Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Minor Pains

Request: Download the live version of "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC from somewhere and play it in a loop while you're reading this post. I rediscovered this today and have been listening to it incessantly. It would give me happiness if you do the same.

My words have been getting increasingly foul over the last few years. I had decided, however, to desist from using invective on my blog. So everytime I wanted to say "Fuck!" I said "goddam" or something equally unsatisfactory. I am lifting this self-imposed embargo on swear words from my blog with immediate effect.
The reason, correction: the catalyst, for this change is that I had two minors today, the second of which did me in the posterior, with style. The first minor in this course was bad enough (and when I say 'bad', I really mean AWFUL, not like people who claim they are neck-deep in shit and promptly score straight A's), but I consoled myself with the thought that since I hadn't studied it wasn't a reflection on my intelligence. I suppose I can say the same about this one if I really want to, but the honest fact is I studied for the little fucker, I learnt formulae, I memorised graphs, and made more of an effort than I usually do to understand stuff. And yet, the minor managed to comprehensively crush me.
Why? Because the instructor is a bloody sadist, that's why. I can't elaborate because I don't have any logical reasons for making this claim. All the same, this is how I feel and I'm entitled to my opinion, so that's that.

Also, I rediscovered Maddox. The guy is God. Read his page - you'll feel either love or hatred, both of which are feelings that add colour to our lives and are hence welcome additions.
I have been following this blog pretty regularly too. It's highly recommended, especially if you like Maddoxian deviant humour. A bonus is that this blog has a really cool url and following tag. You'll probably get a dry laugh out of it.

I earlier mentioned how today's happenings acted more as catalyst than as motivation for my decision. Something similar happened with English, August when I read it about a year back. It is the only book I can think of that I actually know changed me.
I had been thinking weird stuff for a while but the deviance was always tinged with a kind of guilt. This book removed all the guilt and all the reservations about subversive humour in one clean stroke. I suppose I loved that there were others in the world who saw the potential for humour in strange situations. Maybe I was just at a malleable stage of life at the time.
Not only does E,A combine subversive and self-effacing humour extremely well, it raises issues that I was starting to get very interested in. Cultural identity, the importance of 'roots', the politics and power of language in India, the differences between urbanised and small-town India and those between their citizens, our colonial baggage and will we ever discard it, our attitudes towards foreigners (read this article that appeared in this sunday's HT), our positions regarding our own history and culture - basically, questions of identity - these are questions that were raised by E,A and remain unanswered. The beauty of the book is its lack of stances on any of these issues. It doesn't create stereotypes (at least of the main characters) and doesn't offer simple answers.
This book also made me realize the importance of reading Indian fiction. I hadn't read much before E, A and I still haven't read much, but hey, at least I want to.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Angsty Pantsy

I think I remember seeing the above subtitle ("Angst in my pants") on Beatzo's blog. I don't visit this blog and hence don't remember since I must've seen the blog in question on only a couple of occassions in a friend's place.
In fact, it's a wonder that I was able to figure out that it was this blog that I saw this phrase in. I'm usually not too great at being able to recall things when I most need to by thinking hard. They usually either come easily or hover in the margins (of my consciousness, what else?) till the time has passed. I once suffered for two whole days before I remembered 'Meryl Streep'.
It's horrible when you know you know something and you know you can almost remember it, but it just doesn't enter it (my conscious mind, doofus) when it should. I think a good analogy would be trying to reach a small fibrous piece of food stuck from the morning's breakfast between your side teeth that you can just about reach and wiggle a bit with your tongue, but can't dislodge. A toothpick, of course, is nowhere near reach.

Anyway, the motivations for this uncharacteristic post are the following:

1) the Net rocks today. Maybe it's the proxy, maybe junta is (are? Any suggestions on correct Hinglish grammar are most welcome.) studying for minors, maybe IIT's finally woken up and decided to devote more than the paltry bandwidth it reserves for the hostels. Like I told someone a while back, we're in the goddam Mecca (very blasphemous in these times) of engineering studies in a country poised on the cusp of economic and technological greatness in the world and the Net - basic human need of the iPod generation - is so awfully slow I blink through tears of rage when I check my gmail page download pixel by painful pixel.
But I'm happy today, so I'm scrapping people (on Orkut, I endorse Orkut over pretenders like hi5 et al.), and blogging and generally frolicking on the Net with a joy I haven't experienced since really long.
God bless champak, god bless the day I chose CSE (over EE, what else?).

2) rather prosaically, I haven't blogged for really long and suddenly for no apparent reason I remembered the phrase that now adorns the title on the top and thought it would be more apt than the previous subtitle. The previous subtitle was cool and I was attached to it because it was a Calvin quote. I have to admit, however, that this one is cooler and fits my profile better.

3) I wanted to credit the original source of this phrase, and issue a disclaimer simultaneously.
Now, if the source happens to visit my blog, I won't have to blush at having been caught plagiarising a cool subtitle. I'm proud of being one of the few people I know who give credit where it's due.

4) checked my blog before coming here (on blogger, where else?) and saw two new comments. Hence, felt enthused about posting. I mean, one can go on and on about how little one cares about comments but the fact of the matter is that one cares. Only to an extent, of course, but one would be lying if one said one didn't feel good at watching the comment count increase.
One of the two comments was deleted by the author. Like all popular bloggers, I've been getting my share of comments that are deleted by their authors (authoresses?) when they see to their horror what their comment really looks like in e-print. Retrospect is such a great thing. Now, the good news for you is I don't have one of those cool little provisions which make it possible for your comment to be read by me because it has already reached my mailbox. I (used to) think it's so vain to check your mailbox to see if anyone's commented. But my feelings don't stand the test of logic. For one, you can read the deleted comments which is really useful. Secondly, you'd know if someone's commented on one of your previous posts which I might miss.
Hence, I do not blame you, dear reader and fellow blogger, if you prefer to read my comment on in your inbox before your blog. I feel like doing that with my blog too, but I hate it when my inbox crowds with unwanted mails, and so I'll pass this. In other words, you're free to comment and then delete your comment. I wouldn't know it was you.

5) had a small poltu meeting with the kingmakers. Hate poltu. Everyone says that of course, but I despise it, and I don't lie. I mean, I realize it's required and all that and that people who sit for night long meetings are probably doing your hostel a service blah blah, but it tires me. Other things too, like futile debates on whether I prefer the Congress or BJP tire me. Surprisingly, for an institute as politically apathetic (wrt national politics) as IIT, I've been asked twice in the last five days by two independent and unrelated groups of people which side off centre did I prefer. Iusually umm and aww and pretend to think for a while before I give a general sort of answer. Then I get caught in these earnest discussions on The Right vs. Left vs. Centre and the future of India and India's relations with the US and should we have tested the bloody bomb and shit, and I just get tired. Seriously, who cares? I hate it when other people say this, but I don't either and that's the truth.
I needed a break and this opportunity presented itself, so here I am, typing.

6) didn't feel like studying CHL110. It's very boring, I'm screwed and I hate it. Just to put off the inevitable, I slept for four hours in the afternoon including the lunch hours. Strangely, I don't feel as guilty as I should and hence I'd rather do something I enjoy.

So those were my reasons. I didn't realize myself I had so many reasons until I put them all down. In fact, I can probably invent a few more if I try.

Anyway, going back to the basics, I love my new subtitle and this post is dedicated to the dude who came up with it. Wherever and whoever you are, you've made me happy today. God bless!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Women, Daughters

We have the alumni reunion in Shivalik today. We were supposed to have had it from 4:30 in the afternoon but people only started coming in closer to 8 in the night. Though the lack of turnout did disconcert the organisers (my party in the hostel, if you must know) a bit, the event was a success once we got some alumni to fill our lawns. A nice programme (most of which I missed because I was chatting with him from Bangalore) was followed by a dinner and then by an interactive chat session with each alumnus introducing himself and relating anecdotes from his IIT days. At the time of going on the blog, an old gentleman is telling a story and getting polite applause for his efforts from my sleepy and bored juniors.
I wasn't really doing anything and was basically watching music videos on the big projector screen from the comfort of the front-row sofas on the lawn when I was commandeered by the organising team. I was told to ask the ones who were trying to sneak away to stay back for a small chat session. Now, I have always thought of myself as rather good with people. I might not be scintillating company or a charismatic host but I usually don't have trouble talking to people. However I do have a lot of trouble asking people inane questions and I am painfully shy in approaching people when I think I do not have compelling reasons to talk to them. So I didn't do much of that either.
Anyway, this auntie comes up to me and tells me her husband was from the first batch of IIT (the '66 batch) and would I like to ask him to share his experiences etc. with the students? Now, you might think I'm sick but I have this concept of who is beatiful and who is not. Some women aren't conventionally beautiful and yet, make you want to touch them or be close to them. You instinctively know they smell good, and the women I find beautiful are always women I somehow feel are freshly-bathed. This auntie too had a beautiful smile, and she smelled really good - not overpowering, just right - and had on a blouse with a ...ahem, deep neck. I could see cleavage behind her semi-transparent sari pallu and it was just beautiful and feminine, not in a sexy way as much as in an elegant way.
There are other women too that I find beautiful and women I have mini and major crushes on. There's one, however, who's been on the crush list for quite some time now. Since her debut, actually. She's not beautiful, but she's very very attractive. She's got brains, she's articulate, she's independent and strong, and also something that many new age women are not - vulnerable at times. This is where new age women don't do it for me. The new woman is everything any man would love to love - strong, intelligent, articulate, independent etc etc. What she's not and what she emphasises she isn't, is vulnerable. I mean, dude, if she's Sushmita Sen why would she want me? Which is why it's so maddeningly exciting to see that chink in the Perfect Woman's armour - that small insecurity, that little note of jealousy she couldn't stop from creeping in - which suddenly makes her a flawed beauty you can hold without feeling you're revealing more of yourself to her than she is to you. Perfection is intimidating. Almost perfect is what we can handle, what we can love.
Anyway, so this woman is someone who now possesses in my imagination all the qualities of my Ideal Woman. There was a time when I used to think of stuff in a very abstract way. Now, however, I have a face and most importantly, a name - a beautiful name - to address all my fantasies to. This is obviously very dangerous in case the said woman is ever attained and found wanting. In my case, this will never happen and hence it is perfectly safe for me to keep investing all my fantasies into her. I also think she knows I have a crush on her because I have a
silly grin on my face when I see her (the fifth-grader grin, it's been called). In fact, I'm pretty sure she knows it. I expect women like her learn to recognize these signs in men because they get them so often. In any case, being my Perfect Woman, she has a highly developed womanly intuition which helps separate out the likes of me from the general smilers.
There are other things too that contribute to my loving her so much.
She has a beautiful name. All the women I have ever loved or had crushes on (can't claim a large number, to be honest) have had beautiful names. Why can't all women (and men too) have great names? Why are some travesties still in circulation? I once knew a girl who was called 'Shatabdi'. What kind of a name is that? And what about 'Neyi Neveli', Amitabh Bachchan's granddaughter's name? Some names ought to have died out long ago because there simply are so many better names that are still not too commonly used. I think women should have names that not only have beautiful meanings, but also sound beautiful. I know I'm going to fret and research like crazy to select a name for my daughter. My son (should I have one) will, I'm afraid, simply not be lavished the kind of attention I would reserve for my daughter.
Maybe it's the result of having a brother and no sister(s), but I really don't want a predominantly male household again. Maybe it's because I grew up in one that I have all these romantic notions of how much I'd love my daughter, and maybe daughters are just as much trouble as sons are and in some ways only more so, but this is the way I feel and I can't see that changing in the next few years or so.
Like many other things, this idea too has come to be encapsulated by a particular scene frozen for ever in my mind. When a friend of mine was going away for a considerable period of time, after all the packing was done and the time came for goodbyes to family, she (I think) hugged each member in turn, but the scene that truly branded itself on my mind's eye for ever was when she threw herself on her father and they hugged so closely for what seemed like eternity. It was just so indescribably right that it stirred up something even in my normally unmoving heart. It was like a moment when everything stops and there is this blinding flash of realization that all the trouble, the heartburn, the pain, the sleepless nights, the agony, the times of helplessness in all those twenty odd years were worth it. That the juice was worth the squeeze.
I want to feel that too - the agony and the ecstasy of being a parent. For our own sake, we require individuals in our lives we can love selflessly and limitlessly. That is why we need children.
I just went over this post, and it's embarassingly sentimental. However I'll post it anyway because I can't seem to write anything else (have started several posts and abandoned them all) and I don't want this blog to die for want of fresh material.

PS: Btw, the alumni reunion happened about a week ago. I wrote half of this post then, and the rest was composed today.

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