Word of the Week #157:

Discourse

I like politics.

I suppose that might seem strange to some people, but yeah, I do enjoy it.

It is the most entertaining spectator sport on this planet, some might say. And it is definitely the most consequential one.

But as with most sports, there is a right way to play. Unfortunately, most participants do not seem to appreciate that.

You can win by focusing on your own strengths, right?

Talk about tax reform. Talk about better public education. Talk about better public transportation. Talk about clean, cheap and reliable energy. And, occasionally, back up your talk with some actual performance.

When you have true game, you do not need to rely on thumping your chest, talking trash about your opponents and stretching the rules to their limits and hoping the referees do not notice. Those skills may be a part of a champion’s wide repertoire, but are not a winning strategy.

Just play hard and play fair. If you are good, there is no reason why you cannot win.

After all, what is the point of playing dirty and winning, when half the audience is only going to hate you and everything you represent for the next 4-5 years.

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Word of the Week #132:

Bide

Think of a profession. Any profession.

No, I am not going to guess which one you are thinking about. That is not what I do here…

No, think of a good profession, one that you wish was yours.

Okay, turns out, I will be guessing…

I guess a common answer would be a professional athlete. That is fun, after all, right?

Well, I agree, playing for money does sound fun. But think of it this way. Is every aspect of the profession fun?

Being able to take the pressure, the weight of expectations of your fanbase may not always be fun, but some people are still better equipped to handle it than others, right? But I am not talking about the mental aspect, right now.

No, the parts that nobody would enjoy are the more mundane ones. Things like the incessant travel. Nobody wants to take a cross-country flight after every game. But, it is something you cannot avoid.

It is the same for musicians, singers, comedians and such. You have to travel before you get to perform.

Lawyers have to do lots of unglamorous things, like examining briefs and filing motions and visiting jails. It is not all courtroom drama.

Now, I don’t know what part of being a doctor is fun… I do not understand that profession, to be honest.

But, you see, that is how all professions work. You need to do some of the annoying stuff in order to do the stuff you love.

It is like eating on orange. Nobody enjoys peeling an orange. But if you like eating an orange, you have to endure peeling it.

Being a writer is the same. There are so many parts that drive me so crazy: Editing, querying, marketing, dealing with publishers… None of it is really fun.

But you are done with all that, you get to do what you really love. Just sit back, and keep writing all day.

That’s the dream, right?

Well, I look forward to the day it comes true, once again…

Of course, I remember a time when my Mom would peel the oranges for me. A convenient system, you know.

If only I could find an agent to handle all the peeling for me, now…

HWAITING!

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 #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.

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.