Word of the Week #117:

Maladroit

From the brilliant minds that brought you Demonetisation ’16, comes another blockbuster that will melt your brains: Plastic Ban ’18.

And in the few days since its implementation, it has already shown to be as imbecilic.

Now, I do not mean to be overly harsh. The industry and the people at large did have three months to prepare for the switch. And on the very face of it, banning plastics does seem like a good thing to do, with respect to the environment, sanitation and other such concerns.

Plastic is one of the few things that can be described as being ubiquitous. Replacing it from every single application may be possible, but is it actually viable? And how will this discarded plastic be disposed of? Surely you cannot just throw it in the dumpsters and forget about it. If that had worked, we wouldn’t need to worry about it in the first place, right?

However, the biggest problem with such a step is actually quite simple: We do not have a viable alternative.

You cannot possibly sell cookies in paper packages, especially in the monsoon. They won’t last a day.

And what if I order some hot soup from a restaurant nearby. Surely, paper cups cannot hold that for long. Will you use metal cans? Those are actually not the most eco-friendly of materials. Glass is too bulky and fairly fragile. Not to mention, both are significantly more expensive. That does make a difference in an economy like ours.

What about silicone, though? It has almost all the upsides of plastics, but that is just the beginning. It is safe and durable. It is expensive, but not prohibitively so. Being based on silicon and not carbon, it is significantly better for the environment if disposed of correctly.

But therein lies the problem: Silicone is not biodegradable either.

Sure, it can be recycled, but that is predicated on, surprise surprise, proper disposal. And, if you are anyway going to do that, might as well get your plastics recycled.

Yes, that’s right. Many plastic products can be recycled. It would not be nearly as big a nuisance if all of plastic waste could be reused or recycled, but no. We want to dump it in a landfill, right?

plasgran-guide-to-plastic-recycling-grades

I am sure you must have encountered these labels, right? Usually on the bottom of a soda bottle or such… Ever wondered what they mean?

Well, this is the gist:

  • #2, #4 and #5 are the best. Use responsibly, and recycle. Plastic bags, which are primarily made from LDPE (#4) have been banned.
  • #1 is good enough, but try to avoid it. Interestingly enough, soda bottles made from PET (#1) have been exempt.
  • #3, #6 and #7 are bad. Avoid. However, thermocol decorations (#6) will be allowed till the end of a major religious festival in September. Because, priorities.

Unfortunately, our government seems to lack the nuance required to craft a thoughtful, thorough policy to implement waste disposal techniques that actually work. Instead they choose to harass local business owners and consumers for long-exsisting systemic failures.

It is quite clear that more thought and research goes into my weekly blog posts than in governmental policies.

Yes. Let that sink in.

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Word of the Week #116:

Pivot

Now, before you get your hopes too high, let me just clarify that this is not a Ross Geller appreciation post.

Although, now that I think about it, that too is long overdue…

No, today we talk about this one trick that politicians and their spokespersons use when asked a difficult question.

The truly inept ones will start by lying, and end up looking foolishly out of depth. Of course, for some individuals, this is their go-to move.

The skilled ones, however, will follow a simple routine to dance around the discussion until the interviewer and the audience are too confounded to carry on.

I could teach you how to do it, if you’d like…

Step #0: Catch the interviewer, or the camera, in a dead eye stare. Establish a position of benevolent dominance.

Step #1: Catch a keyword, or a phrase, from the question and shoot off into an unrelated tangent. This way, it looks like you have answered the question, but you have not.

Now, most interviewers, either trying to seem polite or adhering to a strict timeline, will let the question go. Some reporters, however, are more tenacious than others, and will keep repeating the question. What do you do now?

Step #1 (a): As a novice, you might try to dodge the specifics and continue to move farther and faster on the tangent. This may exasperated the interviewer enough to lose balance, or simply leave the audience too disinterested to care.

Step #1 (b): Once you are experienced enough, you will be able to take this chance to paint the interviewer as a biased, and rude, opponent, instead of being a neutral observer. This is meant to sow seeds of mistrust towards the media, and will usually polarise the audience.

Step #2: Blame it on the opposition. This is, of course, the most basic tactic but its efficacy is almost alarming. Irrespective of whether this blame is justified, the audience will be distracted from the facts.

Step #3: Equate the interviewer with the opposition. Firmly establish a bias against yourself. YOU are the real victim here.

Step #4: Counter. Since you have already established that the media is the opposition and the opposition is guilty, you can now force your interviewer on the defensive with some sharp questions and allegations of your own.

  • If he tries to dissociate himself from your allegations, he undercuts your opponents in the process.
  • If he tries to justify your opponents’ actions, he further consolidates the perception of bias.
  • If he tries to dodge the questions or deny the allegations, he seems evasive and unreliable.

In any of the above, you are the winner.

Step #5: Accept your victory, and assure the audience that things are better with you in charge of the situation.

See. Simple, right?

Of course, don’t blame me if you try this on your college professor and get into trouble, okay?

Class dismissed.

Word of the Week #112:

Ammunition

People who know me would know that I don’t drive. Well, to be very honest, I can’t.

Of course, I’m talking about driving a car, or anything larger than that.

I’m quite fine with a moped, actually.

And on the basketball court? Just get the ball on the right wing, crossover to the left, drive and score!

Ain’t nobody that can guard me, Boy! 

However, I cannot drive a car.

In our society, I hardly see the need for one, to be honest.

Sure, there are moments when I wish I had car. It would, in an ideal world, make things so much easier. But in the real world, it is just not worth the trouble.

For one, it just seems like a huge responsibility, you know. When you possess a car, you are responsible not just for your own safety, but also for all the people around you.

Not to mention, it is just not an easy thing to do. The driving courses are not nearly as thorough as you would hope, nor are the tests as stringent.

And, apart from just driving, maintenance is also a headache. A badly maintained car could, quite literally, blow up in your face with little to no warning.

There are very few things you can encounter on your way home that are as dangerous as an irresponsible, inept individual with a big, fast car.

And entrusting my life to a random stranger is the last thing I’d do. Literally…

Now, when I say this, I do not mean to undermine the role cars have played in making our society what it is today, nor how we continue to perceive them.

A cool spy with his favourite car, with some sort of an explosion in the background, is probably the first memory I have of Hollywood movies.

After all, I was just 3, when I watched Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies.

So, I do get it… Cars are cool. Cars are fun. Cars make you feel powerful. And all that is fine.

However, I don’t see why you should not have to answer a few simple questions to ensure my safety, and that of everyone else who may encounter you along the way.

  1. Do you really need a car?
  2. Do you really need that car? Surely something smaller and safer should do the job, right?
  3. Are you capable of handling that car?
  4. Do you have any history of substance abuse?
  5. Mental health problems?
  6. Neurological issues?

It is not unreasonable to have these questions about cars and the people who drive them, right?

It is a matter of personal and public safety, after all.

I don’t think anybody would really disapprove.

And yet, replace ‘car’ with ‘gun’, ‘drive’ with ‘shoot’ and ‘moped’ with ‘camera’, and suddenly you get a highly controversial political statement, right?

Feels like an attack on your Second Amendment Rights, little American Idiot with an AR-15 in each hand?

At least my attacks don’t leave dozens of innocent school kids dead.

Word of the Week #111:

Amend

Okay, consider the following situation:

A sports club has 3 coaches and 100 players, and they need to decide the colour of their uniforms.

Coach A wants it to be Yellow.
Coach B wants it to be Blue.
Coach C wants it to be Red.

Since they cannot decide it among themselves, they get the players to vote.

Such democracy… Much wow…

Coach A gets 44 votes.
Coach B gets 35 votes.
Coach C gets 19 votes.

The numbers do not add up? Well, there are always a couple of guys who chose to write in different responses. It happens.

Now, one would be tempted to jump on the phone and order 100 yellow uniforms, plus spares, perhaps? It seems to be the logical conclusion, does it not?

However, is it actually fair to override the wishes of 56 of the players, and force them to wear a uniform that they do not view as an apt representation? Is it the right way to inculcate team spirit?

What happens if Coach B and Coach C come together and suggest a jersey with Blue and Red stripes, which represent the wishes of a larger section of the players? Is that better?

On one hand, 54 is better than 44; on the other, nobody actually voted for that specific combination.

What if Coach C concedes defeat, since he clearly lacks support, and the players are then asked to vote for either A or B?

Apparently, this is what they do in France. And no, this is not a ‘France surrenders’ joke. Take a look at their Presidential Election, for context.

Now, with a possible swing of 21 votes, the results could vary significantly. One could say that these new results are a better representation of what the players want, but we have still not solved the concern about the dissatisfaction of the losing side…

To begin with, does a single vote truly and completely represent the wishes of an individual? Seems like an extreme case of oversimplification, to me.

What if a player X loves Blue, hates Yellow, and is somewhat fond of Red? His single vote for Blue does not capture the rest of his preference.

People are complex, you know.

Perhaps being able to assign a grade to each option would be a better representation?

I agree. Democracy is long, messy and annoying, and too many people seem it interpret it in their own ways.

But for now, it is the best we have.

And if it does not work for everyone, it does not work.

At the end of the day, we are all in the same team.

Word of the Week #107:

Hyperbole

So, this week, let us continue a thought that has stayed on my mind for the past couple of weeks.

To be honest, I have no problem with exaggeration. I do it all the time, and I do it better than anyone else.

Yeah, I can probably exaggerate better than Vince Carter can dunk.

And just for context, check this out:

IMG_0621.GIF

Yeah, it doesn’t get much better than that…

Regardless, there are some comparisons that do make me cringe, to say the least.

For instance, every time someone overrules my personal preference on account of their ‘OCD’, I feel an obsessive compulsion to whack them in the head.

“Yeah, I’ve seen you drive, You turn without blinkers and overtake without horns. I really doubt your claims of ‘OCD’, you annoying little prick.”

You see, having seen OCD up close throughout my childhood, I am often able to gauge, at least to some degree, when a person does have a disorder, and when is one just an annoying little prick.

And this precisely is the problem with exaggeration of a certain type. It tends to trivialise something that is far, far from trivial.

Just because you are obnoxious, don’t tell yourself and everyone that you have OCD.

Just because your friend isn’t eating well enough, don’t assume they are anorexic. I mean, they could be, and it is better to be wary, I suppose… Like, on which side would you like to err? A thin line with this one…

Just because your Prime Minister, or President, has some glaringly obvious flaws, don’t just go saying that humanity is on the brink of extinction. I mean, it could be, but you don’t necessarily know that.

In the words of the man I consider one of them greatest minds to have ever lived in the entire universe, DON’T PANIC.

Word of the Week #99:

Lambent

So, if you were to take a quick look at the events that transpired throughout the past week, you might end up feeling quite dejected, or you might just stop feeling altogether.

Yeah, it has been that kind of a week, where we feel let down by the world around us.

I talk about the real world, of course. My world is still pretty cool, and that is what keeps me inoculated from everything real. And this is a part of art that we do not seem to discuss nearly as much as we ought to.

You see, in today’s world, art is too often evaluated by the impact it is supposed to have on the world around it.

Black Panther released last weekend, and its portrayal of minorities and women is the discussion that seems to dominate the media.

Last weekend was also the NBA All Star weekend, and an initial part of the proceedings was usurped by reactions to some Fox News anchor’s racially insensitive, extremely demeaning, and frankly quite stupid comments about the greatest basketball player of our generation.

It is gladdening, of course, to see artists and athletes using their platforms to try to change the world for the better. Their excellence grants them this prerogative.

However, that is not where we begin, right?

Art is not always a beacon that guides the entire world.
Sometimes, it is just a flickering candle that illuminates a single soul…
And sometimes, that is enough.

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?