Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Lies, Lies and More Lies!

There are some lies that are so hackneyed, I’m surprised people even use them any more. I’d have expected them to be safely packed away, for use on aliens maybe should they one day invade the Earth.

Here are some of the Hall-of-Famers.

1) “I ran out of gas!”

Ever since Mr. Benz invented the Internal Combustion Engine more than a century ago, man has conveniently used above line as an excuse for being late for absolutely anything. It was a lot more classy than the previously used version - “My horse collapsed by the wayside since his stomach was empty!”

2) “I got a flat!”

Of course, using the “gas” excuse all the time would cause people to start getting suspicious (and maybe even crack a few jokes about how you should perhaps eat beans the next time and shove your ass into the fuel tank!) and so one would do well to use this alternative excuse once in a while. But you would not want to overuse this one too often either, lest people start subtly suggesting that maybe you need to shed some weight.

3) “The check’s in the mail!”

I have no idea what the Postal Service is doing with all those lost checks, because at last count there were about 32,335,684,259 of them. In this country alone. There will be 5,604 more by the time you finish reading this post.

4) “No, those jeans do not make you look fat!”

What he actually means to say is, “Those jeans do not make you look any fatter than you already are!” Of course, actually saying that would probably entail her sitting on him and crushing him to death, so he decides to use the age-old escape lie.

5) “It’s not you, it’s me!”

He wants to break up with you, but he can’t decide how. He takes you out to dinner. Now, he can’t just break the news to you in simple English because you will start crying. (He doesn’t really care whether you cry or not, but it’s embarrassing for him to walk away from a table leaving a crying woman behind!) So what does he do? He pulls the classic “It’s not you, it’s me” routine! Works every time!

6) “There isn’t anyone else!”

This one dates back to the time when Adam first used it on Eve. He got away with it because back then there really wasn’t anyone else! Since then it’s slowly gotten more and more hackneyed to the point where today your wife could walk in on you having sex with some other girl and you could still possibly tell her, “Don’t worry darling, there isn’t anyone else!”

7) “Isn’t that just the cutest baby ever?”

Okay, I admit some babies are cute. (There, I’m probably the first guy to ever admit that on record!) But surely not every baby! Come on now, there have to be a some babies out there that are plain ordinary and some that are ugly enough to give a drag queen a run for his [her?] money! Why do you girls have to compliment them as well?

But for me, the greatest lie ever has to be when a woman says that she looks for a sense of humor in a guy! An outright lie that can match any of the seven listed above! The only person who’s looking for a guy with a sense of humor is a talent scout for a comedy club. A sense of humor can’t buy you goodies and it can’t “make love” to you. You can’t show it off to your other girlfriends and you can’t stare at it and drool. So why exactly are you looking for a sense of humor? Huh? Save it for the aliens!

Where is She?

There’s something about a woman who can nurse a healthy Scotch in one hand and a lighted Malboro in the other, while appreciating a good rock song playing in the background.

(I’ll settle for one out of three though!)

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Art of Not-so-Subtle Barbs

I attended the Opening Ceremony of Concepts 2006 in PICT on Friday. There were two speakers for the occasion.

The first came to the podium and delivered an extremely boring oration on how today’s software professionals can be compared with the Vikings of a thousand years ago.

The second guy then rose and approached the podium. He started off thus, “Hello everyone! Can you guys hear me back there? If you’ll are still awake, that is!”

Ouch! Talk about hitting below the belt. For the record, his speech was no more interesting than its predecessor. If anything, it was worse.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

How Stupid Are Vegetarians?

India probably has more vegetarians than any other country. Far more.

India’s obsession with vegetarianism is evident everywhere. There are restaurants which advertise themselves as “Pure Veg”, Jains who cover their mouths with scarves lest they involuntarily swallow an insect and Hindu Brahmins who refuse to eat from a kitchen that is also being used to prepare meat dishes.

Another place where this fascination for vegetarianism evidences itself is in the Government regulation that all food products that are manufactured, sold or advertised in this country must indicate whether they consist only of vegetarian products or not. This is done by means of a small colored circle enclosed inside a square on the product or advertisement. A green circle and square indicates that the product is vegetarian and a red circle indicates that it isn’t.

Now this is all very well for products which may lead to some sort of confusion. For example, an oil may have vegetable or animal origin. For such products I can understand the need for a color clarification. Surely, you wouldn’t want a chaste Brahmin incurring the wrath of the Gods for having consumed a product that had an animal based ingredient in it! But the other day, I came across an advertisement for Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). The billboard had a picture containing a few juicy chicken drumsticks. And of course, in the corner sitting quietly was the customary red circle inside a red square!

Talk about superfluous! An advertisement for chicken has to specifically announce to the world that it is not vegetarian? Do they believe vegetarians are stupid enough the order chicken by mistake?

Dumb Vegetarian: Ah yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken! This sounds like a nice place to stop for a meal! Could I see the menu please?

Waiter: All we have, sir, is fried chicken.

Dumb Vegetarian: Would that by any chance be vegetarian?

Waiter: Yes sir! It’s fried in pure vegetable oil by a Brahmin priest and the chicken ate nothing but grain all its life!

Dumb Vegetarian: Well then, I’ll have a bucket please. But wait a minute! What do we have here? A red circle? You lying scoundrel! This isn’t vegetarian! (Fervently mutters prayers to a few deities.)

You see the point? If there wasn’t the red circle, a lot of vegetarians might get fooled into believing that chicken is indeed a vegetarian food!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Passport Stories

The Indian Government, it seems, has come out with a novel, new method to combat the “brain drain” being faced by the country - complicate the procedure of applying for a passport as much as possible! If the young minds of the nation can’t get themselves passports, they aren’t going to be getting anyplace in a hurry.

My own passport had expired some months ago, but sheer laziness coupled with a bit of procrastination thrown in for good measure, ensured that I hadn’t applied for its renewal until today. This morning though, with surprising zeal and resolve I headed down to the passport office, the forms all filled out, and the necessary documents in place.

The procedure itself, while no stroll in the park, wasn’t as arduous as people make it out to be. It follows the tried and tested “token” system, whereby you receive a token according to the time you arrive and then get summoned to submit the application form in that order. The beauty of the “token” method is that it obviates the need for a physical queue, which in this country at least, leads to more trouble than it is worth.

This is the procedure for submitting the regular application. There is a separate window for submitting a special tatkal (urgent) application, and this one oddly enough, does not operate using tokens. It involves standing in a queue!

I met or saw quite a few people whom I knew at the office today. About 10 different people. Which means that it was either a strange coincidence, or for some reason a lot of people I know are looking to scoot out of the country in a hurry! (I wonder if there’s anything to be read into that?)

I was also surprised by the number of English-speaking, fashionably dressed individuals who had come to the office. A far cry from the crowd one meets at other Government offices. But then I realized that a fair percentage of Indians do not own a passport, and to a large extent those who do would be from a higher level of society than those who don’t. Also, in order to submit a passport application, you need to come down to the office in person - you can’t get a personal assistant to do it for you, like you could with some other Government work.

So I guess that explained what I observed.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Change of Seasons...

... and with it a change of template. Time to shed the drabness of winter, and usher in the florid brilliance of spring!

It reminds me of the joke about the American and the Russian who are walking through the park one bright March morning. “Ah,” said the Yankee. “Spring in the air!”

Replied the Russian gruffly, “Why should I?”

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Next Time Listen Carefully!

I was reading an old issue of Popular Science magazine in our college library last week, and one of the articles was titled ‘The Worst Jobs in Science’. Job no. 7 on that countdown list was ‘Semen Washer’!

These are the guys who do the dirty work down at the local sperm bank. No, not the ‘dirty’ work of donating, but the work of handling the donations that have already been made!

The article states,

“Laboriously prescreened "donors" emerge from a so-called collection room that is stocked with girlie mags and triple-X DVDs. They hand over their deposit, get their $75, and leave. The semen washers take the seminal goo and place a sample under the microscope for a sperm count. Next comes the washing. The techs spin the sample in a centrifuge to separate the "plasma" from the motile cells. Then they add a preservative, and it's off to the freezer, where it can stay for 20 years. Or not. Thanks to semen washers (and in vitro fertilization), more than 250,000 babies have been delivered in the U.S. since 1995.”

However, the part that interested me the most was the last paragraph. Diana Schillinger, the lab manager at one of the Los Angeles Sperm Banks, says,

“The hardest part is explaining it to friends. But we do have stories. Like the donor who was in the room for the longest time. We had a big discussion about who was going to check on him. Turns out he thought he had to fill up the entire specimen cup.”

Poor guy! That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention to instructions!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Some More Blank Noise

A lot has been said in the blog world in the past couple of weeks on the matter of sexual harassment in the name of the Blank Noise Project. I have already written one post on the same. However, there are a few more points that I would like to make on the matter, and hence this second post. Many people may disagree with what I have to say here, and the comments section is for exactly such feelings.

The first point that I’d like to make is regarding what exactly constitutes ‘sexual harassment’. Surely, pinching someone’s breast without their consent, or grabbing their ass, or even brushing yourself against them are all forms of sexual harassment. So too would be acts like rape, child abuse, etc. There isn’t much scope for debate here. But what about something like vulgar and foul speech? What about staring? Are such acts also sexual offences? Are they punishable?

According to the Indian Penal Code, they are. Here is one of the relevant sections:

“509. Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman

Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”

I am not sure I agree with that. I am a libertarian. I believe in the right to free speech. I believe in an individual’s right to say what he or she so pleases. If the listener does not like it, they can choose to close their ears, ignore it, walk away or even retort back, depending on the situation and the persons involved. I believe in an individual’s right to make whatever gestures he or she wants. If the viewer does not like them, they can turn away, shut their eyes, ignore the gestures or even gesture back. How is my speaking or gesturing in public “intruding the privacy” of anyone?

“Sticks and stones,” as they say, “may break my bones; but words will never hurt me.”

What about staring? Is this an offence? Isn’t anything that is out in public view ‘open season’? Once again, my libertarian principles are ruffled when someone starts to cry murder over someone else staring at them. What harm exactly is someone staring at you doing?

Sure, neither of the above two acts are very nice or speak of the perpetrators in the best possible light, but I don’t see how they are punishable offences. They are merely forms of social etiquette that one expects everyone else to follow, but you cannot slap anyone on the wrist for the breaking these social rules.

My second bone of contention is that women often seek to be treated more than just equal with men. I think this statement needs a little clarification. When I am sitting in a bus, I believe that the manner in which I sit on my seat should not in any way be affected by whether the person sitting next to me is male or female. In other words, what is considered an appropriate ‘distance’ between me and another guy should also be appropriate between me and another girl. I do not wish to go rubbing myself against some guy sitting next to me and neither do I wish to do so against a girl, but I refuse to cow into my corner of the seat just because my co-passenger is some prudish, ‘feminist’ female who thinks all men are perverts! Similarly, if I’m walking down the street and a man is walking toward me, I will look at him. Often quite carefully. However, my looking at a girl in a similar fashion is immediately construed as being crass and vulgar. And to this I object.

I know that all of this may seem a bit unfair toward women, but it stands in the name of equality. Anyone crying for equal rights must be willing to take them with a pinch of salt.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Here’s Something I Made Up

The average human male has three tendencies - ‘to screw’, ‘to screw in’ and ‘to screw up’! The first explains his fascination for women, the second his love for building things and the third explains everything else!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Blank Noise Project

My Blank Noise Project Blogathon post is way overdue - so here it is.

The Project is based on (or rather, against) sexual harassment, or ‘eve-teasing’ as it is euphemistically known in India. Being a guy, I haven’t had too much first hand experience of the same, but I do have plenty of opinions nevertheless.

India ranks quite high on the global country wise list for number of sexual harassment cases. On par with some of the worst countries in the world in this respect. I am not going to quote any figures, but it’s evident that for a woman India isn’t the safest country in the world. Almost any Indian woman would assure you of this much. And so would a lot of the foreign tourists in the country. Most Western female tourists, who are traveling to India alone, are advised before they leave to wear a fake wedding ring and carry a photo of themselves with a man and a kid. And while pretending to be married like this might put off someone who starts to show too much unwanted interest in you, it will do little about the constant stares and unnecessary brushes and touches you will receive on the bus or even the sidewalk.

In order to counter this, or at least make a pretense of doing so, most Indian women are either advised to or coerced into taking defensive action. Wear clothes that are less revealing, don’t go out alone after dark, avoid looking at strangers in the eye, travel by a special car on trains which is reserved only for ladies, don’t talk to strangers, etc. This isn’t really taking on the problem at hand. It’s just finding an ad hoc solution to help you handle an unpleasant situation in front of you.

To understand how the entire problem can be improved in a constructive manner, one needs to understand the cause of the problem to begin with. Why do Indian men behave in this way? Sure, men in other countries are no saints either - some better, some worse - but let’s just take a look at India for now. There are two main reasons, in my opinion, for this behavior of Indian men.

The first reason is that India in general (and Indian men in particular) are, to use a term that I first came across on Vikrum’s blog, ‘sexually repressed’. What do I mean by this? I mean that sex and all topics related to it have become so taboo in India, that most Indians do not have a proper means of releasing their sexual feelings. There is also a huge deal of ignorance in matters related to the topic in India. So, when a thus sexually repressed man sees an opportunity for cheap thrills by grabbing the ass of the woman in front of him in a crowd, he does it. I am not defending him, only trying to put forth possible causes for the action.

The second important reason is that Indian society has for quite some time been one that looks down upon women. It’s a thoroughly male-dominated society, where women are denigrated, considered inferior and even unsuitable for certain tasks. Indian daughters are either killed before (or sometimes at) birth, or are made to feel inferior to their male siblings. Often it’s not just their male relatives but even their own mothers that are responsible for this. I can’t really blame them, society has ingrained it into them. But I can’t totally forgive them either.

By the time she grows up, an Indian girl has already been told quite clearly what her role in society is. Or at least what it’s supposed to be. The few who try to buck the trend and swim against the tide, soon realize that this isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Some give up, others fight on. With the odds always against them. I respect such people. Society, unfortunately, more often than not doesn’t.

And when one lives in a society that is this biased against women, it is fairly obvious that men will start trying to use women in whatever ways they can to satisfy themselves, without really thinking much about how the woman might feel. So even though he knows that his pressing himself against the woman next to him on the bus makes the woman feel uncomfortable and unpleasant, but he does it anyway because he figures that he is more important than her.

How do we go about combating this? Do we, as a society, become stricter? I think we need to go about it the other way. We need to become more liberal! We need to do away with the taboo on sex related matters as soon as we can. We need to stop acting like hypocritical prudes and claim that anything that has to do with sex and sexual liberation goes against the ‘Indian’ culture! India needs sexual liberation and pronto! Things are moving to a very slight extent in that direction, but far too slowly. And they’re also getting worse at the same time. It’s a case of ‘one step foward, two steps back’.

Some months ago, I had written this post, in which I spoke about Iceland. Like I said then, Iceland has one of the most liberal societies in the world, and the frequency of crimes against women is almost nil. Why? Not because they have strict laws against all of it! But because they are sexually liberated. There’s no pent-up sexual tension in them that releases itself in pathetic ways like sexual harassment. India would do well to try and follow suit.