No Ragrets

Modern jobs suck.

Modern education misleads you into thinking that you will actually have a meaningful job and actually make a difference to whoever you are serving. This is especially true of Indian education where, for a large part of our lives, indian students were fed a regular diet of “high score, good job” by both our teachers and our parents.

Come college and I was surrounded by engineers suddenly displaying a bewildering interest in “innovation, invention and entrepreneurship”. Great environment for a driven, ambitious, creative person, not so great for a guy who still played by the rules and kow towed to the age old good boy goal of securing a good GPA. With blinkers screwed into my forehead, I did exactly that. I ended up with an 8.9 GPA and no resume-worthy extracurricular, hobby or project.

It was a God send when I got selected in the campus placements by one of the big three automobile manufacturers of America. Buoyed by the safe feeling of having a bird in hand, the halcyon first six months passed by in a blur of making new friends and going out. For the first time in my life, I had a large group of friends and I discovered that people saw me as more than just a nerd. I could make them laugh, my interests interested them and I was always noticed when I entered a room.

Come January and I was assigned to my first role after training. I had the initial noob reaction of feeling inadequate compared to my colleagues and the classic ‘nod-your-head’ approach to authority. I noticed immediately that the job was rather …. stupid. It was documentation essentially but the people here took it seriously – way too seriously. I justified it as my newness to the world of adulthood. I would get used to it, this is how the world works, I said to myself.

The worst six months of my life followed. I nodded to every guy who acted like he knew what he talked about. I worked inhuman hours. I was afraid of any reproach. I didn’t send a mail without my team leader’s approval. I submerged any creativity and judgement I had within the depths of my soul and made myself a robot.

The realization struck me much later. I was a fish in a tree climbing contest. I had compared myself to people who had spent three or more years placing dots and squares on a screen and had the audacity to call themselves engineers. Every ounce of creativity had seeped out of them and they prostituted their mind and dignity to their managers who were obsequious non entities with hydraulic springs attached to their heads.

At one point, I had the opportunity to show them my talents at speaking and presenting. They were blown away by what my friends would have called normal chatter. The effort was lauded but immediately I was thrown into multiple teams and expected to make presentations for managers whose only idea of a reward was a patronizing pat on the back

One of these idiots thought photons are the particles that revolve around the nucleus. I was petrified when I simulated myself in his chair in 10 years. All they want is the target. You worked 26 hours at a stretch? Here’s a promotion. You leave on time to see your wife? Stay at the same place for the next five years. You have set a target for two weeks from now? Well too bad, I need it tomorrow afternoon for a meeting. Shine my ass well. Lick that cheek and wipe that centerfold.

I sit here today looking back at two years of dot placing. I regret not taking better care of my body, of not keeping in touch with my engineering knowledge, of not pursuing or discovering my passions much earlier. But this experience has given me a newfound respect for discipline. I wouldn’t be sane if I had not kept up a routine. The only thing that keeps me going is my end of the day jog.

I still worry about the fact that if I quit my job, I’ll have nothing to do for ten months before business school, that I’ll lose touch with the only friends circle I have and that I don’t really know where I’m heading. And I step off the landing…….

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The Hamster Dirge

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Run little hamster, where can you hide?

The wheel of industry you’re destined to ride.

Crush, kill, snuff out, and destroy!!

The cogs of the company sing out with joy.

Swaying to the macabre symphony of greed,

A new generation of hamsters, an unconscious breed.

Lured by the promise of a hearty meal,

Clamber you eagerly on the shiny wheel.

We love you little hamster, says the boss man Cat,

Your tender little morsels have made me fat!

Don’t be fooled, naïve hamster, by the kitty cat’s smile,

Hiding behind the mask is a creature most vile!

Keep running little hamster, don’t stumble or stop,

The boss man’s claws are eager and sharp.

Your family suffers when they hear you cry,

As the razor claws of work slit and bleed you dry.

Run little hamster, save your skin!

The boss man comes now, betray your kin.

Poor little hamster, crushed by the wheel.

There’s nobody left now to hear you squeal.

At the anal end of the asshole chain

I’ve just woken up from a fitful slumber. My phone senses my movement and , with annoying obsequity, illuminates its display. 5.45 a.m – only fifteen minutes to the alarm. Melancholy fills a place in my chest just above my heart. I curl into the fetal position, desperately grabbing on to the warmth that my blanket has gathered all night. I push away the thoughts of work that knock on the doors of my sleepy mind.

‘Target’ thrusts his lance into my cerebrum while ‘Delivery”s club bludgeons my soul. And their overlord-‘Incomplete’-laughs contemptuously as I recoil against the activity of my own mind.

In the distorted time of the morning when the mind has not yet warmed to the briskness required of it, fifteen minutes can be a yawning gulf-a last escape to the dream world or the sick battle fought everyday in the mind before the body even stirs.

7.30 a.m : I’m sitting in front of my computer monitor in an empty office. My legs shake impatiently as the server in Europe loads the last line of text I moved across the screen. It seems excruciatingly slow especially considering the load of files that beckons me to stay well into the night. My thoughts echo in the stillness.

“Why?”, I ask myself,”Why did this happen to me? I graduated from a good college with exceptional grades. So why?”

An hour passes by and the office starts to fill in. People greet me with their usual combination of a smile and the slight frown of surprise. ‘This early?’ is the silent rhetorical that the frown asks me. I dread the arrival of that man and my mind curiously rejoices in his current absence .

Three hours have passed and I’ve been unable to complete a single file. The man tells me my file delivery count and stares me down. A hundred thoughts come into my head, a hundred scenarios play out- “Its only been a month since I joined the team!”,” We have only four people to complete eighty files every week!”,”Its been a month since I last saw the evening sun!”,” Its been days since I last talked to my mother!”, but they are crushed by the weight of guilt. The fact remains that I couldn’t deliver on that imposed target.

Lunch passes by in solitude though I am surrounded by teaming masses of software professionals from the floor below. They seem so happy, josh around in the elevators, wearing night suits to work while the unwashed blue shirt hangs dispiritedly on my unwashed body which in turn strains against a heavy spirit.

At 1.30, I attend a meeting with the European client, who will make her way promptly home come 6.00 p.m , production or no production. I nod off in the middle of a droning discussion on left side fender markups and wake up with a start. This meeting has nothing to do with me. Just another hour stolen from my time. An hour that could have been spent  talking to my friends, having a home cooked meal, reading a magazine or just sitting still and watching the sunset at the beach. One meeting ends and I hustle to another. The senselessness of this spirit of ‘corporate inclusion’ stuns me.

5.30 p.m. Evening sweeps in with her sunsets, beautiful yet painful in my ability to view them only from the glass prison of my office. My friend chats away happily as she plans her chores at home when she leaves in an hour. My misery concerned her in the beginning. But time erodes the relevance of another’s problems  and so I plaster a smile on my face and listen to her while my insides seethe at her happy chatter.

9.30 p.m. I call my father and,guiltily, rave about my troubles. Lately, there is a strange flatness to his voice when he consoles and advises me. I know. How many times can anyone listen to the same thing and come up with new advice? ” They can’t do that” turned to “Ask for a department change” turned to”Tell your manager.” turned to “You have to bear with it.”- the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

My mind is frightened by the utter loss of meaning to life and it runs in circles- Quit, startup,get an MBA, stop giving a shit, they can’t fire you, go on a spiritual journey. But all these options come with that ominous question-  ‘Then what?’ . I realize that the problem is me – I have neither the vision that is required to lead a good life nor the guts to quit nor the strength to hang on. I am the weak, soft, pulpy product of a sheltered upbringing who followed the crowd into the rainbow, only to find himself careening into a septic tank.

I set a delay timer on my daily activity tracker mail and quietly leave the office.

12.30 a.m : I pull up to my house on my bike, get in, get into bed and turn off the lights.

Now What?

 

 

 

ninja tech

Beyblade anyone?

petescully

ninjago thunder raider
“Jump up. Kick Back. Whip Around. And…Spin.” No, these aren’t lines from a popular book-turned-movie that is in cinemas these days (“Shifty Grades of Hay”, or whatever it’s called), but is in fact the theme tune to the rather more interesting and well written kids cartoon, “Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu”, based on the popular Lego toy line. Regular listeners will remember that I have drawn some of these toys before (my son has rather a big collection, and you need acrobatic Ninja skills to just get across the floor without stepping on one). Despite being an elaborate (and effective) toy commercial (hah, not like in my day! My favourite shows were Transformers and He-Man which, er never mind), it is actually remarkably good fun and a lot better than much of the nonsense on kids TV these days. At the end of the season three for example, when (spoiler…

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Lucid Dream

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He was walking across the ocean. But, it wasn’t an ocean he would have ever seen on Earth. It was a beautiful golden orange. The water was perfectly still but, staring at it, he had this feeling that it was moving, swirling, forming imperceptible vortices, displaying degrees of freedom that would astound him if he could just see it. Ahead, there were soaring mountain ranges outlined against a beautiful pink sky. There was no sun to be seen but there was light. Pink light. Living light that illuminated his skin, penetrated every cell in his body, filled it with a soft glow.

He could see her now, standing at the base of the mountains. She was a hundred miles away but he could see her features as clearly as if she were the ridges on the palm of his hand. He walked at a leisurely pace, covering the gap in minutes. He stood close to her, breathing the same scented air as her. He looked into her brown eyes, into those molten pools that felt like the warm, tender hands of a mother caressing her baby for the first time and he wanted to dive into those eyes. he wanted to be held in those eyes. He felt a burning envy for the ocean and the sky, the mountains and the light. His own reflection. He moved,with his finger, a strand of hair that fell over her eyes. He put an arm around her slender waist and he felt the warmth of her velvet skin. His breath became heavier, his heart beat faster, as he leaned in to kiss her soft, pink lips. Before their lips touched, before his eyes closed, he saw that the sky had changed. The sun had risen over the mountains and it formed a subdued halo around the woman’s head. The sky was darkening. Streaks of white ran over the arc of the heavens and the stars dotted the sky in disorder. The ocean was changing. From behind him, an electric blue colour spread over the orange. It was now a battle between the orange of the sun and the blue of the sea.

When their lips touched, something somewhere, a dam burst open and memories he had no memory of came flooding forth. He remembered the time they had first met, the sense of absolute awe that had filled him. All his life, beauty had been a concept that was relative, subject to subjectivity. But here she stood, in front of his eyes, describing itself, beyond description. He remembered the time they had sat at the edge of a black hole, watching light beams warp and glitter against that absolute blackness. he remembered the time he had made love to her on the cloud beds of the crab nebula. As he remembered the myriad aspects of their union, a tapestry of emotions materialized in his mind. It was all too much to take in. The world twisted and tore itself from his lips.

He woke up to a cacophony of familiar sounds. A monitor beeped near his head. Artificial lungs pumped that cursed miasma of life into his lungs. IV drips nourished his decaying body. The skin was falling off his body. There was pain in every imaginable joint. There was an incessant itch in his feet. But he could not scratch it, for he had lost that one ability most precious to a human – the ability to move. Even before the accident, his life had been torture. And he had been too cowardly to make an exit. So he had waited for the end that was inevitable, suffering the agonies that had etched lines deeply into his face, that had made the bitter bile spew into his throat, that had eaten away at his lungs. But now, so close to the end, life had conspired to keep his mind shackled to his earthly body. He hated his wife. He hated his saviours in their white coats. He hated the kindly nurses who turned him over and washed and changed him everyday, stripping him of what little dignity was left. Their intentions had been good at the beginning. Their presence alleviated his pain for a while. But as time dragged on and he remained alive, he had begun to see the dark side that is implicit in every human. When there was no one around, his wife beseeched him to just die. She would rage against him for being alive, this woman who had sworn to be at his side in sickness and in health.IT WASN’T MY CHOICE!he wanted to scream at her,I DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS. Then she would whimper and cry her apology not knowing that the damage was done. The doctors used him as an exhibit for their students. He was but a subject, an object. He knew that one day his wife would leave for home and never return again. He hoped desperately to die before then.

He knew that he would be able to meet her there again, that ephemeral woman. She was waiting for him in his dreams. If only he could wake up from the nightmare that was his life. His mind was foggy again. He felt the coolness of the orange sky envelop his mind again…..

We are not rapists and we don’t aspire to be you.

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Dear Uncle in America,

You recently asked me if I could receive your wife at the airport. I said that I would arrange for one of my father’s employees to pick you up. I remember that you said, ” I’m afraid someone might rape my wife. Please pick her up yourself.” The accusation implicit in that. You just called my father’s trusted colleague a rapist. Why, if you didn’t know me, you would have called me a rapist. Have you bought into the paranoia in your country so much that you would suspect the very country that you grew up in? Did you not consider the fact that your wife spent a week roaming around New Delhi, the very city that has been termed the rape capital of the country, with five male friends. Did you suspect their intentions then? Then, let me ask you something, would you not leave your wife alone in my house with me?

Have we really fallen so much in your eyes? Uncle, crime is prevalent in every country. It is only now that journalism is being reformed in my country. The recent spate of reports on rape in the previous years only shows that we consider rape abhorrent and are doing our best to eradicate it. Don’t misconstrue this as evidence of increasing gender violence. Only now is gender violence and its consequences being brought into the light. You don’t see me refusing to visit you in your country because I’m afraid of white police officers, do I? I understand that you are going through reforms of your own. I respect that and don’t judge you by it.

Your wife also posted a status on Facebook recently that reads as follows,”These Indians all want to become westernised like us…. they want to eat like us, dress like us, talk like us…but they don’t want to clean up their streets…feeling disappointed.” This is the worst accusation of all. India is the world’s most inclusive culture. We have been invaded by Muslims, Mongols, Aryans, Dravidians, even white guys! We have never tried to become like any one of them. We have only taken the best that these cultures have had to offer and amalgamated these into a vibrant culture of our own. You, who have been educated here, must know this. Why do I have to remind you of this?

Your country has had it easy being the new kid on the block. You could all just erase your slates and start over. For a nation with a six thousand year old history, it is not easy to just shrug off that weight. It takes time and it takes strife. Your country doesn’t seem to understand that when you drop bombs on Iran and Iraq. It is not for you to be the judge of nations. You are too young and too inexperienced.

We don’t want to become someone else. You moved to America during the Y2K and made a quick buck.You turned your back on us. We, on the other hand, remained here.We have had to struggle to become the next economic powerhouse of the world. You once told my father that he would be better off working as a truck driver in America. You said it paid better. Guess what? My father is debt free and has put me through college.

We don’t want to become like America. I could tell you a number of reasons for that. We don’t want to have the highest ratio of incarcerated citizens to free civilians in the world. We don’t want to have our children gunned down in school. We don’t want to die in drive-by shootings. We don’t want every third Indian to be morbidly obese. We don’t want to have the family institution crumble.

But we also value many things that your culture has to offer. Your respect for women. Your respect for free speech. Your irreverence for authority. Your work culture. We would like to include these aspects in our culture.

The next time you pass judgement on us, I suggest that you wipe that condescending smirk off your face and feel happy that we are changing for the better and be honoured that we are including your culture in ours.

Coincidence or Divine Intervention?: How Serendipity Saved My Dad’s Job

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Being unemployed is one of the greatest terrors in any person’s life. In 2006, my father, after having been unemployed for a year and a half, had held his current job for two years. He was the operations head for a fledgling luxury watch retail company. He was still haunted by the memories of having meals at roadside stalls at 20 Rupees (about 40 Cents) and working at a gas station marketing new petrol products to customers coming in for a gas fill. You see, my father has a Bachelor’s degree  in Chemistry and an M.B.A in Marketing, so this job was way below what his dignity would allow but he had depleted his entire life savings in the year  he was searching for employment. So, needless to say, my father put in twice, sometimes thrice the effort required of him. His motto became, “To hold your job, become indispensable to your employer.”

One day, one of the shops in Bangalore where my dad had his office received a shipment of furniture which had been transported all the way from Chennai port. The goods came in 3 trucks which were accompanied by 2 forklifts. Unfortunately, the entrance to the store was too low to accommodate the forklifts and so the furniture was unloaded in front of the shop. The trucks and forklifts left the spot,leaving the company employees to look for alternate unloading arrangements. Since it was summer, there was literally no chance of rain and so the furniture was left uncovered under the awning of the store.

My father usually left for home at around 6 in the evening but that day his friend had dropped by and they talked until about 9. As they were leaving, my dad noticed storm clouds gathering in the distance. He began to grow worried about the furniture. Both my dad and his friend stood there wondering what to do at that hour of the night. The supervisor of the store building happened to pass by and asked them what they were doing there. As my father told him about his problem, a tea vendor who had been standing in front of the store, listening in on the three men, suggested that they buy tarpaulin sheets from the market nearby but he was pretty sure that the shops would be closed . Regardless, my dad and the supervisor took an autorikshaw to the market only to find the tarp shop closed. My father returned to the store, dejected and sure that he would be held responsible for any damage that may occur to the furniture. Just then, another autorikshaw driver stopped by in front of the shop to have tea. The tea vendor, who hadn’t moved, told the driver about my father’s predicament. By some strange twist of fate, the driver happened to know the tarp shop owner personally and had dropped him home just that day and offered to take my father to his house. Both my father and the driver ended up before the shop owner’s house at about 11. The surprised man heard out my father and told him to take an entire roll of tarpaulin sheeting, free of cost, as he had nothing with which to cut it. When my father enquired about payment, the man just shrugged and told my father to worry about that in the morning!

And the rest of the tale is quite predictable. The furniture was saved from one of the heaviest summer rains recorded in Bangalore’s history. Four days later, the representatives of the various Swiss watch brands that my father’s company marketed found, to their amazement, a completely furnished and renovated store that had been completed in 6 days against the deadline of two weeks.

It is amazing how chance and the kindness of complete strangers helped my dad keep his job. It didn’t make my dad a religious man, but it made him realize what Paulo Coelho is apt to mention in his books,”When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

 

 

This Country Needs a Better Class of Protest

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Protest:
noun
1.

an expression or declaration of objection, disapproval, or dissent, often in opposition to something a person is powerless to prevent
 or avoid:
India has been the country of origin for a range of peaceful protest methods employed across the world in a large number of countries and applied to a variety of issues. Civil Disobedience, Non Cooperation and hunger strikes are some of the more notable methods pioneered by the often deified Mahatma Gandhi. These methods continue to be used today, even after the end of British colonial rule and the firm establishment of democratic rule. But, are these methods still having the same impact that they did during our grandfathers’ times. I believe they are not, at least not in India.
Contrary to popular belief, the Republic of India was not founded on a bloodless revolution. We achieved independence due to the sacrifices of millions of men women and children. The fight was going on long before Gandhi entered the scene. The 1857 War of Independence when thousands of Indian soldiers in the British Army or ‘Sepoys’ as the British called them rebelled against their British superiors is just such an example.
The Jalianwala Bagh massacre in Punjab where hundreds of Punjabis were slaughtered by General Dyre for congregating on the holy day of Baisakhi is another example.
The greatest example of all is the genocide that occurred during partition when trains pulled into stations in India and Pakistan filled with the bodies of Hindus and Muslims in the nations where they were in the majority.Even the great Mahatma sat helpless as religious hatred corrupted the minds of men.
But, our history textbooks are quick to lay  emphasis on the peaceful protests to such an extent, it feels as if our independence was won by old men waving flags and sitting out in public squares.
Fast forward 53 years. It is 2nd November, 2000. In India’s Manipur state, Irom Sharmila has just begun a hunger strike to protest the atrocities committed by the Indian Armed Forces against women in the state.Little does she know that her protest will continue for the next 14 years and that she will be drip fed during the entire time. The result of her efforts: short lived international attention and occasional domestic attention. This year she was arrested for attempt to commit suicide which is unlawful under the Indian Peanal Code. The Indian Armed Forces continue to hold special powers in Manipur and nobody has been brought to justice.
In 2013, the Indian people finally  took a stand against the corruption permeating all the levels of government. How did they do it? well, mass rallies and peaceful agitation in major cities across the country. It resulted in no concrete changes in government policy and many of the movements petered out.
A repeating pattern we can observe in these incidents is that the public’s interest is piqued by these individuals who rally people around them but when the movement doesn’t seem to be achieving its results or takes a long time, then people lose interest and abandon their efforts entirely.
Interest in a movement can be sustained only when the protest method is modelled around the issue itself. For example, PETA promotes vegetarianism by having women volunteers wearing nothing but leaves to protect their dignity. The image lasts forever in the mind of the observer.
A similar technique was used by women lawyers in India’s Kerala state to protest the sexual assault of a female lawyer when they stood together, nearly naked, draped only with a piece of cloth. It shook up the orthodox and patriarchal society of Kerala. Debates raged for days on whether it was right for women to shed their dignity in such protests. But. isn’t that the whole point of the protest? Aren’t they highlighting the humiliation that women face even when they are in the confines of high security homes like the lawyer did?
This country can be woken up from its apathy only by such risqué forms of protest.

My first Sushi experience

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The night before last, I had Sushi for the first time. I had vowed to taste Sushi before my holidays ended and so I searched for the best option in Bangalore’s not so varied selection of Japanese restaurants. Being an Indian, the very idea of eating raw fish is revolting. But, my addiction to Japanese anime had made me mentally prepared to try the single greatest delicacy to come out of my favourite characters’ country. First, we ( my dad and I) had the seafood salad – lettuce, tomatoes, raw salmon, prawns and squid. To my astonishment, I did not even flinch as I took the first bite. Delicious! I couldn’t get enough of the crunchy prawn and the sweet tasting salmon. Then,  we had the main course, the sushi itself. Rolls of rice with seaweed at the centre and raw salmon on top with just a dab of sauce (notice the number of times I’ve used the word raw. I have had a serious allergic reaction to poorly cooked prawn in the past so throughout the meal, i kept expecting angry rashes to break out all over my body!). It was also my first time using chopsticks so I carefully lifted the delicate roll, hand shaking the entire time, dipped it in the soy sauce and stuffed the whole portion into my mouth. There burst forth a profusion of flavour starting with the rice itself. It was cold and had a very grainy texture quite unlike Indian rice preparations which are sticky and do not allow one to savour individual grains as they are usually drowned in some sort of gravy. The salmon was soft and overpowering in its sweetness. The first two pieces went in smoothly but by the third my taste buds were screaming for chilli and even the extremely pungent wasabi couldn’t make it better. Then, we had tempura prawn, prawn battered and deep fried. It is quite similar to the south Indian dish, bajji, only we use plantains, onions, potatoes or eggplant instead of prawn. I kinda got addicted to the tempura sauce. I wanted to try Ramen noodles but it had pork in it. I’m not religious or anything but I didn’t want to go too far with the trying new things thing so I got Oyokodon instead. My father had an Ochizake. My dish consisted of rice topped with minced chicken and egg yolk served with a side of Miso soup. I found the Miso soup to be overwhelmingly sweet and I avoided it. But the dish itself was not any spicier and I didn’t relish it much. My father’s dish on the other hand consisted of rice served in a broth topped with pieces of grilled tuna. Now, that was delicious and I stared at my father with envy every time he had a spoonful. I was also dissapointed that I couldn’t eat ric with the chopsticks and ended up eating it with the soup spoon. We finished off the meal with, what else, coffee. My final verdict : Sushi – I can have it maybe once a month but I know I will come running home for my mother’s sambar rice and potato fry after. I have come to realize how clean the Japanese palate is. Those guys can make raw(again) fish so appetizing and delectable. On the other hand, there’s no beating gorging on Chettinad Chicken. Sayonara

why is silence equated to wisdom?

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When a baby is born, the indication of its life is its high pitched bawl. As the child grows, it learns to change its incomprehensible vocabulary of chuckles and noises to discernible speech. It learns from its parents and its surroundings. It learns to express its desires and intentions through words. Then the child grows and learns to think and join words together to create opinions and thoughts. Throughout its life, it struggles to express opinions through the cacophony of thoughts and opinions. the child grows into a teen and this the time when it becomes most vociferous in its expression. the teen turns into a man and the man starts to close up against the pressures of life. He starts giving less voice to his opinions and learns to hide in the background of general opinion. As the man becomes old, he realizes the futility of speech. He reflects upon the futility of all those voices straining against the powers of this world. Then the man becomes completely silent. No thought goes expressed, no opinion is given. The horrors of the world around him and the betrayals of his own family silence him. the corpse is silenced forever.