When we played outside – A Retrospect!

Computers may eventually turn us into machines!
Computers may eventually turn us into machines!

A few days ago I had a conversation with my friend. Season 4 of The Big Bang Theory was out and we just finished watching Episode 4. We exchanged views about how the series had gone down in popularity recently because it seemed the public got a hang of what the characters could do and the jokes have become trite. He asked questions about my new company and its environment and I described it in detail.

Then all of a sudden I said, “I somehow feel that Internet is getting a boring place to be.” He just smiled. I continued, “I think we should go out and play than lock ourselves up in air-conditioned rooms with a machine in front of the eyes.” He smiled again.

The Psychic Vortex
A Scene from the TBBT Episode – The Psychic Vortex

There was something that prompted me to say this. In TBBT, there is an episode called “The Psychic Vortex.” In that Koothrapalli tries to persuade Sheldon by saying, “Come on, Sheldon. I want to go outside, let’s go outside. Outside is good.” to which Sheldon responds, “If outside is so good, why has man spent thousands of years perfecting inside?

Despite the humorous intend of this dialog, there is a deeper meaning in it. I felt like we are losing out on a physical part of ourselves and I wanted to discuss it.

I started first by describing my school days which I miss so much. Many of my current friends think that I hate sports. But I was not always like that. Long back, during school, I used to play football, cricket, kabbadi, volleyball, kho-kho etc. Also I was involved in all sorts of mischiefs that children commit when they are young and hyperactive like fighting, running, jumping, falling etc. We played Kallanum Policum for almost 8 years continuously. My friend agreed that those days are something he too missed because he used to play them as well.

There are a lot of incidents of my school days that I would like to share and I will be posting about all of them subsequently.

School Days
A reminder of the good old days…

When we compare our school days with our present life, most of the time the weltschmerz sets in. It is true that we can’t have that life again. But there are certain parts of it that can still be part of our present life. It is just that we don’t bother to include them. It is one of those that I wanted to discuss with him. The physical aspect.

I started my description of school days with some weird games that we used to play which he was not aware of.

The first game I explained was called “Dhaaba Dhoobi.”  It was introduced by the North Indians in our class. The game starts by creating a ball using paper, plastic and rubber band. It is smaller than a cricket ball. Then we team up. And we will throw this ball at the ass of any of the guys in the other team. And then they will try to throw back. It pains nicely when it hits hard and people run around to avoid being hit. We played this game from about 4th to 8th standard. Four years of exhilarating experience playing the great Dhaaba Dhoobi!

My friend commented that this game was gay. I just laughed because there were more at my disposal awaiting description.

Keeping what he commented in mind, I started with the next game which we called “Ba Ba Ba.” Actually the term originated from my brother and I used it to name this game. It was a fighting game of the wrestling genre. The winner wins by making the loser’s ass touch the ground. So everybody tries to force his opponent to sit on the ground. Initially it was hand on the ground but the rule was later changed and hand was replaced by ass. This was played for about a year or two between 5th and 7th standards.

Wrestling
This is how we used to win in Ba Ba Ba!

Again my friend asked whether I was gay and I told him that we didn’t know that such a thing called gay existed back then.

Anyway, I started with the third game . It was more intricate than the previous ones and only existed for about a year during the 6th standard. It was named again by the North Indians as “Ghoda Gaadi”. As the name suggests, there was a horse involved. But not a real horse. A guy will assume the role of a horse and another guy will assume the role of the soldier who sits on the horseback. Teams are divided and the horse-soldier pair of one team has to fight with the horse-soldier pair of the opposite team.

An example of the Human Horse
The Ghoda Gaadi looks similar to this

Winning or losing was depended upon whether the pair fell down or whether the soldier climbed down his horse before the fight ended. I learned about the power of momentum long before it was taught from this game though I didn’t know that it was called momentum. This game belonged to the hand fighting genre because the legs were held by the horse to prevent the soldier from falling.

My horse was Naveen and I named him Chetak after I got “inspired” by a Vinod Khanna movie. We had comparable sizes but he was stronger than me. We were a very famous pair because we used to win most of the time despite our small size compared to our competitors. The mystery was in the physics involved which we subconsciously exploited. This was particularly true when we fought against Sandeep-Shyamlal pair(yeah, there was another Sandeep). This Sandeep was strong and stout but Shyamlal was thin. Both were taller than me. Sandeep was Shyamlal’s horse.

Initially we used to lose the fights until I found a way around. What I did was, I will grab Shyamlal when he approaches and ask Naveen to rotate. Once we reach a sufficient speed and I start feeling the centripetal force, I simply let Shyamlal go and the pair will move under their own momentum to their inevitable fall.

This game was fun but often ended up being a real fight if the losers don’t admit defeat. I had tried biting my opponents a couple of times but then when the opponents too started doing it, I stopped.

Sandeep said that it was a very weird game. I told him that out of the three, I liked “Ba Ba Ba” and “Ghoda Gaadi”.  He commented again saying that I liked the gay ones because they were all about ass. Anyway I didn’t care what he said because those games were the best we ever played in school.

Then there were general fights in the class, in the ground, in the bus stops and practically anywhere we found “fightable”. There were two main teams in our class. The Hindi Team and Malayalee Team. And the Malayalee team had two factions viz Rijith Team and Binil Team. From 5th Standard Harilal took over Binil Team. All these teams fight for every other reason they have. There were occasional jumps that people did from one team to another following a dispute. Often these kind of disputes were settled in “the ancient way”. A one-on-one fighting tournament takes place with the team members standing around encouraging the fight.

An example of a School Fight
An example of a School Fight

There was a competence to fight and win when we were in teams. We used to send spies in order to find out the strategy of the other team before the PT period so that we can have an edge over them in football or cricket.

Football disputes were sometimes settled by the cane of Paulose sir if it reached him. Since cricket was played after the school timings, disputes were settled by ourselves.

The reason I wanted to talk about all this violence is because there is something we lack now a days. The fighting spirit. We lock ourselves in air-conditioned rooms in front of computers trying to make a living. It is not that we shouldn’t do that. But we hardly go outside and play. We don’t engage ourselves in combat. The reason I took over martial arts training at 16 was because I wanted to get that fighting spirit back. I still go to my instructor’s place and get some practice whenever I have time.

The fighting spirit is something we need to have throughout our lives. It is a fundamental nature of us. In the olden days people got involved in physical activities throughout their lives. But now it is different and it is that aspect that one should nurture. We need to regain that spirit which has been lost in the ravages of time!

A Yardstick to Remember…..

Drinks Menu
The menu I described looks something like this!

On February 2008, I went to meet a friend of mine who happened to reside in a different city. We went out to many places and in the evening at the dinner table of a famous restaurant at the heart of that city, we were given two menus. One was for food and the other one was for liquor. I jokingly said that I need to order white wine. She immediately snapped saying, “Pleasant! If you order anything from that menu, I will never ever talk to you again!

I just smiled but something within me said that I shouldn’t order drinks because it will hurt her feelings and I didn’t order anything from that menu. Even for a long time after that incident, I didn’t feel like drinking because whenever I thought of it, her face came to my mind. She never liked people who drank and a few months later, there was a retrospect of this incident and she mentioned that probably it is because of the strength of our relationship that I refrained from drinking for that long. (Why I took up drinking again later on is a different story.)

Almost two years later, I mentioned this incident at the lunch table to my father. He started pulling my legs in her name immediately. I told him that it is not what he thinks and that we are just good friends. He was still making fun of me. Later my mom returned from school and asked what was going on. My dad started the leg pulling again. He said that either this girl is a true friend of Pleasant or she has some strong feelings for him. I said probably it is the former. He then asked me to read the essays of Sir Francis Bacon. He said that those essays describe the characteristics of a true friend.

Image of Sir Francis Bacon

A Portrait of Sir Francis Bacon

I read the essays and learned a lot of theoretical aspects of friendship. But that is not the subject of my post today. Today’s post is about another quote of mine. Just like any other quote, it came out instantly during a conversation. Let me describe the incident. This August, I went out with one of my close friends to a pub near Atlantis. It is called Silica and it is one of the best drinking destinations in Kochi.

Mojito is my favorite cocktail. It tastes so good and you can actually drink a lot of it without passing out. I liked it ever since I first tasted it at OPM Dance Bar in Chennai. Anyway we ordered two Mojito and started chatting. Just then a guy came and sat at the sofa on the other side. About 10 minutes later, a girl wearing yellow churidar, arrived and walked towards this guy. While passing us, she gave me a quick stare. There was this friend of mine who studied with me in KV. He was a ladies man and he taught me that whenever a girl stares at you, just stare back at her the same way.

Her gesture reminded me of his advice and I also returned a stare of the same degree. She had an average looking face. But she was fair and moderately plump with fantastic assets. Anyway, after we exchanged stares, she went and sat with the other guy. Unfortunately, there was a wall preventing me from having a full view but I was still able to see the girl. I was happy because who wants to see the guy anyway? Once they ordered drinks, they started getting busy.

Mojito

Mojito - My Favorite Cocktail!

My friend was frustrated because he was not able to see any of these. After two rounds of mojito, my friend wanted to order something else. He ordered a different cocktail made of Kiwi Fruit and vodka. I got to taste it too. It was too sweet, so I continued with mojito.

My friend and I went to the same GRE coaching center “The Chopras”. So we were talking about the life in US and the universities we chose etc. He mentioned that he liked me very much because of my outlook towards life which in his opinion was different from others. He said that I am a person who spreads positive radiation. The only thing he didn’t approve of was my atheist point of view but more importantly since I am a good person, it was okay with him. I just smiled impressed by his sincere praise. I said sincere because there is an old adage which states that a drunk person cannot lie.

He liked my helpful attitude when it came to sharing useful information. I said that I didn’t like the attitude of our contemporary society regarding sharing information. It is true that we need to search for the information we want. But it is not good, if someone asks a question and we show attitude saying “why can’t you search?”. My point of view is that, if I have a useful information in my brain that can be helpful to others and also the time to explain it and that the information is not private or secret, then I should explain it rather than saying “please don’t mind, but you are supposed to search”. Only in extreme situations I ask people to do the search themselves. And it makes sense too. We learned in 5th grade that knowledge increases by sharing and I kind of follow that principle as much as I can.

Friendship

Friendship - An undefined relation!

The more we drank, the more he continued to praise me. The conversation then moved to relationships. He asked me whether I had ever loved someone. I told him that I had on multiple occasions. I was not in a mood to explain everything. Hence I gave a brief account of my past attempts to build relationships with women. From my conversation he understood that I don’t like feminazis. In fact he learned that I don’t actually like many of the new fangled forms of relationships in our society. I delineated many aspects of our evolving society which are currently undergoing a paradigm shift.

This prompted him to ask me what sort of relationship do we have between us and off came the answer from me “We should not define relationship. Because the moment we define, it will lose its beauty.” I said that there is no yardstick to measure the depth of a relationship. It is just what it is. He said, “Damn! You rock man!” and appreciated my philosophical point of view.

We finished our drinks and paid the check. I took a last glimpse of the love birds sitting on the other side before leaving. While returning home, I realized that there was a smile at the corner of my lips. And I knew that it was a smile of satisfaction that the nectar of the dreaming flower has again proven to be food for thought for another person!

My quotes…

Shakespeare – The master of quotes!

We don’t have to be Shakespeare or Shelly to quote something. We just have to be thinkers. Often we don’t realize the stuff that comes out of our mouths. We tend to forget them. But there are certain quotes that came out of my mouth that I remember clearly because I have heard my friends using them at a later point of time citing me as the originator of those quotes. Anyway, without much babble, let me give you a few of them. They are of course not literary gems because I am not a literary lapidary! I have also made the effort to recall the year and the person to whom I was speaking to when I made that quote.

It is logical to be emotional but it is not emotional to be logical.“(In October 2010, while thinking about an argument I had with one my college mates.)

It is not mandatory that we need to live. But because we are alive, we think that it is.” (In 2010, on a chat with my friend Kislay Komal in GTalk.)

We should not define a relationship. Because the moment we define, it will lose its beauty.” (In 2010, during a conversation with my friend Ajay Jose at Silica Pub at Atlantis.)

Of course be like water and adapt to the situation you are in but always beware not to get frozen or vaporized in the process.” (In 2010. A thought that crossed my mind when I was thinking about adaptability and tolerance.)

Teacup – The entity that holds the tea together!

Life without control is like a tea without a teacup.” (In 2010 on a conversation with a psychotherapist named Gladys Leon. I met her in a train on my way to Trivandrum. We had a very pleasant conversation for over three hours.)

By all means be a free thinker, but not a freak thinker.” (In 2010. An idea that came up in my mind when I was angry at a so called free thinker who is actually a freak thinker.)

Equivocation is the bastion of the disoriented and miserable.” (In 2010 while having a Facebook debate with a woman.)

Worse than telling a joke is explaining it.” (In 2005 on a conversation with a lady friend of mine whose name I don’t wish to reveal as of now.)

It is better to be a coward than pretending to be brave.” (In 2004 on a conversation with my friend Narayanan Namboothiri when he dared me saying that I am a coward.)

Open mindedness debunked!

Image of Open Mindedness
Open Mindedness

This is a phenomenon found in the contemporary society. People try to look open minded when they are not. They call people who don’t approve their point of view as irrational. But are they rational? Insularity is everywhere. If we show open mindedness in one aspect, we will be extremely close minded in another.

As an atheist, I would like to analyse this situation outside the realm of religion and look at various aspects of life as they are.

Image of Moral Relativism by Steven Lukes
Moral Relativism by Steven Lukes

Is morality relative? Why is my right your wrong? Do we derive our morality from religion? Why is it that people in metropolitan cities lead a hedonistic lifestyle when compared to their counterparts in villages?

I intend to answer these questions in this post. Individuality is the new norm of our society. People are intolerant of others who even slightly hint that they have a different point of view. Egotism is at its peak. People believe that their existence is unique and supreme. At least in theory, no one is supposed to dislike what others are doing.

If that be so, then why don’t we condone crime? After all it is right in the view of the person committing the crime. For instance, why do we say murder is wrong?  What do you mean by wrong? On what basis do we classify crimes? I don’t personally like crimes. But I do not know why I do not like these. It is just that I find them repulsive. So does many other people. But if that is kind of acts some people choose to do, then why doesn’t our conscience allow us to accept them? Where does our open mindedness hide when confronted with people like these?

Image of Wall Street
Wall Street – A place where money is God!

The contemporary society is blinded because all people want is wealth and pleasure. It is money and sex that drives the world, not God. Corporate moguls exploit their employees to gain profit. Media moguls exploit female sexuality to gain profit. I don’t think that people who are exploited enjoy being exploited. It is just that they don’t seem to have any other choice.

It looks as if we are in a liberal society. But we are not. We are slaves to our own convictions. We are slaves to what the society at large considers to be true. We revere people in the red carpet industry. Why do we do that? It is because we covet their lifestyle. We crave for what they have that we don’t.

Image of Relationships and Cheating
Relationships and Cheating!

We see spouses cheating on each other. We shouldn’t be biased on sexuality because it is the choice of people to lead their on lifestyle. If that is the case, then why do people get married at all? A lot of people compare their spouse with their previous partners thereby creating a crack in an otherwise happy relationship. Is that what we are supposed to do? Where is sacrifice that was prevalent in traditional marriages? We cannot rule out the possibility of our partner or ourselves having sex before marriage. But why compare our spouse with others? Aren’t we supposed to love them and accept them for who and what they are?

In one of my previous posts I had written than it is one of the most difficult things to do in this world. Accepting others for who and what they are. My own experience testify that people are not following this concept. They just blabber that they do.

Image of Myth Busted
Myth Busted!

Open mindedness is a myth. It is relative to what a person thinks is right. Nothing beyond that! The advent of computers have been proven to affect our minds. Our interactions with machines will certainly be one of the causes of our own destruction. Technology is a boon as well as a bane. It is driving intolerance in the minds of young people who are supposed to be the future of humanity. Where is compassion, empathy and sympathy? Are our kids going to even see these words in future?

I seriously doubt it!

Sources:
Attached to technology and paying a price
Are we becoming an intolerant society?

Lack of apt expressions!

Lack of apt expressions can be though of as a great source of frustration among people. I recently saw a movie in which a psychiatrist explains expressiveness. He says, if we are angry, we have to express it. If we are sad, we have to express it. Same thing applies to happiness, determination and all sorts of other emotions we have. But, it can be fatal to a relationship if we don’t contain those expressions within socially acceptable limits. Hence the term “apt expression”.

Coming back to the topic, we are remarkably intolerant of others now a days. We fail to express ourselves properly and we get irritated when someone else expresses. I recall incidents were people have displayed silly attitude which are are carcinogenic to the mind. It becomes a cancer and eats the whole psyche. In fact I know a friend of mine who has been the victim of her own psychic cancer.

Are we biologically evolved to be selfish? I think we are. That is a survival instinct. But as Dr. Dawkins mentioned in his remarkable book “The Selfish Gene”, there is something called meme which is a unit of social awareness that also evolves overtime. And that meme has brought more insight into our minds than ever before. We are now able to surpass our own biological predispositions in order to have total control over our lives and our future.

But does this ability that evolved for the survival of society will eventually cut at the roots of humanity? May be if we let the meme evolve in anyway it likes. Am I prejudiced? I think yes and everyone I know are prejudiced one way or the other. The difference is that I admit it and others don’t. And that brings us back to the beginning of the discussion. Are we really expressing ourselves?

I must let the readers know that it is perfectly okay to be prejudiced. What is not okay is to express the prejudice in manners that are not acceptable. You can express your prejudice in subtle languages that others can accept. Thinking that another person will be offended and not expressing ourselves is unhealthy. It does not mean that we should blurt out at others in public. May be we can have a private conversation on the phone so that no one else has to know.

Expressions can have negative effects and are highly volatile if not handled properly. We were taught about adult ego during our personality development training program. It speaks about maintaining proper composure while talking to people. Whether this is practical or not is something I leave to the readers. But mind you, there are civilizations on Earth where people do follow etiquettes of respecting one another and obviously that civilization is not part of the Indian subcontinent.

End of Friendship?

The Wikipedia article on Friendship quotes the following statement by Patricia M Sias and Heidi Bartoo: “Friendship network is a behavioral vaccine that protects health and mental health”. They say that good friends encourage their friends to lead more healthy lifestyles, to seek help and access services, when needed, to enhance their friend’s coping skills in dealing with illness and other health problems and/or actually affect physiological pathways that are protective of health.

However, recently I noticed that the number of people I can call as close friends or soul mates have decreased. To check whether my observation is true, I asked some people I know about how they feel about it and not surprisingly they came up with the same answer. It was an indication that friendship was on the decline. I needed data to corroborate this and went through the Internet reading many articles some of which I have quoted at the end of this post.

Based on those links, the following could be reasons for this decline:

  • Dependence on family as a safety net
  • Dependence on a partner or spouse
  • Psychological and physiological regression
  • Attitude towards sexuality; especially homosexuality
  • Advent of the digital age which increased the hours spent on computers and internet
  • Patterns in the corporate work culture which increased the time spent at the workplace
  • Path dependency causing behavior to follow paths of countless decisions
  • Attitude towards atheism?
  • Intolerance and misunderstandings
  • Other miscellaneous reasons

These are not my opinions but I think my own views would fall into any of these. Friendship in my opinion has come down to the state of people being just acquaintances. And in the years to come, it is going to get worse. As Prof. Dawkins said: “People are remarkably intolerant”. And this remarkable intolerance is the byproduct of a rat race for which we ourselves are responsible. I don’t think social networking is doing anything other than being a medium of keeping people “in-touch”. And this “in-touch” which I define as “Internet-Touch” is not going to build any strong relation beyond casual acquaintances.

I do have a huge network of friends but how many will ever bother to come and see me if I am bedridden leaving all the others things aside? How many will I visit if I know that they are bedridden? The answer is close to zero! Recently I attended a marriage of one my college mates and I could feel the discomfort among my old friends who gathered there. None of them seemed to be happy that they got a chance for a get together and I did not have a clue why. May be they left their minds in their offices and came just for the heck of it.

According to C S Lewis, historically, friendship seemed to be the the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few ‘friends’. But the very tone of the admission, and the sort of acquaintanceship which those who make it would describe as  ‘friendships’, show clearly that what they are talking about has very little to do with that ‘Philía’ which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that ‘Amicitia’ on which Cicero wrote a book.

As I mentioned before, one of the reasons why we stay healthy is our relationships with others. If we tend to become loners  because we belong to a “modern society” where “individuality” is more important or “cool”, well I am afraid my friends, we are doomed. I cannot help thinking that we are heading towards creating a society where nobody would bother to use the word friend since it would have lost its meaning by then.

Any positive and negative comments are welcome.

Sources:

Wikipedia on Friendship
Article by
Dr. Henning Bech
Depression and
friendship

Article by
Janet Kornblum

Article by
Sebastian Mallaby

Friendship on
decline

Friendship under threat
Social networking
and friendship

Do good fences make good neighbors?

The subject of today’s post emanates from the idea of a poet of international fame. A 20th century American poet, Robert Frost wrote a poem “Mending Wall” which unveiled various social concepts prevailing in the world until then. The poem is a symbolic interpretation of the modern situation where national boundaries are fast disintegrating giving place to an international understanding, though at the same time, in certain quarters, militant nationalism is also showing up its head, thus cutting at the very roots of internationalism. The seeming paradox is at the root of human existence. If that be so, the predominant question that arises for consideration will revolve around a few points.

First, we must maintain self respect and respect others in the fullest measure. Second, we must keep our integrity and individuality and try to realize that others also have these traits. Third, as far as possible we must not interfere in the affairs of others unless we are requested for to interfere with. Fourth, what you expect of others will be expected of you by others and you should have the awareness of the same. The great leader, Mahatma Gandhi has said that he would welcome the culture of others but at the same time will not allow others to uproot his own. This is applicable in the case of an individual, family, society, nation or the world at large. If the above attitudes are maintained, it will make the social interaction easy and meaningful.

Now regarding the topic, I must say that a fence whether it is good or bad is meaningless because fences can separate but cannot have a harmonious unity. What is important is the conditioning of the mind of people rather than external barriers. Barriers are meant for people who tend to disobey. The national and international borders are meant to safeguard against those who violate natural principles. Therefore what is important is a harmonious understanding. Be it two neighbors, two individuals, to nations or two sets of nations.

Fencing in a vast field of vegetation can be useful for preventing stray animals. It may not be stretched to human beings of developed nations. Fences are burdensome. They are not to be thrust upon people. This post continues its quest to melt the barriers that separate humans just as the previous one did. I ardently oppose the concept of fencing for the welfare and well being of a civilized humanity.

When it all began!

It was a warm evening in 1989. I asked a question to my mom about the way the Earth-Sun system works. She spoke about Copernicus and Galileo and the Solar System. She told about how much they sacrificed their lives to let the world know that what the church preached was wrong. I was just five years old but the impression stayed in my mind. Her description of how the day and night occurs was fabulous. She took a plastic ball and demonstrated how the Earth moves. She said that the Earth does not move around the Sun like motorcycle but rather it spins on its axis.Then she spoke about bacteria and as per her description, in “my world”, it was the smallest thing I could imagine. Especially when she told that a single dot can have millions of bacteria in it. But I still thought I could see them. I was seven when I learned from her that there is something called atom. I asked her what an atomic bomb is and that’s how she explained what an atom is and how scientists split it in order to cause Hiroshima and Nagasaki.I was impressed by that. I wanted to know more about it. I remember cutting down a grain of boiled rice using a knife to the smallest possible size and taking it to her saying that I found the atom. She smiled and said that it is far smaller than that. Something which I cannot see.

I was disappointed.

But I was determined to know more. I learned when I was 11 years old that the atom had an internal structure. Long before it was taught in school. I was fascinated by the world of the subatomic and I knew I had to know more.

I wandered around in the school library reading books on it. Fortunately I had a two close friends with whom I could discuss the subject. We used to discuss both the microscopic and macroscopic realms.

I then set up my own laboratory at home at the age of 13 and started doing chemical experiments. I think that is where it all began. The scientist within me was born and the curiosity continues till date!

PS: The titles “Emptiness and Form ” and “The Cosmic Dance” are not mine. I copied it from “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra. A book that has inspired me a lot.