slavesincorporated

10 Years of Blogging

In art, Artist, freelancing, Blogging, creativity, Motivation, SlavesInc on January 1, 2020 at 14:46

I started this blog in January of 2011 during my first job. As a management graduate in New India I was technically living the middle-class dream. In a city 500 KMs from home and an office 30 minutes of rush hour traffic away from my apartment.

Balancing the intrigue of corporate hierarchy with the late bloom of Indian puberty was a heady mix. I fell back on my familiar coping mechanism; writing. I had started writing way back in college circa 2006 AD. Years of relatively anonymous posting never deterred me. Putting things down on paper was cathartic in itself.

With the same motivation, SlavesInc was born in a new era in my life. Initial feedback was that Slaves is too negative a name for something you are so dedicated to. But that is how I saw and still see jobs: modern day slavery. Art; in the very least, has to be unflinching. All other aspects of life are sugar-coated beyond recognition.

I kept typing away week after week based on experiences which were very personal yet a treatment that was global. And the blog did develop an audience that was across continents and numbers that were not underwhelming by the standards of those times. We even made it to the WordPress homepage a couple of times.

9th September, 2011

Quarters rolled into years and years into a decade. My writing evolved from terse prose to lucid poetry to now an easy conversation. The daily corporate grind is gone and so are the small impetuses to explain idiosyncrasies of cubicular life. But the big questions remain, they always do.

I now write for a living through stand-up. An Olympian dream at the time of starting this blog. The mind is much more at ease but the spirit is still aching to know more and topple over more whys.

But there is no ultimate resting place. The world is inherently unfair and humans are tragically unworthy of justice. A perpetual feedback loop. The artist suffers more because he sees more in every cublice and every street corner.

That he gets to address it by expression in whatever form is the only blessing that keeps him from going insane. Whatever audience she gets for it is a bonus. Everything beyond that is business and vanity.

If you dear reader have even for a moment felt connected to a piece of my writing, know that we have shared something fleetingly beautiful, even by RomCom standards.

Writing saved me and it is the only ideal I am gladly slave to.

Peace.

– Punit Pania

To Gym or not to Gym?

In Health, work life balance on November 9, 2019 at 00:02

I started gymming after a friend pointed out that I was in no shape to defend my girlfriend from hooligans. It was the first year of college. I had neither abs or a girlfriend. And I had no plans. But to my adolescent mind that was reason enough to start. 15 years later I still can’t stop gymming. Motivations have changed and so has the GDP. But I still go three days a week, 4 if I am not touring and not writing such posts at 2 in the night. It is better than any other habit I would have picked up in college. But all these years later I am still not sure if regular exercise is a good investment in time. 

Nicholas Taleb says, ‘Gymming is to physical exercise what social media is to socializing.’ It should come down to goals and my current goals are longevity and aesthetics, in that order. But then Taleb also says, ‘Modernity’s dual curse is to both to make use live longer and age faster.’ And if your gym plays Kabir Singh on loop for 6 months straight, is the longevity even worth it?Research over the past several years has been disconcerting. 
Even at the lowest average of 2 days per week and 45 minutes per session, I have spent 70,000 mins = 50 full days at the gym, more than three months if you count only waking hours. Not to mention, coming and going, shower and supplements. I hope that it is at least adding more days than it is taking away.
Research on this topic over the last several years has been disconcerting. One study shows mice who were on a healthy diet outlived mice who were on a healthy diet plus exercise. The hypothesis is that while there are benefits; exercise adds to the wear and tear of the body which adds up as ageing and all the conditions that come with it. This is corroborated by latest research on ageing that shows intermittent fasting as the surest way to live longer. All the protein supplements and excess calories cannot be helping. Most of us overeat as if we are compensating for dying of starvation in a previous life. Mild exercise and dignified eating are the only way to go.  
What about all the Mr. Olympias and other sportsmen then? The straight answer is, we never hear from the ones who are past their prime and off the air.  And they don’t have a day job to hold on to.
There are fringe benefits of improved posture and confidence, increased basal metabolic rate and an endorphin boost. But as a student of philosophy I am too acutely aware of the passage of time to let these be deal-breakers. In a world of unlimited pleasures, taking out an hour or more for exercise is nothing short of sacrifice. And just feeling good about yourself cannot be reward enough. The media onslaught of perfect bodies and the Nike onslaught of sweaty motivational videos is overwhelming. But if you are someone who reads my blogs you can easily see past these things at least more than the average Salman fan.
The clock of mortality is ticking constantly. Al of our efforts to shore up against its ultimate collection day are so in vain that it is not even funny. Coveting an idealized physique or even some  arbitrary peak  performance may be taking way more time from the bank than the quality it adds. It is like we are all preparing hard for a final exam for which the result is already out. The best we can do is celebrate the anti-climax. To quote one of the greatest movies of all time, ‘Get busy living, or get busy dying.’ 

Nightlife and Daydreams

In art, Holidays, Motivation, Retirement, Wage Slaves, work life balance, work stress on October 5, 2019 at 17:26

How many more traffic jams before we realize that fast city life is the worst way to die slowly? Days, weeks, months and ultimately decades spent in a state of mild to moderate agitation. On constant alert from noise, crowds and smells. A compounding cluster-fuck of short-shortsightedness and macroeconomics. Every day, thousands of people alight at Mumbai Central station in search of a better livelihood even as existing city dwellers dream of a quiet life.


I have always been a Mumbai boy. Since my family migrated from Karachi during partition we were left with no real hometown. A fact I was reminded of every summer vacation when the entire class came back with farm stories and I had only seen wrestling and played cricket with myself for two months. I am thankful though that my family landed in Mumbai in ’47. Had they gone to say…Raipur, I would have been working in a call center right now and been grateful for the opportunity. On weekends I would probably be making TikTok videos or attending RSS rallies.


In our country, if you are already in Mumbai, the only bigger thing to aspire to is moving abroad. One could also aspire to move to town from the suburbs within Mumbai. But getting into Harvard is easier than moving to Colaba. I wonder if the real estate prices will remain as high after the city is permanently submerged 10 years from now. Yet we power on.

Most of us know we can’t do this all our lives. And if every TCS employee’s retirement plan came through, Goa would become an extended suburb of Mumbai. Thankfully, after the second baby and third mortgage, most people give up any hope for salvation.You keep postponing your prison break: after another promotion, after I buy a bigger house, after my kid goes to college…until mortality catches up with you. If you dwell on your regrets long enough you can convince yourself that they were sacrifices. It is tragic but at least it helps you live with yourself.

Romanticization of country life is also not without its pitfalls.  If you think the uncle selling Maggie by himself over a view of the Himalayas is the happiest person in the world then you have read one self-help book too many. If you have never left the country side you probably cannot appreciate the clean air and solitude. Which is why city dwellers are at a vantage point. Having seen the breadth of what modern civilization has to offer you can now seek depth. You would miss creature comforts for a while but eventually you realize that you do not need 54 varieties of waffles for life to be meaningful.

I spent years daydreaming of being a published author who would send his profoundly sexy books out into the world and the world would send enough dollars back to my dream home in Goa. I also spent some years trying to make this happen. But ultimately a profession has to be close to where the action is. So I have entered a new kind of rat race, a higher level of the Matrix. The cost is always too high though. Cities are oppressive at all levels. The ugliness of its structures, the ridiculous lack of space and the constant fight or flight. Very often, I have to remind myself to look up at the sky. Not much is visible now but it helps put your life’s struggle to scale. At one level we all know that neither our deepest sorrows nor our greatest joys are unique. But the competition does not let you dwell on it. It is like we are living under a dome of haze that cuts us off from the humbling experience of space and our place in it. Even within the dome we increasingly move from one air conditioned bubble to another not able to stand ambient temperature or ambient thoughts for more than a few minutes.

I have spent more than 90 days outside home this year across 20 different towns and cities for stand-up and personal work. And while the experiences have been varying and enriching, none was as unique as the few days I spent in Himachal, alone and without a plan. It reminded me that there is the quiet life to be lived too with nothing to fight for and nothing to prove. Away from clocks, deadlines and anxieties. When I came back down to 2019, I couldn’t perform with full gusto for the first couple of shows. I just didn’t have the aggression in me to impose my jokes and my thoughts on the audience. A lot of what we accomplish is only possible in the pressure cooker of the cities. But there are millions of people living the quiet life, without leaving a carbon footprint. They may not consider themselves successful but they are content. We just don’t hear about them because they are not on Instagram. On a geological timescale, they are the real heroes. We in our vain attempts at leaving a mark only end up hurting others and the environment. 

One can still practice art for art’s sake but any produced entertainment is essentially slave to the same economics and corruption that make perpetual growth a religion. Saying ‘no’ and ‘enough’ is therefore the most important thing to learn. Happiness is for uneducated people, contentment is a more wholesome goal.   


 – Punit Pania