August 7, 2012 § 2 Comments
This article was first published in the 36th Edition of Entelechy, a college magazine.
So I was made gay by a couple of friends the other day. I was on a call and the noise around was making it impossible to carry out the conversation so I went out of the room without pressing Windows + L. On coming back I had seen someone trying to quickly move away from my laptop and also my facebook account was logged out. I knew I had been made a homosexual. I haven’t removed the post. I don’t feel offended by it either because on the one hand I am boringly hetrosexual while on the other there’s no problem in being gay. But are we homophobic ?
I don’t use facebook quite frequently, I guess I haven’t updated my status in years. And I chat or interact with hardly any set of people. And I am sure all of us know that the newsfeed and several other things on facebook adapt to our interactions with people. More the interaction with a person, the more of his/her activities we are made aware of in case there are other privacy settings in action. So you may guess that few people get to know what status i put up amongst other such things. But this “I am gay ” thing, has fetched my wall the most number of likes and probably also the most number of comments(I might be statistically wrong but this update is right at the top in terms of number of likes and comments). I think the underlying assumption in having the supposed fun of calling someone gay is the fact that the person who is being called gay will feel uncomfortable about it. And that discomfort is the source of the supposed fun. It also means that we probably think of being gay or being called a gay when one is not, is an insult. If it is considered an insult then I think many from our community could have homophobic tendencies. I am not aware if we have any gay people around but come to think of it, you have a couple of gays on campus. I think the campus would turn into a very discomforting place.
Amongst the guys, we have also formed the habit of mocking people who by mistake happen to touch parts of a guy’s body that they are not supposed to. It’s extremely noticeable, the kind of reaction that people get even if its a minor poke in the belly. Amongst other attributes are people’s voices on the basis of which they could be ridiculed and also remarks on how one dresses.
There’s probably less of a problem in making this kind of fun then the manner in which that ridicule is constructed. The underlying assumption that I mentioned above during such gimmicks shows that probably not a lot of us are tolerant towards the queer population, may be intolerant towards many other issues. In that I see a discomforting scenario emerging. Though I do not have very relevant statistics to support my claims and questions but a few examples I collected from the world would be helpful.
In Jamaica, calling someone a “battyman” is considered to be the worst insult and people kill and die for such issues on a regular basis. A blogger posted that, “…It struck me a moment later that the particular kind of homo-related phobia that we have in Jamaica is not of gays themselves, but is instead of “being called gay” Being called gay in Jamaica is one of the worst things that someone can be accused of. Accusations can have dire consequences in this country. Lynchings happen from time to time, and less than a mile from my home a man was lynched after he attacked an employee at the tax office. The police only showed up when he was dead…”
Like in jamaica can we say that feeling belittled and insulted for being called a “gay” is one of the examples one could offer of how homophobia is also present on campus ? May be not consciously but unconsciously probably.
Yevhen Tsarkov, a lawmaker from the Communist Party in Ukraine was quoted in the kyivpost, “Our society is traditional and just does not tolerate homosexuality. If some people are suffering from the mental illness of homosexuality, they should not display it in public and promote it to children. ” when After Sviatoslav Sheremet, head of the Gay Forum in Ukraine, announced on May 20 2012 the cancellation of the first-ever Gay Pride Parade, he was pummeled briefly by masked youths. No arrests have been reported. Sheremet was bloodied, but not seriously injured.
However, it was reported in the huffington post that a New York court has ruled that calling someone gay is not a case for slander any more. A straight New York man filed a slander suit against a woman who called him gay, claiming the false description damaged his very heterosexual relationship.
Though a Broome County court originally let the case go through, a judge today tossed the suit because “tremendous evolution” has changed social ideas of LGBT people.
From the Wall Street Journal:
A mid-level appeals court in New York says it’s no longer slander to falsely call someone gay.
The court says that although falsely calling someone gay or lesbian has for decades been grounds for slander, that’s no longer the case because being gay is no longer seen by society as negative. The court says a “tremendous evolution of social attitudes” and rights afforded to gays prompted the decision that overrules previous rulings. You may want to check this out.
Rephrasing the question, is calling someone gay still case enough for slander in DAIICT ? I think the answer would be yes for a lot of people amongst us.
I stumbled upon a news story that Italy was debating in 2010 whether calling someone gay is derogatory or not. The issue is all the more important since insulting someone in Italy is a fineable offence. I haven’t been able to find out what was the exact court ruling on the matter yet. “It risks reinforcing the idea that if you call somebody gay, they should feel offended,” said Aurelio Mancuso,” one of the country’s leading activists on the issue. “For us to be called gay is to be serene and comfortable.”
Violence against gays has continued to be a problem for most governments world wide. Studies have shown that there’s a higher chance of suicidal tendencies amongst gays then straight which is partly also because of the societal attitudes towards them, a considerable percentage homophobic killings continue to happen each year.
The world is not a good place to be gay after all, it seems.
Probably time to rethink our tools of ridicule in college life and otherwise.
August 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This Article was first published in the 36th Edition of Entelechy, a college magazine.
Until I went to Mysore this summer,
1. I never really thought of how it was like to see all men around you in those “lungis”.
Having landed on Sunday morning, I thought of going to the famous Zoo. It had been a long time since I had been to one. In fact the Kankaria one in Ahmedabad is the only one I have ever been. So there I was, SLR and everything ready to capture any and everything on the 3 kilometer walk across the zoo.
But more intriguing than the animal life caged in the zoo was the sight of hundreds of lungi-clad men. It’s an overwhelming sight- pure white lungis along with a cotton shirt tucked in. I remember the only time I was able to flaunt a similar attire was during the 2001 earthquake when I was inspecting hot water in a towel and I had to rush out of the appartments. And it was a very uncomfortable experience. Its way too airy down there and ofcourse the constant fear of losing that knot.
But that isn’t the case with these lungi-clad men at all. They carry the lungi with a certain sense of elan that is difficult to comprehend for the outsider.
2. I never really believed that people down south actually eat a lot of rice.
To be honest, as far as food options in Mysore are concerned one will be disappointed. I was lucky enough to have a KFC nearby the place where I lived however Karnataka levies 14-15 % VAT. Other than that there’s one pizza hut and a dominoes around but nothing much for the one with a meagre budget. One has to survive on idlis and other south indian(may be Karnataki would be a proper term or may be not). Not being a fan of south indian food in particular, it was a little difficult but as human beings you know, we manage stuff.
I have heard that south indian people eat a lot of rice but I never really thought that “a lot” could mean the “entire plate”. Its lke rice eaten by almost 3-4 people in some parts of the country. I had to literally instruct the waiters to give me half the quantity whenever I wanted some. Even during the zoo visit, similar scenes galore across the food court in the zoo. Tens of people sitting around eating just rice it seems.
3. I couldn’t have imagined that introvert people are the best kind of strangers
Travelling locally in a new city is always a little uncomfortable experience to begin with. One is very skeptical about the experiences one is about to have. One the aims of my travels was also to shed this inhibition and cultivate the habit of just roaming around without a pre defined destination. And which I kind of succeeded in. And mind you, I have an idea of how public transport is in Delhi and Mumbai including the buses, trains, metro and autos and everything.
Whenever someone lands in Mysore, one of the pleasant surprises is its bus system. Buses on almost all routes have air-conditioned VOLVES with the exception of the rural parts. Despite the pleasant surprise one is definitely going to be a little skeptical about travelling around especially when most people around do not understand the language you speak and vice-versa. But be it the bus stops or inside the bus, people “are” helpful in whichever way they can. The help is available in two namely viz.
1. Most of the buses will be silent. Thats the way many of them are. No body will bother you with questions about your where abouts.
2. In case you ask a question, you’ll get a polite answer most of the times. But nothing beyond it.
Because of these traits of your fellow passengers, it becomes extremely comfortable to travel alone. People hardly notice your existence. Its just perfect. A lot has been written about south indian people being reserved, introvert and keeping to themselves stuff but the same attributes are such a plus when an outsider is travelling alone in the city. You are sure that you’ll not be picked out as someone knew to the city and thus should not need to worry about any one plotting to kill you or anything. No body’s judging you by your questions or your appearance or any other attribute during these interations.
South Indians(at least in Banglore and Mysore) will never let their feet touch you by any chance. Its such a relief while you move inside the buses from one end to other. My experiences elsewhere have made me wear shoes while I travel in buses because most people in here have absolutely no worry about the person they are standing on. Something which might have irritated most of you. But your feet are safe in South India.
4. I used to think that it would take many years before India could have neat and clean places
Mysore probably is the cleanest of places from the few places that I have travelled. The roads, foot paths(they actually exist over here), bus terminals, railway stations, streets, everything is neat and clean. A first time visitor will be pleased to see the VOLVO buses, clean roads, people actually following traffic lights. Mysore seems pretty elite in this sense. Partly it could be because of the various research institutes(there are many of them) that exist over there and other government facilities. I hear Mr Narayan Murthy has had a lot of impact on the city’s infrastructure in addition to other factors.
If you are from ahmedabad or have visited people in ahmedabad, there’s a stark difference in which the bunglows and appartments are laid out. One of the primary and aesthetical differences is that the entrance to the houses are adjacent to the street. Where the tar stops, home entrances begin unlike the massive slopes that people in ahmedabad have right infront of their homes. The slopes have got to do with letting the rain water out on the roads but that ignores the aesthetics of the entrance. Mysore doesn’t need the slopes probably because the city has a natural bend at many places which makes sure that rain water doesn’t accumulate much. But the absence of slopes leads to good looking home entrances all around the place.
5. I used to be skeptical if Government facilities could ever get work done quickly than expected.
There’s no train from Mysore to Ahmedabad and one has to go to Banglore to catch one from Banglore to Ahmedabad. Until recently the Banglore railway station and the Bus terminal used to be adjacent to each other but are now miles apart. So taking a bus to Banglore was a bad idea and so I decided to take the train instead. Without an internet facility around, I had to book the tickets at the station itself but viola, touch screen kiosks to check out train schedules, air conditioned waiting rooms and a token system to ensure people refrained from revealing their primitive sides at the booking counters. Its surprising how efficiently every public domain system is working out there.
6. The words Hostel and Clean could never go together
So I had to bunk at one of hostels at one of the research institutes that I was visiting. The washroom condition was shocking. How could they be so clean ? Impossible. All showers were working properly, everything in its place, and bearable smell of the air freshner. Clean washrooms make your day. I often wonder if the college bathrooms at DAIICT, have any negative psychological impact on our performances. The scenes are traumatizing many times. But not at the hostel where I stayed.
July 19, 2012 § 5 Comments
Disclaimer: This write up will not be applicable to all people in all places in the world. Its written for a specific context.
Until April 2012, atleast for one course per semester I had to attend my classes alongside about 100 others. And from the begining of college the natural organization of the class room or LT(short for lecture Theatre) as we call it here has intrigued me. I think this class(i am talking about class as in schools-a class rooms and class as in social sciences) room phenomenon caught my eyes from high school itself. Until primary education, the class teacher is responsible for your sitting arrangement, well if not all then in most places. Its only from the high schools that you get to sit at a place of your own choice. If the teacher’s fond of you, you’ll get by other wise there’s still a chance that you may not get to sit where you want. But one thing in this class organization changes completely. There’s a completely acceptable, and never questionable turn of the social space of a class room from a heterogenous one to a homogenous one at the bench level. From 2 boys and girl of 2 boys and 2 girls or 2 girls and a boy to either 3 boys or 3 girls or 4 from each gender. That is the homogenity I am talking about.
Now, biologically the explaination is simple and I am sure anyone reading this will be to make out that all the hormonal changes kicking in the two sexes are responsible for all the awkward interactions.
Coupled with that, the ways in which we are brought up in this part of the world, despite girls and boys being mutual friends, hanging out with each other but while not in class- yes thats what i am talking about, while not in class. Lets push it further.
First coming to 8th grade from the 7th, one loses a lot of old friends made in 7 years of primary school. Later, going from 10th to 11th once again there’s a reshuffle based on who chooses what from science, commerce and arts(which is not arts but social sciences but its arts). And once again after 12th. For most students the 2 year phase between 10th grade and college is a transitory one. Lots of new people to meet but nobody’s looking for a lasting reltionship romantic or platonic, whatever. Most students are enrolled in tuitions for cracking the plethora of entrance exams that they are expected to right after completing grade 12. So again, one can understand that not a lot of people think about who’s sitting where and how because it doesn’t really matter. However, this is about that time when some of the mutual hanging out turns into making out and stuff like that but the spatial organization of the class rooms remains the same. Lets push it even further.
Most people get into 4 year college programs. Some get into 5 as well. And especially with the way a large section of popular movies depict college life to be, scoring with boys/girls is definitely one of the priorities for most people. Its natural, its obvious and its acceptable, its a norm. But kind of as a sub-culture. Something that is not talked about much in the open, loudly. Its tacit. One can understand the manner in which freshers behave with each other in the class rooms in their first years of college. In the initial weeks, probably since nobody knows anybody from the opposite sex while they have had a little interaction with some of the membrs of their own sex since dorm rooms are shared on an intra-sex basis and not on an inter-sex basis. So that probably answers the question as to why do we dont start sitting randomly from day one. Now there are more factors to be considered as to how is the class room space organized but we’ll refrain from looking at factors other then gender for now.
College festivals, lab work, even examinations and obviously relationships induce a lot of inter-sexual interactions but despite that the class rooms remain segregated except for certain love buds refraining from adhering to the custom. Over time, as groups of friends are formed people do start sitting in sort of clusters but despite this the overall organization of the class rooms, be it the huge halls, or the smaller ones, remains the same. Strange!
A lot of debate has happened and continues to happen over whether hostels should allow boys and girls to live together or not. While the extremely heterogenous nature of socio-cultural situations in India make it impossible to come to a nation wide consensus, if one for a moment assumes that colleges had co-ed hostels, then probably the way in which our class rooms are organized might be different. Infact, i think there’s a fair chance of that happening. Boys and girls being roommates, boys and girls in the same dormitory will obviously have interacted more and much often compared to boys and girls say living across the street in other hostel in the same university. And I think this could change things around.
In another scenario where co-ed hostels is not a reality we will obviously not see the change right away. And lets not expect to see the change right away. The core question at hand remains the same: Why is there a large amount of segregation between sexes in the class room even when there is so much interaction outside the class room ? The same can be questioned about the fact that on most campuses one will find many peopl hankering about the kind of mannerisms that people in general expect from couples while moving around on campus walks and other activities and how such expectations are strenous and everything. So at the personal level everyone wants to have a very free atmosphere, wants to let couples kissing away, co-ed hostels, people sitting in class wherever they want to but each one of these will be skeptical if the others whom they dont really know will be willing to let all this happen. Many times i have seen in my own environment where there’s a bench and single person occupying that seat with the other one empty, if the person is from the opposite sex, one will think thrice before sitting there even if the person is know to him/her. I was personally told to not sit with her by a lady friend in tutorial sessions for no logical reason at all. But the obvious explanation could have been that she was uncomfortable about how other people would think of it. Personally it was embarrassing and a twisted version of what the hell was going to to come thrashing out of my mouth but the situation stopped me from doing anythin uncivilized. Now whether its a she or a he, well its difficult for a he to be uncomfortable in presence of a she since there are hardly any shes around but nevertheless, people do kind of get uncomfortable when a known person from the opposite sex turns up to sit beside you.
As mentioned above, all of us want to have a free atmosphere where people hangout without inhibitions. But we believe that its only us who’s talking about an inhibitionless world of interaction amongst the sexes while all others are the same old conservative gonads. (I beg your pardon for the profanity). And so while each one individually wants to have a different environment, one is skeptical as to what the others want and will assume that the others want the status quo to perpetuate!
May 18, 2012 § Leave a Comment
So I have to travel a lot between ahmedabad and gandhinagar quite frequently. And as a matter of fact gujarat is a dry state not only in terms of not having alcohol permission but also in terms of weather in general. So moving around without an air-conditioned car or something can be very very sweaty. Especially with the kind of population India has, there’s always people around sticking to you be it trains or buses or what not. The two cities are kept apart by about 30 kilometers or so. Well, in a way the cities are kind of merging together given the rapid pace of construction going around in the tracks of land in between in addition to the large number of people employed across the two cities. There’s a very large number of people hoping onto the morning buses moving the ahmedabad from gandhingar and vice versa. Primarily government employees or laborers and a percent of is also school and college students. So most of the public could be considered to belong to class of people who probably cannot own a 4 wheeler to drive on their own and don’t enjoy travelling on the two- wheelers. A part of this public are the people employed by the newly set tech companies or the call centre employees who have at times board the buses when the driver employed by their company isn’t available. Another point to note over here is that a large number of these people often don’t get to hop into the buses run by the state government and have to resort to over crowded jeeps or vans. If you are lucky you may as well get a free or paid lift but its the most comfortable travelling option available or you take an auto that would cost you 150-200 compared to 20 in bus or jeep/van or the paid lift.
So essentially there’s probably a need to increase the number of government vehicles ferrying between these two cities or may be the local buses of the two cities could extend their routes so as to cover the 30 km distance in between. However people’s commuting needs are satified. In one way or the other one doesn’t have to wait very much to get a vehicle to commute. But there are issues about comfort and safety that could be looked into.
1. Comfort: You saw the pictures, right ? Now the toofan is built to carry around 14-15 adult passengers but every jeep you see on the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway will have 20 people at any point unless the jeep’s driver it the unluckiest person on a given day. If its the omni which is built for 8 people, it will inevitably be filled with 11-12 people. So travelling discomfort is something that you’ll have to internalize if you want to survive that excruciatingly awkward journeys between ahmedabad and gandhingar. One’s fellow travellers may often have a lot of luggage to carry around with them which isn’t not always put on top of the jeep(omnis just don’t have that carrier atop ).
2. Safety: One can safely assume that the drivers aren’t great at what they do because getting a driving license in ahemadabad is one of the easier things to do. And also the way people are crammed up in the front seat its very difficult for the driver to even move, let alone manoeuvre with the gear box and steering wheel.
3. Unwanted delays: Unless the jeep/van is full all passengers have to wait. Many times people who got into a jeep/van miss the bus because the jeep wala or the van vala doesnt let them out in time to catch the bus and then one has to wait until the jeep/van is jampacked.
Increasing the number of buses might not be a profitable venture for the state transport corporation since a bus journey will require about 50 passengers for the bus’s journey to bore any profit or revenue.While the jeeps and vans are an illegal business. On the one hand they are risking much on the way for a quick buck but have to pay up a fair amount to the police as “hafta”.
So there’s a business opportunity here. I am indicating of wiping of the current jeep and van drivers off the map of the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway. Thats like extremely evil. Let the informal economy stay informal. But I am sure the passengers could suggest a few do’s to the jeep/van drivers. Average fare across the route is approximately INR 20. And the number of passengers per jeep is about 20, for a van is 14-15. The Bus takes the fare based on the distance you travel but its not available everytime and especially when you need it the most as the schedule is never followed. In order to ensure a comfortable travel experience the least the drivers do is decrease the number of passengers per jeep and increase the rate. The seat capacity of “toofan” is 15. So one could decrease the capacity to 15 and increase the rate to INR 25-30. Ofcourse it is costlier than the bus but its more comfortable and its faster. Approximately, one can reach either cities from either cities about 15 minutes earlier in jeeps/vans than a bus because once 15 people are on board there’s no stopping in between. I wonder if there would be people willing to pay ? I definitely would and so would all of my peers who hate being in the company of mixed sweat. Most of the office goers wouldn’t mind paying INR 5 for a comfortable and swift ride to and fro. But people across all economic classes commute on this stretch of National Highway number 8. One can assume that a large number of travellers belong to the lower middle or lower economic classes who might not prefer the price hike as comfort is not a priority for them, cheap and quick travel is. If a little simplification is allowed, one could classify the people travelling on that stretch of the road into the following categories
1. Speedy and cheap travel: Only Jeeps/Vans
2. Cheap travel: Jeeps/Vans for the full stretch between ahmedabad and gandhinagar and buses if they have to step down in between as jeeps/vans by and large dont take into account the distance you travel
3. Speedy travel: People usually in a hurry and will take the first available ride to the city which ever applicable
4. Comfortable travel: People will wait either for a bus or a lift in some company’s car that’s returning empty and the driver wants to make a quick buck.
5. Comfortable and Cheap travel: These people will prefer the bus and will be those who have their jobs in either city and ought to commute to the other on a regular but planned basis. Some school students as well.
6. Comfortable and speedy travel: Such People will usually have their own vehicles or take autos which charge about INR 180-200 for a one way ride.
Now of all the categories mentioned, it is safe to assume that the maximum number of people belong to category 1. And if the jeep/van drivers offered a comfortable ride with a not very costly rate, all category people would opt to travel in the jeeps/vans since they are comfortable, fast, frequently available and only a little costlier than buses. So what is it that stops the jeep/van drivers from making the shift ?
One factor definitely is competition. Despite the existence of a mutually agreed upon structure of opportunities that the jeep/van drivers have devised which makes sure that all people in the business get a share of the commuters’ money and there’s no competition inside the driver community. So if at all the prices are raised either the vans/jeeps will have to travel more often with the possibility that not all their journeys will have jam packed jeeps/vans which means return on investment per visit to a city will turn out to be negative. Lets put in some numbers
Number of vans communting from gandhinagar to ahmedabad per day 10
Number of jeeps commuting from ahmedabad to gandhinagar per day 10
Number of passengers per jeep 20
Number of passengers per van 11
Cost of travel for both INR 20
average distance 30 kms
average mileage for van(lpg) 10 km/kg
averagemileage for jeep(diesel) 10km/litre
cost of litre of diesel per litre INR 45(approximation)
cost of litre of LPG per kg INR 50
So the van will eat up 6 kgs for a round trip amounting to INR 300 against INR 440 it earns minus cost of corruption per round trip
While the jeep will eat up 6 liters for a round trip amounting to INR 270 against INR 800 it earns minus cost of corruption
if there are a total of 10 roundtrips for jeeps and vans it means 620 passengers will have been catered to
On the other hand if the capacity is decresed to 16 for the jeep and 8 for the van and cost of travel per passenger increased to 25 then the cost returned per round trip will be 800 and INR 400
While the jeep driver doesnt have any problem as the profit margin remains the same the van driver will have to cover up to reach 440. How to cover up ? The van drivers might have to increase the number of roundtrips. Lets do a few more calculations.
For 16 passengers in one round trip the person will be short by INR 40. Successively for 10 round trips the vans will be short by INR 400. In order to make up for it, the van driver will have to make more trips. Its basically what in is economics called the economics of scale. But for a van driver the return on investment per unit is low. So the van drivers won’t decrease their rates. If they don’t decrease their rates, there’s a fair chance that jeep drivers will start losing their customers to vans which will seem cheap to the bulk of the travellers. Because most of us are looking for cheap travel. One hour’s discomfort is ok. And nobody wants to think of the possibilities of an accident happening because of the driver not being able to drive the overcrowded vehicle.
Essentially bringing the entire process of change to a halt. This situation will be solved when BRTS project is extended or/and the metro rail project is implemented across ahmedabad gandhinagar but until then whoever wants to travel in between on the sarkhej gandhinagar highway, SUFFER!
March 31, 2012 § Leave a Comment
As a child it’s very common to have role models. Imposed or self chosen, that is a different matter but we tend to have role models, albeit varying. Every movie role models change as well. Our goal in life changes. If hero a in a movie b is say a doctor, until the next movie the child will aspire to be a doctor. Movie changes, the hero changes, his profession changes and so does our aspiration. It’s possible that in the formative years which should be roughly until 10th grade we have been through almost all kinds of aspirations pertaining to what we want to become in the “future”.
From the 11th grade onwards our options kind of decrease a little, well still there are a lot of left. Or by 10th grade a few of us have kind of finally zeroed in on “what will i become in the future” question. As we move into college we further zero into what we might eventually go onto become. Well by college time it is nearly certain or at best there are 3-5 possibilities in most cases, excepting the ones where people have those kind of filmy realizations, they shift profession, course of study and end up doing something extremely different than they had originally set out to.
Whether we manage to become the heroes we wanted to as children or not varies from person to person. Also many times it’s not about reaching where you wanted to but also about being satisfied with where we have reached or about to reach. As a child we have a vision of the brightest possible future. Status, money, fame, academic prestige and what not, we wish for the best that we can imagine. And its very comfortable since almost until its too much into middle-age we always have the vision of a “bright” future. It’s interesting to note that for most of us the past is nostalgic, the future is bright but only the present is intolerable and frustrating.
No matter how pathetic our present might be our expectations of the future are by and large almost always of a better life. But what happens when one realizes that his/her future is not going to be good and he/she is in a state of mind that is convinced about the increased probability of a mediocre future ? What happens to his/her ego that has kept him/her pumped up for all along and for all these years either he/she aspired to be a pilot or a scuba diver or whatever but now that he/she has reached a particular stage in his life where he/she is thinking about him/herself and the future doesn’t seem bright. What happens to this person who seems to be convinced about his/her mediocrity ? What happens when the person is convinced that sooner or later he/she will be lost into oblivion.
All the dreams of a better life, the higher life, the life ahead of most, the rich life seem to imagine themselves out of our heads and a very quaint fear rises within. What then ?
Most times, most of us actually adapt to the situations. Harvard University psychologist Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned. He says, “Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we wanted. In our society, we have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind.” And with real life examples he explains that people have a certain ability of synthesizing happiness. His research about happiness of people winning a huge lottery one year ago to people who turned paraplegic notes that both the sets of people are by and large equally happy about their lives. While almost all of us would agree in differing polarities, my question still persists. What Dan Gilbert’s empirical research does indicate might be true for all human beings but we do know that exceptions exist. Also on the basis of his TED talk (and not on the basis of his book or the published research paper) I think what Dan is considering more times than not in terms of aspirations that were not achieved or money etc that one lost can be actually reduced into objects. Money can have a figure.
But my question deals with the subjective nature of that realization of being mediocre. My question doesn’t take into account people who lost something really huge versus those who won something huge. It about that kind of a person who has regularly realized his incompetency at doing things. This person has always been successful compared to a large number of people but never achieved what he/she’s actually set out to. And thus the recurring feeling of mediocrity.
I think it would be difficult for someone such as him/her to remain motivated enough to continue persevering to be better than the present. However, in one’s middle age and towards the other side from 50 years onwards, even this motivation might be difficult to have. But by and large in essence rather than just Dan Gilbert’s observation about synthetic happiness i think the resilient ability of the human being of always aspiring to be better than the self in present plays an equally important role in keeping us going. Research has also showed that the human mind has the unique ability of suppressing negative memories and emotions. I think this fact as well helps us to convince us that may be a better me is possible in principle at least.
Nevertheless the question remains. What if all of the above senses of the human brain fail ? A person convinced about his mediocrity without a hope of improvement in terms of self or surroundings. I will leave you with this question to ponder.
February 14, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Phew! I finally have them after a week of excruciating tension, laundering money for food while waiting for the clothes to arrive every day and regret. Well the incident is simple. The MBA laundry guys weren’t going to show up till like 1st October, I was out of fresh clothes. I “had” to get the dirt ones in and out of laundry like right away which I did hoping, when you pay like Rs 15 per cloth you could get your clothes done really fast but never imagined that I would have to wait up for like a week and every day while I went to collect the clothes end up eating in infocity so the whole laundry incident eventually cost me like around Rs 400 and some invaluable time.
Well generally one should just forget about bad incidents and move on. But I have a question to ask. What do we actually do in such scenarios? Is it a communication problem? Or is it a systemic problem? Or it’s just a lack of audacity that I lack or the absence of an intimidating personality that I am not. Essentially it was a failure on my part to convey the urgency of required clothing to the laundry guy in infocity. Of course under the assumption that he was lying to me, he had his reasons too. The actual person who washes the clothes and does all the cleaning work had health issues. But in that case I would expect the, laundry guy to just not accept my clothes or tell me about getting it back 2 days later. Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday-4 consecutive visits to him and he says, “kal aana bhaiya, pakke se aapke kapde ho gaye honge.” The eternal optimistic that I am trusted him and went back the following day, day after day. Finally when I get the clothes, he forgets my bag and asks me to come back one more day or two later. I was definitely angry but what effective behavior could I show? If I choose not to hurl abuses at him or try to scare him by stupid threatening. Because I wasn’t sure as to whether he understood when I scolded his procrastinating attitude saying, “My time is important” (in Hindi/Guajarati). Because for him “time” might be important but “My” might not be. And obviously one may not expect consumer satisfaction manifestos from him especially since he is the only person (I assume) for what he does and most customers are like regular customers. But I wasn’t meant to be. Another question one also has to ask is the question of operatabliity. I mean to say, how does one conduct oneself in an interaction with a person who is from a very different milieu other than yours in terms of money, upbringing, many other factors? Well systemically one wouldn’t consider this a problem since the experiences similar to this one are specific to people participating in interactions. But regards communication it definitely is. If any one of you have seen your moms cribbing about the servants who clean your homes not being sincere enough or not paying much attention to her instructions one will recall how the fact that the servant is concerned with his job of cleaning objects and spaces while the mother’s concern ranged from the care of the fabric to the aesthetic. Now none of them might be ascribed guilty of bad-communication skills. But there is miscommunication. And there is a requirement for translation of different sort in communicating what one intends to. So what does one do?
Generally, most times when we are in these situations we are in a socio-economically higher position compared to the person we are interacting which gives us a hierarchically higher position implying that we can exert power, we can dictate terms. More importantly since the other person is a dependent, well in the servant’s case he/she could just leave the job in case we try to dominate too much but that is the status quo generally. The question is to ensure intended communication as if we were interacting with an equal. Is it possible in principle?
Drawing analogies could be one approach. But that would mean one will need to know a bit more about the person that he/she’s interacting with which might almost always be possible since maintenance of professional distance is also a necessity for most people. And since this is not relegated to just the servant-master relationship where there is scope for a continued interaction. For example what do we do in case of the laundry guy who took the urgency of returning clothes very lightly and returned them only a week later after calling me to pick them up the very next day every next day.
Excessive emphasis is the most preferred choice I believe. In which case the communicated message is treated as a black box by the other party and urgency is somehow decrypted. But how much attention is given to emphasis given your body language, attitude and perceived socio-economic standing? It varies. Take for example the pan walas. They have a more number of regular customers compared to once a time customers and there this observation is clearly made with reference to how much attention to you is given pertaining to your pan, the kind of care and customization/personalization is given. But then this is pretty obvious, it’s like we are acquainted to someone and not to someone else the kind of interaction is different in both the case.
I have so far failed to come across a way in which the abstraction could be done away with. Or there isn’t a way that I have discovered so far through which the interaction between non-equals canbe carried out as an interaction between equals. The idea of dominance, aide of dependence and the sense of distance from the other person stay. If they stay does it imply that we are inherently deterministic about people and being that way is justified since there is no other way out to achieve what I had set out to in the beginning of this article ?
January 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The Attributes of a typical college birthday celebration
- Be it the birthday boy to near unconsciousness. In case of a girl, she might undergo a little less pain but the approach for and many times by, both sexes is the same.
- Dirty him/her up till he/she runs away if he/she can.
- He or She is usually coerced for an impromptu party in the cafeteria.
- And later in the day a more civilized gathering is planned with “eating” as the primary agenda.
And our very own DAIICT is no different. Every month one will happen to see numerous people beaten up, carefully maintained hair are spoiled to a hardly reclaimable extent, newly bought t-shirts are torn and what not. Once this is done with, bottles of soft drinks are consumed amongst other stuff. Everyone goes back to his or her room until the night that day or may be a few days later, the birthday boy/girl will arrange for a birthday treat, so to say. Since Gandhinagar doesn’t have many options we end up going to the same places again and again or at the most we explore something towards Ahmadabad. And yes, gifts-various kinds of gifts. But barring a few exceptions and/or a few variations this is “the” status quo.
And each time and every time, it’s the same for all of us. Today it’s my birthday, tomorrow it will be yours. It’s rather surprising as to what keeps us going without being bored with this continuously repeating turn of events because most of us are almost completely oblivious of what we do beyond the taken for granted idea of a birthday celebration. I want to restrain from getting into the West vs East rhetoric but it’s important to know that a lot of what we do day in and day out has been influenced by the West and what’s disturbing is the fact that we do not quite have the idea about what we are doing when beating up people or marauding them into cakes or blowing away candles.
Germans used to make really nice candles and it is in Germany where this tradition of putting candles on the birthday cakes began. The idea behind blowing away the candles in a single puff of breath signifies the belief that if one is able to do it, his/her birthday wishes successfully move heavenwards and are granted thereof. The birthday bumps idea is rooted in the belief of driving away all evil from the person on his or her birthday. I wonder how many of us have the same humane belief while we kick our way on to someone’s bottom. The Birthday cake itself is an interesting import in itself. It is believed to have originated in Greece where they used to offer it to Artemis-the goddess of moon and it is in Germany where birthday cakes started to be cut for individuals. 
Coming back to DAIICT, we perform the same rituals in pretty much the same ways but there’s hardly any thought put behind. The banality of it is appalling. We go through the motions without ever questioning why we are doing what we are doing. And in most cases beyond the few actual “friends” it’s quite questionable whether the rest of the congregation even has a little or any sense of birthday wish to express. And even a more pressing question for everyone of us here is, what do we “celebrate”? Is it the fact that we were able to live one more year? Does it mean, “thank god, just a few more years left”?
One interesting explanation for celebrating birthdays is given as follows. Birthday celebrations comprise of the oldest of celebratory rites that most culture have endorsed. They usually happen to be the days when a person was lucky (and was obviously born on that day) given some astrological positioning of the stars and this was observed on a regular basis. It so happened that people would get stuff e.g. a woman found a partner, a shepherd saved his sheep etc and thus that day for the particular person came about to be “celebrated”- people brought gifts and since the person wanted to share his or her fortune organized a gathering.
But while “we” do it, why do we do it? There’s hardly any thought behind it. It’s almost a compulsion. If someone wants to spend a quiet time alone or may be with a specific set of people, he or she has absolutely no choice unless he or she is a complete loner but compulsion on what basis? None. Further, the fact that your so called friends have performed the ritual, one has to be ready to perform the counter ritual, willingly or unwillingly because the manner of this ritualistic performance plays a role in forming perceptions about our personalities in college. I have seen people in excruciating pain while cruelly beaten up to utter embarrassment on being forced to wear female undergarments out in the open. So while the original idea of the bumps was to drive out evil from the person on his/her birthday, possibly our interpretation of the same bumps is to let loose our own animalistic self. It is one day where we can beat the hell out of that person and he/she will almost always not have an issue. On the other hand we have started using more and more candles that are more and more difficult to blow in a single puff; possibly because we don’t wish anymore that a person’s birthday wishes are granted
The question is that while we have homogenized the form of celebration, have we been also homogenized the very idea of how a person celebrates or let’s put it this way- behaves on his/her birthday. In essence the birthday celebration is a very personal affair just that we allow for a few or may be many people to be a part of that mental environment. So while it is public in its appearance, it’s extremely individualistic in actual. But given the kind of status quo that we have in college, do we allow the individual his or her private space and time as it were? Of course one would argue that nobody is put under any compulsion to behave in a particular manner on his or her birthday but that’s a weak argument. Of course, nobody’s coerced but is there any need for specific coercion given the kind of mental environment that persists in college?
The least that I want everyone reading this write up is to spare some time out and think for her/him self before following the conventions, before mindlessly getting into the bandwagon of birthday bumps, candles, cakes and treats.
 From the internet. Various sources. All due credit given.
 From the internet. Various sources. All due credit given.