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रटंत विद्या

May 29, 2010 1 comment

रटत घोटत जुग भया, लिया न मौलिक ज्ञान;

संगणक इस संसार में सारे, बचा न एक इंसान|

तत्त्व तत्त्व छाडी रहे, अंकों में उलझे बिद्वान;

हर उल्लू लक्ष्मी को धाये, चाहे जगत प्रमाण|

अज्ञानी, फकीर हैं हम, यही है परम ज्ञान;

फूस छांट बंधू मेरे, सरस्वती को पहचान|

जो यह मूल धर्म पहचाने, करे जगत कल्याण;

कहत पार्थ सुनो भाई साधो, वही होवे महान||

– संतासुर पार्थ “फुक्कड़”

Categories: Human Behaviour, Poetry Tags: , ,

The Trivialisation of Communication – Part 1

December 8, 2009 1 comment

Few would disagree that one of the most decisive moments in human history was the appearance of languages. In my opinion, it stands right besides the evolution of the bipodal homo erectus, the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel. It changed the very essence of human existence from being about survival, to being about something beyond that: the birth of languages changed how a human society is formed. The transition from the hunter gatherer groups of the Neanderthal man to the farming groups of homo sapiens could not have happened if even one of these key ingredients was missing.

I have spent a long time wondering about the magical evolution of languages and cultures and societies. The alchemy produced by the interactions of these elements of the human world is breathtaking to say the very least. Words are the building blocks of languages. A society is built by the interaction of it’s constituents and this interaction in turn defines the society. Each of these elements thus defines the other. For someone who respects languages, a respect for words develops naturally. One understands that the communication has a purpose and that every word must justify itself. Their significance can be gauged by looking at the fact that ‘vachan’, hindi for ‘word’, is also the word for promise. In the Sanatan epic, Ramayana, wise words spoke of the ‘reeti’ or norm of Raghukul (Lord Ram’s lineage): ‘Raghukul reet Sada chali aayi, praan jaayi par vachan na jaayi’; translated, those from Raghukul can lay their lives to stand by their words. It is one of the few guiding principles of my life.

But this is no Satyug or Tretayug or Dwaparyug (Eras acording to Sanatan theology), this here is the Kalyug. Over the ages, not only did men lose such principles but also the understanding of the implications that words have. Words that may hurt people, words that may distance people, words that may kill people. What is important is the end result, the process of the communication itself is ignored, as is the connections implied or the impacts it has on the other elements of the societal construct.
There would be those amongst my readers who remember sending Telegrams. Kids like me were taught how to write telegrams in school. We’d learnt that each word must be weighed for it’s importance because each word was worth money. That was the only incentive that people understand in Kalyug is money so that worked for a while.

Claude Elwood Shannon and his elaborate and erudite works on the theory of communication have volumes on the lines that every bit takes up bandwidth and therefore must be justified. For the longest time it did hold true. Enter Web 2.0 and the generation spawning out of the cross interference of popcorn microwaves and cellular signals. Every idiot now has unlimited 140 characters to propound his personal philosophy. Speech became a freedom with no sense of any duty let alone balls to own up to it or stand by ones words. Aisi baani boliye, man ka aapa khoye, auran ko seetal kare, aapahun seetal hoye. Sant Kabir would be appalled to find what men are doing with their speech these days.

But it is neither the frivolity nor the acerbic nature of what is being written that worries me. Trivialization of communication worries me because it is the focus has shifted from the predicate to the subject. In a society where speech is trivialized the vociferous and the verbose often pass by as the thinkers. And when a society loses it’s thinkers it marks the beginning of it’s end. When the subject assumes significance over the predicate, the progression of thoughts into actions changes as well. What implications does it have for the human society?

(to be continued)

The Social Web is Narcissistic

August 28, 2008 2 comments

…and at its heart is an Egotist – You.

Disclaimer: The thoughts about this article are still extremely hazy and maybe I’ll refine it in some time but I think this deserves some thought. This is an Old Draft but I still decided to publish it.

Ajay, a friend and a mentor @ work and I were having our regular cup of coffee this afternoon when it all started. For long have I been asking him to get onto the Social Web and he has been reluctant about it for no declared reason. The guy has a Twitter Id which he barely uses citing excuses of wanting to avoid an addictive distraction – something I can’t refute; and uses no other networking service. Well today, I got him talking, nudging him to point what he sees wrong with the Web as it has become. To set some context, We’ve both long wondered that there is something seriously wrong with the way the world is headed; I have been optimistic about the Web, thus far.

“Well”, Ajay said, “it promotes unjust Narcissism.” And then i realized the direction his reluctance was coming from… Both Ajay and I are severely Narcissistic guys – We Still believe we are the centers of universe and the Sun revolves around us. Not the world, just a few of us… But it isn’t Narcissism at a personal level, it is narcissism at a mass level that should raise a concerning eyebrow – Because it promotes Amateurism at a mass level. And Narcissistic Noobs is something most of us can’t put up with and shouldn’t, to be true.

The Social Web, is built around the construct of ‘Me’. It is an immediate instance of the act of Consumption of the Self. There is this need for this ‘Me’ to be consumed – in all forms. (More in this direction later). An old observation of mine on similar lines came when I was wondering about the Testimonials on the social sites. No matter who this ‘Me’ is, there are people to promote ‘Me’, to vouch for ‘Me’, who think ‘Me’ is good, great, fantabulous. ‘Me’ is happy, and ‘Me’ genuinely believes he is great and this continues. Eventually this leads to a degeneration of the Web – let alone Information, most content isn’t even Data for me, just Noise.

Despite all of this, I still believe Web 2.0 promises me a great way of information discovery. In potential, I can control exactly what I let seep through to me, what I allow myself to expose myself to. It will all start with amateurism, but I feel Amateurs at some point of time will evolve, those who don’t will perish. Eventually, the fittest will survive. Ajay doesn’t quite agree with me; Natural Selection scares him – Amateurs will promote Amateurs and the circle of the thoughtful will be left tiny and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I’m hoping I get to see him wrong on this.

Do you feel the Web 2.0 Shall evolve to a sea of information or do you think Noise will inundate the information by far?

Pitches, Balls and a Full Circle

May 20, 2008 3 comments

The Indian National Fetish of a Sport – Cricket; has come a full circle, not just metaphorically but in actuality.

It makes a very interesting case to put under the viewing glass so to speak. Pun intended. A sport that originated as an entertainment format, mostly popular amongst our Imperial Masters; infact one of the chief contributions of ‘The Raj’ to the nation, has returned to its roots – entertainment.

In the olden days of The Raj, we would have Gora Sahibs – settled, visiting, delegating; their days through the warmth (both social and climatic) of the subcontinent. They would have the Bhooras and the Kacharas and the Bhuwans all around them spend their time working deriliously through the heat while they would play a little, chit chat a little, screw a little (probably a lot), drink lemonade and repeat. Bliss. Entertainment at the very core.

As colonials however, the British did great good by first setting a legacy, then leting it permeate so deep into the society that inherently all their colonies became second Homes of the Queen. Soon we had nations playing it… and Not a couple of thousand square miles of land but a Full subcontinent, and just as many more – captured by frenzy of what their Gora Sahib’s did, we all picked up a Bat and a Ball and there we were! Now it just so happens that as a race, we’ve always been decidedly dedicated and serious about our stuff… If it be entertainment, then so be it! Nothing wrong with it… just what we are; a bunch of very serious people.

Of course, no master could tolerate their slaves bettering them! I mean, how sad does Captain Russell Look when Bhuwan Beats Him! Bhuwan – you did bad, you agitated the Brits. Come on Man! He had a potential girlfriend watching and you made him look bad… Not Good Manners. But more on that later.;

Enter Cricket as a sport.

So, all the cricket playing nations got into it – this time as a sport. With zest. With Vengeance. And Cricket became not just a sport but a passion so unparalleled that it belittled every other sport. Before we knew it, we were doing it all over the place. In gullies, in little rooms, on roads, in schools… every where you could have space to swing two arms. Naturally, this does to Cricket what Brazil does to Football! Everyone makes the sport sportier, more passionate, more involved. Streets would run empty when there was a big sporting rivalry! Nothing above Pride in this country after all.

Enter Me. And I inherited all of it. Before i knew how to tie my shoes, i knew how to swing a Bat. Maybe not well, but thats the entire Brain thing inside my head, which is oh so obvious and needs no mention… it had to be balanced by little less skill for playing Cricket. So then I did what 98% of India, that plays mediocrely does – Watch cricket. Live Cricket. Worship Cricket.

Down the line, actually before this entire scheme of me coming in and spoiling the fun; there were people who were born with such prowess that they knew they were special at the sport. That’s when it became a game. A Game where there were a few Good Men. And wherever there are Good Men, there is bound to be some stakes… In a fast commercializing world, all games were HUGE pots of Moolah! That was when some people realised, the wise ones ofcourse that people are so emotionally involved with it that they would invest moolah! And thus started Betting in the game, on the players, over the teams, fighting for the winner!

Now, i was a kid then but i wasn’t actually Naive to the entire scheme, but then I wasn’t averse to the idea of people making moolah over some thing that i actually worshipped; Pujaaris do that anyways! But then there was the prospect of More Money – by controlling the Betting. eh? Fix it, man!

And fine men, men i respected, those I devoted 9 hours just to watch play came on this route. I was 15, I guess. Some retired, some died mysteriously, the others just stumbled to appear clean. But the facade of naivete was broken. I gave up this religion.

Then there was a time of dismal interest in the game, general dishevelment I guess, there are bound to have been more like me who turned from staunchly religious to agnostic as regarded their stand on cricket – after all, why spend 9 hours on something that someone already knows all about! Naah…

Then there was Mandira Bedi. And Her… lets just say Sarees. For those who realised, that was Glam, entering Cricket. Cricket became more than a game, it became a TRP war… and all is fair in love and war.

Circa 2008. Enter IPL. Cricket goes back to where it came from. A form of entertainment; unparalleled as a moolah generating factory; unequivocally strong as a TRP Hoarder; Dazzlingly glamourous to the ever-willing-for-titilation audience.

Entertainment – Sport – Passion – Religion – Game – War – Entertainment. Everything that has a Beginning… Has an end. (Thank you Wachowsi Brothers)

Games People Play

December 9, 2007 1 comment

Have seriously changed. I remember spending my childhood playing Monopoly (& it’s Indian Version – Business/Vyapaar); Scotland Yard; Scrabble… The first time I played a game on a computer was probably when I was in my mid teens – Wolf 3D. In my late teens I did graduate to a compulsive ‘digital’ gamer and remained that through out my college life. Even after life became busy with work & shit; I still try to go back & play me some good games whenever I can.But this thread of thought started last weekend when Patel, Dey, Makka (Read three weirdoes) & I (read four weirdoes) went out in an act of desperation to find an intriguing, relaxing yet stimulating way to spend time; and ended up playing Monopoly for 12 hours. We introduced our own quirky ‘mods’ to the game, the details of which I shall conveniently reserve for another post sometime after i’ve had more thought.What bothers me is that these immensely fun Board Games (along with several others) are no longer of any kids interest. These games were structured along the idea of Family Entertainment & did they do the job! Today the only paradigm of gaming that I see is the digital one; age no bar, sex no bar. The wierd games of the early childhood that the elderly used to concoct to keep children busy; The Board games of yesteryears; The idea of bringing in a group of people & letting them be in control of the game while having fun: Gone.More on this when I have structured my thoughts. 

Pride and Sensibility

November 4, 2007 1 comment

As one grows old; time accelerates for him so this may be a disconnect for many but i can’t remember when was it last that I saw people with a sense of pride in someone/thing or a sense of self-respect… hmm… can’t remember… query returns zero records. It used to do at some point of time when I was younger… probably in college.
When did people stop understanding that one should have self-respect and take pride in what ever one thinks is worth and not the other way round, which is the way it is these days – be proud of yourself and respect what you think is worth? The subject of the two issues have completely changed somewhere and this happened like Global warming! I was alive and have seen it happen! Maybe time has really accelerated; for i wasn’t around for the other events which changed us as a society, as a culture, as a race…
The issue is Since people these days have have no self-respect, it makes them forget that others do and they need to respect others even if not themselves! Likewise, if the subject of your pride is yourself, all you are concerned about is yourself! This is the source of all objectification.
Drive on any of our urban roads and you can easily notice this change. You are too proud to stop at a red light, too proud to let a guy on a bike overtake your Santro (and you add that disrespectful scorn too), too proud to respectfully allow that old gentleman to cross the road before you… And you cuss at all of them: “Hey Oaf! You could’ve crossed the crossroad by jumping the signal! Now because of you, my and my santro are gonna have to wait another signal! Damn You!”.
There was a time when i used to think that it’s consumerism that is responsible for this… for commoditising the nation and the world in general… having seen people from several other cultures, specially the commercial ones, I am rested that consumerism (Capitalism, in general too) is no where to blame for this. Everyone of the individuals from the capitalistic society (we are still capitalizing… with a burden of Democracy to drag around, the great Indian bird is usually too slow to respond to phenomenon, unless it’s a matter of life or death… heck, skip that too, we are the slowest with those.) that i’ve met has immense self respect and the same shows to others around them. The same applies to their sense of pride as well.
A question comes to my mind, and please do note that this is just a thought, no offence intended or implied… What history does America have to boast of? and yet they are all proud of their heritage, even if it be a 200 year old building. A stark contrast is posed by our country – a HUGE heritage to boast of and yet no one takes pride in it!
Have we really lost things worthy of being proud of? Has life for the average urban citizen become so unfair that he considers nothing worth his respect? What marked this change and what caused us to degenerate to such garbage?
I’m sure, we have them all around us, things that we can all deem need respect and things that we all must be proud of, both in the collective sense and at the individual level; how, is what befuddles me.
I don’t need to expidite either now and I’m sure you’ve understood exactly what I mean. The question i am searching for an answer is; Before we get anywhere, are we sure we are going the right way?

The Machinist Men

February 27, 2007 Leave a comment

There’s a wierd joy in beating a Machine, what kind or why I know naught. It seems stupid that someone beat an inimate object but the satisfaction nevertheless is immense. I, for lots of reasons work in parallel on two computers and still spend time waiting for them to respond and it gives me kind of an excitement, a perception that I’m working faster than a machine. I have seen similar exhillaration with men (I’m not a male chauvinist, simply saving the time spent in two extra key strokes. Now I realize the sheer Irony of the idea, nevertheless) who can calculate faster than a calculator or something of that sort. Banal but wierd. Any Ideas?

Categories: Human Behaviour, Self