Thursday, October 31, 2013

The effects of enthusiasm

Enthusiasm affects us in different ways.

It gives us energy, it makes us blind to roadblocks, it makes us immune to negative criticism and it gives us courage to drive forward through dark, narrow, frightening alleys.

As long as the enthusiasm is our own.

What does others' enthusiasm do to us?

It inspires us, no doubt. Enthusiasm is contagious. We see a person bouncing up and down in excitement, we are tempted to shake our head a little to their rhythm. The fire spreads to us, and we are motivated too. If they can do so much, why can't I try a little harder?

Often, it irritates us. The world is a dark and gloomy place, and this person is bursting with energy? Why can't they shut the hell up? (No we aren't kind, in those moments.) Are they trying to show off? Impress someone? Annoying.

But sometimes it depresses us. There is so much energy in the world, everyone is drinking from it. I am the only one, we think, drowning in misery. (We love those kinds of phrases when we are sad - drowning in misery.) We wish to run away from the enthusiastic lot and revel in our grief.

Tomorrow, when we are the ones bouncing up and down, we fail to see the indifference and discomfort in the eyes of the others around us. Because, enthusiasm also blinds us to the misery of others.

Monday, October 28, 2013


There's this place, deserted and unexplored. New. Fresh.

People come and set their eyes on it. They see its potential. They see its future. They dream big dreams. They come together in ones and twos, strangers with the same purpose, the same aim, slowly, over a great span of time. They call themselves by a name.

Many stay, planning to never leave. Some pass by, on their way to other destinations. The ones who stay slowly master the art of shaping the raw materials at their disposal into items of great beauty. They patent it, they develop their skill and they sell it.

They become a society, a community. They do not step on each other's toes and they step aside for others to pass. They are courteous and friendly and undemanding and kind to each other.

Time passes, as it has no option but to pass. Strangers become acquaintances, and acquaintances become friends. Familiarity begins to breed and other emotions to sprout.

A handful have identified themselves as the oldest dwellers of the community. The seniors, the decision-makers. They gather and have lengthy discussions. There is excitement and expectation in the air. We need law and order, they say in unison. Otherwise there will soon be chaos. Besides, we need to be respected. Because we are who we are. The newcomers are merely newcomers, of course. They do not need to have a say in things. They need to live by the rules of the ones who have been here since time started running. It is easier if we have clear guidelines. Rules.

They release a notice. The list of things to do. And not to do. Never to do. Do and be fined. Do and be dead.

Some disagree but remain silent. Some who are newcomers disagree, but they are not heard. The rules bring up walls around the community. Worse, the walls are built within too, separating them, categorising them, classifying them. All for our own good, the seniors say. All for our own good.

The law and order notices are put up everywhere, for everyone to see, so that no one forgets who the bosses are.

No one hears or pays attention to a low crack a short distance away, because everyone is speaking aloud. No one can hear anyone else, so how can anyone hear the gentle, warning sound? - The crumbling of the foundations of their community, the destruction of the source of their beliefs and goodness, the end of the roots of their existence.

It slowly spreads, gently, silently, determinedly, upwards and sidewards, ready to burst in on them, the people who made the law and order.

Then it breaks through one day and explodes right into their faces, shattering them, splitting them.
The end.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

When time runs out...

I wonder who came up with the phrase 'run out' to mean finish (or end, used up, etc).

My time is running out.

I picture an alarm clock with a pink bow on its forehead dashing to the door, gathering its long skirts in its hand, looking back over its shoulder in fear.

Recently, I overheard someone announce that he could not buy the latest gadget in the market because his allowance had run out. I had that vision again - a few thousand rupee notes heading for the door, afraid someone might pursue them and stack them into his pocket and spend them against a brand new handset.

As I said, I admire the one who first thought of it. Great visionary.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Admit your mistakes and win a continent!

It is important to admit your mistakes and take necessary action as soon as you realise that you have made a mistake. Otherwise you will be ignored when the continent is named.

What continent, you ask?
Remember Christopher Columbus? The poor dude who went all the way across the world and discovered America, thinking it was India or at least some obscure corner of Asia. We can forgive him for his blunder.

But then he did the unforgivable - he stubbornly refused to believe that the land he touched was not India, not by a long chalk. He kept insisting that it was.

So what happened? Finally, when it was time to name the continent, they called it America after Amerigo Vespucci, the bloke who travelled to the New Land after Columbus, and not Columbus himself. Shri Vespucci figured out that the land was new, previously unknown to Eurasians (source: Wikipedia). The land Columbus sought for and dreamed of reaching? Offended at the grave error he had made, we the people of India, demoted him to a location inside the pages of our English textbook and henceforth refused to have anything to do with him (except have a few chuckles at his expense).

That's why I say, be quick to admit mistakes. You do not want to lose the chance of having a pet continent of your own.

Friday, October 11, 2013

No racism from outside, please

We brown folk are a lucky lot. (Lucky doesn't quite cover it. I know.) I mean, how often have you heard white people accusing someone of racism?*

But what are we talking about? We have our own version of 'racism' inside our country that we aren't keen on taking any from outside at the moment.

For example. Keralites dislike Tamilians and like to think of them as illiterate. ('Pandi' is a very common term of endearment.) They also accuse them of stealing water from their favourite local dam. If a Malayali girl gets married to a Tamilian, people send condolences. Kannadigas dislike Tamilians, even apart from the issue over river water sharing. I don't know what Tamilians think of Kannadigas and Keralites, but I am sure the feeling is reciprocated. Kannadigas and Keralites keep a respectful and wary distance of each other, things are decent as long as no one says 'Kasargode'. In some places, being called Telugu is like an insult. The whole world knows what some Mumbaikars think of non-Mumbaikars, that feeling buds and blossoms once in a while, sending a chill through hearts of the guest-residents of the city. North Indians believe that all South Indians are sambar-eating Madrasis, and South Indians despise North Indians for thinking so, among other things. The rest of India does not know of the existence of the North East, and people from Assam are easily referred to as Chinese. (I wonder what the Chinese think of that.) And I have not even ventured into religion-based bias yet. Yeah, we have our own little racism in our hands. As in every other bias, these rules do not apply to all the people in the groups involved, but it exists nonetheless.

When we want a little foreign racism in the mix, we reach out to visitors from Africa, Sri Lanka or Male for the same. In bazaars, prices are different for desis and foreigners, especially white-skinned folks. Sometimes our racism goes official and we put up boards outside tourist spots that say, "Ticket price: Indians: Rs.10, Foreigners: Rs.50". (Apparently there is a tax-paying-national reason behind this, as I learnt recently. Whether it is right or wrong is a different matter.)

So, who are we kidding with all that cry about racism as though we are the poor innocent victims all the time? We run our own show down here, folks. We sure do.

* Disclaimer: Racism exists, and it is ugly. This post is not intended to belittle or mock people who have endured the dirtiest faces of racism. This is just to show that when we scream of racism elsewhere, a bit of it exists in us too.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pillar of Strength

I know not how you get through, friend,
The days of pain that have no end...
The one that's gone is gone forever
Leaving the one for you to care.

You're the pillar of strength to one
Yours the shoulder to cry on;
Yours, the battle to be fought alone,
Yours, the loss to be borne.

And from a distance I watch,
As do all the rest of us;
If you fall, we're there to catch,
We're here to steady your faltering steps...

You've been brave, you've been strong;
You've kept your smile all along;
It's okay to rest, have no fear;
Relax, dear friend, we're here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Password Overload

One of these days, I am going to drop dead of password overload.

I don't think anything taxes my memory as much as my innumerous passwords do. Added to the misery of remembering passwords, we are asked to change them frequently too, for security reasons.

A few years ago, my office introduced this weird (but no doubt, relevant) rule that we should change our passwords once a month. If it were a mere recommendation, I don't think any of us would have bothered to follow it. But it was an automated thing, and every thirty days the message would show up in red that it was time to change password and that dire consequences await us if we don't change it in the next seven days or so.

I appealed to my system admin for help. I told him that if this goes on, he would have to despatch me off to a lunatic asylum because maintaining these monthly passwords would wipe the rest of my memory off my overworked brain. He understood perfectly - both because he had seen many other near-breaking-point people in his life and also because he was human enough to understand that it was difficult.

He gave me a fix: he asked me to insert the month in the middle of the password and to leave the rest of the alphabets intact. So every month my password began to look like this: xxxJANxxx, xxxFEBxxx. The system never caught up.

Flashback to 1991 and my very first encounter with computers. Someone must have created a password for us. Wait - in 1991 we had small buzzing computer labs, where we spoke in hushed tones, at the entrance of which we used to take off our shoes, those ominous curtained rooms which were air-conditioned just for the weak, gentle, white, purring, foreign beings residing inside.

The World had been such a simple place, and there was only one password to remember - the one the system admin had created for us to login to our P.C. Secrets did not lie inside the computers. Computers were used only for what they were meant to do. Like, write a program in BASIC to add two numbers.

Today I have a file to maintain my passwords. And a password to protect that file. And that password is stored elsewhere in case I forget it. Each site has different rules for password creation. Besides, nothing is more foolish than having the same password for all sites. I don't like the idea of websites linked together and using each other's information, so I don't use one login to log in to another site. Some of these sites have password retrieval question which I had set a decade ago. Now I have no idea what those questions are, nor what answers I could possibly have given. I am not who I was ten years ago, how will I give the same answers today?

The story is no different for others. If you walk out on the street and see a host of bewildered, modern-looking humans, be sure that they are all trying to recall a password.

With different websites merging and sharing information, a cure is probably in the horizon, but paranoid people (like me) would think a hundred times before actually linking different accounts.

Meanwhile, the memorised-and-lost-password-epidemic is just waiting to erupt upon the world.