27 August 2013

The Solitary Diner

I went out to dine today. Since I am in a new city and neither have a place nor know anyone here, I went to a restaurant nearby that I had noticed yesterday. Seemed a neat and small joint. The rate list said otherwise. The food was pretty expensive and the quality of place did not justify it. While waiting for my dinner to be presented to me, and since I was without a book (the rare occasion when I am between books and taking a few days' break), I started looking around. A family with two kids behind me, two female friends celebrating one's birthday on my right, another couple seemingly immersed in discussion a little father to the left, etc. I noticed that I was the only one sitting alone. This is a common enough practice for me. I usually dine out alone when I feel like it. If none of the ones at hand are interested enough, I just take off with a book in my 'jhola' and sit in some joint and spend time. But over time I have noticed that dining alone is not a common practice in general. On the odd occasions that I have seen someone digging into his food alone, it has usually been men towards their middle ages seemingly on errands (they carry files and folders or something of the sort). I have even shared tables with them at times, two solitary diners unmindful of either's presence. Since I had nothing better to do today, I started wondering why it was that people did not done alone? 

It is not that I am exceptionally unsocial to not have dinner companions. But I occasionally do find myself in a position where no one is interested, is otherwise engaged or has already had dinner. In such cases I step out alone. Do others not face such situations? I think they do. Assuming they do, why don't they go out? Apparently the inhibition to go out to a fancy place and dine alone is greater than the longing to have that special food. Perhaps the longing was not great enough in the first place. Or maybe people find their own company too burdensome to bear alone. Loneliness is boring for many. Has never been for me. Is that why I have failed at almost all human relationships? Except the ones in which people have stuck to me and made me succeed? But then that's their success. Still my failure. I digress however. My food was presented.

Chicken cutlet served on gravy with some fries. Hmmm. And some bread to go along. Fries and bread both? Weird. 

My mouth was busy with the food but my brain was still free to rave. So. Why do I not mind myself enough to ditch plans where I am left alone? I travel alone, quite a few people do that but attach themselves to temporary companions. I dine alone, not many do that. I go to theaters and watch movies alone, rarely people do that. I ride alone, still fewer do that, if any. I let out a low laugh as I realised what had made me this solitary diner sitting and chewing on the cold cutlet and excellent gravy. It was a social experiment. Triggered by a spat with friends back in college and converted into one of the many experiments that I had chosen myself as the subject of.

The ice tea was good as well. If only the cutlet had been freshly prepared and the prices a little less, I would have come here oftener. Well...

So this particular one was about me surviving alone. Absolutely alone. I used to attend classes occasionally, else lock myself up in my room. I fancied I could was in a prison. No, prisons were not a lonely place. I wonder why I had fancied that back then. Anyway. Self imposed confinement. Alone in whatever I did. I picked up habits that let me survive without craving social contact. Reading, writing, surfing, walking, thinking. What was funnier was that this was not the only experiment that I had forgot to terminate. My unkempt look, lack of enthusiasm or ambition, no tube, cynicism - my entire self was more or less from these weird experiments. Damn me! I am a concoction! Ah, well, the dinner was decent.

No Amex. Hah. Fake appearances. [:P] That is how I have stated judging the sophistication of places now. But then CCD accepts Amex. What a world!

As I walked back I wondered why I had not ended the experiments and whether I should end the experiments now. But there was no need to. Why make the effort? Who cares? Not me for sure. Wait, is that the experiment speaking in the first place? Argh! Too complicated. Let me just go back to the big posh room with a big bed that I have for a couple of days and stare in my laptop. Weird that I don't feel weird. I should probably get my head checked.

17 June 2013

The Powers of Defeatism

There are multiple definitions of defeatism out there. Many presume that it is a negative concept and hence they define it as such. Many link it to pessimism or weakness. But there is a definition which might make you want to look at it more objectively :

- n
a ready acceptance or expectation of defeat

Let us shun the prejudices against defeat and failure for a while and look at the concept of defeatism again. Defeatism can possibly be a ready acceptance of a thwarting circumstance. Simple as that. It is nothing more than pragmatism in the face of failure. Going forward with that definition, let us look at what defeatism has to offer.

In the red corner is the ever acclaimed and glorious Struggle. The one that leads men to better their lot. The inspiration for changes. The giver of splendor. In the blue corner is the despised Defeatism. The peddler of pessimism. The asylum of the weak willed. It is hardly worth the fight to find out who would win the competition. Defeatism with it's weak will would be seen walking away in trepidation while Struggle would stand tall in all it's magnificence. Hardly a match.

But wait. All that is plain glory talk. The conventional stuff that is fed to the kids so that they can grow up to be respectable men who know what's right and what's wrong. Struggle in the face of adversity and do not give up without a fight. Right? But then we were also taught that an unbending tree topples in the storm. So is it better to put up a fight and struggle when faced with a compelling situation or simply bend, give way and move on to something else? Depends on the situation mostly. Depends on what can be compromised upon and what cannot.

It is when the situation is something you can compromise upon (and there are very few that cannot be, despite the egotistical outlook of people) that defeatism truly shines above all other traits. It lets you accept defeat as a valid result of your enterprise. You tried, you put up a fight, you lost. Accepted. You probably want to give up at this point of time and move on to something more enticing, something better if even as a prospect. Sure, go ahead. Defeatism does not pile up guilt on you like the concept of honour does. It lets you abandon the sinking ship that you have captained and seek a shore to build a new ship and sail afresh. Defeatism lets you be happy in whatever you endeavour to pursue for you pursue it not to win it over, you pursue it because you want to pursue it and you can stop whenever you have had enough. It let's you do and not care about the result. Does not the Geeta say the same?

03 April 2013

The Auxiliary Deity

I find myself at times around burning embers of wood listening to people I barely know talk about things that are only too familiar. I find myself, at such times, being opinionated quite obtusely in favour of what I see as the valid explanation of the intrigue under discussion. And so I debate. Relishing the act as much as the fact that the discussion would be pointless. I found myself in a similar situation a few days ago. Sitting in a large group. Kindling a campfire with a stick. Listening intently to a question asked by a fellow camper. In time the question transmuted into one of those abstract topics of discussion that get everyone's attention. The common woe in every heart put skillfully into words. Something of the essence :
What's stopping you from quitting your mundane professions and following your passions?
Well, everyone can give a piece of his mind on that one for sure. For some it is a wait. For some an impossibility. For others, it is unnecessary. Some do not know where their passions lie. Some have a plan. Others give not a damn.

But it was something else in this conversation that got my attention more than the abstract question.
What is success?
Surely something subjective, for everyone had a different definition in mind for it. Money, fame, respect, happiness, completion, satisfaction, etcetros. Many opinions poured from all sides of the fire (which I had been constantly tending to, by the way, but that is not really relevant). Some made sense to me, others did not and others yet were way too abstract to be answers to anything. It amazed me that something so frequently referred to in conversations between friends and didactic advises of parents, teachers or self appointed preachers could have such diverse comprehensions! I must have used the word "success" in many of my conversations with others, never bothering how it was understood by the other. And there must be many more of these words. Happiness? Love? Tension? Inability? Excitement? Pride? Beauty? Divinity? Something? Nothing? Everything?

Leads one to question as to how much indeed is he able to communicate through words? How many things said are misunderstood? How much read between the lines? How much assumed? Could our lives be simpler without languages? Would abstracts still exist if there were no words to explain them? Perhaps there are none that do. But the darned abstracts do exist. They continue to ruin our conversations. Laugh impishly as we try to bridge the gap between the said and the understood. Under such dire circumstances, everything seems so simply and conveniently confusing! Reminds me of a line that I read recently in Alan Moore's 'From Hell' :
Invoke not reason. In the end it is too small a deity.