From twitter: feeling smug

  • My colleagues in the next cubicle are talking about God, atheism etc. Pretty juvenile stuff, really. Two thoughts strike me: ...1/2 Aug 23, 2010
  • 1. I can walk to them, start talking and make them feel like idiots..and then feel smug about it 2. I can feel smug about it as is. Aug 23, 2010

Memories: assholes in kindergarten

Dindigul in the mid 80s was a big town that boasted a handful decent English medium schools and a dozen or so Tamil medium schools of which some were well known even in the neighbouring districts.

My schooling started in JK Matriculation Higher Secondary School, popularly referred to as 'public school' (I know, doesn't make any sense). My school was started in the late 70s, I think. It had pretty decent facilities and had some decent teachers working for it [1]. We even had an old white lady as the principal for a few years. But it truly was public and unremarkable otherwise. The students were from a wide range of backgrounds, from the fairly poor to the really rich. Skin tone composition must have been: a lot of dark brown, some light brown, some darker and a few Kamal Hassan-level light skinned.


Ramu came from what seemed like a poor family. Dark skinned, runny nose, messy hair and looked out of place (yes, even for this 'unremarkable' school). We all wore the same uniform but his shirts and shorts had buttons missing, safety pins taking their place. Shirt almost never tucked in because the trousers were too loose without the button or the belt. His shoes were barely together and his socks remained loosely curled around his ankles. Just remembering his appearance makes me want to cry. It's an image that has haunted me for over 30 years. Every school I went to had kids that fit a version of this mould.

Manoj did not strike of anything in an obvious way. He was light brown, thin, not too tall and do not recall him being overtly rich. Only thing that struck was that he already had a posse. There were at least 3 other kids who followed him around and was definitely the most vicious among the bullies.

Manoj subjected Ramu to some of the worst bullying I had ever seen (it did not stop until Ramu left the school in grade 4). Among the many deplorable things that Ramu endured the worst must have been the one in which I participated. Manoj once picked up Ramu's water bottle and had more than half the classroom pee into it. I don't know where the teacher was, but the water bottle was passed along under the desk and each boy took his turn peeing in. I don't know if some refused. I remember thinking about it briefly before obliging. I think I wanted to appear favourable to Manoj more than I felt bad for Ramu. The most distressing thing about the incident was that Ramu just sat at his bench in the back as always and did not protest or cry. He just appeared detached and his eyes seemed to say "well, I don't know expect any better from you little assholes".

It was a class about 30, ~20 boys and ~10 girls no one reported it to the teachers. We were just 4 year old kids, right?


1.  My faintly informed theory is that it was a time when college graduates who spoke good English only did slightly better than their counterparts who spoke poor English. So a school that paid Rs 600/month to a 3rd grade maths (and science) teacher in 1988 still managed to retain someone who spoke really good English. Of course they were predominantly female and in their 20s. Also I don't mean to equate their skill level in English to their competency as a teacher. It's just that when I look back, that's pretty much the only thing I picked from junior-middle school that has contributed to my life in any meaningful way.

Memories: First few

I used to want to write down every single memory of mine as with aging one tends to forget more and more or worse get them completely distorted (not sure I'll get to every single one here). Anyway, don't think I need go into the psycho-scientific reasons for it.

These are my earliest memories.

Dindigul, Tamil Nadu:

1. Should have been 2.5 years old or so. My dad feeding me idlis and I kept eating bit by bit. At one point my dad was amazed that I finished 4 idlis (he told my mom that as he was feeding me).

2. This is a bit of an amalgamated memory. It's one of I crying over/acting up watching my brother get in the rickshaw and go to school with other children while I was left behind. Must have happened over a dozen times (again ~2.5 years old)

3. Most vivid of these early memories. My dad took me to school for the first time. I had not even turned 3 yet (2 years and 11 months old then). I joined the LKG class and was seated in the back bench. I started to cry uncontrollably as I saw my dad walk away. Was crying aloud for a long time (probably 20-30 minutes) and at one point vomited on the table. The kid next to me started to cry watching me vomit. Don't remember if the teacher did something to help me, but I know I settled down to a mild sob after point and that was that. It was almost like a harbinger of things to come in the next 18 years (14 years in school + 4 years in college).

On being childfree

Draft from early 2015. I think I wanted to write about two issues that could be tied at some level. On one hand I wanted to discuss the quasi caste system as envisioned in the films below and on the other discuss the ethics of having children.

Even the most positive spin one could put on the caste system – something like it being just a template of categorizing humans in way that it’s easy for self-realization/actualization and to keep the society in equilibrium; the varna system being that macro template etc. – is still only fodder for dystopian futures for Hollywood films and rightly so.

Let us consider only a handful of them but suffice it to say that there are many more that could fit into ensuing analysis neatly. Let’s leave aside the intellectual depth of each of these films for they do not necessarily concern that larger critique – by drawing a parallel to the caste system – I’d like to present though the films themselves.

Some noteworthy films include:


Snow Piercer


On Reproduction:

I’ve written about being childfree before, but I think it’s perhaps important that I revisit it now – when I’m about to enter my mid 30s where my stand could be taken a little more seriously. Although ideally this author could well be dead and it’s the idea that needs scrutiny by the reader.
One of the most important reasons in this list is that the choice and individual makes in bringing another sentient being into this world – a system which may or may not be hospitable, its customs and believes accommodative or alien etc. – is fundamentally a gamble.

The irreversibility of the (possible) horror of childhood has to be the worst possible outcome. And I’m not even talking about children born into poverty or disability or even perceivably unfavourable conditions such as physically/sexually abusive households. As far as the argument goes the point is made already. What follows is just gravy.

It’s easier, perhaps, to start with my own childhood, but also would like to draw on those of Andre Agassi and Yuvraj Singh as they saw it well into their adulthood (I’d like to say “how they see it now”, but I’m fully aware that some of these assessments tend to rest on the fickle side of one’s mind than steady).

My earliest memory right now is the first day I was left in school by my father. I think I could recall a few moments prior to that, but it’s possibly quite corrupted by various accounts I’ve heard of since and some fully imagined. As with most children of the day I was rattled when my father left me in the classroom and started to walk away. I screamed and sobbed so much that I vomited whatever I ate that morning on the desk which prompted the ones sitting beside me to cry out as well. Not to be poetic and all but my reaction to day 1 was a sign of things to come: I wasn’t going to enjoy the next 14 years very much. (Actually, as it turned out, it was 18.)

Sparing the minutia and even some notable events, the pattern was set. I didn’t understand why I had to go to school or why I had to do homework even in the simplest sense -- which is that that’s what everybody does and you do it too or is it you do it otherwise you get the beatings. I got a hang of the beatings as a consequence of not doing homework sooner than the former. Because, I was slapped in the face with open palm (yes, I’m intentionally describing it the way it is in legal parlance vis-à-vis domestic abuse), slapped with a wooden ruler on my open palm, sometimes the calf and few knocks to my head. Usually delivered by the teacher sometimes a fellow students and myself at others (for some reason I took a lot of pride my in knocking myself hard)

Point: Childhood and something like racism or casteism have a lot in common. Much like white people who grew up in the ‘burbs without witnessing/trying to understand the horrors of racism or Brahmins with casteism, people who go through relatively uncomplicated childhoods seem to not understand the real horrors that are inherent to it. Much like the former, they too seem to believe that the system is benign and well intentioned and it’s only hands of a few bad people.

Zoned out: view from the front window

Things I could see through my windows on either side, facing the street at various times of the day.

East Asian man delivers food to white people - opposite
Black woman delivers food to white people - two houses up the street
Brown man delivers food to white people - immediate neighbour to the right
Brown man delivers food to white people -  diagonally opposite
Black man delivers food to white people - two houses up the street
Brown man picks up white people in Uber - immediate neighbour to the right

Youtube gold: 1

This comment chain made me laugh so hard

Police in Tamil Cinema

Note: Publishing the draft of a post that I started writing in 2013. I think I stepped in a few times in 2014 but was discouraged by the sheer work required to make concrete assertions as opposed to sloppy bullshit. Sometimes I wish I could give up some intelligence to gain disposition for hard work/discipline (especially in academic endeavours). 5 years later, I have not made any progress on the research side of this topic. It's sad that I have a note within the draft. Fuck.

From the 2013-2014 draft:

Note: I would like to be forthright about some things before you continue on to the post. I wanted to write a some what researched essay on Mysskin's movies vis-a-vis his portrayal of the police and other civil servants in his films. I wanted to discuss it within at least two contexts: a. the perceived reality of the role of police in law enforcement, crime and corruption by the people [1] and b. the evolving, constructed, fragmented reality of the above on screen. Ideally, I would like to have (re)watched at least parts of a dozen films each from the last 4 decades, read a book or two and several journal articles. But I couldn't quite get around all of it so what follows is an attempt to present some of my views as coherently as possible purely based on my recollection of things. Think of this as an open draft that begs several revisions. Time and interest permitting, I'd like to open it up to include other films such as Kuruthi Punal and Kadamai Kanniyam Kattuppaadu.

Corruption among civil servants in India has been known and often accounted for by anyone who had to deal with them -- and people, in general, do not want to -- since the early years of the colonial era. As it has been argued convincingly elsewhere, colonization is a corrupting force in itself. It is one of the unshakeable residues that most post-colonial societies, especially in Asia and Africa, are reeling from[1]. But the police is unique in that colonization is not a necessary component to explain its corruptive nature. Any group ordained with the responsibility of enforcing the law, be it the police or the military in  'graver' circumstances, is in essence given the subjective power to judge events and execute actions.

Now, let's focus on the police. It's hard for me to say if the films of the first three decades post-independence were ever explicitly critical of them even though they have always had bad name. Barring a few exceptions, the police in Tamil films of the 50s and 60s mostly enforced law in its strictest sense. After all, the mock phrase "police'nale kadaseela dhane varuveenga!" (after all, the police shows up only in the end) was inspired by numerous Tamil films that end with the 'hero' beating up the villain to pulp only to be arrested by the police with a note of gratitude. Police roles played by MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, like any other, were centered around being unimpassioned (while being compassionate, of course), dutiful and working for the greater good. It was probably in the latter half of the 70s that we see the police taking more antagonistic roles. When the likes of SA Chandrasekhar came on the scene, in the 80s, the police were 'elevated' from being mere participants of a corrupt system to those who perpetrated the crimes to serve their direct ends. The complexity of the mix progresses from distant and symbolic to ambivalent or good to the damned. In the last three decades they are mostly kept within a good vs. evil binary.

An over-simplified contrast between Shankar and Mysskin's approach to crime could be summed as follows: One is about an upright and all-powerful individual overcoming a corrupt system and the other is about an upright system overcoming corrupt individuals. It's safe to say that neither of them tread close to reality in any sense.

in light of the 7 people shot dead and several suspects killed in custody mysskin's police's purported vulnerability and victimhood is perverted.

will prolly never venture into the caste angle (it's alluded to in Virumaandi).

[1]The argument is simple: the bureaucracy under the colonial rule had no qualms about engaging in 'illegitimate' activities because the government they were 'stealing' from had little legitimacy to stand on. So when the government was handed over to India, not much changed in the civil servants' psyche, presumably.

End of draft

Bicycle Thieves

Note: Publishing a draft from 2012. Since then two more bikes have been stolen. So the count stands at 11 as of today (May 5, 2018). But the last bike was stolen back in 2013. I've had a good run since. I probably wanted to talk about my very first bike in Canada, in 2005, and how it got stolen in about 10 days of having it. I didn't bother locking that bike because I thought, well, it's Canada. Why would anyone steal bicycles here? Anyway, 13 years later, I still don't fault myself for being that gullible. I was a product of that stupid, presumptive generation (as opposed to this stupid, presumptive generation).

From the 2012 draft:

When I came to Toronto about 4 years ago, I spent quite a bit to bring my somewhat expensive bicycle from London, ON. It would have made sense to sell it and buy a new one instead of spending so much on shipping it, but it had become 'mine' already. It got stolen the first week. Unfazed, I bought another one. It got stolen the first day - when I took it to the store near by to get a lock. Left the bike out and came back to find nothing. I didn't give up (read "learn my lesson"), I got another one. This one was stolen too, the second day. So in a matter of 2 weeks, 3 of my bikes were stolen. It might be worth mentioning that I already had 2 bikes stolen when I was in London. In the years since 4 more bikes have been stolen from me bringing the total count to 9.

End of draft.

The dirty fight

Note: Publishing the draft of a post that I started writing back in 2010, I think. I might have revisited it once or twice since. I'm still not sure if I should expand the lazy cryptic here: t'ism. I decided to not use the actual t word then because I was a little paranoid about being tracked and watched over. I still am to a certain extent.

From the 2010 draft:

I was not able to view t'ism as black and white as many of my friends and the adults around me did when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. My earliest memory of thinking about t'ism is one of "why don't I feel so bad about it?" It was only in my late teens was I actually able to articulate why I seemed to 'understand' where the t'ists came from. I didn't necessarily sympathize with them. But the idea of a disproportionate force was definitely featured in my discussions about war and the options available for the weaker side. It resonated with some bitter experiences from my childhood -- one that many kids who grew up with an older brother could relate to.

When I look back, my brother wasn't a bad guy in the general sense. He was supposed to be the kid who's good at studies, disciplined, responsible, quiet etc. I hated him for all that, of course. Also I knew him differently. He knew that I could see through what many others couldn't, so there were no pretensions of keeping up that good, quiet persona when it came to a fight between the two of us. Being the bigger guy he would always win a scuffle. My best options were to wait until he least expects it and deliver a painful blow. But we were on equal footing as far as this strategy was concerned. He would do the same to me. The only thing he seemed to shy away from, due to his psychological predisposition to avoid the sight of blood or some such, was that use of sharp objects. To me, it was fair game.

I've stabbed him with a compass a few times, thrown a knife at him, slashed him with razor blade, and thrown stones at him (none of this after I turned 12). I would have some sense of guilt after the fact but in the heat of moment I had no qualms. To his credit, he maintained a 'bro code'. We both did. He's never outed me to my mother unless the damage is so severe or visible that she found out herself. The physical altercations stopped in my early teens and after a few more years of hating on each other we became 'proper' brothers in our early 20s.

I was a relatively small guy throughout my school and college days but with a big mouth. I had a flair for taunting people and delivering deeply hurtful insults on the go. Didn't matter who was at the receiving end -- the weaklings or the bullies. Now, the bullies will invariably retaliate and a physical altercation would ensue every now and then. And my go to move is to punch them right in their face. Many thought it was below the belt, so to speak, because you could leave their face permanently damaged with cut. Didn't matter to me because I knew that's not a bar that I could respect and still survive the fight [1].

1. The last time I had a proper school-yard fight was in my 8th standard. It was also the time when WWF was very popular and we were stupid enough to try to incorporate those moves in our fights and end up badly twisting our ankles or dislocating our shoulders.

End of draft. 

Sense (false) of elevation

Note: Publishing the draft of a post that I started writing back in July 2007. A few days after I returned from ooru. Basically, I wanted to talk about one might feel all important, loved etc., when they're visiting a place after quite sometime and you're there only briefly; and how all that might create a false sense of elevation and might contribute to delusions of grandeur that could fuel other more serious issues. Like, deciding to move back because things are so good over there. I'm sure this topic has been explored in greatly by 'expats' and such. So I'll leave it here.

From the 2007 draft:

It's been over a week since I got back from Madras. I've spent most of the time watching and organizing all the videos and photos that I shot there. I hadn't been there after close to two years. So everyone was obviously happy to see, well, mostly.

End of draft.

Zoned Out: Ideas for a film that will never be made - 1

The protagonist is not quite an adrenaline junkie in that he doesn't obsessively seek out avenues to get his fix, but someone who'll push it if the 'right' circumstances present themselves. The only things he's afraid of are being arrested by the Indian government on drug possession charges and full body paralysis. He rides his motorcycle like a maniac and has a cyanide capsule in his mouth -- the idea is that in case he crashes into something he'd bite the capsule and die rather than live through the unsavoury aftermath. And the prospect of him accidentally biting into the capsule makes his bike rides that much more maniacal. Equally terrifying is the possibility that as he's approaching certain death -- about 200 microseconds into the slide off the bike -- the cyanide capsule pops out before he could bite and he's left paralysed as result of the crash.

PS. No, this protagonist is not a woman.

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