Of Penises and Sense of Humour

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This is the incident which triggered this post. A girl and two guys were in a conference when the guys spoke a few sexual innuendos among themselves. The girl found it distasteful and tweeted about it. The organizers of the conference threw the guys out. One of the guys was thrown out of his job and later the girl was sacked from her job as well. Yesterday night I read a few people debating the issue on Facebook. And I just thought I had something to say on the issue without indulging in a pointless war on Facebook.

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The battle between the sexists and the feminists are really tough to wrap one’s head around. While one tries to put across rational and logical arguments to prove their point, the other is notorious for bringing up the oponent’s vagina and sexual history to prove their point.

Of lately, I have begun to notice a refined kind of sexist on the internet. This person is not the kind who will say Girls are inferior or that they should stick to being in the kitchen. They are a little sophisticated and hard to spot. I am talking about the ignorant sexist. You might wonder isn’t being sexist a kind of ignorance itself. Why the double qualifier? Well, The ignorant sexist besides being ignorant about gender is also ignorant about a few other related things. They like to talk about freedom of speech without realizing that the freedom of talking about penises that they seem to be rooting for also gives the other person the freedom to express displeasure at it. They say stuff like but that is how  nerds are without realizing that they are speaking for themselves by hiding behind an umbrella term. What bugs me is when these people talk about sense of humour. The sense to appreciate whether something is funny. But that is my question, Isn’t ‘funny’ a very subjective experience. What would you generally do if you found something funny but the other person did not? You would certainly not try to explain it to him/her why the joke is funny. Because we all know that ruins the joke. We are pretty comfortable with the idea of not finding something funny that might appear very funny to others and so we move on.

Here’s a conversation between a sexist and a feminist on social networks

sexist : haha that was funny
feminist : err.. actually that was offensive
sexist : do you really have to be a spoil sport. You need to have a sense of humour.
feminist (in their head) : umm… actually I Do have a sense of humour and that is why I can gauge that this is not funny (to me).
sexist : <insert pointless emotional things like “That guy is a father of three” or “Those athletes were star players” or “What if it was your own son”>
feminist : err… how is that relevant?
sexist : bitch is a slut!
feminist : Why?
sexist : because vagina and breasts!

Well the conversations are not really like that but you get my point as to how one of the parties stops making sense.

Ted Cohen in his essay on Humor proposes a vague proposition that A is humorous if and only if B finds it funny under certain appropriate conditions and B is the right kind of person.

Lets not get into ‘Humor’ and ‘the right kind of person’ right now but its clearly evident that the prospect of something being funny is dependent on the observer B and in our case when its someone with two differing ideologies like a sexist and a feminist, its easy to see why they might differ.

Also on an unrelated funny note, a sexist is NEVER the right kind of person. :P

The idea that humans have an innate sense of virtue, beauty or morality by which they judge the virtue, aesthetics or morals of something is basically an idea that we have grown out of. It is now believed that all these senses are conditioned by the society and the kind of setting we live in. In that logic, Sense of humor is not something innate in a human being that is supposed to trigger a laugh upon chancing upon something funny. This assumes that there is some way to measure ‘funny’ in absolute terms. The fact that someone who is fond of Groucho Marx’s witty wordplay may not find Charlie Chaplin’s antics hilarious does not mean there is anything wrong with him. So when you say someone does not have a sense of humour, just make sure you don’t sound too accusatory. Because that statement has no meaning in the absolute sense.

If you tell me a joke about an man slipping on a banana peel and falling in a trench and dying, i might laugh a little at the man’s tragedy. And then if you try to make your joke a little edgy and tell me that the man is my father, I might ask you to stop there at that uncomfortable junction. Now here you have two ways to go out. You either apologise for attempting to push the boundaries of acceptable humour or you tell me to have a sense of humour and tell me to suck it up and go on narrating the tale of my father’s death in gory (funny) detail. because really, that is where it is going. When you tell someone to have a sense of humour in this context, you are essentially asking them to shut up and back off while you carry on making your distasteful joke that is making someone uncomfortable.

P.S. I am no expert on sexism or feminism. I just claim to have spent a fair amount of time with a penis and a sense of humour.

P.P.S. You might say that girl need not have interfered in what was a funny moment between two friends and not directed at her. You might say that a father of three kids should have refrained from such behaviour in public. And that would be the right way to look at the incident. Just don’t ask people discussing the issue to get a sense of humor to understand WHY the penis joke was funny because they probably already have a sense of humor to know that it is NOT funny. And guess what! You both are right, so move on and discuss the real issue.

P.P.P.S. Whenever people are debating gender issues they are talking about big words like inequality, biases etc and I find explaining them about a trivial issue like sense of humor, not appropriate. But I have seen too many arguments recently reaching an impasse because one of the parties invoked the ‘sense of humor’ and hence this post.

Lovers’ Dilemma

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Finger picking his guitar strings, he generated soundscapes in which their dreams swayed. He played accompanying her monologue for hours and when he ran out of songs, the eerie silence muffled her. Pulled out of their self constructed chimera, they wept at their love’s inability to share silence. “Now what?”

An Ode

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It was one of those days when I took my notepad and flask filled with tea to my flat’s terrace to sit alone in the night. I jotted down some words under a yellow tungsten glow. I tried to find rhyming words but then abandoned the pursuit unsuccessfully. I started pondering whether it was necessary to rhyme in a poem, many great poets didn’t resort to rhyme as a device in their poems. But again, those poets had a lot of interesting and profound things to say. Do I ? My friends say I do. But then, they’re my acquaintances and thats what I expect from them. I don’t think I am strong enough to take honest opinions from people. False praises keep me going.

While I was dabbling around with words, a cat came sneaking in through the channel gate of the terrace and walked past me. I have a morbid fear for the feline beings. My gaze followed its wagging tail untill the cat was at a safe distance from me. I swear for a moment I saw its tail trace out a line of smoke out of thin air. But then again, it could also have been the smoke coming from my piping hot tea. A writer can never be sure when his imagination takes hold of the sane part of him. Especially more so, at night.

Surprisingly, we didnt share the same interest in each other. It didn’t even bother to look at me. Not even a casual glance of inspection. This was new for me. The usual fear was replaced be a desire to pry into it. A desire to know why the cat didn’t care about me. I tried to coax it to come near me by whistling and waving my fingers in an inviting manner. The animal did take notice. It looked at me and inspected my surroundings as if suddenly made aware of my presence and walked towards me. It halted near my legs and sat down. I could feel its fur against my own. Its obviously being smoother and more magical than mine. My first contact with the cat was divine. In fact it was my first contact with any cat. I never knew this feeling. I tried to soak in more of it. The initial brush on the head were followed by long striding strokes along its spine. I didn’t know an animal could feel as good as, or perhaps even better than a human companion. Suddenly all those people I knew who drooled over animals started making sense. Suddenly I felt solace from all my worries in life. Suddenly all those years of fear seemed misplaced. And suddenly that princess of a cat turned its diabolic gaze towards me and bit me. Its teeth wouldn’t let go of me. I tried to wave it away by jerking my legs violently as I cringed in pain. I grabbed its face and tried to pull it off my legs but it wouldn’t loosen its grip. The pain was bearable but the thought of rabid diseases approaching me wasn’t. Then in that moment of frenzy, I took my flask and smashed its skull open. Its blood smeared across the floor and with intermittent gasping for breath, it stared at me with its vindictive glance for the last time before it closed its eyes.

A morning tea, a delusory pleasure , a smack on its mind
It twirls around, bids adieu and leaves its corpse behind.

Not bad a start, isnt it? How about a dead cat for a muse, huh?

Excerpts from The Legend of Hassan – Ancient Pulp Fiction

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Birth
Raziya’s delivery was due two days from the day but Salma said it was as if the baby was in a hurry to conquer the world. It was a painful process and Raziya collapsed completely by the end of it. Devoid of all energy, she lay lifeless on the floor where she delivered her son. Irshaad brought the newborn and entered the room where his wife lay. Raziya was flanked by Irshaad and Salma and surrounded by the conversation of whom he resembled and how healthy he seemed. Salma reiterated her earlier claim, “He looks like a king. He will rule over the entire world.” Irshaad tried to remain modest and turned towards Raziya as he said, “I dont know. What do you feel Begum?” Raziya glanced upwards and declared, “He will rule our land of Mazeristan but alas, I wont be alive to see it. May Allah’s will be done.” she breathed silently as she passed away.

Turning a blind eye
Irshaad would have been a doting father but he didn’t think he could take care of a child alone. Atleast that is what his parents kept telling him. He married a girl ten years younger than him. Even for their weak financial conditions, Irshaad’s good looks and noble nature had always been the talk of the town. Some days before the marriage the two families got together for an intense discussion. What had been the object of affection for both families had suddenly become a fulcrum on which the scales of the marriage stood. Hassan was discovered to be blind. The soon to be wedded girl’s family did not want Hassan’s cursed spirit to be anywhere around their daughter. The decision was tough to take but it was not unpredictable either. A father could not have made emotional ties with a son he had known only for two weeks. Atleast that is what Irshaad’s family told him. Hassan was left wrapped up in his mother’s clothes in the backyard of a mosque. The little boy was rather quiet and just twisted and turned in his mother’s dress without making any noise. It was only when he grew hungry after half a day that he started crying and was discovered by a street performer who adopted him and raised him like his son.

The Dancer
Hassan got his father’s good looks and mother’s talent. Even though he was blind and could not learn any formal dance style he had inherited a sense of rhythm from his mother and his movements had a poise and style that only a few dancers of Mazeristan could match. His adoptive father was a street performer and performed acrobatics to music and got Hassan to dance alongside as a sidekick but he knew it was Hassan’s charm that was fetching all the money and he was grateful for that. He put all possible efforts to hone his talent by asking his dancer friends to help teach Hassan. He also had a vision for Hassan. He felt that with the right kind of patronage he could get his talent to be showcased at the right venue and rake in big sums for the same. He made a conscious decision to perform at all places where a big personality was going to be present.

The Ugly Queen
Hassan found an admirer in the Queen of Mazeristan – Queen Sabrina. She saw Hassan dance at a royal function hosted by her court on the occasion of their army’s successfull occupation of another neighbouring country. Mazeristan was on its way to become one of the largest territory in the Middle East. The royals took extreme pride in showcasing their artists to fellow kings and queens. They made all attempts to reward and encourage exceptional artists so they could take pride in their ownership of such rare talent. Sabrina fell for Hassan’s charm. Sabrina had a huge ugly birth mark that ran across her face. She was heralded cruelly as the Ugliest queen that the world had ever had. She never knew a man who liked her. She tried to fill that void in her life by doing extremely good in her work of being the ruler of an aggressively expanding state. Hassan was unlike any man she had met before. Not only did she feel attracted towards him, she didnt feel any change in  Hassan’s behaviour when he talked to her. He treated her in the same loving way that he treated every person he talked to. But that was not enough for the queen.

The Giant Room
The Queen paid Hassan’s father a hefty sum and kept Hassan in a giant room in the palace. Though some called it being kept captive, she preferred the term artist in residence. Hassan was kept in isolation from the outside world and was given lessons in dance by the best dancers hired by the Queen. Hassan made huge progress as a dancer and Sabrina would host occasional parties to showcase his talent to the world. The reason for keeping Hassan captive was not solely to hone his talent. Sabrina had been consulting her doctor regarding Hassan’s vision and The doctor felt that he could cure him. Sabrina was scared of losing Hassan once he gained his sight and saw her ugly face. The idea was to keep him isolated from the rest of the world so that he never sees any other girl except Sabrina. The Doctor worked his magic on Hassan and gave him the gift of vision.

Outside the room
Hassan could see the world now but his world was confined to the spaces of the room that was alloted to him to live in and perform. The Queen ordered all girls to paint their faces black before they entered the room. It was her attempt to make sure that Hassan never sees any girl more beautiful than her. Sabrina could never get Hassan to be any more romantic towards her than he was to other girls. Months passed by with Hassan in the room and nothing transpired between the two of them. Hassan wanted to explore the world outside his room. He stole one of the maid servant’s clothes and hid his face with one end of his cloth and fled the palace dressed as a maid.

The Sale
As he walked through the city he was amazed to see everything that came his way. He discovered that the world was much more beautiful than the mental images that he had conjured up in the dreams he had when he was blind. He heard music playing in the vicinity and couldn’t stop his feet from making their way towards it. What he saw was a huge gathering of rich men surrounding some women who were dancing. A lady walked upto Hassan and pulled him saying, “What are you doing standing in the crowd. Come and Do your work. Dance!” The lady probably mistook him for someone else because Hassan was wearing a girl’s clothing which seemed to bear an uncanny resembalance to the other dancer’s attire. However, he did not mind performing with the girls. It was his first public performance since he had got sight and he wanted to know for himself how the audience reacted to him. The more he danced the more the audience let out heavy sighs in admiration. The rich Sheikhs had never seen such elegance in a man’s motion and they all started making bids to purchase Hassan. Hence Hassan was sold to King Suhail for a sum of 2000 gold coins.

The Ritual
Sheikh took Hassan to his country and groomed him to acquaint him with royal behaviour. Hassan the seductress would sit in the bed while four men accompanied Suhail showering rose petals on him as he made his entry to Hussain’s room. Suhail embraced Hassan and they discovered love that neither of them knew existed. While this ritual continued for several months, one day Hassan refused to give in. He sat upset in one corner of the room refusing to talk to Suhail. Suhail pleaded forgiveness for anything that he might have done inadverntly to hurt Hassan. He kept asking him what he could do to ameliorate the situation. Giving in to Suhail’s requests, Hassan asked him to invade Mazeristan if he wanted to continue with their love ritual any more.

The Queen’s Oracle
Sabrina didnt know where Hassan had vanished. All her efforts to find him had gone in vain. She was a heart broken women destroyed in love with little interest in war. Meanwhile, Sabrina came to know of King Suhail’s advancement towards her territory. She would have never been afraid of any war as such but her spies told her that Suhail was fighting more ferociously than ever and seemed destined to win. Sabrina asked her Oracle for advice and the Oracle said, “Don’t worry. Mazeristan is destined to be ruled by a Queen.”

The War
Suhail’s army defeated Sabrina’s and conquered Mazeristan. Suhail, oblivious to their past, asked Hassan what he wanted to do with Sabrina. Hassan said, “Dont kill her like you kill your enemies. Just make her blind.” And it was done. Hot rods of iron were used to take her vision. She kept screaming all the while, “Mazeristan is destined to be ruled by a Queen! Mazeristan is destined to be ruled by a Queen!”

The Marriage
In a rather peculiar ceremony, Suhail made his love for Hassan public by marrying him and gifting him Mazeristan. King Suhail and his Queen Hassan lived happily ever after.

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The purists among you might argue that this is not pulp fiction and honestly, I would not know how to retaliate. My understanding of the genre is very little. Mostly acquired through a few short stories.

Zen Chicken

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I gave up eating non-vegetarian food a while ago. It is not the first time I have given it up  though. Every once in a while something happens that makes me realize that it is a cruel act of violence. But then eventually that feeling subdues and I go back to eating chicken. I would like to make it clear that I am not a crazy chicken lover. And so I don’t have cravings for chicken during my periods of abstinence and hence it is easy for me to give up chicken. For me chicken is like any other vegetarian food item. Just more filling.

I don’t know if you are used to the ways of a hostel mess. The thing with mess food is that you are bound within a given number of options as to what to eat, however shitty it might be. So I reach this mess, really hungry and see what is being served. Now comes the dillema. There’s this shitty gravy potato curry that I absolutely hate the sight of and then there is this chicken curry. Now I don’t know what to do. Its been only 3 months since I gave up chicken. I had to make a choice there and then before the 3 guys infront of me in the queue moved. You can’t really contemplate at long lenghts standing in a mess queue. There’s a reason Newton thought of gravity when an apple fell on him as he stared into space under an apple tree and not when gravy spilled over from his plate while he was in line in a technical university’s mess queue. It would have been easier to discover gravity with gravy all around by the way. Shit joke I know.

So here we are chicken. Shall I eat you or not? 3 months ago my mother had sent me to a poultry farm to get chicken. This was my first time doing it. Standing inside Ranawat Poultry Farm, all I could see was blood and sick chicken bred only for the sole purpose of consumption. Rich in flesh but poor in strength. There was this one hen which was wobbling up and down while walking as it tried to flee from the cage but eventually fell down and was picked up by the butcher and slaughtered. The cries and the blood – poultry farm is for sure not a place for healthy upbringing of a weak hearted man and a weak legged chicken. That was the day I gave up eating chicken.

So here we are chicken. What am I to do? Eat the filthy looking potato curry and feel miserable in the stomach or eat the edible looking chicken curry and feel miserable in the heart ?

Fuck you chicken. You ain’t my son. I am eating you.

Now I dip the spoon inside the container and stir it hoping to cup in a chunky piece. I was very hungry. Naa! Not this one. Looks too bony. Aaah! This is perfect. Juicy and tender. Yet not very slimy. I pick three pieces and take a seat.

So here we are chicken. No hard feelings. Just for survival. I tear a small piece of my roti (Indian bread, as you – my blog’s foreign readers call it) and take a piece of chicken and put it blissfully in my mouth. There it is! I have broken my pledge of not eating chicken… or NOT!

To my surprise/shock what I thought was chicken curry turned out to be Kadi Pakoda

You know how people have their moments of realization in lives when something changes the way they look at life and then their life is no longer the same. This was one such moment for me. I realized how I don’t have any belif set in life and that my decisions are mostly governed by what is convenient at that moment. Before I come to terms with my shortcomings I wanted to rant against the way the universe decided to reveal it to me! Newton gets an apple tree. Buddha gets a Mahabodhi tree. What do I get? A freaking Pakoda! Nice one Universe! Well done showing me how little my life and contribution to the world will be so early in my life.

What am I gonna do with my life now? Now that I know my life isnt worth much to look forward to I started thinking about the present. How do I continue living my life like this? Even though it turned out to be a pakoda, in my head I am a carnivore who just ate chicken. I feel guilty. I told a friend about it and he said I was over reacting.

Over reacting? Over reacting my ass!

Try spiking a vegetarian’s Paneer Tikka with Chicken Tikka pieces and see him freaking out like a mad donkey on fire. So for them a crime committed in real is more grievous than the crime committed in the head. I say both are equally bad.

So the whole experience boils to some deep philosophical questions.

  • Is a crime committed in the head crime ?
  • Is fantasizing about a hot model/actress, cheating on your wife/girlfriend ?
  • Is eating Pakoda thinking that it is chicken breaking your vow ?
  • If you die in the Matrix do you die in the real world too ?

If you answered No to the last one, I’m afraid to break it to you then – you took the Blue pill :|