More often than not, what we believe to be so isn’t the whole picture. Several factors get into play to decide what we think is the case. There is a very famous adage attributed to Mahavira that nothing is as it seems. Absolutely nothing. It’s our very own eyes that deceive us. For example, the colours that we see in the universe is a pigment of our imagination: no other species can relate to the millions of shades the way we do. In other words, they are our personal myths. But when we zoom out a bit, we see that we aren’t in control of what we experience in the first place. All the thoughts that we have, all the feelings that we share, all the doubts that we parry, aren’t they a form of delusion to keep ourselves sane?
Your fan following on social media doesn’t mean anything. I say this earnestly as I’ve been actively blogging since 2007 and tweeting since 2008—not to mention I’ve spent a lot of time on many other popular platforms as well—and as years passed by, it’d become more and more obvious that nobody cares. As a content creator, you are basically feeding your void by dancing to the gallery. Your so-called followers (I prefer the word ‘readers’) move on with or without your presence. They are simply the bystanders of your vanity project; they are not invested as you are. Whatever little connection you manage to build with them is the abstract equivalent of the time a dry dead leaf from a treetop takes to hit the ground. Momentary. Instead of focusing on entertaining these faceless audiences, maybe it’d be relatively fulfilling to create real offline connections. People you can meet and share a joke with. Wouldn’t that be nice?
I recently learnt that those who regularly deal with bears have strange advice for those who don’t: when a bear sees you, you shouldn’t run. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, you shouldn’t make hasty movements for two reasons. One, when you run in the opposite direction, the bear already concludes that you are a prey. Secondly, a bear can often cross 40 kmph which means there is no way you can outrun your killer unless you are Usain Bolt when he hadn’t retired. So, what is the solution here? Well, according to practical wisdom, when you spot a bear looking at you, all you’ve got to do is lift yourself up on your toes the way Rose did in Titanic and sing. This is supposed to startle the bear because human singing is not something it’s used to. I don’t know for how long you are supposed to sing to save (read: prolong) your life but my best assumption is if the bear doesn’t like your performance, you are going to be its dinner.
As a species, we have indeed come a long, long way. From living in the Stone Age to wandering through the Dark Ages to find ourselves in the Woke Age, we are constantly (re)calibrating our priorities. As of now, it’s imperative to respect others’ beliefs. Not opinions, mind you, but beliefs. In case you’re wondering what is the difference, opinion is personal whereas belief is social. When I believe in something, it’s about me. When we believe in something, we are legitimizing an ecosystem. And that is precisely why “respect others’ belief” is problematic. Of course, the caveat is set on organized religions because for some reason, we are supposed to respect religious belief systems regardless of the issues that they wholeheartedly cause. If belief is such a fragile thing, then why not extend this welcome attitude to other loonies as well? With all due disrespect, if one large set of people can believe in nonsense such as heaven and hell, then the other smaller set of people can certainly believe in crap such as flat earth and fake moon landing.
The first thing I want to do after getting up in the morning around 6 is to go back to sleep. The problem is I can't sleep twice. It’s a curse of sorts. Once I wake up, I have to get up. And once I get up, I feel groggy and depressed. I don’t remember the last time I slept for 8 hours straight or had a dreamless night. That never happens anymore. Perhaps this is how old age knocks on the door of unspent youth. Anyway, I pull myself up, look at the clock and then at the window and then drag myself to the balcony. Followed this ritual back in Gurgaon, following it in Mangalore as well. After staring at the sky for a few minutes, I tell myself that today is the first day of the rest of my underwhelming life and I must do everything in my power to ruin it.
Marriage is fun for those who can make their spouse laugh. Otherwise, it’s quite a drag. You are basically in an institution where you are constantly yo-yo-ing between the concept of in-love and in-law. There are several books on how to lead a happy married life but none of them cover your story. Why? Because every story is unique just like every marriage is unique and every human is unique. To put it artistically, it’s your canvas to splash colour at. I am not an expert in this subject but I think there is one secret weapon that can make it worth your while: a good sense of humour, particularly when tragedy strikes. A lot of married folks, especially from the younger generation, forget to find reasons to laugh together. As a result, they end up being in marriage with each other instead of being in love with each other.
How well do you know your parents? I assumed I knew amma and pappa a lot better than most of my friends, who barely mention their parents anyway. Turns out I was mistaken. Since I was always interested in stories, I ended up scooping a lot of anecdotes from my parents’ arduous lives. But it’s never enough, is it? For instance, I recently learned that my dad’s first job was in Bombay of ’60s when he was barely 13. And his job entailed taking care of a huge dog—probably a Great Dane or a St. Bernard, all he remembers is it was black and huge—for a wealthy hotelier who had a massive house in Agripada. My dad used to buy meat (4 annas) for the dog and feed him on time and pick up his shit and all. The same hotelier boss ultimately hired him as a cleaner boy at his restaurant. After learning this, I excitedly told my mother and she said she wasn’t aware of it. Out of curiosity, I asked her what was her first job in Bombay when she moved there with me and my brother in 1990. She said she worked as a cleaner at a municipal hospital for a year or so. I had no idea about this part of history either. Back then, she didn’t speak Hindi or Marathi or Tamil so her fond memory is of smiling at her colleagues and not uttering a word. After all, those who don’t know the language of a city can only smile and absorb and learn and build a better tomorrow.
There are many things you must do to increase the quality of life. And I say this not to make you feel inadequate—I am the patron saint of inadequacy myself—but to make you acknowledge the fact that we should strive to grow as people. There are always rooms for improvement. Little things, big things, everything. If you are growing, you are changing and if you are changing, you are cognizant of your shortcomings. That’s the only way out of our rut. When was the last time you learned a new language? So, yes, there are many activities worth pursuing to get a little better than how we were earlier. However, there is one thing that you mustn’t do at any cost: avenge. Don’t waste your energy on thinking about how to take revenge. That garbage will suck you out and deplete you of your humanness. Don’t do it. If you really want to win, then how about living deeper than your so-called enemies? Better still, live longer. Outlive all of them. They say revenge is best served cold. Big time medieval bullshit. Revenge is best served when you are genuinely happier than your enemies.
The principles of veganism are worth applauding but its practitioners can be tad annoying. At least that’s the perception about them, thanks to template memes that float around, partly due to their obsession with letting the world know that they are saving the planet. Personally, I’ve got nothing against those who are trying their bit to make a difference. I know better by reading the harm we are doing to our planet but am I doing anything about it? Hardly. Hence I don’t get to pass judgement on the vegans, or any other group that is altering their lifestyles to a large extent. Funny that what they do (or at least intend to do) is blatantly overlooked by their supposed tendency to call themselves what they take pride in calling themselves: vegans. By this yardstick, shouldn’t we be equally annoyed by youngsters who call themselves secular in everyday conversations? As if by calling themselves so, they are somehow better than the rest? In my experience, those who really feel the need to distinct themselves out like that are often the least secular of all. They simply tend to focus more on the label than the details of requirements behind it. But then, how are you supposed to sit down, hold their hands and have a decent conversation on how they are no different from the vegans they can’t stand? Or that people are generally secular, even in the most theocratic of countries. That’s how humans are built. Maybe you can start by asking the so-called secular person a simple question: do you treat your body as a temple or a mosque?