29 June 2009

Death of a Phone

The moral of this story is crystal clear: jhagralu women are injurious to cellular health.

No, I’m not a misogynist. Neither am I one of those people who blame others without rhyme or reason, just because it happens to be convenient to pass the buck. No, I’m a reasonable, rational, sensible man who comes to an opinion after carefully weighing all possible circumstantial evidence. I have the authority of experience backing me, so I say: women are injurious to mobile phones.

First it was Cynthia. Now, it really was Cynthia who initiated me into text messaging; infact forced me into it by messaging at all sorts of inconvenient hours. I had this idea that if somebody’s taking the trouble to call or message you it’s basic human courtesy to reply.

And so I replied. Replied and replied and replied till I finally got the hang of typing a full message and successfully sending it within a minute. My speed, as she complemented me one day, was now tolerably decent.

It was, of course, this very messaging and the misunderstandings it created that led to a nice big jhagra.

So far so good. Dear beloved phone still alright. It was after reconciliation came about that weird things started happening. For about a week or so, the messages she would send would arrive dot on time but those sent by others would take hours upon hours to reach me. I consulted experts-my technologically minded brother and Mos-but to no avail. To this day I call it the B- effect.

A dark omen of things to come.

Next was a little tiff-it cannot qualify as a full blown jhagra-with the Stage Queen. Within a span of about 5 minutes I received some 10 frightening messages. Now, my phone is a simple, sasta-sundar-tikau Classic model with a set of inexorable limitations. If you’re typing a message and another one comes, you have to be extremely careful in patiently guiding the highlight to “Ignore” and pressing “Ok”. A chance mistake and all your carefully typed reply disappears. Often, even if you take all the precautions, your reply will vanish nonetheless and you’ll be left staring blankly at the black-bubble colour display. Just like me, my phone has a mind of its own that rebels at the very thought of external control and supervision.

Anyway, as I would type a reply and be about to take the highlight to send another message would come. As luck would have it, the phone was not in a mood to cooperate and so in spite of all possible precautions I was reduced to typing the same message for about 5 times. As I typed the sixth, the last nail in the coffin was hammered- I didn’t think you’d ignore me.

I was paying more attention than I have to any set of messages in my entire life.

Finally, the next morning, I got back to replying. Having learnt my lesson from last night’s disaster, I now wisely saved messages before sending them so that in case the phone became Satanic and exercised too much free will or the network played truant, I wouldn’t have to type the entire saga again.

Very wise. But phones will be phones and women will be women. Unknown to me, all the harm had already been done. The matter got resolved, but the phone took it all to heart and decided to not let go of the messages saved in its Outbox. Those 7 or 8 messages are still there, defying all efforts to open, leave aside delete, them. This was the P- effect.

‘Never mind’, I reassured myself, ‘What if the Outbox’s not functioning? Heaven help me, I can still send and receive messages!’

Sometimes, even heaven conspires for your downfall…

I must’ve been under a bad shadow, my stars under some evil influence, for how else can I explain my own Guardian Angel making a Faust of me? Alas, be it me, be it the loo, ‘twas to be, ‘twas to be! A jhagra, dramatic on a totally different plane, and my poor phone left bristling with indignation. Just as I messaged “I want you to be happy!” the K- effect went came into being: the phone decided that it had had enough of all the drama and the cheesy cheeky messages and B-grade shayari it had been exposed to throughout its career. Renouncing the world of text messaging, it relapsed into a mode of defiant sanyasa, meditating, perhaps, on the great ills of teenaged existence…

So, here I stand. This is me, this is you: there is somewhere else I’d rather be. I’d rather have my phone returned to its primal innocence, the spic and span way it was before all these falls. I’d rather have it working, cooperating with me than sulking away in silent defiance like this…

All my pleas, however, have been put on hold. The Phone Devta heeds not my calls and even as I type it networks the remaining signal of my phone’s battery to its own anant connection…

Ah well, such is life, such are phones, such are women…if anything, remember, as my mother said, this: never have a jhagra with a woman on your phone!

15 June 2009

Me and Mine: A Plurality of Forms

To Shefali Bhakuni
(Because a fascinating ass would never let me be and a silly ass would never believe me)
What is in a name? A name shapes one’s perception of the self, of identity and communal belonging. A name places one in a socio-cultural milieu, defining one’s roots and, more often than not, neatly docketing one in ethic and racial compartments.

There is something rotten about names…

I, like a majority of us, love my name, but even as one thinks of a name (of a person one knows) one conjures certain ideas and images which one’s subconscious consciously associates with him/her. This, of course, is but natural, for it is in us humans an inherent cognitive faculty which links names and faces with certain perceptions and ideas. These perceptions, which may be acquired or inherited, perform this self same task of definition and categorisation.

So far, so good. What irks me is that after forming an opinion, a majority of people restrict themselves to that single image, idea of a person. They allow their perceptions to ossify and think of people as only this or that, as a particular, distinct and more or less unchangeable form or personality. In trying to define and compartmentalise people as neatly and efficiently as possible, they tend to forget, or overlook, the basic mutability of individual human personality.

What we are is what we choose. There is no natural or primal state- except the nothingness of a babe that is. Exploiting the building blocks of examples and precepts made available by society we create ourselves upon the foundation of inherited genetic traits. Of course, these ‘creations’ are always influenced by society in certain more or less predictable forms. There are people who are shaped directly by their surroundings and social group of family, peers and colleagues and there are people who adopt the I-don’t-care attitude and feign independence from societal pressures- for the most these latter are remarkably sensitive and are greatly affected in subtle, often contradictory ways by societal input, doing and becoming the opposite of what others around them want/suggest.

Broadly speaking, childhood, teenage and young adulthood may be considered the most dynamic years of a person’s life, physically, emotionally and intellectually. It is during these impressionable ages that the human animal evolves the most and, under influence, plants various forms and designs into his/her persona till inspired experimentation sediments into the quasi-stasis of middle age. Of course, after settling into a personality form/type a majority of us rigidify to maintain the status quo for considerable stretches of time- often lifetimes. We then experience occasional bouts when the old urge for change materialises in ‘new looks’, those small periods of experimentation which are soon absorbed into the continuum of monolithic monotony.

In face of this near-complete universality exceptions inevitably suffer. Those of us who experiment or change have to face a barrage of unwelcome criticism, most of it odiously unkind. Our inherent subconscious cultural prejudices and suspicions against change lead us to consciously browbeat this difference into submissive absorption, so much so that even those of us relatively more receptive to change often fall into this trap of inflexibility. Doing so, we forget that what we perceive as natural and given in ourselves and others are in fact our own creations and can be altered at will. Indeed, such is the malleability of human nature that it will change marvellously under pressure and though each individual has his/her own breaking point-and the range varies-but each of us does give in at some point or the other.

In light of this, it will be pertinent to consider the common (mis)conception about natural state(s). One often comes across homilies or adjuncts advising us to ‘be ourselves’, to ‘top pretending’ and be our ‘natural selves’. Social networking sites are choking with testimonials and profiles of people who’re either acclaimed by their friends for ‘being themselves’ or who openly display their intense dislike of ‘hypocrites’ who ‘pretend to be something they’re not’. What ‘being oneself’ means is something which never crosses their narrow, blinkered minds.

After all, what one perceives as one’s ‘natural state’ is just one of the infinite possibilities which has been for some time past in favour. This misguided notion leads one and all to confuse it as natural and given and consequently view any change as an unnatural disturbance to be rectified at once. Indeed, we all get so involved in the idea of being ourselves that in the constant endeavour to live up to that image we forget that the self same idol can at any time be altered, or even altogether replaced. Many people suffer under this delusion, that they cannot change themselves for the better, and mistaking the temporality of existence for the permanence of Bhagvad truth fail to try hard enough to improve their lot.

Therefore, the demise of a quasi-permanent natural order of being makes the very idea of duplicity, so heavily demonised in our cultures, patently superfluous, for one’s changed form is not as much of a detachable mask or hat as a whole skin with accompanying blood and bones- a manifestation of our boundless nature and not some extraneous addition. Furthermore, the beliefs which make us punish differences of personality are really culturally imposed barriers which cloud our vision to the unending diversity of our race, the only thing ‘natural’ to the homo sapiens.

The discovery of change-for convenience’s sake ‘form’-is often startling and the resulting recourse to charges of duplicity and perversity understandable and, to an extent, justifiable. This is not a value judgement on the ends to which perceived duplicity, or change of form, is, and may be, put to. Instead, this is an iteration of the belief that we as a species need to wake up to the undeniable reality of our mutability and so move on-rather evolve-to a more advanced state of flexibility, understanding and acceptance.