Monday, 21 September 2009

Dear Mr Halwai

The Proprieter
Jagannath Sweets
31/5 Church Road


Even as you’re thinking hard about the identity of the strange, derelict fellow with a wispy beard who dropped off this letter at your esteemed sweetshop, dare I suggest you drop the idea immediately? Because the very fact that you’re reading this letter means you’re not going to see my face ever again. Don’t be mistaken. This is not a complaint, nor is it a letter of accusation. I’m simply going to apprise you of the sticky situation I found myself in, after having consumed a bowl of your famous, piping hot gulabjamuns. No pun intended here. Now I’m a big fan of gulabjamuns and consider it one of the best remedies for a certain condition, which we in the circle call “munchies”. And when beset with the said condition, it is not possible to follow social convention while having the jamuns, or anything sweet for that matter.
So there I was, stuffing my mouth with the jamuns at a rate faster than I could swallow, mouth dripping with the sugary syrup and mind completely oblivious to a million stares. Now despite the desperation on my part at wolfing down the jamuns, I realized a little later that I was not provided with tissue papers. And then, owing to the enhanced state I was in, it occurred to me that there’s never been a time at your sweetshop that I’ve received tissues with the gulabjamuns; or for that matter with any other food item that requires a ceremonial wipe of the hand.
After pondering over the situation awhile, I was forced to bring the matter to the man behind the counter. On being asked for tissues, the man simply pointed my nose to the corner of the shop where they wash the utensils, probably signaling me to wash my hands there. But to my utter horror, I saw utensils in all shapes and sizes, including those similar to the one I’d freshly had my gulabjamuns from, swimming in water the colour (and consistency) of sewerage. Such visual assault was too much for me. After gathering my bearings, and in a bid to save my olfactory senses from a similar assault, I quickly ran out. But in the process, I forgot that my fingers were still stained and sticky with the syrup from the gulabjamuns.
So far so good. All I had to do was go back to my place and wipe my hands clean. But imagine my plight, of all times, I bump into an extremely attractive acquaintance of mine from my neighbourhood at this hour.
Now not wanting to waste your time, allow me to fast forward to the situation that brought me the immeasurable agony. Little knowing that my sticky hands had gathered a lot of dirt and grime while on our way back to my room, I was horrified to find it all imprinted on her lovely white shirt while I was trying to take it off. Plus, by now I also noticed some dead flies, or what remained of them, sticking to my palms. All of this happened so suddenly and it was yet to sink in, when the damsel whose dress I’d just desecrated got up abruptly and gave me an earful about hygiene – she really shuddered to think about the sanitary plight of my privates if such was the condition of my hands. My protests, excuses and pleading fell on deaf ears, and quite validly so, for which distinguished-looking lady would entrust herself to someone who couldn’t maintain the most basic decorum of cleanliness?

Needless to say, I was left shame-faced and with an extremely disturbed psychology; not to mention deprived of some steaming hot “action”. Which is also why this letter has made its way into your hands.
Now I don’t need to stress more on the fact that your gulabjamuns and my plight do share a causal connection, as that much is more than evident. Sure, it was a chain of events that led to the disaster, but one can trace the root cause of all this trouble to a lack of tissues at your sweetshop. Therefore, I felt the need to alert you to this glaring slip-up and urge you to take appropriate steps in ensuring an abundant supply of tissues for all your valuable patrons. God forbid anyone should meet the ill-fate I’d befallen.

Yours persistently


Thursday, 10 September 2009

Y So Lonely

A harmless but nonetheless obnoxious malady has been plaguing our species for quite some time now. By species, of course, I mean man. Ah, but not man as in Homo Sapiens, because that epithet is considered too politically incorrect these days. I refer to the actual man, the chromosome Y; the stronger sex, the alpha male, the testosterone-laden stud, the impatient shopper, the beer-guzzling couch-potato, if you please.

Alas now, this malady has acquired epidemic proportions and is threatening to wipe out the very existence of man.

The initial symptoms seemed innocuous enough. We saw the signs in language at first - replace chairman with chairperson, spokesman with spokesperson, mankind with humankind. And it doesn’t quite stop there. Efforts are being made to update our vocabulary even further. So expect words like personhole, boogie-person, hitperson etc, to pop up in common parlance. So much so that David Letterman, under immense pressure from certain quarters, is contemplating changing his last name to Letterperson!

Now for the epidemic - the male gene is actually going to disappear; If not tomorrow, then about a thousand generations from now. And then recently, in a remarkably rash instance of clubbing one’s own foot, leg and thigh, some scientist casually announced to the world that he’d found a way to produce sperm artificially. Professor Karim Nayernia of the University of Newcastle, says the latest research brings the prospect of female-only conception a step closer. And it could spell the end of males because creating sperm from women would mean they would only be able to produce daughters. The chromosome Y of male sperm would still be needed to produce sons.

The research was received with welcome arms by some vested interests. The finding could very well be one of the last nails on the masculine coffin... A distant utopian dream of a world without males. These vested interests, by the way, are called feminists. The lesser important thing, however, is that the research was actually conducted in the interests of sterile men who need to sprout branches on their family trees.

But can we prematurely blame someone for the not-so-distant-future extermination of the male species? We’d ideally like to blame the bra-burning feminists (though we didn’t really mind it when they burnt the bras), the wives, the mothers, and the girlfriends who may nag us into extinction. Or should we blame the society which reserved everything for its women, or the women themselves who took over positions of power and became feminists? But as much as we’d like to blame the feminists, it wasn’t actually them. Ironic yes, but it may just be clinching evidence that God is indeed male and he is trying to take out the competition. Either that or he is a closet feminist!

Or, it could very well have been just good old science.

Look at the simple facts - each of our cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes. Twenty two of them are matched pairs which both men and women share, but in men, the 23rd pair is made of an X and Y chromosome. The latter determines masculinity - the same genes necessary for forming testes and sperm, but above all, also necessary for less shopping, less irritability and enough patience to lose infinite arguments.

The problem, however, is that the chromosome Y is a lone ranger and does not have a matching pair. And worse still, it’s rapidly shedding genes. Around a hundred million years ago, chromosome Y carried about 140,000 genes. Now, there are only 45 left. It goes something like this - Every time a cell divides, some mistakes (mutations) creep into the paired chromosomes. But the cell can always get the correct sequence from the other chromosome. Though not on the Y chromosome. Because unlike women, instead of living with the mistakes, the Y chromosome promptly deletes them over time - to create the perfect man! And scientists believe it’s this process that is eliminating the man.

Scientists say that things seemed to be going all hunky dory till about 100 million years ago when the Y chromosome stepped up the plate and took on the added responsibility of creating males. And in this quest for perfection, it is doomed to whittle itself away slowly and await a martyr’s fate.

Although this did give birth to unarguably the best and most advanced race in the world, it also means that chromosome Y, much like Bruce Willis in Armageddon, is going to go down in the line of duty. And unless women find a way to reproduce among themselves or learn to harvest some of the last living males as batteries for reproductive purposes in a rather warped take on Matrix – it may just mean the end of sexual reproduction as well.

So, what does a world without males look like? One can imagine a whole sea of (lesbian) humanity writhing and cussing and PMS-ing at any given point of time in a month. Imagine a world without beer, or worse still, hairy-fairies guzzling beer and watching other hirsute fairies play football ( a reversal of the research that shows drinking beer can make men effeminate). Imagine a world without sex, much like Charlotte Perkins’ Herland, where women reproduce asexually. Where shaving cream and razor will be used only to shave legs and armpits. Or will they even bother with that? Where cars will always break down, accidents become du jour, and parking a physical impossibility? And best of all, there’ll be no man to be blamed for anything that goes wrong. Ah...not such a bad fate then.

Only sad thing is we won’t be around to enjoy that great all-male fantasy - en masse woman on woman action.