To those who are not acquainted with George Meredith, let me give a brief intro. He was a great novelist and poet of the last century who spent more than three fourths of his life in writing and thus earned the title of Grand Old Man of Letters! He is credited with such profound statements as ‘There is nothing the body suffers the soul may not profit by.’ I am not going to bore you with any further details about him except commending your attention to another remarkable statement of his which I want to elaborate on. That statement is ‘Cynics are only happy in making the world as barren for others as they have made it for themselves, Let us explore the origin of the word ‘cynic’. Cynic goes back to the Greek word kuon, dog, and its adjective kunikos which means doglike or snarling. A group of Greek philosophers of the 4th Century BC who held that virtue was the only goal in life, eventually became so self-righteous that they were called hoi kunikoi, ‘the snarlers’. Cynic, thus, came to be a word to describe a snarling, faultfinding person. Let us look at some of the founding fathers of cynicism. The first and foremost was a man who carried the ‘anti’ in his name itself! He was Antisthenes (450-370 B.C.). This old Greek was the founder of Cynicism -- the world's first official cynic! A follower of Socrates, he believed that we must cultivate virtue and shun materialism. True cynicism springs from disappointed idealism. We want the world to be a nicer place than it turns out to be. So we thumb our noses at the sources of our disillusionment! His disciple Diogenes of Sinope (c. 408-323 B.C.) was the most celebrated of the ancient Cynics, and is fondly remembered for his outrageous deeds and sayings. (All of his writings have vanished.) In his pursuit of virtuous simplicity, he gave away his belongings and took up residence in a tub. When Alexander the Great approached him outdoors and asked if there was anything he could do for him, the old philosopher simply replied, "You can get out of my sunlight." According to legend, Diogenes carried a lamp by day in his cynical search for an honest man! The Cynical Hall of Fame has countless philosophers and literary celebrities but going into that aspect in detail is beyond the scope of this blog on Cynics. We come across cynics in every walk of life. We have them in our families, our workplaces, our clubs and even in social gatherings. They have been found ever since the dawn of man. Possibly there have been quite a few of them even among the pre-historic Cro-Magnon or Neanderthal men, pursing their protruding lips with great difficulty in utter disapproval of the way in which the younger generation had started covering themselves with fig leaves and what have you. They were there in mythological days too. Like the sage Durvasa who was ever ready to expend the entire powers of his penance on cursing everyone who caused him the slightest displeasure. He would not spare even the newly wed Shakunthala who was so engrossed in the thoughts of her husband that she failed to notice his arrival. We would have shrugged off this small lapse of Shakunthala with an indulgent smile but not Durvasa. He got awfully worked up that some lowly mortal could allow her mind to be so fully occupied by the thoughts of another lowly mortal that the arrival of such an eminent person as himself was not even noticed. Thanks to his horrible curse, King Dushyant, who was himself responsible for Shakunthala’s momentary lapse, could not even recognise her when she presented herself in his palace. No doubt Durvasa’s anger helped Kalidasa conceive the immortal Sakunthalam on the basis of this episode but imagine what heartrending time that the hapless girl would have had! We find them in abundance, like mushroom on a rainy day, in our workplace. The worst part of it is that they all seem to target only you and not allow you to work in peace. Their constant criticism never permits you to work to your full potential. Their surveillance continues unabated until they are able to drag you into their exclusive circle. Like everyone whose blood gets sucked by Count Dracula becomes a vampire himself! They are there in social clubs too. But I can never understand their presence in clubs. Everyone joins a club to have fun and fellowship with like-minded persons and lend a supportive hand in service. This is purely a voluntary position. I do not understand why cynics should extend their tentacles beyond their families and workplaces, where their presence is unavoidable, to places like clubs where it is optional. It beats me why cynics need be present among some happy individuals who have agreed among themselves to combine and have some jollity. It defies my imagination why some people should go all out to disagree with others and be a spoilsport. Why should laughter and merriment be an eyesore for them? Why can’t they participate in all the fun of the world instead? I never could get a proper answer for my questions until I read George Meredith. Cynics are indeed adept in making the world barren for themselves and the world.