Thursday, March 28, 2013

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

India’s largest collective of ‘never nudes’ and principal opposition party, the BJP, has been on an important mission this week. After years of infighting, backstabbing, double crossing, embarrassing displays of public disagreements, they finally found a unifying issue. From the party President to the party worker; from MP to MLA. Even the different ‘camps’ within the party decided to temporarily suspend all hostilities to participate in the fight against the huge plague that has usurped large parts of the country and threatens to shake its very foundation, leaving in its wake nothing but awfulness and depravity. At last, someone in this country dares to take on the evil scrooge of pre-marital sex. Wipe your tears, unchain your kids and come out of your bunkers, everyone. Help is on its way.

While discussing the anti-sexual assault law, the BJP and other opposition parties insisted that the age of consent for sexual intercourse be raised from 16 to 18. Because if there is one thing teenagers are good at, it’s following rules imposed on them by unlikeable authority figures.

Apparently, our lawmakers confused ‘passing legislation against sexual violence’ with ‘passing legislation against sex.’ And the whole conversation turned towards the morality of pre-marital sex and how people who are doing it without first telling their parents and a thousand of their closest friends & relatives are the worst people in the world. The campaign against sex would have been more effective if - instead of having him appear on teevee all day embarrassing himself and his party - they’d distributed free packets of condoms with Venkaiah Naidu’s face printed on the cover.

We need to have a conversation about sex in this country because it seems like even the adults don’t seem to know much about it. The BJP thinks children are born nine months after a married couple visits a temple and a yellow rose falls onto their lap. The BSP believes that erections are only for statues. And the SP imagines that the best way to bring new life into this world is to have one of their ministers ‘confiscate’ it from anyone who dares to cross them. The central government didn’t have anything to contribute to this discussion except a couple of bored head nods. Who cares if the law contains provisions which exacerbate the problem? They want to be seen doing ‘something’ because it provides them with enough cover from public criticism. Principles are for people without ‘coalition compulsions.’

We need to have a conversation about sex in this country because trying to stop teenagers from having sex is like trying to stop Ram Gopal Varma from making terrible movies. No matter how much you ask them to cease and desist, their resolve is only going get stronger. So, instead of turning a simple bodily function into a forbidden fruit that they should feel guilty about partaking in, we should be providing them with the proper information so that they can practice it safely. Instead of making them feel like a criminal for wanting it, let them realize that sex is just another activity-like playing scrabble or throwing darts-that two (or more!) people can enjoy doing together. And if they actually do face a problem, they might even turn to you for help because they would remember you not being a judgemental asshole before.

We need to have a conversation about sex in this country because for a majority of our populace, the concept of people having a right over their own bodies is something that is quite hard to grasp. It’s a slippery slope. One day you’re letting people decide which orifices of their bodies they can put things in and the next day you’re living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, searching for a source of water which hasn’t yet been poisoned by radiation.

People waste too much time being tense about what ‘nefarious activities’ they imagine other people are participating in. 

If only there was some way to release all that tension.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hatch Your Own Chickens: How to be a Management Guru

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

A lot of the problems in our country are rooted in the fact that there is a distinct lack of people who consider it their duty to give other people any advice. Specifically, there is a dearth of self-proclaimed experts spouting vague principles of management. Since exam season is upon us and soon many students will be embarking upon a career their parents chose for them the day they were born, we thought we’d do some ‘career counselling’ and educate our young readers on some lucrative opportunities.  

Now, before we begin, ask yourself the following questions: Do you enjoy talking about nothing in particular for long periods of time? Do you pretend to hear what someone else is saying but don’t listen? Do you generally conflate ‘being an asshole’ with ‘being an excellent leader’? Do you think you’re always right about everything?  Do you think that someone should pay you just for existing as a life form? 

If your answer to all of the above questions is a resounding “YES!”, then congratulations, you’re ready to be a management guru!

You must be wondering why the use of the word ‘guru.’ Well, that’s because both religion and management have the same goal: Fooling the maximum amount of people into believing in the existence of a benevolent higher power by making them follow an arbitrary set of rules so as to use their subservience for your own benefit.

The first thing you need to do before you even begin to look for clients, is to fix your appearance. You must appear to be successful, even if you haven’t achieved any success yet. ‘Corporate honchos’ will only take you seriously if they feel like you don’t need the job. The first rule of management is that anybody who actually needs a job is probably not good at it. You must also appear to have no time to take on new projects. For example, hire an assistant who will keep calling you to connect you to a ‘client’ in Tokyo. It’s important to have fake clients in Tokyo because people imagine that if someone in Japan would hire you, then you must be really good. And it should only be Tokyo because people will be suspicious if your fake client exists in a city they haven’t heard of.

The second step is to get a shtick. You don’t want to just talk about the principles of management. That’s boring and quite commonplace.  You’re a guru. You need something more memorable. The best way to do that is to connect management principles to something from the past. It can be a holy book, a political treatise, a novel or even a person. It doesn’t matter! Though you must ensure that whatever you’re going to “re-interpret” should be old enough so that neither is its original author around to counter any of your claims nor do many people living in the present know anything about it. It should require more than a cursory google search to counter whatever you’re saying. Most people will accept your version of the truth anyway because they would consider you to be an expert in such subjects. People will treat you like a genius if you tell them the real reason behind a historical event. Do you remember when Gandhi led the salt march because the regulatory policies of the British were stifling the margins of the Indian salt industry, turning their EBITDA negative and sinking the value of their stock? Hey, if it sounds real, it’s probably true, right?

It’s also quite advantageous to usurp something from the past and use it as your ‘theme’ because people love to - in any way possible - be part of what they imagine must have been a glorious time to exist in. And, anything really, can be re-interpreted in any way you want. What the Mahabharatha teaches us about management: (1) Always keep your eye on the battle (2) Half-truths don’t hurt anyone as long as they help you achieve the organizational goals and (3) Different departments can share a single resource. Having a theme for your work will also help you transition to becoming someone who is ‘internationally renowned.’ It should be weird enough for you to get an invitation to speak at a TED conference and marketable enough for your eventual book deal.

Another important step is to make sure the management techniques you plan to evangelize subvert previously established jargon. With great responsibility, comes great power. Don’t just think outside the box, invert it! However, each management guru must be careful not to repudiate any theories that other management gurus have proposed. We’re all in this together. Even if you hate someone, find at least one good thing to say about them. For example, every few months, some foreign newspaper or magazine does an article on how Mein Kampf is a permanent fixture on India’s best-seller lists. If they call you for a response, don’t say that this is outrageous and is the equivalent of Winston Churchill's Honey I Shrunk the Population of Bengal being a bestseller in Germany. Instead, mention that the book is a great manual of management techniques and except for the horrible genocide, Adolf Hitler doesn’t sound that bad.

Remember, it’s a Rich Dad eat Poor Dad world.

We just live in it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Goodbye Privacy; We Hardly Knew Ye

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

Recently, internet overlord google announced that its going to allow a lucky few the privilege of paying fifteen hundred dollars to be able to get their hands on a pair of google glasses, as long as they write a fifty word essay - encapsulating their desperation for owning something no one else has - in fancy jargon. That’s because a new device isn’t “in demand” or “cutting edge” enough unless it’s creators treat potential customers like an abusive spouse treats their victim. You’ll never be good enough, y’hear? I don’t know what’s worse: that there are people willing to debase themselves to receive the momentary validation of owning the next big thing or that a fifty word paragraph is now considered an essay? Somewhere in hell, my third grade English teacher is shaking her head in horrid disapproval. (I assume that she’s in hell because she never returned any pen she ‘borrowed’ and dead because she’s not on Facebook). 

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about because you get all your tech news from that studious cousin who helped create your email account, google glasses are like normal glasses except they can do everything your smartphone can do. Like make calls, reply to instant messages and tweet sepia-toned pictures of your food. In a few years, all those douchebags who have loud conversations in public because they insist on wearing a bluetooth headset everywhere they go will be replaced by assholes shouting things at their glasses because the damn thing won’t understand their fake accent 

I bet everyone is looking forward to using another device which you can buy but not own because for you to be able to use it to its full potential you need to provide its manufacturer with your personal information. What other choice do we have, really? Not use a device? Pffft! Send an ‘inland letter’ instead of an email? Too slow! Learn to write on paper? Whatever, grandpa. If you can’t trust a huge corporation bent upon monetizing every moment of your existence then who can you trust?

Not wanting to be left behind, our governments are also coming up with new ways to keep tabs on the public. For example,  one of the world’s largest defence contractor in conjunction with the US government has developed a new software that can gather and analyze all the information about a target from every social networking website in a matter of minutes. The software is sophisticated enough to help its user(s) gather detailed information about the person they’re spying on. They can know who their target’s friends are, the places they frequent, photographic evidence which places them at a particular spot at a specific point of time and the amount of sugar they like in their coffee. But that’s okay, because they’re only going to make us safer, aren’t they? It’s not like they will misuse their access! When has anyone in government ever used their position for their personal benefit? You worry too much!

If we were living in an 80’s dystopian movie, this would be the point at which Arnold Schwarzenegger would finally discover what was really going on and would have to kill a large number of people and destroy a couple of big warehouses to save the world from the Orwellian hell it had wrought upon itself.

We teach our young not to talk to strangers on the street but don’t even think twice about giving up our personal information to someone on the internet. Networks get hacked; storage devices get lost and every embarrassing photograph is ‘two degrees’ away from being turned into a meme.

And google glasses make it easier to invade another person’s privacy. Now you don’t even need to tell anyone that your glasses are instantly broadcasting everything to the internet. Who needs permission when you can share pictures of that weird couple by the bar with ten thousand of your closest friends?

In the future, everyone will have their fifteen minutes of being mocked by the internet. One day you crash a party full off college kids and someone takes a picture of you trying to recapture the glory of your younger days by butt chugging a keg of beer and instantly uploads it to Facebook where a large number of websites pick it up and every low-life on the internet tries to make themselves famous at your expense.  By the next morning, you lose your job because you told your boss that you had to leave work early to visit your sick grandmother, your girlfriend breaks up with you because no one wants to associate with a global laughing stock and the police arrest you for lewd public behaviour while every sanctimonious anchor on teevee tut-tuts at your plight.

Now please excuse me as a large man with a pronounced Austrian accent who broke down my door just told me to get to the chopper.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Three Cups of Shut the Fuck Up

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

Every morning, when I am woken up by the sweet chirping of birds outside my window, I look at them and shake my head in faux anger while trying to suppress a smile. Then I go outside and feed them and refill the trough of clean water I put outside for them to drink from. This wonderful morning routine really puts me in a good mood and I wave to all the morning walkers passing by my house. Some stop to have a fun chat while those in a hurry wave back and make a promise to catch up later. I even smile at a stranger, because, maybe a smile makes their day, causing them to forget whatever is stressing them out for a minute and they go home happy. They say nice things to their spouse and give their kids a hug. Their kids go to school in a good mood feeling loved and wanted and don’t feel the need to bully their weaker peers. This fosters an environment of tolerance and acceptance and all those children grow up with a sense of self respect and a healthy attitude towards life. And two hundred years later we’ll be able to achieve world peace because one fine morning, on a whim, I smiled at a stranger. Is there anything more empowering than that?

No, don’t worry. I didn’t fall into a cauldron of self-help books when I was a child. Recently, many people with ‘inspirational’ stories have been exposed as frauds. So I thought I’d capitalize on the void left by these charlatans by making up and selling some ‘inspirational stories’ of my own. If you can keep a secret, let me tell you what really happens every morning: When the chirping from those birds wake me up, I drag  myself out of bed, pick up the gun lying on the side table and start shooting at those winged Objects in the picture may appear smaller than they actually aremessengers of terror. Then I go outside to add more rat poison in the water I put out for the birds to drink in the vain hope of killing enough of them so that someday in the future I would be able to sleep through my hangover. Then I shout my favourite cuss words at all those idiots passing my house while on their morning walk. What sort of sociopath gets up early in the morning, voluntarily? It’s disgusting and unnatural! The worst people are those who smile at you for no reason whatsoever. Is there anything creepier than smiling at a stranger? When someone I don’t know smiles at me I curse them because I spend the rest of the day wondering what I did wrong to cause them such amusement. Do I still have shampoo on my hair? Do my socks not match? Is that spot on my shirt where I dropped gravy last week still visible to the human eye? Why couldn’t that hateful stranger just let us pass each other without trying to connect with another human? What part of ‘keep looking at your smartphone so that you don’t have to acknowledge other life forms in your vicinity’ is difficult to understand?

This never actually happens in real life <insert sadface> Don’t tell any of the rubes I’m trying to sell my untrue inspirational story to what I just said because they get really upset when the object of their inspiration does something they don’t agree with. In fact, they feel betrayed and outraged. How dare someone succumb to the human condition? Why wouldn’t people conform to the standards I set for them? If my heroes do drugs and/or kill their girlfriends, then what is the  hope for any of us?

The reason people buy into these stories is because they imagine that one day their life will take a similar turn. They’re going to make it big, too! However, it’s not just their own hubris that makes them think this way. We get them started on this slippery slope of magical thinking by  brainwashing them with lies from the time they are very young. We tell them that they can be anybody they want to. Just do your best and when you grow up you can achieve anything! Nobody tells those kids that by anything we mean that when they grow up, most of them will be doing a shitty job in a mediocre company with a salary that will always keep them in need of employment, making their daily commute seem worse than a one-way ride to a concentration camp. And this will be fate of the people who are lucky!

People like their inspiration to come in pre-packaged too-good-to-be-true stories. It’s not believable until it’s implausible. They don’t even realize that for every person who supposedly makes it, there are a thousand who don’t. The thousand that have to live with the harsh reality of having their dreams crushed and their reason of getting up every morning taken away from them, forever. The thousand who will spend the rest of their life in a zombie like stupor, feeling numb and broken, biding their time until they receive the sweet release of death.

What sort of monster finds that inspiring?