Damned If You, Damned If You Don’t

What is the vilest thing you could possibly do to belittle someone’s achievement? One way of doing it might be to claim the achievement – or part of it – as your own. Or if you want to get technical about it and I do, you could snatch the achievement and make it the collective achievement of a billion people – many of whom you’ve never even met. And that’s precisely something that Indians do.

Before certain communityal activists label me a Pakistani anti-national, hear me out. Anytime an Indian gains international attention or achieves something momentous, every other Indian makes a mad dash to remind everyone else about the nationality of the person. Within minutes, you’ll find memes floating around with titles like “Proud to be an Indian! Every Indian must share” or “Share if you are Indian!” or “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet! Share!”. You get the gist.

Sundar Pichai was made CEO of Google in 2015 and to this day, I find “motivational” images of him with text about how an Indian is now the boss of Google, and how we as Indians must be proud of this spectacular achievement. I would like to quickly point out that Pichai still does have a boss above him – if Pichai runs the largest company in the world, Larry Page runs the company that owns the largest company in the world.

Indians making off with the achievements of others like….

To be frank, I am not making light of Sundar Pichai’s achievements in any way. But at the same time, I do not feel that I have to be proud of his achievements simply because we were born in the same country. I do not feel the need to trumpet it or act like I played a part – however small – in him accomplishing it. Where he is now is solely his achievement and claiming a part of it in the name of ‘national honour’ and ‘pride’ is a cheap move against him.

Sunita Williams – who has found a place for herself among the stars with her accomplishments – is also frequently lauded by Indians. Somehow an American citizen born to Indian and Slovenian parents setting a record for most spacewalk time is cause for huge celebration here! I can understand feeling happy for someone who has done something great with their life. I can understand sending out congratulatory messages for them. What I cannot understand is why Indians feel the need to bring in the nationality of the person. It’s as if the person being Indian is proof that India is regaining its long-lost glory.

I can understand if you’re one of these people I’ve mentioned. And I’m okay with it – people are free to express their thoughts any way they see fit. I’d be really interested to know what your take on this is. But what I think this phenomenon does is highlight the hypocrisy inherent in our society.

We feel proud when an Indian does something that is globally recognised. We rob the feeling of success from the person and claim that achievement from them. We claim it as the collective achievement of a nation with a billion people. But why do we not do the same when a person fucks their life up? Why do we not go in and help that person and treat his troubles as the collective troubles of a nation with a billion people? If you argue that making bad decisions and ending up in the dumps is a matter of personal responsibility, I would call that a double standard.

Why does this ‘personal responsibility’ not apply when someone succeeds? Why are society and the media so ready to pounce in on success stories but relegate people screwing up to just another statistic in the charts? I believe that every action of a person is their own responsibility, regardless of whether they end up being successful or a failure. If you will not participate when a screw-up occurs, you damn well do not have the right to claim an achievement or revel in its warmth.

There might be some among you that argue that it is the feeling of fraternity that matters and that no one is actually taking away the accomplishment from Sundar Pichai or Sunita Williams. There might be some that argue that Sunita being of Indian origin is reason enough to celebrate her spacewalks. If that is so, why do I never see any pics of her father, Deepak Pandya, an actual Indian and a very accomplished neuroanatomist? Surely that is reason enough for you to celebrate?

Now that I’ve managed to make me look like a smug ‘intellectual’ asshole, let me wind this up. What someone achieves is entirely theirs. This can be taken as true since a lot of Indians also believe that failure is incredibly personal and not because of external factors. This goes on to highlight the hypocrisy of Indians or the fact that Indians are really good at managing cognitive dissonance. You choose.

Image via Pixabay


On Not Writing

There is a fascinating story of creation behind every product. Dozens of unrelated technological innovations coming together to create this new product that will be utilized elsewhere. It is sad, however, that we do not ascribe the same importance to the written word. Every word written, every essay penned is the result of words that came before it and of other words that did not quite make the cut.

Behind this boring post about how there is a wonderful story behind even the most mundane things, is a wonderful story. Things are almost always not how they seem. Now that I’ve got your brain going in loops, let’s move on to the fact of the matter. There is a story behind the existence of this post you’re reading right now. I’ve always been wary of responsibilities and deadlines. This is especially true this year since I’ve joined the Post A Week challenge. Mondays roll in and I’m filled with dread because I don’t even have a first draft ready.

So far, I’ve managed to whip up something in time, thus ensuring that my streak isn’t broken. This last week, I decided to sit down early and get something ready for the weekend. Now you would be forgiven for assuming that someone who shares his tips for beating writer’s block would have no trouble finding something to write about. But history has a cruel way of repeating itself, and I came up short of any ideas.

Over at Aeon, I read this essay on how the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer can help navigate a midlife crisis. This essay, combined with a well-written reddit comment on how to avoid regrets in your 40s, formed the basis for a post I had in mind.

I ended up trashing this idea because I’ve had quite enough of philosophy. I frankly don’t want to be stuck in a place where I am forever quoting philosophers and thinkers and arguing why this school of thought is better than that school of thought. Sure, philosophy is enjoyable and can lead to healthy debates, but when you eat and breathe philosophy, you lose track of your own life and thoughts. Secondly, a 20-something with no life lessons of value mouthing off about a mid-life crisis isn’t the best of things.

Fresh out of ideas, I concluded that a movie might get my creative juices flowing. I have these rare moments in my life where my near-perpetual existential crisis seems to contract. It is precisely in these moments when the masochist in me takes over. Over the weekend, I made myself watch the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Yes, you read that right, I watched all three of the prequel movies and none of the originals. Fans of Star Wars might know the pain I endured over those 7 hours, as robotic dialogues were delivered by characters I had no interest in a sterile CG scene.

The wide variety of emotions that one feels when watching the prequels is enough material to write about. I personally felt the five stages of grief flow through me, like the lava on Mustafar. Why anyone would knowingly put themselves through this traumatic experience is beyond me. Okay, I am exaggerating – the prequels aren’t that bad. I could write about just how disappointing these movies were, and how much of a masochist I am for spending an entire weekend watching these movies. But at the end of the day, I didn’t find the whole premise funny or interesting enough. Not that half-baked ideas have always been abandoned.

The last hope I had for getting some writing done was The Daily Post. They put up a prompt yesterday, which I took on as a challenge. I thought I’d write a short story, probably a mystery-thriller. What I ended up with was half a story, in the vein of Jeff VanderMeer’s ‘Annihilation’. The fact that my story seemed similar to Annihilation did not bother me; the movie comes out this month, so I figured my story would be a respectful nod to the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I gave up on the short story because I was doubtful of my ability to stick the landing – to craft an ending that was satisfactory, with the kind of weak plot that I’d developed. I think that’s just how it is – sometimes what you write isn’t up to the mark. And that’s okay.

To be honest, I consider this post to be quite an achievement of mine. Not only did I make it meta, by talking about other posts that could have taken its place, I also included a bit of irony into this post. Here I am writing about how I don’t have any ideas to write about. In this single post, I’ve written about all three of my previous ideas, something that wouldn’t be possible if I had chosen to work on one of the three.

The #postaweek task has been quite demanding of me, simply because I don’t have a routine for blogging. Churning out content every week, while also maintaining the same level of quality as before is a fine line to walk on. I can only expect the last few posts have been good enough. But that is sort of the point of this task, I guess. Getting to a place where writing is an essential part of my weekly routine, not just something I do an hour before the deadline. So here’s to hoping I have my post ready well in advance next time.

If I haven’t put you to sleep already with my incessant ramblings, please consider liking my Facebook page. While it might not end world hunger or curb global warming, it sure will put a smile on my face. Or maybe not, because of all the data Facebook has about us. 😉

The Deep Edgelord In Me

They say hindsight is 20-20. I realized it is true when I went back and read a couple of my posts from the past couple of years. More specifically, my long-ass roundup post about nihilism and my (now defunct) multi-part series about the philosophy of death.

Reading those posts now is like reading the words of a complete stranger. Not one bit of what was written resonates strongly with me now, and I can see now just how out of touch I was, just how hard I was trying to seem ‘enlightened’ and ‘wise’ and into philosophy. This makes it yet another instance where my own actions have come back to bite me in the ass.

It is often said that nihilism and Nietzsche are spouted by wannabe, edgy, and angsty teens and who really do not grasp what nihilism is. Rightfully so, since what I wrote seems to scream “I am so wise and deep and think about the world and life and the human condition a lot” like nothing else. Frankly it’s a miracle I didn’t end up on r/IAmVerySmart.

My reaction when I read my own posts from a couple of months ago.

The lack of meaning in life and existence, which is obvious to anyone who has had one too many drinks and sat down to seriously think about life, was the only point of nihilism that I really knew. And it misses the point of that whole school of thought. I still have no clue what ‘nihilism’ is, but I do know that it isn’t what I thought it was.

There was a time in mid-2017 when I was so enamored by this concept of ‘philosophy’ and how it affects our lives that I devoted an unhealthy amount of time to it. I burned through Crash Course’s Philosophy playlist in a single sitting, watched dozens of TED-Ed videos, had WiseCrack on repeat, and binged on Philosophize This! like it was my job.

The unhealthy obsession would have been enough in and of itself, but I went a step further and started writing about it. This is where things went haywire. I created a multi-part series where I would explore the different perspectives on death by different schools of philosophy. I published two pieces and had two more set for publishing before I decided it was better not to.

At this moment, I know for a fact that even if you read every work by every philosopher and read up on every school of philosophy, you will still not know how to live life. My anxiety about my eventual death and decay hasn’t vanished since I wrote about what Socrates and Epicurus had to say about it. Binging on half a dozen YouTube playlists hasn’t resulted in anything tangible from me. And it probably never will, which I’m okay with.

At its heart, I think, it all boils down to being seen as ‘informed’ about this topic that is reserved for ‘intellectuals’. A wish to be seen as ‘different’ from everyone else, because while everyone was chasing money and material gains, I was thinking hard about the really tough questions and the answers that have eluded us. A wish to be seen as a deep, wise man.

What I mean to say is, if you spend your whole life trying to learn how to live, you’ll never live your life. You’ll just have spent it listening to what dead philosophers thought about it. And let’s get honest for a second, most of what these philosophers thought and taught doesn’t work in real life or in today’s world.

So while it is not possible to live without at least some sort of personal philosophy, it is possible to live without binging on philosophy videos. And that’s a change I’m happy to have made.

If I haven’t put you to sleep by recounting my misadventures in the world of philosophy, please consider liking my Facebook page. It might not enlighten me, but it sure would give a temporary dopamine rush that can elevate me out of my perpetual existential crisis.

On Books And Book Books

It’s funny, the world we live in today. When I talk about books, I have to specify the ‘type’ of the book to prevent misunderstandings. For the greater part of human history, when someone mentioned books, everyone knew what it was. That is not the case today. Hence the usage physical book or book book to differentiate them from e-books.

In September 2017, I purchased Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I’d been eyeing that book for the better part of six months and the Kindle version was way cheaper than I’d imagined. So I immediately snagged a copy, in as much you can snag a digital copy of a book.

And there it has been, lying untouched until earlier this week. In the intervening time-period, I’ve read about half a dozen books. Thinking about the book and why I had ignored it for so long reinforced the point that I do not particularly like e-books. I prefer book books. What’s more interesting is that I had known this since April of 2016, when I read my first e-book and concluded that I preferred tangible copies.

So did I read Sapiens after I bought it? Yes, I made it about 15% of the way, and I even felt confident enough about it to mention it in a post last year. In an effort to read more books, faster, I had started reading them simultaneously. Reading became another aspect of my life that had to be optimized to increase efficiency. Soon, it dawned on me that reading 4 books at the same time wasn’t exactly my forte, especially when all 4 are e-books. So I gave up on Sapiens and there it has been, in limbo, since then. I reverted to buying physical books, despite the obvious downfalls.

This is SO not the book that I was reading.

So even though physical copies cost more, took time to be delivered, and made me feel guilty about the environment, I keep buying more of them. Call me what you will, but I am of the opinion that nothing matches the feel of a book in your hand. In fact, 6 of 9 books that I read last year were physical books. Sure, they are dead trees and now is not the time to be going around felling trees. But I’ve found that cognition is often better when I’m reading a physical book than with a e-book.

Not only does having a book in hand get me in the right mood to read, but because they are tangible, I am often more engrossed and remember details in a more vivid fashion. The reading experience on the Kindle is top-notch, for sure, but reading a book in Kindle feels like reading articles or news on your mobile device. You feel like scrolling through absent-mindedly. There is the pull of the plot, but the effect it has on you is watered down.

When I pick up a good book, I find it hard to put it down. But with *e-books*, I find it very easy to turn it off and do something else.

I realize that I could be alone in this and nobody else feels this way about books, physical or otherwise. But when you’re reading to absorb in new thoughts – be they real or fictional – it makes sense to do so in a way that leaves a permanent mark in your mind. E-books don’t do that for me. That being said, the ability to carry hundreds of books in the palm of my hand is a privilege I will be eternally grateful for.

So, I started this post with Sapiens and you might be wondering what’s happened to it.  Being the person that I am – the one to run away from problems – I’ve actively ignored my Kindle collection and focussed solely on physical books. I was nearly 30 pages into Stephen King’s It when I made the decision. I would start reading Sapiens – from the beginning.  I told myself I’d keep all other books on hold, till I had cleared my Kindle collection. Though I haven’t been reading e-books since September, my collection has been growing, to say the least. So for the foreseeable future, I’ll be playing catchup with my e-books before I get back to my physical ones.

Given that I am reading on my Kindle, progress on Sapiens is slow because my precious eyes get tired soon. But this time around, I’m paying extra attention to really get all the details into my head. Also, I can’t wait to get back to the warm and crispy pages of King’s book, scary as it might be. But I guess I can’t complain since I brought this upon myself. 😉

So that’s the rundown of my love-hate relation with Kindles and e-books. What do you prefer – book books or e-books? Why? I’m sure most of you will have similar thoughts to share, so why not share them in the comments below?

If you’ve managed to reach this far without my rants causing you to fall asleep, please like my Facebook page. This is me, unironically asking you to validate my self-esteem on social media.

Image via Pixabay

Hair To The Empire

Ugh! Enough with the sloppy puns already.

I love it when even the smallest details are given the attention they truly deserve. So it often hurts me that the barber’s cape at the salon I frequented didn’t have mirrored lettering on it. When I sat on the chair – the barber clipping away my dry, lifeless hair – the letters on the reflection of the cape were all reversed. This has been a pet peeve of mine for quite some time now.

I’ve often wondered if I should consider being a patron of a different salon, one that has the perfect cape for me to wear. To be honest, though, it would be petty of me to change salons simply because their cape the lettering on their cape wasn’t up to my liking. The real reason I had considered moving was that every time I went there, there would be a new barber, ready to cut my hair. It was exhausting having to explain my preferences to a barber I’d never see again. Regardless, my trip to the salon on Wednesday was… special to say the least.

I am pretty relaxed during haircuts but there is a period of time when anxiety sets in. Anytime the barber is close to my temple – to adjust my sideburns – or by the sides of the head, I start paying close attention to what he does. I get nervous and extremely alert. I’m guessing it might be because of remnants of unresolved childhood trauma.

This image worries me way more than it should.

I was in sixth grade, Literature class. The lesson we were being taught had an absent-minded barber. My teacher, in trying to explain what ‘absent-minded’ meant, recounted how a barber had once sneezed while cutting his hair. He was clumsy and did not move the scissors in his hand away when he sneezed. The scissors dug into the skin of my teacher, right beside his right eyebrow. He even showed us the scar that had formed over the gash.

In hindsight though, he could have used a better example and avoided traumatising impressionable 11-year old kids for life. Ever since that class I’ve been very aware of the barber when he cuts close to my ears and face – ready to duck in any direction as soon as I sense something wrong.

Despite this ‘trauma’, I was seated quite comfortably for someone who kept thinking about hairdressers inadvertently attacking him. “This would make a great blog post,” I thought. And that’s when it hit me. Salons make for perfect places to unwind and let my thoughts flow as they like. After all, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about how great it is to let your mind wander at a salon, which means I should make this a regular feature. I used to think there was something special about being in that chair that helped me zone out, but it turns out, this is what I always do! The salon was making it easier for me.

I’m prone to such experiences all the time, but usually, there isn’t a situation where I can let my senses dull and not have something go wrong. Getting a haircut, on the contrary, I can sit and relax on the chair, enjoy the cool air blasting from the air conditioner (which hopefully won’t kill me) and the ambient music, while the barber does all the work for me. Of course, this is excluding those moments of pure agony when the panic sets in. But it’s great because I can lower my guard and not have anything stolen from me. Public transportation is quite similar – I can zone out, someone else is driving for me and I can sit back and relax – but there is always too much action going on outside for me to zone out.

And that, I think, is why I usually have these ‘shower thoughts’ in the salon, before I have a shower. #salonthoughts anyone? Didn’t think so. Now that I’ve written this down, it seems patently absurd to me, that I’m a grown adult who is still traumatised by what someone said 12 years ago, and then thinks about it and then writes about it online, then goes on to analyse why he only has such thoughts in the salon. I should probably stop now.

If you managed to read this far without feeling the need to shout at me and/or close this browser tab, please consider liking my Facebook page. Doing so will prove to me that I am creating quality content – or at least content that’s not shitty. And it’ll give me a temporary dopamine rush. Thanks for tolerating me.

PS: I am definitely going to cringe about this part ↑ in the future.

Image: Renee Olmsted on Pixabay

Where Do We Go From Here?

The first week of 2018 is behind us, and boy has it been a wild ride! From hanging corpses to nuclear buttons and sold-out books, the first week of 2018 looks exactly like an extended version of 2017. Not to be outdone by the dumpster fire that is the world outside, I wasted spent the whole week inside like a recluse. Zero productivity, unless you count the many hours I spent pondering about the state of the world.

As a rule of thumb, I tend to avoid new year resolutions as much as I can. The reason for this is simple. I am not delusional about what I can do. I know for a fact that I will fail any goal I set for myself in a week or two. So I don’t bother with it at all. However, two things that I had decided coming into 2018, were to read and write more, or at least marginally more than what I had managed in 2017.

Remember when I said I spent the whole first week like a recluse and got nothing done?

Most people would try to put that one week to good use by writing, but being me, I did not. I did, however, in my usual fashion, daydream about how much I’d write this year and how I would soon slide into a fixed weekly posting schedule. I even had a couple of ideas floating around in my head about what I would write about.

Needless to say, none of that has materialised.

So where do we go from here? Truth be said, despite my anti-resolution stance, I do like the idea of writing more, at least once a week. Going forward that might be a thing or it might not. The first week may have been a dumpster fire, but that doesn’t mean every other week has to.

How has 2018 been treating you? How many of your resolutions have failed? Are you still going strong with your resolutions? Let me know. Here’s to a great year ahead! [I should have said like a week ago :/ ]

As always, thanks for reading this and making my day. Please consider liking my Facebook page. This will award me the validation of people on the Internet that I so profusely crave. /s

2017 In Retrospect

[Dramatic sigh with intense eye contact]

[A moment of introspection with no eye contact]

Yes, I really am doing this. I’ve always been bad at creating end of year review/highlight posts, so I don’t bother creating them anyway. Unless somebody else does the work for me, in which case I am happy to plaster it all over the web.

The primary reasons I tend to avoid reviewing the year is that

  1. I end up focusing on the negative experiences – the sorrow, the pain and the moments where I screwed up and took Ls like it was my job.
  2. Everything that happened to me in 2017 was bad.

The second reason is, for all intents and purposes, invalid, because 2017 was shitty for all of us. That’s right, no assumptions, no “It was bad for most of us”; I have zero doubts about 2017’s ability to leave you hurt.

It is a quirk of the human mind that it gives more prominence and weight to negative experiences than to positive, happy ones. In this sense, the mind is similar to a heroin addict – each new hit increases your tolerance and lowers the returns. Once you get the happiness you crave, the effects wear off relatively soon and there’s always something new to pursue.

All the news headlines from this year – both from my own country and the world at large – kept beating me every day till I was numb and couldn’t feel anything anymore. Right now is not a good time to be alive.

I guess that’s enough of introspective philosophical me’, which is the most boring instance of me. I’ll try listing all the good things that have happened to me this year, just to spice things up a bit.

This is the best I could get after Googling “rewind”. Please accept my apologies.

The year started off great with a trip to a hill resort that provided insight into what I wanted from life. Soon after the trip though, life went ‘downhill’ from there. Get it? I went to a ‘hill’ station and then life went down-‘hill’? Oh man, I suck at puns. 😑 

  • I graduated from college, finally. I am super stoked to have completed my college education and get a degree, but I can’t say I have the same enthusiasm for actually working. :/ I’m hoping that changes in 2018. In 2017, though, I learned the hard way how not to search for a job.
  • I read 9 books this year. This in itself isn’t brag-worthy by any standards, but compared to 2016, when I read 2 books, this is a definite improvement. I set a Goodreads challenge to read 12 books in 12 months, but could only manage 9, so there’s the remaining 3 books (and growing) to look forward to in 2018.

Another point I’d like to highlight is how much of an idiot 2016-me seems to 2017-me. I went to a freaking rave party on New Year’s Eve 2016, on top of a hill, far from the city. The price of admission was steep, the complimentary drinks weren’t even that good and all we did was keep jumping to loud music from 11 till 1, when the cops inevitably came to shut it down.

It fills me with despair to look back at it, because I am not that kind of person. I’m a textbook-example of the kind of person who’s happier staying at home and sleeping early, because I’m boring like that. Do I regret attending the party? No. Would I do it again? No. The older I get – which isn’t saying much – the more I feel that sleeping early on New Year’s Eve is a better option than anything else.

Without any hint of a transition, let’s move on my best finds of 2017.

Best blogging peeps

  • I think I started 2017 the right way by refreshing not only my writing style, but also the people I follow. Nicole from Nicole Sundays provided me with tons of laughs this year and a fellow millennial with a liking for fails that matches mine.
  • Sanjay from The Polymath Ideal is always up to some experiment on himself and his life. I’m talking about productivity, happiness-tracking and ways to get more work done efficiently. His book reviews are on point and I’ll start reading Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck in 2018, one that he recommended.
  • Littlr is known about The Shining Gem other than the fact that he truly is a gem among bloggers. Ugh, sorry for the corny line. Whether it is about government policy, the present state of the industry and business, or just about any topic, he writes insightful, relevant and balanced posts that I always find myself agreeing to.

If you look at my content over the past year, you’ll find that it has been influenced to a certain extent by these amazing bloggers I found.

Best podcasts

2017 was the year I got back into podcasts with full force. To start it off, I invested in Pocket Casts, a paid podcast app, which I continue to swear by. I discovered so many great podcasts and audiodramas this year that providing descriptions for all of them is difficult. I hope you go through this list and check them out.

  • King Falls AM
  • Limetown
  • The Big Loop
  • S-Town
  • Dirty John
  • The Butterfly Effect With Jon Ronson
  • Mission To Zyxx
  • Steal The Stars

Best books

All 9 of the books I read this year were great, especially Nick Bilton’s memoir of the Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, American Kingpin. The list of books I read this year is here.

Best movies

This list will be generic at best, simply because I did not have the time to watch too many movies. When you’re juggling two dozen podcasts, books and real-life priorities, movies take the back seat. That being said, here are movies from 2017 I liked.

  • Dunkirk: I rolled into 2017 waiting for this movie and the new Star Wars movie. That’s all I had to look forward to this year. Christopher Nolan created a movie that tightly weaves three different plots into a single cohesive entity. This was also when I had my chance encounter with fanboys.
  • Wonder Woman: A superhero movie that broke all conventional superhero movie rules. With a badass female superhero. Starring Gal Gadot. ‘Nuff said. We need more of these.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Fans are divided about this movie, but let me be very clear, I loved it. Rian Johnson takes the expectations we had after The Force Awakens and turns them on their head. The story strives more than anything to release Star Wars from the grip of the Original Trilogy and to direct it into new areas and storylines.

That was my attempt at highlighting milestones from the past year and you can clearly see it had very little to do with my actual life. Let’s hope 2018 changes that. But more than that, I hope 2018-me doesn’t think this year-in-review was cringy.

That being said, I hope to see all of you and even more bloggers and fresh content in 2018. Wishing you all a great year ahead!

If you’ve managed to reach this point without my ramblings causing you to sleep, please like my Facebook page. There’s lots more fresh content coming in 2018 and I wouldn’t want you to miss out.

Image via Clker on Pixabay.