The Great Indian Debate Killer – “Where Were You When…..”!!!

Invariably, this statement comes at least once in almost every “so-called” debate you see in Indian media – both television and social. Be it firecracker ban, mob lynching, morning azaan issue or Gauri Lankesh murder – “where were you…” rocked – diluting the importance of the issue and making it yet another opportunity to take political and religious potshots.

But why is it such a lame thing to do in a debate?

The degree to which people are using this word, not just diverts the entire debates from the core issue but also gets the conversation into a filthy territory where judging people becomes the central idea. The ones who use this statement will often raise the flag of “exposing the hypocrisy” but essentially it is just another way of saying “What I am supporting is bad but you did not oppose the same bad a zillion years ago so this bad is good”. That argument undermines the idea of tipping point when a person says “enough is enough” – which clearly doesn’t mean that whatever happened in the past is acceptable.

Secondly, and probably the most important one, it shifts the focus of the debate from the topic in hand to the participants itself. And that happens when the participants don’t have anything constructive to offer on the topic. An ideal debate is fought on facts and focuses on the validity of the issue raised with possible solutions, if valid. It requires a good amount of research, a strong understanding of realities on the ground and having facts/figures on hand. That enables someone to make strong points supporting a stance. When people do not research and are not aware of ground realities, they resort to personal attacks and digging up the past instead of convincing the other party on why they are wrong.

Also, the phrase undermines the evolution of opinions as people gain more information, experience and perspective about an issue. While it cannot be denied that many people would find the compulsion to cling on to their beliefs in spite of seeing the truth in front of them, just because they feel the need to be faithful to one side, it may not be the case always. People evolve and so does the thought process. The everyday experiences and the stories that we hear, add to our perceptions and how we think about a particular issue. People even change opinions mid-way the debate – if you don’t believe, see “12 Angry Men”.

“Where were you when……” is perhaps just one such example of what’s wrong with the “argumentative” Indians. It is more difficult than it seems – to be rational all the time, especially when you have the prejudices and personal biases growing like a tree in your mind. It is up to us on how much we are not just able to control it but quash it before they damage our interactions with others around us.

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Evolving and Encouraging Stand-up Comedy in India

There are two kinds of stand up comedians emerging in India. One, who cannot end a sentence without the S or the F word. And then there are the ones who can actually crack jokes (not that they don’t swear at all). And slowly, I also see a beginning of the third genre who is using comedy to drive attention to some of the key issues our country is facing. The evolution of the stand-up comedy scene is very refreshing and encouraging to see, especially in a country that seems to be losing its sense of humor and the ability to laugh at itself.

There are a couple who I love to hear and follow on YouTube.

Atul Khatri:
He’s a CEO turned standup comedian – probably the eldest in the fraternity but I guess that’s why inspiring across age groups to send a message that it’s never late to follow your passion. He is largely known for his Sindhi jokes – how everyday efforts to save every single penny creates comic situations. He isn’t even shy to crack a few ones on his age – turning it into an advantage!!

Amit Tandon:
The ease with which he creates humor is amazing. I have seen very fewer folks trying out stand up comedy in Hindi and do well (although increasing these days). He definitely comes as one of the best. The theme of aam aadmi’s everyday struggles and feelings with a comic touch establishes the connection with that group of audience.

Kenny Sebastian:
I loved his show “Chai Time with Kenny Sebastian” that picked up various topics like childhood comics, ladies purse, Indian kitchen and more. His sense of humor and the metaphors are amazing. He supplements that with the props and visual aid to increase the impact.

Anshu Mor:
Former Director of Interactive Entertainment Business (XBOX), he is, again pretty much like Atul Khatri, a corporate drop out. In his 40s, he definitely inspires people – it’s never too late. He has a good variety when it comes to topics he picks up. I didn’t see any set pattern to expect when watching him again and again, which is really good for an artist. His selection of language (between Hindi and English) to communicate a joke or even a line within an entire piece to increase the impact is amazing.

Kunal Kamra:
We randomly came across his channel on YouTube and instantly subscribed to it. Politics is his forte. Very recently he has started his podcast named “Shut Up Ya Kunal” where he invites a guest, associated with the topic intended to be discussed – mostly politics and current affairs – and exchanges views and counter views on various aspects of the topic. The first episode had BJP Youth Wing Vice President, Madhukeshwar Desai, while the second one had Indian National Congress National Spokesperson, Priyanka Chaturvedi. The most recent one had the two JNU students – Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khaled. I loved the ease with which he discusses every single point in a logical way and still keeping it very humorous.

Besides these, there are other good ones like Nishant Tanwar, Vikramjit Singh, Anirban Dasgupta and Rahul Subramaniam. I don’t follow them but watch them whenever it pops up on my YouTube recommended videos.

Overall, it’s a healthy trend but it’s not yet reaching the masses who deserve to receive the context of a particular issue in an unbiased and possibly humorous manner which they don’t receive from today’s 24X7 news channels.

Not Respecting People With Different Food Habits Makes You More Ancient Than Modern

A couple of days ago, one of my friends posted, on Facebook, her parents’ plight while traveling with Emirates from the US to India. Just as expected – the most common – they encountered an issue in food where the crew ran out of vegetarian food that her parents had pre-booked while purchasing the tickets. It was bad enough that in spite of prebooking their vegetarian meal, they were served lamb biryani and that too quite late after her parents checked multiple times with the crew. What disappointed me all the more was that the crew tried to pass off a chicken curry as vegetarian by replacing the label. I used to hear such a thing about long distance European and American carriers.
Over a period of time, based on my personal experiences and listening to others’ experiences, I’ve been more convinced that while the public, in general and at an individual level, has been quite sensitive to each other’s food habits, when it comes to bringing that sensitivity to corporate level, the same individuals fail. In my experience after working in US and Europe, I’m yet to find a vegetarian friendly cafeteria in any company. Most of them have hardly any vegetarian options and the ones that have, make ridiculously awful food when we talk non-salads (quantity may be economics but quality is intention).
And it’s not just food quality but also the conditions in which they are made raises more questions than the calorie value of the meal. Using the same utensils which were used for meat, not changing gloves and even worst – not wearing gloves, heating both kinds of food in the same oven – makes me think if we’re still in 19th century where people haven’t heard about vegetarian or vegan food habits.
When it comes to airlines, I’ve been lucky so far not to have faced any issue whatsoever. However, now I wonder if I should prepare meals myself while traveling instead of relying on the airline.
Corporates who may not be in the food business directly but have food services as one of the key part of their daily work environment, need to understand that not respecting people with food habits different than theirs make them look more ancient than modern.

Travel

Travel

I and my wife have a very different understanding and purpose of travel. It is very much inspired by the travelers (not tourists) around the world. After reading through so many blogs, watching so many vlogs, I’m glad that we have been able to cultivate this exploratory attitude to travel.
However, sometimes, especially when traveling in groups, we often end up compromising a little.
A couple of months ago, we went to Chicago. Chicago has this iconic tower called the Willis Tower which is a 103 story sky scraper providing an amazing view of the Chicago skyline through a Skydeck that they have developed.
Due to the Skydeck, there is often a huge rush. On weekends, there can be the queue which can take up hours to clear before you can get into an elevator. If you have the City Pass, you are at an advantage since there is a separate and a quicker queue. But still, it’s a good long wait – also because just before the elevator, the normal queue and the city pass queue merges.
As you reach on top, you see scores of people all around. There is one particular section where they have created a glass balcony which supposedly gives you a feeling of what it is like to be in the air as you look at the ground right beneath you. Dozens of people were lined up there to get their snaps (with a standard pose as if they’re falling) which they can upload on Facebook and Instagram. Get more likes and comments, which brushes up their self-esteem. More likes, more self-esteem, and self-worth.
The uniqueness of the entire experience was destroyed by the monotony of the process everybody followed.

  1. Stand in one of the queues and wait for your turn.
  2. At your turn, go to the glass balcony
  3. Take some snaps in about a minute
  4. Leave the balcony to let others behind you do exactly the same.

The entire experience left me with a lesson on the difference between visiting a place and traveling to a place.
So if you’re a tourist, definitely go!! If you’rea traveler, there is a high chance that it would not excite you.

Fights

And we fought (war of words) again!! And after every fight, we learn something new about each other. And this, in spite of numerous occasions when we complete each other’s statements, get a same thought at the very same second and quickly sense something is wrong with the other person. It’s more than 3 years but we still keep discovering something new about each other all the time.

And in this process, what I realized is that what you do after the fight is also very crucial. What are your thoughts in that cooling off period (if you take one)? How do you collect yourself? How do you retrospect and introspect? And above all, what is your priority in a relationship? All of these things determine whether you’ll truly come out of it stronger or hold a grudge against the other person to the eternity. If you hold it, you’ll use it in the next argument.

In India, and perhaps around the world, people see no fight as a sign of happy marriage (pretty much like no divorce as a successful marriage). But is it possible that no fight also means one person is submissive? Which means one person is not being treated or doesn’t consider himself or herself equal? Two people, doesn’t matter the relationship between them, will diverge at some point in time in their thoughts. And strong personalities will be more assertive and convinced about their school of thought unless challenged with the same force.

The conflict per se is not bad. When things are challenged, they get tested for their relevance to time and context. But is the conflict overpowering the mutual respect and ability to see the truth? Because then that’s a problem.

Jibber Jabber

 

So, it’s been more than three months since I’ve posted anything on my blog. No, I’ve written a lot. But almost all of them were movie and restaurant reviews for my other blog, Tripadvisor, Yelp, Zomato and Google Maps. While that does count in writing but the essential blogging piece was missing.

It’s not like nothing occurred to me post-worthy. Plenty of topics crossed my mind but never materialized into a post for various reasons. Sometimes I was just too busy with many things on my plate. Recently we moved to Cincinnati and the initial few days have largely been around finding a house, setting things up and so on. Other times, I did scribble a couple of things but nothing that compelled me or my wife, who generally proofreads it. Every single day went by as an alarm that my blog is awaiting my next thought.

My wife said that it’s perhaps because my writing standard has improved and I’m more picky on what to write since the bar is higher now. It’s either that or it’s a high wall, not the bar, that nothing even slides through it.

And then, yesterday I came across a post of one of my university acquaintance, who is a very good blogger by the way, where she talked about the blogging dry spell. I guess, I’m not the only one. And this is not the first dry spell. I have had multiple in the past but once you’ve been blogging for so long, it’s a little inexplicable.

A lot of times I asked myself if I have become over cautious in what I write or penning (or if I may say typing) down my thoughts? Or is it really that I am becoming picky about the things that I write? Or do I still think it is worth devoting time? Am I still able to balance my other responsibilities, professionally and personally, if I devote time to blogging? And, is it such a big deal as well, if I don’t write for a couple of weeks? Yes, the answer to the last question is totally up to me. I keep a to-do list almost every day that includes even the most insignificant things. And yet, almost every day, I end up with a couple of things, not checked, that spill over to next day and sometimes the cascading effect creates a backlog of a week or more.

And I guess, it reached its breaking point, when I read that post. So, even if it wasn’t meant to be, but for once, let’s just do it. Even if it meant, just doing some jibber jabber.

And yes, after reading this, you’ll realize, it’s not even that when you Google the word “jibber jabber” , just like I did after finishing this entire piece and wondered what does this word “exactly” mean.

House MD

This is the second TV series I have completed (watched all seasons) after Friends. Given that it held up to my interest till the last scene of the last episode of the last season, I must say it’s one of the best, if not the best, TV series I have watched till date.

Central Character:
The plot revolves around the life of a maverick diagnostician, Gregory House, played Hugh Laurie, who has most outrageously wacky ways of reaching to a diagnosis.
People around him often describe him with various adjectives like “an ass”, “self-centered bastard”, “childish”, “egoistic”, “jerk” and more. He often takes audacity to the levels never imagined of and somehow pulls out himself safely every single time (of course, credit to the writers). His perceptions about the world and relationships are annoyingly disturbing and, unfortunately, right as well – often at odds with the hypocrisy the world depicts on a day to day basis. “Everybody lies” is his catch phrase and busting lies is his favorite pastime – be it of patients, peers or team members.
However, in the midst of all this, he has his own struggle with the pain he never wanted for himself but is made to live with. Deep down, the pain has made him what he is. Camouflaging it under the recklessness and avoidance of any kind of relationships is the only way out for him.
There are very few profound characters like him, I have seen till date.

Diagnostics:
I always felt Big Bang Theory is the best TV series ever written in the history of television just because of the technicality involved in the overall scriptwriting process and embedding humor into that. After watching House MD, I feel BBT has some serious competition.
It’s a mammoth task to come out with an almost unsolvable medical mystery that sounds innocuous in the beginning but builds complications incrementally as the time progresses.
The complexity of writing an episode becomes exponential considering that it cannot be completely fictional and has to make some sense to the medical fraternity. I could only imagine the plight of writers. Full marks to the writers for that.

Plot and Sub-Plots: 
One thing which I have found unique about this series is that while the central plot is always a disease to be diagnosed, the sub-plots in each episode focused on little idiosyncrasies humans from all walks of life exhibit. These subplots emerge from the personal life of the patient, house’s team, peers or even the outpatients visiting the clinic in the hospital. I can practically write one blog per episode if I want to.

Other Lead Characters:
Due credit goes to the writers who brought extremely strong character sketches of all the supporting cast – be it of Lisa Edelstein (Cuddy) who plays a no-nonsense, go-getter hospital administrator who knows very well how to manage a “free child” like House or Robert Sean Leonard (Wilson) who plays an altruistic, always there, comforting, righteous and idealistic friend who always try to keep House’s actions in check but fails most of the times and yet, never shies away from taking the fall. Omar Epps (Foreman) is a sincere and ambitious doctor who moves from being a team member to become dean of medicine, yet often clueless in tough situations and messes up more often than not.
The consistency of characterization has been so good that by a couple of seasons, you are often able to predict how a character would react in a particular situation. The other characters like Chase, Cameroon, Thirteen, Taub, Adams, Kutner, CTB, Masters and Park are brilliantly conceptualized as they balance their own life falling apart in the midst of a medical mystery every episode.

Music:
I also loved the creative idea of swooping in a small song at the end of each episode whose lyrics that sums up the entire episode. Some of the music pieces are amazingly well composed and written. You can actually watch them in three parts here – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. In addition, the overall background score is brilliant with genres ranging from blue to rock to jazz.

The brilliance in conceptualization and execution often results in some of the best works created on television or silver screen. House MD maintained that level of consistency throughout eight seasons and full credit to the writers and the director for bringing a closure to it in an absolutely spectacular manner!!