Monday, November 17, 2008

Dostana - A Review

Sorry guys! Things have come to the pass that the things which occupy my mind these days are crappy movies. But if that's the case, then so be it. Here's a review for Dostana, the crappiest movie of the year (I know the year's not over yet, but for the sake of human-race, I hope there won't be another movie matching it in quality).

The movie is about gays. Sorry! It's about gay jokes. For three hours, they torture you with slapstick jokes about male-homosexuality. All possible bad jokes that can be made about gay-matter, are made during the movie. There's no more cheap-talk you will be left with about gays after you have experienced it.

Of course, if you are a teen-ager, or a young adult with brains of a teen-ager, you will laugh throughout the movie, because gay jokes are an in-thing today, and not laughing at them may result in your being tagged as prude. The show we went to (for which I did an advanced booking of tickets) was filled with teenagers and young adults with brains of a teen-agers, and they were all laughing throughout the movie. For everyone else, the time was spent waiting for the jokes to get over and some substance to come in. It never happens.

Miami. We got late and missed the first five minutes. I had confidently predicted that there would be an item song or something with bikini clad babes on the Miami beach. No story. When we entered the theatre, that song was getting over. I guess, it featured Shilpa Shetty. She's gorgeous. Waste your money if you consider seeing her for a couple of minutes worth the long torture that follows.

Here's ths story. Don't bother skipping it. It doesn't make one bit of a difference.
- These two guys are looking for a house.
- They find Priyanka's house where she lives alone and where they are looking for two new tenants. They shouldn't be guys due to security reasons.
- These guys pose as gay couple, and hence are taken in as they pose no threat to the girl.
- Subsequently, both guys fall for the girl.
- The girl gets involved with her boss (Bobby).
- These guys do some jerky stuff to shoo away the new-found lover. Of course, they go awry.
- Some chaos follows.
- The climax scene contains a kissing act (mouth to mouth) between Abhishek and John, which is basically done to establish their friendship and loyalty to Priyanka. She actually gets convinced.

Good things about the movie: Priyanka Chopra carries off her skimpy dresses in neat style. John Abraham looks good. Music is quite nice, sometimes even the lyrics.

I don't feel like writing anymore. Very bad! Don't watch this movie please!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mob Mentality

Pritesh wrote this piece on mob mentality. I tried posting this comment. But seems it's too long. So, I am posting it as an independent post.

I had a very close encounter with mob behaviour some time back when Dr. Rajkumar passed away. We were sipping coffee at the
Coffee Board and the procession was passing through the adjacent main-road. Suddenly, they started pelting big stones on us.
Each stone would have caused severe wound if it had found its target. However,
thanks to the sun-shades, no one got hurt. We quickly ran to safety near inside the building. In that process, I had a
glimpse of the people who were throwing the stones. They were smiling and laughing, like small kids.
Soon afterwards, there was a lathi-charge, and the mob started scattering. Many of them jumped the IISc boundary-wall into
the campus. Many of them were caught hold of by the security-guards, and even some students. They were slapped, kicked, and
abused. One slap and they would fall down and start begging for mercy!
I was really astounded to see these 'monsters' becoming so insecure and weak when caught away from the security of
anonymity (as you have rightly pointed out).

Looking at the scenario from another angle, I realised that these poor people lead an utterly uninteresting life. There
life must be such a meaningless drudgery and ethics and morality are theoretical banters for them. A slight bit of
excitement, even if it's got through destruction, gives them that thrill we used to feel drawing on the walls or doing
anything mischievous when we were kids. The sight of that smile which showed that childlike innocence, and that helplessness
when faced with the slightest punishment, made me feel very unhappy at how their life hasn't seen many things interesting
after their childhood that they jump at this first opportunity of excitement, without giving a heed to its implication.

Another example of mob mentality is seen every day on roads. Be it breaking the signal, or be it clogging the traffic by violating
lane discipline, it's a pure example of mob mentality. I feel the presence of that instinct in myself when the red-light in front is
about to turn green, a few seconds to go, and my side traffic has already started moving, of course against the rule. At
that time it's very difficult to resist the temptation to fly myself. I have held stead against the temptation most of the
time; but haven't succeeded always!

Mob mentality is a basic-instinct. It comes from the age-old wisdom of behaving similar to the majority, since, it's the
majority which survives. Its parent instinct is the instinct to immitate, which again is also the greatest tool of learning
for humans ('apes') and other species. The people who turn into mobs are no different people. We all are susceptible to this strong
tendency. It's only that when this is topped with ignorance, boredom and frustration, we become puppets to the signs
from anyone who wishes to make use of it.

The act of preventing oneself from turning into a mob just involves a moment of thought, as you have rightly pointed out.
But just like any other thing which involves just a small change in the thought pattern (corruption, violence, suicide etc)
these are the very things which will take the most fundamental changes in the people and society, since the circumstances
which brew these instincts are there for a long time. They are related with poverty and ignorance.

The real solution of mob-mentality can't be expected before these precursors are taken care of. And I even think, that once
(if and when) these precursors are somehow solved, mob-mentality is so fundamental in us, that it will find another way to
manifest itself.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sarkari and Private

In a recent discussion with some of my socially enthusiastic friends in IISc (not a rarity there), we were lamenting in a usual manner about how things are with the administration of IISc. IISc remains the same old, with its administration being extremely high-nosed and unfriendly in general with the students. I have come across many less efficient government departments. But, having spent a really long time in IISc, the level of inefficiency in many things are quite an eyesore. Particularly because IISc can't complain of lack of resources to be the reason of whatever inefficiency there is.

I had a recent bitter experience with the finance department when I felt extremely harrassed while trying to get my no-dues from there. In IISc, students pay their tuition fees through the bank in the beginning of the semesters. When we are a few semesters old in the Institute, and have already paid our tuition fees many times, we learn that while leaving the Institute, we need to take no-dues from the finance department. To get the no-dues certificate it's necessary to produce the counterfoil receipts of all the semester tuition fees. If we don't, the clerk will go through a clumsy process of trying to figure out if we have indeed paid our fees for all the semesters, which includes manually sifting through a large number of files. If she doesn't find any of the entries, either due to gross error which is quite probable in such a task, or due to the very fact that she doesn't like you for a reason only she knows, then the fines due to late payment are daunting. Rs. 20 per week from the due date. I ended up paying Rs. 13,000/- approximately, out of which around Rs. 5,000/- went as fines. Thank God it was because some fees I allegedly hadn't paid in my 5th year, and not in my first.

This clumsiness is quite inexplicable. Why can't this process be completely automated? How is it possible that the accounts section doesn't maintain a strong report of when and how much tuition fees a student is paying? A degree of automation was introduced since 2005. Till then, all accounts were maintained in some sort of paper files. Accounting and book keeping is an ancient business. I don't think, maintenance of foolproof records of financial transactions have ever critically depended on computers, especially when the bank where the fees are being paid and the account section are within a kilometre (within the campus) of each other. Then why are students harrassed like this? The only record of our having paid the fees is in the bank challans! How ridiculous! And if it's really that important, why aren't the students explicitly directed to preserve their bank challans right when they join the Institute? Regarding late payment of fees,
if there are defaulters, why aren't they intimated through an automated mail? Why isn't there any broadcast mail reminding students to pay their fees?

Another example. It's been a prolonged debate between the administration and the students about how the scholarship renewal process be handled. Students are supposed to initiate this process by themselves. Each and every student in the Institute has to apply for scholarship renewal every year. And yet, the only way a student has a chance of doing it in time is if he remembers it himself which the admin would ideally have him do, or his guide or the Departmental Curriculum committee reminds him. The admin, as ever, will not ask for it. The penalty for failing to apply for scholarship renewal is quite substantial: You lose your scholarship! The money -- tens of thousands of rupees -- simply vanishes into thin air. The worst part is that if you fail to apply for scholarship renewal during the stipulated period, most likely, you won't remember to do so till the next year, or when you finally notice that your scholarships have stopped getting credited to your account. If you are one of those geeky kinds who don't look at their bank-balance until there's no money in your account (and there are quite expectedly many of this type in IISc), you will most probably realise your mistake when it's too late. One of my labmates lost close to Rs. 150,000/-. By any standards, that's a lot of money. No amount of begging or fighting got him back his money. The administration didn't just refuse to help him, but humiliated him when he approached them. Our professor and the Director refused to act on it, and took the side of the admin at all crucial points. I know of many such instances, which means that this is not a rare event. Still, the admin insists on sticking to this archaic process. The process of scholarship renewal can be automated. Or, at least, it can be transformed into a pull model wherein the admin reaches out to the students to fill their scholarship renewal. A broadcast mail can be sent. The possible defaulters can be personally contacted. I don't think, it's asking for too much. The administration works through its various branches in each department. The load on these offices is not overwhelming. If there are maximum 10 defaulters in a department on an average, they can be reached out personally. This exercise, done once every year, doesn't add to their workload by any unreasonable degree. It's quite atrocious to set the penalty of being absent-minded and forgetful at such a high mark.

The opacity of administrative processes is the bane of IISc life. It's a well-known fact that corruption abounds in mess, hostel, estate, and every conceivable administrative department. There have been instances of workers being caught smuggling material out of the messes by students. Such stories don't go a long way. They die out of the public memory after causing a temporary sensation. Malpractices are common and are the prime reason for systems not working in favour of the students. Students are usually too oblivious to notice the leaks in the services supposed to be there for them. For them, their research is a hard enough problem to solve. Meanwhile, corrupt official are enjoying unprecedented freedom to indulge in all sorts of malpractices, ranging from callousness, laziness and corruption.

On the other hand, I have a good experience in private corporate organisations like Philips and TCS. They aren't so complex and huge as IISc. But the reason that things work here is not their small size but the agility with which the facilities, administration, accounts and finance departments work. Automation is brought in aggressively, wherever applicable. Things are clean, transparent and paperless.

Why can't many things be automated in IISc? One of my friends had a simple answer: IISc is a government organisation. More than serving the declared purpose, it also implicitly must provide employment to a certain number of government employees. The day automation is put in place, all these buggers will be out of their jobs. On the other hand, private corporate organisations work on fear. One does his job well, or loses his job. Unlike a government organisation, there's no place for laziness and non-performance.

Our country is inhabited by a series of generations who are just garbage due to centuries of dependence and complacence. The current government (which of course is constituted of members of that garbage generation) is doomed to feed this generation until they die their natural death. I am afraid that these issues won't go with a generation or two. We carry those genes which have expressed and purified over hundreds of years. It will take a comparable time to get rid of those genes I am sure.

Was just trying to remove dust off my pen. :)

Related post: Automation for IISc

Thursday, June 05, 2008

5S -- the Management Mantra of Tidiness

Click here to read the article.

If you wish to drop a comment, and don't have a Sulekha account, please drop it as a comment to this article on Blogspot.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

To Waste or Not to Waste is the Question

Click here to view the Article.

If you don't have a Sulekha account and wish to post a comment, kindly do so here to this post.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Coorg Trip

Click here to read about our recent Coorg trip.

Chains of Freedom

Chains of Freedom on Sulekha.


Hi reader,

Each blog service comes with its own pluses and minuses. Blogspot allows anonymous visitors to leave comments, but doesn't feature the post on the main page, nor does it allow you to profile your blog to see how well a particular article is doing. My guess is, a blog written on Blogspot doesn't get read by so many people as compared with Sulekha. But Sulekha doesn't let anonymous comments.

This is my attempt to extract the best out of both worlds. I will henceforth write in Sulekha, but will simultaneously create a post here with a link to that article. Visitors having a Sulekha account may leave their comment there. Or else, they may leave their comment here on blogspot.

I have a slight misgiving that this is not considered fully ethical. But given the circumstances, I feel, I am not left with any option. :(


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Summer Vacations

A chat session I had with one of my friends who's in school, and is enjoying her summer vacations!

For us they are things of the past! :(
I never had no summer vacation in the last 10 years.
Can you believe it?!
When I was a kid...
we used to go out all the time with friends....
barefooted...half pant clad...slingshots in hand...pretending to be bird hunters.
...and we would go climb some tree and sit there and gossip.
It was fun.
...and when I grew up a bit, say, to your age...
it was card games and chess with friends in the morning.
Exchanging novels (only classics for me please!)...and reading them...
as if finishing as many of them as possible during the vacation would give us some trophy.
...sleeping in the afternoon for 2 hours!
Having afternoon tea and then going out again with friends...
and staying out till dinner...
having evening bath.
Night time again friends.
Wow! Those were the days!
Ya. Feeling nostalgic!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Man in Your Life

A piece got as a forward from one of my friends. The article talks about how a newly married girl copes with the difficult task of adjusting with her new environment, and implores the husband to be supportive to her in achieving this.

I felt the spirit of the piece very good and it makes its point well enough that I find it unnecessary to make any further additions. However, in the process of admiring the woman, at some points it repeats the old ultra-feminist mistake of putting down the man. This post is about that. Follows the poem, and then my comments.

I am making this post to address a wider problem of ultra-feminism. I appreciate this forwarded piece, and my words aren't directed only to that.

Note the points in the poem which I felt were in a bad spirit. The orange ones are which I feel just start being unfair, and the red ones are plain deplorable. Everything else is in good spirits and is appreciated.

Tomorrow you may get a working woman,
but you should marry her with these facts as well.

Here is a girl, who is as much educated as you are;
Who is earning almost as much as you do;

One, who has dreams and aspirations just as
you have because she is as human as you are;

One, who has never entered the kitchen in her life just like you or your
Sister haven't, as she was busy in studies and competing in a system
that gives no special concession to girls for their culinary achievements

One, who has lived and loved her parents & brothers & sisters, almost as
much as you do for 20-25 years of her life;

One, who has bravely agreed to leave behind all that, her home, people who love her, to adopt your home, your family, your ways and even your family ,name

One, who is somehow expected to be a master-chef from day #1, while you sleep oblivious to her predicament in her new circumstances, environment and that kitchen

One, who is expected to make the tea, first thing in the morning and cook
food at the end of the day, even if she is as tired as you are, maybe more,
and yet never ever expected to complain; to be a servant, a cook, a mother,
a wife, even if she doesn't want to; and is learning just like you are as
to what you want from her; and is clumsy and sloppy at times and knows that you won't like it if she is too demanding, or if she learns faster than you;

One, who has her own set of friends, and that includes boys and even men at her workplace too, those, who she knows from school days and yet is willing to put all that on the back-burners to avoid your irrational jealousy, unnecessary competition and your inherent insecurities;

Yes, she can drink and dance just as well as you can, but won't, simply
Because you won't like it, even though you say otherwise

One, who can be late from work once in a while when deadlines, just like yours, are to be met;

One, who is doing her level best and wants to make this most important,
relationship in her entire life a grand success, if you just help her some
and trust her;

One, who just wants one thing from you, as you are the only one she knows in your entire house - your unstinted support, your sensitivities and most importantly - your understanding, or love, if you may call it.

But not many guys understand this......

Please appreciate "HER"

I hope you will do....

My comments:

Can't agree more especially at this juncture of life. I am just watching day after day the host of irreversible and significant changes that are coming about everyday in my newly wed wife's life, and can't stop marvelling at how she's taking them all with a smile on her face. My love and respect for her rises exponentially everyday. No professional achievement can equal this unearthly mix of maturity, flexibility, modesty and sacrifice.

I wish to tell a little less known thing too. It's often talked about a lot what a great transition it is for a girl to leave behind her past life to join her husband. I think it's true. Very true.

What's not quite right is to imagine that the guy doesn't go through similar anxieties. Nor is it fair to project it as if all sacrifices are only on the girl's side, and none on the guy's side. It mayn't really strike you as significant, but for record's sake let me point out that it's not trivial to change from a boy to a man overnight. Till yesterday, he was all alone, free to move around in the world, exploring everything with not a worry in mind but his own whims and fancies. All of a sudden, everything starts revolving around another person -- you. Your concerns are his, and he is responsible for your happiness, health and everything. He brought you home from your house where everyone was crying and wailing so to making him feel miserable and guilty of causing so painful a separation in a family. And now, he is immediately responsible to make that girl, who is badly missing her family and is coping hard with her new life, feel at home and loved. Do you think it's any easier?! I wouldn't be so sure!

He is aware of your capabilities. He is proud of it. It's a different matter that your feminist predecessors have ground it into you that it's you who always protects his silly ego and that's your job. I think, it's time to dump that bullshit. Men are better than that. Go ahead and conquer the world in the way you want. Dump the household work on him. It's his responsibility too. It's his right to struggle like you do. And most importantly, what you mayn't know is that he knows it. Where expression of capabilities is natural, it will receive admiration and cheer from all men and women; where it gets adulterated with false egotism and the wish to prove a point, it will invite scorn, not just from men, but from women as well. I think, one should stop blaming men of chauvinism in this capability business. Men are no more egotistic than women.

In this (ultra)feminist world, it's becoming fashionable these days to write poetry saying laudatory words about women and their sacrifices (every word of which they deserve) and bash up men for their insensitivity, and selfishness (not all of which they deserve). Perhaps, the pendulum of male chauvinism has now started swinging back to the other amplitude in the form of ultra feminism. :(

I have met many men and women in my life. And I can say confidently that men are every bit as sensitive and caring as women. Their modes of expression aren't so sophisticated as those of women. Women have many vents to their soft emotions. But it's not fair to imagine lack of sensitivity among men just because they are not so capable of expressing them well. While you may call up home when you miss them, or shed a drop of two of your precious tears to vent the emotional pressure, your man will be out there suppressing all that, trying to look strong and unaffected, more out of a habit of suppression society has imposed on him than anything else. Do you really think it's all nice and good for him while you are making all the sacrifices. Well, think again!

To conclude, marriage (and every relation of the world) is not a one sided affair. It's based on love and respect on both ends. It's good to mention the good things on the one end, but it's unfair to make it look as if the relation is tailor made to serve all the fair and unfair needs of one party while to give a raw deal to the other (presumably the nobler one). Guys and girls! Marriage is a very personal thing between you and your wife. The terms of your relations are defined as you define it, not how a chauvinistic tradition or a feminist activist would like them to be. I believe that mutual love, care and respect takes a relation to heights which no amount of political correctness can. Here's a simple mantra: Let's be fair. That's a good starting point for a relation.

And to set a good example, I am saying this to all men, and women too.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Enemy Within

I want to draw your attention to a subtle point I have tried making
many times: "Don't give in to fear." For me, the importance of these
words can't be overstated. How hard I try to stay calm and
composed when it's the question of drawing motivation to work! I have
let go waste tonnes and tonnes of fear which I could easily have used
to push myself into working hard and getting professionally benefited.
I daresay, I would have been able to prove quite a few points had I
let that happen. I have tried very hard to never let that happen
(though I don't always succeed). Same has been true with other sources
of motivation like rivalry, ambition and professional conceit. I have
always shunned them when I could have used them. The central idea was:
"My research is the purest and most beautiful thing I do. I will not
malign it by letting it get driven by things I consider negative." I
mayn't have been always correct in being so pedantic about the matter.
I sometimes wonder if I hadn't looked at certain things like fear,
anger, rivalry and ambition as out and out negative things, I could
have found it easier to get into a habit of working hard. Once the
habit set in, perhaps, I could have worked towards purifying my
thoughts, and then driving myself with purer sources of motivation
then on. Well, perhaps. I will hopefully get a chance to validate that
hypothesis in future. But, let's not talk about that aspect right now.

The above maxim can be partially stated as: "Never let negative
thoughts drive you to do anything good." But it gets completed when we
say: "Never let negative thoughts stop you from doing what you truly
want to do."

That second part of the maxim came to my rescue two and half years
ago, when I had almost got paralysed after suffering nearly 2 years of
fruitless toil on a problem which wasn't moving anywhere. By some
miracle (which is also called 'introspection'), I realised that,
bigger and more immediate than the problem of my research not going
anywhere, it was that deep fear of having to face failure and
disappointment which was my problem. Slowly, I could get clearer and
clearer sight of that 'fear' which used to draw away my energy
whenever I would decide to sit and do something towards my research.
This fear was born and had grown within me; and yet, I could see it as
an external thing -- something which I had cut and throw away from my
system, something I should take pleasure in killing.

When I succeeded in looking at this fear as something not essential to
my personality, but rather something that I could easily throw out of
my system, and survive, I could actually get up and do something about
my plight. I realised that, for the immediate moment, my success lay,
not in doing successful research, but in honestly trying to do so. And
I wouldn't let my fear stop me from doing that.

I think I won that little battle. But the fear is still there and
sometimes becomes overpowering. But, due to that one triumphant
experience during my PhD, I know that it exists somewhere inside me,
am far more capable to identify it in many of its clever disguises,
and with hardly any delay, am able to get up and start smothering it
back to its little dark hole whenever it raises its head.

I do think (may be it's a fallacy) that this tussle with fear is an
essential experience of doing PhD. Perhaps the most important one.
People who have got that momentum right from the first day, due to whatever reason, mayn't perhaps face this problem now.
Perhaps, they already had faced this problem earlier, and have,
consciously or unconsciously, devised ways of handling it. Perhaps, we
haven't been so lucky (or wise) enough to have faced this problem
earlier in our lives. But, whenever someone is trying to do something
non-trivial, I think, this hurdle is bound to be faced. And only when
one learns to combat one's own fear (which is the mother of laziness
and procrastination), one is really going to have a smooth sail to his
or her destination.

All this is not an advice. I just want you to know something now which
I spent an unnecessary amount of time and toil to understand. I don't
know if it's one of those things which can be learned only the hard
way of experience. But, in case it isn't one of those things, I
wouldn't like to miss this chance to share with you this little
thought which was almost life-changing for me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two Sexes, Two Stereotypes

We always stereotype. That's a part of handling the complexity around us. When it benignly serves its intended purpose -- simplification -- we give it good names: abstraction, classification, categorisation. When it has significant side-effects, we call it names: stereotyping, pigeon-holing, generalisation.

I wish to draw your attention to a special kind of stereotyping. One men do about women. And the other which women do about men.

First, let's take on men. I feel the biggest stereotype ruling the male minds is that women are intellectually inferior. All we men suffer to a degree with this stereotype. How many ever women we see passing in front of us demonstrating how well they match us, or even exceed us, in intellectual capabilities, we seem to ignore them all, and fix our gaze on those who seem to strengthen our believe that women are intellectually inferior. I have observed some very intelligent men succumbing to the evil of gender stereotypes. For example, I have seen some very respectable men with respectable thoughts avoiding including women as their collaborators. It never occurs to them that women too can contribute intellectually. On the other hand, I have found many women themselves fostering such stereotypes in various manners. By being opportunistic, unduly ambitious and intellectually dishonest at many crucial points. For example, I have known such girls who have themselves accepted that they used their womanhood to gain academic mileage, be it in the form of shedding tears before a strict professor, or using their charms to gain professional favours.

Now, women. I feel the biggest stereotype ruling the female minds is that men are physically rogues. All women suffer to a degree with this stereotype. How many ever men do they see passing in front of them demonstrating how well they match women, or even exceed them, in emotional advancement, they seem to ignore them all, and fix their gaze on those who seem to strengthen their belief that men are sex-starved beasts always looking for the first chance to pounce on the nearest woman. I have observed some very good-natured women succumbing to the evil of gender stereotypes. For example, I have personally faced situations where I had to prove my gentleness to even those of my lady friends who would profess to know me very well. It never occurs to them that men too have a character, and can be morally upright. On the other hand, I have found many men themselves fostering such stereotypes in various manners. By allowing such jokes to be cracked, by behaving awfully to women, at many crucial points. For example, I have known good men who have never graduated beyond treating women as sex-objects. They would go about bedding women of all sorts before marriage, but would settle for nothing but a demure virgin when it comes to marriage.

It is not my intention to counter any of these stereotypes. I know pretty well that some of my male readers would be biased towards the male stereotypes, and some of my female readers would be agreeing happily with the female one. I don't want to prove them wrong. All I say is: stereotypes are given us by nature. Getting rid of them is a difficult exercise, a fight against our biology.

Men, as males, are designed to notice women who can satisfy their sexual urges which demonstrably exceed those of women in general. Women showing qualities which usually are vehicles of power and combatting capability -- be it physical strength in the stone age, or intellect in the modern age -- mean nothing to a man. They are additional details which only add clutter to the scene from where a man is trying to look for his woman, given the small set of qualities he is equipped to judge them by. Stereotyping is a process by which a man is biologically trained to filter the noise from the scene.

Women, on the other hand, are possibly hardwired to carry the opposite stereotype. The way their biology is trained to look at a group of men is a bunch of suitors from whom she has to choose carefully to ensure a healthy progeny. The instinctive dread of being sexually attacked by an inappropriate suitor is deeply engrained in their biology. The above mentioned stereotype is possibly a direct manifestation of that: Assume them all to be rogues. Be on your guards. A man showing emotional intelligence means nothing to a woman, since paying notice to such attributes takes her eye off from the difficult task of choosing the right man from amongst the wrong ones, all of whom are giving her attention. A woman is perhaps designed to take her pick from a horde of rogues. She'll eventually choose the best rogue.

Human species has evolved to such an extent that its members have an existence apart from that which their basic instincts command. In their world, men and women interact with each other as people. They do more and more such things which succeed due to good qualities like intellect and decency. And for very practical reasons, it doesn't matter to such 'human' projects whether such good qualities are possessed by a woman or a man. If a woman is intelligent, courageous, powerful -- well and good; if a man is decent, empathetic, emotionally sophisticated -- so be it.

I also recognise that we, as a species, might have advanced even to a degree where for some of us, the stereotypes might actually have started breaking. Today, a man may get turned on by a woman's intelligence; a woman may get stricken by the empathetic nature of a man. But I think, it's more of an exception than a rule.

As a man, I take two lessons from the above thought:
- I am a man. I am bound to have some inherent male attributes (higher sex-drive, tendency to seek physical dominance) and stereotyping tendencies. I can't hate myself for what I have got from my biology. But I have to be wary of them.
- I have to learn to accept the presence of stereotype among women, and me being involved in it inadvertently and inappropriately. I get very disturbed when I am treated in any way that smells of that stereotype. I think, I must check that. I must learn to live with that. Women don't always mean it when they fail to recognise or appreciate the authenticity of your gentleness. Their affliction from the tendency to stereotype is as strong as ours. Even if she is honestly fighting it, she may fail to resist it once in a while. It's OK.

I, and many many of my fellows, belong to a portion of the human species, whose interaction with the members of their opposite sex is barely sexual in any way . During such interactions, we aren't looking for a mate, even in a remotely biological sense (I honestly think so). Mostly, we are dealing with them as human-beings. Even our way of finding our mates has now a well-defined social process -- be it a love-affair, or an arranged marriage -- which has hardly any biological elements. Therefore, it should be to everyone's advantage to fight the above natural stereotypes to as great an extent as possible. Men should accept that women, in spite of their niceties and emotional hysteria, are intellectually their equals. Women must accept that men, in spite of their physical propensities and higher sex-drive, are morally their equals.

Jokes can always be made on how women can't keep secrets, how blondes fumble with mathematics, how women get late making themselves up; or about how all men want is sex, how they are dirty creatures, how their emotional intelligence is next to zero. We can always have a good laugh sharing such jokes. But behind that, I feel, we should be conscious that these jokes are possibly the only healthy vent we are allowed to give to our natural instinct of gender stereotyping. Whenever it comes to practical interactions, by fighting our stereotypes honestly, we personally stand to share a much more rewarding and fulfilling relation with our friends in the opposite sex, and our entire species would stand to gain (again, I honestly think so).

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Cricket Craze, Racism, National Inferiority Complex, Corruption of Media and All That

It's now well-known that the the number of bad decisions in the test. OK, Bhajji's ban was revoked. Bucknor was removed. Fine! Just a few points to remember:

- Popular anger at all this is as meaningful or meaningless as our love for cricket -- passive.
- Media is corrupted, and would love the public go berserk.
- It's the call of people directly involved in the matter -- players and umpires. I don't think we figure anywhere here.
- It's sometimes good to take a tough stand. Australian cricketers are quite a spoiled lot. Let's accept they are the best in cricket, and then look eye to eye. It's very easy for them to say that we are fleeing after facing defeat, and that we are trying to hype up other things to takes peoples' eye off from the match results. Let's join them to hype up their victory to whatever extend that it can be. But if something's wrong, then it is. And it should be punished. Let not we fall prey to our age-old docility and national inferiority complex every time.

Hey! I haven't seen a cricket match in the last 12 year. But, I do see how people get affected by it, especially when the media wants them to get affected.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Just Do It!

The Nike tag-line might be seen as something to infuse aggressiveness in a person, possibly causing him to take to running, and buying their footwear. Over many years, I have looked at it in a different light, and have realised that it has got a message for people like me, who don't have any serious plans to do anything aggressive in their life.
I would like to recount a discussion I had with an ME student in CSA department of IISc about 6 years back. We were cycling towards the lab early one morning. Those were the days of doing piles and piles of assignments. I was struggling with three subjects. I was on the verge of giving up. The other guy had taken those three same subjects, and three more, all of them as tough. I put forth a simple and straightforward question: 'I'm getting a heart attack with 3 subjects. How the hell are you managing 6?' His answer was simple: 'Who's managing? I just keep doing what's right next in the queue!'

That discussion had a deep effect on me. And they started showing in increasing instances in my day to day life years afterwards. After that day, I started becoming more and more conscious of how much time and energy I spend in trying to schedule my day/life. Most of the times, the prospect looks daunting when I try to plan meticulously. Almost always, there's too much to do. To make things worse, there's often no real correlation between the importance and interestingness of things. Unwillingness to do boring chores, and the resentment over the lack of the correlation often used to paralyse me into complete inaction.

Slowly, I made certain observations.

First: there's indeed too much to do. So, there's no point in trying too hard to come up with a beautiful schedule.

Second: The amount of time that one has in coming out with a fairly good approximate schedule is also fairly limited. Most probably, with my kind of intelligence, the only scheduling algorithm that would work is first come first serve.

Third: Life is not a hard real-time system. Deadlines can be broken. They will be. It's good to be ready for that.

Fourth: With increasing business, the feeling of enjoyment diminishes and a numbness sets in. There's a point where the numbness starts eating upon the joy of completing a task. That's where, slogging any harder becomes pointless. Moreover, numbness opens the gates towards dying of heart-attack sooner and sooner.

Fifth: Thank your stars when you have too much to do. Having too much to do is far better than having nothing to do.

Sixth: Concentrate. That's the only way you can enjoy what you are doing, and that's the only way things get done. Concentrate even when you are doing the most insignificant work of the world. Concentration also takes your eyes off such questions like what's the use? which more often than not kill the enthusiasm to do most good things. Concentration is the magic potion of enjoyment and often an effective substitute to brute-force discipline.

Whichever scheduling algorithm we use, it is rather important that we do what gets scheduled next. There we could say: Just do it! But there, the name of the game is not aggressiveness, but discipline. As I am not very good at it, I have found a particular reward-system pretty helpful. I use one task as a respite from another. When, while doing the most urgent thing, we get bored and fatigued, we can take up another lower down in the priority, and do it for a while. That has double benefit. It reduces stress caused by monotony and boredom; and it also gives a sense of satisfaction in that we are actually reducing backlog in the future. I have a peculiar dread towards concentrating for a long time. This automatically results in my finding every other work look more interesting than the one I am currently doing. Therefore, the chance to do anything apart from what I am currently engaged in, appears like a reward. So, I reward myself with this indulgence whenever I make a designated progress in the thing I doing. The rewards usually ring this way in my head: 'Get rid of this bug; then go for coffee.' 'Implement this feature, then write a paragraph in the report.' This reward system, which builds upon an essential cowardice I have, helps me in fooling myself into viewing a work as a fun activity, as a reward, or respite. On the other hand, this habit also helps me turn an otherwise frivolous things into some productive. For instance, going for a coffee may get clubbed with catching up with a friend, or having a technical discussion that's been pending for long.

At the end of it, I have found a kind of fatalistic approach towards many things very helpful. As in: Do your best, and leave the rest on God. At most points, I don't find myself in a position to answer the question: How am I doing? We all have a particular style and speed of handling things. It's not easy to bring about drastic changes in these things. If one wants to get a clear estimate about how one is doing, one should look at life in its totality. For example, if I try it, I get both a reassuring and a humbling feeling about myself. I feel, overall, I haven't been doing too badly. The panic that I feel when I fret about my slowness in doing things looks pretty much unnecessary. It's almost surely true that I am slow in most things. But it's just a disadvantage; not an undoing. I keep losing miles due to that. But there are other things which also put me a couple of miles ahead. All in all, it looks like I am a fairly above average person, possibly brilliant, but definitely not a genius. The most rational answer to the question: 'How is the future going to be?' seems to be: 'Most probably not very different from the past.' So, I seem to be safe. But if I am looking for an extra-ordinary life or something, possibly I am not on my way. At least, there's no way to know now. So, why worry?

To conclude, the central point here is not to imitate Dale Carnegie or Steven Covie. It's just trying to document some realisations, and the following advice is not to someone else. It is to me. Here it is. Just keep doing it. Don't make too frequent assessments of yourself. You are probably doing okay. Be disciplined. Sometimes, numbing the sensations for the sake of getting over with some chores is good for health. It lets you defy fatigue which is often laziness in disguise. But don't do it too often. Then, you may get a heart attack. Mostly, it's a good investment of your effort to learn to enjoy the work. That makes your efforts effective as it's easier to concentrate when you like doing something (converse is also true). It saves you from numbness; hences it's good for your heart.

Ah! A predictable preachy preachy post! :)