Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Being Dorian Gray

Like everyone else, I have changed a lot after having come to IIT. I suppose I was a bit of a child when I first arrived here. In the two and half years I have spent here I have perceptibly changed. This has been a recurring theme in my posts for some time now. I wrote previously that I can at times actually notice how different I am and how differently I behave from only a couple of years ago. I often catch myself remarking only in half-jest “How things change!”.

I have rid myself of several qualms I had about many things. For example, I was one of those people in school who actually had issues with cheating. On the rare occasion that I did cheat, or skipped work, I felt a guilt that I feel even today. The guilt is, however, going away and I think IIT’s greatest contribution will be equipping me with a faith in jugaad.

Many people think I am cynical and berate me for not loving life more, especially as I have so many things going my way. I can’t deny I am cynical sometimes, and I don’t blame people for believing that is a permanent state. What they don’t realize is the extent of their own cynicism. People just use words like ‘cynicism’ interchangeably with ‘pessimism’, ‘skepticism’ or ‘depression’.

Cynicism implies believing the world is past repair. When you ask me to like the world for what it is, do you not realize you are asking me to buy into the perception that since the system won’t change, we should change to make the system work for us.

In a cesspool of corruption and selfishness and naked materialism, we must transform ourselves into slimy creatures feeding on the filth, or die of poisoning.

I respect those people tremendously who look down upon the cesspool’s lowlife, and yet occupy a position in society that I’d like to occupy. There are people who look like they are intelligent, perceptive and sensitive, who work hard for their lives and careers, but who have principles. These are people who look like they have grounding. Their principles will stand them in good stead and the sacrifices they might make for their principles will serve them better than the compromises they could have made at crossroads in their lives. These are people who understand what culture means, who understand that some things are sacred, who empathise with others without condescension. These are people who are spotless, who are looked up to and asked for opinions. These are people who genuinely try never to be late, who apologize when they’re late for no fault of theirs, who go some way in being the kind of men or women that Kipling made his model in ‘If’.

And you so want them to respect you for you respect them so much. You don’t feel ashamed of the influence their opinions have on you. You wish you were a protégé to their mentorship, or alternately their mentor. You feel, instinctively, that they will understand what you say when others will only nod. You know you’ll connect.

And then they tell you quite casually how they did this only because they wanted something they coveted, and which they coveted so that they’d get that miniscule leg-up in their careers, possibly. And it’s not the statement that shocks you. What shocks you is that it’s not an admission, it’s just a fact. Fact of life.

And you then realize that you were wrong in investing so much respect in ordinary persons. They are, after all, ordinary. They live and breathe the same smoke you do. And if you think you can manipulate your way to the top and absolve yourself by confessing and admiring those that prefer the stairs for their diligence and adherence to values, why should you expect them to not want to take the elevator?

And so let’s all try and enjoy the elevator ride in spite of all the claustrophobia. Because no one on the stairs is there because they enjoy walking. They’re there because the lift was full. And although it’s an inspiring sight, if you’ll leave your place in the lift to join the staircase fraternity, one of the Brotherhood will rush to take your place.

So let’s all admire their courage and envy their peace of mind, but from a safe distance, and knowing fully well that our admiration must not translate into action.

Let’s celebrate ambition and greed
And sex and sleaze
We’d be nicer if we could be
But we’ll gladly settle for selfish and mean

We suck up to the meanest
We taunt the meek
For the mean represent the best
And the meek represent the weak

Truth is Success
And anything less
Is just not good enough
For the bloody best

17 Comments:

Anonymous shivam said...

I had a sneak peak to this entry in the afternoon. I thought it picked up towards the end and now I am feeling vindicated. You are really getting a radical opinion through in the latter half and more importantly, in your unique style.

25/1/06 6:23 PM

 
Anonymous shivam said...

... and as usual I think you are spot on.

25/1/06 6:25 PM

 
Blogger thelostcause said...

That does it! It's indeed the singularly striking post i've come across in quite some time,and though i do have some issues with your views on the choices people make,the article was unsparingly objective.

25/1/06 6:53 PM

 
Blogger Robert Frust said...

[Shivam] I'll have to re-read to see how the post picks up later. Radical? Yes, I suppose so. I'm glad you think so, I feel it quite strongly sometimes.

[thelostcause] Thank you. Continuing in the same unsparingly honest way, I have to admit that I still care about comments and my vanity has done a somersault inside me. :)

25/1/06 7:16 PM

 
Blogger mithrandir said...

Nice post.It serves as kind of vindication for the precious few in our setup who still have principles.
U know this is a trait that we share exclusively with the ppl from developing countries.I have been observing this for quite some while now-how Morrocans,Chinese,Africans,Indians all have one thing in common-that for lack of better word is simply jugad-coming late,getting in front of line,trying shortcuts while working and other such things.I was thinking of writing my next post on this one and the reasons why the same traits are seen as scrupulous to Germans,French etc come so naturally to us.
To leave ur blogspace becoming a post,I wld maybe try to address this issue in a seperte entry.And believe I perceive many genuine reasons for such personality differences.

26/1/06 1:58 AM

 
Anonymous Vivek said...

I don't think that everyone who seems to have principle will turn out to be someone who took the stairs because the elevator was full. There are a few, granted they may be very few, who have their principles and still keep off the stairs.
And these are the ones who built the monument whose stairs the others are rushing to climb.

26/1/06 10:53 AM

 
Blogger kd said...

"Because no one on the stairs is there because they enjoy walking. They’re there because the lift was full."

Brilliant metaphor. I agree completely.

Though I am a good guy inside and all.., I might take the stairs because it suits my pride.. The one who takes the stairs does it for this reason too. The pain on the leg is silly compared to the depression of being part of the herd. If it helps me feel superior, I am ready to suffer ;)

26/1/06 9:04 PM

 
Blogger Anirudh said...

this post hit me ..i can't explain..i don't know what to say.. but i'd like to think that u r wrong..

27/1/06 12:58 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's celebrate ambition and greed
Let's celebrate words which we never keep

Let's celebrate might of the might
Let's celebrate success of the success

Let's celebrate because the lift did not sound 'overload' even though I was the 8th member .
Let's celebrate because my ideal is an idea,so my idealism is imagination,remember.

Let's celebrate because 'to err is humane'and afterall we are not divine.
Let's celebrate because someone down there is slogging and yet jugad will definitely see me shine.

Let's celebrate that we are stuck here in the lift when the lights are gone
(with a b'ful damsel)while the people on the stairs have climbed up ,though we had place left for one.

Let's celebrate because celebration hides all my misery.
Cheers!
Let's cheer to celebrate the truthful mockery.
Cheers!

They chose the stairs not because there was no space.
But because they remembered from their childhood that slow and steady wins the race.

The elevator might make you land fast.
But the steadiness and belief ,that the stairs give ,finally,only would last.

Cheers 4 a thoughtful post!

27/1/06 2:21 AM

 
Anonymous renegade said...

Because no one on the stairs is there because they enjoy walking. They’re there because the lift was full.

What about all the masochists in the world?

I agree with anirudh

27/1/06 9:15 AM

 
Blogger Robert Frust said...

[vivek, anirudh, renegade] I'm not (yet) cynical enough to believe people don't do good at all, and I still truly admire many people. This post was more from the point of view of someone who reposed a lot of faith in some people and found that they had clay feet.
No need for alarm.
Maoschists? Good one.

[mithrandir]I'll wait eagerly for your post on cultural differences regarding scruples.
Drop me a line when you post it.

[kd] Thanks. I don't know about the pain of being part of the herd. I think most of us would gladly be somewhere in the front of the stampeding herd. Hats off to people who actually don't give a damn about the race.

27/1/06 10:19 AM

 
Blogger Robert Frust said...

[anonymous] Firstly, I don't see why you should comment anon but you obviously have your reasons.
Secondly, I appreciate your effort in writing a poem. However I am curious to know why you felt you should (and it's a pretty long one too).
Thirdly, forgive me. I'm dense. I can't quite get the point of your poem. Since I think I know who you are, I tried to figure it out and still can't decide whether you are self-flagellating for being the manipulative type, raising a voice for the good people I have unfairly branded as losers or generally telling us what a rotten world we inhabit.
Fourthly, what exactly do you think the 'lift' is? Why is the lift stuck? Why are the staircase people winning? How did a 'b'ful damsel' enter the picture/lift?
Fifthly, to err, unfortunately for you, is 'human'. I, being divine, forgive you. ;)
Sixthly, thanks for the cheers and the compliment. Cheerio! yourself.
Seventhly, I'd love you to reply and I want to check whether I can predict it or not.
Lastly, keep coming back. :)

27/1/06 3:34 PM

 
Blogger Anirudh said...

renegade.... u and me think alike :-)

we ae all masochists at some level..or am i the only one who thinks this way?..or maybe i am a masochist myself..im confused

27/1/06 11:21 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly you don't know me because I don't know you.
Secondly anon because it hardly matters, if we don't know each other.
Thirdly there was no effort put into the poem,most of it came effortlessly ,much from your own post.
Fourthly these lines were a rxn to your post ,so if it cudn't make a point,ur post probably missed making a pt. to me.
Fifthly I am glad you got the catch in 'to err is humane' ,I thought most wud not get it.
Sixthly I was frustrated with explaining my writing 2 evry1,so this cmnting,but I guess no place is good enough for me.
Seventhly for the above reason I shall not be replying further.
Eightly I love the way you write,so I'll be coming back.:)
Good Luck!

28/1/06 2:23 AM

 
Blogger Arthur Quiller Couch said...

You make sense to me. Wisdom in one so young? When I was your age, I never thought at all.

More, please.

P.S. I'd appreciate it if you didn't call the Mikra a pseud. Stop by her blog, she seems nice.

6/2/06 11:11 PM

 
Blogger Robert Frust said...

[aqc] Thanks for stopping by. You are now officially the first commenter I don't know/haven't met.
I had no idea I still valued comments that much :)

8/2/06 4:13 PM

 
Anonymous Hiren Shah said...

People can go to any lengths to promote their jobs and careers. Thats natural. Some staircase goers are genuine but others talk like psuedo intellectuals because they don't have it in them to take the lift. Very few people do things without any ulterior motive and even they can change.

10/2/06 9:06 PM

 

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