Monday, October 28, 2013

Let down by feminism

When I first heard of Feminism, I doubt whether there were many in the world who rejoiced about it as much as I did. Here, at last, was a social movement that would make all my dreams come true - or so I thought. I must, unwillingly, admit that it has been a let-down to me so far though I have still not given up hope.

I wanted to be wooed with chocolates and flowers (cigars and cognac for preference but there is a weird animal, called 'political correctness', loose in the world which gets in the way of everything we enjoy) by a woman. I wanted billets doux written to me, even with mis-spelt English and bad rhyming. I wanted a woman to take me on a cruise on her yacht on the Aegean, go down on one knee before me on a romantic moonlit night, slip a Rolex on my wrist and propose to me. It is because no woman has, yet, done this to me that I am still single - and still waiting. What is the purpose of Feminism, pray, if it will not even satisfy such a simple dream?

Oh, by the way, if you were wondering about why any woman would WANT to do all this for ME, I have a compelling argument. I offer one thing that no handsome hulk can offer - there will never be a day of anxiety about what if age robs me of my looks. One can lose only what one possesses in the first place. (Remember this irresistible attraction of mine whenever doubt raises its ugly head in your mind when you read the words to come)

I suppose it was too much to expect that the Mother-in-Law would tell me,"In our family, sons-in-law do not go to work. How can a woman live in self-respect if she lives off her husband's earnings?" and scupper any ideas of my venturing into the world of slogging. (She would not have to try too hard - or even try). But I could, at least, expect a modern woman to tell me indulgently,"Go to work if you want to - although I earn enough for the two of us." Not happening. I suppose for this we men are to blame since we developed that ingenious argument that "In today's world, both are needed to earn if a family is to have a decent life"

But, hang on, wait a minute. I was intending to accept only a woman who proposed to me on HER yacht on a cruise in the Aegean, right? Could such a woman really NEED her spouse to earn? So, what is all this nonsense about "It takes two to pay all the EMIs"?

That, by the way, neatly disposes off the need to cook, change the bedspreads, air the curtains and all that. We would have enough money to hire people to do all that. All I would have to do was daintily pass on the cups of tea when people come home and I could just about do that. (Daintily? There, I suppose, I go a bit too far. Alright, drop the 'daintily' there). I think I can also rise up to the challenge of giving my wife a hard time about forgetting our anniversary (provided I can remember it myself).

Daydreams! Feminism has still not got to a point where my dreams can all be satisfied. It leaves me still single and waiting in forlorn hope that things will get better in my lifetime. I hope, at least, that a future me will be in a position to have these dreams satisfied.

Meanwhile....I wait....

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Shakespearean Philosophy?

There are those people, I am told, who read those tomes of the words of the greats and try to derive the philosophy whereby to lead their lives. And then there are those people who know what they are going to do with their lives and hunt , if at all, through the tomes of the greats to support their philosophy. In the normal course, on any issue, I am in the minority (of one, more often than not) but this once I think I am right in the middle of the multitudinous hordes that follow the latter option.

Some are born great; some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them

Old Billy boy hit the nail on the head there - or so I prefer to think. If you are not born great (and having made history as the heaviest newborn in the hospital's existence does not count because we are talking 'great' here not 'gross') that second option is just too much trouble. Achieve greatness, forsooth! If one had to labor all his life to achieve it, it would be too late to learn what to do with the damn thing once it is achieved. So I, like the vast majority of my fellow-humans, wait to have greatness thrust upon me.

Let me have about me men that are fat; Sleek-headed men as of sleep of nights; yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look; he thinks too much; such men are dangerous

If THAT is what Caesar wanted to have, it must be a good thing to be. So, I went about acquiring a sleek head (and what can be sleeker than a bald head, pray?) and ate and drank my way to fatness. (Upon what meat doth this our Suresh feed that he is grown so great, was the cry among my friends - though in this case 'great' really did mean 'gross'). Also, since I lacked the equipment to think with anyway, I could never be dangerous. Alas - Caesar is long dead and the world descended to such depravity that thin and geek are actually the in things now.

The story of my life - I am always a step out of phase with Fashion. The tale of the bell-bottomed trousers that I bought after long dilly-dallying and just as it comprehensively went out of fashion is another of my life's tragedies. I still preserve it in the vain hope that Fashion will turn full-circle but, alas, that fickle goddess has not deemed fit to smile on them again. Now, of course, I will need to take them apart and have the bottoms stitched as the waist portion if I am to hope to get into them.

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones

Ah! And, in my case, the good would probably be burned with my bones and not even be available for a future archaeologist to dig out and keep reverently in a museum. Shakespeare, therefore, tells me that you can only be remembered for the evil that you do (since it is always spicier gossip to call someone - even long dead - bad names and BORING to be praising someone). I have had no real hankering to be remembered by posterity (What is the point in cute young girls talking in shivery whispers about me when I am long dead? It is NOW that I want the attention) and, so, I decided that it was best to let the world go its way while I went mine.

All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand

Now THAT was not a quote I lived by though most people attributed it to be the guiding description of my being. Of course, the 'little hand' was first 'little boy' and then became 'gross man' over the course of years. Now, just because I sweat a little (all right, a lot, you bunch of literal b*******!), you cannot be defaming me by attributing the sort of body odor that even Axe cannot cure.

Above all else to thine own self be true

Now that, I have decided, will be a great guiding philosophy. It allows me full leeway to decide what "mine own self" is at any point in time so that I can be true to it without feeling any pangs of guilt.

NOW, I know why old Will Shakespeare is considered THE literary great!

Monday, October 21, 2013

I am impolite?

Having always thought of myself as a polite person, it came as a rude shock to me to learn that there are people who so far exceed me in politeness as to make me seem positively rude. Numb-wit that I am, I never really learned politeness even when I was face-to-face with examples of exquisite politeness all through my life.

The first time I recollect having seen one of the doyens of politeness was when I was hunting for used books and one of those guys promised me a whole collection of PG Wodehouse on the subsequent day. These were the days when original prints cost the earth and my salary would have left me with the option of buying one book and starving for half a month or doing without the book (and I must shamefacedly admit that the stomach won every time). So, needless to say, it was like being offered buried treasure.

The next day, with my hair in a braid, I landed up at the shop and the man says he has just sent someone to get the books and they would be there in about an hour's time. I muck around the shop desultorily rooting around the books for an hour. Again he says that the books will be there soon. I wander around the area for another half-an-hour and get back to my benefactor - who starts off with the same spiel all over again. The lure of PG Wodehouse was so strong that I swallow my bile and explore the lanes muttering imprecations for yet another half hour. On my return, our man at last confesses that the books were not going to make an appearance after all. Incensed I ask him why he did not say it before. Surprised by my vehemence, he says "But how can I hurt you by saying that I did not give enough importance to your request and forgot all about it?"

Can you believe it? That aspect of it never struck me at all. I was concentrating so much on the couple of hours that I wasted in hanging around the place like a beggar that I never realized how much worse I would have felt if he had told me that he had forgotten to get the books and sent me off home immediately.

I must confess that I thought of him as a lone paragon of politeness shining in solitary splendor in a world full of more mundanely polite people. It did not strike me that here was an ideal to be followed.

The next time it happened I had called on a friend to help me move houses. Some four hours after he was due and after innumerable phone calls to him eliciting replies about how he was on the way, I lugged my luggage myself. (Bachelor days - Movers were still not required though lone shifting was still not easy) I was fuming at the fact that he had not merely declined and allowed me to approach someone else for help. Shortsighted of me, as usual, for when I taxed him with it later he at once showed me the error of my thinking. "How could I have refused you and let you think that I did not care enough for you to help you out?" That viewpoint never struck me at all. If I had only thought of that, I would have been happy - even while struggling with three suitcases, folding cot, table and chairs - that, at least, my friend cared for me a lot. It is a quirk in me that fails to appreciate the extent of the politeness extended to me.

After innumerable experiences of such wonderful politeness - friends not refusing my dinner invitations and promising imminent arrival upon persistent phone calls till I sit down with dyspepsia to a lone cold meal and not realizing how much worse I would have felt if they had merely rung me up when they were due and told me they could not come; Plumbers (yes, they were bound to make an appearance in my posts even if they are not to be seen in reality) who do not take my reminder calls to avoid hurting me by saying they would not turn up after all; and sundry other experiences, I have suddenly realized that it is I who do not appreciate this rarefied form of politeness. Alas! I have been going through life being unknowingly rude to people - refusing invites when I am unable to make an appearance, refusing help when I am unable to extend help and all sorts of such unbelievably gauche behavior.

This realization comes rather late in life to me. I may well understand it from the brain but my instincts fail to adapt properly. I am, now, resigned to being considered a rather uncouth and rude person for the rest of my life.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Somehow, I always knew I would be a misfit in the world from way back in my childhood. A lot of people have told me that I was giving up and I ought to try to change myself. The idea was, however, rooted like an axiom in my mind. After all, if I know that I cannot get pregnant being male, what was the point in telling myself that it was all in the mind and I should try with all my heart and not give up? This was something like that but I did not know why I felt it so strongly.

Over the years I have learnt that the main reason why such is so is because I just cannot learn. To be more precise, I just cannot learn to read between the lines which seems to be an inevitable requirement to get along in Society.

The first time I was invited to a dinner party as an adult - between 5.30 PM and 9.30 PM, said the invite - I landed up promptly at 5.30 only to find the harried hosts casting horrified looks at me. The wife muttered something about inconvenient guests and losing her the help of her handyman. The handyman - err husband - had a mixture of relief and apprehension on his face. Being saved the odd jobs now may not have been worth the Vesuvius that would burst forth later. I still did not learn, not even when the first guests started trickling in around 8 PM.

My first invitation to a Delhi wedding caused equal havoc. Seeing "Arrival of Baraat" at the wedding venue around 7.30 PM, I rushed from office to there and arrived sweaty and apprehensive about being late by half-an-hour. Being from the groom's side, there was not a single known face there. After hesitantly establishing my bonafides for being present there, I sat around studiously avoiding the many curious and contemptuous looks being cast in my direction for the next three hours. It was much later that I learnt that the time fixed for "Arrival of Baraat" is actually the time that the groom's people are frantically ringing up to find if they can get a mare on which the groom can ride to the wedding venue.

Weddings may happen about the same time as indicated in the invitation in South Indian weddings but my shifting to Bangalore from Delhi showed me another side of the south. While in Delhi, if I called in a Plumber or Electrician home and he said he would arrive at 11 AM, it seemed to mean that he would arrive some time during the day. In Bangalore, though, it meant he would arrive some time in the week provided he was in the mood.

All these experiences over all these years - and innumerable such at office - and it is only now that I have realized to read between the lines and understand the apparent meaning of what is said. When you set a deadline for the completion of a job in India, it means that the job shall, at any cost, not be done BEFORE the deadline and NOT a promise to do it by that time. Even if I now understand this intellectually it is too late for me to tune my instincts to suit. (Matters are not being helped by the plumber who arrives six days later than promised and, while making small talk, complains of the fact that the mason did not turn up on time at his home - leaving me confused about whether the inherent meaning that I had derived after much effort was correct after all, considering that a prime exponent of such communication did not himself consider that to be the universal meaning.)

In a generous bid to give a leg up to the younger people who read my posts, I share my hard-earned wisdom. A deadline is not the time BY which a job should be done but the time BEFORE which the job should not be done - in India. You will save much wear and tear on your nerves if you will immerse yourself in this wise thought.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Anne McCaffrey's Pern Series : A Guest Post for The Fool

The Fool, who blogs at Luciferhouseinc has been a close friend for some time. The problem with him is that he cannot mince his words even when it comes to a friend's output. I had put in for a review by him long ago and, as the time came for him to give me one, I waited with trepidation. Criticism has always been a bitter pill for me to swallow and this was one I had been foolish enough to invite on my head.

It was, thus, a great joy to actually read his review of my blog - and a realization of how much sweeter it is to hear complimentary words when you know that the person dishing them out does not do so unless he genuinely feel they are deserved. His review of my blog is here.

He had recently started another blog to explore the worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy and had invited me to contribute a piece on one of the various series in those genres. My guest post was on Anne McCaffrey's Pern series and it comes fast on the heels of his review of my blog - yet another of those coincidences in life on the lines of not meeting a person for years and then bumping into him by accident over and over again in the course of a week.

You can read that guest post here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Markownikoff's Rule for human behavior

There are times when I surprise myself. I could well have been the proverbial guy who would not go to a school even to shelter from the rain - but for the fact that my parents had some unreasonable partiality towards school as an option to get me away from under their feet. No amount of pleading that the playground could well do the job as effectively was any help. Under the circumstances, it is a surprise that some things from school still stick in my mind like a burr and will just not let go. This Markownikoff's rule is one of them.

To get into the boring details of the rule, what it says is that when you have an acid reacting with an organic compound, the hydrogen atom of the acid attaches itself to that carbon atom which has more hydrogen atoms already attached to it. If the rule is expressed in scientific terms it obviously escapes my memory but the pithy version of it is "Those who have get more of it".

Now THAT is something that I can vibe with very well indeed. I suppose that the fact that this rule applies to human behavior is par for the course considering that the human body is supposed to be made of organic molecules. As for the molecules, so for the brain.

Take the case of the boss who has suddenly received an emergency job which has to be delivered the very next day. Which is the lucky employee who gets the golden opportunity of staying up all night to finish it? The one who spends all day telephoning his broker for stock-market deals in-between leisurely cups of tea or the one who meticulously slogs throughout the day and beyond? Obviously the latter. Since he has more work, he gets more work. Those who have get more of it.

Take the same boss who is told to pick one employee for a fortnight long training program in Switzerland on the thusness of things. Which is the employee without whom he feels he can stagger along for the fortnight - the leisurely tea-drinker or the meticulous slogger? Obviously the former. Since that chap enjoys his leisure already he gets gifted with more leisure. (I know! I know! Training Programs are not leisure - they are meant to advance the knowledge of the person concerned and turn him into a paragon). Those who have get more of it.

Ah! Yes! The meticulous slogger will streak up the corporate ladder and enjoy the pleasure of working 18 hour days and be on call 365 days a year. That 24x7 thingy was invented for him. And they even call that a reward. Well! He is getting more of what he has, does he not? Work! That is why that other guy invented that other phrase - Work is its own reward!

Now me! I AM the other guy. Or would have been but for the perversity of my nature that just would not allow me to take it easy when I had a job at hand. So, I had to quit in order to get what I wanted instead of what I already had a lot of!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Guest Post for Janaki Nagaraj

I must count myself as being born under a lucky star. I entered blogging fully content to be one of those many violets that are born to blush unseen (well - 'content' is a bit of an exaggeration. Fully prepared is more like it). Fortune in its fickleness seems to have decided to smile on me at least in my blogging journey. I have received the affection of quite a few popular bloggers who have kindly invited me to (dis)grace their blogs.

Yet again, I have Janaki Nagaraj hosting one of my posts on her blog. She even lists my guest posts among 'Inspirations'. I hope she is not going to get too inspired by me and emulate Rip Van Winkle. The link to that post is here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Karma and do-nothingism

I really have not tried to find any reasons for adopting the most enjoyable practice of do-nothingism. As far as I was concerned, the only problem with adopting it was the fact that the world, rather unreasonably, refuses to provide the wherewithal for me to survive unless I did something. I mean, even known and convicted criminals committing heinous sins were supposed to have human rights but I am denied my right to survive merely because I do nothing. What sort of logic is that?

I, however, am rather amused by the fact that people blame the theory of Karma for an attitude of do-nothingism in India. Of course, an interpretation of that theory does say that what you get in this birth is an outcome of the virtues you accumulated over the past births and, therefore, may not bear direct relevance to your own efforts in this birth. And, thus, if you believe in the theory of Karma, you would prefer to do nothing in this birth because what you get cannot be influenced by your efforts? Nonsense!

I, like most of us, used to work for monthly wages. The money I spent on sustaining myself on any given day was the outcome of my effort in the previous month. The efforts I put in during that month yielded me nothing to help me in that month. So, there is no point in working? After all, my efforts of this month were not helping me in feeding myself - or drinking myself silly - in this month. So, is it not absolutely logical to stop working right away?

What was that? What would happen to me next month? Well, if I truly believed that there would be a next month in my life and I would need to sustain myself in that month, I would need to work this month, would I? Then, do you mean to say that people believe that they had a few past births that got them what they have in this birth, but do not truly believe that there is a next birth where they would need the fruits of this birth?

That, precisely, seems to be the problem. Do-nothingism arises out of a belief in the past births without a conviction about the future ones. If one believed in both, one would still continue to work. But, then, it is customary for the 'rational' human beings to cherry-pick their beliefs to suit what they want to do, isn't it? So, I believe that my work in my past births will take care of me in this birth but I do not believe that there is a future birth for which I need to work in this birth. Sort of partial theory of Karma!

As for me, I do not indulge in reasons for my inaction. I do nothing because I absolutely love doing nothing!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Beware those titles

The very mention of titles probably remind you of "Sir" and "Lord" if you are inclined to aristocracy. If you are more inclined to movie stars - especially the South Indian version - you probably are thinking of "Super Star", "Supreme Star" and the like. There are reasons to beware of such things too but that is not the subject matter of the thesis here. (Of course thesis! And I expect a doctorate out of it, mind it!)

Let us first consider what deification means. Ram cannot be an ordinary mortal - he is the incarnation of Vishnu. This conferring of godhood makes it easy on all of us. We do not need to be affectionate and obedient sons, loving brothers or faithful to our wives. Gods can be thus but we are mere mortals. On the other hand, though, we can doubt our wives at the drop of a hat citing Ram (When even the god Ram did it how do you expect a mere mortal like me to abstain?) conveniently forgetting that, unlike him, we are not juggling the welfare of our society with the welfare of our wife. So, conferring godhood on Ram ensures that we do not have to live up to the virtues that he embodied.

This country keeps creating problems for us, however. We deify Ram and ensure that we have no troubling thoughts about being worse than we ought to be and it springs a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on us. Now, come on, non-violence and Truth? Getting beaten up without retaliation and still fighting injustice? Starvation? Well - that was a bit too much to expect us to do. So, heck, We christen him "Mahatma". Problem solved. Now if anyone catches us in a lie, "I am no mahatma, merely an ordinary mortal". If I walk away from injustice on the streets, why should I be expected to do otherwise? I am no Mahatma.

We have now the solution to all such inconvenient folks who show us uncomfortable things like values in life. The one thing we have ensured is that we have made goddesses out of our women. Goddesses exist to grant the needs of mere mortals, after all. Mere mortals cannot give anything to goddesses, can they? So, very neatly, we ensured that they did everything for us and we had no reason to do anything for them. And they also had to maintain the dignity we vested on goddesses - in dress and deportment, didn't they?

So, now you know. If there is anyone around you who makes you uncomfortable with his value systems - don't rail at him. Just bestow a title on him - that will absolve you of all the need to feel guilty about not living up to those moral standards. And, for Heaven's sake, avoid any title like a plague. It is too constricting a life living up to a title.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hitting a fifty

Whenever I thought about becoming fifty in my long gone youth, I had pictured myself as this serene, respected figure whose words of wisdom youth listened to with awe. (Of course, I also pictured myself with a full head of hair, albeit grey, but let us not get into that now.) This image of being the center of respectful attention was probably engendered by wishful thinking since, all my life, I was one of those who kept squeaking, "Say listen..." and find that, to others, your voice seemed to be in decibels that could not be heard by human ears.

Now I AM fifty. The problem, however, is that not much seems to have changed - at least not for the better. I still put up my hands and plead in vain for attention as the conversation swirls all over me and around me and even through me as it seems some times. The only thing that has changed is that fact that you appear positively clownish doing that at fifty when you merely seemed a shade silly when you were doing it as a kid.

Par for the course, I suppose, considering that my knowledge has also stayed right where it was in my youth. I am as ignorant about the rates per square inch of every plot of land in my city - a subject on which all my companions seem to wax eloquent these days. Nor can I claim a vast increase in my knowledge of the recent gyrations of the stock-markets and the reasons thereof, which everyone in my vicinity seems to be dancing in step with if you listened to them (and just half a step behind, going by the impact on their bank balances. They seem to buy just before the market crashes and sell just before it recovers with uncanny accuracy) As for cars, all I know is that they have four wheels and an engine - and, that, apparently is mere kindergarten stuff. So, it is not really a wonder that I am not the fount of wisdom that I had thought I would become with age.

I have reconciled myself to the fact now. After all, they do say that 'Forty is the new Twenty" and, by those standards Fifty must be the new Ten and, so, it is no wonder I am still being treated as I used to be at ten. By the time I hit Sixty, I'll be practically a new-born baby and can expect rattles and feeding bottles for birthday presents. I shudder to think of what I will be if I ever outlive sixty.