Monday, September 15, 2014

103. There is a catch!

Have patience. Fish is waiting for you! 
Fishing is what fishermen do, hydrophobia afflicts the rest. Barring few exceptions, hydrophobia is a common trait among Indians. Uncanny it may sound but canine teeth haven't got much to do with it, though occasional dog bites do add to the numbers. Credit must go to doting parents and curious astrologers instead, who cast fear in the minds of children toward water or more specifically 'flowing water'. It has worked as an inter-generational cognitive trap! 

Hydrophobia has persisted as a social reality, nonetheless. While the elites drive to the golf courses, weekenders head for the hills instead. The idea of 'green' overwhelms popular perception, keeping away from 'blue' plays up sub-consciously. Neither do people flock to river fronts to stay away from noise nor seek the comforting experience of fly fishing. For self-immersed entertainment seekers (other than rafting) river fronts hold little promise.   


Holding rivers in ritualistic reverence once or twice a while has only contributed to their neglect and consequent decline. Since people don't protect rivers, rivers don't save people either. If you don't protect 'blue', you get many shades of 'grey' in return. How disgusting? Keeping distance from what creative writer John McPhee calls 'the ultimate metaphor of existence' has not done much to our being. Our foibles, our loneliness, our boredom, our anxieties, our frustration and our helplessness are products of our isolation from the rivers.      


There is something intriguing, rivers can provide heart-soothing serenity as well as heart-pounding excitement. Try sitting or walking along a riverfront for a while, notice the calm that it provides. By constantly changing its contents and shape, rivers can be as much an avenue for escape as a part of our quest for redemption. It offers natural refuge for disturbed minds. Not without reason, people go fishing to seek everything from solace to a romantic respite. 


Travel Writer Gretel Ehrlich writes that 'water can stand for what is unconscious, instinctive and sexual in us, for the creative swill in which we fish for ideas'. If you are in courtship, ride over your entrenched hydrophobia and persuade your partner to go with you for fishing. You will surely net your catch! 


This was published in Deccan Herald dated June 2, 2015.

Friday, August 8, 2014

102. And, you can't do much about it. Can you?

Why bring me into the picture? 
I suspect if there are many words (or should these be called 'motives') that carry similar or near similar 'sense' across different languages. Given their outrageous meaning, their inter-generational transfer has been through word-of-mouth or at best through graffiti in the privacy of frequented public spaces. Since such words are often part of an oral tradition, these do not fear any threat of extinction as many native languages do, whether spoken and/or written.

In the spirit of a critical inquiry, let a less invasive word find preference over its outrageous cousins. Ladies & Gentlemen, the word under scrutiny is 'asshole' and let it be clear at the outset that it has got nothing to be with an 'ass' but has everything to do with 'humans'. Unless there are exceptions, assholes are overwhelmingly distributed among only one-half of the human population: assholes are mainly men because they (men) have socialized differently from women. Aren't males taught to be assertive and outspoken and females taught to pull their punches?       

Don't rush to enlist assholes around you just yet, your judgement could be jagged. Let subjectivity not guide you in identifying those among us who are full of shit. Come to think of it, assholes are found daily on cable news, where hosts repeatedly interrupt their guests, and on radio programs where jockeys thrive on falsehood and invective. But assholes are not limited to the world of media only, its spread is democratic across all sectors of human existence be it politics, bureaucracy, judiciary, academia, business, sports, films and other facets of social life.     

Various attempts to enlist assholes in public life have been made. If you promise not to get carried away, one such list of eminent (Indian) assholes is just a click away. Surely, your list is bound to be different but the question is how do you identify an asshole in the first place? Piqued by his experience with fellow surfers, University of California Philosopher Aaron James defines asshole as one who allows himself to enjoy special advantages and does this out of an entrenched sense of entitlement and is immunized by his sense of entitlement against the complaints of other people. No wonder, assholes are rightly upsetting people, often morally outrageous.

An asshole will jump a queue without any remorse; interrupt public life without apparent guilt; and, drive out of lane by persistently highlighting flaws in others' driving. The list isn't exhaustive though! The common feature of most assholes is: they harbor a kind of willful insensitivity, however, without any malice. And yet, there are different types of assholes. A boorish asshole is rude; a smug asshole considers others inferior; and an asshole boss issues barking orders without ever saying 'i'm sorry'. Need reckless assholes be introduced!.    

By this time, images of several assholes may have already clogged your mind. Not without reason because global trends indicate that asshole production is on the rise. Boom in electronic media and spread of social networking have acted as powerful incentives for assholes to bare themselves in public. That could be reason enough for asshole production to rise. All said, let us not put a blame on an asshole because assholes are a given fact of life. A friend often remarks: opinions are like assholes, we each have one!   

(P.S. I checked myself on the asshole radar and found that I am not an asshole because 'I lack the ability to drive otherwise cool-headed people into fits of rage' )   

Sunday, April 20, 2014

101. The pudding without the proof

Some trends are more noticeable now than before. Yet, these often go unnoticed. For some these matter whereas for others it is business-as-usual. The trend nonetheless influences the way we live and the manner in which we conduct ourselves. Perhaps, emergence of a new cultural strand! Is it the price of 'change' that we pay for or get it without paying anything? Take your pick!    

Come to think of it, the paradox is that when life was simpler, more laid-back and nobler, there were zillions of bad guys setting the screen ablaze with their evil charm, but today our cinema doesn't have too many. Simply put, they are not on the screen because there are villains all around us in real life. And, we have accepted them without any disdain. 


As a consequence the choice between good and bad has thinned, be it an electoral candidate or a consumer product. The choice often rests on 'better of the lesser evil'. It may not seem deliberate but there is something that makes it sound inconveniently convenient. Individual objectivity is influenced by collective insensitivity, as the world gets transformed into an aberration of itself. The evil is seemingly the 'new good'! Scan your surroundings and you will find any number of them, and such numbers seems to be growing.        


Not long ago, few thousand guests were being entertained at a gala reception. The best of food and drinks were on offer; there was one for every taste. However, the dominant articulation of hushed discussions in small groups were centered around the meteoric rise of the host. Jailed for economic offences in the recent past, the host's cupboard had every trophy from the world of 'new good'. Yet, the city's weak and the vulnerable (the bold and the beautiful are screen images only) were in attendance to cheer the occasion.   


Such scenarios are not uncommon, several variants on public display every so often. Come to think of it, these are the 'dark spaces' that are increasingly being legitimized by our collective insensitivity. It warrants courage to stay at a tangent from such spaces, the cost one is unwilling to pay for the fear of getting marginalized. I leave the event with a bad taste, asking myself if I could drift from such congregations of collective deceit. Expectedly, the advice remains on the contrary! 


The emerging social convenience asks us to accept without questioning the equality of good and evil. Inequality, in all forms, has grown but it is a rarity that it is shrinking between good and the evil. So much so that it needs hard evidence to prove that it doesn't. The stakes for being part of the 'new good' are seemingly high! The taste of the pudding may lie in tasting it but in such cases we often know the 'taste' before 'eating' it. Should then we taste the pudding?      

Thursday, February 20, 2014

100. I know I'm not confused


In this age of information overload, there is a 'know-all' illusion. You probably don’t know as much as you think you do. The convenience of a personal computing device is only a click away to lift the veil of ignorance, though. If information is in public domain with quick and easy access, why are people tested for how much do they know? Why can't ignorance be evaluated instead? Let knowing less of more be the dictum, because ignorance is a bliss!  

After all, how much one must know? Aren't there things that we know we don't know and there are things we don't know we don't know. That's to say, there are known knowns as well as unknown unknowns. Rarely, if ever, there are unknown knowns. A bit convoluted but in reality it is simple. In the words of Socrates, 'knowing that you know nothing makes you wise'. People have stopped burning themselves out on knowing everything because they don't know how much they must know (as also electronic access to all that one doesn't know).  

No surprise, therefore, that one in four Americans don't know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Is it a big deal? Neither does the Earth need an acknowledgement for it's stupendous efforts nor will it stop obliging the mortal earthlings for its untiring efforts. Why must everyone know what the Earth does? If most of us don't know how an aeroplane flies why must we care to know what the Earth does. It is no more than a matter of civilized delight to know how things work. No more, no less!

A majority neither knows nor does it need to know how they make Coca-Cola. The fact that it tastes fine is a perfect substitution for not knowing what the ingredients are. Even if we were to know the ingredients, would it make any sense to us? Anyway, we don't seem to care because half of us are affected by illusion of explanatory depth, a psychological disarray which propels us to claim that we know things while in reality we don't. It is our existential crises. 

All said, one of the most terrible feelings in the world is to know that someone else doesn't like you. It is a known known that one would not want it to remain known. Especially when you don't know what you've done to deserve it. It is for this reason that I think there are some things that should be kept secret. You never know which 'secret' of yours will make others develop a disliking for you. Reason enough that I don't want people to know what kind/brand of underwear I like/wear.