Life And The Boy

And the boy set out
On the wayward paths of life
Eyes brimming with dreams
Heart cherishing ambitions
Challenging fate with the smile on his lips
On the first bump he bounced back up
"Ah, I didn't see that stone
No matter, I will not fall again"
Continue reading “Life And The Boy”

The Flawed Source of Happiness

In an ideal world, we feel happy for other people. We feel happy when they get something good and sad when they get something bad. In an ideal world, basically, our behaviour is ideal too! But in reality, we are not that saint-like. We have some perverse mentality in us that makes us a bit jealous, a bit sadist (and hence a bit human!)

We have some perverse mentality in us that makes us a bit jealous, a bit sadist, hence a bit human!

(Disclaimer – Serious people, please go get your pinch of salt before reading ahead!)

Talk to anyone with less than 8-10 years of work experience. When talking about work, their conversations centre around who is doing what, where and for how much. They will talk about who is better off and worse off. The stories of the ones who are worse off offer them secret consolation. Soon they will start to nit-pick the ones that are better off and find faults in their happiness till they can be safely put into the worse off category or at least not that well-off category. Nothing, absolutely nothing, makes them happier than the fact that nobody is happy with their work.

There are words for this trait with the German word ‘Schadenfreude’ being really popular. (There are some really cool German words to express feelings- Fernweh and Kummerspeck are a couple more! Pronunciation struggle – different story altogether though!) Some people go as far as to even call extreme schadenfreude a disorder. Plainly translated, this means deriving a malicious pleasure from someone else’s pain. A more relatable example of this can be through games – we rejoice more when the opposing team’s wicket falls than when we score a sixer/boundary. Or in football, it has been seen that fans smiled more quickly and broadly when their rival team missed a penalty, than when their own team scored.   

This feeling is actually tied to our reward centres -the one that believes in ‘Karma’. You feel good when something bad happens to a bad person. You feel good that the person, who was mean to you way back in nursery, is not doing that great now. If a person who was mean to you is doing great now, you will end up nit-picking his success and try to find some reason to feel that they are not all that great. And if you fail at this attempt – you might feel a bit sad.

I know there are a few saints (and the remaining people who are wishful-saints) out there reading this, shaking their heads, saying this is so bad, but guess what? This is common human behaviour. Studies have found that a lot of ‘normal’ people experience this. And the best part about those studies – they found that it is generally directed towards successful people! Like I said, we nit-pick over the people who we think are better off than us, till we find something missing in their life and voila! that consoles us.

Let me give another example. I started with the example of work, but this is the case with almost all aspects of our life. When two Indians in their mid-20s meet, another common topic being pitched is love marriage vs arrange marriage. Strangely, no one compares the benefits of these two. The comparison is between the disadvantages of the two; the scale is between how unhappy people are after arrange or love marriage; and not how happy they are. The common ground to be arrived at is that ‘there are issues in both’.

The good part is, feeling all schadenfreude is not all bad. It apparently gives confidence to people to go ahead with goals that they think are too high. People unconsciously gather courage from the misfortune of successful people, thinking ‘bad things happen to better people; let me go and try, at least it won’t be as bad as what happened to him’

Now, if its human nature to feel occasional pleasure at someone else’s misfortune, then why is it weird to think about the incidents I have highlighted? Normally, I pick traits like ego or gossiping and say that treading a midline is great. With this trait of finding pleasure in someone else’s misfortune, I can’t really say a mid-line is ideal. Games can be excluded from consideration under the umbrella of the sporting spirit. An instantaneous reaction like feeling glad that a mean colleague got passed over for promotion is acceptable to some extent. ( Plus, it gives you a reason to bond with the other colleagues who hate him. Yes, I know, I am mean. ) We cannot say that it is all bad because it kind of is the basis for a lot of social interaction – including being one of the founding stones of gossip. But if we are thinking deeply over someone else’s life to find where could they be unhappy, something is wrong there. It might mean that we are actually projecting our unhappiness, our inability to do something good in our life, over them.

I, personally, am guilty of possessing almost every negative human emotion, so of course this is no exception! What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Between Black and White

A teacher had once asked a yes-no question in class and I came up with the brilliant (non) answer ‘It depends’. He started to laugh and said you completed your degree if that’s the answer you give, now you can be a consultant! In a slightly different situation, a friend was discussing atheist vs not an atheist. I asked him what about agnostic, he replied that is not an atheist.

Which leads to my question, why do people love to have everything in black and white? Why are we so obsessed with having clear-cut answers to everything and hate things that are layered. And in extension hate people who tend to give layered answers. We need to know right or wrong, smart or stupid, strong or weak, supporter or opposer and so on. We don’t want to know who or what lies in between. And this can be something as trivial as judging a person to serious things like acting on the hatred for people who don’t support our views.

Some studies say that it is because our default nature is to categorise things even though the reality in the world is pretty different. We tend to simplify things and put them in boxes because it’s easier to analyse them. For example, take up political opinions. We know if we like a person’s political inclination if we know they support the party we do. When this person gives answers like “I like this philosophy of your party but that philosophy doesn’t make sense” we don’t know whether we like them or not. To know that, we need to do a deeper dive into what they like and what we like, oh, that’s too much effort. So, we paint it black and white. Either you like it or you don’t. It is not for no reason that the land in between is called ‘no-man’s land’. You don’t really want to be caught in between.

This is not to say there are no issues where there are clear rights and wrongs. The burning issues in the world like terrorism, rape have obvious right and wrong arenas. But consider a question like should any country spend on space research when there’s starvation to be considered? To me, that’s not a black and white answer and people who try to simplify that are just trying to feel superior by categorising stuff. It’s a very gratifying feeling, that we know what is right, we have drawn the boundaries and lines around which we can define what is right and sitting in the middle of the ground of right, we can feel extremely superior. What we don’t realise is that after drawing those boundaries and lines we have closed off our minds to other possibilities and basically narrowed our minds for the sake of feeling superior.

And it’s not just us normal beings who are susceptible to this. All our preachers of ideal qualities abhor the other side. If it is optimism being preached, the slightest pessimism is not tolerated. When in reality, some pessimism is actually good, makes for practical thinking, gives a reality check and prevents people from faking their emotions all the time.

Personally, I am a fan of the grey areas and adore people who can see the grey. I think the middle ground gives more scope for broadening the mind. We should at least try to consider the middle ground once in a while, even though we don’t believe in it, just for the sake of knowing the other side. Plain black and white is just a precursor to extremism.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

When everyone loves everything!

In my last post where I spoke about how we mask our need for appreciation, I got some interesting replies of which one pointed out that appreciation today is not real, because people say they love everything! It is hard to get a proper critique or proper appreciation.

That reminded of a jocular dialogue in a book by one of my favourite authors L.M. Montgomery “The girls nowadays indulge in such exaggerated statements that one never can tell what they DO mean. It wasn’t so in my young days. THEN a girl did not say she LOVED turnips, in just the same tone as she might have said she loved her mother”

Continue reading “When everyone loves everything!”

The Dance Of Appreciation

What motivates us to do anything? The results? Because we get paid for it? Because we love doing it? Yes, maybe, but there’s more. There is a hidden motivation that no one really accepts – appreciation. Everyone in this world is just looking out for appreciation, and hence validation but hardly anyone accepts it.

Think about the great preachers who preach all kinds of saint-like qualities of positivity, detachment from worldly needs, letting go of ego and whatnot. Their motivation should only be the message they want to deliver, but is it? Don’t they all look for validation in the crowds that attend their seminars or the books that they sell?

Continue reading “The Dance Of Appreciation”

How much to judge?

The bonding point for most girls is having a common opinion about some other people – that is, judging them! Some people might take offense at this, but it’s true. And this is not to say that guys don’t judge, they just express their judgements later on. Think about the various groups you formed over the years. Now think about the people your group liked/disliked/hated. We might be self-confessed judgmental people or holier-than-thou people who claim never to have judged even a murderer but deep down, we all judge!

(If you have read my previous blogs where I talk about ego, gossiping, excuses I know what you are thinking but no, I am not an advocate for the sins of mankind! I just feel we harp too much on little issues.)

Continue reading “How much to judge?”

Not So Mainstream Motivators

Recall the last time you were faced with a task that you just wanted to give up on and you needed just one reason to continue? What did you fall back on? Was it some famous motivational quote? Did you sit down and think why you need to do it? Or you are always so inspired that you don’t need motivation? (I am jealous of you then!)

No, I am not some world class authority on motivation, in fact, I belong to the normal class of people who get huge doses of motivation that slides off them like water off a duck’s feathers. I thought I would talk about some weird motivators I have come across (not necessarily my strategy)

Continue reading “Not So Mainstream Motivators”

To ego or not?

Few weeks back I had written about ‘Self satisfying adages’ where I spoke about how people use some well-known proverbs to justify their ends and means. My intention was mostly about poking fun at people who hide behind all these adages, however, a few replies to that post opened my eyes to the other aspect that somehow eluded me while writing that post – Ego! People pointed out that often, these adages are used by people when their ego is hurt. While that does make sense, it got me thinking…

Ego is actually one of the things that has a bad reputation just because people use them as missiles. ‘It’s your ego talking!’ or ‘If you were not so egoistic, you would not be argumentative’ or ‘Your huge ego is making a normal situation difficult’ and the best (or worst depending on if you are the speaker or receiver) ‘Your ego is bigger than you’. (I never get that, I mean, how do you go around measuring the ego and then how do you measure your actual worth for comparison?)

Problems arise when ‘ego’ is freely exchanged with ‘arrogance’.

Mukti De Chaudhari

The problem arises when ‘ego’ is freely exchanged with ‘arrogance’. By definition, ego actually means a person’s idea of his self-worth or importance. It does not mean arrogance or pigheadedness or superiority complex as some people assume. And a good idea of one’s self-worth is not at all a bad thing. At a basic level ego is something necessary, it is something a person should have. A level higher, a self-respecting person is someone we all appreciate and adore.

Ego is a problem when it crosses some boundaries and when the idea of a person’s self-worth blinds him to how others feel and to the fact that they are human and make mistakes. Of course, it is difficult to deal with such people who can’t accept that they might be mistaken or wrong. Basically, someone with a superiority complex. But how often does a person who can’t accept his own mistake, accuse the other person of being egoistic? Imagine two people at loggerheads, both not giving way to the other’s point. Finally, one accuses the other of being egoistic. And there’s the ego missile launched!

If you read my post about adages, you might see how I pity ‘excuses’ as they have been branded in a negative light thoroughly. I feel ‘ego’ has also suffered the same fate. It is so badly misjudged that it no longer comes in the list of things we consider for ‘Too much of a good thing can be bad’. No, ego has been branded all bad and we even have teachers preaching how to get rid of ego!

Personally, I feel some ego is necessary, some pride is necessary so that we know what we are worth. Accepting our mistakes and being kind to other’s feelings are qualities to be developed independently. Not developing either a superiority or inferiority complex is also independent. And accusing someone of being egoistic just because they don’t agree to you or refuse to back down in face of your convictions doesn’t make you a better person, it just makes you better at name-calling. Maybe next time, try to understand the other person and try some other route to get your point across (or understand theirs?) before jumping to conclusions.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Race to checkout

The mini-market near my flat has one huge disadvantage – people don’t understand the concept of getting in a line. At any given time, there are at least 2 parallel lines. You might plonk down your stuff on the counter while waiting for the cashier to bill the person in front – and hey; someone else just moves beside you and plonks their stuff down too. And if you are stunned into speechlessness like I was the first couple of times; then it’s a long wait for you.

So, when I had just a bar of dish-wash soap to check out, I also decided to try edging out this guy standing there with a whole bunch of stuff and ignored him and put the soap on the counter. This guy took a look at the soap and said – “oh you have just one stuff to buy? Then go ahead, I have already been waiting for so long, might as well wait a little more.” I was so embarrassed I could barely thank him.

What is it with us, the race to finishing line? Do we get some kind of extra credit if we finish buying our stuff and get out before someone else? How much time does it really save? A few minutes saved by rushing about vs a few peaceful minutes, what’s more important? I think over all the times that I have made ‘tsk-tsk’ noises just because someone in front of me was taking too long. Then I think of the times that was done to me and I felt like turning around and telling the other person to order online if they don’t have the patience to wait in a line. What changes when I take one step ahead to bill my purchases?

I used to be patient in queues – I used to pass my time watching kids bother their parents (yeah, at supermarkets there’s no cute way to put it, they do bother their parents!); observing newly married couples try to understand each other’s shopping styles; hear middle-aged people judge others and so on. But over time, observing all the impatience and race around me has influenced me too and now I also just try to get the shortest line; maybe try to edge out someone else (“because hey, even I can also do it!”). I had got so used to accepting that edging out someone else was normal, I forgot how unfair it is and how it feels to be on the receiving end.

I know it’s a busy world and standing in queues is not exactly what makes a day brighter but maybe we can skip on the unkindness? Yes, some people are terribly slow but mostly not on purpose. The next time you ‘tsk-tsk’ someone; remember the time you held up a line (everybody has one time). The next time you try to edge out someone; try to remember how it felt to have it done to you. (And of course when it is done to you, don’t go mute like I did the first time – that’s when you let out your frustration. Just kidding. Or not.) Because it’s not just about the queues you see. It’s about everything else in life that we just race through and don’t even look left or right. More about that later!

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Does more technology mean dumber us?

A few days back when I was exchanging numbers with someone, I was asked – “oh, this looks like a Mumbai area Vodafone number..?” This person was able to recognise the first few digits and remembered what that meant! And that took me back to the times of the curly wire landline phones. It was a great time when every home had a landline, the rates were beginning to drop which obviously meant a lot of calls. But you had to dial every number. So eventually you had the regular numbers memorised. Mobiles were introduced and since not everyone had them, we learned many mobiles numbers too.

Fast forward to today’s world where those landlines are fading away, mobiles numbers are backed up to our Google accounts eliminating the need to ever write them down on those tiny phone books, (I haven’t seen a phone book in ages, do they even make them anymore?) which means people normally have only one number memorised – their own. And more often than not, nowadays we just save our own number too. That’s all great but when your mobile is stolen, how do you call your family/friends to let them know what happened? Continue reading “Does more technology mean dumber us?”

Is gossiping all bad?

Having spent two years in a girls hostel, there’s one thing I know for sure – Girls gossip less than boys! Yes, that’s true. In spite of girls being accused of being the gossip mongers in the world, I found that we used to get most news about the happenings in the girls’ hostel  – from boys! And frankly, they were a much more reliable source of information.

Now that I have made it clear that I am not trying to clear the bad name of gossiping for feminist reasons, let’s proceed! If you are one of those people who feel very strongly against gossiping, please read on, hopefully, you might be more lenient in future. If you already adore gossiping, take it with a pinch of salt, I am sure you don’t need any more incentive!

Continue reading “Is gossiping all bad?”