Thursday, September 03, 2015

Essence of Learning

(Look below for my summarisation)

"Now, you see, you don't do this thing a bit better than you did a fortnight ago, and I'll tell you what's the reason. You want to learn accounts--that's well and good. But you think all you need do to learn accounts is to come to me and do sums for an hour or so, two or three times a-week; and no sooner do you get your caps on and turn out of doors again than you sweep the whole thing clean out of your mind. You go whistling about, and take no more care what you're thinking of than if your heads were gutters for any rubbish to swill through that happened to be in the way; and if you get a good notion in 'em,it's pretty soon washed out again. You think knowledge is to be got cheap--you'll come and pay Bartle Massey sixpence a-week, and he'll make you clever at figures without your taking any trouble. But knowledge isn't to be got with paying sixpence, let me tell you. If you're to know figures, you must turn 'em over in your heads and keep your thoughts fixed on 'em. There's nothing you can't turn into a sum, for there's nothing but what's got number in it--even a fool. You may say to  yourselves, 'I'm one fool, and Jack's another; if my fool's head weighed four pound, and Jack's three pound three ounces and three quarters, how many pennyweights heavier would my head be than Jack's?' A man that had got his heart in learning figures would make sums for himself and work 'em in his head. When he sat at his shoe making, he'd count his stitches by fives, and then put a price on his stitches, say half a farthing, and then see how much money he could get in an hour; and then ask himself how much money he'd get in a day at that rate; and then how much ten workmen would get working three, or twenty, or a hundred years at that rate--and all the while his needle would be going just as fast as if he left his head empty for the devil to dance in. But the long and the short of it is--I'll have nobody in my night-school that doesn't strive to learn what he comes to learn, as hard as if he was striving to get out of a dark hole into broad daylight. I'll send no man away because he's stupid: if Billy Taft, the idiot, wanted to learn anything, I'd not refuse to teach him. But I'll not throw away good knowledge on people who think they can get it by the six penn'orth, and carry it away with 'em as they would an ounce of snuff. So never come to me again, if youcan't show that you've been working with your own heads, instead of thinking that you can pay for mine to work for you. That's the last word I've got to say to you."

- Bartle Massey, School teacher, Adam Bede by George Elliot
In short:
  1. You can't learn by just paying money.
  2. Learning happens when you think of it outside the class.
  3. You must look actively for situations where you can apply your learning.
  4. No teacher can do the learning part on behalf of the student.

Can't make a more relevant statement than this one written nearly one and a half century ago. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

About Meditation

I have been doing a little bit of meditation everyday for a few months. In fact, on and off, I have done this for a very long time. But this time, for the first time, I see tangible benefits. The first immediate benefit has been completely physical. I used to have a chronic neck-shoulder-back pain all the time for several years. It had started perceptibly worsening in the last few years. It was never very sharp, but was bad enough to affect the quality of my sleep sometimes. I hadn't tried any medical help, but had tried all sorts of exercises. Nothing had helped. But meditation has allowed me to feel largely free of that pain for the first time. I can't believe that making that pain almost disappear was in my hands and was so easy! I really feel very happy about it. I don't know if this state will persist for long or not. But for sure, at present, it seems to be working like a miracle.

The second benefit is more mental, and is about the overall feeling of well-being. I am able to stay calm in larger number of situations. I am not wasting precious energy by being unnecessarily tensed, physically and mentally. I sleep very deeply these days!

What's this meditation that I am doing? I think, I haven't followed any prescribed method. Firstly, it's based on a belief that the default state of being is that of meditation. Meditating therefore is about going back to the ground state. This means, that ideally, one should always be in a meditative state. Which also means, it's not to be effortful, but should rather be about letting go of unnecessary efforts.

How do I do it? I just do a periodic (say, every few minutes) mental scan of my body to detect if there's a muscle which is tensed or exerted without need. The next stage is to maintain this while doing something. By being self aware, I am able to analyse which are precisely the set of muscles which need to be exerted to do what I am doing. Then I try to make sure that no other muscle is exerted during that time. For example, if I am concentrating on typing this mail, why should my face muscle be clenched? If I am cycling why should be chest and back be tightened. Often, tightening of extra muscles seems to have something to do with avoiding pains and aches. If the particular muscle being used in a task is aching due to exertion, we involuntarily try to distribute the effort to other neighbouring muscles. Probably that's why, it's a good idea to do some exercises and asanas. To make sure that all muscles and bones of the body can do what they are supposed to.

I also try to do the same thing with my mental state. Think about one thing at a time. Don't exert the brain on unnecessary processing. Identify the negative emotions (fear, anger, ego ...) which send the brain on a flurry of unnecessary activities. This mental part is much harder, and at best, I am just a beginner in this.
(This is an excerpt from a mail I wrote sometime back to my friend Prachee.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Persecution and Confidence

In my childhood, I felt constantly bullied and persecuted by many of my peers. They would call me 'studious', 'scholar', 'fundu' etc. all in a derogatory sense. I used to feel left out and socially rejected. My unhappiness with myself left me very lacking in confidence. But I still liked sitting by myself, peering into books, drawing, doing mathematical puzzles, ... instead of playing cricket, or gossiping about girls and movies sitting on the street culverts. I -- thankfully -- didn't try to fake myself.

As we all grew older, two interesting things happened. Firstly, those who used to call me names for being studious and academic, suddenly became serious about their studies. That was in the senior years in the high school. They scored an ace in the board exams and got into very good colleges. They proved that if they wished, they could actually study harder than I could. My scores remained the same throughout. These people are now doing very well in their lives. It was in the end all about the capability and competition for them. For them, studies were a vehicle to doing well in life, to prove their capability. What really got proved is that it was necessity which drove their actions, while it was mere individual taste which made me do what I did. They would do exactly what I had been doing, but only when forced by circumstances.

Secondly, I gradually grew out of my own nerdy self-image and turned into a reasonably social person. Thanks to my finding almost everything interesting, I found it rather easy to connect with anyone who had something about his personality that was driven by genuine passion, even in subjects which I wasn't good at, e.g. sports.

In my grown up years, I still keep encountering a similar, though a lot milder (or should I say, repressed) form of persecution. It affects me less and less by the day. And here's why ...

Firstly, people who initially come across as arrogant and rude on the first encounter later often turn out to be shy and introvert. People who avert eye contact in public places, always wait for you to start the conversation, appear extremely thankful when you are the one breaking the ice. So, in most cases, I find it a good idea to approach a person with a guilt-free smile.

Secondly, those who find it necessary to persecute someone, particularly when that person has done nothing wrong, are those who feel uncomfortable from the fact that there's someone who is not exactly like them. Most people draw confidence and reassurance by placing themselves in the middle of a group which has a bunch of individuals, indistinguishable from him and each other. The code of conduct followed in such a group is behave exactly like others. Each individual strives hard to understand the collective characteristics of the group: the activities, the body language, the lingo, the topics of discussion. And like classical sycophants, they pay lip-service to the collective unuttered beliefs of the groups. The DNA of such a large group (look out for a bunch of giggling, roaring youngsters at the streets, malls, and other public places who seem to look like a very happy lot from a distance) is that of insecurity. The social security felt by its members is through conformity to tacit rules. And those rules associate with the lowest common denominator of intellect and character, so even the lowest of the lowly don't feel uncomfortable in that group. The other typical behaviour of such a group is that of rejecting and persecuting all non-compliance. Their extreme discomfort at coming across people who aren't insecure enough to comply to the lowest common denominator rule is expressed through ridicule and rejection. Often, they will charge you of the same crimes they are themselves guilty of. They will call you studious (meaning to say that you work hard to get accepted by some order that you feel subservient to). They will call you scholarly or bookish (meaning that your field of vision is limited by what you pay lip service to). These are really the characteristics of the group the membership to which gives them the guts to call names at you.

To this, a relevant footnote would be that this behaviour is by no means unnatural. Humans are social creatures, which means that it is in their nature to feel happy and secure in herds. The eagerness to belong to some social order, and the knee-jerk repulsion towards any show of non-compliance, are a very biological trait. Though innocent and involuntary by itself, it has often been a defining element in the history of human race: extremism and intolerance of any form is essentially a manifestation of this very characteristic, and lies at the root of most bloodshed that has happened on this planet.

To cut a long story short, through long years, I have realised that I have led a life driven by more honest and sane forces than those who used to persecute me in my childhood. When I meet many of them now, surprisingly there's an immediate feeling of kinship, with no bitterness remaining from the childhood days. Not so much because I have changed my ways and have become more 'social', but because -- I honestly believe -- these individuals have grown less insecure of themselves and are able to feel comfortable in the company of a person who doesn't try too hard to proclaim his indistinguishableness from them. Some of childhood peers who I come across after years of separation, haven't conquered their childhood insecurity. And with them, even after so many years, I get the same sense of rejection. This rejection no more can take the shape of ridicule, persecution, name-calling. Because the herd which was the prime source of the courage that allowed them to ridicule me, has dispersed. Now, therefore, this rejection appears very much in its true form -- insecurity!

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Path to Professionalism

While chatting with one of my friends this morning, I made a casual remark: "Disillusionment is the first step towards professionalism." Hm. I feel like patting myself for saying that. :)

We all have dreamt of attaining greatness in so many ways! How many of us really get anywhere close to becoming great? Let me talk about myself. At some or the other point in my life, I have wanted to do all of the following:

  • Become a great writer.
  • Become a great scientist.
  • Become a great singer.
  • Become a great artist.
  • Become a great teacher.
  • Become a great engineer/programmer.

I am usually called quite versatile by most people I know, just because I have become all of the above. Just remove the 'great' part of it. In other words, I can't claim greatness in anything as such. But, I have done most of the above list for a very long time, year after year. And I have continued to enjoy doing them. And for that, I claim some credit.

On the way to do anything non-trivial, disillusionment is the first and biggest milestone. Disillusionment comes in various forms. Let me try and list some of them:

  • It's difficult, physically/mentally/financially expensive.
  • It's 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration.
  • If I don't finish it, it slides back to zero in no time. There's no way to build on my earlier work. It requires one heroic effort.
  • I am not that good in it.
  • Nobody cares.
  • The people I used to admire have turned out to be fakes.
  • I have to work with scoundrels who have no work ethics.

Some Examples

Let me give a couple of examples from my experience. 

Being a Scientist

My childhood image of a scientist was that of a chemist mixing colourful fluids with each other and creating funny fumes and explosions. That image was kind of cool. That image didn't have the various other components of chemistry in it: the eternal pungency of a chemistry lab, the taste of chemicals, the Ketone burns, the ever imbalanced chemical equations, the low grades ... While I gradually came to terms with the idea that I didn't have much of a future in Chemistry, I was fortunate to get exposed to other forms of science where my disillusionments weren't severe enough to kill my wish to continue with them. I continued in the path of science, but came across bigger and bigger disillusionments. You have to get good grades every time. You have to publish and keep publishing. You have to be visible. You have to continuously keep working hard to prevent yourself from getting caught in the vortex of anonymity. Sometimes, just in order to avoid being completely ignored, you have to fake interest and knowledge in some subjects. In conferences, you have to flock around the big names of your field. You have to flash smiles, laugh at bad jokes ... sometimes, even try to look good. Anything but what you would associate with a scientist. You have to tell lies about your work to get your papers through in journals: fabricate data, force-fit cool sounding themes, spew mathematical symbols where you could as well have done without them, cite papers of authors who you know are there in the programme committee.

Of course, a counter-argument to the above is: 'You be so good that you needn't do any of the above.' I agree. And I know people who haven't possibly gone down the above path and have still done well. And I know at least one individual who, having not done that well, has still managed to keep himself clean of blemishes -- myself. But that doesn't change the overall DNA of the system: which is ruthlessly competitive, and even corrupt in certain ways. And that makes it a day to day struggle to survive in the world of science. In short, being a scientist today (or may be any time in history) is far from the cool image projected to us of an absent-minded genius free of worldly worries discovering new scientific marvels everyday. A great disillusionment!

Being a Writer

I have been writing for as long as I remember. The wish to write a book that would take the reader into a different world, would show them things they wouldn't otherwise be able to see, occurred quite early in life, as early as the first time any book did the same to me. However, writing has turned out to be a much harder thing to do than my childish fantasies allowed me to perceive. It's not merely about having a great idea to share, and some grasp over a language to express it with. It's a continuous balancing act between brevity, simplicity, relevance, glamour, cohesiveness, and a host of other concerns. Writing a page in a diary and writing a piece for someone else are two completely different things. The first draft is ready in probably the first 10% of the time you spend in writing. The remaining 90% goes in the incredibly tedious process of reading, re-reading, revising, re-arranging etc., an unending struggle to give it that ever-elusive ideal form.

If it's a book, before you even get to write it up, you have to actively involve in networking and canvassing to grab the attention of a publisher. Then, you have to fight him to prevent him from modifying your ideas beyond recognition to make your work 'more acceptable'. Afterwards, you have to go around marketing the book to get it sold. I have personally come across people -- authors -- who employ fairly disgraceful methods of getting called as authors, getting invited as guest speakers, and getting on-air time in well-publicised events just to up the probability of getting the copies of their books being picked up by prospective readers from the book-store racks.

Similarly, in this Internet age, Most readers have a infinitesimal attention span. Clicking a link to a blog post (which is a reaction to a distraction in the midst of work or other competing distractions) is not at all equivalent to picking a book from a shelf (which is an act of volition in more than one ways). So, the time available before the prospective reader gets bored, closes the browser tab and moves on to the next distraction is in the order of a few seconds. You may have to do something really drastic to turn the visitor to your blog into a reader. For example, finishing up in one screen-full, using graphics, bullet points, politically charged statements, even sleaze. An Internet reader has no patience or time for slow build-up, and elaborate analysis. He wants quick pills of instant gratification which a sedately paced work will never give him.

In short, the imaginary world in which you wish to be an author was where a good idea just needed to expressed in order for a reader to read it and appreciate it. In the real world, an author, just like a real world scientist, is competing with many others, for the attention of a reader who is already deluged with distractions. The competition for the readers' mental real-estate is so cut-throat amongst writers that you shouldn't be surprised to find resistance and rivalry instead of intellectual camaraderie between two writers. Another huge disillusionment!

The Reality

The reality is, I am still a scientist. I think about new stuff, I read, I create ... every day of my life, I go through the rigours of a scientist's life like all other scientists of the world. The visions of greatness have faded before my eyes. One may think, I mean to say that now doing science is probably nothing but a drudgery for me. I do it because I am left no other choice at this stage of my life.

The reality also is that I keep writing copious amounts. Blogs, notes, diary, letters. I have stopped likening myself to Tolstoy, Premchand and Tagore. I don't even clearly visualise my words in print form any more. Yet, I keep writing.

One may think all this quite grim. I don't. I happily feel that I have made it across the most difficult part. I have made it across the ocean of disillusionments. This journey has left me humbled, but also clear about why I do the things I do. I am clearer about what I am prepared to do and what not in order to make advances towards possible acceptance, if not greatness, in these worlds of activity: scientific or literary. I now have solid evidence that I don't do my stuff because of a fantasy of glamour and greatness. Nor merely as a means for subsistence. Rather, there's something right there in the act of doing which pulls me irresistibly to these acts, and to do them everyday, apparently thanklessly.

A professional is a person who has survived the tempests of disappointment, depression and despair, voyaging in the ocean of disillusionments. He is a person who is driven by the very love of the act he earns his bread from. In fact, I would go to the extent of asserting that unless you go through the process of seeing layers of glamour and hopes of greatness being peeled off your profession, you don't even get called a professional in it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Musical Confession

I confess that in more musically fashionable circles, in the company of fans of A. R. Rahman and Ilaiyaraaja, -- or even worse -- Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt. Jasraj, MSS etc, I have joined hands to bitch about the musically famished decades of the 80s and 90s. The decades when the best that Bollywood could produce in the name of music directors were Laxmikant Pyarelal; when the playback singers who ruled the roost were no better than pathetic Shabbir Kumar, Mohd. Aziz etc. When singers like Kumar Sanu could become the singer of the decade and gems like Suresh Wadkar had to content with their status of really talented singers.

And yet, those were the decades when I travelled through my teens, grew into a man, experienced love, lust, longing, rejection, separation ... all in my own clumsy ways; when the biology of growing up made my senses so sharp that I looked for beauty in everything that came my way.

Hence, people, I wish to confess today that the many of the songs which I still hum in solitude, shower and while driving  or walking came out in those dark decades of 80s and 90s. And they were composed by such unmentionables as Nadeem Shravan, Jatin Lalit, Anu Malik, and even Bappi Lahiri.

Here's a list of those songs which I may have made fun of to try and belong in the class of Rahman lovers, but which I have always loved:



Dil Hai ke Maanta Nahi


Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar

Qayaamat se Qayaamat tak

Papa Kehte Hai

Phir Teri Kahaani Yaad Aayi


Rehne ko ghar nahi

Here's another confession: It took me 10 times more time to set up the hyperlinks than it took to write up the post.

Like me, you may be under the pressure not to publicly accept your liking for these songs, but nothing stops you from clicking the links above and enjoying them when none of your more technically gifted friends is looking! Don't worry! Google will not tell them! ;) ;)

Enjoy! And do suggest if you think anything's there that can't be left out of this list! :)

Friday, June 05, 2015

The Thin Thread of Logic

Sometime ago, while driving a relative's car, I was trying to wear the driving belt, as is my habit. The belt was stuck. I struggled for a while and got it unstuck and then wore it. A part-praising, part-remonstrating remark about how I must follow rules came from the other passengers of the car. The fact is, I couldn't care less about rules (I wasn't even carrying my license with me at that time). But I think that driving is dangerous, and driving without a seat belt increases the risk of turning an accident fatal. Wearing the seat belt is easy, and I don't feel uncomfortable at all wearing it. More than once, I have gone more than 10 hours at a stretch behind the wheel, all the while wearing the seat belt. So, it's logical for me to wear it.

Interestingly, when we took to the road, the topic of upanayan (sacred thread) ceremony came up. My relatives were interested to know when I would like to get it done for my son. I said, I wasn't too interested. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, somebody probably asked, why? Or probably no one asked. Anyway, I provided my reason. I felt that the thread served no purpose. Our belonging to a Brahmin community has no significance. I don't see a point in celebrating that fact. I am not a Dalit apologist, nor do I think of all castes as evil. Quite to the contrary, I feel that the concept of Brahmin is a very elevated one. Most of us Brahmins, who revel so in our Brahminism, are not Brahmins by virtue. A Brahmin is supposed to lead a life of complete renunciation, austerity, scholarly pursuits, modesty, compassion and service. A Brahmin is not supposed to horde wealth. He is not supposed to be proud, hot-headed, aggressive and deceitful. How many of us tend to be even some of all the above? I don't think I have any of the above in significant quantity. I stopped wearing my thread a very long time ago. Brahminhood is not an inherited wealth, it has to be earned. And a person with the above qualities is a Brahmin irrespective of his or her birth. However, today, the idea of Brahminism has got reduced to a ceremony, a mark of a community's covert wishes to be distinguished as elite without having to work for it (one of your key claims to that elitism is your lack of wish for it). The thread ceremony today is not a relic of our age-old tradition of celebration of a scholarly way of life; it's a remnant of the evil phase of history which turned a social role of scholars to an entitlement to unearned privileges.

Just as an aside, let me mention that among Bengalis, most Brahmins eat meat. Now, I don't mix the issue of meat eating (though I have my stand on it) and castes. But, I am mentioning this because I remember a very amusing argument given by someone in defence of Bengali Brahmins being non-vegetarians. According to her, Bengal was ruled by Brahmins. Therefore, the Brahmins of that region were historically supposed to be physically strong and aggressive by nature. Hence, they took to meat eating since it is supposed to give physical strength and infuse aggression (I don't believe either).

But really, the reason for my writing this post isn't really about all the above. It's actually about two things which aren't at all related to the above topics of road safety or casteism. The first thing is about the amusement I felt at the weird connection between the two topics: a thread! In the road safety topic, we are talking about tying a seatbelt; in the casteism topic, we are talking about tying a allegedly sacred thread. This similarity, the strange temporal proximity between the two discussions, and the mysterious creative process which allowed me to get amused from this to conceptualise a cartoon was immensely interesting. So, that's one.

The other is the amazing fact that logical thinking is not all that easy to come by to us. As they say, common sense is uncommon. I am not trying to ridicule particular people at their lack of rational thinking. I wish to say that we all in general are prone to lose sight of reason and have conflicting views on things. I would loved to quote examples where I have failed. I am sure there must be such examples. Unfortunately, we aren't very good in seeing our own logical failings. Had we been good in that, there's no reason to fail in them in the first place. In short, I would not know my own examples. So I am forced to relate others'.

On a related note, I also find that we all are much more driven by emotions than logic. Over time, we get tremendously adept in putting what's an expression of an emotion or at most an opinion in the garb of a logical argument. Often, our subconscious mind works in the background to create arguments in favour of what's just our emotion: fear, greed, lustanger, jealousy, laziness etc.

To conclude, logic is good -- probably the best thing that has happened to humans. But unfortunately, it doesn't work all the time. We humans are tied to logic through very thin threads which quickly break under other forces acting on us which are much stronger than those threads. Worse still, logic often becomes a slave to those other forces.

So, what's actionable in this? Here:

  • Be careful to check if your beautiful arguments may just be smoke coming out of embers of emotions.
  • Avoid being unkind to others for their logical fallibility. Know that you too are fallible because of the very nature of your connection to logic.
  • Train yourself for making fewer mistakes by being aware of the weakness.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Offending Art and Religious Tolerance

There was some controversy surrounding the movie PK which shows an alien taking on God men. The movie took a strongly critical stance against superstitious beliefs and traditions. All in all, there appears to be a fair degree of agreement that the movie is a good piece of satire. No wonder, the movie has already grossed more than 200 crores (in fact, just discovered that it's already become the highest grossing Bollywood movie ever!), a good portion of which can be attributed to all this controversy, I am sure. I wonder if, in general, it would not make sense for the producers to divert some of their advertising money into fabricating controversies around their movies. It seems like a very effective way of catching public attention.

It would be a pity if I didn't do a post on this topic. Particularly because I have already seen the movie, partially due to the curiosity the controversy aroused in me. And also because I recently got involved in a group debate on the same topic.

In my view, I didn't find anything religiously offending in the movie. An alien doesn't share with us the sense of shame and scandal that we usually attach to some notions or words. Example: sex, urination and nakedness. In fact, I consider it a really wonderful way to examine the objectiveness of cultural concepts by pretending to be an alien. It would force us to ask some truly fundamental questions: Why God? Why ask Him for anything? Why expect Him to give us a preferential treatmenet? An alien is a symbolic creature who is agnostic of our cultural biases and hence can ask questions that we can't.

I also don't see anything for which Hindus should take offence. All religions were criticised. In fact, it wasn't religion which was criticised. It was the practices followed in the name of a religion. Hindu practices got special attention simply because it's the majority religion of India.

One issue is that Aamir Khan is a Muslim. What if the dialogues which so offended some people were delivered by a Hindu actor? Would it have created the same reaction? I guess not. Protests which arise owing his religion are presupposing evil intentions on his part. That's a fundamentally racist thing to do. It's so easy to dismiss the perfectly admirable social work he does by saying that he is a showman, that he is showing off. There's no objective basis for such wording, and can be dismissed right away.

As a movie, as a work of art, I would give PK a complete clean chit if I had a say. In its less than 3 hours, it has to give impactful messages, some of them even jarring. But as a critique, I have to say that religion as a concept gets targeted a bit too often. And that's unfair. But this criticism is not for PK, rather for the entire popular culture which exempts so many other elements of our lives which more evil than religious malpractices. One was brought up by the dhongi God man played by Saurabh Shukla. Arguably, liquor and tobacco bring more grief to the society than religion (with all malpractices in its name) does. Why are these not targeted as much. There are many others: consumerism, vanity, anything that eventually results in wastage of natural resources, and therefore deprivation. How is bathing Shiv Linga with milk any worse than splurging thousands on liquor in a pub? Is there nothing wasteful that the makers of that movie, or anyone who criticises religion for promoting lavishness and wastefulness, have in their life? My personal take on the matter is anything wasteful is evil and should be criticised.

I would infer that many people criticise things which it is fashionable to criticise. Dowry, racism, terrorism, corruption ... evil though they may be, the reason why they meet such widespread public criticism is not so much their evil nature, but but the wide acceptability their criticism has attained in the popular culture. Various sections of society provide us with many examples of the fact that people at large do not have a very original moral code. There are people who, without any introspection, consider eating non-vegetarian food acceptable, but consider alcohol and pre-marital sex bad.  There is clear discrimination exercised in sexual liberty given to men and women in almost all sections of the society. Appealing to your greed, insecurity, sexual frustration etc. is acceptable in advertising; appealing to your superstitious belief is not as much. There are so many who swear by their sympathy for the poor, but consider expensive yearly pleasure trips to foreign locales a necessity in their lifestyles. There are people who take pride in switching off appliances to save energy at home, but aren't ready to be questioned on why they drive their fuel guzzling car to work, alone. In a recent debate that happened in our apartment complex, people were quite unanimous in their view that bachelors shouldn't be allowed into the apartment complex as tenants. These people must have, at some point or another, talked against racism in fashionable circles. Just a little thought will reveal that racism isn't merely discrimination in terms of colour, religion or caste.

So, examples are in plenty that prove beyond doubt that what's considered acceptable in the popular culture mayn't stand the scrutiny of logic. On the other hand, people criticise things which they find being criticised by those who they identify themselves with or idolise. Therefore, for a thoughtful person, what may be a thoughtful criticism of a social evil, may just be another instance of herd behaviour for the general people.

Having said all the above, I consider it an artist's prerogative to use his art to convey messages he wishes to give the society. It's not sensible to criticise this act. The message itself may be criticised. Tolstoy, towards the end of his life, preached about his own customised variant of Christianity. Ayn Rand advocated eloquently in favour of capitalism and selfishness. Both thoughts may have raised public debates in their own times, but are things of the past now. It is a regular thing for artists to make social, philosophical or moral commentaries. Even the greatest of them may meet a disastrous public reception, a fate which is completely in the hands of the public. Therefore, to ask an artist to not cross his border, and continue doing non-serious art is foolish. Nor can it be demanded from them they mustn't go wrong or offend anyone. If you decide to send any message, it's bound to offend someone. That something appears offensive to some section of the society to be made the basis of a sweeping ban or censorship, isn't logical. You may control viewer ship by giving a more restricted censor certificate.

... and I think, PK deserves an 'A' certificate. It has caused some misery to some kids who get offended by innocuous references to body-fluids.