Word of the Week #136:

Hubris

The Earth is dying.

How often have you heard this line? I heard it a couple of days back, here.

It tends to pop up during debates about the environment, and the damage we have been doing to it over the past few millennia.

Now, while I agree with environmentalists on many topics, perhaps most, I do strongly disagree with this one statement.

And not only is it inaccurate, it is also quite arrogant.

Think about our body’s reaction to an infection. If a virus invades our bloodstream and tries to take over, our body will raise its temperature to make itself uninhabitable. It may cause some discomfort, it may affect some systems, but once the virus is exterminated, not only do we survive, we actually grow stronger.

That is what the Earth is experiencing right now. Being overrun by an invasive species, it is making itself less habitable to purge the infection. Some other species may be affected in the process, and life as we know it may change on the planet, but it will survive.

The Earth is not dying. If anything, it might be trying to kill us.

Our planet has survived for over 4.5 billion years, and has hosted life for the past 3.7 billion years. It has experienced dozens of mass extinction events, like the one that killed off the dinosaurs, but it has always found ways to evolve and thrive.

I think we can safely assume that the planet will survive us. Well, at least for now…

How much longer will we survive? Now that, Detective, is the right question.

 

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Word of the Week #135:

Ennui

Watching the world is a part of being a writer.

Of course, one could say that it has always been a part of my personality, and one of the many things that make me naturally inclined towards this profession.

And when I do watch people, do you know what I see?

I see people leading empty lives…

Of course, not all people, and of course, not entirely empty, but the theme is clear and  tangible.

It does not surprise me, to be honest. When people spend their lives doing things they do not enjoy, and not doing things they do enjoy, there will be consequences.

Everyone seems to have these holes, and they keep trying to fill them with whatever they can find.

This is why they have to go out every weekend. This is why they have to go on trips every long weekend. This is why they have to party and get drunk every chance they get.

Now, there is nothing wrong with living your life to the fullest. However, this compulsion to find an escape from the emptiness… This is hardly living. Sounds more like running away from your life.

To be honest, it is quite tragic.

And all this for what? Some money? In the end, they don’t even make that much more than I do.

It seems silly to someone like me, but hey, I’m not known for being pragmatic, anyway…

Now, I am sure there must be someone looking at my life and thinking something similar.

“He does not have a job. He stays at home all day. Avoids people. Rarely goes out. Seldom parties. Never gets drunk. Such a sad life.”

Well, all I would like to say is that my life is full of things that I want and that matter to me.

In the end, that is enough for me.

Word of the Week #130:

Facsimile

Let me start off by asking you a question. Did you know what Fax actually stands for?

Well, not much anymore, right?

Such cheap shot… I know…

Anyway, let me tell you something I really do not like. No, I’m not talking about copy machines. I have nothing against them. After all, the ability to copy dozens of chapters worth of notes in a matter of hours is nothing short of divine.

Do you know how many of the 50 highest grossing movies of all time are not an adaptation, sequel, prequel or spin-off of an existing piece of art? 5!

Sounds ridiculous, right?

Well, of those five movies, three were created by Disney, one of which was inspired by Hamlet.

The other two of those five, which also happen to be the two highest grossing movies ever, were Avatar and Titanic, both written by James Cameroon. And even Titanic was based on real life events, right?

So, how many of those 50 movies can be called truly original? 3? Is that not insane?

Still, I can accept that adaptations are more than just copies. They do add a lot to the original artwork. After all, Hermione was always a memorable character, but Emma Watson’s performance made it unforgettable.

What I truly cannot stand are these reboots and remakes that keep popping up and ruining something wonderful. And this is especially palpable among live-action adaptions in animated series.

Let us take an example. Have you seen Death Note? Well, for the uninitiated, let me just say that Death Note is one of the best anime series ever made. It follows the life of a young boy with extreme intelligence, ethics and discipline, and how his acquisition of a divine object leads him down a dark path.

Good story, right?

Now, Netflix decided to make a live-action adaptation, and they had to make a few changes to the plot to make it more palatable to American audiences. Is that difficult? Apparently not. Eliminate the intelligence, ethics and discipline from the protagonist, and you have an American-style plot ready for production.

And this is still not the worst of the worst. But let us not go down that particular rabbit hole, or we will be here all night.

Let us just bunker down, and prepare to weather this torrent of faecal remains of the things we know and love…

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

— Ecclesiastes 1:9

Word of the Week #129:

Supernumerary

You know what I truly dislike about this country? The labour laws… Or perhaps the seeming lack thereof.

How many hours is an average person expected to work in a week? In most reasonable parts of the world, the answer is 40. 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. As I said, reasonable.

In India, however, the answer can jump up to 60. The law actually states 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, but who cares about that, right?

In most parts of the world, every employee gets around 35 days of paid leave every year. Plus weekends, which gives us roughly 140 days a year. In India? 25… So adding a lone Sunday each week, we get around 80.

Add to that the geographical size, lack of affordable and reliable transportation, and the high concentration of jobs in urban centres, odds are you would not get to visit your home more than twice or thrice every year.

And, as I probably do not even need to mention, the pay is far from stellar.

Growing up, I was always led to believe that we work in order to live, but I do not see much evidence of life around here.

Knowing all this, one might wonder just how this can continue, right? Why do we, in India, tolerate such treatment for so little compensation?

Well, the answer is simple. If you don’t, someone else will.

We are a nation of many people. Too many people. Way too many people.

And as the workforce keeps growing, the employment opportunities struggle to keep up. It does not take a genius to realise this system is built to implode.

I just hope I do not get caught in the aftershocks.

Word of the Week #125:

Amour

Ah, love.

Everyone loves love, right?

Isn’t this what we grew up watching in our movies? A young couple, hopelessly in love, who battle against all odds and either end up living happily ever after or die trying.

The formula is quite old. Romeo and Juliet was written over 400 years ago. Considering this, it is quite surprising that the story is not considered outdated.

Why?

Because our society still does not seem to understand that personal relationship should be just that: Personal.

Instead, it becomes a referendum for the entire country. Not just your close family and friends, everyone from your teachers to priests to gynaecologists feels the need to weigh in.

Of course, none of this concerns you when your parents have your back. But when they don’t? When they cannot accept the fact that their children are capable to making decisions for themselves?

That is how we end up with 251 reported cases of honour killings in one year. The key word here being ‘reported‘. Who knows how many of them slip under the radar because, well, dead men tell no tales.

I would generally go on to elaborate the widespread chilling effect this has on women in general but Kavita Krishnan already did a great job at it, in her article for Al Jazeera.

For now, let us look at something interesting.

Our Constitution gives us the right to freedom of speech and expression, which should enable us to express our feelings for whoever we happen to love, and any person who tries to stop us will face the wrath of our legal system, right? Right?

Actually, quite wrong…

You see, there is a catch. Just half a dozen lines later, the Constitution also states that the State can “impose reasonable restrictions” in the interest of “decency or morality“.

34% of our Members of Parliament had pending criminal cases when they last got elected, 21% being charged with serious crimes.

These are the people who get to “impose reasonable restrictions” on us in the interest of “decency or morality“.

After all, nothing says freedom like having your voices muffled by thugs.

Romeo and Juliet must be rolling in their graves.

Word of the Week #124:

Secession

Earlier today, on the eve of our 72nd Independence Day, the President addressed the nation.

Did you watch it?

Of course, I did not watch it live. I did not even know it was happening tonight. For some reason, I thought the speech happens on the Independence Day…

But, for the very first time in my life, I actually watched the entire thing.

Among his 21 minutes of remarks, one statement stood out in particular to me. I must warn you that the following is not a precise translation, but I believe I do his sentiments justice.

At the very least, I did a better job than the folks over at NDTV. Come on, guys. You are supposed to be the professionals, around here…

Expanding the extent of freedom is an unabating endeavour.

— President Ram Nath Kovind

Such alliteration… Wow…

Of course, it is news to nobody that we, as a nation, have a long way to go.

On 15th of August, 1947, we did successfully secede from the British Empire. I wonder if any country can truly be called independent, in this day and age, but we have maintained our sovereignty, which is commendable.

However, when it comes to freedom, we have a particularly long way to go.

Just a couple of years have passed since the JNU incident, wherein the government decided to arrest students protesting in the campus and charge them with sedition. Talk about overkill…

While the matter is still sub judice, the court asked the university to take no coercive action against the students, including Umar Khalid.

Naturally, the university responded by refusing to accept his PhD thesis. This was, once again, followed by much hullaballoo.

Now, Khalid was allegedly shot at just three days before the next hearing. Coincidence?

Maybe it was all unrelated… Maybe he is just unlucky… Who can say, am I right?

Of course, according to the National Crime Report Bureau, over 142 unrelated cases of violence against journalists have been registered in the past 3 years. One wonders how many passed not registered.

Interestingly enough, not a single murder of a journalist has been solved in the country over the past decade.

So much coincidence. It makes my nerves tingle.

Clearly, we have a long way to go. And a particularly difficult one at that.

But for now, we fly these colours. Let us talk more about it next week.

Word of the Week #123:

Apocalypse

This post culminates the discussion we have been having for the past few weeks, and let me just begin by saying this: DON’T PANIC.

Now, anybody who has not been living under a rock for the past few years must have noticed a few subtle changes in our socio-political landscape over the past decade or so, in our country and across the world. Certain elements that have existed on the fringe of modern society suddenly find themselves a part of the mainstream..

Of course, the eldest among us would argue that the fringe has always existed and it is only the media that now highlights it more than ever before, but there is more to it. One cannot deny that the extremists among us have been emboldened by certain individuals.

One might be tempted to ask, “Really, just what does it matter if certain dogs continue to bark? It is what they do, after all. Why should we bother?”

The answer is actually simple, and lies in the Middle East.

The Iranian Revolution in 1979 overthrew the Persian monarchy and replaced it with an Islamic theocracy. There may be some who would argue this was a step in the right direction but the members of the Jewish community in Iran, which essentially halved overnight, might want to disagree.

There are always certain people who will ask, “What is wrong in seeking religious, ethnic, or ideological, homogeneity in your country?”

Well, if every citizen chooses to believe the same thing, nothing is wrong, is there? It is the opportunity to make that free and informed choice that matters.

Of course, you cannot choose your ethnicity, so if the regime suddenly decides it does not want you around, you better get ready to run, am I right?

The question we now have to ask is this. How does this lead to the end of the world? The answer is, once again, quite simple.

The world is always ending.

It is the rule of entropy.

It is why your clothes are constantly getting dirtier, and your body is growing wearier every day that passed. Both avoid complete degradation because you put some effort in making them last just a little bit longer.

The same is true for the world at large. It is always ending. It survives when the best and the brightest of the entire human race come together to make it last a little longer.

However, that may not continue forever, and from the recent evidence of our self-destructive nature, I wonder how much longer we might have.