Let Me Reintroduce You

Hello again.

To put this in context, the last posts I made were 5 Reasons We Feel the Need to Hate and The 2 AM Friend on 5th and 4th April, 2013 respectively. So yes… It has been 9 months.

Yesterday, I signed up for the Zero to Hero 30 Day Blog Challenge, which is why I am writing this.

It is not that I don’t like writing. I have 3 short stories and at least 8 articles either in draft form or as ideas saved in various places such as my Sky Drive, my Google Drive and the Memo app on my Smartphone. Why is it then that I have not posted anything in such a long time?

Hi, my name is Vaibhav Gupta. I am currently a final year student at Christ University, Bangalore, India pursuing B.Sc. (Hons) in Computer Science. My blog name is outdated. It was a funny pun last year, and I wasted yesterday evening trying to come up with another name, which brings me to what this blog is about. Yesterday I learnt that I do not know how to define myself – I do not have a USP. I am unable to boil myself and my blog down to, say, 3 discernible features.

It is not that I am a thoroughly uninteresting person – Indeed, I have engaged extensively in theatre (Yes, British spelling), dance, writing, debate and many other activities. I am (albeit inexperienced) a web designer, and have an understanding of Adobe Photoshop and Flash, and several programming and scripting languages. I enjoy reading, and the occasional art. Cue end of shameless self-promotion Yet, I don’t particularly imagine myself impressive. Oh, also, I can type without looking at the keyboard. 😛

So why should you read my blog?
Firstly, thank you for reading this.

  1. You can find decent or semi-decent fiction here from time to time. I write essays, articles and poems, and last year, I started writing (or drafting) short stories.
  2. You can accompany me on my journey of self-discovery, choosing either to help me with your feedback, or (I hope) taking away something which helps you in return.
  3. I spend most of my time over-thinking things. If there is a topic you would like to discuss, I could write a post on it after appropriate research. Of course, this depends on your feedback.

So far, my posts have been about abstract concepts that I have found interesting. However, my interests are something I have (not actively) kept away from this blog. I shall remedy that this year. Last year, I took up making small clay models after my sister bought some clay and never used it. I cook quite often, and I made a ton of food last year. I also made a couple of paintings and some arty displays. I’ll soon start putting up pictures of these. I can even add recipes for the food if you would be interested.

I also follow a lot of TV shows. My favourites (British spelling, yes) are Doctor Who (British show, yes) and the WWE. I also like How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Glee and Community, and am currently watching Breaking Bad, and a nice load of Japanese movies. I may or may not write about these in the near future (hopefully).

In conclusion, I’d like to ask for your help in keeping this blog alive through your feedback, which would motivate me to write more.

Again, thank you for reading.

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5 Reasons We Feel the Need to Hate

If you haven’t been ignoring every single piece of personal, societal, racial or global information, you’ve probably noticed that there is a lot of hatred in this world. Heck, if you’re reading this blog, then you are already quite open to getting other people’s views and getting news (or, you know, I shoved the link in your face).

The concept is nothing new. As a species, we’ve been surprisingly receptive and generous in hate. And everyone does it. Not even priests bathe in milk (An Indian idiom – denoting a person very virtuous in nature; generally negated in the sentence – “He is not bathed in milk.”) – just ask the Westboro baptist church.

Let’s see down the years.

In history, we’ve had an atrocious number of genocides. Whether it be Hitler’s Holocaust or Stalin’s Great Purge, history stands testament to people losing themselves in mindless hate. Here is an article showing just that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocides_in_history

For quite a few years now, education has taught us that racism is bad. For 4000 or so more, we as a species have practiced it. Whether it be comparing Jews to the heathens, or the subjugation of blacks because “The Bible condemns them to be servants unto servants.” or any hatred based on color or race is appalling and stupid. Fear of the unknown drives us to lash out, like a pathetic cornered animal. Only, the corner here is made-up. For more about racism: http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-01.htm

Other notable examples are sexism, hatred towards sexual orientation, slandering celebrities, and  bullying, among many others.

But despite the huge influence of music and literature promoting love and despite several anti-hate movements, why do we still feel the need to hate?

"Embrace the Hate", Kane says.
“Embrace the Hate”, Kane says.

Here are the 5 thinks I think are major reasons we tend to feel enmity, envy or aggression towards our fellow man:

Fear of the Unknown/Stereotyping

This, along with propagation of the same, I believe, is the reason racism exists, or at least, the reason racism started. Race hatred is one of the most powerful forms of malevolence, because it manifests in a group vs individual situation. Cultural and color differences are apparent at a glance. Paranoid, overprotective and small-minded people tend to abhor these differences, and instinctively lash out, verbally or physically. What is worse is that such people tend to attract similar-minded people. There is an Indian saying – “In a group, even a jackal becomes a lion.” Hence, in a public situation, racist hatred escalates quickly, making it one of the most antisocial and dangerous forms of hatred.

Exactly.
Exactly.

It is important to note that these fears also extend to hatred based on sexual orientation and religion. Hatred towards homosexuals arises mainly because of beliefs that gay people have made an unnatural and “evil” decision to be gay, that they shall forcefully convert each person to be gay, and that such people have a natural disposition to be rebellious and antisocial, among other such beliefs.

Religion raises similar issues where a person (again, in a “cornered” state), believes that if someone else believes in a different God, a notion strictly forbidden by the holy scripture of their own religion,  they will somehow be punished because they are “condoning the crime”, which also begets punishment (very conveniently).

Also worth noting is that all science fiction dealing with alien life depicts aliens as a much more advanced society, and that they are uniform/ (mostly) uniform species and have no concept of religion, in contrast to human beings who come in several variations of physical and social characteristics.

Dominance and Control

Often, two situations arise in a relationship simultaneously. One person gets too much power and control over the other, and/or one is under the control of the other, usually being blackmailed.  When both of these happen simultaneously, the relationship more often than not becomes abusive.

Both aspects are to be considered here. First, when one partner gets too powerful in a relationship, they start controlling more and more of their partner’s comings and goings. This kind of power is intoxicating, and the intoxication surprisingly does not yield pleasure, as one would expect but strangely, it breeds contempt towards the weaker partner. This relationship does not have to be between a couple in love, but any two individuals really. If you think about it, this is how bullying escalates. The bully, for whatever reason, vents his frustrations on the other, and begins to push the other more and more, as if to see how far the other will bend.

For the weaker partner, the obvious hatred comes from thoughts of being unfairly persecuted and thoughts of avoiding or escaping the situation. The weaker partner is quite often a timid or shy person, or a person who chooses to avoid confrontation and fighting, and this characteristic not only encourages the bully, but also bottles up more and more resentment in the weaker partner.

Social Pressure

(Credits to the wonderful Aakriti Verma for brainstorming with me and coming up with the basis for this point.)

The idea came about from parents who harbor resentment towards disabled children. In the hyper-competitive environment that we live in, each one of us is pressured to succeed, either actively or passively by the society. A lot of times, it is the individual’s perceived notion that society wants her to succeed, but is actually a self-imposed set of standards that are difficult or impossible to maintain. In such a situation, if we somehow “fail”, we get bothered very quickly, especially when we blame the so-called failure on factors other than the self’s hard work, such as circumstance, accident, or lack of initiative from another.

If a parent is very dedicated to raising their child as well as they possibly can, and due to some circumstances, there comes a big hurdle in the way, e.g. a child suffers permanent damage in an accident, it is found that the parent often blames the child for it, rather than the situation, and thus becomes hostile. Oh and God forbid s/he’s gay!

It’s the same as when an unfortunate woman is raped, the media, and by extension, we as a society find ways to blame the woman, as is becoming a common trend the world over (which is stupid, appalling and pathetic, by the way).

Unfair pressure from the society to be perfect gets to most of us, and the destructive criticism or judgment that the machine that is society throws at us, often causes us to rage against a weaker opponent, whoever is unlucky enough to be at hand. This is especially true of Indian parents, who put a ridiculous amount of pressure on their children because they do not want to be embarrassed in the closely-knit Indian society (Thankfully, my parents do not pressure me in this way. Unfortunately, I speak of the self-imposed impossible standards from experience).

In simple terms, anger is misdirected from the larger stronger opponent (societal norms and circumstances) to a weaker opponent, and this leads to dominance and subjugation, as discussed earlier.

Entitlement and Jealousy

This point is the original idea that led me to write this piece.

What I feel is a major stepping stone towards full-blown antisocial hatred is the unsettling amount of hatred that we throw out casually every day.

” I h8 Justin Bieber coz he’s such a fag. Your gay, loser!”

“Shah Rukh Khan is an arrogant jerk.”

“Steve Jobs was nothing special. He just stole from people by selling them overexpensive electronic crap.”

“I hate <that new movie>. It sucks.”

I find that the teenage and young adult group is most vulnerable to this kind of talk.

CHILL OUT! I sometimes say to people who make such remarks, “I don’t have the time to hate these people. I have a path to make for myself.” You’ve probably heard that one saying – An empty mind is a devil’s workshop.” By encouraging this casual hatred towards other people, be they celebrity or ordinary, we tell ourselves and others around us that it is okay to hate. It is not. Deriders will tell me that we have a right to opinion, and to them I say don’t abuse your right.

I feel that this directed hatred towards celebrities comes from this notion that forms in childhood that we are entitled to a good, successful, rich and happy life, and when we don’t get it, we tend to blame the people who apparently do have a happy life. Ironically, this sense of entitlement comes largely from the culture of art and film. A lot of movies are made where the dashing hero works hard throughout to get the perfect life and the perfect girl in the end. Let me make it perfectly clear – You and I are entitled to NOTHING. What we have and what we shall have comes from a combination of hard work, luck and confidence with a healthy dose of help from others.

This kind of casual hatred experienced a heavy boost with the popularization of the internet, the forums and message boards and social networking sites. Now stop blaming the sites – I know that would be the first thought that a number of you would have. Don’t blame the tool, blame the user. The anonymity that the internet offered and still offers encourages this kind of unsolicited judgment. Every person who ever took to the internet as salvation from whatever problems they were facing in real life, channel that subjugation anger out on this pervasive yet anonymous medium. If you don’t believe me or if you doubt my words, go look at a popular YouTube video’s comments section.

The "2/10 Would Not Bang" meme is a perfect parody and example of the kind of judgmental and hateful behaviour we see on the internet.
The “2/10 Would Not Bang” meme is a perfect parody and example of the kind of judgmental and hateful behaviour we see on the internet.

I believe that if we begin to address this issue right at the onset, that is, during a child’s formative years, we can make them model citizens who believe more in self-upliftment than pulling down others. If we nip this casual hatred in the bud, we can automatically curb the stereotype, dominance and pressure hatred that a person dishes out. Conversely, if we encourage this kind of behaviour, it could increase the frequency of the child getting in trouble, and eventually falling into a cycle of hatred (addressed below).

Hate Begets Hate AKA Retribution

As you read this article, it is entirely possible that you think either “Such people are stupid.” or “This author is stupid. He doesn’t know what he is talking about.”.

People may or may not have first-hand experience with any of the above  (or other) forms of animosity. Those who have, often want to not only escape the situation, but receive “justice” for the wrong they have suffered. I do not deride these feelings, but rather I point out that justice can be subjective.

Those who haven’t experienced such hatred first-hand nevertheless have read about it, or seen videos and movies, or have been exposed to it in some other second-hand manner. As we are wont to do, we do judge such acts as heinous and resent them, and this resentment is the seed of fresh hatred. Whether it is righteous anger or not is irrelevant. The point is that it is that easy for hatred to be born. It is a self-replicating, self-sustaining mechanism now.

Cycle of Hatred
Hatred Begets Hatred

In the end, I feel a little helpless, because there is a circle of hatred prevalent in society. As Masashi Kishimoto pointed out in his manga series Naruto Shippuuden, one feels outraged when their friends and family are massacred in a war, and they wreak justice upon those responsible. But then the family of these “aggressors” feel outraged and wronged, and they shall unleash their own brand of justice on the revenge-taker, and thus the cycle of hatred goes along.

I am personally troubled because I find it easy to forgive, but difficult to forget. Hence, I’m sure that at a sub-surface (surficial?) level, I do somewhat resent even those I forgive, and that makes me a hypocrite, something I don’t want to be.

If you feel your opinion can add to this topic, or address these issues, please feel free to comment, criticize, suggest and appreciate.

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The 2 A.M. Friend

Being so lazy that one complains of being cooped in the house yet doesn’t get up to go out (despite getting the monthly allowance) really opens one up to a wide array of feelings, a prominent one being loneliness. In this case, I’m not talking about the mind-numbing, soul-sucking and hope-crushing loneliness that we honestly only rarely ever feel, but more of the ant-bite annoying type of loneliness.

And I find myself feeling this hindrance late into the night, when the major portion of the normal curve is fast asleep, and when the insomniacs, the call center employees, the overachievers, the cat burglars, the college student with a project due the next day and the other half of the world start stretching their legs.

I believe a little loneliness and a little rejection goes a long way in preventing a person from becoming a privileged porcelain doll.

One Piece - Luffy vs. Tenryuubito
Luffy gives this Tenryuubito a little rejection.

But really all I wanted to establish was the importance of having friends you can talk to. This article demonstrates that (Note how I subtly enforced the stereotype of Canadians being the friendliest people in the world).

We know that as a society develops, our needs are met and our wants slowly become our new needs. In an age where we have the internet infinite information and distractions at our disposal to keep us busy for years on end if need be, I, despite being a generally responsible and controlled individual, find myself awake quite late into the night. At such a time, I find a 2 A.M. friend indispensable.

A 2 A.M. friend is simply that – A friend who like you finds themselves regularly up late and therefore make a habit of talking/chatting/texting you regularly. I find this person an awesome friend to have, and that is probably why I have only had generally awesome people as my nocturnal companion.

No, You're awesome!

I can count these special people on my fingers, and it is very comforting to talk to someone late at night. I guess that’s possible because most of the people on this half of the world are asleep at such times, making moments with these friends much more private and hence more intimate.

I find that I never consciously made someone a late contact. It just happens on its own, and this person is generally one of the 3 people I’m close to at the time.

(I find that people only need a set number of friends at any given time to be happy. For me, that number is 3. At any given time, I can point out the 3 people who are my best friends. It is a rotating circle.)

In short, I’d like to point out some of the major pros of having someone to talk to at night.

  • Confidant – I find myself opening up to this person more than I do to others, often discussing both personal thoughts and philosophies, as well as plans, advice and secrets.
  • Peaceful Conversation – The conversation is never rushed, because time is the thing that we have most.
  • Minimal Disturbance – A calm night entails lack of traffic and a nice breeze. In such a scenario, I only wish to have someone to share this peaceful feeling with.
  • Bond development – Since I tend to share more, I tend to receive more, and this helps me get closer to someone that I care about.

However, everything has cons, and I guess one is getting too attached to the other person. I’m fairly sensitive (although this is not apparent to those who know me personally) and I care deeply about people I become close to. So, when it starts to fade, I feel that both sides are hurt by it. Again, this is not always the case, rather it is a personal quirk, but one must say that if you find yourself in need of someone to talk to at night, you are probably equally or more sensitive.

I’d love to get your thoughts on the ideas presented in this piece. As you can see, it’s not a pressing issue or anything of major relevance, but it is something that I’ve found enriches my life. So please feel free to comment, criticize, suggest and appreciate.

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Red

Red began fidgeting with the collar, when Kevin moved, and Red’s eyes grew wide. His arms slowed, moving down to the lapels as he admired himself.
“It’s… nice…” began Red.

Hi Readers,

So I wrote Red originally as a short – just the first chapter, but a few friends expressed interest in the story, so I extended it to what you see here.

I would REALLY appreciate feedback on the style of writing and all the different elements, especially mood setting. Please be freely critical with me in the comments.

Regards,

Vaibhav.

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Chapter 1: Preparation

As he stood in front of the mirror, he fidgeted with his cuffs, pulling them over his wrist, then all the way back again.

“Leave it be. You look fabulous.” said Ronnie. Ronnie had been his best friend for years now, and he always consulted Ronnie on everything – what books to read, what food to eat, whether that new movie was worth a watch. But he really didn’t feel like being dismissed by Ronnie today. He needed to look his absolute best.

Ronnie’s boyfriend, Kevin sidled over and put his arm around Ronnie’s waist. “Trust me Red, you look great. Have a little more confidence in yourself.”

He really didn’t like being called Red, but everyone seemed to have adopted the little moniker. He would get used to it eventually, he thought.

“Oh, just one last touch.” said Ronnie, as he deliberately and slowly took out a coat bag from his wardrobe.

“Aww, come on Ronnie. No blazers – It’ll be way too formal.” Red said with exasperation.

“Just shut up, and try it on.” Ronnie said, smirking and pulling out a beautiful black blazer from the coat bag. He handed it to Red with utmost care. Red hesitated, but let Ronnie help him put it on, as Kevin blocked Red’s view of the mirror.

Red began fidgeting with the collar, when Kevin moved, and Red’s eyes grew wide. His arms slowed, moving down to the lapels as he admired himself.

“It’s… nice…” began Red.

“Feel the power of the Blazer.” breathed Ronnie, slowly sliding his arms up to Red’s shoulders and giving him a squeeze. They smiled and Kevin said, “You’re ready. Go get her!”

Chapter 2: Meeting

Red was a nervous wreck. All through the taxi ride, he was distracted by the thought of things to come.

Cars and trucks floated past the corner of his vision; a handcart-puller was blocking traffic. Gasoline vapours permeated the air as the clarion call of automobiles assaulted the ears, yet he was oblivious.

He barely noticed when the cab pulled in to the curb. The cab driver cleared his throat twice before blowing the horn, which jerked him back to the real world. Taking a moment to gather his wits, he gingerly deboarded and paid the cab fare, finally turning to face what was looming in front of him – Duvairé, the new big thing in restaurants.

Stepping in, he checked in at the front desk for his reservation. He was a half-hour early, but the kindly looking well dressed man seemed to grasp the situation, and smiling, escorted Red to a table towards a cosy corner away from the front and kitchen doors.

So far so good; one of the things that could have gone wrong hadn’t.

And thus began what felt like the longest hour of Red’s life. He was so antsy that he had to peruse the menu a dozen times to calm him down. The soft music in the air didn’t help.

He kept going over scenarios in his head, what he would say, what he would avoid saying. What if there was a lull? He imagined the horror of her being polite not to mention it, but being bored.

He juggled a hundred thoughts of her, but she never showed up.

The kindly gentleman came up and asked, “Will your guest be coming, sir?”

“Apparently not.” Red sighed. Whether it was a sigh of relief or disappointed, he would never be able to tell.

Chapter 3: Rescue

Dejected, Red got up to leave, but tripped and scraped his knee through his jeans. “Great” he thought, embarrassed. The patron helped him up and dusted him off, and sent him on his way. Red appreciated his help, but he couldn’t understand for the life of him why she chose to ignore his feelings in this manner, and it erased everything else he was thinking of at that time. It ate away at the very fibre of his being. Why would she? How could she?

And then his phone buzzed. He pulled it out and checked the text message – “Hey im rly sry. I gt called away & cudnt cal bak. Can we do dinner instd? Same plc.”

His chest heaved… and relaxed. He hadn’t been stood up. He would still see her today. He loosened his collar, and being a little more comfortable, went back to Duvairé to rebook a table.

He was met again by the patron, who smiled genially and said, “So what brings sir back?”

Red smiled back, and asked for a table later in the evening.

“Ah if you’d like to wait, I’ll arrange for coffee and a light snack?”

“No thank you. Is there a place nearby where I could spend my time?” Red asked.

“There is a reading café just down the road, sir. I believe that would be an excellent use of the evening.”

“Thank you.” smiled Red, and left. As he walked down to the café, he thought of the old patron. He felt comfortable with him. The patron felt genuine and warm. Red breathed in the feeling of solace he felt. The patron felt like the father he never had, and he found what he sensed was a feeling of family, so many years, after the death of his father.

Chapter 4: Take Two

It was time. Red drank the last of his ice tea as he proceeded to back to the restaurant. He hadn’t read much in the café; he felt fear too nervous.

As he walked back up the road, he felt a chill from the evening wind and he was glad for Ronnie’s blazer. He made a note to thank Ronnie.

Trepidation filled him. She had wanted to meet him, but it had taken him everything he had to ask her to dinner. Given their history, he was shattered when she left, so long ago. Communication between them had been scarce since, but she was always there at the back of his mind, a constant presence, like a fly buzzing around at night. You couldn’t get rid of it.

He entered the restaurant once again, and he didn’t want to leave without what he wanted. The first time had cleared his head – he wanted to meet her. He craved it.

The patron met him at the entrance, and Red smiled. He knew what was coming. “I believe your guest has arrived, sir.” He said, with the broadest smile he had given Red all day.

Red readied himself. He slowly walked in and looked towards the table indicated by the host.

Sitting there was a middle-aged woman in a tight grey tee and camo pants, wearing combat boots. Her muscled arms were bare. Her hair had been tied back to a tight bun and she sat straight-backed, an indication of her years of military training. She turned to him, and looked down.

“What did you do to your knee?!” she exclaimed.

“Hi mom.” said Red, a slow smile spreading across his face.

The Nerdy Girl Theory

So a TRUCKLOAD of information is available on the internet about girls who freely express themselves about HOW MUCCH OV A NERD DEY AAARE LLOOLZZ… ahem, and the unreserved rage that gamerguys, fanbois, and comic book fans have expressed over this.

Two points become clear here:

  1. In recent history, it has suddenly become (apparently) cool and fashionable for girls to proclaim their love for all things nerdy.

  2. The internet doesn’t like it.

First let’s get something clear.

Image

So by that paradigm, I’ve been a pretentious douchebag for months now. I’m not a nerd, i’m just intelligent and mildly obsessive about a few, unrelated things. :3

So let’s explore the first point.

There could be several angles and/or reasons to this cultural shift taking the internet by gale (because it’s not a storm by any yardstick).

  • It’s an unexplored market for film and fashion industries and they are really milking the cow as much as they can. A lot of celebrities have taken to it, as covered by Smosh on their site, here
  • We’ve seen one too many shy-chick-gets-a-makeover-and-becomes-prom-queen flick and/or seasons of Beauty and the Geek, and are looking to emulate it.
  • Glasses and spectacles improved vastly in the looks department, and girls went wild from there. Sweaters are hot too.
  • Hipsters couldn’t find anything else, believing that all other departments were taken (Let’s face it: Hipster is an asymptotic synonym for fashionista. It’s the vicious cycle of fashion – The rich want to avoid looking like the poor so they dress differently, and the poor want to emulate the rich, so they eventually mimic their clothes (because that is SO much easier than emulating etiquette), forcing the rich to change, and so on).
  • A sizeable portion of girls (people in general, really) are insecure about themselves. It is possible that these girls are taking the opportunity to really actually come out into the open. However, it is again possible that such girls are few and far between.
  • A large number of girls are seeking attention by blindly emulating aforementioned celebrities, which is causing the outbreak.
  • Some of these girls are misinformed, as shown in the following image: Image

Don’t call me sexist. I’m not, and I will not entertain any such allegations.

Now, I will try to explore the reasons behind the second point – Why the internet is getting its knickers in a twist over this.

  • The internet is in large part made up of men and women who are largely socially oppressed, either by loved ones, or by that social hellhole called school (Don’t get me wrong. I loved school, I love learning, but school is a tough time for all kids, where peer pressure is tremendous).
  • With the advent of social networking, “the meatworld” moved in (obscure WoW reference. Please pardon me), and the socially oppressed people (henceforth referred to as Old Internet or S.O.P.) didn’t appreciate their bullies invading their turf and they lashed out.
  • The S.O.P. have a large intersection set with people who love video games, science fiction and comic books. So naturally, when the “bullies” started claiming territory, Old Internet lashed out in panic. However the internet is a large place, and it accommodated everyone, resulting in apathy, as shown here.
  • The S.O.P. hold a natural advantage of experience and intelligence on the webs, and it is very possible that the intoxication of power i.e. the chance to be the bullies themselves took them over. However, the S.O.P. fell into in-fighting, resulting in what we know today as YouTube comment feeds, and get-back-in-the-kitchen jokes.

(Side note: I strongly believe that the previous point, combined with the inherent property of anonymity and distance is what has made the internet such a hateful place.)

I’ll let Jim Sterling summarise for me: Watch Video

Hence, in conclusion, if I had to take a stand, I’d rather have such girls leave the gaming/comic/cartoon/online community alone, but I also know that it’s not going to happen. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, no matter how skewed/checkered/misinformed/ stupid/nihilistic it is, and we as insecure people will spend money we don’t have to buy things we can’t afford to impress people we don’t like. Yes I stole that line, but in my defense it’s a really, really good one.

If I could have one small thing, I’d have that the level of stupidity on the net comes down a bit. And everyone does something stupid or the other. I probably do too.

And with that, I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your schedules to read my work. Please  Please feel free to comment, criticize, suggest and appreciate.

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See you across the wormhole to the indeterminate future where I write my next post.

If I Kept A Journal: A Long Journey

It was a bright, warm, yellow-hued November morning, or so I fancied. Outside, the world stubbornly hung on to the last few dregs of heat, which struggled to break free from the embraces of the soil. It was an annual ritual dating back hundreds of thousands of years.

Inside however, as I sat thinking these inconsequential thoughts, a slight tremble ran up my arms, bearing out some unknown vendetta against the pages of my notebook through my terrible handwriting. I wonder, if every object had a soul to call its own, could we sully it or reduce its purity by our influence, as I sullied the chastity of the page through my pen?

I rocked left and right, unable or perhaps unwilling to fight the inertia of it. I had been commuting this way my entire life, and I had long given up the feverish agitation of fighting with it when I was a younger, more headstrong man. As such, I let the swaying take me with it, and thus, tarnished the sheet of paper that I drafted this on. A journalist might have termed it ‘collateral damage’.

Beside me, a grandmother plays with her fifteen pound bundle of joy, while the mother carefully manoeuvres her boiled eggs. I see her hitting it on the table several times lightly, making a dull tap-tap-tapping, never quite hitting the same spot because of the rocking, and then peeling it piece by small piece. In comparison, I felt like a savage brute because earlier I had rapped my eggs,once each, hard on the selfsame table, and stripped them naked in two smooth motions, first one half, which the egg readily gave up, and then the second, which required a little coaxing. Now she salts and peppers her own, emptying the little sachets, perhaps hoping to re-cover the eggs, like a change of clothes. The eggs seem to suffocate, much like her son in his multiple sweaters and balaclava, still with the kindly grandmother. She relieved it presently, pinching the excessive salt and putting it away. I imagine this is a technique to infuse taste into the eggs that I don’t know of, because she is older than I am, and hence must be wiser.

As they proceed to put the now snoozing baby in a more comfortable position, I partake in that most annoying habit that the youth today seem to love – I put my earphones in and shut the world out. As Adam Young sings ‘Gold’, my thoughts drift to her who shares my name in part and, if the powers that be will it, might some day share my name in full. I’m headed to her presently, and will see her in two days.

A falcon swoops close outside, shaking me from my reverie. I look at the ray of sunbeam opposite me, swathed in its sweaters and blankets, blissfully unaware of the world in his sleep as he is when awake. The soulful beats of The Speed of Sound ring in my ears as I look at him, enjoying what he and the six or so others like him nearby had taken from me at six in the morning today. I hold no grudge though. It’s ten A.M. now, and there is a lot of brown outside as we’re at a standstill. The ugliness of the minor stop and the toilet on it, characterized by brown, disappear as we jerk forward, resuming the familiar to-and-fro.

My present situation bars me from doing much but think. As Maroon 5 gives me Captain Splendid and Future Kid for an encore, the names of those songs direct my attention to my uncertain future. Much energy has been funneled into that sinkhole over the past week, and I force my thoughts elsewhere – into an imaginary situation, like a lucid dream. I employ this tactic often, consciously or unconsciously, and I like to imagine it keeps me sane.

For a moment, I put the pen down and straightened up, and my gaze strayed to the right. My pensive torpor evaporated when I saw a creamy blue sky and an expanse of lush green below it. In my shock, I looked to the left, and surely enough, the dull yellow permeated the landscape. I repeatedly looked both ways to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating from the mild chill. I wasn’t sure if the heavens were showing me something, if the sun dried up an area in particular, as if to show me that the lord giveth to the right and the lord taketh away from the left, or if the windows merely needed cleaning. Fascination! Then one of those moments of appreciation and gratitude came upon me, when we realize for a moment, just for a moment before the ego returns, how tiny and inconsequential we are in the universe. Coldplay brings these moods upon me often, and here I find, it returns after the small lapse!

You & I

So I was talking to a certain someone and something I said clicked, and I penned this down quickly. Hope you enjoy it.

 

You know, you’re not perfect.
Far from it, nothing like it.
It might never be true,
The concept is alien.
But then, neither am I.

Trying to push you away,
But it’s not possible,
The feelings are in tandem,
And soon I must listen.

You get closer, then farther,
And there’s only so much,
I can do to stay sane now.

You’ll be within reach soon,
And I cannot forget…

You and I.

A Thoroughly Incomprehensive and Unstructured Analysis of Connotations

Implied meanings can alter the communicated message, often unwittingly, and hence affect judgement. This is the reason that so many companies and organizations pay special attention to effective communication skills.

Introduction

At the risk of being unoriginal, I begin by defining a connotation[1], which is an idea or feeling that a word invokes for a person in addition to its literal or primary meaning. Many wouldn’t notice, but the title itself had multiple connotations. When I say incomprehensive, I mean that it isn’t detailed enough to be a thesis[2]. When I say unstructured, I mean that it is free-flowing and presents ideas in a form I see fit, and not in a generally accepted format. However, many would take the misleading heading to mean a lack of direction or form, and would immediately pass judgement on the author[3].

As such, we see that implied meanings can alter the communicated message, often unwittingly, and hence affect judgement. This is the reason that so many companies and organizations pay special attention to effective communication skills. The study of connotations, denotations and meaning in general is called semantics, and is a complex and subjective study.

Illustration[4]

Negative: There are over 2,000 vagrants in the city.

Neutral: There are over 2,000 people with no fixed address in the city.

Positive: There are over 2,000 homeless in the city.

While the sentences all reference the same people, ‘vagrants’ implies people who are a nuisance to the general populace, while ‘homeless’ seems to indicate a person deserving pity and help.

Impact

While the effect connotations have on general conversation and communication has been made clear, it is noteworthy that the degree to which a nuance is skewed increases over time, largely due to what is referred to in economics as “The Bandwagon Effect[5]”, and through circulation in education and mass media.

The most stark and effective example is the broad[6] region of political correctness, videlicet, the terms used to identify racial differences. In the case of those of African descent, the most commonly used terms are Negro, black, African-American and the pejorative ‘nigger’. While ‘nigger’ is definitely a contemptuous term originated from supremist colonists, the other three terms are still in general use. In the mid-20th century, ‘black’ was considered a more offensive term, and ‘coloured’ and ‘negro’ were the more polite terms. However, during the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, some black American leaders in the United States, notably Malcolm X, objected to the word, preferring Black, because they associated the word Negro with the long history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination that treated African Americans as second class citizens, or worse[7].

All three terms are still in use, though comedian Russell Peters has objected to the term African-American, stating that “You guys are not African.”

Another, not quite so obvious example is that of the word “nerd”. Originally and still meaning “a person who is single-mindedly skilled in a particular profession or discipline”, it attained a negative connotation largely due to Hollywood influence, eventually used to stereotypically describe socially inept and often extremely intelligent high school students. With rapid changes in fashion, particularly in the mid-2000s, the stereotypical portrayal of a bottom of the barrel student became the next big thing, and before you know it, glasses with heavy frames, coats and bowties became commonplace, eventually gaining its own niche in young adult fashion[8]. This change brought in another level to the meaning of the word, and has somewhat equalized and balanced out the extremities of implication of the word, whether positive or negative.

However, that is not all. The concept of implication, like other concepts, is also evolving and this is especially true of trends originating in and propagating through the internet. The connotations skew so much that eventually a secondary or tertiary meaning begins to be associated with the word. The greeting of “What’s up?[9]”, made popular by Bugs Bunny, is now a general indication of boredom in a conversation. It serves as a filler or as a silence-breaker, wherein the conversationalist reinitiates talks that have become dull or have been awkwardly paused due to some reason.

Example:

A: … and that is how to perform integral calculus on trigonometric identities.

B: Great. Thanks for all your help.

A: …

B: … So, sup?

Another example of change of meaning is of a word routine in talk nowadays – “Gay”. Originally, the word only meant carefree and/or happy. This meaning eventually began to exaggerate, enough that it attained a connotation of wickedness or sin[10]. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, it began to be used as a term to describe homosexuality, so much so that nearing the end of the 20th century, LGBT[11]  groups recommended it be used exclusively to describe people attracted to people of the same gender. However, the negative connotation also intensified around the same time (1970s), being used to mean “rubbish” or “stupid”. Hence both meanings are still used, and this can be accredited with being part of the reason that the gay community is still harshly ostracized. The ridicule that this word implies would be glaringly obvious if one would read the comment section of a popular YouTube video.[12] The use of this word has been criticized as homophobic, and a 2006 BBC ruling by the Board of Governors advised “caution on its use” for the following reason: “The word ‘gay’ in addition to being used to mean ‘homosexual’ or ‘carefree’, was often now used to mean ‘lame’ or ‘rubbish’. This is a widespread current usage of the word amongst young people… The word ‘gay’ … need not be offensive… or homophobic…”

A lot, lot more can be said on the topic and every word may be analysed separately, but having dealt with a few of the more important or prevalent ones, it would be safe to conclude that semantics and communication are delicate skills, and extreme caution needs to be exercised in their use, because as was indicated, a clever pun, or a simple remark may get in vogue, and cause major changes in the landscape of trends and language in the future.


[1] From the bluntly named ‘Dictionary.com’

[2] A thousand word piece can hardly be called a dissertation now, can it?

[3] Id est myself. Referring to oneself in third person is so narcissistic, isn’t it?

[5] The Bandwagon Effect is a form of groupthink which states that the more the number of people having adopted a concept, the greater the proportion of people tending to adopt the concept id est ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ syndrome.

[6] (and suffocatingly obnoxious and bootlicking)

[7] From ‘during’ onward, I lifted the whole thing from Wikipedia. It’s so succinctly put.

[8] There are two such niches – ‘nerd’ which is hardcore role-playing such as dungarees and polka dots, and ‘hipster’, which is much more mellow and makes nerd look cool.

[9] Often abbreviated to the slang “Sup?”

[10] As per Wikipedia, around 1637.

[11] Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender – This term was coined later. At the time, more offensive terms may have been in use, such as the still prevalent ‘queer’.

[12] “Everyone that you hate is fake, gay or a fag” (abbreviation of the already distasteful ‘faggot’) – Ray William Johnson, Internet comedian and musician.

Thank you for taking the time out of your schedules to read my work. Please feel free to comment, criticize, suggest and appreciate. :)

WordPress – GrammarMantis

Facebook – Vaibhav Gupta

Twitter – Vaibhavshaali

Daylight

I’m amazed that not one looks up now, hoping to see

Falling cherry blossoms or dollar bills from heaven.

The first time I sat next to her after we became

Lovers, nor teenage, nor adult, I clenched her hand loose.

She pulled away, shy, perhaps a little  hint of shame.

 

The ice thawed out today, and I looked to the rivers,

In the end, we are after all alone when we die,

Happy ever after is a myth; Here and now is

A sample in this experiment, that tells us why

We struggle, and chase, and run; ’tis just to keep this bliss.

 

A one-second hug gives twelve minutes of happiness,

That’s a pretty good bargain. I’ll take a few dozen.

The rain came in today, and I looked up to the sky,

And hoped, and prayed, and wished for some serendipity,

And affirmed to myself to never once see her cry.

 

The forecast is no longer gloomy, not anymore,

The skies were invitingly bare, not a cloud in sight.

I lay on the lush grass with my head in her warm lap,

My affections soared out like a flock of birds in flight,

The daylight shone through today, on her face, through the gap.

 

I was afraid of the dark, and of the cold wetness,

That stirs quiet in my head. And when the daylight came,

I looked up gingerly, squinting to escape the glow

Of the edge of her silhouette, her eternal flame.

The daylight shone through today, and I won’t let her go.

 

The State of Things – July 2012

To the five people who subscribe to this blog, I’m sorry I don’t write more often. I am having a terrible day today, which seems an appropriate time for this post (which I’ve been planning for a couple of days).

When I say “The State of Things”, I mean to speak of stuff in my life which I find significant. This is not a news bulletin.

Firstly, I have a fear (which was the original idea for this post). I fear I’m losing my individuality as I become an adult. In our media and literature, we call it growing up or maturing, but I don’t care for big words (in this case). I find I play video games lesser, and read less often for pleasure. I’ve drastically reduced dancing and writing. I don’t remember the last time I drew. I become somber and grim in an accelerated manner, and have started weighing my words more often (though several people have found that a slight improvement). I worry about my weight and I get tired the moment college ends. If you would, please give me your opinion on whether my fear is irrational.

I find several of my skills improving at meteoric speeds. I have recovered from my stuttering and speak much more eloquently now, even making references and allusions from time to time. That makes me feel less out of place in conversations with Abhishek, Puru, and my sister, among other people. Though when it comes to the first two, as the Hindi saying goes, “Delhi abhi door hai.”

I’m short-listed to deliver a 2 minute speech in our college auditorium tomorrow. I guess the teachers feel I speak well.

My typing seems to be on steroids now. I reckon I average 61 words a minute on a good day.

Speaking of good days, I had one yesterday. I had had no sleep that night and no breakfast, but I had finished two pending assignments and I was content the whole day. Today was as if the sin curve just went past the 180 degrees mark.

For those who didn’t understand the Math reference.

I’m in a relationship now. It brings me joy, but in fits and bursts. Still, worth it.

My classmates and friends expect me to be my boisterous jolly self all the time. Granted, that side of my personality is A LOT MORE fun to be around than my surly,  grave, somber, Debby-Downer-like self ( When I feel the blues I feel the dark ones). But people need to understand that I reserve the right to my feelings, and I cannot be happy all the time. In fact, I feel the need to be more solemn now, not to be taken more seriously (which I’m glad and proud to say, I am) but because I tire myself out being the way I am.

I miss Kolkata and the people in it.

#NowPlaying Maroon 5. Those guys are seriously good. Other than that, trolling the top 20 of Billboard, as usual.

I’m going to stop now because I’m slipping back into writer’s block, and I don’t feel like sharing other things that I feel strongly about, and I feel that continuing will be floundering even worse.

Thank you for reading.