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Self Help Books

February 9, 2012

Before I start off, I have to say I have an excuse for not meeting my measly deadline of two posts a month. I did say that more than halfway through the month, so technically, I should have posted one in the early half of the month. So I have no one to blame but past-me.

But coming quickly to the point. Has no one seen the inherent irony in self help books? That is to say, they are books alright. I’m sure no one doubts that. Do they help? If they do help, do they help the self? Let’s have a quick look at that, shall we? What is the process that goes into writing one of these books?

I imagine someone like Deepak Chopra (this guy, if you’re wondering) swaggers into a publishers office, faintly smelling of antiseptic fluid of some manner, and slurs thusly :

SCENE : PUBLISHER’S OFFICE

CHARACTERS : PROTAGONIST. PUBLISHER.

“I wanna help people!”

“What?” asks Publisher, startled from a reverie, possibly contemplating the dearth of people who want to help people. Especially publisher-type people.

“You heard me!” Protagonist exclaims sticking his finger into the air to emphasize his point, and vaguely sways from the suddenness of the gesture.

“Well, I wanna help people too!” Publisher remarks cunningly “What kind of people do you want to help?”

“Well… I hadn’t thought of tha’.” Protagonist says, trying not to think. “I just wanna help them, you know? ‘Cause people… they’re just so people like and I like people… you know what else I like?”

“What?” asks Publisher, starting to sound weary. If this guy wasn’t going to get down to business, he’d rather be day-dreaming about people who did.

“MONEY!” roars Protagonist, the effort throwing him off the chair into which he had slumped.

He staggers back to his feet, and moving closer to Publisher, yells directly at him “MONEY!”.

Publisher ignores the barrage of spittle coming his way… this man had just made his day. Possibly his year. He liked money too… clearly they had a lot in common. This looked like the beginnings of a very fruitful partnership.

“Ah! So do you have any ideas to make money?” asked Publisher, winking and gesturing at the pile of books on his desk in a slightly frantic manner.

“Well, uh… Do you want me to call the doctor or something?” asked Protagonist, vaguely worried about the health of his new-found friend. “Ah, what was I saying? Right… I wanna help PEOPLE. And I’m a person… so may as well start with me, right? I think I’m gonna write a book.”

Publisher heaves with relief. Protagonist had finally got the point. Quite quick, for a chap who looked like he’d just been hit in the face by a reasonably annoyed duck, what with the red eyes and the puffy cheeks.

So Publisher pulls out a chair, and sits Protagonist down for a long chat.

Or so I imagine it goes. I don’t see how self help books can help too many other selves, apart from the guy (or girl, there’s no sexism on this blog) who wrote it. They tend to give you contradictory advise too, leaving the reader of the book thoroughly confused.

“Don’t let the suggestions of others influence you”, they suggest.

“Help comes not from without, but from within.” they helpfully proclaim.

“Life is not about winning or loosing.” states the book titled ‘HOW TO WIN’.

“Money isn’t everything in life, one has to be happy.” propounds the book which helped the author make millions.

To be clear, I have nothing against self-help books, or people who read them. I’m just confused about why they’re called self help books. They could have been called ‘I’ll Help You Books’, or ‘I’ll Help Myself (to Your Money) Books’. Surely not self help.

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Chief, Minister?

January 17, 2012

Hello.

Look at this place… dusty and unused. It’s got that musty smell of a room which has been closed for like, five months.

Oh, right.

So before I begin with my dose of schmuck, I have to say – New Year’s resolution : Blog atleast twice a month. Now I know that’s not a very lofty goal, but considering I haven’t blogged in nearly six months, I think twice a month is a reasonable target.

<Schmuck> (Warning : Sarcasm Ahead)

Recently in the news, I saw this gem of an article gracing the front pages of The New Indian Express. Please go look at it. It’s not very long, and it’s infinitely entertaining. As a little bit of a juxtaposition (yeah, I’m totally showing off my vocabulary), glance through this, and that. Granted, they aren’t the most recent articles on the planet. But they paint the general picture. The hunger report released this year clearly says that the situation hasn’t changed dramatically.

Also, these and other glimmers of hope in the desert of ignorance are the result of an Anti Cow-Slaughter Law passed in Madhya Pradesh, which puts the onus of proving innocence on the accused. Rest assured there has already been (atleast) one case of abuse of this law. How lovely. The law also sets up a 500 crore mega cow-pen, a model for cow conservation across the country.

What is really alarming though, is that we have the Chief Minister of a state, a pretty massive state at that, spouting complete gibberish. “But how is that different from usual?” I hear you cry in indignation “Surely, as a politician that’s his birthright!”. Well, not really methinks. Let’s go through that article point by laborious point, shall we?

A) Only those houses with cow dung coated on the inside escaped the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy – After having done a (kind of) extensive Google search, the only references I came up with for this claim was… surprise surpise, this article. Although, to be fair, I did find this website which claimed antiseptic properties of cowdung and have also claimed scientific evidence. I have emailed them asking for the same, and I shall happily update this with my findings.

B) There are only two ways to remain insulated from nuclear radiation, and one of them is to use cow dung : This is where my jaw dropped when I read the article (mainly because in the printed version, I read this one first). Yeah, sure. A way to be insulated from nuclear radiation? Stay the hell away. But no. That’s not sensible enough for our ever-so-scrupulous Chief Minister. His solution? Cover yourself with cow-pat and grin like an idiot in the face of nukular radiation. Totally going to work.

C) Using cow dung can ensure normal delivery instead of C Section : I don’t even begin to want to know where said cow dung will be er… used.

D) Those who drink the milk of jersey cows and buffaloes commit more crime than those who drink desi cow’s milk : Well, I’d have thought this was obvious, no? After all, we all know that the Indian cow is sacred, and could never have the cunning to inject these little doses of evil into it’s milk. But the Jersey Cow? Damn Americans have no sense of values anyway!

E) Only the cow can save mankind. Just touching it can stabilize blood pressure : When I started out wanting to critique this guy’s intellect, I really didn’t think it would be as easy as quoting him and sitting back to watch the fun. Unless you’re a moophile, of whatever you call people who enjoy cows, I highly doubt the efficacy of petting a cow when you’re artery is about to pop from pressure.

Further down the article, some other chap who seems related to nothing, says “Foreign cows give poisoned milk. They have A1 protein, which causes autism.” I stopped to think here. Hmm. Maybe these guy do have a point.

But a quick Wikipedia search revealed that, well, all cows have this protein.

Tough luck buddy. Guess you can never drink milk again, for fear of mental damage. Oh, sorry. Looks like that’s already happened, my bad.

Amidst all this uproar of cows and slaughter and anti-nuclear propaganda that the Chief Minister seems keen on spreading, he’s also got time to go on hunger strikes! Well, I guess his hunger struck after about twenty minutes.

Or maybe the pangs in his tummy reminded him too much of the state of the people he’s meant to be governing.

</schmuck>

Puff Daddy

August 10, 2011

(Note : There are a lot of pages I’ve linked to. They’re not long articles, or hard to read. I strongly advise you read them. I rather enjoyed them myself.)

A good friend of mine recently started to smoke, and that got me thinking about the whole process of smoking.

So this is what I see when someone claims they want to go for a smoke :

“Hey… I really wanna go for a smoke!”

(Read : I think I’ve left my brains in my other pants)

“You got a light?”

(Read : I would like to coat my lungs with tar. Care to join?)

“I don’t know what your problem with smoking is… we enjoy it!”

(Read : I enjoy inhaling/salivating on a burning bit of paper. Let me be!)

You may have got the general gist of what I think of people who smoke. I don’t consider it a particularly smart pastime, as pastimes go. It ranks right up there, with wanting to see what roadkill feels like. Frankly, I just don’t understand the motivation behind smoking.

I did a quick Google search on ‘smoking’ (to be completely unbiased) and apart from the first two results, which were Wikipedia, every single other result on that page spoke about how dangerous it is. Clearly not that hard to get this information, if you can spell. Forgetting all the other aspects of smoking… supporting an industry which fudges the numbers on the deaths of thousands of people to stay in business, it seems to be a really stupid thing to do, defying the science that says it will eventually kill you.

I have to point out that people often accost me with “Smoking kills, but so does driving. You don’t yell at people for driving!”. Yes. Driving kills. But smoking isn’t essential to daily livelihood. And they advise seat belts + not driving like a moron for a reason. This logic is the same as saying “People say standing in front of a moving train will kill you, but it doesn’t happen to often. So it may not happen to me”. It flabbergasts me. (Yeah, I use that word.)

Then there’s the stress relief/depression argument. “No… I only smoke occasionally, when I’m depressed/stressed.” Turns out there are other proven ways to release endorphins in your brain (happy chemical in the brain that makes you feel better).

People who’ve been smoking for several years can perhaps be pardoned… addiction is a hard thing to fight. But someone who’s starting to smoke now? I frankly don’t understand it.

I guess you stand judged when Science collectively calls you an idiot.

Peace. :)

IPC – The Indian Penal Code

July 8, 2011

(Caveat : I have never seen the real IPC, or any code of law for that matter. The below is entirely a work of fiction.)

(Edit – I have to clarify that this would probably be the rules under a Shiv Senik government. To say this is how we currently work would be to do us a bit of an injustice.)

Section 1 :

  • Subsection 1.1 : Indian Morality – If the person is found to be in violation of Indian Morality and/or the Indian Moral Code (IMC), then he shall be penalised with a maximum penalty of death. (See section 12.5.5 for a clearer definition of IMC)
  • Subsection 1.2: Youth – If any member belonging to the Youth Party (YP) is found to be engaged in an act of Happiness, he shall be punished with a maximum penalty of twenty eight consecutive years of matriculation education.
  • Subsection 1.3 : ‘Love’ – If any member of the Youth Party or otherwise is found to be engaged in ‘Love’ then he/she shall be deported. No warrant necessary.
Section 2:
  • Subsection 2.1 :Respect – If any member of society is found to be engaged in an act that violates the sanctity of, and is found to be disrespectful of Seriousness and Sincerity, he/she shall be sentenced to one year of rigorous foot-licking.
  • Subsection 2.2 : Humour – It has been found that several members of YP have been engaged in Humour. Any incidents relating to this heinous act should be fast tracked. Maximum penalty : Death, without pardon.
  • Subsection 2.3 : Decency – Any member of society found to break the Code of Decent Behaviour of Human Beings (CDBHB) (for example, see subsection 19.2.3  – Holding hands) then he/she shall be jailed for a maximum of ten years, and in incorruptible cases to be given Morality Lessons if they do not repent.
—-
Quite possibly the laws they are already operating under, by the looks of it. Give them a couple of years, they’ll get there. They’re a little slow, the poor things.

Creativity

June 6, 2011

Edit : This was published in April 2010, before I removed it amid concerns of backlash from college.

I study at a college, named ‘Madras Christian College’, fondly called MCC.

I study Physics at this college.

Physics is a wonderful subject. (People disagree with me on this. I completely understand why. But hear me out.) Beauty of the world, etc. The mysteries of the universe explained. What hasn’t been explained, you can happily go out and try to explain. Someone once said to me “Wouldn’t the sunrise be ruined if you knew why it happened?” My answer to that is quite resoundingly no. It looks better, and even more fantastic, knowing what happens behind it.

Instead of me elaborating more on this, let’s assume that I’ve convinced you that Physics isn’t boring black and white text on pages, with math no one understands. Moving on, to my wonderful college.

My wonderful college has brilliant teachers.

Said brilliant teachers adopt one of the following attitudes in teaching the (in my opinion) most enlightening subject on the planet.

A) God created all things. You cannot question him.

B) You will need to study this for your exam to pass.

I’ve obviously got a problem with both these arguments. Attributing everything to God is fine. Not every Physics teacher needs to be an atheist. Heck, Einstein wasn’t an atheist. But when you ask questions about protons colliding, etc. and you’re met with a reply that says ‘God made it so. Stop asking questions’, that’s just hiding. That’s hiding ignorance behind a fake moral attitude of respecting God. I’m sure he’d want you to figure it out, even if he did create it. Seems a benevolent enough chap.

Attitude number 2 also infuriates me.

“Protons colliding? That isn’t in your syllabus.”

“Yes… but I’m interested. Surely that’s got to count for something?”

“Interest won’t fetch you marks in the exam.”

“Can I meet you after class?”

“Meeting me won’t fetch you marks in the exam.”

“How do I answer this question?”

“Answering this question won’t fetch you marks in the exam. It isn’t in your syllabus.”

“But I’m interested. Surely that must count for…”

You get the idea.

It’s a black hole. There’s no way out of it. It breeds, and feeds off enthusiasm and happiness. I swear my teachers look smugger and fatter than when I first joined. I’m markedly less enthusiastic, even if it’s just about my prospects in Physics.

Their staff room is crazy. If you light a candle in there, you won’t see more than a few centimetres. You take a baby in their, it’ll start wailing. Dogs will bolt on the mere sight of it. Cats’ hair stands on end. Cows… well, they’re cows, aren’t they? Not particularly bright upstairs.

That department can sense and detect joy miles away, and makes sure that they do everything in their power to annihilate it.

The dark side has nothing on the Department of Physics, Madras Christian College.

—-

On a side note – We have to submit a record at the end of every semester, of our practical work. We’ve got to get it attested on the front page of the record, which has a pre-printed thing saying ‘Work completed by……….. in………. B.Sc Physics”. Now a friend of mine filled it in with his name, and the second blank was filled in with ‘II’, ’cause he’s in the second year. My ‘professor’ scratched it out, and wrote in ‘II B.Sc Physics’, so it read ‘II B.Sc Phyics, B.Sc Physics’. They’re overflowing with brains, too.

Poetry

April 17, 2011

I don’t get poetry.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m sure it’s a legitimate way of expressing yourself, and it’s a fine creative art form and everything, but I just don’t get it. I really don’t get the poetry with the abstract metaphors that expect you to extract meaning from their depths. I like literature that is clear. I want what I understand to be more or less what everyone else understands. I don’t want to think the poem is about the weather, and have an English Lit student come and tell me it’s about the plight of cows in Nevada. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

Now that everything is clarified, I have a theory that some (not all, or even a majority) of this ‘abstract’ poetry is a farce. Here’s my attempt at recreating it, and I’m sure that someone would (in due course of time, after skipping all this preamble that gives away the whole thing) interpret it as something deep and meaningful, which is clearly not what I intend.

I present to you :

Catharsis

Cherry red roses blossoming in the sea,

Wines, cigarettes and bereft countryside.

After all, wasn’t it you who said

‘Those who can, shall see the light’ ?

Haunting words

Like wolves at twilight

Bereft of the cleft

Argue about the colour of their blood

Surely, Gandhi had a point?

Open your mind too much,

And your brain will fall out.

Delusion is the presumption of intelligence.

Of Libraries*

April 9, 2011

Maybe you’ve heard about the new public library that we’ve got here in Madras.

But maybe you haven’t, and you don’t have the slightest clue about what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about a ‘public’ ‘library’. (Yes, I’ve put both in my sarcastic quotes. They shall soon be explained.)

The library is big, and shiny, and got space for parking, and a place to leave your bags before you enter and a (functional) metal detector to catch any bombs you may want to bring and everything. It’s really impressive from the outside.

 

Ooh, shiny.

So we (a friend, and me) walked into this place, expecting grand fanciness and to be bowled over by super-efficient library awesomeness. And the first floor delivered. Sure, it was deserted, save for the metal detector people, and Information Lady, but it was clean, shiny, and extremely competent looking.

But unfortunately no signboards. We can forgive them that error, yes? So with no signs to direct me, we head over to Information Lady to see what Information she has for us about this vast and competent place.

“Yes, sir?” she queries, quite bored-ly.

“Hi. Can I know more about this library?” my friend asks, innocently.

Without batting an eyelid, she hands him a brochure, thanks him and pretends that conversation is over.

“Ah. Er… ah. Thanks. I would like to know, can I borrow books?”

“No sir. You need membership.”

My friend pauses for her to continue, but clearly she’s done with her bit. Our cue.

“Erm… how do I get a membership?”

“Sorry, sir. We are only issuing memberships for 4-14 year olds. Please apply when we open up application for others.”

Again, no further sign of volunteering information. We are starting to loose a little hope.

“Cool, so if I can’t borrow books, you have facilities to photocopy relevant material?” he asks, hopefully.

We have stymied her with a question that wasn’t in the annoying-customer manual. She thinks about this for a bit.

“Uh… no sir. Not allowed.”

“But I just want to look at a few periodicals. I can’t xerox them?”

“No sir. Not allowed.”

“… you can take notes!” she adds hopefully, looking at our dejected-annoyed faces.

We just stumbled on the worst rule in any library on the planet. No photocopying of books. Strike one.

So we head off in search of said periodicals, more than slightly disenchanted with the library.

Or we would have headed off in search of books, if someone told us where to go. We walked through one highly polished glass door, to see another highly polished glass door leading to a conference room-like thingy. Not books. Headed through another door, leading to dust, construction and the elevators. Someone near the elevators helpfully yelled out “Third floor go!” over construction noise. So third floor we went.

Leave the elevator, turn right… security guard. Yes! Books inside the room near security guard. But there are two signs on this not-so-highly-polished glass door.

A) Philosophy, Religion, Sociology & Computer Science.

B) To enter this section, please produce permission or identity card to security guard and sign in.

Hm. Permission/ID proof? Shouldn’t they be checking this at the checkout counter if at all? Surely you are allowed to browse even if you don’t have a valid ID? But these weren’t periodicals, so we went floor by floor, up to the sixth floor. (The building has eight floors, two of which are still under massive construction, and half the library is still under sort-of construction. They opened seven months ago.)

We didn’t even see books on shelves in a couple of floors. Apparently books are going out of style in libraries. But nothing had periodicals, so we continued our pilgrimage downwards, where we finally found the periodicals section. Clearly Information Lady wasn’t close to being information enough. But alteast we had a minor-tour of the library. We walk into this section, and aren’t asked to sign anything thankfully, only to be greeted by blissfully empty shelves. So I approach a lady at the counter, and inquire innocently –

“Excuse me, where are the magazines?”

“Sorry sir, they are still in storage.”

“Oh… so I can’t borrow them?”

“To borrow them you need ID. Please show me ID.”

Except I couldn’t. ‘Cause they were only issuing ID’s to four to fourteen year olds. Quite massively disenchanted with this fiasco, we leave the section dedicated to Children’s Books and Periodicals. While we were leaving, the quite oblivious security guard stops us, and asks my friend to brandish the notebook he is carrying, flips through it to check if we’ve stolen a book, and hidden it in there, and then lets us go. I’m sure that’s an invasion of privacy on several levels.

To add insult to our ‘injury’, they claim it’s the largest library in South Asia. Lovely. They’ve ordered a million books, and are safely keeping them in pristine condition in storage. They also claim to have the most advanced check-out system in any library in the world. Except we can’t check out books. And they employ 500 staff. Of which about 490 don’t have a clue what’s happening. And they will soon start charging a membership fee, and no doubt rejecting members who look less than acceptable. I’m pretty sure their membership fee will be quite exorbitant as well. More money to swindle.

One redeeming point is apparently their Children’s Section, which I didn’t see first hand. Well stocked, and well lit, with sitting areas and everything. No wonder they’re only issuing memberships for 4-14 year olds. That’s the only part of the library that looks usable seven months after they opened. Gotta love our government. You’d think they’d think about these little things, like stocking books, before they opened the library out to public, yes?

If they’d claimed that “The DMK  is educating Tamil Nadu one book a a time!” we’d have believed them without hesitation.

—-

*All portions of this story are true. But some portions have been told in first person for dramatic effect.