Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Twisted Logic

Q: How many senses do we possess?

A: Four in Mumbai and five in the rest of the world.

That’s right folks. Time to demolish old myths assiduously taught to preschoolers by distraught parents desperate for their toddlers’ admissions. For as we all are well aware, the sense of touch is a highly redundant and unhealthy one, and that’s why two schools in the financial capital of India (sometimes confused for a cosmopolitan liberal city) have issued a ban against any physical contact among the opposite sexes in the school premises. For, as we all know, the country is going to the dogs anyway, with all these Western ideas of sex and all (chhee chhee! We never do anything so dirty! See that’s why our three million gods have blessed us with our two billion little ones). People are forgetting their good Indian roots – the best place to start is the schools. As it is, Indian kids are born in such an advanced state of sexual maturity that playing “Tag” might just incite uncontrollable lust. And of course, the potency of handshakes as an aphrodisiac has always been underestimated, I say. Kids are growing up so fast these days – they already know all about these dirty ideas by the time they’re twelve (don’t blame us – we tried to prevent it by banning sex educations in schools) and then if you allow them to touch each other in school – total fireworks! I mean sex is the only thing on the minds of ten-year-olds, didn’t we all know that?

Good Indian kids may not be able to devote 100% of their time to boards and then JEE preps because of their dirty, unnatural curiosity about the opposite sex (god only knows how children of decent, god-fearing parents turn out that way! This generation!). So as guardians of society and proud generators of IIT-androids (with enhanced formula memorizing ability – the preferred product of top tech schools since 1975) we have devised an ingenious way of putting a stop to it all – that’s right folks, let’s hear it for BAN!!!! (the taste of India!) Such a beautifully simple idea – hats off to those silent geniuses toiling day and night to safeguard our kids from evil evolutionary conspiracies against their traditional asexuality (and entrance into IIT). I mean, obviously, boys and girls never meet outside schools, right? And of course, we’ll have 4 cameras per student, positioned so as to capture front, rear and side views, to ensure absolutely no touching takes place. What do you think, we haven’t worked out the details? And then, perhaps, we can put a word in now and then during assemblies, about how touching girls causes AIDS. Or shall we just stick to plain old cooties?

What did you say? We’re creating more interest and curiosity by banning touching? That kids’ minds are more likely to be corrupted by such unhealthy ideas than any music video? bah – go away to your America, you pervert!

Yes, let’s not waste time over silly digressions like that, but instead focus now on how to implement the policy for best results. We’re thinking we could smear the exposed skin of every child with some sort of grease – such that we can obtain fingerprints also, as additional proof to the camera recordings. Obviously, we’ll make the boys and girls sit separately during classes – what are we, stupid? Better still, we’ll have these separate classrooms for boys and girls and maybe separate playgrounds and separate queues during assemblies. What did you say? Go back to single sex schools? But that’s so regressive, we’re liberal people, we want our children to be in more realistic environments. Bah silly digressions again, spoiling our well-laid out plans. Hmm now what shall we do to those who disobey? Cut off their hands? No, no, that’s so Taliban-like. How about expulsion? But we can’t do that, where would we get our revenue then? Difficult question, this. If anyone has any constructive suggestion to offer to keep the future of the nation in safe, non-sexual cocoons, please feel free to contact us. In fact we might make this a contest – just like a business plan competition. Next on our list is banning loud breathing, panting after physical exertion and of course, smiling - obviously for their sexual overtones. Let us all join hands and work towards that ultimate goal of banning free thought, for a cleaner, greener society.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Look At Me

Bloggitis has hit BITS. All of us for whom blogdom was hitherto foreign ground, have taken to it like fish to water, and with astonishing rapidity. Those that were initiated into its folds before the rest of us lesser mortals have added to their cv by creating two, and for the ones with two to their credit already, one can only extrapolate. Most of us are at a loss for something better to do, which is apparent from our posts (dude, writing about how one spends a lazy summer afternoon by doing nothing? seriously, what was I thinking?) but if you’re thinking of using us to define the new standard of joblessness, you can think again. For, some self-appointed content-police of blogdom start new blogs to comment on other people’s blogs! It surprises me, the amount of effort a certain blogger took to not only read apparently unreadable trash, but to actually pick and choose posts to comment on, and then to actually comment on the comments! dude!! The world of freethinking and freer publishing makes for a highly interesting commentary on human nature!

For instance, why do we blog? Is it the desire to merely shout, or desire to be heard? Is it about writing what we feel like, or about writing what we want others to appreciate? I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s more to do with letting people know that I can think and I can write (whatever others’ opinions might be on that :P) and hence, gain a little more attention. And yes, the comments. I’m sorry to expose such a shallow nature, but it’s the kick I get from seeing 11 comments, that keeps me typing assiduously. That, and an assured audience, of course. Blogdom social circles are as amusing and fraught with as many social niceties as any Country club clique. I add you to my blogroll means you do the same to me. I’m your wingie in personal life, therefore to avoid cold war and/or occasional bouts of violence, I post comments, whether I’ve read your blog or not (I mean, seriously, how many words do you have to go through to post a “hey nice going”?) I’ve manifested my general benevolence and interest in you by stopping by your blog, now you go and check out mine! But this Orkut-testimonial-psychology is one of the primary attraction of blogging, at least to rookies like me. I mean which of us doesn’t want to feel taken notice of. I like it, I like it the way it is. I like reading the blogs of my friends (for quite a few of them write pretty darn well), I like seeing and posting comments even more, and I like the discussions that that sparks off occasionally even more. It’s that feeling of being connected – whether to friends who anyway are bound by duty, or to complete strangers who for whatever reason happen to tell you your blog made for a nice read- that I like, pretty unashamedly as you can see. For me, it’s not so much about letting out my feelings, as it is to see if those feelings find an echo in anyone. Sorry, I’m not really on a mission to revolutionize web journalism, and I don’t think I’ve been divinely ordained to write a thesis on Third World poverty.

I don’t care if what I write about has no real significance or whether people think I’m wasting precious e-space by divulging details about my life that no one could possibly be better off knowing. If I can make for a nice afternoon read, I ask no more of life, at least for the present. Of course, the moment people start telling me they’re getting bored (c’mon, don’t be shy!), I shall mend my ways with lightning speed. So do not fail to comment!

P.S: let not those who know me best misconstrue my comments – what I have hitherto said on your posts has never been tempered by any social obligations, and whether I have liked or disliked your posts, I have made clear.

disclaimer: ok people, I didn't mean this post to sound like a whining child's lament, who can't take a joke. I meant it all in good sport. I'm really sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings. Please don't read this in a serious vein!

Monday, June 18, 2007

All Apologies

Ok the cold war has ended and peace and joy reigns once again in the Bhattacharyya household. Quite a few people have complained about the typical teenage-angst-ridden note of most of my previous posts and have expressed concern over my mental well-being. Also, I realized that the general tone of my posts are giving an entirely one-sided view of me and my life. So time for a little clearing up.

First of all, my life doesn’t suck that much, you know. It’s actually a nice, wholesome, happy one, albeit a little boring right now. My parents have their quirks, but most of the time it’s more funny than irritating – at least I never fail to see the humor of it, and the realization that most parents are more or less cast out of the same mould, helps me laugh off most of their idiosyncrasies.

Consequently, I am not exactly the depressed fuck with more angst than I know where to put. In fact, quite the opposite. I am usually never spotted without a smile on my face and my silly enthusiasm about sunny days, pretty blue flowers, matching jewellery and the like is renowned. The one to come jumping and skipping declaring to whoever might be listening that it’s a beautiful morning – that’s me. I like being happy. You might say, “who doesn’t?” to that but if you think over it, you’ll realize that many people don’t know how to be happy. Happiness is not going to drop onto your lap from the skies; you have to find it. So that’s exactly what I try to do most of the time – no matter how silly the sources may seem to others. It may be “corny” to be thrilled to bits with a poem, it may be “gay” to be ecstatic over the weather, it may be utterly silly to be on top of the world because some stranger wished you good morning, but there, that’s me.

What you see here is not exactly a commentary on who I am. It’s just that I pick topics that enable me to “bitch” because that, I admit, is one of the pleasures of life that I can’t forego.

So now that you know I’m really just your average happy-go-lucky girl-next-door, I can continue my bitching with a clear conscience again!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Man! I Feel Like A Woman

Being a girl, as vouched for by millions of double-X-ites (and that refers to XX chromosome configuration in case you missed school level biology), is not easy. Nineteen years (and continuing) of pimples, bad-hair days, ruined nails, PMS, cramps, hydrating masks, waxing, figure woes have convinced me of that. One spends so much time trying to be a girl that one is often led to wonder what we unbroken creatures would be if not assiduously trained in the art of attaining feminity – possibly some close kin of the Neanderthal man. Or worse, as our mothers never fail to remind us, husbandless.

It begins from the very cradle. I’m sure proud parents of “Sushila” or “Prudence” hush up their masterpiece’s lusty wails with a “behave like a lady”. That continues to how little ladies don’t tear their frocks and don’t fight and don’t behead their ubiquitous Barbies. Then, just where the parents let off, SCHOOL begins. Ok, I concede that my schooling experience is not quite the norm (and is soon dying out, more’s the pity), but my school was one of those charming miniature finishing schools – over a hundred years old (130 is closer) and staffed with the most delightful remnants of the Raj in the shape of ancient Anglo Indian ladies and other Anglophiles.( I say this without a hint of ill-will – those teachers were some of my favorites and it’s heartbreaking for me to see the demise of that old-school class nowadays). So along with our ABC’s and Marian Richardson Cursive Writing, we were taught to sit properly( with legs either crossed in a ladylike fashion or with knees pressed together, ankles touching), walk properly (“Don’t drag your feet”, “Don’t slouch”, “No running in the corridors”, “Chin up”, “Back Straight”), talk properly (in soft dulcet tones, no screaming like a hag, and to note that twenty is pronounced “twen-tay” alone, “twen-tee” in conjunction) and so on and so forth. Young ladies never quarrel – they merely express a difference in opinion. Young ladies never give or receive birthday bumps – that vulgar custom whereby people enjoy other people’s birthdays. Young ladies must not adopt wild hairstyles – hair must be properly braided the moment it threatens to reach twistable length. Young ladies must suffer terrible high heeled pumps in senior school. Young ladies must learn to make cross-stitch table cloths, paint vases and make miscellaneous paper decorations. I wonder why they tried to prepare us for assuming the position of Duchess of York with modest blushes, but somehow or the other, we never quite turned out the way we were supposed to, I guess. A different kind of schooling, one received by default on living in a metro, was at work to thwart the plans of the conformistic school corridors. But this proved no easier in our labours of girlhood, I assure you.

This manifested itself in girlish rebellion – we WON’T plait our hair – remedy, get it cut in razor style, with loose ends galore decorating our sweating faces in June, and irritating bits of hair scratching the back of our necks, but of course, it’s the in thing, and we’d rather die than look like a typical convent school product that our school was trying to churn out. (although I must be careful to mention that our school was Protestant.) We’re rebels, we’re rebels people! So we go through excruciating pain to get multiple ear piercings, the occasional nose piercing and of course colouring our hair in vivid shades of orange (in this case causing eye-problems to onlookers). We wear our skirts two-inches shorter than the prescribed one-inch-above-knee, coz we’re rebelling against forced maidenly modesty – never mind the extra pain and bother of waxing involved. And the constant agonies about our thighs on display not being the perfect shape or size. We hate socks with our high-heeled pumps; we think they look so retarded that the idea could only have been our principal’s brainchild. So what do we do? take off the socks the moment we’re out of the school gates. As for the painful chafing of the backs of our feet and the heels – grin and bear it! Rather spend an hour everyday bathing our feet with hot water and turmeric than look like a clown. And need I even mention the taming of bushy eyebrows and (horror of horrors) the thin line of down over the upper lips (no..no.. I can’t say the odious word.. it begins with an M...). The amount of pain we silently bear every three weeks!!

And that my dear friends, is where our troubles merely begin. These self-imposed rules and inconveniences are probably programmed in us – we invite lesser pains as if to prepare ourselves for the bigger ones, and who knows, perhaps pain is somehow inherent in the definition of womanhood.... I have a sneaking feeling we even enjoy being martyrs once in a while. But only once in a while. Coz once delicate-darling complaints about period cramps are no longer entertained as a valid reason to miss tests or deadlines, it kinda hits you that you have to grin and bear it... sorry dude, no other way! And unless you want to scream everytime you look into the mirror..... those “hair-raising” incidents must take place, and you can’t afford to yelp everytime a tweezer approaches your face. You want to wear those figure-hugging clothes, so why complain when you have to curb your chocolate cravings or sweat it out at the gym? And if you don’t want to suffer all this, then chill out na, why should you care so much whether you’re attractive to the opposite sex and whether you pass the eagle-eyed criticism of your own?

But the problem is, we do care. And there isn’t anything we’d trade in the world for being who we are, girls. That’s why being a girl is so difficult.... and so damn fun!!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

What do you do when you have two and a half months of complete vacousness ahead of you, coupled with mixed feelings about having no work and (therefore) no good reason to justify your existence? Well, I, for one, read. And when I say read, I mean READ. Getting into brag-mode, let me tell you I am a very, very fast reader. How fast? Well, I finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 5 hours. hah, take that! And I won a competition in British Council for being the fastest reader which got me 1 grand worth of books, tayk it! See, the thing is, to stop me from driving them up all kinds of walls with my endless questions and demands for stories, my parents hit upon the clever idea of teaching me to read, and shutting me up with a book. Since the age of three (or was it four?), there’s been no looking back. Ok, before I begin boring people into a coma (or have I hit a new high and managed to do that already?), let me snap out of it and get back to the point. The point being reading, and the kind of books I’m reading these days (and by the way the example quoted might give you a slightly inaccurate idea of my taste in reading, Harry Potter and I have mentally parted ways after the third book). Which, of course, brings us to the topic of trash. Pure, unadulterated trash (yes, I have noticed the oxymoron in that statement). I have been a loyal visitor to the British Council library everyday (the fact that it’s a five minutes’ walk from my place, helps) and have been assiduously filling up the biblical void generated by four months of Pilani with all kinds of “critically acclaimed” and “prize-winning” books. Is it just me, or do critics really need an all-expenses-paid holiday in Phuket, with breakfast included, bless their hearts? Probably a bit of both, but seriously, dude!!!! Ok, let me give you a blow-by-blow account of my adventures.

First book I pick up – a murder mystery called “Murder In Holy Orders” by P.D.James. Not too many people in my immediate circle have heard of her, which I think rather a pity because her books are actually good. Writing may drag at times, and you might wonder occasionally why intricate details about the clergy should interfere with your desire to know who-the-hell-dunnit, but all-in-all, a decent read.

Very well, encouraged by the success of my first pick, I began on the second. Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves”. I have read her “Mrs. Dalloway”, and it is one of my favourite books till date. The Waves looked promising enough – it’s supposed to represent some pinnacle of her creative ability – but I’m sorry, way too many characters. The stream of consciousness technique, beautiful in Mrs. Dalloway, becomes a pain here – dude, before you figure out what one person is thinking, the narrative has moved to the next, and all those intertwined emotions and relationships make you want to say “wait a minute – who’s in love with whom again?’. Sorry, had to leave it midway, captivating though her style is – it was too much of a mental effort.

Next stop – Ian McEwan’s “Atonement”. Rave reviews always make me a bit suspicious, but I wasn’t disappointed this time. Lovely rendition, although there was an entire section filled with absolutely trivial war-time details that added absolutely nothing to the story save a lot of irritation and skimmed over pages. But, still, a very good read. The end, especially is hauntingly beautiful, and I had to think up a lot of useless reasons to explain the misty eyes (coz, of course, only sentimental pre-pubescent females cry over books).

Next stop Terry Pratchett, “Hogfather”. Hilarious. Thanks to him, I was able, for once, to enjoy a book from beginning to end and at every nook and cranny in between, without once wondering whether this character seems natural, that scene is necessary, or whether my time is worth it. I understand his style might not appeal to all, but I, for one, am glad it does to me! I’m hooked. (And to those of you on whom the significance of my discovery of Terry Pratchett is not lost, let me reiterate, I may have read it on someone’s suggestion, but I like it without any pre-formed bias clouding my judgment).

So far so good. Wondering where all those fabled terrible works went, at who’s expense I might have been able to provide a few mean laughs? Here they come. My first selections, as it turned out, were merely a case of beginners’ luck (fine, resumers’ luck if you will). My next pick – 2004 Man Booker Prize winner, Alan Holinghurst’s “The Line of Beauty”. I should have known right then, any male author writing about beauty and its linear aspects – shearr gay. While mercifully unaware of the actual orientation of the author, his character’s extreme “gaiety” had me first merely wincing and then absolutely and completely disgusted and finally so out of patience and so completely on the verge of puking that I closed it with a resolute bang and promptly returned it. I hate it when I can’t finish a novel, no matter how bad, but I’m sorry, steamy details of gay orgies is not my idea of “curling up with a good book”. Fine, I grant that there are people with rather different tastes when it comes to sexual orientation, and yeah, I’m sure people have a right to write about them, but the point I want to raise is this – in this day and age, merely choosing a sensational topic transforms a work that is at best mediocre into “revolutionary” literature. The same story told with normal heterosexual characters would have probably had the critics throwing vegetables in various stages of putrefication at the author, because, really, the story is pure shit, at best a stretch of imagination (he falls in love with his gay boyfriend at the first blind date! What are the chances of that?) at worst, absolute drivel. And this most ordinary story won the Booker. I didn’t even get the reference to the title. It was said that Nick’s journey to find beauty would play a prominent role, but I found none, except his discovery of a “beautiful” rich lover. Blah!

Next – the much talked-about, hailed in glory “Brick Lane”, who’s author Monica Ali became an overnight star. The back and inner jacket of the book are filled to bursting point with rave reviews. So I started reading. Then, I realised after two pages that the story was already boring me, and although credible enough, was absolutely redundant and pointless and told in a most – for lack of a better term- weird style, weird voice. Ok, why does the author have to resort to broken English to translate a letter written in Bengali? What sense does it make to say “something has happen. It happen one month past but sometime I think not to tell you” – what the hell? The letter’s supposed to be in Bengali – what’s she trying to say, Bengali=Martian English? And the story – same old dal-chawal fare, parents trying to instill traditional values, children rebelling, been there, done that a million and one boring times. Fine, I give her credit in showing how the woman’s views undergo a change, how though she loves her husband, she silently rebels against some things. But still, hardly any impact. And of course she had to include boring war stuff again. Bah! Try finding a book these days without the shadow of looming catastrophe. I’m sick of it!

Next – Margaret Atwood’s Blind Assasin, Booker winner. Ok I really like her style. Storytelling is unique, the story within the story is unique, the story within the story within the story is extremely well written too. Everything’s fine, no one can doubt her skill. What’s missing then? I don’t know... a sense of relevance maybe... a sense of continuity... most of all normalcy...That’s what I miss most in all the modern day novels I’m reading. Why can’t the characters be normal for once, with normal lives, and the longings and disappointments and laughter and tears of a normal life, emotions we can identify with without having to delve into some dark trenches of our minds.... There’s an underlying note of trying-to-be-too-clever, trying-too-hard... Really, I sometimes so wish someone would write a nice, clean, old-fashioned romance again....Where have all the “normal”s gone? Outsold by freaks, every one.....