Butler English

A few days ago I was on the phone with my friend discussing some TV stuff. We were talking about an episode of 'Fresh Prince of Bell Air' in which Geoffrey reveals his "marathon history." Geoffrey, like most butlers in American television (no, not the Mexican ones), is quite sarcastic and pompous yet quite polished in his language. I asked him then, how come 'Butler English' in India has a 'not so good' repuation - one that connotes imperfection? A quick Google search took me to this article.

A Babu tries to impress his British master with his command of the English language and to him, how he conveys his message is more important than what he says. The emphasis is on verbosity rather than the content, the characteristic feature of Babu English being its stylistic ornamentation. Here is an example: "The extreme stimulus of professional and friendly solicitations has led me to the journey of accomplished advantages to proceed elucidatory and critical comments: wherein no brisking has been thrown apart to introduce prima facie and useful matters to facilitate literary pursuits . If the aimed point be embraced favourably by the public, all in all grateful acknowledgement will ride on the jumping border from the very bottom of my heart"
The example also reminded me of this article. I think a lot of Indian bloggers, escpecially the "senior" ones are no less than a Babu. They simply can't get out of the 'I memorized all the word lists in Barron's' mode. There's also a lot of double standards because some are actually good at hiding their pomposity (being consistently bombastic is a virtue). They are so good that they'll even mock other Babus for being a Babu. There's also a tacit agreement (ok, unspoken) among the 'good Babus' to not pull one other. It's amazing how the 'colonial culture' reinvents itself in various forms for various reasons by various people (Sonia Gandhi and her minions not being the least of them). Anyway, the article got me bursting out with laugther again,

The British masters were amused by Butler English as it had its own charm. They were sometimes annoyed when a Butler's English was faultless. For example, Ellis in George Orwell's "Burmese Days" is in conversation with his butler.

Ellis: "How much ice you got left?"

Butler: "Bout twenty pounds, master. Will only last today, I think. I find it very difficult to keep ice cool now."

Ellis: "Don't talk like that, damin you — I find it very difficult! Have you swallowed a dictionary?' Please, master can't keep ice cool! That's how you ought to talk, we shall have to sack this fellow if he gets to talk English too well.

PS. Crib means 'to whine/complain' only in India (ref 1, ref 2). This is probably the only entry that saves the face of millions of Indians who "crib" about things everyday (and mind you, it's bloody archaic).

Dance..: WTF?

They 'do' to 'undo'

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but just after I had published a podcast, I found this story. I posted the following comment in IBN’s website,

Isn't this ironic? It's so funny that you should do a story on your own wicked ways. The article is so conspicuously contrived. You're showing clips of people who are making general claims about press freedom and trying to equate that with press's assumption of moral high-ground (rightly pointed by Jeth Malani). IBN, since its inception, is known for going by CNN's motto – ‘sensationalize everything’. Look at the bloody music you use. What's up with that? If news channels are about informing people, why the hell do you have to use such dramatic loops and beats? Cheap!
I don’t think it’s going to appear in the site. I expected it; that’s why I had it saved. Anyway, I said it’s a coincidence because, in the podcast, I had mostly talked about the news items that had appeared on IBN’s homepage last night. Of course, as usual, I digressed to other unwholesome issues as well. This podcast is just a ‘filler,’ for it’s been close to month since I published my last one.
I forgot to mention the little boy’s kidnapping episode. The media, especially the likes of IBN, must be glad that their week long draggy story had a 'happy ending'. Now they get to dramatize it further. It might also bring the good old “is a CEO’s son’s life better than the thousands of Biharis who are kidnapped everyday?” debate. What’s worse? The debate will be staged in IBN (it hasn’t happened yet, but it will). It’s irritating, really. Then of course, there’s the weekly dose of judgmental nonsense, ‘The Verdict.’ This week: Do today's urban youth have contempt for the law?
A loaded and a clichéd question/topic. What do you mean by "today's youth?" Have the youth of any time period valued law more than the youth today? Is there even data to support your claim? What percent of those who are accused or to be accurate, convicted, belong to the 'youth'? The kind of spurious correlations you make are stupefying. How about having a value free debate for a change?
This is another comment I had left; it might not appear either.

Download mp3

"surplus of women": WTF?

Whenever you read/watch stuff in books/internet/tv etc., you often run in to things that make you go 'wtf?' This is one such video.

Toon teaser-2: Let me get philosophical!

Given that a lot of us (in my dept) are very familiar with 'Family Guy' I use this quote (with the "haah") very often to twit people who try to get all philosophical (of course, they use it back on me several times). It's like our own "sooper appu" when someone tries to act like "hey listen to the idea-mani's idea."

A strange feeling

Child abuse, the act or the occasional news about it, never sank in me so disturbingly unless it had to do with girls. The idea of boys being physically abused was not as depressing. ‘Catholic bishop molesting young boys’ was just a funny standup routine. Before I go on with this topic, I want to link a documentary that shook my views on the whole issue a great deal.

It’s shocking and disconcerting in many levels. The magnitude of the number of people and organizations involved is disquieting. The lengths these people have gone to suppress the issue worsens the disquiet. Then there’s the emotional side to it. The thoughts -- “What if it had to happened to me? What if I had been molested? How would I feel?” -- are quite scary, awfully embarrassing, terribly disturbing, but most of all, strange.

Yes, it’s a strange thought. Because, I as a person belonging to a gender that is almost devoid of the notion of rape (at least, until recently) am not quite able to relate to the people in the documentary. I can distantly imagine their pain and to a lesser extent the emotions that they went through then and going through now.

My conception of rape has a lot to do with self-respect, dignity and lot of constructs that are highly relative. But my understanding mostly centers women. How it affects the aforementioned constructs with respect to that gender. There’s an unquestioned and invisibly patronizing sympathy because they are the “weaker” sex. There’s also the belief that women are more resistant to rape (or sex in general) than men.1 I don’t want to venture too much in to this area as it’s a little too polemical and I’m fairly inadequate to discuss it theoretically.2

If it weren’t for some movies, my view of ‘male rape’ would have continued to be entirely apathetic. ‘American History X’ was, for me, the first movie to show the agony of rape experienced by a man. Edward Norton’s poignant and rather realistic portrayal of his character’s helplessness and shame sent chills down my spine. I was then exposed to a series of movies, quite coincidentally, that dealt with male rape.3 Over a period of time, I think, the shock started to dissipate and it became an alien phenomenon that didn’t worry me so much.
Then came ‘Split Wide Open;’ it was another ‘Mahanadhi,’ a little less ‘mainstream’ but just as strident. It is probably the first Indian movie to deal with bisexuality, incest, pedophilia and all ‘tabooed topics’ that an average movie viewer can very well do without. The fact that the story was set in Bombay made it all the more harrowing. SWO threw more truths than I could handle in two hours. None of it seemed improbable or far fetched, though. I had read some real life equivalents in newspapers. But, I was/am still not able to understand the stigma, if there is any.

Male rapes, at least its portrayal in media, are quite uncommon in India. Even ‘uncommon’ doesn’t quite explain the situation - it’s virtually absent.4 A phenomenon that is non-existent in the media or the public discourse cannot possibly develop a stigma. Social stigma, needless to say, shapes the depth of victimization. In a typical urban middle-class setup in India, most boys grow up without ever having to fear rape. Notwithstanding the fact that ‘men having sex with men’ is not an entirely alien concept, even among 12 year olds.
Of course, there’s a lot of homophobia. But I don’t think that can be equated to how a male rape victim is perceived. The point is, my upbringing did not in anyway help me alleviate the ‘strangeness’ that I had alluded to earlier.

I saw AHX when I was 19. Five years have passed since then. More movies, more horrific “truths” and more ‘what the …?’ reactions – but it’s still strange. And then I saw the movie ‘Twenty Nine Palms’. Instead of trying to praise the movie (which I may do later), I’ll get to the scene that is most relevant here. Close to the end of the movie a couple is driving down an isolated road are intercepted by 3 men in an SUV (in day light, in an open desert). Before the couple could say anything, they are both slapped around and the woman is stripped naked. Since the movie does not exactly hint such a thing, I was frozen with cold fingers as I muffled “don’t…don’t rape her.”
As the scene continued to unfold, the man tries to wrench out of the goons’ hold only to get pummeled. What followed gave me an emotional overload. As the woman kicks and screams at the sight of all this, she is pinned down the dirt as she watches her boyfriend get raped. Yes, one of the goons sodomizes the badly-injured man lying on the ground, growling in pain.5
It was a mind-numbing scene, but I felt an uncomfortable relief. I couldn’t quite conceptualize him as a victim, at least not immediately. I was just glad that it wasn’t her. The movie’s ending was no consolation either. A week later, I saw another movie ‘Mysterious Skin.’ This movie was just as racking. Though the movie was kind enough to not have me frozen at any point, it was ruthless in revealing the cold vulnerabilities of “manliness.”
The movies helped me get out of the ‘strange’ feeling. Now, it’s not that strange as much as scary or depressing. They guided me to do some abstract deconstruction in this area and this post is a part of that process.
1This page has a whole list of ‘myths’ about male rape. Makes an enlightening read (at least, in legal terms). I thought this point is worth quoting: The vast majority of men who sexually assault other men identify themselves as heterosexual. This fact helps to highlight another reality, that is, that sexual assault is usually more about violence, anger, domination and control over another person, than it is about lust or sexual attraction.
2 Try the following wiki articles for a brief read: Art 1; Art 2.
3 Pulp Fiction’ was one of the movies which made ‘male rape’ look funny.
4 Male rapes, in various contexts, are reported quite frequently in the English media lately. And there’s also the invasion of ‘western pop-culture’ that carries a good amount of slurs referring to sodomy. So the construction of a stigma for male rape victims is not far away (in India).
5 If you're open to graphic (and sexual) images, try this trailer

Did you know?

Deconstruction: exhaustive and boring

Disclaimer: Another post that is actually a comment(s). I know, I'm shameless.

One of the questions that I often end-up asking myself and my profs is “how far do you deconstruct?” I don’t think there is a perfect answer. You do it as long as you can support it logically. When logic stops you stretch it further with metaphors and anecdotes. But even they stop at some point. That’s when you know you need to stop, but some people continue anyway.
I came across this post earlier today. I don’t know much about the people mentioned in the post or even about the actual topic. But as usual, my problem is only with a few arguments the author has drawn. I’ll give you the exchange below.

My comment:

{{What does that even mean? What dignity? Dignity is a quality that lives and dies with a living being. Once you die, along with your clothes, wealth and silicon implants, you also leave your dignity behind. Whose dignity are we then protecting?}} - Good, now let's legalize necrophilia, stealing organs and feeding dead bodies to starving stray dogs (or humans, if you like). They are dead, I'm sure they'll be happy with their "dignity stripped" dead bodies feeding, literally, the needy.

{{Wouldn't you feel that way, if it were you who were the victim?}} - This is a hypothetical question that has no straight answer; even if it's about you. It's like asking "would you kill yourself if you got raped in the butt and had a gun in the drawer?" You cannot assure the way you are going to react if it happens to you, for it has not happened to you. Even if you have a history--of such an ‘event’ and a reaction as you've claimed you'd exhibit--there is no reason to believe that you're going to replicate it (or otherwise).

About pictures being powerful and all: Here, the question "powerful for who, powerful for what?" needs to be asked. You're suggesting a universality that is both factual and benign. Given that you have a problem with unsupported "facts," I don't see where that suggestion of yours is coming from.

His reply (not surprisingly):

I don't see any problems with necrophilia or feeding a body to the dogs or anything else as long as the person (before dying) or the next of kin has given consent. Just like the consent that was apparently given in this case to photograph the body. How about we stop speaking for the victim eh?

I am an organ donor. What that means is after I am dead they will be slicing me up, harvesting my organs and distributing them to other people. All that will be left of me will be a pile of skin and my liver which will be unusable. So basically, I won't be very dignified after I die and hence yes, fuck post mortem dignity. What next, being buried with a jar of caviar Pharaoh style?

Powerful as a prop for the blog post. To imprint the horror of the massacre into the minds of the blogreaders. I already provided facts. Michael J Fox, banning of the coffin pictures. I could go on google and look for more examples

(Did he say “I don’t have a problem with necrophilia?” Elavu da sami!)

My Comment(2):

{{How about we stop speaking for the victim eh?}} – That’s exactly what you are doing. When you say "I would do this if it happened to me," what you are actually saying is "I would do this if I become a victim." In essence you as a non-victim are talking for you as a victim. To make it even shorter, you are the one who's talking for the victim.

About you being an organ donor: As gory as you make it sound, it's quite commonplace, we all know that. In fact, the Parsis let their dead bodies be consumed by vultures (even today they have those 'places' in Bombay and other major cities). That's not the point. None of these rhetorics apply to victims, because no victim is victimized by consent. Or someone who's "victimized" by consent is not a victim at all (victim of brainwashing or psychosis, may be).

Your "facts" are non-sequitur. First, there's no concrete study that suggests that the said "power" has always invoked expected response. Second, the response that it invokes need not necessarily be "positive" or "negative", or, as I mentioned before, one that was desired by those who initiated the "power". If you "go on google and look for more examples," I'll be happy to return the favour. Only that I'll be pulling out examples that say the exact opposite (ex: propaganda videos).

Images arrest the reality that your mind corresponds to with reality that matches a wider consensus (sometimes both are close). Words on the other hand let your mind make its own image - that could very well be more "powerful" (and disturbing) than the actual image itself. It's the age old book vs. movie debate. The arguments go both ways.

Besides, are bloggers so numb that they cannot "react" for 'rape and murder' but to the image the "captures" it? What kind of "reaction" is that? And all these reactions, supposedly, are directed towards justice (at least in legal parlance within this case's context) and awareness. But, does justice need to immerse itself into this "power" as well? Even if it does, can't it do the same without an image? That is, a judge's ruling based on the police report1that says "girl was brutally raped, and murdered by slashing her throat" different from one based on an "image depicting" it?
1 I know, the police reports contain everything; photos, forensic evidences and what not.

Update: The exchange continued. You can read it all here.

Vetti Post

Yeah this is one of those 'yes, I do want to post something but it's just that I'm a little busy with other stuff' posts. It's not so much that I'm really busy, a decent post won't take more than an hour to put together. But then, with that you invite comments, rebuttals and what not. There were a few issues that I wanted to talk about last week. One was about the news report about the cleric in Australia blaming the women for sex crimes ("pig meat kept out in the open" as he put it). It wasn't so much what he said. Even idiots in Indian media say things like that; only in the name of culture and tradition. It was his attempt to escape the criticism he didn't foresee. When he was cornered tight he resorted to the good old "I was quoted out of context" strategy. I don't think people bought it though.
And then there was this program in BBC - the one about press freedom (and its responsibilities). It's actually a conference in which some world renown journalists and other people working for NGOs (and organisations like the UN) had come. The discussion is definitely worth a post. As I mentioned earlier, I don't have the time (or the guilt free mind, if you will) to open up those topics here. Anyway, I have them all recorded, I can pick it up anytime. This post however, is just to fill the gap. I thought I'll link a video that I found very touching and...you know "sema peelings ba."

I spend at least an hour everyday in youtube. Given the length and nature of most of the videos, that's about 20 to 30 videos a day, easily. Three months ago if you punched 'Chennai', 'Madras' or anything like that, you got no more than 3 pages. Now the pages are overflowing with all kinds of videos for the same search strings. So I had to narrow down my search string to something like 'IIT Madras.' No I'm not from IIT. The only connection I had with IIT was that I would go there 4, 5 times a year during 'Saarang' and whatever 'cultural event' that let you bunk college. So I thought of connecting to my recent past by watching some videos - videos with wannabe singers, dancers, drummers and the whole 'koothu kaara' bunch.
I found this video below. It's amazingly well conceptualized (well, a few clichéd sequences with the girl in the coffee parlour and in the library). The background music is a little DDish, but has an R.E.M like depth that touches you. The guys in the video have done a very good job of acting like the camera isn't there. The main guy (the soda buddi) isn't too bad either. He reminds me of my friend Badri, with his whiny face and confused looks. It's well edited. The video is mostly steady. It's like watching a mini documentary done by Kukunoor. Ok fine, just watch the video.

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