The Virtues And Toxicities Of Popularity

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

~ Shakespeare in As You Like It.
No. my intention is not to ring my own bell.
Nor to pat myself on my own back. I have a message about the topic where I am the centre of the action and so, these two pictures.

Fellow Five on One blogger and web-friend Shackman posted this on his facebook page and as he had requested I copy pasted on my page.

“I think most of you know me pretty well, it doesn’t matter when our paths may have crossed. Maybe some of you like me and some don’t, but if you’re on my Facebook, it’s because I like you. I would love to see if we can still chat more than just likes and actually write something to each other. Again, I decided to participate in an experience called “Meeting between bread.” The idea is to see who reads the post without a photo. We are so quick to dive into technology that we forgot the most important thing: good friendship. If no one is reading this message, it will be a short social experiment. But if you finish this to the end, I would love you to comment in ONE WORD about us. For example: a place, an object, a person, a moment in which you remember me. Then copy this text and post it on your page (don’t share) and I’ll go to your page to leave a word that reminds me of you. Please don’t comment if you don’t have time to copy the text. This will destroy the experiment. Let’s see who spent their time to read and respond according to the common story outside of Facebook! Thank you for participating!”

I was overwhelmed with the responses that I received, bar a few, all from my colleagues from my working life. These wonderful people have been in touch with me all these years despite my having retired twenty years ago, thanks to the internet and the social media. It brought to my notice that I have  well-wishers in my life who still have regard for me; and I am reminded of that post and the comments on it as I write this post.

I don’t think that I was or am popular. Popular is for entertainers and sportspersons. Popularity is ephemeral. What I received was pure affection and regard from mates who had worked alongside me thanks to something that was drilled into me during my younger days by mentors who taught me a simple formula to be good in my career. CCDO. Connectedness, Constancy in the connectedness, Dignity in the relationships thus established and Opportunity for growth for both in the relationship.  This is something that I passed on to the people who crossed my path as well.  That it has worked has now been amply proved and I am grateful to those mentors who showed me the way. I repeat, I was not and am not popular. These long lasting relationships are testimony to that fact.

Since this has been my personal experience, I would say that the virtues of popularity are that they are superficial, short-lived and ego boosters. The toxicities of popularity are narcissism and self destruction. I am glad that I was and am not popular. I don’t know what to call what I am and leave it to my readers to decide on a nomenclature.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, PadmumShackman and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Conrad. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

Individuality And The Common Good.

This is the Advaita approach to the “other”. I am named after this sage and had been taken to him as an infant to get his blessings.

The oneness of existence is the core of the Indian philosophy.

Unfortunately, human beings have gone astray in their thinking and we have landed up in the Tragedy Of The Commons.

I have no solutions to the problem and if and when I am asked, I refer them to Advaita philosophy.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, Padmum and Shackman and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Conrad. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

Courage.

My earliest memory of being courageous is that of my overcoming fear of diving off a high diving board in a swimming pool. I learnt to swim in this very pool shown above in Chennai. I would have been all of eleven years old then. After having learnt to swim, the next step was to learn how to dive. First from the sides of the pool and then from the lower boards of the diving board and then came the most scary of them all the high board.

I can assure you that it was almost like Mr. Bean’s experience when I first went up the steps and saw the water below for the first time. It took a great deal of courage to overcome the fear and take that plunge which I eventually managed to. The next one and the next ones were pieces of cake.

The next challenge came when I went to a swimming pool with a higher diving board.

It was Mr. Bean time all over again but eventually I did overcome the fear and dived and need I say, history repeated itself after that.

It took me other experiences to teach me that being courageous is a one off experience. Once you have overcome the first fear you are off and running. My other experiences were, overcoming stage fright in school drama, asking a girl for a kiss, asking a girl out on a date, asking a girl to go steady, proposing marriage though, no sequel to it, quitting a happy life style to go to Business School, quitting a job after 23 years of service to seek fresh opportunities, going in for hip replacement surgery and so on.

Here I pause to share with my readers one exception to my observation.  In our North Eastern States, travel between two towns is usually by shared taxis and the favourite vehicle in those days used as taxis was Jonga. These were usually driven by daredevils who wanted to take on the likes of Sterling Moss of those days. Their speciality was in taking mountain bends and hairpin bends at speeds in excess of 60 KPH much to the discomfort of passengers like me. The locals were quite accustomed to such death defying driving but, I had to endure it during my travelling days there and I had to use them always with a prayer in my lips. I am convinced that if I am here to write this post, it is God’s grace and my good karmas.

There have also been foolish decisions that eventually proved that the experience should not be repeated but, the first one had to be taken as an act of courage.

My conclusion is that the first time you have to be courageous is the tough one. The same experiences to be repeated are not acts of courage but routine.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, Padmum and Shackman and Conrad.   Conrad incidentally, is the original founder of the weekly bloggers group formed way back in 2009. This week’s topic was suggested by Shackman. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

A Common Enemy.

No, I will not talk about the latest common enemy.  For me, the common enemy has been for many decades, the idea of “the other”.  Mind you, I am talking about the idea and not “the other”.

“The other” has been the bane of human beings from time immemorial and there does not seem to be any end to it, not at least in my life time.

Let us take the most common today.  Islamophobia.  A conference of some Heads of Islamic States was recently held to address this issue. This is a global phenomenon and locally in India, I have recently been reading some very explosive material on the alienation that the Muslims in India feel. The first one is this book from a young mother and the other is from two very knowledgeable and erudite Muslims of India.

All the three links given above will give my readers some idea about the problems faced by the Islamic world in general and the Muslims of India. I am particularly concerned about the latter as it can have serious repercussions in the next few years with Right Wing nationalism growing in India, Pakistan imploding and Bangladesh in an economic crisis. If the problems faced by the two countries result in a refugee problem in India, there will be a major upheaval which I would rather that did not take place.

Let us talk about some other kind of “Others”. Here is an instance of old people becoming the other. I would very much like to meet this worthy when and if he ever gets to be as old as the people that he suggests die for the cause.

Need I say anything about the biggest “Other”, gender?

Every community has its share of “The Others”, thanks to inadequate education of the different types of people, religions, languages, colour, appearance etc and prejudices and fear drive bigotry and hate crimes besides discrimination.

The latest in the line of many “The Others” is China, thanks to the Coronavirus. It is extrememly difficult to determine how much of it is fact and how much just fake news but, the damage is being done.

If we delve deep into our prejudices, we will find enough and more “others” to keep us discussing them till kingdom come. I have just listed a few here to give a pointer to the IDEA of “The Other” as being our number one Common Enemy.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, Padmum and Shackman and Conrad.   Conrad incidentally, is the original founder of the weekly bloggers group formed way back in 2009. This week’s topic was suggested by Conrad. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

Unemployed.

I received this image as a forward in WhatsApp from a friend who felt that I should get some printed like this for myself.

I did not think that this would serve any purpose for me but, on seeing it as a forward from me, another friend who has the necessary infrastructure of an office with staff suggested that he order for a hundred cards with my name and with some modifications.

I agreed and when it gets printed, I shall write another blog post on it.

In the meanwhile, the “Unemployed” description on the card took me to one of my favourite exchange of letters in The Economist between a reader and The Undercover Economist.

The Letter.

AUGUST 6, 2005

Dear Economist,

My son-in-law has been unemployed for a couple of months now. As far as I can make out, he’s enjoying a PlayStation lifestyle while being supported by the state and by my daughter, who has had to find a temporary job. What concerns me is that he’ll get used to this. Should I tell my daughter to apply pressure by quitting her job?

Yours sincerely,

Godfrey Pickens, via email

The Response.

Dear Mr. Pickens,

The issue here is whether your son-in-law’s preferences will change over time—will he “get used” to a life of leisure, and so be less likely to work?

There are two competing views here. One is that he will become hooked on leisure (the welfare trap hypothesis) and will work less in the future, even if his wife quits her job. The other, equally plausible in theory, is that he will become addicted to the extra income provided by his wife’s new job, and if she quits, he will go on to work harder than before.

Such competing hypotheses have been hard to test in the past. But economist John Kagel has succeeded in running a series of experiments that shed light on the matter.

Kagel first forces his subjects to work for their income. Then, for a while, he provides them a substantial unearned income—a kind of welfare, if you will. Unsurprisingly, they slack off at once. Later, he withdraws the welfare and observes whether they work more or less than before welfare had ever been paid. The answer: the interlude on welfare makes very little difference.

This implies that your daughter should keep working for a while and see what happens. No harm will result. The only question for you is whether Kagel’s findings apply to your son-in-law.

Kagel’s subjects were rats. Do you think the parallel with your
son-in-law is close enough?

Yours experimentally,

The Undercover Economist

Courtesies.


As my readers know, I am a newspaper addict and I wait for my dose of them every morning with bated breath. As soon as I hear the newspaper boy drop them outside the door to our flat, I stop doing whatever I am doing to go over, open the door and retrieve them.

A little explanation. We have two doors to our flat, one solid wooden inside and a screen mesh one outside. We had installed the outside one as an added protection when we first moved in here almost thirty years ago as, then our neighbourhood was in the boondocks and still being developed. The problem with the outside screen door is that it opens out to the landing from where the stair case to go up to the first and second floor flats start.

After the newspapers are dropped off outside our door, the young man charges upstairs to both the floors to drop off papers for the four flats there. On his return, often it happens that I have to wait for him to pass before I can fully open the outside door so that it does not hamper his exit. When he sees this, he inevitably bends down, picks up the papers from the floor dusts them off and hands them over to me with a cheerful “good morning” and when I thank him, with a “you are welcome” and pushes off.

This morning, he went one step further. He must have seen me sitting in our veranda having my morning mug of tea and so decided to come over to the outside of the veranda and handed over the papers to me through the grill. I was overwhelmed. He is not on my payroll nor do we have a relationship other than the morning greetings whenever we meet each other.

Remarkable, in these times of break neck speed and hurry to spare such thoughts and extend a small but meaningful courtesy to a senior citizen. All that I could do was to mentally give him my blessings for his thoughtfulness. May his tribe increase.

That exchange led me to dig out this clip by Simon Sinek to look at the real world.  This morning was my porcelain cup for just the reason that I am a senior citizen!