Tag Archives: Barun Mitra

My Experiments With Sarcasm

Just one more free service that I offer.

I learned the ABCs of sarcasm from the twelve-year-old Krishnapriya. But,  I have always known that the concept of sarcasm has a long history behind it. Machiavelli says that in ancient Florence, “he who could wound others the most cleverly was thought the wisest”. It pains me, because I am a sentimentalist. But, things can go either way. Sarcasm hurts because it is often a form of truth.  Man’s history is full of men and women who were butchered because they were sarcastic-Like Kondraty Ryleyev.

Kondraty Ryleyev was a man who lived in the 19th Century Russia. When the new Czar Nicholas I ascended the throne, he became a big revolutionary leader and everything. Not surprisingly, it would not take long for Nicholas I to sentence him to death. But, when the trapdoor opened, the rope broke and Ryleyev fell on the ground. Ryleyev woke up and said cheerfully to the crowd, “You know, in Russia, they do not know how to do anything properly, not even how to make a rope!”

When Nicholas I was signing the pardon, he wanted to know what Mr. Ryleyev thinks about this miracle. Nicholas’ minion said: “Sire, he said that in Russia they don’t even know how to make a rope.” Nicholas I said with a clever smile, “Let us prove the contrary.” This time, the Russian rope did not break. Ryeleyev was soon taken to the graveyard, in a beautiful coffin—All because he said what was more than necessary.  Continue reading

Are My Villains Ayn Randian?

Are my detractors Ayn Rand-ian villains?

One interesting criticism I often hear about my blog is that it deals with the blackest blacks and the whitest whites with no intermediate shades of grey. Now, this is supposed to be an accurate description of a teenager’s mindset.

A teenager is color blind, and he can only see things as black and white. To him, people are either pure and noble like him—Or they are Ayn Rand-ian villains. Sophisticated writers, however, understand the nuances. They can see those “intermediate shades of grey”. But, I am not one among such intelligent writers who can see those “shades of grey”.

My villains are portrayed in the darkest light possible, when I am a modern day Howard Roark who fights my malicious detractors to save the integrity of my masterpieces. I must have collected all the embarrassing details about my detractors, and all the flattering details about me in one volume. There could be an “other side of the story”, a story that is untold.

Though people do not put it quite this way, I know that less conscientious readers and many of my detractors think this way, except perhaps my intelligent detractor. Continue reading

Intermediate Shades Of Grey

The meaningless of Indian think-tanks.

My article on think-tanks evoked some “mixed response”. Jonathan Shainin, a senior editor at The Caravan tweeted: “Young Indian libertarian decides all think tanks are corrupt after his stint at the dodgy Ayn Rand advocacy group. Laughable.” A liberated “young” lady sneered: “This is the most bizarrely written article I have read in ages. I will keep it aside, and read it when I am drunk. Perhaps I would understand it then.” Some WSJ columnist said: “Ideology aside, terribly written to boot.” Another: “Stereotyping at its best.” And: “So, this guy had a bad experience with one of them, so all are bad. Okay.” Yet another: “Angry, but these are issues which think-tanks should address.”

To begin with, this is not a generalization about a whole industry based on my experiences with one organization. In fact, I had similar experiences with four think tanks I have dealt with; of which two are US think-tanks. But, the conclusion doesn’t have much to do with my experiences or anecdotes. Anecdotes are not empirical evidence. Empirical evidence has to be broader, and should not fail the test of consistently applied common sense reasoning. Journalists miss it all the time, but these are obvious facts which a sensible writer wouldn’t miss. Continue reading

Merchants Of Policy

Do think-tanks matter?

When I decided to give the job a shot, I had little idea what was in store for me. I had believed that think-tanks engage in research and policy advocacy. But it was not easy to miss that my colleagues were incapable of giving the world anything more than their mindless labour. I remember two new recruits wondering what a ‘think-tank’ was, struggling to spell the word. It took a while for them to come to grips with the various nuances of Google search. A young girl had a difficult time telling ‘international economics’ from ‘environmental science’. Another girl had a Master’s degree in mass communication, but did not know what the word ‘molestation’ meant. They badly wanted to improve their writing skills, but even the tycoons of mass market fiction were beyond them. The think-tank head spent much of his time flying across the world. And my modest salary cheque often arrived months later.

Read the full article in the Open Magazine: Merchants Of Policy

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But, why am I not impressed?

Given my kindness and compassion, the last thing I want is to hurt another person’s sentiments. Sometimes I feel that I should have laughed at their faces or at least slapped, but it all goes unrewarded. Does truth hurt as much?

With age, comes wisdom-and humility! Hopefully, I won’t be an exception. Certainly one reason I prefer a dowdy old hag who understands my insults to a pretty young girl who can’t tell Satire from Sartre, to make a general categorical statement not intended at anyone in particular. More than common honesty and common decency, I prefer common sense. One should at least cringe in shame. Continue reading