Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A random note about me

A long time ago, I had read somewhere that 'ethics' were a luxury of people whose basic needs were already met. Pretty cynical huh?
I always thought of myself as a principled and ethical person, who would not bend rules just to satisfy some greed. Recently, I was decribed by someone as 'internally good'. (The same person, however also called me 'andar se kameena' many times. Some others have said of me, 'Dil saaf hai bechare ka.'
To all this, I say,"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist."
I try to be nice, and a few years ago, one would probably have seen me falling over myself tow in some elusive approval through others. My self-worth has, since then, been patched well and escalated to a lakshanamaana delusion of grandeur that goes with being the scion of a Tambram family.
I went through the same old brainwashing as a child about how one is useless if kanaku was not one's forte.
Growing up, I heard all the protectionist parental arguments about how arranged marriages are practical, and how parents know all. I was given examples of failed love marriages where the story is an embarrassment to all involved and an entertainment to all within earshot. I never bought the parental 'because I said so' rationale and challenged it at every step. This usually resulted in lots of scoldings and slaps. I always believed in the beauty of love, and fished out data about happy couples who were the product of love marriages and found out, soon after, that the percentages of bad marriages were pretty much the same either way.
Food: A lot of people I know like to call themselves foodies. I thought I was one too for a long time. I still think so, but after having understood the true meaning of loving food. Earlier, I ate and ate (and I am not alone in this) to fill a personality void, as a sort of mental anesthesia from the loneliness. The problem with that was that I ate all the wrong food: KFC, gyro, etc., which were no culinary feats, but just fatty food which numbed me completely. Certain changes over the past year gave me the direction that my non-academic life needed. I use food in the opposite way now. I eat out less often, but more from the non-chain, quaint, rustic places where the food quality is good. That being said, my palate has refined over time. I literally get nauseous when the door to Burger King opens as I pass by it.
Reading: My reading evolved just like every normal child. I was into Sherlock Holmes and the classics (Dickens, Bronte, etc) from an early age. I was knee-deep in Enid Blyton for a few years. Upon a sister's insistence, I read some Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys stuff, but did not appreciate them much. Archer, Ludlum, Forsyth, Hailey and the like followed.
Rowling then came, and cemented her place in my top 5. I don't care what anyone says about the Potter series being kids' books, even the most hardened naysayers grudgingly admit that Rowling 'kanna pinnanu ezhudaraal.' Now that Harry is living happily ever after, I keep re-reading Ayn Rand and Dawkins and Hitchens.
Some of my favorite quotes:
1. "Tradition is the illusion of permanence" - Woody Allen
2. "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson
3. "Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là" (I had no need of that hypothesis) - Pierre-Simon Laplace, when asked by Napoleon why he did not mention God in his book on astronomy. This one is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a fine blogger as it is a demonstration of Occam's razor wielded by Laplace.
and finally,
4."The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit." - William Somerset Maugham

Friday, June 26, 2009

Clean socks

Swimming was the most relaxing thing in her life. Even though she was a runner, and loved roller-blading, but there was nothing like gliding in water. Taking in the cool water while it swept over her made her feel like it cleansed her every pore. She was OCD clean, but the dirty water tended to make her feel pure. She always knew that river swimming was not a piece of cake, the currents were strange and the fresh water was not easy to float in.

The currents were seductive from afar, but from the river bank they were positively enchanting. She knew without experience that there would be a feeling of liberation attached to the currents. It reminded her of the bungee jump she had made, which led her peripatetic mind to the joke about the similarity between a bungee jumper and a family planner. She smiled in spite of her impending challenge. Anybody who knew her always found her to be gutsy. Gutsy, not brave simply because brave implies that a person is willing to risk all or something they have to obtain something else, or to make a statement. For self-destructive ones like her, with nothing to lose, and not much to look forward to, being gutsy was simply a by-product.

There was always an edgy abrasiveness in her silence, her lack of social graces coupled with her apathy for the approval of others made her stand out. How would you explain a person's behavior when their chain of motivation was indecipherable to most? She was an enigma, to herself and others.

The circumlocution of the water created enough discomfort. She loved punishing her body. It was the twisted reason for her amazing will-power at the gym. The water kept pulling her in and she started struggling. She knew that she was in danger now, while knowing that she was waiting for this very moment. The adrenaline rush from small danger was as addictive as a drug, and not unlike a drug, one needed higher and higher doses to get excited because of the tolerance the body developed. The more she tried to pull herself out, the more control she seemed to lose. She knew that this was planned, but the magnitude shocked her. Even if she survived, this would change her in ways that she had not bargained for.

The water was steadily entering her mouth now. Her lungs were filling up, and she could feel her breath shortening at every increment. Her eyes had started to burn and the person who prided herself upon her ability to think on her feet was now drawing a blank. Her strength was definitely failing now, and her strokes lacked the vigor she had begun with. She closed her eyes with a finality, as she felt her normally lithe body turn into dead weight. She wanted to quickly make her peace with the impulse of death.

She felt a palm grasping hers. The texture felt smooth, unlike the dried raisin-like feel that her own palms had, which told her that this was a rescue attempt. It is very important to let the person saving you to hold you, if you tried to hold him, there is a chance you will both drown. She knew this. She knew that this person was her ticket out. But, how do you save a person who is holding herself back for some unfathomable reason?

There was no thinking now. All her responses were visceral. Half her impulses guided her hand to grasp that friendly hand, the other half fought it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lying to yourself

Honesty with the self is the hardest thing to achieve. People always say, “It is easy to lie to the whole world, but how can you lie to yourself?” We say this while each one of us is deluding ourselves from the fact that we all lie to ourselves; and pretty well too. I have a friend who breaks his diet whenever we go to Sardar pav bhaji (for non-Mumbaikars, it is a place in Tardeo, Mumbai where the pav bhaji has more butter than Amul could possibly manufacture, and any mention of this place to your gym instructor earns you an extra half hour on the treadmill.), another who has convinced himself that he is smart; it is the professors who don’t understand his true potential (Oh wait, that’s me!)

How can you look in the mirror after lying to a friend that you don’t have time to meet him or her? How do you sleep at night after hanging up on your mom after telling her that life is too hectic to talk now, and then calling a friend over for a few beers? It’s easy. We all do it. We brush our teeth and dress ourselves and comb our hair, all using that reflective surface that is saddled with the responsibility of weeding out liars. We sleep pretty well too, admittedly the beers do their share of work there…

What is amazing about this is not the steady regularity with which we do this, but the creative rationalizations that we invent so that we can lie to ourselves with impunity. Oh come on…one drink won’t do anything to me…one gulab jamun can’t hurt…she is only a friend, so what if I cannot tell my wife about her…

Someone once told me that when you find something difficult to do but cannot fathom why, it could be your subconscious telling you that you don't want to do it. Something like a right brain thing which runs the creative side but fails to convince the logical left brain that certain things need to be done while others, avoided.

Our whole idea of life seems to be about telling ourselves that we need to be this and do that. Setting almost ungettable goals because failing to reach gettable goals is something we cannot stomach.

Whenever I write a blog post about some issue, I start off objectively trying to put forth a problem to the readers, but towards the end I find myself trying to explain the cause of that very problem. This time...I am opening the floor itself. Not only to get your comments, but to present this problem in front of you undisturbed by my opinion.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cynical Cheney

Ex-VP Dick Cheney has made a public statement supporting gay marriage. His statement, "I think, you know, freedom means freedom for everyone. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish," clearly shows that he is not even on the fence on this issue.

Oh dear! If only you had ever been in a position where you could pass a legislature allowing gay marriage…oh wait…you were VP for eight years!

As for his daughter being gay, she was very gay even when John Kerry mentioned it before the 2004 elections. He was admonished publicly for this very truism. Mrs. Cheney called John Kerry a bad man.

2004 was the election when the Republican base had got in bed with the Christian right, and so much as breathing in the direction of gay marriage would have meant a loss of support from jingoistic Christian crowds. Now, however, when Barack Obama is plagued with solving the economic crisis, and (with all due respect to homosexuals) can't be bothered with the pro-gay marriage legislation right now, Cheney seems to have a hitherto non-existent angst for the plight of homosexuals in the USA.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Meera’s woe (Concluding part)

The sunlight blazed into the room as Meera could not help waking up. After an entire week of lazing around and committing all possible abacharams her grandma would have frowned upon, her mom noticed that Meera seemed to be on the phone quite often, and not too cheerful. Even her visit to her engineering college seemed to get her down. She always had an inkling that her daughter was in a relationship, which was confirmed the previous night when Meera told her everything. In all probability, he could not have been smart, together person. At least, not a lot. She never seemed comfortable talking about him. But, then again, Meera was not the kind to go to anyone for advice, even her parents, and any advice given unsolicited would be met with a polite but firm indifference. Maybe Meera would finally start opening up to her and they could be closer than they were.

Meera got up from the bed, and went straight to her laptop. Of course, there was no Wi-Fi at home, so she had hooked up an Ethernet cable. The net was still too slow though. Orkut opened while she brushed her teeth. She was not particularly the web-social networking type per se, but lately she found herself checking her scraps with an uncanny sense of longing. Ah ha! There was a scrap from him. It was another general stab at humor, but she could sense that he was trying. It was fun to see guys manufacture friendships out of thin air. So…he was longing to be home huh. "Big deal, who asked you to wait till December, you should have come now na!" She blushed slightly as the next page loaded ever so slowly, and saw her latest scrap on his profile.

The Times of India website on the other firefox tab was full of sensationalist crap, but had an easy-to-read layout. She started reading the editorial while her email toolbar beeped. A return scrap from him. Good god! Does this guy sleep next to his laptop? It must be 2:30am in Maryland right now!

Another day, another fight. This time, he was accusing her of falling for someone else. Preposterous! Well, not quite, maybe there was some truth there, but surely it wasn't the cause of the souring of the relationship. The converse, however, could have been true.

King's circle was as busy as she knew it; crossing the roads depending on the signal was as dangerous as before. There was always one spoilt brat who drove rashly. Seven eleven softy was creamier than ever (was that even possible) and the familiar Xerox wallah remembered her after almost a year! Yet, nothing was getting her mood up. She was not the self-pity kind, just someone who went into a self-protective cocoon when bad times hit, to achieve mental clarity more so than anything else. Taking the train home was as annoying and sweaty as usual.

Days passed slowly but their accumulation was going to hit her like a truck.

The truth about relationships (as she knew it) was that they all started out hot and heavy, then settled into slow progress and then reached a plateau. The next course from an evolutionary perspective was decline, and it took constant effort from both parties to help maintain that plateau. She had read this kinda stuff, and her ever-cynical psyche had come up with the idea of choosing stability over spontaneity. Settling into a relationship with a good friend with no obvious flaws seemed like the most pragmatic idea. She had spent many a time scoffing at friends who actually did the whole dating ritual. Why would someone willfully expose themelves to heartbreak? People in general are a mix of strong and weak moments. Idealizing a person was nothing but a shortcut to the inevitable disappointment when you find out that they weren't everything you expected them to be.

Now however, she wanted to believe in the existence of a real, fulfilling relationship. She could, of course, be wrong this time. Surely, being practical was the sanest course of life to take.

"Vaa maa, polaam…check-inukkku time aayiduchhu!"

Two and a half months, gone in a flash. Baltimore was beckoning. New semester, same old friends, new house, new roommates, plus one guy who seemed seriously interesting and minus an annoying and emotionally depleting relationship. She walked inside the airport after the cursory hugs (including a teary one from her brother) thanking god for the increased security measures which did not allow anyone except the passenger to enter. Who wants a protracted goodbye! She felt a qualified optimism, and knew things would be fine.

Even if nothing worked out, it was still a pretty good life she had.

(PS: If this ending seems abrupt, forgive me. – Liberal)