Word of the Week #172:

Paramount

What is the most important thing in life?

I have been wondering about that for a while, now.

Now, there are many who might say love. And while I appreciate it, I think love gets too romanticised too often.

Many would say money, but, really, money is just a tool. It could become worthless at any given moment.

Before we begin our thought experiment, though, I would like to lay down some ground rules. Here, we are considering ourselves to be a live human of sufficient health living in normal circumstances.

After all, life is the most important thing. Can’t do nothin’ if yo’ dead, right?

Secondly, if you are alive, the second most important thing is that you stay alive. If you have life, but you are struck with an incurable disease that is very certain to kill you very  soon, there is nothing you can do about it.

And, thirdly, we consider normal circumstance because if you are a live, healthy man who has just been flung off a plane 10km above ground, you will find your priorities suddenly changing. What is the most important thing for you in that situation? Love? Money? Family? Pride? Nope. You would probably trade all of them in to get a working parachute and the ability to use it.

Thus, we have established the parameters.

Now, if you are a reasonably healthy human in normal circumstances, what is the most important thing for you?

I will be honest, I had not thought of an answer, as I started to write this; nor should I necessarily have one, to be honest. My role, as I see it, is not to give you the right answers. It is merely to ask you the right questions.

This time, however, I believe I do have an answer.

What is the most important thing in life?

Control.

If you have control, you have everything.

Earlier today, I was ill. By my own estimate, I was at 40% of my abilities. What did I do? I used my limited abilities to treat my own body, and I now feel much better. I am probably in the 75-80% range, but that is so much better. 

If I had less than, say, 10% of my abilities at my disposal, I might have failed to do that.

So, what is the difference between 10% health and 40% health? The ability to fix myself. Control. 

What is the difference between having $10 in your bank account and having $100,000,000? Control.

What is the difference between knowing how to use the power of science to make life better and not knowing the difference between a geode and a diode? Control.

What is the difference between having 10 followers and 100,000 followers? Control.

If we look at it objectively and analytically, even love is a form of control.

Education, passion, discipline, skill, strength, they are all simply means of exerting control over your surroundings.

No matter what the domain, no matter what the means, if you have control, you have everything.

And if you have everything else but you lack control, you really have nothing.

Word of the Week #171:

Efficacious

“That field has no scope.”

How often have we heard that when we say we want to devote our lives to studying and practising the arts, be it writing or singing or painting or dancing?

Last week, we spoke about how the scope of traditional fields like engineering are grossly overrated in our society, and we tried to analyse the reasons why.

Tonight, let us look at the scope fields like writing do offer but are often grossly underestimated in our society, often for the same reasons.

Writing is fun. But is it really a profession? Is it feasible to think you can get paid to write?

Well, what if I tell you that I do get paid to do just that? And I get paid plenty, if I may say so…

So, let us ask ourselves, how did I end up here?

Am I particularly gifted? Well, that’s debatable.
Am I very rich? Nah, but I did have enough support to never have to worry.
Did I receive any specific training? Nope. None.

Then what did I do to reach financial stability while pursuing, and really focusing on, my artistic passions?

The answer is stupidly simple: I worked really hard for a really long time.

For five and a half years, I kept work on my craft, with no pay and little appreciation from beyond my inner circle, slowly but surely improving at what I do, spreading my roots in the industry, and seeking out opportunities wherever I could find them.

That’s hardly any more time than what most people spend on college and stuff, right? At least my route was totally worth it.

Tell me, how can a writer make money?

The first and most obvious would be by publishing books. But as any writer would tell you, the investment in that is extremely high, and the rate of success is exceeding low. Of course, that is no reason to not do it.

Essentially, one could say that it is the most likely to be artistically rewarding, and the least likely to be financially rewarding. And as we go further down this list, the former will continue to decrease, while the latter continues to increase.

If you want to make easy money as an author, one can try to write non-fiction books that highlight certain individuals or organisations. Co-authoring an autobiography can make you a lot of money.

Of course, you could also make some money by publishing articles in successful magazine or newspapers, or you can monetise your own blog.

Or, you can write for advertisers. That’s where Salman Rushdie started his career.

Or, you can write for TV or movies or, heck, even video games. Sidney Sheldon started his career in TV.

Or, you can find all sorts of jobs that require writers, from PR to content writing to creating subtitles. Really, the opportunities are endless.

And if all else fails, you can always work as an editor. As long as there are writers in the world and AI is not yet entirely up to speed, there will always be jobs for editors.

So, keep working, keep learning, and keep looking for opportunities. Your success might not be guaranteed, but that can be said about anything you try.

In the end, if you have spent every waking moment of your entire life in a passionate pursuit of your dreams, would that not count as a success?

Word of the Week #170:

Ambit

“That field has no scope.”

How often have we heard that about careers that are even slightly outside the mainstream?

According to these people, everything apart from a handful of disciplines has no scope.

Why do they think so?

Well, I believe there are two reasons for that.

Firstly, Indians love structure. If you want to be an engineer, your life has a structure. 13 years of school, 2 years (minimum) of heavy coaching, and 4 years of college. Work for 19 years and you’re an engineer.

Now, the fact that this mechanism has been churning out 15 lakh engineers every year for almost a decade, while the industry simply does not have enough jobs for each one seems to be lost on them.

Secondly, Indians love success stories. One of their friends’ kid, or cousins’ kid, or neighbours’ kid, or even some random kid, got a great job and built a great life doing something? Then it is natural that their own kids should do that.

In doing so, however, they seems to forget about the rest are of the kids who didn’t get the jobs they wanted, or didt’t get any whatsoever.

Only 3% of Indian engineers find jobs doing what they were actually trained to do. According to some estimates, only 20% are capable of finding any job in the market.

If you bring that up, naturally, you’d be told, “Of course, you have to excel at it. The best students get the best jobs. Survival of the fittest.”

So, you want kids to excel in the field you choose for them, with little to no regard to their abilities and preferences and only a slight chance of success?

Looks like education has failed you, and you have failed your children. You should not be surprised when your children fail you too.

Word of the Week #161:

Participatory

These days, our Social Media feeds tend to be flooded with people sharing their inked fingers.

For those unfamiliar with our democratic system, please refer to the following:

02-04-15-pg08a
Courtesy: Hindustan Times

As you can see, newspapers in India could definitely use a few good copyeditors…

Now, as I was saying, it is gladdening to see the youth as enthusiastic about voting as they are.

However, I do take objection to the narrative that voting is the epitome of our democratic participation. Our work does not end the moment we vote; that is when it begins.

Once we have cast our vote, we need to ensure the government appropriately represents our interests by staying apprised its operation, and by letting our voices be heard.

Voting without being informed about the performance of the past governments and the agenda of its opponents turns the entire electoral system into a popularity contest.

Quite honestly, even the Student Council elections in my college were based more on policy than some of the past elections I have seen.

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Word of the Week #89:

Contraception

Well, I am not sure what prompted our enlightened leaders to take this step, but here we go:

No child’s play: Condom ads banned from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in India

NEW DELHI: The government on Monday strictly asked TV channels not to air advertisements selling and promoting condoms because these are “indecent especially for children” and can create “unhealthy practices” among them.

Yes. This is smart. After all, nothing screams “unhealthy practices” like using a condom, right?

Hurling abuses at one another, making galling jokes about women and the elderly under the garb of comedy, and spewing vitriol at those who disagree with us, both literally and figuratively, still find place on primetime television. After all, isn’t that the true cornerstone of our society?

But condoms are “indecent especially for children”…

And, yes, this is a country that already has a larger population than it can sustain, where sex-education, and really any rational discussion about sex, is taboo, and where medical facilities are sporadic at best.

FUN FACT: While five million abortions occur annually in India, only 10% of those are performed within the structures of a high-quality hospital.

Let us consider this graphic:

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 12.08.36 AM

And these are official stands taken by the teachers and administrators of the states, not some random guys sitting under the banyan tree… Of course, those may be the same people.

The thing about sex education is, if you don’t get it, you will never realise how much you need it. Therefore, the opposition to it does make some sense.

After all, we all fear what we do not understand, right?

Anyway, in case someone is wondering, let us take a quick rundown of all the places where discussion about safe sex does not occur:

  • Home
  • Primary School
  • High School
  • College
  • Public places
  • Urinals, or at least one would hope
  • Television

So, what do we have left? Newspapers? Radio? Yeah, if we were trying to reach middle-aged men, those mediums would be perfect.

For everyone else, we seem to have only one path forward: This, right here.

The internet remains, in most regards, the land of the free. Let us use it to talk about the right things.


PS: To the ones who would counter that some ads did take it too far, I would like to say this: Would you ban water if one man drowned to death?

Word of the Week #84:

Paternity

Do you have children? If not, would you like to?

And no, that is not an offer, only an enquiry.

It is just that lately, due to recent changes I mentioned last week, I have been pondering over the challenges of being a parent. Only the challenges, unfortunately, and none of the rewards, because, well, are there any?

I generally like to think of myself as a ‘silver-linings’ kind of a guy, but in this case, I just cannot see beyond the dull greys.

Children are stupid. That is just a simple truth. Sooner or later, they will find a way to put themselves or you or someone in grave danger.

Sure, they may seem cute while they are clean and quiet, but you cannot expect them to stay that way for too long.

Being a parent is tough, it is often said, but there are many who would disagree. In fact, even I would disagree. Being a parent, in and of itself, does not seem all that tough.

However, being a good, responsible parent, one who can strike the right balance between care and discipline and is attentive and neither too aloof nor too clingy on a consistent basis, now that is a tall order.

Interestingly, I forgot to pack any nightwear for my trip to Bangalore. Now, if I cannot even be trusted to be responsible for my luggage, how can I even comprehend being responsible for an entire new life?

On top of everything, we never receive any training whatsoever for what is undoubtably the most important endeavour one can undertake, but thank goodness I spent decades learning how to calculate the area of a cordate.

To be honest, I do not even like this idea of unilaterally creating life and then nurturing it according to our will. It is almost too much power for a single individual. For one, if I have noted anything in the past couple of years, it is that too many people are too stupid.

Of course, it is not entirely a unilateral prospect. Bilateral at the very least, right?

So, until I do not have a willing partner, it is all moot.

And, well, looks like it will stay that way for at least the foreseeable future.

Word of the Week #16:

A little of the promotional stuff, before we dive into the post… I hope you don’t mind…

Have you checked out the new stuff, yet? 

Stay tuned in… Arrkaya: Origins, coming soon…


Conformity

“It’s the one who’s different that gets left out in the cold.”

Anybody who has watched How I Met Your Mother would, or at least should, be familiar with this quote.

And anybody who has not watched it probably should. It is pretty good.

Either way, I am sure we have all experienced this in some way or another, often from the day we put on our uniforms and enter the school. Of course, it may begin earlier, but we are too young to notice. Continue reading Word of the Week #16: