Monday, August 28, 2006

Some thoughts..

I've had so many thoughts and stories to write but no words to write them with. Somehow I've blundered onto another one of those writer's block. So instead of writing about something specific I thought I would write as I think, in freestyle.

I haven't been able to read a whole lot of blogs for a long time, from what I've seen it seems that this is a period of deep introspection with a lot of people. I think August does that to you, it is a month which is stuck in the middle of nowhere, it's neither winter nor summer and infact it doesn't even make up it;s mind on being a rainy month either. You must have guessed by now that I'd rather blame my moods and problems on anything but on myself, it's incredible how well this works. I call this blame-shedding (ok, that's a term I invented just now, but doesn't it sound cool?).

A few weeks ago, I had gone to Jaipur, the capital city of the state of Rajasthan, which lives up to it's reputation of being incredibly beautiful and very exotic. The reason I was there was not to travel around this beautiful city but to attend a leadership training program organised by my company. While most of the training was unremarkable one segment made me think. We were given a questionnaire and based on our responses we were graded into 4 different categories. The first category was the activists who were the aggressive go getter types, the second were pragmatists who were realists, they were followed by the reflectors who were thinkers and the theorists who like to play by the rules. We were explained the features of each of the labels. I personally fel that all of us exhibit all four characteristics when we are called upon to do so. After a while, we were asked to make a presentation on our own positives and negatives.

What was remarkable (and not an output that was expected by the trainers) was that we all ended up subconsciously performing the roles we were assigned, ie, talking about us in a way that we suited the label that we were given. The activists, behaved rather overly boisterous and sometimes disruptive, the theorists (some of whom were actually very funny people) sounded meek, dour and bookish, etc. Now this made me think about how much we resemble computers, or more appropriately how much computers resemble us. We have been living out social stereotypes for thousands of years that it is easy for us to slip into a role and start performing in what we think is a socially accepted manner. Haven't we labeled ourselves as introvert or extrovert, or as liberal or conservative and have used these labels to dictate our behavior and thoughts?

I am reminded of my Mom, who retired last year. She was never a very overtly religious person but ever since she retired, like her sisters she has begun collecting religious tapes and plays them quite frequently which ever room she is in. This ofcourse has been the subject of several discussions at home but my Mom's willpower being what it is, she always gets to do what she wanted to do. Once when she was listening to a tape, I realised with dismay that she was also singing along. When I got close to her, I realised while the tune was the same as the religious song, the words were from the rhyme "A bear went over the mountain..". Controlling my laughter, I went my way. But to coming back to my point, my Mom feels it necessary that at the age of 60 that she has to be religious, like most Indian women are at this age. I hardly see any other reason for her behavior. (I myself am labeling her in a particular way so that I can write off her behavior without further thought).

Come to think of it, almost all of us feel that our 'roles' demand a certain type of behavior and knowingly or unknowingly we slip into a mode of fulfilling these roles. We start following set patterns, to show success, we buy expensive cars, build larger houses, wear expensive clothes. If you were to think of it, there would be hundreds of societal patterns and labels that you would detect in your life. Infact during the invasion of Iraq & during the American Presidential elections, I felt that the anti-war protestors were labeled as leftist liberals, ie, it was a way of telling others that 'hey these are left leaning liberals, and this is the way that they are supposed to think and react'. So rights and wrongs were eventually viewed differently by different people, depending on which label that they had picked for themselves.

All along history, just because someone belongs to a particular country, he/she is expected to blindly follow all or atleast most of the blind beliefs of his/her fellow men. One example here in our subcontinent is that if one is Indian, one is supposed to be against all things Pakistani. We fight them through diplomacy, at the borders, through covert operations and even through cricket. I know there was a partition, I know there were two wars, I know a lot of trouble in India is created by Pakistan's ISI but I don't know why these countries hate each other so much (especially since both have made friends with the British who ruled them for a long time) in the first place. Does anyone know?

Today, the trouble that is brewing in the middle east and spilling over to the rest of the world is largely a result of programmed behavior. People are psyching each other to hate others who are different, think about it and tell me I'm wrong. No one really knows why there are so many terrorist cells sprouting due to hate everywhere, neither can people explain why some people are targeted for treatment akin to abuse in the western world. Is it that people hate or mistrust an individual or a group of people due to some evidence about them in specific? Or is it that people are programmed to hate or distrust someone who appears in a particular manner? The media with it's powerful imagery has a huge role to play in creating labels, as do politicians with vested interests.

Has anyone stopped for a minute to think of what would be the fall out of a spread of hate? Have we even spent a good goddamn minute to think of this as human beings rather than players of a particular 'role'? When we can easily condemn the behavior of others, have we questioned ours or that of people we consider our own?

I am not advocating peace on Earth and all that good stuff (though that wouldn't be a bad thing) but about how we have as a species have started giving up our rights to think and probably behave as individuals who are out of our usual 'roles', choosing to dwell within the comforts that performing a role offers. So our thoughts very often are 'I'm so and so, so my thoughts and behavior should be in such a way, so why bother to question them at all?'

When the movie Terminator, talked about a domination of the world by machines in this century, I think the makers of the movie were more right than they would have thought. We are in many ways, machines that come with certain set specifications.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Ever since I heard two weeks that my job would be little bit more lighter, I've ended up travelling just about every day! Well, it's all good coz I like my job. Now, I'm off to beautiful Jaipur the city of palaces for a 4 day training programme followed by a day in Delhi to catch up with the Boss.

I should be back with a few posts by the middle of next week. In the meanwhile my blogroll seems to have been fairly active so do check these fine blogs out.

I leave you with the immortal words of a very wise man (from his movie 'A Night in Casablanca', one of my all-time favourites), this is Groucho Marx (Ronald Cornblow) saying ' From now on the essence of this hotel will be speed. If a customer askes you for a three-minute egg, give it to him in two minutes. If he askes you for a two-minute egg, give it to him in one minute. If he askes you for a one-minute egg, give him the chicken and let him work it out for himself!'.

I'm off! Up up and away!!