Word of the Week #213:

Dissonance

There is a certain plot-line that is ubiquitous in certain genres of movies.

  • There are two characters, A and B.
  • A is nice and sweet, though a little weird. B is pretty and mean.
  • For almost 80% of the story, A will love B and be nice and sweet and everything. B, of course, will always be obnoxious and mean and hurtful to A.
  • Then, suddenly, in a major event, A will realise that B is mean, and B will realise that A is kinda pretty.
  • Then, B will make a big gesture—usually something obnoxious and creepy and over the top—and A will be convinced that B can be kinda nice.
  • And they shall will happily ever after.

I’m sure at least a couple of movies leapt to your mind.

It is a popular story, after all. But is it a good story?

I have noticed this happen in real life too.

We often look for blemishes in good people. Within a lifetime of good behaviour, their one flaw can often ruin their reputations and legacies forever.

With bad people, on the other hand, we look for redeeming qualities. 

Why? Expectation.

We expect good people to do good things. If they meet our expectations, that is the least they could do. If they don’t, they have disappointed us.

With bad people, we wouldn’t expect much to begin with, and while few of them can sink even lower, few others will occasionally do something good that exceeds our expectations.

Meeting expectations is dull and ordinary. Exceeding expectations is fascinating.

It is odd, yeah.

Word of the Week #211:

Preface

Now, I’m not one to indulge in shameless self-promotion… Or maybe I am. I don’t know. I can be moody.

Still, I want to talk about a book I recently published. Kindle link, for those interested. 

Locked at home with little else to do, I ended up writing, editing, and publishing this collection of four short stories within ten days.

How did this come about?

I decided to use the space and time this sudden shutdown gave me to experiment with my writing style.

Normally, I prefer writing long, complex stories involving multiple intertwining character arcs and shifting narrative perspectives. It helps me explore the events from multiple angles and create a wide universe that the reader can explore at length.

It’s a good style, or at least I think it is.

Still, it is not suitable for every story.

Sometimes, you do not need shifting narrative perspectives. Sometimes, you need one immersive narrative style that can drive the entire story.

With that in mind, I experimented.

Each of the short stories employ slightly varying narrative styles and tones, meant to sound like four phases or moods of a single character inserted in four different sets of circumstances.

Plus, I did want to write something light and cute and sweet that readers could pick up in these weird, crazy times and hopefully feel a little better reading it.

Overall, I think I am satisfied with the results of my experiment, which is why I decided to publish it.

Let’s see how people like it.

Word of the Week #210:

Pulverise

Sometimes, I feel like I am made of sand.

“How much more can you break me?” I ask.

“Just a little more,” Life replies.

“How much more till I turn to dust?” I ask.

“Just a little more.”

Word of the Week #209:

Substratum

I just realised! We have just completed four years of uninterrupted posts! Woohoo!

That’s pretty impressive, I think. This streak has already lasted longer than any of my romantic relationships. Does that mean the streak is long or that relationships aren’t long enough, I wonder…

The purpose of this blog has evolved so much over these years.

Originally, this was supposed to help me sell my books. Yeah, I have literally no idea how that would have worked, but that’s what I was told.

I soon started posting a lot of—at least in my opinion—rich content, but it got too taxing and I could not keep up. I had to pause and strip it down to the bare minimum. After all, isn’t that how I like it?

Then, for a while, I thought I could monetise the blog to earn some extra money. Of course, that never came to be.

Then I thought I could use my words to change the world. Now, of course, I have not run out of words, but nor have I changed the world. Let’s see how that goes.

Eventually, this blog has become an anchor, and I say that in the best way possible. It ensures that, no matter what happens in the real, no matter what else shuts down, I will always be here every Tuesday night, doing what I do… best? I actually don’t know if that is entirely true, but, you get what I mean, right?

This small, simple activity gives my life just a hint of structure around which I can build the foundation of my life.

After all, my life is still just beginning.

Word of the Week #208:

Incubation

Okay, visualise this:

The quarantine has ended.

My favourite friends are throwing a party at their place… Because, that’s what you do when a quarantine ends, right?

I’m late, but not too late. I’m just at the right time, really, when the party is already in its full flow and everyone is already having fun. No more awkward small talk while everyone waits for people to join in on the dance floor. 

I can see her through the open door. I watch her as she prances about, her long, lustrous hair bobbing around her waist and her beautiful smile lighting up the dimly lit room. 

She turns. Our eyes meet.

Cue the music

She sees me walking up the stairs in slow motion, my hair ruffled by the soft breeze and my black shirt just unbuttoned enough to offer a glimpse of the recently-chiseled body underneath.

Striding in, I place my hand at her waist and spin her into my arms. Our eyes meet again, and we know what we want.

The chorus rises.

Without hesitation, we break into dance.

I was made for lovin’ you, Baby,
You were made for lovin’ me.
And I can’t get enough of you, Baby
Can you get enough of me?

Sounds fun, right?

Well, anybody who knows me knows that I cannot dance. At all.

Do I have a chiseled body? Maybe if it were chiseled out of foam.

Actually, I don’t think I even have a black shirt.

So, what is the point of this daydream?

In tough times like these, it is important to dream. And not just dream idly, either. Continuing to work towards your goals is important to sustain sanity when the normalcy and the noise of a routine are taken from you.

This is not the time to pause your dreams, but to feed them, gestate them, and prepare them to be borne into a new world.

Isolation can be the best time to work on things that scare you. Use it wisely. Keep working, not from the fear of failure but from the joy of the pursuit. And soon enough, things will be back to a new normal. 

I have my list:

  • Learn how to dance
  • Keep working out
  • Get a black shirt

Let’s get to work, shall we?

Word of the Week #201:

Prerogative

<insert cringey romantic quote>

Ah, Valentine’s Day is almost upon us.

Love is so lovely, is it not? 

Everyone loves love, right?

Everyone loves to have someone who loves them and someone whom they they can love, right? And preferably, those ‘someone’s would be the same.

Isn’t it nice to have that ‘someone’ who knows you and understands you and loves you for who you truly are? 

Everyone loves having that ‘someone’, right?

But does everyone need that ‘someone’?

Is your life incomplete without that ‘someone’?

Sure, you would be lucky to find ‘someone’ like that. But can you assume that you would? Can you ensure they will get to be with you as long as you live? Would your life not start till you find them and come to a halt if you lose them?

The way I see it, a soulmate is a privilege, not a birthright.

All you can do is keep moving forward and hope for the best.

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 #145:

Quagmire

‘No’ means ‘no’.

We’ve been hearing that a lot; perhaps more often and more loudly over the past few years.

But is that really true? Does ‘no’ always mean ‘no’? Does ‘yes’ always mean ‘yes’?

You know, humans aren’t the most honest of beings. We are trained to lie and deceive, to blend in and hide our true feelings and desires in order to survive in this world.

Think about it. Try to remember the times when you would attend a birthday party as a kid. Remember how you would be offered an extra piece of cake, and when you took you it your parents would glare and frown at you.

If you were at all smart, you would understand exactly what it meant: “The next time someone offers you more cake, you better decline, you little critter.”

Makes sense, right? After all, nobody wants their kid to be branded as a glutton.

So, the next time you are at a party and someone asks if you want more cake, what do you say? Well, there have been many, many times when I said ‘no’.

Did I mean ‘no’? Occasionally, yeah. If the cake is bad, I’m not interested in seconds… But if the cake is soft and moist and just the right amount of sweet, why would I not want more? Then why would I still say ‘no’?

Well, in some cases, ‘no’ might not mean ‘no’.

It might mean ‘yes, I do, but I cannot.’
Or ‘not right now.’
Or ‘Yes, but I am just too full.’
Or ‘I do, but I am on a diet.’
Or ‘Yes, but I have to fast before my colonoscopy.’
Or ‘Yes, but that amount of chocolate will kill me.’
Or ‘Yes, but I don’t want it from you; who knows where those hands have been.’
Or simply ‘Nah, I don’t do chocolate. Cheesecake only.’

Regardless, that is far from an invitation to come and try to stuff that piece of cake into my mouth. Try that and you’re going to got killed, boy. DO NOT test me.

No matter what was meant or why, when you hear ‘no’, you better take it as a ‘no’.

To paraphrase a beloved poem from my childhood,

Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to get the hell out of my face.

Consent. It’s a piece of cake.

Word of the Week #144:

Quantum

So, another year has passed by us.

On occasions like these, it is customary to take a moment to look back at the key events of  the year. Luckily, I managed to outsource that task to an engineer in Bangalore…

Boy, am I going to get smacked for that… Eh, moving on.

You see, when we do do these kinds of things, we tend to focus too much on events that are merely stepping stones that lead us to more stepping stones.

You might think getting that new job, or a major promotion, made the year special, but did it, really? Sure, it may lead to something else that is special, but is it special in and of itself?

I don’t know; to me, it is not the big events that make my life special. It is the little things, things that are almost impossible to substantiate, but are substantial nonetheless.

Things like the smile on someone’s face when they taste the food you cooked, or the quiver in their voice when you get them something they really need but refuse to buy for themselves, or the shimmer in their eyes when you tell them how they make you feel.

The little things… 

“Some moments are nice, some are nicer, some are even worth writing about.”
― Charles Bukowski

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.