Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl

Here is a book which describes what keeps a human going in times of greatest despair, the likes of which humanity has seldom known. Its easy to look at instances of immense suffering from afar and exclaim: “Oh! Even death would be better.”
This is the exact line of thought that is irrevocably shattered once you read this book. No matter how degraded or miserable life becomes, it is still better than death. Of course it is very easy for me to write now, sitting comfortably in an air conditioned room, but this is the message of this book.
As is mentioned in the preface, what makes this book even more valuable in understanding human nature is that Mr Frankl was himself a trained psychologist.
And at the end of it, its a description of the human will to survive, whether through faith, or a belief of better times to come.

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मधुशाला, by Harivansh Rai Bachchan

As soon as I read this poetry collection, the first thought that came to my mind was: Why is this not a part of our school curriculum?
I’d agree that a poetry collection about a मधुशाला (liquor tavern) is hardly suitable for the schoolchildren. But the way Mr Bachchan relates a मधुशाला with our day to day lives is nothing short of phenomenal. From not-so-oblique digs at communal differences to the powerlessness of man against an overpowering addiction, there is so much in these lines that even the best moral stories of our times fail to capture. All this and more, with reference to a मधुशाला.
Some of the many absolutely memorable lines of this composition are as follows:

मुसलमान औ’ हिन्दू है दो, एक, मगर, उनका प्याला,
एक, मगर, उनका मदिरालय, एक, मगर, उनकी हाला,
दोनों रहते एक न जब तक मस्जिद मन्दिर में जाते,
बैर बढ़ाते मस्जिद मन्दिर मेल कराती मधुशाला!

Days Bygone

Recent advertisements of food products (read Maggi, Paperboat, etc) play heavily upon the nostalgia of tastes experienced in our childhood. These are certainly powerful ads, but how far are they able to deliver what they promise?
I speak from personal experience & leave it to the reader to decide whether he/she feels the same way. When I remember the taste of a Frooti or a Maggi from my childhood, the memory includes the sweet taste of freedom, of a special occasion, of eating something different than what I tasted everyday. What I remember is no only the taste, but the happiness associated with it. Same goes for eating a mango or a sugarcane. If someome were to sell me some sugarcane juice now (or Paperboat Aamras, for that matter), the image evoked in my mind includes the days when we used to engage in with those sugarcanes, or when summer storms made mangoes fall from the trees by the dozens.
What they are trying to sell now falls far short of the images these images or advertisememts evoke. I daresay its not in the power of any company or product itself to deliver what is being promised now.
While I appreciate the marketing itself, I feel compelled to wonder:

Whither went the days bygone,
Whither went the sweet smell of the midsummer morn,
Will I ever ever taste that freedom unshorn,
Or must I wait forever in an attempt forlorn?

Conversations

Chasing money, status, connections, acquaintances, etc. take so much of our time. So many of these things are transient you say. They’re shallow you say. Well, so you speak & you speak truly. Pray tell me what then, should I chase?

Why not chase true friendship, you say?  This must surely be a noble pursuit. I agree wholeheartedly. What you propose is neither transient nor shallow. A friendship could justifiably called the starting point of all non-familial human relationships & a basis for much deeper bonds.

But hear my counter-proposition. I say I want to chase conversations, just that. Its not as deep as a friendship, though I’d say anyone with whom I’ve shared one good conversation is a friend of mine. Those moments have brought us closer & provided a much stronger ground for a friendship than anything else might have provided. Yes, it is transient, sometimes just a few minutes, sometimes an hour. But it holds the promise of more such times to come, which is the real gift. It might even be shallow, just a few jokes shared in passing, yet it would be undiminished.

Even the most ardent of friendships start with but one conversation, never diminished, never forgotten.

Roads & Stairs

Why is there a Highway to Hell but just a Stairway to Heaven? Popular culture has portrayed hell as really easy to reach & fast too. Its funny that even thinking about the stairway to heaven brings a picture of a really difficult climb, like the stairs of Cirith Ungol (LOTR fellas).

This really cool for those aspiring to go to hell though, all the more membership for hell. Why should heaven have all the fun?

A Brave New World: On Google & the Human Brain

The world is a competitive place today, much more so than what the previous generations have faced over the years. While theirs was an age of pioneers, thinkers & awe-inspiring undertakings, ours is the age of the ubiquitous “Google”. While it has made our lives easier & assignments much easier to complete, there’s a part of us that runs the risk of becoming just an appendage,  a la the appendix in the human body. The entity I’m referring to is the Limbic system of the brain, comprising of the hippocampus, amygdala, etc., which is responsible for human memory.

Let’s face it, while a few years ago one might have taken a small amount of satisfaction in knowing something or gaining a bit of knowledge, that feeling has been relegated to the realm of utter & complete oblivion by the advent of the search engine. As the power & reach of the search engine improves, we take less & less effort in the pursuit of knowledge, & divert our efforts to having the best smartphones with the fastest data packs. While from my limited readings, I was quite sure that data retrieval is one of the fastest in the brain neural networks, I now pause and wonder: Is Google doing the job better than the brain?

Looking at the gradual changes in our day-to-day life & interactions, some inferences might be drawn.

  1. While a discussion on any topic was earlier a thoughtful enquiry into the causes, effects & factors of an event or an incident, now it’s just a race to search the most relevant review/opinion/rant/blog/vlog/post/podcast/comment/open-letter which is available on the internet & using it to justify whatever the present stand is.
  2. While any quiz was earlier a battle of wits & awareness of an individual, now its just a battle of the bandwidth of their respective data packs.
  3. While writing an essay or an article was earlier a measure of one’s literary prowess, its a matter of having access to the best spell-check/grammar-check tool now.
  4. While an assignment….oh you get the drift.

There’s no wonder then, that an anachronistic old timer, who shows the stupidity (or audacity?) of relying on the human brain in such a setting, should and does lose to the modern, tech-savvy human being. The thinking man is passé. Its the age of the connected, integrated Ubermensch, who can retrieve information at the touch of a button. Knowledge is secondary now, its the other skills that matter.

There’s just one question really, i.e., Is Google making us stupid?

Coz Life Is Too Short To Be Unhappy

When I say life is too short to be unhappy, some of you would argue that it is not so, that life is too long to even comprehend completely at any one time, but that’s where perspective comes in. It’s all a matter of our own thinking & perspective which makes our lives what they are. Contention in one’s life is the measure of its quality.



Abraham Lincoln has rightly said, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” So the question arises, how can a life be really good? We all have the answer in our hearts but we’re not always ready to accept it. Every man dies sooner or later. But not every man really lives.


Contention in life comes from doing what makes us happy, & I mean really happy. So if you are doing something just because someone else wants you to, then it’s really not worth doing anyway. If you want to go out & play, then play. Wanna see the world, then do something about it instead of doing something you don’t love. Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways. To always be intending to live a new life, but never find time to set about it – this is as if a man should put off eating and drinking from one day to another till he be starved and destroyed. All the plans & plots of doing something are nothing until & unless you actually set out on the path.


We get one life to live, love and enjoy & we should do it to the fullest. There may be things in life that make us upset but the important thing is not to dwell too much on it & not to regret that which is already done, because what has happened can’t be changed. It is necessary to move forward & explore new horizons. Regret, sadness, fear, jealousy & sorrow won’t take us anywhere. The time lost in regrets is lost forever. Being unhappy about something we can’t change also stops us from enjoying the present, & that is not a way to live a life. And who can forget The Joker’s famous words: “Why so serioussssss?” So have some fun while there’s still time, who knows what will happen tomorrow.


So it’s better not to lose a large portion of our life in regrets about past things & to go ahead & realise our potential while staying positively happy with what we’re doing. What others think about anything should not be our concern at all. Let them think what they will; we’ve nothing to prove to them anyway. Who we are inside, that’s what matters. Nobody else can influence what we do or what we want to do, its our choices that make us who we are, & if the choices are not independent, then in my opinion, we lose our individual identity.


Its very easy to move in a flock, like sheep or goats, but its not FUN. And what’s the point in doing something that’s not fun. So take the path less travelled by, don’t care about what others will think or say, because its their job to hinder & ours is to overcome them & keep moving forward. We are meant to derive fun & happiness from what we’re doing. A person who always follows someone else’s advice or directions is no better than cattle. To preserve our identity, its important not to let somebody else influence our decisions.


The most joy is obtained when we embark on a journey to a difficult goal & then achieve it all by ourselves. & that satisfaction, that exhilarating feeling is what makes us human. To make a mark of his own, that should be the sole aim & goal of every individual who wishes to lead a contented life. Leading our lives not to impress somebody else, but to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves, that’s true freedom. The words, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” aptly describe how we should live our lives. After all life is an experiment, the more mistakes we do, the more we learn & the better results we’ll get in the end.


Don’t regret a single moment of your life as it is much shorter than we imagine it to be, & before we realize what’s going on, half of it is over. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost