Monday, January 23, 2017

Halos

I have always wondered about halos. Note, please, that 'always'. So, it is not true that my interest in halos arises only from the fact that light is reflected by the shiny dome atop my body which has disdained all covering and preens itself in its naked glory. Unless, you choose to believe that I never had hair on my head, despite encouraging it to grow by frequent watering and copious application of fertilizers.

The days of my youth were spent with pictures of great men with a moon around their heads and ones without. Given that people told me that the former were Saints or Gods and the latter were great mortals, I developed a totally skewed notion about Saints in general. It is a fact that, subconsciously, I look for that moon behind and around the head of everyone who is called a Saint by people. I have to, sadly, report that I never have yet caught sight of one and, thus, have developed a totally unreasoning disbelief in the saintliness of those people.

Age brings with it either wisdom or pigheaded belief or, more often than not, the latter masquerading as the former. It is, thus, that I firmly believe that, some time soon, all these great mortals shall also be depicted with that halo. The difference between mortals seen as saints, and mortals who are merely seen as great, seems largely to be that we think we can emulate the latter and we do not think we can emulate the former. As in, the former are capable of producing miracles and the latter are only good even great people but human in their powers.

Now, we have started considering being good AS a miracle. It is no longer achievable by mere humans, as in phrases like, "I am only a human, I am not a Mahatma". Now that THEY, too, are now more than human and the doer of miracles, it is time to add that full moon to their portraits.

It would be a great service to humanity to do so. For, then, we can all happily relax, free of the guilt of failing to emulate them!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The hard way

Everyone is born naive but I seem to have stayed that way. There is so much that I never do understand though everyone else around me seems to be quite wise to everything. And so I, periodically, need to seek clarifications from my friends. Not that it has been a great help so far but...

There I was, as usual, with a friend, who had that how-long-is-this-going-to-last look on his face, asking him to clarify my latest confusion. A natural one, I thought. In a country where 'Jugaad' is the normal war-cry, this idea of doing a thing the hard way and eliminating a problem from the root up surely ranks as something out of the way.

"How easy do you think it is to change people's opinions and mindsets?"

"You ask me? I have been trying to change your opinion that you have a brain for so many years but..."

"Yes...yes...stop that will you? I am serious."

"So was I. Anyway...tell me what you want to say", he said, with that world weary 'let us indulge the moron even though he will bore me to tears' tone.

"See, I know you think my wearing tracks and tees to your parties is not done. But, if you beat me up for it..."

"I would, if I were convinced you would look better in anything else. As it is..."

"Listen, will you. If you beat me up, do people say we have to work to change your opinions about the acceptability of tracks and tees or to stop you thinking that you can beat up people because of your opinions?"

"The latter, I suppose..."

"If I go to the police with an assault complaint, do they advice me to stop wearing tracks and tees to parties, even if the policeman actually shares your opinions?"

"Well...try going to the police with this..."

"OK...if I leave my house unlocked and there is a robbery, does the police think that I was at fault for tempting the poor thief or do they register my complaint?"

"Where are you going with all this?"

"I mean, does my opinion count at all in this. Whether I think something is wrong or not, it is only the law that makes it a crime or legal. And even when someone is doing something illegal, it is still illegal for the citizen to take it upon him to punish him, isn't it?"

"You astonish me! I never knew that you could even understand anything...leave alone saying it cogently."

Experience had taught me to ignore these learned commentaries on my abilities. In the past, discussions had been diverted to increasingly tearful defenses of my abilities to no avail.

"Whatever...but the point is that, whenever there is an issue of molestation of women, say, why does everyone talk mainly about changing mindsets? I mean, the mindsets about how they assess women by their dresses and actions, say."

"Are you saying it is not important?"

"Important, yes! But if, say, there is a robbery, you do not say that you need to find ways to make all people honest. Or, eliminate all income disparities...certainly not as the first step. All of that may be desirable...but more difficult to enforce than the illegality of the act."

"A Solomon!! But you fail to consider one thing."

"What is that?"

"See, when someone makes suggestive comments to a woman in a bus and she beats him up, she is lauded as a braveheart...not as a criminal."

"So? She is supposed to take it all silently?"

"Not so! She is supposed to hand him over to the police for punishment, not punish him herself. If she is physically molested, whatever necessary violence she uses is self-defense. If the man is trying to escape, any violence she uses to restrain him is acceptable. But to beat him up as a punishment is illegal. And, yet, Society accepts it and the police accept it too."

"You cannot say both things are the same..."

"Can't I? I mean, if you accept that Society and the police can wink at some illegal actions because, in their opinion, it is justified, then have you not given leeway for them to use their opinions to guide their actions rather than act strictly as per the law of the land?"

"It is precisely because women cannot trust the law to handle these criminals that..."

"Yes! You see, when it comes to opinions about right and wrong, we all differ. Comes to...what is that quaint phrase...ah...'taking the law into your own hands'...we are all agreed that it is alright to do so if we can justify our actions to our own satisfaction."

THIS always happens...I come for clarifications and people confuse me further. The chap was still speaking...

"Since EVERYONE is supportive of putting their own opinions ahead of the law, you need to change the mindset of everyone in society to make them law-abiding. Whereas at least a proportion of society will share your opinion on other things. Changing mindsets there will involve change in lesser people and, so, it is easier to do."

He smirked at me with the satisfaction of an Einstein proposing the 'General Theory of Relativity' and I was as confused as, possibly, Einstein's audience was.

When you are convinced to the core that the law is an ass...and treat it as such...

Monday, January 9, 2017

English-Vinglish?

For as long as I can remember, I have always been told to tone down my English. If I had a penny for every time someone told me so, I would be rich enough to be able to not only ignore them but also have people trying to acquire my exact vocabulary as one of the essential prerequisites of success. You know, one of those 'Seven secrets to success by famous multimillionaire...' sort of thing and, since they are generally pretty silent about what the chap was famous for, other than for being rich, it would have been alright by me.

"Superfluous words", screams one; "How about writing so that us ordinary mortals can understand it?" cries the other; "I rushed to the dictionary some twenty times per page", proudly announces another; "Is it necessary to use such difficult words when writing?" moans yet another. And so it goes.

I sort of have an idea of the picture that they have of me while writing. Almost buried in a stack of dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri?), I would be sitting and typing my next magnum opus. I would dive in and search through all those tomes to find the most difficult word I could find to mean what I want to say. Then I would google for which of them is statistically proven to be known to the least number of people in the world and, presto, I would type in that word. At the end of the day, I would read through what I had written, do a face-palm, and scream in horror, "How could I? There are seven sentences with three or more consecutive words that everyone can understand!" and mark them for editing the next day.

However right that scene appears, it is wrong (like most things which seem so right that people think that they just cannot be questioned). Totally. I have not looked up a word in a dictionary or a thesaurus in my life. Ever. And THAT means not even to LEARN the words, leave alone to look up words while writing. Any word I know, I know only by reading and understanding the meaning from the context of what I read.

Impossible? Well, you see if I read something like "Wearing a coat with the buttons at the back and inside out to boot, with the tie knotted securely in a sailor's knot around the waist to hold up the trousers that ended somewhere between ankle and knee, he looked ludicrous", I can pick up what 'ludicrous' means. Since that is not exactly the picture of a dashing, well-dressed man-about-town, it is unlikely to mean 'elegant', so it probably means 'silly' or 'ridiculous'. And so it went, through school and college, till I ended up with a vocabulary like this.

I know I am the old model of human and the act of picking up a book of fiction to read does not automatically disengage my brain and put it to sleep, so I could process what I was reading unless I manually shifted the mental gears to neutral. The latest model of human, like the more modern cars, probably has automatic transmission and the disengagement happens without any conscious effort. It is even likely that the idea that the brain COULD be engaged while reading fiction strikes them as a novel, though quaint, idea. I assure you, though, that it IS true of me that my brain remained engaged and I picked up words without ever looking up a dictionary or thesaurus. To the extent that my sister, who fondly gifted me both for a birthday long back, looks ruefully at the books which are still brand new and untouched after a couple of decades...the ONLY two books in the house that have not seen ANY use.

The problem, you see, is in the books that I read. If you read Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' in fifth grade, run through almost all the English classics in the original before you are through with school (Yes! I read them even though I did not HAVE to for writing an exam or some such), and dip into Chekhov and Dostoevsky for light relief, your idea of what constitutes grade school English is likely to be totally revolutionary. It really is no use telling me to write so that someone in 6th grade can understand. I think I already AM doing that - THIS is my idea of 6th grade English because this WAS my 6th grade English.

I try desperately to mimic what others would see as toned-down English. Maybe, if I used smaller words? But then people just seem to think that 'humongous' is easier than 'huge' but balk at...err...'balk'. I try to make things simple by writing things like, 'He was a person very difficult to correct and no amount of education or persuasion could cause him to change his habits' and someone comes in saying with condescending helpfulness, 'Maybe instead of that Ramayan you could just say that he was incorrigible.' How was I to know that 'incorrigible' WAS 6th grade English, when people react petulantly when I use...err...'petulant'?

Maybe I should revert back to Kindergarten and start all over with the alphabet. THAT, though, is, probably, where all the problems started for me. My mom, when I was 3, taught me the alphabet based on 'A for Ambition, B for Bravery....' instead of the customary botanical/zoological route - you know apples, babies, cats and all. And with Y for Yearning and Z for Zeal, you know pretty much that my fate was sealed right then.

NOW, if I wrote in what I think is kindergarten English, I'd still have people clamoring for me to tone down my English!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Another New Year

Here that dratted thing comes over again, setting off that itch. 2016 is kicked out unceremoniously and 2017 walks insouciantly in. "You may call yourself new, laddie, but so did dear old 2016 some time back", I say and try to laugh off that itch. As though anyone has ever managed to laugh off an itch...any itch.

What is that itch, you ask? As though you have not just been scratching it. The New Year resolution itch, of course. Almost every special day is celebrated in some way or the other - some with crackers, others with colors, almost all with sweets - but whoever thought that making goddamn resolutions was a fit celebration of a special day ought to be lynched. Or, more to the point, those idiots ought to be lynched who listened to the gibbering of an obviously insane person and took it seriously. Just imagine...you have this so-called special day and how do you spend it? In doing something that will store up frustration and shoot up your blood pressure for all the remaining days of the year. If THAT is not crazy, I think someone changed the meaning of 'crazy' in the dictionary while I was not looking.

Yeah! Yeah! I know...YOU are too sane to be making resolutions. Of course you think that I, too, must be insane if I get the itch for doing a thing that I KNOW to be originated in the mind of someone who saw pink elephants perching on trees every time he ventured out of his house. The problem, you see, is that, unlike you, I am a social person and the sheer pressure of answering hour-long critical sessions on why I am NOT making resolutions is just too much for me. Unlike you, I cannot snappily answer, "Because I am sane", and have the whole lot of them ostracizing me.

Thus it is that every year on the year, except the first and the last one, I have been starting the year with, "At least this year, I shall..." By which you know how well I had kept the resolution of the previous year. The reason why I did not start off with that resounding phrase in the first year was only because there had been no previous year wherein I had so resolved and failed to keep the resolution. As for the last year...

I really thought I had the game beat. I resolved last year to just continue what I had been doing the previous year...laze around etc....and I had succeeded signally with my resolution. NOW you may think that I had the winning formula and can consider myself as having conquered the itch. I thought so too, but...

It is itching with the backlog of last year as well. Apparently what I resolved last year does not really count as a resolution within the meaning of the term as defined in the statutes governing New Year resolutions. And so...

"At least this year I shall..."