yes Gods are crazy

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Abort, Retry, Ignore?

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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


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Consistency is one quality that we Indians are consistent about. Our apathy to our history is now a stuff of legend: that we had no clue that Aśoka existed until the Britishers told us so. While such lapses of memory might be incomprehensible to those outside the subcontinent, the explanation is trivial for those of us going through the daily drama. With a billion people every where, who has time for the long dead? But what about the living? While the Israelis are an example of bringing back a language from its grave, we are the example of the opposite. Forget Sanskrit, what about our present languages?

Obviously there is never a rant for nothing. Today’s rant has its origins from a link to an article by Chandrahas Choudhury. And yes, consistency. Once again, it’s a Westerner who is trying to shake our apathetic souls into action. To act before we forget our languages.

Unfortunately, most of us are too obsessed about the perceived insults/denigrations that we almost never listen to what we are being told. In this case, we have been failing to realize that these academicians are interested in our literature, a lot more than we are. It’s insulting, probably. But it definitely is stupid on our part to get angry that they are misinterpreting our literature without having read that literature ourselves. Does it really matter if their interpretations do not agree with our sensibilities, us who do not even bother reading our own literature before forming our prejudices of what our literature is about? For the past couple of centuries we Indians have been gradually compromising on our own past for our survival. Till the generation before us, there were acceptable excuses. What about us? What about the generations immediately following us? Are we going to put a stop to this slide away from our our identity? Do we have it in us to say, “Thus far, and no further”?

Written by kowsik

January 26, 2009 at 17:17


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I think I am a fool. A fair case can be made of that, I think. Not in the grandiose sense that most of us fantasize about– like those crusaders for ideas that are ahead of their time etc– no, I think my foolishness is of a far more basic nature. Something that is trivially comprehensible, and hence, possibly the silliest.

A case, as an example illustrating this foolishness, is this incident during my +2. One fine day early in the morning, I felt like skipping the tuition class because I wanted to take a day off from getting drenched in the rain and pushing that stupid moped of mine through the rain for a couple of kilo-meters before even the Sun got up. I did. The next day the lecturer wanted to know why I skipped. He wanted to know if I was ill. I said NO. To this day I am not sure if I answered so because I believed that two wrongs don’t always make a right, or if I was lost in the logical maze that was the way out of the perceived wrongs… whatever I was honest, not in the bragging sort of a way, but in a sheepish way. The lecturer, in what I still consider to be a reaction a load of parsecs away from what would’ve been commensurate with my behaviour, possibly feeling that I was being insubordinate I am sure, told me that it is better that I stop attending the tuition if such were my attitude. I couldn’t figure it out on that day, I don’t fare much better today either. What confounds my sub-social intelligence is that I might be alone in limited company in so far as offering ‘laziness’ as an excuse is concerned, and that too, often. I find it strange that people can cite reasons for most of their actions. Most people, that I know, are irritated when I admit my laziness rather than think of some excuse. And I find it stranger.

I stopped attending that tuition. And that was not the only occasion that I had to give up something for such a reason. I don’t know if I regret that. It was not the last time. I don’t now if I should regret that.

Written by kowsik

January 18, 2009 at 17:21

Posted in cribs, culture, life


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“How inconsequential, and desperate, has Britain become in today’s world?” is a question that not many even bother to ask. Yes, that’s how bad it is for that kingdom that once challenged the Sun to set on it. How bad can it be when your foreign secretary is so spectacularly jobless that he is going around with a junior MP of your ex-colony that you are desperately trying to put down just so as to stay in the news? What’s worse, it’s not even election time in India! For a country that forgot it’s own vocabulary, I wonder how low is low enough for them to realize that they have passed miles beneath the lower bounds of decency and are deep inside the realms of shamelessness.

Written by kowsik

January 14, 2009 at 16:26

Posted in cribs, death, life


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Contemplating on the self, Ambi had warned me once, is the brachistochrone to self-destruction. Contemplating on the self, or something in that ballpark, is often quoted to be the path to enlightenment. From these two preceding lines, should I infer that Ambi is disagreeing with the quoted others (that would make these people disappointingly normal), or should I infer the opposite (according to some this is obviously true)?

Clearly, I am bullshitting because I have no idea of what ‘enlightenment’ is. This brings me to the often depressing inquiry of “what fraction of my life is spent on not bullshiting?” I had started off by wondering about the fraction of time spent on bullshitting but realized that, by definition (of bullshit), it would be impossible to answer it (this topic looks like one of those fractal stuff). I am sticking to the Harry Frankfurt definition of bullshit here, ‘bullshit is when we don’t even bother to verify whether what we say is true or untrue,’ that state of apathy to what comes out of our mouths (or should it be the diaphragm?)

Now that I begin to think of it, to be not bullshitting, one must understand the meaning of the words that one utters. Effectively every word that denotes any feeling, every adjective & adverb (and so on) requires to go through this ‘if-loop’ before it is said or written down. But what do we compare these words with in order to decide whether they should be used or not? Clearly, cursory knowledge of the synonyms of a word is not sufficient for its usage to be cleared of the bullshit label, if we apply this constraint strictly, how many words are left for our usage? Words that we can use honestly. May be this filtering would spare only those words that we have learnt the earliest in our lives.

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August 14, 2008 at 11:00


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I find this post marginally insane. For once I have a problem with every single paragraph of a post. For God’s sake… sorry, its author belongs the the ‘God Delusion‘ school, so why bother! In any case, coming to Postdoc’s post:

The entire article is about mother nature being this chaste virgin and how humans, through their industriousness, have been violating mother nature. I know, it’s not a new theme, but when the dude appears to begin to lose it, it is a thing to be arrested, or at least ticketed. I also know that Postdoc should have the freedom to go on a rant every once in a while, this my corresponding counter-rant.

Nature is beautiful in NatGeo. But when you are out in it, it is– as Murphy puts it– ‘a bitch’. When you are out in the wilderness/nature, it is a battle for survival, much as it is in the concrete jungle. The average man is spared the Freudian guilt because, not only has he (thankfully) no access to Disney/NatGeo but also because, he is enduring the battle for survival every day. Only when you are asked to live up to an ideal do morality & guilt come in, this is one such case. I find the attitude in this post to be in the same league as that of most doomsdayers and moralists, damning the entire mankind by comparing it with a dream, obviously we fall short– what chance has reality got against a dream?

As to the balance in nature: I don’t think there is one, if we are talking of a balance that ensures that any perturbation will bring it back to the initial state. I don’t even see the need for such a balance to exist– if it were not for some of the ‘spoiling of the nature’ level destabilizations, mankind would never have come up.

While it is patently absurd to argue that perturbations to the existing nature happen only due to humans, one might still argue that some of the perturbations are due to humans. I agree, but one should understand that perturbations happen, if not by us, by the nature in our immediate vicinity, or at higher levels (nature, as the dinosaurs found out first, is the entire universe). Here is where I find the biggest contradiction in the post. For some one having (not just ranting) serious problems with religion’s views like creationism, the author takes a condescending on the ‘lowest common denominator’ (‘lcd’ from here on). As far as I understand history, human civilization evolved in the same way that life evolved on our planet, survival of the fittest. If we want the religious people to accept and internalize this knowledge in their world-view, how hypocritical would a denigration like ‘lcd’ be? As to whether ‘lcd’ is bad for us, it has been the way evolution happened, and for some arcane (is it?) reason that has been the way progress in most aspects of our civilization has been. In short, if we want this ‘ugly’ ‘lcd’ to go away, we have to give up the present civilization and be ready to live in the forests and deserts (not oceans, of course). Incidentally, all the so called ‘cruel’ cultures happen to be the cultures living closest to nature, so I am not sure if any of us would want to take that risk. While I feel some pain when I see the deserted concrete houses and stuff like that,  a sensible/fitter way would be to try to find a way to avoid that (alternative to concrete?), rather than blame the ‘lcd’s. I am taking so much offence at the word ‘lcd’ because I am one. And I think that art is as much of a luxury as soap-operas are, that’s some red pill that I wouldn’t mind if taken by Postdoc though I am sure he thinks his pill is redder than mine.

Now to the most politically correct condemnation ever: religious intolerance. My only disagreement here is about the effect of religion. Religion does not divide, in fact it has been the most successful unifying mechanism ever. The only problem seems to be our missing the forest for the trees. With religion, you have <10 broad divisions on matter of faith, without it, the number will be much more. If we can’t find a way around <10 broad divisions, how can we manage to do any better in the absence of religion? As to intolerance, it has always been there. Sistine Chapel was in a region and period where there was no intolerance because the other groups were wiped out. Is the author ok with a state of tolerance and high-art if it is attained through a wave of intolerance? ‘IED’-art? Mirabai was a victim of intolerance, I almost fell through the beauty in that line. That’s another probem with beauty, most of the time it is rhetoric, the same thing that the author accuses religion of.

In short the author sounds like a character out of ‘American Beauty’. I believe this is the age of the market forces, we ‘lcd’s deserve better. On a serious note, I think attitudes like those exhibited in the post of interest are the ones that lead to totalitarian regimes, all the while condemning it in letter.

PS 1: I have serious problems with the abuse of the word ‘beauty’, in a way not much different from Postdoc having problems with the abuse of nature– just as we are a part of nature, part of beauty lies in our gray matter.

PS 2: In my opinion ‘art’ is a corrupted spelling for a word that should be pronounced with f-silent. We all know what they say about opinions, we can leave it at that

Written by kowsik

August 3, 2008 at 09:13


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The Dark Knight is an awesome movie, almost real. Almost! The only shortcoming, the one that forces the ‘almost‘, is this: if it were real life, the joker would’ve got everything and the Knights would’ve ended-up heart-broken. I know, I belong to the half-empty school of thought. A sound school of thought, I must defend myself- emptiness seems to be the most abundant thing in the universe, the only thing I conclude that I can count on. I can’t understand my conclusion though, it is proving to be a very hard task to manage.

On an arguably related note, is it of any consolation to know that the much-wanted prize, that one was forbidden to fight for, was never a prize? Should one feel relieved, for being spared of the Albatross situation, or should one give-in to the frustration at the futility of it all? Which is worse: to find out that one is fallible, or to find out that every one is?

Written by kowsik

July 27, 2008 at 13:41

Posted in cribs, happiness, life

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I think we, as a nation, are in our teens. Like teenagers, we hate everyone and everything related to us. We are desperate to be like others, and just like teenagers, for all the wrong reasons.

What do we hate (some favourites):

1) Our culture: Our hatred for our culture is comprehensive. As one might suspect, comprehensive feeling is not possible with even an iota of knowledge. Sure enough, we know nothing of our culture, and we reserve the best of our efforts to maintain it that way. What peripheral knowledge we do have is what is taught by those who make careers out of scandalizing the sacred, who we love for making our job easier (and hate for being such smart-asses).

2) Our origins: By this, I mean our independence and related events/personalities. Here our feelings are not as comprehensive as those concerning our culture. Though this might hint at the prevalence of some knowledge, the actual reason is our confusion as to whom to hate. For example, our understanding of the entire freedom movement and initial few years of independent India can be summed by the question: “Gandhi or Nehru, who should we hate more?” For the life of ours, we can’t imagine how Nehru could’ve screwed-up so much, further we have more difficulty in pointing out the issues where he screwed-up. For that we need to know our past, which is not a fashionable thing to do anyway! Had Patel lived a bit longer, we would be hating him too, we mildly dislike him now for denying us that opportunity.

3) Ourselves: We hate ourselves. Actually we don’t have the courage to admit it, so we claim to hate the junta. We wish we were born taller, stronger, fairer, wiser etc, all without having to change anything about ourselves. As Calvin says, we don’t want to think that we don’t deserve something.

4) Our leaders: “Our leaders are above us, not by raising higher but by crushing us to the bottom.” That, in short, is our opinion of our leaders. If there is one thing that every single Indian is convinced of, it is that we deserve better leaders (whatever that should mean!) Our hatred for our leaders raises to such an extent during elections that, we refuse to vote. Not surprisingly they never leave us.

5) USA: Odd one out actually. Poor Americans definitely don’t deserve to be hated and ridiculed by us, if only they hadn’t committed the unpardonable sin: being what we dream of being. We hate them so much, that we have started loving the British, so much so that we never miss a chance to point out how British our English is, unlike the Americans’… I know, it’s a tough world for dreamers!

The list of course is much longer, the above few are some personal favourites. We blame all the above for the source of all our problems. Not so surprisingly, we are not sure about who is to blame for what! There does exist a brighter side to this: we can’t get worse, so the only way things can change is for the better.

Written by kowsik

July 8, 2008 at 10:04


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In general, but not in particular

Where do we err, in raising the question, in dwelling upon it, or in not knowing of an alternative? Those who don’t know the question are a contended lot, so are those who know the answer. Just like in an error function!

The question, invariably, boils down to who we are: “Mir or Mirza?” Does it matter? Should it matter?

Written by kowsik

May 18, 2008 at 12:29

Posted in courage, cribs, death, life, theory


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The more I think about the events of the past few years, the more I am getting convinced of this century being a ‘repetition’ of the last one. 20th century began in the midst of the rise of a new power: Germany, and this power was not ready to wait for its time to come. It’s desire to matter inspired rapid growth, which meant heavy industrialization that required vast resources: material & man-power. The greater its power grew, the greater were its demands… we all know where it went.

It’s appears very difficult to refuse to see the similarities that the present-day China has to the old Germany. It also betrays an almost resentful desperation to change the world order: to reach the cliched ‘natural place’ at the top of the order. It is also being appeased everytime it steps on others’ feet… How long? How long will this last, will China ever be satisfied? Will it stop demanding its neighbour’s property? Will it stop financing civil-wars to control natural-resources? If the parallel between the challengers is obvious, so is the one between the superpowers of the day: Britain and USA. Both naval powers, both derided for being more material than aesthetic, both lands of free thought, both spreading their influences (soft & hard) far and wide, and both at a state where they would rather avoid an open confrontation.

Where does India fit in? Are we the old France? Are we the old Poland? Or, worse, are we the old Russia? What about Australia? Africa, though, will have to wait for another century… and when they do get to a stage where they demand compensations, I wonder how they can decide about who to start with?

My parents saw wars, it’s almost certain to me now that I will have to see a world war. Will I — who grew-up getting bullied — fight in the trenches? Am I going to be in a nuclear attack, or just hear about it? Will I get killed in a battle? Will I kill any one in those battles? My first thought is a wish that I not die in the world war, a sober one though is that India should come out of the war a better nation, the last is whether it matters at all? 6000 years and we still refuse to understand that every thing that grows later decays; from whence it grows again, thus continuing the cycle.

PS: I think water is going to be one of the objects of contest in those wars

Written by kowsik

April 19, 2008 at 05:57