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.

Word of the Week #151:

Aerodynamics

Imagine you are a child.

Done? Good.

Now, imagine your parents telling you the following things at the following ages.

At 8: Kid, stay away from aeroplanes.

At 12: Kid, stay away from aeroplanes. They are not safe.

At 15: Kid, you are staying away from aeroplanes, right? You better… It is for your own good.

At 18: Kid! I have told you a thousand times, stay away from aeroplanes! No talking about them, no looking at them, no thinking about them. Nothing. This is not how we raised you.

At 21: Kid, if you do not stay away from aeroplanes, I swear to God, I will shoot you both out of the sky!

At 25: Kid, you have been good all your life, and as a reward, I am getting you a plane! So what if you have never been in, or even around, a plane… So what if you have no idea how to fly it, how to land, how to maintain it, how to make sure you won’t kill yourself in a fiery crash within the next year… Oh, I’m just so happy! You know what we should do? We should celebrate this news with thousands of people we barely know and will never meet for many, many years!

Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, that is how marriage works in India.

No wonder it is such a bumpy ride.

Word of the Week #150:

Contingency

Gah… I’m so tired.

I have been feeling so unusually weary all day.

Like, have you ever felt so tired, so weary, so completely and entirely drained, that suddenly Coldplay songs start making sense?

When you try your best but you don’t succeed,
When you get what you want but not what you need,
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep,
Stuck in reverse…

Yeah, that bad…

Not that it is any surprise; I did miss my lunch two consecutive days, after which I played basketball till I could barely walk, following which—ironically enough—I went for a walk.

Unusual circumstances yield unusual consequences. That should be no surprise. And these circumstances did teach me, or at least refresh into my memory, an interesting lesson. 

You see, for situations like these, always keep something sweet at hand.

It could be some juice, or a bottle of soft drink. Perhaps a few slices of pineapple, or some cookies. Anything sweet and light, that may offer a jolt of energy that will help you survive till your next meal.

Sure, it is not the healthiest of ways to live. Sure, it will have repercussions in the long run.

But you know what, it is always better to live unhealthy than to die healthy.

And sometimes, there is nothing better to do than live to fight another day.

And if your limbs just do not have the strength to even manage that, well, to once again quote the second coming of the bard himself, I will try to fix you.

Word of the Week #149:

Ambience

As a writer, I often get the opportunity to converse with readers and learn what they like or dislike in books.

Over the past few years, too many of the readers I encountered are of an unusually impatient variety. 

They have neither the temperament to endure the few pages, and occasionally chapters, of descriptive background a good book might need before the plot takes over, nor do they have the ability to appreciate the mood that needs to be bolstered by the seemingly insignificant details in the background of the story.

These are the kind of people who think Edgar Allan Poe is dull and Agatha Christie is slow. Well, not that Christie isn’t slow, but that is part of her charm.

It may seem odd, but I believe this impatience is borne out of mental lethargy. Minds that have been benumbed by decades of cinematic indulgence.

Think about it. If I want to talk about a secluded cabin in the woods, it would take me hundreds of words to make the reader understand the extent and limits of its seclusion. In contrast, a movie can do that in a single still, and cover the cabin, the woods, the weather, the sky, everything you could want and more. 

After all, they are not stupid to say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

But in a book, there are only words. And this is exactly why we need thousands of them to tell our story.

If only each reader could differentiate the subtitles of a movie from a book…

Word of the Week #148:

Bereavement

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries

That’s what the guys over at R.E.M. taught us, many many years ago. And everybody heard them, because it does make sense, right?

Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten to mention that everybody processes the pain in their own ways. I suppose that is why nobody realised that a person can be in pain even if you don’t hear them whining about it.

For years, people have been telling me that I need to discuss my problems, share my pain, express my feelings… And I just cannot understand why.

Empathy? Please. As if I can be understood.
Sympathy? Please. As if I need pity.
Counsel? Not interested.
Perspective? Resolution? Catharsis? I can get that from within, thank you.

You know what I need when I am in pain? Some space, some time. Perhaps some sugary drinks.

You know what I do not need? People encroaching on my space, taking up my time, giving me grief. As if I don’t have enough of it already.

Or, to put it very simply, for all intents and purposes…

Word of the Week #147:

Detoxify

How to detect traces of toxicity in yourself?

Simple. Swallow a pill of bitter truth, and observe your own reaction.

If you feel any inflammation around your cheeks or ears, you may be experiencing some symptoms of chronic toxicity. Let us take a look at the following video, for instance.

Thoughts? Generally, a nice video.

Nice message. A rare, but refreshing, example of a corporation taking a stand. Right?

Well, oddly enough, the video has twice as many dislikes as it has likes, presently around 1.2 million, with thousands of men claiming they felt attacked by the ad and vowing to never use a Gillette product ever again.

Just take a moment to think about this. What exactly does the video say?

  • Misogyny is bad.
  • Sexual harassment is bad.
  • Violence is bad.
  • Bullying is bad.
  • Men shouldn’t do above bad things, and set good examples for boys.

Now, if any of the above points seem like a personal attack on you…
You’re probably NOT the best a man can be. Just saying…

Word of the Week #146:

Forewarning

We live in interesting times.

Just last month, the central government gave itself the power to snoop into any computer.

No warrants, no limitations, no nothing. Unlimited unbridled power.

Big Brother is watching. Cool.

I guess I’ll have to set up a VPN and a private browser just to read the news. Oh, how the world has changed.

Additionally, political opponents of the ruling party were thrashed by the police last week. For what Crime? Wearing black clothes and releasing black balloons in the presence of the Supreme Leader.

Who here is surprised?

35 years too late,  but let us still take a look at the 1984 checklist.

  • Personality Cult? Check
  • Denouncement of Facts? Check
  • Rewriting History? Check
  • Hateful Propaganda? Check
  • Eternal War? Check
  • Unlimited surveillance? Check
  • Thought Police? Well, we are getting there

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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 #142:

Hibernation

Oh, it is cold, out here… Oh, I so hate this weather, and it me.

I struggle to do all of the things I truly love: Eat, sleep, work, play, breathe. God, I so miss being able to breathe.

The thermometer might suggest it is not too cold, but thermometers have been known to lie on this matter.

With the piercing winds, the unseasonal rain, it is almost reminiscent of Wuthering Heights.

It is probably no surprise then that I have halted my work for the week to curl up under my blanket with the very book in my hand, trying to read as much as I can between increasingly painful bouts of cough.

There are some pleasant feelings associated with this season, with the holidays and the merriness with it, but I am just not interested in all that.

I will just stay in my bed, for now, sulking till the weather improves. And I will keep trying to breathe.

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
Percy Bysshe Shelley