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.

Why do we get Offended?

My friends and I were heading to an Indian restaurant the other day and we saw a car swerve around us. A guy flipped us off screaming something like “curry Indians” and sped away. I was pissed but my friends and I decided to shrug it off. But I realized if that happened to an American, god forbid a gun lover; things would have gone from weird to George Zimmerman in no time.

So I thought of listing things that get easily offended and decided to pen about them. But I thought well what if I end up offending more people? I kind of buried that instantaneously. Because when you think of it, you’re always forced to be nice and say nice things about people and places. Think about it.

Say I visit Delhi for the first time. And I undergo several unpleasant things such as being spat on from the roof, getting robbed, having to listen to Honey Singh in a stuffy taxi or worse encountering Rahul Gandhi at a mall (while he attends “fuck the poor” convention). That would leave a very unsavory taste for me, right? So don’t you think I should reserve a right to say “Delhi Sucks”? Imagine if I had some mileage as a socialite and I uttered those words. Mobs would be all over me.

So that being said I will assume a right to have my opinion and exercise it poor humor in space below. I think there are three entities which are constantly offended.

Women: Whenever there is a discussion about Women’s role in the society, A lot of men resort to whipping the rhetoric by saying things like “All women are my sisters or mothers and I have a moral obligation to protect them”. Some men even push the envelope and go from being apologetic to I-hate-that-I-have-a-penis.

The agenda shifts from solving a problem to Worshipping/Respecting all women. I think to myself, Well isn’t that is cocky? Why should we generalize, I mean I am sure there are a lot of good women out there. But respect all of them? Why? Jokes apart, I highly recommend reading this article by Shoma Choudhury titled “Women in India, Sluts or Goddesses”.

I think on an average, an urban woman gets more offended than an urban guy. And I think a lot of men are at fault here.  You see growing up in an orthodox south Indian middle class society taught us men boys to be non-confrontational with women.

Punching a boy in the face and splitting his lip-

Social Reaction: Oh boys will be boys.

Having a fierce argument with a girl

Social Reaction: OMG, ZOMG Your son is going to grow up into a wife beater/rapist.

I remember this vivid incident, a few years ago. I was walking down the road the other day from my school and there was this fire truck going past us and a whiny girl in our group said “Why the fuck are these fire trucks and ambulances so loud. Ughh, they’re so loud & dumb”

I so badly wanted to grab her by the arm take her to her father and tell him that he should sue the school and get a refund on the fees he spent on her.

But I didn’t, I just nodded along. So when women go through their best years without any arguments from men (man bitches) like me. They take things for granted and get offended when people don’t agree with their opinions.

You see as a guy, I know my limits. My friends wouldn’t spare two seconds before pointing out that my argument is flawed, I am stupid and I shouldn’t be such a jerk. But I don’t think women have that feedback mechanism in them. And no grown man ever confronts or argues with a woman over a fallacious discussion because, uhm how should I put it mildly

………

……

.because they want to sleep with them.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Governments

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One thing that I love about United States is their freedom of speech. I mean Anthony Weiner got into so much of humiliation for sexting and got kicked during the mayor election. And we have rapists in our legislative assembly. Imagine this conversation between a female reporter and a male politician.

Hot Bong Reporter: Sir, why do think women get assaulted on the streets.

Random Wannabe Politician: Because when women wear seductive clothes like salwar kameez, jeans & t shirts they know that they create attention and want to be teased.

HBR: You are such a sexist!

RWP: *Blushing and pushing the microphone aside*, Aap bhi looking very sexist madam, kyun party warty ho jaye?

You can’t even pass a bill that says criminals can’t contest in election. I mean that’s like allowing repeat sex offenders to become pastors and hang around altar kids. Oh well, you get the idea.

In order to scrutinize governments let us revisit one of the pillars of our education which went by the name Discipline. All of us wore the same uniform, studied the same kind of subjects and proceeded to carve similar careers. It felt more like being a part of an industrial supply chain rather than schooling. More importantly we were taught to think ‘ALIKE’. Respect your elders. Don’t talk back to teachers. Aberrations to the norm set above were punished.

So when we become a spineless generation that was raised from the same ground, this fear of being disciplined is ingrained in us. We do not question authority, we do not ask ourselves why we are way we are. It behooves all of us to respect the authority and even questioning/reasoning it, is seen as a mark of disrespect.

And when anyone questions the authority they are jailed or as they call it in China “Government Sponsored Holidays”. It is easier to control people when they are united in fear. So when people question the authority; they are vilified. But my argument isn’t absolute and must be taken with a pinch of salt, especially after the whole fiasco over authenticity of “Syrian Rebels”.

Religion

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Religion has been getting offended since the dawn of humans. (Insert Darwin joke- Check!)

Talking about religion isn’t my favorite hobby, but as a confessed atheist I definitely have a morbid curiosity to learn how it affects humanity.

They say criticism of religion is the beginning of criticism. But I haven’t come across a single religion which promotes reasoning. Each religion only allows questions that glorify them. It’s like every networking session I have ever attended at school. Q&A sessions were reserved only for sucking up.

I’ve always wondered why do religious people get offended so easily and react with violence when reasoned. From stoning the heretics in the black ages to blasphemy laws in a few Islamic countries in the middle east.  When scientists like Galileo, Copernicus proposed their theory on our solar system, the church didn’t condemn them for being wrong, but for being offensive.

The reason why religious people are so insecure is because religion happens to be an Idea which is seemingly immutable. Which means we can never edit it or nurture it. We can’t even add stuff like, child marriage should be banned or men shouldn’t control reproductive rights of women. They seem like good ideas right?

We won’t be here if we didn’t question ideas. The idea of energy, language, evolution, music, food etc… All of these theories were tested, improved and perfected.

Ideas are powerful and sometimes immortal. They can masquerade as ideals. Ideas are hard to give up especially when an idea grants you power over your fellow men. And that is the reason why some people want to treat them with impunity. Say what you want but all the religions have always worked in cahoots with the government in one way or other.

*Profanity ahead*

I agree that people must have freedom to have their own opinion, but not facts. So when a clusterfuck politicians discredit Global Warming to pacify Big Oil companies. It affects ALL OF US. So screw them, if they’re offended.

The same goes with gay marriages. If you are not for gay marriage, I am sorry; fuck you. You know why? It has nothing to do with you. Although you are allowed to be a homophobe within your community , you cannot ostracize a legitimate part of our society just because of their orientation.

What irks me most is when religion claims copyrights to morality. So even if a belief system is flawed you can’t question it because you can’t derive morality without it. Now this is the single reason why I chose to become an atheist. My mom used to say that when we were not so advanced, religion is the reason which taught us to be good and not kill each other.

I refuse to accept that humans who are capable of tremendous feats such as stem cell research and interstellar travel can’t figure out that killing others and beating the shit out of your parents is wrong.

We’re living in an environment which is increasingly becoming hostile to people who question the norm and attempt to hold organizations accountable. The riots in the middle-east, collapse of oligarchy’s in South America after legalization of drugs and Europe’s exoneration of the financially irresponsible are few but telling tales that there is a movement in motion. We should raise the next generation on how to learn and not force them what to learn.

If you find yourself offended all the time, I want to end with this quote.

“If you run into an asshole in the morning. You ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all the time, YOU are the asshole.”

P.S: I have heavily referenced this article. So if you’re offended please realize that you are pissed off over facts, not opinions.

Graduation Speech

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I know that this is a graduation season and there are a lot of people are quite happy about it. Most of Indians I know are excited as this is one of the few times you get to take a picture with white people in the background, which means “You’ve made it” back at home.

So I wanted to write a graduation speech. I am not sure if I envision myself to be famous enough to commemorate a graduation ceremony. As it is, I feel I have achieved more than any man with my looks and intellect possibly could. So here goes nothing…

The Speech

Hello batch of 20xx. Congratulations on your graduation (Unless you did an MBA from IIPM. Then you’re fucked. Proper fucked).

*Side note: Begins speech by thanking people who are important but you couldn’t possibly care about.

I’m sure most of you can’t wait to get out of this stadium to be with your loved ones and celebrate your success. I promise I won’t beat the cliched horse to death. I request twenty minutes of your time. And I have made sure that there is enough security at the gates, so you really don’t have much choice.

I don’t have anything inspirational about me unlike many of you. I got pretty much whatever I wanted and couldn’t complain about how my life was going. I was and am ordinary. And now I want to address those students who are ordinary. Just like me.

So to all the ordinary lads and lasses out there, you might feel that since you’re ordinary these clichéd speeches don’t work for you. You don’t see yourself changing the world or realizing your dream which in many cases might cease to exist. I am going to attempt to prove it wrong. My speech is about 5 big things that you are going to face after you have graduated.

Career: It is comparatively easy to get a job. But it takes a lot of grit and passion to get to your dream job. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when in you are in the commencement ceremony and when the speaker adorns your ego with words like #Dreams #Success #Changing the world. You know what? It is a sham.

You are more than likely to find a decent job which will pay your bills. You will soon realize that your work requires none of the skills you learned at school but will realize that “job satisfaction” is a hoax. You will work hard to impress your boss and then grow tired of it.

You shall slowly realize that people who don’t work as hard as you are getting ahead of you and you are running into a dead wall. You will doubt your worth often and feel like slamming your coffee against the coffee machine after the road rage you went through en route to work. And if you pick up a self-help book by Deepak Chopra, you know you’re going downhill. I have one advice for you

Mastery : Let me tell you how the world works. You are what you can do. As long as you can get the job done you will survive. Nothing else matters. Nobody but nobody (except maybe your mother) gives a flying fuck about what you are as a person. People have needs and as long as you fulfill them you can coast along. Look at any job description, you are not there to exchange pleasantries, build relationships or if you’re black contribute to diversity. You are hired to fulfill the needs of the company and as long as you do meet it. You will survive. And if you get good at it, you will still have other companies who would want to hire you. Not because they like you. But because they NEED you.

Tyler Durden was wrong. You ARE your job. You ARE the contents of your wallet. Society determines you by what you do and not who you are. Imagine you are at any social event. Some person comes up to you to have a chat. The rest of the conversation depends on what you do for a living. This is the microcosm of the society we live in.

Dreams:

We are encouraged to dream when we are kids but we are constantly brought up in way that we don’t realize it. When you dream you don’t really have boundaries. But when you feel mortal and look around you, there is only so much you can achieve. I am risking my reputation here, but you know what? It is OKAY to give up on your dreams.

For one simple reason, we evolve. Just like our dreams. It is not the end of the tunnel if you can’t achieve your goal. But you are not a failure. Yes, days will be longer and nights will be shorter. It is OKAY to give up and it is better for the economy too. 10% of American debt is on student loans. Creativity is an unforgiving business because of the latent uncertainties. But trust me, no one wipes their tears when they collect their paycheck which feeds their needs and vices alike.

Relationships:

In one of the episodes of my all-time favorite shows “Californication”. The character “Lew Ashby ” remarks to Hank moody that “In the end it is all about her”. Finding someone to share your life is one activity that will define the rest of your personal life. The definition of love should subjective lest should you fail and embarrass yourself chasing the dream girl/guy as promised by some sitcom/movie. Those being said, never marry someone without whom you cannot be happy. It will end in an abusive relationship. For you.

I will now cater the next few lines to my male friends who are still single. A lot of you have gone through your entire college life without sharing your feelings to your girl. You guys make the dreadful mistake that the only way to win a girl over is by impressing her with your good demeanor. You assume that there are two steps to the process

Step 1: Become her friend. Earn her trust be nice and kind to her and always be on your best behavior. And hope that one day she realizes that you are the guy for her.

There is no step 2, you think it would mean getting the girl. But you may not. You know why? Because SURPRISE you’ve been friend zoned. And you will only realize it when she walks away with a douchebag or at least who you think is a douchebag. And you will ask yourself, I held her so high in my regard. I put her priorities over me, even then, why doesn’t she like me? Think about it logically, if you put someone on a pedestal the only way they can look at you is downwards.

Whenever you see a pretty girl with another guy you will immediately arrive to a conclusion where you put the guy on a pedestal compared to you. He got her because he has a fancy job. He won her over because he is good looking etc…

Such excuses make you miserable. Being miserable is easy. Happiness takes *effort

Never doubt yourself ever. At the same time don’t go overboard to be good. Not being a pretentious prick doesn’t mean you’re eligible for the women of your dreams. Or in other words being a nice guy doesn’t qualify you for the love of your life. Women want men, not boys with emotions. Women want men who would change the world. The world wants men who will change it. I am sorry to disappoint any feminists in the audience.

Failure: It is very likely you will face failure in your life with unpredictable frequency. Some of you will be divorced, fired from your job and undergo other things that doesn’t bode well with the spirit of this occasion. And when you are defeated the whole world would scare you. You might want to curl into a fetal position and stare at the wall.

I think our greatest fear about the universe is not that it is dangerous but  that it is indifferent. Remember, However dark the abyss, we must individually stoke our own fire.

So what should you do when you fail? This is the biggest lesson that education teaches you.

Confidence and Grit

Dear men and women, we have seen civilizations built upon education, hard work and determination. If you read about it a career seems far less daunting. You have gained many valuable tools for survival in this great institution and I hope you use it to your behest.

I can promise you that these skills and tools won’t ensure you a safe journey and you shall not emerge unscathed. But at the end you will look back and relish at this awesome realm of time we call existence.

Cheers!

1- http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person/

Virtue of Selfishness

For those who can identify the title, it is derived from Ayn Rand’s pocket sized book. I admit that I had an Ayn Rand fan boy phase during my definitive years. After I read fountainhead, I realized that if I continued to foster my character based on her caricatures I would either become a full blown asshole or worse a Wall Street banker.

P.S: A note to the readers who don’t know me, I am not a Wall Street banker.

I was consistently impressed by her sheer genius of objectivizing everything. Every emotion had an objective reasoning behind it and the faster you identify it the easier life becomes for you. They say that the key to solving most of the problems is realizing that there is one.

Most of my blogs have a structure where I draw out examples from my school days. It wasn’t a fancy one where they would teach you music appreciation, arts or high level programming. However it was incredibly competitive. Students made conscious decisions about who they chose to hang out with. The nerdy ones were in a group as they thought they could gain from group study sessions.

The socially gifted hanged out together as being in the center of a circle of friends assuaged their egos. And even the lonelier and weird ones hung out together to protest the conformity. And I identified with each group in one way or other. But because I didn’t find them mutually exclusive, I was a misfit.

Our society wants us to become considerate individuals but reality paints a disappointing picture. We are taught that at a very young age that everything out there is all about competition and winning. From getting a good degree, to a job to even a spouse it is all about how to get the best for you. And In USA they take it to another extreme where they don’t embrace failure. Everyone gets a medal for running a race, which I think is the other extreme. Learning that it is okay to fail at something is one lesson which I wish I had learned at a young age.

I hail from a common middle class family, I would be considered successful if I was rich rather than happy. I personally don’t have a very high regard for wealth. I am a trifle uncomfortable when one’s achievement is solely measured by their bank balance. Don’t get me wrong I am not a hippy and I do have hedonistic aspirations to gain material wealth. But at the same time I realize that, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my success if I wasn’t happy.

So I practiced being indifferent. There was so much misery around me that I knew if I kept attaching myself to the things around me, I would be part of the malarkey. Here is where logic came to rescue, I stopped empathizing and looked at problems with an outlook to solve them. I have a huge tiff with the word “Feel”. I really found it to be redundant, if I look at a kid who has a scraped knee; I would rather give him first aid than feel sorry for him. So this attitude helped me tremendously as it helped me coast through irritable company.

We are taught to be competitive and that one shouldn’t trust others easily. Is it because a lot of us are victims of trust abuse? Or is pathological distrust considered as a sign of maturity?

Indifference taught me how to cope with loneliness. I would not empathize with myself or become depressed when I was lonely. I looked at it as a problem which I could solve. To give a very personal example a year ago I spent what I would recall as a very depressing birthday.

I was inches away from being fired at my GRA due to a misunderstanding, I was unemployed and going through a terrible break up. I was feeling pathetic; I decided to get some Chinese food along the way. On my way I saw a homeless guy. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I did want to do something. So I gave away my dinner to him. He didn’t thank or smile at me. He took it and dived in.

When I came back home I felt a lot better about myself. The takeaway is that I didn’t help the guy because he was hungry. I helped him in an attempt to see if it would make me feel any better and it did. This had a profound impact on me. There is nothing wrong in having a motive behind anything and everything you do. As long as you don’t achieve what you want, you will always be unhappy. Think of selfishness as an insurance policy to protect your dreams.

Unconditional love is the biggest lie that we have out there. As literally unconditional is a condition by itself. So when you have such an objective outlook towards life, it is very efficient but life certainly loses color and spontaneity. I can’t recall the last time I felt outraged or tremendously happy. Life has been a succession of platitudes.

During the past year or so I have been at the receiving end of unbelievable generosity. I’ve been continuously invited to so many dinners, friendly get together where people who I have barely met treat me as a part of family. Friends have shared their deepest insecurities with me to get closure. People who I’ve left behind, string comfort laden words to inquire about my well-being.

Even for a guy as cynical as me, it tugs my heartstrings to be subject of such love and respect.

I ceased to be emotionally bonded with people as I find emotions and relationships as double edged swords. When I was in love things were tremendously strenuous. There were rapid troughs and heights in emotions which defied reasoning.  I think it’s this emotional instability which gave birth to the cliched phrase “I don’t want anything serious right now”. The fear of being hurt has reached endemic proportions.

I don’t see people my age fall in love as easily as they used to just a few years ago. We have this small mental checklist which we try to map to people who we feel we like. If it matches move ahead if not maybe they are not the right one’s for you. Since when did love become a grocery list of requirements? Yes, we are collectively much more successful than we ever thought before. But if it comes at the cost of neutralizing one’s ability to love fearlessly is it really worth it?

I am in a limbo of whether to let go of my selfishness which has been a great servant to me to tread into such melancholic depth.The question is, is selfishness a virtue worth protecting?

Am I socially stupid?

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Facebook tells me that I now have 890 friends. That is a lot! So as a social experiment, I am trying to see if that count is reduced after people read the following blog. And thanks to the new Graph Search, my social experience on web is going to suck even more. So in order to protest I have written the following piece.

During the past one month, I have been able to spend more time over things that I liked to do. And one such activity is culture spotting. Culture spotting is the activity where an individual with a preposterous ego monitors people around him/her for their amusement.

Exhibit A: Me.

But if you observe in real life, many people are obnoxious to tolerate. Most of them are miserable with their career, education, debt, marriage, pollution and what not. Hence I felt it is inexcusable to make fun of them as it is not a level playing ground to anyone.

But with the advent of social media, we can allow ourselves to put our pretty foot forwards and appear more approachable and amicable out on the web. Also it is an excellent tool to establish our intellectual authority.

So in this case I observed some of the most stupid things that people do on Social media, in this case Facebook and I am attempting to note them below for our mutual amusement.

  1. Photography: I don’t understand why most IIM’s (Indian IT Male’s) are suddenly into photography majority of my friends own a DSLR and they take really shitty pictures. Having a DSLR and taking trashy pictures is like owning an orchestra and playing Niki Minaj.

Here are a few tips that might enhance the probability of your social acceptance:

  • Never name your album “Random piczzz/clicks” or “My Experimentation with Photography”. – You just purchased an electronic device worth 500$ or more. There is nothing random or experimental about it.
  • There is nothing extraordinary about a high definition picture of a flower, with a bee buzzing around. I am old school as I think Photography is more about Context than Clarity.
  • Never upload pictures of kids without their parents’ permission. Internet is rife with child abuse, you don’t want to enable that. Trust me.
  • If you take a mirror shot of yourself with a DSLR camera, do realize that you share your I.Q with a door knob.
  • Use your discretion while uploading albums. Don’t upload the same picture with different filters. It is intellectually offensive.
  • If you are a shitty photographer and still have the temerity to add a watermark signature on your picture. Just realize that you are making your imbecility official.

Birthdays: This is a phenomenon mostly observed in girls or women. They usually hyperventilate over their birthdays with statuses like “OMG, I am so excited for my birthday”, “Just 3 weeks before my birthday”, “I am going to go to a dance club for my birthday”. So ladies, a couple of facts for you:

    1. Earth revolves around Sun, so you are bound to have at least one birthday. Every year.
    2. Birthdays are no achievement unless you’re ailing from a life threatening disease. I am 25 and the only thing I had to do; to achieve this was to make sure I look on both sides of the road before crossing.

I personally believe Birthdays are private events and a time to celebrate and remember the good times with your friends while reeling from the kicks to your scrotum in the name of birthday bumps.

Language overload: Lingual affluence is a strong indicator of one’s intelligence. Most Indians  speak, write or read more than 3 languages. But I don’t understand how people add Hinglish (Hindi + English) or Tanglish (Tamil + English) in the “Languages they speak” section. It sounds more like a Jewish dessert than a language

Vacation: If you don’t know already, these German scientists have made this official. Uploading your holiday pictures makes your friends jealous. On Facebook, depression will be mocked and happiness shall be envied upon. Tells a great deal about our society doesn’t it? Don’t embrace the ugly truth but at least resist to avoid it :)

Chat log: Again, it is mostly girls who commit this social blunder. Some of them share their chat logs as pictures with their friends to often show people around them that they are hilarious. Repeat after me, you shall never share your chat logs and you are the only person who thinks you’re funny.

Acknowledging Insecurity: At the risk of sounding sexist, this gaffe is once again committed primarily by women who are insecure about their looks.  This can be understood by observing how people react to compliments. Say there is a girl x, who has a pretty picture. Now naturally it would get attention and people would complement and comment her on the picture. They generally fall into 3 types:

    1. Various versions of “You look hot babe :* ”- Primarily women, mostly overweight.
    2. The more neutral and subdued comment: “Great picture”
    3. Indirect compliments with deplorable humor such as : “Awsm pictrr, credits to photographer Lolxx”

And the girl now can react in following ways which may or may not exhibit her desperation

  1. Reply by saying a polite thank you: Desperation level =0
  2. Like everyone’s compliment: Desperation level =1
  3. Thank everyone Individually for their compliment: Desperation level = infinity

After reading the above points you might wonder, what makes you the judge? Do you think you’re smarter than me? Am I proud of what I just wrote?Allow me to answer in the negative. I am not smart nor am I an intellectual. I am just another cynical tool with a connection to the internet who is allergic to dolts.

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