Evergreen Irritating Conversations: #14

“Me? Oh, well I …
read,
talk to myself,
make up bad jokes,
run from hornets,
watch people’s lips,
twirl and twirl in the rain,
keep experimenting with masalas to add in chai,
compost,
practice arching my left eyebrow,
am trying to perfect a recipe for akoori,
hug friends,
spend hours rambling in search of secondhand books,
like to embarass friends by skipping la-la-la,
can’t help scratching the ears of animals,
stare at clouds till they go away,
bung things into an ove-….

…oh, you mean what do I do for a living?
I have a job.

…no, you first learn how to ask the right questions.
Ghelsappa”.

How not to do things in India

#77  Using violence as a means of social activism

This video’s being doing the rounds of social media in India. It’s been getting a lot of likes, a lot of ‘LOLs’, and a lot of eager shares.

I really, really hope this is a spoof video. But even if it’s not, this needs to be said, because people are actually approving of this vigilante shit.

Yes, public defecation is a major problem in urban India, and yes, it’s not pleasant, and yes, it’s frustrating trying to stop people (mainly men) from doing so.  But this? All I got from this is –

“Oho, look bro, I am Activist Middle Class Person.  See, I have enough money to hire a tanker and to paint it and to risk all the fines I will have to pay when arrested.  Plus, I have a bunch of friends to help me thrash you if you dare to attack me.  And I’m too much of a hypocritical wuss to put my face where my actions are.  But beshht part? I got cool video-skills, bro!

 

Abey kya lecture de raha hain.  So what if the almost zero-number of public toilets in India are not located within 10 kilometres of each other, are flooded in excrement, and stink enough to make you gag within 50 metres of them?  So what if using a water cannon is not legal, or safe?  So what if this method adds to the perception that the only way to achieve anything in India is by physical violence and abuse?

 

Urban planning?  Working with authorities to build more toilets?  Fund-raising for water-less porta-loos?  Trying innovative methods like photographing them or surrounding them and singing loudly or blaring loud music just as they start peeing, so they’re shamed/persuaded not to do so?  Using the tank to wash out the existing public loos so that more people are encouraged to use them?

 

Bro bro bro – don’t be a bore, man.  Waaay cooler to dress up like so cool and show off our fake-Batman pose! Chal na, we’ll pretend to be riot cops in Ukraine!  Video-viral on teh interwebz, bebbehh!!”

… you know what, go take your dumb-ass tanker for a ride. Go on, I dare you. Because since I disagree with you, by your philosophy, it’s ok if I slash your tyres and smash your lights and dismantle your engine and take over that hose and wash you off your tanker onto the ground, and then dump you in a public urinal while wearing a Tshirt that says “IF YOU START, I LAGAO VAAT”, right? Right?

….What utter, utter ghelchodias. The Clean Indian? More like The Idiot-Who-Thinks-They’re-Cool Indian.

So not funny.  So not cool.  And so not helpful.

Parenthood and Population and Poking noses

There are two jobs in the world that do not require you to have done an apprenticeship, do not require you to produce certification, do not require you to sit through a skills test.

Being a Parent.
And being a Politician.

I keep telling people this simple fact explains the state of the world today.

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We humans are destroying the world.

You can debate whether climate change is real or not, and if it is, whether it’s human-caused.  But in every other way, we are ravaging the environment we live in.  If you feel like debating that, or are feeling particularly combative, or just particularly masochistic, go take a look at the UN Red Book.

The situation was bad enough as it was when airplanes and electricity and auto-vehicles hadn’t been invented.  But in the last century and a half, things have deteriorated so rapidly, and continue to deteriorate so much faster, we may have permanently set the Earth’s dial to ‘ecological wasteland’.

And part of this is because there are so many more of us.  Improved medicine means more people being born at all, and more of those born living for longer.

7 billion.  7 thousand million.  And growing every second.

And yet suggest – merely suggest – that maybe more couples should decide to have fewer (or maybe no) children, and you’re accused of being a Malthusian cry-wolfer.  Problems? What problems?

… at least in dystopian Sci-Fi literature and films, there’s often another planet humans can go infect.  We don’t have that.  Unless there are some amazing new breakthroughs in science and human nature, long before we turn Earth into Trantor, it’s going to become Waterworld.

And if you can’t imagine the horror that will be the end-result of far too many people depending on the produce from too little arable land being farmed by too little potable water while trying to withstand highly erratic weather conditions  … then you need to get your brain checked.

That, or you’re really a robot, and you don’t even know it.

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Apparently, having children scrambles the brainwaves of some people.

It makes them believe they have the right to tell other people how to live their lives.

Because, dontchaknow, just having a baby – something that tens of billions of people have done for thousands of centuries (and which is usually the result of a mistake) suddenly makes you Absolutely Right about everything.  Never mind that they haven’t actually brought up their kids to adulthood, like your parents’ generation has.

Just producing progeny = Genius IQ.  Obviously.

And so they proceed to distribute their newfound wisdom to all and sundry who could be in their position, but are choosing not to.   It’s a social duty, you see.

And when you have Genius IQ and these lesser mortals don’t, you don’t have to discuss things with them like their parents or closest friends do.  You don’t have to be polite or sensitive or discreet or any of that wishy-washy liberal hippie crap.  No, sirree, you just stride in there and lay down the law.  Because these non-baby people are obviously idiots, and they need to be guided, and who better than you?

And, of course, since they are idiots, you need to hammer in the message every single opportunity you get.  Have babies, have babies, have babies – that’s all they need to hear from you.

Never mind that they haven’t met you in three years and are trying to catch up on your life in that interregnum.  Never mind that maybe their family situation means that having a child would be extremely disruptive and unfeasible.  Never mind that you don’t know if they are currently looking after family elders who have cancer or are in clinical depression.  Never mind that you don’t know that they may have tried and failed, or suffered a miscarriage while trying, and don’t mention it because the memory is too raw.  Who cares about all that?

Have babies, have babies, have babies!

… because why shouldn’t they be as tired and sleepy and worried and miserable as you are?

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If you want to truly learn how open-minded a person is, tell them you’ve decided on adoption instead of having your own children. Even though you can have your own. 

The results are likely to shock you.

And the same people will urge you to adopt abandoned puppies.  Go figure.

 

Offspring

Oh heyyyyy! Long time no see.  Married and all huh. How long it’s been now? Achcha, so many years already? Waah, waah, touchwood.  Then toh must be having kids, no?
….. No? Like, none?  At all?

…. Oh…… Umm…

Don’tmindjustaskingok, but umm, some problem there is?  Isfineisfine if there is, common problem no, why to be ashamed I say, lotsalotsalotsalotsa people have.  Lucky thing is, I have number for excellent fellow who has helped so many coup- … Oh. No problem also? …  So then why you no have children?

What you mean you don’t want to have any??  You don’t like children or what?  Don’t like cleaning potty?  Don’t worry, I have number of superb full-time ayah only.  Or maybe you think little-wittle babbes going ‘my daddeh stlongest!’ is too cute to be cute? Or …

Huh? You like children, but are happy without them?

Arre, but how do you know you won’t be happier with children, huh?  You just try it onc- …. oof! What a stupid argument!  So what if you are happy even though you haven’t lived in Peru?  How does that even appl- … No, of course there’s no refund policy on children! They’re children, baba, not some toy you just decide to get because you feel like it … haan, haan, laugh laugh. You just see, once you have children, your whole life changes.

… arre, what you like your life the way it is?  That is so … selfish!  Yes, yes, selfish only.  You are acting like spoilt children (hah!), only thinking about yourself and what you want to do, and not taking responsibility only.  How much travel you will do haan, how many books you will read haan, how much cooking you will experiment, how much?  You just think it’s ok to enjoy yourselves till you’re old.  You think it’s ok to just be cool uncle and give them gifts and make us look bad or what?  No concept only about what it takes to take care of a child and wake up in the night to put them back to sleep and to train them and find schools for them and worry about whether they’re seeing all dirty-dirty things on Internet and sacrificing holiday dreams for their choice and worryi- ….

No, I would not like to take a nap!  I haven’t had a nap in five years and I’ve forgott- … I mean, I don’t need to have one anymore.  I’m fin-…. No, I am not cranky because of lack of sleep! I am perfectly calm ok, stop being rude.  See, this is what I mean – saying whatever personal personal things you like without thinking about whether the other person finds it offensive … stop snorting! So so rude.

And also!  You have a duty to have children.

Yes, yes, duty only I said. See, even if you don’t believe in God …  and by the way I still don’t understand how you don’t, I mean how can you see all the miracle of life and deny the existe-…. ok ok baba, ok!  I mean to say even if you don’t believe in God and don’t believe you should expand your kind, you have a duty to society no?

…arre of course you do!  Educated people should be having children, not those gawaars in villages popping out monkeys right left centre whole whole time without thinking how they will feed them or clothe them and then of course, no education only.  And then those politicians come and say any rot they want and these stupid people have no brains because they can’t read anything and then they join all Youth Wings and make big big slogan-shouting and then all fights happen and then rioting and look at our country.

But if people like us had children, we can teach all the right things no, and then they will learn to respect elders and girls and mix with other communities and religions and … No of course I wouldn’t let my girl marry a Muslim boy, they convert you know, and besides what does that have to …

Oho! Very fine! Such fine big big words you learnt after going abroad.  Listen, you sickular fool, don’t call me bigot-shigot.  This is not about discrimination ok, it is about tradition.  You want children not to learn tradition or what.  All I’m saying is, it is so much easier to associate with people who think they way you do, and do all the things you do na, so why look outside?

….  Of course, I will let them travel – why are you asking stupid questions? But only to safe places haan – Singapore and Dubai and New York and London.  And only on some tour.  Or with Babli Aunty.  Otherwise they’ll meet some crazy foreigners and say haan chalo we will also do this-that, we will also wear short skirts, we will also go live with some boy.  Then what, haan, then what?  They are children after all, what do they know.  Best they take our advice, we have toh seen the world baba.

And once they do accountancy like we suggest, they can then do shaadi-waadi and bas, our job over.

…well, till the grandkids come of course. Because of course our children should have children of their own.

…Oho, where are you walking off?  Listen, hello, listen, I’m talking, hello….

Nod (and smile)

The odds are not in your favour.  With more than seven billion people on this world means the likelihood of you bumping into an idiot is very high.  And once such contact has been made, the chances of such idiots cornering you and forcing their even-more-idiotic opinions upon you are even higher.

You may meet people who fervently believe voting for a rightwing, authoritarian politician is going to result in positive change.  You may meet people who tell you how homeopathy can cure cancer.  You may meet people who insist your sole purpose in life is to marry, and then procreate, and who will hound you till you do both.  You may meet people who will try and brainwash you against intermingling with “those kind of people”.  You may meet people who refuse to accept that all of life’s lessons can be found in the Discworld novels. You may meet people who will dismiss the Tracy Chapman version of ‘Words’ in favour of the Boyzone one.  You may meet people who are convinced that cinnamon should never be added to chocolate.  You may even, if you are extremely unfortunate, meet people who will hold forth on the obvious superiority of Formula 1 over Wimbledon.

You will meet at least one such person in your life.  It is inevitable.  Now you might initially contemplate refuting, rebutting, and rejecting their theories.  Which would be a pointless waste of your time and energy (remember that Shaw quote about wrestling pigs).  So do the only thing you can in such an eventuality –

Nod and smile. 
Don’t talk, don’t grunt, don’t gesticulate.
Just Nod.
A noncommittal slight tip of the head
and Smile.
A neutral stretching of the lips.
Nod. Smile. Nod. Smile.

The idiots eventually go away happy – without trying to punch you – and you end up with less frown-lines.  What’s not to like?

G is for gaalis

Bawas love a good gaali.  Not in the ‘choice abuse’ meaning of the word, but more in the ‘inventive use of unmentionable words’ one.  In a humorously bawdry, not tawdry way.  An easy identifier for a bawa is whether, within five minutes of their being introduced to you, they speculate solicitously about the limited mental capacity of your great-grandparents and try and calculate how much more degradation had occurred by the time you were born, and wonder whether you are at this stage even capable of cleaning your own arse.
After which they will ply you with some drinks, and feed you till you cry for your liver.

This sort of behaviour shocks the more conservative communities of India.  Oh heck, it shocks most parts of the world.  Because the use of expletives is seen as a sign of vocabularly weakness and moral turpitude.  And this is why such language is condemned in negative terms – foul, filthy, crude – in the hopes that it convince people not to use such words.

Except they aren’t.  At their best, a gaali can be flowery and complicated and funny and can in fact help defuse a potential flare-up.  It takes a certain delicate skill to come up with a sufficiently complex and derisive gaali that somehow fails to be offensive.  It is a mark of a person’s linguistic skill, instead of a comment on their nasty nature.  A person who can swear inventively (not casually) is also less likely to be a stuck-up, do-gooding prig.

So go ahead, let loose a few volleys.  You’ll feel better. And you might make someone laugh too.

I leave you with the words of the ineffable Stephen Fry:
“The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest is just a fucking lunatic.”

A is for Airconditioning

It’s 28C in Dillistan right now, a couple of hours after the sun has set.

And I can hear my neighbours running their air conditioners.

It’s been a hot day, admittedly, peaking at around 34C.  And when the days are long, and the skies cloudless, and as the poorly constructed buildings of this city slowly begin to bake, it’s understandable for people to want to feel cool.

However.

It’s been this hot for just two days.  Two days, not three weeks. And it’s been breezy.

Thanks to unseasonal weather, there have been thunderstorms and light showers and cloudy days at least once a week for the past three months, which have helped keep the temperatures mercifully down.  The rains have been the third-most talked-about subject in this part of the world (after the upcoming elections and the state of the economy), not least because of the damage they’ve done to the winter crop and the impact that development is likely to have on everybody’s wallets in a few months.

There have been copious comparisons with the polar vortex in North America, the floods in Europe, the typhoons all over Asia.  Comparisons that have been brought into greater focus by the release of the IPCC report on climate change and its expected impact on the world.  Much hand-wringing despair and fatalistic acceptance has happened. Much talk about rainwater harvesting and regular Earth Hours and planting saplings and food security and water wars has happened.  Much, much promises have been made.

And today, on the second straight day that temperatures have reached (and stayed at) 34C, people have airconditioners on.  Airconditioners*. Despite it being so breezy that I don’t even have the fan on in my house!

Start building your arks, people.

 

* And no, these houses do not have pets, or babies, or elderly people.