie in the very fabric of our society. Let's just go through them one by one.

1. We Crave Controversy- They sell things as pointless as Bigg Boss and as terrible as the diorama of daily soaps. We buy it. Who would you blame? Would you blame the dog who shits in front of your house or yourself who collects that shit in a flower-vase and places it in your living room? We want controversy, so they create it. And it is a really simple thing to do. Step one - catch hold of some caustic comment by some politician or celebrity. Step two - assemble a few followers of the said celebrity or politician along with some opposing people, preferably people who are idle and have nothing to do. Step three - let them at each other. Step four - they will fight, first about the issue in question, then about their own personal grudges against each other. Step five - they'll start abusing each other on national television and make comments like 'tumhari aukaat kya hai' (who the hell are you and what is your social status). Step six - take a short break and repeat steps one through five.

2. We Ignore Whatever's Not Spicy Enough- So Deepika Padukone said some things about feminism and modern choices. We made a big issue out of it, because 'a celeb must be responsible enough to only say politically correct things on a public platform'. The AIB Roast surely stirred a lot of people up. My question is simple - why do we need to fight over what a few people did in their own gathering somewhere? I am pretty sure that those who attended the AIB Roast weren't dragged by terrorists. Then why do we have to fight about what they said there? The media does on a public broadcast what we do on our Facebook posts and in our three-page long comments there. We get a fight because we want a fight. And in the process, the useful headlines pass us by unnoticed.

3. We Are The Media- They don't come out of nowhere. They are people from our own ranks. The media is made up of people like us. If they are corrupt, and they seriously are, then we are corrupt as well. We make rotten news everyday by being rotten people everyday. Those who cover it are the ones we point out, though.

4. We Actually Believe Them- We gave them the power to control us by believing what they show us. That's why there is 'Saamna' in Maharashtra that spreads hatred in the commoners and yet people follow it. It is because we give them the power to make us dance to their tunes. We can't protect our families and society from this influence. That is why these days the winner of any election is the person the media highlights more - whether it is Modi for general elections or Kejriwal in Delhi elections - the winner is the one who gets more footage. I don't say they didn't deserve their respective victories, but I still mention that this conduct is unbecoming of a power that is meant to be unbiased.

5. We Fear Them- Fear is the root of evil, or sometimes the side-effect of it. We are not a truly honest set of people, whether you agree with it or not. But we have an irrational fear of the media's power to affect the society. To some extent, we worship it. But a big section of us is afraid to challenge the stand the media takes today. And trust me, the media takes a stand a lot - not by assertion, but by suggestion. And we are too weak to challenge even the points that they put forward shrouded in diplomacy.

In short, the story is that the media shows us only that side of the picture that is glamorous, controversial, or monetarily more profitable. That's the reign of censorship that rules us all today. It is high time that we made some efforts to break free.