Fame and Posterity

In Artist, freelancing, Fame on February 28, 2018 at 20:08

Fame works in the same way primates choose their alpha males. We are just humoring ourselves by believing that intellect matters. It matters only to the point where it allows people to not feel guilty about prostrating before beauty. Intellect has to be utilised in moderation. The right formula balances glamour with showboating, flirts with controversy and adds a hint of intelligence. Just a fleeting flavour. Anymore and the audience starts feels uncomfortable at the mirror you are holding up to them. Any less and you miss the blessings of the reviewers but you may still win the audience and may be even an election.

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The masses need predigested Cerelac, not the high fibre low sugar breakfast you’ve trained yourself on. Numbers, fame and power accumulate around the lowest common denominator, which is why politics attracts the worst of the lot. Art attracts the best and it never promised to pay the bills. Just that one gets to express oneself freely is privilege enough. But in the consumer economy, everything is entertainment, even the most highly researched and well written Think Piece or Podcast. Mass consumption subjects art to the same vanity, voting and warranty schemes as a dating app or a toaster. You can play along and chase ever-growing pay cheques, ratings and subscriptions. But in doing so you are reducing yourself to one more service provider who may be recognised as an artist only for the sake of classification and drop-down menus.


Artists of yore survived purely on the patronage of murderous Kings. We are surviving on the patronage of corporate shows and brand endorsements. Every artform and style eventually finds its own audience, however big or small. The only question to answer is: What are you aiming for? Building a legacy or a flat in Bandra? Both are seldom reached from the same path.

– Punit Pania

Unconditional Love

In Love on February 5, 2018 at 15:37
Unconditional is the only kind of love there is, everything else is just a transaction. A give and take that can be explained by some mixture of evolution and economics. Most of what we call love is the willful suspension of logic by genes itching to replicate under the covering fire of bad poetry. And it can’t hide for long. No myth is sacred enough for Science to not topple. The most vile crime to the most exalted emotion, all just resulting from a different cocktail of hormones and pathologies, from a pedophile’s compulsive behaviour to a Mother’s love for her newborn. Everything happens for a reason governed by biology and chemistry and pre-determined by physics. Random objects in a cosmic pinball machine, innocent bystanders in an unfortunate hit and run.
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What your parents used to call fate, you can call string theory. But it won’t make you feel any less helpless. Between anorexia and food addiction, nothing is eccentric enough, all is acceptable and even worthy of celebration or worse, rationalization. In a world full of victims, there is no crime, only mass depression posing as utopia. The end of guilt is near but it will also be the end of wonder. Eventually genetics will explain all evils and malignancies and we will be absolved of all sins; except hypocrisy.
But unconditional love will remain…a glitch in the system that we wish we could wish away. Call it insanity, temporary or otherwise. Emotional graffiti that will live on in anonymous donations and the kindness of strangers. Complete surrender to a person, a cause or a muse as an antidote to the highly leveraged hyper-connected modern world. If you ever feel it sneaking up on you, don’t try to fight it with logic. Embrace it as the only trace of free will left. And jump off with a middle-finger salute to the heavens.
– Punit Pania

Marathons and the art of Outrunning Hubris

In Health, humor, SlavesInc, work life balance, Working on Weekends on January 31, 2018 at 17:45

There is nothing like a saleable product. Any product, service or idea that has margins can and will be exploited to its legal limits and beyond. And if it gathers enough steam it will itself become a part of law and eventually canon. That’s how most religions were born and how new social customs find footing.

One of the most saleable ideas of the past decade has been simply the act of running. Everyone can do it, almost everyone. It is very difficult to feel bad about or guilty after running, unless you have caused yourself an injury but more about that later. You can sell everything from space-age t-shirts to cattle tag watches to electrolytes that cost as much as scotch around the mere activity of sprinting. Marathons have become city-defining events to the extent that taxpayers see no absurdity in paying money to be allowed to run on their own calories in their own city on their own streets. In fact, they look forward to it.

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It is every marketer’s waking wet dream. Our lives lack many things; direction, motive and target being the most common absentees. A marathon packs all these into one certified package, a space-age solution to an age-old problem.

In the classical world, Marathon runners were employed because the 4G bill hadn’t been passed yet, labour was cheap and capital punishment was indulged in like dessert. Marathon runners would run hundreds of kilometers without Nikes over dirt roads and such to deliver your message. Sometimes, they never made it. Other times, they did but later died of exhaustion. And if the recipient didn’t like said message, they were known to cull the messenger without even offering him Gatorade first. That is probably where the expression ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ comes from (Please do not try this with your Blue Dart guy). You could afford to this if you were royalty of course. If you were a commoner, you probably didn’t have any friends on the other side of the Alps to ping. But in the modern world, marathons have somehow come to stand for celebration of the triumph of the human spirit. Over what? Hamburgers?

At a time in history where most of our frail muscle power is redundant and the parts of our body we use the most are our eyeballs and fingertips, a feeble display of our collective sprinting abilities reeks of vanity. After you’ve worked yourself ragged over the week, the same companies now want you to transform into weekend warriors who will overcome a life time of stuffing your face with cheese with a couple of months of preparation leading up to one day of running. The effort to get a city of over 10 million people into festival mode is a gargantuan one. And they do a scary-good job of it. But with enough profit and political will, we could have been on Mars right now and had a Mars Marathon…sponsored by Mars bars with Bruno Mars as the opening act.

Then, of course, there are those running for a cause.
“I am running for __ (insert cause of choice from pandas to penguins to pygmies).”

If only it were that easy. It is a step ahead of push button activism but many steps short of any real difference. Fitness of the body is an everyday habit and fitness of the mind is a life-long struggle. It is not a public holiday based circus event. Marathon see as high as 50% of participants needing medical attention. Is this not enough for people to wake up from their ad-induced trance and for the health authorities to wake up from their general state of coma? Running for long periods on hard surfaces (few are harder than concrete) is terribly ill-advised. There are enough studies and general understanding of anatomy to prove it. But all the products that can be sold to inactive consumers at home have already been sold. Only your own pain receptors and sense of self-worth can save you now.

Sure some people feel elated after running, specially if it gets 100 likes on Insta. But the rest of us are just caught in a wave of mass paranoia and marketing afterburn. There are many blogs, videos and stories that have you convinced that few things will make you as happy as running. But that faint throbbing you feel in your head after a morning jog through industrial smog…is just peer pressure that under the anaesthetic of daily drudgery and hourly advertisements, it may vaguely feel like happiness. Just like bungee jumping, Zumba and MBAs.

Running is not even a complete body exercise. And anyone who has bored himself to death on a treadmill will tell you that the calories burnt can be undone a couple of glazed donuts or one chocolate eclair. The most dangerous aspect of this entire circus are the stress injuries and long-drawn joint niggles. Prolonged physical stress and exertion shoots up a lot of adrenaline and you feel the damage only next morning when you have only yourself left to blame. Boxers go through this in every match. But they don’t have to submit that sales report the next morning after wading through two hours of rush-hour traffic.

There is nothing like a saleable product. And anything that doesn’t kill you immediately will keep selling with Warning Labels.

– Punit Pania