Meeting the Accountant: An Indian boy’s initiation into manhood

If you’re born in an Indian family especially one in Gujarat, then the one sign that you are now your own master and a man in your own right, is a meeting with the family accountant. Unless of course, you were born in a stockbroker family, in which case, your family has been buying stocks in your name as soon as you turned eighteen, well then you arrived in life a long time ago, then this is not for you.

I was deemed worthy of this great honor quite recently, my parents took great care to ensure that the accountant was well versed with my, well lack of knowledge on anything that can be deemed account-worthy. My family accountant was told with great regret, “usko form 16 bharna bhi zara sikha dena” in a tone that implied regret and unabashed shame, probably the tone Manmohan Singh would use with “madamji.” The date was set for this great ritual and I was to meet, the man who would be captain of my life’s ship, the lighthouse to my dinghy, lost, raft tossed about in the violent ocean that was tax planning. A lofty title for a person who made his money advising people on how not to pay the government, what they owed it. Think of them, if you must as the highway bandits that would loot  government stagecoaches in the wild west, minus the charm and sartorial sense.

My perception of the family accountant thanks to all the hype that was created was quite similar to the picture given below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went in with hands clasped, head bowed repeating the golden rule that all family accountants preach, “tax planning isn’t evasion it is just good old common sense.” It is true, when he calculated and told me the amount, the greedy government was going to take of my hard, sweat-stained, earned money, it did feel like democracy was quite the scam. Most of my questions were met with unheard acronyms. It was like talking to an older relative of yours who has lately discovered, by sheer chance, the versatility of SMS lingo and is quite eager to display their use of abbreviated terminology. There’s nothing like paying someone to make you feel financially inadequate and well frankly impotent.

There were moments in our conversation where a lot of my outrage was promptly met with measured calm and then devices and paths of subterfuge that frankly sounded quite ingenious. Here was a man who in the battle between the government and the little guy, for once was on the side of the little guy. Albeit while charging an atrocious fee for the same. As I learnt more about the great monster that was the Income Tax bureau, I realized all tax planning was extremely unfair towards large portions of society, especially those who are terminally ill and/ or are dying. The advantages of all tax saving investments require minimum lock-in periods of 5 to 15 years. Apparently the government believes if you’re not fit to survive another 10 years you don’t deserve the money you make. My key takeaway from this point was screw tax saving, IAMMMAGONNADIEEARLYANYWAYS!

Apparently the one question you never ask your accountant, is if his fee is more than the money he is helping you save, or if your entire loss of salary to taxes is still less than the fees you are paying him. This question will be met by the sternest of gazes and expressions like, “beta aap naye ho abhi.” It’s almost like I had offended the very God, I had gone to pay obeisance to, by serving him a coconut that was cut by a man of the lower castes. Such disrespect is rarely tolerated. I hastened to make amends.

I’ve realized that I love accountants, such noble beings they are, they make sense of the mundane, they deal with the paperwork, so that we normal humans don’t have to, they fill in those numerous tiny boxes all day, so that we don’t die of a migraine, they forge, subvert, inflate, deflate and conflate figures to paint the perfect picture of poverty.

“How can I pay tax your honor, I have several loans all timed perfectly to co-exist with my pay cycles, with interest rates, that would put American private medical care providers to shame.” I learnt debt is a beautiful thing and well credit is an even better thing, that allows us to enjoy the present and postpone our responsibilities to the future, where we may or may not be alive, or in a position to pay tax, same thing.

The ritual ended on quite a high note, the accountant put his hand on my shoulder. I had found God, for the first time I did not feel alone in this vast orphaned world of food and travel vouchers, I now had a friend. As we walked out toward the sun, he told me something I shall never forget, “beta har ek bill sambhal ke rakhna, aur chance mile toh ek do dusro ke bhi le lena” words to live by.

I returned home and that evening as I went out to eat with my friends, that MasterCard ad did get one thing right, we did, all fight for the bill, AFTER IT WAS PAID. I swear I saw Lord Kubera looking down on us smiling benevolently. That night as I reached home, I fished out the corner of the bill, that I had rightfully earned in the scuffle that had earlier ensued, I was a boy no more. 

 

 

 

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Whatever I don’t know, can’t kill me…

Wrong, it can, it can painfully, horribly, mutilate you to death.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how much we learn about real life through movies, I am talking

mostly about psychological problems, attitude defects, personality disorders and the kind. There’s

no denying that the human being is a strange creature but what’s also strange is how we learn about

ourselves. Movies and TV series thanks to HBO bring to light more facts and truths about the human

condition than actual observation of the people around us.

It was Thoreau who said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I would rephrase this as “most

men lead lives of ignorant desperation.” We are as unaware of ourselves as we choose to be. The entire

notion of not knowing what plagues us has been at the core of the human ability to decide whether we

are plagued by something or not in the first place. To perhaps all of those that secretly suffered from

bipolar or should I call it the Lindsay Lohan syndrome never knew it till it entered the stream of popular

culture and thus the stream of consciousness. For all those people who self diagnosed themselves and

suddenly realized they were bipolar too. The central question here is how do we differentiate between

suffering from something, we know what and perhaps simulating the suffering once we realize that we

meet some or many of the required conditions. But the one correlation we make and this is perhaps a

fault of popular media and cinema is that genius comes with its psychological baggage. It’s okay to be

psychologically and/or socially non-conformative as long as you’re a genius otherwise you’re just plain

and simple crazy. To quote from one of my all time favorite movies Tropic Thunder “you never go full

retard”.

The point I am trying to make is popular cinema has probably advanced awareness for psychological

conditions more than perhaps all the editions of The Annual Review of Psychology put together. Most

of us learn about the curiousness of men through movies be it anterograde amnesia through Memento

or Fifty First Dates. Retrograde amnesia through The Bourne Identity, RoboCop. Psychogenic amnesia

through Shutter Island (also is a good example for dissociative disorders) The Machinist for insomnia,

PTSD induced hallucinations. We learnt about OCD through the The Aviator, Silver Linings Playbook.

Social anxiety disorders through Shrek, The King’s Speech. Autism through Rain Man and Mercury

Rising and don’t even get me started on dissociative disorders, the list would probably be endless.

Psychological disorders remain one of the favored plot thematics for screen writers.

But the key question still remains; does awareness lead to articulation or simulation of perhaps

proposed symptoms?

A personal observation has led me to realize our self-diagnosis of proposed symptoms is often

exaggerated and perhaps erroneous under the association these conditions share with genius or

advanced perceptive or cognitive abilities. The idea of self-proposed intellectual superiority remains at

heart a romantic notion and often forms the basis for narcissism. The idea of bypassing conventional

tests and measurement techniques to self propose whether internally or externally is a byproduct of

human ingenuity and perhaps one of the lacunae that self-awareness inherently brings with it. The

obvious evident answer to all of this remains of course professional opinion but how do we trace the

effect of awareness upon the root cause of the issue remains a fundamental challenge. Perhaps the

extent to which the said issue is popularized or promoted by the individual in question might offer a vital

insight into the inception of the issue.

In summation the idea of ignorance while might seem like the best option in the given scheme of things,

it is not for those that suffer without knowing what they suffer from, ignorance is their prime enemy.

But for those that are swayed by the persuasive rhetoric of being “different” and “special” think again.

But then hypochondriasis is a legitimate affliction and so is the “white coat syndrome” and so are

Somatization disorders. But what cannot be refuted is the role that cinema and pop culture has played

in bringing awareness about the curious nature of afflictions that plague the human condition.

We are the most fragile of species and in our encounter with affliction we are perhaps also

the strongest of all species.

From the mouth of the impasse; An opinion on the loss of objectivity in the context of social evolution

Between the postponement of gaining employment and the angst of pursuing that which one loves, is born a bastard child of Nietzschean values, solipsistic fantasies and hyperreal visions. But enough with the jargon let us proceed, to those that are reading this, this is an attempt once again to understand the world as we perceive it through the eyes of our great friend Nietzsche the grand-daddy of depressed, genius crazy philosophers, the one guy used by dictators to justify the human need for power and the man who inspired almost all of Freud’s craziness.

Now if you are a believer in Solipsism or agree with Baudrillard when he talks about hyperreality, you know that our world is nothing but our own individual conscious manifestation of it. While that may seem a major stretch for those that believe in objective reality here’s explaining why social evolution has effaced the notion of objective reality and made it a trait that is non-conducive to social clustering thus non-conducive to survival. In fact the adoption of an objective reality causes great detriment to human survival. In short here’s my take on how possessing an objective sense of reality will get you beaten up, alienated, isolated, murdered, murdered and then decapitated.

While I don’t agree with the theory of Hyperreality I do believe each individual since the moment of his existence is born simultaneously into two very different worlds. The world where he is brought forth without his control, the real world and the world he brings forth, that exists solely within his confines, His world. Each individual as he grows up is torn between these two worlds, each situation is repeated in his mind, scenarios are played out for events both as they occur and as he wanted them to occur. This world he conjures is the world he wishes upon himself, the world he strives so hard to be a part of, it constantly evolves and changes, never do these worlds meet for even if he achieves that which he wants the event simply changes its place from his world to the real world and is immediately replaced with another figment of desire in his world. This frustration of existing in one world while everything desiring what lies in the other, the perfect life, the perfect chain of events, this frustration is the hallmark of the human existence. It exists in all of us, the ability to make choices, is superseded by the ability to imagine, in its causation of all grief known to man. It is the want of the ideal world, his world I believe that leads to repression. This continual estrangement from what could have been,from what we desire and want leads to a heightening of the hatred for the time spent in imagining the his world. This leads to our recent aversion for being alone, the need to be engaged either socially or mentally, either in tasks or with people. Because time spent alone is time spent in the his world, a world that our conscious tries so hard to repress for it believes it to be cause of all angst, all self-inflicted pain. This lends credence to Baudrillard as well, for when he talks about our inability to distinguish a simulation of reality from reality, this inability is perhaps desirable unconsciously, for while reality is universal the simulation is personal. Perhaps this is the subconscious fighting back from repression.

In the midst of this aversion to being with oneself is found the birth of the end or rather the demise of objective reality. Objective reality takes away from us the very thing needed for social survival, tact, diplomacy in other words social skill. A simple illustration is when people ask about others opinions about themselves and we weigh the benefits of that friendship against the cost of being objective, but of course this is a no-brainer. Thus objective reality flies in the face of social survival and is slowly phased out by each and every one of us. Thus we are confronted with the inbuilt hypocrisy of searching for the truth yet being not objective about it. All our social interactions are tempered with the unconscious rules of social behavior, norms that are culturally ingrained in us. The need to be polite, of bending our objective evaluations till they are socially acceptable. Reflect on this, the next time somebody asks you for your honest opinion about how they look, how does that dress look on them? Does it make them look fat? Are they being stupid? Is your answer really what you think or believe it is? Is it worth severing human ties, sacrificing relationships on the altar of being objective justified? You might argue and say that these are again relative judgments, but then I am referring to being honest to your own judgment. Being part of a society costs us the expression of this, albeit individualistic, yet objective truth. Somewhere in the labeling of harsh criticism is objective reality lost, suppressed in the guise of creative encouragement. This trait thus is slowly suppressed in the social evolution scheme of things till at last objective reality becomes a socially acceptable reality,or even a socially desirable one, a reality tailored to gathering as much social acceptance as possible for that is a ubiquitous part of the survival of the modern human. But this is not restricted just to our interactions with others, our own objective view of our-self is also colored by social conformity, it simply makes life easier to live. An overly critical opinion of personal action is the opening of the floodgates of self-inflicted guilt, depression and destruction. The individual ego has got even further removed from truth and its fragility lies in social platitudes, self ego massaging and a heightened importance of our personal impact on the world at large.

The next time somebody asks for your opinion on that yellow dress you’ve always hated, pause weigh the consequences of being alone, of severing that relationship and then answer for if you should choose the objective truth, it is quite likely nobody else shall be asking you for your opinion anymore. Or you could just be instinctual and tell them, “it looks great” yes that generally should earn you a lifetime of loyalty and contentment. This effacement of objective reality suits the his world just fine, for it can never be totally suppressed, as so succinctly put by Nietzsche in the concluding lines of his great; On The Genealogy of Morality,

“man would prefer to will nothingness, than will nothing at all”

As soon as I belong, Then it’s time I disappear

In between assignments and random “emergency meetings” is brought forth a child of anguish and pain

 

It has been quite recently that I have been a part of one of those seemingly innocuous group “dynamics” courses. Needless to say I had my fill of mirth from it. But more importantly it seems that a group any group be it one of peers, colleagues whether in a social setting or otherwise tends to sap the individual of his extremely unique individualistic soul. I have seen groups break people, force them to change, make it impossible to live with themselves and with other members within the same group. What such courses also make abundantly clear are the tricks you employ to ensure you’re malleability is never questioned. Your personal motive well hidden behind the façade of the group’s motive under the guise of leadership and initiative taking can always be done and it is a pleasure to observe it when it is done well. The gullibility of people never ceases to amaze me.

But more importantly what I have learnt is that emotional power trumps intellectual superiority, no matter your rationality, no matter your intellect, if you’re able to sympathize with someone over her maid running away with her driver and how now she has no one to take her to the beauty parlour, you’re golden. If you feel the pain of a man who has recently gotten a root canal. If you can empathize with a cheating lover when he talks about how expensive it is to maintain a mistress in an urban setting you have him essentially at your beck and call. Intellectual power holds people in a bind it will give you right over their work and perhaps their reasoning but true power is when people will go beyond the scope of their work for you, when they will jeopardise their careers fighting for your rights and that happens only with emotion. It is ironic that we pride ourselves in being the only thinking rational species in the world yet when it comes down to collective decision making who proposes the idea is always more important than what the idea is. The fundamental irrationality of our flawed human nature comes into play, takes a big stone club and beats the shit out of our ability to separate the man from what he proposes.

Now imagine the disservice we do to those that simply do not want, or cannot invest in this entire exercise of woe listening and empathy based sharing or opening up, have they not a right to be taken seriously equal to the rest? Why do we place this emphasis or give emotional power to those members that choose to divulge to the group their personal bits? Why do we put those on a pedestal who proudly flaunt their emotional scars and wear their flawed characters as a badge of honour? Has the reticent man, the laconic man not equal right to be heard and to be granted credibility? But then groups indulge in this patronising behaviour of giving a voice to those that speak less, it kills me when I observe how the magnanimity of those who talk too much gives an opportunity, nay feels it a part of their moral dharma to give, force even the silent ones to speak. I wonder sometimes if the G8 leaders in the middle of their summits, when they’re out taking a smoke break or something talk about their personal jets and rising aviation fuel costs, or how their butler’s on a sabbatical because his son is preparing for the IAS entrance exam or god forbid CAT and how a sympathetic nod given here leads to veto rights in the security council. India would have gotten Veto rights long ago if we had Deepak Chopra as our ambassador to the UN, “yes people with infidelity may queue up to the left all the rest to the right.” In the end it reminds me that as soon as you become fully integrated within the group a little part of your kills itself voluntarily or involuntarily that is the price we pay for not being alone. In retrospect I wonder if loneliness has a smaller cost. Whether a slice of your own personal soul, that which is your essence, that which defines you, is worth connecting yourself to a bunch of random people till you become a generic cog indistinguishable to the machine and to the rest of them. 

Shut Up Einstein !

“I gleam more through observation and company than through all the books in the world”

It’s time for ramblings and certain concerns that present themselves to me time and time again. Being part of a variety of educational programs forces you to compare and contrast them. Here, I would like to reflect on what happens when you take too many intellectuals and put them together in the same system.

In my opinion that has somehow become the aim of all educational institutions, “Let’s try to get the brightest people in the world and put them together under one roof”. The problem with this is the measurement of intellect and this so-called braininess. In an ideal scenario, the catalyst of genius is supposed to be a stimulating conversation – that’s how our systems are built – smart people shall brainstorm and save the world. It’s no wonder then that superhero movies are now becoming league movies, the days of the standalone hero is almost over.

But what scares me the most is that – and bear with me here because it shall mostly be a polemical argument that derives itself from personal experience and allow it the liberty of generalization to some extent – in the midst of continued exertion of the intelligentsia among these institutes that pride themselves on becoming silos of the same, there appears to be a rapid degeneracy of individual intellect.

Now hear me out, this might seem contrary to all that we have learnt and we know, smarter people = smarter conversations = better development of intellect, but here’s what I think actually happens, now please bear with me, for this is mostly observational and personal experience I rely on here.

The clustering of intellect in our current system of measuring and categorizing the same depends mostly on how good you look on paper. This is mostly an inherent skill of the Indian education system and our inherent ability as Indians to make things look better that it actually is, an ability that has been classically exemplified by the Vajpayee government and the ‘India Shining’ campaign.

There is an inherent similarity in the type of people who cluster around the intellectual band that are then grouped together. This similarity can also be seen in the way they approach their sense of individual security and identity – be it the shared love of pop culture, the quizzing culture, or the inherent commonness to the sources they quote in their day-to-day lives.

In most environments, these commonalities set the intellectuals apart from the rest. They also serve to creating a ‘niche’ class. Now what happens to this ‘niche’ when the sources of information are common to all? There does not exist a niche anymore. In a class of Einsteins who is the original and who is the real one?

Moreover, this state of being so far has created within them the status of being part of the niche and hence, the dependence of identity upon this state by now has become absolute.

But in this new environment when the very conversation starters or arguments or cultural references you might make to either showcase your knowledge or superiority or niche is already common knowledge – is the self-esteem framework secure enough to handle this sense of alienation from this source of identity derivation?

Mostly it is not. What happens as a result, therefore, is that there stems a desire to relocate to the fringes within the fringes and this group now moves to unearth the most obsolete in their race to prove who knows the most.

The definition of a rationalist here has shifted from one who asks questions to one who has the most answers, which is frankly quite scary to me on a personal level. In this race, the dependence on the obsolete seems a better alternative than its lack, ergo enter the argumentative culture. Now I’m not against the exchange of ideas, debate, fist-fight in the name of ideology but what I do abhor, detest and frankly consider a waste of time is personal discourses given in the name of personal life movies. Consider a question that includes within it your personal life history as you would tell your biographer, your list of accomplishments as compiled by your mother, which includes potty training records and your personal philosophy on life that was later adapted into a book that was made into an Oscar-winning movie where you were played by Daniel Day-Lewis and this is part of a question. In our need to prove intellectual superiority random argumentation, escalation of commitment to false, hardly thought out stands, starts coming to the forefront. The need to derive identity, not through opinion but through opining, through supremacy of opinion to discourse-giving is becoming a dangerous trend seen today, especially in institutes of higher learning that focus on the neo-intellect. (Intellect independent of academic achievement).

The loss of diversity in terms of this security derivation is required. There needs to be a healthy balance in the number of sportsmen, not just amateurs but passionate individuals devoted to it, musicians and not pseudo-band wannabes. Yes, I’m sorry having a video on YouTube doesn’t count. There needs to be a commitment to the spirit of inquiry that varies from established channels of intelligent credibility – in this case the definition is independent of academic veracity and achievement.

In the quagmire of the intellect as the new sexy, we have managed to commodify the spirit of inquiry into a half-hearted attempt at gaining trivia that can be used as a bargaining point for societal acceptance as currency for this new-found cult that worships the mind.

But until things change, the next time you hear someone talking about the Higgs Boson and its implications on atheistic paradigms, tell him, “Shut Up Einstein !”

Machiavelli’s Intellectual Angst

Settling in and academics have taken their toll, you beloved writer now finds himself shackled to the academic rigor of a Benedictine monk who fantasized of green fields while spending nights in candlelight vigil decorating margins for bibles. But enough of this self-indulgent twaddle, could you please spare some wine, it’s been days since I’ve seen daylight.

It’s interesting going back to studying after having spent some time in the corporate environment. It’s like going back to the home that was your orphanage. But here let’s talk about Niccolo, or Niccolo as he was known when he was young (the Italians have no concept of nick names) young Niccolo was a shy quiet boy in class and when his Italian classmates fell out of their little benches trying to answer questions their teachers posed hoping to gain brownie points for class participation. Young Niccolo muttered under his breath the is “ab absurdo”, only the desperate would go to lengths this long for a mere pat on the back. This phenomenon is quite observable in today’s higher education, the rioting mass of teenage enthusiasm has given way to the more mature deliberative Indian who still needs to have his opinion heard more desperately than he needs his morning cup of chai. If poor Niccolo were alive today all he’d say is “absolve them lord, for they know not why they’re whining” Jesus was also known to have said something to that effect. Even today the intelligentsia seem to be falling over each other’s leg to overshadow, to out-question and to out-think each other. You’d think we were all genetically engineered to compete, all those years of careful conditioning of coffee and math to be the first in class seem to be paying off.

But before we all go kill that irritating intellectual whose hand has never pointed anywhere but towards the direction of the heavens, there seems to be a larger force at play here. It seems the ego of the intellect has become so fragile over years of constant back patting and gold star notebooks that it can no longer contend with mediocrity, driving its owner towards evermore desperate forms of establishing grey matter superiority. There seems to be a thin line between asking doubts and using the question and answer platform for weaving questions that have included in them half of your life story especially the achievements bit. The fundamental thing to do here is not to censure or rebuke those, but question this behavior, can we say that if we put too many smart people in one room will they turn on each other? will they mentally try to strangulate each other till a clear hierarchy is established? It seems we’ve all turned into mini Arnabs the Arnabisation of the country is happening (yes, punny no) we all believe sincerely and I do say sincerely that the nation demands to know our entire life story and not the abridged version. We all sincerely believe that hidden in our life struggle lies the mantle of human inspiration. (Popularly known as chicken soup for the teenage soul) That the vast multitudes want to know when we got our very first elocution competition prize, or that participation certificate for a basketball match, or that exchange program conducted in the backyard of an eminent college. Why are we compelled so strongly to think that there is a race and in our firm conviction we end up creating one.

Sometimes I think the world has gone insanely intellectual, the premium we place over grey cells and their count is vastly overrated, yes you can draft that critical piece on some obscure author you purposefully dug up to have the perfect avenue to present you purple prose capabilities, I’d rather be a good surfer instead (have you seen the attention they get) Machiavelli might have been a changed man if he was born on the coast of Florida he might have just produced the definitive work on sea Life, Machiavelli’s “The Lobster-Catcher” But then can we also say that the fragility of the intellectual ego prevents internalization of knowledge. Why do we shut down each time we feel our intellect being threatened either comparatively or absolutely? Why is our ability to perceive and cogitate so dependent on the state of our ego? We wait ever so patiently for that one acknowledgement of our intellect, like a Pavlonian canine we salivate at the mere utterance of anything resembling public praise. I wonder if Niccolo were put in one class with Einstein, Eco and Foucault would be able to muster the courage to present his views on how a household should be run much less a kingdom.

As mankind plods on towards, there seems to be a growing paranoia toward obscurity and becoming intellectually redundant, unsolicited advice has become the de facto social currency we so crave and flaunt. Today the individual is measured more so by his knowledge of wine tasting rather than actual wine making, his pretentious obscurities that pass off as trivia have become little nuggets that pepper the art of conversation. It seems to be a sad state where we fight so hard to prove to ourselves and only ourselves that we’re just as smart as the guy sitting to the right of us, be it in a metro, a classroom, a board meeting or a family reunion. The insecure individual is the modern-day Dostoevskian tragic hero, dammed by the guilt of his precious standards and the tragedy that is his life is spent in wanting forever the justification to be alive, to be in a certain place at a certain time and to share that with the rest of the world. It is as Foster-Wallace says none of us are atheists, we all worship something, worship intellect and you will always feel like a fool, a charlatan scared of being caught.

We live our lives, today one idea at a time, scared of losing out to faster people, of not being able to get there. We oscillate vacuously in the limbo that is personal insecurity never being able to know for sure, finding assurances in externalization and sometimes creating them if they don’t exist, over analyzing and reading sub text where there is none. It is to Machiavelli I turn again when I tell you that his epitaph happens to be every man’s dream and inspiration, it is the light at the end of the insecurity tunnel “TANTO NOMINI NULLUM PAR ELOGIUM” which means so great a name that has no adequate praise. You might even get there but the Pavlovian dog in us, so well-trained, still salivates at the thought of more.

Can I get some fries with that?

It’s been a while since I’ve unplugged the laptop and forced myself to write before the battery dies out. Living at home has taken its toll, I’ve been fed more than I’ve ever wanted and there’s a vacuum that familial living sorta sucks you into, that’s hard to resist. But in the words of the immortal Ali G, “I digest!”

Since school what I’ve valued most in a person is their ability to know what they want. Kids who had clear career paths in front of them dazzled me till I got a rosary and would chant their names, hoping the great God of clarity would one day take pity on me and grant me the same. Through life I’ve always wanted to try more things than I could afford to, I was torn, divided, equally confused and lost so many times, they could draw a maze inside my head, that would take Scooby Doo the world’s finest sleuth years to navigate through. Having taken more aptitude tests than polio shots, dentist meetings and annual checkups combined, let’s just say I got reports which were ambiguous and generic to say the least. I think it’s a trick they play where they word your aptitude test analysis like newspaper horoscopes, so open-ended that something is bound to be true. One of them told me I would pursue something creative, that guy was really ahead of his time. But it was pointless for as you answered each question you could see which way the results would go. But as I’ve grown I’ve seen those same people who had so much focus, such singularity of purpose that they’d do math at a friend’s birthday parties (IIT peoples) are the most unhappy of the lot, they might had achieved their purpose but having done so find it nothing like what they’d imagined it to be. Having passed out from a good MBA college, trust me nobody’s happy and this is when most of them got jobs in sectors they wanted to be in.

I guess it’s the aimless people, that are the happiest of the lot, because too much focus is just disappointing, now I don’t mean to say you should be a drifter or decide to be an avant-garde film appreciator on a quest to revolutionise the human perspective on the overuse of pathos in drama, because that is not a thing, trust me I’ve tried to make it one. A general direction is the perfect balance I feel, having met many who’ve sacrificed to do what they want and being in advertising does just that, puts you in touch with really passionate people carried away by their conviction in knowing what they want, till they do it and realise it’s not what they thought they’d be. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “I want to end up doing something creative” I could singlehandedly pursue Moriarty’s dream of buying all the resources and starting a war. People want do something grand, that is the biggest illusion of the human race, everybody wants to make a movie! everybody’s favorite director is mostly Tarantino, the niche has become so mainstream, the whole of Dhobighat could wash their laundry in it.

A lot of people talk about how dreams are sold, but they aren’t, the need to believe in something is the greatest sell, for it’s voluntary, to have a purpose no matter how petty it might be seems to give so much solace they might as well be selling it in tubes labelling it as a substitute for KY jelly. We’ve all gone through life ordering dishes by looking at their pictures and there’s the rub. A gujju boy who knows he’s going to inherit his father’s business sleeps more soundly than the highest scorer in the mock cats, than someone who knows he wants to be a writer and secretly skips classes thinking of plot-lines for his first novel. The toll a dream takes while it’s being put into action, the cost of a desire being materialised seldom leads up to its realisation. I’m not saying we need to go through life being aimless and as my saintly grandmother says “sustenance of the soul, living” but a dream seen through the eyes of another is never a good idea. This is tribute to those hundreds of copywriters looking for their first break, having given up their jobs at later ages in life to pursue what they thought was their “dream vocation” only to realize eking out lines for a pittance is highly romanticized and this be true for most industries not just advertising. Friends in well-paying jobs often tell me, they are scared of being replaced by a sign language ape, because their job is mostly semaphoric.

Whenever I now go out to a new restaurant or I try new dishes I always ask them, “can I get some fries with that?”, for they taste particularly nice with a pinch of salt!

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