Are you adopted? 😉

What if I tell you that you are adopted? Don’t look behind you. There’s nobody reading this apart from you at least right now. Of course, you might scoff. But it remains that you can never be sure unless you are crazy enough to do a DNA test. You have to believe your parents (at least that is who they claim to be!) Gulp. Unless of course if you are amazing enough to remember your birth (trust me: you’re not) you are at binds. This is basically what is called: Appeal to Authority.

So, when you are a kid, if some dickhead cousin tells you that the earth is flat and that a monster will eat you up if you throw away food or that your face will freeze into gargoyle while making faces: you believe that dumbass. Eventually, the school will take over and teach you the accepted truths: 1+2=3, Grammar, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Geography and why those weird topics have such complicated names in the first place. (Of course, the second part depends on which school you studied in.) Anyway, you get the moot idea.

So, when I was a kid, I used to have these doubts crop up. Now our school was a sublime institution located bang in the centre of Kolkata and over 150 years old to boot. When school got over, our class teacher used to arrange us 50 uncontrollable toddlers in a line. Now obviously this was an impossible problem. But our teachers coaxed us to grab each other’s bags. So we built a mock train with our class teacher forming the engine. We were all coaches eagerly holding the strap of the bag of the one in front of us. Now obviously this wasn’t a simple task. The train would at times teeter from side to side, zig zag and then there would be this over enthusiastic soul who had somehow managed to sneak a watch at WWF (yes, at that time it was WWF, not WWE) and decided to orchestrate a similar pull on the bag in front of him. This usually resulted in the train getting torn in 2 with a lot of coaches colliding and fall on each other. But nevertheless, the engine was a delightful soul who would take the rowdy coach a reestablish order. Much like how America establishes world peace in the Middle East. Enough for about 5 minutes. But the next day there would be a duel and camps established (of course behind the teacher’s roving eyes). Anyway, when we went to the Parent’s Shelter: basically an overhyped shed where parents wouldn’t wait anyway, we were dispatched to our parents. I returned by carpool. But some rich folks had all dressed up mothers receiving their kids. Now, my mother while fabulously beautiful and all had never worn anything but a saree or a salwar. But these females wore shirts and jeans and called themselves mothers. So, I proposed a theory to a ring of passionately eager friends. The theory was that these mothers looked too young. Moreover, they did not have a tummy like most mothers with kids had had. So, there was no way a baby could have come out of that stomach. These kids were therefore adopted!

Now, one of these kids with a mother as described above was a regular bully. So, one day we called him and told him the reason why we felt that he might have been adopted. He became all pale and depressed for quite a few days after that. And I was genuinely airing my concerns btw lest I am accused of anything else.

Interestingly though I feel that these are exactly the principles on which modern science unravels. A few correct observations are made. But the deductions from these are confidently passed on as a correct explanation. And these are then fed to everyone. If the theory persists for sufficiently long, it transcends appeal because of appeal to authority. Now, not every theory is wrong or correct, but I believe we shackle ourselves waay (the extra a was intended) too much by believing everything that is told.

Questioning Authority may be the first step. But the last step is finding the answers, by yourself. There cannot be a greater satisfaction than that.

Even if you choose to believe your parents that you are not adopted that is!

The Eloquence of Silence

To speak or not speak…That is the question!

Shakespeare may have thought that the most important question was:

To be or not to be

But I am almost sure that this one  is more important:

To speak or not speak…That is the question!

Not simply that! When to speak? Whom to speak to?

Speaking is also as much of an art as writing. However, unlike writing, speaking eloquently is practiced by speaking as little as possible.

So here I introduce Guha’s Guide in Gregariousness. (It took me some pain to come up with this particular alliteration and it would be much appreciated if you observed a moment of silence for the same.)

Pause (1 minute).

Ah yes. Thank you. Now the best speakers are able manipulate their audience into being convinced about the topic of interest in the way it suits the speaker. Manipulate is actually negative: so let’s say influence (positively). {Like I’m doing here, or at least trying to anyway!}.  One starts with a topic sentence which is relatively interesting and engages the audience with either a hitherto unknown fact or a controversial position. Avuncular chaps will try spinning an anecdote in the most Ruskin Bond-ish way possible. All are fantastic methods. But then as soon as you open up to discussion, there will usually remain some pestering nincompoop who will disagree. Originally these people were called critics. Today of course you know them as trolls.

So, the way to avoid this is to choose a relatively drab topic. Like our ex-PM, you can narrate a list of facts in the best possible monotone and pray that your audience has dozed off. This reduces the chances of any counter punches. But of course it has the flip side that because nobody cares for what you say, they don’t care to oppose you. And as the common perception goes: mute people are less likely to develop foes than their not so mute friends.

These days I come across so many topics with headlines thrown in the most polarising way possible. And it takes a great deal of effort for me to not type in my opinion or enter into a debasing slanging match with some random soul on the other side.

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

-Ellie Wiesel

Wiesel has a valid point here though. That silence helps the oppressor. However, I’ll only enter the muck to fight for what I believe if I can actually bring about some change. Not because I wish to contribute more to the noise. At the end of the day your two lines of comments will never be enough to change someone’s opinion (however opposite, unethical, logically flawed or otherwise you may feel it to be). All it will achieve is angering the other person and few like minded folks (read people who “liked” his status).

Unless of course you are looking at a broader change (or in certain cases highlighted by Weisel). Opinions should only be provided if asked and when you are in a position of authority to announce them. Not because you strongly feel a certain way. Perhaps that’s not something you would like to hear. But at the end of the day when you troll somebody or insult the other person into submission all you have earned is the other person’s disgust and enmity, even if you feel that you won the debate. The whole episode is not worth the bitterness, frankly.