Monday, November 13, 2017

Parsimony

I have never understood why we are so unjust to some words. I mean, look, we have words meaning practically the same thing and one word we sort of consider embrace like a long-lost friend and the other we twitch our skirts away and walk around as though it is a turd lying on your primrose path.

Take this word 'parsimony' for example. You have that other word 'frugal' which means about the same thing. But call someone 'frugal' and he preens as though he has been given the Nobel Prize for literature. Or, more to the point, the top award for conservation. Frugal seems to indicate the sort of chap who abhors waste and uses his resources carefully to the best effect.

Parsimony, on the other hand, is the poor cousin. To call someone parsimonious is to accuse him of being the sort of chap that becomes the butt of jokes. Somewhat like that kanjoos father and son. (WHAT? THAT word - kanjoos - has not yet entered ANY English dictionary? How remiss of them!) The son is proud of having run after a bus all the way home and saved twenty bucks and the father chides him for not having run after a cab thereby saving two hundred. THAT sort of chap gets called parsimonious. (Come to think of it, kanjoos is a much better word - easier on the typing fingers.)

In other words, when you are frugal, you are the sort of person who does not waste food on your plate. When you are parsimonious, you are the sort of chap who thinks that a slice of bread is too rich a dinner and saves half of it for breakfast. How totally unjust to poor old parsimony.

Though, I suppose, that parsimony will still have the last laugh. Frugal has been basking in praise all this while but, alas, good things do not last...even for words. We have now entered an era when frugal will face the music.

There is a saying in Tamil. It is ideal to have Kuber (the Lord of Wealth) and Sudama (the byword for poverty) possess equal wealth; it is difficult to convert ALL the Sudamas of the world to Kuber; so, we decided to convert Kuber into another Sudama. That was a colorful way of making fun of the idea that, if bringing the poor at par with the rich is the ideal and enriching the poor is difficult, it serves just as well to impoverish the rich.

AND, thus, since giving parsimony a good reputation is tough, we have decided to convert frugal into another bad word.

Vive le EMIs!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dogged by the discerning

Into everyone's life some rain must fall. The problem, though, is that when it comes to my life it falls continuously and with all the fury of a Bombay monsoon. This particular occasion, though, I intend shedding copious tears about how little appreciated I am.

You know, everybody seems to have a crowd of people who are not too discerning and, if discerning, not too nitpicking about their efforts. Probably, in childhood, when they bleated, "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" there was a chorus of people telling them and their parents, "He is the future Mohammed Rafi." When they started on A for Apple, they were the next Salman Rushdie or Chetan Bhagat as per choice. When they first got their crayons and the walls squirmed with the fear of their attentions, Picasso could take their correspondence course. When they...hmmm, you got the point? OK.

Comes to me, though, I seem to be surrounded by the most nitpicking of critics every single time. I mean, I sing a film song and out comes my audience with "On that third line, you should use the soft 'Ri'" I was not even aware that I was using ANY 'Ri', regardless of its texture but...and, no information about whether, but for that 'Ri', whatever it meant, the singing was pleasant or not. These chaps, though, count as the best of the lot, believe me. There are those who clutch their ears and run as though someone was pouring hot oil into them. Somewhere in between are the guys who egg me on to sing and then start vociferously chatting with the others as though to drown out the braying of...forget it, I am sure you know the animal which brays. So much for encouragement.

And then I start writing. Here, at last, I thought I may not fare too badly. I happily share my writing and..."In that third line in the fourth para, there is an unnecessary comma." AND, of course, not a word about how it was otherwise. THAT, of course, was from a discerning reader who actually bothered to get back to me. Else...even a stone sinks into the water after causing ripples.

You know, it beats me how I manage to find all these people and ONLY them. The ones with so fine-tuned a taste that a 'Ri' of the wrong texture or a misplaced comma completely ruins their day. Somewhat like that Princess in the fairy tale who lay down atop some 20 mattresses and tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep, because a single solitary pea under that whole stack was irritating her sensitive skin. I could do with a little less discernment in my audience but, what can I say, if you went only by MY audience, you'd think that only animals could have any lesser discernment.

What was THAT? I have had my share of people praising me? Even those who comment DO comment, they do not ignore? I should learn to count my blessings? So, when was the last YOU counted YOUR blessings? Ah...I thought so. You are currently too busy counting your curses that you have not yet got around to it? Exactly! THAT's the way with me as well.

Anyway, I am still waiting for some uncritical admiration...and it is still raining!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Low hanging fruit

There are two ways to be considered learned. One is to know things that most people do not know. The other is to talk of things in a manner that people do not know or readily recognize. You would be pardoned for thinking that all of management consists of finding out pithy terms for things that everyone knows already so that you can speak of them in a 'learned' manner.

Take this 'low hanging fruit' for example. All that the dratted thing means is that you should try to make money in the easiest way possible - something that any town drunk could have told you centuries before people had even thought about such a thing as management. Picking the low hanging fruit, forsooth!

But then there IS a reason why a pithy term for this idea became necessary these days. In the not too distant past, people were lauded for the difficulty of the tasks that they attempted. Edison did not try to corner the whale oil market and make money - he tried endlessly to invent the electric bulb and succeeded eventually. But then he did not have the benefit of a management education or, even, a management consultant. Poor chap! No Hillary would climb the Everest. Ah! No! The local hillock would do very well for 'low hanging fruit'.

Oh! Well! I know what you will say. That getting the 'low hanging fruit' does not mean that you leave all the ones higher up to the monkeys. But...consider...did we, in the past, leave the 'low hanging fruit' to the monkeys and chase after ONLY those hanging higher up? Why does it even need saying? What, the metaphor does not really mean that things are as clear? The fact that it IS 'low hanging fruit' is not as apparent? Perhaps...but then consider the consequences of the metaphor. Everyone and his uncle prowls the jungle looking for 'low hanging fruit' and disdains the effort to go any higher. If this tree's easy-to-reach fruits are all taken then it is better to search for another tree than to climb up this one. You look such a fool putting in so much effort when everyone else is merely reaching up for fruit. AND, if you are truly the guru, you blame the fruit and the tree for the fact that the fruit is NOT low-hanging!

And, thus, you have people who want books written in the words that they already know because it is too much effort to learn new words. You have citizens wanting news and analysis squeezed into 140 characters because it is too much to expect them to read a couple of pages. You have marketers who want a product that they can readily sell because it is too much effort to craft a strategy to sell a product that the customer is not already known to want. You have...well, you have a world full of people all looking for fruit to fall into their mouths conveniently.

I should have made a meme out of this...THIS sort of long piece certainly does not count as 'low hanging fruit'!

Monday, October 23, 2017

This game called Bridge

Ever heard of this card game called Bridge? One of the stupidest games I have ever heard of, let me tell you. I mean, yes, I know games need not necessarily be about real life. Like, nowadays, people seem to play about in dungeons with dragons and all, so, yes, it can get real weird with games but...here is the thing...there ARE some common factors in games...you know, some...human elements. But this game...this Bridge...

I mean, come on, how can the damn thing call itself a card game when winning and losing is not determined based on the luck of the draw? To be honest, though, there have been sensible people who have put in place a version of the game - rubber bridge, they call it - where the winner gets decided based on the cards that they are dealt...of course, you need to PLAY them well as well but if you are as able as the other team and you get the better cards then you won. Simple...and just as things should be.

But...there IS this thing called 'Contract Bridge' which is used in tournaments and, boy, is THAT a mind-bender. I mean, hey, these guys actually decide winners after taking out the element of luck as far as they can. Like, you and your partner play your cards and, if they are, say, the Ace to five of spades, and the other three Aces, you could bid '7 No Trumps' and sort of lay down the hand and claim a win. (What is 7 No trumps....? Give it a rest, just take it for granted that it happens. What's the point learning a game where luck does not play a part?). High points and all, yeah, but here is the hitch. There is a sort of round robin with the same hands dealt for the four seats...and your opponents here would play THIS hand against some other team, as will THOSE guys against someone else and so on and so on and the teams will be ranked on the basis of who made the maximum points with the SAME hands being played. Given THIS hand, it is only a total brain fade that will cause ANY team to not make '7 No Trumps' so you really are at par with everyone else.

All that luck of getting the best possible hand and still no victory...does that sound like a legit game or some sort of mind-f***? I mean, come on, what is this crap about how I PLAYED my cards mattering more than what cards I got? Do you ask Mukesh Ambani how he would have played HIS cards if he had started out life like you did? Of course not! Then what's this shit about playing my cards in this card game?

Things get even funnier with this damn game. I mean, there would be this team which sort of managed to top the charts and one partner would be ripping the other guy apart.

"Why did you play for the Queen in North's hand?"

"Well, it WAS there, was it not? So we got a couple more tricks and that won us the tourney."

"Nonsense! There was NO reason to know the queen was in North's hand. We would have made the contract safely without the finesse. And if the finesse had failed, we would have been down three tricks."

"It did not, did it?"

"Just luck. Any partner of mine who depends on luck..."

Ye Gods! Absolutely NO luck? You get ripped apart for trusting to luck even when you win? These Bridge players seem to belong in some fantasy world.They do not even seem to know that only losers talk of luck. Winners always talk of a judgment call, after a careful assessment of all possible factors.

Any game that respects its players only on how they play their cards and whether they played without depending on guesswork is, like, more fantastic than fantasy. It is...heretic that is what it is...absolutely heretic, this belief that you should not judge people by the results but by how well they apply themselves. 

I mean, give me a dungeon, with a dragon, to play with any day!