Saturday, March 2, 2013

Of Ethics, 99 Club, Looking Back, Alone, Downton Abbey, War, Midnight in Paris, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall at the Oscars, and Crumble


Long time no see.. Now where do I start.. So much happened over the last two weeks that I have in a way forgotten what all happened. It is a funny thing. I did not write last week because it was yet another of those crazy weeks which are becoming so common and crazier now :) March is going to be super tough that I do not know what will happen. But as Scarlett O' Hara says in Gone With The Wind, "after all, tomorrow is another day."  

This semester we have an Ethics class. Our professor strongly believes that ethics can be taught to students, where as most of the people in my class feel that these things cannot be taught. Each week we have to submit a paper on some ethical issue. Last week we had to submit the ethical issues in the play called, All My Sons by Arthur Miller. It is an old play but its story is very similar to Rang De Basanti. This week we had to write on whether CEO salaries and bonuses be limited? And for the final exam, we have to choose a topic on some recent event that involves ethics. I thought of writing about Lance Armstrong but it seems too difficult for me because it is a very complex topic. I myself do not have an ethical stand on it. At one point, the view is that everyone cheated he was just better at cheating. And it was us who made him the saint. The other view point is alright he cheated but then how can you destroy the lives of people, some of your very close friends who were just telling the truth. I am not able to make up my mind for it. So I may go in for another topic - responsibility of Hillary Clinton in the killing of the US Ambassador in Libya. To be true, I really like this class. One of my favorite quotes on ethics says that, “A true test of a person’s ethics is when he is in the line of fire.” In the class we discussed a number of ethical models but the one that I really liked was the Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity. It states that one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. So, there was this question that comes up in class: 

Pat is the plant manager in one of ABC Company’s five plants. She’s worked for the company for 15 years, working her way up from the factory floor after the company sent her to college. Her boss just told her in complete confidence that the company will have to lay off 200 workers. Luckily, her job won’t be affected. But a rumor is now circulating in the plant, and one of her workers (an old friend who now works for her) asks the question, “Well, Pat, what’s the word? Is the plant closing? Am I going to lose my job? The closing on our new house is scheduled for next week. I need to know!” What should she say? What would you say?

Given the golden rule, I said that I would tell her even though it is not the right thing because I would want to know too. So our professor did not agree with it and hence I was proved to be an unethical person :\ Some people said that it is unethical on the part of friend to ask in the first place and her boss too who shouldn't have told Pat, which in retrospect I somewhat agree. What would you do?  There were some other ethical models we talked about which I really liked. There is this utilitarian – consequentialist approach which says to maximize benefits and minimize harm while making ethical decisions and the other is deontological, which focuses on duties, obligations, and principles which says some actions are wrong even if consequences are good. Its focus is on doing what is right. It is fascinating that how cam models be made for something so abstract, ambiguous and subjective no? When I learn these things, I wish I was better at creative thinking :\

So I come across this amazing short story called the 99 Club. I loved it. It is just three-four paragraphs. One has to read it because it is just so bloody true.
Once upon a time, there lived a King who, despite his luxurious lifestyle, was neither happy nor content.
One day, the King came upon a servant who was singing happily while he worked. This fascinated the King; why was he, the Supreme Ruler of the Land, unhappy and gloomy, while a lowly servant had so much joy. The King asked the servant, "Why are you so happy?"
The man replied, "Your Majesty, I am nothing but a servant, but my family and I don't need too much - just a roof over our heads and warm food to fill our tummies." The king was not satisfied with that reply. Later in the day, he sought the advice of his most trusted adviser  After hearing the King's woes and the servant's story, the adviser said, "Your Majesty, I believe that the servant has not been made part of The 99 Club." "The 99 Club? And what exactly is that?" the King inquired.
The adviser replied, "Your Majesty, to truly know what The 99 Club is, place 99 Gold coins in a bag and leave it at this servant's doorstep." When the servant saw the bag, he took it into his house. When he opened the bag, he let out a great shout of joy... So many gold coins! 
He began to count them. After several counts, he was at last convinced that there were 99 coins. He wondered, "What could've happened to that last gold coin? Surely, no one would leave 99 coins!"
He looked everywhere he could, but that final coin was elusive. Finally, exhausted, he decided that he was going to have to work harder than ever to earn that gold coin and complete his collection.
From that day, the servant's life was changed. He was overworked, horribly grumpy, and castigated his family for not helping him make that 100th gold coin. He stopped singing while he worked. Witnessing this drastic transformation, the King was puzzled. When he sought his adviser's help, the adviser said, "Your Majesty, the servant has now officially joined The 99 Club." 
He continued, "The 99 Club is a name given to those people who have enough to be happy but are never content, because they're always yearning and striving for that extra 1 telling to themselves: "Let me get that one final thing and then I will be happy for life." We can be happy, even with very little in our lives, but the minute we're given something bigger and better, we want even more! We lose our sleep, our happiness, we hurt the people around us; all these as a price for our growing needs and desires. That's what joining The 99 Club is all about. 

Aren't we all a part of the Club 99 in some way? But how can we overcome this? I think it is really really hard to convince yourself. I just wish I can overcome this.

Going back to ethics, all this week I was thinking about this question which our professor asked. In one of the discussions she said, we all are making a narratives for our life and how do you see your life back over the years? She said that when she looks back at her life, she feels a lot of regrets - about the people she hurt on the way and she wishes she hadn't made those decisions. You know what - this is exactly what I was feeling. When I see my life back (I don't know if I really should call something as trivial as my existence as life?) I am just filled with regrets. Regrets about so many things. Lost opportunities, the way I behaved, why was I so stupid in my actions. Why didn't I do things earlier? This is what is causing me the most frustration and the worse part is I am not able to learn. I am still making some choices which I do not really want to but have to. How do you see your life back? I guess someone has perfectly said, as you grow older, you'll find the only things you regret are the things you didn't do. I am so feeling like this. Or as Barfi says, "Life me sabse bada risk hota hai, kabhi koi risk naa lena." 

And I have found a new apartment for myself. I will be staying alone from the next semester. It is a small-one room apartment but it is fine. Itna paisa bhi nahi hai na ;-) Everyone here told me it is not the right decision. But yesterday when I told my second year friend R, he was the only one who told me that it is the right thing because it will be a good experience as stepping out of comfort zones is an adventure and everything will be fine, just be happy. I think I like to live alone. I just hope all goes well.

I went with R to have a drink yesterday. I guess I can call myself an occasional drinker. I had beer. The place where we went brews their own beer, so it was so much better than some $3 Budlight. You see my benchmarks are very low :) It had a high alcohol content..8% and I had two pints, so I was dizzy but then I came back home and ate dinner, so it was alright. I don't like to drink a lot because I am too uptight. I don't like to lose control over myself. 

You know Mrs. Hughes in Downton Abbey says a very interesting thing, "if you’re feeling homesick, there’s no shame in it. It means you come from a happy home.” Now the first world war is going on in Downton and it is indeed very emotional to see the war being fought. How conscription was enforced in the UK and young men were forced to fight the war. In Downton Abbey, they do not show the war but how the lives of people back home are affected. Even Matthew, the heir to the Grantham estate, has been left paralyzed after the war. At one point Matthew says, "war has a way of distinguishing the things that matter from the things that don't." It is so true. Given the past turn of events in the India-Pakistan soldier beheading episode, I was shocked at how easily people talked of going to war. It seems as if our foreign policy is now decided by the hyperventilating media who talks of war as if it is some child's play. Just because they don't have to go war, they think it is very easy. What will a war achieve? And certainly it is not the only option as some of these folks like to believe. Talking of restraint doesn't mean you sit back and do nothing. The nation wants to know if Arnab Goswami and his likes would go to war instead of our soldiers.

Sometimes, I wish I could go and relive the old English classic period. But you know we think that our present age is just too bad and we all reminisce about the old times. We call the renaissance as the golden age but do we really want to go back in that time? Will be able to survive that time? I was thinking about Midnight in Paris, which brilliantly makes this great point that we should learn to enjoy our present. Just read this amazing conversation from the movie that says each age has its own golden age where we wish to go back. The conversation is between Gil, a present-day author who goes back in time in the Paris of 1920s, a time which he really wants to be in. He falls in love with Adriana, the mistress of Picasso. Adriana, in turn wants to go further back because she doesn't like the Paris of 1920s and has her own golden age, where she wishes to be.

Gil: I wanted to escape my present just like you wanted to escape yours. To a golden age.
Adriana: Surely you don’t think the twenties are a golden age?
Gil: To me they are.
Adriana: But I’m from the twenties and I’m telling you the golden age is the Belle Époque.
Gil: Yes but don’t you see - to these guys the golden age was the Renaissance. They’d all trade the Belle Époque to paint alongside Michelangelo or Titian. And those guys probably imagine life was better when Kubla Khan was around. I’m having an insight. A minor one but that accounts for the anxiety of my dream.
Adriana: What dream?
Gil: Last night I dreamed I ran out of Zithromax - and then I went to the dentist and there was no novacaine - these people have no antibiotics.
Adriana: What are you talking about?
Gil: And even in the twenties - no dishwashers - no 911 if your appendix bursts - no “movies on demand”.
Adriana: But if we love each other what does it matter when we live?
Gil: Because if you stay here and this becomes your present, sooner or later you’ll imagine another time was really the golden time. And so will I - I’m beginning to see why it can’t work, Adriana. The present has a hold on you because it’s your present and while there’s never any progress in the most important things, you get to appreciate - what little progress is made - the internet - Pepto- Bismol. The present is always going to seem unsatisfying because life itself is unsatisfying - that’s why Gauguin goes back and forth between Paris and Tahiti, searching - it’s my job as a writer to try and come up with reasons why despite life being tragic and unsatisfying, it’s still worth it.

Isn't it terrific? If you love history or Paris or Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris is a must watch.

And I was so feeling so depressed due to the work that I finally went and saw a movie. I had been wanting to watch Silver Linings Playbook since ages. It had released ages ago. After about three months, I watched a movie. Felt so happy. I loved loved Silver Linings Playbook. I thought it is going to be depressing given the context of mental health but it was so *happy* What a terrific chemistry Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have. Such good looking people both of them. I just wonder how can some people be so gorgeous. What I really liked was how they showed each of us have some or the other peculiar habit, it is just how we deal with it. How was Pat different from his father who also hit people after his team lost the match? Like I have to check that the door is locked at least five times before I go to sleep? We all have some of these things, it is just the degree that varies. So how sane are you? Pat's friend was in a troubled marriage too but he was silently suffering. And of course, I liked it when Pat realized he loved Tiffany. All the while he was thinking he loved Nikki, but it shows again that you can move on, you can find love again, there is a silver lining after all. I also saw shades of Khilona in the movie. You remember Khilona? That Sanjeev Kumar and Mumtaz starrer? I loved Khilona, perhaps Sanjeev Kumar's finest performance.

And you know how old Jennifer Lawrence is? She is just 22!!!! She was born in 1990!! And look at her strength to portray emotions. I mean I feel I have wasted my life. Yaar I really want to do something in my life. I feel like such a loser :(

"Excelsior. It means you know what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna take all this negativity and use it as fuel and I’m gonna find a silver lining, that’s what I’m gonna do. And that’s no bullshit. That’s no bullshit. That takes work and that’s the truth.”
 - Pat, Silver Linings Playbook

And the ever so beautiful Adele performed live at the Oscars. She was just outstanding. I want to be like her ;) The link from the Oscars website is here:

Let the sky fall, 
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
And face it all together
At sky fall
At sky fall

Oh and I really want to watch Kai Po Che :( 

There are some more things to write but I guess I don't remember. A crazy time is coming. Will I be able to bear it? Or will I crumble? Time will tell :)

Dialogue of the Day:
"Bauji theek kehte hain main jhootha hoon, dhokebaaz hoon, to kya hua agar maine jhooth sirf tumhe paane ke liye kaha tha." 
- Raj, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge

P.S. - Raj wasn't very ethical no? :) He fools Kuljeet, misguides Preeti that he is in love with her, and lies to everyone, but I still feel I should root for him. I guess I am not ethical either ;-) 

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