For Absolution – #01

I sat there for a long time. Or for what seemed like a long time to me. Just sat there and stared. At everything. The trees, the weeds, the green leaves, the dead leaves. Hundreds of them scattered all around me. People walked past me, busy, stressed, and unheeding. And I just sat there.

I could feel the blood flowing down my wrist, slowly, and then dripping down into the grass below. It must have rained here, because the soil seemed soft and I could see the red fluid being soaked in. The soil seemed almost thirsty for my blood. As if I was late for some pre-destined meeting and now that I was here, it would take in its share; and more.

I really didn’t feel any pain. Of course the first cut had hurt, the blade hadn’t been that sharp after all. And I did feel weak, but that was to be expected. After all my healthy heart had been pumping so much of my blood out into the open. It was all so ironic. The very pumping that keeps everyone alive was pumping the life out of me.

Stupid heart. As always.

I could feel the dizziness spreading over me. I shifted my hand slightly, glanced at my watch and slid back into my repose. Six thirty and the sun had almost gone down. My blood soaked sleeve felt sticky and cold. For the first time I felt a shred of doubt about what I was doing. Nothing happened.

Just all of a sudden I asked myself, was it my time already? Was this how all was supposed to end?

For me, anyway? But then I realised the answers didn’t matter. I was leaving anyway. Leaving for a place where I hoped the mundane occurrences in the life of an eighteen year old didn’t matter. I remembered a movie, the protagonist dreaming of a place far beyond this realm where the concepts of ‘right and wrong’ and ‘now and then’ didn’t matter.

I knew I was dying, and it was not at all horrific, not in the sense it is always portrayed. For one, I had planned it. It did seem a bit sad; a tad disappointing, but that was all. In that moment I was overwhelmed by the insignificance of my existence. And why not. There are simply so many of us.

By now I had been observing a small sparrow for quite a while. Chirping, hopping and feeding in all the glory of freedom it possessed. Then came the meow of a pet cat, a streak of black fur, panicked fluttering, a strangled squak and then the appreciative chuckle of the cat’s owner. I almost stood up for the bird.

And then I blacked out.

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#06

Over time I’ve come to realize that blogging is no more just a pastime. The seriousness with which people have started preparing their blogs is inspiring, and so after maybe six months of utter silence, I have decided to get back on the wagon.

When I started this a while back, my motive was to vent my opinions out in a place where very few people would know me, and even fewer would notice. Because blogging, where I come from, does not exist. I formed a premise, did some posts, and after a while the interest fizzled out, or maybe I got burdened with a lot of stuff that got priortized over my very own thoughts.

Then a few months back I decided to revive this old thing with simple homework assignments. Didn’t work.

And so, the great idea got filed away into a remote corner of my brain, to be accessed, if at all, in some distant future.

Until yesterday.

Why I decided to blog in the first place is a question that keeps popping into my mind every time I sit down and pop open WordPress. And, though I have tried many a times to explain to myself that there must be some kind of logical, material benefit that I derive from it; I’ve never been quite convinced. In this line of thought, doing anything without any apparent gain is a complete waste of time and energy. That’s what I’ve been told to believe over the past twenty years of my life. Ideas like interests and passions cease to exist in such a world.

Until yesterday.

It is a rarity that I truly consider someone my friend, close acquaintance – maybe, but my friends are usually a lot more closer to me. So while I was working on this annual magazine thing that I am doing, with my lead designer, who has been a very close acquaintance, I got into a discussion about something and one thing led to another and we got to the point of discussing things we were passionate about (no we did not kiss!).

While we are both undergraduate students in chemical engineering, he is not very particular about becoming an engineer (as it happens every so often in my country). But creative designing is something that he does with all his heart. And I really appreciate that dedication.

And then he popped the question. “Why don’t you follow your passion?”

For a moment or two I was quiet. It rarely happens, but this one time I did not have a cheeky retort. But it did get me thinking. Why at all do I not? I have always professed my love for literature to my friends, and when it comes to writing creative stuff, I am their guy. And yet, I am unable to gather the motivation to follow my passion.

Isn’t that what my blog was about? Letting go of the societal norms and looking at the world from my own lens, hopefully writing something meaningful, and provide an outlet for my passion.

From that moment on, that guy is a friend.

Here’s, to passion!

#05

A rather strange notion that I came across a few days back was that  educational institutions have a responsibility to dissuade students from pursuing fields of study in which they are unlikely to succeed. An argument like this at first glance seems absolutely authoritarian, and too intrusive for the students. However, a more patient and careful analysis does portray the merits of this approach and I am in firm agreement with this statement.

I believe that understanding one’s potential and capabilities is central to education. For an educational institution to have successfully completed its task it is important that its students be able to realize what their strengths and weaknesses are; and base their future decisions on this realization. In this light, it is completely justified for an educational institution to try to dissuade students from pursuing fields to which they might not be intuitively suited.

Through prolonged interaction with students, the institution is completely capable of gathering enough information through various mediums about the student to be able to grade the students capability in a particular field. Even now, this type of grading is done, albeit on a small scale and with different parameters, say just in one class of forty to hundred students, rankings are provided according to their performance in academics. Some might say that this is somewhat unfair because every student might individually be good at one specific field and not so good at the other. This is addressed to some extent if the students are evaluated on the basis of whether they are suitable for pursuing a career in that particular stream or not. In this scenario the institution plays an even more integral role in a child’s development by helping him/her make the correct career choice rather than simply awarding him a specific grade and letting him/her drift off.

A major bone of contention for the student community might be that the freedom of students to choose their path in life will be encroached upon. However, what should not be ignored is the fact that the institution will only dissuade and not prohibit the student from pursuing a particular field. This will amount to some kind of a recommendation or notice to the student that then leaves the decision to the individuals themselves. Therefore, this does not in any way compromise the right to choose and the basic right of freedom of the individual.  Moreover, it gives the student an expert opinion about his capacity to succeed in a particular field with his current level of preparation. In theory, this is completely acceptable, rather, this is extremely beneficial for students.

It might be difficult for the level of expertise required for this evaluation to be made available at institute level. This shall serve as a very crucial step in a student’s life because the institutions response will have a huge psychological impact on the student, if not anything else, and thus, there can be no room for error at this stage. Therefore, this step will lead to some precarious situations and it must be handled sensitively. However, in the long run, this step will be a highly useful one because, a lot of students who follow others into a stream just because of the rat race and peer pressure, will now be formally warned and their strengths presented to them thus enabling them to make a more informed decision.

Concerns might be raised about the fact that since every individual student is unique in his or her own way, some students might be late bloomers and might not be correctly graded. This concern is valid and the system needs to be setup in a manner to be able to account for this variation. Such concerns and discrepancies will exist in any model that is applied to govern a mass population.

This should be regulated in such a manner as to ensure that the students are first given ample opportunity to explore the field on their own, and after a certain period as deemed fit by the societal norms, an evaluation be prepared for them clearly outlining their strengths and weaknesses. This will strengthen the confidence of students in the stream which they finally end up pursuing. Also, it will produce individuals with the right set of skills entering the right field of life and will ensure overall progress of the society as a whole.

Do tell, what you think about this.

#04

Over the course of time, man has evolved from a hunting and food gathering nomad into a settled civilised form of existence. The culmination of this process of evolution is visible in the form of high-functioning, well developed compact settlements of humans; cities. Whether or not, these cities are a reflection of the important characteristics of the society as a whole, is up for discussion.

On an individual level, I agree with the statement that to understand the most important characteristics of the society, one must study its major cities; to quite an extent. It is in these clusters of civilisation, that ideas from all around converge, merge and develop into something better (or worse), but not very different, from all the originals. In turn, it is these smaller units that end up driving progress and change throughout the society. To understand how the society works as a whole, it is important that we first understand how these harbingers of growth and development work.

The issue can be interpreted into two seperate threads for the purposes of this discussion. Firstly, we try to understand whether the major cities are an ample enough reflection of the society as a whole. Secondly, how importnat their functioning is to understand the functioning of the society. At this point it becomes apparent that depending on these two conditions, we are in agreement with the statement in question, even if only the second condition holds, and the first one doesn’t.

In trying to understand a society, we focus on some key factors that shape its structure and functioning; which vary from the hierarchy in its sub divisions, the lifestyles and living standards of its members, the customs they follow, the prejudices they adhere to, and the general beliefs on which they all agree.

Most societies and by analogy their cities function only by virtue of a harmonious co existence of several levels or sub classes in them. When considering the former we are likely to divide it into the working class, the business class, the ruling class, etc. Even when condensed into the smaller scale of a city, these divisions or partitions exist, and their existence is not a coincidence but an intentional attempt to maintain the structure of the society. This ensures a homogeniety in the governance and functioning of the organisation. Thus the hierarchy in a society and the sub divisions in it, whether on an economic level, or geographical, or political, or even on the basis of birth in some cases, are very clearly reflected in the cities. It can be termed as a basic human instinct to flock together in small groups the same way whether on a small or a large scale.

There will be some in a city who will be unemployed and dependent on other sections of the populous, there will be some who will be invested in some form of commerce, there will be some invested in providing labour to the other industries, some caretakers of law and order and some ordinary citizens. Now, this will not paint the exact picture of the society as a whole but the general divide between different classes, the level of prosperity of each group, the level of consensus in each group about various issues, will be very similar to what would be the case if one were to analyse the population of the entire society as a whole.

The essential link between a city in particular and the society in general is its population. The people in both cases are the same. The difference however is that the people in cities are a lot more well to do than those in the rest of the population, which goes on to say that the important characteristics of the economic standards and habits of the complete society will not be reflected. In fact, in a city, economies are usually more service dependent, rather than manufacturing dependent in smaller cities and agriculture or home industry dependent in the villages and small towns. If one were to only study the major cities two very important aspects of the economic pathway of the society would get overlooked, and in this case, they will not prove to be sufficient enough for study of all important characteristics.

This very reasoning, can also be applied to the general culture and customs of the people. These are heavily dependent on the economic status of the people, and because of the wide gap between economic strengths of the people residing in major cities to those in othe sections, the rituals customs and practices will be different. Even the social evils in a particular area will be different. While there might not be many incidents of dowry in the cities, they shall be prevalant in the villages, and the exact opposite might hold true for issues like women empowerment.

Thus we see that while the major relations and divisions between various sections of the society can be easily derived upon from a study of the major cities, a large amount of information regarding culture and economics might get overlooked if only the major cities were studied. Thus we see that major cities are not a very satisfactory representation of the society on the whole.

Next however, we come to the more important section, i.e. the impotance of cities to the overall working of the societal organization. In this direction we shall find that the cities are integral to growth of the society, and therefore their study is extremely important to understand the functioning of the society.

It is in the cities that new ideas are experimented, lessons are learned and then implemented into other parts of the community. Cities are the gateway, to the outside world, and it is through them that all people are exposed to what is happening outside of their community. Cities are the harbingers of change, and unless we can understand how cities function, we cannot hope to be able to learn about the society. Cities are more advanced than the rest in terms of science and technology, and this gives an opportunity to the people to reveal their more fundamental desires, aspirations, and tendencies. The people can be more easily understood, in cities because here they are far less hindered by the political, economic and technological restrictions. This is integral to an understanding of the society, which clearly establishes the importance of cities to this end.

To further clarify these claims we take the example of the Indian society. If one were to focus only on the villages, they would be hugely misled, because a large population resides in the cities, some of whom do not have a lot of connections to the villages and some none at all. What this implies is that the influence of these sections will get inadvertently overlooked. The same would not happen were we to study the cities, because villages and villagers will form a part of the community in the city and thus their impact will get considered. A lot of things that happen in villages are now obsolete in a major section of Indian society. The same can be said about the cities, that a lot of what happens in cities does not in the rest of the society, but what does happen can not be ignored as it is an important influence for the rest of the community.

Much of the effects of the opening of the world to technological marvels like the internet and globalisation are first felt in the cities, which makes them more important than the rest of the sections. The effect of these slowly seeps from the cities to the villages, hence the importance of the cities. Simple and ordinary changes like those in dressing trends, cuisine styles, even furniture and architecture styles first emerge in cities and then are adopted into the rest of the society. This is because of the openness of these cities to all kinds of influences, and the unique characteristic that cities allow a confluence of ideas from different sections whereas it is not encouraged in villages. While cities are not all there is to a society, they are an unignorable part of the societal structure.

The reasoning here is that while a study of the cities is not enough to understand the working of the society, it is an essential aspect and one cannot hope to paint the whole picture without studying the major cities. Therefore, one must study the major cities to understand the society in totality.

#03

I was asked to write about technology. More specifically, to debate the effect that growing dependence on technology will have upon the ability of humans to think for themselves. Debating this dependence while actually typing this text rather than writing it by hand, is somewhat ironic. In a world dominated by the technologically superior, one cannot dispense with this extremely important resource; which makes this whole exercise somewhat futile. Yet, one must make attempts to control the situation before it goes too far out of hand. And we definitely do not want a world with humans who do not have the ability to think, as the statement under question claims.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the issue it is important that we understand what is being debated here. Inspite of the idea being quite self explanatory, we do need to define some boundaries for our discussion. When we talk about human capacity to think the only yardstick available to measure it is the scientific, artistic, cultural and political advancements of the age, for these are a direct result of the ideas of the finest humans in existence at the time. When we talk of deterioration of human capacity ot think we need to understand that this cannot be measured over a few years or decades. The timeline therefore in consideration will span centuries of human society’s evolution. So, under the microscope here, is whether the achievements of the human race have been hampered by the technological advancements in this time? For it is these advancements that determine the level of thinking of a generation. And if actual developement of the society and polity is disrupted by dependence on technology, it surely is worthless. That luckily is not the case as shall become quite clearly evident in the following text.

Technology, in my opinion does no more than provide us with tools capable of reducing the time and labour required to perform a particular task. Since all technology traces its origins back to the human brain and its capacity to think imaginatively, creatively and progressively; it is highly questionable that technology by itself will deteroriate the human brain’s ability to think (unless humans who designed this technology intended to do that; which is a wholly different conspiracy theory up for debate). In general, the technological advancements to which the general populous is exposed revolve around smart gadgets and the internet. Before we delve further, we need to understand that technology is not limited to only these two, and that a major chunk of technological advancement is dedicated to scientific progress which in itself is aimed at expanding man’s understanding of the way things work; definitely not affecting his capability to think.

Technology is aimed at simplifying human lifestyle and making it more convenient. How a person uses it, is entirely upto the person itself. A gun in the hands of a criminal or in the hands of a police officer, is still a gun. How the person uses it, determines whether or not it is useful to the society. On similar lines, technologically smart devices have made life more efficient, by reducing the time and effort invested in doing things that were less productive to the society. Theses technological advancemets have helped improve a person’s productivity and efficiency in his contribution to the society.

With the increasing accessibility to the internet, one of the biggest technological wonders of today, a whole world of possibilities have opened up for us. While some will claim that this is making knowledge resources like libraries and bookstores obsolete, what needs to be understood, is that the information and knowledge of these old systems of learning is not getting destroyed. These are simply being replaced by a faster, more efficient system. In this particular case, this does not deteriorate the thinking capacity of the user because the same knowledge value is being delivered even through the improved systems, infact now it is more accessible to those sections of the society which were earlier not capable enough to access these. Now more time and labour can be devoted to actual utilisation of these resources, i.e. learning from them and evolving as better thinking more productive individuals.

Technological advancements, especially in the field of science, have now enabled us to carry out experiments in real time which were earlier restricted to theoretical predictions only. Technology has enabled the society to develop into a more secure and open one. Technoloy has enabled humans to reach beyond the confines of the planet, the solar system, even the galaxy. This has exposed humans to a world of ideas which were completely beyond his imagination, had there been no technology to expose him to the truth of its existence. Technology has given humans the tools to expand his curiosity and to satisfy it also. And to consider even for a moment that technology is responsible for deterioration of humans ability to think is preposterous.

Even a cursory glance through the past few centuries of history all over the world have revealed quite clearly that humans have progressed in all such fields. Human creativity has evolved alongside technological advancement. If the Taj Mahal is a marvel of the old times, the Burj Khalifa is one of today. Humans have not lost anything. In all spheres of society, technology has made the process more convenient, the world more beautiful and the people more imaginative.

#02

Morality.

The never ending debate through all factions of society is about the existence of good and bad. Every single aspect of our life can be divided into one of the two. Or, at least we keep trying to do so. But, the million dollar question still remains, what is good and what is bad?

They both are essentially relative terms. What is good for one, might be bad for another and vice-versa. But that is not what I want to talk about right now. What concerns me more than this is our reactions to good and bad. Because of the individuality in the very definition of good and bad, a certain individual element in our reactions to these is obvious. But what kind of responses are valid? And where do we need to draw the line? These are issues that need serious thinking over.

The debate over good and bad goes back several millennia. To those who are into mythology, this issue forms the centre-piece of an entire Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. And the God incarnate in fact does explain the difference. It is said that since good and bad are relative we should not concern ourselves with them. We should focus on ‘Karma’ i.e. the task at hand. This further links us to the concept of ‘Dharma’ and later what Lord Krishna links to ‘Nirnaya’ i.e. decision making. These are complicated issues, and one cannot hope to completely gauge the meaning of these statements. If one could do so, that would be the attainment of ‘enlightenment’. However, I shall still try to understand this as far as I can.

In the crudest terms possible, ‘Dharma’ means justice. Everyone doing their rightful duty and everyone receiving the corresponding reward or punishment. This is why texts claim that nobody is good or evil. It is what they do that is. It is the roles that they play that are good or bad, as the Almighty has planned for them. And every role is essential for the functioning of the society. Whenever this balance of good and evil is disturbed to an extent that it becomes impossible for the ordinary human to restore, then the Almighty shall come upon the land as a human and do what should have been done by the humans in the first place.

Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya,
Glanirva Bhavathi Bharatha;
Abhyuthanam Adharmaysya,
Tadatmanam Srijami Aham.

Coming back to the roles that we have to play in life. Performing the karma for that role will lead to establishment of the perfect order and hence ‘Dharma’. This leads us to the point that even the bad and evil forces in our lives have to exist. Rather than worrying about the outcome, we should continue our actions and eventually, everyone shall reap the fruits they deserve. This however does not mean that I am advocating that the bad should go unpunished. It is the role of the corresponding people in the society. And if everyone does what is required of them, then ‘Dharma’ shall be established. However, a utopia of only the good is an impossibility. Righteousness is the ability to follow the role and the karma involved without fail.

One episode from the Gita that I particularly like is the heated conversation between Lord Krishna and Bheeshma. To those who do not know of these characters, here is a brief explanation. Lord Krishna is the God incarnate, while Bheeshma is a mighty warrior who has pledged his loyalty to the crown. Bheeshma refuses to go against the crown in spite of knowing that what was going on was not in the interest of ‘Dharma’; claiming the pledge to be his excuse. To this Krishna replies that Bheeshma let the pledge decide what he had to do rather than stepping up for what was in the interest of ‘Dharma’. The scripture says that abstaining from decisions and letting others make the choice for you is wrong. Especially when that choice compromises ‘Dharma’ or justice for mankind. Taking charge of your role in life is essential.

Now let us get back to the real world.

From The Backbencher’s Perspective; we need not concern ourselves with what others are doing. Whether good or bad. Our aim in life should be to do our job sincerely and without hesitation of the outcome. We have not been given the authority to judge people (unless you are actually a part of the judiciary). Also, existence of evil is an essentiality to the society. The war against good and evil shall never end. To keep fighting is essential.

Keep visiting for more content.
God Bless.

#01

#01

A world brimming with technology is bound to have a plethora of views and opinions. And the most neglected classes often have the most radical ideas. Haven’t the most ignored of the lot always brought about change and revolution.

No. I was not referring to myself in the third person up there. But well, if you thought the shoe fit, what the hell…

Opinions are what create and destroy people, families, societies, cultures, worlds… We need to be careful about what we say, how we say it and to whom do we say what. Or do we? Not caring what others think about you and your actions and thoughts is the ‘in’ thing now. And am I different? Who knows? That is for you to judge. We all have thoughts we like to keep to ourselves. Our dirty little secrets. Our dark fantasies. Oh no. Don’t Worry. I am not going to go all ‘fifty shades’ here. This is where I just might put an idea or two once in a while for you to consider. Introspect. Discuss. Form opinions. And then form opinions about those opinions. It does seem to be an endless cycle. Guess what? It is.

I feel it is an essential thing that we always think about the things around us. Think about everything from a completely rational, unbiased and objective viewpoint. But we don’t always do so. I hope I can highlight the other side of the things in our everyday life. If I can make you think, my job is done.

Do wait for my next post.
God bless.