Sunday, 30 March 2008

We, the celibates

IITians are used to a reputation in the outside world. I cannot say that we 'command' that reputation but it is certainly thrust upon us, whether we like it or not, whether we deserve it or not. To many women out there, a man who can solve a combinatorics problem faster than he can conjure up an original pick up line and state it confidently might be an immensely unimpressive prospect to bear as a spectacle, let alone someone they might want to solicit for a boyfriend. Indeed, like it is for Major Major many of the women are impressed on noticing how unimpressive we IITians are in these respects.

Some men seek celibacy, some men have it thrust upon them and to some men it comes naturally. IITians come in all three categories. Isn't the inadequacy obvious, when they attempt pick up lines "Hlike, ey, Whachoo doin tonight? Wanna do me?" or the slightly more erudite sounding "I'm a cartoonist interested in making a comic strip. Will you be my comic?" or the absolute chauvinistic loser -"I was caught the moment I set my eyes on you. You're one hell of a hooker!".

The problem you see, is that most of us haven't still gotten over the 'gene chauvinism' that comes to us naturally. Even when an IITian desperately fancies a girl, the feeling of being a benefactor who would masterfully father above-average intelligent children and thus do her and humanity an immense favour overwhelms his fundamental need to be with her and break through the celibacy jinx that has been tattooed on his forehead.

And that is why, I believe it is a terrible necessity that we learn to recognise when a woman is in heat and suppress our natural propensity to turn her off by wearing chappals (even though we may think it perfectly suits our dispositions), sharing sexual fantasies involving mechanical objects that are simultaneously designed to intensify pleasure and circumvent the second law of thermodynamics (say your primary objective was the latter and the former was a mere side effect and you lose her forever), telling her that you're idea of an ideal honeymoon location is Salt Lake City when Undertaker is going to make his last appearance in Wrestlemania 2013 and so on. We need to pay judicious attention to her attention span. That said, I cannot elaborate on the other things that one must do while with a woman. That probably needs an expert which I am clearly not.

The women are out there. But there are stupid people who keep telling us we're still great despite the inability to attract women and make it seem like a cardinal virtue. For instance, an editorial of TOI that I read sometime ago had a fable where an IITian was walking along a lake when he heard a voice. He turned around to see a frog talking to him. The frog said, "Take me and kiss me. I shall turn into a beautiful princess for you to have". He was a little freaked out and took a couple of quick steps away from the frog but his curiosity pulled him back. To reaffirm that this wasn't a dream he went near the frog and prodded it. It squeaked again, "Take me and kiss me. I shall turn into a beautiful princess for you to have". The IITian picks the frog by its leg and puts it into his pocket. The frog is puzzled and shouts, "Why the hell aren't you kissing me asshole?". The IITian smugly replies, "I don't have time for a girlfriend but a talking frog is cool".

Now, who the hell said that we didn't have time for girlfriends? That this was printed in TOI is not any placation. Rather, it is precisely the problem for most people don't read beyond TOI and thus we find ourselves unable to get rid of this reputation! The bigger problem is that most of us (including me some might say) aren't even trying hard to undo this! But a day will come and we will experience testosteronic desperation when a chill will collectively pass through our spines reminding us that our genes are in grave danger of not being passed into posterity. And then when an IITian feels delighted when he spots a frog who says, "Take me and kiss me. I shall turn into a beautiful princess for you to have", he shall immediately pick it up, put it into his pocket and rush to a secluded place with his heart swelling with anticipation. And all the while the rest of the frogs will happily croak, "Dat wuz a gud won. Anudder azzholl iz guin to feel d sting while kissing a speaking amphibian. Wen he will scream in pain und realize dat he shuld huv lernt his biology better, we shall croak appily. "

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Random Afterthoughts

One of the most fundamental truths about the world that we are a part of is the existence and ineluctable nature of suffering in all things living.

- Gautama Buddha

Dawkins and atheism came up during a discussion with a group of friends yesterday. Though we never really argued about anything, a simple question was put forward to me by a friend. It was a question that one normally just whisks away asamatteroffactedly while cold-heartedly arguing about these things but it persisted in my mind this time and kept coming up later that night and during the next day. The question was the following- "Is it possible to rationalize about every aspect of our existence?"

The question is a naive one and theists and atheists would generally give 'no' for an answer without second thought and proceed to discuss more 'meat'. However, in the case of the atheist, a wager rests on her shoulders and that is the obligation to articulate and explain her position in the scheme of things. Before I begin to sound like an apologist, let me state here that I shall persist until I am proven otherwise on my belief of the non-existence of a supernatural intelligent power that governs my existence. But I do believe that the existential reasons that made my ancestors looked up to the stars for help and support were inescapable and are so even today. To take note of this fact and appreciate it was enunciated by the Buddha 2500 years ago when he warned the world against the dubious nature of extremism and brought to notice the inescapable nature of human suffering. The same message is echoed by an Amartya Sen when he begs economists (the same breed, who when placed end to end around the circumference of the world would not reach a conclusion, in Shaw's words) to place welfare above power and freedom above income. He asks us to admit the systematic nature of deprivation that exists in the world in spite of the unprecedented opulence around us. Suffering is primary, more fundamental than envy, love or even hunger.

While in the VT station waiting for my train, I spent a rupee in order to check my weight (a 79 kilo abomination) but couldn't get myself to spare another coin to a hungry child who came up to me later. I was hurrying up to catch my train. I don't give money to adolescents as a principle but I cannot help feeling bad about it hours after that. The irony is that he would have forgotten me and absolved me of my miserliness. This time he gets to do things asamatteroffactedly. Would I have felt better if I would have stopped and bought him a sandwich?

Thursday, 20 March 2008


I am surprised at how so many people in a place like IITB take to it so easily. It is no longer done in secrecy with the person trying her best to pass it off as an original, but openly and candidly. I saw the first PAF of 2008 a couple of days ago. To say that I was immensely disappointed cannot describe the rush of criticism in my mind for everything that I saw that day. I confess that I have never been involved in 'organizing' a PAF (I have done a couple of voice overs in the past and that's about it) and am probably unaware of the magnitude of effort and intellect that it takes to execute one. But the execution, choreography, production and acting were not what disappointed me (though it is not as if popular opinion endorses them any more than I do). What overwhelmingly caused exasperation was that the entire script and the pedestrian spectacle that was churned out of it were both shamelessly lifted off from a third rate Bollywood film! I was told that even dialogues were conveniently transferred by their so called 'script writers'.

This is but a microcosm of a larger picture of the stagnation that permeates through IITB. Students unscrupulously plagiarize assignments, literature surveys and even theses. It disgusts and disturbs me to imagine the organizers of the recent PAF sitting and brainstorming (one can take that with a pinch of salt) to arrive at a theme for the PAF and in the end, mutually and unanimously agreeing to plagiarize. The story simply repeats when the same guys sit and commit larceny before every assignment, every submission and every thesis defense. Probably the time has come when 'the spirit of inquiry' will exist only as an abstraction and will need to be mummified in a museum of our collective mediocrity. Whatever it is, I am tired of this place and am happy to leave it knowing that I was lucky to know people who ensured that I didn't land up in the same boat as many others!

Friday, 14 March 2008

We were having supper. There was bread, of course. Brother and I were waiting in greedy anticipation for mother to come and give us our share. She came and served us our loaves giving brother a much bigger helping. I remonstrated but Mother wouldn't hear of it. She said he deserved a bigger loaf because he worked on the fields and I didn't yet. Tears were swelling up my eyes and I was experiencing injustice for the first time. To no one is it as keenly perceptible as it is to a child and I decided to rebel. I got up and with a swift move of hand snatched the pieces of bread from brother and mother and ran away into the woods forever. They were calling out to me telling me to come back, put I was soon out of range and out of their world.

I was running blindly and aimlessly, with two hands full of bread (3 loaves), a mind full of glee and a heart full of exhilaration. But as my luck would have it, I bumped into a hungry bandit who caught me by the scruff and pointed his dagger at me smiling mirthfully with his yellow teeth and blood-red eyes. And while I was experiencing helplessness, he snatched a loaf and began chewing it like a yak all the while holding me by the scruff and laughing at me. With a final grunt of disgust he released me and went on his way knowing that he had left a good deal of indignation for me to ruminate upon for quite sometime.

I pulled myself up and resumed my journey. I ran tirelessly with bread in my hands and a growing determination inside. I stopped all of a sudden on seeing a frail woman lying unconscious on a bed of dead leaves. The sun was upon her body; the colour of her skin was slowly metamorphosing to those of the leaves around her and soon she would be indiscernible. Her head turned slowly and her mournful eyes sought my help. She was beautiful. I felt compassion and broke a piece of bread to feed her. She closed her eyes momentarily to express plaintive disapproval and then compassion turned to empathy as I knew it was water, not bread that she needed. I started looking around again, experiencing a different kind of helplessness and then suddenly I felt a blow strike my head and I fell on the leaves. I turned around to see the woman and a man with a club who I assumed was her mate laughing at my semi conscious body. The woman bent down and released the bread off my hands. Her colour had changed and she no longer looked like she was in need; but the dead leaves stuck on her body as a signature of the deceit she had played upon me.

I woke up to see a lioness staring at me with her hungry eyes. She had drawn her mouth into a ferocious grin and I could see her incisors were craving for a bite. Once again I felt helpless and powerless before her as she came closer. She was in a crouching position and ready for action. I was so petrified that I could not even remember the name of the God we used to thank before supper, much less invoke the being. But to my surprise I saw the lioness draw away and disappear into the woods. As my fear subsided, I understood what power really was. I stood where I had fell knowing I had no bread to eat and nowhere to go. I had heard stories that the woods have a mind of their own and they change their topography to confuse travelers so I realized that tracing my way back home would be out of the question. I decided to tread along the path that was most illuminated. I walked a few steps and saw two bodies lying on the ground. They were the woman and her mate, both dead. The man had been disemboweled but the woman had been mauled and bitten on her neck. I understood what justice meant but I was told later at an older age that what had happened was fate and not justice. The loaves of bread that they had robbed off me lay on the ground beside the woman.

I picked them up and with a queer sense of invigoration, resumed my aimless journey. The illumination was gradually increasing as I walked and I realized that I was walking to the place where the sun never sets, another fact which mother had told me when she put me to sleep. I saw a swallow flying to a tree and from it again continuously. I stood there watching the swallow carry on its recursive routine. Later in my life I heard a fable of a man called Sisyphus whom the gods had cursed to roll a rock up and down a mountain till eternity. What the swallow was doing didn't seem so much of a curse when I saw that it was carrying food for its fledglings. I had felt something watching it, something which I was able to interpret only much later. It was humility.

I walked on the green and auburn fields of the land where the sun never set. There was a small hut, much like our own. I walked to the window and looked inside. There was a woman and a boy looking at the open door with anticipation on their faces.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

There is silence around. It is an all absorbing kind of silence, one that inhibits a person from hearing his own voice. It is a disconcerting prospect to live in a world where certainties transfigure into caprices every other day. It is disconcerting to sit alone in your room and learn through the placid eyes of wall lizard that solitude happens to be a better friend of his than yours. It is disconcerting when love makes its absence felt with a sadistic hint of vengeful but appropriate poetic justice. It is one of those days when thoughts and words dissemble and jiggle around in a concert of confusion. It is one of those days when a man who has all the reasons to be happy is overwhelmed by various apoplexies, in one form and another. He covets unconsciousness as the only possible universal remedy from the bleak and the musty.