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!