To borrow an invaluable metaphor from the late H. L. Mencken, in 2013, I found wisdom radiating from me like heat from a stove. As a blogger, I was immensely productive. While writing about the inanities of little people, I laugh more than any reader probably would. To me, this is the greatest reward of blogging. Blogging is an escape from the feeling of betrayal you try to cope with when you wake up at midnight to see that a beautiful article was botched by a filthy post-menopausal hag, because a dirty old man had slipped some coins inside her underpants.
There were times when brawn mattered more than brain. In the battle between nerds and jocks, jocks always had the last laugh. But the second half of the 20th century witnessed the rise of nerds. Bill Gates was consistently on top of the Forbes list of billionaires for long. The investing career of Warren Buffett is so successful that Fortune has had an expert on him since 1966. Jocks should be worried. When he was 19, Harvard rejected Mr Buffett because he had the social skills of a 12-year-old. If the jocks in the pre-industrial age needed a punching bag, Mr Buffett would have been the most obvious candidate. But, as Ms Loomis points out, in the information age, few jocks can afford a stock of Berkshire Hathaway. Today, it sells at a hefty price of $134,490.”
Robert Greene thinks intelligence is the most sensitive trigger point for envy. A sensible man would regard this “insight” somewhat suspiciously, because intelligence is also his greatest strength. But Mr Greene can say in his defence that he understands people really well. When he writes about the faults and foibles of little people, he does it with the authority of the highest level of scholarship. His erudition would put most academics to shame. Before he wrote his vastly popular books on power and strategy, Robert Greene had 80 different jobs. In the longest job he ever had, he lasted 10 months.
When a Nigerian gifts us his estate over email, we tell him: “Thanks, but no thanks!” We know that there are no such easy solutions to our personal woes. But, when an ex-army truck driver claims that he has found the solution to a nation’s woes, even otherwise sane men think that they have found their Messiah. It feels so good because in politics and religion, people refuse to use their mind. Feel-good policies fail partly because people often forget that politicians, bureaucrats and activists are people too. And people are wolves.
I was nine years old when I noticed that a bird was building a nest inside my home. For weeks, I would lie on my bed and watch the bird carefully build its nest. The bird made countless trips to and from the nest to collect materials to build its home. Pointing at the bird, my mother told me and my little brother that this bird that never rests has better work ethic than us. And that it is time for us to shape up. I think she should observe some Magazine editors (1, 2) here, but I suppose it is a bad thing to find flaws in other people.
One of my most painful childhood memories is that of rising onto my toes, and asking my aunt whether we can make Onion-Vada’s without using onions. She said, “I do not know what you are talking about. How do we make Onion-Vada’s without onions?” She was cutting onions and there were tears in my eyes. I did not like the taste of onions. I stood there, confused, watching the swift movement of her fingers. And, I felt that I could see the mist through the window.
Women are saner than they appear. When a woman shares an op-ed on Facebook, claiming that her husband is an iconoclastic genius, her sensible friends know that this is a fraud. It is laughable to think that an intelligent lady can be conned by this man. This cannot be true.
When I was in high school, my idea of amusement was placing my feet beneath the bench of the girls who sit in front of me. One of them used to giggle, placing her slipper heels on my shoes, and a boy near me often warned me: “She will slap you!”. I am yet to understand why people are moralistic about all this. Perhaps this explains my ambivalent attitude towards some popular causes. I think this is also why some women on Facebook with homosexual tendencies nurture some secret resentment towards me. Once, a young colleague wanted to know what the word “molestation” meant. When I said, “It is something which women face in the buses, trains and crowded roads. It is every man’s fantasy. But, I would never attempt that because I value my life, reputation and health very highly.” she screamed her empty heads off that I have destroyed the reputation of South Indians.
When I went for the launch of The Illicit Happiness Of Other People, Mr. Joseph came near me as if it was not intended, and said, pointing at a younger, but plain-looking woman. “Shanu, this is Anu.” When I asked naively: “Oh, she writes for your Magazine?”, he looked at the floor, and said hiding the delight men who cannot have deserved their wives often have: “Shanu, it is very expensive for me to hire her for my Magazine. She is my wife.”I did not laugh at his face. I felt sorry for her.
When I met her first, she had said that she was tall, with long hair and everything. When I told her that this is not true at all, she said, “I was 12 then, and I was tall for my age. I also had long, straight hair then.” After a while she said, “You know, your blog sucks”. When I said that it is better than any blog I have ever read and ever hope to read, she said, “Yes. Sure. Everything is relative.” But, she had once said that she liked my post “Unconditional Love”. She said that it is a great privilege to be praised by her. Soon, in the middle of a conversation, she started saying, “I’m pretty. I know it.” This was also when she started being cruelly sarcastic.
I went to the police station to register a complaint against my Magazine, and editors like Manu Joseph who play intra-office politics by leaking drafts and cutting my favorite passages. In the police station, there was this young lady who enjoyed the sight of me asking her “favour”. The police inspector said that he is surprised that there are people who do not know Hindi. A lady who came to seek their “services” said that he is a South Indian and that South Indians do not speak Hindi. The Inspector said, “But, South Indians know Hindi. I know South Indians. They speak Hindi “. And then he redirected me to a labor court. I went to some place called Karkadooma courts. I felt that what I saw there was worse than any of Mr. Marx’s “Yes, Boss” meetings. But, There are many such people who should know that there is someone called the Police Uncle and that he carries a big stick with him— Like the “attitudent” women who take delight in scolding me. I should make them say: “I am sorry, Shanu. I will never repeat this—-ever—-again.”
I was in 8th standard history class, and our History teacher was absent. We all were playing a vocabulary game. After exhausting all the options for an animal that begins with “M”, I said: “Man”, with a clever smile on my face. When everyone else said that “Man” cannot be an animal, I sat there with an expression of boyish helplessness. It was at this point, I heard a boy asking: “If man is not an animal, what is he? What?” Because he was a topper, the other kids decided to take this concept of ours very seriously. I had just joined the school. But, I did not know that he would soon become my prime detractor. I also did not know that I would soon read a lady who bullied me saying that man is not just an animal that possesses the “instinct of tool-making”. He used to perfectly mimic our History teacher—how she says “Next. Next. Next.” while punishing kids. I found it hilarious, though I used to have butterflies in my stomach while hearing the “original version”. We once conned the boy near us in to talking about the “Tom and Jerry” show we had ‘missed’. When he talked about it for an hour, we ended the conversation, laughing.
Long ago when my seven-year-old cousin Anjali asked me what I want to be, I said, “I want to be a writer.” My mother was near us, listening to our conversation. Anjali asked, “So, why aren’t you a writer yet? When are you going to be a writer? At sixty?” I pushed her, and I saw her soon regaining her balance. Rising onto her toes, she started hitting my shoulders. She said to my mother that we were playing. But, I did not see her for long. Hours later, she came near me and said, “I will never talk to you again.” When I asked, “Why do you say that, Anjali?”, moving my fingers through her forehead, she said, “I know that we were not playing.”, and walked away. I stood there numb, as if I were struck by lightning. I found it hard to talk to her again, though she wanted me to.
Half a decade back, I read the review of a novel which had many virtues—apart from the fact that it was the first novel to blend economics with romance. It could be read in one evening. It had far more important things to say on compassion and charity than any work in history, fiction or non-fiction. The hero did not project a moral superiority over his listeners who believed that “capitalists want to starve the poor and eat their children.” He does not rant for 52 pages straight. The technical perfection of the conversations was matched only by the protagonists’ ability to relate to ordinary human beings and “everyday life”. The protagonist believed in capitalism. But, he also placed a high premium on kindness and benevolence. He held that his students who wanted to instantly abolish the welfare state are “Kosher than the Pope”! He was wise. He was not angry. He was “humble”.
Me: You do not like my writing, and that is sad. Everyone else likes my writing. People have been telling me that it is pretty damn good since I was a kid.
She: Do not be afraid of the judgment of others.
Me: Do you think that I am?
She: No. You are not. You play with other people’s minds.
Me: I do not. Why do you say that?
She: Because you do. Perhaps it is not a conscious process, but you do.
Me: This is not true. Do you think that I am innocent and clever at the same time—-that I am madly, hopelessly in love with the illusion of my own innocence—–that I am a wolf in lamb’s clothing? Do you think that that I can be aware of this game, and still maintain that illusion?
She: Now, that is what I would call perceptive. Do not mess it up with a hundred different examples.
When I joined college, I soon started having a crush on a teacher. One day, when I was in the computer lab chatting on the Yahoo Messenger, she came inside, and said, “I know that you are here.”. I thought, “Yes, I know that you know.” She said, “Please come with me”. She was very nice to me when we were walking to the staffroom. She asked, “Why did you not submit your assignment?” When I hemmed and hawed, she said, “I know that you are lazy.” The moment I entered the room, she said with a smile: “Look who has come to see you!”. And there was an expression of astonishment on my face. She had called my parents to tell them that I do not attend classes at all.
I am maintaining this archive for the benefit of future historians. As I had said, one of my prized possessions is a biography of Sachin Tendulkar with its margins filled by a school girl who had him as her Yahoo password. I have many such things in my collection. That includes countless love letters, old diaries, and an audio clip sung by Virgin Mary: “Thode Badmash”. But, she says that I do not have the permission to share it with the world because she made it for me. But, my Ayn Rand biography is with her. I had filled the margins, religiously. Will she share it with Archive.org? I do not know. When I listened to her audio clip repeatedly, my stupid room mate in Dwarka asked me to stop it. Don’t sentimentalists too deserve to live in this big, solemn world?
My ex-colleague Miss Michelle (Shiphony Pavithran Suri) often used to say: “You are so rational. But, people are not very rational. If you go on like this, you will face problems everywhere.” I first thought: “So, I shouldn’t be rational because other people are not rational. This makes a lot of sense to me.”And then she said, “But, you are not as rational as you think.” It would take me many months to fully understand the broader implications of what she had said. It meant: “My ideas might be sound, but that kind of a thing does not fly here. We live in a society of loonies. If I appeal to their rationality, or ask them to rationally explain their actions and beliefs, it is worse than a waste of time—because the penalty is cruel.”
Here, another conference is going on. Mr. C’s think tank hosts it.
Me: “I work with the Business Standard. I am doing a story on Indian think-tank performance….”
Mr. C: “What is your name?”
He then reads my name badge and says: “Oh, I know you. You worked with Barun.” There is a clever smile on his face, as if he is saying, “You can’t dupe me.”because I had once written about him. I knew that the news must be getting through to him.
This was what I had written about him: “Not long back, I read the experience of an author who lectured at this organization’s seminars. The think-tank long owed him some money, but the president was not willing to reply to his mails. What differentiates many of them from outright criminals is the respectability in the eyes of simple-minded men. There are enough cases in which men declare themselves as ‘think-tanks’ and gleefully live off the bounty, jumping from one international conference to another. My Facebook feed is often filled with status updates that can scarcely conceal their pride: ‘Having beer in Singapore’; ‘I will be in the United States next week. New York City only!’.”
Why should I clone myself? So many reasons:
1)He will not be a noisy, messy baby like those types you can see inside the Delhi Metro. I do not want them inside my home. When I was a child, when my mother used to keep me somewhere, I wouldn’t even move. I want my child to be like how I once was.
2) He will inherit my IQ. This is a safe bet. Even the smartest people I know often have a hard time coming to grips with the things I quickly gathered when I was young.If I marry Krishnapriya, our child’s IQ will be astronomical, but it will still be a little less than that of mine.
One evening, after this was published, my ex-colleague Miss Michelle (Shiphony Pavithran Suri) would call me. What I heard was a silent cry. “You wrote it just to spoil me, isn’t it. I am so surprised that this is what you think about me?.” I said, “Yes. But, there is not a single word in it that you can deny. What is published in your Magazine—It is their prerogative. What I write on my blog, it is mine. Even if the clotting in your father’s brain turns into hemorrhage, I do not care. Now, shall we debate the technical and stylistic imperfections of the piece?”
Krishnapriya: “Attitudent” is my word. I do not like you using my word for your purposes. You are gonna pimp me.
Me: It is a sin to say this about my writing, which is the purest thing I have ever seen.
Krishnapriya: I am not to be sold. I am your Ayn Randian heroine? Her philosophy is bogus enough.
Me: I think my philosophy is far more reasonable, relaxed and honest than that of hers. I am falling too much in love with my philosophy, so much so that I want to spend the rest of my life writing and reading and re-reading what I had written.
Krishnapriya: You will never see my depth enough to give your heroine any character. What would you write then? It wouldn’t be Krishnapriya. Let us see what you write. It is bound to be an abomination.
Me: Do not say that. I should hug you.
Krishnapriya: I don’t want to be hugged.
Me: It is a desire, to feel that innocence.
Krishnapriya: What innocence?
Me: The innocence of the intellectual bond that we share.
Krishnapriya: Ruin everything by dissecting it. Intellectual bond? Now we have that?
Me: I am really thinking of finding a super smart woman. I also worry about my baby’s IQ.
Krishnapriya: Good luck with that. Do show me the super smart woman you are gonna settle for.
Merry Christmas, dear editors. I often hear that I write like an essayist and that my stories read more like opinion pieces. I think it is more effective to see where my comparative advantage lies. Let us take yesterday’s Business Standard. See the report: “Kingfisher seeks resumption of operation”. Read this sentence: “The license suspension will be revoked only after the stakeholders are convinced with the plan.” A person is convinced “by the plan”, and not “with the plan”.
A friend once told me: “What I like about your blog is the way you describe the pettiness of people. You are not trying to make a particular point. What you write is often along these lines: “I said this to her, and then she said this to him.” But, what becomes obvious is the absolute pettiness that emerges from the interactions between the half-anglicized Indians inside an office.” I find this a very bold statement because people often feel a need to search for socially acceptable justifications for everything. I often tune out much of what I hear about what people think of literature, or what I write. It is ear in and ear out for me. I often hear people saying that they like Ayn Rand’s novels because of its internally consistent philosophy. But, why can’t they simply say that they are pretty damn good novels? Isn’t that harder?
I stood there staring at her, losing all presence of mind. There is little of the incident that remains in my mind today. But, I felt that there was a piece of fog in front of my eyes. And there was the warm feeling that it all reminded me of an incident that I could hardly recall. Soon, a boy came to take me back to the classroom. What followed was unspeakable. All I remember today is someone sneering: “He had gone all the way down to the ground floor”. Then, I was put through hell. It was worse than any experience that I have ever gone through-before or after. They were all so mean, and bullied this straight forward, simple minded child so much. How could she propose such a sweet deal with a cunning, calculating purpose in her dark heart to completely trap this six-year-old? But, I was the only boy who wanted to “line up” in front of the classroom. The wise kids in my class knew that this was a trap. And they were all wise. All this was totally beyond me! In hindsight, it looks like it was not really a smart thing to take her words literally. But then, I know it only in hindsight.
She wrote on my Facebook wall, “I love what you write”. When I said, “Thanks, my child.”, someone wrote below: “I was thinking, ‘He has got a hot admirer.’ But, he calls her a child.” She said, “Ah. Saintliness. That must be what he called the girl who took her clothes off for him on the Yahoo Messenger too. But, wait, he must be filing this conversation too in his mind, for yet another blog post of his.”
I had once told her:
“I once had a disturbance in my throat. I feared that it could be because of Esophageal cancer which is caused by HPV. I had once cuddled up with a colleague. HPV can be spread through skin contact, and kissing. Then I rejected the possibility because
- Being a saint, none of the risk factors really apply to me.
- The probability of a person of my age having it is close to zero, even among such patients
- It is such a rare form of cancer.
But, I still had fear for long. After having cuddled up with her, I spent a whole year reading about the diseases spread through skin contact.”
At mid night, when I tried to share the Mencken piece quoting the most beautiful passage, it was not there. If Miss Books Editor were in the same room of that of mine, she would have lost some of her teeth. I told Books Editor, “When I once used to freelance for a Magazine, there was a super mean guy who used to search for my best passages to cut. When I do not see my favorite passages, I remember him.” I also admitted a private truth: “I did not read the playback. I never really read my published articles because it is a painful sight.” Miss Books Editor really lost herself. I saw her coming near the bureau and screaming at me, “You asked the Cute-girl-that-fashionably-sleeps-so-little to insert that passage?” I loved the expression on her face because it was a moment when I saw anger being mixed with humiliation and helplessness. It amused me that we were bound together by the knowledge of the private truth that crippled her—that I have never really read my published articles because semi-literates had touched them.
A lady who thinks that there is always a touch of Aspergers in high IQ men was describing a friend of hers: “He is able to walk, speak, write and care for himself. He is a wonderful writer. But, he does not make eye contact. He cannot read social cues. He does not understand sarcasm. He tells inappropriate jokes. But, he is very kind, and assumes that every one is honest.”, she said. I asked, “There is a boy who stays behind my flat. He is often surprised when I say “America’s Great Depression, Page no. 63, Last paragraph.” or words to that effect when he asks me questions like,‘Where does Murray Rothbard discuss the effect of savings during an economic depression?’. It was a book I had read seven years ago. Is that how your friend is?” She said, “Yes. That is how our friend would answer. He remembers every word he has ever read of every book, even from thirty years ago.” I named him. When she asked, “How do you know?” I replied, “His knowledge is encyclopaedic.”, and she said, “You are very astute.”
Once, while taking my clothes from her room, I saw my eighteen year old cousin smiling without taking her eyes from the book that she was reading. While trying to wear it, I noticed that it was her skirt. When I placed it where I had taken it from, keeping her eyes on the book, she said smiling, “That is not for you.” I wanted to run away, but I loved how I felt. I was twelve then. As a toddler, I loved playing with my mother’s hair and Saree. I did not, because I feared that it was not acceptable—and because I was a moralist. Many argue that Indian men are not sad to the point that they are aroused by the sight of lingerie. Unfortunately for our enlightened fellows, there is solid evidence that the moral police are right. If fashionable causes can make Indian men and women go yelling to the barricades, the view that they are not excitable is bogus.
Once when I asked an economist how the government should cure the fiscal deficit, he said, “The government should cut the spending—anywhere and everywhere. The government is not capable of running the schools and colleges. The government is not capable of running the hospitals. The government is not capable of running the police and the court system. The government is not capable of doing anything—except perhaps running the NHAI roads.” And then he asked, laughing, “Do you disagree with that?” I said, “No. I do not disagree. That is obvious. Everywhere I see idiots. It is the first time I am talking to an honest guy.” He said, “Thanks. But, you can’t quote me on that.”
The mainstream media is busy popularizing the myth that rape is a tool of domination and subjugation. Sexual crimes against women are blamed on everything from judicial failure to the innate depravity of the Indian male. But, what is missing in their “analysis” is a fact known to every self aware man: Rape has roots in male sexuality. In other words, Rape is primarily motivated by sexual desire.This is not just the evolutionary psychology explanation for rape. This is common sense. Only fanatics can deny such obvious truths. But, there was not a single Indian journalist who was willing to state this with the authority of scholarship. This, of course, means that almost everything that is written on the issue is nonsense. But, how is this even possible in a country with a population of over 1200 million? Part of the explanation is that almost all of them are duds. But, it is also because they are not very curious about the truth. They are not even aware of the expert opinion in the issues they write about. They don’t read. This is the most underrated moral failure of our times.
The clock struck twelve, and she turned silent. After a long pause, she said that the new regulatory framework in the UK would make it almost impossible for her to stay there. I felt that this could be one of her usual pranks. I went to sleep while she said, “Shanu, Say something. Tell me that this is nothing—that there is nothing to worry. Please. Say something like that.” After turning in my bed for long, I woke up, wanting to know. What she said was true. A piece of legislation had made it very hard for her to realistically find a job in the UK after college. She did not know it for months. We had studied in the same city once. Before going back to college she had worked with a reputed multinational corporation. The first time I had found her murderously angry was when she found that her dinner was stolen. When I told her that such things do not affect me much, she said, “Shanu, I am a student. I live on a limited budget. I will have to go to bed hungry tonight.” It happened often. After finishing college, she once told me that she wanted to work as a sales girl in a shop in London because she is keen on understanding many things. And I was silent. Today is her birthday.It took her courage to pay her own way through college. Narrow mindedness can be a powerful ally, but when you have it as your enemy, will you be willing to take that risk? It is estimated that open borders would nearly double world GDP, making world poverty history. It is reasonable to expect that virtually every informed person would want these walls to be torn down. But, the reality is more like a Barry Deutsch cartoon in which someone reads enormous newspaper headlines on the immigrant menace and the danger posed by Arabs, murmuring that the whites are the only group that is not immune to criticism.
When plain men celebrate fairness and justice, they instinctively know that there is no fairness in this elusive quest for fairness and justice. They do it with the same strength of conviction with which a young girl reads a work of genius and tells the writer that she can hear a loud, endless applause inside her head. When Rajat Gupta was convicted on insider trading charges, many columnists wrote that a great man has fallen, and that they do not want to believe that such good men can do bad things. The jury members turned misty-eyed before passing the judgment. It pained them, but……but……justice has to be done. Even talented men should not be allowed get away with their wrong doings.
As a social experiment, I occasionally share a scene in Mon fils a moi on my Facebook wall. A controlling mother enters the bathroom when her twelve-year old son stands naked. When he covers himself up with his hands, she asks him to take his hands off. She strikes his legs with a towel, and when he tries to pick up his underwear, she snatches it and gives it to him. When he wears it staring at her face, trembling, she shakes her head smiling. She then leaves the room after stroking his hair. Everyone ignores this when I share it on my wall, even though it is a visual. Ordinary people love visuals more than text. Yet, they ignore it, because they are not doing so because they are indifferent to it. A lady once told me that they ignore it because it is something to be enjoyed, but not to be talked about. For people to ignore something that bothers them, it has to be something that really bothers them, something that bothers them to the point that they are compelled to ignore it. This is an important concept that has much wider implications.
In a world where reciprocity is not a two-way street, trust is mentioned, trust-worthiness is not. But, a man who observes the world with his pure, uncorrupted eyes will find it obvious that people cannot be trusted. You hear about trust from a particular kind of girl that is not trust-worthy, and is unaware of the law of causality. Trust is often demanded as a gift, as an ultimatum. There are economists who want to believe that distrust imposes a heavy tax on the society. But, it is possible for everyone to trust each other, even if trust-worthiness is not the norm. It is only that people who cheerfully default on agreements will find this very convenient.
In less enlightened times, these children were called lazy. But, today a boy who can’t sit still is sent to a psychiatrist, and he is instantly branded as a case of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But, what if these children simply don’t like sitting still? As Bryan Caplan observed, “No one accuses a boy diagnosed with ADHD of forgetting to play video-games.”When I was a teen, I was taken to psychiatrists many times because I read while having food, did not sleep on time, and bunked classes—and because my parents had a hell of a time raising me. But, what if I liked to read while having food, wanted to sleep when I felt like and did not like being lectured to? And what if the problem was with my parents and not with me? You never know.
The root cause of most social ills is not that people are not activists or poverty-eradication thinkers. These are character flaws, and weak character is never in short supply. I am perhaps the first person to make this claim, but even “eminent” Indian intellectuals are not capable of making rapid fire abstract associations. By this, I mean the power to think quickly, to build arguments and counter-arguments, to spot non sequiturs, and to instantly pick holes in the arguments of their opponents. This is a major cause of social evils.
If the enlightened liberals are right, India’s “rape problem” is the logical end result of a culture that teaches “bad attitude” towards women. They search for any deviation from the official feminist dogma, eager to root out such tendencies in supposedly enlightened men. Male intellectuals live in the fear of incurring the wrath of these harridans because a loosely constructed statement is enough to set off their radar. Intellectual discourse has become a tight-rope walk. But, at the root of all this lies the denial of the obvious: Sexual desire is a strong enough urge in men. There has never been a debate in which so many people were kidding each other.
“I went to college. You are saying that girls shouldn’t be “followed”. Who among us has not “followed” girls? When you want to talk to a woman, she might not be willing at first. You have to put in a lot of effort. It is the same all over the country.” These are not my words, and you probably know this because this is not my style. Sharad Yadav, an intelligent fellow from Bihar said this in the Loksabha a few months ago. How did our feminists respond to this? “I’ve never been so demoralized in my entire life. It was a one-sided, biased, male-dominated debate. It was shameful.”, Vrinda Gover, a human rights lawyer said. “It’s almost a good thing that Lok Sabha TV isn’t on our favorites list usually. Because, if you were to see and hear who runs our country, who takes decisions, who contests them, you would probably feel safer in the Sunderbans than in your own homes,”, another lady said.
A gentleman recently asked me, “Do you know why people are not honest with you? Has anyone told you the reason before?” I asked, “What could be the reason? I truly have no idea.”, and he replied, “It is your blog. When you write about people, it is embarrassing. They talk behind closed doors, but will never tell you what they think, because you can sow misery in their lives. You are a great writer, and make people think beyond the obvious. People laugh reading your autobiographical posts, but they do not learn anything of value. If you are willing to forego writing about people, people will be a lot more honest with you.” Perhaps, but I want people to be honest with me precisely because I want to write about them. Speaking my mind is very important to me. I think I will have to use all the people that I find interesting for my writing. What I find hilarious is that they expect me to promise that I will not be doing that. When someone makes this demand, I laugh inside, because I hear this while I am having great fun structuring the plot inside my head. If I had written embarrassing things about you, it is only because you are such a big meanie.
I still remember my first day in primary school. The “male chauvinists” in my class insisted that they will not be sitting with the girls anymore. I was the only boy who was willing to sit with them. I have always had a very exact mind, a mind that took words literally, a mind that judged an idea on its own merits. The other boys said, “If you love them so much, why don’t you kiss them?” I sat there, feeling alienated—feeling cut off. I was convinced that this “attitude” was transmitted from father to son, but the Indian economy was at the cusp of liberalization. I felt that it would take a few more years for the country to undermine, and eventually wreck the remnants of the patriarchal culture. But, I was wrong. On my first day in middle school, I walked into the classroom, and found a place without noticing that there were separate rows for girls. The girls looked at me with intense disapproval, and said that my handwriting was “very bad”. It hurt me so much.
I like women. If you are a man, I won’t even talk to you, unless you can talk nerdy. But, if you are a girl, you just have to have a decent IQ. And you have to read books. When a girl once asked me, “Why do you talk to me? The guy who sits there told me that he tried to talk to you. But, you did not look interested.” I smiled politely, thinking, “I did not notice. But, you did not notice that he is a guy either, did you? Precisely my point.” But, I suppose almost everyone likes women these days. I know an IIT-IIM guy who campaigns for the rights of men who are cuckolded. Even the men who agree with him find him a laughing stock. If “bad attitude” is part and parcel of our culture, how do you know whether people are prejudiced against you? You know it when you start talking about the “bad attitude” of other people and hear almost everyone saying, “Tough Luck”.
I think that I have created a modern day equivalent of Dominique Francon or Scarlett O’ Hara through my writing on Krishnapriya. Few believe that Krishnapriya is real—that such a smart, 12 year old girl exists. But, almost everything that I have written about her really happened. I did not even have to edit the conversations because unlike the newspaper smarties, she was an impeccably literate child. After reading my paean, she just said, “It was brutal. You remember too much. I remember too little.” My novel is about my maddening, unrequited love for her. She said, “Do you want it to be unrequited? Do not worry. It will be unrequited. Men like you, I will never love.” When I said that I am trying to watch her with affection and understanding, with academic curiosity, without judging her, she replied, “You should have greater control over your faculties then.” Stein, an anti-social kid who hates humankind and amuses himself by playing computer games much of the time has an IQ higher than that of mine, she says.
“When you played the game with covert conniving, I played it with morals and ideals. You would like to believe that it is all the same wine in many different bottles. But, if you wish to play the game on your own terms, I wish to play it on my own. It is only that I would like to be quite open about them. Do you know what happens when you are simply being truthful? You can trample people beneath your feet and still feel good. You are self-righteous even when there is an edge of hysteria in your words and actions. A feeling of entitlement drives whatever you do to others.”, He said, turning the pages of the book in his hands slowly.
The Times of India and the underlying philosophy that guides it have always had a bad press. Many believe that the Times of India “delivers the reader to the advertiser”. This is a popular delusion. This is popular only because people are idiots. A newspaper or any publication cannot survive on advertising revenue, unless the advertisements are interesting in themselves. I do not intend to mean that newspapers do not distort facts, or that there is no profit in it. But, if they do, it just means that the journalists and their readers have very low ethical standards. Otherwise, readers can stop buying them, putting them out of business. It is implausible that advertising is a major factor in all this. The advertisers are not running a soup kitchen.
In junior high school, the lunch break seemed all too short. When we were thirteen, every boy liked to play, except the class topper, a freak who never needed to study, and the wayward backbenchers. They did not leave the classroom when everyone else did. My only friend in high school once said, “He, and his friends, they have a disease called homosexuality. Do you know what it means?” I said, “Yes. I have read about it.” I asked my mother what the word “homosexual” meant. She did not answer. I asked again. She again pretended not to hear, but I did not know that she was pretending not to hear. It was only years later when I was seriously considering my own Aspie-hood as a possibility, I went back in time, and reconstructed these events in my mind, trying to understand things in its wider context. Too much time and effort goes into my novel and the analysis of certain phases and relationships in my life because these long, ongoing projects demand impeccable research.
Humility is considered a virtue. But, it is not clear that someone who has a modest opinion of himself accurately perceives reality. It is still possible that they are overestimating themselves. Hitler might claim that he had his flaws. It is not clear that someone who has a high opinion of herself is overestimating herself. Ayn Rand had once said that she wanted “The Fountainhead” to sell at least a hundred thousand copies. But, there are situations where it is perfectly safe to not rate yourself very highly. I think the world would be a better place if people were willing to trust the experts. Experts have spent decades studying subjects of which people know nothing about. They know more than the common public. But, when a common person disagrees with Milton Friedman, he is not likely to think that Friedman could be right. People do not value such humility. Therefore, what pains them is not lack of humility.
In high school, I once noticed that my best friend was staring at the breasts of a senior girl while talking to her. The senior boys wanted to know why he did it, when she left.I have no doubt that he did it purposefully. In college, a girl once told me that another boy never maintains eye contact while talking to her. She would not elucidate. When she once conned me into a telephone conversation on breasts, I said that it was not in my nature to get into this, and that she spoiled me. She said that she felt as if I wanted her to spoil me. It was the first time in my life I noticed that I was attracted to breasts, but I do not think it ever formed an important part of my fantasies. In the past few days, I have been staring at the breasts of an older woman I know only in the virtual space. Do not ask. My list is full of them, at all levels of erudition. Every time I stare at her breasts, I feel tenderness. I have never felt this way before. I have never seen anything so pure. I do not, of course, mean this in a transgressive sense. If I sit near her, as a writer, I might not feel the tension leaving my muscles. But, then, it would be because the mental effort writing demands is too much for me to bear.
When I argue that immigration restrictions are a great threat to individual liberty, people often ask me: “But, you can move out if you want to, right?” I think they are conflating two different issues. 1) Are immigration restrictions a huge threat to individual liberty? 2) Is it possible for me to move out if I want to? I do not see this as an intellectual error. These are the kind of little people who cannot think straight about any social science issue. When people deny that a genuine problem even exists, it is obvious to me that they are prejudiced against my cause. I am curious about this abstract problem, and I am curious about it independent of the context of my personal life, and the personal lives of anyone. But, what they say is not entirely true. Anyone can think of many bright people who risked a fortune, and did not succeed in making USA their home. More importantly, it is almost impossible for a low skilled person to move to the developed west. If I say that they have low IQ’s, and that IQ cannot be changed, these people might call me prejudiced, and say that this is not very “relevant” information, even if it is true. But, again, this just proves that they are not interested in the truth. This is important information because if this is true, this is proof enough that a large majority of the people in the third world are permanently trapped there, for no fault of their own.
Journalists often claim that Economics “has not been very successful in predicting the trends in history, and that this suggests that Economics is far from being a science.” When I read a journalist who makes this claim, it is clear to me that he is a fraud, a total fake. I have never read a serious economist who believes that this is the purpose of the economic science or even that economists can forecast the future. But, you do not have to be an economist to know this. It is obvious to anyone with a passing familiarity with the subject. This does not, of course, mean that we know nothing about the future, or that we cannot anticipate certain trends. Decent economists never encourage this tendency of journalists, and tell them that the monthly changes in economic indicators are not as important as they believe. But, their attitude is “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”. This is a classic case of projecting ones own inferiority onto others. They assume that this is the goal of economics. Then, they blame the economists for not living up to their expectations. These critics of economics cannot even describe the content of economics with reasonable accuracy. This is true of all such frauds.
Today’s newspaper says that a court ruled that Indian couples should be given preference in child adoption over NRIs, Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) and foreigners. Why? I do not understand this. In the first world, the living standards are higher. The child abuse laws are stricter. Why would the Indian government want to cause gratuitous suffering to babies who would have otherwise had a wonderful life in the first world? If Indians, NRI’s and OCIs do not find a baby worth adopting, why would a foreign couple fly down to adopt this baby? If Indian couples are not willing to adopt a baby, why should NRIs and OCIs fly down to adopt this baby? More importantly, if foreign couples are allowed to adopt only unwanted Indian babies, it is quite probable that the foreigners who do it despite this are guided by not-so-noble motives. As Tyler Cowen observed, not many people are willing to fly across the country for a peck on the cheek.
One evening, I asked her, “I will be in Cochin tomorrow. Can we meet?” She said, “Yes. Of course. Give me a call when you reach here.” I have not been to Cochin after I had dropped out of college many years ago. I reached the railway station a few minutes before the train took off, and had to enter the general compartment. I remember once traveling in this train when I was a boy, and an elderly man said that he had traveled in the same train fifty years ago. The train had not changed at all. The first libertarian argument I came across was that the automobiles on the road have changed a lot in the past seven decades, but the trains have not changed at all. But, the general compartment has changed a lot in the past one decade. The people who travel in them look like tramps. When I was reading, a young man harassed me saying that I should teach him “English”. This would have never happened in the Delhi metro. When I once went to a Malayali restaurant in Delhi, the supplier was not willing to serve me tea because I was reading. The lady who runs the restaurant served me tea, and said that the most she could do was to ask him to change. While I was reading in public spaces, post-toddlers have pointed me out to their amused mothers. The adolescent girls have stopped to watch. The men and women in my neighborhood have called my parents to tell them that their son was reading in the bus stand.
There is a fact that ordinary intellectuals and common folk do not know. There has long been a near-unanimous consensus among the experts in any field, on many broad fundamental issues. When I often say that journalists are idiots or that Indian non-fiction is terrible, or some such thing, people think that this is a sweeping generalization, or based on my narrow, limited experiences. But, they seem to have no clue. People, again, deny this because they have no idea of what I mean. The quotes given below are indicative. These are true facts denied by a large majority of intellectuals and virtually the whole of the common public. But, virtually everyone who has reviewed the literature tend to agree
It is hard for most people to believe that parents can murder their own daughter. But, if this is true, what is bizarre is not that many believe that Aarushi Talwar’s parents didn’t murder her daughter. In fact, it is surprising that many believe that her parents did it, and are quite defensive about it. Because the investigators themselves had acknowledged that there is no forensic or material evidence against them. They relied on much of what they call circumstantial judgment to reach this conclusion. But, much of it is laughable. It is obvious to me that it was their socio-economic background that worked against them. Think about this. If her parents, Nupur and Rajesh Talwar had indeed murdered Aarushi, it is surprising that the investigators were not able to produce any forensic or material evidence against them in five and a half years. Either they did such a terrible job, or the Talwar’s were very good at the game. Now, whatever you think of the facts of the matter, anyone who has followed the case knows that their performance was ridiculous. But, if the parents were really good at the game, would they have been pushed around for many years, only to be convicted in the end?
“Do you like coffee?” she asked me. When I said, “Yes”, she said, “I’ll make some coffee for you.” When I waited for her to make coffee for me, she asked, “But, we are in school now. How do I make coffee for you, here?” I turned silent, without knowing what to tell her. I did not know that I was being conned by her. I have always taken words literally. I was ten. She was 13. Once she laid her palms on the table and asked our mathematics teacher why she was supposed to study geometry when she will probably never use in her life. The teacher said that she was rationalizing, but I knew that she knew something that others did not. When she often stood near the door of our classroom, bending her right leg, I stared at her calf. After she left the school, I once saw her in a temple with my mother-in-law. She was praying with her eyes closed, wearing a long skirt which was not too unlike the one you can see in old Malayalam movies. I looked at her folded palms and bare feet. While I stood there watching her through my eyes that were half-open, my mother held me by my arm and said that it was time for us to go. I felt vaguely uncomfortable. She did not see me.
People believe in what they want to believe in. If objectivity is hard, it is unlikely that it will be used as a tool. “Objectivity” is more likely to be used a weapon, to obscure the truth. People are very “objective” when they speak about the judgment in the Aarushi Talwar murder case on Twitter. They often say something along these lines, “Oh, we Indians are very emotional. We cannot imagine parents murdering their child.” “But, why is it hard to believe that middle-class people can murder their children—if they can rape women and beat their wives?” “Parents can murder their children. People can be really brutal. Go group hug.” It is a bitter pill they are willing to swallow. But, some are more “objective” than others. At the outset, they claim that it would be unfair of them to take a position in this matter. “But”, they say, “I think justice has been done. There is enough evidence to think that the parents, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, did it.” Now that they have claimed neutral ground, they do not have to get off their high horse to reveal their biases. If you are “objective” by definition, the biases can be smuggled in through the backdoor. It is possible to have it both ways. “But” is, indeed, the greatest weasel word.