Saturday, July 29, 2017

Wtf week: Pass the sphygmomanometer

The news will give you high blood pressure

(Published on July 22, 2017 in Business Standard)

The other day a friend of mine declined a second cup of coffee. My blood pressure is high, he said. I snickered at him for a bit before admitting that mine might be too. He said that if I didn’t see a doctor, he would tell my mother. I said I’d already told her, so nyahnyahnyah. Our maturity counts were clearly still low, but he made me go upstairs and fetch the sphygmomanometer, technically known as ‘that BP measuring thingy’.

Neither of us liked our first results, so we made it best of three. Another friend joined us just as we were being forced to move it up to best of five, and by the time a fourth friend showed up, we were just passing the thing around with grim focus, trying to beat each other’s measurements. At some point we acknowledged the sorry distance we have travelled between passing the beer and passing the sphygmomanometer. But we can’t be blamed for being jumpy and short-tempered.

Take just this week or two. This week, the Supreme Court began to hear arguments for and against having a fundamental right to privacy. I know, right—who on earth would even want to argue, in the year 2017, that Indians don’t have a right to privacy? The Indian government, that’s who. Indian government, why can’t you just not be evil? Watching the live tweeted proceedings, I chewed my fingernails to bits.

This same week, I read about a 10-year-old child who is 26 weeks pregnant from being repeatedly raped by her uncle. The district court in Chandigarh has refused to allow the one child to abort the other child, because rules. The legal abortion ceiling is 20 weeks, except for in certain exceptional circumstances. Apparently the learned judge does not consider being raped into pregnancy at 10, an exceptional circumstance. At this, my precarious exercise routine completely collapsed.

Then there was a cringe-inducing reaffirmation of class and caste barriers at a residential complex called Mahagun Moderne. A resident allegedly mistreated and abused a domestic worker, whose infuriated allies stormed the complex and threw stones. Union Minister Mahesh Sharma, a professional champion of the over-dog, put his arms around rattled residents and swore that he will ensure that the poor migrant workers never get bail, and that his party workers give them a “befitting reply”. (Translation: ‘Judiciary? What’s that?’) My sinuses immediately began to hurt and fill with goop.

And finally, India is being steadily and scarily militarised. The penniless tycoon, Ramdev, is creating a private security guard service to, as he said, “help develop military instinct in each and every citizen of the country so as to awaken the spirit and determination for individual and national security”—or, as he didn’t say, raise a militia. Pravin Togadia and his pop-veined Vishwa Hindu Parishad are training 5000 “religious warriors”. And the Prime Minister’s Office has asked the Human Resource Development ministry to incorporate some elements of military schools, i.e. physical training and patriotism, into regular schools. If students at Nalanda had had this training, said a minister of state for HRD, they would have foiled Bakhtiyar Khilji’s plan to plunder and destroy that great, ancient university. That caused my eye to erupt with a stye.

So I’m ending this week fat, bloody-fingered, stuffy-nosed, and swollen-eyed, all because of the news. But now is nothing. Pretty soon we’ll have private ragtag armies ricocheting around the subcontinent, inventing wrongs to right by sword and gun, all of it sanctified by Nationalism, India’s brainless new god.

I’m saving my sphygmomanometer battery for then.

Lunatics, zombies, and jerks

Helping people drop dead prematurely since the dawn of mankind.

(Published on July 8, 2017 in Business Standard)

Have you noticed how innocent people are forever expiring prematurely? Healthy as horses, dead as dodos, not their fault, very sad. One of the leading causes, according to a statistic I just made up, is competitive fundamentalist religion. Religious lunatics, who think their imaginary friend is better than other people’s imaginary friend, are constantly causing people who may or may not have imaginary friends to drop dead. And they do it in creative ways—spigots of blood, hangings, beheadings, stabbing, stoning, flaying, crucifixion, heads on pikes, dismemberment. They tear babies out of wombs with swords, barbecue people alive, fly them into buildings, gas them, blow them to smithereens, gun them down, poison them. They broadcast fake news to WhatsApp zombies and let the madness begin.

Each religion tries to beat the other religions, mostly literally. They all have that competitive killer instinct that sports coaches are always looking for. It makes them lynch and bomb each other—the fundamentalists, I mean, not the coaches—and throw money and training at their own best guys. They sometimes mean to kill innocent bystanders, and sometimes kill innocent bystanders even when they don’t mean to, because their aim is bad in all senses of the word. But even great talent needs nurturing. What they require is the environment, and the encouragement, to do better, to be better.

The time has come, my fellow citizens, for us to pause in our selfish little lives, take a breath, and contribute to creating this opportunity for fundamentalists to achieve their full potential. Since we already have a sports metaphor stretching to breaking point above, I propose a Religious Olympic Games.

I envision a huge religious fundamentalist competition, sponsored (obviously) by arms dealers. Let us assemble the batshit crazy of the world into vast arenas, and give them the time and space to share their thoughts and feelings with each other without inconveniencing the rest of us. Let them mill about in the confines of a series of enormous, blood-absorbent stadia, thoughtfully located in the heart of nowhere. We will supply them weapons and energy bars, lock the doors, and let them have at each other. The rules are simple: the last person standing has the best imaginary friend. That’ll be good, since they won’t have any real friends left.

To chivy this process along, I suggest that we also lock in those jerks in politics who like to fan the flames of violent religious competition. They excel at it and will deeply cut the time needed to extinguish all human life in the stadia. Since they too need incentive, we’ll announce a simultaneous competition for electoral dominance. One selfless organiser sitting at a remote computer terminal somewhere will have to manipulate the voting results, live-streamed on a large screen in the stadia, to keep the hacking, lynching and bombing going at as high a rate as possible.

The Religious Olympics Games will solve two problems at once: The last pious lunatic can pick his or her way through body parts to finally own the victory podium (which will consist only of the gold—no runners-up) and spend the rest of his or her life being excruciatingly smug and preachy to a bunch of decomposing human remains; and we’ll have gotten rid of the whole bunch without getting ick on our hands. It’s win-win all the way!

Then the rest of us can get back to doing whatever we have to do to get through this vale of tears—commune privately with god, make art, sell ball bearings, drink—without dying prematurely at the hands of lunatics, zombies, and jerks.

I even have a Games motto lined up: Altius, citius, fortius, quitbotherius.