Empathy Upgrade

Exhibit A

On 5th December 2017, just a little less than 2 years ago, a young woman killed herself. August Ames was 23 when she hung herself from the ceiling fan and asphyxiated to her death. August was a Canada born pornographic actress who had gotten herself into a twitter controversy.

August tweeted on December 3rd that she had turned down a job offer to work with a male artist who had earlier worked on gay porn and had not got himself tested adequately before offering to work with her in a boy-girl scene. She made the tweet less than subtle in expressing her disapproval and disappointment over the lack of ethics in the agents of the industry.

The LGBTQ community wouldn’t take this kindly and lashed out at August for the next 48 hours without rest or respite. She was massively criticized and was called Homophobic and discriminatory. Although a few pornstars and people from the industry backed her freedom to make choices of her costars, the LGBTQ community wouldn’t give her a break.

The bullying took to a fever pitch in just 2 days. Gay porn star Jaxton Wheeler wrote on Twitter: “The world is awaiting your apology, or for you to swallow a cyanide pill. Either or, we’ll take it.”

Finally on the 5th of December, she made one last tweet and killed herself.

Friends and near ones emphatically complained that August was a victim of cyberbullying. An autopsy conducted post her death also revealed that her body contained traces of cocaine, marijuana, Zoloft and Xanax.


Exhibit B

Incels are members of not so underground online forums. These online forums are mostly men, generally young heterosexuals who are incapable of finding sexual or romantic partners despite having the desire to socialize and form such bonds.

The group is explicitly violent in their ideology and openly endorses and encourages suicides. Discussions in incel forums are often characterized by resentment, misanthropy, self-pity, self-loathing, misogyny, racism, a sense of entitlement to sex, and the endorsement of violence against sexually active people.

Mass murderers in North America have either openly called themselves incels or have been adjudicated as incels based on their character traits. The first confirmed mass murder by an incel happened in 2014 when Elliot Rodger killed 6 people and injured 14 others in the Isla Vista of California. He made a Youtube video about his pursuit of extracting revenge over the womankind for rejecting him and other sexually successful men for making it hard for him to find women. Elliot has since been hailed as a hero in the incel forums in the dark holes of the internet.

Inceldom or being an incel by itself is not a mental or psychological disorder. People who identify themselves as incels may suffer from physical and metaphysical disorders. The inability to socialise with women and insecurity over one’s appearance makes one push themselves to believe the world is conspiring against them in indulging in sexual and romantic relationships.

The lack of success in the romantic or sexual front is not uncommon, and neither is it a danger to the society. The problem arose when incels rose from amongst us and turned against the society.


The two stories of Exhibit A and B are stories of empathy; one a real life incident and the other about the existence of real world cult. Now you might think, how are these stories about empathy? they’re so not empathy, they are the exact opposite of empathy. While Exhibit A talks about how a group of people ganged up against a young lady and Exhibit B is about a group of sociopathic misogynists out there to spread hate and violence.

Empathy from the earliest times has been held as a virtue. To be able to hear another’s heart beat; to put your feet in another’s shoe. To understand, to hear to feel one another’s emotions had been praised as the biggest virtue one can have. So yes, the definition of empathy is amply clear, but how does it relate to our exhibits?

What’s happened today is we are trying to empathise, but with whom? empathy is really about understanding others. But what we’ve made it today is understanding others with whom we can relate to. This is the biggest misinterpretation of empathy.

To take an easier example, if floods hit my native state, I feel a stronger urge to donate for relief causes. If the floods hit a neighboring state, I might feel less strongly for the need to donate. Now the act of donating itself is about feeling for others. So I am being empathic towards the victims, but why do I feel strongly for one set of victims and not so strongly for another?
we’ve somehow misunderstood the meaning or misinterpreted it as empathy.

What happened in Exhibit A is that the LGBTQ community, which is generally about acceptance and anti bullying turned up the heat against someone who they thought was against them. So evidently, it boils down to the fact that the LGBTQ are open to acceptance of life choices and being liberal about it only when it comes to the people of the community and not anyone outside. If August wanted to work or not work with any artist, isn’t it her choice? why would the LGBTQ community lashout at her? can’t they empathise with her? or is that privilege reserved only to those with whom they can relate to?

Similarly the incens of Exhibit B, the incel forums are by far one of the darkest holes of the internet. They openly endorse suicides, killings, rapes and torture, for what?? because members of the group cant get sex? because I can’t get sex and I can relate to some other 25 year old virgin should I call him names and encourage him to go kill the girl who rejected him when he was 14??

What we saw in these 2 examples is people want to empathise, but we choose to empathise with only those with whom we can relate. So effectively, I’m feeling sorry for myself, or someone who’s more or less like me. Is this even empathy?

We’ve seen massive organisations of people and groups all over the world, on internet and in the real world. They have a common agenda, a feeling of being wronged or misunderstood. I’m not saying all organised groups with agendas are bad; self help groups, support groups, AA meetings, these are also groups of people who empathise with each other – or empathise clones of one another, but these are not bad.

So what makes empathy real? It’s quite simple really. Are you really in another’s shoe thats actually his or are you just wearing another’s shoe that looks just like yours?

The next time you feel like being empathic about someone or some group identifier, just ask yourself, Is it really someone else or am I doing this just to feel sorry for a different flavor of myself?


Take the Loss

It happened again. A third time. A stranger walked up to me and asked for money. This time again, like the previous 3 times I was left feeling guilty and retrospective of the incident.

The first time this happened I was at a McDonald’s in CP of New Delhi minding my own business. A middle aged woman walked up to me and asked if she could sit at my table. I moved my tray and made space. She didn’t have a plate or tray of food. She sat and started talking and I was being courteous, soon enough she said it was her birthday and she had come to the Hanuman temple nearby. I wished her a happy birthday and continued looking uncomfortable. She wouldn’t notice anything and went on talking, she said she’d had a fight with her mother in law and left the house without breakfast. I didn’t notice anything, nor did I feel sorry for her, it was new to me, where a stranger walks up, makes civilized conversation and suddenly says its my birthday and I haven’t had food.

I reached into my wallet and pulled out a small wad of loose change. There were 10s and 20s amounting to maybe 80 or 100 rupees. I handed it to her and said buy yourself a burger. I was confused by the look on her face. I was worried if she was offended because she did look from a respectable household. She was not. She counted the cash and looked up at me. “Give me 50 more and I can have a non veg meal” she said with a pompous air. Like I was selling something to her and she was bargaining to make a sale. I didn’t know what to say, I took off.

I have no idea if there was any truth in her story. The way she narrated at first made me feel sorry for her, but the way she counted the money and asked for more made me feel sorry for myself. Was she just a con or was she a bad natured and blunt person honestly hurting?

The second time, I was in college. Me and a friend were at the bus stop waiting to catch a bus to Nehru Place to get his laptop fixed. A man approached us and said he was from Muzaffarnagar in UP. He had come with his wife and 10 year old child to Delhi. On his way, they were robbed and all their money and luggage was stolen. He had no money, the child was hungry and they had no way of getting to Old Delhi railway station to catch a train back home. The man was willing to offer his watch, cloths and whatever he had on him if we could help him with some cash.

I didn’t know what to do. My friend was tugging at me and to make matters worse, the bus we were waiting for had to arrive at the next moment. I took the three 10 rupee notes that I had in my pocket as loose change and handed it to him before hurriedly being bundled into the bus.

There was no way of knowing if they were really in trouble or had I been conned. The man’s pleas seemed earnest and the wife and child looked really helpless. Even today when I’m reminded of them sitting at the bus stop with nothing more than the cloths on their back I fill up with guilt. Should I had heard the man out a little longer? Should I have tried to convince my friend to let go of me so that we could listen to what this man was saying?

The 3rd time. This past Monday near office. It was drizzling outside and I was waiting for my Uber. A man, who didn’t look drunk until he started talking locked eyes and said “Bother, will you do me a favor?” I didn’t talk so he continued, “I fought with my wife, left my phone and everything and came here. Now I don’t have money to get home. Can you help me?” I was repulsed by the stench of liquor, a saw that he was clutching to a tetra pack of apple juice in his right hand. I still hadn’t said a word.

If I try to beg for money, people wouldn’t give me anything. Everything’s right with me. So can you help me out here?” He had the drunk cavalier’s air around him. I didn’t feel like helping him. I walked away from him. I didn’t help him. The reasons could be many, that I didn’t have loose change in my pocket or that it was raining, or that it was getting late and here was a drunkard asking for money. I just walked off.

Parting ways with a little loose change wouldn’t have cost me much, but if he was in genuine trouble my little gesture would’ve really helped him. Perhaps this is what is called yielding to prejudice.

Such incidents happen with all of us, maybe not regularly but it happens when helpless people shed their egos and reach out for help from strangers they’ve never met before. One can even call this begging because they are so out of options that they have nothing else to do but ask for money from others with nothing in return to give. They are basically asking for mercy, for deliverance of some kind. How do we as the conduits of this deliverance react? We have less than 2 minutes to make up our minds. How do we judge characters so fast? How do we fight out prejudices and make a decision? It is so hard.

The easy way however is to take the loss. Parting ways with a small financial loss is a lot easier than living on with the guilt of being indifferent.

AMA on Thursdays – Rahul Shaw

Today’s AMA is with Rahul Shaw, he’s a relatively new friend of mine and a colorful personality who just won’t shut up. Don’t get him wrong, he’s a soft spoken person, but isn’t afraid to take a stand. This trait of complaining and wanting the world just right is what intrigued me to take a deeper look into Rahul and probe around his way of life.

Q. Since poetry is on my mind, I want to know when and where did your poetry writing begin?

First of all thanks for having this AMA session with me. Feel really important and happy to be part of this. So I first started writing in 2010 after getting job. I was placed in Bangalore, far from my native Kolkata. I used to get up early and when everything was so silent, I used to get different ideas and feeling, which I started expressing in words. So that is when I started writing poems.

Q. You’ve actually published only after you started working, is it because you have more mental and financial means once you have a job or is there any other reason why you published your work after getting a job?

Well when I started writing, I never thought that I would be publishing a book. But after it had been a while and I had written more than 50 poems, I thought why not publish a book. It was a very personal decision and I did not think about making money. It was more of a personal achievement for me. Down the line, when I look back, I am pretty sure it will make me smile.

Q. That’s a really nice back story, I’m sure there are lots of people among us who might find themselves in similar positions and may have the gift of writing, do you have any personal suggestions to them to take it to the next level? And can you also take some names of publishers or agents who can help us publish our first book?

Yes, I feel any kind of productive work is beneficial for the person or the society. And as we all know “Pen is mightier than the sword__Rabindranath Tagore”, we can use it to change our society and bring relevant situations or topics in front of everyone. Publishing books is definitely one of them. I had published my Book with Partridge, but I have heard about other Publishers also, but am not sure if its good.

Q. Are you working on anything new currently? Can we expect another book to come out soon?

Yes I am writing new poems, but am not sure when I can publish a new Book. Previously I used to write often, but now I don’t get sufficient time to write, so I will definitely take some time for me to publish my next book.

Q.You told me you’ve been doing some astrology, is this out of self interest of do you want to venture to build something monetizable?

Astrology is something I was interested since my childhood. I started with palmistry, when I was in 8th or 9th standard and then slowly as time went by, I became interested in Astrology. Once again after starting my professional career, I started getting involved more in Astrology. I started learning palmistry and astrology because I was interested in knowing my future, which most of us are, but then slowly I gained some knowledge to start predicting for others. But I feel its a gift from God, that I am able to predict the future, so I don’t charge money from anyone, but I take my time and the situation of the person and his behavior, before doing these analysis.

Q. Where can we find your book? online or any libraries in town?

You can find my book “Whisperings of a Common Man” in amazon.in, amazon.com, Google Books. You can also find them in Atta Galata in Koramangala and Just Books Library. I would recommend reading the hard copy as the feel and design will give a much better experience than an ebook

Last question: Kya Aap Aam Khate ho?
Sorry, bad joke, because I’ve only been asking questions to make you look good, it felt I should ask you about the aam.

No Answer

Q. When someone has a hobby for a long time, people say that in course of time they will have some achievements.. do you think this is essential? to have some measurable achievements attached to your hobbies?

Well yes, its true. To be honest, during my MBA interview when I was asked about my hobbies, I could tell about my book, astrology and playing in different TT tournaments and I cleared the interview. So yes any productive activity will result in positive outcome if the proper path is followed and if we can continue with it for a considerable amount of time

Q. Just a small follow up.. do you think these achievements are required? can someone not paint just for their joy and leave it at that?

Yes why not?? I used to write for myself and never knew that I would publish. So people can definitely do things which make them happy and give them a breather from their daily mundane tasks.

Rahul’s book is available on Amazon.in and at popular libraries in town. He is also a guest author on this site and posts poetry from time to time.

~*~

A Girl in Red

It was the weirdest part of the trip. What was supposed to be a 4 nights 5 days trip in the himalayas was gonna go wrong. OK calm yourself, no one died, no one broke anything and no one was lost.


It so happened that my company had taken on a stupid stupid client and we were trying make a lending software for this hard nosed stupid ass. I was the BA leading the calls and I messed up. Well, that’s another story, maybe for another day, but for now there was a stupid stupid client that I couldn’t drop and I was in the Himalayas.

With regret I had told my guys I was gonna stay back in Mcleodganj. The initial plan was to drive up to Manali from Mcleodganj, try skiing and any other adventure sports available and maybe play in the snow! But I couldn’t. So the guys went ahead to on the trip and I stayed back alone in the hotel room with my laptop. There was no heating in the room and there was no room service in the hotel.

The guys left for Manali early in the morning, at around 5:30 AM. I just woke up to see them off and went back to bed. No one was gonna be in office before 10. I don’t need to log in at 5:30 to prove anything. To my pleasant surprise, when I woke up by 9:30 AM, there was snow! It had started snowing in Mcleodganj in the 4 hours that I had been asleep since the guys left! The gods must really like me to have made it snow so that I didn’t miss seeing snow! It was the first time I saw snow in my life and it did feel new and fresh and unique. I walked out to the front porch of the hotel and stepped on the snow. Took a couple of steps and turned around to see my foot steps in the snow. The feeling was surreal. I had just taken 3 steps on flat ground in front of the hotel and it got me excited. So weird!

The kids who were manning the hotel started playing in the snow. A couple of them started making snowballs and throwing at each other. The 3rd kid wrote a girl’s name in the snow and was taking selfies with it. They were not kids per say, they might’ve been 18-20 years old but they were playing in the snow like they were 8 year olds! Snow is the beach of the highlanders I suppose.

I asked if breakfast was available, there was nothing in the hotel. Not even noodles or eggs or bread or even chai. I was asked to walk down to a small town center, a center circle like the town plaza which had a line of shops. I decided to take the chance. It’s not like I was hungry, but I liked the snow and a walk in the snow and a spicy fried egg seemed more inviting than drafting lengthy unconvincing mails.

I wore literally all the cloths I had with me. I hadn’t packed mustang, so I wore my thermal inners, 3 layers of cloths on top and then the only jacket I had. Gloves, socks, shoes and the cap too. I started walking down, the snow wasn’t think and since it was the first day of snow, there was no frost and it was easy to walk. I walked down to the plaza and found a neat eaterie. It had colorful interiors and looked like a library cafe. I picked up a political magazine, quite an anomaly in the otherwise “love all – no boundary nation ” theme of the cafe.

As I walked in I noticed there was no one else in the cafe. I was afraid I was gonna be turned down, but thankfully not. Another 18-19 or 20ish kid came up and took my order. I ordered a masala egg and cup of hot latte. He wrote it down, turned on the music to loud blast, gave me smile and ran down. It felt good, I was important. Perhaps in the himalayas when there is snow and bad weather all around, even a single customer ordering a single egg is important.

I ate my egg slowly sipping the latte. It had stopped snowing and there was noise outside. It was a Monday, so children had started going out to school. Few other eateries started playing music and other shops and establishments started opening up. Each with one or two guests.

A few kids, again 20ish kids had started playing cricket in what looked like a small park. There were some younger kids and some older ones. In fact the older ones were the kids who were running these cafes. They all played together but ran different cafes. Seems strange at first, but guess that’t the life in mountains.

I walked back to my room shivering in the snow. A girl in a red knee length coat was walking down towards the plaza. She was alone and didn’t look like a tourist. Our eyes locked, I nodded as a way of wishing the morning and she gave me a smile. I never saw her again, but the memory of this split second exchange of warmth still keeps me warm on cold lonely nights.

~*~

A Day in Paradise

Haven’t we always wondered what happens in the world? How do birds fly? What makes it rain? What’s the need of a catch basin? OK pause. Judging by the desperate nature of the examples, you would’ve figured that this is an unwanted intro to something completely different. You’re not all that wrong.

Like the questions, we also have one burning question inside us. How are laws made? The easy answer is: we as people elect our representatives through elections, these representatives come up with ideas that could improve our lives. Once an elected representative (most often but not always is a part of the government in power) comes up with something, he/she then tables (floats/pitches etc) the idea in the parliament, where the rest of the representatives (both from the govt and opposition) take an objective look at it, study it and come up with questions and amendments to the proposed idea. Sometimes this results in lengthy debates, setting up on committees for further studies and finally when everyone is satisfied with the amount of debating, the proposal – also called a bill is subjected to a vote and if the bill passes the vote, then does the idea become a law? Well not exactly, but this is the first step – Ok what are the other steps then? We’ll take that up some other day – but just to remind you, this was in your secondary school civics text books.

So, what is this blog about?

This blog is about taking a look at whether it is really all that simple. Do laws just get ‘tabled’ in the parliament, debated upon and passed into being laws or does something else happen? Let’s look at one day – hence the cheesy title – A Day in Paradise. For our purpose, I’ve taken up 4th July 2019 as a case for our study. Now let’s dive in – there will be technical terms and ‘governmental’ or ‘parliamentary’ jargon what we’ll try to define in simple terms as we move along.

Business

Business in our terms means agenda. It is the list of activities that are planned for a day’s work in the parliament. The Business is generally published 2 days in advance and in case of revisions, a revised List of Business is published and shared with the members of the parliament. I’m not sure if all the ministers coming to the parliament go through this before coming but its published as a matter of practice and standards.

Here’s the gist of what was going to be the business of the day for 4th July 2019: But first lets just understand what the different things mean

  1. Questions
    • Any questions to be asked of any member of parliament – these needs to separately listed and made available to the said member of parliament so as to be able to prepare and answer the question.
  2. Papers to be laid on the table
    • These are basically reports or notifications that any member of parliament wants to bring to the notice of the parliament. Once a paper is placed on the table, it may be brought up in discussions in the parliament (also called the house) or in general cases it is just a point of information for the house. Eg: certain XYZ Report has been produced by the ministry of oil and gas based on a study done on all oil refineries on the east coast of India.
  3. Messages:
    • Messages from either of the houses to each other or from the different state heads or the president that needs to be relayed in the parliament.
  4. Statements
    • Ministers or committee members can raise a request to make a statement in the parliament, these requests are taken by the speaker and based on merits and discretion provided a slot to make the statement.
  5. Motions:
    • Basically a topic or a line of thought that any member of parliament wants to bring out in the house and start a debate and discussion or come to consensus about a past discussion or debate.
  6. Resolutions:
    • It is a kind of coming to a decision about a certain topic, or bill or business of the house. Best explained with an example. The Finance minister can move to bring a resolution on changing the Duty on say computers from 10% to 20%. Now this isn’t a law or something that will amend a law, but it is something of importance to the nation and hence needs to get an approval from the parliament. Hence the minister will move for a resolution and the house will vote aye or nay for or against the resolution.
  7. Legislative Business
    • The thing that we thought was the main business of the parliament – making laws. These are basically laws and bills that are not yet laws that a minister may bring up for creation or amendment. These bills once brought up can either be taken up for debate and discussion or be brought up for the vote.
  8. Matters under rule 377
    • Matters of business that don’t fall into any of the other mentioned categories

Now the table above talks numbers, but what are the questions raised? Are any of them really really important to the nation and how did the concerned member/minister respond to the question? What are  the messages replayed in house? What were the motions submitted? And was there a debate on the said motion? How was the bill passes? Was there a debate? The things we see on TV, the ruckus and commotion, can we capture that? Well truth be told, all the commotion and ruckus is also captured and is there for everyone to see.

For starters, the happenings in the parliament are all on record. Secondly most of it is video recorded and available on the TV channels LSTV and RSTV. The video recordings of these parliamentary sessions is also available on the websites of the loksabha and rajyasabha. The websites of Loksabha and Rajyasabha also have PDFs of all the documents that you need to look up. The list of business, the questions, the bulletins, the debates and the speeches held on the floor of the house.

The objective of this blog post was not to bring out what happened in the parliament. Its to give the reader a general idea of what happens and that our parliament has enabled us as citizens to look for and find all the information about the happenings of the legislative arm of our democracy.

Since there is hardly a fortnight left in the current session of the parliament, Dr. Timepass will compile data of the business of the house in these 2 weeks and do some qualitative review. Come back again by the weekend to see what happened in the lower house of the Indian parliament this week and what we at Dr. Timepass make of it.

~*~

Documents used for this Blog:
1. LS List of Businesses – 4th July
2. LS Bulletin Part 1 – 4th July
3. LS Questions – 4th July
4. Papers to be laid on the Table – 4th July

Part 2: Jaisalmer – The Desert

Jaisalmer has to be right up there! one of the most beautiful experiences in India. The dunes, the vastness of the desert, the chilly night and the beautiful buzzing fort of Jaisalmer all of this is a package to experience once before you die.

Our tour started in an early morning flight to Ahmedabad. The flight took less than 3 hours to reach Ahmedabad, just before sun rise. Since it was January, the early morning was cold, we had to wait for the rentals for an hour or so at the airport and since it was our first brush with hiring rentals, we were extra cautious, making sure the agent knew the bents and scratches on the car.

We had 2 good-looking hybrid SUVs to ourselves for the next 5 days to drive through the great Thar desert of India. Our first drive was the longest – from Ahmedabad to Jaisalmer. This was about 600 Km and google said it would take us 9 hours to get there. We strapped in started by 7 AM as the early morning Gujaratis came out for their morning routines. Ahmedabad is beautiful, the main roads are big and wide, there is a separate bus lane in the center of the road and the autos here also are green and yellow. They have a very different meter – like a water usage meter. it looked like it needed some manual winding and showed distance/fare in digits, not sure how the driver read it, but we couldn’t figure it out.

https://youtu.be/J5yHbeirZMM

We drove two hours on the route showed by google before we started feeling hungry. We stopped at a small town on the way called Mehsana at a road site cafe that was surprisingly so well decorated that it could pass off for a quint cafe in one of the bigger cities. We had refreshing Poha and tea there and pressed on. Of course, there was dosa also available and some of us did indulge in the Gujarati take on dosa – not bad at all.

The roads were wonderful, but it was clear to us that we were in the dry lands. There was no sand, but large areas of barren hard brown ground passed us. If you are not from this part of the country, you are generally used to seeing agricultural lands or forest run past your window – not here in Gujarat – Rajasthan. By 2 PM we crossed into Rajasthan, paid the state toll for our rentals and moved on. Rajasthan initially was similar, except the change in the script of the sign boards and ads. More turban clad people and more desert vegetation. The first sighting of a Peacock crossing the road had us excited but then sighting Camels and Peacocks became common.

https://youtu.be/rMi2MCyAwNA

We also saw Army equipments being transported on the route – which again got us excited.

Without further breaks we entered the city of Jaisalmer. Like any tourist spot in was buzzing with vehicles and petty shops. Our accommodation – the Winds Desert Camp was about 30 Km out of the town and into the desert. It was already dark and well past 8. Some of us were starting to get scared of the vastness of the void. Every sign board seemed like a ghost until we started seeing huge white creatures that were sure to be ghosts – luckily they were the wind mills – wind energy producing turbines along which they had built out desert camp.

The Desert camp is a place in the middle of the desert, and your room is a tent – made of fabric and the bathroom is just another partition in the fabric. The tents though not sound proof had all conceivable amenities – lights, fans, furniture, porcelain and brass bathroom fittings, numerous plug points and what seemed like a heater/cooler. And not to mention clean sheets and blankets along with hard wood flooring.

We were welcomed to the open air theater where they had organised a performance by native folk artists who sang songs and performed native folk dance forms to entertain the guests. There were a couple more groups with us. The show was good, including the servings of assorted starters and a mini bar that served hard liquor. After the outdoor entertainment performance in the bitter cold of the desert we were ushered to the indoor dining room for dinner. We ate well – there was standard north Indian veg spread along with the native daal bati. We had a scrumptious dinner and planned for the next morning. The camel safari and the safari on the dunes was included in our hotel package so we just confirmed our numbers and the time to start – it was going be an open jeep.

The morning was chilly, the jeep driver, like all drivers was complaining we would miss things if we didn’t leave soon. He was right, the sun rise wasn’t going to wait for us was it? We hopped into the Jeep and he tore into the desert. We clung to each other as music blasted from the speakers and freezing cold desert winds were blowing our heads off. When we went off road we saw the awesomeness of desert dune riding. The jeep fell and sank into the sand as the driver kept on accelerating. It was like riding a boat, one side you’re going up and on the other the jeep is sinking in the sand. He brought us to the sun rise view point and complained a little. We saw the desert sun, massaged to heat ourselves and took the many photos.

Just when we had begun relaxing, the driver barked at us to get on the jeep. We still had the camel ride. We got on, sailed through the ups and downs of a couple more dunes before we were brought back onto level ground. That’s where the camels came out. They were beautifully decorated and were buck toothed. They didn’t stink as much as they are generally known to stink in pop culture. Two people were made to sit on a camel and once all of us had found a seat, the man – one single man leading 4 camels made a sounds with his mouth and the camels rose. The first time a camel rises is no short of an experience on a roller coaster. The camel stands its hind legs first while standing up, hence the unexpected and sudden rise from the back feels surreal. Once it starts walking – in its camel like wonky walk, you start to feel like you are constantly being thrust forwards. If you don’t find a comfortable posture then the ride is going to be a nightmare. We rode the camels for 10 minutes before we stopped for some photos, another 10 minute ride and we were in the middle of nowhere, its where he asked us to get down and take as many photos as we wanted. We did. On our way back many more camel men came and offered us to make camels race – none of us were interested – either we were scared of the menacing visuals of a running camel or had had enough of the camels – city dwellers right?

Our ride was waiting for us as we made our way back to the starting point of the camel joint. It was around 8:30 AM, some of us had a cup of chai while shivering in the bitter morning chills. We got back to the camp, washed ourselves up and got down to the complimentary breakfast. It was an all vegetarian spread with omelettes made available on demand. Along with the side, there was a special green veggie called desert beans, this was supposed to a specialty of Jaisalmer – it was a little less succulent, but was longer.

We paid up, and said our goodbyes – we had a tight day ahead of us – see Jaisamler fort, shop, have lunch and leave for Jodhpur which was going to be a 6 hour drive. Target time – 2 PM. Time we actually left 4 PM.

Next up:
Part 3: Jaisalmer – The Town

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Negative Affirmations

Affirmations are positive thoughts and self confidence boosting coping mechanisms. In the second half of the 20th century many a motivational speaker made his buck using this technique. Spiritual gurus and wellness practitioners also preached about affirmations.

I am a good blogger

People want to read my blog

I will motivate people

Sorry for the tasteless examples, but this is how positive affirmations look like. If you were a pre teen in the 90s you would remember the episode of the power puff girls where Buttercup starts to think she’s a good crime fighter because of her green blanket which she uses to practice her affirmations – end of the episode showed she was a good crime fighter with or without the affirmations.

Now let’s not get into a debate on whether affirmations are real or have any real effect on us. This post is about something grey called Negative Affirmations. What does it mean?

Negative affirmation isn’t really a word – atleast not yet. We haven’t recognized and labelled it as we so love to do these days, but all of us have seen, experienced and practiced this. The simplest and most common example of this is I told you so.

I told you so

What is this sadistic line that we love so much? Most of us are waiting for our turn to say I told you so. We relish it, the feel of rubbing it in. Why do we do this?

Let’s take a simple example to visualize it. When I got back from the hospital after I was sick for a couple of days, I wanted to go straight up to my room. But my aunt wanted me sit in the living room for a while and then go up. I didn’t listen to her and went up. Naturally I was a little exhausted and started coughing vigorously. Her first reaction – I told you so. I couldn’t react, I knew I was wrong but I couldn’t say anything. I just lay on the bed breathing deeply.

Would she leave it at that? Noooo. She kept saying it again and again you should’ve stayed down, I told you you should’ve. See what happened.

I didn’t know what to say. Actually I didn’t say anything. Did she want me to say sorry? Did she just want to hear me say yes you were right?

It happens many times in our lives, when someone makes a mistake, we hold no restraint in letting them know they’ve made a mistake. In cases like our example the mistake cannot be undone, I couldn’t go down and sit in the living room to please her could I?

Her constant harping of my mistake doesn’t help make the situation any better, the only thing it does is make me feel worse. Is that what she wanted?

Many times when people do this – pull the I told you so for too long, I ask them, what are you trying to do? Make me feel worse for longer? Their response is: no but if I don’t say it you will repeat the mistakes. It’s more of a rationalization on their part – they have no way of knowing I will repeat the mistake.

Long back I had read in a Paulo Coelho book that our words are generally meant to convince ourselves more than it is to convince others. So in I told you so perhaps the Negative Affirm-er is trying to convince himself that he has it in him to know or do the right thing?

And who are these people who say I told you so? The ones that can’t actually get their word out in the first place and hence wait to say I told you so? OK maybe that’s a little harsh but the point is, Negative Affirmations – saying I told you so, or harping about the mistakes that can’t be undone are completely unnecessary and the people who do that you are actually trying to prove to themselves that their worth something and doesn’t really have to do much with you.

There’s no need to harbor any prejudice, they are not sadists who want to point out your mistakes. They’re just trying to get better, strangely using Negative Affirmations on you.

Its sad, talk to them about this.

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Tour de North East

A comprehensive guide to my tour in the beautiful North East of India in the the December of 2018.

Part 1 – The shortlist
A brief about how to plan your North East trip. The NE has 8 states and many many beautiful places. How to pick and choose, and what we did

Planning be Legendary

Part 2 – The Big Cities
Write up on Guwahati and Shillong. The weather, public amenities, transport facilities available, economy, business, brands, tourism, people and culture.

Kamakhya Temple

Part 3 – Khasi hills of Meghalaya
Khasi is one of the three major tribes in Meghalaya. The Khasi hills are a geographic distinction in Meghalaya and is famous for the many tourist attractions including Cheerapunji and the many root bridges.

Tawang – Not in the trip

Part 4 – Dawki and Jaintia
Asia’s cleanest village, followed by a kayak ride on the river Dawki, Bangladesh border and stories of a 14 year old boat man by the sunset.

Part 5 – Nagaland
First visit to Nagaland, how to get there, legal requirements, history, tourism, transportation, people, language and culture.

The Hornbill Festival

Part 6 – The Naga Conversations
Myth busting conversations up close with the Nagas, demystifying pop culture beliefs and dogma about the Nagas. People, Language, culture and Food.

Bonus – Getting to Cheerapunji
Travel options from Shillong to Cheerapunji. Embarrassing true stories, Cab fares, Accommodation options and Deals.

Turning Evangelist

I was trying hard to stay awake on the night of the Europa League finals game between Chelsea and Arsenal. It was supposed to air at 00:30 India time on 30th May, 2019. I had gotten used to sleeping early and hence it was being a challenge.

The challenge became easier when one of my friends working at Isha Foundation sent a message on my WhatsApp. It was a link to a blog post on a right wing portal. I have no prejudice, they’re a self proclaimed right wing portal. I gave it a click.

The blog was about an insidious event. A man – presumably a Christian evangelist or an evangelist messenger made a walk towards the bust of Aadi Yogi Shiva at the Isha Foundation in Coimbatore and starts shouting at the top of his voice about Jesus being the sole savior and aadi yogi a distraction.

Here’s the link to the video on a tweet that went viral.

The blog post went on to talk about how Indians have been talking about religious intolerance by the hindus while the act of religious evangelism by other religions especially Christianity has always existed and has encroached the fabric of Indian spirituality and religious heritage.

This topic of evangelism and conversions is always a sensitive and a difficult topic to talk or think about. Not because we have not been subject to or exposed to it but because the rationale behind it is a little confusing. Confusing as in unknown. The lack of empathy could be one reason.

Why is a person trying to convert someone else? Why do I want to stray someone from their path and convert and mould them into wanting to walk on my path? That’s the basic question.

Now that we’ve formed the question, we’re half way there. Most of our answers reside in Maslow’s work. After one has reached the pinnacle of the need hierarchy of self actualization, one looks to change other’s lives. It’s called the level of Self Transcendence. Hence evangelism.

That was easy – and a little academic. Let me try again. If I believe in something really hard, like to take a simple example if I’m a diehard fan of Chelsea football club, I would first myself be immersed completely in it, and the joy of being a fan is so elevating that I wouldn’t stop talking about it. I will talk about Chelsea with everyone and try to bring people to games who are not Chelsea fans, not even football fans. Without caring if they need or want to be Chelsea fans. Because I am so convinced that Chelsea is the path to absolute bills and liberation that I will try as hard as possible to make others see what I see.

Religious evangelism is similar to that, a little complex ofcourse as all games of grownups are. Not all conversions or evangelist activities are nobel. Because these are huge organisations with unreal goals – most politically and financially motivated too. So not always do the people trying to convert you want you to see the light or improve your life.

However, a Chelsea fan does want to improve your life so if you see a Blue trying to get you to a Chelsea game, just go!

~*~