yes Gods are crazy

Abort, Retry, Ignore?

with 2 comments

I was reading this old post by GreatBong lamenting about the lack of traffic to his posts that can be judged as sensible by any objective standard, while seemingly crappy blogs keep getting heavy traffic. It is a testament to his skill that, even in such a moment of frustration, he had managed to come up with a post that conveys the pain that is caused when one is rejected by a subjective standard that one finds unreasonable. May be the mythical ‘frustration of poverty’ that forces great works of art is at play here. I don’t know. But this post is not about what is behind works that touch our hearts. This post is about the frustration that is a consequence of being rejected by seemingly subjective standards. This post is not about whether its ubiquity is restricted to nerds. This post is about the role of chance behind these frustrations. It is about an instance that demonstrated how much a casual act by a stranger can change the fate of an enterprise from a soul-crushing humiliation to something that warms the hearts even years later.

Back in the fall of 2003, PJ and I were given the ambitious task of selling T-shirts to IIScians. Ambitious, because we had to convince the students, particularly the new entrants, to buy T-shirts from the non-entities that we were. It looked like there existed a T-shirt design, and we just had to do the front-end work. Blissfully unaware of the absence of any such design for the shirts, we made posters promising the moon (“babes for the guys, and dudes for the girls”) in a language that was meant to convince the readers that we were qualified to make such promises. A week before we hit the mess’ with prototype T-shirts, the truth of the non-existence of the design was revealed to us, and we had to come up with designs that were ‘cool’ and ‘acceptable’. Not surprisingly the designs that we came up with were, we were convinced, particularly unremarkable. And we went with these unremarkable designs to a students’ mess to begin the sale. And then began the long wait where we kept trying, unsuccessfully, to catch the eye of any student in the hall, in the hope of getting someone to wander by our table.

It was a good half-hour before the first set of students finished their dinner, and it was a good ten minutes after that before anyone even bothered to stare in our direction for more than a few seconds. You put a bunch of smart-sounding posters, notice that the reaction to the posters is good, and then occupy a few tables of the dinner hall with your T-shirts… You should have students dropping by your table, right? Wrong, apparently. We were being ignored by the same students who were frustrated about being ignored by the people that they were interested in all their lives. Being ignored appears to be something that we humans are incapable of empathizing with, in spite of being at the receiving end of the same treatment forever. Coming back to the mess that we were in, another few minutes, and we would have given up on any hopes of succeeding, and left with our stuff. At least that was what PJ and I had resigned ourselves to. What else can one do, when one has just become invisible to one’s acquaintances? And then, as Tolkien might have put it, something happened that we had ceased to expect. One non-descript student who we had not noticed till then (ignored by the ‘ignored by the ignored’) wandered towards our table while sipping on his tumbler of Boost. After a few, insanely long, seconds of looking at the shirts, he smiled, and asked, “How are you doing?” The rest was just a blur of people and numbers and cash. That smile of his was the difference between public humiliation and a memorable adventure. To this date, I don’t dare think about what the scene might have been had he not decided to walk towards our table. I don’t even dare to think whether the decision was about whether to walk towards our table, or whether to ignore us! I don’t know if PJ dares to think of it either. Occasionally we talk of him, but never do we try imagining the alternate scenario.

But then, as Tolkien said, somethings that should not have been forgotten were lost. The ungrateful bastard that I am, I don’t even remember this man’s name.


Written by kowsik

August 12, 2009 at 18:20

Posted in courage, cribs, IISc, life

2 Responses

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  1. I shudder at the thought of an unknown and ‘ignored’ person having a lasting influence on our lives; that he could be the difference between a memorable experience and a forgettable past. Yet, we continue to live in delusion and deceive ourselves to think that we control our destiny – how far are we from the truth?


    August 14, 2009 at 09:18

    • I still don’t know what we were thinking when we entered that ‘project’!


      August 14, 2009 at 10:47

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