Sunday, May 27, 2007

Of Human Bonding

John Donne once wrote, no man can be an island, all to himself. I wonder, it’s been a while since he wrote it, and perhaps with evolution, humans have learnt the art! Sometimes feel like a live example myself! An island, surrounded by a million other islands, all keeping to themselves, not their blooming flora but their gloomy thorns.

Sometimes, I wonder what good technology has done us! It’s given us new ways to be in touch with the people far away but in some ways disconnected us from the people right next to us. The observation strengthens further when I travel by the elite metro train everyday to work. Several people around would be conveniently self occupied with the radios/music players within their cell phones, somewhat disconnected from their immediate surroundings. I once happened to share a cycle rickshaw with an old gentleman, and was myself islanded with my mp3 player at that time. A few hundred meters down the road, it almost felt insolent to be listening to music in that situation. I took it off, didn’t manage to make much conversation but at least would have seemed less of an uncaring high flying modern day youth!

Not that my concern or a conversation in a five minute ride would change many things for someone, but somehow the whole thing felt a bit disconcerting. So while we didn’t quite learn smiling and waving to strangers on the street from the westerners, the signs of a growing need for individuality have now begun to establish their place here as well. Wonder if that’s also accompanied by a newfound sense of loneliness in the middle of a sea of familiar faces. Or are we just alone, but not lonely yet!

The means of communication have connected us far and wide, and led to the birth of a whole new breed of relationships. Online social networking has played a role in many a friendship, date and even marriage. (last I heard was an extra marital affair and a subsequent murder) but is it more like we disconnecting ourselves from our immediate surroundings and looking for a human bond in the world of strangers on the internet?

It’s turned to become my own way of being, inspired from the Tenessee William’s ‘streetcar named desire’ to have depended on the kindness of strangers and then eventually, with Munna’s inspiration, to be the kind stranger myself!

Have been evolving and learning new meanings of human bonds as I go on meeting more strangers. What relationships might mean, what they might not mean. Have shared bonds that have lasted some passing moments on a bus stand or a railway station or an airport.. some through the course of the journey.. some just for the duration of an exchanged smile.. some for a few weeks.. some months.. some years.. and some.. which will last a lifetime! They’ve each affected and shaped me, and were important in their own ways!

Having internalized objectivism to a good deal, the whole concept of social needs, dependencies and bonding intrigued me for a while. I would apply too much of my head into anything and everything. And then a little knowledge of psychology, gathered from sources including coffee table books, combined with a bit of dispassion learnt from the Geeta, made a heady cocktail and for a long time I would pride myself on being an island who was capable of handling and resolving all his issues himself.

Realized it at some departing times, with people who’ve been really close that the prided stoicism has actually become a part of me now! I don’t feel too strongly emotional about most things.

In a way, it’s helped me tide over some otherwise difficult situations but I wonder if this is also reducing my capacity to feel the human bond, or actually diminishing my feel and experience of being a human and being alive. I’d like to believe otherwise, because now I can be free. (a lot can be elaborated about this, but keep that for a personal conversation, not a blog)

Never mind, as a habit, I apply too much of a head to everything!

Do tell me if it’s just me or is there someone else who’s felt pulled in different directions by the head and the heart.. and suffered because of it. Of course, it doesn’t matter who you are, coz I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Not taking anything away from my most cherished friends and family, I’m an island and it’s my own doing. I’ve enjoyed being one. It’s yet another paradox when I like to refer myself as a wandering sailor who keeps anchoring for short durations on several islands. However, if you see closely, there’s a convergence.. the whole sequence of meeting and bonding with strangers.. and still not being held back but moving on.

May the insanity and the wanderings never leave me! Though it would be good to someday anchor on an island! Forever.


PS. Do let me know if the above makes any sense to you. Upon review, it didn't make much sense to me but editing would mean complete rewriting, so I gave up on myself!

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Joys of Sadism

Whoever thought that sadism was a vice perhaps didn’t comprehensively look at all of the many interesting aspects of it.

There might be a crude form which would find its ally in black humor where you laugh at someone’s misery. But I’m talking of a different kind of sadism here. The one that I would enjoy professing. I do have to give it up sometimes, for the fear of annoying someone important, or the fear of being misunderstood as a cold beast (which I sometimes am!)

For a start, would it be annoying if you’re all so excited about something and in the same excited state go to a close person, or call him up in order to tell him about what’s happened and he turns a cold shoulder, suddenly making you pull your hair and go mad at him because he’s not sharing your excitement. Wait a couple of moments.

I’m that friend and I’m enjoying every moment of this madness of yours. Of course, cutting the sadistic enjoyment short, I’d soon get back to you and ask what’s happened and be as cheered and excited about it as you. But next time you call me up and are exuberant about ‘You know WHAT?’ be prepared for my cold shoulder, lest you end up cursing me and deciding to not talk to me ever again.

The problem with sadism is, not everyone is able to appreciate it, and some people take offence or as a sign of distance in the relationship. So, tread cautiously for it’s not for the world and its cousin to be able to enjoy the pleasures of sadism.

Then, there’s something else too. That’s a positive thing, requires effort and is definitely going to reward you well, of course, if you enjoy your adversaries’ chagrin. There’d be situations when things will frustrate you, arguments will blow your head and people’s behavior would annoy you into potentially reacting rather violently. You really couldn’t care about the virtues of managing your anger at that moment and blow the top.

This precisely is what your adversaries wanted. While angry, its likely that you’ll end up behaving in the not-the-best of fashions, get emotionally charged up and utter something you might regret later or give them some reason to be able to complain about you or to get back at you. You might end up hurting some of your close ones and regret that later!

Now, for a while I haven’t had any real adversaries, so I thought I’d create one. So I personified ‘anger’ and created it as a virtual adversary for myself. Now, everytime, things go wrong or frustrate me and tend to get on my nerves, I just see this beast called ‘Anger’ standing around the corner and laughing at my misery and the fact that I’ll goof up bigtime by blowing my top. Then the supreme sadist in me takes control and the anger is lost.
This is no laughter therapy that would calm Dr. Asthana down after Munna’s antics but just simple theories of Sadism.

I could perhaps write further on the glory of sadism, but later!


Trophies of the Mind!

From the top of the head, the first impression that a ‘mental trophy’ might give would be pretty vague I guess. That’s what it was to me at least, when I heard it for the first time on an adventure show on the TV, when a guy was talking about his experience at skydiving.

In his words, it’s not something you can take home with yourself and give to your mom, or describe to someone, the feeling that goes through your head while free falling is a mental trophy!

Coming to think of it, it’s fairly usual for perhaps all of us to look for these mental trophies. Adventure sport, a way to outfox your fears and get the adrenaline to gush through your veins has been for long a way to break the mental barriers.

A recent news item I came across on the web spoke of something more interesting. A IIT JEE coaching institute organized an entrance test that included the student’s baptism by fire, literally so. The students were made to walk through a bed of burning coal. Most would agree figuratively that preparing for IIT is no less than a firewalk (ok, to be honest, it really isn’t that bad) but literarily? It provoked intense reactions from a lot of the elite and educated, as it caused an instant recollection of the inhuman instance from our mythological tale Ramayana, when the purity personified, Seeta’s was made to walk through fire to prove her truthfulness.

A little research and I figured that this walk on burning coals, is used across the world as a motivation exercise by several reputed organizations. In the words of a firewalking student, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything, even crack JEE.’

Of course, walking on fire wouldn’t have given him the conceptual understanding of permutations and probabilities or the dynamics of rolling motion, but it perhaps did instill confidence in his own capabilities that would now help him outdo his expected performances. In a way, the young boy can now take anything in his stride, or at least attempt to do so.

The knowledge that a casual carefree walk on coal is scientifically harmless was quite a discovery and it reflected one more technically correct facet of the Indian superstitious test of truthfulness. The one who’s true at heart must walk fearless and confident and he’ll pass unharmed. The one who hesitates is the one who falters and thus is caught.

Sometimes an act of daring like a bungee jump or a skydive or a firewalk might give you a mental trophy, but beyond that it’s our own experiences in course of routine life that impact us in strong ways and the mind and the soul feel rewarded. It might be something like accomplishment of a psychological task, being able to calmly resolve a matter that might have led to bitterness, getting over your our own complacency and inculcating the disciplining habits that you’ve always wanted to, controlling your anger in that heated moment and getting over the situation, a word of acknowledgement from your boss, getting your recommendations incorporated, or being able to swiftly grow out of it and move on beyond a failed relationship or to stand by truth and be vindicated.

Eventually, the confidence in your ability to DO something, or in your capability to stop yourself from doing something, is nothing but a collection of these mental trophies- your past experiences where you did succeed and which strengthened your belief in yourself.

In a miniscule version of these trophies, we get kicks out of doing teenie weenie things around ourselves. Some of them might be notorious acts as pulling a colleague’s leg or pulling a prank on a bunch of friends or causing someone some minor embarrassment, having someone wait on you etc. But hey, there are positive ways too to get these kicks, like perhaps managing to put a baby to sleep, or to get a smile on the face of a street kid, or to help someone in need, or giving someone some little pleasures while just being a kind stranger!

Whatever my own mood or situation might be, these kicks are what keep me going.

Be it the trophies or the kicks, they could do wonders with your mood and your self concept if you treat them rightly. The best part is, they don’t cost a thing and you can’t buy them off a superstore shelf.

So figure out a trophy and till then, get yourself some kicks today, put a nasty remark about my ‘gyaan’ filled blog maybe J

I get a kick out of this!