Shades of Laughter

We all love to laugh and take laughter as a sign of all is well or sometimes of all is all too well.

On one rare occasion I got reflective about laughter and started pondering over some very basic questions:

What is laughter?

And what makes us laugh?

What does laughter tells or signifies?

The questions are dull enough to wipe out even the last trace of laughter from a face.

After some deliberation I realised that it would be wrong to believe that laughter is just – well – laughter.

Biologically, laughter is a well synchronised process of successive exhalations accompanied by sounds created by vocal cords. The trigger of laughter is usually a sense of pleasure derived from a stimulus through senses or memory.  Although laughter is seemingly a physiological phenomenon, it has deeply emotional and sociological undercurrents.

Put in a simpler way there are various shades of laughter on the basis of its trigger. Some of these shades are:

Laughter of amusement

Obviously the most common shade of laughter, it is visible when people heartily laugh on a joke.

“Boss is always right” Laughter

This shade is visible when we have to laugh at a poor joke or a joke that we don’t comprehend. This we usually do when the joke has been cracked by someone at socially higher pedestal who ironically is not laughing at all.

“I am the boss” Laughter

This implies that a person laughs at a relatively insignificant point and that laughter is more of a reminder of authority and power.

Laughter filled with cruelty

You are quite likely to have witnessed people hurting a street dog and enjoying with hearty laugh.

“I’ll be back” Laughter

When subjected to pain and torture captives have been known to use laughter as a sign of defiance and to disparage the oppressor. Even students punished by teachers sometimes resort to this shade of laughter.

Laughter of anger plus desperation

This shade of laughter is indicative of slightly unstable state of mind caused by lot of unpleasing things piling up.

“I did it” Laughter

Very often we witness this shade of laughter when a bowler has just taken a wicket or a striker has scored an important goal.

“I’m the best” Laughter

Usually this shade appears when someone narrates a tale of victory against odds especially related to war experiences.

“Johnny Johnny” Laughter

This form is common among kids when they are about be caught doing something wrong to direct the attention of parents away from the main issue.

“Gotcha!!!” Laughter

Very often the successful completion of a prank is marked by the prankster’s celebration with this shade of laughter.

“Strange things can happen!” Laughter

This shade of laughter adorns a husband who realises that he forgot his wife’s birthday and tries to compensate with an expensive gift.

“I know I’m beautiful”  Laughter

A beautiful young woman sometimes laughs to acknowledge the adulation to her beauty and also to add an element of style. (Here I would like to make clear that I believe that beauty is a very subjective and relative concept and every individual has a right to feel beautiful about himself /herself. )

 

Life is filled with numerous hues of various emotions. I am sure there are many more shades of laughter that I have not outlined. We all love to laugh but I also enjoy watching people laugh, observing the shades of laughter and connecting to the reasons for their laughter.

Why Narendra Modi should lead India.

In the history of Independent India, there hasn’t been a political figure more polarizing than Narendra Modi. People either adore him or abhor him. They see him either as the saviour or as the terminator.

I have read the articles of lots of learned minds articulating on why India should avoid Modi in General Elections 2014. Some of these articles I tried to dismiss as being influenced and patronised by Modi’s powerful detractors. This is much like the people who find pro Modi articles being patronized by Modi himself.

But that suspicion apart, I find most of these articles being a mix of dismissive and alarmist. They list certain instances which they label as supporting top businessmen, or selling out to capitalists. They raise questions on the possibility of replicating the “Gujarat Model of development”. They point incriminating fingers on his role as a perpetrator of the Godhra riots.

What I find most amusing is that even people from within the BJP try to warn of the pitfalls of having Modi as the PM.

The run up to General Elections 2014

Just a year ago the nation was witnessing a complacent government failing on almost all fronts – domestic and diplomatic. Interestingly that complacence was gaudily adorned by a strange air of arrogance. The reason was simple: there was no political outfit on the horizon strong enough to challenge its supremacy. It felt increasingly confident having mastered the art of coalition and alliances. It had the trump cards of Telangana and food security up its sleeves. It had left the biggest opposition party for dead. The BJP was just a party with an aging leader too weak to bind things together.

Then it happened. For some reasons which a non political person like me is still unable to figure out, Narendra Modi was declared the Prime ministerial candidate by the BJP. This was despite the opposition of senior party leaders and the RSS.

Congress leadership was confident enough that Narendra Modi was a soft target given his “non-secular” record.

But as it turned, out lot of political calculations seemed to go wrong. And suddenly the political equations started changing quickly.

Today Narendra Modi seems to be a formidable claimant to the post of Prime Minister.

As a common man here is what I see as reasons strengthening his claim.

1. Ability to lead from the front.

That the BJP was in shambles was no secret. Despite having some big leaders, party morale was down. In Narendra Modi I have seen the zeal to take charge in the most straight forward manner – making no secret of his aspirations to lead the country. He silently went about working really hard in balancing his responsibilities as the CM and task of  galvanising the party ranks and winning the support of the masses. India has not seen a leader of this intensity since the death of Indira Gandhi. Of course I am not comparing the two in terms of their political achievements because it’s early days for Mr Modi. But the intensity of the desire to lead and of the confidence that he will be able to bring about a change is very impressive.

2. Combination of Political leader and business leader

There was a time when the most desirable trait for a top post was administrative skills. It’s not so any more. Today people at the top posts across diverse fields including medicine, engineering, law etc. are expected to have sound business acumen.

In Narendra Modi I see that combination which a developing country like India desperately needs. Every sector – agriculture, technology, services, manufacturing – is brimming with potential which if tapped with vision and aggression can fuel the economic growth that can be real engine for poverty alleviation.

3. Reputation of a hard task master

Over the last decade as the CM of Gujarat, Narendra Modi has earned an image of a hard task master: a man, who means business at any cost. In doing so he has earned enemies too. But that has not made him change his style of functioning. One good thing about any hard task master is that he has kept the standards high. This helps the entire system.

4. Ability for Personal Branding

Strong leaders have  a knack of self branding. Narendra Modi is a carefully cultivated brand. He has also cultivated the brand “Gujarat”. For many this is  quite negative but I believe that the personal brand of a leader goes a long way in deciding the brand of the organisation or the country he/she leads. A weakened brand of Obama has meant a weakened image of the US. It’s high time India was led by a figure with the image and credentials of a decisive leader.

 

5. Fighting the most negative tag of “communal”

I have yet to meet a Muslim friend who out-rightly supports Narendra Modi. This is a proof that they believe him to be anti Muslims.

Here I would like to make it very clear that I have deep respect for all the religions and I respect individuals for what they are and not because of the religion they follow. I also believe that the most of the common people like me are convinced that Narendra Modi is not anti Muslims. It is simply not possible for anyone with a narrow minded outlook to achieve anything politically in a country like India. I am also convinced that economy driven priorities that Narendra Modi has exhibited, will ensure the safety of one and all. This is because it is impossible for economy to thrive in an environment of mistrust. Also a leader like him would never play with religious harmony which is an integral part of identity of India.

It was because of the communal tag, that his opponents had written him off. So, I consider his ability to fight this grave allegation with a single minded focus on economic agenda to be a strength.

But what about his flaws!!! 

There have been some sharp criticisms against him. As a common man I don’t have any authentic data to factually counter them. But I have logical point.

There is no single charge against him which is not shared by many politicians. These include:

1. Providing favours to the industrialists.

2. Being autocratic so much so that people see a Hitler in him.

3. Indulging in self praise.

I am sure that we all can think of dozens of top politicians who can be associated with these flaws. In fact it won’t be difficult to think of many more with far far graver flaws. Although Modi’s flaws are shared by all and sundry, his strengths or rather the combination of these strengths is rare and unique to him.

We often credit Chinese growth to a strong leadership and long term vision.

As a common man, I want to see India led by Narendra Modi. Not only because he is strong but also because no one else comes even close.

Freedom lies in the orbits.

After reading my last post, in which I sketched lot of distorted versions of freedom in the contemporary society, some readers raised the questions that “then what exactly is freedom?”

In this post I try to answer the very basic question : What is freedom?

To seek an answer, I look towards nature. I believe both the flora and the fauna in nature can be examples of free state.

A wild plant can grow anywhere where it is possible; an animal can go wherever it wants to.

Or so it seems.

Had it been so, there would be no concept of ecosystems and wild life diversity and conservation. Plants and animal species are limited to the areas, most suited for their growth and sustenance. A tree is free to grow and grow, but grows only to the point of sustenance.

No freedom can be absolute. In other words, absolute freedom doesn’t exist.

We come back to the question: What is freedom?

I think the answer is in the concept of Orbits.

The entire universe is governed by orbits, zillions of them. Right from an atom to solar systems, orbits are all pervasive. It would be an understatement to say that we exist because systems both micro and macro abide by orbits.

Freedom for an electron or a planet is the ability to go anywhere in an orbit but not beyond the orbit.

And the power or ensuring this orbit lies with a body at the centre which may by the nucleus of an atom or the Sun in our solar system. If the nucleus or the Sun disintegrates, the entire system will disintegrate. Then the electron or a planet will be “free” from the orbit but will have no meaning.

Coming to human perspective, since man is a social animal, the power centres are also of social nature.

Family, religion, communities, manners, good habits have served as the nucleus to determine the orbit.

Imagine an entity that would want the electrons to deviate from the orbit for the benefit of that entity. Or another entity (a star bigger than the Sun) who would want the earth to deviate from its orbit. It’s not difficult to imagine the ensuing catastrophe.

I somehow feel that the corporate is the entity that for its benefit wants individual to break free from the orbits held together by family, religion and community.

And the lethal tool in their hand is “advertisements.” Unsuspecting people don’t even realise when they fall prey to these craftily designed messages and images that “hijack” their thought processes and mentally enslave them. Many Hollywood movies are also an extension of the corporate. The corporate – through lobbying – haven’t spared even the legislative of the most powerful nation – the U.S. Reality shows on television (excluding the talent hunt ones) have proved to have a strong psychological influence especially on the youth.

The message is “challenge the limits..they are holding back your freedom”. This effectively translates into break free from the orbit – of your family, your religion, your community.

The world is full of messages inviting, tempting and tantalising to break free of the orbits.

Lot of people who give in to the pull of fitting in to the “contemporary images” created by the corporate often end up disillusioned.

The real freedom is the freedom of the mind. The crux of freedom lies in realising the limits of the orbit which only conscious intellect can do. Thus real freedom is a function of an aware intellect.

Society has its share of vices. Slavery is a vice as it chains the freedom of the mind more than the freedom of the body. Religious fundamentalism is a vice again as it chains the inquisitive mind. Apartheid and racism are vices because these are manifestations of a narrow and constricted mind.

The greatest people on the earth have sought to free the society of these vices. Swami Vivekananda, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa were the people who understood the meaning of freedom and tried to spread it. But none of them tried to break free of the social orbits.

Freedom is poetry; freedom is science.

Science, with the help of mathematics, tries to discover and understand the physical orbits to leverage them to the benefit of the mankind. Poetry tries to map and challenge metaphysical orbits through the use of language.

Following any ideology without assessing its intellectual worth is the antithesis of freedom.

In my last post I said that the world is being increasingly inhabited by zombies. This is because most of us are following and consuming ideas and products just because they seem fashionable.

Challenging orbits in the name of freedom has led the world to the World war II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, sub-prime crisis in the U.S., Euro crisis.

Understanding orbits leading to the authentic freedom has been epitomized by Copernicus, Charles Darwin, Newton, Einstein, Shakespeare, Homer, Gandhi, Tagore etc.

Come let us seek the real freedom and liberation.

Near death, explained

THE KNOWLEDGE DOME

An interesting read on Out of Body experience and Near death experiences.

http://www.salon.com/2012/04/21/near_death_explained/

Excerpt: “Essentially, Pam agreed to die in order to save her life—and in the process had what is perhaps the most famous case of independent corroboration of out of body experience (OBE) perceptions on record. This case is especially important because cardiologist Michael Sabom was able to obtain verification from medical personnel regarding crucial details of the surgical intervention that Pam reported. Here’s what happened.”

…….At this point, Pam’s out-of-body adventure transformed into a near-death experience (NDE): She recalls floating out of the operating room and traveling down a tunnel with a light. She saw deceased relatives and friends, including her long-dead grandmother, waiting at the end of this tunnel. She entered the presence of a brilliant, wonderfully warm and loving light, and sensed that her soul was part of God and that…

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My Heart Almost Stood Still

THE KNOWLEDGE DOME

The New York Symphony Orchestra,

New York City.

Dear Friends:

I have the joy of being able to tell you that, though deaf and blind, I spent a glorious hour last night listening over the radio to Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.” I do not mean to say that I “heard” the music in the sense that other people heard it; and I do not know whether I can make you understand how it was possible for me to derive pleasure from the symphony. It was a great surprise to myself. I had been reading in my magazine for the blind of the happiness that the radio was bringing to the sightless everywhere. I was delighted to know that the blind had gained a new source of enjoyment; but I did not dream that I could have any part in their joy. Last night, when the family was listening to your wonderful…

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In the shackles of Freedom.

It didn’t occur to me. Not until I gave this as a topic for an extempore exercise a couple of days back. The topic was “Freedom”.

As expected, one after the other speaker started praising- no – eulogizing freedom.

And suddenly, I found myself wondering whether we truly understand freedom?

freedom3

I believe freedom is one of the most glorified and least understood ideas. It is a notional virtue whose value is enhanced by its amorphous definition. When somebody says “freedom”, he may mean any of the following:

Freedom from Human Slavery

Freedom in this form is the noblest idea indeed. Nothing more shameful has inflicted mankind than the idea of one human enslaving another. The world deserves to be endowed with the implementation of this notion of freedom.

Freedom to follow a religion

This notion of freedom is pure and noble indeed. Although religion is not necessary for existence as we can see in case of animals, it can give meaning to human existence. Thus a person must be free to choose the way (s)he wants to seek that meaning. A Cassius Clay must be free to become a Mohammad Ali.

Freedom from hard work     

In this form the idea is “a free man doesn’t have to work hard”. A mind that seeks this form of freedom is representative of all that has slowed down the progress of certain individuals, societies and even nations as a whole. At the same time, individuals and societies that have cohabited with hard work have led the way to achievements and prosperity.

Freedom from discipline

This seems to be the ideal of modern lifestyle. In this form, discipline is considered to be antithesis of freedom. People driven by this idea of freedom like to do things when they like to do and not when they are supposed to be done. From students to employees, people crave for this freedom.

Freedom from traditions and customs

Freedom in this form is sensible when it challenges those traditions and customs that defy logic or lack contemporary relevance. But seeking freedom from traditions simply because it doesn’t gel with idea of “modernity” is indicative of low self esteem.

Freedom from the notions of health and hygiene

Today, most of the people look down upon someone who advises to avoid indulgence in junk food, smoking and alcohol. “Don’t even try to take away my freedom to choose what I eat and drink” seems to be the stern message.

Freedom from “Ugliness”

We are living in the age of standardized notions of beauty. Not that earlier there were no standards for beauty, but they were not strictly imposed by an individual upon him/her self. Anorexia is a relatively recent phenomenon. Nose jobs, lip jobs, liposuction……….. “ugliness” should be defeated at any cost.

These distorted ideas of freedom are primary breeding ground for consumerism and are being marketed by the corporate that stand to gain the most from this freedom.

Most of the advertisements today feature either “attractive” women or “smart” kids and try to dictate the “ideal” notion of freedom. And most of the people gradually respond by getting enslaved by these notions of freedom.

Freedom is having a soft drink / drink/ fag whenever you want it. (Freedom from discipline)

Freedom is being fair and having blemish less skin. (Freedom from “Ugliness”)

Freedom is the ability to choose a particular brand of tobacco. (Freedom from the notions of health and hygiene)

Freedom is having glossy hair without any human frailties. (Freedom from “Ugliness”)

Freedom is insulting the elderly. (Freedom from traditions and customs)

Freedom is buying a degree. (Freedom from hard work)

Freedom is putting on jeans and shoes of a particular brand.

Freedom means showering bullets on the innocent.

Freedom is using abusive language freely. (Freedom from traditions and customs)

Also we are given to understand that if you are not free by the above and similar standards, shame on you.

freedom2 freedom1

The world is being increasingly inhabited by “free” zombies – people who want freedom without understanding the responsibilities inherent in the idea of freedom.

Instead of celebrating our freedom we are falling prey to the clutches of distorted ideas of freedom.

Thanks for your time.