Philanthropy comes in two flavors. One is where you make a lot of money doing whatever it is that you do, and then spend a large part of it in directly helping other people. Bill Gates is a philanthropist of this kind. The second kind is where you collect money from a large number of people and put it to good use. Organizational charities do philanthropy of this kind. So do spiritual leaders, like the god men of India.
I have had the pleasure of driving in many parts of the world. Being fairly observant and having a tendency to theorize about everything, I have come to form a general theory about driving habits as well.
You see, each place has a set of driving norms, a grammar or a dialect of driving, if you will. In Marseille, France, for instance, if you switch on your turn signal on a multilane street, people will immediately let you in. It’s not because they are polite and considerate drivers (quite the contrary, in fact), but a turn signal indicates the drivers’ intention to change lanes, not a request to let them. They are not seeking permission; they are merely letting you know. You’d better let them in unless you want a collision. In Geneva (Switzerland), on the other hand, the turn signal is really a request, which is usually denied.
In India, they say politics is the last resort of a scoundrel. And it does seem to hold true there; Indian politicians are, by and large, corrupt crooks and bullies.
A quick Google research shows that it was Dr. Samuel Johnson who said, “Patriotism is the last resort of the scoundrel.” I guess our colonial rulers modified to suit the Indian condition. In any case, Indians staying out of politics suited the colonial rulers just fine. What is sad is that the Indian politics still attracts mostly scoundrels even after almost seventy years of independence.
Most people (who are likely to read this post) think of their financial station as middle class, so you might find it strange that I should say the middle class is disappearing. But the polarization in the wealth distribution of the world is very real, and it is visible at every strata of the society. I would like to convince you by anecdotes and examples before getting logical and formal about it.
Marshall Brain, as you may know, is the founder of HowStuffWorks.com and a well known speaker, teacher, writer etc. Although he wrote Manna as fiction, he was so certain that it was the way of our future that he actually patented the system he described (if memory serves). Of course, he was right. I just got this link from a friend about how fulfillment centers work — how do you get the same-day or next day delivery on all those mountains of things that you order from the Internet? Here is how. It is astonishing how similar this scenario is to what Marshall Brain described in Manna.
Style Trendsetters is a new blog that I started recently to showcase fashion tips and views by Kavita Thulasidas, who enjoys a celebrity status in the fashion circles in Singapore and India. The name “Style Trendsetters” comes from the tag line of Kavita’s extremely popular fashion boutique, Stylemart. They are considered the trendsetters of Indian fashion in Singapore.
Some recent events have prompted me to revisit this uncomfortable topic — why do we grieve when someone dies?
Most religions tell us that the departed, if they were good in life, end up in a better place. So grieving doesn’t make sense. If the departed were bad, we wouldn’t grieve any way.
Even if you are not religious, and do not believe in an eternal soul, death cannot be a bad thing for the dead, for they feel nothing, because they do not exist, which is the definition of death.
Just read the news that Prof Maryam Mirzakhani won the prestigious Fields medal (the equivalent of Nobel prize in Mathematics). She is the first woman to ever win the prize. First of all, congratulations to her. Coming from an Iranian background, being a woman, I’m sure it must have been hard for her.
Women seem to have difficulties in quantitative fields — we see this everywhere. The general belief is that compared to men, women are more creative and intuitive, but less analytical. They take in the world as a whole. Theirs is a romantic understanding, concentrating on the immediate appearance and values of the objects around them. This mode of understanding is to be contrasted with the analytic, classical understanding of men, who seem to mentally divide things in smaller, manageable chunks and drill down to the underlying forms to come to grip with world around them. In giving this description, I’m trying to paraphrase what Richard Pirsig said in the opening chapters of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The analytic mode of understanding lends itself better to quantitative fields like mathematics, and hence the paucity of brilliance among female mathematicians.
I was as shocked as everybody else when I heard the news of Robin Williams’s apparent suicide. I wanted to write something about it because I am ardent fan of his work. In fact, I’m a fan of all those talented people who can make others laugh, starting from Ted Danson of Cheers to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, and all the f.r.i.e.n.d.s in between.
It also gets me thinking. Most of us want to be rich and famous. But money and fame don’t seem to be enough to keep anybody happy. Why is that? As usual, I have a theory about it. In fact, I have two. I will share both with you, but keep in mind that these are merely the theories of an unreal blogger, nothing more. The theories notwithstanding, right now, I just feel profoundly sad, almost as though Robin Williams was somebody I knew and cared about. It is silly, of course, but something about his age (and how uncomfortably close it is to mine), the suddenness of his death, and the fact that he made us laugh out loud, makes his parting something of a personal loss.
As you may have noticed, I haven’t been writing much in the last couple of months. It was because of one of my regularly scheduled writer’s blocks. When I’m blocked, I usually find other things to do, and convince myself that they are really important and urgent. One such thing this time around was a revamping of my blog backend. The original design was dated, and it really needed an upgrade. Or so I told myself and worked on it for a few weeks. If you are reading this post, you can see the fruits of my labor. And I hope you like it.