Sunday, August 25, 2013


Past 7 in the morning and already so hot that the laptop responds sluggishly. The world is full of horrible news – chemical attacks in Syria, the Bombay rape, Chennai Express becoming the highest-grossing Hindi movie ever. And if that is trivialisation, I really couldn’t be arsed.

I’ve been stupid. Things have piled up until a 100 crore scheme is only as important as trimming my nails. Prioritisation is the route to sanity. But tasks raise their little bobbing heads and chitter in my subconscious, fuelling fear, nibbling at the day, their noise adding up to a half-heard refrain, “No time! No time!”

To make it worse, Terry Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s is showing in Dodger, possibly the worst thing he has ever written. Not to worry, Terry. We’ll be reading you for old times’ sake, because Night Watch is one of the best things to never win an award.

And finally, screw Twitter and Facebook. THIS is my space, and if you don’t feel like dropping in for a chat, there's a cheaper edition of C Bhagat's Revolution waiting for you at your nearest traffic light.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What goes around

Douglas Adams propounded a unique theory for heavier-than-air flight. Climb to a high place and throw yourself off. And oh, try to miss the ground. Classic in its simplicity, except for the obvious drawback – nobody seems to have made it work. Somewhere in another dimension, perhaps doodling on a napkin in The Restaurant at End of the Universe, Douglas Noel Adams may be working on an upgrade.
But the theory is out there. Which leads to another possible scenario. Somewhere in the Mid-Western United States, a devoted reader and fan of Douglas Adams’ work decides to try out his theory of flight. With the expected result. Thereafter, this thwarted aviation researcher – or rather more likely, his next-of-kin – sue Douglas Adams’ estate and Pan Books for a zillion dollars because his theory caused grievous injuries and / or death of a reader. How would you rule in such a case, dear reader?
What, you think it’s far-fetched? Try this: the Mayor of San Diego is accused of sexual harassment. His attorney places the blame squarely on the City of San Diego. Because – wait for this! – the City never trained its officials on what constitutes sexual harassment and how to avoid it. In other words, the attorney claims that normal educated people need to be trained in how NOT to be lecherous and insensitive. This is not just (in my humble opinion) a specious defence. This is a symptom. There is a spectre haunting the liberal world today, the spectre of transferred responsibility. The spectre of “it’s-not-MY-fault”. The easy way out – blaming the system, the television, the corporation, just so long as it’s somebody else.
The USA, of course, revels in incredibly frivolous litigation. A couple sued WalMart because their grocery bag split and caused “cracked and damaged toenails”. No, really! It’s not just the USA. A lady in Israel sued a weather station because they predicted sunny weather, she went out in a light dress without an umbrella, it rained, she caught a cold. And a truly sad story – a student in Texas (but of course!) died because she got drunk, drove her Honda into Galveston Bay and drowned because she couldn’t unfasten her seat-belt. So of course her parents are suing Honda because their seat-belts cannot be unfastened by drunk drivers who also happen to be underwater. It’s sad that a young girl died, but at some point, we have to accept that if you break the law, you take the consequences. Not just the law of the land, but the laws of rationality.
There’s an extension of this attitude in India as well. The attitude of “why doesn’t the government fix it”. The assumption that the common citizen is entitled, but not responsible. A contradiction of every social construct from Aristotle to John Crawls. It can't work. If we want the system to work for us, we have to work for the system. If I want my daughter to be safe on the roads after dark, it's also my duty to check why my nephew is taking his bike out after midnight. If I want the conservancy to keep my city clean, it's my job to take my trash over to the local dump instead of leaving it outside my gate. I can't expect rewards without effort. There's no entitlement without responsibility.
And if we expect such entitlement, we're stupid. As stupid as the man who says he broke the law because his employer didn't teach him how to stay within it.