Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Body Modesty

'Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile', is probably your first reaction to this photograph from my recent Kothagiri trek. (Yeah! I really know how much you all love me) My reaction, though, was slightly different. (No! Nothing to do about how pleasing the man in the pic is, thank you) I was wondering about how someone like me, who was the epitome of body-modesty in my youth, could contemplate putting up this pic in public without batting an eyelid.

Not that I was alone in this body-modesty thing. In my youth, almost all men (boys, as they then were) around me were disinclined to be less than fully clothed. Not that there was any social pressure on the lines of 'Why are you going around looking like a gigolo?' In fact, if we had really believed that wandering around in partial or complete undress would attract girls, I shudder to think of the sights that the world would have had to accustom itself to, in those days. (For a sample, you can check back the pic at he beginning and the one below and shudder)

The problem, probably, was the vice versa. We probably were not sure about whether we had any attractions for the opposite sex. The one thing that we were sure about was that any element of undress would put the issue beyond all doubt - there would be no attraction, only revulsion! Or, at least, I was sure of this.

You see, there was also this problem of being 'manly'. It used to be hair on the chest (Now, of course, it is wax on the chest. I have always wondered why this cocept of 'manliness' is so closely tied up with hair and other such physical characteristics. As though we have given up on character and are making do with what we are left with!) and, in the days when I was the most inclined to seek attention, there was none. (There was more on my head than there is now but, do you know, it never really seemed THAT important in those days) As luck would have it, when I did manage to sprout some on the chest, they seem to have been transplanted from the head. Beyond a point, though, the sapling taken from my head seem to have vanished to other more fertile lands - never saw sign of them anywhere else on my body.

So, what then has caused this sudden disappearance of body-modesty in my mental make-up? Quite obvious, isn't it? I mean, there are two reasons why - one, you acquire a confidence in your attractions even with clothes off OR you acquire a confidence that you are repulsive even with your clothes on, so what have you got to lose? (Yeah, I know, you all can guess which of the two it is for me!)

Oh! And, by the way, there is a third reason, too. You have stopped caring about whether you are attractive or not.

Which is the real reason why - or, so I prefer to say!

Photo Credits : Chandru, my co-trekker

Monday, January 19, 2015

Maundering about Laundering

So, I am mucking around trying to find something to write about, and someone sends me a prompt about laundering men (actually, non-laundering men). I gear up to write about how highly intelligent men were putting in all their skills in the socially productive act of laundering (well - money-laundering, actually. We, humans, have this extraordinary quality of irony - how else would be end up naming a dirty job with the words used to describe a cleaning job?) when I run my eye over the rules, which say that this is only for women! Obviously, I feel the irresistible impulse to strike a blow for the equality of men.

Getting these impulses is all right but the difficulty lies in the fact that, being single, I do my own everything - including laundry - and, thus, there are really no issues with women at home. Wait a minute! Maybe not now, but were there not a few in the distant past when my sister came to live with me in Delhi? In the days when either washing machines were only for the rich or when I was not rich enough for washing machines? Of course!

It was not like laundering was not a chore before my sis landed in Delhi. In winters, I could get along happily without enduring the touch of detergent and water since clothes only got pleasantly warmer as they accumulated...layers, shall we say? So what if everyone around me walked around with wrinkled noses and quite a few made gagging noises as well? Summers, though, were a bit of a problem. I did not really mind the fact that my shirt acquired multiple designs - especially around the armpits and the front - but there was this small issue of my skin reacting to the modifications in the textiles with rashes in mention-able and unmentionable places. Ergo - every now and then, I needed to sully my hands with detergent and water.

Please do not think that the coming of my sis made any difference in this matter. When washing machines were not around, the timing of laundering your clothes need not necessarily be tied up with the timing of laundering mine. So, I was left to my own devices and things were much the same as before. AND, you do not need to emit those disbelieving noises. I know - your wives would not let you go around in disheveled rags but you forget this small point. Brothers are considered acts of God sent down to test women's souls and, thus, they can only be endured. Husbands, on the other hand, are supposed to be acts of choice and, even where the match happens to have been made in Heaven (or, more to the point, made by the consensus of a large extended family), they are put down on earth for wives to mold. So, your experience as a husband cannot be used to negate my experience as a brother.

That did not mean that I got off unscathed.  One of the peculiar things about women is their obsessive need for curtains. If there be a minuscule hole allowing a mite to pass through, it had to be marked by the presence of a curtain before it. I may have got along without them for years but, almost as soon as my sis landed, the house sprouted curtains all over the place like a tropical evergreen forest gone berserk.

So what, you say? You must be a single child and, as yet, unmarried. Curtains, apparently, need to be laundered periodically. In my innocence, I agreed to do the laundering of all the common textiles. A month down the line, this ensued.

"When are you going to wash the curtains?"
I looked at them. They seemed practically new to me.
"Why? They are still that nice off-white and the flowers are still grey-blue."
"The curtains are supposed to be white AND the flowers blue."
"Off-white is a nice color too and grey blue suits the flowers."
"Nonsense! THAT is a layer of dirt on it, not dye."

THIS is the problem. Ideas of what is practically new seem to differ VERY widely between men and women.

"AND how about the bed-spreads and blankets?"

Ye Gods! What was THIS? I never knew that these things had to be washed. My modus operandi had been, hitherto, to use them till they developed holes and, then, buy the next lot.

"So, are you washing them today?"
"If you leave the responsibility to me for washing these things, then I must also have the authority to decide WHEN they get washed. You cannot retain the authority and leave only the responsibility to me."

There are times - very few, yes, but still - when men can win arguments with women. Those times are normally when women need to get something done by you, and you can win the argument merely by monumental inertia. You do not get off lightly, though. But you do have the solace of having won the argument as you wake up in the morning to find that there is no milk for your cuppa or come back home, and wait outside a locked door, because the woman of the house has decided to go shopping at your customary time to return home from office.

One week more and again...

"So when are you washing the curtains?"

I look at them. They do seem new, still. The one in the bedroom had also acquired some new decoration in a rather attractive brown - splatters like some cubist painting, in which the artistically inclined would find deep meanings.

"They are looking nice still. That lovely brown design, in particular..."
"That is when the coffee went up your nose thanks to your reading Wodehouse while you drank it."
"Really? They look good anyway and, even if they do not, who is to see it? It is in the bedroom after all."

Suffice to say that, by the end of that month, my sis took over the washing. I have to admit that the house looked nicer, but the difference between nice and nasty really did not seem worth all THAT effort.

I really am not to blame for this, you know. After all, I would have washed them at MY frequency. If she wanted them washed at HER frequency, is it my fault?

So what if my frequency would have been once a decade? 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Advising - inadvisable?

This business of advising is so dangerous. There you go, happily mouthing off wisdom and then, suddenly, you discover that you have dug a pit for yourself and are expected to fill it with your body. It can really become a grave (pun intended) matter sometimes.

Now, before YOU start advising ME about it, let me tell you that I do know about how the aura of an adviser affects people. I know how my imminent presence suddenly reminds people of the advice to take physical exercise - with such immediacy that they start sprinting out just as I am coming in. There are those others, who are reminded of the value of persistence and crawl under beds with the determination to not come out till they have found that coin which they lost six months ago. As for those people struck by the need for cleanliness so strongly that they enter wardrobes to check for cobwebs, I have little to say except that I find it difficult to see how they locate the cobwebs after cutting out all the light when they close the doors. Of course, more often than not, I find that a room, supposedly stuffed with people to the rafters, is miraculously empty when I make my entrance.

This is not the danger I speak of, of course. Helping people remember and act upon past advice is not danger, is it? The danger of advising was brought home to me early in life, when I was doing my engineering.

I was home on my holidays and the sump motor, which pumped up the water to the overhead tank, was on the blink (No submersible pumps then - so centrifugal pumps did get vapor-locked). I took one knowledgeable look at it and said, "It is air-locked. The pump needs to be primed, that is all", and looked around for applause.

"Do it then!"

Huh! It had never struck me that people could be as ignorant as to expect someone giving advice to act on it as well. Me? Take a spanner (or whatever) in hand, open up the pump, pour water in till all the air is driven off, and get it working again? The chap, who hits his thumb nine times out of ten when trying to drive a nail into a wall (and hits the wall the tenth time? How did you guess?)? Thankfully for me, I have a brother, who is never happier unless he has some tool in hand and is opening up something or the other to see what makes it tick. He had the pump ticking in no time and I was saved the trouble of totally mangling the pump and calling in a plumber.

Giving advice is like an itch. The doctor may tell you not to scratch but you will find that your nails are going scratch-scratch-scratch, without your conscious knowledge. About the only thing I learned from that episode was that, since people just do not seem to understand that you give advice only for others to act upon, I should refrain from giving advice involving any physical action.

That did not eradicate all the dangers of advising, though. As usual, I had to have my nose rubbed in it before I understood.

"My boss is a perfect pain, yaar! Every time I interact with him, it always ends up in a quarrel", said a friend.
"You know what...you just need to control your temper better. If you stop talking to him as though he is a retarded six year old..."
"Yeah! We all know how well you get along with yours. Your boss is likely to host a party the day he gets rid of you."

See what I mean? The issue was about my friend and his boss, so where did my boss' partying ways come into the picture? I was just telling the guy how to get along better with HIS boss - what does it matter how I got along with mine? After all, I KNEW that my boss REALLY was akin to a retarded six year old!

This whole business of giving advice is all muddled up. I cannot even say things like the food needs more salt before someone proffers me an invitation to cook the next time, and someone else chimes in with how the street dogs avoided my street like the plague, after having feasted on the last meal that I cooked - and they threw out. Come on! Do I need to know how to cook in order to know whether what I am eating is well-cooked?

On the other hand, though, when others pop in with advice and I retaliate with their inability to do that thing, I get turned off derisively with "Yeah! By your argument, no-one can ever talk of death, since he would not have died himself". Being half a step behind in every argument is such a bane, especially when you have an itch to advise.

Which is why it makes me so happy that I am not a father. From what I have seen, parenthood makes you itch to advise your children to avoid the mistakes that you committed yourself. Teens can be very sarcastic about even the things that you cannot do as well as you ask them to do. I shudder to think of what they would say when you solemnly advise them to do the opposite of what you did!

Looks to me like advising is certainly inadvisable for me. Henceforth, I should stop doing it.

AND, I advise you to do the same. Ouch! There I go again!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Irresolute Resolutions?

Every time, around the end of a year, I suddenly get the feeling that I should do something in my life. A strange feeling since, normally, I feel that living it is sufficient to justify a life. When the thought gets too strong for me - which, thankfully, it does not do every year - I, too, indulge in the annual pastime of Homo Sapiens. I make resolutions.

Last year was one such year when I made resolutions. I resolved, for one, to do a lot more traveling instead of being attached to my bed as though stuck on by Fevikwik. That I eventually did a lot of traveling had nothing much to do with me. I would, probably, have done all my traveling in Google maps but for the fact that others decided my programs for me causing me to surgically remove myself from my bed and run around the country. Failing all those people, who got married and did sundry other such dangerous things merely in order to bestir me from my bed, I would probably have failed in this resolution.

And what was that about weight? Something about losing a few kilos of weight? Hmm! Why the dratted thing would keep sticking around my body, I do not know. I am really not to blame there you know! I mean, there are some resolutions which you expect the world to do something about. What can I do if the world, far from getting down to editing my silhouette, keeps shoving pastries and marriage feasts at me?

Another thing I resolved was to write. Write copiously enough to be able to proudly call myself "Author C. Suresh" instead of the mundane "C. Suresh" I make do with now. THAT never happened. Oh! I always woke up in the morning full of enthusiasm about all the writing that I was going to do. The only problem was that to do my best job of writing I would need a cuppa first. After that, one needs to give the caffeine time to work, so I relax with a book till the brain got stirred up. Before I knew it, I was hungry and being hungry is not the best of ways to start writing deathless prose. Anyone knows that, after a good meal, you feel torpid so it was back to the book. A bit of dozing and, shucks, it is already lunchtime. Meals require digestion and back it is to TV, this time. Before I know it, it was evening. Too late to write all that I wanted, and to have the flow obstructed in between would spoil the effort. So, I get back to thinking up all the wonderful things that I would write tomorrow!

I had also set myself a target for my blog. I wanted to hit 350 posts in 2014. As usual, the damn thing kept slipping and slipping, leaving me to scramble to finish it in December. At least one resolution was kept, at last!

THIS year I intend making resolutions that I can not only keep but outperform.

1. I shall PUT ON a minimum of two kilograms of additional weight.
2. I shall write NO MORE than 200 words a day.
3. I shall NOT stay off my bed for more than 4 hours a day.

NOW, I am sure I shall come out with a far better report card, next year!