Definitely Not This Article

My beloved readers, I appeal to you as both a former editor, and a longtime reader of things: if you are married, please stop calling your wife ‘the wife’.1 Or your son ‘the son’. ‘My wife’ works fine.

At its best, this behaviour merely suggests a sort of delusion in which you imagine that nobody else has a wife and yours is the only one in the world. This is bad enough. But things get truly awful when two people start doing this on an email thread or message board. For example:

X: The wife likes bananas, so we shop at Sarojini Nagar.

Y: Everyone in my family likes peanuts, so we shop in Rajouri Garden.

Z: The wife likes catfish, so we shop at Alaknanda Complex.

Aadisht: I like Evergreen kesar rasmalai!

At the same time, thanks to their use of the definite article, I am imagining that it’s the same wife for X and Z. Like a timeshare. And when I know the wives in question and they are delightful ladies, this makes it all the more awkward.

So please, use ‘my’ instead of ‘the’.

1: Technically this applies to ‘the husband’ also, but empirically I’ve never seen anybody saying ‘the husband’. Perhaps this is because they say ‘the hubby’ instead, at which point my brain wipes away the memory of what they’ve just said to preserve me from the horror.

A Requiem for Exes

I have been thinking about exes. Not mine, but other people’s.

Specifically, I have been thinking about the exes whom I never got to meet.

In some cases, this was because the person whom I did know had a relationship when they were living somewhere else, and then broke up before I ever got to meet the partner. Sometimes it wasn’t even geographical separation, but never getting to meet the partner for one reason or the other.

In other cases, it was reading somebody’s blog, and over the months or years, seeing the partner once referred to, change from name to allusion, and then vanish altogether. And made all the more poignant because the ex had no online presence, no blue link underlining their name, to give them an identity other than once partner, then ex, now cipher. The same applies to Twitter and Facebook, I suppose.

What happened to all these exes I never knew as persons, but only as partners, I wonder. Did they take the breakup badly? Did they move on? Did they see it as an opportunity to become aggressively single and Lothario their way through life? Go to the Rocky Mountains and shoot grizzly bears? I shall never know, particularly when the breakup was either messy or embarrassing.

Perhaps they’ve all gone to the same place, and Scott Pilgrim style, formed a League of Evil Exes.

The Taxman and my Grandfather

Two weeks ago, the Hindustan Times had an interview of Arun Jaitley, in which he made this depressing statement:

Shouldn’t the taxmen have some idea about the correlation between your income and expenditure or the correlation between your income and lifestyle?

As far as I’m concerned, no they bloody shouldn’t. Accepting reluctantly that I do have to fork over about a quarter of my income in order to provide for my government’s questionable expenditure choices (an airline? really?), I draw the line at said government also demanding to know the complete details of my lifestyle on threat of financial penalty. Is nothing private? Can I no longer buy web hosting, Cities: Skylines, or The Princess Diaries XI: Royal Wedding without Jaitley poking his greasy nose into the affair? Moreover, if there is already sales tax and service tax, why do the taxmen give a damn about the correlation between income and expenditure? And as long as I pay everything on time and accurately, why is my lifestyle under suspicion from the get go?

This excessive preoccupation with other people’s lifestyles reminds me of the story of how my grandfather disliked Jammu.

My grandfather was a great man who climbed out of poverty thrice. The reason once wasn’t enough is that the first time he did it, Partition pushed him back into destitution, and the second time he did it, his sleazy younger brother pushed him back into poverty. But he kept going, like Chumbawumba.

On his third climb out of poverty, he was living in Jammu and running a small business, which had its office not too far away from his home. So rather than pack a lunch box, he would walk home every day for lunch, and then walk back to work.

One day, on his walk home, he was accosted by a stranger who told him enthusiastically, “Dharam Swarup ji, the matar pulao at your home smells excellent!”

He himself hadn’t know what was being made for lunch, but a stranger did (even if the reason for this was the prominent aroma of Jammu rice). He didn’t have any clue who the stranger was, but the stranger knew who he was. And this complete stranger had no compunctions about accosting him on the road.

Eventually my grandfather moved to Delhi, and as he was a great man, made sure that he brought all his relatives along with him. And for many years to come, he told these relatives (who then told me) this story to explain how rotten Jammu was, and how it was full of busybodies who kept sticking their noses into other people’s business (and kitchen windows).

Presumably this is not merely a Jammu problem, but an Indian small town problem. Which would explain why Arun Jaitley, despite having left his small town forty years ago to study, practice law, and practice politics in Delhi, is still obsessively peering into other people’s lifestyles. Woe.

Sugar! Tolstoi! KRK Sir!

A couple of weeks ago, I read this Hindustan Times oped by Manu Joseph. I call it an oped merely because it appeared on the Opinion page. It would be far more appropriate to call it a masterful piece of trolling of anybody who enjoys sweets:

Sugar operates in the same way as evil because it is. It is an allure that hides deep inside culture, and in the notions of love, celebration, freedom, sharing and being endearingly flawed. And in our fundamental right to mediocrity. The only time human beings question the virtues of perfection and excellence is when you take sugar away from them.

There are multitudes within that paragraph. The correlation of sugar and evil; which is hyperbolic by itself but so understated in the context it appears in. The contemptuous scorn for “being endearingly flawed”, which I too find annoying when I find that particular self-projection infecting my Twitter timeline. The rage at love, celebration, and freedom all being hijacked by bad dietary habits. And that is just one paragraph. The rest of the oped pours the same scorn on Aditya Chopra movies’ suspension of logic, fruit juices, the moral panic over Maggi, and… pretty much everything else, actually.

What explains all this scorn and rage? And why is Manu Joseph angry at everything? Why are so many of his opeds what the good old days of blogging used to call puke fests? After giving the matter much thought on my commute (which runs from South Delhi to Sonepat so I had lots of time to give it thought), I was rewarded with an insight. The insight was this:

Manu Joseph and Aakar Patel are the Safe-For-Work versions of Kamaal R Khan (hereinafter referred to as KRK sir).

The rest of this post is full of bad language. Kindly proceed accordingly.

Continue reading “Sugar! Tolstoi! KRK Sir!”

Ideas, Events, People

Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and lesser minds discuss people.

This was one of those homilies from childhood that I encountered again a while ago somewhere on the internet, and I realised that as with most homilies, it doesn’t really stand up to application in the real world.

Because if the ideas you are discussing are on the lines of:

  • Vaccination causes autism
  • Genetically Modified foodstuffs cause cancer
  • Taj Mahal is actually a Siva temple called Tejo Mahalaya
  • Muslim men are seducing Hindu women into marriage for nefarious purposes1
  • Jan Lok Pal will solve all corruption everywhere in India

then honestly, you and society at large are probably better off talking about the people on last night’s episode of Bigg Boss. In fact we should celebrate and praise Bigg Boss as a sort of storm water drain that takes conspiracists away from the high streets of policy discourse.

1: The worst thing about this particular conspiracy theory is that it never gives an explanation of what Muslim men get out of this.