Posted in Random, Thoughts, Weather

Things that I think

It is hot. Even worse, it is humid.

It’s humid, and here I am, trying to pour out what’s on my mind. I’m thinking about old cars, old music, new cars, good books, happy people and new covers of old music and machine guns.

Machine guns because of the drums on this (https://youtu.be/fkP3urtYCkc) cover of Immigrant Song by Karen O and Trent Reznor. I think it’s because of the overall grungy feel of the song. The drums feel relentless, pounding on without flourishes, and then get lost in the murky grungy sounds as the song progresses, but you can hear them in the background, forming the backbone of the song. They feel so powerful, but inhuman. The sound is more of a sampled beat than a drummer. Probably is so.

This is a cover of a song by Led Zeppelin, and both versions are great. The cover does retain the spirit of the original, but some of the hugeness that the original has is lost. And if you pay attention to the drums, you’ll find that the beat is similar, but there is a man rocking his heart out behind that immensely powerful sound, and it shows. There are very few sounds more definitionally rocky, more celebratable, than Led Zeppelin at their archetypal best. https://youtu.be/hC-T0rC6m7I. Check for yourself. And I’m going on about the drums, but there’s Jimmy Page on the guitar. He is, if you don’t know, a God. And the lyrics, too. Very deep, and accurate too, historically. Well mostly.

And I enjoy cars a lot. Personal favourite is a ‘69 Ford Mustang. Very beautiful car, and the well maintained ones are a treat to look at. And the engines sound great too. I am guessing that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea anyway.

The fan is on at full blast, but it blows down hot air onto me. The worst part of humidity is the sweatiness. As much as I love Kolkata, one thing I’d like to change is this sweaty, sticky climate. I’m playing Crazy by Aerosmith on my earphones. I pause the music for a bit, and pull out the earphones. I can hear the occasional whoosh of a car go by, a beep or two from faraway horns. The TV next door is blaring some serialised inanity, with dramatic music all over the place, and their dog is barking. Someone barks a command at the dog and it quiets down, only to start in a couple of minutes. It is a crime to keep a dog in an apartment. Poor creature gets no exercise, and barks its lungs out all day.

I look back up at the fan and down at my keyboard again. Apparently I haven’t stopped the music, I can still hear Steven Tyler howling his heart out in the chorus. I pause it. It’s a good song, I’ll replay it.

Incidentally, y’all should listen to https://youtu.be/QCVGpvzcHko?t=39. This guy is a modern-ish stand up comic, and his brand of comedy is this self aware, self deprecating, ironic jabs at the state of modern society. A sort of “What have we become?”, regretful, but fully aware that he’s a product of the same society, and he’s been contributing to the same. It’s like one of those evolution memes, where the penultimate character turns around, saying “We messed up”.

Anyway, I will stop now. The thoughts have stopped flowing. This is a weird kind of writer’s block, where I want to write, but I can’t write stuff. Not stuff that I’m satisfied with. This is okay, I guess. Feels natural and coherent. I think the necessity is a creative recharge, and also effort. I guess.

Posted in Random, Thoughts

Necessary. Not Evil.

I am angry.

Rather, I was angry. I’ve sort of calmed down since then, and decided to be less angry and more calm and composed, and do something about what was making me angry. And so, I decided to take up what was bothering me on the massive platform that is this blog, with all of its twenty three followers. And twenty visitors on a good day.

Here’s my problem:

People have an issue with women menstruating in India. At least, it’s very visible and open in India. It happens outside India too, this stigma, but especially here, among Hindus, it’s a kind of bordering on stupidity. It makes me angry. Very angry. I had heard and read about this. That women are not allowed entry into temples when they are on their period. That they are not allowed to enter the kitchen on their period, and they have to eat separately and not directly touch any other people because that may defile them.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

According to this stupid rule, a woman, whose domain, according to the scriptures, is the kitchen and household in general, is not allowed to go into the kitchen, or into the thakur-ghor (a room for the gods, a mini temple room. Most Hindu households have at least a cabinet or shelf of images and idols, if not a room). She is to be ostracised and treated like a pariah for the simple reason that she is a woman and can bear children.

Fun fact:

Recently, a Goods and Services Tax was introduced by the Hindu leaning BJP led government across all of India. What this tax aims to do is replace all the various taxes and cesses levied by the central and state level governments by one single tax, making the general functioning of markets easier and so on. This tax levies a 12% tax on all menstrual sanitary products and makes sindoor and bangles tax exempt. Sindoor is a red pigment that married women wear on their forehead. Both sindoor and bangles are considered symbols of a happy and auspicious marriage. The irony isn’t lost, I hope.

Feminism, circa the stone age.

And before you shake your head, remember that this is the same government that, to further the Hindu devotion for cows, illegalised the purchase of cows for slaughter a few days ago. That’s another thing I am angry about, I do love a good steak. And they just made it harder to get one.

https://goo.gl/mOE1xc This is what triggered me, and made me angry enough to write about this. A couple of these stories are heartbreaking.

And a lot of you all can immediately go, “Well, this doesn’t happen in my family” (I hope to god you can). Neither does it in mine, as far as I know. At least, I was never told to not touch someone, not for these reasons anyway. But there are people I know, who have to face this. And it is really sad, that in educated households, women are treated like this. Even in the educated and urban parts. Chew on that for a moment.

And to the guys reading, it may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Think about it this way, you’re being punished for something perfectly normal and natural. Let’s say people treat you like you’ve got some deadly disease cause you breathe. Makes no sense? I know. You need to breathe to stay alive. It’s a bodily function. Right? Everyone does it. Right? Yeah, right. Same here. Every woman has periods. YOU EXIST BECAUSE YOUR MUM HAD PERIODS. And yet, we treat women like this.

There is no way this kind of behaviour is acceptable, but it’s a special kind of wrongdoing when children are brought into this. Poor girl, she is hurting, she is confused and scared, she isn’t used to this.The pain and discomfort isn’t enough, humiliation needs to be added to the mix. And so, on top of that, she’s isolated from everyone else, because she might pollute the others. She might induce menstruation in the girls who haven’t yet started. Science at its finest. She is not at all comfortable with the fact that she is bleeding, and the teacher announces it to the entire classroom, that the girl is to be avoided. That she is impure. Imagine, if you can, what that girl is thinking. And if she is unlucky, she has to go home to the same treatment. Her siblings cannot play with her. She’s made to sleep separately, and her food is put out on separate plates, in one corner of the room. Anyone who touches her must wash themselves. From childhood up, girls are indoctrinated with the idea that they are impure and foul when they have their period. If that isn’t pathetic, I don’t know what is.

For someone who hasn’t faced this, imagine someone made to feel they are unclean, being left out of everything because of something they biological. Now imagine how they would feel about this if they were made to feel so by their own family. They didn’t ask to have periods. No woman likes to put up with this, but they have to. This is probably the time when a woman feels most vulnerable and has all sorts of aches and cramps going on, and instead of offering care and compassion, the custom is make her feel like she’s committed some filthy sin.

I don’t know, what I want out of this. There’s not going to be any sweeping social change among India’s masses thanks to one post in an obscure blog by a college student. Heck, I’m not even angry anymore, just sad. It feels bad to know that I won’t be able to exorcise this devil. The best I can do is rant. And that’s it.

 

Posted in Thoughts

Too late to apologise?

We had Dr. Shashi Tharoor visiting our campus a few weeks ago, during our cultural festival Pearl. The turnout for his session was huge, with even the laziest of students abandoning their rooms and trudging all the way to the auditorium an hour in advance and hunting for decent seats. Among the various topics that he spoke about, the one that struck me most was his demand for an apology from Britain for the atrocities committed against Indians during their colonial rule.

 

There are multiple reasons for why this is a good idea; how an apology from, say, the Queen, on the anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, could possibly change a lot of things. It could bring a sense of justice, closure, some sort of retribution maybe. But then again, would it really affect anything? And even if it were to, are we even eligible to demand an apology?

 

There is a story in the Bible, which throws light upon this question. A woman is about to be stoned for immoral activities, when Jesus calls for the one without sin to cast the first stone, following which everyone leaves. If we stand up and raise our voices to condemn, we must first examine ourselves. None of us are truly innocent, no nation has a clean record, and thus, it would seem hypocritical to ask for an apology. If one was to argue further that the extent of the Britisher’s atrocities were extreme, another question to be answered would be, who decides which act is atrocious enough to be condemned or apologised for?

 

Moreover, to whom do the Britishers owe an apology? To the Indian government? To the people of India? Or should their apology be addressed to the departed souls of those who suffered at their hands?

 

The concept of asking for an apology is, surprisingly, not as simple as it seems. This is a conclusion I have come to after almost a decade of observing how actions or words affect people to different extents and their subsequent expectations from the person who has supposedly wronged them.

 

My earliest memory pertaining to this topic is when I was barely 10, and in the midst of an argument with my mother. I probably said something along the lines of “what yaar, you never understand what I’m trying to say” to her. After the discussion had reached its natural end, my father lectured me on my usage of “disrespectful” language with my mother and demanded that I apologise to her. Something little 10-year-old me refused to do. The logic that I offered then was that if my mother had no objection to the way I had spoken to her, why must I have to apologise? Had I spoken to my father in a similar fashion and had he been hurt by my words, yes, I would apologise. But who is a third person to dictate how I must behave with someone, especially if that particular person has no objections? One can argue, of course, that in this case, the fault did lie with me and that my father had every right to say that, but that isn’t really the point I’m trying to make here.

 

The contrasting line of thought is that no matter your intentions, if you realise that you’ve hurt someone, you apologise to them. Period. Now, whether you meant something as a joke, or it’s the other person being extremely sensitive, the moment it comes to your notice that your actions or words have caused pain, you ask for forgiveness.

 

And then there’s the whole “say sorry only if you genuinely mean it” angle to this as well. The movie ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ has a scene where Hrithik Roshan tells Farhan Akhtar, “maafi sirf tab maangna jab dil se aaye” (ask for an apology only when it comes from within). A half-hearted apology is probably worse than no apology, if you really think about it, because you’re just apologising for the sake of it.

 

Personally, I think that it’s never acceptable to hurt someone and not atone for our actions or words. Sometimes we don’t want to hurt someone but we end up doing precisely that. And the knowledge that we have caused unnecessary pain to someone should be enough to make us want to mean the apology. Hence, not only do you apologise even though it’s not entirely your fault, but you also mean it.

 

An apology doesn’t make you the smaller person. It doesn’t make you the “submissive” person in any relationship. It doesn’t make you someone who always adjusts for others, or someone who can be pushed around. It’s never too late. Of course, it makes more sense to apologise as soon as you realise your mistake, but honestly, a late apology is better than none. So go on and say that magic word, after all, what goes around, comes around.

Posted in Book Reviews, Thoughts

An appreciation of Hitchhiker’s

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. Perhaps the most remarkable…

-The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Things you might want to keep in mind-

  • I LOVE THIS BOOK
  • I will gush my heart out. Honestly, I am a voracious reader and I’ve never found a book that I connected to or enjoyed more

So, the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy. The book is about a hapless and very British human, Arthur Dent, as he pinballs across the galaxy after his home and planet are destroyed by construction crews (different ones, of different scales and scopes). It mostly involves him being blown up, shot at or having something unpleasant happen to him every few paragraphs.

I will digress now.

I had been staring at my wall for the past half an hour and now I will tell you what I am thinking about. On my wall, I had written, in an attempt to personalise my room, “Cogito Ergo Sum”. It’s my favourite quote. “I think therefore I am”, by Rene Descartes. A very neat little piece of reasoning. He wanted to arrive at some fundamental intrinsic of the universe and his method to arrive at that was to question everything, and not believe in anything that he thought wasn’t true for sure. He ruled out sensory input, you may hear or see wrong and so on. He ruled out his own thoughts, as he may make errors. And so on, and he ended up with pretty much nothing. There was apparently no thought or idea, that he could think of, which was perfectly, intrinsically correct. And then he realised he was thinking. That was impossible to deny, that he was thinking. Thus, his mind, hence his brain, head and body existed, else it would be very stupid to have a thought without a mind, a mind without a body and so on. Thus, Descartes, for sure existed, since he thought. He thought, therefore he was.

“Cogito ergo sum.”

That had absolutely nothing to do with Hitchhiker’s. I just felt like writing it, so I did. I will now return to what I was doing. Trying to review that godly piece of perfection. Now the thing is, this book is very different from almost any other book, so it makes it pretty difficult to dissect and analyse. Quoting Stephen Fry on Wodehouse, “You don’t analyse such sunlit perfection, you just bask in its warmth and splendour”. Pretty much sums it up.

There is so so little plot that it won’t satisfy a three year old’s demands from a bedtime story. On second thoughts, it would, but that’s about it. As far as just the storyline goes, it’s the bare minimum necessary. Just a set of highly improbable things happening one after the other. But that plot is supplemented by the most brilliant language, and extremely British humour.

And it is full of very weird sciency things, absurdly plausible, but absolutely impossible. An example-
How do you fly?
You fall, aiming for the ground and miss. The missing part is difficult, it involves distracting yourself so completely that you forget that you were supposed to hit the ground, and before you know it, you’re flying.

Another such example would be the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, a most dangerous creature who is also mind bogglingly stupid, so much so that if you cannot see it, it assumes it cannot see you. So if you are cornered by the Ravenous Bugblatter, all you need to do is put a towel over your eyes and it will leave you alone. There is also a bit about how, given the Universe is infinite, everything, no matter how improbable, must occur naturally. So out there somewhere is a planet of mattresses (all named Zem, for some reason), which are harvested, cut up and dried out and sent off to the markets. Fresh mattresses from Squornshellous Zeta. There is also a tree which grows screwdrivers as fruit. And a planet of ballpoint pens, introduced in an entirely different context. There is also an infinite improbability drive, which allows for practically instantaneous transport. One of my favourites is the Babel fish, which feeds on brain waves, and acts a universal translator. So it absorbs all your brainwaves, feeds on the unconscious ones and excretes the conscious ones telepathically. The practical implication of this is that if you put one in your ear, all your conscious thoughts, that is whatever you’re saying, are relayed as pure brainwaves to everyone else in real time. Pretty neat.

Yes, this isn’t proper science. It is nonsense, and the author had absolutely no intention to appeal to common sense. But at first glance, it does seem plausible. And no matter how nonsensical, it’s funny. It’s sort of like one of the crazier XKCD comics, humorous and doesn’t take itself seriously, while it makes sense on some level. SMBC too, for that matter. Actually, it’s closer to SMBC than XKCD.

Incidentally, there isn’t much character development either. After 5 books of being an occasionally heroic wimp searching for tea, at the end of it all, he’s… well, he’s still that, with a daughter, obtained via surrogacy. Ford Prefect is still in search of the fountain of alcohol at the end of the Universe. And so on.

The very broad storyline of the thing is this. At least, this is the part that might sound familiar to some of you who haven’t read the books. So millions of years ago, there lived a race of hyperintelligent pandimensional beings. Lets call them mice. You’ll understand why. So the mice made a computer, the greatest of all time, that would answer the ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything. So this computer of theirs, Deep Thought, ran for 7.5 million years and came up with the answer 42. This didn’t really satisfy the mice. They wanted something a bit more deep and meaningful. Then, Deep Thought gently reminded them that they didn’t know the ultimate question, and that he’d build an even greater computer, a device so complex that organic matter would form its physical structure. And so the Earth was made, to find the ultimate question, and its program ran for 10 million years. And 5 minutes before the read out it was destroyed by a Vogon constructor fleet. Here onward, it’s Arthur and Ford and other people who don’t always stick with them stumbling across the Universe, getting into some kind of trouble or the other.

The actual Hitchhiker’s Guide of the Galaxy features in here as a literal Guide to the Galaxy, a sort of encyclopaedia of worlds and attractions and interesting people. It has, apparently replaced encyclopaedias as the standard repository of all knowledge since it is cheaper and has DON’T PANIC written in large letters on the cover.

There are pretty weird side characters. My favourite three, in ascending order, are:
Fenchurch, Arthur’s love interest with whom he gets to spend a month after which she goes missing. She was sort of the mouthpiece for the grand readout of the ultimate answer, it is implied. Nice character, overall.
Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged. An alien who had immortality thrust upon him as a result of an accident with a time machine and some rubber bands. Getting completely bored of his immortality after outliving everyone for a few hundred years, he decides to insult every creature in the Universe (in alphabetical order).
Agrajag, a being who keeps getting reincarnated in various forms, only to be killed by Arthur every single time. He is born as a rabbit, whom Arthur kills to make a bag, and then as a fly, whom Arthur kills with the same bag. And so on. He’s later (or earlier, depends on how you look at it. “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so”), transfigured into existence in the place of a missile as a bowl of petunias and thus, falls to the surface of the planet and dies.

So, in a sort of TL;DR, I’ll say this. The plot ain’t much to speak of. The characters are well, they are ragdolls being tossed around as and when the author decides to blow up stuff around them. The language is beautiful, purely humorously English in every sense of the word. And the humour, at least for me, is spot on all the time.

I think you’ve sort of formed an idea of the book by now. Again, you can’t really analyse this thing. You either like it or you don’t. There is no partial, no sort of. It’s no cup of tea, it’s a swig of some heady drink. And you can take it or leave it.

Posted in Thoughts

Into morally dark areas (again)

When do you end your friendship with someone? I mean, at what point would you draw the line between friendship and morality? If your friend harasses a girl, would you stop talking to him? Would you end your friendship right there? Or would you try and explain to your friend that what he did was wrong and try to change his perspective or him as a person?

On the one hand, it is immensely difficult for a person to intrinsically change who he is. If someone truly believes that what he has done is not wrong at all, it isn’t very easy to make him see otherwise. But, on the flipside, what if your abandoning that friend is exactly what could set him off and lead him into doing worse?

There’s the added point about how if you keep a fresh apple among rotten apples, it rots a lot sooner. You tend to be the average of the company you keep. That is not to say that if your friend has indeed harassed a girl and you continue your friendship with him, you’ll end up harassing people too. But surely, the company of such a person is bound to have repercussions on how you perceive things or draw the line between right and wrong.

But then again, if you are the person who has strayed away from the so-called path of righteousness, wouldn’t you want someone to be there, to tell you that even though they’re disgusted by your actions, they still value your friendship? Parents don’t abandon their kids, come what may. When I was very young, I stole chocolates from home and lied about it later. I did get a thorough earful for that, but that in no way changed my parents’ affection towards me. But then again, friends aren’t family. Only the ones who stay, through all of life’s vicissitudes, those are the true gems.

 

Another paradox of sorts that’s been boggling my mind is this. If you look at your neighbour’s answer sheet in an examination hall, it’s cheating. It’s wrong, and you must be punished for it. But what if you’re the scribe for a blind student giving his board examinations. You correct a spelling mistake here, edit a grammatical error there. And what if your gentle nudge in the right direction is what makes this kid’s career, or some such thing? Will your conscience still bother you?

This thought came to me because one of my friends told me that he had been cheating on his weekly tests, following which we had a mild debate over the same.On the other hand, when I found out about someone helping a blind student pass his board examinations, I praised them for being thoughtful and considerate. Does the morality of cheating depend on the abilities of the person you’re helping? If you help someone disabled, it doesn’t seem so bad, but if you help out a friend who hasn’t studied, it’s looked down upon.

 

I suppose the answer to all of this and more is that the world isn’t black and white. There is no perfectly right way to go about living, and sometimes, you simply make your choices based on your perceptions of what is acceptable and what isn’t.

 

SK: Well, it’s fine to say that the blind kid can have his career made by the grammar corrections and all, but at the same time you forget that he starts with an intrinsic handicap. You have heard and seen those words, many many times. He has only heard them. He cannot visualise and lacks a very very important memory cue. On the other hand, cheating is the use of an unfair means to gain an advantage. It is not as if the person who is cheating begins with a handicap. On a level playing field, with everyone being given the same opportunity, he chooses to do something explicitly wrong. There is no unintentional bump here, but actual malpractice. That’s my two cents.

 

Posted in Random, Thoughts

Nice People and Introverts

 

Couple of days ago, Kenneth “Kenny” Sebastian, a stand up comedian came to our college. He is pretty good, and brilliant at what he does, which is make people laugh. He had one set about so called ‘nice people’, the ones who are meek, quiet and good to others, usually too much so for their own good. Basically introverts, ones who are very good to their fellow men.

 

These nice people, I tell you are the gems of humanity. These are the people who the rest of us should love protect and cherish, because while we’ll never admit it, they are the ideal we should strive toward. They are the gems, the hidden treasures, so to speak.

 

The other half is characterised by, in a nutshell, brashness. They will go up and talk to people. Initiate conversations, ask random questions and in general reach out and try to make friends with you. On the flip side, they will speak over you. They will interrupt you and try to finish your points, even when they don’t know for sure what you are talking about. They are trouble seekers and makers, people who will cause problems about things someone can tolerate and/or ignore. At the same time, they might solve your problems too, which is good.

 

So, these nice people, the introverts, they are fundamentally the quiet ones. Not the party types. They would like to socialise, but they are unsure, usually of themselves. Whom should one approach when one is at a party where he knows nobody, and all the people are new to him? Is it okay to express his [even if slightly controversial] opinion just like that? Or should one wait and hold off? What if you disagree with someone? Is saying “I disagree” offensive? These nice people, may they live long and prosper, are too nice for their own good. I know someone who will not take a decision about anything and will leave the choice of everything, from where to eat, to which route to take to college, to others. Though of late she’s gotten slightly better. She at least chooses the time, even if only occasionally, when we meet. Which is better than nothing.

 

The other half has a sort of knack for saying what they want. They will be loud and clear, even if saying something wrong. They will make sure they are heard, which is pretty nice. Only, every time an extrovert speaks, they speak over and interrupt at least two introverts, who enviously wish that they could also just sling words about so effectively. They are, naturally, stealers of the shows.

 

Speaking as an ambivert, I sometimes understand the effort that a nice introvert needs to open up and speak to people, to make decisions and to socialise in general. It is much easier to stay at home and read a book. But I also understand where the people persons come from, what they enjoy about the whole “interacting with people” process. Making friends, it’s way less painful a process than an introvert would think. It is actually fun to go up and talk to people, to know what makes them tick, that they like knitting and Celtic heavy metal, that their dog’s name is Bobo and their phone is shit. But yes, I do need to take time off and recharge, get some alone time and not be social all the time.

 

However, it remains that the extroverts are going to stay as the public faces for all of us. The introverts simply aren’t, well, extroverted enough. So, it is our sacred duty to take care of these nice little introverts the best we can, while they do their thing. They produce so many nice things that give us so much joy, books and paintings and if nothing else, blogs that you check in on for happy little updates on what is going on all around.

 

PS: Sorry for the long delay. We had a literary fest going on in our college, and both of us, Aditi and I were involved in organising. I will write about that presently. Also, we will try and adhere to a more rigid posting schedule. Let’s see what the future holds. Keep reading 🙂

Posted in Thoughts

Into morally dark areas

So I suppose I’m finally being the typical teenage blogger and creating a blog post about “serious gender issues”, except that it’s probably not going to be that serious because I don’t have any grave statistics or jargon to throw at you. This sudden outburst of thoughts on this topic is due to two recent life experiences, and I’ll try to make this post less about me and more about the topic, but oh well. Mah blog, mah rulz. *sorry, Suchit*

Not sticking to chronological order as such, I watched the movie Dangal this morning. It is a very woman centric movie, following the lives of two sisters, Geeta Kumari Phogat and Babita Kumari Phogat as they battled societal conventions to win multiple medals for wrestling on an international level. At almost every step they took towards their aim, there were a dozen naysayers, shaking their heads, passing unnecessarily sexist remarks and sometimes hindering the girls’ progress. From not allowing the girls to wrestle in the local arena, to almost banning them from playing at higher level tournaments, there is not much they were offered in terms of support or facilities. Even the government funding that they would’ve received in a utopic world was spent by the officials before they could claim it.

The movie left the audience with shining eyes and a fire burning within. It is indeed a proud moment to hear the national anthem play and watch an Indian girl win gold for the country. Her victory was the harbinger of hope for the girl child, so to speak, and left me feeling that maybe, after all, we are moving in the right direction, slowly but surely.

My thoughts on the same issue were in stark contrast a few weeks ago. I went trekking with a huge group of people, at Sandhan valley – the valley of shadows. It was a two day trek and in retrospect, I’d say I enjoyed myself a lot, in spite of the few scares we had there, which I shall now proceed to describe, in as neutral and level headed a manner as I can.

We were trekking downhill the first day, and were scheduled to have lunch at around 1, and reach our campsite by around 5. Initially, it was all pretty awesome, with rocks on both sides of the climb, occasional mountain rappelling and dozens of photographs in various poses, mostly of the fake candid kind. Obviously. But we soon realised how late we were running, when we did not stop for lunch. At all. Yes, we’d been trekking from 8 am and there were no signs of lunch even at 3 pm. We just munched on whatever biscuits we could find and kept walking.

The sun had started to set and we still had a long way to go. I’m not usually afraid of the dark, but trekking among dangerous rocks without light is pretty frightening. And rappelling without light… Oh well. It suffices to say that I have never been that scared in my life. When we did finally reach our campsite at around 10 pm, most of us were very shaken. There was no mobile network, which heightened the fear and anxiety that had taken over. I longed to hear my mother’s voice on the phone, because my irrational mind had convinced me that I would never get out alive and meet her again.

Why this sudden change of tone from debate to horror, you ask? Well, the Sandhan valley trek was where I experienced the same sort of gender privileges that people on the Titanic went through. “Women and children first”. The boys in our group stayed back and helped every last girl down the rocks, they made human chains so we could cross tiny streams without falling or hurting ourselves, they even carried our backpacks for long stretches. And in that moment, I did not point fingers, call it sexism or even question it in my mind. I accepted the preference my gender brought with it, happily and with a sense of gratitude.

Throughout the trek, I had it easy. Not because I couldn’t trek well; there were boys who were more injured or tired than I was – but simply because I am a girl. And that was perfectly fine with me. I got help on every step of the way, I got to sleep inside a tent while many of the boys had to sleep under the stars with nothing but hard rock beneath them, I got that extra sip of water when we were running short of supplies… The list is endless. And not once did I question it or feel like calling it blatant sexism. I’m not even sure if I would call it sexism, to be very honest.

I suppose a plausible explanation is that when we face adversity, we lose sight of some of our beliefs. Most of them, actually. In that moment, when we barely had any water left and the sun was beating down upon us and we were all on the verge of dehydration, had someone offered me alcohol then, I would’ve thrown all my teetotaller spirits out (pun unintended) and given in. I don’t know if I’m ashamed to say this, because honestly, would you rather die on a mountain at 19 just because you wanted to hold onto your morals or values or whatever? I digress.

I really don’t know how to conclude this, because I’ve said many unrelated things and after all of this, I’m not quite sure where I stand on this topic, really. On the one hand, it saddens me immensely, when I watch a movie and see an entire community discriminate against a girl trying to achieve something. But then again, when I am offered special privileges for being a girl, I lap them up, no questions asked. Sure, you may say that these are two very different things. They are, indeed. But isn’t feminism about equality? If we do away with the norms that treat women as less than men, shouldn’t the ones that treat women as more important or requiring more assistance go too? But if that were to happen, I would probably not have lived to tell you this tale, putting me in a dilemma that I have no answer to.

 

Sketching credits: Suchit Kar

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Posted in Random, Thoughts

The Instant Gratification Monkey

https://youtu.be/arj7oStGLkU

 

From the Keys of a Chronic Procrastinator

 

The YouTube link in the beginning is a TED Talk. Specifically, the one that granted this post it’s title. In case you didn’t guess, the talk is about procrastination. The speaker is a blogger, Tim Urban, writing at http://waitbutwhy.com/wait-but-who. Here’s how he breaks down the mind of a procrastinator: there’s a Rational Decision Maker, which is the same as the mind of a normal, non-procrastinating person, and an Instant Gratification Monkey. There’s also a Panic Monster, who however isn’t a permanent player. So what happens is the Rational Decision Maker does exactly what he sounds like. He thinks a situation through and comes up with the sane thing to do.

 

So, say I have an exam tomorrow (I do have one the day after, but anyhow), the RDM will tell me to stop this right now and get down to study. The Monkey is the one that messes all this up by saying go on, do what you like, finish off the whole post at one go. Then, read up on the different kinds of biriyani in India. And if you’re done somewhat early, reorganise your Music folder.

 

The Monkey wants immediate fun. The here and the now and the this. FUN. NOW! The RDM works more rationally, and thinks of longer term stuff. So giving the test well gets me a good grade which increases my chances of having a better job and so on, but may not be very interesting or fun at the immediate moment. The RDM is a grown up in these ways. It’ll allow you to relax and everything, but only on times that are actually relaxation times, like Sunday afternoons when all the chores are done. The Monkey is more of childish and wants, well, instant gratification.

 

And so, when the deadline is tomorrow and it is crunch time, the Monkey will want… well, anything that might make it happy. And thus, it descends down a spiral of worthless unproductivity (there’s a very nice Lennon quote which goes “Time enjoyed wasting is not wasted”, but try saying that when you find yourself watching all of Taher Shah’s masterpieces on YouTube) until it gets to the point where it’s now or never, and if you miss your chance then, you miss it forever. And that’s where the third guy, the panic monster steps in. What he does is, he scares the hell out of the Monkey and hands the control over to the Decision Maker, who then makes the best of a bad job. And this cycle loops for whatever work a procrastinator does.

 

The life of any procrastinator who wants to get anything done involves setting traps for himself that may somehow force him to get stuff done. Take for example, me. Resolving to wake up early and get lots of work done, thus making the day nice and productive (inner self sniggers), I decided to get one of those puzzle solving alarm clocks (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kog.alarmclock  | I never sleep through alarms, but I do snooze a lot of them, which is just as bad. These apps make you solve puzzles to turn them off, or even snooze them. Sounds perfectly ghastly, is so too). Day one of the new alarm, I go to bed at 12:00 am, confident that the new alarm will do it’s job and wake me at 7. At 7, the alarm wakes me, interrupting a particularly nice dream involving a chocolate sauce fountain. I turn off the alarm, uninstall the app and go on sleeping till 8:30. The Monkey, well rested, ensured my day was a very wholesomely happy one.

 

I could give you a bajillion examples. The countless times I stayed up nights trying to finish homework. The night before exams, crashing through the entire semester’s worth of knowledge in hours. The blog articles written after missing three posting deadlines and multiple stern admonitions from Aditi (who am I kidding? Aditi just nudges me ever so gently as yet another deadline whooshes by). And the cycle repeats. Relaxation and delay, realisation and panic, rush and regret. And so on.

 

So I have decided to stop. It’s sort of simple really, to kick the habit. And it’s not that bad. “Everything in moderation, including moderation”, and so on. That was Oscar Wilde. And he was right. Mild procrastination increases creativity. Letting those ideas marinade at the back of your mind really helps them cook, so to speak. And once in a while maybe it’s good to let go and relax. Emphasis on ‘once in a while’.

 

So I have to make detailed timetables and timelines, dividing upcoming tasks into bite sized chunks and arranging them in such a way that I don’t get bored. I’ve got most of it planned out in my head. I’ve even allowed little breaks for relaxation. So all I need to do is make an actual timetable or feed it into my calendar. Heck, I’ll start on it tomorrow. Till then, remember people, consistency, punctuality and a serious approach to work is key.