I’m writing this in darkest hour. No, not metaphorically like that.. just that dawn is an hour or so away. My body clock is rather messed up, and I’m stuck about whether to embrace it or to go on the warpath and try to set it ‘right’, right here meaning the sort that’ll wake a few hours before noon and sleep somewhere on the good side of midnight. I’m afraid to upset the delicate balance I’ve created, but I also crave the productivity of the morning hours. It’s not like I’ve not tried setting it ‘right’… I’ve tried over so many weekends, to sleep it off or keep awake, but something or the other always, always messes it up.
Talking of which, I have a vague, vague wish I were in Egypt two weeks back. Some detox from the Internet is what I need, yeah, but I can’t voluntarily detox now when I’m actually awaiting a lot of stuff in my inbox. I can’t pull a danah boyd (Lack of capitalization intentional. That’s how she spells her name) and ask everyone to email me a week hence. Not just yet.
However, I don’t even remotely wish I was Egyptian over the past week. Uprising and all is great, but volatility kills me, it just kills me. I cannot take the excitement of a pregnant pause, the cusp of something totally different, the uncertainty in what’s coming next. And yes, I’m going through a bit of that for a few other reasons. I think if I were in Egypt, I’d've broken a window, set something on fire, thrown a Molotov cocktail at an armyman…. something to spark off all the latent tension.
I just can’t take uncertainty.
And all the stuff about how the Internet helps organize mobs… y’know what, uncoordinated publicity, hashtags and all that can only incite mob frenzy. Nothing more. If anything gets done, it’s in the frenzy of a mob. And it can also be easily defused. Expecting 10k likes to translate into 1k people on the streets is too much, let alone expecting 10k people on the streets based on some Facebook community. The reason all these things looking like they work are because they place great weights on things that don’t take much for people to do. Sounds pretty disjoint coming from me at this time in the night/morning, but it was very lucidly said by Malcolm Gladwell in an opinion piece I can’t seem to find now.
I’ve pretty much lost faith in humanity, so I don’t expect the outcomes of the ‘revolutions’ dotting the Arab world to lead to any larger good for the countries or for the rest of us. As long as there are people to be exploited, there will be tinpot dictators, slavedriver bosses, bossy spouses, martinet teachers.
And heck, if anyone’s nice to me, or anything good happens, I just don’t take it well. I am constantly looking for the price-tag, the downside, the catch… it’s good, in a way, I’ve to admit.
Y’know how it is when you hate things for absolutely no reason? Yeah. It pays to try finding out why exactly you hate these things, and for writing it down somewhere for posterity. Otherwise you’re wont to hear one mindblowing talk and say “Heck, why didn’t I consider this career option? What was I smoking?”, and kick yourself for weeks together till the reason is staring at you in the face and you say “Oh, yeah, that’s why”. Save yourselves the trouble, children.
Also, the reason you pick a career is not because you love the awesome stuff… anyone can love that, but you pick one because you like the boring stuff about the job as well. Like the endless waiting for code to finish compiling, or the thrill of reading a dozen papers on a topic and categorizing them, or dodging the paparazzi or singing the same note for three hours to get it right.
Short book review: I read Ryu Murakami’s Almost Transparent Blue. Fellas, don’t mistake Ryu Murakami for Haruki Murakami. Also, this book is absolutely not for everyone. Puke-worthy. And worse, pointless. Though, I must say, writing’s okay.
Oh, and the DA’s office decided to press charges against 11 students belonging to the Muslim Students Association for planning a disruption of the Israeli ambassador’s speech here last year. Looking at this, I wonder if my earlier stance on the need for student activism was misplaced. It suddenly seems like the right thing to do is to go to class like a good kid and keep away from any sort of trouble. I don’t know if it would have been just like this if it was a more protesty campus like Berkeley instead of goody-two-shoes Irvine… what do you say? As for facts, while I didn’t attend the talk, you can read this article here.
And, well, I’ve been at the receiving end of some racism as well over the past week. I don’t want to talk about it, and the perpetrator was someone well-known to be racist and well-known as the Department Jerk, so it’s not a reflection on attitudes here in general (though I’ve also heard tales of a racist European here), more so since the jerk was told off quite quickly by folks around me. I was very very pissed, and still am, and while it irks me that I’m not displaying any backbone here by making the Jerk’s life miserable, the more I think about it, the more it seems to not be worthwhile. More so since it seems more of a display of jerk-ism than racism.
Then… I’ve sort of been attending these Women In Computer Science events on campus. I’d love to go to those conferences, but haven’t got an opportunity yet, so just the campus stuff for now. While it’s great that these spunky undergrads are taking initiatives to get highschool girls interested in computer science, I have mixed feelings about another aspect of this. I find I am not too comfortable with the whole “Computer science doesn’t mean being a nerd, y’know” line. Especially when that is peddled about to get girls interested in stuff like Informatics and technical writing and software testing. For one thing, it makes Informatics, technical writing and software testing look like the poor cousins of ‘real Computer Science’. For another, it says folks in computer science are nerds and for some reason, being a nerd is a bad thing, and more so if you are a girl.
If your girls are not choosing parallel processing and database systems as a career because it requires being a ‘nerd’, there’s something wrong with the whole system, not with the girls. If your society says working hard is a bad thing, or choosing not to do something just because it’s hard is okay, something’s wrong with that attitude. If your society doesn’t reward persistence with anything but social ostracism, there’s something wrong with it, and that’s what you have to work to correct. Not these band-aid measures. Like getting women to do the ‘easier’ jobs in the field and saying ‘Oh, look, we have a fair representation of genders in our workplace’. This is just passing the buck, and it doesn’t solve any damn thing.
That said, I sometimes wonder if I’d've been better off in some artsy job that involved writing features and blurbs and reviews, meeting Marxy members of the literati, talking in abstractions, finding phallic symbols in the opening scene of Lion King, making Free Binayak Sen posters and Tshirts, and sending pink innerwear to some remote address in North Karnataka. That, when I’m not viewing people from other countries as objects in a museum, acting in plays which use just one prop and have plenty of monologues, and lamenting the cloistering morality of the middle classes of India. I possibly wouldn’t have been as analytical as I am now, but maybe that’d be a good thing; it’s blissful to not know the extent of your ignorance about the world.
And then I look at one of those Indian-hippies-discovering-themselves-in-the-US, with their Jayanagar-4th-Block-Pavement junk jewelry, their ill-fitting kurtas and their totally clashing salwars, their desperately-in-need-of-a-comb hairdo, their lack of pride in themselves, and back at my Zen-ish accessorizing, recent trendy haircut, clothes designed to blend in rather than stand out, and strict no-caffeine-as-wake-me-up rule and decide the change is totally not worth it.
I have a little cousin who’s just started kindergarten. So everyone she meets gets a dose of Teaching. Nursery rhymes, the alphabet, folk songs… you know the drill. And oh yes, the disciplining. I need to sit quiet for five minutes before her patience gives out and she proclaims me a good girl. And if I speak out of turn, I earn her wrath and she pronounces me a bad girl.
One fine day, she noticed my fingernails. And immediately proclaimed me a bad girl and rapped me on the knuckles. For I have well-maintained, long, long nails. I had to tell her I lost my nailcutter at home and immediately she proceeded to search under my bed saying it would have fallen just here… or just there.. oh thank goodness for my camera; she let herself be distracted by it.
But I guess the image stuck. Soon everyone got the story of poor me having lost my nailcutter and hence having to remain a bad girl. The comments I got ranged from “You should trim it, really… in the interest of hygiene” (I have long nails only on my left hand) to “Hello Kitty!” (Nah, they aren’t retractable). I’m so inured to these that it didn’t make a difference to me.
Not very long ago, I had an overnight bus journey I had to make alone. A single seat, that was no problem. Nor was getting to sleep. The cold would have troubled me a bit, but I wrapped myself up like an Egyptian mummy, except for my hand holding the handrest to prevent myself from falling off.
In the wee hours, I suddenly felt my sister waking me. It took me a few minutes to come to my senses and realize my sister couldn’t be here. Alien hand on mine… I let out a yell which strangely no one seemed to hear, cursing the owner of that hand to eternal damnation and calling him, among other things, an illegitimate offspring, a lecher, and of suffering from the Oedipus Complex. And then I did the first thing that made sense to me. I wildly clawed that hand with all the energy I could muster. The hand retracted. I should have probably raised a hue and cry, but I just went back to sleep.Besides, it didn’t seem likely anyone would even bother to get up and beat the handOwner to pulp… I’d yelled abuses so loudly and still no one as much as stirred!
Later in the morning light, I saw I’d lost a nail and there was blood and flesh under the others. I certainly hoped I had touched something rusty the night before, so that there would be one new victim of lockjaw now.
I’ve quit expecting others to stand up for me. Though, I do stand up for others when they are being harassed. I try my best to be polite, but sometimes it’s simply not reasonable. Balls to goddamn ahimsa. Gandhi should have been a woman in Noakhali when he so ‘heroically’ toured the damn place after partition…. and THEN if he’d spoken of ahimsa and godforsaken Satyagraha, I might listen out of curiosity. In the past, I’ve threatened to break arms, call my brothers, call the police, and occasionally shouted for all I’m worth, slapped folks a few times… oh, what the bloody hell is this society that it makes a violent girl out of a normally calm one?
I know the alternative – to ignore, to not react. But for how long? I’d probably consider that alternative only when I’m alone and outnumbered. Oh, and there are other alternatives too – never go alone, always go to safe places, don’t stay out late. I am more than just ashamed of such a society that denies me these basic freedoms. And the prize alternative that is the pet of hostel authorities, maiden aunts and assorted other MCPs – dress conservatively.
So the shawl I had on wrapped around me provoked the handOwner somehow? Or the salwar-kameez with a neatly pinned dupatta the other day on my way home was provocative that someone had no choice but to pass sickening comments? Oh, shame not all of us wear burqas.
Oh, and to learn self-defence techniques. Effective, but aren’t we descending to the law of the jungle again, that might is right? And now I have to beat someone into submission before he respects my basic rights as a woman. How brilliant.
A few of my female friends are so inured to such harassment they’ve even stopped fighting back. So some jerk can pretend to lose his balance and fall all over them each time the bus jerks, and they won’t say a word. They’ll try moving more and more away from him, but they’ll ask me to calm down and not make a scene if I ask the damned dirty dog to rot in hell, or even if I politely say this is the ladies side of the bus and no matter how much he pays for the ticket he can’t hang around here.
They are being shamed into silence, what with the whole stigma of “She also must have done something… there is no smoke without fire”. What saddens me the most is that the ones who spout such lines are mostly women.
The ancients decreed that women be treated with love and care, for they are the ones who nurture new life, and woe be upon all of us if they all are hardened and embittered by the harshness of life so much that they lose faith in living and in society that they do not anymore want to bring or nurture new life into this cruel world. Considering what most of us have to put up with, the world must be turning into a sadder place with every passing second.
As you enter the one of the BSNL offices in Mysore… Well, after you have entered the room directly in you line of vision, a huge board greets you… On that board are these words boldly written, “Being punctual is being polite. When you are not punctual you are wasting other people’s time.”
It is around ten thirty in the morning and this is the only room empty ( and with the board). After some time people who work there turn up… You cant help but notice that ALL of them are women