Sunday, February 28, 2016

Monday Musings 255 - Straight Line in a Jalebi

Monday Musings 255 - Straight Line in a Jalebi

‘’Can you see a straight line in a jalebi” – quipped the master! This musing is a result of it.

We make sense of the world, things, and situations through our own lenses. The lens through which we see the world, things and situations determines the sense we make. The output is rarely and feebly purely rational.

On the other hand the number of variables that exist which has an impact on the issue at hand is numerous, rarely less – and often they impact each other in conceivable and inconceivable ways. The innate nature of things is complexity. There is a premium on someone who can simplify. This is a rare talent – often rarer than we might think. The master’s earthly wisdom is to search the straight line in a jalebi. Brilliant!!

Jalebi is convoluted, no beginning and no end in sight. It’s not linear, neither circular, in fact of no shape. It’s just like issues and problems at hand – we don’t know where things started and where it ended – so the problem solver is exasperated to imagine the point where the unravelling and the solution must begin. What is the point of maximum impact, the point of maximum leverage, the point which will give us the greatest outcome to our effort? The problem solver has his challenge cut out but he shakes his head in bewilderment. The master says, can you discern the straight line in the jalebi? Can you simplify?

It is often not only a matter of skill or ability but also of clarity and attitude. To some even a straight line can be confounding and some may be able to discern the straight line in the jalebi? What are we looking for? What have we been looking for all our lives? What is our instinct for? If we always look for simplicity, we learn to do it as a skill. Even in solving a complex problem, taking the first step is always as simple as that – the first step. Solving a complex problem through a complex solution is the mark of an intellectually lazy mind. Doing too many things to solve a problem is the mark of an intellectually inept mind.

It was Albert Einstein who had remarked ‘’Everything should be made simple but not simpler’. I think he understood the Jalebi effect very well. When the instinct to simplify things is honed over life, our problem solving ability improves. It is an instinct that also serves us very well in living a happy life. To someone who sees jalebi in a straight line, happiness shall evade.

So how do we begin? We must begin with the cousin of simplicity – Brevity. Mark Twain had remarked ‘’I did not have the time to write a short letter to you, so I wrote a long one instead’. It is infinitely more treacherous and difficult to be brief. Any idiot can be verbose. It takes incredible courage, talent and ability to be succinct and still say all that needs to be said. Impact comes from brevity and not loquaciousness. A mind that understands the brilliance of brevity will in all likelihood appreciate the beauty of simplification – he shall have the rare perspicaciousness of being able to see the straight line in the jalebi.

So the next time you dig into the syrupy sweet jalebi, remember to eat the straight line first – it will infinitely tastier – and you shall be infinitely wiser.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Monday Musings 254: ‘Fitoor’ is a full time job

Monday Musings 254: ‘Fitoor’ is a full time job

A colleague sent this couplet recently –
Fitoor hota hai, har umr me juda juda
Khilone, mashooka, rutba aur khuda’’

(Quirks change with times..
Toys, beloved, status...and God”
It would be in the fitness of things I take some creative liberty and add the word ‘’mulk’’ (nation). It goes well with the noise of our times.
Fitoor hota hai umr me juda juda,
Khilone, mashooka, rutba, mulk – aur- khuda’’

I add the word ‘mulk’’ because it suits the essence of the debate around. The notion of being a ‘true national’ is being prescribed by all and sundry. I am sure it is important to be clear what it means. It seems that is a test of patriotism that everyone needs to clear before being accorded the right to have an opinion. I am no longer sure who has the perfect test – there are just too many floating around. But this is not a muse about patriotism. It is about quirks. It does however seem that for some the issue of proclaiming one definitive notion of a patriot has become a very pressing and often noisy fitoor.

It appears to me that all of us need a quirk, an obsession to tide through the inherently boring journey of life. The nature of the obsession keeps on changing to suit the palate of age and times but there must be the one that keeps us occupied. This whole thing about being born and fading away can be a very boring wait akin to a wait at a sleepy railway station in the middle of nowhere. We need some music, some fun, and some drama – to keep us occupied.

So we pick and chose a quirk and adopt it as our own. Soon what started just as something to play with becomes such an integral a part of us that we forget it was just a passing flirtation. We were supposed to play with for a while and get on with our lives. The truth is that now we need it not to keep us occupied or kill time but because we don’t know what else to do with life. I reckon people with intense ‘fitoors’, who become consumed and overpowered by it are actually very scared to look at their lives without that ‘fitoor – there is nothing else in it anymore. They have nothing else to look forward to. So protecting it becomes their sole occupation, their only succour. For some its toys, for some beloved, for some status, for some nation and for some God (actually their God).

So what if we did not have any ‘fitoor’? How would that life be? I am not sure but I guess it is a scary thought. Who are a better lot – the ones with some quirk or obsession (and for the purpose of this musing, let me restrict it to the universe of ideology/s) or the ones who have none? Who is more tolerable and who is more dangerous?

So what is your ‘fitoor’ – khilone, mashook, rutba, mulk or khuda - or something else?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Monday Musings 253 - The new 'I'

Monday Musings 253 - The new 'I'
The recent issue of The Economist says that most countries (read US and UK) are fast erecting stronger barriers to immigration in general and access to student visas in particular. The number of international students have actually fallen everywhere with notable exceptions in Australia and Canada. In yet another article in the same issue it also says that Europe is increasingly developing cold feet on the issue of accepting the waves of refugees that are washing up its shores as a result of the Syrian crises. It also says that many of the EU countries have openly stated aversion to accepting new immigrants. It strikes me as an unnerving coincidence.

Closer home we had the abuse of the Tanzanian student in Bangalore last week, much in the line of such abuse that black students have faced in universities across the country for the past many years. This is not restricted to foreigners and the crises assumes tragic hues when we remember what the North East students face day in and day out everywhere – an ugly reality that is much noted and documented for it to demand any further proof. It was not long ago when in many states there have been backlash against migrant labourers who have been portrayed as threat to local livelihood and been physically threatened. The events may have subsided but the animosity seems to be alive.

The trolls on the social media are becoming increasingly abusive in what they put up in favour of or against the ideologies that they defend or deny. In the last month or so my FB has had at least a dozen clips or messages shared by my circle which can safely be classified as vitriolic, distasteful, highly politicised and most dangerously extremely bigoted. I had always imagined my profile and hence most of those who are on my FB list quite educated, liberal and hence endowed with a sense of nuance and poise.  I am no longer sure.

When I put all of this together and pick up the threads of what is happening right in my FB account to what is happening in the big scene, I see a pattern. It seems that the same winds are blowing all across. The need to erect walls is assuming scary proportions. Everyone is trying to erect walls and close windows. Winds from another place and waves from other shores are being branded a threat and a risk. I find this counter- intuitive or is it two contradictory forces are playing out with each other, each undermining the other. Digitally boundaries are breaking and attempts are being made to hasten the collapse of these barriers – to connect faster and deeper on one hand; and yet on the other hand the groundswell of support to erect the barriers is equally present and perhaps getting stronger. All said and done Donald Trump and his ilk in the EU and very much in India do not exist in vacuum – they are pandering to a segment that really exists and who truly believe that erecting these walls is necessary. I wonder which of these forces will eventually win and while a clear winner is yet to emerge how much toll will the struggle for dominance amidst these competing forces take. Who will bear the brunt?

I wonder if our threshold for indulging the proverbial other shrinking? In other words is there a risk we all run of becoming intolerant?

(Now that I have uttered the ‘I’ word, I am waiting someone to ban me and raise slogans against me. That is the only way I will become famous)