Word of the Week #118:

Sinister

It was only tonight that I realised that I had not really spoken much on the blog about the fact that I am left-handed.

I think it is rather odd… After all, being a lefty is an immutable part of my identity, but at the same time, it does not come up that often in the normal course of a conversation, right?

Think about the last time you heard someone say, “As a left-handed person, this is what I think about this issue.” It just does not happen.

However, as with any demographic minority, there is always some bias, intentional or otherwise, that we have to deal with growing up.

Things as basic as scissors are made with the assumption that the user will be right-handed. It may seem inconsequential to us as adults, but you cannot even begin to imagine how traumatic it can be to an eight-year-old sitting in art class trying to understand just why he cannot get the scissors to work.

Yeah, it took me half a decade to realise that I’d have to use it with my right hand to make it work, but to be honest, I no longer care…

Even pens and pencils are not designed for use, and let us not even talk about chalk boards and white boards and spiral-bound notebooks…

As a young adult in college, it did not take me as long to realise why the drafting equipment would not support me, and how to compensate. This was largely because I knew I could ask other lefty friends who had done it before.

Even now, most tables I use are asymmetrical. As a result, half of the space remains unused.

Such impedance is always annoying, but after several years of bumbling about, it can certainly be circumvented.

What is a much larger annoyance is the extreme stupidity of the people we meet all across the world.

If I could get an extra mark every time an invigilator asked me, “Oh, do you really write like that,” I might have actually made the cut-off for Delhi University.

“Yes, of course, I really do write like. What did you think, I’m doing a bit, here in the examination room? Moron…”

Of course, I never really said that, but I assume my glare would have sufficed.

I remember one morning, I must have been 10 or so, when a shopkeeper refused to take money from me because I offered it with my left hand. Give it with your right hand, he told me, and of course, when he said right, he meant correct. I did what was the natural thing to do in the situation: I left the cash midair, glaring into the man’s eyes till the coins clanged onto the floor, and just walked away.

When I look back now, I feel lucky to have had family and teachers who did understand what it meant to be left-handed. I have met others who have not been as lucky.

There are many who erroneously believe that being left-handed is a disease, and needs to be corrected. A forced change in the handedness of a person, particularly at an extremely young age, can have catastrophic repercussions. Since handiwork is controlled by the same part of the brain as speech, such a change is often accompanied by speech disorders. Learning disabilities are also a common side-effect.

And then, of course, are the morons who actually believe that lefties are unlucky or inauspicious or whatever. To quote Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, “When I come to power, those people will be sterilised.”

I recently attended a Pride Carnival, and while I was generally quite, well, proud to be there, I could not stop this one thought from continually nagging at the back of my head.

For a society that still struggles with the idea of “left-handedness”, concepts like “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” might be far too advanced.

Now that I think about it, there is a simpler way to explain these things to the more moronic parts of our society:

Some people are different. That is all. It is not a disease. It is not a curse. It is not something to be outgrown or corrected.

Different is not wrong.

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Word of the Week #116:

Pivot

Now, before you get your hopes too high, let me just clarify that this is not a Ross Geller appreciation post.

Although, now that I think about it, that too is long overdue…

No, today we talk about this one trick that politicians and their spokespersons use when asked a difficult question.

The truly inept ones will start by lying, and end up looking foolishly out of depth. Of course, for some individuals, this is their go-to move.

The skilled ones, however, will follow a simple routine to dance around the discussion until the interviewer and the audience are too confounded to carry on.

I could teach you how to do it, if you’d like…

Step #0: Catch the interviewer, or the camera, in a dead eye stare. Establish a position of benevolent dominance.

Step #1: Catch a keyword, or a phrase, from the question and shoot off into an unrelated tangent. This way, it looks like you have answered the question, but you have not.

Now, most interviewers, either trying to seem polite or adhering to a strict timeline, will let the question go. Some reporters, however, are more tenacious than others, and will keep repeating the question. What do you do now?

Step #1 (a): As a novice, you might try to dodge the specifics and continue to move farther and faster on the tangent. This may exasperated the interviewer enough to lose balance, or simply leave the audience too disinterested to care.

Step #1 (b): Once you are experienced enough, you will be able to take this chance to paint the interviewer as a biased, and rude, opponent, instead of being a neutral observer. This is meant to sow seeds of mistrust towards the media, and will usually polarise the audience.

Step #2: Blame it on the opposition. This is, of course, the most basic tactic but its efficacy is almost alarming. Irrespective of whether this blame is justified, the audience will be distracted from the facts.

Step #3: Equate the interviewer with the opposition. Firmly establish a bias against yourself. YOU are the real victim here.

Step #4: Counter. Since you have already established that the media is the opposition and the opposition is guilty, you can now force your interviewer on the defensive with some sharp questions and allegations of your own.

  • If he tries to dissociate himself from your allegations, he undercuts your opponents in the process.
  • If he tries to justify your opponents’ actions, he further consolidates the perception of bias.
  • If he tries to dodge the questions or deny the allegations, he seems evasive and unreliable.

In any of the above, you are the winner.

Step #5: Accept your victory, and assure the audience that things are better with you in charge of the situation.

See. Simple, right?

Of course, don’t blame me if you try this on your college professor and get into trouble, okay?

Class dismissed.

Word of the Week #114:

Scourge

Have you heard of Murphy’s law?

I have mentioned it once before on this blog, so I would expect that you have…

The precise wording still remains unclear, but the general interpretation is that everything that can go wrong, does.

Now, I generally stay as meticulous as I possibly can, and try to keep the margin for error so slim that the consequences do not pile up.

However, all it takes is one jolt to put everything way out of order.

I cannot quite trace where this sequence began, but I have been feeling that these days, whenever I try to do something, whatever can go wrong just does.

For instance, every afternoon, I go to play basketball at court significantly far from my home, and between the extreme heat all afternoon and the kids’ training all evening, I get precisely an hour to play.

Now, as it is, my margin for error is already not great. But what can go wrong? Well, apparently, quite a lot…

Sometimes, I will get dressed, put on my socks, and be half a dozen steps from the door, when splash! I step into a pool of fresh, warm pee.

Yeah, our kids are not entirely trained, yet. Have I talked about them earlier? I should.

Now, cleaning it up, then washing my foot, luckily not feet, and changing the socks takes up roughly a quarter of the hour. Significant.

Sometimes when I do not step into pee, my vehicle just refuses to start.

Of course, my vehicle is ancient, so I tend to include a buffer for that. But when it is so broken that I have to go to a mechanic, as I already have twice this week, that is more than 25 minutes easily.

If my vehicle does start after the first few tries, and I get to the court right on time, I should get an entire hour to play, right?

Well, not if it starts to rain with little to no warning. Not enough to actually cool down the scorching streets, of course. No, it will only rain enough to leave the court unplayable for just about an hour.

And, if I do not step in pee, manage to get there on time, and it does not rain, what happens?

Well, a guy manages to jump onto my leg, breaking my knee and leaving me bedridden for over a week.

Now, on the days that a guy does not break my knee, and of course also the day that he does, I will come home drenched in sweat, longing for a nice shower. That is not too much to ask, right?

Considering how often I have stood under the shower with not water raining down on me but the realisation that, well, the tanks are empty, apparently it is.

When the tanks are not empty, I go into the shower, let the water wash over my skin, and just as I am starting to work up a decent lather, the door bell rings. Repeatedly. Incessantly.

Having washed myself as much and as fast as I could have, I come running down the stairs, only to realise that my Dad is indeed home, and has answered it already.

And if this does not happen, my shower is completed without any incident, what happens?

I come out of the shower, a towel draped over my head, leisurely wiping my hair, when I suddenly realise that those are not droplets  of water that I feel creeping down my shoulder.

I am, however, a moment too late, as  I sense a dozen successive bites across my shoulders and back.

Freaking ants! Sounds ridiculous, right? I mean, what are even the odds?

Already a couple of days have passed since that particular incident, and I still have no clues how those ants ended up in my towel.

Now, in the face of such odds, it would be understandable if one were to grow dejected.

However, I have found that the uplifting words of a great man, one Dr. Ken Jeong, always get me up and running.

Not today, kind sir. Not today.


PS: I have been trying to take a shower for the past 4 hours. It would appear that the odds are against us, tonight… 

Word of the Week #113:

Nostalgia

I don’t often take vacations. The kind of work that I do and the kind of life that I live just does not afford me that kind of luxury.

Of course, one could argue that, given how flexible and balanced my life already is, I might not really need a vacation.

Well, there is some merit to that premise, but there are several more details to consider.

Firstly, balanced may be a term you can use to describe my work schedule now, but that was far from true till the last summer.

Secondly, no matter how much you love something, fatigue does eventually set in. Taking no real breaks for a span of four years can be strenuous for even the most tenacious of us.

So, when I hurt my knee while playing basketball last week—a severe strain to the lateral ligaments—and the orthopaedist asked me to rest, I decided to take a break from work as well. Just take a week to relax…

Seeing how I tend to overwork throughout the monsoon, as there is little else to do, the timing could not have been better.

It is still a forced vacation, as each one I take tends to be, but it has been quite fun nonetheless.

I finally got to take my old PlayStation out of its box; the first time in several months. As it would turn out, NFS Most Wanted is still as fun as it was almost a decade ago, though the races somehow seems slightly more difficult than I can remember. Also, the way my shoulders and lower back start aching after just a couple of hours is an entirely new experience.

I often draw some flak for calling myself old, but the truth is, I do feel older. Things do change, as we grow older, and we often do not realise just how much.

One of the things I have noticed is that people seem to stop doing what they used to love doing as kids. I cannot think of any reasonable explanations for it, to be honest. Excuses, perhaps, but no explanations.

If you stop having fun, what is even the point of being alive, right? If you know something is fun, why postpone doing it? It is not like we have forever to wait…

So, this week, I plan to have some fun. Perhaps a little extra, just to compensate for the entire year.

Replaying NFS was fun, but now my thumbs feel weird, so I have to stop. Perhaps I will rewatch an old movie I love. Or perhaps I shall reread an old Agatha Christie that I have not touched for a few years.

There is just a different pleasure to redoing things you love, right?

My room is cosy and my heart is happy. This is going to be a good week.

Word of the Week #112:

Ammunition

People who know me would know that I don’t drive. Well, to be very honest, I can’t.

Of course, I’m talking about driving a car, or anything larger than that.

I’m quite fine with a moped, actually.

And on the basketball court? Just get the ball on the right wing, crossover to the left, drive and score!

Ain’t nobody that can guard me, Boy! 

However, I cannot drive a car.

In our society, I hardly see the need for one, to be honest.

Sure, there are moments when I wish I had car. It would, in an ideal world, make things so much easier. But in the real world, it is just not worth the trouble.

For one, it just seems like a huge responsibility, you know. When you possess a car, you are responsible not just for your own safety, but also for all the people around you.

Not to mention, it is just not an easy thing to do. The driving courses are not nearly as thorough as you would hope, nor are the tests as stringent.

And, apart from just driving, maintenance is also a headache. A badly maintained car could, quite literally, blow up in your face with little to no warning.

There are very few things you can encounter on your way home that are as dangerous as an irresponsible, inept individual with a big, fast car.

And entrusting my life to a random stranger is the last thing I’d do. Literally…

Now, when I say this, I do not mean to undermine the role cars have played in making our society what it is today, nor how we continue to perceive them.

A cool spy with his favourite car, with some sort of an explosion in the background, is probably the first memory I have of Hollywood movies.

After all, I was just 3, when I watched Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies.

So, I do get it… Cars are cool. Cars are fun. Cars make you feel powerful. And all that is fine.

However, I don’t see why you should not have to answer a few simple questions to ensure my safety, and that of everyone else who may encounter you along the way.

  1. Do you really need a car?
  2. Do you really need that car? Surely something smaller and safer should do the job, right?
  3. Are you capable of handling that car?
  4. Do you have any history of substance abuse?
  5. Mental health problems?
  6. Neurological issues?

It is not unreasonable to have these questions about cars and the people who drive them, right?

It is a matter of personal and public safety, after all.

I don’t think anybody would really disapprove.

And yet, replace ‘car’ with ‘gun’, ‘drive’ with ‘shoot’ and ‘moped’ with ‘camera’, and suddenly you get a highly controversial political statement, right?

Feels like an attack on your Second Amendment Rights, little American Idiot with an AR-15 in each hand?

At least my attacks don’t leave dozens of innocent school kids dead.

Word of the Week #106:

Interlude

Okay, we did have something interesting, and also quite important, to discuss today, as I mentioned last week. However, it looks like we would not be able to get to that just yet, as a little news has popped up that made us want to take a quick break.

You see, the good folks over at WordPress were kind enough to inform us that we have now complete two whole years online. Now, I have no reason to doubt them, but it is odd how 106 weekly posts seem to amount to two years.

Nevertheless, we thought it might be interesting to pause for a moment, and take a look back at the old hits. There have been some pretty good one, haven’t there?

#1: Procrastinate

After all, we never forget our first, do we?

#11: Culture

Oh, this one remains one of my personal favourites.

#16: Conformity

“One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong.”

— Ernie, Sesame Street

 

#29: Fortitude

Sometimes, the short ones are the strongest, you know.

#32: Pinata

Damn! This one went really wrong really fast, eh?

#34: Mitigation

This might have been the only time when I willingly and publicly praised the actions of our government. After all, credit where credit is due, right?

#37: Resurgence

A first-hand account of our trials and eventual triumph at the Delhi Comic Con, ’16.

 

#41: Eerie

This was our immediate reaction to the unusually creepy season finale of Sherlock.

#50: Matrimony

“Do you swear to keep mocking this ancient, outdated tradition till death sets you free?”
“I do!”

#60: Morbid

You know what? There are moments like these when I will creep even myself out…

#73: Ornithology

Who here doesn’t occasionally indulge in bird watching, right?

#74: Blitzkrieg

Well, this was the end of an era, to be quite honest. Book Two, Baby!

#77: Credit

You know, the time we discussed whether I get loans…

#80: Monster [Guest Post]

Not taking any names, but I know for a fact that some readers actually cried reading this one…

#81: Scavenger

If you see something, say something. Get it?

#83: Cataclysm

Every heart-touching story can use a sprinkling of some wordplay, right?

#86: Caesura

This talks about the night poetry touched me… You know, in the good way…

#89: Contraceptive

Well, even if the government does not want to talk about it, we will.

#105: Nuance

Yeah, I do believe this last one was quite special.


Of course, if you have any other ones on your mind, do let us know…

We will be back next week…

Word of the Week #89:

Contraception

Well, I am not sure what prompted our enlightened leaders to take this step, but here we go:

No child’s play: Condom ads banned from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in India

NEW DELHI: The government on Monday strictly asked TV channels not to air advertisements selling and promoting condoms because these are “indecent especially for children” and can create “unhealthy practices” among them.

Yes. This is smart. After all, nothing screams “unhealthy practices” like using a condom, right?

Hurling abuses at one another, making galling jokes about women and the elderly under the garb of comedy, and spewing vitriol at those who disagree with us, both literally and figuratively, still find place on primetime television. After all, isn’t that the true cornerstone of our society?

But condoms are “indecent especially for children”…

And, yes, this is a country that already has a larger population than it can sustain, where sex-education, and really any rational discussion about sex, is taboo, and where medical facilities are sporadic at best.

FUN FACT: While five million abortions occur annually in India, only 10% of those are performed within the structures of a high-quality hospital.

Let us consider this graphic:

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 12.08.36 AM

And these are official stands taken by the teachers and administrators of the states, not some random guys sitting under the banyan tree… Of course, those may be the same people.

The thing about sex education is, if you don’t get it, you will never realise how much you need it. Therefore, the opposition to it does make some sense.

After all, we all fear what we do not understand, right?

Anyway, in case someone is wondering, let us take a quick rundown of all the places where discussion about safe sex does not occur:

  • Home
  • Primary School
  • High School
  • College
  • Public places
  • Urinals, or at least one would hope
  • Television

So, what do we have left? Newspapers? Radio? Yeah, if we were trying to reach middle-aged men, those mediums would be perfect.

For everyone else, we seem to have only one path forward: This, right here.

The internet remains, in most regards, the land of the free. Let us use it to talk about the right things.


PS: To the ones who would counter that some ads did take it too far, I would like to say this: Would you ban water if one man drowned to death?