Is there really a selfless good deed?

Somebody I know likes to donate food and money to homeless people quite frequently and when I ask why, his reply is “To get God’s blessings.”

Which got me thinking.

There is a lot of benevolence around, but just how much of it is selfless? Politicians (or even some celebs for the matter) when they do any charitable work make it a point to call the media and get it telecast or written about in the newspapers to make people see just how “good” they are. These are the good deeds done with an ulterior motive in mind and yes, while the help is not going to waste, isn’t it all just a farce?

The other kind of a good deed is the one done to achieve personal gratification! And I’m not an exception to this. When I look back now, all the good I’ve done is somehow interlinked with what I expected it to make me feel. As I’m writing this, I just remembered that there was an episode of FRIENDS dealing with the same topic!

The third kind of a good deed is done to accumulate good karma! It happens, right? You probably were callous or mean or not at your best in some dealings, so you do a good deed to balance it out! Yay for the karma theory!

And the final kind is of course the popular quid pro quo. You perform a good deed because you expect something in return.  

With all this going around, I realized that true altruism is actually very rare and only very few people have such a selfless heart. I’m yet to exhibit such instincts anyway.

What is your take on this? D’you think I’m wrong or you have a different opinion? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Why are all digital assistants female?

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Just something I was thinking about today. Like why do we almost always identify the role of a personal assistant with a woman.

I mean, take the personal assistants on the top mobile platforms –

  1. Siri
  2. Google Now
  3. Cortana

From the above, Siri and Cortana quite evidently had female voices upon their launch, with everyone even referring to them as “her”. Cortana though could have only been female (as she was based off a beloved video-game character), so Microsoft doesn’t take such a bad hit. But Siri on the other hand, predominantly featured a female voice and only recently did Apple add an option to have male voice.

Google Now is the odd one out of the bunch. It’s the only assistant without any inherent “personality”. It’s the most intelligent assistant out there for sure, but you can’t have a conversation with it the way you can do with Siri and Cortana. But returning to my earlier point, even Google Now features a female voice by default, though you can go change it to male from settings apparently (I’ve never tested this though, so can’t say for sure). I’m just trying to decipher the rationale behind this. Is a female voice more pleasing/warm to the ears? Do humans usually look forward to having a woman take care of them? Or is there something else entirely here that I’m missing?

And also I may be wrong here, but isn’t it true that our society also looks lowly upon male nannies, male nurses and so on? Looks like we haven’t completely broken free of rigid gender role notions. Yet. There are still some jobs in the world which we believe one gender is better suited to perform.

I mean, when you close your eyes and think “personal assistant”, is the image that comes up ever of a man?

Thank you India for proving your #Intolerance once again..!

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The Effin’ TRUTH!

 

I did not want to write this post. But after seeing so much stupidity and hatred on social media, I thought there needs to be at least some sort of sane argument over the matter.

So then, what exactly happened?

Aamir Khan, one of India’s top film star has made a comment recently on the country’s rising intolerance. The below are his exact words –

“As an individual, as part of this country as a citizen, we read in the papers what is happening, we see it on the news and certainly, I have been alarmed. I can’t deny. I have been alarmed by a number of incidents. When I chat with Kiran at home, she says ‘Should we move out of India?’ That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day.”

And how did India respond?

  1. Slammed him for insulting and betraying a country that made him a star.
  2. Drew religious remarks, just because he’s a Muslim.
  3. Abused him for disrupting the integrity and harmony of the country.
  4. About 85000 people (and counting) have uninstalled the e-commerce app SnapDeal and left 1-star reviews on app stores. Some people who did not already have this app have installed and uninstalled just to give a negative review. Why all this? Aamir Khan is a brand ambassador for the service, that’s why.
  5. People have pledged to not watch any of Aamir’s movies ever again as he’s a traitor.

Basically, all hell broke loose.

But what does it say about us as a society? Are we not being intolerant by doing all or any of the above. One person has shared his feeling and opinion, and that’s enough to put us into enough a raging fit that when I open the internet, all I see are ‘Open Letters to Aamir Khan’ with people criticizing his shameful comment.

Also, how amusing it is that most of us will just believe whatever the media tells us. If you read his statement that I copied above or even better – watch the actual interview on YouTube – at what point did he even say that he wants to move out of India? It was his wife who made that remark out of fear/frustration, and he’s as alarmed as we are that it has finally come to this. He’s sharing his fear and concern and not a single person says, “I’m sorry Aamir that you feel this way.”? I’m not trying to defend him here, but just look at this whole thing from his perspective. Has he really committed treason, as a certain group is calling it now? Aren’t we reading a little too much into all this?

Is India really tolerant or intolerant? That’s a question that has no answer. But I’ll say this, we’re tolerant,  somewhat. No nation can boast of the kind of diversity we have, and to cap it off, we are a predominantly Hindu nation but with three Muslim actors at the helm of Bollywood. But the truth is we seem tolerant only when compared with other nations. On our own, not so much.

Is there zero intolerance in India? If anyone answers “yes” to that question, then they’re clearly delusional. So why can’t we even let somebody trying to call a spade a spade, call it so? I’ve said this before, if we don’t accept that we have a problem, we’ll never get better.

Look what one unruly comment by an actor has brought out in us? And most of us think that the only way to show our patriotism is by uninstalling an APP from our smartphone? An app that has got nothing to do with the person in question. What actually have we achieved instead of showing our lack of sense?

We all know that Aamir Khan is one of the more sensible and empathetic out of all the celebrities, so let’s not become judgemental all of a sudden, and that too on hollow premises.He does not deserve the backlash, and neither should you be wasting your time in propagating it. Instead, think, and try to face the reality instead of running away from it.  

Diwali…a festival of smoke and noise?

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The night of the Diwali is a fascinating sight. No, not because of the lights. The diyas as they are called become second class citizens compared to all the fire cracker display. And what a display it is, too. Smoke rising up from all corners of the city, so much so that all you see is white fog up in the air and all you smell is metal. Then there’s the deafening noise puncturing through the ears with each “bomb” going off. It’s the day when most of Indians give a giant screw-you to planet Earth and scream “Our fun is more important than your well-being!! LOL”

But let’s go back.

What exactly is Diwali? The actual Sanskrit name ‘Deepavali’ simply means a “series of lights”. Now everybody knows Diwali as the “festival of lights” but I doubt many from today’s generation know exactly why we do indeed celebrate it. I didn’t! And turns out it actually started out a post-monsoon harvest festival. I’m no authority on the subject so go ahead and read Devdutt Patnaik’s insightful article.

Like he says, Diwali is undoubtedly India’s answer to Christmas. It’s that joyous time when families come together, when people open their purses to buy and present new stuff. There’s food and merriment, it’s all very wonderful and comforting. My only problem is the crackers. Ask any kid what Diwali is and the answer in 100 percent of the cases will be, “Crackers!!” We’ve reduced a wonderful festival about new beginnings to a festival where we “blow things up”, because it’s fun. It’s the same as the case with the Christmas tree. Nobody knows the connection between the tree and Jesus Christ, but it has become a tradition anyway.

The sight on the streets.

It’s a known fact that during the night of Diwali, we add a thousand times more pollution to our environment – both air and sound. Everybody thinks “Well I’m just firing my humble assortment of crackers! What harm could I cause?” or “There’s so much pollution already anyway, mine won’t make any difference.” Multiply that with a billion, and what you get is air filled with harmful gases. And then we wake up and complain about pollution and rising temperatures. The audacity, right?

So this Diwali, I urge all my Indian folks to do the right thing. Try to be considerate towards others, and our environment. You might not know this, but pets like dogs and cats get shit-scared with all the noise. Diwali is about lights, and metaphorically about lighting up your own life. It has no place for ruckus of any kind.

So the following are some of the simple things you can do to make a change this Diwali:

  1. Light up your house with natural lights than the electric ones.
  2. Cut down on the crackers. If you’ve got kids who demand crackers, enlighten them about pollution and the harm it can cause. Take them to do something more fun instead.
  3. With the money you save on crackers, you can get yourself or somebody a present. Surprise someone!
  4. Plan a home-cooked meal with your family or friends and include everybody in the cooking process.
  5. When somebody asks you if you’re buying crackers, gently tell them why you’re not doing it. Every small thing counts.

Here’s to a wonderful and pollution-free Diwali. And yes, buy the right type of crackers 🙂

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Image courtesy: This

Why are dogs so picky about where they do their ‘business’?

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Well, she does know how to strike a pose!

Taking Winnie out for a walk can feel like going on a treasure hunt. Like, she’s been going out to do her “business” for about 8 years now and yet everyday is a new adventure! She has to smell a million trees and electric poles before exclaiming “Yes, this is the one!!!! Let me grace this place with my waste today.” And meanwhile, she also has to bark at any neighboring or stray dogs ‘coz that’s what dogs do.

The entire ordeal can take anywhere between 25-30 minutes! And whoever is on walk-duty that day need to wait with patience until the job is done, as the last thing you want is the smell of dog poop inside your house. Trust me, you’d think you’d get used to it after some time but you don’t.

I only hope baby human poop doesn’t smell as bad. But I’m bracing myself up for it. And on that note, why haven’t anybody invented ‘puppy diapers’ yet?

And oh, if you clicked on this post to find out the answer to my question, sorry! I am none the wiser.

The one where I talk about Astrology, and other things…

Okay so these days I’m in Tome-Reader mode (yes you read that right).

I mean, look at this beast!

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That’s Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize winning novel The Luminaries for you.

Now there’s a reason why I’m always wary of fat books. And fat people who write fat books. Yes, I’m looking at you –  George R.R. Martin! A Song of Ice and Fire is a series that takes an awful lot of patience just to get through, and you will have a read a 1000 page tome containing a story that could be summarized in just a couple of paragraphs. So yes, I’m very wary of fat books indeed.

So naturally, my instincts have told me to stay away from The Luminaries. And yet, I picked it up. Sometimes there are no justifications to what you do in life. But I probably did because of the craze surrounding this book, with regards to how brilliantly it’s been structured. It takes astrology as its base, assigning each character to a celestial object – with the people behaving and interacting with each other just like their space counterparts. Also, the chapters halve in length as you progress i.e the second chapter is half as long as first and so on, and this mirrors a waning moon. So undoubtedly, it’s the most ambitious project ever taken up by any author.

But this post isn’t about the book.

When I attended Eleanor Catton’s panel at Chennai’s Literature Fest earlier this year, she has said something that registered in my mind immediately. When asked if she truly believed in astrology, she replied (and I’m paraphrasing) –

How interesting it is, to imagine, that your life is controlled by these random stars and planets in space. That there’s order in the chaos. And that it all means something.

Now if you’ve followed my blog enough, you’d know that I don’t believe in any of that. But one can totally see why ‘astrology’ and ‘horoscopes’ are still present in the 21st century. Sometimes when we want to believe something, we believe it no matter what the rational part of our brain might say. And it is at best harmless, which is also the reason why the charade of consulting an astrologer for any Hindu wedding is still an important step. Of course, astrologers need to keep their jobs too.

If I can give my post a bottom line, it’s only this – We humans take solace from the fact that we are not the ultimate controllers of our own lives. 

What an intriguing species indeed.  But what’s your take on astrology? I’d love to hear it!

Optimism vs Pragmatism

I’m sure everyone at some point in their lives have been told to either “Be Optimistic” or “Look at the brighter side” or something of that sort. And truth is, we probably needed that advice at that point in time. Even otherwise, most people assume that optimism is the way to go and anyone who shows even the slightest signs of negativity is branded a pessimist. This is part of a larger problem that humanity possesses in seeing everything as black-or-white. It’s either this or that. Like there’s no midway.

Also, as you probably know, an over-dose of anything can be lethal. And the same goes for optimism too. In fact, if you imagine a startup company that is run by all optimistic people, I can pretty much guarantee that they’re gonna run into some nasty roadblocks or surprises along the way. How do you balance then? Throw some pessimists in along with the optimists. They will counter-argue and will try to keep everyone’s feet on the ground.

But you know what’s even better? Being a pragmatist.

And I cannot stress this point enough, but being a pragmatic person will save you from a lot of trouble in any conceivable situation. But how is a pragmatist different from a pessimist? See, a pessimist believes that everything that can go wrong will go wrong. (Ardent believers of Murphy’s laws, these people) But a pragmatist, on the other hand, knows to a better degree what may and what may not go wrong. These are the people who will do their “risk analysis” before starting to do anything (even in personal lives), and will also come up with “risk mitigation” and “contingency” plans. While the more traditional optimists might skip this step altogether!

So why do pragmatists win?

Because they prepare themselves for both the best and the worst.

They don’t wallow in self-doubt or skepticism. Pragmatism is about taking a realistic and sensible approach to things, and about making peace with the fact that things may either go your away or against it. With optimism comes an over-confidence that can cloud your consciousness, potentially blinding you to missteps. Pessimism, of course, leads to fear of taking action.

But pragmatists, on the other hand, are just better at dealing with both success and failure. Because they are also aware that nothing is permanent, and so live in a constant understanding that anything they possess today, they might lose it tomorrow. Loss is after all, a part of life. And dealing with loss/failure is something majority of the human population have trouble with. Pragmatists are slightly better in this regard as they had already foreseen that possibility.

To sum up, pragmatists probably live the most imperturbable lives. They will never say “the glass is half full or half empty”, but they will mostly say, “The glass has an adequate amount of liquid.” 🙂

Cheers.

My two cents on religious intolerance.

A lot of things are going on in my country lately – evil things, intolerant things, inhuman things – each one punching a hole deeper into my heart. How did we become like this? When did rape and murder become justifiable? Intolerance of any kind is harmful to the society. But I’m afraid that is where we’re going to end up in near future. India is a country that prides itself with the slogan, “Unity in diversity”. But all I see is “Hatred in diversity” looming on the horizon.

When a certain Health Minister of the country proclaimed to the masses, “Promote Indian culture, not condoms, to prevent AIDS”, I should have been wary that this was going to be the beginning of a string of other comments aimed at plastering archaic morals on the population. What exactly is “Indian culture”? There is no definitive answer. But if you know anything about culture, it’s that it’s not a constant. Culture morphs according to time, and nobody gets to decide and write down laws according to which you are supposed to live your life. What the aforementioned health minister meant when he referred to Indian culture is that sex is between a husband and wife only. And yet, you have Hindu Gods who broke this rule all the time. So where exactly are these morals, this self-proclaimed “culture” stemming from? Ooh, I know, the pigeon brained human.

And this is the problem when you bring religion into everything. Sometimes, life is just life, without any divine and spiritual underpinnings. So why does practicality go out the window in most of the cases? The only explanation I can come up with is this – it makes them feel good about themselves. And sometimes, humans will go to any lengths to achieve it. Is pre-marital sex wrong according to you? That’s fine, it’s your opinion. It’s your decision. Total respect. But you need to now that that doesn’t make you a better person than me. You’ve just chosen a different lifestyle. That’s all there is to it. But more importantly, you have no right to go around criticizing people who break the rule you have imposed on yourself. And this is where our society fails.

Now I know for a fact that the majority of the urban Indian population doesn’t give a shit about all of this. Most of us have learned to “live and let live.” Which is great. But I also know for a fact that there are a lot of people out there who get outraged with the deeds of others. How can two men, against nature, sleep together? How in the name of God can a Hindu eat beef? How can a woman wear skimpy clothes and not be calling attention to herself? But the thing is, these are not your problems. If you don’t understand them, so be it. You have all the right to worry, you have zero right to oppose.

You have all the right to worry, and zero right to oppose.

Just this last week, a Muslim man was lynched by a mob of Hindus based on rumors that he was consuming beef. Here’s the interesting thing, the man in question was a Muslim who has no obligation whatsoever to forgo beef. And yet, the village community found it horrifying that somebody could actually eat cow. You can understand their worry, given their belief system. But to actually go ahead and inflict death on that person? No amount of “culture” and “religion” can justify this. While I’m happy that the President of India Mr.Modi has finally broken silence on this matter and urged everyone to stay united and not heed provocations by communal leaders, I’m not still happy with the way a lot of other things are going on in this country.

There is just too much intolerance and hatred floating around. And sometimes even among educated people. And this is what saddens me. Because for a country to progress, the last thing you want is people fighting among themselves. But there are some groups out there( religious, right-wing, whatever you want to call it) who seem to be hell bent on polarizing the population over religious matters. Call it the Indian equivalent of Jihad, if you may. And it’s terrifying.

Six Types of Unfavourable Travel Companions

We’ve all seen them and we’ve all been at least one of them. So today I thought it would be fun to list out the different kinds of personalities one usually experiences on a trip. As much as I enjoy solo traveling, I have also been on trips with a gang of people so the below is something that stemmed from my own observation.

So here are the five major kinds of unfavourable travel companions:-

1. The I’M-NOT-FEELING-WELL

Isn’t there at least one person like this in every group? You know, the kind of person you stay away from for the fear that they might vomit all over you? Especially while driving on a mountainous road? Yes that very same person. And by the way, true story.

Now, there are all kinds of problems. Some people suffer from vertigo, some cannot bear extreme weather conditions, some shy away from the prospect of any kind of physical exhaustion. Basically, they create major road blocks to what should be a smooth trip. Needless to say, they make less than ideal travel companions and you’d much rather you were without them.

The only good that can come out of having these people around? Medical supplies! These are the people who usually are found carrying every kind of medication possible. So in the off chance that you do catch a headache, you have to look up to them indeed for an aspirin.

2. The UNINTERESTED

The nonchalant. The lazy bum. Yes, the kind of person who comes on a trip just because. And not really because he wants to do/see something.

Picture this, you get all excited and explain to your group that there’s a waterfall nearby in which you could go take a dip, this person won’t even look up from his smartphone and will simply give a lifeless, “Cool.” Talk about priorities.

Oh, and don’t even try waking them up early mornings to catch the sunrise. They’d be annoyed at you for wanting to see something so mundane.

3. The DICTATOR

Who died and made you king, seriously? While it’s true that a group needs that one person to lead the decision making process, there are just some people who make it their job to drive every single thing. They decide which places you are supposed to visit, at what time, and oh, wearing what kind of clothes. And yea, have fun arguing over where to have dinner.

It’s even worse if they’re the bossy types. They won’t listen to suggestions or any of that sort. They have the entire screenplay figured out in which we’re just mere players.

The other kind of dictator is an invisible one. He will give you an illusion that you are part of the decision making process, but finally makes you agree to what he originally had in mind. Sneaky bastard.

4. The EASILY BORED

The worst. And it’s more annoying when they’re vocal about it. Enough to dampen anyone’s mood.

This is the kind of person who asks if anyone would like to join him for a game of cards, when you could go out and explore the neighborhood instead.  These people always need something exciting to be happening to keep them afloat. So it’s always fun games(!) and activities(!), instead of actually doing what you were actually meant to be doing i.e touristy things.

Surprisingly, only a very few people seem annoyed by this kind. I think homo sapiens are naturally programmed to give more importance to ‘fun’.

5. The IMPATIENT 

With them it’s always – okay we’ve seen this now, what next? 

Being excited to see a lot of things is fine. But not having the patience and interest to explore something well is just bad. And it leads to arguments, since you want to stay longer to appreciate the place or take more photographs but these people won’t have any of that!

6. The NON-FLEXIBLE

These people are pretty stringent about some aspects of their lifestyle which leads everyone else to distress. Usually very fussy, they make a big deal out of little things thereby painting a negative vibe throughout the entire trip. They want everything exactly the way they like it and will never adjust or compromise.


So that’s my list of the top unfavourable travel companions one could have. Do you think I missed out any kind? Let me know in the comments below. Also feel free to share any of your own weird travel experiences.

*Image sourced from getmecab.com

10 Things Not To Say To A Hobbyist Photographer

Every photographer has heard these at some point or the other.

10. Oh, everyone’s a photographer these days!

Meh. State obvious much?

9. Can you take the exact same photo of me like that you took last week?

Yes, you obviously know everything about photography.

8. This photo is great but something is off about it!

Do you mind showing me how it’s done then? You can’t? Then shut up!

7. So tell me, what Instagram filter did you use to achieve this effect?

Oh you’re so cute!

6. Omg! I look so fat in your photo!!

That’s because YOU ARE FAT!! Dumbo.

5. Here, I’ll stand beside this monkey. Take a cool photo of me!

Oh yes, your highness, I’ve got nothing better to do!!

4. You shot this? No way!! Tell me from where you downloaded it from?

Thanks for your unwavering confidence in me. But…on second thought, I guess I’ll take that as a compliment.

3. Ptch, come let’s go! You’ve taken enough taken photos already! It’s not like you’re a professional photographer or anything.

JUST GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!!!!

2. If only I had your camera, I bet I could take great photos too!

The wand is only as powerful as the wizard! Now repeat this sentence 100 times.

1. Your camera takes beautiful photos!

Your mouth makes wonderful compliments!

I had great fun writing the above! Did you come across any such great lines too from your friends? Do let me know!