The Existentialist

Existential Writer / Speaker / Coach

The Existentist

Philosophy, psychology and motivation for a life of purpose and passion.
Discovering what it means to be truly alive.

  • Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
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Me

About: Happiness

The Existentialist is an extension of About:Happiness, committed to helping our clients lead richer, fuller, happier, more meaningful, more fulfiling lives. We help you find your answers to age old questions like:

What's my life purpose? 90%
How can I be truly happy? 70%
How do I become my best self? 95%
What's my role in the the world? 60%

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  • The Mall

    The Mall

    …..And there's nothing wrong with me
    This is how I'm supposed to be
    In a land of make believe
    That don't believe in me…..

    “Malls: Where people make believe, where escape from reality is cool, where individual identities are conveniently camouflaged in social swarms” – this is what I texted a dear friend last evening. I was at a mall with my family. It was a Sunday evening. I wondered whether the place was reminiscent more of a Virar local at peak rush or a toddler fancy dress competition. There seemed to be an odd, unspoken mutual need for all those people to be there – maybe to reassure each other of their existence. By themselves, they felt like lost strangers, but together they represented the majority of purposeful rationalism.

    We went to the furniture and lifestyle store(y), then to the apparels outlet – a shame-inducing collection of what the definition of fashion (and hence society) is today, inspired of course by our own dons and divas of the film “industry”, lovingly christened by us as celebrities: the people to be celebrated (venerated?)… for what? I said shame inducing above, because it serves as a constant reminder as to what we are meant to look and feel like – which of course redirects to what certain people in certain cities of a certain United States of Assholes look and feel like – or pretend to be doing so. A one-off trip with a (predominantly non-existent) analytical mind is enough to point out the sheer preposterousness of the façade of western culture – the phenomenon that we so unerringly, wholeheartedly and myopically follow.

    I shall make no pretense of it – I felt insecure and rather trivial, looking at the intricately groomed exhibits around me – many of them humans. It is stunning to see just how precisely the (window) shoppers, essentially humans, merge with the ostentatious furniture (pun intended). I am saddened at the willful surrender of the virtuous choice for the ornamental mutual (belief of) social security. I believe it is a cardinal sin to subject one’s concept of class at the sole discretion of the callous, merciless makers of pop culture – advertisers.

    Malls are a vivid example of how the grotesquely gullible majority of the society is willfully carted by the scruff to a bone they neither desire nor need. Fashion provides the indulgent the hope of an individual identity in a public, by robbing from the individual precisely that. The next time you visit a mall, ask the lassie in the miniskirt and sleeveless tank top how comfortable she feels there – she’ll tell you she is just as lonely and insecure as you are (which of course, neither of you will admit). She needs reinforcement and approval from people around, just like you - but do you really need it? Trust me; life is not all a farce – grow up from the perennial tweenteens, will you?

    There is but one thing that felt reassuringly like home among the maze of offensively bright colors and agonizingly bland faces – The comfy sinkable couches, and smell of freshly ground Coffee beans at Café Coffee Day, which tell me there still is hope in this world.

    I'm sure a lot of your opinions differ from mine (That being the point of my blog). Comments are welcome here. For a different perspective on malls, checkout Taani's blogpost here.

  • The Coronation of Wazza

    The Coronation of Wazza

    Caution: The following discussion is wrought for football (soccer?) fans, especially those in favor of a club by the name Manchester United. Viewer discretion recommended.

    A long ball was launched up to Rooney and he took it down with a great touch, turned, and with the Arsenal defense backing off, hit an unbeatable curling shot into the top corner to send Goodison wild. Everton had won, Arsenal’s unbeaten run was over, and Rooney had arrived. Always searching for the sound bite, commentator Clive Tyldesley exclaimed “Remember the name: Wayne Rooney!That was October2002 – he was only 16 then.

    Wayne Rooney signed for the Reds two seasons later after a staggering £27m transfer. In September 2004, he scored a hat trick on his United debut. He was only 18 then. Since then, he has scored some truly memorable goals for united including the scorcher volley against Newcastle, the chip against Portsmouth, the late, late winner against Milan. Besides, he has gone through three injuries, numerous red cards, an infamous spat with a Portuguese ‘winker’, a couple of bar brawls, a Street Striker reality show... and even marriage. He is still only 23.

    In his five-year tenure with United thus far, he has turned from a gifted teenager to the

    backbone of Manchester United. Starting out as a pure forward, he has played, for the greater cause of the Team, on either flank, sometimes even pushed back to the center of midfield. Its commonplace to see Rooney charging up the field, putting his body on the line on an all-or-nothing tackle that isn’t even his job. He has been at Right Back to save the day when Rafael has been daydreaming, or at Left Back when Evra’s ventured too far forward. Although goal scoring is his primary forte, it is by no means his only contribution to the team. Statistics might show that he’s only but scored 20 odd goals each season – but which other forward in world football today charges back, marks, tackles, delivers diagonal crosses, engineers finely threaded through balls, takes corners, and occasionally hits screamers from outside the box?

    The only reason why Rooney hasn’t come into contention as the world’s finest is – because of his modesty and absolute unflagging commitment to United. In the words of CR9, “Rooney will die for United.” Unlike Ronaldo, you do not see Rooney claiming that he is the best in the world, or that the team depends on him. Has football turned into yet another glamour industry – that we can’t see the doers from the posers? It is time the world revives its notion of football – the beautiful game and rises above the Divers and the Winkers.

    It is true that all these five years, Rooney has played second fiddle to Van Nistelrooy and then Cristiano Roanldo – but that’s about to change. The Record Breaking

    transfer of Roanldo to Madrid has pointed out a simple fact – Rooney has come of age – he is now entrusted with the responsibility of spearheading the United attack; we do not need any flamboyant show-offs at Old Trafford anymore. Much as the papers make about Ronaldo’s £80m acquisition, about the (apparent) Glory of signing “world-class” talents (read showmanship), the sale of Ronaldo and Tevez implies, although subtly, the coronation of a new authority, a new torchbearer at Old Trafford – King Rooney.
  • Distorted Perception

    Distorted Perception

    An excerpt from the book “Experiments with People”

    An interesting feature of the psychological immune system is that to operate effectively it must operate discreetly. This raises an interesting question: Is psychological well-being associated with the accurate perception of reality or with a distorted perception of it? The traditional view is that contact with reality is essential for mental health. As the old one-liner goes, neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them, and psychotherapists collect the rent. The alternative view is that, given how inhospitable reality is, human beings cannot bear too much of it. They must therefore endorse comforting illusions in order to function effectively. In an influential article, Taylor and Brown proposed that three classes of positive illusion promote mental health: holding overly flattering views of oneself, overestimating one's personal control, and being unreasonably optimistic about the future. The fact that most normal individuals manifest these illusions, suggests that an accurate perception of reality is not a prerequisite for mental health, and may even militate against it.

    I cannot take my mind off this simplistic façade behind which is concealed an age-old topic of debate. I will take you (and myself) on a journey of breakthroughs, disappointments, definitions and inferences in an attempt to answer to the above question

    It must be said that psychology until today has remained an improper science, often interspersed with philosophy. Thus, it is quite normal behavior for one’s mind to associate with anything starting with psych, something that has got to do with abstract impractical philosophy, or alternatively, the study of madness (indeed, psychology and psychiatry has often been underestimated as being a field for treatment of maniacs, psychotics and criminals). Psychology can only gain practical credibility when it sheds off its inherent dependency on ancient hypothesis and builds its roots on quantitative experimentation, engineering and statistics. [I believe engineering is synonymous with application, without which a science loses its purpose. Engineering thus is an essential link between any scientific hypothesis and human progress, the ultimate aim of science]. For now, let us substitute the term “psychological well being” with, say, mental well being, or happiness. [Inevitably, every philosophical discussion leads to happiness, which (at least provisionally) is the purpose of our existence, and hence of paramount importance]

    Next, we move onto the notion of perception of reality. One cannot possibly talk about reality per se, as the existence of a single absolute reality is yet to be testified. Hence, we can only speculate in terms of our percepts of what we believe to be reality, our system of reference. This fact is well documented by Albert Einstein: “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”

    Now that we are acquainted with the definition of our motion, I shall endeavor towards a solution to the question whole. I would like to point out that the question is not at all as trivial as appears to be. The simple sentence postulated by Richard Bach (and inescapably philosophers before him), that instantly makes our question a topic of significant deliberation is this: “The subconscious mind does not differentiate between actual experience and what is intensely imagined.”

    The notion of your well-being being an illusion is indeed a concept uneasy to digest. Nevertheless, if happiness is what we do eventually seek, how does it matter if we actually achieve the things that would enable us to feel happy, or just believe that we have? This line of thought reminds me of any number of terms and phrases used in everyday life – “mind over matter”, “I think, therefore I am” etc

    I have inferred, after reading, experiment and deliberation, that it is way too easy to delude people away from (provisional) reality, the tools to pull it off can vary from rational existentialist argument to force (legal, hierarchal, economic) to mind control (also termed meditation, NLP, hypnosis, voodoo magic, occultism whatever). Hence, it is preposterous (although not intuitively) to allow introspection as a deterministic factor in the attempt to answer our question – put in simple words, people do not always know what is right for them, their perception is often a result of mental manipulation than individual free will. The verdict is this: one cannot, as an absolute, believe one’s eyes, or any other senses for that matter, neither ones power of judgment, which inevitably are shaped by these senses, a scary proposition indeed.

    I have forever been a follower of the motto “Belief is Existence,” more lucidly framed by PSS as “We create our own reality.” We have also heard and experienced the placebo effect that needs belief as a prerequisite for its function, as also hypnosis – the state of trance under which subjects can be made to believe and do things otherwise considered impossible. Some of us might have heard of faith healing, Zen meditation, out of body experience and so forth. Of course, there are innumerable citations, endorsements and evidences for the same in the form of psychological hypothesis, laboratory experiments, and certainly staged performances of the same. In case of further doubt, I urge you to read the book Mind Power (Ask me for the ebook).

    My philosophy of life is modeled partly on one we have always used during lab sessions in college, “If you don’t get the correct value, make it.” I would like to believe that I could forge reality the same way. Why?... Because I Can!

  • Identity

    Identity

    Individuality is no less than a definitive feature of Independence, ensuing growth and prosperity; and identity is the basis of individuality. Without an identity, there can be no Individuality, no Independence and no progress.

    The identity of our beloved campus has been seeded, nurtured and cocooned by our mother campus BITS Pilani, to whom we shall be forever indebted hence grateful. We have been bosomed with bountiful love and patronizing care. The dutiful, condescending restriction, in the name of brand preservation has inevitably taken its toll on our freedom of expression.

    More than one of us feels stifled under this throttling protection called the “BITS Pilani brand name.” We feel the need to establish ourselves as an individual, self sufficient and robust institute, a sovereign vital entity, not an ailing, dwarfed sidekick of an antecedently established University.

    Bottom-line: We need to be proud of our campus, for what it is. Stunted, slipshod, maligned or vulnerable Goa Campus is still ours. It is our responsible, almost patriotic sense of faithfulness that will always wish the best for our campus, no matter how dissatisfied or disillusioned we may become. We have lived with and through BITS Goa’s problems, its problems are our problems, its glory is our own.

    During sleepless nights and boring lectures, over Cold Coffee at Ice ’n’ Spice or abominable mess food, whilst watching football matches together in the common room and cramming formulae in the library, we have discussed and dissected every discernible aspect of our college. From the Quality of the mess food to the quality of Manchester United’s defense, to the quality of girls on campus, we have debated on them all. Our opinions are collectively shaped, our perspectives widened and our knowledge and awareness heightened. For the length of the semester on campus, and inescapably otherwise, our personalities are molded and modeled by our dear campus. Our campus provides us our knowledge, skill-set and values, our own identity, our position in the worldly scheme of things. We, in turn shape the image of our campus, contribute to its reputation and strive to build its prestige. We sell our campus not only to our festival sponsors and Alumni, but also to our friends, family and ourselves. We incessantly strive to make real Ashish Garg’s words, “BITS Goa is just as good, if not better and BITS Pilani”

    Why then, must the identity of our campus itself be mistaken as that of its mother campus, which has had little or no bearing on our present persona? Why must we borrow our identity from another campus when we possess one of our own, a vivid, robust one at that? Do we still need to be in the shadows of our parent campus when we can rise and shine of our own accord? Rise and shine is, incidentally, what we have done and are continuing to do, axiomatically, almost subconsciously.

    What we must realize is that we are, by no means, an adopted stepchild of our mother campus. In fact, we are just as rich and diverse, whether in terms of sheer student talent, clubs, department, associations as well as national level Cultural, Technical and Sports festivals. In a direct, blatant comparison, Goa Campus is much better planned, more scenic and better connected by road, rail and air. The experience of the chilled-out Goan culture, the numerous beaches, forts and scenic hang-out spots place any Goan college apart from just about anywhere else in India, let alone a state-of-the-art institute of Technological excellence; not to forget the exotic seafood and most importantly, essential indulgences at outrageously cheap prices.

    We have adopted a sound and coherent departmental and coordination committee structure at Goa that works synchronously and seamlessly, and is constantly setting benchmarks for other colleges, certainly even our mother campus to emulate. Make no mistake about it, Quark and Waves are fast growing bigger than Apogee and Oasis ever were. They may have the experience and consequent establishment through convention, but we have the exuberance of youth, and the momentum of an unflagging pursuit for improvement, tending to excellence.

    We may not (yet) be at par in terms of sheer numbers in faculty, e-journal subscriptions, electives as well as placements and Practice School, but what the hell – you cannot have it all! We must remember our campus is but five years old, things can only, only get better from here.

    Finally yet importantly, we have tremendous unity and trust among students, not only intra-hostel but also spanning over all hostels, batches and branches. This fact has evidently been manifested more than once, most notably, in what is deemed the BITS-Goa Independence Day, lovingly christened The Maggi Revolution (having symbolic as well as literal implications). Our associations have strengthened through mutual interests (or lack of it) – the hours spent expelling potent, profane interjections on DC mainchat, through evenings spent playing games at SAC or hanging out at Nescafe, through the nights spent (placebo-lically studying) fervently discussing and analyzing football, girls/guys, the campus and ironies of life in general. We have formed mutually inseparable bonds whilst playing, studying, eating and (sometimes) even sleeping together (no pun intended).

    How then, can we even think of condemning our campus, our self-constructed realm, our haven by right? Is it not just brilliantly, precisely the way we have wanted and made it to be? Why then would we want to consider any other institute, let alone a Pilani, as superior to our own? It is time we put our thought and belief into action and live by our motto, which rightfully is “Proud to be a BITSGian.” It is time people know our campus as BITS-Goa, in independent identity, take notice of us for what we are, not our parent institute lying in a desert land some thousand miles away.

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