Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2012 and yak meat

New Year is still two weeks away, but I made a couple of New Year resolutions last week.

The timing of my resolutions was perfect. It was past 12 midnight and I was watching the apocalyptic movie, 2012. In the movie, a few people representing different nations get to board a huge ship before the entire world is destroyed in huge tsunamis.

I want to be on that ship if such a catastrophe ever happens. But I am afraid I do not have enough money to get a ticket so if I do some good deeds before 2012 I may get a complementary ticket for my contributions to all sentient beings. One such resolution was to write this column and tell young people not to be afraid about 2012.

A friend of mine walked into my office on Wednesday and said she was worried. “My 11-year-old brother says he wanted to get married,” she said. He had watched 2012 and wants to taste the forbidden fruits of life before a tsunami soars from the ocean and pulls down glacial lakes.

Another friend tells that his Class XII son who is writing his board exams said there is no use studying since the world would end soon. The boy, who is poor is Maths, Dzongkha, and Accounts, has demanded his father to open up a video games parlor in Motithang so that he can play games, earn money and drink lots of Coca Cola before 2012. His poor academic records did not stand in the way of preparing a business plan to prove that there is scope for another video games parlor in Motithang.

I am interested to see the Class X and XII results of students from urban schools. If the performance is poor compared to previous years then we can put some blame on the movie.

Another friend in the civil service has given up his ardent desire to go for masters. He has now opened a farm in Facebook Farmville, and has resolved to devote more time to chat with Buddhist girls on Yahoo Messenger and MSN.

Scientists around the world have been telling that the world will not end in 2012. There may be nothing to fear about but I have decided to treat Brown girl, the cute little dog that escorts me to my log cabin door when I return late after work. I fed her for the first time this week with a piece for yak meat.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Coexisting with a soap-eating predator

Recently I moved in to a log cabin on a hill slope of pine trees, autorikshaw-sized rocks, lazy prayer flags and a brook that runs along my bedroom. I started weaving dreams of writing a magnum opus staying in a place like Thoreau’s Walden. I converted a shoe rack used by the previous Japanese tenant into a book shelf.

The arrangement of books had to be special, I had decided earlier. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying alongside the Bible for quick inspiration before going for work. Next was a bloody thick anthology, which my friend Thea gifted saying if I am ever marooned on an island, I could read it till the Fedex ship comes. This was to be savored on weekends. On top of the rack, in random, were tiny editions of psychoanalytical theory and cultural studies. These would enable me to quickly backdrop any daily experiences with theoretical explanations. For example, to interpret how a girl could force her pony-tailed lover to cut his hair in a blooming multicultural office love affair.

But all plans failed into the second week of my stay with I realized that someone was eating my soaps. It was a huge rat, I learnt, that had fallen in love, first with Pamolive, then Lux and finally Pears. The only explanation I could arrive to from my books was that the rat was anti-capitalist, and must have been the ghost of a food security expert in its previous life. Inspired by the interpretation, I changed my strategy by placing a Mohammad Yunus inspired washing soap produced in a cottage industry. I waited that night peeping through the toilet door for more than an hour. At around 11pm, I heard him or her crawling in through the majestic drain. It climbed up the flush, jumped onto the half-read Audacity of Hope, caressed the Barack Obama cover with its tail and sniffed the Bangladesh-made soap. The rat had found its Ratatouille. But to my surprise it didn’t start eating it. My bushy-brained friend pushed it down to the toilet floor, jumped along with it and rolled the soap to a dry corner. And without any hurry, first smelt it, then nibbled a bit and then started eating.

I felt like an intruder in a place where the rat ancestors lived and ate what they wanted, but now encroached by a man-made toilet. I remembered a newspaper quote by the Nature Conservation Division chief, Sonam Wangyal Wang, from September last year when the human-wildlife conflict discussion was raging. “Peoples are talking about food security. Whose food security are they talking about?” he asked then.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The porn flu epidemic- column in Business Bhutan

The ongoing debate over the circulation of adult clips, which the police found was leaked from a computer taken for repair, conspicuously missed a point the global anti-pornography movement has been highlighting.

Pornography is violence against women: the movement has argued. This is based on the fact that women featured in adult movies were first driven into sex work, and then were forced before the camera.

The first local media report on the issue suggested that one of the clips (latest reports say four local clips are circulating) was made for commercial purpose. But this theory collapsed when the husband in the clip filed a complaint with the police.

Thereafter, the ‘moral angle’ of the issue was eclipsed by concerns of ‘careful use of technology’. Kuensel, in its November 2 issue, quoting the police, said the “clippings are a result of ignorance and carelessness on the part of the people involved.”

More than a decade back, before such acts of private pleasure because a public spectacle, the small south Indian town I grew up saw very limited exposure to adult entertainment. What was available then, Social anthropologist, Sanjay Srivastava, has named as Footpath Pornography comprising of film actresses’ posters, how-to-do manuals, cheap black and white reprints from magazines like Playboy. Street sellers, in the light of kerosene lamps, would sell vernacular story books with badly printed photographs of shy sex workers.

Then adult video cassettes dominated the scene, along with the rising popularity of Indian magazines like Debonair, which was then edited by Vinod Mehta, the present head of India’s most popular news weekly, Outlook.

Those were the times when technology - public phones, televisions, movie theatres, and camera that uses film – was a public affair. Phones and televisions sat in living rooms, hundreds sat in movie theatres, and camera rolls had to be taken to a studio to be developed. Chances of recording a person’s private moments were slim.

But the former public instruments transformed and could be carried in a handbag, in the form of high-tech phones, digital cameras and laptops. Technology became a private affair. Interestingly it also transformed the nature of personal relationships. Before, if a girlfriend had to prove her love by agreeing to have sex with her boyfriend, now she has to agree to film intimate moments on a mobile phone camera.

Professional adult movies have always censored ‘emotions’ between actors so that the viewer can focus just on the ‘act’ and not worry about relationship woes in what s/he watches. But the circulation of leaked videos, which display not just sex but also emotional intimacy and love between couples, has taken porn-watching beyond basic pleasure needs.

When we measure the culture barometer of a society, along with age-old values, the interplay of private technologies and human desire cannot be ignored anymore.