The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Fake Lies | The Hoshakan Intellectual

Rohan Parikh (Junior Correspondent at Free Press Pvt. Ltd.)

Fake Lies is a satire series about Ashokan life and culture (or lack thereof).

Ever since its inception, Hoshak University has been a fertile breeding ground for intellectual poseurs. Intellectual faffing has come to be a way of life among the students. While the tendency to faff is by no means restricted to Hoshak — one could argue that it is how the world works — this posturing assumes interesting dimensions in this small space.

Intellectual faffing is defined as a condition wherein individuals feel the irrepressible need to piggyback on established views to seem and sound smart. The Administration has found that such behavior is primarily inspired by a crippling fear of being unable to live up to the standards of the University. As a result, students resort to faffing in order to create and maintain their self-worth on campus.

Illustration by Ketaki Mathur, Batch of 2020

An Administration staff member spoke to us about her views on the situation. “I think Hoshak’s marketing team has overachieved. In the eyes of the students, this is not a place where intellectuals are created — which is what it intends to be — but a place where towering intellectuals are chosen to come and argue. These poor kids probably think we’re keeping score or something; that we’ll throw them out if they can’t prove their intellectual superiority at least thrice a day.”

Faffing is deeply entrenched in the average Hoshakan’s communication on a daily basis. Different batches, moreover, have different reasons to get into pointless debates.

The first-years’ need for acceptance drives them to do various things like committing to harmful relationships, drinking incessantly, founding political parties, and, of course, faffing. The second-years believe they’re above this need for acceptance, but their source of faffing seems to be sourced in the hope of receiving adulation from the first-years. The third-years resort to it to justify their presence at Hoshak for three long years and the fourth-years find themselves so adept at this skill, that they find faffing to be their best bet at getting jobs.

Despite the circumstances that have given birth to this trend of faffing, it is almost never vulgar bravado. This is what distinguishes Hoshakan faff from outside-world faff.

Research conducted by the Psychology department has shown that Hoshakans deploy a series of subliminal messages that create an implicit intellectual hierarchy among students. One’s position in the pecking order is crucial when it comes to debating and arguing, since it determines the qualitative worth of an individual’s stance, thereby strengthening their case, regardless of the actual character of their argument. In other words, one’s social worth acts as latent faff currency, to be used to one’s advantage when arguing.

A classic technique employed by students involves carrying several bulky books and roaming about in public spaces like the mess or the common rooms. It creates an air of erudition around these individuals. However, to avoid being asked questions about the book, which are seldom opened, students plug in their earphones and walk briskly. The number of students deploying this tactic increases exponentially during lunch hours in the mess, and at late nights during finals week.

During arguments, contrarian views are usually avoided, since that would require actually defending them. Opinions that fall largely within the University’s accepted moral and cultural grain are repeated in very many ways. A math major’s research indicated a correlation between the simplicity of the concept explained and the accompanying jargon. She claims the two are directly proportional.

A similar range of catchwords and key phrases (interesting; problematic; amaze; dude, totally; ‘yaaas queen’ — depending on the amount of alcohol consumed) are employed during conversation to drive home a point. Moreover, well-dressed individuals tended to get heard more often, but not more than individuals with a baritone and longish hair. The most lethal combination is a well-dressed individual with a baritone and longish hair. We found the latter are also most likely to get elected to office.

Most interestingly, we noticed that quite a few students have managed to perfect what has colloquially come to be called ‘The Gaze’. Reportedly, several students perform it on a daily basis. After spending much time hiding inconspicuously behind bushes, we finally spotted a ‘gazer’.

A Hoshakan was sitting outside the mess in front of the lawns, his ‘intense’ face glowing in the rays of the evening sun. His eyes were deep and reflective, yet kind and sincere. He sat motionlessly; only the slight heaving of his chest betrayed signs of his attachment to the material world. We watched, astounded.

‘The Gaze’ is a brilliant means to project oneself as a ‘low-key’ intellectual and to arouse a fellow student’s admiration. Students who are able to deploy ‘The Gaze’ successfully find themselves at a huge advantage during arguments, since their thoughts are thought to run wide and deep, like an ocean.

Far from being stigmatized, the Hoshakan community has come to implicitly accept faffing as the accepted means of communication.

A third year undergraduate put it simply. “Nassim Nicholas Taleb said that the difference between magnificence and arrogance is in what one does when nobody’s looking. Well, I don’t think the distinction is required. I mean, how does it matter what you do when no one is looking? We don’t need more Wozniaks, we need more Jobs.”

Jobs, the University has finally recognized, is what this is all about. Instead of thinking of faff as an impediment to knowledge, the University is focused on turning it into the average Hoshakan’s primary weapon to outsmart others. The course structure for the introductory Critical Thinking Seminar is to be tweaked; it now stresses the importance of faffing as integral to the process of critically engaging in argument. The Arbitrary Disruption Union (ADU) is a club created exclusively to equip the students with basic knowledge of ‘faffology’, a term coined by the dean in his inaugural address. There are rumors of introducing a course teaching the history of bluffing through the ages.

“The way things are going,” says a fourth-year undergraduate, “we will soon outdo everyone. Colleges, jobs, attractive partners — they’re all a few good faffs away.”

This phenomenon leaves few things to certainty since all else is bunkum. Yet, the Free Press is optimistic about the Hoshakan’s success. The only mistake Hoshakans can make is to feel ‘inauthentic’ in their chosen path, since the path to true knowledge is far too long and winding. Faff is, frankly, easier.

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