Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Disk Space in My Mind

For thinkers like me,..........................What? Why the smirk? You think I’m flattering myself by calling myself a thinker, huh? I don’t have to be a Gandhi, Tolstoy or Vivekanand to be a thinker. Anyway greatness does not have much co-relation with popularity. Anyone who spends considerable time thinking is a thinker. Since I don’t have much to do, I think...anyway, let me not get distracted.

For thinkers like me, majority of emotional upheavals (meaning a drop or surge in the emotional quotient like in case of anger, ecstasy, fear, jealousy, etc.) are caused by thinking of what my wife does, does not do, did, did not do, should do, should not do, should have done shouldn’t have done, says, does not say, said, did not say......I hope you get the drift. But it is not about my wife alone. There ought to be a comma after wife. After the comma, other entities like children, mother, father, siblings, neighbour, the mayor of my town, my subordinate, my boss, the managing director of my company, the prime minister of my country, the president of the USA, the head of the European Union, the leaders of Islamic State....the list seems endless.

You think this is funny? I’ve been thinking of how to illustrate the entire gamut in a figure. If I use a table or an excel sheet, this is how it may look like. The number of rows may increase manifold. The verbs stated here are commonly used ones.

One such sheet is for each entity. Then I realised that there are cross-sheet relationship like I also think about what my wife did but children did not do. The operating system of the mind must be amazing. It has to store emotions and thoughts in so many cells and pivot tables. For the moment I’ve given up trying to illustrate it in a figure. But what the hell, I am not able to illustrate the map of the place my mind travels in, every day, every moment. All the technology is rendered insufficient!

Anyway, illustration is not the crux of what I intend communicating here. The crux is that all the emotional upheavals and the consequential actions and emotions are caused by stuff I can do almost nothing about!

Pause. Read the highlighted portion again – slowly – one word at a time. Stare into space while you introspect. Continue reading only if your reaction is, “Oh! What a profound insight!” or “I never thought of it this way!” or at least “I agree.”

Now we move to the crux part 2. If, instead of offering the disk space in my mind to so many entities, whose actions I have no control on, I choose to, try to and struggle to concentrate my mind only to what I do, what I don’t do, what I should do, what I should not do, what I say, what I don’t say, etc., would it be better?

I’ve had this realisation earlier as well, vaguely though. That time I started focussing my attention to what I was doing. Now the result is quite interesting. I’ve been doing Yoga-asanas for over 12 years now. But by focussing my thoughts inwards, last month, I realised that my Sarvangasana was perhaps incorrect. I was giving more support to my back, because of which, the tension, which should get created on the abdominal muscles was not getting created. I corrected my posture and felt much better doing the same Yoga-asana! Invaluable, priceless benefit for me, though it may not be of any value to another person!

Now, consider this. If I were to (as in, destined to or required to) find a solution to the crisis of refugees in Europe, somehow, I’d have been required to act in that direction. But as it stands today, I just read about it in papers or internet, knowing well that there may be innumerable other perspectives to the same story, I’m not exposed to. I do find myself sad, disgusted and aggrieved. But, does it help any person concerned? It doesn’t seem so. I’ve no business to take any side, since I have no stakes. Why, then am I getting worked up? Same is the case with other entities.

Every megabyte or kilobyte of space in my mind, which gets occupied by issues I can’t do much about eats into space I can offer to issues I can do something about.

Selfish! Did you say I’m being selfish and unconcerned about larger issues? Well, you may say so, but I can’t do much about it, unless you ask me to clarify. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Ek Villain

It’s the title of a Hindi movie. I quite liked the plot, the performances and the presentation of this rather off-beat story. I don’t care if it was lifted or inspired by another movie.

I don’t know if the psychological disorder shown in the movie exists to that extent or leads to such actions, but the existence and dominance of negative emotions cannot be denied. I found myself empathysing with a brutal murderer. This guy is representative of contemporary criminals like the perverse rapists or fraudsters, who commit heinous crimes in complete consciousness. It may be an exaggerated narration, but I will not be really surprised to know that such persons exist.

If one cares to give it thought, it is quite miraculous how we’re able to live with so much negativity around and about us. In the last decade or so, we’re able to communicate much better. But what is it that is getting communicated? All that newspapers and news channels talk about and highlight are a variety of crimes and violence, wars and counter wars, incompetence and futility of governments and oppositions, natural calamities & accidents, corporate scandals and the ‘legally permitted crimes’ committed on the pretext of growth and profitability. The social media is no different. Our experiences in dealing with shopkeepers, employers, teachers of schools, police, office bearers of housing society and just about everybody is laced with negativity. Everything is enraging and as spectators, we are helpless. The pent up anger just keeps coming out from a container with a bottomless pit.

Then a spiritual guru appears on the scene and talks of positivity, compassion, meditation. We read some quotable quotes on social media. We ignore the negativity for some time. We hit ground again sooner than later. Then we get sick of all this and decide to take a vacation. But let us not run away from the fact that if acts of mindless violence are on the rise, it is representative of the rise of violence in the minds of people.

If we make a list of people we’re angry with, it will perhaps encompass the entire humanity. Sounds unlikely? Let’s try. We’re angry with the politicians because they are corrupt and self-centered. We’re angry with the government because they’re incompetent and ineffective. We’re angry with the bureaucrats because they are bureaucratic. We’re angry with the businessmen because they’re blinded by profit motive. We’re angry with service providers because they don’t do their job honestly. We’re angry with the environmentalists and activists because they stall the growth efforts. We’re angry with terrorists because they kill innocent people. We’re angry with the judiciary because they take too much time to judge and even then pass wrong judgements. We’re angry with the children because they just don’t behave the way they should. We’re angry with parents because they just don’t understand. We’re angry with God because...

The world of alternate thinkers is quite interesting. The alternate thinkers and sustainability proponents are very angry with the mainstream.  The environmentalists, the human rights activists, the food & nutrition experts, the natural farmers and organic farmers, the educators and education enthusiasts, the gurus of peace and love, the animal rights activists, the proponents of an alternate economic models and a host of other such groups are angry with people outside their group. Even within the group there is substantial difference of opinion and conflict.

There is absolutely no dearth of knowledge and arguments on either sides of the table. There is billion times more information than what one can read even in the table of contents.
But, there is violence beneath much of this.

Can we be non-violent in the mind, in our thoughts? A teacher in Haider, another Bollywood movie I liked says, “Jab tak hum is inteqam se azaad nahi hote, tab tak koi aazadi hame azaad nahi kar sakti.”

I’m sick of thinking about all of this. I’m sure you’re sick reading about it as well. Let us go and play a game. Even if it means playing with the same people you’re angry with. Which game? Any one. Carrom, chess, rummy, badminton, cricket, snakes & ladders, kabaddi....Just about any game. Play it with someone or play it alone. Just get lost in it.


“You’re lucky to have a spouse, whose thinking is aligned with yours”, we’re often told. Indeed. We’re lucky to have each other as companions. For both of us, it is difficult to imagine what life would have been if there was someone else.

But I do not agree that many of those who say so are unlucky in this regard. In fact, in very few cases, I sense that one is held back because of his/her spouse. What is lacking is either clarity in thought, honesty of effort or endurance to stay put.

A friend of mine, Sanjay has also been a colleague. We come from quite similar family backgrounds and academic paths. While in office, we spent a lot of time discussing life, gossiping of the irony of people, sharing practices for good health. Career-wise, both of us were quite un-ambitious. We often spoke of our exit from job and life thereafter. Then I quit job to move to a farm life and Sanjay thought that soon he too will move out. We did not have exactly the same vision of an ideal life, but moving off the systemic conveyor belt had to be common starting point.

It’s been three years since I quit. Sanjay has been following our movements. In our latest meeting, I felt a bit uneasy. There was some bitterness in his tone. He said, “Buddy, you’re lucky. Your wife is co-operative. It’s not the same for everyone. Sheetal (his wife) loves city life. She wants the best school and a bright path for Arjun (his 5 yr old son). The weekend eating out, shopping, going on a vacation are very important for her. I can’t even dare to discuss you and your life with her. I’m scared she might stop me from meeting you. As it is, we have loads of arguments about healthy habits, non-essential shopping and all that. But I’m happy for you, man. Make the most of the opportunity.”

“Tell me, when you all go to a restaurant, do you refrain from eating there?”

“No, I too eat.”

“But, you were so particular of not eating out. You know it’s unhealthy and an unnecessary expense. If you let them eat, while you cook for yourself, you’ll at least ensure your health, save some money and may be, some day, make an impression on them.”

“Oh, man! You will not understand. If I create scenes like these, my family life will get finished.”

“Is this your fear, or you have tried?”

“I have lived with her for 12 years now. I’m sane enough to know what to try and what not. I told you, you will not understand.”

“Come on, man. Are you saying that your wife does not give you enough space to do things, which are healthy? She does, right? Does she disagree with the fact that though eating out is unhealthy and expensive, you eat out to relax after a hectic week, have a bit of family time and eat tasty stuff, which is otherwise difficult to have?”

“I guess, she should agree to that.”

“So, if you tell her that you are ok to go out, spend the time and money, but will not eat out, since you anyway don’t particularly enjoy the taste, what will she have to say?”

“Why create so much fuss? Then someone will have to cook separately for me. Besides, it’s not that I don’t enjoy the taste. It’s good, once in a while.”

“So, what you’re saying is that Sheetal enjoys eating out and you don’t mind it once a week, though you can stay without it. You know that it is unhealthy but you also want to avoid confrontation.”

I paused, just in case there was any disagreement. When there was none, I continued, “Is it not sufficiently clear that you are the one, not her, who feels the dissonance? It is your decision to not suggest an alternative. Then why blame her? If I were Sheetal, I would have felt annoyed at the way you think of her. If you are so committed to your health, then take whatever care you feel is necessary. At least suggest an alternative.”

He decided to keep quite. I sensed that he’s trying to avoid confrontation, this time with me.

I dropped the subject and started talking of business, politics, climate change and other world issues. But I could not help feeling sorry for Sheetal.