Oct 1, 2015

My thoughts on the concept of nationalism

This is primarily inspired by the concepts of the historian Yuval Harari, the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind + skim readings on the internet.

George Carlin said this: "I could never understand ethnic or national pride. Because to me, pride should be reserved for something you achieve or attain on your own, not something that happens by accident of birth. Being Irish isn't a skill, it's a f*cking genetic accident. You wouldn’t say "I’m proud to be 5"11". I’m proud to have a predisposition for colon cancer." So why would you be proud to be Irish, or proud to be Italian, or American or anything?"

Yes, nationalism is loyalty to something that we did not have any choice in attaining. I think it is inherently dangerous.

The Free Dictionary defines it as follows:

Nationalism (n.)

1. Devotion, especially excessive or undiscriminating devotion, to the interests or culture of a particular nation-state.
2. The belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals.
3. The belief that a particular cultural or ethnic group constitutes a distinct people deserving of political self-determination.

In history, nationalism worked as a concept when humans had align together to stay safe, and loyalty to one’s own society made sense. This is not the true anymore, is it?

Problems with it:

- It allows the authority/government to control the country on the premise of national pride.
- It has been, and is still, used as a propaganda tool to manipulate people into buying into the authority/government agenda (e.g., Nazi campaign in WWII. The Iraq/Iran wars, and Russia). So it is primarily used as a tool for controlling entire nations of people.
- It impedes relationship at levels above (international) and critical thinking toward one’s authority/government.
- It encourages xenophobia and racism.

I think loyalty to one’s nation does not have a social meaning. Until we find other planet with intelligent life worms, we should consider life as belonging to Earth. Instead of focusing on how to improve one’s own country, we should be focused on how to improve humanity—and on a wider scale, Earth—as a whole

- http://www.debate.org/debates/Nationalism-good-or-bad/1/
- https://www.quora.com/Is-nationalism-good-or-bad

(PS: If you want to read arguments against it, my literate/educated friends on FaceBook are presenting a whole bunch of counterpoints to this on this thread.)

Jul 7, 2015

Performing in front of an unreceptive audience

Musicians are often requested to play/perform songs in a private party environment where they are basically a part of the party party and are not performing as such for the party. If you are lucky, people can be genuinely interested in your music. Most times, however, they just want a change in the flow of the party up until then. They also want to do something cool – like singing along while someone plays a guitar.

In either situation, you can get interrupted distracted by people being disinterested in the performance or, even worse, loud conversations. As a performing musician, I’m used to such experiences and I modify my performance accordingly. However, if someone else is singing when I’m playing the guitar, they often feel so dejected that they ask me to stop the performance.

There are two things wrong here. People talking when people are playing/performing itself indicates selfishness and lack of respect toward the performers. However, if performers reciprocate by stopping abruptly, they are just being selfish and being unprofessional.

So here’s my suggestion – do not stop in the middle of a song!

So what to do? As a preventive strategy, I wait until it’s the right time (or as late as I possibly can) to bring out the guitar. Once the initial fervor has settled down, I am quick to take the guitar back out of the party floor to avoid such experiences. When these interruptions become annoying, finish the song and slyly get to your drink and get involved in a conversation. If you can guage the audience before starting the song, don’t start it at all.

Once again, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t react to the audience. But please don’t stop midway through a song just because someone is talking loud.

Jul 2, 2015

Welcome to my strange mind

Parties are something that most people with at least a shred of extroversion look forward to. Even I, with my combination of introversion and social reclusiveness lurking in the background, look forward to parties as special gatherings where you find may find avenues for conversation that won't be available in a much more intimate setting.

Three weeks back, J had his birthday party at his apartment. There were about 15 people invited to make merry on the occasion. I was, as is usual in such situations, caught in a dilemma as to how long I should spend time with an individual or a group of individuals in conversations. I guess I want to be always on the move, thanks to a a mixture of my overenthusiastic host-itude, interest to explore options, and my hesitation to expose myself in in-depth conversations.

So I took the opportunity to carry around trays of the famous J cheese/onion dip and the assorted chips that go with it. This gave me options to introduce myself to strangers with warm introductions "Hey, would you like to try some of this? This is the dip that you keep hearing about." This would followed by the obligatory "Oh, you are so kind to bring it to us" and "Oh, wow. This is a very nice dip indeed" comments. Perfect social lubrication, if you ask me.

After hanging out with any particular group for a couple of minutes, I found that it's easy to slither out and seek another group and repeat the social rewards and positive reinforcement. Of course, I also used lines like "Can I pour you another drink?" to repeat the exercise of pleasantly detaching myself from conversations and getting these social rewards in return.

At the end of the night, during a conversation with J, I realized that I had hardly spent any time with people who might have wanted to spend more time with me. People from my workplace were all together in a group, which I paid as little/much attention to that I did to other groups.

I don't often feel like I need to meet people (even my friends) and have conversations with them. In fact, many people, including my dearest friends, have expressed their disappointment at how I don't make time for them. However, on occasions such as this, I often am able to assign myself a purpose/role (as a host and a nice guy), and thus am able to lubricate/sugarcoat these otherwise-daunting interactions.

During and after such parties, I am able to convince myself that spending time with these people is fun. This makes me ephemerally wish that I would have a more prolonged interactions with them at the party on other social occasions. But when it comes to executing this, I make myself so busy with other things that I hardly ever get myself involved in such situations.

Welcome to my mind. It's confusing, I agree. But that's how it works.

Jun 29, 2015

Less clichés, please!

Many of you must have read the news story about the mother of an openly gay man in Mumbai placing a matrimonial add for a suitable groom for her son.

I happen to personally know the son, Harish Iyer, who also happens to be a fellow blogger at The Pregnant Thought. He is very well known as a gay rights advocate. But he is probably even better known as a victim of childhood sexual abuse by his uncle. Although he sometimes comes across as an outspoken individual with a borderline narcissistic personality, his work in the LGBT rights scene is admirable.

Although I haven’t interacted in person with the mother Mrs. Padma Iyer, I have seen on several occasions such as Gay Bombay Parent’s Meets, Pride marches, and of course on television. Again, she deserves to be applauded for her undevoted support to her son’s activism.

So when I heard about the story first, I honestly thought it was a publicity stunt. Why? Because I had just learned that a Brahmin woman put a newspaper advertisement to find a Brahmin groom for her son.

To put things in perspective, gay marriage is not legal in India. In fact, being gay and having a same-sex physical relationship is considered illegal alongside other forms of non-vaginal intercourse. So, honestly, it sounded like a thunderous slap on the faces of the Hindutva brigade.

So I was happy. Why not, I thought? After all, such a story will push LGBT rights issue further into the mainstream and enable dinner conversations about sexual orientation in conservative families.

Of course, I had to grapple with the dichotomy because of the forced conformism aspect—this was an ad for forging a modern/liberal relationship but playing by the rules of the traditional/conservative arranged marriage. Is this not conceding to the perceived fallacies of modern liberated relationships and accepting to the so-called advantages of arranged marriages, which seems to only survive because of the societal/peer pressure?

But then again, this was a joke, wasn’t it? So everything is cool.

Apparently not, thanks to this article.

I did not react well to this.

I did cringe at all the Tam-Bram stereotype references. Harish Iyer finds a suitable boy, and it all just ads up http://t.co/NlNtZihLiF

Let me make my stance clear. I am okay with marriage/civil parternships between any two adult individuals as long as the ceremony consolidates an already established friendship/relationship. I have recently come across a research paper stating that marriages are successful after two to four years of friendship. That seems just about right.

I also think that screening of potential partners by the mutual knowledge likes/dislikes, shared interests/hobbies, and pure physical attributes as inclusion criteria is also fine. But when you add religion/race/caste as exclusion criteria because your family is not okay, it is retrogressive.

This article, however, gives us the impression that not only were Harish and his mom serious about the ad, the entire affair is going to be a copy-paste of the straight Tam-Bram arranged marriage situation. I sincerely hope that this is just the journalist’s hyperbole of the associated clichés.

In the background, however, I hope that this works out of Harish and his groom/partner.

(Photo: from The Hindu)

Jun 24, 2015

Song of the Swan (Play) - a review

I have been living in Mumbai for more than 10 years now, and yet I have not managed to watch many plays. Pretty shameful, indeed.

My friend and colleague had this interesting new-year resolution aspect about watching one play every month. I guess I must have been triggered by it. Plus, one of J’s friends is part of the cast of many plays.

A combination of these two factors has started to have it’s effect, and I have been to three plays that she is acting in in the last two months­­—The Vagina Monologues, Boiled Beans on Toast, and Song of the Swan.

The play is a recollection of stories revolving around the tragic beheading of a Norwegian theater artist, Hans Christian, in Kashmir a few years back. Hans, while chasing his dream of being a successful playwright, visited India because he was attracted by its spirituality. He visited Kerala and took Kathakali lessons from a local master. Then he went to Mumbai, where he accidentally met the Song of the Swan’s director Asad Hussain at Prithvi after a play that Hussain was in the cast of, before heading to Delhi on his way to Kashmir. In Kashmir, he was held captive by Mujahideen for several days before ultimately behind beheaded after failed negotitations.

The entire play was a continuous narrative, with the five-member cast performing the various roles within the various scenes. The transitions between the scenes were abrupt and were startling at times. I often found myself getting lost in the narrative monologues of one character, only to be shaken back to reality by the the almost intrusive entry of the next. Plus, during the more schizoid scenes, there would be two or more characters talking over each other, representing to the chaotic environment inside the minds of the various characters.

Song of the Swan has deep-rooted political and philosophical narratives. The political aspect comes from the obvious terrorism-related story. But the various scenes set in Kashmir near the Dal lake bring the viewer to painful awareness of the struggles of the natives, how they are being played out like Pawns in the game between India and Pakistan, and how they consider themselves as neither nation. The play seems to attribute some empathy to the negotiator representing the Mujahideen, and the narrative of the phone conversations between the two negotiators was an aspect that I have never come across. The most important part, however, is how the state of affairs plays with the sanity of the different players in the Kashmir theater.

The philosophical aspect comes from the fact that Hans, who is described as an absolute gem of a person with many enviable attributes (singing/acting), has had a miserable life, with multiple rejections in different fronts. He was coming from a failed marriage and had been rejected admission in some theater schools. He is lured by the spirituality aspect of India and has this dream of writing a play and getting it on the best theater in Oslo. His mother’s character often wonders if he should have been a more “normal” boy without such big aspirations. I thought that was symbolic of several artist friends that I know (including myself) who seem to struggle because of their seemingly overambitious dreams.

I loved the play. But as my friend rightly says, I’m very pleasable. So although I compeltely recommend it, I also hope that you like it as much as I did.

Jun 19, 2015


I have an idea.

How about inventing a way to enjoy things in life where you spend less time but have the same quality of cognitive experience?

Something like how speed-reading is for reading?

Imagine this:
  • Full-length songs needing only 30 s.
  • South Park episodes needing only 2 min.
  • Game of Thrones episodes needing only 6 min.
  • Full-length movies needing only 15 min.
  • T-20 games requiring only 20 min.
  • Full-length books needing only 1 hour.
  • Working days being only 1.5 hours.
If I could pay for it, I would. Wouldn't you?

Jun 18, 2015

"I’ve outlived my dick" - A Poem - by Willie Nelson

Our genitalia play a vital role in our pride and lives. You may have heard anecdotes from men in the lines of "I go where my cock/dick takes me." I have been in relationships with older men all my life and there are times when their appendages let them down. 
My hilarious friend Dom from New York shared with me this poem about older men this morning.
"I’ve outlived my dick."   
A Poem - by Willie Nelson

My nookie ​days are ove​r
​My pilot light is out.
What used to be my pride and joy,
Is now my water ​spout.

Time was when, on its own accord,
From my trousers it would spring.
But now I've got a full time job,
To find the friggin' thing.

It used to be embarrassing,
The way it would ​behave.
For every single morning,
It would stand and watch me ​​shave.

Now as old age approaches,
It sure gives me the blues.
To see it hang its little head,
And watch me tie my shoes!!