Are there no selfless good deeds?


Lately I have been thinking a lot about Joey’s statement in one of the episodes of Friends, where he denies the existence of any selfless good deeds. He argues that any selfless act makes you feel good and hence ceases to be one. We tend to do things which makes us happy. If not immediate, then with a hope that it would reap benefits sometime in the future. Our existence can be defined as a quest for happiness. I don’t think there is anyone out there who wants to experience all the misery in this world. If there is, I am pretty sure that would make him/her happy. So is Joey true? Are there really no selfless deeds?

We can see this argument in another perspective. It’s not that all selfless deeds have a hidden motive. The truth is all deeds have a motive. You eat because you are hungry. You exercise to stay healthy. Every act of ours has a cause or a need. Drinking beer or eating ice cream is not necessary to stay alive. But we continue to do it for that momentous feeling of elation and satisfaction. The need to stay happy is one of the primal instincts humans have. Happiness drives everything we do.

Then there are acts where one endures great pain for others. It seems illogical for a soldier to die for his country. What made those countless brave men in history to fight for their respective nations? Why did people protest until their dying breath for various reforms in their society? The answers go beyond any rational thought. It is possible that they had associated their happiness with that of their fellow countrymen. Their life’s goal was protection of their land and well-being of the posterity.

Recently, I was watching BBC Life TV series ( Watch it!). A giant Pacific octopus settles down in a safe den carrying fertilized eggs. She nurtures and protects them from other predators. She doesn’t ever break her guard or leave the den. Without food, she gradually starves to death. A poison dart frog climbs a tall tree with her tadpoles on her back, looking for particular plant where she can safely drop off her children. It is like a mother carrying her newly born and climbing the Empire state building. The frog makes multiple trips up and down the tree to provide her children with food. These are just a few examples in which animals show great care for their children. This true among humans too. It is still a bit self-centered, because you care for your off-springs and not others’.

For past few weeks, I have been part of an organisation which is working on education and rehabilitation of the poor and mentally challenged kids. Why am I doing it? I just wanted to be of some help. We feel happy when we are able to help somebody. This is a strange trait with us, human beings. There are studies which show that instead of a company donating a lump sum amount to a charity on behalf of the employees, if employees themselves are allowed to do it individually, it increases employee satisfaction. What is the reason? Why do we care for our loved ones more than ourselves?  Is it because it affirms the idea of us being good? Why do we want others to think that we are good, caring and polite? If every act of our’s, is a tool to modify our social image, then an action can become selfless if it does not affect others’ perception of us.

We might already be living in a world where Joey is true. But honestly I don’t think it is a bad thing. On the other hand, it would totally freak me out if one’s actions does not have any motive. Finding meaning in everything helps us maintain our illusion that we exist for a reason. It is essential for keeping us sane and hopeful.

Dear Doordarshan

Dear Doordarshan,

Yes, I would like to address you as ‘dear’, because that’s what you are to me. Firstly, I want to thank you for giving me a wonderful childhood. Recently I was discussing about you with a friend of mine and we both agreed you were awesome. We miss you a lot.

Thank you for giving us Shaktimaan. It was my favourite show in Doordarshan. I used to come running from school so that I did not miss it. Thankfully, it then started coming on Sundays. I always wondered whether we can actually fly if we turn very fast. And I have tried it many times. That was just the beginning. I can’t recall how many times we have tried to imitate Shaktimaan in our real lives. Also, I have to be honest; I was a little scared of Kilvish. But we liked to chant ‘Andhera kayam rahe’. I loved the other characters, especially the Shaitan scientist Dr. Jackal (who used to say – Power!!!). Then there was Choti Choti Magar Moti Baatein. The phrase ‘Sorry Shaktimaan’ still cracks me up. Now I realize that Shaktimaan was inspired from other western superheroes. Still Shaktimaan was no less than a national phenomenon.

There were others too. Captain Vyom and Junior G were fun to watch. Thank you for introducing us to some western shows too. Shows like Knight Rider, Street Hawk, Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad, Alladin, Duck Tales brings back some pleasant memories. I think Malgudi Days is one of the finest TV shows I have ever seen. It is refreshing, sweet, intriguing; I still watch it. And I never really understood Chandrakanta. Nonetheless it was fun to watch. I now realize Alif Laila had very bad special effects, but at that time it looked fantastic.

Doordarshan, you have not only entertained us, but also educated us in many ways. It was enlightening to watch Ramayana, Mahabharata, Shri Krishna and many other mythological series (also it was fun to watch the arrows colliding during war scenes!). Jai Hanuman used to come on Saturdays. I remember once in one episode Hanuman was supposed to born and power went off that day. It was raining heavily. We then carried umbrellas and walked to a nearby house where there was power and saw the episode. We were that crazy!

Friday and Saturday nights you showed Hindi films. I always thought the advertisement breaks were long. But now when I watch other channels, I think you were way better. We did not have cable TV then. We heard that there were some channels which played movies all day long, every single day. We were shocked. How is that possible?! Those were some simple times. And every Sunday began with Rangoli. We can say, it has become a ritual. After so many years, still many watch it. I watch it whenever I am at home. It gained popularity when Hema Malini used to host it.

As I grew, cable TV gained popularity. I have to admit, it had more attractions. But my parents stayed with you, Doordarshan. I have to be frank, I wanted cable TV. Then I heard that the antenna can receive signals from cable if there is any leak. So I turned my antenna towards a cable TV wire passing nearby. And voila! I was able to see some channels. To see Doordarshan, I had to turn the antenna back towards the Doordarshan TV station tower, which was diagonally opposite to the cable TV wire. There was a small catch. The antenna turned only in clockwise direction due to some mechanical limitations. Hence, after many days the antenna wire was tangled and twisted around the antenna rod. What a mess!

To be honest, I don’t watch you anymore, Doordarshan. You have to refresh your look and do something innovative to be on par with other channels. Hope you can bring back the old magic.

Good luck!

Do you like the rains too?

In school, whenever our teacher told us to write about our favourite season of the year, I always used to write about rainy season. Not because it was my favourite. It was because; you get a lot of points to write about it. And most of my friends also write about rainy season, so you have lots of references! But my favourite season is summer. Summer has lots of holidays and you can play cricket anytime. Rainy season always reminded me of the schools reopening after holidays and no outdoor games. But times change, people change. I still hate rainy season. But when you are walking on the road and suddenly out of nowhere it starts raining, I just cannot help but appreciating its beauty and the strange sense of happiness it brings along.

It’s been quite a long time since I have got fully drenched in the rain (intentionally or otherwise), with no worries about catching cold the next day. I have these fond memories of having paper boat races. We used to run behind those boats to save them before they drown. We even used to colour the boats with crayons, so that the wax from the crayons keep the paper dry and the boats stay longer on water!

Watching it rain, by the window of your room is an awesome experience. The colour of the leaves is accentuated, almost as if it’s photoshopped. It gets better if you have a good book to read or a have a plate of hot maggi noodles to eat. The constant sound of the rain feels like a melodious song. Often the silence, due to power cuts, amplifies the song and it becomes almost like an addiction. It brings peace. Rain romanticizes everything. When it stops raining, you feel a strange kind of emptiness creeping inside you, like something is missing.

Rain breaks your routine. It makes you do something different that moment. It opens up your mind to new possibilities. It makes you write this post.

What we will miss and what we will not

What makes college life, memorable? It’s not the well maintained lawn or the occasionally sprinkling fountains. It’s neither the tall buildings nor the fancy elevators or the high end classrooms. What makes it memorable is… your friends, the people you are with. Hence, I am going to miss my college very much.

It’s so cliché to say that the four years went so fast. But it is cliché for a reason. It feels like just few days back we were meeting for the first time in computer aided engineering drawings lab. From CAED lab to microwave lab, it’s been a fantastic and fulfilling journey; in spite of the fact that many lab outputs never graced us with their presence and I have to draw something in the Smith chart for the next microwave lab. Thank God! , in few days it will be the end of it.

Life’s lessons are not learnt in classrooms. It’s true, only partially. You learn a great deal in classrooms other than academics too. We learn to be wary of people who keep chatting with you throughout the class, but when test results come, they are the toppers while you score pathetically! Also be cautious of the guys who are so skilled in their art that they never get caught for anything. It is always the guy sitting next to them who bears the brunt! And then there are teachers, extremely cool and friendly with students but big knuckleheads who show unexpected and shocking reactions under stress. One rule: Never take them for granted. And then there are teachers who are strict but very friendly outside the class and do some awesome teaching. You always wanted to do something but never had the time. It may be completing a novel or watching a film, you can always do it during the tests and exams. Because you have lots of time at your disposal (in fact the idea of starting this blog came to me during one of my semester end exams).

It was fun to form the class cricket team, registering for the college tournament with full enthusiasm and confidence, but loosing the match pathetically (nobody speaks of it till now!). I’ll miss my friends who drink all my water but never care to fill the bottle. I’ll miss those friends who doze off in a very ‘professional’ manner and in various styles. Sometimes I myself can’t make out, sitting beside them, if they are sleeping or not. I may never get irritated by all those unreturned practical records, pens, pencils, erasers etc. Watching cricket matches in hostel (especially during the World Cup time) was no lesser than celebrating Diwali at home. And checking out the girls who come to make announcements in the class; why they look so extra attractive? God only knows.

I now want to feel, experience and absorb every moment. Only few weeks are remaining. Then it’s either job or higher studies. Who knows where the future will take us. We may be in contact virtually but not physically. Nowadays I am always looking for opportunities to be with friends, to laugh with them, a little longer.

It hurts a little when you realize it’s all coming to an end. But now it gets more interesting. To become what we always wanted to be, to make our dreams comes true. To make a living. To make life worth living. A friend of mine keeps complaining that why the world has to end in 2012 after we finish engineering, why not before? Well, I got nothing to say.