Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Anti-Promotion Snobbery

I don't like self-promotion. Of anything, of any kind. I don't like the idea of having to sell myself, my ideas, my "creations", my thoughts,  my opinions... or whatever else, unless it has some tangible meaning or use to someone.

But I live a real life. I know I can't get by without ever trying to "sell" what I have to offer. I get it. I know the power of marketing and advertisement. And I understand they are necessary aspects of a commerical business.

But sometimes (okay, several times), I can't get past it. It climbs on my nerves and rides me batty. I can't get past constant, unabashed promotions of how great one is.... and by that count, everyone is doing something "ground breaking" every minute. I am old-fashioned enough in matters of this kind. Whatever happened to the idea that actions speak louder than words? Or that quality speaks louder than quantity?

If something is truly good, it shouldn't require campaigns and promotions and advertisements and hyped tactics. It should speak for itself. Right? Yes?

I can sense you shaking your head and mouthing "no". Why? Because there is so much useless, inane noise made by everybody that those with substance need to raise their voices and make some noise too. Just to be noticed.

Ok. But, shouldn't there be a line drawn on how ridiculously one promotes themselves? 

Why is it that anyone that can write a sentence and use a free hosting service to publish it, calls themselves a writer? That too, a talented writer? If so, could you please learn to spell "that" the right way... it is not spelled "dat". I have checked.

Anyone that can draw stick figures and splash colors on paper or canvas calls themselves an artist. And talks about creative urges. How? How can someone be so self-deluded to think that their "Art" is in any way better or superior to that of a 2-year old's? 2 year old's everywhere are offended that no one calls them artists.

If someone picks up a book every few months, they become "voracious" readers , "avid" readers, "lovers of literature". Please don't say you are a lover of literature when you proudly proclaim the greatness of "Fifty Shades of Grey". Please, it gives me chest pains. 
Ask them what kinds of books they like, and hear them say, "There's just toooooo many to list! I read them all!" Ah, such a voracious reader that you have sooo many favorite books, but can't tell us anything about any kind of book. Knowing true voracious readers in my life, I find it unacceptable that such people would just confer such generous titles onto them.  

And don't get me started on those who call themselves poets. Oh my... everyone is a poet these days. And chefs. And wine connoisseurs. And photographers. In this abounding age of point and shoot cameras and Instagram, all of us are photographers.

Shouldn't these terms be earned? How ridiculous is it to attach superlative terms to oneself? Is it time to remove the term "humility" from the dictionary?

Yeah, I know I sound bitter. But, every now and then, I need to vent. 

You see, I am an anti-promotion snob. So much so, that I request people to not share or advertise my blogs/posts in high-traffic public domains. I hate promoting my hobbies, because I indulge in them for myself. I hate keeping count of my followers and readers. My followers? Really, who am I? I hate inflicting  ramblings such as this onto others by means of a status update. People have better things to do.

I can't stand saying "read this!" "like me!" "RT me!" "Follow me!" "+1 me!" "Pin me!" for a mere recipe or my self-entitled opinions. Who cares what I think? Is it going to solve global poverty? Or help any pressing global issue?

But I do like to foster discussions. Which is the reason why this post is publicly available and not in my private journal. If it is good enough for discussion, it will be discussed. And it will be read by those that choose to read it, when they want to.

I follow the mantra that if something is really that good, it will be found and appreciated without the need for mindless, inflated promotions. The best kinds of products don't require advertisements to be popular. The best kinds of people don't talk about themselves and how great they are. Others talk about them. 

I believe it is a true measure of the innate quality of anything. And so,  my social experiments with this philosophy continue... as does my snobbery.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Happier - Then or Now?

If you are blessed to be in a content and happy marriage, read on...

Are you happier now than you were before marriage? (i.e., before you actually tied the knot, took the vows)
What would your answer be and why? I would love for you to share!

During a recent gathering amongst our close friends, one of our friends dropped this question on us just before the dawn of the new year. 

To my surprise, all the married men in the room immediately stated that they were much happier and more at peace after marriage. I thought they were joking or being sarcastic, but since the conversation moved into serious realms, I realized they were all giving their earnest, genuine responses. 

I was touched, of course.  I thought men silently resented the institution ;)

But, here lies the rub. All the women fell into a deathly silence (for once). Some of us didn't have a clear, definitive answer, and those who did answer felt they were more carefree, stress-free and much much more blissful before marriage.

Eventually all the women (except me) answered, and all their answers matched the consensus that life was way more happier and peaceful in terms of lesser stress, lesser responsibilities and obligations before marriage. Note that these answers come from couples in healthy, happy marriages.

What a contrast between the men and the women! I never expected the responses to be this similar within all the men and women. But, given that all of us at the gathering were Indians, there is obviously a cultural effect. No matter how progressive your spouse and family is, one thing still remains true - Indian women bear the brunt of family responsibilities after marriage. The number of people they need to appease and constantly oblige, the kinds of PR initiatives they need to take up to maintain relationships within and between the two sets of families, the pressure of balancing the load of expectations to always, effortlessly manage work and home, the number of questions they need to answer (and the number of people they are "answerable" to {one of them mentioned the frustration of having to always defend & justify her parenting techniques}), and the ease with which they get criticized for every misstep - everything doubles after marriage. In contrast, almost all Indian men have zero expectations from the woman's family (how common is it for a husband to remember the wife's parents' anniversary? But what a catastrophic scenario would ensue if the wife forgets the husband's parents' anniversary?), they are easily forgiven, their responsibilities with regards to relationship-maintenance between family members is again close to zero, and they don't have to go through the emotional and stressful experience of balancing two families whilst making oneself as likeable and uncontroversial as possible. They are a bit pampered compared to the women, aren't they?

All the women (and most of the men) came up with the above differences and agreed that the emotional and mental load is indeed disproportionally distributed between the man and the woman.

It is such a pity that chronic emotional resentments and stress can cause most women in happy marriages to still prefer that period of time in their lives when they were pampered and carefree. Our social attitudes towards women & marriage still need to reform - no surprises there.

If you are wondering what my answer is, I am not sure I have one. Happiness is a subjective measure - it's hard to encapsulate so many different aspects of life into one simple measure or term. And I don't want to view marriage as such a sharp delineating marker. My life can't be segmented like that. But I do realize this - despite the challenges that accompany any marriage, I have no regrets today. I wouldn't give up what I have today. I have grown as a person and have a companion to keep growing with, and that to me is invaluable. That said,  I don't think my happiness has increased necessarily, but it hasn't diminished either. Every phase of life comes with its own unique experiences, joys, and challenges - ups and downs, happiness and disappointments. So my emotions always get neutralized in every phase...there is no perfect phase or time period in my life that I am nostalgic for, because they are all imperfect. You gain some and you lose some, always. In that regard, my happiness quotient has been constant and satisfying... no spikes and no abysmal dips.... and I am blessed and grateful for that constancy.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Dare to be Original

In today's world of constant information clatter (and clutter) over the wide wide web, all we read, hear and see are echoes of others' words and thoughts and ideas. So many loud, cacophonous echoes of meaningless chatter, unnecessary opinions, tedious details and mindless gloating that everybody wants to compete with. All I ask and stress over is this - why can't you at least be original in what you say or do? Why choose to be an echo all the time?

Originality keeps diminishing in value.  Mediocrity flourishes thanks to the rampant, senseless use of Ctrl Cs and Ctrl Vs. It dampens my spirit. Don't you realize what a precious gem Authenticity is?

Why do you underestimate yourself? Why not step back from all the noise and reflect on who you truly are before seeking out to rob someone else's identity? Why don't you learn to express yourself in your own way without obsessively browsing through Pinterest or some other personal space for "inspiration"? Why are you letting your imagination rust by constantly wallowing in the strong currents of others' imagination? Isn't it a pity?

You are doing yourself a favor by being true to yourself.

Dare to have opinions that are not tweeted
Dare to wear clothes that are not in vogue, simply because you want to
Dare to read books that others don't talk about
Dare to not watch a movie that everybody insists you must watch
Dare to paint your walls in colors not recommended by the Internet
Dare to throw a party without a theme; and without relying on the collective consciousness of Pinterest.

Give your imagination a chance to work on its own

Dare to be original
Dare to be different and weird
Dare to think by yourself
Dare to express yourself the way you are
Dare to create something on your own, just your own, without plundering someone's ideas
Dare to write your own words and sentences to shape your own thoughts
Dare to admit not wanting to always be part of popular culture
Dare to step outside the box

But if you must seek inspiration and apply someone's original ideas, thoughts or words, please be gracious, generous and humble enough to acknowledge it. There is nothing more distasteful and disheartening than always lurking in someone's shadows and stealthily stealing that which is not yours. Be responsible with attributing credit. If it ain't yours, don't proclaim it to be.

Please resist the temptation to masquerade by disguising yourself in somebody else's cloak of identity. You have your own. Never forget to wear it  and showcase it with confidence.