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Thoughts

The Question of the Answer

This article first appeared in the GenWise Newsletter on the 16th of July, 2021.

We live in a world of many answers. I’ve dismissed volumes full of answers that my ancestors would never have seen in many lifetimes. Answers listen to our whim—slaves at our beck and call.

We live in a world where we are taught answers. We are taught to answer. We are searching for answers.

Is that a way to live? Is that a way to learn? Is what we need an answer?

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a “pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent species of beings” creates Deep Thought, a computer, to formulate the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. After seven and a half million years, Deep Thought produces the Answer: 42.

That’s it. 42.

The obsessive search for answers is meaningless. It provides no real insights, develops no real skills, and is ultimately useless. But hey, I got 86% in tenth grade, so that’s gotta count for something, right?

Right?

Textbooks are a never-ending series of answers to questions that are either formulated arbitrarily, or sometimes do not even exist. They are a collection of arbitrarily chosen facts that we’ve all been gaslit into thinking are the important. The whole textbook could be replaced by 42, and I would know exactly as much as I knew before.

Because what the pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent species of beings didn’t realize is that they were asking for an answer, but they were not asking a question.

“What is the square root of 1764?” is not a question, it’s a plea for an answer.

Who decided that the textbooks I was given contain the exact information I need to know in order to become a functioning member of society? Why have these specific facts and events been chosen? What is the Question that yields the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

Now, those are questions.

In fact, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, that same pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent species of beings created a computer to figure out what the Question was. What do you think that computer was called?

“Earth.” A computer so large that it began to house life, and it became home to a race of primitive ape-like beings known as humans.

If The Hitchhiker’s Guide is to be believed, our purpose was to ask the Question.

Let’s take this sentiment and unpack it a little, setting aside its comedic and absurdist origins.

We’re here to ask questions. The answers have already been found, they’re out there. We’ve created a massive database where all the answers are on our fingertips. We have devices in our pockets that allow us to know the answers within seconds. All we have to do is ask the questions.

And yet, what do they teach us in schools? To find answers.

The institutions that we pay to help us understand our roles in society, and carry them out to our fullest extent do not teach us to do what may well be our primary function. Instead, they teach us to do what has already been done for us. They have become a redundant part of our society. And yet, they are the rock around which every life in our society is built.

To look for answers, one must know the question. And if we know the question—the true question—we know that things are a lot more complicated than just one answer.

You see, any question that has only one answer is not the question you should be asking. If it has only one answer, it is redundant to ask it, because the answer has already been found. To try and find another answer, we must ask a question to which not all answers have been found.

We should not be looking for one true answer, because there is no such thing.

And in our never-ending search for answers, we will have no context for what we have found. Our computers will stare at us and calmly declare: “42.”

Categories
Thoughts

My Parents, and Why I Hate That They’re Cool

I have the coolest parents in the world, and I hate it. I hate it.

All my friends have uncool parents, and I feel like their lives are much more interesting than mine. Their parents yell at them. Can you imagine that? Your own parents… yelling at you!?

I have this theory: a child’s ability to break rules is indirectly proportional to the coolness of the parent. You don’t need to punish children direly to get them to follow rules. You have to remove the appeal of breaking the rule. It’s true. I have never broken a rule in my life. The closest I’ve come to doing that is I stayed out after 7:30 p.m. It was the tensest day of my life. My heart was giving Usain Bolt a run for his money with the way it was beating. There was so much adrenaline in my body, I was shivering. It was so scary. I walked into my house, outrageously late. 7:38! I walk in, and my mom has opened the door. She looks at me, and my heart jumps into my mouth. Her eyes bore into mine, and she just goes, “Hi.”

I lost it. “I’msorryi’mlateishouldhavecalledyouandletyouknowimsosorryaslkty;alkj vlks;g;lkkjsldAAAAAHHHHHHHH!”

They were, of course, cool with it. That’s the thing. They didn’t make it like a restricted section of the library or something.

The minute someone tells you you can’t do a thing, you immediately say, “Why not, eh?” It suddenly becomes sexy. You want to do it even more. My parents didn’t make breaking the rules sexy. Even today, they’ll be drinking some wine or something, and they’ll offer some to me. They offer their teenage son some wine. And what does their daredevil of a teenage son do?

“I’d rather not sin, thank you very much.”

If Great Britain wanted to keep its reign over India, all they had to do was make independence non-sexy. The only way to do that, is to offer it before it was asked for. A spokesperson of the British East India Company says, “Hey, so we’ve taken over, and all, but listen, you can be independent if you want. Just say the word, and we’ll go away.”

If that had happened, Gandhi would still be a lawyer in South Africa.

My parents’ reaction to the issue of girls is what bewilders me the most.

Normal, uncool parents, what do they do if they hear rumours about their son and a girl? Beat the living shit out of their son, right? That’s just what they do. Not my parents.

There’s a girl that my friends tease me with all the time. One day, that girl, all my friends, and I were chatting when my friends started teasing me. My mom walks in, and hears all of this. She walks into the kitchen, and then says to that girl, “Bahu, would you like some water?”

You see what I’m talking about? My parents are the coolest people in the world.

Sometimes, I like to imagine what would happen if they saw me breaking some conventional rules.

I can see it in front of my eyes. My mother knocks on my locked door while I’m smoking weed. BEFORE YOU START COMMENTING AWAY, I MUST ADD THAT I DO NOT SMOKE WEED. This is a hypothetical reaction my mother would have if she saw me smoking hypothetical weed. HY PO THET I CAL.

Got that?

She knocks, while I’m mid-puff. I hastily put out the joint, making an ugly hole in the bedsheet in the process. I open the door and very coolly, ask her, “‘Sup?”

She takes a sniff of the room, and surprise litters her face. “Arsh.” She says, sternly. “What’s that smell?”

“What sme—nothing, I dunno.”

“Arsh, there is a smell. What is that smell?”

“It’s nothing, mom, what do you want?”

“That’s weed, isn’t it. You’ve been smoking weed.”

“No, mo—”

“How dare you. Do you not have any shame? You’re smoking weed in the house and you didn’t even think about offering any to me?”

Categories
Thoughts

The Gym

After seventeen years of relative indifference to gymnasiums, I went to one a few days ago to finally see what all the fuss was about. The result was an experience that I am not likely to forget for a while.

Never before have I felt less like a man. Never before have I felt so intimidated by testosterone. Never before have I felt so out of place.

I consider myself someone who can gel into a situation with relative ease. I can slip into a chair in the corner, do my own thing, and merge with the environment. I can become invisible to the general public. Never before have I felt so visible as the day I went to the gym. Trudging through the sweat and toil, I was greeted with “Oh-ho, Arsh? Gym today?”

Many things struck me as I tried to orient myself to this new world. First: Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing. While I was aimlessly wandering from one piece of equipment to another, everybody else was pushing me out of their way to get somewhere. When they got there, they’d pick up the equipment and use it with considerable agency. Did they research all this before they got here? Did they just have a machine-like dedication to what they wanted to do? Or are they (like I am wont to do) going towards the piece of equipment they think looks most impressing, like moths to a flame?

Second: The room was filled with grunts. I have passed this gymnasium (which, I must add, is in my Boarding school) many times to get to the Table Tennis area. Usually, they have music playing here. I always thought the music was there to give their work-out a sense of rhythm. Turns out, without the music, the place just sounds ugly. It’s already an ugly room, with crumbling white walls covered with valleys where students had punched them. It already smelt ugly, with at least fifteen sweaty, teenaged boys crammed in a room the size of an extravagant washroom. Turns out, the place is unbearable without blaring music because it sounds ugly, too.

Lastly: Girls. At some level, every boy in that room had girls on their mind as they grunted their way to a slightly healthier body. Sure, they’d cite athleticism or health, but at the back of their mind, even if it’s dismissed as a by-product, girls are the reason they dedicate this hour-and-a-half to this hideous room. When they actually come in, the room transforms. People who had been half-assing their exercises would suddenly be filled with the passion of youth. The room would undergo a new wave of grunts and, occasionally, shouts of anguish. The girls themselves looked like tourists in a museum, noting with considerable admiration, the beauty of certain exhibits in the room.

I wasn’t just staring at the people in the gym. I was working out. I had a friend show me the ropes and almost kill every muscle in my body. I came out of there feeling like I had held the weight of the sky on my shoulders. It is a good feeling, knowing you have done some hard work. I applaud myself, knowing that this is nothing compared to the dedication these boys show every day. I describe them like lesser beings, toiling mindlessly, but I am the lesser being. I am the thinker in their midst, too weak to lift their weights. I am not the intelligent, creative, eccentric artist that I think I am. I am learning my place in this world of men. I am a disoriented tourist in the city of my own people.

Categories
Thoughts

On Aaron Sorkin

I’ve begun watching a show on Hotstar called The Newsroom. It’s a really cool TV show, with some of the best writing I’ve ever seen. It finds a new story in every episode, while still being connected to one over-arching story. Not a lot of TV shows can do this well. Crime shows try, but often fail. Newsroom succeeds. Another show that succeeds — and when I say ‘succeeds,’ I mean, ‘blows it out of the damn park’ — is The West Wing. These two shows have one thing in common. They’re both written by the best screenwriter in the business, Aaron Sorkin. I want to talk about Sorkin. There’s one thing he does that I find beautiful.

It’s the politics. Of course it’s the politics. It’s not the politics, though, it’s how Sorkin addresses Politics. He knows how awesome a political story can be. You can see it in The West Wing, most prominently, but it was Newsroom that brought my attention to it. I want to talk about the ease with which he talks about it. Most people are scared to talk about politics. They’re scared that their viewers will rain fire on them, and they’ll get less money because of it. Here’s the thing about Sorkin, though. He does not care.

Sorkin knows exactly how divisive politics is. In fact, this is what he calls attention to. He shows you how divisive politics can be. He shows you every possible fact, and then beats you over the head with it.

A common trap such shows fall into when trying this, is that they declare a side. They tell you that one side of the conversation is wrong. It is very difficult to show every side of a political conversation without completely alienating at least half your fan-base. Sorkin, however, does it.

I think it’s in the diversity of his characters. They’re different people. They’ve all got their own opinion on every subject. Sorkin puts all his characters into one room, and then goes HAM.

The most important part is the talking. People talk. The beauty of every situation is in the talking. People don’t understand this. When they see a scene where people are just talking, they groan and roll their eyes. To take a slight detour into another show, Game of Thrones has a couple of scenes where the talking is awesome. (Actually, the more I think about it now, the more I feel like if they asked Sorkin to write some of the episodes of Thrones, it would literally be a perfect show.) Sorkin shows you the beauty in talking. He understands it, and shows us the music in people’s words. I did his course on Screenwriting on MasterClass.com, and in it, he says “that’s not how people talk.” Yeah, it isn’t. That’s not the point, though. The point is this: that’s how such matters should be discussed. My father says, based on a quote often used by one of his friends, “A story should be told as it should have occurred.” Never has a truer sentence been spoken. Sorkin tells the story as it should have occurred.

His best scenes are when five smart people are in a room, and they begin talking about a really scary topic like gay marriage or abortion. He shows you every aspect of the debate, while not looking like a complete ass, staying true to the characters and what they believe, staying true to human nature, and at the same time, telling a story that blows your mind.

Yeah, he’s telling stories, but he’s also talking directly to the government. “This is where you’re going wrong.” he says, “You’re not talking enough. You’re jumping to conclusions. You need to talk.” Talking can solve problems. Almost every episode of The West Wing ends in a problem being solved by talking. Talking is a step towards world peace. Yeah, we can’t talk world peace into existence, but talking can get us closer.

It isn’t what Aaron says. It’s how he says it, and the fact that he says it at all. At the bottom of everything, there is one message. Talking solves more problems than shooting or blowing something up ever will. And that is a beautiful statement. That could take us one step closer to making the world a safer place for our children.

Categories
Thoughts

The End of an Era

It’s the end of an era.

Sixteen years of my life (that’s all of it) have been spent here. Right here. In this colony. I’m not going to name it because of all you pervs out there on the internet, but the genuine ones know exactly what I’m talking about.

I won’t tell you exactly what this place means to me, because it’s going to end up being repetitive, boring, and cliché. Suffice it to say that I don’t think I’ve loved a place as much as I have this particular place. Not even my school (that’s right. That’s exactly what you read. Don’t @ me). After all that, how the hell did I even think of leaving it all behind?

Granted, I’m not going very far, but I’m still going, aren’t I?

Also, I know this is my second post in a row about going away, but the only other thing that has been on my mind is A Song of Ice and Fire, and If I start talking about that, I ain’t gonna stop, so it’s best that we leave that aside.

For the past month, I’ve been prowling the streets, investigating the exact nature of my relationship with this place. Every day, I’ve been breathing in the air, soaking in the rain, closing my eyes, and losing grasp of reality. My investigation has led me to the following conclusion: none of that is as good as it sounds.

The air is polluted, the rain makes it muddy, closing my eyes makes me sleepy, and losing grasp of reality is just not cool. Ultimately, it all gets a little boring. Just as it begins to get boring, suddenly it isn’t that boring. Investigation has proved that the source of sudden excitement is a bunch of people. Actual human beings. Who’d have thought?

Here, dear readers, I feel obligated to just give you a word of warning. The next few paragraphs are me gushing about people you probably have never heard of. While these people are some of the best people on this planet, I know it can get boring to see yet ANOTHER blog post of some teenager complimenting his/her friends. I know. I know. This is extremely cliché, but I feel a great need to do this.

These people have done so much for me that I feel useless. From the inside, my body will not let me survive if I didn’t write this.

I’ll start with the first. Ayush. This guy is just so much fun to hang out with. His friendly attitude, and iron-clad sense of honour make him my immediate choice for best friend, but the fact that he gets goofy in the middle of the night helps, too. A lot of people would have just drifted away from me as soon as they got to know me a little, and you stuck with me throughout. I don’t know where I’d be without you. Probably that same shell of a kid, holed up in one room, slowly fattening, and watching movies with the social life of a potato. Thank you for showing me that people can be awesome. And remember: Ball aega, toh pakad lenge.

If we’re going to be chronological about this, I guess Jatin would be next. Jatin is one of the sweetest guys I’ll ever know. I know I’ve been harsh towards you, and I know I might’ve hurt you many, many times. In the past. Let this be a public apology, and a declaration of what exactly you’ve meant. If anyone tries to tell you that you’re anything but the best, give them my address. I don’t think they’ll need their skin after that. Thanks, Chintin, and I’m sorry.

I’m not sure who’s next, so I’m just going to take a wild stab. I probably met all of the next three at basically the same time, but for now, I’m just gonna go out on a limb and say that I met Janhavi next (although I’m pretty sure I’ve bunged this whole chronology thing up). Haha, now where to begin with Janhavi… I guess I could go with the out of the blue weirdness that comes with being her friend, but the nicknames could be a cool place to start, too. I will not mention the nicknames either, because you guys have enough dirt on me as it is. The weirdness isn’t the pick-your-nose-then-eat-the-boogers kind. It’s the Janhavi kind. I don’t think words can describe it, but just hear her laugh, and you’ll get the basic gist of it. Of course, there’s a split part to this, like James McAvoy’s character in Split. While there is the weird Janhavi that squeaks at you and bursts out laughing, there’s also the serious, direct Janhavi, that can stick a pole through your gut and then drop a mic. Don’t get on her bad side. That’s going to leave a mark that you can’t get rid of surgically. Thank you, Jam, for being there even after you moved.

The second of the Three is Nikita. If Janhavi is Jam, then Nikita is bread. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more iconic duo. Also, if you’re have any doubts about the Bollywood world: who’s dating whom, who’s in which movie, and when it came out, you clear it up with Nikita.

Of all the drama I’ve seen unfold here, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one that Nikita hasn’t. She may not be a part of it, but she sure as hell knows about it. Nikita, know this: you’re awesome. I don’t think I say it enough. You’re funny, and you’re smart, and you’re awesome. You’re going to be a goddamn rockstar in whatever you do. Thank you, Nikita, for all the gossip everywhere.

That brings us to Tanvi. If you’ve seen Brooklyn Nine-Nine, you’ll know what I mean when I say she’s a slightly less intimidating Rosa Diaz. It’s like if you took the personality of Rosa and put it into the least intimidating look you can find, you’ve got the basic layout of Tanvi. She’ll threaten you, but you won’t feel a thing. But when she actually makes good on her threat, you’ll regret it. Tanvi’s the one you go for when you need any dirt on anyone. She’s also the one you go for when you need the worst advice ever. Thanks, Tanvi, for just generally being a badass.

The newest admission to this gang of gold is Isha. Simply put, Isha is the nicest person you’ve ever met times ten. Granted, when you look at her taste in books, you may not think so, but as I always say, “Don’t judge a person by their book taste.” (I’ve never actually said that. It’s just generally a good practice to not judge anybody, full-stop). She’s the most kind-hearted of them all (sorry, guys, but c’mon…). But! Don’t let that fool you. I’ve made the mistake of annoying her, and guys, believe me when I say she does NOT like that. Let me put it this way: if you value your ear drums, don’t mess with her. If you do, for some stupid reason, she’s going to yell at you in a volume that would put a banshee to shame. Thanks, Isha, for tolerating me. Also, Teen Wolf sucks thanks bye.

Y’guys, I don’t know if I could have survived without you. You are the walls to the castle that has been my life. Your support is unfathomable. Your contribution is uncountable, even if you might not know it.

Thank you, all. You’re the best.

Categories
Thoughts

The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense. It’s a movie that immediately puts a series of chills through your body if you’ve watched it. If you haven’t, then let me just go ahead and say SPOILER ALERT!!! It’s a really breathtaking movie, and I don’t want to be the guy who spoils it for you. You, like me, deserve the best experience. So, watch it, and then read this.

I’m going to talk about the twist in the tale. It’s something that kept me glued to the bed that I was sleeping on while watching it. As soon as the credits started, my head sank back into the pillow, and my hand slowly crept up to my mouth, covering it. I found myself saying, “Whoa,” but obviously, that was barely scratching the surface. That’s when the alarm on my watch went off, telling me to go to my class. I gave it no attention. My mind was absolutely blown, and I couldn’t be bothered by Physics just after this! After class, I looked the movie up to see who to congratulate on this masterpiece. I was surprised to find that it was the same guy who directed The Last Airbender, an absolutely horrendous and atrocious movie. My father then told me that The Sixth Sense was what brought M. Night Shyamalan onto the map.

Director aside, I’m now going to get to the meat of this post. The twist: Bruce Willis’s character, Dr. Malcom Crowe is dead. (I’m now realizing how weird this sounds to people who haven’t watched the movie. What are you people doing here anyway?)

I checked out some reviews to see whether people thought the same way I did, but no one even mentioned some of the things that stuck with me. I now realize that some of these things are something no one has thought about. Therefore, I’m sharing my thoughts with all of you, and if you decide that the question has been answered, let’s discuss it in the comments!

My questions is: does the boy, Cole, even exist?

The boy himself says, “They see what they want to see.” We know that Vincent Grey, the madman that shot Dr. Crowe caused major guilt in the psychiatrist. It is safe to say that Dr. Crowe wanted to help that guy. What if Dr. Crowe imagined Cole and helped him? He could be all made up.

If that is somehow answered, I feel like it could have been best left unanswered. I really like thought provoking movies, and this is the perfect example of an excellent movie.

For aspiring movie-makers out there, you know what you need to do to make it into my good books.