Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Laptop Buddha

The day was hard. Hardly enough time to breathe. Files piling up on the desk. For the first time in my life, I accepted coffee at my desk, instead of performing the usual routine of brewing it myself. Deadlines. People were like wolves, attacking me from all around, biting at whatever they got. They were hungry. For answers, for results.

A few men wilted. They went outside to catch the Delhi's wintry breeze, some men with Marlboro packets in their hands even before they left the building. Even the coffee machine seemed to be running out of energy. People were pacing, trudging, jogging... Beads of sweat on a cold winter day. The pressure was on.

I looked at the files and folders on my desktop, each was a solution. Each was an opportunity. Where would I be without all this data! Where would we be without all its computational power!

The more you give, the more they ask. The job is demanding, and fulfilling. There is happiness in the knowledge that you're an integral part of a system, which together realizes such powerful change. People press you for results; you push others. The computers are running wildly, pulling out figures and simulations. It's magical and devastatingly ugly.

Everything in its place, people dovetailing each other... Cogs. Clocks. Structures and targets. Everyone driving to a common goal at a relentless pace.

That was when my laptop fell down. It fell with a thud, halfway through a simulation, with twenty tabs open on my Chrome browser and half a dozen mail items open. I picked it up in a hurry, hoping not to waste time. Strangely, I wasn't greeted by the cluttered desktop. As I picked up the fallen computer, there was nothing there. Black screen.


Windows never turned on. "Your hard-disk has not been detected". Hyperventilation. More coffee. Sweat. People surrounded me. "IS EVERYTHING ALRIGHT?" It will be, I assured them. Work must not stop.

But what of all the data? How could all this continue if the chain broke down in the middle? People continued asking me questions, but suddenly there were no more answers. I thought the world would implode.

Strangely however, the questions stopped. All of a sudden, what I was doing wasn't important any more. The cogs went on, the clock ticked, the machine ran smoothly. And I continued trying to reboot the stubborn machine. Nothing. I called the IT Help Desk. They couldn't help immediately either.

I apologized to people, afraid I was letting them down. "It's okay," they said happily. "It happens to everyone." And work continued uninterrupted.

The irrelevance of the individual is deeply disturbing. Nothing you do really matters. Nothing in the world matters at all. In the morning, I was worried about all the files, emails, photographs and manuals which I would lose if my hard-disk wasn't revived. Even those things don't matter.

Nothing really does.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Why Entrepreneurs are better than Everybody Else. Not.

"You need to endure, take risks, give up something to attain the vast glories of this world which are yet hidden to you," a friend told me. "What is life without hardwork, courage and risk?" an huge roadside hoarding asked me a few hours later. And in the evening, just before I fell asleep, I read a much hyped article -"If you don't build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs."

Yes, dreams are important. There's no denying it. And noble, world-changing dreams are even better. There are so many problems seemingly impossible to solve, so many nearly impassable hurdles, and so many unfathomable heights waiting to be conquered. People are often defined by their dreams. Chasing them is a noble pursuit; conquering them is an almighty high.

Sadly though, most people seem to be defining dreams very differently. From what I understand from so many folks I talk to, a man who is a dreamer needs to be an entrepreneur. "What's the point of having dreams if you don't realize them?" I'm asked. Valid question, no? "If you believe in something strongly enough, you won't think twice about quitting your job. Entrepreneurs know sacrifice and they know hard-work. Do you?" Good punchline and another valid question. Through this post, I hope to compensate for all those tongue-tied moments.

Let's start with the definition of dreams: 'dreams' in this context usually identify a void and visualize a world in which such a void is filled. An entrepreneur might see this as a business opportunity, an artist might see it as an existential dilemma and an scientist, simply as an intellectual pursuit. In all these cases, these 'dreams' can be realized, but in very different ways. But self-help books and supposedly inspirational posts usually use a very narrow dream-achievement definition, declaring by fiat that one of these pursuits is nobler. No, realizing a dream needn't mean monetising it.

Let's now move on to the second favourite bastion of our inspirational entrepreneurs: the strength of belief. Frankly, I cannot imagine anyone can strongly believe in setting up retail stores or restaurants. In the good old days, they used to say, "Unkalji has his own business." I don't think unkalji believed too much in his saree shop. In the same way, I don't believe that everyone who proudly boasts his self-employment is a visionary. (But unkaljiis very rich.)

But let us, for a moment, suppose that they are visionaries, who believe strongly in the power of their dreams. If that is too hard, let us consider a subset of these people who pen these inspirational articles. (Surely, they believe in what they're saying? - Or they'd hardly be able to say it this well.)

And now, I'd like to ask them, "What makes you think you are alone in this?" Are the billions of employees around the world people without dreams or people who are unwilling to act upon them? Is there not a possibility that their jobs (oh, such a derogatory word nowadays) allow them to do precisely that? Commonality of dreams and interests - isn't this what all our great organizations (including yours, dear inspirational entrepreneur) thrive upon?

As for the issue of sacrifice, I think it is a deeply human quality, not reserved for a select few. People sacrifice different things: some sacrifice their careers for their family and others, vice-versa. Which sacrifice is greater; which is nobler? Are we even in a position to make this judgement?

Lastly, I'd like to refute two common notions which are making rounds on the internet: (1) entrepreneurs are the sole authorities on creativity, and (2) risk is a measure of how 'big' you have lived. Human beings value creativity greatly and yearn to express themselves through whichever opportunities are available to them. Yes, even those people doing boring, structured day-jobs. It certainly seems more challenging to walk an untrodden path, but creativity is really a choice. You choose how creative you want to be.

As for risk, it's hard to think of reasons that make safety a shameful thing. It is not a potent drug like risk is, but each man chooses his own poison. There are certainly other drugs out there. If risk is the reason someone chooses to start-up an enterprise, he is not too different from a gambler in a casino. There are many reasons to start-up a company; this, sadly, isn't the soundest one.

To conclude, I'd like people to reconsider their "if you don't build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs" statements, because frankly, it's a nonsensical argument. We are all here to build dreams. That's the purpose of life.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Flashing Lights and Ladies - The Story of Vegas

It isn't every day that you get to live in a pyramid. And not all pyramids fire photon canons into the black sky. A month ago, I stayed on the twenty-seventh floor of the Luxor - with a view of both the magnificent phenomenon that is Vegas and the serene Nevada mountains in the distance, which seemed to be embroiled in a "I'm greater than you" debate with one another.

The World's Best
Everything in Las Vegas is the world's best - the cigars, the women, the music, the spirits, the shameless neon brilliance, the towering replicas of everything Americans consider grand. In fact, in Las Vegas, they will make you believe that their New York is better than the one on the East Coast, and that there is more love in 'Paris' than in the French capital. There is Venice and Rome and Burma and China... Everything is the World's best. The world's best music shows, the world's best strip clubs, the world's best limos - God knows what else.

Vegas is bright
In the night, planes get confused. As soon as they cross the dull Rockies and the canyons nearby, they are mesmerized by a city that dances in front of their eyes, in colours and in song. And to make matters worse, there is a hotel (my own) smashing light into the sky.

During the first night, our wanderings took us to the end of the strip, and therefore we were subjected to the immense Fremont Street Experience. The sky isn't real any more. It is fabricated by men, and it does what it is commanded to do. It can burst into flames and calm into the gentlest piano music at the clap of a hand. And all around us, women and alcohol and casinos and movie-star lookalikes.

Our fine Chevy looked hopelessly out of place in a city where people firmly believe that 'bigger is better'. Newer is also better, except when it comes to casinos: because there's not much that can compare with the Caesar's Palace (where a friend lost $300 in half an hour), the Bellagio or the MGM Grand.

The most unchanging city in the world
Vegas is a religion and it is a God. There are conjurers here, unlike anything history has ever produced. I still wonder about certain things I saw during my 'Cirque du Soleil' experience. They cannot be explained except by magic. But I won't question them, because such things happen in Vegas.

There are limousines longer than roads in this city, and planes which fly in at 8pm and out at 4am to entertain their masters. Vegas, which can easily be considered the work of the devil, leaving Dubai far behind, stands unashamed in all its glory as the world looks on. So often, in its dazzling brilliance, it shows the world its shame and asks people to embrace it. Las Vegas might be the future.

In Vegas, they will sink ships, recreate Hawaii, build Rome and make water sing just to entertain you. It's a magical place, soulless as it is. It is full of emptiness, and it proudly stands as a symbol of what might come.

Vegas is so far ahead of everything else that it doesn't change.

Saturday, 19 October 2013


She glided down the steps which had been cut into the face of the teal mountain, dancing in and out of the mist rhythmically. On her shapely hips, she carried a basket made of the finest cane money could buy. The delicate sound of thunder rung through the clouds, as globulets of rain did form. But they did not fall. They were held in the sky, magically suspended, refracting the beams of light until they formed colours humans could no longer decipher. A melancholy song pervaded the bloody sky, giving meaning to the mountains - speaking of their forgotten past. Boisterous children seemed to be running down the hill, but they were frozen - like a still picture captured from a motion film. And in the distance, a poet cried.

You don't need to understand the paragraph in its entirety to experience the story which is being told to you. In fact, the moment you start asking for explanation, you dilute the overall effect - you trivialize several immortal moments by bringing it down to your level of understanding. You cannot accept the fact that rain can be held in the air, or that children can run and laugh while still stationary. You want everything to conform to rules, and that is the problem. Everything cannot be explained. Well, perhaps it can be, but it's better that it isn't.

Art in its purest form is completely indistinguishable from music. Music in its purest form needs no lyrics. Meaning is something we create to explain experiences. Sometimes, there are just experiences, and no meaning.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Freedom of Drowning

The Skiatook Lake is a short drive away from where I stay, and it was upon a friend's advice that we rented a car and headed over for what promised to be an adrenaline-filled afternoon. Soon, keeping with the American themes of total freedom and "only you are responsible for yourself", four novices were in possession of a powerboat, fully fueled and ready-to-go.

"How does it work?" I asked the sleepy looking moustached man.
He promptly showed me the controls - forward, neutral, reverse and steering. There was an array of other buttons which he didn't care to talk about.
"What about life-jackets?" I queried.
"Ya want 'em, eh?" he asked nonchalantly.
I nodded vigorously. I'm not proud of my swimming prowess, and I certainly didn't want to test them in the unfathomable depths of America's deep blue lakes.
"Alright," he said, checking a box on a sheet he held in his hand. "They're under tha seat rai' here. Please sign this paper sir."

And then he read out an entire list of instructions at breakneck pace. There was something about getting into the water, something about wakes, smoking on the boat, drinking while driving, so on and so forth. These were all instructions, probably critical, which people routinely overlooked.

Fast forward half an hour: one of my friends was in the water. He certainly didn't know how to swim. Another fellow jumped in. This guy was a better swimmer, but clearly pulling someone out of the water was beyond him. We threw ropes into the water, and inflated rubbers, tubes and anything else we could find that floats. There was much splashing and shouting. In the distance, motorboats cut through the water with fluid ease. No one knew or cared about what was happening with us.

We turned the boat around. Herculean efforts and more hyperventilation: finally they were back on board. As they coughed-up all the water they had swallowed, there were only two things on my mind: how deep the lake was, and how stupid the laws were.

I understand the importance of freedom, and the fact that people must be allowed to do what they want to as long as they don't infringe upon the rights of others. But we must remember that such absolute freedom can be realized successfully only in an ideal society where everyone is fully aware of their abilities, strengths and limitations; where they are fully aware of the worst consequences their action or inaction might elicit. Not to have boards warning you about how deep the water is, not to have a coastguard in sight, and handing out speedboats without proper instructions is hardly a very smart thing to do.

All this only brings me to a much bigger debate - one which I'm currently not fully equipped to debate: To what extent, if at all, is the State responsible for its citizens' safety? Should people be allowed to do dangerous, and often stupid, things just because they signed a piece of paper, which exonerates one particular party from all blame?

I think not. People can be allowed to have fun. But sometimes, they die.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

New York City

It's late in the night and I'm walking down 6th Avenue towards the Empire State Building, hoping to catch a glimpse of the tricolour lighting up the top of one of America's most recognizable monuments. I'm walking through the chilly air that seems to hang at every turning. A pretty woman, smoking a cigarette, sporting a Gucci bag and wearing a figure-kissing dress walks briskly across the road; the road is a still picture as she walks. Her skirt, split down the side, catches the breeze. These things don't bother New Yorkers. I turn into a Starbucks, as she walks away. "That's three dollars and seventy-five."

Macy's is closed now. That doesn't stop the bustle at its door. Some distance away, an old homeless man sleeps. People walk past him, laughing, singing, and sometimes on the phone. Wrapped in a woolen shawl, he sleeps comfortably on a wooden stool. Mornings are chilly in New York. That's why people wear suits.

I decide to return home after being trapped in Times Square like a deer in headlights. I'm spinning, turning, seeing so many things. Finally I'm asleep.

The next day begins on the same note. Everyday here begins on the same note. I take the tube from Grand Central Station. I'm going to Brooklyn. I want to see what the buzz about the bridge is all about. There's a buzz about everything here. I make a fool of myself trying to buy tickets. How am I to know the machine is smart enough to return change? I'm trying to fish for the exact coins and notes, looking at George Washington's picture, when a beefy guy pushes me out of his way impatiently. Things are fast here, faster perhaps than in Bombay. But everything is structured. There's no uncertainty about anything.

I reach Brooklyn and naturally, I'm engrossed in the Manhattan skyline. I miss out on what is happening directly in front of me. A newly married couple heads for the Pier straight from the church. They're surrounded by bridesmaids, best-men - the whole entourage. They kiss for a long time. Camera-shutters sound. It doesn't matter. Smart-ass Mexican guy standing next to me shouts, "Game over, man!", which the groom smilingly acknowledges. "Keep the bridesmaids too," yells another voice.

Before heading back to 42nd Street, I stop at Wall Street. All the big banks are here, and all the fancy TV channels which tell you 'Mutual Funds are subject to market risks'. I see a man outside The Trump Building, dressed impeccably in a costly suit. But he's sitting on the sidewalk and smoking a cigarette. Not exactly what you'd expect. Then again, people here hardly do things which are commonly expected.

Midtown again. There are photographers everywhere. It's pretty mad. On top of towers and in the subway. I'm one of them. I don't think people in New York City go to work without their fancy cameras. I need coffee again. Three dollars and seventy-five cents.

As I exit the shop, the same things greet me. Everything greets me. In fact, in all its overbearing diversity, New York looks mundane. The whole world is here, dressed in suits, vests, baggy caps and panama hats, shorts with ties, shirtless with trousers on, dresses that end over the navel, dresses that start over the neckline... Everything.

And then, I see a woman - Caucasian, fairly large-boned, and completely naked. She's standing in the middle of Times Square, outside a Broadway Theatre. She's campaigning for something, covered only in paint. And nothing else. She doesn't seem to mind, but no one else does either. People are walking past her casually. People don't have the time for naked women on Times Square.

I take another picture of Adriana Lima, who is smiling from a huge billboard far above our heads. She's looking rather stunning in her single piece swimsuit, but then there are women prettier than her on the NYC roads perhaps. They all mostly end up heading into one of those stores with large hoardings on top of them.

I think I need coffee. The usual: $3.75.

I walk out and sit down on a park-bench, to drink my coffee and read 'Kafka on the Shore'. I turning to page two-hundred-and-forty when I realize I'm sitting next to a couple who are visiting New York just like me. But they're smiling, talking and laughing. Their faces are very close, like in the moments just before you kiss someone. But they don't. I get up and walk.

I have not even finished the coffee yet when the antithesis of romance sets itself upon me. "Throw the ring away, Jane, and walk out of the house!" yells a man on top of his voice. "I don't care." I throw my coffee cup away and watch the man disappear around the bend. According to the movies, he ought to be heading to a Gentlemen's Club now, no? Anyway, I'm at Madisson Square Garden. I take out my camera.

I try to enter a busy souvenir shop. It's run by a large African-American lady. She treats me like some autistic child who is incapable of normal understanding. I feel a little discriminated against. I look up at the board which says 'NY Penn Station' and smile at America's history. Oh, the irony of it all!

I think I've had enough for the day. I've seen more, heard more, felt more and eaten more than I ought to have. I feel like the New York Times already, with omniscient eyes and all. The NY Times covers theatre just the way they cover the world, they claim. I have to see that for myself. I'll go watch  'Phantom of the Opera' tomorrow, I think.

But now, I need some coffee.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Collector Of Broken Things

I remember my days as a child - a time of brightly coloured walls - through fading memories in sepia.

I'm a collector. It's not a hobby as much as a neurotic disorder. Throughout life, I've been a victim of overflowing cupboards and jam-packed drawers, simply because I cannot throw stuff away. I think it's because I cannot completely dissociate an object from the memory it is linked to. If I throw something away, it feels like I'm throwing away an event of my past; like I'm allowing it to be forgotten. And that is very depressing indeed.

Today I was rummaging through my almirah grimly, preparing to, in the worst case, empty it out, having submitted to the latest ultimatum that mom issued. A bittersweet search ensued, as I tried salvaging memories which were so desperately trying to run away from me forever.

I performed my usual trick of shifting stuff from one drawer to the next, from one unreachable crevice of the shelf to another spot where it would stay hidden for a few more months. The reasoning behind my absurd actions is something which eludes me - as the need to look at these objects and reminisce about the past never arises, unless I'm told to throw them away.

But every time I look at lucky pencils from historical examinations, torn-up tickets and broken relics of first-dates, certificates which will never be useful to me anymore, drawings and sketches from kindergarten, nearly-unidentifiable faded photographs, and birthday presents from the last decade, I am filled with a sadness - a sadness which tells me that these times will never come again; that these useless objects are the only things which preserve these spectacular memories.

And when I look at the wall, just behind the fridge, I notice the spot where I once used to stand-up upright as my brother measured my height with his Nataraj HB pencil. This was done ceremoniously week-after-week until I finally stopped growing, or perhaps until that one-week when we forgot. And then, I remember that corner of the wall where he squirted pomegranate juice, because the fruit amused him.

Even the thought of leaving this home alarms me, for it is not just a home, but a cauldron of memories.

Because without these objects, I will only be left with brightly coloured memories of fading walls in sepia.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Collapse of an Arabic Dream

"We envision a great empire extending from Morocco in the west to Pakistan in the East, from Turkey in the North to Zanzibar in the South, encompassing of the Mediterranean, the Arab peninsula and even Persia among other lands. Together, we will form a power-block which will change the world," said an Arab friend a few months ago, sending chills down my spine.

With the saturation of American power, owing to their reluctance to intervene and over-commit their resources, and with the rise of the Chinese, the reinvention of the erstwhile caliphate, only more powerful than before, could well expedite World War III, I thought at the time. But it was clear what this idea, preached from the towers of several masjids, meant to many residents of the Arab states - safety, strength and power.

Too many times have the forces of from all over the world taken middle east Asia and Africa for granted owing to their relatively weak status on the international front. And so, it is true that a block comprising of so many nations might finally accomplish something the GCC is still failing at - having a voice. But what such a block might actually do is a complicated question with possibly dangerous answers.

It is, however, becoming increasingly difficult, day-after-day, to realize such an ambitious dream. The flight of fancy crashes and burns even before taking-off, even as the world looks on in awe and moderate amusement. Everyone turns towards the US of A and Europe with questions, suspecting that they have played a sneaky hand in the collapse of several nations in the region, but with no tangible proof available, answers are not a guarantee.

It is rather stunning how the political scenario has changed in this region over the last two decades, with almost every country undergoing incredible change in viewpoints, government and policy. And no change has really cemented relationships and gone too far in realizing the dream of a pan-Arab block.

Everyone says that the US of A blundered as usual when they supplied the "defender of Arabia" with information, technology and weapons during his war with Iran, although they were only doing what they do best to protect themselves and their allies - to destabilize a rising enemy. They didn't gain much from the campaign, of course, which only helped create a far more dangerous enemy and reunite the Arab Peninsula with Iraq.

But what was a direct consequence of the campaign was an intensification of a then simmering hatred between the Shias and the Sunnis. This has, over the past decades, corrupted the fabric of society north of the Arabian peninsula. In fact, a few days ago, I was shocked to hear a devout muslim say, "I'm a Shia first, and then a Muslim!"

Gamal Abdel Nassar was one of the first people to dream of such a great union of states. With the union of Syria and Egypt, the idea of Arab nationalism rose powerfully in the hearts of the Egyptians, rivaling the rampant rise of Zionism in Al Misr's northern neighbour. The pan-Arab dream faced a setback when Egypt was defeated by Israel in 1967. The Egyptians who saw themselves as culturally distinct and superior to their Arab brethren grew in number and in stature.

And it stayed this way until very recently. Hosni Mubarak positioned himself as a diplomat who was willing to converse with Israel and who was even welcoming to America. By embracing a rather secular approach, he distanced himself from Islamic fundamentalism, much to the dismay of several Arab states. Egypt couldn't have been any further from Nassar's dream when Tahrir Square happened. Egyptians wanted a country with more transparency, lesser corruption and more distanced from Israel.

Two years since then, the shape that the movement has taken has rendered it farcical. Mubarak keeps getting tried every now and again, with Egyptians wishing for his blood, but the man with declining health manages to live to die another day. Meanwhile, in Cairo, power has been handed to Mohammed Morsi who, in the opposition's words, is Egypt's new pharaoh - much like his predecessor. The post-Mubarak constitution hangs ineffectually in the air, warlords continue to thrive in upper Egypt and the country is far too busy in setting itself straight to even think about a pan-Arab goal.

It was in Tunisia where everything started. Bradley Manning, charged by the United states for aiding the enemy among other 'crimes', gave proof to the peoples' latent suspicions that Ben Ali was, in fact, corrupt. Ben Ali stepped down soon, bolstering the Arab spring, and fled to Saudi Arabia. For the first time in history, Islamic parties in Tunisia would not be illegal. But what has ensued is a period of perpetual confusion and turmoil.

In stark contrast to Tunisia which voted against a corrupt but liberal 'dictator', neighbouring Libya fought for the downfall of Islamist, pan-Africanist and pan-Arabist leader Muammar Gaddafi. While he fought the opposition, much like Bashar al-Assad, his forces eventually caved and he was killed in the most morbid manner. The only thing that seems to have come out of this revolution, however, is the public display of his corpse in a Libyan marketplace for one and all to see. And referendum, of course.

Arab Peninsula
The leaders of prosperous lands of oil were under threat, albeit temporarily, by the Arab Spring which panned across several nations in Asia and Africa. The repercussions are still being felt across nations in the region, as the sheikhs are aware about the mortality of their positions in society. 'Democracy' seemed to be the buzz-word in different parts of the Gulf; although what the people, who have never experienced it, understand from the term is questionable. 'Do they really need democracy?' people asked, citing examples of Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and other prosperous Arab states.

The Arab Spring no longer exists. The revolution was nipped at the bud, but what about the idea? Does it still exist? Only time will tell.

The League of Nations, the British and the French will be in wonder as to how their policies of divisive politics still thrive in the region and continue to call the shots. The last time these states were together was during the Ottoman rule. But with the fall of the Turks, the Europeans seized their opportunity to irrevocably divide the people and confuse the region.

The only thing that holds these nations together is their culture and more significantly, their common hatred and fear of despotic Israel. The yearning for a greater Syria, which aims for the consolidation of these states and Iraq, is still alive in some believers. But that's what it will remain - a yearning.

Bashar Assad, with his reckless politics, has thrown Syria into an insane civil war which seems to have no end. If the rebels had won quickly, as in Libya, there might have been some justification for so many deaths, but now, it is a pointless war that rages on in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Qusair. By not losing the war, the Government thinks it is winning. And the rebels no longer know if they are fighting Bashar Assad or Shia Islam.

Iran further complicated the issue by supplying the government with more armaments, and the Lebanese  outfit, the Hezbollah, has joined a war which isn't its own. The Arab countries, vanguards of sunniism didn't want to be left behind as they promptly began supporting a motley collection of shooting men calling themselves the Free Syrian Army.

The Syrian war could well be the culmination of decades of festering hatred between Shias and Sunnis, and this is being proven by the fact that men from East Africa are being sent to fight the war against Bashar al-Assad!
And recently an Imam of an Arab state issued the following decree - "Women of our states must be sent to Syria to entertain and boost the morale of the dying soldiers."
Strangely enough, this was not decried as inhuman and obscene. Instead, men sent their daughters and even divorced their wives so that they could enter this newest holy war. It might be prudent to question who the bigger enemy is - Israel or the Syrian Government? Because as the war rages on, Israel is the only winner, crushing the hapless Palestines further, as the world laments gross human rights violations.

Iran, the perpetual on-the-brink-nuclear power, is a threat to itself more than it is to the world. The only reason I include them in the pan-Arab dream is because several Arabs still think that Iran can be bullied into accepting their ways. They have failed for many centuries and there is no reason they should succeed now.

It is strange how their differences range from petty squabbles (should it be called 'Persian Gulf' or 'Arabian Gulf') to major international disputes (Iran-Iraq War of Saddam Hussein). Persians are a proud people who will not give in to their western neighbours. This fact is being exploited by certain despotic leaders who say that 'suicide is a route to heaven'. But with the major chunk of fighting happening further west, in Iraq, Iran seems to have found other troubles in the region.

The narrow stretch of sea between Qatar and Iran has the largest reservoir of natural gas in the world; South Pars-North Dome holds 50 billion barrels of natural gas condensates and 51 trillion cubic metres of gas. Add to this the fact that Qatar aided and abetted Saddam in his war with the Persians.

Taksim became Tahrir a few days ago, with people reeling with a sense of deja-vu. What started as a peaceful gathering of people who wanted to save a park in Istanbul rapidly accelerated into a pan-Turk movement, aiming for the ouster of Prime Minister Erdogan.

Incidentally, Erdogan is the first PM after a series of ministers who has leaned both ways - towards Europe and towards Arabia. Although a pro-Islamist, his secular and moderate government was being viewed as a template for several Arab states. His gradual integration with the Arab people was not being viewed favourably by some, but he could have gone a lot further had he not committed political suicide by attacking a peaceful gathering.

Although religious institutions were beginning to be viewed more favourably in an increasingly European Turkey, and even though symbols like the head-scarf were being brought back slowly and steadily, his latest move seems to be a setback to years of hard labour in Turkey's Islamic and Arab integration.

             In fact we are further away from the Arab dream today than we were in any period in the past few centuries. It will soon no longer be a dream, but a distant memory.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Thought Provenance

Three or four years ago, I adjudicated my first Parliamentary Debate, sitting on the Senate Steps of IIT Roorkee. The teams, comprising mainly of freshers and sophomores, battled each other on some topic which we thought was important back in those days. It wasn't the greatest of debates of course, but it was the first time I had tangible proof about how fickle the mind is.

First the Prime Minister, then the Leader of the Opposition, then the DPM... Each time a speaker left the floor, I found myself agreeing with him / her. It may sound stupid, but it wasn't until I looked at my notes later on that I realized I wasn't allowed to agree with both sides as they were logical converses of one another. So I began crossing out points and assigning them points until I knew where I stood on the issue. And then I decided who won. A few years hence, I'm probably only slightly better as an adjudicator, but I'm thoroughly aware of how easily influenced we all are. 

In the past, politicians used methods of mass propaganda to get into your head - to help you decide what you wanted. But in today's complicated world, things are worse. We no longer know what propaganda is and what isn't. Especially with the advent of social media, you are no longer entitled to an opinion of your own!
"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought" - John F Kennedy
There are laugh-tracks in Sitcoms which tell me when to laugh, extensive pre-match and post-match analyses of all kinds of games to tell me who plays well and who doesn't, and a few thousand websites which tell me who is the most important member of each band. In fact, I am entirely certain that several people who rave about Page and Plant cannot differentiate between bass and drums.

When it comes to reading, Goodreads ensures that I open every book with prejudice. I already know what I need to think about a book, and I read only to confirm this predisposition. When it comes to movies, it is difficult to say that one doesn't think much of Inglourious Basterds. It is important to like whatever Tarantino makes. And it is wrong to say Sachin must retire. In short, Social Media has implemented perfect thought control: Self-regulated thought control!

When I see a status message with 200 likes, I'm tempted to 'like' it myself without even reading. Answers of Quora with a certain number of up-votes will fare well independent of their quality. People who are famous can say just about anything and get away with it.
"I actually worry a lot that as I get "popular", I'll be able to get away with saying stupider stuff that I would have dared say before. This sort of thing happens to a lot of people, and I would really like to avoid it" - Paul Graham
The other day Amitabh Bachchan said something like "laughter is the best medicine" on Twitter and it got re-tweeted fifty thousand times. The more number of re-tweets, the more the temptation becomes to re-tweet. Opinions get further reinforced. This ensures that whatever little originality you once had is ably quashed. And you ensure this happens to others, until the world cannot think any more.

This is all certainly not a new phenomenon, but the process has definitely been expedited in this shrinking world. I think I need to get away from all this for a while. I need solitude.
"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation" - Oscar Wilde

Monday, 22 April 2013


Coal eyes. Black, unruly hair. Glowing red cheeks. I almost bundled over the child in one of D-Mart's grocery aisles. Not over four feet tall, the little boy scampered back to his parents, perhaps scared that I'd try to run him over again. Laughing at his antics, I continued to the next aisle searching for the perfect soap.

Fiddling around with three-for-the-price-of-two packs, I was moving a few racks to my right when the kid appeared again at the corner of the aisle. His mother bent down to match his height and whispered some instructions in his left ear. She seemed to point at the dental-care shelves as she said something in a hurry before returning to her husband.

The child was rooted to the spot for a moment, eyes wide, in the big scary supermarket. Then, gathering some courage, he walked up to the toothpaste rack and looked up at it carefully. I smiled at the kid and tried to identify which paste he was looking at. It wasn't clear; so I let him be and returned to searching for my soap.

I picked out a few things I thought I needed, and a few more things which I knew I didn't. And then, I turned to look at the kid again. He still stood there, only looking at a different toothpaste now. He then walked around to the other side of the shelf, as if looking at things from a different angle would help him. By now, I saw frustration getting to him and I decided to help him.

"What do you want?" I asked.
"Toothpaste," he said quietly. Simple enough.
"Colgate, Pepsodent, Close-up or Sensodyne?"

He didn't respond. He looked scared. I had just uttered some meaningless words.
"Okay, I'll make it simple for you. What do you use at home - do you know what it looks like?"
"No," he said. "It looks red. And it looks blue and green." He was confused. And now, he was confusing me.

"Does it taste sweet? Or sour? Or cold?" I asked, prodding patiently.
"How does it matter?" he asked. I was trying to get him toothpaste. And he was asking me existential questions.
"Dammit kid, do you want cooling crystals in your paste?" I said losing my temper.

I quickly corrected myself realizing that he was nearly in tears. "Don't cry," I said. "Just tell me if you want salt in your toothpaste."
He turned away from me as tears came to his eyes. He ran to his mom rubbing his face. I exited the aisle quietly before they came back.

"Choice. Humbug."

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Cricket, You Beauty!

I think Cricket is a highly underrated sport across the world. Come to think of it - it's spectacular really, eerie even, how closely Test Cricket reflects real-life! Victories and losses in life aren't decided by stand-alone moments. And usually, we know the outcome of events even before they actually conspire, which is the greatest criticism people have about cricket. "It's not dramatic enough," they say.

But neither is real life. You normally know what is in store for you - either victory or defeat, but you still have to play the game. You may need five runs in as many overs, but you don't say you're work is done and walk away. You still have to play and get those runs. Similarly, when things seem hopeless, as they did to the Delhi Daredevils a few minutes ago, you still have to play. You can feel the match going away from you, but you play with hope. You pray for magic, but magic in cricket isn't a sudden thing. Even magic is gradual.

No other sport can show you the depth of despair as well as cricket can. Neither can any other sport produce such gritty turn-arounds. But most importantly, no other sport gives you a second innings.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Creating Value

For any company to run, you need two kinds of people - Men-of-action and Men-of-the-mind. In other words, you need those who do and those who plan. People who can do both - constantly, effectively and modestly - are difficult to find  don't exist.

There are people who start off implementing their thoughts energetically, but like a Coke bottle, their effervescence dies out after the first few moments - there is no constancy. Most people think of themselves as both good thinkers and great doers, but sadly they are effective at only one of these, at best. And finally, there is the small issue of 'modesty' - a word which seems misplaced in the context - which usually proves to be the biggest stumbling block for people. Human beings and their insatiable egos yearn to 'rise' continuously in the eyes of others. Somehow, this prevents people from doing the things they did themselves a few years back - not because they no longer have the time to do them, but because they think it is 'below' them.

Think of the last time you asked a subordinate to prepare a presentation for you, or better still, think of the last time you asked the office-clerk to bring you coffee from the machine which is ten feet away. Surely, you have the time for that little walk down the aisle? You can jog if you want to save time, but certainly, you can do it yourself. But you don't. Not because you can't, but because you think you have graduated out of that stage in life when you had to get your own coffee.

If all this was only a matter of coffee, I wouldn't waste any time on it. But sadly, the coffee example is just that - an example. Our lives are replete with thousands of such incidents that we choose to overlook them completely. In fact, we have integrated ourselves so beautifully into the system that most of the value we 'create' during our entire lives are during the initial years of our careers. Most human beings in this world  start off as Men-of-action, and then make constant choices and career decisions which transform them into Men-of-the-mind. We all want to stop doing things so that we can start to plan on doing things.

You look at any career path and it gives you the same result: the formative years are hard when value is being created in the world, at the grass-root level: the postman delivers posts, the mechanic fixes the radiator, the software engineer creates actual code and the farmer grows wheat. As years go by, people gain experience; they grow older and wiser. Soon, the middle-aged postmaster is responsible for assigning young postmen to different circles, the chief-mechanic conjectures as to what problems radiators normally face, the manager of the software firm is busy streamlining the process of recruitment in the company and farmer lies back as his sons toil in the sun.

What is common in all these cases is that your net productivity as the years go by is declining. You will make more money and you will earn more respect, but your usefulness in absolute terms hasn't really increased, has it? Of course, the world needs planners to prevent absolute chaos from setting in, but these planners are not creators of value. They merely manipulate value which is produced.

And that is the absolute truth: everyone's ultimate goal is to move as far away from the creation stage as possible, to a point from where you can abstractly manipulate value. Highly respected professions such as Law serve to uphold a certain system which is there only to support other systems, which in turn produce actual goods and services. Politicians discuss policy and make legislation which enable other industries to perform. And then there is the vast and convoluted world of Finance, where people redefine the meaning of 'manipulation' on an everyday basis. These are people who sell concepts such as futures and options, rather than tangible real-world objects. How much money can I make from the fall of that share? How much can be gained from A acquiring B? How to I boost returns for this given estimate of risk?

These systems and professions have distanced themselves from the actual world of value, and have housed themselves in their own comfortable cocoon on the roof of the penthouse. No wonder then that almost 10% of the World's Billionaires derived significant portions of their incomes from hedge funds!

It's funny, but it's true. The farther you are from the job of actually creating something directly useful to the people around you, the richer and more powerful you are. And today, you don't even have to work your way to those positions. Education offers a lazier route for those who think the path is too tough. Education catapults you to one of those high places from where you can use great words and plan greater actions.

You end up with a larger phone-bill. But who complains about that? The company foots the bill, doesn't it?

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Fate Driver

My black-and-yellow Indica was parked in its usual spot under the green canopy of the trees lining the black tar road. The time was Dusk, a time when the colours of the world are rendered black, white and steely grey. It was that time of the day when your eyes, weary after another long day in the sun, delight in whatever little colour there is on offer. And that is why I remember her so vividly.

It wasn't her dress which caught my eye, for it was as black as the night which was about to fall. No: although it was very beautiful and made her look perfectly graceful, almost poignantly beautiful, it wasn't the detail which captured me. I remember her because of her skin - the most beautiful bronze in a black-and-white world. Alongside her walked a young man, modestly built, who I have driven around town a few times in my car. I'd seen them together several times in the past, as they walked up and down the same lanes with such brightness in their eyes that you'd think they discovered new places every single time. Sometimes there would be carefree laughter, possibly spurred on by nothing but the beauty of the evening itself, and at other times, there would be a quiet understanding. But this evening, they seemed different.

As he held the door open for her, she slid into the car wordlessly without the usual smile she would afford him as her body brushed against his outstretched arm. As he took his place beside her inside the car, I noticed that an immense chasm separated them, a space so wide that my car seemed to have split lengthwise into two distinct pieces! It is one of the abilities I have developed in my years as a cabbie: to judge people and the spaces between them by just looking at them in the rear-view mirror. Nothing tells a story as clearly as a rear-view mirror.

They didn't say anything as there was a deafening lull inside the car, in stark contrast to the chaos that pervaded the streets outside. I didn't ask them where they wanted me to go; I understood that they only wanted me to drive. But as soon as I put the car into motion, I felt the man's hand touch my shoulder softly. He told me where they wanted to go and I nodded quietly. I then saw him turn towards the girl, as if to say something, but then he didn't speak. He sank back into his seat and stared out at the garish windows and billboards which sped past.

The pain in his eyes was clear, and when I looked at the lady seated in the other corner of my car, I saw her small, pretty lips curve in an expression I can only term as feigned-indifference. She wanted to care less about everything around her, but quite apparently, she couldn't. I switched to the highest gear and stepped on the gas pedal until the speedometer showed one-hundred. An oncoming car, whose driver seemed visibly drunk, swerved out of my way although there would never have been a collision even if he had maintained his initial course. I know this much about driving! But the near-accident and the speed at which cars were bursting past the windows suddenly brought my passengers to life. People seldom want to start living until they are reminded about the end of their lives. I accelerated further.

I admit unashamedly today that I adjusted my mirror in order to let me follow the happenings in the back-seat, for I didn't not watch them for the voyeuristic pleasure that one often derives from the lives of others. I watched them with genuine concern; I almost felt like a protector that night! I felt like I mustn't let the two wonderful passengers endure even a single evening of melancholy.

In my mirror, I could see them steal uncomfortable glances askance at each other, but only when they were sure that the other person wasn't looking. The gentleman, who sat behind me, was clinging onto the window with his hand, as if he was unsure about what he'd do if he let it go. The girl still sat, cold and rigid, as beautiful women so often do when they are upset. I looked ahead and realized that the destination was approaching fast. I would soon be powerless to affect their lives, which were suddenly two separate worlds separated by an ocean. So, I decided to close the gap.

I banked so hard to the left that the car skidded a few feet in the process, to the horror of a few passers-by. The man who was seated behind me, already close to the door, remained in his place even as the lady was thrown towards him by inertia. There was momentary horror in their eyes for they believed that the car was careening out of control, and the girl stretched her delicate arms to brace her fall. And then came the moment for which I had attempted the reckless stunt, endangering the lives of people around me: without even turning, he caught her instinctively, almost as if it was the most natural thing he had ever done. As their fingers  intertwined, I turned my rear-view up, in order to see the road again. 'Whatever happens now is their own business,' I thought. 'My work here is done.'

As I dropped them off at her house, I was glad to see both of them leave the confines of my car. This time she smiled as he held the door open for her. I lit a cigarette and watched the two of them fade away slowly in the distance. I gloated in the new nickname I had coined for myself - The Destiny Driver.

No, that just didn't sound right! According to me, there is nothing called Destiny - nothing in the world can control where you will be. Your final position is a result of the choices you make, nothing else. However, the choices and opportunities which you are provided with are so often not in your control - like the cab-driver that night in the lives of the two young passengers. He was Fate. Even after he banked the car, they had a choice in front of them. Only decisions transform these opportunities into things which are more meaningful.

'No,' I said to myself. 'I am The Fate Driver.'

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Difference Between Life and Tetris

There is none.

We all theorize. Every time you stare into the ocean, or at the moon, or at the caramel sands in the blazing desert, you begin pondering about life, its meaning and therefore about its futility. The greatness of the view makes you feel like a rather insignificant speck in the grand scheme of things, and thus initiates such a thought-process which, quite obviously, has no meaningful end. But we dutifully go through this painful realization every time we sit alone in front of nature's magnificent might. And every time, we have a new theory about life.

My theory begins with Tetris. It all began three days ago when I was playing the wonderful game, resplendent in black and white. That was when it first struck me how similar it was to life itself! Blocks of different shapes and sizes were raining upon me with the spontaneity of the immense drops in a thunderstorm. They fell with such randomness that they were entirely indistinguishable from the stochastic events - opportunities and worries - that Life throws at us. You can't obviate or avoid them; you can only arrange them, try to absorb them.

As the 'Z's, the 'L's and the 'I's fell upon me, I could but divert them towards the different corners of the little screen I looked at, with the hope of achieving something spectacular - an order in a chaotic universe, which would be so beautiful that I couldn't ever take my eyes off it.

The 'Z's snuggled cozily with the 'L's, even as the spectacular 'Is's occupied those elusive voids which have always been left incomplete. And then I saw the beautiful pattern being completed. There were no voids. No spaces. No white places which required reason. The completed pattern imprinted itself in my mind in a way, I knew, I could never be freed of the haunting memory. The thought of the pattern gives me goosebumps even now - when I'm almost entirely sure that I will never again be able to replicate such splendor. Magnificent in its magic, Life is. Much like Tetris.

And then, I witnessed the greatest climax ever possible when the pattern satiated itself and collapsed. It disappeared! And it left no trace. The experience was complete, and now it was absent. It was but a memory, and therefore it was perfect. Experiences, after all, are only as perfect as the memories they are capable of creating. And it was apparent to me that day. There are no goals in life. There are never any! There are only roads which we imagine are ways to a destination. But ever so often, these roads are so romantic themselves, that you must forget the destination! Just like Tetris.

Rules of Tetris: When you make a perfect line, it disappears and all the blocks shift accordingly, leaving only a void on your screen. If you let the blocks reach the top of the Tetris board, you lose. You cannot win a Tetris game, though you can attempt to get the high score.

The point of Life isn't to reach the top, is it? The objective is to make patterns more beautiful than you can imagine, until they complete themselves and remain only as memories - memories that you want to relive. But sometimes, they come back! And we all wish that, one day, we will have the opportunity to recreate those spectacular designs.

It's the same thing with Tetris. You can't win Tetris; you only get to make a high-score. A score so high no one else can match!

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Madman's Lure

I should rather fancy chancing upon a madman and perhaps befriending him, if only for a short while, for the desire to defeat ennui is one of the prime motives of life. 'He speaks the words of another, and not his own,' some of you may cry, and there is truth in what you say. These thoughts are hardly my own, but throughout history, where has one ever come upon an original thought?

This madman, I spoke of, would be the most delightful creature indeed, for he would be the epitome of disorder. Rule-books can be shredded without second thoughts, as can books on psychology and those explaining human behaviour. While an anarchist would go out of his way to defy the rules and processes in front of him, a madman would simply go about life as if such things never existed, which would leave you in a state of perpetual wonder.

And wonderment is what we all live to see in this world. We all desperately ache for change and for experiences which are new heretofore. We want to travel to new places and meet new people, for habitual places, like old faces, are boring after a while. We all want to meet that enigma, who will surprise us with his every action, and we want to delight as spectators of these acts. This madman is the answer to all those yearnings.

Through his loopy eyes, you can seldom tell what goes on inside that head of unkempt hair. You cannot know if he means his words or if he is lying with the straightest face, for a madman cannot tell between truth and lie. He says whatever he fancies. His smile mayn't be a smile, but a cry of anguish, and perhaps he will hug you in a warm embrace prior to plunging a dagger into the centre of your heart. But he will be the most delightful creature indeed! - a world different from the hackneyed persons of today, who can all be reasoned with, and worse, explained.

But we lock away the madman as soon as we see him, for we fear him as much as we love him. Hypocrisy, which is the fluid that is pumped red through our veins, desires to protect us from the very character who we know will fill our lives with colour and music! We mustn't have friends who can't be trusted, after all, for they will hurt us and perhaps become reasons of our deaths. It is rather bewildering that the two things we humans desire the most, trustworthiness and impulsive-recklessness, cannot occur together.

If you must be trusted, I need to be able to explain you; and the moment I can do that, you will cease to fascinate me. But if you can't be trusted, I cannot allow myself the risk of your presence.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

The Indian Rapist

NCR's crimes against women have always been on the ascendancy. Everyday, The Times carries a story or two about rape and molestation in some godforsaken corner of the newspaper. But people don't like repetitive stories - they're boring. 'The same rape-thing everyday,' says a disinterested old man passing the newspaper to his son. The young man nods mechanically, switching channels on the television as his elderly mother brings piping hot chai into the drawing room. 'These women must learn not to go out so late in the night. Why can't they stay in groups?' she asks. 'It'll all be better if they begin to dress more modestly. They think they live in America these days!' laughs the old man, sipping his tea.

One more public gang rape later, India is up in arms against what is, after all, routine. Names such as Damini, Nirbhaya and Amanat have been conferred upon the unfortunate girl, who has now been proclaimed a martyr. Songs have been written and letters have been drafted about how brave she was. Inspirational death-bed quotes are abound, each one more touching than its predecessor. But no, ladies and gentlemen; these are all lies. The girl is no martyr. She didn't want to be brave. She was a hapless victim of circumstance and she died a painful, inglorious death in a comatose state. Martyrdom is glorious. Damini's death was nothing but.

'Put the rapists behind bars and punish them,' says the fuming public desperate to exact revenge on the depraved human beings who perpetrated the heinous crime. Several parties have called for stronger laws to make India safe for women, while no one seems to care about expediting the process in place. NCRB reports that 9.4% of all violent crimes in 2011 were rapes, amounting to a whopping 24,206 cases! How many of these cases have been given justice? I doubt the answer will be more than three digits long. When India sends such a message to people - 'Hey, even if you rape that woman, you're probably going to go Scot-free' - then there is no deterrent to these crimes. They will go on and on, no matter how many candle-light marches you hold. Humanity is, in itself, disgustingly depraved and Fear is the only thing which can prevent people from mutilating and annihilating each other.

But Fear is a temporary solution, some people say. Ultimately, there needs to be a stage when people have a changed mindset - when a woman can walk through a dark, secluded alleyway wearing whatever she pleases, and men respect her and leave her alone. Well, this is a noble dream but it hardly seems achievable at this point in time. Many people have blamed the 'patriarchal mindset' for the problems we face today, and they may well have a point. This is ironic - because Patriarchy itself came about in order to protect the women of the house. So, why do people blame the system which is in place to protect them? Or did something go wrong along the way?

The answer to this question is rather simple, readily available in our minds and in the general zeitgeist. One only has to watch a Ilayadhalapathi Vijay movie or a Salman 'Dabangg' Khan flick to see how readily India accepts the objectification of women. But if it ended there, we wouldn't be complaining so much - for in most movies, eve teasing and sexual harassment is almost norm. It adds to comic relief. Some movies go so far as to show how women are finally placated as they are unable to take any more obscene advances from the hero. 'Well, these are mass flicks,' people tell me, defending the their chikni chamelis. 'These are made to run in rural areas. Those farmers are satisfied only by such vulgarity.'

You could give these remarkably stupid defences a second-thought if it wasn't for the 'Cocktail's of Bollywood. Cocktail - featuring Saif, Deepika and Diana: That was targeted at elite Indian audience, correct? Somehow, I remember the ending being about the loose woman who mends her ways and becomes an ideal Bharatiya naari. 'Elite audiences' seem to have the same standards when it comes to distinguishing between a 'loose woman' and a 'good girl'. And this brings me to my point about Patriarchy.

Most cultures in this part of the world are fiercely protective of their women. They feel responsible for them and they will defend the honour of their ladies with their lives. This, after all, comes with the definition of a Patriarchy - where Father is the leader and defender of the household. It is only natural then, that this father has the last and final call regarding the affairs of the women in the house - like the marriage of the daughter etc. So, in the past, marriages were peacefully arranged by elders in society and youngsters didn't have much of a say. But now with love, sex and romance being prerequisites for betrothal, young men want to meet those women who will be conducive to such relationships. In other words, several men search for the aforementioned 'loose women' in order to carry out their passionate love affairs. However, at home it still remains the same. Your sisters and daughters need to remain good girls who can be married off to whomsoever the family decides.

In Arabia, the scene is similar but these men cannot manage their love affairs too easily outside of marriage. The sharia will have them castrated or stoned, or worse - both. So, they have their flings and parties far away from home, with Europeans and Americans, in the bars they swear they won't enter. I would say this is better for society, as the women at home are safer this way. In India, men are confused. They desire their Hollywood-esque love affairs in a society where they would like to keep their women under control.  In such a society, every patch of naked skin on a woman's body flashes brightly as an invitation to rape. Patriarchy, which has become a synonym for 'double-standard', could well be the culprit.

Finally, with so many people pledging to educate their friends and relatives, it is quite possible that we will eventually overcome this hypocritical mindset which will, in turn, lead to a declining number of rape cases in the country. Even if the numbers don't decline, at least a change of mindset will ensure that investigations are carried out without calling the woman the culprit. But this will take time. A lot of time. Until then, we need  deterrents. For every crime, there must be punishment.