How To Handle Criticism

Once I sent my drawings to a friend; she liked them and from then on she started asking regularly whether I have made any new art work or not. On the other hand, I am not able to produce artworks on a regular basis, however hard I try. So the next time this girl asked me for any new painting, I didn’t have anything to show. I was also afraid that she would start giving me sermons on the need of a more disciplined life and to be regular in art — all that stuff which I had heard several times from her and others. So in order to escape from rebuke, I searched my hard disk and sent the photograph of a very old painting which I had made long back. She replied, “Wow this is very nice work! I should say your painting skills have improved a lot! Great work!“ This was the first instance of fake appreciation for me. She was trying to tell me that I had made great progress in art but her facts were incorrect. I immediately understood that she was simply passing superficial comments and perfunctory appreciation.

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Why You Should Turn Your Passion Into Profession And What Makes It Difficult

Once question keeps popping up in my mind every now and then. Let me put it in this way. Everyone of us is educated, enters into some profession and earns a living. The rest of life is spent working hard, earning money which soon transforms into accumulating wealth, and then it all ends when we are old or retired, or both. Whenever someone asks why we undertake so much hardship, our quick answer is — financial security, our family responsibility, and above all, happiness. In a way, all reasons are related to each other and imply the same thing — happiness. My question is, instead of working so hard on something which we do not enjoy in order to earn a living so that we could be happy, why not start with happiness itself, i.e., do things that we enjoy and turn it into profession? That way life indeed would become fun and work would no longer be a labour. In fact, most of the time when we say we are tired, we actually mean that we are bored.

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Book Review: ‘Goodbye Phone, Hello World’ By Paul Greenberg

Image Source: NetGalley

Good Bye, Phone Hello World: 60 Ways to Disconnect from Tech and Reconnect to Joy by Paul Greenberg was the last book I read in 2020 and the first one that I am reviewing in 2021. In my opinion it is an important and an urgently needed book. That is the reason that I decided to start the book reviews this year with this book.

Good Bye Phone is about how we are losing out on our lives, our own interests, in small small bits and pieces, for the sake of something which is not even worth it. The focus of the whole book is to convey the urgency to get rid of smartphone addiction. In the first few pages of the book, the writer highlights the various ways in which smartphone is robbing you of your life. And remember that he is not just talking about the effect on your health or effect on your relationships. He tells you how seriously it is affecting your whole life and how you are being deprived of the various beautiful things which really mean to you.

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Your PhD Is The Best Time To Improve Your English

In my previous post I wrote about acquiring a language while living among its native speakers. Another opportunity for learning a language is presented by demands of workplace. This is particularly the case with English. You might recall that earlier German was the language of science communication, as also was French. Slowly English took over due to several ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ causes. Perhaps you are involved in scientific research, and your work demands reading, writing, collaborating, exchanging emails, giving seminars and presentations, communicating manuscripts and so on. Consequently, during your PhD you get ample opportunity to practise and hone up your English language skills. However, unlike the previous case, here it is not optional, as your bread and butter, and to a certain extent, your academic survival depends on how comfortable are you with this language. You are not supposed to win a Nobel Prize in literature, nor will you be asked to write a masterpiece like Shakespeare or Milton. Writing a paper or giving a talk which your readers or audience may easily understand and enjoy is all that is expected from you.

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How I Missed An Opportunity To Learn Another Language

One of the difficulties with language learning is to keep practising the language(s) you have learnt. In fact, you have been unconsciously doing the same thing with your mother tongue — even though you are not revising the grammar, you are talking to people, listening to them, reading and writing for several hours each day. And that is how you procured and retained the language you speak. With other languages also it is the same. Sometimes it is quite easy, e.g., if you are living in the country or state or city where it is the native language of the locals. For example, while pursuing my PhD and for another two years after that, I lived in Gujarat and got to have a first hand experience of the language and customs of that state. Several of my seniors, juniors, colleagues were Gujarati and of course, the institute staff. Going around the city on weekends I got even more exposure to the language from road signs, billboards and hoardings. People were in general willing to talk, and while starting the conversation they first talked in their mother tongue. Only after they were made to understand that I was not native, did they continue with the common language, Hindi in my case. It is funny and annoying how I wasted more than 6 years — time when I could have effortlessly learnt Gujarati. After all, all my Gujarati friends were all too willing and eager to help me learn their language. Only one year before leaving Ahmedabad, did I took to learning Gujarati. The main reason was the fear of looking stupid in case someone remarks, ”Oh! You had been in Ahmedabad for 8 years! You must be fluent in Gujarati of course!” In fact, had I taken even a superficial interest, I could have made enormous progress there. I didn’t need to read books or understand the grammar. I could have simply picked up from the conversation going on around me. The wound is easier to forget or assuage considering that Gujarati is easier for Hindi-speakers than several other languages. Had it been Tamil, I would have been frustrated at my blunder. When people ask me the languages I have learnt or know, I do not mention Gujarati and Marathi, as I am still not very fluent and comfortable with them. But the scene could have been much different. I may come back to them after settling my issues with French, but that is still far off in future. So my advice to you — whether you are interested in learning languages or not — is puncture your ego, be less arrogant and ignorant, and learn the language of the natives. You will reap greater dividends than you imagine. The point that I am trying to emphasise here is that several times it would not even require much physical or mental investment from your side. For example, for Hindi speakers, Urdu (spoken), Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali may come easier, the last one with some effort. And learning Bengali would in turn open doors to learning Oriya and Assamese.


photo credit: erin mclaughlin IMG_4683 via photopin (license)

Why I Do Not Discuss Politics And Current Affairs

Every other day I am pulled into conversation and someone or other solicits my comments or opinion on any topic of current affairs or politics. I try my best to avoid it, simply because I do not have any facts with me. I tell them that I do not possess the basic information or knowledge or expertise on this topic, so I am not the appropriate person to be asked this question. But what shocks me is that my requests as a rule fall on deaf ears as they keep on pressing me for an opinion. Most of the time there is no escape route, i.e., I cannot leave the place or the situation. Then I have to surrender. It is so embarrassing and disgusting. It certainly leaves a bad taste in mouth as I am filled with a deep sense of guilt of committing something which I was not supposed to do. But irrespective of my comment — either in favour or opposition to the proposition — they do not seem to mind my lack of expertise. Nobody seems to mind lack of knowledge or expertise to be a serious issue any more. 

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How To Escape An Argument

I am a very kind person. Almost. Whenever I get involved into any discussion, I try my best not to let it turn into an argument. I listen to the other person and let them have their own opinion and point of view. Sometimes. At other times, I get deeply annoyed and irritated, and lose my temper. Most of the time. What is my criterion of a healthy discussion? Besides the generally accepted social norms like not to make personal comments, not to use obscene, vulgar or provocative words, not to make remarks related to caste, creed, religion, gender, social status etc, I also give importance to information. An informed discussion and argument is always a healthy one. But most of the time you would find yourself either witnessing a discussion or yourself getting involved in a discussion with a person or group of people who don’t even have basic information or knowledge about that subject. I agree that having a complete knowledge about any subject or field is nearly impossible and also there is no end to the learning process. The more you explore, the more new questions and doubts arise in your mind. But I am talking about having basic information about the field which you are discussing. Otherwise you are fooling yourself only, given that the other person could be well informed. Well, I have also witnessed arguments where none of the parties had any information about the subject and both of them were giving heated arguments to support their points of view. In such cases, I do the wisest thing possible under the given circumstances — run away.

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