Thursday, April 30, 2009

cushion of safety

I know these are tough times for the Indian Airline Industry, but some cost cutting measures can border on the outright ludicrous. I recently had the pleasure of travelling by Jet Lite from Mumbai and their latest in cheap really chilled my spine!

Being really tired I was just about to doze off during the pre-flight briefing when I heard the announcer say it.

" Between Rows xxx and yyy we have removed all life jackets! Instead we give you the amazing floating seat cushion!! It makes a water landing a fun filled experience for the whole family!" With two plastic strips that are too wide to be of any use, you'll just have to hug the cushion for dear life till help get here!

In fact, for that added thrill, we make it a little more challenging for rescue teams to save you. We did away with the lights on the vest to make it virtually impossible to see you in the dark.

Have a nice flight!"

Looking at the air hostess running through the drill, I wondered how she could keep a straight face while asking people to use that piece of junk.

I mean just think what would happen if there were kids on board. Obviously they can't hug a seat cushion. And only if your dad was an olympic gymnast could he hold u and your kid brother while hugging a seat that just may float. But that picture makes it look all too easy.
I mean how hard can it be?! In fact I can run you through it right now:

Step I: The plane's just crashed onto water. Fires have started in the electricals and smoke is filling the cabin. Don't mind the disorientation of dropping oh say, 20,000 feet~! and crashing onto something that would have the consistency of concrete under those conditions...Just remain calm and start tugging your seat while people around you calmly do the same.

Step II: If you manage to rip off the seat from its place, put your arms around the seat and hug it with all your strength because standard issue seat cushions aren't going to be a snug fit.

Step III: In this fashion exit the aircraft from the aircraft and dive into the sea.

Step IV: Enjoy your swim! This is aptly illustrated by the fully dressed man looking comfortable in the picturesque blue sea, lying on the cushion just as if he were on his living room sofa.

It was enough to make the strongest atheist start praying. But when I looked around people were still as relaxed and nonchalant as ever. It wasn't like we could have immediately done anything about it but even showing the slightest concern to match the frozen expression on my face would have been nice. I guess fatalism is still in vogue.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Some crazy whim in me has made me try to write a blog almost 2 years after my first attempt!! And like I suspected I never got around to writing anything on the first blog. Just like I never got around to doing many other things that I always wanted to do. Because I never found the time. Rather I never made the time. All said and done self improvement is one tough nut to crack.

I actually wonder if there was anyone on earth who found it easy to 'self improve'. Creativity is another thing I can't grasp. Millions of people are blogging away furiously. How many of those blogs are worth reading? Is this blog ever going to be worth reading?

Time inexorably ticks away. Every passing second is one second less in your life. Cliched or melodramatic, call it what you want, but a lot of people really seem to believe that . Work gets crazy at times and people still push on and on. But I always wonder what is good enough for those striving to reach higher and higher. I mean where is the point where a super achiever can say: " There! I've done it. And now I will rest." Even God had to rest on the seventh day! But we have no rest.

Solow's model says that the percapita income can increase only through the productivity increases of the worker whether through technological breakthroughs or by just plain working more. (Yeah I have a fondness for the dismal science but then again maybe I just feel dismal right now) Anyway some people seem to have taken it to heart. What it fails to capture though is the individual motive to try and increase his income and standards of living. Here I'm not talking from a subsistence level but from a point where a person is pretty comfortable already.

I have a theory that may sound controversial or offending to people who have worked hard to reach where they are today, but being willing to take that risk, let me go ahead and say that a strong need for respect and appreciation lies at the core of all attempts to improve oneself. If that sounded too mild let me put it this way: People who keep working hard don't have the self confidence not to.

I'm no psychologist and attending Organizational Behavior I and II hardly puts me in a position to comment on people's traits, especially after having slept through most of the lectures and listening to endless BS in the others, so at the outset let me relieve your worries by saying I have only anecdotal evidence from a single source ie myself.

But maybe you can agree with me when I say that I feel I only tried to excel to earn the respect and liking of others. Which is pathetic. Why should I bother what others think of me? And did it achieve what it intended to? I hardly think so! On the contrary there is resentment and suspicion among peers "Why is this guy trying to change the status quo?".

What people don't always realize is that the most likable guy in any group will be the one with the lowest ambition and ego. No one feels threatened by him. As Trump said "Show me a person without an ego and I'll show you a loser." That's how society measures people who don't march to its beat. It is our fear of falling short of society's measuring rod that forces many of us to give more than required to pursuits which turn out to return less than expected.

Then we come to the pressures by people who have influence over you, like parents for instance. Even if you are content to be yourself, the need to be one step ahead of the Joneses forces many parents to drive kids to perform more consistently and better than ever before. Recently an article said that children now start coaching for the IITs from the 6th standard. I hadn't even heard of things like that back then. I just knew that after 12th grade people left home for college as dorks and came back cool. A 'cool factory' if you will.

Considering these things knowing a few non achievers might actually be a good thing. If you are already better than your existing social circle you will be more than satisfied to bask in the warm glow of admiration and appreciation that it provides you. The niggling doubts of self worth arise only when you meet someone better than yourself. Then you are forced to think "hmm...what can I do to be as respected and as liked as that guy?"

And its a vicious circle. If by some unfortunate chance you manage to rise a little above your circle, they start feeling uncomfortable. And on it goes. Because a good standard of living is only in relation to a worse standard of living. But no one I know compares his life with say prehistoric cavemen. No one says "Hey! I'm in no danger of being chomped on by a t-rex. Life's just great isn't it!". No. Everyone compares himself with his immediate circle of interaction. " That guy got a raise" or "He's got a new car/wife/house...".

Also its not as if your troubles ended after getting one upper hand over your friends. Once you reach the next level you make another set of friends who are at your same level and again the same cycle of beating the Joneses kicks in. Its like a nightmare Nintendo game. If you do reach the top there's no one left to share the victory with!

The core of my argument in case you thought I was rambling is that there are 2 basic forces at play:

1. We associate best with people who are similar to us in most respects

2. We want to be better than those people to gain their respect. Unfortunately in the process of oneupmanship we lose those friendships and gain a new set of people at our new level with whom we associate best.

To allow others to be your yardstick
will keep you enslaved all your life.
~ © Alison Stormwolf ~