Hate And Why We Love It

I was reading a rather disturbing feature on Time about the attack on Nido Taniam in Delhi. It struck me that this, and other instances of hate that happen all over the world every day, are not surprising. We can’t pretend to be shocked, awed and disturbed, and cringe away from these acts of violence. As human beings, we are programmed to inflict pain on others. And we love it.

hate and violence
British Riots. Image Courtesy: BBC

My theory is quite simple: we are hateful creatures, forced to live together on the same piece of land and a bunch of makeshift rules and laws thrown in to govern our behavior. We forced ourselves into this corner. No one did this to us.

On our own, we are quite the pacifists. Well, most of us. But why is it that when we are put in a crowd of people, we bare our teeth, beat out chests and turn on each other? I think the answer lies deep within ourselves – our inherent fears. I’ll explain what this means.

I’ve been doing this very interesting social experiment for a few years now without anyone realizing it, and it’s proven to be quite the eye-opener. Whenever I am alone with someone (say Bob), in any situation, the conversation progresses like any other conversation between two people – about random things or something in particular. The minute a third person (say Dave) joins the fray, I use a variation of the following line: “Dave, hey! What’s up? Have you met Bob? He’s my friend and he’s uh.. um…”

I pretend to forget what Bob does for a living or what he’s good at, or what he has achieved, in an attempt to trivialize him. Bob immediately takes the cue, subconsciously, and rattles off his résumé to Dave – where he studied, what he graduated in, where he has worked, what he is currently working on, etc. This does not always happen, mind you. But when it does and you observe Bob’s body language, and he is the very epitome of defensiveness. His body is closed, arms folded, shoulders drooped, as though he is bracing for an attack.

The same thing also happens when I’m alone with Bob and I feign indifference to his achievements in life.

It’s our fear of rejection (or the fear of being dismissed as unimportant) that puts us in this situation. We all do it. I do it too. I have found myself talking about my career choices and my achievements (or lack thereof) to people for no fathomable reason except my fear of ridicule and rejection. I don’t want the other guy to think I’m weak. Or stupid. I beef up my arms and shoulders, brace myself and start telling him through my body language that I’m a (relatively) smart guy and can defend myself if need be.

This behavior tells us a few very important things about ourselves – we are all in a constant state of alertness, always on the lookout for a threat. This threat can be in any shape of form – physical, mental, emotional, financial, etc. We believe that everyone around us are a threat to our way of life. This is perhaps why we don’t do certain things like wear sunglasses when we’re inside a building – we fear that people are going to point at us and laugh, thus making us feel small, insignificant and vulnerable. This leaves us open for attack from a larger predator.

When the concept is applied on a global scale – to societies and nations as a whole, we realize that the equation does not change one bit. A billion paranoid people are constantly wary of a billion other paranoid people. Fear multiples in crowds and takes a life of it’s own, which leads to bad decisions and ultimately, a lot of people die. This is used as fuel to further our paranoia  – because it’s all right when we kill someone because we are doing it out of self-defense. But we fail to realize that the other person is killing for the same exact reason. We think he’s a monster, with no thought control and emotion.

The fact that we need this mutual hate and fear to survive and lead our lives is the biggest illusion that we have performed on ourselves. The idea that we need to lash out at a fellow human being in order to survive is ultimately going to make us as extinct as the Dodo. But not before we realize that it makes us just as dumb.

Habit Over Hate

Mumbai BeachFor those of you who have been wondering why MirrorCracked hasn’t been updated for two months (to the day), well, you can stop wondering. I am still alive, unfortunately, and I’m back in business. For those of you who assumed I had given up, for those of you who assumed I was dead and for those of you who just didn’t (and still don’t) care whether this blog gets updated or not, the least I can offer is a friendly wave.

I’ve been living in a beach town for a while now and working for an ad agency, setting up a business of my own and working on my third book, so arguably, I’ve been a bit busy. Add an ill-timed illness and brand new fuckers around, it does get a bit dicey to manage blogging time.

But anyway, here I am, exactly two months after my last post, itching to tell the world about my beach town.

For a while now, I’ve noticed that the town I live in has been mistakenly called many names and not all of them pleasant. It has been referred to as the Crap Recycler, The Widowmaker, The Land of Opportunity and, my favorite, A Triumph of Habit Over Hate.

I don’t think it’s any of those. The more I look at this town, the more I come to believe that it’s a small-time beach town that has had a sudden influx of different dichotomies:  randomly distributed pockets of wealth and penury, steel-and-concrete monstrosities and corrugated cardboard disguised as houses, intellectuals and dumbasses.

There are still remnants of the little beach town that it actually once was – the early morning air with the slight hint of seawater in it, the small lanes paved with tiles, thatched roof huts (if you’re lucky enough to spot one), tall coconut trees and the stink of freshly caught seafood. People getting haircuts and shaves on the pavement, the constant cacophony of the crows (which seems to be a trait of almost every beach town), and finally, the vast areas of mangroves that signal the edge of land all make up for a wonderfully misunderstood beach town.

Then there are the beaches themselves. Some beaches here have been overrun by people who, I think, have never seen a beach in their lives and hence empathize with. But others are pristine in their naturalness. Vast stretches of sandy shores devoid of any human pollution, the gentle lapping of the waves as they kiss your feet and the distant horizon where the unnaturally large sun sinks, throwing up a fascinating array of golden lights dancing on the rippling water…

There I go again, losing myself while describing the sea. The point I was trying to make is that all these things put together make this place a lovely little beach town which has all the beauty and serenity of any other place like Gokarna or Mahabs or even some parts of Goa, with all the amenities of a fully-developed city of money, power, cricket and Bollywood. It would help if we go past the negativity that is being spun into our lives by everyone who’s been here. Every newspaper, on an average, consists of 90% bad news every day. Murders, political scams, money laundering, government incapacities, road rage, traffic snarls, and other nonsense. Forget all that for a day. If you live where I live, try and overlook all that for just a day. Try and connect with the small-time beach town that it really is.

I live in Mumbai.

Davos: Saving The World In 5 Days

When Klaus Schwab started the World Economic Forum 41 years ago, I’m sure he had a lot of good intentions. I’m sure he saw this as an opportunity for the world leaders to get together and discuss about the more pressing concerns plaguing the planet and to come up with ideas to battle them. However, he did not foresee that in the year 2011, forty-one years after inception, the WEF has served more as a networking platform for the filthy rich to get richer and the filthy poor to deepen their envy.

Some of the more interesting facts about the annual Davos WEF, that you probably didn’t know and might shock you are also some of the most over-looked aspects of these forums each year. The price of admission is as steep as  USD $600,000 for a party of four people, including the cost of travel, accommodation, dinner and drinks. But since the main action happens in private dinners hosted by the influential rich, the cost shoots up into the upper stratosphere.

Everyone who attends the WEF is given a dedicated Mercedes S Class sedan and a driver with door-to-door pick-up facility. Awesome, isn’t it? Mr. Schwab confessed this year that “…he is concerned that governments and international organizations can no longer cope with the capacity and fast pace of this new reality.” This is quite a statement considering the USD $115 million in revenue that Davos 2011 is expected to generate.

I’m confused – can’t some of the more ‘cheaper’ problems be solved with only half that amount? Do the world leaders really need to spend an insane amount of money just to get together in a remote ski-resort and discuss the world’s problems and go “Tut, tut,” and nothing more concrete. Perhaps the most glaring chink in the Davos armor was revealed in 2010, when the WEF discussed all the problems in the world and missed Europe’s sovering debt crisis, which resulted in a lot of criticism and bad press for the leaders.

This year again, one hopes that Davos will prove to be a starting point for something more substantial than weighing chequebooks, but one feels the need to shelve these hopes.

For a detailed account of the moneys being spent at Davos, check this article at NY Times.

PS: This year at Davos, world leaders in business, politics and industry are encouraged to bring a female companion along to increase the diversity of the gathering.

PPS: U2’s Bono is attending this year’s Davos WEF, ostensibly to contemplate on the world’s problems. Ha!

 

NewsCracked! :)

newscracked

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the BNN ICN 9 o’ clock news! Today’s breaking stories:

1. Big Sobb Season 2 ends in dramatic fanfare!

2. Akshay Kumar wears pants inside-out!

3. Madhuri Dixit misses a gray hair while combing!

4. IT company employee sneezes!

5. Aviation minister is high. Literally.

… and other important, earth-shattering, life-changing news stories! Only on BNN ICN. Stay tuned!

For God’s sake, give me a break! Some punk winning a reality TV show is prime time news? To be aired again and again? To be repeated in nauseating detail? To call up that punk’s uncle over the phone and talk to him on National TV?

I thought these news channels were a bit sane. Apparently not. Absurdly enough, this piece of ridiculous ‘news’ was aired right after a brilliant coverage of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. Talk about losing the plot. 😀

I should start my own news channel, and air only news that I think is important or worth airing. I wonder how long that channel will take to become famous. I’d call it ‘NewsCracked’… 😀

Oops, He Did It Again! :)

Deve Louda Gowda - The Art Of Holding An Entire City At Ransom!
Deve Gowda - The Art Of Holding An Entire City At Ransom!

Every country has it’s fair share of jackass politicians and India perhaps has the most. Topping the list of overachievers is the supremely anal Deve Louda Gowda. He was the Prime Minister of the country a while back, and during his stint, India stooped to an all time low. He was notorious for disrupting the lives of the citizens with his absurd political campaigns and crap-all marches. Last night, he outclassed himself by holding the entire city at ransom. Here’s what transpired two days prior to the incident:

Scene: Deve Louda Gowda’s toilet.

For sake of convenience, we’ll refer to him as Fuckhead.

Fuckhead is sitting on the pot and trying to forget the past 15 painful minutes. At his age, he realizes that he shouldn’t be eating spicy curry for dinner lest he goes through this marathon session in the toilet again. He has his laptop on his knees and he is reading MirrorCracked – his daily dose of laughter. He reads this post called “Living In Ghost Town,” where the author has written about how empty the roads of Bangalore were and how he’s so happy that he reached his office in half an hour, instead of the usual one hour.

Fuckhead frowns and hatches a plan to make that author’s life miserable. He calls it Operation Manic Monday.

On the 17th of November, he holds the biggest political rally in his miserable career. Worse still, he holds this rally in the heart of the city – Palace Grounds. Three hundred and fifty thousand people thronged to the rally from all around Bangalore (Please note: People came from all around Bangalore, not from Bangalore. Over 1000 vehicles, including 400 buses were allowed into the city carrying the hopeful and the misinformed villagers.)

Roads are choked and the entire city comes to a standstill, in the biggest traffic management disaster the city has ever seen. Fuckhead smiles in satisfaction.

“The author of MirrorCracked has been taken care of,” he says to his personal assistant. “No longer will he write about Bangalore roads being empty. I have triumphed.”

The scientists at the MirrorCracked Labs were shocked and angered at this cruel, below-the-belt tactic that Fuckhead employed. They think that Deve Louda Gowda is jealous of Nikhil’s sexy beard and the luxuriant hair on his head. Maybe…

Indian Conspiracy Theories

conspiracy-pics

Blog-hopping got me to Keboch’s absurdly hilarious post on Conspiracy Theories here. Which got me thinking. I live in a country rife with political chaos, and every turn gives me to newer and better ideas to ponder on. So, I thought a complete compilation of possible “would-be” and “could-be” scenarios was needed, something that isn’t even there on Wikipedia!

Here I go, building conspiracy theories:

  1. Indian car manufacturers did not include air-bags for so long because the steering wheel had cocaine in them.

  2. The Indian cricket team intentionally loses a match every now and then in order to avoid being struck by the “evil eye.” (In fact, superstition runs so deep in the Indian cricket team that the job application for becoming a national cricketer has a question, “Did a black cat cross in front of you while climbing the stairs of this office?”)

  3. The highly successful Bollywood song – Kabhi Kabhi Aditi – when played backwards, reveals the plans for a top-secret mission in which Indian troops are planning to invade Kenya.

  4. Happydent chewing gum was invented by ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization –  as an alternative to electric lights on board Chandrayaan.

  5. Vaseline contains 90% alcohol.

  6. CNN IBN was sued by Ronald McDonald’s creator for calling him “The McDonald Duck,” but the lawsuit was never filed. It was settled out of court after Rajdeep Sardesai decided to write a whole blog post apologizing for the misnomer.

  7. Asprin, when it was first made available in India, was so named because of it’s powerful enema actions. The extra ‘s’ was dropped because it became apparent that people were using it from the wrong end.

  8. The Indian currency, especially the 500-rupee note, is made from super-strength alloyed cotton, which has surprising paper-like qualities.

  9. An Indian blogger named Nikhil, who blogs here, is an undercover agent for the Indian secret service. He is conspiring to ask a hot chick out on a date.

  10. Shah Rukh Khan is, in fact, an ugly woman.

There may be a lot of other such conspiracy theories going around. So, let me know if I’ve missed anything juicy. We live in a scary world, don’t we? 😀

Heads Up: The True Story Of Why I Quit Journalism

Finally, I am strong enough to reveal the truth. This incident took place in the offices of a leading newspaper in the city. None of what follows in fiction. Unfortunately, and gruesomely, every word of it is true. This is definitely not for the faint of heart.

I am a little apprehensive about sharing this incident with you all, but then, it’s about time I set the record straight and confess to everyone why I left journalism.

I’ll try to report exactly what happened, objectively and without any emotional bias. Oh, who am I fooling? I’m going to tell you exactly what happened. Trust me, this is scary…

It was 2 in the morning, and the office was deserted. I was on the night shift, and had just finished a satisfying smoke and was walking up the old staircase to my workplace. There wasn’t a soul anywhere in the huge office. The only sounds I could hear were those of the air conditioner clanking up a notch and the occasional roar of a speed devil out on the road. There was a chill in the night air, and I hugged myself for warmth and entered the office. If I stood still and strained my ear, I could hear the footfalls of the people walking on the pavement outside. I glanced at my watch and decided it was high time I packed up and went home for the day. Being on the Internet/technology desk of a newspaper isn’t a comfort. More than anything, it’s a hindrance. Unfortunately for me, this newspaper was widely read, and so I had to stay back till two in the morning to give those insomniac readers the latest update of who killed whom in the world.

I returned to my desk and started to close all my open windows in the computer, switching off the AC and the muted television, where the cricket match of the day was being shown again. As I heard the satiating jingle of windows being turned off, I switched the monitor off and picked up my bag, and stopped…

My bag seemed exceptionally heavy. I didn’t remember bringing any books to work and I distinctly remember the bag being very light. Now, I noticed that there was a slight bulge in the bag’s midsection also. My bag is one of those horizontal zipper bags that require to be slung across the shoulder. These kinds of bags are great for carrying books, but are woefully inadequate for anything slightly bulky like water bottles and tiffin boxes. They stand out like a pregnant belly. There was a similar bulge in my bag. I was confused.

I looked down at the bag again and placed it back on the desk. Frowning, I opened the zipper and looked inside. I almost screamed out…

There, lying in a pool of dirty papers was the most hideous looking head I’ve ever seen. And the fact that there was a HEAD in my bag almost made me faint. It looked up at me with this horrendous expression fixed on it. I couldn’t speak, my mouth was dry. I wiped the sweat off my head and looked around to see if there was anyone who was watching me. There wasn’t a soul…

Now, I’m a pretty rational guy, and my mind quickly switched on the rationale. I started thinking of how this head could’ve gotten in my bag. Obviously, someone must’ve placed it there when I wasn’t at my desk. Now, there were only two instances when I was out of my desk – once for dinner and once for my habitual two a.m. smoke. I could rule out dinner, because the office was packed more tightly than a circus at eight.

So, obviously, someone had put the head in my bag at two, when I was out smoking. This made me feel a bit frightened, as I was sure that there wasn’t anyone in the office!

Or was there…?

I felt goose bumps rising on my arms all over. A streak ran down my spine. “Relax,” I told myself. “There’s no such thing as ghosts!”

“Yeah,” replied my brain. “But there’re serial killers and murderer and psychos!”

Now, I felt really scared. I am a well-built guy, and I could hold my own against anyone looking for a fight, but the thought of defending myself against a crazed lunatic who’d just dumped a frikking head in my bag?
Well, I frankly preferred the quiet life…

The phone rang on my desk, suddenly and shrilly, making me jump put of my skin. The sound of the phone seemed unnaturally loud in the quiet office, and scarier with a head in my bag! I approached it gingerly and picked it up. I could hear my heart beating against my chest.

“H-hello…?” I said.

“Nikhil?” came a gruff voice that I couldn’t recognize.

“Yeah, who’s this?” I demanded, slightly strung out, hoping that the person, whoever it was, wouldn’t notice the tension in it.

“Are you alone?” the voice asked.

“What?” I asked, now scared. “Who is this?”

“Do you have the head?” the voice said.

I was terrified, and a bit angry. “Who the hell is this? And what’s the meaning of this sick joke? Whose head is this?”

“Joke? Mr. Nikhil, I assure you this is no joke. Didn’t you find my note?”

“What note? Who the fuck are you?

“You don’t recognize me, do you?” he asked.

“Obviously not, asshole!”

“Check the note next to your computer. That head is mine,” he said, and the line got cut.

I held the dead receiver next to my ear for a long time with sweat running down my face, and finally put it down. I looked next to my computer and found a yellow post-it stuck on the side of the monitor. Why hadn’t I noticed it earlier? Curiously, I pulled it out and read what was written on it. And I almost fell down…

I looked at the head in my bag and back to the note I was holding in my hand, and vowed never to do night shifts again. I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Nikhil,” the note began, “please find the head of cabbage in your bag. Keep it in a fridge and bring it tomorrow. I don’t have a fridge at home. How was dinner? Thanks. Ranjit.”

That asshole colleague of mine didn’t even tell me! Imagine finding a head of cabbage in your bag when you least expect it! I am freaked out…

I resigned the next day. I prefer the quiet life. Without heads.