alochana

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

Hanging on to the towel

with 2 comments

You believe that you are entitled to possess/experience ‘X’. As with any belief, this may not necessarily logically (colloquially referred to as ethically) valid. You are offered ‘X’.

The question here is not about whether you would accept the offer. The question is, “Do you consider this to be an issue of just two choices, or is it more of a grayscale issue?” And, how much of an effect would this answer have on how far you go with the offer?

Words of wisdom:
Marvin

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.

Zaphod Beeblebrox

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.

Written by kowsik

August 10, 2009 at 17:27

Miniluv

with 3 comments

2006: Burma

2007: Tibet

2008: Iran

Can’t help noticing that Orwellian/Bulgakovian touch! Unlike in the past two cases, the modicum of freedom in Iran gives us an idea of the desperation that drives such protests. And the hopelessness behind it all.

Written by kowsik

June 21, 2009 at 13:20

Posted in life

Winamp, Galadriel…

with 6 comments

Archana: Obama is this dude, you know

Me: Yeah right! He is to politics what Aishwarya Rai was to acting… I prefer Sarah Palin. And, by the way, that line sounds familiar, and not in a good way at that!

Furious Archana goes for the kill: What do you mean? Ok why did ever our Winamp ji not consider politics?

Me in the ‘You can’t handle the truth‘ mode: Elementary… That was answered by Tolkein long time back. Take this

Written by kowsik

June 13, 2009 at 06:05

Posted in humour, IISc, kboy, life

Lord of War

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Plain and simple

random African kids getting stray bullets from morons who don’t deserve to handle Kalashnikovs…

According to Atanu Dey, we don’t fare any better!

Written by kowsik

June 10, 2009 at 17:26

Posted in life

hogwash?

with one comment

What are the odds that the whole swine-flu hysteria has been set-off by some nerd at some univ because some girl rejected him using the golden words, “Only when pigs fly…”?

Written by kowsik

May 5, 2009 at 13:58

Posted in life

Sutra

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3 months back:

Here I was, locked up in my room, trying to motivate myself to get started on the dreaded WENO-schemes, and what do I hear: a girl screaming from the TV in the living room. My illustrious room-mate has been making his mom watch some Tam movie, while finishing-off some argument with some friend over the phone. Anyway the screams had been going on so long that I giveup on suppressing the curiosity on how many girls must’ve been killed off by then. On the TV, of course. Sticking to the Wilde-dictum, I yield– and guess what, no blood! That incompetent goon on screen was only demanding some girl to answer him about some inconsequential thing while he had grabbed her hand!!!!!!!!!!!

If anything, girls on TV make girls outside look sober! Sanity followed once I went back to the lines of a wise man:

The Female of the Species

WHEN the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
‘Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man’s timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn’t his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other’s tale—
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man, a bear in most relations—worm and savage otherwise,—
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger—Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue—to the scandal of The Sex!

But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions—not in these her honour dwells—
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!—
He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Unprovoked and awful charges—even so the she-bear fights,
Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons—even so the cobra bites,
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
And the victim writhes in anguish—like the Jesuit with the squaw!

So it comes that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of Abstract Justice—which no woman understands.

And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern—shall enthral but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.

by Rudyard Kipling

Now:

WENO be damned, the whole idea was a wrong thread that consumed 3 months of work with nothing to show. A plot of GIGO is not exactly the sort of thing that the DoE is interested in funding! So, in the process of writing an outline for my thesis, I ended up navigating deep in to a comment thread debating stuff at best tangential to yet another post on yet another blog about the same old depressing depravity of us humans and, unlike with that thread with WENO, have come out with a link from Bhetti. It is a poem by Chinua Achebe, the author of a particularly depressing short story, back from my school reading material, titled “Dead Men’s Path“, that I can’t seem to  forget till date. Here’s the poem:

Vultures

In the greyness
and drizzle of one despondent
dawn unstirred by harbingers
of sunbreak a vulture
perching high on broken
bone of a dead tree
nestled close to his
mate his smooth
bashed-in head, a pebble
on a stem rooted in
a dump of gross
feathers, inclined affectionately
to hers. Yesterday they picked
the eyes of a swollen
corpse in a water-logged
trench and ate the things in its bowel. Full
gorged they chose their roost
keeping the hollowed remnant
in easy range of cold
telescopic eyes …
Strange
indeed how love in other
ways so particular
will pick a corner
in that charnel-house^
tidy it and coil up there, perhaps
even fall asleep – her face
turned to the wall!
… Thus the Commandant at Belsen^
Camp going home for
the day with fumes of
human roast clinging
rebelliously to his hairy
nostrils will stop
at the wayside sweet-shop
and pick up a chocolate
for his tender offspring
waiting at home for Daddy’s return …
Praise bounteous
providence if you will
that grants even an ogre
a tiny glow-worm
tenderness encapsulated
in icy caverns of a cruel
heart or else despair
for in every germ
of that kindred love is
lodged the perpetuity
of evil.

Dostoevsky would have approved.

——-

^ From the BBC page on this poem:

charnel-house A vault where dead bodies or bones are piled.
Belsen Camp Bergen-Belsen was one of the most notorious concentration camps of the Second World War. It became a camp for those who were too weak or sick to work and many people died because of the terrible conditions. Anne Frank was interned there and died of typhus in 1945. The camp was liberated in 1945.

Written by kowsik

May 2, 2009 at 15:19

Posted in life

ka

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Considering how ‘free-for-all’ our election scene has become, am I the only one wondering whether Sharad Pawar is going to be our next Prime Minister?

Inspiration for the title of the post is the book by Robert Calasso: Ka. One of those few books that I can strongly recommend.

Written by kowsik

March 13, 2009 at 14:24

Posted in life

karma

with 9 comments

Sometimes we think. And in some of those times, our thoughts meander over oft-repeated legends, making connections that were meant to be made while remembering those legends. Sometimes it is mythologies, as in the present case. Either way, occasionally we make connections. If we think.

Meandering around my favorite topic of the futility of everything in general, and work in particular, on a Friday morning, I ended up pondering over the, very often passive and occasionally active, choices that we make. And the momentary paranoia that accompanies those occasions of active choice. And I realized that, one can, with a little thought, imagine the reasoning behind the big deal that is Prometheus. It has to be about the desire for that which is beyond our grasp. And the fear of the consequences of having it in our grasp. Our fear of ourselves. Our inability to trust our own selves. And our fear of having to face our true selves. Our desire for freedom versus our fear of responsibility. Of making choices, and paying for the consequences. All this, we go through only rarely. Most often though, we make choices without even a thought. Carefully avoiding to see that we do have a choice, we drift along choices that no man of reason should make. Choices that a man will need to go to infinite lengths to rationalize if forced to explain. Choices that, we swear, were forced upon us. In extreme cases, some like Hanna Schmitz enquire desperately, “What would you have done?” Most, though, fail to see that there was a choice.

It all comes to down to Robert Frost I think, about forks and choices. And it is not just once that we face it. May be this is the only description of life: a series of choices among a host of options. Some itinerary drawn on some map.

Written by kowsik

February 6, 2009 at 13:21

Posted in life

sushupti

with 2 comments

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