Saturday, June 18, 2005

Weekend Philo 

Once in two hundred and fifty five days I feel like writing abt something very serious and today's one such day. So be prepared to get bored or leave now :)

One of my closest friends, M, asked me this afternoon, "Why do you even care abt what people think abt you?". "I don't know," I said. "I've always judged myself through the eyes of others."

I'm just the opposite of my dad (or so I'll say till I prove myself wrong). Dad never cared for what others thought abt him. He took a number of steps in his life which would be considered professional and personal suicide in the eyes of many. But Bubin never cared. He always did what he wanted to and even though my sis and I criticized him constantly, and ranted abt his moves, he never cared much abt what people thought of him and his actions. And I'm saying this as a compliment. Dad's not selfish. He's quite the opposite. Most of these so called "blunders" I'm referring to involved radical decisions that Bubin took to stay close to the family. "Did you never feel bad for all the opportunities you left?" I asked Bubin around five years back. I still remember his answer. "I followed a simple philosophy," my old man told me. "Just do what makes you smile before you go to bed at night." Woah! That was deep.

Maybe it was these complaints that I kept making that made me be just the opposite of what dad is. Just to prove a point, I always listed for the rat race. Get me a rat race and I'll be the first (b)rat to join in. I never questioned the "whys". I always said that the "Whys make you unwise". For me it was always abt hopping from one race to another. I always cared abt exam scores, I always cared abt "ambition", I always cared abt hollow "achievements"; and ironic as it might be, to ensure that some day I get my happy sleep, I treaded a route where every night's sleep is affected by some question. "Will I beat Abhik this term?", "Will I get Computer Science?" "How did I do in the mid-term?" "Shit! I'm sure I forgot to put the units after the answer." "Darn they have a debate tomorrow. Should I be funny or serious?" "I'm sure I'll forget the lines on stage" ... Yes, that's me. I kept sleeping disturbed sleeps every night convincing myself that this was needed for "being happy later" but sometimes I wonder if I even know what makes me happy.

I told Modi (the darling is following Ronny Dam's route of going back to India, leaving me short of one more friend in US) that the beauty of the rat race is that it never ends. If you do well enuff, you just get to run with better rats. When I was in school I thought that getting into a big engineering school would ensure a bright future. Once I did that I met the engineering rats. We all started running again. Every semester was a rat race. Every exam was a rat race. All we rodents gathered up together for one more plunge - that "one more plunge" that will take us to next level and the next "one more plunge". To all we people running in the rat race (I think I've used this term a billion times already) - do you realize that success just takes you to a level where you can't boast abt that achievement anymore? If getting into university X was your dream, then once you enter X you realize that everybody out there also managed to enter X. The fact that you're in X might have meant a lot to you earlier but it looses it's unique charm once you are in X. This holds true for schools, colleges, universities, internships, jobs, everything. The joy of achievement is ephemeral. It only lasts till you look around and see that you've just changed the race but you still have to run. Success gets you new peers. New peers who are peers because they were "just as" successful. So you keep running. After all it's not a bad thing. It helps you lose the extra fat around your belly :)

To end with another line from my conversation with M. "At times I wonder what if I'm just like my dad? Maybe all I ever wanted to do was sleep happily. Maybe."

Wow. Your dad's got one fundu philosophy. Seriously!

And I must say that's one classic problem that "people like us" (Yes, I read your previous blog too) have. ;)

I look up to those people who can live their lives without needing validation from strangers. Because I can't. Someone else's opinion of me is to a large extent probably how I define my own self too.

Of course, that's not entirely true. If I don't agree with them, then they "don't know what they are talking about". :) And then I go believing exactly what I want to believe. :)

This was quite a departure from your average blog post, but extremely thought-proviking.

ur dad is right. even though we all will always question our parents motives and actions, in the end they will always be right. I think its because we think we are so different from our parents and try to do everything completely opposite from them and then in the end come to the same conclusions that they came to when they were where we are. we all travel the same journey our parents made, and no matter how different we think we are from them now...we are just like the way they were little and we will be like them when we grow up. and in my case i really do hope im half as smart as my parents when i grow up even though i think they are silly.
@rajesh - yeah. quite a departure. crap shall continue here on :) btw, i agree to everything you had to say.

@sara - very well said. i think we use being diff from our parents as a way to show we are from the present gen. its funny and sad :) :(
Profound observation about the ratrace...takes a big man to admit it...or a miserable rat I guess..(that's a rodent who's sad and not meant as a gaali..!) Wanna talk about it?
@ideasmithy - neither a big man nor a miserable rodent. just an over eaten grad student who felt a lil more effusive than he normally does :)
Sometimes you stop running because you are weak and sometimes it requires great strength to stop.

u planning to continue running?
Bery bery nice post. Myself & Prasad are struggling with this topic since our last visti to India this Jan. Our questions were how much is enough? how far do we want to go, before we stop? btw did you finish "Namesake"?
"Will I beat Abhik this term?", "Will I get Computer Science?" "How did I do in the mid-term?" "Shit! I'm sure I forgot to put the units after the answer." "Darn they have a debate tomorrow. Should I be funny or serious?" "I'm sure I'll forget the lines on stage" ---have you improved?
@tipsy-topsy - great line. i plan to stop, but not now (isn't that what everyone says). another 2-3 years of the grind. very motivated right now and want to see if that motivation pays off. once again, these are just wishful musings - i just pray for the best :)

@ratna - nope! still haven't started the Namesake. had a deadline yesterday. have another one for tomorrow. so shall begin after that. yup the "when do we stop question" is very imp. what ften scares me is the "what do i do after i stop" question. what if i am so used to running like this that i just dont fit into the calm??

@anon - abhik and i stopped competing 10 years back (he is one of my dearest friends). i did get through to CS. i got done with midterms and exams a while back (at least for now). gave up debating and theatre a while back too. so the answer to all those questions is - No! I don't lose much sleep over them now. BUT there are other things - i think i have matured a lot but to be honest i don't think that's enuff :)
Thankyou for sharing your Dad's philosophy. For me, it's sagely wisdom.

A while ago, I stopped being motivated by achievements. Now when I see my friends planning for MBA's, better jobs, moving up the chain etc, my competitive side tells me, look at them, try for something better. Another side argues, even if you achieve something more, so what ? And the yet another side chides, "looser", your are so weak, you can't do this. And ofcourse, people always ask, so what next. I say nothing, I have become Relax Singh :)
This is so true of so many people. I am personally comparing myself with everyone else around me and trying to analyse and re-analyse if what I have achieved measures up to those that people around me have and if not, I end up sulking and the joy of achieving what I have is no longer there..... Its a really sad thing because even though you have many things that most people do not, you are not happy :-( Wonder what puts an end to such things ?
I really admire people like your dad, who can live life by their own terms and nothing else.
@anshul - :) you remind me of this Sprite ad they used to show. after all we are doing everything to get some peace and happiness so if someone is happy and content without the race - then that' awesme. right?

@anon - the thing abt being like my dad is that you should be very sure what you want coz if ten years later you see your friends ad feel "na. i want that" then it's too late - i guess it is this fear that drives me
That was a superb post. I completely agree.. But the worst part is even though we are conscious of it, we cant change ourself overnight. *Sorry for including you in the "we" for no falut of urs :P* Atleast I for one wish to be like your dad, but my mind keeps stopping me. I mean "they" say life is nothing without taking risks and stuff like that..but I guess somewhere down the line, I would rather play safe and join the rat race than risk being different.
yeh that's very right. But in reality the problem is much more than just black and white. I've some friends who had the potential for the races, but lived a carefree life, and now feel miserable because they think could have done better.

And so, contrary to what I think, I advice my younger cousin, to study hard and try and excel, because that will give him choices.
@anon - very true. even i think a lot abt "they". however, i feel that "they" will always criticize. and the funniest thing is i dont even know who "they are"

@anshul - thats the whole irony. a lot of parents feel like my dad and have chosen the route of satisfaction but they are scared to make the same choice for their children. thats why you make your cousin study. thats why my dad made me slog by baby butt out as a kid. the grind continues :)
"Whoa! your post was deep!"

You made me think of my dad. And I could relate to your "rat race" funda absolutely, not sure why I am still running though!
@rs - as i said, running is good exercise :)
Hi Sag
i think once in a while profound thots r also welcome(ur blogs r addictive).a very often heard axiom "the problem with the rat race is that even at the end of the race u remain a rat"
wat i really liked is the fact that u r so frank 'bout it - i mean atleast 80% of Indian kids r brought up to give priorities to high marks,participating in competitions, securing a good seat ... n i think we become tuned to it after sometime.it is debatable whehter this actually inculcates ambition n competitiveness!
@Swathi - thank you :) Your last line summed it up very well. A lot of kids (and this included me) nver ask why they want something but follow the directions that their parents give them. There is nothing wrong with that but in our country parents often decide a child's career without even realizing if he'll like it and that often breeds dissatisfaction. what to do?
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