The Other Side Of Power

(An assignment for a writing class has made me explore different essays and ideas and here is a small result of what I’ve been reading)

The gangster’s ‘moll’ is a fascinating subject. The intensity and passion in her love for somebody who doesn’t follow conventional standards of morality, for somebody who is a bad guy has intrigued me ever since I can remember. She loves him. She hates him. She is consumed by her own turbulent emotions, poignantly caught in the last scene from Kurbaan (2009), where Avantika is complicit in her terrorist husband, Ehsaan’s death. Clinging lovingly to him as he lives his last moments, she asks him his real name. The reply frustrates her and she pushes him in hatred. He had lied to her about his name along with other things. The gangster’s moll is not envied by anyone. She is detested by most. Her thoughts are taken for granted and she lives alone in her own tumult, hating most the man she loves the most. The seemingly ‘arrogant’ newcomer who settles down immediately and begins impressing all teachers and acing all exams is an object of envy and at times, hatred. However, he is scared and trying to look confident. He overdoes the acting and begins to look arrogant. An ordinary British officer in the colonial Raj suffered due to his position. He was disturbed and aghast at the workings of the colonial rule but hated by the natives because he was a representation of the same. It is that feeling of power that has been an object of fantasy for many. We desire it, we love it, we envy it, we hate it. Of course, we acknowledge that with power comes responsibility and theirs is a tough job, but we don’t know or read about their moments of loneliness, moments of frustration, moments when they rue the day they ever took up the job, moments when they want to quit, to escape.

Power can be exuded everywhere. We give someone we hate power over ourselves. We give them power to affect our thoughts and consequently our judgment and actions. What we seldom see is the other side of power. Like George Orwell writes in his famous essay ‘Shooting an Elephant’(Orwell, George), he was hated by the natives when he was posted in Myanmar. He notes, it was the only time in his life that he was “important enough”(Orwell, George; Shooting An Elephant) to be hated. However, “I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked my job and got out of it, the better.” (Orwell, George; Shooting An Elephant).  Quite contrary to the popular notion that the colonialists enjoyed ruling over us. Many of them probably did not like being away from their homes or families, forced to administer a ‘bunch of natives’ who hated them. Their life was one big irony. They were repelled by the workings of the Raj that they served but they were hated as representations of it. It is an interesting insight into the mind of the ordinary British officer, the ordinary administrator who did not get the advantages and pleasures of being a colonizer and was very like the natives he ruled over. He hated the atrocities and the punishments and wanted no part in it. However, it was the only source that afforded him some power. We would like to believe that they power of ruling over the natives would have compensated for all the other problems. However, such lowly officers were small cogs in the colonial wheel. They did not get the privileges of being the real rulers. They were mere employees. Their position was in one important sense worse than the people they were ruling over. At least the natives had the freedom to be honest.

The natives could openly hate the empire. They could revolt and rebel. The natives had no pretences to keep up. However, these inconspicuous rulers did. They were actually helpless in the face of a mob. When George Orwell saw the elephant that had run amok, his rational judgment told him that shooting is not necessary and therefore, wrong. However, he still shot the elephant. As he says, “They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer performing a magic trick” (Orwell, George; Shooting An Elephant). He did it because the natives were following him in a crowd, wanting to enjoy themselves seeing their ‘sahib’ shoot the elephant. He was afraid of looking foolish in front of them if he desisted from shooting. He would never be able to earn their respect or have any authority over them if he didn’t shoot. The need to ‘look’ powerful and decisive; the need to ‘impress the native’(Orwell, George; Shooting An Elephant) overpowered any other rational thought. He was afraid of the sneers, the laughing eyes of the natives, the contemptuous looks. All this when he was the one ruling over them! “And it was at this moment, as I stood there with a rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East” (Orwell, George; Shooting An Elephant). He realized why Governments acted in a tyrannical manner, often unreasonably. It was not restricted to the petty employees. Even the big rulers were constantly worried about pleasing their people. Given that the Raj tried to pacify and please the colonized people, generally powerful people would definitely work to please those they controlled. They were fulfilling an obligation. They were not free to act by their own judgment. The symbolic figure of power became the standard that had to be adhered to.

Lord Rama’s banishment of Sita was on the same principle (Maharishi Valmiki; Ramayana). As King, he could not afford to set a wrong moral example. Sita had lived in another man’s house for many days. So, Sita had to take the test of fire to prove her purity. Morality was decided by the common mass intelligence, not Rama’s own education, judgment and faith. A washerman’s sensibilities made him banish Sita. He could not act out of his own rational judgment. He was powerless in front of the general sensibility that demanded Sita’s banishment. He would lose all respect and hence, a moral authority that a King must necessarily have if he did not act in this manner. He lost his wife as he became a puppet of his own position.

Being distinctly better than those around you gives a kind you a kind of influence and power. Then, it attracts a vicious circle of being hated for being good and becoming better in retaliation. A young fourth grader hated school. However, the teachers spoke glowingly of the confident, polite, helpful and happy child. The academic and extra-curricular results were brilliant. She was kind and generous to everyone. However, the constant comparisons with her achievements were probably more than her classmates appreciated. She was punished by her peers for being good, for having an original point, for being her natural self. She withdrew into her shell and spoke to no one. She found refuge in her work. She raised better arguments, read voraciously and drew references in all her essays, stories and projects. The circle was never ending. She was detested for being good and her retaliation was being better. However, she was deeply unhappy as her success was out of spite. However, she had no right to be, as people said. Just like Sherman Alexie who was an Indian living in Spokane. Indians who acted dumb in class were accepted by other Indians and pitied by the non-Indians. That was the norm. However Alexie thought differently, “I refused to fail. I was smart. I was arrogant. I was lucky.”(Alexie, Sherman; The Joys of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me) He sought refuge in books to ‘save his life’. He read all the time because he loved reading. That brought him ridicule. Then he read to escape the same ridicule. His arrogance came from being smart and it later came from being defensive. Alexie was caught up in a circle of doing things that he would be hated for, then doing them to escape the world in which he was hated. It is a great peril of being in power or simply standing out. Alexie and the young fourth grade had no choice because as Alexie says, “I am smart. I am arrogant. I am lucky. I’m trying to save our lives.” (Alexie, Sherman; The Joys of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me)

It is true that being in power or being better than the rest have their definite advantages. They do bring with them enough resources to be able to battle or at least tolerate and handle unpleasant people and their reactions. However, power makes one very lonely. Also, it is to sustain this power, to keep these perks and resources close to oneself that one becomes a puppet in the hands of those he rules. One lives amongst those who may or may not like him and adjusts his intelligence and judgement to that of crowd. The crowd has to be pleased and thus, a powerful man becomes less free than the people he supposedly rules over. So eventually whether in a democracy or an authoritarian state – who is the final ruler? Who is actually free?

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Mr. Toohey

an excerpt from the fictional diary of Mr.Toohey. A diary I would love to get my hands on..

“……but I can whet and I can be the nice guy. A feeble attempt won’t hurt. It won’t change the course of things. I can still claim to have tried. But he doesn’t agree with me. He always contradicts. Even his silence reflects disagreement. Disagreement. How? That is dangerous. And there’s something about him that disconcerts. Something similar to her. Now she has to be kept mollified. She has to be respected because there’s a lot I can get done through her. But I don’t like the influence he has. The way he manages to get her point across and considered. Even though I’m considered smarter, better, more talented and knowledgeable…..

Who the hell is he anyways!?? Where has he come from? And how dare he prove a challenge to my authority? I need my slaves to be mine. An influence of someone who does not follow me is unthinkable. He must go… But how? How do I get my slave out from his orbit?…

Nothing

 

So a quarter of the new year is almost over. What do you have to say for the last three months? Nothing.

Nothing? Yes, nothing.

Not nothing surely? Well, no. A new team, new responsibilities and new excitement. Premchand and Jaipur Literature Festival.

Then why are you saying ‘Nothing’? Coz I feel empty about it all. It doesn’t come to memory when I think about it.

Why are you so keen to see the glass half-empty? I am not.

You are. I am NOT. My New Year’s resolution collapsed within two weeks and the rest of the months have been a haze of trying to make that resolution work again.

How will it work? Only some tough decisions will help.

Make them then. No.

Why not? No courage.

Look around then. HAHAHAHA.

Fortune favours the bold, you know? Don’t remind me.

 

“Let’s clean my room, get those summer clothes out. Probably, something will spark then”

6 Months. 6 Points.

I completed 6 months at Google today. Like my mom had predicted, they went by in a flash and I didn’t even realize it. Scary to think your whole life could be like that and you would be left with nothing at the end of it. Except for some money and a whole lot of rubbish blogposts.

But, my whole life is not over and I am certainly holding a few things with me. So what did the last 6 months show me?

1. Throw yourself whole-heartedly into whatever you are doing/ wherever you are going. Hesitation can only bring regrets. I am not advocating impulsiveness or rashness. Just that, don’t hold back or try to deny the inevitable. And learn to enjoy the present instead of worrying about the future or cribbing about the past. If I had joined on the date I was initially supposed to, I would have had the ‘awesome fun’ at Hyderabad that is stuff of Google legend. No regrets, but if I had been more open then …

2. I will always seek out those who can teach me something, even if it how to write meeting minutes. I will always seek out those who I can gape at in wonder and positively adore. Or they will happen to me. Either way, touchwood!

Perfection, diligence, a sense of responsibility will always warm my heart and endear me to people. I shall continue to be pleasantly surprised and impressed by people working systematically, by people with a strong work ethic and by people who will have all the fun in the world while sticking to deadlines 🙂

3. London is a city perfectly suited to me. It is organized and has a crisp, businesslike pace to it. It is made for the people who like to be independent, with maps at strategic distances, an awesome public transport system and a compactness to the city which makes all travel seem comfortable. I will go back there again, someday. For sure. And I actually like travelling, exploring new places and soaking in the culture. And I resolve to travel more.

4. Some things happen briefly and last a lifetime. Like my first ever team in my first ever job. UK iDSO will always be missed. It also taught me that not everything will last, most things will be over in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they happened, that you have memories and relationships to carry forward fromt that, which will enrich your life in the future.

5. I need to feel free. I have always known this but 6 months of working have made me realize how central this is to my life, my happiness and if I may be extreme, to my sanity. I cannot feel stifled, interrogated or constantly watched over. I need my space, privacy and freedom.

6. It’s easy to be the #1 company in the absence of electronic cards that monitor when you come and go from office. When the only guiding line to all privileges and freedoms is ‘Be Reasonable’. When nothing is banned, everything is left to the judgement of the individual making it a workplace for respectable adults, not a hostel for school-children. When your employees walk into office with the anticipation of something new happening.  When ‘Secret Santa’ is allowed to be more important than work during Christmas. When food is free and unlimited and in abundance. When you get a special company edition phone for Christmas.

Celebration is good. Celebration is excellent. Google re-affirmed my belief that small things done to mark occasions can go a long way in just make days brighter. They don’t take much effort but they show that people care, and that they are thinking about you. From the lavish Diwali and christmas celebrations to the tri-color balloons on the eve of Republic Day to the spooky cafe decorations for Friday the 13th, every festival, every occasion has just been so much happier and jolly.

I am sure learning how to make a good company. And that its always, always in the details. And that being perfect or the best doesn’t take much time. it only takes a little bit of thought and effort. That’s doable, isn’t it?

Lastly, care a little less! 🙂

Bievenue 2012*

*the French effect is due to the fact that I spent all morning at work perusing through my Paris photographs.

I wonder why I have made ‘This is not a .. ’ line a signature style. Not that I write it much, but it is the first thing to spring to my head whenever I write anything. So this time, I am not going to define. I had the best, craziest New Year’s bash in a long, long time. It was an amazing start to the New Year and has left me completely content and happy.

2011 was a lot of things. 2011 began with reminding me what it felt like to work really hard, have sleepless nights, be passionate to the point of obsession about something and then, do it spectacularly well. It was a feeling I had forgotten somewhere in the drift of college and growing up. It made me sleep well at night. That feeling was important and I have a feeling, the memory of how that felt will define how I do a lot of things this year. 2011 was the year of graduating, the most terrifying transition in life. It left me confused and disillusioned. And rather unhappy. 2011 has also been the year of drift, of confusion, of moments of hopelessness. 2011 was the year when I saw how difficult relationships can be and that you have to see the effort people put into them before deciding whether you doing enough or not. 2011 was a year of random fears and randomer feelings. 2011 was the year of my first foreign trip and the desire to fly all around the world. 2011 was the year of joining Google and realizing how quickly people can move from being colleagues to friends and that I don’t necessarily have to be wary of the big, bad world. There are plenty of good people in there and I will find them. 2011 was the year of many moments of ecstasy at the idea that the most fantastic things can happen to you, that the most ridiculous dreams can come true, if you have faith and hang in there.

I hope 2011 has made me a stronger, wiser person. i hope it has made me believe in looking at the bright side of things and putting things into perspective. I hope it has taught me to have patience and accept what I cannot change and to constantly ask myself – what would I do if I was not afraid? I hope I have learnt all that 2011 had to teach and I will not make those mistakes, making myself and those who love me unhappy.

2011 was a lot of things. I want 2012 to be more. And I know it will all have to come from myself. I want 2012 to give me answers. I want resolutions and new beginnings. I want to learn more about the world and its workings, look beyond my cozy space. At the same time, I want to find myself [No, I have not ‘lost’ myself, that’s impossible to do] I want to have answers to any personal questions I may be asked [rudely or not] I want to spend more time with people I love. And those who love me. I want to travel randomly, take off suddenly and fly away. I also want 48 hours in a day. I want to bring my focus back to my life and what I would do with it if I were completely alone. I want to love more deeply, live more freely, not fear heartbreak and care a little less.

I want 2012 to be awesome. And not just because the world is going to end.

iSad

That’s not original. It’s a hashtag from Twitter. But that isn’t the point. Nor does it matter. This is not a post that will chronicle Steve Jobs’ history or products and those writers at Wired.com and the NewYorker can just write a much better profile than I can.

I just want to thank Steve Jobs for the difference he made to my life. It’s been a series of long conversations and child-like excitement over Steve Jobs and Apple products that I have shared with Ritwik. I have been labelled an ‘Apple fan-girl’ and seen many rolling eyes because of my loyalty to Apple and alleged craziness over the products. And yes, I dream of having an Apple house someday. It doesn’t matter. People thinking I am crazy or rolling their eyes or calling me a spoilt brat because I insist on Apple and my very indulgent father doesn’t say no. Because you have to use the products to see that they are what you need. And they change your life.

The Stanford Commencement Address, the Mac ad dedicated to all the crazy people who changed the world and various pieces of the many, many inspirational things Jobs said are floating around Twitter and Facebook today, like they should, We have lost a genius, a man who is irreplaceable and honestly, I don’t know if a prodigy exists.

Steve Jobs came into my life with Ritwik’s iPhone 3GS followed by my own iPhone 3G. I fell in love with the device. I loved how Jobs wanted to make it idiot-proof and did. I loved how it came with no manual because Jobs had made it such that your intuition would be your manual. You would need nothing else. That’s when my love affair with Apple began and Steve Jobs’ ideas became a guide for troubled times.

Steve Jobs taught me :

– Simplicity is the hardest thing to achieve. It takes a hell lot of experience and a transcendental knowledge of what you are out to create. It is also, the most important. It is what will separate the ‘incomparable’ from the best. Look at the design of everything that Apple makes. It takes genius to strip a product of everything that seems superfluous while ensuring that the user yearns for nothing.

– Do what makes you happy and keeps you interested. It will never be wasted. A random calligraphy class taken in college tied up to making the perfect personal computer. Every single detail will be important. It will all tie up. Even reading old emails will be useful, someday.

– Obsession is a pre-requisite to perfection and greatness. You have to be consumed with what you are doing. You cannot ‘have a life’. Your job has to BE your life. That’s not a sad way to live, it’s the best. It’s awesome, it’s thrilling and I have goosebumps just writing about such a life. Check out the ‘Careers’ column on the Apple site – This isn’t your cushy corporate nine-to-fiver. Fortunately. That’s what Apple is, its employees’ life. I don’t think Jobs believed in a work-life balance. I don’t think he understood it.

– Perfection is important. Every single detail counts. It’s only when everything is perfect will you get the satisfaction of a job well-done and a lasting, glowing pride in your creation.  So no matter how much two-hour long arguments in the middle of exams over the font of the Premchand publicity poster irritated me, they were important. They are the reason why I am so proud of the end result. And why it still occupies a place of pride in my room.

– Treat your work like you would treat a lover. Don’t settle till you find the right job. When you find it, you will know.

– Like he said in the Stanford Commencement Address

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life”

Trust that every time things go wrong. many years later, you will be glad they did. They will have churned some interesting surprises that may not have been there had they gone ‘right’. Keep the positive spirit going.

I have loved Steve Jobs’ arrogance. It makes me smile to think of a man who was confident enough to believe that it was not the job of the consumer to know what he wants. He snubbed everyone who believe that being a micro-manager and control-freak would be detrimental for business. He showed us that since most people do not have the mental capacity to think out of the box, their opinions are not important, and thus, democracy only works in politics, it at all.

Anyone reading this already knows all of this. But like I said, I just wanted to thank Steve Jobs for being such an inspiration and for reminding me that I am right, during times of confusion and self-doubt. I love iProducts. And Jobs, rest in peace, if it’s possible for you to do that.

Posted from my MacBook 🙂

House Hunting

I am moving. I am making a new home on the web. I love WordPress. It’s clean, simple, easy to use and has an awesome iPhone app. But I am bored of this blog. That’s just me. I get bored with these techy things very fast. Very fast. I am already bored of my iPhone 4 and it’s only … err … 5 months old. Unfortunately, I don’t have any, even sliiiiiightly better option than this phone. So no choice. But I can explore the web. Make a home on different sites. Wander about. And I am going to do so.

I made this blog when I was lonely. Very lonely. Most of these posts are reminiscent of an October I would rather forget. The title of this post comes from the same time (I had not thought of it when I put up the title) I’m not lonely any more. And this blog has lost it’s purpose. But I don’t want to delete it. Its history that has built up to make the present day. So it shall stay as a link in my new home.

I am currently house-hunting. I will inform you of my whereabouts soon. Till then, take care.

I shall also learn to stop writing as if millions were reading this. But sometimes, delusion is allowed. And I have always loved the limelight.