Friday, September 18, 2015

Modern moral stories - The Hare and the Tortoise. And a crow.

Once upon a time, a Hare and a Tortoise happened to meet at a village. Being old acquaintances but not close enough to be friends, they greeted each other warmly, stopped by to make a courteous conversation, and wished each other luck before parting their ways. The Hare galloped North, following rumors that a trove of vegetables was discovered about 50 yojanas away. The Tortoise headed towards the river to their east, in pursuit of weeds.

Few hours later as the Tortoise made its laborious journey, it heard its name being called out loud. Turning back, it recognized the familiar face of its friend,  Samaja the crow.
"Hello, where are you headed?"
"Hi hello, glad to meet you! I am planning to settle on the river banks, where there's enough supply of weeds to last a few years"
"Haven't you heard about the news from North?"
"What news? About the vegetables?"
"Yes, everyone is headed there. I just saw saw the Hare rushing towards it. Why are you not going?"
"Oh, that's nice. Personally, I prefer weeds. "
"What's the matter with you? No one prefers weeds over vegetables."
"But I don't like vegetables!"
"So what? With vegetables, you can buy anything. Even weeds! And it will last a lifetime."
"Hmm.. are you sure?"
"Of course I am sure. Do you think the Hare is a fool?"
"But he is already halfway through! Before I complete the journey, he would have eaten up everything".
"Why do you want to give up already? With perseverance, hard work, will and determination, nothing is impossible for a man"
"Dude, I am female. And I am a tortoise!"
"Just because you are a female, or because you are a tortoise, are you any lesser than any man? Are you lesser than the Hare?"
"Of course not."
"The what are you waiting for? Run already. Go through the garden of Aneet as it is shorter"
"Where are you going?"
"Oh, just here and there"
"Okay, thanks for your valuable advice."
Saying thus, the Tortoise chugged along diagonally towards the vegetable patch.

Meanwhile, the crow went around the forest, liberally doling out advice, some solicited and some unsolicited, to all its friends. A couple of days later, it happened to be passing towards the vegetable patch when it heard loud snores from a bush nearby. Curious, it flew down, and identified its good friend, the Hare, who had just started stirring a little.
"Hi there! What are you doing here?"
"Hi, I wanted to sleep"
"I thought you were at the vegetable patch! Did you find it? It must be only 10 yojanas from here"
"Huh! I gave up on it. I realized that my passions are more towards sleeping."
"That's stupid! Who wants to sleep all the time? Everyone is headed towards the vegetable patch, like wise people ought to be. In fact, even the Tortoise must be quite close to it by now."
"The Tortoise? Wasn't he headed towards the River?"
"He was. He changed his mind. "
"Heh, doesn't he not like vegetables?"
"No one in a proper frame of mind ever dislikes vegetables. I say you are wasting your time here!"
"You think so? Where would the Tortoise be now?"
"He should be quite close to the vegetable patch."
"Hmm, then he will reach there first and eat up all vegetables! I would rather stay here and sleep."
"With perseverance, hard work, will and determination, nothing is impossible for a man. And rabbits. Why are you giving up so soon? With your speed, you should outrun her."
"Maybe. But are you sure about this vegetable thing?"
"Completely. You are wasting your time here."
"Okay. What do I know? You sound so confident. I better get started"
"That's great! Good luck."
"And hey, thanks a lot. I owe you ."
"Ahh, forget it. The pleasure is in guiding people to a right path"

So the Hare set off at great speed. The Tortoise, meanwhile, had almost completed it's tedious journey. The vegetable patch was just a yojana away. But the Hare had the advantage of rapidness. 

So, who won the race? The Hare, or the Tortoise? And more importantly, what happened to the mysterious crow? Well, who the heck cares! I am too busy chasing vegetables.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Guest post series - Cancer

Note : This post is a part of the Guest Post Series.

On our very first day at our engineering college, some fifty of us were asked the question : "Why did you choose the stream Biotechnology?" As I almost leapt up to give an answer, the faculty hastily added "don't say 'sir when I came to counselling, that was the only stream available'". I was disheartened, as he had highlighted my exact position. In the meantime, a short guy stood up and declared with the confidence of a motivational speaker, "sir, I always wanted to be a genetic engineer". It was impossible to not hate and to not like Vaidhyanathan during those days. Hate because he was unwittingly making things tough for the rest of us with his enthusiasm for every single thing, and like because you just had to talk to him to realize that he always meant well, and will go out of the way to help you.  Every time a nervous student was called up to the front of the class to speak on something, Vaidhy would urge him/her ahead with his exaggeratedly encouraging nods. I had to generously draw from his willingness to help to get through the Cell Biology paper in our second semester. With him, you just have to start with something like, "say that again, what is mitosis..", listen to his long-winded explanation, and find a way to stop him when you have enough to write for three pages.

As a writer, Vaidhy explores various topics with a grand vocabulary here. Have a look at his interesting take on V for Vendetta, or his poignant views on Shades of Grey. I gather that he is a more regular writer in Tamil than in English. As soon as I forced him to discover my blog, he diligently went through every post I had written at that point of time and encouraged me to write more. He has been a visitor here on and off since then. I asked him around seven months back to write a post for this blog. Since then, the Freudian Couch has all but gone comatose. Imagine my surprise today when I received a mail with apologies; and an attachment with an extremely crisp and engrossing little write-up! The apologies are unnecessary, Vaidhy. Much thanks for bringing us all here once more. 


"Ancient humans were incapable of advanced levels of communication, their young brains had simply not evolved enough to realize full potential. This led to the use of numerous intermediary devices and tools that helped humans get in touch with one another and share ideas, even survival plans, most of them considered as inventions and innovations at those times!" Origins 101. Long-nosed Professor was lecturing our class of 30, trying to focus our attention on to the subject by merely moving his big eyes in their even bigger sockets. I have always admired his ability to get us in line without ever having to communicate harsh words or rude thoughts. The glare seemed to land more than occasionally on the bunch of newbies sitting in the last row. "God damn Transfer Students", sighed my neighbour, obviously thrilled at the thought of facing those hunks with his barely-boned frame at Football try-outs. "It was not easy," the Professor went on, "the devices seemed to do more harm than good. To begin with they created a rift amongst the elders and fledglings born into the transitional era, of the races across all primitive tribes, divided by mostly invisible and at times hostile borders. The Elders often complained of a loss of the ability to natively communicate as prominent side effects of the devices. At one point even strange diseases started to plague the humans, the kind they were poorly equipped to understand or deal with at that primitive era." I found myself trying hard to know what the cute girls in row 2 are so eagerly conversing about, half-hoping it would be about me, just as the Professor's glance swept past, lingering for a prolonged second. "You shall read more about that under the section Cancers, in fact, why don't you read it out loud?" I hurriedly looked up the section and smacked my lips involuntarily before reading the synopsis, "A condition that manifested with subtle variations targeting different parts of the body, Cancer was one of the prime reasons for resetting the ecological balance by thinning out human population to controlled levels. It originated as a side effect to primitive communication tools, an inability of the human evolution rate to keep up with the technological advances required to deal with abundance of electro-magnetic waves and EM fields, the precursor of brain waves that are the lines of post-nuclear era communication, fondly known as telepathy. The condition or the disorder as primitive humans called it, was last seen in an age where humans had to open their mouths to produce sound waves, an activity referred to as 'TALKING'." Before I could go on, I was interrupted by a brief 'BLIP'!

As my 1000 year old ancestor would have put it, 'SAVED BY THE BELL!' 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Memories of chokes and near-chokes

Dear South African cricket team,

I haven't been following the ICC cricket World Cup 2015 that diligently. The news of your semi-final loss did reach me though. Yet another loss in an ICC tournament knock-out game. It must be quite depressing. You will have to wait some more until people stop using the C-word. Why does this happen to you every time? Why you? Aren't you talented enough? God knows you are. Ignore those who point out that the only matches you won in the tournament were against Zimbabwe, West Indies, Ireland, UAE, and Sri Lanka, and that you are not as good a team as you are made to be. What do they know? Or are they right? Are you really not good enough? I know how you feel brothers. Trust me, I know how you feel.

Two days before my tenth standard board exam paper, I ferreted out an unused copy of R.D Sharma's maths reference book from my dust covered book shelf and started pursuing it with what can be described only as fanaticism. I worked problems after problems, and more problems. When I walked unflinchingly (Note : mild literary license exercised) into the exam hall, was I unprepared? No dear unlucky cricketers, not at all. But then, why was I not able to answer that simple textbook question asking for the area of a frustum? Why did I leave questions worth fifteen marks untouched? Not lack of talent, definitely. Pressure does strange things.

Did I give up. would-have-been-champs? Two years later, in my next major trophy, I prepared harder for my twelfth standard Physics board exam. Mind loaded with Van De Graff generators, capacitors, and Doppler effect, I walked into the hall with confident caution. I placed my hall-ticket safely under the desk, and unboxed my lucky blue-pouch. One pair of blue pens, another pair of black pens, a sharp pencil, a pencil sharpener, a 15 cm plastic ruler, and a 30 cm plastic ruler was neatly (more literary license exercised) laid down on my desk. Along with them was my most prized possession, a 3-rupee Fabre-Castle eraser.  I started off calmly and steadily, answering two mark questions at a brisk pace. And then, ill-luck befell me. When the invigilator's attention wavered briefly, the guy sitting in front of me turned back, and coolly snatched the fabre-castle eraser. Indecisiveness, dear proteans, akin to what you had when the first drops of unwelcome rain fell at The Oval last week and the names of Duckworth and Lewis were whispered. Should I tap this idiot's shoulders and get back my eraser when the invigilator doesn't look towards me? Would he suddenly turn back? Should I take the invigilator's help? Would he suspect me of writing the answers on the eraser and passing it on? While I was busy trying to find a way out of this dilemma, ABD and co., I had lost time to answer questions worth nineteen marks. I ended attempting for only fifty one marks out of a possible seventy (thankfully, the rest thirty were allocated for "practicals"). 

This was when people started attaching the choker tag to me, dearest South Africans. It was unbearable. The very tag drowns down your efforts. I gave up on preparations, and took my math exam two days later placing trust only on my inherent abilities. And I blazed through it, green pyjamas, I blazed through it. Or so I thought. Would people believe me? A vehement no! I met my tuition teacher, and declared that I would get around ninety-five marks. He laughed, he smirked, and he remarked, "Adarsh, I know you. You would have definitely made some silly mistakes.". And just like he predicted, the results showed that I had been over-confident about my abilities. When people start losing trust in you, it is not easy to overcome.

But let's face it, dear cute South African cricketers, you suck a little. A tiny bit maybe, but there is something wrong with you. I mean not even a single worthy success? Come on guys, even I had my little victories during the unlucky streak I described above. Take this incident I vaguely remember for example. When I was in my first standard, our school decided to celebrate its sports day along with a neighboring school. We were all escorted to the venue, and probably made to do all sorts of things students are made to do. Knowing me, I wouldn't have volunteered for even a single event. But someone had come up with this curious game meant to test both brawn and brain, and I found myself in the middle of it. The rules were like this : a set of students stand in a row, let's say row A, each holding an item on their hand. A set of another students stand some distance behind them in row B, holding another set of items. At the count of three, the kids from row A had to turn behind, run to row B, identify their "partner" who has a complimentary item on their hand, hold the partner's hand, and race back to row A. The pair to complete this unnecessarily complicated set of tasks fastest would be the winner.

As a five year old me stood clutching some-whatever tightly in my sweaty hands, I took in the crowd of parents, my own among them, surrounding us. Their well-intentioned cheering sounded ominous to me. The whistle was blown, we all turned back and ran towards the other row of children who were waiting with anticipation. Midway through, my brain froze. A choke that would become all-too-familiar in the future was creeping in. My tiny legs refused to carry me any further. And I was not able to make any sense of what was in my hand. A frenzied shout awoke me. It came from the only guy left standing alone in row B. Every other competitor had found their pair.  He gesticulated wildly, and beckoned me towards him. As I breathlessly reached him, already having lost a lot of time, he gripped my hands and dragged me in reverse. I was too dazed to protest, but I was too tired to comply. My partner was not a quitter though. He remorselessly pulled me with all the power he could muster (he was one chubby boy), and we were the second fastest pair to reach the finish line.

Looking back at that incident, it seems that this was a sign of things to come all through my future. Fate dragging a reluctant me to an undeserved success. So dear Saffers, stop trying too hard. Destiny will make you successful one day, probably when you have stopped deserving it.

With love and respect,

Saturday, January 17, 2015

George Carlin Tees

Humanity is doomed. I am basing this statement on the fact that we -- almost each one of us -- are filled with half stupidity and half greed : a deadly combination. There are, and there have been a few exceptional people though, who have transcended the average stupidity, and drawn attention to this fact repeatedly. Here is one such; one of my favorites - George Carlin, presented in unusual avatars.

Why this sudden love for Carlin, you ask? George Carlin was not only clever, he had enough foresight to predict the future accurately. Not just any future; he predicted his own specific future too. Don't believe me? Have a look at this quote from his book Brain Droppings (Hat Tip :
I'm tired of being unable to buy clothing that doesn't have writing and printing all over it. Insipid sayings, pseudo-wisdom, cute slogans, team logos, designer names, brand trademarks, small-business ego trips; the marketing pigs and advertising swine have turned us all into walking billboards. You see some asshole walkin' by, and he's got on a fruity Dodger hat and a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt. Of course you can't see the shirt if he's wearing his hot-shit Chicago Bulls jacket. The one that only 50 million other loser jock-sniffers own. And since this cretinous sports fan/consumer zombie is completely for sale to anyone, he rounds out his ensemble with FedEx sneakers, ValuJet socks, Wall Street Journal sweatpants, a Starbucks jock strap, and a Microsoft condom with Bill Gates's head on the end of it. No one in this country owns his personal appearance anymore. America has become a nation of obedient consumers, actively participating in their own degradation.
My research abilities are inadequate to determine who makes money out of all George Carlin merchandise, but I safely assume that it involves a few "marketing pigs and advertising swine".

To top it all, the best of the lot I could find online is this image of Geroge Carlin, on a sleeveless shirt.

Care to find out what George Carlin thought about sleeveless shirts? Watch this video :

Here’s another male cliché... these guys that cut the sleeves off of their t-shirts so the rest of us can have an even more compelling experience of smelling their armpits. I say “Hey Bruno, shut it down would you please? You smell like an anchovy’s cunt okay? Ughh... not good... ugh... ugh... whoa... not good Bruno, and definitely not for sharing.”

Irony just got blended, weaved, bleached, dyed and sold as a T-shirt.

Do let me know what you think..