The Skeptical Patriot

I wouldn’t say that I am a huge fan of Sidin Vadukut, but i found his latest book “The Skeptical Patriot” to be mighty interesting. The book is about a skeptical look at the claims that Indians make about our past and rating it on accuracy. Surprisingly, a lot of the claims to our past have some merit to it. And this came as a surprise because growing up, I didn’t look at India’s past with such reverence.

I have always looked at patriotism with suspicion. I think I lack the passion that most people do when it comes to defending their country. Because, I felt every citizen in every country would obviously argue that despite their faults, they have it good.

After spending close to 6 years outside of India, I have come to a depressing realization that nobody despises Indians more than ourselves. I found this sub culture to be interesting. Students pretty much stuck with their clan when they arrived and apart from a forced acquaintanceship I didn’t see people becoming friends just because we hailed from the same country. The term “Desi” was a pejorative verb unless it referred to cuisine.

It seemed more like we had this collective moment when where we said to ourselves  “Phew we are out of India, we can finally pretend we don’t like each other”. 

Back home, patriotic emotions were limited to Cricket  and the occasional times when Pakistan would ‘allegedly’ bomb the shit out of Mumbai. It is a phenomenal task to view our country as one.There are so many languages, sub cultures casts beneath the canvas of polytheism which ensured that all of us were walking on egg shells. But you know that, don’t you?

But, now as cliched as it may sound. I think I like my country more than I thought I would. I have gradually become that obnoxious “desi” who swears as “son of the soil” but refuses to acknowledge reality.

This summer, I visited New York for the first time and it was quite eventful. We had sometime before disembarking from the flight and I struck up a brief conversation with an old lady next to me.

Old Lady: Where are you from?
Me: Well, basically i am from India.
Mentally thinking “I have lived for about 21 years in India, But now that I have spent close to three hours in NYC, you could say that i am still searching for my roots

When you read books such as Origin of species, Guns, Germs and Steel and Cosmos you realize that we(human species and some parts of France) have undergone tremendous evolution culturally, religiously and politically. There are few things which were achieved in complete isolation and the flux of people in search of livelihood made sure that the cultures underwent a slow but sure metamorphosis from time to time.

I find inclusivity to be rewarding which unfortunately is fast becoming a controversial opinion. After US blocked the move for immigration reform, I felt a little sad for the people who couldn’t make it in the land of the big apple.

The people who argue against immigration constantly throw loaded yet baseless allegation that we, the immigrants are the prime reason for
• Unemployment
• Cultural/Religious Decay

I have based my opinions on fact from sources who i consider reputable and they are available in the appendix. But before diving into them let us look at the logic behind these statements

Unemployment:

Don’t you hate it when the immigrants from Mexico, India and China throng the wall street and run away with all the profit? Well I do. Don’t you hate it when these foreign bodies play with the derivatives and sub prime mortgages which left a huge economic ripple across the world for short term benefits. Don’t you hate it when the immigrant lawmakers lobby against the senate to have any discernible regulation on how industries such as Banking, Energy and Education and Healthcare must be conducted.Well I do. Damn immigrants.

I have always found this claim that the immigrants whether local or across borders contribute to a siege in unemployment to be a bit farcical. The immigrant workers can be either

    • Skilled: Such as doctors, scientists, engineers, farmers, tradesmen, daily wage laborers, cooks, taxi drivers etc…

OR

  •      Non skilled: Such as technicians at Best Buy, Apple store and customer support at Comcast.

To use an analogy. Let us think of a hypothetical organization, let us call it Chevron.

Now when it uses its advanced technology in trade for natural resources in Nigeria, they effectively killed labor unions, undermined democracy and created economic gap to get more profit. They do so without any hurdle or tuppence for international law, because that is the root of capitalism. Profit at any cost.
But when profit doesn’t proceed to building infrastructure and instead is diluted among the political cabals the citizens are naturally frustrated and seek to migrate to greener pastures.

Now when they come to the shores due the policy of the afore mentioned companies,which out of pure coincidence reside in US and UK, they suddenly become frisky immigrants. These people seem to be taking your job only because the local companies and mega companies are willing to pay them the minimum wage with little benefits rather treat them as locals. They find a cost benefit in hiring the immigrants who have little understanding of the local labor laws nor are ballsy enough to question authority which would risk their employment. And how dare do I question capitalism. I am not, i am merely outlining the disadvantages.

So in essence you face the sweet repercussions of capitalism where the economy goes along with the ones who are profitable and not sustainable.
But when their people go to UK or US they aren’t exactly welcome with the same enthusiasm.

Cultural Decay:
This is by far my favorite accusation. They come here, don’t speak our language and don’t respect our values. While this extends from religious grounds more than anything else, I have little energy left in me to sympathize with people who justify their hate on ignorant bigotry.

The problem arises when we view culture as a monolithic edifice which was magically built by one person and we promised to preserve it for years to come. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. I would like to refrain from controversial examples such as evolution of language, influence of literature, music, science or textiles.

I believe, the best medium for communication is English because that is what i have been taught from age 1. Our parents encouraged us to learn it as it was like getting a passport to the better quality of life. English is often more marketable than the local dialect in most asian countries, so affliction towards the victorian language was merely a commercial choice.

However, friends and family never miss an opportunity to call us as cop outs when we are critical about something that happens back home. They associate us as unpatriotic and cowards who forgot Indian roots in exchange for some dollar bills.

So lets take a pause, you send me to an English speaking school, enforce me to be good at it, take pride when I put on a fake accent, insist that I take up GRE/GMAT/LSAT and get an american degree. And when I am about to embrace adulthood, and all of a sudden, Epiphany! Now, you are struck by fleeting paranoia that our culture is about to die?

The more I read about our eventful past both Indian and global, the more evidence i find in support for multiculturalism and harmony. I don’t want to enforce anyone to learn my culture or be respectful of it. I feel like the world is an unlimited buffet and with the license of education, I have the ticket to taste it all.

And that is why I am proud to be a “Desi”. Historians often look at India as a continent than a country. *A land mass extending from current day Pakistan to as far as Indonesia. When you read about the advances in Education (Takshashila), Medicine (Ayurveda), vedas (mathematics) and military (Chola navy) occurred in societies that were open, turbulent yet peaceful, well administered and curious.

*These innovations were children to amicable curiosity and spirit of enquiry. Jataka tales, tell us that students at Takshashila were often taught for free, and students from places as far as China and Arabia travelled by foot to get a chance to study there. The advancement in these fields were not divorced from faith but energized by it.

We were nailing science eons ago when the church were burning books and heretics for challenging their ignorant beliefs. I am proud that i am a descendent of an institution that promoted enquiry, criticism and skepticism. And I hope with time, I encourage people to be more harmonious with each other despite our cultural/political/religious differences.

- This article was penned by a Proud Indian. Wait, no I mean south Indian, I mean Tamil, fuck the kannadigas, goltis and mallus. Lol. And when i say Tamil i mean I am proud to be a Brahmin, not SC or ST. Lol coz their great grandfathers used to clean toilets and give really bad haircuts. LOL

*- P.S: Excerpts from Sidin Vadukut’s “Skeptical Patriot”

The Price of Ambition

During one of my travels, I was seated next to an elderly Indian couple. They seemed to be in their mid fifties and they were in US to attend a wedding. As our flight was a couple of hours long, we spent the time, talking to each other about ourselves. So after the customary interchange, the conversation went like this.
Before I begin, any Indian person who is 10 years older than me is considered an uncle/aunty. Jokes apart I quite like this cute avuncular culture !

Uncle: So, how old are you?
Me: I am 27.
Uncle: You are married?
Me: Nope
Uncle: It is the right time, you should get married. What are you waiting for?
Me: I still have some distance to go before I think I am mature enough for that.
Uncle: What nonsense, you seem to be in the IT industry. How much do you make?
I disclose my salary after which he felt sorry for me and suggested he will put in kind words to his nephew who owns a start up company in SF.
Aunty interjects: What is your caste, beta?
Me: Uhm, I am not sure.
Aunty: Well, what is your last name? I can deduce your caste from your last name.
Me: Mind – Blown!
So here is the thing about Indian Aunties, they come pre-programmed with “ancenstry.com” database. So they can spell out your ancestors, what they did for a living, where they lived etc… all by just learning your last name.
I personally think they would have made very good Nazi’s as racial profiling comes easy to them. Don’t be offended, in India, ethnic cleansing looks something like this:

ganga_snan

I watched an interview of George Harrison, the fabled Beatles man. When asked about his cult status in the music industry, he said how he felt trapped under the limelight. Everyone around him thinks that he is a genius, but he alone knows that he has no idea what he’s doing.
I am officially an adult and I am really not sure how why this is the case.

Growing up, I was very excited and looked forward to the day when I would become an adult. I wanted to do what the cool people did, like go anywhere they want, eat anytime they want and talk to strangers as if they knew each other.
But more importantly as a career move, I never knew how people figured what they wanted to do. I mean, I am okay with computers I guess but I never understood  why would anyone pay me to do stuff which seems fun and quite easy?

So I asked a friend who went to IIT because I thought that he would surely know how to decide on a career. He said something brilliant.

The world loves mediocrity, if you are average, people aren’t threatened by you. So they would accept you, as a peer. And you would never be over-qualified for a job. So you can gradually make progress and be at a stage in your career. I mean imagine, if you were a genius at an entry level job. Wouldn’t that guarantee depression?

We all adore people who are brilliant but I feel most of them lead turbulent lives. Especially the ones who made an impact in history. And I am not talking about insecurity, I worship intelligence. When I listen to a Brahms composition, or read “Edward Bernays “Propaganda” or watch a performance by Martha Graham, I go numb. I am awestruck but at the same time sad that I would never be able to reproduce that. Ever.

I hope I didn’t come across as a douche with my choice in entertainment. I just wanted to sound eclectic! I am a regular guy with regular choices. And I think I am comfortable with that, because I know things that I am not.

Which brings me to another theory that I find fascinating -Peter’s Principle.

Peters principle: “Members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability”.
What it means is say you are an excellent programmer, you’d be promoted to an average senior programmer, then if you do stick on and hit the targets, you’ll become a manager. But since you were promoted for your technical skills and not people management, you’d end up becoming a terrible manager. But you can’t work on the same pay check years after working in the team. So getting promoted to a job you’ll be terrible at, seems to be the only logical way!
This might have been a demotivational article so far but look at the bright side. I think there is a reason why Indian and Asian students thrive in the western economy.  We are number one in IQ and intelligence and shit last in self esteem. So we ride this hamster wheel of hard work without realizing that, we have achieved our goals.
We seem to have an enforced sense of humility that prevents us from selling ourselves. I am tired of smart people complaining that “I do my job and expect rewards. I can’t go around prancing and announcing how terrific I am at what I do. That is just not me”.

And don’t even start about the inflated self purpose that us STEM folks have. We are just more relevant at the current time stamp in history that is all.
I would really recommend everyone to watch “Dirty Jobs” produced my Mike Rowe. He educates us about vocational education and it’s relevance in the job market today. You don’t have to cut it out as a marketing manager or a software analyst or an investment banker to become financially independent.
You could still lead a comfortable and a fulfilling career while being an electrician, crane operator or even a plumber. Those jobs won’t be automated. At least not in the near future. If my parents waited for their perfect job, they would never have provided me the opportunity to pursue what I wanted to do.

During my time in the middle east, I came across a lot of immigrant workers from Nepal, India, Philippines and Sri lanka. They would scourge and live minimally and send all the money back to their homes. And hopefully channel those resources to pay for their kids tuition’s. Unfortunately, due to their poverty they don’t think free will exists for their children.

They won’t allow their kids to become electricians or plumbers or a mechanic. They want them to be engineers and doctors. And if chips don’t fall the right way, they are just carving a very expensive tomb for their children in the form of student debts.

I am still trying to understand why paychecks are seen as a barometer for ambition? I just don’t get it. When people my age push their limits to get a better job and an upgrade in quality of life, I get it. Totally, but what is the answer to the question , what’s next?
Surely it can’t be just a better car, an expensive house or an exotic vacation. It just seems stupid and narrow to me.

In my own naive opinion, I feel we should measure our lives by experience rather than achievements. I am 27 now and frankly I have no idea how I got here. And I am pretty sure that when I become 40, I still would not have a clue where to go.
But I don’t want to extinguish this stupid addiction I have for experiences. I may change my opinion in the future, but isn’t having an evolving concept of what I want, an experience in itself?

But at present, I am comfortable with ambiguity. It doesn’t keep me up at night :-)

My first interview

I was interviewed by a good friend for her final thesis on religious belief. I was amused by this request and if I recall correctly it was one of the few times where I eagerly looked forward to answering. I have always been a disgruntled writer as I was rejected more times than I can recall to be published in a paper or even a school magazine.

So the whole premise of the blog was a personal affront to years of cumulative rejection. I guess, I have survived the attention cycle and my insecurity has faded over the years through the medium of this blog. I am sharing the excerpts of the interview below. 

1. What would you say your current religious orientation is? (atheist, agnostic, spiritual, etc.?)

A: I consider myself as an Atheist

2. What was your former faith?

A: My former faith was Hinduism

3. How religious/spiritual would you say you were before you left your faith?

A: I observed that I was religious only when it came to my parent’s health, results of my exams and fortunes of the football club I support. I wasn’t very sincere with my religiousness.

4. Were your beliefs in that faith were only due to you being born into it, or were they also, in part, reinforced by a conscious effort and independent thinking/research on your part?

A: I derived my faith from my parents and I found that it made them comfortable and strong when the times were tough. Through a conscious effort of thinking I found that most of my friends were kind and just and being religious just happened to be one of their attributes. I couldn’t find a direct correlation between religiosity and morality.

5. Have you ever questioned or had doubts about your faith and then reconciled them, and kept believing, before you left your religion? Can you expand any more upon this?

A: I have always had doubts about believing something without questioning. I would say Hinduism is more receptive to doubts as it is a polytheistic religion, my folks would often change their gods if they found one of them fared better than the other. I found that belief has a placebo effect on people. I found that religions have a negative impact over the course of years as they have always been at loggerheads with science when it disagreed with them. Most religions practice human rights violation and are often not kind to women. And I disagreed when religions claim absolute monopoly over morality. The final nail in the coffin was when religions became a barrier to having a conversation about climate change, slavery and peace.

6. How old were you when you officially knew that you no longer believed in your (now ex) religion?

A: I was 22 when I believe I lost complete faith in the concept of God or religion.

7. Can you describe the thought process that led you to this conclusion? (Ex: Were there any specific teachings/beliefs that you disagreed with, that drove along this “process of disbelieving?” Any particular sources that helped reassure you that your new beliefs were sound and had merit?)

A: My thought process was scientific and I was more convinced the idea that you should always question things before you believe in them. Theories had to be proven, peer reviewed and tested in challenging conditions before being accepted. I read the biographies of scientists when I was younger such as Marie Curie, Nicholas Tesla, Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein and Issac Newton to name a few.

I found most religions to be quasi pyramid schemes which fed on misinformation, blind faith and hunger to dominate politics. I was repulsed by religions who mistreated or exiled people who questioned their faith. I wanted to see, if I too shared the sentiment of people who feel the same way and I read works of Carl Sagan, Issac Asimov, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard

Dawkins, Ayan Ali Hirsi and George Carlin to name a few.

8. Was the emotional impact of this on your life at that time? (Ex: Was it traumatic or alienating?)

A: I would say the impact was alienating, initially it filled me with hate for the people who bullied and shoved religion down the throats of others. But I soon realized that the faith was at fault and most people deserve to be treated with kindness whether they deserve it or not. My parents still disagree with my choice but choose to be mute spectators observing and hoping I embrace religion someday.

9. Did your other siblings or relatives have similar beliefs? Were you able to talk to them, or anyone else about this?

A: Most of my family is religious in one way or another, but they keep such things personal and bring it only during festivals. I was able to talk to most of them about my digression from belief. They were a little amused and that is about it, I wouldn’t be lying if I wanted their reactions to be more controversial and dramatic.

10. Do your parents know about your loss faith? If no, do you want them to know? If yes, what has kept you from telling them?

A: Yes they do.

11. Is your lack of believing in your former religion impacting you today? If yes, how? If it’s negatively impacting you in anyway, if you could, would you go back to believing and forget about any doubts you have now?

A: The only observable impact so far has been social, even now when I attend any religious festivals with my family or friends, I feel I lack their enthusiasm as I fail to absorb the kind of joy that faith brings to them.

12. Do you have any regrets about it? Do you wish you had realized it sooner?

A: No, I do not have any regrets about it. I am happy with my choice.

13. Do you have any other miscellaneous comments about this, what you’ve experienced, religion, beliefs, etc?

A: I feel there is a huge gap of understanding between atheists and deists. Atheists have been prosecuted for ages in the name of heresy, controversy and apostasy. I don’t feel that I share a sense of community with fellow atheists, as I find that their lack of belief is just another attribute of their personality. I don’t feel uncomfortable or encumbered when I spend time with my religious friends as long as they don’t make me feel guilty for not being a believer.

I feel as long as you choose to exercise your faith within your community or private space it is perfectly fine. But to expect everyone to agree with your faith is unfair and unjustified.

14. So all in all, what advice would you give, from your experience, to someone else who may find themselves in the position you were back when you started along the path of “losing your faith?”

A: I feel every human being has a right to rationale and thought and must be allowed to conduct it without any social or religious duress. I feel children should not be scared into belief or threatened with excommunication. And people who lose faith should not pay the cost of living in social anonymity.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I would suggest people to study logic and reason as a pre-requisite before investing emotionally into any belief. Losing one’s faith can have several social repercussions. And I can understand that it might even drive some people into trauma or rage. As we feel we have been lied to and bullied just for exercising reason. I often see so called atheists “trolling” other people’s belief by mocking them. No matter what the choice, I feel we should be kind to one another irrespective of our faith or lack of it. The world is a far worse place than we think it is and we are going to be around only for a few years. Investing that time in love and community is far more rewarding than fighting to save a seat in heaven.

 

Lessons from an Offline Experiment

The new years eve is always a daunting one as we all try to formulate resolutions. It is a feeble attempt at retrospection and fix things that we think are wrong with us. Mine was pretty innocuous. I saw a Ted talk about an author who shared his experiences after he went offline for a year. That sort of captivated my attention and i wanted to give it a try.

As a writer one of the most embarrassing yet educational things you can do is to go over what you have written in the past. I delved into my sent mails section, old messages, tweets and Facebook posts. Needless to say a lot of it was cringe worthy. I used to like Roadies. Blasphemy!

That is why i rejoice writing because it is like a personal memorabilia which you can use to reflect and contemplate. And when you open it for criticism in the form of a blog, the results can be pretty interesting. I noticed that i was apologetic to assholes and an asshole to those who were apologetic. It’s a strange thing as you are more drawn towards interesting people who aren’t necessarily nice and find nice people to be boring and one dimensional. For example it is always the people who you love, who embarrass you. For example my uncle would type comments in capital, without spaces, on my photo’s something like.

DHANESHILIKEYOURPHOTOVERYMUCH.LOOKINGVERY GOOD DEAR, REGARDS

UNCLE AND AUNTY.

And you wonder why they killed the Indian postal service.

I decided to go offline for a wee bit and see if I suffered from any of the withdrawal syndromes. The task wasn’t very difficult for me. I discontinued using Facebook. Most people use Facebook to check up on what their friends are up to in their daily lives. I am not a sociopath but i find the trials and tribulations of people to be boring. So going offline wasn’t necessarily difficult for me as i had already unsubscribed scores of people whose (online) lives i deemed to be boring.

And in doing so i observed that most of my newsfeed were from pages related to movies, sports or science. I often took a holier than thou perspective while commenting  and always tried to be witty about what i would say.  I never wanted to be the last word freak, so i conveniently wouldn’t answer comments on my pictures or posts.

I would like to open the following activities for further scrutiny as i think they merit more discussion than the rest.

Check ins: Truth be told, ever since I saw the movie “Up in the Air” I knew what kind of lifestyle i wanted. Fortunately, my current job permits me to travel to far flung cities, stay at expensive places and dine at the best of restaurants. It wouldn’t be a misplaced opinion if i said i found joy out of it, by the attention i got. I wanted people i knew to know that I am having a good life and if it brought envy then i wouldn’t be lying if it made me a little happy.

When i was in india and i witnessed the spoils of my friends in the promised land, i was more envious than happy. I think one can truly be friends only when they can be happy for each other. It is very easy to share sadness because we all have some level of empathy. But whenever you find yourself genuinely happy for a friend’s accomplishment, it should count as a victory. When I check in at an expensive hotel, I hear an amateur exuberance within which screams “Hey, I have made it”, show it those people who didn’t think so, lets prove a point etc… I think everyone is entitled to some level of bragging, but it should slowly fade away.

2. SHARE EVERYTHING:

Why do we have to share everything we do, on a regular basis. I mean “Dhanesh is feeling meh [insert absurd smiley]. Why do people have to know what am I up to, all the time? Why do my friends have to know where i spent my weekend or whom with?

I’ve often been told that I am full of myself and I take that as a compliment because I’m so self absorbed, that I often forget that i am surrounded by people. Now don’t take me wrong, I am not smart or good looking enough to be a narcissist. I don’t engage myself with people who I would disagree with. I realized that I had surrounded myself with people whose ideas I share. I was being a smug liberal at best. I found joy in proving other people wrong, but rarely participated in discussions where my opinion was minority.

Also I found that every article people shared either made you immediately happy, sad or angry. As someone who enjoys reading, I want to formulate my own opinion on what is going around me. But we all live in a bubble which is in constant need of reassurance. I felt I was sharing news only because i wanted to be judged by my friends as witty, intelligent and wise member of the society.

From the feeble fame i achieved through the space of this blog, I feel people consider me to be kind-of-funny. As I dabble with humor and sarcasm, people tend to “like” my comments or status. Not that I am complaining about the attention, I feel the Gamification theory, i.e. rewarding every popular comment with a “like” can be disruptive.

Once used to the internet fame, I said or did things that would be popular rather than genuine. I would never participate in an argument where I know I am in the minority. I mean it is really not difficult to make a joke about Rahul Gandhi, Justin Beiber or Islam. You can easily make a cartoon and make your living. Am I wrong?

I feel it is healthy to get your views challenged, so surrounding myself by people who have similar taste kind of made me feel superior.I would feel intelligent when I share an op-ed piece by De grass Tyson or Paul Krugman. I’ve been also guilty about just sharing a news story just because the headline seemed controversial.

Facebook permits you that so in the end you surround yourself with likeminded people and then lose a sense of reality when people you meet in real life aren’t so accommodating.

3. I-know-everything-syndrome: I felt that i suffered from I-know-everything-syndrome, as i scourged internet constantly. I would be an endless supply of suggestions and opinions. In a social setting, I could easily distract the conversation about something I read and beat you down with facts. The last time, I remember shutting up for good was earlier today when I was getting my tooth drilled at the dentist. I forgot how to listen.

3. Rebel without a cause: Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool for social deduction.You can easily judge people based on their affiliations with literature, movies, causes or music. I am generally superficial and judge people a lot on what they speak and how they behave. I know it is not a respectable quality, but who’s got the time to give every human being a chance. My fingers got a carpel reflex typing that sentence out.

By all means I wished more people read, but not the likes of buzz feed or upworthy. They are nothing more than captions with gif’s. Since when do we need pictures and gif’s to accommodate   text. Are we 12? Articles like “37 ways to know that your dog hates you” make me want to choke those hipsters by blocking their access to Instagram.

And why are we so divided by opinions? Do you think Rahul Gandhi gives two shits about your opinion? I mean in the end who cares? As an educated member of the society I wanted to be pro-something. Enough of anti-racism, anti-corruption, anti-pollution. I want to own up to things I am bad at and DO SOMETHING about it. Our brain convinces us that just by creating a Facebook page or liking a cause means we have done something for it. I am 26 and by all means an Adult. I don’t have to be a rebel, I think i should be quite capable of taking a cause and working towards it.

At the end of three weeks of being offline, I found I had tremendous amount of time and energy left and now i am slowly utilizing them to create new hobbies.

Update after 3 weeks: Forget everything. I’ve come to realize that people are shallow, unforgiving and boring. Get back to facebook, twitter and Instagram! But I still hate Buzzfeed.

Happiness for Sale! At a retail store near you

Every year during the holiday season all of us are spammed with advertisements galore about discounts, sales and offers at different retail stores. And it can intimidate the strongest among us who don’t usually cave into peer pressure.

Movie stars constantly endorse utilities and other appliances. Do you really think sharukh khan drives ani10? Think about it.

I have always wondered why companies like Amazon, Walmart or Reliance have this sudden found empathy to promote human values among its customers. And in my own naïve way I have observed that those evil marketers have finally got to us.

The day after these festivals everyone always wondered what we received as gifts and what we gave to others? It becomes almost like a parade where we flaunt our wealth. Our affection towards each other seems so tangible that we can measure it in dollars!

Allow me to relive how our family usually spent Diwali and I am sure a parallel narrative exists for the readers in the form of Christmas, Hanukkah or Eid.

Our parents would plan our trips to our ancestral village, which we would refer to it as “town” to our friends as we are secretly ashamed of our bucolic upbringing. All our relatives would gather there and would spend the day together.

The womenfolk would be in charge of cooking delicacies, some of which would take the whole night to prepare. The men would be in charge of purchasing clothing and fireworks. Men looked forward to interviews of actresses and women relished debates on the telly which made fun about the plight of husbands. Through which they thought they scored a silent victory.

The topic of the debate would be something like: “Who is harder to satisfy during the festival season? Is it the Husband or is it the Wife?

Man 1: Do you know what my wife wanted for this Diwali, an expensive silk Sari worth Rs.3000. Does she think money grows on trees? How am I supposed to afford that!

Man 2: I know these women have no idea how hard we work. My wife wants a gold necklace for 5000Rs, it is ridiculous.

*Sanity Check*

Let us do some basic economics here. A housewife toils for 365 days a week approximately 15 hours a day.

365 * 15 = 5475 hours a year, and suppose the husband caves in and buys her that Rs. 5000 necklace it would equate to 5000/5475 = 1.095 Rs/hr. Who knew women were such gold diggers. Gosh!

*******************************Back to Diwali**************************************

I didn’t appreciate the efforts they would put into it as I thought I was obliged to it as a participant. But now as a mature adult (debatable, I know) I don’t celebrate any of these as I am too cool for that desi stuff. And as my grandmother passed away this year there were no celebrations in my family back in India.

My grandma would slave away in the kitchen for the whole day preparing a complex range of delicacies. And if you happened to be a greedy little fat fuck like me, they better be ready to cook a second batch. She would make sure to reserve a good part of the food prepared to give it away to the needy. She always made sure that we grandchildren give it to them so that we directly earn the goodwill of the poor.

She would then attempt to educate us about the meaning of the festival on our way to the temple which we always would ignore. She was overarching glue that held our huge family together under one roof. We wouldn’t return until the next festival and would only occasionally call her to check up on our health. And every year she would put in the same kind of superhuman effort to keep us happy.

Contrast this to a hypothetical uncle returning from the middle-east. He would get us chocolates and toys and we would worship him for a couple of days while completely ignoring our grandmother. I mean he barely put any effort into his gift right? But why should that diminish the effort of our grandmother?

I think this was my origin for instant gratification. I can defend by saying that as a kid I didn’t know any better. But am I behaving any different as I got older?

Instead of spending the time with my parents on the day of the occasion, I substitute this responsibility by buying them an Ipad. Instead of cooking an elaborate meal for them, I could take them to an expensive restaurant. I mean, I could marry a submissive wife and ask her to do all this for me. But you know who finds girls like that these days? All this “equality”, “empowerment” and  modern “education” has robbed them off all the culture they are supposed to have.

We work hard the whole year, bicker about our companies as soul sucking satans and suddenly become huge fans of them as they give out bonuses!

And we how do we spend our bonus money given to us by corporate gods ?

  1. Useless item we don’t have.
  2. Useless item we don’t need.

For eg: Buying a DSLR and a trip to a hill station. Where instead of spending our time embracing nature we will spend our time on getting the right shot the fucking bee which flies over a stupid sun flower. If I had a dollar for every pretty picture someone on my friends list took during their family holiday. I would be left with a dollar.

**************************** Back to Festivals ***************************

I love stories and I am sure most of us do. I think of festivals as a story through generations which have a simple yet unoriginal meaning. Like be good to people, bury your differences and love the people around you irrespective of their attributes, spend some time to introspect etc…. But I don’t see how throwing money at such occasions adds value to it.

Since when did Christmas and Diwali become an occasion for those who could afford it? When we parade around in our expensive gifts do we care to think about unfortunate? I mean how about the urchins and how much it would break their hearts to know that their parents would never be affordable to throw a spectacle like we get.

When I came to US my parents feared that I would forget what the festivals mean to us as Indians. That we would take up Christmas and thanksgiving instead of Pongal or Diwali or Ganesh Chaturthi. But if we treat festivities as an excuse to spend money then it is just like a robe. Christmas is no different than Diwali but it is just dressed differently.

My only worry is that I would slowly forget those stories and morals which underlined the spirit of festivals. I am worried that I wouldn’t put effort into making people happy, if at least for a day like my grandma used to do. But there is always next year!

Happy Holidays :)

The myth buster’s guide to Marriage

This post is dedicated to my best friend, my bro who just got married!

I almost cringe at the prospect of using the word Marriage for the title of this blog. So I turned 26 ceremoniously a few months ago and it has dawned on me that people are headed to the next phase of their life.

I personally would like to think of myself as a trivial man with humble needs. I have always chased things that I need rather than what I want, so far this simple tenet has served me well and I am unwilling to shrug this off.

I have used the following space to articulate and think out loud the merits of the institution of marriage.

Almost all calls with my parents end on an awkward note where they hint about getting me married. And the hilarious part is when they try to sell it to me. I think their honest hardworking career has fostered them to gain a lot of skills, but sales aren’t among them. I feel they are confident in my lack of ability to find a girl for myself which is sweet and also profoundly sad at the same time. So here is a sample of their sales pitch

“Son, we are really glad that you are doing well. You are surrounded by friends, you get to travel a lot have a good job and having so much fun. But it’s now time to get serious.”

That’s the worst sales pitch ever. I don’t think they can sell parole to a convict who is facing a death penalty, with that pitch. I wanted to write this article for a long time. But I think this is a good time, most of my good friends have got married and have suffered a social death. Their social activity comprises of sharing insufferable pictures of each other at eventful places such as the mall, parking lot, temples, restaurants, movie theater, beach, work and practically every place which bans nudity.

Arranged marriage or love marriage? I really don’t know how this is even a question. My answer is, “If it ends in a marriage, does it even matter? Hah, I know I am quite the romantic. *blushes*

I am aware of statistics which say “Arranged Marriages” last longer. I think it is partially skewed. In arranged marriages you are necessarily married to each other’s family. So most “arranged marriages” last longer because they are designed to. If you think breaking up with one person sucks, try 200. We Indians are so uncomfortable seeking a resolution that we will try to see the relationship or the people involved die, rather than mitigate.

At least in India there is a notion that divorce should be permitted only in extreme cases of violence, harassment and abuse.

It is lost on me that in my society, two perfectly decent people would not be allowed to go their separate ways if they can’t find happiness without being judged or hated.  And this is a question that every quintessential couple faces. And the most clichéd answer is “Love cum arranged marriage”. You see you cannot concede either of them because society is perverted.  So for a groom

Arranged marriage:  Society goes “Lucky him, it must be the dowry”.

Love marriage: Society goes “Must’ve knocked her up”.

Work Life Balance: Work life balance is by far, my favorite oxymoron. And I can prove it to you. I hope you love numbers

All the hours spent in a week

Number of hours in a week: 168

Number of hours spent working, avg: 50

Number of hours for recreation such as gym, going for a run, reading etc..: 10

Number of hours spent on commute: 6

Sleep: 42

Time spent socializing with other equally boring couples in activities such as dinner, movies or spiritual recreation: 10

Time spent doing chores, because I believe in equality. LOL: 10

Total time left to spend with wife: 40

Guys get it easy. The above list is crazier if you’re a woman.

A grand total of 40 hours! So, good luck trying to make her feel like a Queen; be a responsible husband and raising a happy and healthy family. Oh also try to build a house, tend to the never ending family members from both sides, raise children. If he is a boy, make sure he is engineer. If she is a girl, make sure she is an engineer. Fund their college and then help them get married and be pretty darn successful at it. Oh by the way, make sure you are HAPPY while doing it.

Matching expectations: People feel that people with similar needs make a better couple. There are so many traits that act as deal breakers. For example, a groom might be a perfect match except the fact that the girls family expects a teetotaler. My parents pitched a girl for me who seemed pretty agreeable. But under “Music” she listed Falguni Pathak, so yeah that’s a strict no-no for me.

And something that people always ignore is sexual appetite.  That should be a huge factor but is always never discussed. Now I am using the term sexual in a very non sexual manner, like a botanist. Because when you date, you have sex. When you’re married you have intercourse. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a very responsible word to me. And often responsibilities aren’t fun. Nobody has ever blown the party whistle and screamed words like “Hey guys, lets crank up the volume, get drunk and be RESPONSIBLE”

Guys are always trigger-happy, while with women it’s more of a methodical approach. For guys we would be up for it in an instant, a girl just have to give us the hint and even if we are stuck on I-75 we would floor the silly Prius for you and reach home ASAP.

But for women, the process is more measured. They prefer treating them with attention, love, respect and all the adjectives you would find on a hallmark card. I am not a sexist; I am merely outlining the differences in approach towards a Darwinian act.

 Every matrimonial site ever: You see I have never been a huge fan of meeting people online. But once you are cruising towards your late 20’s your parents are  in a panic mode. It starts with it would be nice if my kid gets married to OMG PLZZZ someone marry my baby. The indian matrimonial sites reeks of parental influence. Most of the profiles are either tied to education, wealth, caste or culture. Nobody describes anything about what their personality is like.

I thought it would be a fantastic idea if such sites were designed like Amazon.com which would have user reviews. Where people would share review the families based on their experiences. Something like even though the groom’s father is Jain, I once saw him outside Steak and Shake.

My parents started sending me pictures of attractive women, I was surprised at how good of a wing man my dad could be. Then it struck me, the horror!

My dad uses Internet explorer as the basic browser whose home screen is set to Bing!

Happiness and loneliness: Most people marry of happiness; we grow up on stories where we are told if we behave good we will get a good wife or a husband who would make us happier. The flaw in this approach is lack of accountability. If I am getting into a relationship, I need to be sure of what I can contribute towards it. Are there qualities in me that would make the other person happier? Am I mature enough for that (I know it is a rhetorical question). Happiness is only true when shared and in order to share we must be prepared to give.

Loneliness: I think being alone and feeling lonely are completely different from each other.A major trigger towards getting married is the fear of ending up lonely. And I can assure you that it is morbidly terrifying to be left alone. Our society never accepts people who are lonely; they are either cast as greedy or gloomy. But in order to embrace happiness, one must like them. And you can only learn about yourself by embracing solitude. If you don’t like anything about you, it is ridiculous to expect others to.

We should realize that happiness is merely a state of mind; it is like those happy pit stops at the coffee shops while being on a road trip. One has to work towards it and it will last only for a while, but the mere pursuit makes the effort worthwhile. And if you can find someone who shares your view of happiness, then it is safe to say that you are going to have fun!

This post is dedicated to you bro! Good luck on your marriage.