Stuffing For Boxes — August 2, 2016

Stuffing For Boxes


I. Malleable Minds

The philosophical theory of dualism (Rene Descartes) expounds the independence between mind and body. It suggests that the brain is a somatic organ performing the biological function of controlling the nervous system and mind is a non-spatial structure characterised by consciousness and perspicacity. Therefore, reasoning happens in the abstract space called mind and not the brain.

To grasp the idea, visualise the thinking portion of our consciousness as a coarse, unworked piece of clay (which forms an ideal substitute because of similar qualities of malleability). Clay casting skills allow for construction of simple figures to conjuration of intricate sculptures. Comparably, dissimilar minds conceive ideas ranging from uncomplicated to fantastical. The ability to shape clay is enhanced through modelling lessons. The formal equivalent for moulding minds is education.

Education’s power to transform sensibilities remains intact even centuries after the first lessons were imparted. It has remained the most powerful tool available to metamorphose an individual (and through assembly, entire society). Keeping merely that benefit in mind, it commands a remarkable place in any society at any point in time. However, this significance gains colossal proportions when it is viewed adjacent to the present state of India.

II. State of India


The condition of our nation is dire in many ways. Any discerning individual inspecting India closely today would detect an intellectual deterioration setting about the burgeoning populace. Hypocrisy seems to have become the primary characteristic of the Indian society led by specious politicians and sanctimonious orators who wax eloquent about showering care on the helpless, old, infants and ensuring equitable progress for all. The reality is far from these claims-

  • An attitude of abandonment and cruel insensitivity best represents how the old are regarded.
  • Child welfare is neglected in every aspect; physical well-being, mental development or financial security.
  • The poor and the marginalised are treated as unwanted sections whose existence needs to be swept under the carpet and hidden away from our consciousness (there was an instance during the preparation of the Delhi Commonwealth Games when instead of redeveloping a shambolic slum cluster, the Government decided to erect huge hoardings in front of their shacks to remove them from view).
  • Life in our ‘proud’ nation is characterised by a sickening perception of women in the minds of men who seem to be on the prowl like predators on roads, in buses, trains, restaurants, parks, night clubs and any other place conceivable.
  • Brutality against the weak is rampant through leveraging of majoritarian religious or political “ideologies” executed by imbeciles who are only looking for an adrenaline rush and impetuously view their violent tendencies through shades of righteousness.

However, hooliganism and delinquency only form the more visible and criticised side of the coin. The other end of the social spectrum is marred by crass elitism and intellectual snobbery treating anything not sanctioned by it with a high brow attitude. The only purposes this serves (besides the redundant one of fuelling empty egos) is the elimination of an opportunity for integration of the ‘lower’ class. The privileged section of our society is so deeply ensconced in its comfortable cocoon that the act of questioning is mostly perceived as superfluous and deemed as ‘overthought’. People have the means to alter things but primary interest lies only in strengthening the position in the social order and upgrading to superior opulence. The selfishness is deep-rooted and unconscious and those usually capable of extraordinary discernment about other matters become blind to their own cruelty and thoughtlessness towards the comparatively unfortunate .

Therefore, the two headed beast of political apathy and reluctance to share prosperity is the reason why India is failing to flourish inspite of natural and human riches. In such an atmosphere, all economic or political attempts towards upliftment remain futile due to eventual obstruction by powerful money spinners or corrupt politicians looking to maintain the status quo.

III. Power of Education

Considering these factors, it is obvious that education holds greater importance in the Indian context. Sound education can make the perpetrators of the present, unjust system conscious of their actions and the victims enlightened to the realities of their own existence. This would require a setup providing encumbrance-free insight and an ability to think critically. The present Indian structure is grossly inadequate to serve this purpose and an overhaul of the entire system is urgently required if schooling is to have any impact on the condition of the masses.

The requisite process is a long drawn one; requiring shrewd forethought, painstaking efforts and considerable financial impetus. Resultantly, the proclamation deeming the all-shadowing supremacy of education is fiercely contested by proponents of technological literacy who claim that a cumbersome tutelage is not a compulsion for ascendence of the lowest sections of society. Instead, free access to technology and an instruction to use it may be adequate to serve the purpose of empowerment (this might be a version of the thought behind This rationale is agreeable in some part. The importance of technology cannot be undermined in today’s times of digitisation and electronic connectivity. Technology, if used correctly, can prove revolutionary and save productive time and money. But it must be kept in mind that technological literacy (and the internet) can be a two edged sword, the wrong side of which can result in shredding a heap of useful hours into scrolling through irrelevant information. A sensitive mind would be required to filter the detrimental effects of technology or we will next be dealing with a social rot stemming from the top of each person’s palm.

Education, therefore, is indisputably the best means of transcendence available. It could help each person to critically introspect, find their places and extricate themselves from whatever unfavourable social condition they may be withstanding.

IV. Flaws in the Indian Education System


Having established the dire need of a sound education, it would be unwise to circumvent the warped perspective with which pedagogy is viewed in India. The fact that college level education is abysmal and spewing unoriginal research is well recorded by social and political commentators and it would be futile to add to the din. My vexation instead stems from an under-discussed issue that could possibly address the root of all problems — the method followed in schools to impart education to the youngest children.

The schools in India can be demarcated into visibly separate portions-private and public.

The public schools are underfunded, poorly managed and are in an overall shambolic state. A large reason for such mismanagement is government’s apathy, lack of adequate monetary impetus and under-qualified, disinterested teachers who are often guilty of treating the children without any care or respect. Therefore, the entire onus of gleaning knowledge falls upon the child himself / herself. These children often belong to families facing financial hardships with plenty of factors distracting them from their studies. As a result, many government school classes descend into unruly and chaotic spaces. The result of twelve years of such education are undereducated students who lack employable skills.

The private education environment primarily serves the elite section of the Indian society. These schools are characterised by conformity, excessive strictness and a sense of false pride arising due to the instilling of these two attributes. An assembly line approach is seen in every aspect of the private school experience and the fraternity is very enthusiastically embroiled in creating ‘products’ (I was aghast when I heard the term used in the context of humans during a conversation. I thought products came from factories).

Everyone is supposed to look the same in the same uniforms (individuality is taboo), study the same lessons, regurgitate the same answers in examinations, fight for the same places in “streams” unknowledgeable fifteen year olds are forced to opt to form the basis for the rest of their professional careers. Thereafter, the students are all expected to tussle over seats in the same “prestigious” institutions that repeat the whole process all over again to eventually present the deluded albeit illustrious candidate a job (a job mind, not a career).

I think the whole system is absurd and ludicrous and if incorporated with identical haircuts would be one Kim Jong Un would be proud of. This is never going to be successful because it forgets to factor in the psyche of the most important part of the whole machinery-the children.

Children thrive in unpredictability and dynamism. That is their nature by default and is what lends their thought process innocence, beauty and joy. To come up with such an elaborate system to coerce creativity and originality away must have taken extreme contemplation, planning and stupidity. The encouragement of a practice which demolishes individual streak to instil discipline and an ability to recall facts at will needs a serious rethink. All this strategy achieves is to transform minds into stuffing used to fill up rows upon rows of office shaped boxes. The purpose of these offices is to mint money for corporations that share an extremely unfair amount with their overexploited employees. These employees then spend those amounts to fill their box shaped houses with materialistic things which are equated to happiness and progress.

What the lack of a sound education has done is to make critical thinking appear redundant to this vast class of extremely obedient and employable sect. Instead reliance is placed on opinionated journalists, haste inspired news app articles, social media formed of uninformed opinions and an underdeveloped ‘common sense’ for making judgement. Moreover, in the race to accumulate symbols of modernity the individual is losing touch with the simpler, basic self. This results in discontentment, dejection and a generation of directionless youth. Hence, even though materialism may overpower logic for a short duration, as soon as one obtains the maturity to question the fulfilment of personal actualisation needs, the whole mirage tends to fall flat.

The source of these materialistic tendencies seems to be a phenomenon that is making India gravitate towards an America like consumerist society revolving around desires to earn and own. It is arguable whether Americanisation of sensibilities is disagreeable or may be advantageous and progressive for a young country such as ours (it is after all a great nation responsible for fuelling development and intelligent thought). One would be inclined to agree to the latter, except prudence reminds that a Donald Trump like personality is in with a genuine chance of running that glorious country of free thinkers. It is debatable whether such a political predicament is worse than the non functional legislative machinery of our country. But however long we may roll our r’s and embrace the generous gifts of America, it is certain that nobody wants India’s political, economic and intellectual atmosphere to be suffering from the epidemic like immaturity that we have become acclimated to (if only America wasn’t as magnanimous towards Pakistan’s military). Therefore, proper rectification measures for the education system need to be instituted at the earliest.

V. Possible Measures


The questionable material standards with which Indians view success have percolated to the institutions with the important responsibility of shaping the youngest and the most impressionable part of our lives. Resultantly, an unneeded sense of competitiveness is prevalent in an entire generation constantly trying to outsmart on superficial levels. This is uncomfortably visible through the general proclivity of the young Indian to prove to be the ‘best’ at everything (which translates to being better than everybody in their limited circle or immediate vicinity). This sense has taken over thought processes and allusions to being superior / more knowledgeable dominates (and effectively kills) conversations. The only way grudging respect is earned is generally based on materialistic factors.

The rigidity and abrasiveness of this system might have left an indelible imprint on the psyche of the Indian populace and the damage would be difficult (if not irreversible) to rectify. However, a little respite is available in the fact that the problem is not hard to spot and if the wheels are turned in motion with promptness we might yet salvage a somewhat functional social structure.

Jean Jacques Rousseau in his book ‘On Education’ advocated the need to impart individual child-focussed education. The book propounds that children are good by default and the key to raising them is to prevent their corruption by society. He believed childhood should be full of play and exposure to nature. His teachings are still very relevant today, especially in the Indian context.

The Indian education system is only aiming towards monetising intelligence leading to lopsided personality growth of its students. Most schools in Delhi are focussing merely on academic laurels and completely disregarding holistic development of children entering their precincts. This is the primary problem to be addressed.

The solution to the problem is seemingly simple-let the children focus on creative interests besides merely scoring marks during their formative years. Such a plan would incorporate focussing more on life skills and provision of an understanding of arts, sports and the world in general instead of breeding humans for academic excellence. The benefits of this alternate system would be multifold-

  • Economics — Emphasis on augmenting creativity during formative years would create an alteration in how every individual approaches problem solving. This would translate into an instinctive tendency to innovate in future vocations contributing to the development of a pragmatic, utilitarian economic ecosystem.
  • Politics — Providing the students with an ability to think critically and to question would result in recognition of problems surrounding them from a very young age and implore them to indulge in public discourse to look for solutions. This would lead to politically responsible citizens eager to engage for improvement.
  • Art — An entire generation of young people involved in artistic endeavours would bring a cultural overhaul, removing the vulgarity / staidness from presently created art. It would also take away the excessive pressure felt by the normal working class twenty-something forced to spend strenuous hours in foreboding workplaces through an artistic outlet.
  • Sports — Considering India’s large population, the country’s achievements in sports feel extremely underwhelming which can be traced to untapped and underdevelopment of latent talent. A policy of intensive involvement of children would help to produce better athletes and consequently improve the country’s standing in the international arena.
  • Personal — The children can explore their creative sides helping them to express better. In the longer run, each individual would have at least one hobby to cherish and refine. It would be simpler to naturally forge friendships through the exploration of common interests.
  • Uncomplicated implementation — The most important point to note is that this system of education is steeped in simplicity, is inexpensive and easy to implement in both new and existing educational setups.

Its is possible that the above suggestions might come across as idealistic and impractical but the truth is the exact opposite. This alternative system of education is already being executed in a free progress school in Delhi called Mirambika and the results are very encouraging. I have had an opportunity to study and interact with erstwhile students of the school and the children invariably seem to be happier, friendlier and more talented than the average Delhi school ‘product’. Such students don’t fit in very well to the conventional occupational structure but that is the whole point of this system. Their perspective is never limited by run of the mill priorities and consequently most of them have ended up creating niches for themselves, often excelling in the arts and humanities.

It is high time that this system is immediately introduced in other schools as well. Even if a complete overhaul seems unpalatable, a beginning with incorporation of certain aspects would go a long way in transforming the ugly, dangerous beast our nation is becoming into an India we could actually be proud of.

PS- Indian Psychology Institute’s analysis of Mirambika education

Some Places Are People Too — January 20, 2016

Some Places Are People Too


Life has unarguably become extremely agreeable. It has never been easier to demand and instantaneously obtain comfort than now. The option of never having to leave the tranquility of our homes exists because there is invariably a piece of technology that can get the job done. This leads to an increase in individual productivity. So life cycle becomes fast people adopting scientific advancements and therefore turning into even faster people. The lucidity of the cycle is beautiful. Continue reading

Fight Club —

Fight Club


Each person has a peculiar way of living, personal philosophies about life and their own ideas of correctness. The fun of having to live as a part of society is that all these people with varying ideas are forced to coexist together and are expected to do so peacefully (barring people with diplomatic immunity).

This diversity can be a beautiful thing at times (like a pack of colourful, multicoloured Skittles) except for the fact that with the sheer number of people we have to cohabit with; it becomes an onerous task to be able to find people who share the same viewpoint and idea of beauty.

The most conspicuous effect of this miscellany is that it has become extremely difficult to make friends effortlessly (not the Facebook kind, that’s quite the contrary). The process of becoming friends now entails hours of social chatter, pointless small talk, conformity in relation to the group’s preferred intoxicant and other tastes (clothes, phones, Honey Singh, Hotline Bling). Therefore, befriending people turns from the ideal exercise in comfort into an exercise.

This has been proving to be doubly difficult for me. People I have had a chance to come across recently have very different criteria while gauging people than my own (niceness and intelligence, in that order). That fact, combined with my slightly inappropriate sense of humour, means that I am generally thanking my stars if I am able to navigate social scenarios without disagreeable experiences. So I end up grumbling about the world being illogical at times.

Thankfully, there exists a very different space (Fight Club). It is a place that is never unwelcoming and where the regular rules don’t apply. It is a place where everyone is equal and can bring their philosophies / mentality and express themselves through skill rather than loud words and louder actions. It is a place where different people work through their differences, because differences cannot exist when you are on the same team and need to move the ball.

Football is not called the beautiful game for nothing. There is a reason that something that starts as an innocuous hobby as a little child soon turns into a full-blown love affair for most people. Football is the most giving lover of them all.

The act of transforming from an individual to a player is a process of magical metamorphosis. Just to be able to survive on a pitch requires technique, skill, strength, speed and a very keen game sense. Sport can be a great leveller. Whoever you are when you are outside, you don’t exist if you don’t have any of those on the pitch.

The most advantageous (and often underemphasised) fact about football is that you can learn a lot about people. Words lie, eyes cheat, faces deceive but your feet will always give you away for what you are. I (and history, if we talk in grander scales) measure people through how they conduct themselves on the pitch. You always know what grandeur a person is deluding himself with and the sort of respect he harbours for you by the simple test of judging the exact moment when the ball is passed. The best players (and the best people) for me are the ones who make sure that their team wins. Whether it is done through their feet or someone else’s remains inconsequential.

That’s another reason why football is such a romantic sport — because you play for and as part of a living, breathing and burgeoning team. I think that’s where it scores over other sports. Other sports also probably demand similar things from players. But the fact that geniuses like Messi, Neymar and Ronaldinho can create magic together instead of having to do so against each other (Federer-Nadal) is what makes for absolutely scintillating moments and memories. They are not greats alone, they make everyone around them great. That’s a huge reason why there are a lot more friendships in football than rivalries (clubs are cut-throat rivals, men very rarely).

Speaking of rivalries, competitive football is another behemoth in itself. Tournaments are basically war. Think of two units putting their bodies on the line in intense, high-speed battles to make sure that the ball crosses the opponent’s goal line. No one holds back. They are one hundred per cent adrenaline affairs characterised by full throttle tackling, blinding speed and hard, fast shots.

I cannot even begin to describe everything football has taught me. As one grows as a player, one grows as a person. The most important thing it teaches is tolerance. A lot of people I am a good friend with today are people who would have never even spoken with me because we have so many fundamental dissimilarities. Yet the only dissimilarities we have on the field is that they play defence / striker and I don’t. And it is because of our dissimilarities that I need them to be there as much as they need me. It is one of the most natural and unselfish codependence there is.

I have been asked why people lose it for just a game. The point is that it is never just a game. It is twenty-two people’s dreams, toil and plans unfolding in front of your eyes in ninety minutes. And it is almost impossible to not let your own hopes and dreams mingle with theirs. They are heroes after all.

So get your friends and get some Charlie
‘Coz Jamie Vardy’s havin’ a party

PS- Here is a link to some very pure madness.

Juvenility —


The fact that teenage is the toughest phase of an individual’s life is well established through popular culture and personal experience. It is a time fraught with uncertainties, insecurities and deep, recurring identity crises as one tries to decipher his or her respective place in the world. Keeping this in mind, it is unsurprising that teenagers indulge in and get away with outrageous things. No one is entitled to judge them for it (besides their contemporaries, who of course are only children).

Thankfully, this juncture of indecisiveness and peer judgments is short lived and the clouds of sullen silences and sulky afternoons dissipate quickly. Everyone takes their time to deal with their demons, fight with others (and themselves), grow up and come out on the other side as shining, stunning, ‘perfectly balanced’ adults.

However, my case is slightly trickier as I am having trouble dealing with adulthood. I don’t mean to imply that I throw tantrums at the drop of a hat and be loud and obnoxious every time things don’t go my way (some people will disagree). The situation is a lot less severe with my only peeve being that people have begun to take themselves too seriously and by association look at everything around them superciliously.

As an adult, each one of us is now required to be perennially somber, brooding and intense or otherwise risk being labeled childish and overseen on account of frivolity. The rules of social engagement as adults are even more ridiculous than the silly, boorish standards of ordinary school groups (age is indeed just a number for some people). Ostentation seems to have become a pre-requisite to fit in today. Everyone is pretending to be thinking of and conversing about ‘matters of consequence’ in company of new people (while mostly spewing incorrect facts).

Money, career, politics and superficialities decide whether someone is worthy of conversation; because looking beneath the surface wastes too much of the precious commodities that are our time and effort. The amount, immediacy and reasons for which adults judge can put any teenager to shame.

Recently, a New York University girl accosted me in a party. She seemed pleasant and genuinely interested in making conversation. However her interest was limited to the point where she dawned upon the fact that I was a Delhi student, subsequent to which she quickly transferred to my adjacent friend. The funniest part was that her train of thought seemed to be overtaken with what school and college we went to, what courses we took and what our GPA was. Her imagination was so gripped by scores and numbers that she seemed oblivious to the real people surrounding her. Maybe intelligence is a virtue that has eluded me but I had to work extremely hard to suppress my laughter.

The Futility of Words

One other strange encounter was with an extremely educated (and well meaning I’m sure) lady who seemed slightly deflated by the fact that I prefer fiction (she specifically enquired). Her preceding warmth was tinged with a hint of chilliness after the revelation. For the remainder of the conversation, I felt like a child who had broken something. I was judged (for talking about Marquez) and it was extremely uncomfortable.

Another awkward evening was a party (Read: PARTAYYY!!) where I was supposed to meet a few old friends (plus their new acquaintances) after a long time, consequent to much wrangling and coordination. I was expecting an evening of fuzziness, laughter, anecdotes and nostalgia. Instead I ended up cowering in a corner-watching strangers perform for each other. The conversations were dominated by brags about people’s respective careers and swapping of phone numbers. I soon realised it was more a workplace networking event than anything else. I escaped as quickly as I could.

So naturally, I think grown-ups suck.

I am not sure whether growing up was one exact moment or an extended phase characterised by gloomy stares and whimsical silences. According to me, it was the time when the word innocence transformed from being a desirable trait and a term with a positive connotation into one that suggested gullibility. I think I prefer gullible, innocent people to the smart, suave ones who are adept at the ways of the world.

I realised this recently when someone made me read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book called The Little Prince (it teaches valuable things). The book talks about the hypocrisy and stupidity of the grown up world through a simple story that even little children would understand. The person who introduced me to the book is a little like The Little Prince herself and is one of the most wonderful people I have ever met.

She mostly sees the good in everyone surrounding her and has no requirement or proclivity for pretence. Spending time with her is an absolute joy. Our days are interspersed with honest conversations, unplanned walks on sunny days, video games (Little Big Planet), cooking, reading, talking about cartoons, random games of one on one football… the list is way too long. But every single thing is an absolute pleasure because she does not have the fake standards of propriety that everyone else seems to be operating on these days.

She still remembers what it is like to be young, curious and happy; not just what marks we scored and how much money we are going to make. She has not ‘grown up’ as much as some of us, but she sure as hell knows how to live, and without the materialistic support that everyone seems to require while doing that.

Everyone around me seems to be fixated on presumably cooler things — money, gadgets, cars, sex, clothes, photographs (oh my god, photographs) and similar cosmeticized, yappy, Snappy people. That is precisely the reason why I prefer her easy, cheerful company to any ‘smarter’ person who rants about the virtues of a western education, expects me to be awestruck by the magnificence of their cool / high paying job, exhorts non-fiction or feels that I am stupid and lazy incase I haven’t read why America needs a Green Revolution. I could do without judgment and bloated egos. Adolescence is over, after all.

When I think about the most visible effects (and the reasons) of the callousness of growing up, the first thing that crops up is the elimination of cartoons and anime (I am using cartoons in both contexts for the sake of convenience) from our viewing schedules and discourse. Nothing describes the chasm between childhood delights and acquired pretentious preferences better than the reluctance to acknowledge that cartoons might still be fun.

One possible explanation for the deterioration in their popularity may be that no one has time to watch new (or old) stories anymore because they are too busy building careers and lives (since we are all old and serious now). That would have been marginally understandable.

But this is surely not the case because everyone is subscribing to Netflix in order to chill, posting spoilers for the latest Game Of Thrones episodes with impressive punctuality (and annoying rapidity) every week, awakening the forces of commentators with cool light saber images and thronging to comic conventions in order to play and cosplay. So I am assuming that there is no dearth of free time for all the serious, grown up people. Ultimately, everyone likes to kick back and indulge in a little tomfoolery once in a while. Therefore, the reluctance to watch and talk about cartoons baffles me a little.


An alternate reason may be that cartoons appear childish, immature and pointless for all of us who mean business. They don’t have the veneers that high budget television shows and Hollywood extravaganzas do. We cannot post, Snap and tweet about them. No one is going hysterical about the new season of Naruto: Shippuden like they did about the Sherlock special. So obviously cartoons are not as engaging, immersive and spellbinding as what we are watching nowadays. Cartoons are for children.

The flaw with this reaction is that it comes from the same place as judging people without knowing them comes from — a place of superficiality. And unfortunately, it carries with it the same dangers. We don’t lose anything by not talking to the quiet, awkward stranger in the corner except for an opportunity to make a new, intelligent friend. Similarly, by disregarding the animated form of storytelling we could be losing out on a fantastical world full of the ideas, ethos and skill of some highly talented people. So it might be worth our while to waste a little time talking about animation.

The presumption that cartoons are juvenile and only for little children is as far from the truth as possible. Cartoons are probably the most versatile form of telling stories ever created and this can be seen in the expansive range they cover. Cartoons can be action packed (Cowboy Bebop), philosophical and funny (Naruto), dark and brooding (Elfen Lied, Death Note), downright whimsical (Galactik Football) and invariably absolutely crazy. Cartoons can teach us to laugh at and inspect ourselves critically and mercilessly (South Park).

I have a friend who says he learnt a lot about life and the world through watching South Park while he was in school. Cartoons can have a deep impact on people who sit and watch patiently.

Even the old school cartoons have a charm of their own. I grew up watching Dexter, Tom and Jerry, Avatar, Swat Cats, Scooby Doo, X Men and took part in the Pokémon frenzy for a while (their video games are addictive). They can hold the same amount of sway even now as they did when I first watched them. They are still the same dreamy, madcap worlds with their own perfect rules and amusing idiosyncrasies.

Cartoons are a very easy and efficient way to capture children’s imaginations. By that virtue, they can be used to teach constructive lessons in an extremely entertaining manner.

Cartoons are one of the few inventions that can keep people with even the shortest attention spans riveted for hours and their impact in psychology and psychiatry can be immense.

Cartoons are projections of little children’s imaginations created by imaginative adults. Artistically, the combination can never go wrong.

So I am unsure why they have gone out of fashion. Maybe it happened because it requires patience and a certain amount of politeness to understand and acknowledge the genius of something so subtle and understated. Maybe patience and politeness are disappearing. Maybe we all need to cajole ourselves to cajole those awkward strangers into conversation. We might end up making more of those nice, quiet friends.

PS- Miyazaki is god.

Here is a link to The Little Prince.

For the purists, Anime vs Cartoons.

Typefaces and Other Faces —