The Fifth Pillar of Indian Democracy

Indian democ­racy is said to rest on the ven­er­a­ble four pil­lars of the leg­is­la­ture, the exec­u­tive, the judi­ciary, and the press.

All the four pil­lars have cracked to a great degree and Indian democ­racy is not healthy.

In brief, we have:

  • A leg­is­la­ture epit­o­mized by a non-functioning Parliament
  • An exec­u­tive whose power is cen­tral­ized in two individuals
  • A judi­ciary that is out­dated, back­logged, and corrupt
  • A press that has no free­dom of speech

Let me elaborate.


We have a strong gov­ern­ment with anti-national right-wing extrem­ist ele­ments who brazenly con­tinue to dis­rupt the social fab­ric with its Hin­dutva agenda, result­ing in increas­ing hos­til­ity in rad­i­cal Islamists, and a lead­er­ship that abstains from pub­licly denounc­ing them.

We have a crum­bling, dynas­tic, and lead­er­less national oppo­si­tion party, which refuses to evolve beyond its myopic, his­tor­i­cal and out­dated thinking.

Finally, we have a plethora of regional and/or caste-based par­ties with pop­ulist agen­das and demo­c­ra­tic power to dis­rupt the leg­isla­tive process of our Par­lia­ment, none of whom act beyond regional or caste-based ide­olo­gies in national inter­est, act­ing instead to attract atten­tion with histrionics.

For a healthy democ­racy, with a thriv­ing leg­is­la­ture, we need to have a cred­i­ble opposition.


There are no seri­ous debates about any leg­isla­tive act; the only oppo­si­tion to any leg­is­la­tion is dri­ven by pop­ulist polit­i­cal agen­das that sac­ri­fice national inter­est at every oppor­tu­nity. The leg­is­la­ture is now so severely hand­i­capped that the gov­ern­ment has to resort to “ordi­nances”, i.e. the exec­u­tive, to enact, i.e. act.


It is no secret that our cur­rent crop of min­is­ters are only pup­pets pulled by strings held by the PM.

Other coun­tries may well be for­given for not know­ing who India’s For­eign Min­is­ter is, for the PM has per­son­ally dom­i­nated for­eign pol­icy and vis­its in con­spic­u­ous absence of the FM.

A well func­tion­ing exec­u­tive would have a Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters where dis­cus­sions and debates hap­pen, but nobody in India has any illu­sions about what tran­spires in today’s cab­i­net: dik­tats from PM end all dis­cus­sions and debates. In pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments, it was the dynas­tic “high command”.

A cohe­sive, dic­ta­to­r­ial Exec­u­tive is good for the coun­try in terms of effi­ciency and reforms, but not when it com­pro­mises sus­tain­abil­ity in the long term.

As in-depth observers note, India’s Exec­u­tive is con­trolled by only two men: Our PM and FM. Which is at best unhealthy, given the his­tory of India’s diver­sity, rea­soned demo­c­ra­tic dis­sent and debate.


We have a judi­ciary bur­dened with a huge back­log and a his­tory of corruption.

A judi­ciary that has become embroiled in gov­er­nance issues because of cor­rup­tion in government.

A judi­ciary whose Supreme Court ex-justice thinks a Bol­ly­wood star­let should be the Pres­i­dent of India. A for­mer Supreme Court judge (ex–High Court of Delhi, Chen­nai, and Alla­habad) who ranks Chief Min­is­te­r­ial can­di­dates based on their fem­i­nine beauty.

A judi­ciary which upholds Sec­tion 377 of the Indian Penal Code framed in 1860, that con­sid­ers homo­sex­ual inter­course as a crim­i­nal offence. In case you won­der why, read this from the for­mer Supreme Court judge:

To ful­fill this role of nature, a woman has to get hold of a man, not merely to make her preg­nant, but also to look after her and pro­vide for her finan­cially while she is per­form­ing this role.”


We have a press whose free­dom of speech no longer exists, a media that is owned and con­trolled by cor­po­rate con­glom­er­ates, and TV chan­nels that are besot­ted with cov­er­ing every polit­i­cal melo­drama on a minute-by-minute basis irre­spec­tive of its irrel­e­vance in national or long term significance.

The more melo­dra­matic minu­tiae the media hap­pily laps up as “Break­ing News” in the end­less quest for higher TRPs, the more polit­i­cal par­ties are happy to sup­ply the goods, fur­ther inca­pac­i­tat­ing the legislature.

The Silent Fifth Pillar

Is there hope? Yes, there is.

There is a fifth pil­lar of our democ­racy which unfor­tu­nately has not been chris­tened as such, never given its due in the the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work of pil­lars under­pin­ning democracies.


That pil­lar is the Indian cit­i­zen, who has been glo­ri­ously fea­tured on the front page of India’s lead­ing daily news­pa­per for over five decades.

The “com­mon man” is always silent, except when it is elec­tion time. His “voice” is heard only once in every five years.


In the last gen­eral elec­tion, he has spo­ken the loud­est in two decades. Still, nei­ther the oppo­si­tion, nor the extrem­ist ele­ments in the rul­ing gov­ern­ment have listened.

As an opti­mist, I have faith he will con­tinue to speak. With all the other so-called “pil­lars” of our democ­racy crum­bling, the true, solid pil­lar of the Indian cit­i­zen is our only hope for gen­er­a­tions to come.

P.S. If you have read this far, please do also read the first “related post” from 2009.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression

I grew up watch­ing Jeremy Brett in one of my best loved TV series of Sher­lock Holmes.Jeremy_Brett_as_Hamlet

Brett was the quin­tes­sen­tial Holmes, nobody, nei­ther Basil Rath­bone nor Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch can come close to epit­o­miz­ing the essen­tial Sher­lock. In 2014, Brett was voted the Great­est Sher­lock Holmes beat­ing other actors who have also played the iconic role.

For a stage actor who played Shakespeare’s Ham­let and Mac­beth, Sher­lock must have been very easy. Not so.

Holmes is the hard­est part I have ever played — harder than Ham­let or Macbeth.”

What I, and I sus­pect many, don’t know is that Jeremy had a men­tal illness.

Jeremy_Brett_as_Sherlock_HolmesIn the lat­ter half of 1986, he exhib­ited wild mood swings that alarmed every­body, and after per­sua­sion to seek treat­ment of bipo­lar dis­or­der, he was given Lithium. This is why his phys­i­cal appear­ance notice­ably changed in the episodes filmed after 1987. He put on weight and his body started retain­ing water. He would have dif­fi­cul­ties breath­ing and often needed an oxy­gen mask dur­ing the filming.

But, dar­lings, the show must go on”, was his only comment.

As a roman­tic, my unquiet mind has often been tempted to think that it was play­ing Sher­lock, truly imbib­ing the char­ac­ter he was por­tray­ing, that led to his men­tal illness.

But that is wrong. There are def­i­nite psy­cho­log­i­cal effects of method act­ing but that was not the case with Brett. He was a vic­tim of bipo­lar dis­or­der whether he played Sher­lock or not.

In his later years, he pub­licly acknowl­edged his ill­ness and strove to raise pub­lic aware­ness about it. Here is a rare audio voice over of Jeremy Brett talk­ing about bipo­lar depression.

Posted in cinema, psychology | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Holy Shit” of Terror: Middle Ages & Renaissance

Ser­ial killers are a spe­cial kind of breed for law enforce­ment agen­cies. This has been a pop­u­lar germ for numer­ous movies and count­less nov­els. Detec­tives inves­ti­gat­ing ser­ial mur­ders build a pro­file of the killer based on gath­ered evi­dence, then match clues to the pro­file, which even­tu­ally lead them to the iden­tity of the ser­ial killer. In these inves­ti­ga­tions, the Behav­ioral Sci­ences Unit of the FBI plays a major role in the ini­tial profiling.Zodiac_blog_2100x147

Where is An Unquiet Mind going with this, you may wonder.

I am read­ing Michael Connelly’s A Dark­ness More Than Night, a reg­u­lar police procedural.

Among the dif­fer­ent types of ser­ial mur­der­ers, there is one cat­e­gory of cases where reli­gion is involved. These cases are col­lo­qui­ally termed “Holy Shit” cases by FBI profilers.

Cave Cave Dus Videt
Cave Cave D(ominu)us Videt
Beware Beware God Sees

Holy Shit,” McCaleb said qui­etly to him­self. It was not said as an excla­ma­tion. Rather, it was the phrase he and fel­low bureau pro­fil­ers had used to infor­mally clas­sify cases in which reli­gious over­tures were part of the evi­dence. When God was dis­cov­ered to be part of the prob­a­ble moti­va­tion for a crime, it became a “holy shit” case when spo­ken of in casual conversation.

This is where the unquiet mind kicked in full gear. What fol­lowed next:

It also changed things sig­nif­i­cantly, for God’s work was never done. When a killer was out there using His name as part of the imprint of a crime, it often meant there would be more crimes. It was said in the bureau pro­fil­ing offices that God’s killers never stopped of their own voli­tion. They had to be stopped.

Sub­sti­tute a mob in place of a ser­ial killer and what you have is a seem­ingly unstop­pable mob soci­ety com­mit­ting mass mur­der in the name of God. The his­tory of reli­gious vio­lence over thou­sands of years of human his­tory is proof. Name a reli­gion and there is a group com­mit­ting mass mur­der in its name, at any point in human his­tory, past or present.

How about Stalin and Hitler who com­mit­ted geno­cide of mil­lions, but were not asso­ci­ated with any reli­gious idealism?

What dis­tin­guishes the inde­scrib­able atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Stalin and Hitler is pre­cisely what Con­nelly, though unin­ten­tion­ally, observed above. Nei­ther Stalin’s or Hitler’s heirs prop­a­gated the geno­cide. They were stopped, per­ma­nently. The ide­ol­ogy behind their actions could not sur­vive real­ity and the col­lec­tive human force on the planet. How­ever, in the case of reli­gion, ide­ol­ogy over­comes real­ity – reli­gious ide­ol­ogy, when it’s God-motivated, is a dif­fi­cult cock­roach to exterminate.

In this and the past cen­tury, God-based vio­lence has been decried by the “peace-loving” reli­gious advo­cates as being posi­tions of “extrem­ist” fac­tions, for whom the reli­gion is “peace-loving”, and is thus, not to blame.

From the past Chris­t­ian cru­sades to the cur­rent Mus­lim jihad, from Saf­fron ter­ror to Sikh extrem­ism, all reli­gions have caused mass-serial-killings on an unimag­in­able scale. Holy shit.

Observe the nature of change in reli­gious vio­lence. It was eas­ier in medieval eras to iso­late and burn heretics on the stake. In the mod­ern world, it’s not so easy, hence one needs to make a pub­lic state­ment of vio­lence against the pub­lic in gen­eral. Because much of today’s pub­lic is “civ­i­lized”. The medieval strate­gies of burn­ing heretics on the stake don’t work in today’s soci­ety, so they need to kill on the mass scale to make a statement.

It is called “ter­ror­ism” in recent decades, but its roots lie in thou­sands of years past.

Is human soci­ety fully “civ­i­lized”? Not at all, most of them still hold one or the other reli­gion as their phi­los­o­phy of life, while decry­ing vio­lence on that religion’s behalf.

It took thou­sands of years for humans to emerge out of the dark­ness of the Mid­dle Ages, which was fol­lowed by the Renais­sance. I am just hop­ing that we evolve out of our cur­rent Digital-Middle-Age so that our kids or our grand­chil­dren can achieve peace­ful glory and hap­pi­ness in their Dig­i­tal Renaissance.

Posted in philosophy, religion | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Who is an “Intellectual”?

Dur­ing my younger days, I used to dis­tin­guish peo­ple by whether they were intel­lec­tual or not.

In those years, I was naïve enough to express it directly: “Sorry, but you’re not an intel­lec­tual.” It was much later that I real­ized what an insult it was to my friends.

Almost all my friends and every­one who knew me then started to use the term derog­a­tively. From “Oh, I can’t under­stand this because I’m not an intel­lec­tual” to “Oh, this is main­stream com­mon knowl­edge, but you wouldn’t know it, because you’re an intel­lec­tual”. These expres­sions were expressed with a sneer, as if being an intel­lec­tual, I was some­how to blame, and should be ashamed of myself.

As a result, I stopped using this con­cept in all my com­mu­ni­ca­tion with peo­ple because I real­ized it was being per­ceived as judgmental.

Then I observed how this adjec­tive was being reg­u­larly used in main­stream lit­er­a­ture and media, from TV shows to news­pa­per op-eds. “Intel­lec­tu­als” were folks who were left­ist and activists for the Marx­ist cause. “Intel­lec­tu­als” were those who go on hunger strikes against any and all cap­i­tal­is­tic endeavor.”Intellectuals” were sym­pa­thiz­ers with the Maoist insur­gency in India. “Intel­lec­tu­als” were those who lead the work­ers of a labor union to fight against the injus­tice being meted out to them by their evil cor­po­rate bigwigs.

I have not seen any con­cept that has been so dis­torted, twisted to uti­lize for or against pro­pa­ganda, mis­un­der­stood, and most often mis­in­ter­preted. A virtue that has been adju­di­cated as a vice,  a qual­ity that is con­sid­ered deroga­tory and spo­ken of in pejo­ra­tive terms, derided being an “intellectual”.

The fun­da­men­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing is the per­cep­tion that not being an intel­lec­tual equates to not being intel­li­gent. Because the words are so pho­net­i­cally close, not being an intel­lec­tual is most often per­ceived as not being intel­li­gent. Which is obvi­ously an insult if you ever express it to anyone.

Every intel­li­gent per­son is not an intel­lec­tual, and nei­ther is every intel­lec­tual per­son intelligent.

All of us have a lot of beliefs by which we live our lives. These beliefs are our axioms. When some­one ques­tions one of those beliefs, we react defen­sively. We are rarely will­ing to lis­ten and chal­lenge that belief. There is a barrier.


If we jump across that bar­rier, there is a whole new world to discover.

Beliefs per­me­ate through soci­ety via osmo­sis. An intel­lec­tual is one who is imper­me­ate to that osmo­sis. An intel­lec­tual is one who is not only will­ing to chal­lenge his beliefs, but one who will be grate­ful to you if you do so. An intel­lec­tual is one who does not auto­mat­i­cally imbibe his society’s value sys­tem but ques­tions it. An intel­lec­tual asks “Why?” before he adopts a belief.

An intel­lec­tual is an icon­o­clast. But that is not some­thing to be ashamed of, or feel guilty about, it is in fact, some­thing to be cherished.

Talk to an intel­lec­tual about any topic under the sun, and he will either tell you some­thing about the topic you didn’t know your­self, or be grate­ful to you for teach­ing him some­thing new. An intel­lec­tual is that adult who has not lost his child­hood curios­ity.

An intel­lec­tual is one who not only thinks but is will­ing to think.

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The fallacy of “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”

We love flow­ers. We use flow­ers in our romance, we gift bou­quets to our friends on spe­cial occa­sions. Flow­ers let us share hap­pi­ness and good wishes with many, thanks to their beauty. We love watch­ing beau­ti­ful water­falls. We get excited, as if we were chil­dren, when there is a beau­ti­ful rain­bow in the sky. We adore iconic beau­ti­ful actresses. From Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe to Ingrid Bergman, from Nutan to Mad­hubala, they hold us spell­bound with their hyp­notic beauty.tumblr_m5koufOOSu1qkmctto1_500

Does the flower know it is beau­ti­ful? Is every drop in those water­falls aware that is is con­tribut­ing, in its own way, to the beauty of grandeur? Does a rain­bow even know about its con­stituent refracted col­ors in the human vis­i­ble spec­trum? Would these actresses have real­ized their own beauty if there were no glass mir­rors or if there was no audi­ence pub­lic­ity mirror?

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” is a main­stream phrase in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It is fre­quently used to denote sub­jec­tiv­ity in beauty. What I might find dis­gust­ing, you may find beau­ti­ful, is the sub­jec­tiv­ity sub­stan­ti­ated and ratio­nal­ized with this oft-used phrase.

What is miss­ing from this obses­sive focus on sub­jec­tive inter­pre­ta­tion of beauty is the inher­ent man­i­fes­ta­tion of beauty in the object or in the cog­ni­tion of its cre­ator. Did the Mona Lisa know how many cen­turies she would con­tinue to mys­tify art lovers?

Did Da Vinci know that his paint­ing would con­tinue to mys­tify art lovers for cen­turies? Did Michelan­gelo know that the objects of art he was cre­at­ing would be revered for­ever? Are the sub­jec­tive opin­ions of Van Gogh’s works dur­ing his life­time a defin­i­tive asser­tion of their lack of beauty? Were these works ugly when cre­ated and only gain beauty later when behold­ers’ eyes started per­ceiv­ing their beauty? Or were they inher­ently, intrin­si­cally beau­ti­ful when cre­ated, though no behold­ers’ eyes saw the beauty?

Does the audience’s response dur­ing the first per­for­mance of The Rite of Spring deter­mine its beauty? Did Galileo’s tele­scope lack beauty because those who beheld it in his life­time had a dif­fer­ent con­cep­tion of beauty and lacked his vision of look­ing towards the heav­ens? (To those who still do, he has an ever­last­ing response). Are those of us who think it was beau­ti­ful delu­sional as we have never even laid eyes on his tele­scope and thus do not have a right to a behold­ers’ opinion?

Is beauty really sub­jec­tive if you con­sider the ques­tion over hun­dreds of years? Do we think our Insta­gram pho­tos are going to be con­sid­ered “beau­ti­ful” by human gen­er­a­tions in 2050, or 2200, irre­spec­tive of the “Likes” we get in 2014? At the same time, do we think the 2050 gen­er­a­tion is not going to look at any pho­tographs taken in 2014 and con­sider them beautiful?

It is eas­ier for us to appre­ci­ate art inspired by nat­ural beauty than one based on pure human imag­i­na­tion. From land­scape paint­ings to origami craft, from Beethoven’s Pas­torale to national anthems, we eas­ily per­ceive their beauty, but find abstract imag­i­na­tive art chal­leng­ing to appre­ci­ate. Why?

Because we can asso­ciate and relate to the beauty of a natural-inspired work with our own expe­ri­ences of that object’s inher­ent beauty — whether it is a land­scape, a beau­ti­ful bird, the coun­try­side, or our patri­otic emo­tions. Appre­ci­a­tion of beauty derives through asso­ci­a­tion and rela­tion. If one is able to asso­ciate with or relate to the object, one is able to appre­ci­ate the beauty of the object. Does this mean the beauty of the object lies com­pletely in the eyes of the beholder or is there intrin­sic beauty in the object itself?

Yet, after cen­turies of human exis­tence, we con­tinue to employ and focus on the phrase “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. Does it, really? By def­i­n­i­tion, behold­ing means to observe, to gaze upon.

Behold­ing does not, by def­i­n­i­tion, involve com­pre­hen­sion, rela­tion, or asso­ci­a­tion of any kind.

Why have we not pro­gressed towards the accep­tance of the fact that beauty can lie inher­ent within the object that is being observed and that it is only via its inter­pre­ta­tions through art that we come to real­ize its beauty?

The con­cept of the “eye of the beholder” is a sub­jec­tive detri­ment, an obsta­cle, to the clas­si­cal con­cept of beauty, which seems to hold true over time. Those who live by that phrase, those who profit from it, and those who accept it, either have an agenda or are being very short-sighted about beauty.

Beauty lies in the object itself, artists help us dis­cern it. The “eye of the beholder” con­cept is a crutch invented by us ordi­nary humans who fail to per­ceive the innate beauty in the object itself.

The beholder is usu­ally blind, the artist is the one who sees the beauty. The beauty exists, whether there is an artist who sees it or a beholder who is blind to it.

Posted in Arts | Tagged | 4 Comments

The Wheels of Friendship

When I reached high school, my curios­ity led me to won­der, how do a train’s wheels, which are on a fixed axle, nego­ti­ate a curve?

If a pair of wheels nego­ti­ate a curve, the outer wheel has to travel a greater dis­tance than the inner wheel. How can this hap­pen when both wheels are on a fixed axle? It was a few years later that I found the answer.


The wheels of a train are not flat, they are cone-shaped.


When nego­ti­at­ing a curve, the cen­trifu­gal force of the train mov­ing along the curve results in the outer wheel rotat­ing with a larger diam­e­ter while the inner wheel rotates with a smaller one.

(A big thanks and grat­i­tude to Dani­jel for these sim­ple, illus­tra­tive fig­ures. And in those years and sev­eral years hence, I often won­der how oth­ers, even adults, don’t have the same ques­tions I had as a kid).

A friend­ship is quite akin to a pair of wheels. It is in har­mony when both the wheels turn with the same rhythm, both travel the same jour­ney, towards the same destination.

What hap­pens with friend­ships that are on a curve, when one wheel feels the need to travel to a dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tion? Is the other flex­i­ble enough to be cone-shaped to accommodate?

Most peo­ple who drive a car never won­der about how this dif­fer­ence in the dis­tance wheels travel on a turn is achieved via the engi­neer­ing genius of the dif­fer­en­tial gear.


The dif­fer­en­tial gear enables one wheel to travel a greater dis­tance than the other, thus allow­ing us to make turns with our four-wheelers. I have always regarded it as a mar­vel of human ingenuity.

If and when a friend takes a dif­fer­ent turn, our wheel needs to be greased enough with a dif­fer­en­tial gear to accom­mo­date the oth­ers’ turn.

Friend­ships on a fixed axle don’t last long.

Ones with dif­fer­en­tial gear in their core can.

Indi­vid­ual wheels are lives that have their own des­ti­na­tion. If one wants to carry the other wheel along with its jour­ney towards one’s des­ti­na­tion, one needs one’s friend to have a dif­fer­en­tial gear. If one is will­ing to travel the jour­ney our friend wishes to reach his des­ti­na­tion, one needs a dif­fer­en­tial gear within oneself.

Instead, the way we usu­ally treat friend­ships is as if they were on a fixed axle. The other per­son is nei­ther cone-shaped, nor do we accom­mo­date a dif­fer­en­tial gear. The end result is friction.

The best, and only way, to avoid fric­tion in our friend­ships, is by employ­ing the dif­fer­en­tial gear.

Posted in philosophy, Science, technology | Tagged , | Comments Off

The Science of Curiosity

When I was a small kid, I had hun­dreds of ques­tions about every­thing. What they taught us in school was com­pletely dis­tanced from my curios­ity in observ­ing the world around me.

Why are these peo­ple defe­cat­ing in the bushes? Nobody in school taught me about poverty. Who are these weird look­ing males dressed up like women who clap their hands and ask for money? Nobody in school taught me about eunuchs. Do rail­way tracks that we see going off towards the far dis­tance ever meet at the hori­zon? How do ships know the direc­tion in which to travel if all they see around them is just miles of ocean? Why is this guy on TV bang­ing his mouth on her and why are they suck­ing each oth­ers lips? And so on.

Noth­ing they taught us in school had any­thing to do with the ques­tions I had as a kid.

All chil­dren, even today, face this dis­par­ity between what they are taught in school, and what they observe in real life to which they don’t find any answers.

Over time, I gained the child­hood wis­dom of which ques­tions to ask, and which ques­tions are bet­ter stored in my mind in a safe place, a vault, to be explored for answers by myself later. As the years passed, my curios­ity and my abil­ity to seek answers were always in a des­per­ate race in which curios­ity always won. Curios­ity is innate and uncon­trol­lable; a child’s abil­ity to get answers depends on exter­nal fac­tors such as expo­sure, behav­ior of par­ents, elders will­ing to teach you, access to infor­ma­tion, etc. There was no Google or Wikipedia in those days.

The more ques­tions I had, the less answers I found.

Our for­mal­ized edu­ca­tion sys­tem expects par­ents to fill that gap, while par­ents don’t even have a rudi­men­tary under­stand­ing that there is a gap.

The com­plex­ity of the ques­tions increased as I grew up. I also grew to under­stand that if I wanted answers, I had to find them myself, and thus, find resources that would ful­fill my innate need to find answers to sat­isfy my curiosity.

What I sus­pect hap­pens to most kids is that they learn to bury their curios­ity. This is one of the great­est evil per­pe­trated by us human beings on our children.

I was in search of my own God, not the one peo­ple go to tem­ples and churches to wor­ship with blind faith, but one who will sat­isfy my curios­ity with com­plete rea­son and knowl­edge of the high­est order.

The les­son I learned, and it was a very hard les­son, is that there is no such God.

It was sev­eral years later that I under­stood that the God I was seek­ing is what is a human endeavor called Science.

Sci­ence is curios­ity in action.

Posted in children, parenting, Personal | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Who is an “Artist”?

In our soci­ety, in com­mon par­lance, an “artist” is one who paints, whose “works” are framed and hung on a wall. Which is such a nar­row out­look that I find it detestable.

By def­i­n­i­tion, an artist is one who cre­ates art.

What is art? That is a topic I will not go into in this post. Is “art” restricted to paint­ing? Art encom­passes a lot of human endeav­ors, and paint­ing just is one of them.

I find it incon­gru­ous that a musi­cian is intro­duced as a “com­poser”, an author is intro­duced as a “writer”, a fash­ion designer is intro­duced as a “designer”, a pho­tog­ra­pher intro­duced is as a “pho­tog­ra­pher”, while a painter is intro­duced as an “artist”. Why not a “painter”? What does it say about the epis­te­mol­ogy humans have accepted that we define all other artists by their pro­fes­sions except the painter?

This post is a response to “To Be Wor­thy Of Being An Artist

A per­sonal def­i­n­i­tion – the def­i­n­i­tion of an artist – is a com­bi­na­tion of (a) mod­esty, (b) arro­gance, and © reality.

First, def­i­n­i­tions can never be per­sonal. When it is per­sonal, it is an inter­pre­ta­tion, not a def­i­n­i­tion. A def­i­n­i­tion is an objec­tive mean­ing of a con­cept, thus of a word, that should never be per­sonal or sub­jec­tive. A def­i­n­i­tion ceases to be one when it is sub­jec­tive. An epis­te­mol­ogy that accepts “per­sonal def­i­n­i­tions” is reflec­tive of Kant’s sub­jec­tivist, ambigu­ous, and grey philo­soph­i­cal doc­trine that many intel­lec­tu­als today, like for many decades in his­tory, have been tak­ing recourse to in the com­fort of complexity-of-thought-that-mainstream-audiences-will-agree-to-rather-than-debate.

The true artist is for­giv­ing. Encom­pass­ing. Lov­ing. Giv­ing. Embrac­ing. Joyous.

There are other emo­tions that guide an artist: anger, cyn­i­cism, jeal­ousy, strife, decep­tion, trick­ery. For, if you would think of an artist as all things nice, you would be hugely mis­taken. But hate is not one of those. If hate is an emo­tion that guides, or even exists in your life, you are auto­mat­i­cally not an artist.

Is an artist dis­tin­guished from other human beings by tem­pera­ment? Do spe­cific tem­pera­men­tal traits clas­sify some peo­ple as artists and exclude others?

Emo­tion is the well­spring of all art. To enu­mer­ate which of those guide an artist and which don’t, is an exer­cise in futil­ity and mis­taken in its ini­tial presumption.

The entire soup-bowl of human emo­tions (minus hate) is the palette of the true artist.

Why sin­gle out and exclude hate? Hate can inspire great com­po­si­tion, ter­rific writ­ing, and amaz­ing paint­ing too.

Panchgani 053

To con­tinue my responses to this irra­tional, incon­gru­ous post:

The con­text of an artist is very dif­fer­ent from the way you and I see things. Artists are magi­cians. They trans­port us to worlds pre­vi­ously unknown.

Which is what many pho­tog­ra­phers do, includ­ing those like you, who con­duct MOOCs about that art.

I am not one of them. I thank you dear friend, for call­ing me an artist. I respect­fully decline. Some­day I might prove that you were right.

What is hap­pen­ing here? You include a fan­tas­tic pho­to­graph in your post that any­one would call artis­tic, and then demon­strate the mod­esty you claim is a) the per­sonal def­i­n­i­tion of an artist?

The one thing you need to be an artist, is skill.

Was the artist who archi­tected the Taj Mahal an artist? Or the Konark Sun Tem­ple? Did the artist have the skill to exe­cute his/her vision? What about the work­ers who built the Taj Mahal or the Konark Sun Tem­ple? Hun­dreds of thou­sands of work­ers toil­ing to cre­ate a mas­ter­piece. Were they artists? These are dif­fi­cult ques­tions in the con­text of art.

No, they were not, they were artisans.

If one has arti­sans who have the skill but who do not have the artis­tic cre­ativ­ity, why does an artist need skill? Artis­tic skill can be out­sourced. Artis­tic cre­ativ­ity cannot.

Per­haps the most intrigu­ing exam­ple of the chal­lenges this topic raises lies in West­ern Clas­si­cal Music. While we gen­er­ally con­sider the orig­i­nal com­poser as an artist, what about the indi­vid­ual musi­cian in the 60-odd orches­tra who is just one of the dozen vio­lin­ists? Is she an artist or just an arti­san? What about the con­duc­tor who inter­prets the work of the com­poser and directs the orches­tra to cre­ate a ren­di­tion of the work that is unique and dif­fer­ent than other ren­di­tions of the same work? Is the con­duc­tor an artist?

I think we need a care­ful rethink of who is an artist and who is not. Mean­while, I have no doubt that the author of the post that inspired this one, is one of the most cre­ative artists I have had the priv­i­lege to know, and whose cre­ative works inspire many.

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Don’t say true things if they’re not nice
Don’t say nice things if they’re not true“
– From a San­skrit Sub­hashita (via Navin Kabra)

(The wis­dom in the above sub­hashita is good as a gen­eral guid­ing prin­ci­ple, but I do not think it should be uni­ver­sally prac­ticed in all cir­cum­stances. Some­times, as a friend, one should say true things even if they’re not nice.)

Some­times, I regret what I said.
Some­times, I regret what I did not say.

Say­ing some­thing some­times requires courage.
Not say­ing some­thing some­times requires even greater courage.

Most peo­ple are judged by what they say.
Very few are judged by what they did not say.

His­tory remem­bers you by what you said.
No one remem­bers you by what you did not say.

What you say is a quick, direct, reflec­tion of who you are.
What you do not say is a dif­fi­cult, indi­rect, reflec­tion of who you are.

What you say is often not a true reflec­tion of who you are.
What you do not say is often a very true reflec­tion of who you are.

Say­ing often eases fur­ther com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but some­times, it also impedes it.
Leav­ing some­thing unsaid some­times eases fur­ther communication.

The fool is one who is iden­ti­fied by what he said.
The wise one is who remains uniden­ti­fied by what he did not say.

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Conjoined Twins

One can exist by itself, but the other can’t. But exis­tence of the other helps one.

One comes first, the other comes lat­ter. But the other gives birth to one again.

One is nec­es­sar­ily pri­vate, the other is typ­i­cally pub­lic. The other also gives birth to one in others.

One is some­times mud­dled and con­fused. The other comes to the rescue.

One can’t com­mu­ni­cate, the other can.

One can’t make money, the other can.

One can never lie, the other can.

One is form­less, the other depends on form.

One is auto­matic and effort­less, the other requires con­scious effort.

One’s beauty can only be revealed by the other.

When one is in the dri­ving seat, the other fol­lows. Great things hap­pen when the other dri­ves one.

One is always naked, the other often dressed up.

One is infi­nite in space, has no bound­aries, and is tran­sient. The other is finite in space, but timeless.

One is think­ing, the other, writing.

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