Monday, March 31, 2008


Most days, I have the emotional depth of a teaspoon (blessed are those days!). But then, once in a blue moon, I do have my philosophical jaunts. On such days, instead of spending time on normal fantasies related to wet mallu aunties, my mind wanders into a higher plane of thought regarding such mundane details like “what is the meaning of my life” etc. Fortunately, these spells are short lived and I come back to self in no time. The simple reason(s) being that
1) There are no mallu aunties
2) I don’t get any answers.
3) It leaves me depressed and I don’t like being depressed.

But here goes the questions and train of thought, just so that other buggers out there like me know that they aren’t alone!
1) Why do I think that I am I? Why don’t I think I am you?
I got a brain. So do you. I got a body so do you. But what tells me that I am the “owner/individual/soul/whatever” residing in my body? See I told you it is depressing stuff! I am already confused.
2) How did this world begin? Ok if you are a religious you will say God made it, but who made God eh? “God was just there” doesn’t satisfy me.
3) What if we make the matrix? Do we become God?
4) Do we live inside the matrix?
5) Is God megalomaniac?
6) Meaning of life and its purpose?

Of all the other trashy philosophical questions that pop up, 1 to 3 are those that bother me the most… though not necessarily in that order.
Like, for the life of me I don’t understand why I don’t think I am Bill Gates i.e. after he made his fortune and not for criminal tendencies
Is it the “soul” that tells you, that you are you and not me? Well if you do find out, tell me!

Coming back to the age old chicken or egg question, frankly it gives me a pain just to think about it. Moses once asked God “who are you?” and pat came the reply “I am”. Pretty smart answer, but what happened before I am?..... I was? Or I am coming? Bah! It sickens me no end.

The latest bout of my philosophical over-anxiety was brought about by a bus journey. Lonely bus journeys, beautiful sunsets, a walk on the beach, deathly calm/silence, they all conspire to make me philosopher. Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge that you are thoroughly ignorant and you can’t do anything about it is frustrating. The fact that I will not find out the answer to any of these until death weighs on me….:(

Living in a country where the Sadhu’s chant “this world is baghvan ki maya, an illusion” I was not very surprised by the matrix concept. We are already creating virtual worlds out there on the net. It will only be a short while before science comes up with true artificial intelligence. Now for a moment assume that we can create a virtual universe inside a computer. The entities inside the program believe that they are really living in a world.
What should their morality be?
Who should they worship? Us, Or our God(s)? Should there be a friggin chain of command too?
Can I go in as the burning bush and tell a Moses “I am” (Hey! that would be cool!). Should they have a heaven and hell? Or will the despots and tyrants of this virtual world also get away with it, just like they do in our world?

Which brings me to the megalomania of some higher up entities (I won't drop any names here due to... let us say ah.. "superstitions"). Say, I create a virtual world; I might(read will) want to go in once in a while and have drunken wild sex orgies with an actress. But I just wouldn’t want people bent on their knees praying to me! (Well maybe that is why God is God and I am I)

The last of the questions bother the greatest of men (and women! for politically correct people out there). Maybe coz I aint that great or maybe coz I know that the purpose in my life is plain old debauchery; I am not much bothered by that q. What bothers me is the plain old lack of it…:( Hey! Did I hear somebody say “teaspoon”?

*Please dont blame me for the post, I was bored and I just finished counting my fingers for the nth time!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Exam Fever - The Other Side

You can’t pick up the morning paper in the month of March without hearing news about a student’s suicide due to exam pressure. What drives parents, relatives and so called well wishers to put such undue pressure on their children is well beyond me. Is it a seat in a good college, a better life for their wards or plain “my son ahead of his son” mentality?

As humans living on earth which is pretty far away from utopia, I can understand parent’s sentiment. But I cannot for the life of me understand their actions. Life should be fun for kids not pain and tension. By that, I do not mean to say that children should not know about the harsh facts of life. Life is tough and being prepared for the rat race is good. But not great! After all it is a rat race and even being in the lead will be costly!

Much has been said of kids and exams, but little done to change anything. For once the government and politicians can’t be blamed, the buck stops with a sickening thud at our own door steps. It is an attitude, an evil culture that we have none but ourselves to blame. On the lighter side, one way to help students overcome their fear of exams is to have them do engineering. You get so many damn exams every other day that by the end of the course one starts showing withdrawal symptoms if there isn’t an exam scheduled for the week.

The solution I feel lies in counseling… not for the students (who should be out playing, not attending some crummy counseling) but for the parents. One needs to put this idea into their heads that exams are not everything…. In fact by my standards they are nothing. You win some and you lose some, then again if you got Indian hockey in your genes you lose all, but what the heck? The richest people in the world aren’t educated in high degrees nor did they pass any big exams. One of the criteria to being obscenely rich is to be under-educated. Those guys are just plain resourceful.

But then, if your kid was like yours truly, who ain’t resourceful and who ain’t good at studies. Hmm.. you got a problem there. But that is when being like my dad was helps you out. Turn a blind eye and hope that everything turns out to be good. If you are struck by the distinct lack of viable options/solutions to make your kids perform better at exams… fact is, I don’t have any…:D. But then I can explain one way of how NOT to put pressure.

Parent: Beta, study hard or you will fail your exams
Child: Yeah.
Parent: Don’t worry even if you fail, I will still be proud of you.
Child: Thank you pop’s
Parent: Yeah, I will be proud and you will be lacking your mobile, pocket money, cultural allowance, inflation allowance, petty allowances and all this with no debt waiver.
Child: Uh-oh, I will try hard papa.
Parent: Try, my foot!!! If you don’t get at least one more mark higher than our neighbor’s son, I will ground you for life.

Now, ten years back, if my father told me something like this and assume for a second I needed to suicide. Can you imagine how tough it was??? The shopkeepers knew me and my family and my whole lineage up to my great-great grandfather. Buying a rope, rat poison or any other such ingredients that I thought necessary for a decent suicide would be looked upon with grave suspicion, especially during March. Believe me, in those days one had no privacy, not even to suicide in peace!

Fast forward to today and you got Google…. You guessed right! I don’t want to explain anymore and anyway, a picture speaks a thousand words.

My syllabus was ICSE, which was on the tougher side as syllabuses go; so then; it was no wonder that I flunked at least 2 to three exams per term. What was however unheard of, was for me to get every question correct i.e. a humble 100 out of 100. But one bright summer day, when I was in the fourth year of torture called school I felt that I had achieved this unbelievable feat.

I knew every single question in my q paper. I finished writing the exam far ahead of schedule(which in itself was not surprising!) and even read all my answers to make sure that I didn’t make any careless mistakes. Everything was just perfect.

Much elated by this sudden turn of fortune, I raced home beating my brother by a foot and a half and shouted to Chedathi (our ayah) “I did great in my exams today Chedathi, I am actually afraid I will get the first rank”. Old Chedathi was of strong constitution and hence averted a joyous heart attack at this surprising good news.

That is when Amma walked in from her day at work. Chedathi was the first to break the good news.
Chedathi: Molae, Aby is telling that he did the exam so well that he is afraid he will get the first rank.
Amma(With a wide unbelieving smile on her face): anno? that is very good news… where is my darling little boy?
In true drama style, I jumped on to her lap, handed her the q paper and commanded “ye of little faith, ask and I shall answer”
Amma looked me over to make certain that it wasn’t my long lost twin of Bollywood soap box fame. I answered in style to each of her questions and my confidence grew as I answered each one correctly, so did my mother’s smile.

Finally all the questions were over and I had answered each one correctly. I was so puffed up with pride that I nearly missed the next question… uh-oh.. next question?? But I thought it was over right??
Me: Hey, where are you reading from? That question was not there for the exam
Amma: What??? Did I read wrong, I will read it once more
Reading once more did not help, the question still sounded unfamiliar. I snatched the question paper from her hands and looked….only to see that there were questions on the other side of the paper as well!!! I had completely missed seeing these questions. There went my first rank!

Amma laughed so hard that day that she nearly cried. I was happy too, I didn’t know the answers to the questions anyway and this gave me an iron clad alibi for the low performance. And for my father…. I doubt it if he has ever heard this story at all. So God, Thank you for my parents(you could have made them give me more pocket money but then, I ain’t complaining…:D).