Hangama Hai Kyon Barpa

When I was very young (in class 4, around 2005), one of my cousin-brother introduced me to ghazals. One of the very famous ghazals that I used to listen to was a masterpiece by the legend Ghulam Ali:

The famous lines of the song goes like this:

Daaka To Nahi Daala Chori To Nahi Ki Hai

Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa Thodi Si Jo Pee Lee Hai

(I haven’t stolen anything, and I haven’t committed a robbery. Why is there so much fuss? I have just drunk a bit of alcohol)

The 8-year-old me couldn’t comprehend the depth of the lyrics at that time. But now I find the lyrics quite poetic and poignant. I am not just writing about the song like this randomly. There is a reason behind it.

While I was back in my hometown Kolkata during the Durga Puja, I came across an old couple through one of my relatives. They seemed to be supporting the current opposition leader of West Bengal who used to be a part of the ruling party once. Now in Bengali, there is a metaphorical saying of ‘sharing the same glass of alcohol’ if you have done something malevolent in the company of someone. During a conversation, I just couldn’t resist myself and said to them “He used to share the same glass of alcohol with the current ruling party members once”. To which the couple unanimously replied: “NO! He might be a thief, but I don’t think he drinks alcohol.” I was a bit startled by that, and realised there is no point arguing with them.

There has been a similar incident with Rahul Gandhi and another political leader too. Where they were spotted drinking and from there the moral policing and virtue signaling began.

This not only shows how timeless this classic ghazal song is but also depicts a dire picture of our society. We have some conservative gatekeepers all around us. You can steal public money and make a fortune, as long as you have a particularly good man image set in the society or probably belong to a political party of their choice.

And I think the number of factors through which a man/woman is judged by these gatekeepers varies across the genders. For a man, the number of factors will be very less. The salary and some success will always be the primary governing factor. As long as those two are decent, a man will hardly be scrutinized. (Except a few times for drinking alcohol, though nowadays that is pardoned by many) And for a woman, there will be a long (a very long) list of parameters: looks, dress code, efficiency in household chores, friend circle and so many things!

My personal philosophy on this one is totally libertarian. When I was looking for a house in the new city, one of the landlords said that I can cook chicken or mutton at the place, but fish is not allowed. I am generally very bad at prompt replies but that day I was quite straight-forward: “Whatever I am doing in my bedroom and kitchen shouldn’t concern you given that I am paying my rent on time and not bothering any of my neighbours”

I wish people would listen to more Ghulam Ali (and ghazal) & stop being a gatekeeper.

TVF, Tarak Mehta and LinkedIn influencers

When Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah (TMKOC) started it was a big hit. It was also like a breath of fresh air for Indian television. At that time, Indian shows were filled with saas-bahu (mother-in-law & daughter-in-law respectively) melodramas. TMKOC, on the other hand, was a sitcom based on a society called Gokuldham. It revolved around the daily ‘mundane’ life of those people living in that society. Even though, now, I cringe at some of those old episodes. There is no doubt that the old episodes were quite wholesome and enjoyable. It was the ‘Sarabha vs Sarabhai’ (another generation-defining sitcom) for our generation.

Now, after almost 14 years since it was first aired, and 3.6k episodes (YES!) TMKOC is still going on. A few days back I came across one of their episodes on YouTube. And it was unwatchable. I haven’t seen anything as useless as this. And this is coming from someone who has watched Action Replayy in theatres. There is no content, most of the stars who had started the show have also left but still, they are dragging it on.

On the other hand, TVF (The Viral Fever) started as a YouTube channel before widening its horizons. With respect to Indian standards of comedy, TVF has been quite good. Far better than anything that’s going on. And one of their ‘mantra’ for this has been quality over quantity. One of the TVF founders summed it up in a talk-show adda nicely:

To create a good content of 1 minute, it takes 100s of hours. I don’t know how anyone can go on for 10 years on the TV and still maintain the quality of the content.

When I look at most of the ‘LinkedIn influencers’, I feel they follow the path of Tarak Mehta rather than TVF. LinkedIn is a social networking platform where you can share any updates about your work: your learning, difficulties in a project, some useful resources etc. But now it is just filled with cringe content. Each one of us, who is working, will have some important things to share if we are true to ourselves and the work that we are doing. But it is hard to come up with something valuable every other day. Even the CEO of a successful company will fail miserably to do this.

It is absolutely fine to post an ‘aesthetic’ picture with a cheesy quote on Instagram or Twitter. Hell, even I don’t mind looking at it. But to pretend you have learnt something great and it is the same old BS, that’s just irritating. There are so many posts where the content of the post and the picture don’t even have any correlation! There is still some value in LinkedIn, so it will survive but I hope it pivots soon from the ‘Tarak Mehta’ way to the ‘TVF’ way.

P.S.: While re-reading the whole post before publishing, I realised I have rambled a bit here. But it is what it is.

It is the people, not the politicians

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are absolutely my own. It doesn’t reflect the opinions of anyone (a person or an organization) with whom I’m associated.

Just look at a few political scenarios from a few Indian states.

Scenario 1, Maharashtra: A politician from Maharashtra breaks down an alliance with the current government. Flew to Assam with the rebel (LOL) MLAs. Dethroned a government. Assam was experiencing high floods at that time. But they didn’t care about that at all. The former government, which was formed back in 2019, was also a product of many controversies.

Scenario 2, Karnataka: One of the very few states (might be the only one, need to recheck that) where an ex-CM was sent to jail for corruption. The story of forming and dismantling a government often follows the same path as Maharashtra.

Scenario 3, West Bengal: Two of the top ministers from the current ruling party are in jail for huge scams. A few have been jailed earlier. A few probably will be in jail in (and for) some time. It has become a regular incident where politicians are interrogated by ED and CBI here in West Bengal.

In short, politicians are opportunists and corrupted. But why do the first two states are two of the best performing states when it comes to job opportunities and West Bengal isn’t one? Because of the people.

Any societal change that happens in a place comes from the people. It is a bottom-up approach, not a top-down approach. Mukulika Banerjee in an episode of ‘The seen and the unseen’ has summed it up nicely. This is what she said (paraphrased):

Even when the left would win in Bengal, you would see nearly 40% of votes were there for the Congress and later the TMC. This is like supporting your favourite team. You don’t stop supporting them because they are going through a bad phase, you stand with them in solidarity.

This might even be more true for many other states. But the statement, alone, captures what is wrong with the state. Last time the condition was so bad that the main opposition party, which was vociferously against the ruling party for corruption and misdeeds, ended up taking many MLAs from that ruling party itself. The funny part is, even a year ago, these MLAs were being accused by this opposition party. Helpless situation.

In another case: Two politicians from the ruling party, who were jailed and were in CBI interrogation, have become Facebook and social media clowns for the last 3-4 years! They are literally being celebrated and made fun of by almost everyone. And their misdeeds aren’t even being talked about. Just imagine.

The change can only happen in this state if the people decide to change. You can support your party but at the same time, you should be seeking a good job and a better future for yourself and your children. If that doesn’t fuel the change, I don’t know what will.

One quote by the late Soumen Mitra captures this situation perfectly:

When Congress came to power, people used to say that the Britishers were better. Then when CPIM came, people used to say that Congress were better and now they believe CPIM did better than this government.

Does the ending matter?

I was watching the Wong Kar-wai classic “In the mood for love” again and when this famous scene came up, my mind immediately went to a different place. I started thinking about a blog post I read a while back and even saved it in my notes.

“Today I chanced across a photographer’s profile on Instagram, whose entire body of work centred on artistically blurred images. No not random shaky ones. A subject and surrounding, all blurred around the edges, separate and yet intertwined by an inseparable bond. Much like the mind and the heart. Much like abrupt beginnings and endings. All rolled in one, yet separate and yet again, together. A beautiful mess. After all, isn’t that what life’s supposed to be?”

This coupled with the endings of “In the mood for love” prompted an important question for me: Does the ending matter?

There is a great Ted Talk on how Math helps us understand the world better. I strongly relate to this idea and often, I try to correlate different things in life with Mathematics. Wrote a similar blog post more than a year back.

Now coming back to the topic. In simulation theory, we have two types of models: discrete and continuous. In short, for discrete models, the state variable changes a countable number of times, whereas, for continuous simulation, the state variable changes every moment following some conditions. I used to think that life is like a long continuous event where the change happens in every moment. But lately, I have been thinking, that it is more like the summation of several discrete events.

Significant changes in the state variables (life events) direct our lives. More than the slow continuous changes, it is the abrupt changes that help us take a path. It can be the moment where one may decide to change the course of a career, end a relationship, or start something new. These points in the lifetime will act as the pivotal points where the system changes its course. And for these discrete events, the endings don’t really matter.

More than the end point of a particular discrete event of life, what matters more is the state trajectory (which is a function of time) it follows while that event was simulated. If that has an uphill trajectory for most of the part, and the ending condition is provided by the designer (that it is not forced by any external events), then endings shouldn’t really matter much.

And in this way, I feel the movie is special. The designers (Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow) put the ending condition of their simulation models. There were no external forces that directed it like most other movies. The model ran its course. They started something without realizing the end. But in the end, the end didn’t matter. Truly a masterpiece.