February 16, 2014

The Toothpaste Conspiracy Theory

You going to the neighbour's kitchen?

Yes, I smell Mangalore style fish curry.

Can you get me some toothpaste?

What?

I asked if you could get some toothpaste on your way back.

Why should I get it?

I'm out of toothpaste. I thought I'll borrow some just for the day.

You go get it yourself. I don't like stealing things.

You steal food all the time!

That is different.

How is it different?

It's different because you're a human. And I'm a cat.

That is why I asked you to sneak in through their kitchen window, walk up to the attached bathroom and get the toothpaste. You can put it back in the same place once I am done.

Sorry I can't steal toothpaste. It's against my principles.

Stealing is not against your principles.

Stealing is not but toothpaste is. I don't believe in toothpaste.

What is there to “believe” in a toothpaste?

Why do you need toothpaste?

To brush my teeth.

Exactly. I don't believe in that.

You don't believe in brushing?

No. I am not against brushing. You should brush your teeth. Humans have always brushed their teeth. Not with the modern plastic bristled brushes you use today but with Neem twigs, rough cloth, pieces of leather, something or the other. Brushing is useful. Brushing is important. I am just not convinced about toothpaste.

Why?

Look at the statistics:


Correlation doesn't imply causality. Bad dental health in modern societies is because of the exceptionally high starch and sugar (and cola) content in our diet which our hunter-gatherer genes have not evolved to handle.

Alright, let me make an economics argument then:


What is this, a new conspiracy theory?

I'm not saying it is a conspiracy but think about it. In the last 20 years alone toothpaste companies have made your toothpaste green, blue, red, pink, orange, mint, peppermint, spearmint, vanilla mint, fennel, cinnamon, clove. They made it a transparent gel, half-gel half-paste, multi-flavored, multi-layered, multi-textured, added crystals, added fluoride, added sugar, added salt, added activated charcoal, bleaching agents, glycerin and a lot of other chemicals along with the the extra goodness of natural herbal extracts and then started removing them one by one saying sugar-free, low fluoride, no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no non-veg, no crystals, no glycerin, no bleaching agents... what exactly is going on there?

Do you really need those advertisements having futuristic dentist labs with transparent touchscreen control rooms, college boys with low self-esteem, hot chicks with creepy sparkling teeth, ocean surfing stunts, concerned mothers, lazy fathers, four out of five dentists, 3D graphics, sciencey jargon and that forever-alone germ?

What forever-alone germ?

hehe

Here's a fun fact. The toothpaste actually plays a very marginal role in your oral hygiene.

Marginal role?

Yeah, it is the physical action of the brush against your teeth that does all the cleaning. Scientific studies have shown that any abrasive agent like rock salt or activated charcoal will work just as fine as any toothpaste in the world.

So The toothpaste doesn't matter?

The toothpaste doesn't matter.

All that foam?

Totally non-functional.

The blue crystals?

Just a placebo.

The 24 hour freshness guarantee?

It's a bamboozle.

The sugarcane-ripping, green-apple biting strong teeth?

Total humbug.

Mouthwash?

An outright hoax.

Damn it!

I know.

That explains all the advertising. If the toothpaste companies do not advertise as aggressively as they do, we will all go back to a no toothpaste world and it would make no difference whatsoever.

Some things exist only because they sound good in an advertisement.

That is true.

I was going through your kitchen stuff the other day. There was a jar of Boost and it had some weird tasteless yellow and blue crystals in it. The label says that they are “Envita nutrients that give you 3X stamina”. Now I’m not an expert on nutrition but that sounds like bullshit. I mean how is something blue in color even edible?

You licked my Boost?

I do it all the time. Here's the interesting thing. I ripped apart a packet of Surf Excel. And even that had little blue crystals in it. In fact, the same shade of blue. And the same weird taste as well. The label says that they are “power surfactants that remove the toughest of stains” and I was thinking, “Wow… these are some versatile crystals!”

They're everywhere, G2. Facewash, toothpaste, soap, chewing gum, ice-cream, shampoo, shaving gel, energy drink powder... these blue crystals are everywhere.

I know. Procter & Gamble is using these blue crystals like Mallus use coconut.

Why are humans working on improving soap and toothpaste like it holds the key to the cure for cancer? Haven't you, as the most intelligent species ever to walk the earth, noticed that a "New & Improved Formula" makes NO DIFFERENCE whatsoever?

We know but advertising is not exactly a democratic medium. People don't get to choose the ads they want to watch.

I mean why can’t all humans arrive at a consensus saying, “Look. I think we have improved toothpaste enough. We don't really need green tea flavored toothpaste. Let’s put our limited energy and natural resources towards solving more important problems.”?

Oh, that's not gonna happen. It goes against the very logic of advertising. They're in the business of making us buy things we don't need with money we don't have. It is their duty to throw that shit.

You know what, you should protest against this system. Show them the finger. Boycott toothpaste. It'll be fun.

No, I'm not boycotting toothpaste.

You should.

Get out of here!

What is the big deal? Even Gautama Buddha never used toothpaste. Is he not worthy of emulating?

Sure... I'll meditate but I'm not giving up toothpaste.

He meditated under the Bodhi tree for 49 days. Do you think he took breaks in between to brush his teeth twice a day? No. He would have never achieved enlightenment if he listened to his dentist!

I am not eliminating toothpaste from my life.

You know who else never used toothpaste?

Prophet Mohammad?

Yeah... yeah... the prophet too (peace be upon him) but let's not go there.


Disclaimer: No toothpaste tubes were stolen in the making of this post.

January 17, 2014

Don't be that guy - Jan

Don’t be that guy who thinks street food is unhealthy

Our parents, teachers, doctors and other noble professionals right from our childhoods told us that street food is not good for our health and that we should not eat pani puri, bhel puri, masala batani, samosas, kachoris, bajjis, peanuts, bhutta, pieces of raw mango, amla, pineapple and guava on the roadside because they might be unhygienic.

Yes, it is true. We would be better off by completely avoiding them but what we have done is we replaced the unhygienic roadside food with a more hygienic combo of Lays, French fries, kaati rolls, burgers, and aerated drinks at fast food joints and there lies the irony.

The worst thing that can happen to you if you eat pani puri of questionable integrity is an upset stomach and maybe a little inconvenience to roommates/family members for a couple days. That is it. It is completely treatable and our immunity system may even get a little robust in the process but regular consumption of processed foods like chips, French fries and colas give us obesity, makes us susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems...

You see the difference?

If you eat pani puri twice a day for five days in a row, your body tells you're doing too much pani puri. Your stomach makes a 'I-have-a-bad-feeling-about-this' noise on the sixth day and you'll automatically stay away from it for a few weeks. There is no such biological red signal for too much Pepsi.

Street food is unhygienic. Fast food is unhealthy.

Middleclass doublethink

Don't be that guy who drives a super bike in the city

Just because your bike can go from 0 – 60 in 5.2 seconds doesn't mean you should do it on Bannerghatta Road. Dude, don't get me wrong. The bike your father gifted you can zoom at 220 KMPH on an abandoned airstrip and that is awesome. It literally inspires awe in my mind.

Having said that, I feel it is my duty to point out that on city roads you come across as a source of attention-seeking noise pollution. You may want to work on that. The way you startle uncles on Honda Activas by overtaking them in your typical rich kid my-dad-has-connections-so-I-can-hit-and-run-and-no-one-will-arrest-me driving style doesn't help at all. You may want to work on that too.

Don’t be that guy thinks anyone who hasn’t shaved in 2 weeks is depressed

No, they aren't. They're just too lazy to shave.

Don't be that guy who promptly changes the date at midnight

It's the next day only when
i) You have slept and woke up
OR
ii) There is sunlight

Don't be that guy who tells the driver how to drive

This happens a lot doesn't it?

Some people just instinctively take that responsibility to critique the driver, constantly giving him constructive feedback and instructions to the driver... “overtake the bus” “nice turn” “ikkada left” “speed breaker” “switch to the right lane” “now slow down...” “look at that asshole!” “horn kottu.. horn kottu” “put 4th gear” “goyya undi choosuko” “Tchah! We would've crossed the bridge by now if you switched to the right lane then.” ...

Self-appointed captains of the ship these people are. And while parking or reversing... the only time when the driver actually needs his help, they're on their dumb phones!

Don’t be that guy who dislikes cats because they are not loyal

Okay, what makes you think that animals should be loyal to humans?

Why do humans deserve loyalty from animals? Look at what you are doing to us. There are barely any large mammals left on the planet. Those that are still alive are imprisoned in “National parks” and “Forest reserves” where you poach them one by one. You kill them for their fur, for their horns, for their teeth, for their ivory, for their skin, for their balls and sometimes just for fun. These things are not even required for your survival! That is why animals in what you call "the wild" don’t trust you.

And look at the lives of animals that obey you. Bulls for instance have evolved in nature to graze all day in large groups on open grasslands occasionally defending themselves from a hunting tiger or a pack of wolves. You domesticated them and for the last ten thousand years, you’ve been cutting off their balls, making them plough your fields, pull your carts and generally torturing them for your needs from the moment they are born to the day their bodies are too old for that kind of slavery. And after you extract everything from them, you replace them with the next generation. It’s the same story with chicken, horses, pigs, sheep, donkeys and pretty much every species that is obedient to humans. This process gets unimaginably horrifying with the rise of mechanized food production. This is what happens to animals when they trust you.

Dogs are the only species to have benefited from showing loyalty to humans. Dogs not your best friends. They are your only friends. The rest of the animal community considers them back-stabbing sons of bitches anyway.
Hey, we don't use that sort of language on this blog.
What? All dogs are either bitches or sons of bitches. It's biology!


Psst. Check this out - http://win.blogadda.com/view-blogs-voting/humor_satire/gtoosphere/

January 6, 2014

Clockwork C2

Why is there so much time around?

Time? Who has time?

I mean information about time. Why are there so many devices that tell you the time all the time?

There is an alarm clock by your bed, another clock on the wall behind the alarm clock. In fact there is a clock in every room of your house and also in your phone, tablet, Kindle, camera and computer screen; on every photo, email, status, tweet, pin, scrap, fork, and cart; on your wrist watches, car dashboards, FM radios, mp3 players, TV channels, DVD players; in every shop, restaurant, public place, traffic signal and heck even on refrigerators, microwave ovens, and induction stoves!

It is almost impossible to look anywhere and not see a clock. You are a species of obsessive time-keepers!

That is because we have so little of it.

If there is one thing that everyone… humans, cats, dogs, trees… has equal amounts of, it is time. All have 24 hours in a day.

Yeah but between a coconut tree, a pet cat, and a human being, the human has much more things to do. We can't afford to waste much time.

But you waste so much time! And other people's time too. And you're always ten minutes late for everything.

Hey, I am always exactly ten minutes late, okay? That is punctual but just off the mark. That consistency deserves some credit, don't you think?

That “just off the mark” is what your boss calls “always late”. Why can't you make a small adjustment to your daily routine?

It's not that easy. I tried. I set my watch to run ten minutes faster. Setting the watch was easy but believing in it was difficult because my phone is synced with the network time. So I set my phone 10 minutes fast. And then I realized I had to set my computer too. And then my office computer and my tablet and my Kindle and...

Wow, you did that?

Yeah. I set all my clocks 10 minutes fast and tried to follow my new personal clock but these social networking apps just won’t let me. When someone just replied to a tweet, the twitter app would show it as “10 minutes ago”. Every time I try to really believe in something, the internet ruins it instantly. Soon I was mentally subtracting ten minutes every time I looked at my watch. The whole purpose is defeated.

You never fail to fail.

In my defense, my failure was inevitable. Those days are over. My grandfather had only two clocks – his wrist watch and another “grandfather” clock. If my grandfather wanted to get more punctual, all he had to do was to set both his clocks ten minutes fast and believe in it. That's it. It was that simple for him. But it's much more complicated now.

It's weird... this human obsession for precise time-keeping.

What do you mean weird?

It's not natural. I mean cats don't believe in it. I rely on the sights and sounds of nature to keep track of time. The sparrow's morning invitation that says “bite me”, the warmth of the sunlight in the afternoon when I nap near the kitchen window, the secretive squeaks of mice as they pore through your trash at midnight... these are the things that tell me the time. We rely on our instincts.

Yes, wearing a watch is unnatural for cats. If I saw a cat wearing a watch, I'd shit in my pants and call the Army. But what is unnatural for cats is not necessarily unnatural for humans.

What about your great-grandfather? He didn't have much use for a clock. He probably just followed the rhythms of nature just like cats.

Humans for thousands of years before him kept track of time only through the natural cycles of day and night, the movement of the sun, moon and constellations in the sky. They didn't care about the exact time. It didn't matter whether it was 6:40 AM or 7:20 AM. It was just “morning” but seasons mattered a lot. They anxiously watched out for the signs of changing seasons, growth of plants and migration of birds. What they did on a typical summer day was vastly different from what they did on a spring day which was completely different from how they chilled during Kaartheeka Maasam. That is what I call natural.

That is a very vague definition of natural.

Forget about the definitions. I'll tell you what is not natural: Your life where you are stalked, hounded, judged, chided, rigidly monitored, intimidated and enslaved by your own clocks. That is not natural.

Oh come on, it's not as bad as you make it seem.

I'm telling you... clocks are the real masters of mankind.

That is bullshit.

Oh yeah? Who woke you up in the morning?

I woke up by myself...

Abba cha!

...with some generous help from four different alarms.

See! You begin your day by begging the clock for 20 more minutes of snooze time. When you eventually wake up, the clock reminds you that you have overslept by 14 minutes and makes you feel guilty about it.

For the record, I never feel guilty about too much sleep.

Do you wake up moments before your alarm clock actually goes off?

Sometimes...

Do you know why?

I don't know... I never thought about it.

It's fear.

Fear?

Yes, fear. All your life, you've been conditioned to wake up afraid of being late to work or school or some other appointment. Your day begins exactly at 9:10 AM. Then you have a 5 minute shower, make “2 minute” noodles and catch the 9:40 bus for a “25 minute” commute to reach office exactly 10 minutes late for the meeting that starts precisely at 10:30 AM every morning. Everything you do... what you do, when you do, how to do it is all dictated by The Clock.

At least I don't sleep when it is time to sleep.

I'll give you credit for that but don't you see bigger picture?

You eat lunch not when you are hungry but because it is time for lunch. Students open their books not out of interest or curiosity but because there isn't much time before the exams. Parents want their daughters to get married early because they think she is running out of time.

People go to the gym and run for exactly 30 minutes till a beeper announces that their workout is over. Friends try to wish each other on their birthdays at the stroke of midnight. You make resolutions to exercise, read, and spend more time with loved ones not because you feel from within that you should become a better person but because it is that time of the year when everyone makes resolutions. No wonder they all crash in the first two weeks. The list is endless.

Thank you. Happy new year to you too!

So how did you end up like this?

We invented clocks for obvious reasons

Yeah but in those days, each city had its own time based on local sunrise and sunset cycles.

It changed with the industrial revolution. It made transportation faster and with it, synchronization of clocks became very important especially for the railways. It was so important that the British govt. passed a law in 1880 that required all timetables in Britain to follow the single time of Greenwich. It was the first time in human history that the population of an entire country was obliged to live by an artificial clock.

It is the norm now.

Trust me, it feels completely “natural”. The assembly lines along which modern industries are organized also require thousands of employees and machines to work in tandem following precise timetables. From those modest beginnings, the whole world eventually got tuned to GMT.

Unfortunately the assembly line mentality was not limited to industrial production only. It percolated into almost every sphere of human activity. Strict timetables are imposed on schools, hospitals, restaurants, prisons and everything else. Scientists are even debating if we should really follow the movement of the earth around the sun for our time.

That is the story of humanity. You just keep withdrawing from nature at every step. You biologically evolved to be hunter-gatherers in open grasslands and moderately dense forests. Then you domesticated animals, figured out agriculture, invented the wheel, learned to extract metal, started trading and ended up living in towns and cities so that you don't have to depend on the wilderness for food.

The Industrial Revolution and faster communication channels implied that your reach is not limited by geography. Air conditioning and other things ensured that you don't have to care about the weather or the seasons either.

You reached a stage where you eat genetically modified organisms, drink corn-sugar solutions in plastic bottles and live in houses with smooth monochromatic surfaces and right angles. The end result is a life devoid of organic experiences. A life that involves an endless loop of waiting for weekends and then wondering where the hell it went!

Finally when the body and mind complain about the dreadful monotony of rigid timetables under the tyranny of clocks, you realize you need to take some time off to “unwind”... much like rusty old CLOCKS!

I don't like the way you say clocks anymore.

The idea of a modern vacation is itself quite funny. It is not a coincidence that the most popular holiday spots – mountains, beaches, lakes and the countryside – are places with the least number of clocks.

What is your ideal holiday? Let me guess. You wake up when you feel like waking up. You eat when you are hungry. You stare at the clouds, hear the birds, smell the flowers and feel the fleeting wind all at once. Your senses are working at their peak capacity.

You lose track of time. You do things that excite you, maybe even things that exhilarate you. You introspect and try to make meaningful connections with your identity, religion, people, and nature. Just in a short while, you begin to feel really alive, momentarily free from the clock. You wonder why you don't do this more often.

But not for long because time flies, especially when you are on a low budget 3 days-2 nights package holiday. And then your holiday comes to an abrupt end with the hotel charging half a day's extra rent for overshooting the check out time by 35 minutes.

Welcome to The Clock!

October 31, 2013

The Sleeper Class Protocol

The Sleeper Class Protocol
I was in a sleeper class compartment from Bangalore to Rajahmundry last week. I got an upper berth. A family of four occupied the two lowers and a middle – 4F (a little girl), 28F (her amma), and 55F (her ammamma) and 31M (her father). There was a 27M in the other middle berth and a 37M in the opposite upper.

The family of four, like any other family in a train, made themselves at home by occupying the entire place under the lower berths (3 large suitcases, 2 large bags, 3 small bags, 2 jute bags with bamboo handles, and a polythene bag), on the lower berths (hand bags, magazines, food, toys, stationery), and between the lower berths (footwear, 5L water can, stretched out legs, more food).

They didn’t just occupy physical place. They have created an emotional space around their two lower berths forcing the lone male passengers to the fringes. The 37M settled in his upper berth even though it was three in the afternoon and he was in no mood for a nap. The 27M with the middle berth occupied my upper berth and I sat on the side-lower with my legs stretched out.

29F, the side upper lady, got in at Whitefield. Her husband had a side upper in S5. We sat in our respective sides of the berth with our legs respectfully folded. I spent most of the afternoon and the evening staring out of the window looking at the rugged Rayalaseema landscape. The excellent monsoon this year has brought life to an otherwise barren Deccan landscape. It was nothing like the neatly manicured green of coastal Andhra or the wild greens further up north in Orissa but rather an inhibited green of wild grasses and semi-arid vegetation heroically growing out of the loose cracks in solid Deccan rock punctuated by large puddles of water in what used to be an excellent network of storage tanks. It was beautiful nonetheless.

The TTE came to check the tickets around dusk and that was when the side-upper lady realized that the side-lower berth was not mine. She immediately called her husband in S5 and told him that the side-lower is free even though I was sitting barely 2 feet away from her. I knew right away that she was planning to usurp me.

I went to the toilet, stood at the door for a little while and came back to see the side-upper lady encroach about six inches of my half of the berth, a subtle but noticeable assertion of territorial ambitions. I was cautious for the next one hour.

There was another joint family consisting of two brothers, their wives, kids, and a bachelor babai (chacha) having a nice family time in the next cabin playing Housie (Tambola) and munching on snacks. Their first few games were played just for fun but when they started playing for money, I felt like intruding. Now I couldn’t just go and ask them if I could join. It was a family thing. So I had to work my way into the game, first by teaching their little girl how to doodle Mickey Mouse, making an occasional eye contact with the players, smiling at their jokes once in a while until they got the point and invited me. Each ticket was 10 rupees.

For the next one and a half hours, I ate their food, played with their kids, made fun of the babai, and sucked at their game. I never thought it was possible to suck at Housie but now I know. I lost thirty rupees.

I returned to my seat to find the side-upper lady occupying almost three-fourths of the berth. I gestured the news of my arrival by clearing my throat and she responded to my gesture by reluctantly withdrawing into her half of the berth. The animosity was out in the open now. It’s funny how we knew nothing about each other except that the hatred is mutual.

Twenty minutes later, she called her husband and asked him to come for dinner. Her husband was not in the mood for dinner. He probably ate a few samosas at Kuppam. She asked him to "first come and then we can decide when we want to eat” in an impatient tone. Being an excellent eavesdropper, I knew right away what was happening and predictably her husband came and she requested me to sit somewhere else while they eat dinner. I could see the husband. I could smell the biryani. There was nothing I could do. I had to move.

I now sat on the side upper berth reading a book and they did not open the dinner for the next one hour. I knew it was unfair but what can I do. I can’t protest against a couple talking to each other. I read my book without being too worked up about it. Sometime later, the husband left and I thought I’ll go back to my side-lower. She was sitting with her legs stretched out comfortably and refused to move.

Me: Excuse me?
29F: What?
Me: I want to sit here
29F: Is this your berth?
Me: I was sitting here before you requested me to sit somewhere else while you had dinner. I notice that you have had dinner.
29F: Why don’t you sit in your place?
Me: The middle berth guy is sleeping in my berth. I’ve been sitting here since the beginning.
29F: This is not your berth.
Me: This is not your berth either.
29F: Mine is side-upper
The argument went back and forth for a few times. She claimed the right to the side-lower berth because she, as the side-upper berth passenger, already owns half the berth and it is logical that the other half belongs to her if it is free. I argued that someone was supposed to come to side-lower berth but did not. So the berth belongs to those who occupied it first, which in this case happens to be me. The side upper person only owns half the berth till 10PM after which the side-lower passenger has the right to ask the side-upper passenger to retire to her berth.

We agreed to disagree and sat on our respective halves of the berth intensely hating each other and plotting the next move. Half an hour later, she announced that she wants to sleep and that I should go to my berth. I told her I didn’t think so and took 45 minutes to eat 3 puris for the next 45 minutes while tweeting on my phone leisurely.

A gentleman from the next cabin who has been silently tracking the conflict since the beginning interfered. I reasoned with him my position that the Sleeper Class protocol states that an empty berth belongs to the first occupant. That is the rule in the general compartment. That is the rule with Waiting List tickets. Why would it be any different in this case? He agreed with me. A couple of guys from the Housie game also agreed with me. I was building the public opinion for me and was reasonably confident till she said, “Rules antha saray andi kaani ladies request chesthe koncam adjust avvaali kadha?” (Rules and all are fine but when “ladies” request, he should adjust a little don’t you think?)

The word “Ladies” has special status in Andhra culture. It’s a euphemism for respectable women and the plural is used even if it is just one woman. The rules of public behavior are very straight forward. “Ladies” should not be inconvenienced in anyway. 

I protested that she is a woman equal to me in all respects. She has no children traveling with her, she is not a senior citizen who has trouble getting to the upper berth, and she doesn’t have much luggage either but no one bought my feminism. There is no recovering from the L-bomb. My public support literally vanished and soon the public too.

I went to the wash basin to wash my hands and by the time I was back, the Evil side-upper lady has marked her territory by covering the side lower berth, my side lower berth, with a floral pattern bed sheet.

Less than ten minutes later the train stopped at Katpadi junction and the rightful owner of the side-lower, a lanky college student from Kakinada, showed his ticket and told the Evil side-upper lady that it is his berth. My lips automatically curled into a smirk which she noticed. The Katpadi junction college student from Kakinada had no chance. Some noble wars have inevitable collateral damage. He slept on side upper and I stole his side lower the moment she got down at Vijayawada.

***

Bonus (if you have come this far):