To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

OK. I did promise I would remark upon things that struck me from a cultural point of view.
So I was exchanging a general morning greeting with a British colleague who sits in the same office space. He asked me if I had a nice weekend. I said I did and told him that I had a fun event to attend, a baby’s birthday party. His next question was, “Is the baby cute?”
I was stunned for a moment at a loss for words. And then I burst out laughing. I acknowledged to him that where I came from this question was unheard of. He shared with me that it was pretty normal here and also that some of his uncles or aunts themselves admitted how ugly their baby was!
Which got me thinking. Is it that we in India are supersensitive about our kids? I wouldn’t dare even think, forget about telling, someone that their baby is anything less than gorgeous. This puts needless pressure on people like me who find it difficult to articulate a compliment even when it is deserved let alone having to admit something is cute when it isn’t. But why is it that we are so cagey about hearing something negative about our kids? I have noticed that it’s not just limited to the looks but even in general you have to be really careful if you want to point out anything relating to the conduct of the kids to the parents. For one, they will not believe you, and for two, they will immediately pounce on you for making any such as they would think ill-intentioned comment. Not for a moment do they consider that the said superlative kid might actually have some genuine scope for improvement and that it is a good thing they were being made aware of it because they couldn’t have spotted a fault in the kid even if it shone like a torchlight. I wonder if it’s this Indian middle-class tendency to put their own kids on pedestals that contributes to them growing up with a rather inflated sense of ego.
This reminds me of another incident where I was discussing the many problems with an essay with a British student. I advised him to get someone else to read his essays to get a perspective from the reader. He told me that his mother usually reads his essays. I remarked without even thinking to the effect that his mother would certainly not find any fault with his essays. He told me that his mother actually told him that she did not find any of his essays interesting! I was quite flabbergasted to hear this because—well, I won’t say anything about my mom because maybe my essays were really good ;)—but I couldn’t imagine an Indian mom giving her daughter and particularly son such a straightforward feedback. It made me think about how this must differently impact the kids. They would have a rather solid idea of where they stand, and trust their moms to tell them like it is!

Saturday, November 03, 2018
What the Trump?

I usually don’t discuss politics or make any specific comments about political developments on this blog. If you go through my blog posts since the time I started it, you’d be hard pressed to find a ‘political’ one, almost as if I exist in a political or economic vacuum. It may be that since my early childhood I was a lot more interested in philosophy (that is, abstract ideas) than in politics (practical administration) (I do understand that philosophy and politics have intricate links but let’s keep that discussion aside for the moment). I also never cared to read the papers—again maybe the disinclination to read the practical goings-on or the dreary language in which they are reported—so I remained quite politically uninformed too. I generally tend to keep mum on topics I don’t know much about.
But…living in current times…living in the age of social media where the political developments are thrust onto your feed even if you don’t go looking for them…I have become more and more attuned to the political side of things. I probably still am ignorant about many aspects of various political debates, but sometimes I feel that you might be able to see some things more clearly if you see them in the simplest possible terms without all the haze surrounding them.
So what is bothering me so much that I decided to write about politics? Well, let me put it mildly, Trump. I never thought I would live to see the day when the leader of one of the most, if not the most, powerful country in the world, one of the most economically advanced country in the world, would turn out to be a character that even in a movie we would all despise as an abhorrent villain...and what is more, such a character would not only be accepted as a leader but would also be welcomed by the majority of this supposedly evolved population. I have to admit that it has made me question whether this country is so evolved after all (no offense to those who do not support Trump of course)…or is it that we were all along mistaking economic evolution for intellectual evolution?
It seems to me that there is a very…I shouldn’t say ‘interesting’ considering how dangerously it affects all of us…but an ‘important’ lesson to be learnt from all of this mess…If we were to analyse the principles on which the US has prospered so far and what those principles have led the population as a whole to value most of all…we should probably not be so surprised that they find the unlikely figure of Trump worth worshipping. Maybe it’s a good thing that this rash broke out the way it did because had it not, the disease would have anyway entrenched itself deeper and deeper without anyone, maybe even the sufferer, any the wiser for it. I guess if we must be optimistic then it is about the fact that we all now know that a problem exists …Trump is only a timely (hopefully!) symptom…and we have to be thankful to him for showing up when he did!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Aane waala pal, jaane waala hai,
Ho sake toh ismein, zindagi bita doh,
Pal joh yeh jaane waala hai
(The moment that is coming, is about to go,
If possible, live your life in it,
The moment will pass anyway)
I always feel a wave of nostalgia when I listen to this lovely Hindi song. It makes you think about the fleetingness of time ever so poignantly…makes you want to stop time in its tracks…but then  you realise that you can’t….and time is flying anyway…all you can do is to live it to the fullest.
The funny thing that happened when this song was playing in the background while I was washing dishes a few days ago (yes, that’s my time for listening to music!), is that I felt like I actually registered the third verse for the first time (though I have listened to this song gadzillion times)…. It goes like this:
Ek baar waqt se, lamha gira kahin,
Wahaan daastan mili, lamha kahin nahin.
(Once a moment fell from time,
There I found a story, the moment was nowhere to be found)
I have been reading a lot about ‘time’ from a sociological/philosophical perspective these days. I never really thought about ‘time’ in a theoretical sense before or the fact that what we refer to as time in terms of clock time or calendar time is simply a human construction of time. In reality there is no such thing as ‘time’ at all… what we have is just fragmented recollection or memories of events. Which is why we remember a lot of things not so much by the day or year they took place but in connection with other events or other things that we remember. And even past/present/future are not three separate buckets…like this song so beautifully puts it… the moment that is coming (which is future) will become present and the moment that is present will become past almost instantaneously… Also it captures the theoretical concept of ‘time’ so well when it says that a moment once gone cannot be found as a moment at all… but in its place may be a story or event to serve as a reminder of its existence…
It seems to me that all good art is born out of a deeper or philosophical engagement with ideas… no wonder then that even these simple phrases have such depth of meaning and insight…

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Being in academia for me is like a fish finding a pond. It’s like I don’t need to be self-conscious anymore about what I think and ‘how much’ I think. In India (when I say India, note that I only mean Mumbai because that’s the wellspring of my experience of India)…so, in Mumbai there is a general antipathy toward ‘thinking’ (outside of the work context where also it is applied in a narrow sense)…”jyaada mat soch yaar”, “itna kyun sochti hai” are common phrases to push you out of a ‘thoughtful’ mood. Thoughtful is also usually equated with morose—opposite of ‘fun’ or ‘upbeat’. You’re likely to be popular if you’re more of a ‘chill’ sort of person, if you know what I mean. People seem to find reflection, introspection, going in depth into ideas a bit of a dampener on a good day. If there’s nothing to do people will happily switch on the TV (actually even if there are better things to do) and watch some Bollywood movie. I’m referring to the average population here. I guess I got into the habit of keeping my thoughts to myself early on in life and once in a rare while I met people or was in a situations where it seemed okay to simply be myself.
The academic world or the academic world here in the UK is where you are expected to be thoughtful, critical, reflective, introspective, questioning, argumentative…things that I always loved to do…and like I said, it makes me feel like I am in my pond. The strange thing is it seems to have loosened me up personally too. Maybe I used to be too afraid of coming across as too serious or too critical or too intellectual which made me clam up and be more self-conscious whereas now I feel comfortable being my natural self. I notice that it makes me a more ‘fun’ person too than when I was forcing myself to appear more ‘relaxed’. I won’t say that I am a social butterfly now any more than I was then…I am an introvert (INTJ to be specific) and I don’t jump into social situations even now…but having found myself in them, I believe I tend to hold myself much better.
This weekend I was invited to an event held by this very dear friend and her husband. In the good old days I would have thought and thought about accepting and even after accepting, I would have gone crazy wondering what I would do in a room where I knew no one except this friend. Now, I not only accepted almost immediately, I didn’t even think too much about it, I landed at the venue…felt a little uneasy for a little bit not knowing where or how to start mixing around…but once I did there was no stopping me. I made very good friends with this one girl so much so that I realised I was having a better time than I had had in ages. She remarked to me that I did not come across as an introvert at all... she would have thought I was an extrovert. Imagine my surprise!  
I have also noticed that I am becoming more comfortable chatting with strangers here. In Mumbai, it’s not very common to chat with strangers unless you’re thrown into their company such as say an autorickshaw or taxi driver who may chat you up. Generally chatting with someone sitting next to you on a train (unless you want to quarrel about the space on the seat) or someone in a shop or with the shopkeeper or at a bus stop or myriad such situations is fairly uncommon. Even when it happens it is likely to be with the same sex because your suspicions are raised automatically when it’s a stranger from the opposite sex. Here, chatting up random strangers is par for the course. Most times you end up having very interesting conversations, like I had other day on the train. A man with a bicycle moved in near where I was stood. He generally asked me where I was going and getting to know where, he started talking about the town. From there he spoke of other towns and about his travel plans to India this year. Then on about how he would never travel to a Dubai because it had no culture but he was keen to explore India. He spoke of how money did not matter to him but experiences did. I said that in India we have a saying that you don’t take your money with you when you die. He said, “Here we say, shrouds don’t have pockets”. He was a manual labourer (his description) and I was surprised to find him so non-materialistic and culture-oriented. Why couldn’t he be those things, you might ask, but I guess every time I have such experiences I compare them with experiences in India…and that’s where my mental frames get adjusted a little...
I observe a lot of cultural detail here…it’s like I have looked at things with one frame up to now (maybe it’s not accurate to say one frame because I was lucky to have access to books which are thousands of frames in themselves) but I mean in terms of actual experience of people and situations and such like. When I get down to the plane of pure ideas, I meet most people here on the same plane… but aspects such as food, clothing, small talk, routines, processes, attitudes, even something small as the greetings ‘are you alright?’ or ‘cheers’ are quite novel to me. I hope to capture my thoughts on these little details… hopefully be more ad hoc about it…not chisel out a proper post or something but simply scribble in a ‘stream-of-consciousness’ style… you have been forewarned, dear, patient, good-as-a-ghost reader! :)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Do you ever get this vague feeling that you are the hero or heroine or protagonist in this movie of your life? Not in a narcissistic, self-obsessed way…but in a rather philosophical sort of way. As if all you can be sure about in this sea of humans, places, things, thoughts is your own self, your body, your mind? 
When I was a kid, and I would come back from my summer vacation in Mangalore to Mumbai….I loved Mangalore very much and missed everyone and ached to be with them…I would wonder if people in Mangalore really did exist. I am right now here and doing whatever I am doing, are they too going about their lives and sundry things and thinking about me…or is it that the world is just me and whatever is around me…what I can see and hear….maybe everything else is a blank…how would I know because I can’t see or hear anything beyond…it could very well be all dark and quiet…  
I find it strange that I used to think this as a kid but I guess that kids tend to be more natural philosophers than adults because we have hardened into accepting the world. We no longer look at things with wonder and ask ourselves questions about the nature of things. We simply take everything for granted and go about our everyday business in a world of our own creating…rarely stopping to ask ourselves if this world is real… obviously it doesn’t matter to us because whether it is real or not, I have to go to work because I have to earn because I have to eat. My asking these questions will not feed me and if I am not fed I will die. My own body and mortality at least is very real to me…that there is no doubt about (though one has a lot of doubt about what really happens after death).
Which is where my analogy of the movie comes in. Do you ever feel like you’re a central character in this life movie where everything is somehow revolving around you and that everything will turn alright for you in the end… you don’t know the ending of this movie but you do know that it ends well for the main character, right? Or maybe if you’re a pessimist you might say that it may not end ‘well’ in a conventional sense. I think thinking about it as a movie also helps to give it some sort of structure and meaning… you know, the beginning, middle, end thing. It doesn’t seem as chaotic…whoever heard of a movie where random things happened randomly and that’s that. There had to be a moral of the story somewhere or a silver lining or something. Well… I don’t know… whether life does have meaning or not (question we will keep taking up on this blog as you’re well aware!) but what harm would it do to think it does have meaning? What’s the harm if it helps you ‘live more meaningfully’ which is probably to say more responsibly, more ethically? I don’t see the harm… do you?

Thursday, October 04, 2018
Being vs. Becoming

When I was younger, I was much more confident of my opinions. If I believed I was right about something, I was dead sure I couldn’t be proved wrong. I was able to argue for what I believed to be right, and while I wouldn’t have admitted it to an opponent, nothing ever happened to me to admit even to myself that I was horribly wrong.

I don’t know if age makes you see things more perceptively or that your range of experiences bring your earlier opinions far more to the test—but I have been increasingly reflecting on the many things I have been wrong about. I have increasingly started holding my opinions slightly more loosely than I did before…realising that if I was proved wrong about A when I never imagined I would be…what’s to say I cannot be proved wrong about B?

I feel that this newfound realisation has made me a more empathetic person. I understand now that when I was younger, I simply hadn’t seen life enough to understand why people might be forced to do the things that they did or even be foolish enough to do the things that they did. I said “I would never do this” with so much confidence in those days—I’m not implying that I did them—but that I feel that you really cannot say what you would or would not do unless you’re in that specific position yourself with all its attendant ramifications.

I was reading this little snippet about ‘being vs. becoming’ and how at an early point in our lives we commit to a ‘being’ instead of seeing ourselves as always ‘becoming’ or a ‘work-in-progress’ if you like, to use modern day jargon. I guess most people are indeed ‘beings’ in that they rarely open themselves up to the experience of becoming a better version of themselves, content with who they have become.

When a child is born and is growing, it is always a wonder what habits it learns, what personality it starts developing, what moods it exhibits. We are always on tenterhooks (I have two really small nieces so I should know!) about whether it will pick up a wrong habit or if giving in to its wishes will make it stubborn or whether watching too much of the mobile screen will reduce its attention span and interest in studies…we are conscious of how every action and reaction could have an influence on what being it becomes. Why do we assume that this process simply grinds to a halt at some early age…or that it should halt?

The truth is, speaking for myself, the realisation of how even my most cherished truths were not really enduring truths but momentary ones has made me confront my being…because isn’t who we are to a large extent a function of what and how we think or feel. And I see that as a good thing because as a child discovering the joy of becoming… I too sense a joy in knowing that I am not ‘who I am’ but I am always ‘becoming’ who I am…and that means I need not fear being wrong or having to change my opinions…I need to embrace it…because it only brings me closer to who I can be.  


Sunday, June 10, 2018

More dabbling in verse…

The great bard said, ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’
I don’t know about love but I will say that about truth
The universe conspires to go against your grain
Resist as you might, you are forced to play the game 
Does being good always pay in the end?
Not on this earth, possibly in heaven
Yet nobody ever confirmed that a heaven exists
What good is good then if no good comes of it?

Sunday, June 03, 2018

I used to enjoy and also found it much easier to write in verse form when I was much younger—I find it immodest to use the word ‘poem’ even though that is what I aim at. Maybe there is a natural flow of feeling and evocation of wonder at that age that makes it easier. Or maybe as you read a lot of hard prose as you grow older you lose a certain lyrical and softer quality of expressing ideas and emotions. I don’t know what it is…but even now, now and then, I feel the urge to dabble in verse…
Many a time have I thought of you:
Of words you said, of words I might have said,
Of words I did say, of words you left unsaid,
Of words that didn’t matter, of words that shattered.
And when I think of all those words now,
I smile at myself,
At the waste of all those words.
I see with wisdom born of clarity,
That it was never about words.

Friday, April 06, 2018

I suppose every human being is credible in at least the sense that he or she exists. Unlike God, the existence of a man or a woman is proven. The existence of us creatures in the eyes of society is another matter. I will not go into what a man must be or must do to truly ‘exist’ in today’s society or to be ‘credible’ simply because I am not a man. I do not know. I do not know what goes on within a man’s mind or a man’s heart, what battles and turmoils a man faces, what thoughts keep him sleepless at night…in short, I can’t speak for a man.

I never really thought before about what makes a woman socially credible. Maybe because I never felt discredited before, never felt that there was something that was missing in my identity that made me less of a woman and less of a representative member of the category of women. Something happened recently to make me realise that a woman must be or do certain things for her to be seen as credible, and she must do those things within the time frame assigned to her by society so that her identity card as a woman continues to remain valid.
I find it a bit painful to reflect on this incident chiefly because the actors involved are dear to me…should I say ‘were dear’ because I cannot really pretend that there is no dent in my affection for them. I realised that for people whom society’s rules and prescriptions matter more than their own authentic connections, you cease to be a connection the moment you do not appear to subscribe to the norms or follow the set formulas laid down by society.
The fact is that if you never cared for or bothered with what society demands and expects of you as a woman, especially a traditional society such as ours, it jolts you suddenly to realise that it is not nameless, faceless people who represent this society but those close to you who actually have the power to hurt you, those on whose lap you might have played as a child, those who have seen you grow, those who were always love and fondness for you, those are the people who diminish your essence. They may not understand you as indeed they never have but you think of them as people who do not have to understand you to love you as you do not understand them to love them… It pained me to discover that for some of these people your life and choices if they weren’t in tune with society’s expectations you no longer had the same credibility with them… it pained me even further to find out that they won’t spare any time in finding replacements who give their status as a conventional member a boost. The conventional replacements are only too enthusiastic to acquire a new patron because they in their place are worried about losing the only thing that makes them credible… as society broadens its views. Their docility and conventionality are as much their weapons as their shield…but they hide it in a veneer of benevolence trying not to make too much of their membership as if they never sought it for themselves.
I guess whatever credibility may mean for the world, and what it means evolves over time too, there have to be some people for whom your credibility is defined by your integrity, authenticity, and their own belief in you. If I lose my university ID card today I may expect to be turned away for a class, but I wouldn’t expect to be turned away at home! I’m glad that I had this experience of being ‘turned away’ or more like ‘not being invited’ by some people whom I thought of as closer home… it made me reflect on my credibility.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

I have been in Mumbai since the past two months or so to collect data for my research. I have had occasion to use the Uber ridesharing service quite often in this time. Not so much occasion perhaps as much as an excuse to avoid the crowded local trains in the sweltering heat.
I have always been an extremely cautious person since as long as I can remember. There must have been a lot of things going into how I came to be so but it always seemed to stand me in good stead, this overly guarded nature of mine. The fact that I lived in a country where anything could happen to anyone anywhere be it the local train or the bus or taxi or Uber, in Delhi or Mumbai, only served to reinforce my cautious nature which was never very reckless to begin with.
Now, the process to book an Uber is pretty simple as such. The app throws up the pic of the driver, his name (mostly male), number of the car and so on. I have this habit of checking the number plate and also asking the driver for his name before I get in, which may seem a bit over-cautious but somehow it came naturally to me to take this precaution. The photo of the driver was no use to me because I couldn’t identify the man from the pic but it did make me comfortable to hear the name from the person to make double-sure I wasn’t getting into the wrong car.
Once, when I asked a driver for his name, he seemed offended, and asked my name. As if even he could be mistaken about me. I have noticed other riders just confirm the name with the driver rather than asking for the name but my thought was that a person can always affirm a name if they have a malicious intent. Nothing stops them from misleading me. Today again when I asked a driver for his name he looked at me in a hurt manner even though he did give it to me. He questioned if I hadn’t seen his name on the app. He then asked if I hadn’t seen his car number on the app. I realised that to the drivers it must appear as if I didn’t bother to notice their name or that I was plain rude. They have no way of knowing or imagining that as a woman in this country I had just grown to be very careful in situations that could expose me to any kind of risk especially involving strangers or strange places and a ride in an Uber somehow seems to involve both. It’s not like I have ever had a bad experience so far but that doesn’t mean anything because bad luck doesn’t need to come announced or set a precedence.
There is always a raging debate about whether women “ask for it” in the way they dress, or what time they go out, or how much they drink, and so on. I strongly believe that none of the things a woman (or man) does that has to do with their own body or space may be interpreted as “asking for it”. In principle, in a free country, I should even be able to walk naked if I choose to do so without asking for anything unless I specifically and verbally ask for it. But that is how it would be in an ideal country where everyone respects everyone else’s rights and freedoms, respects the fact that each person’s life is their own, and lets people live their lives as they wish to. I would love to be a citizen of such a country but I am not naïve enough to believe that I am.
The hard truth is that the ideal world is possible only if everyone around you shares the same worldview. For example, I may personally believe that people should not rob other people’s goods, but if everyone in the town does not agree with this principle, I cannot really leave the shop open or unguarded. I would need to protect it irrespective of whether I believe stealing is okay or not because nothing stops the others who don’t agree with me from stealing. Unless everyone agrees and abides by the same code, the onus is on me to protect myself and what is mine knowing what the consequences could be. At least when it comes to external goods the law of the land could help retrieve them for you or you could earn them again, but your body and life are things you cannot retrieve once they are gone. So, if I do want to live by my own principles without caring how the world around me operates, I have do so knowing the cost. Which is why even though I resent having to be too careful, having to be guarded, having to be suspicious, having to second guess people as if my life depended on it, having to mistrust strangers when they have given me no cause, having to always look over my shoulder—I still do. Because the cost of not being those things is too high…
If there is another way to live, I don’t know what it is, at least in the environment that I am in. But coming back to today’s interaction with the Uber driver, I feel sad that he might have thought that I was looking down on him when all I was doing was looking out for me. When I was getting out of the car at my destination, he said, “Have a nice day” in English, probably to impress on me that he wasn’t exactly a lowlife (not that knowing English means you are above being one, but in this culture it does suggest education, exposure, and better opportunities). I responded to him and smiled embarrassedly.
I have now decided to check the Uber car number carefully and then just confirm the driver’s name rather than asking for it. While I can’t stop being cautious, I would like to be more conscious about balancing it with empathy and kindness because it is important to spread more of the latter into the world if we want to not let suspicion and mistrust thrive around us… and if we want to ultimately create a better world where we are not afraid to let our finest instincts show.
I am posting this a little late for women’s day… but wish you all a very Happy Women’s Day nonetheless… 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Words jostling within me
Some murmurs, some flutters, some growls
Struggle to find a way out
Gentle, kind, listening, patient ears
Don’t seem anywhere about
I look and search and scan
Familiar faces, strange names, remote possibilities
All give me a distant, questioning, sharp look
As if to say—
“You really don’t get it, do you?”
Why do I feel like a sore thumb?
Like something forgotten, something outliving its welcome
What if I did find kindred spirits?
What would I say?
What would these murmurs, flutters, growls amount to?
Maybe nothing much…
Maybe nothing…


Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Call me PiPi

Birthdays come and go. They are a fairly good indicator of the people who come and go in one’s life. One would assume the people who have any sort of presence in one’s life would want to wish one on one’s birthday. But I think that logic may be a bit skewed today in the social media context. It’s become so easy to wish people without really having any bond with them. In comparison, calling was a lot more personal and took some emotional labour, both on the part of the caller and the receiver. People like me who are not exactly the most social of beings may have felt awkward at being in either position…but I now find myself wishing people on Facebook or Whatsapp without a moment’s hesitation. I don’t mind being wished the same way too but I do wonder what it means for personal relationships if even the most important of occasions can now be dealt with so brusquely… but then most things are brusque these days…

I don’t how many of my non-existent readers know that my nickname is Preeti. All my near and dear ones know me as Preeti (which means ‘love’ in Kannada). I myself prefer being called Preeti but with a formal name so very different could never really get people to call me Preeti. Not that I tried very hard except in my head. I would imagine, when I was a lot younger, of how I would ask this friend or that friend or anyone I got to know a little better to call me Preeti instead of Sylvia. I never really managed to get the words out except on very rare occasions.
My first cute little niece was born 3 years ago and when she first started forming words, she happened to call me “PiPi”. I lovvvveed the sound of this word. There’s something so loveable and huggable about this word… I had some thoughts then of getting her to call me Mou which is what a friend of mine is called by her niece… but when I heard PiPi I knew it was perfect. It was me. Now that the niece is 3 and has a better ear for what people around are calling me, she is starting to call me Piti or Preeti (though people around me have been instructed to call me PiPi too). I don’t respond to her calls till she calls me PiPi. Luckily for me my brand new second niece is all of 1.5 years old, and knowing my fondness for PiPi, my bro and sis-in-law trained her to call me PiPi. I find this cute little thing blabbing PiPi at me. It’s a joy, what can I say. I am just hoping my younger niece doesn’t get influenced by the older one. I am trying to get the older one to learn from the younger one. It’s a muddle I don’t mind being in the middle of J
My birthday cake had a PiPi on it… the truth is no matter how many birthdays come and go, all I want is for some things to remain the same… and I am glad to have two more little people in my life who will be there to make it special… whether they call me PiPi or not… I will always be their PiPi at heart…

Sunday, December 24, 2017

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
~Old Irish Blessing

At this time of the year, I somehow feel more nostalgic than other times (if that’s possible!). To all the people who have touched my life so far, some barely scraping the surface and some leaving a huge dent and some not knowing if it’s one or the other… wish you all a very merry Christmas and a joyous New Year… thank you for coming into my life and being here awhile…

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I guess it’s been a looo…oooong time. When I was living alone here, my emotional outlet was writing. Now that my mom is with me for a few months, can you blame me if I want to spend precious moments with her? J Of course, work keeps me quite busy and I don’t have as much time to just sit and moon around as I would like to. Hmm… I think sitting and mooning around is what I have spent the most time in my life on. Wasn’t it Aristotle who said “The unexamined life is not worth living”? Sometimes I do wonder, why is it not? The liver clearly doesn’t know or care and is as happy and maybe a lot more than someone examining it, I dare say.
Anyway… now that I have warmed up to the blog again… sharing a post I wrote a little while ago but for some reason did not put out.

I have always avoided talking shop on this blog. Or talking work stuff. But I guess I am in that happy position now where my work and personal thoughts are all in the same zone… that is, philosophical J Out of habit though I tend not to talk about things that are closely related to what I am thinking about from a work (now research) perspective, but I guess it’s much harder and probably a bit pointless to maintain that distinction any more.
Out of a number of ideas that have occupied my mind in the past many months, an important one is objectivity vs. subjectivity. As a lay person, I thought of objectivity almost as a virtue. It meant justice, fairness, rationality, detachedness… and not allowing my personal feeling to cloud my judgement. But, now I realise, objectivity could have another meaning. It could mean defining an absolute view. It could mean establishing your version of the truth as ‘the truth’. It could mean not allowing that there could be various ways to look at the same problem and all of them equally admissible. It could mean being intolerant of non-mainstream positions.

To give an example, is history as we are told an objective account? The account serves the interest of some or the other side, usually those on the dominant side …could it be objective? What would objective mean? Objective from whose perspective? If one has to ask that question, it ceases to be objective. Take for example any religion. The religious members within the faction have no doubt that what is written in the Bible or the Koran is objective knowledge or that it is the truth. If one were to contest this fact, the objective would become intolerant because the whole notion of objectivity is founded on the fact that there cannot be another way of looking at the matter. And this needn’t be said only of religion. I personally feel that science fanatics are probably as culpable as the religious ones because just as religion does a bad job of establishing if the earth is round or square, science may be unable to tell why humans behave as they do…because human behaviour is derived as much from culture (which is variable) as from nature (which is fixed). Yet, science fanatics, at least the dogmatic ones, will cry heresy as much as the religious folks simply because they are so wedded to objectivity; they do not realise that sometimes it is more objective to be subjective. Because one supposedly objective view may drown many subjective views but many subjective views may represent a diverse universe better. And in my opinion, may also be a more tolerant universe.  

Friday, June 30, 2017
Why would or why should anyone do what I request them to do or would like them to do? Many do it if they can get them something in return be it immediately or potentially. If they don’t see any return in the transaction, chances are they won’t do it. Also, some people get some sort of ego boost out of doing things for other people… the reason I call it an ego boost and not that they are good people who love to do things for others is because in making others feel good, they feel good, and it is this feeling of ‘good’ that they are after (not that that’s a bad thing at all). But not everyone gets a kick out of helping others. So how do you get people who need to see some tangible or material return to do things for other people? The obvious answer is by giving them these returns but doing that would only reinforce their attitude and behaviour and encourage a society where everyone does things only because they get something in return for it. I feel that we are probably already living in such an economically driven society that is based on the logic of economic exchange rather than community values. Where I don’t do things for you because I trust you will also do things for others including me and we all live cooperatively and in harmony… in the long term. What we have now is a transactional society where you get what you pay for so there’s limited need for trust. I believe that this transactional way of doing things has so spread into society that it pervades even our private lives. Familial relationships also show a market orientation rather than a trust orientation because it is uncomfortable for us to accept things on ‘trust’ now… the logic of relationships in general is shifting to an economic base. 

Of course I don’t mean to say that trust is always returned. That is part of the problem with trust that you don’t have to face in pure economic exchanges—that trust may not be returned. And if there wasn’t the chance that trust may not be returned it would not be called trust. The element of uncertainty is what imbues trust with its moral power. I know that you did not have to return this sum of money that I loaned to you but you still did which means that both the person who loaned the money and the person who returned it are bound by a moral contract rather than an economic one. If one did not believe in moral values or obligations and such, nothing stops them from not returning it. In some ways a real contract frees both people from the uncertainties and tensions that a symbolic contract may bring and that is why we prefer those. But what about when the exchange is not financial? Isn’t a person who cannot be trusted to fulfil monetary obligations on trust as incapable of fulfilling any other moral obligation? By creating a society where people are freed from the burden of taking moral responsibility by resorting to economic contracts, aren’t we in some way dulling the sense of moral obligations… or responsibilities in exchanges based on pure trust… for example, have prenuptial agreements made marriages more successful or have they only made divorces simpler?

Isn’t a well-functioning community at the end of the day one that is founded on principles of trust (or intrinsic values) rather than economics…?