Funny Things

  1. We have equal opportunity employers but not parents.
  2. It is more important to click a pic than to close the eyes & embrace the feeling.
  3. A spoken word is now worth much more than a thousand pictures (read: selfies).
  4. Now would be a good time for Atlas to shrug.
Advertisements

Wanderlust

Should I go just for the sake of going?

Or do I go away for good, for staying

 

No matter where I go or where I’ve been,

A whole world remains to be seen,

A wanderlust too deep to redeem,

I want to be, where no one has been.

 

Living my life without a reprieve

I shan’t know till I don’t leave

But then, how could I believe

That out there is a world unseen.

 

Living with a job, my friends, my family

When I am tired, and weary

When the world seems bleak, and dreary

Here lies the escape I turn to verily.

 

If ever there lies before me an adventure

That invites me with a welcome gesture

Do I go away for good, for staying?

Or should I stay back & be better off not knowing?

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?

Of travels & travails

Its time for a new phase, a job, an intern, in short, responsibilities. Turns out I’m about to have more hotel stays in the coming two months than I had in my life till now. Its fun in a way, getting to see new places, feeling like a homeless wanderer. Wonder how Che must have felt (although I’m in infinitely more comfort). Its interesting that the English “travel” & the French “travail” are so similar. The consulting firms seem to have hit the nail on the head here, with work & travel being flip sides of the same coin. Anyways, back to the hotels.

IMAG1236.jpg

So in one of them, I come across this corridor. I don’t know about you but I found this carpet disturbing. Reminds me of all the great hotel themed movies I’ve seen, The Shining, 1408 & what not. I wonder about all the stories that have been lived & will be lived in these corridors. So many people, so many situations. Is it a wonder then, that such places should feel like they carry a lot more than can be seen? Years of memories & thousands of people might have imbued these walls with something…more…

Anyways, my room is at the end of the corridor. The above thoughts haven’t helped a bit.

[Focus on crossing it now]

The Andromeda Complex

Its has been too long that I’ve written from the heart. Maybe on & off in my diary, but never regularly. Being bound by the need to sound meaningful, deep, informative, etc. has killed the imagination. I want to put random fleeting thoughts of the mind to paper, not write long-winding analyses on academic topics. I do that enough in my college projects.

Reading a friend’s blog, has made me realize what I started with, but lost along the way. I thank you for you’ve made me remember why I wanted to write in the first place. I’ll try to be more regular now, starting with short posts.

Looking up at the stars in a clear night sky, it seems as though I’m looking at an inhabited city from a great height. The stars are just houses, cars, factories & people going about their lives. It happens to me generally on the mountains (the sky is quite clear there, unlike in Jamshedpur) . Whenever it happens, I’m filled with a sense of great distance from everything else as I imagine everything is so far away. Oh random feeling, I dub thee “The Andromeda Complex”.

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?

Crime in Sweden: Fact vs Fiction

I love reading, not just a particular genre, but all of them. I enjoy devouring everything from ancient Greek mythology to modern high fantasy, from the exploits of Sherlock Holmes to modern high fantasy like Game of Thrones. As a reader, I’ve noticed a trend in the past few years that has caught my fascination.

It is fascinating that there’s a growing number of really great crime novels coming out of the Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden. The phenomenon is so pronounced that it has been popularly dubbed as “Scandicrime”. From the late Steig Larsson, Håkan Nesser to Jo Nesbø, the line doesn’t seem to end. But such a localized phenomenon is not altogether rare. Earlier, we have seen anti-war novels coming out of the USA, predominantly at the time of the First World War. French authors have consistently delivered path-breaking pictures of the erstwhile society, Germany has given us Kant, Nietzsche, Hegel, etc., whereas, Russian novels have been a comment peasant life and its stark differences with that of the military & aristocracy. What’s common in all the above is that the writing reflects the prevalent times in the respective regions. However, this is not the case with Sweden. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Sweden, with its homogeneous population, is the seventh richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita. It has the highest telephone/internet penetration & the third lowest Gini coefficient in the world. The Nordic countries also consistently rank among the happiest nations in the world. As per a 2014 report by International Centre for Prison Studies, Sweden had an incarceration rate of 66 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013 which was significantly lower than other countries. In comparison, the figure in the USA is 707 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants (“USA – World Prison Brief”International Centre for Prison Studies. Retrieved 17 July 2014) & the EU average in 2008-10 was 126 (“Crime trends in detail”Eurostat. Retrieved 17 July 2014). It seems like more people are murdered in Scandinavian crime novels than in the entire Scandinavia itself.

The question then is: How is Sweden, a prosperous country with remarkably low crime rates be the hotbed of such spectacular crime novels in recent times? In the following lines, we’ll explore the manifold reasons for this phenomena.

Firstly, the original writing is mainly in Swedish or the country’s native language. When the same is translated to English (for bulk of the readers across the world), the resulting style is crisp & upfront, with minimal unnecessary words. This makes for an easy read for most of the readers.

Secondly, Scandinavian crime novels are often set in an idyllic, peaceful country, where social structure, overall welfare levels & peaceful surroundings can seem almost utopian to an American or say, Asian reader. In such a setting, any crime seems to be an unthinkable violence & a disturbing occurrence, precisely because it’s not expected. Such a shock value makes for a thrilling read.

Thirdly, the protagonist or the detective in such novels is more often than not, a rustic, careworn & relatable character, which is at odds with say, a suave James Bond or the supremely talented Sherlock Holmes. Such relatability with the protagonist leads to a deeper connect between the readers & the story, leading to better sales.

Fourthly, these novels often incorporate prevalent social themes such as immigration, misogyny, racism, intolerance, social inequality, etc. into the story, imbuing the story with elements of the Scandinavian psyche. Such writing improves the realism in the story, as the setting is not far removed from reality.

Lastly, the bleak Scandinavian landscape aptly mirrors the dark thoughts of the characters. It has an air of mystery & danger only adds to the setting of a crime novel, making the ancient land of the Vikings an apt setting for the stories.

In my opinion, any story worth its salt is greater than the sum total of its parts. As for the definitive reasons for Sweden being the fountainhead of such acclaimed crime novels, the jury is still out. On the basis of the above reason, we can just hope that this tradition continues. Happy reading.

The Cost of Progress

We live in the age of wonders and miracles. It has been called the “Age of Science” & all the different aspects of our life that have changed in the preceding centuries have been attributed to science. This is completely true, but its only one side of the coin. The flip side is that as we have advanced more & more in the field of technology, something fundamental to humanity has been left behind. Values such as empathy & the concern for our fellow human being are gradually being

eroded due to the onslaught of ever-evolving lifestyles, aided by the marvels of technological advancement. Taking the example of the Internet, on one hand, accessibility to information & knowledge at the click of a button is a veritable boon to everyone (esp. students) & has made our lives much simpler. On the other hand, it has severely limited the actual contact with teachers, friends & elders, and thus, the learning that a person gains is incomplete as he/she can’t take the advice that another person can give with the vast knowledge & experience at his disposal.


Today, a small child can access & navigate the Internet with an ease that still astounds the older generation. But what’s even more astounding is the neglect of the basic human traits of friendship, society, relationships & family values. Due to all the technological advancements & gadgets available today, children often miss out on the most enriching of childhood experiences like playing outdoor games (like soccer, cricket, etc.) with friends, which apart from being immensely enjoyable & physically exhilarating, also develops traits such as teamwork, physique, discipline, etc. from an early age. But now, when the concept of friends is gradually being limited to virtual friends on social networking sites, one shudders to think of the implications with regard to the personality development of a child because the time spent with computers or mobile phones for entertainment can never really substitute the holistic benefits of outdoor play. Such examples can be found aplenty in the course of our daily lives.

Now if we compare the hustle & bustle of modern city life & the peace & calm rustic village life, we can see that in cities, life is race with a variety of factors. It’s a race which everyone tries their level best to win, but nobody actually wins as the race never ends. Seeing as everyone wants to be happy, is such a race justified, when viewed through the prism of actual human contentment? Is not the village person, with his simple needs & easy smile, more content with his life? This question will of course have different answers depending on who we ask.

As for me, I think that this age of rapid development has created at least as many problems as it has solved, if not more. The reason is that the basic goal of life, which should be the pursuit of happiness, has now been replaced by the pursuit of money. Money & happiness are considered analogous in our present society, but they actually aren’t.  In this mindless pursuit of money, no one has the time now to appreciate the beauty of life, which consists not of multi-billion dollar skyscrapers, but a simple act of kindness to someone in a time of need.
So, there is an urgent need to stop for a moment & think about where we are actually heading – is it development or destruction? Do we have to wait until mankind has grown so far apart from each other that we can’t even see the suffering of our own species due to our mindless greed, or can we still mend our ways?

To answer this question, I’ll take the help of that most magnificent of human feelings – Hope. I sincerely hope that we, as the most intelligent species on earth, take our fair share of responsibility & sincerely think about the path which we should follow. Though mankind will likely last for a long time though its determination & sheer ingenuity, but we’ll have to make sure we don’t lose our humanity somewhere along the way.

WAR


We all know what war is, but very few of us know what it really means, & I don’t claim to be one of them. But for me, it is a fascinating concept that we human beings can bring about so much death & destruction to the world, kill our own brothers, ravage entire nations & wipe out entire races on the pretext of war. So I decided to delve a little deeper into this subject due to my own interest.

War has been used for hundreds of thousands of years as a way of attaining a certain goal through the use of force. While some people see warfare as an inescapable and integral aspect of human culture, others argue that it is only inevitable under certain socio-cultural circumstances. But whatever the argument for war might be, it is never enough. There is always a heavy price to pay for a war, which is ultimately paid by all of humanity. Different nations who go to war give different reasons for it, but for the soldiers & common people who die in it, it does not matter what reason is given. Even if war is waged for a good cause, the ends seldom justify the means. War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? So no single reason can be totally justified. Men are at war with each other because each man is at war with himself.

Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship,
or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All that is to be done is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country. And it is being done in all parts of the world for thousands of years.

Even the concept of victory in a war is misguided. Even if an army is victorious, it suffers a number of casualties, & even among those who are alive on the V-Day, are psychologically scarred for the rest of their lives. To win a war simply means that the victorious side has killed the most number of people, & that is hardly something to be proud of. The world is full enough of hurts and mischance without wars to multiply them.

It’s true that those who have not experienced war can’t even begin to imagine what it is like. We often say in our day to day discussions that war is the solution to many of our problems. “If a neighbouring country is creating problems, then just wage a war & get it over with.” is the general thinking among many. But such things are said without fully grasping the magnitude of the damages that are suffered during a war. The enormous psychological impact alone is enough to drive people to hopelessness. Other than that, the economic impact upsets the development process & pushes the country into economic turmoil. When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die. War settles nothing. To win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.

But then there are some things that are more valuable than life itself. Freedom is one of them. Any war waged for freedom justifies itself, as living under the rule of some other power is not life at all, it is slavery. If the colonialized countries of the world sat quietly just because they valued the lives of their people, then
independence would never have been achieved in many parts of the world, & all those people would still have been slaves. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

The appalling things that have been done in the name of war, from the ancient Roman Conquest wars in which the prisoners of war were crucified upon a stake, to the World War 2 when the SS on the command of Adolf Hitler, orchestrated mass murders of the European Jews, Poles & other minorities to such an extent that after the war was over 6 million European Jews were dead ( what is commonly termed as The Holocaust) & even continue to be done till this day ( like the Bosnian Genocide of 1995), poses a very important question: Will God ever forgive us for what we have done to each other?

One thing is for certain, that we have not seen the last war yet but whenever that happens, it will be a welcome day because at that time, the whole of humanity can finally come together as one to rebuild what has been destroyed, without the fear of everything being ravished by war once again. The rulers of the world have to understand that the mark of a great ruler is not in his ability to win wars but in his capability to achieve peace. Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.