Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Criticism On Criticism

This post comes on the request of my dear friend cum senior Vikas Chandani. I wasn't very surprised by this idea because that's his favourite topic. I reckon he just wants to see how I approach this unexplored topic of criticism. So here it goes.

"I liked the surprises you pour into the plot", she says. "But why is there always a mythological connection to your stories? I mean, the way you approach myths is nice and all, but after a while people will get bored."
"And when they do, they'll read some book from some other genre", I grin. "When you get bored from the show, you change the channel."
"That's what I'd expect from anyone else, but you are not just anyone. You are special, you have to be. So why not make yourself so good that people never get bored."

And that's when I am left speechless. The critique, the discussion that follows, and then the wrap-up point that you just can't counter. My friend who appears in this scene is one person you'll never win an argument against.

"For all I know, you could make a better writer than me if you put your head into it", I concede. "You should try writing something, someday."
"Nah, I don't know. Maybe I am too lazy to do that. Even if I sit down to write, no ideas will come into my head."

I may motivate her to write something, easily. But she won't write anything, or maybe won't show me what she came up with. Some people are like that. They are better at judging than they are at performing.

Now you may have all kinds of opinion on such people, but my opinion is that of a writer. Every person I see is either a character or an idea. And there are no such things as bad ideas. There are ideas which are convenient to us and ideas that are troublesome. And the same goes to people.

In our society, critics are mostly seen as good-for-nothing folks who pass the time pissing people off. After all, anyone can criticize. Little kids who roam around spinning bicycle tyres with a stick become the experts when they see a cricket match ("Abe square cut lagana tha na" - as if the Dhoni will hear them on the field). Old, retired people talk about government policies all the time. Housewives talk about each other's behaviour in their free hours. In short, anyone and everyone who has wee hours with nothing to do becomes a critic. 

And they are treated no better. In our society at least, there is this notion that if you want to criticise someone about something, you must be better than them. Any other possibility leads to a serious abusive conflict where people take the fight to each other's status/power/money/respectability. The best examples are film and book critics. Every time a critic trashes a movie or a book, the stars get back at them with caustic remarks, unfailingly. After all, critics are a talentless species who scorn people to make a living, aren't they?

I say it depends on the attitude, both that of the critic and the one facing criticism. Sachin Tendulkar said - "People threw stones at me, I turned them into milestones". And he had his fair share of critics. Now it is understandable to get angry when someone criticises you without knowing what you face every day, but the difference between just about anyone and you is how you handle adversity. And not all critics are your enemies.

I believe that we learn only when we are criticised. It's the law of friction, you can't move forward as long as there is some force pulling you backwards. If someone tells you what to do, it's your choice whether to follow the advice or ignore it. But hating people for not minding their own business is a waste of your time and energy. It only makes you less efficient.

That is criticism. It's friction, or aerial drag. It seems to oppose you, but it stabilizes you as well. Depends on how you handle it.

If you like my blog please feel free to comment.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Wish I Had A Butler!

Dear readers, I am in no mood to write today. And because I am not in the mood to write, I am going to produce perhaps the most useful Simplified Life Lesson for you today. Today’s post is about doing what you DON’T want to do. Yes, there is so much in our lives that we’d rather avoid or let someone else handle. And those are the jobs that are almost always most mandatory. Most of us can’t bring ourselves to get out of bed every morning. In my case, I hate doing my laundry and cleaning my room. It’s not really a good trait, but it is a universal one. That is why we must learn to tackle it.

It doesn’t matter how simple or brief the task is – if you don’t like it you don’t like it. Why is it that most of us make our practical files on the date of submission? Why is it that our forms are filled on the very last day? Why is it that our studies are neglected until the night before the exam?

The problem is not just with you, it is the curse that runs in Indian blood. You don’t believe me? Take the example of Commonwealth Games. The construction of the Games Village and the stadiums had been so slow that the army was deployed in the last hour to finish up the work. They did it in six days flat, and produced a splendid result. But they would’ve had no need to step-in had our folks been a little more disciplined.

That’s our basic downfall. We lack discipline at a molecular level. And that results in troubles of all variety. What needs to be done is simple – we need to get more active. And we need to set an example for everyone else to follow. But it is the how that always poses problems.

So here are a few ideas on how to make yourself, and your team, more disciplined.

1.      Clear The Tables First – The first thing to do before you set out to solve a problem is to solve all the previous problems. Lack of discipline has only one possible result – truckloads of piled up work. And until you clear that first, you can’t set a proper routine. Now it’s up to you how you manage that. Take that big heap of stinky clothes and give them for dry-cleaning. Take all your dishes that haven’t been cleaned in ages and wash them with nitric acid if you have to (just kidding, don’t even think about trying that). Clean every nook and cranny of your room, pluck out all those spider-webs with your hands if you must, and wash it all over. The only way to change life is to begin from ground-zero. Do it today!
2.      Mix Work With Fun – A lot of people listen to music while they study. Or they leave the TV on. It’s not very uncommon to engage yourself with entertainment while you do the dull and dreary of everyday life. Find some innovative methods of your own while you toil away at the unpleasant chores. Music works well, or the TV, or the radio. Many housewives chat on the phone while doing their households. If you can afford the telephone bill, I don’t see that as a bad idea too. For college students who love to watch various TV series and seasons, a good technique would be to watch one episode after going through one chapter or unit. That would give you proper relaxation and freshen up your mind for another bout. Just make sure you don’t give too much time to the distractions, however. Mix your medicine in honey and it won’t taste that bitter. But it is the medicine that you really need, not the honey. Remember that.
3.      Reward Yourself – Deprivation works well most times, but we are more easily motivated by the positive inflictions. So reward yourself every time you achieve a set goal. A bar of chocolate every time you clean the room, an extra helping of dessert for doing the dishes, a day out to pamper yourself every time you score well. We tend to work harder when there are rewards attached to the job. The same goes with team issues as well. Another person won’t listen to you unless you can show them how they can benefit from you if they play along. Rewarding is a better motivator than punishment, I believe.
4.      Value Time – A minute spent is a minute lost, no matter how you see it. Now you can’t necessarily be a great and efficient person who utilizes every second of his/her time flawlessly, but you can sure as hell try. Just follow the simple rule – better be an hour early than a minute late. Make every meeting, every appointment, every date, every plan an examination hall where you suffer a big disadvantage if you don’t appear on time. Just being on time will affect things in your life to a great extent, the difference is breath-taking.
5.      Give Room To Your Indulgences – Many of us who try to get disciplined fail miserably and the only thing they blame is their utter laziness. That is, however, not true. Many times we fail not because we are flawed, we do because our plans are. When we try to fall into a routine, we always count out the most basic occurrences of human nature – discrepancies. You can’t wake up at 7 am flat, you’ll always spend some extra time in bed. You can’t study for 2 hours at a stretch, you’ll waste time procrastinating. You can’t go out for a half-an-hour walk, you’ll overshoot or undershoot your time-limit depending on who you meet in the park. The truth is, following a strict time-table with military efficiency is not for everyone. Your time-table, you plans, your calendar, should be flexible like your personality is. It should change with the circumstances and accommodate the changes in your surroundings. How can you think of adapting to all the challenges in your life if your time-table can’t adapt to a chance encounter or an unplanned event? No plans can work without contingencies.

Yeah, things would be so much easier if somebody could do our boring jobs for us and leave us to focus on the interesting things in life. But maybe the interesting things only appear interesting because they sit next to the boring ones. Life is all about contrast, after all. So enjoy your life as much as you can, but that enjoyment will only last if you shoulder your responsibilities and do the buzzkill stuff at time. Have fun!

When Everything Goes Wrong

Okay, you might see life as a big blob of jelly, its one unit in itself and you can’t really subdivide it, but I say life is a set of discrete experiences and you can turn it around anytime. This post is for those who think that the best years of their lives have been wasted and now they will have to just play by the rules set by destiny. Let me tell you this – there might be someone else out there who is writing your destiny, but the handwriting in which it is written is yours. No matter how you see it, life will never stop giving you options, possibilities, and chances. The next opportunity might not be as lucrative as the last one but I can bet you for all my money, there will always be a next opportunity.

You may be a college student who let go of his/her studies in the initial years and now sees a very bad future ahead, or you may be one who failed to realise that what you were studying wasn't what you were made for but can’t take the unconventional path now, or you may be a middle-aged man who realised far too late that your life had been on the wrong path and now there is nothing you can do about it. Its normal, it happens to all of us. We spend years and years of our lives trying to build something (a home, a family, a career) and then we realise that it isn't what we had dreamt of, it isn't even what we wanted in the first place. Now you can’t just throw it away and start afresh. Life is not MS Word where you can simply Delete a mistake and type it again.

This mentality is totally acceptable, and normal. But it won’t take you very far. Once you’ve understood the nature of your problem, human instinct doesn’t allow you to sit still and do nothing about it. Once you’ve realised that your life isn’t going in your desired direction, your instincts will revolt and you will break down. That burn-out will destroy a lot, but in that destruction you will comprehend that there is always the next fight to win.

This post is for those who want to change the course of their lives but feel powerless to do so.

1.       Live One Day At-A Time – Right, you lived the worst day of your life. You lost too much, and you gave up. I don’t blame you. The next day came, but you were too hopeless to fight back. I don’t judge you. That state of pathetic existence stayed on for years. I still believe in you. Why? Because when it’s going all wrong, all it takes is one good day to change it. It doesn’t matter what your past was, the future has never met the past you see. You lost, you gave up, repeat. That cycle went on for a long time. But winning or losing, fighting back or giving up, being awesome or being pathetic, these are everyday choices, not long term phenomena. You choose to win or lose every single day. One day, someday, you’ll decide to be awesome and then you will win where you had only known failure. You just need to know that inside. That’s the first thing you must do. Take the decision of fighting for your cause every day you can, and even if you fail one day, there will be another. You’ll be awestruck when you see how short-term decisions affect the long run.
2.      Greet People Nicely – A smile can work wonders! All you need to do is look lively. Research has shown that most of the time, how our entire day goes with a person depends on how that person behaves with us in the first three minutes. That’s right, three good minutes can change a bad date into a good one, a supposed fight into a settlement, a rejection into an acceptance, a lost deal into a sealed one. Besides, the more you smile, the happier you get. Seems like a good choice to me.
3.      Work With Spark – It doesn’t matter how bad the previous day was. What matters is how you make this current day. And you can make it great if you choose to be good at work. You don’t need to put good effort, or show self-discipline, just do things how you always do them, only with some enthusiasm. Just focus on being the best version of yourself and the results will come right at you.
4.      Make Today Different – Always ask yourself this question “What’s different about today?” The answer could be anything or nothing. Generally, there is nothing different about any day. It’s just another day of your life. There could be a holiday, or a weekend, or a festival, or some other special day that fills you with the energy to make the most out of it. But generally all days are alike. And that’s where you can turn your pessimism to your advantage. There is nothing about today that is different. Lead yourself to another question – “How do I make today different from yesterday?” The answer is simple. By being a different person today. Try to put something extra in your day today. You’ll see sparkling results in the long run.
5.      Challenge Life – Most of us are simply going where life is taking us. Change that. Be led by life, but always work methods to lead life in your way. Pick a hobby, develop it. Give it time. You’ll find out that you are capable of handling a lot more than just the few things you’ve been doing so far. Make plans for the future. Not plans like “I’ll finish college and get a job”. Make plans that say “I will study this chapter today and practice public speaking in front of the mirror at night”. Short-term plans are easier to follow and more fruitful. Besides, by adding your hobbies into your priorities, you open up new possibilities for yourself even though you are going where life is taking you.

As I said earlier, it is totally normal to feel defeated and swept away at times. But the problem is that even after we give up on ourselves there will be a next morning where we have to wake up and live. Even after we lose everything there will be people who expect us to succeed – friends, parents, and siblings. And even if everybody else gives up on us, we can’t live out our days in self-pity. One day or the other, you’ll get tired and try to make something of your life. So why not do it today? Why wait for a good-looking opportunity? Just be the best version of you in whatever you are doing at the moment. Whatever it is. That alone shall make your life ten times better than it is right now.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Stuck In The Wrong Place!

This post is basically career oriented, especially for those who have spent a good year or two in college or some particular course only to realize that it is not their calling but can't do anything about it now.

First things first, I am one of you. I got into an engineering college already knowing that it wasn't my thing. Three years into it, and the situation has gone from grouchy and bland to downright hopeless. Now there are people who are actually doing what they want to do, so my best wishes for you if you are one of those. But a big majority of our generation either hates their degree course or is simply putting up because that's what everybody's doing and they have no idea what they really want to do.

This post is for those who find themselves in that state where there is nothing to do that you want but so much to do that you'd rather avoid doing. Well, to be honest, even if you get the one thing that you really love to do, there will be times when you get burnt-out. So, everything's not over yet. Love for a person and love for a job or an academic subject are not very much unlike - they can be rekindled at will. 

However, academics are a little hard to catch up on. And once you lose interest, there is nearly nothing that you can do. Nearly - and that's the word that makes all the difference. There is always a possibility of bouncing back, it all depends on how strongly-willed and determined you are.

So, here are a few tips on how to tackle unfavourable academic studies and make it through.

1. Make Notes- The standard procedure is that you sit and sleep through classes and then run up to the class toppers or studious students for notes in the end. Cut this crap! There's no need to actually study. Just make notes on your own. You'll be surprised how much your mind can retain and how easy things become.

2. Make Time- Yeah, there's so much to do. You gotta watch that new movie, weekends are reserved for fun, there are those nasty files and reports to work up on, your girlfriend demands all your time and devotion, an so on... But if you make it a habit to simply devote one hour of your day to rewriting those notes you made in the class (no studies, just simple handwritten photocopying) you'll see your academics become much easier.

3. Find Your True Calling- Most of us are down because we are lazy. The only problem with us is that we have no idea what we actually want from life. What our aim is. I know my calling, I want to be a writer. I have many other interests too - I can sing, act, compose music, do poetry, become an average engineer, all at the same time - but my true calling is to be a writer. You can like many things but you have to decide what your first priority is. If you can do that, it will be much easier to find a meaning in all this chaos.

4. Plan Your Own Way- There will be a lot of pressure from peers, parents, teachers, relatives etc. but they won't step in and earn your bread for you; that is solely your job to do. Hence, you have all the right to plan your life as you want it. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. "I wanted to do fashion designing but my father coerced me into doing B.Sc in Physics. What planning do I do now?" Sometimes, we don't have the power to make certain choices and are swept by circumstances instead. But take a simple analogy for example. When you write an article for a competition, you have to keep to the word limit as well as the provided title. When you design a machine, you must meet certain parameters and not violate standard settings. When you perform a surgery, you have to exercise caution to avoid damaging vital parts. In short, circumstances will always block your way and you'll always have to compromise accordingly. But that's how life is, and you must've gotten used to it by now. Achieving certain targets while sticking under circumstantial limitations, that is what planning means after all.

5. Respect Your Work- Hating a certain person is okay, but elders say we must always respect our enemies. The same goes for academic courses and jobs as well. I don't claim that you'll start finding it interesting, but you'll be at peace with it if you respect it enough. You know, if you can't get the nuances of a subject through your brain, it only goes to prove how talented those are who excel at the subject. That demands for a good of respect, don't you think? After all, no job is too small or too inconsequential.

These are a few ideas that might help you get out of bed every day when you argue with yourself over whether it is even worth getting off to work. I can't claim that these pieces of advice will work, because I haven't been able to try them yet. But I sure think they'll work. Because I am pretty certain that my readers are strong people capable of guiding their own lives. Go on, prove me right. I worked pretty hard to be this smart, you know ;)  ...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

For The Eternally Single

There's this girl that you like a lot. She seems to like you too. She's always complimenting you, she tells you that you are a nice, caring, eligible guy who is a great catch. When you met her, she was surprised - maybe even shocked - that someone like you could be single. But that's your truth, and you know somewhere deep down that it's not going to change in the near future.

Pardon me for the masculine point of view, but I think females generally don't get into this kind of bind. I personally feel - it's a pathetic prejudice but I can't help it - that women stay single by choice but men have to stay single by compulsion. Yeah, denial is a very nice way to go, but you know your truth.

So this post is for those who feel let down, or incomplete, or simply not good enough, because they can't break that stupid old curse of being single despite your best efforts to get paired up. Yeah, there are so many posts out there on Facebook, just to boost your ego, the 'Single and Happy' battle-cry that becomes the twig which keeps you afloat on the pool of your sorrows. I don't say that it's all but a hoax; there are people out there who are actually single and happy. But they aren't the ones who need this post. This post is for those who are like a graduated engineer who didn't get college placement - you keep looking for a job and appear in all kinds of exams but you're still unemployed.

Now I won't pepper you with the usual things that most of your friends must say to you. You know - 'Its better to be single, man. We committed people suffer all the time', or 'Your time will come, and trust me, one day you'll find someone so amazing and lovely, and that day you'll thank me', or 'This is such a stupid thing to be sad about, just focus on other goals of your life and your partner will automatically arrive when the time comes'. No, those people don't know your pain. They can't possibly understand why you fuss over something as trivial as this. But that's the point now, isn't it? The trivial things in life are the most vital after all. And love sure is a trivial thing these days.

Now you may be a person who never found the right person, or one who was deviously cheated on but never actually got into a relationship, or any sort of heartbroken, empty-feeling person (yeah, girls too, you people suffer a lot too). But the medicine remains the same, no matter who the patient is. So lets get to the good part, shall we?

Ten things for the eternally single to always remember:

1. No Pain, No Gain- All right, I give you a choice. Who do you want to be your life partner? Would you accept just about anybody, or should it be someone special, someone different, someone you have only seen in your dreams? Now you can, like a novice fisherman, hook a little fish and go home. But if you want a big catch, the catch of your dreams, I'd suggest you have the guts to wait up. It takes a special one to date a special one, you see?

2. Never Give Up- If you look all defeated and dragged out all day, do you really think you can find the one you're looking for? Even if you do, do you think they would like you all that much? Now I am not an expert, but I do know that a smile makes all kinds of faces look slightly better. And genuine smiles are a really attractive bait. Your fish might be crossing your hook every other day, lure her right in, go on.

3. Look Your Best- At all times, in all places, try to look as good as you possibly can. You know the rule - first impression is last impression. And who doesn't like good looking people? Besides, you get to admire yourself in the mirror. I am pretty sure that would help your mood, agree? Trust me, a good closet attracts not only prospective partners, but great friends as well.

4. Be Funny- When in pursuit of someone you don't know or maybe have never seen or met, the best course of action is to draw attention, positive attention. Best way, a tinge of humour. Now whatever you believe, nobody is born with zero sense of humour, this thing comes with the IQ. Be snappy, be happy, is all I say.

5. Keep Looking- We live in a world where love can strike from any direction. So why filter people out? Your perfect match could be anybody - a senior, a junior, a classmate, somebody from another college, anyone. Try to keep your options open. It's no crime to look, after all.

6. Everything's A Date- When you're single, everybody you meet is an option and there is no shame about it. So every time you head out with someone of the opposite sex, make it a date. Don't get too carried away, though. Tact should never be mixed with desperation. Just keep it light, a little hint of flirty. If you can spark enough interest, the other party will make things a whole lot easier.

7. Keep The Past In The Past- Nobody like glum people. I don't say that you should totally avoid talking about your past, but try to keep it to a minimum. And only do it when you feel it's very necessary. It's a simple theory, why talk about the past when you are planning about the future?

8. Feel Free To Move On- As I said, when you are single, everybody is an option. So if you follow up on a crush and it leads nowhere, I'd suggest you move on real quick and get on with the next one. If there are real feelings, then you'll stop reading or heeding advice by lonely writers like myself and act as your heart directs. But as long as it is fun and flirty, I'd say you are free to be a little clumsy.

9. Keep Your Friends Close- If you can't find your match, they'll try and find one for you. That's the deal, that's what friends are for in the first place (its just an expression, friends are precious and they serve many purposes). Besides, a true friend would only feel honoured if he/she is able to help you in any way possible.

10. Avoid Hooking-Up On Social-Network- It doesn't pay off. At least I've never seen it pay off. WhatsApp, Facebook, Hike etc are a nice place to chat with people and meet new people maybe, but you don't get to know them through text messages (or voice notes and picture messages). Avoid it. Real love with real people shouldn't be cultivated in the virtual world.