Word of the Week #193:

Retribution

We all like superheroes, right? 

Who wouldn’t love characters like Batman, who fight crime, go after bad guys, and maintain peace in the world.

However, such individuals are better suited to the fictional world.

In the real world, people who operate outside the law and execute their own brand of justice are not called superheroes. They are are described by a different term: lynch mobs.

Over the past few years, I have noticed that in the wake of any highly publicised violent crime, amidst the usual outpouring of grief, there is a strong public demand for an immediate, equally violent retaliation. Ones who advocate basic concepts like “due process” come to be seen as dinosaurs, and their character comes to be questioned.

While it may seem natural to give in to our basest of instincts in a moment of pain and anger, one most always remember the difference between vengeance and justice. They make look the same when we are blinded by our emotion, but they are quite distinct.

There are practical reasons that could explain why following the due process can be beneficial to the society at large, but the simple fact is that we should not need reason and logic to do the right thing.

Isn’t that the very definition of a civilised society? That we can look past our immediate emotions and do what is right for society as a whole?

As the Chief Justice was forced to articulate, in response to the recent events:

“The criminal justice system in our country must change its attitude towards laxity and the time taken to dispose of each case. But I don’t think justice can ever be or ought to be instant, and justice must never ever take the form of revenge. I believe justice loses its character of justice if it becomes revenge.

—S A Bobde, Chief Justice of India 

Word of the Week #192:

Lamina

Are some people better than others?

“He/she could do so much better…”
“How on Earth did he/she land someone like that!”
“He/she is just not good enough for you…”

How often have we heard these words? How often have we said them ourselves?

It is probably a natural thing to say, I suppose, considering:

  1. I’m at that age where scores of my acquaintances are getting engaged or married every passing week
  2. How pervasive arranged marriages are in my geographical vicinity
  3. I actually said all three of those over the past weekend

However, the question remains… Are some people better than others? 

If we really thought about it, we would conclude that humans are—obviously—too complex to be assigned a single, objective rating, right?

What if we considered something simpler? Something inanimate?

Can we rate different tools in terms of their utility? Are hammers better than crowbars? Pliers over screwdrivers?

The answer would probably depend on whom you ask when. Sure, power drills are useful—and objectively cool—but one would not really use them to fit a new sink, right?

I suppose the same could be true of humans, right? The person I want on my basketball team might not be the one I want on my publicity team. The person I want as a business partner might not be the one I want as a romantic partner.

And, in hindsight, if someone ever questioned my choice of mate, I might be tempted to bash their skull in with a crowbar. Just saying.

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 #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.

Word of the Week #156:

Vicissitude

Change.

Everybody wants it, and yet, nobody seems to want it.

Do you want better public transport? Sure!
Do you want a new Metro Station right outside your door? Absolutely!
However… Do you want a construction site right outside your door for the next year and a half, bringing with it the traffic, noise and dirt that invariably accompany it?

Nobody wants it.

But that is the thing about change. It is not a result, it is a process.

If you cannot commit to the process, you do not deserve the result.

Change.

Word of the Week #152:

Anthropophagus

I have never been too inclined towards male bonding, and only recently am I beginning to understand why that is.

Apparently, there comes a strange time in guys’ lives, between the age when they realise they are different from girls and the age that they realise they are attracted to girls. In this period, every boy decides the kind of man he will become, albeit rarely realising this at the time. Or ever.

It is around this age that boys receive a simple choice: To bully or to be bullied.

I still cannot understand why this happens. Blaming it on just the Y-chromosome feels weak and dismissive.

I was always strong enough to stop bullies, but not to stop bullying. This left me in a strange limbo, which soon, it solidified into solitude. Eventually, I grew accustomed to it.

These few years were among the loneliest of my life. And I spent them doing what every lonely kid does: I read, I watched, I observed. I learned how to understand the world around me. Oddly enough, since I was entirely alone, I grew up not caring about public perception or approval.

I knew my definition of self, and it was not a function of the people around me.

Unfortunately, the other boys that I watched seem to remain stuck in the roles they chose as children. They see the world as predators and prey, and they will do what they must to survive in their roles.

And we wonder what happened to concepts like compassion and courtesy. Compassion and cannibalism can rarely go hand-in-hand, right?

So, do you want to fix the world? I can tell you what to do: Fix the children.