Why I read the Guardian

Because I find gems like this. Read Part I, too, and wait for Part III.

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Courage

More than half of what people call courage is a combination of an overlarge capacity for avoidance and a tendency to laugh at inappropriate moments. The rest of it is the ability to look the things you cannot avoid in the face, and cry for what you cannot laugh at.

A trip to the other side of nowhere

To get there, we take a national highway to Sonipat and drive through its narrow, crowded markets. Coming out of there, we take the ‘main road’ to Gohana and then turn off into a road-cum-dirt track-cum-paved path, to reach our destination. When the main road is blocked, we take a diversion through three small villages, till we can see the main road again.

The tarmac on these roads hides under layers of dust and bullcrap, turning itself a dull grey-brown in its attempts to blend into its surroundings. It doesn’t succeed, though – the dominant colour in this landscape is green. The shiny bright green of well-watered fields, the yellow-green of ripening corn, the deep black-green of clusters of jamun trees. We turn a corner and cross a culvert over a tank full of blue-gray-brown water, but here the road is just dust.

I look up when I hear our horn tooted impatiently the bullock cart in front of us with its load of a black bicycle lying on top of a few armfuls of hay. It maneouvres out of the way, and we pass it slowly, taking care not to get stuck in the ditches that separate the road from the fields.  There’s a motorcycle on the other side of this ditch, a bright red Rajdoot. A man stands on it, trying to get a footing in the large tree under which it stands.

As if in counterpoint, a group of brightly coloured polyester dupatta covered heads appear in the middle of the next field. An old lady stares at us from her charpai in the porch of the largest pukka house in the village. We slow down to pass a Maruti 800 on the narrow road; the driver, lips pursed in concentration, lifts her ghungated head and smiles at me.

Worldviews need relocation, sometimes.

Scared, or scary?

India is supposed to be a country of sexually repressed people, isn’t it? And the US of A is supposed to be sexually liberated. The swingin sixties and all the rest of it. But just look how scared Liberty University* seems to be of sexuality and any expression thereof.

Even more scary (or is it funny in a hysterical, over the top kind of way?) is how ‘abortion’ and ‘Two or more individuals of the opposite sex together in hotel/motel room without proper permission’ are seemingly considered worse than racial/sexual harassment. So also witchcraft, and life-threatening behaviour. And a whole lot of other stuff: you have to read it to believe it!

Thank God I didn’t go there – I’d have racked up around $1000 in fines, and I was a good girl in college. Really. I wonder what would’ve happened to… ahem, okay, no names on blog. 

*Named for a town, apparently, not a value.

Bad, bad, bad!

Do you find yourself, sometimes, reacting in just the way you don’t want to? Saying all the right things, of course, but thinking all the wrong ones?

Like looking at a newspaper article about visas to Pakistan and wondering whether the Visa God would help these people: after all, he’s Indian (and Hindu?)?! Or about the phasing out of the CST and thinking “I wonder whether I’ll get a chance to teach them about that!”

Or looking at a letter of appointment and wondering at the pay; at a visiting card and thinking of a name that ought to be in your past.

Talking to someone and almost saying “The alma mater is better” before loyalty gets your tongue; feeling hungry while saying “I’ll wait, of course!

Writing a blog post and rambling because you don’t want to get to the point?

Masculine beauty and suchlike

Well, the furious (by the standards of this blog) commenting on the previous post led to much thinking on beauty, and masculine beauty, and lots of other things. And ever notice how sometimes everything you read and watch and hear seems to tie up neatly with what you’re thinking? Well, that happened too.

It wasn’t just On Beauty, but also Guess who’s coming to Dinner and an article in yesterday’s Times of India and then a conversation with Daddy Long Legs. And, of course, the furious commenting on the last post.

So, beauty is definitely about attractiveness. So what makes men attractive? Blr Bytes pointed to a link that said it had something to do with evolutionary theory – characteristics associated with strength and all that. And Mr. Nair points me to an article about changing standards of male beauty. Clark Gable was attractive because he radiated sexual aggressiveness, present-day male movie stars are much more passive, it says.

So, masculine beauty. Again, a lot of ‘norms’. Much more activity-oriented, though. Strength, for example. Sexual predatoriness, or a lack thereof. And these are supposed to be linked to the ability to survive/procreate. But I really doubt that.

First, if the idea of beauty is linked to the ability to survive/procreate – sort of aiding the process of natural selection – then how come it is still linked to the ability to survive in forests and primitive civilisations: strength, predatoriness, et al? Hasn’t it evolved at all?

Second, how do you explain the fetish with slimness? For women, I mean. Surely, large hips and pelvises should be more beautiful than anorexically thin figures?

And third, how come men have to survive and women have to procreate? I mean, why isn’t strength beautiful in women? And what are the outward characterisitcs to judge whether men are fertile (virile?!)?

In any case, my proposition from the previous post continues to hold good: the moral authority to determine what is ‘beautiful’ lies primarily with the person whose beauty is being assessed. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder only in the case of objects, things. Not in the case of persons, people.

And that brings us to ‘objectification’ – when the norms are set by the beholder, we are objectifying: whether it is John Abraham or Bipasha Basu, Clark Gable or Katharine Hepburn. So we expect them to measure up to an invisible standard (She’s so fat in that movie but-of-course-not-as-fat-as-me-but-I’m-not-fat-really) and make that invisible object-standard a norm for actual, real human beings.

Self-loathing, of course, results.

We have a crawling heater

It’s one of those things that blows hot air into a cold room. Small, rectangular, has a stand on which you prop up the front so the hot air blows upwards. (Doesn’t hot air always move upwards, anyway?)

Well, the little rubber thingies on that stand, the ones that are supposed to cushion it so that the heater’s vibrations don’t transmit to the ground and make a racket, they are a bit worn. So it doesn’t make a racket, but it slides.

Okay, not slide – that sounds rather fast for what this heater is doing – it crawls. Rather like an irritating baby that won’t stay still on the sheet, it wiggles around till it’s upside down (okay, backways front) and blows all that lovely hot air into the wall.

‘Portable’ gadgets shouldn’t port themselves, should they?