Don’t tell me what to eat!

This rather angst-ridden post comes at a time when the country I reside in (India) is going through something along the lines of what can only be described as a shit-storm. There is a reason to why I choose to call it the country I reside in and not my country, and that reason has a lot to do with my disregard for the glorified nationalism that is patriotism; but that is something I will (hopefully, if I remember and have the energy) address in a later post. Today, however, I wish to talk about the most recent malady gripping this nation: a food ban.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular atrocity, here is a brief, heavily biased summary: The ruling political party in the country, the BJP, has launched a thinly veiled communal movement against religious minorities in the country in an attempt to make the country a “Hindu” nation. The controversial prime minister recently made the appointment of an even more controversial individual, and a Hindu religious leader no less, as the chief minister of the most populous state in the country (UP); a state with a larger Muslim population than Saudi Arabia. Understandably, a host of events has taken place since then, furthering the already mammoth divide between the left and right-wing individuals. I will not go into the host of issues I have with the government, but just highlight the one that is currently on my mind: the new UP government has started a crackdown against “illegal” slaughterhouses, under the guise of which hundreds of thousands of

Understandably, a host of events has taken place since then, furthering the already mammoth divide between the left and right-wing individuals. I will not go into the host of issues I have with the government, but just highlight the one that is currently on my mind: the new UP government has started a crackdown against “illegal” slaughterhouses, under the guise of which hundreds of thousands of meat vendors, the majority of them being Muslims, have been put out of business. Repercussions of this have been seen in states across the country, where vigilantes have taken to violence against even the legally operating meat vendors.

It does not take a great leap of understanding to see that this crusade against meat and meat vendors fits snugly into the communal image of the BJP. Hinduism has been mistakenly associated with vegetarianism for hundreds of years now (I say mistakenly because the archaeological and historical experts have agreed, time and again, that the oldest practitioners of Hinduism weren’t bothered about who ate what, and, what’s more, even sacrificed animals as part of prayers), and the BJP covertly seeks to make India a Hindu land, and thus a vegetarian one. The recent introduction of Hindi, a language which people, again, mistakenly, associate with India and Hinduism, into non-Hindi speaking states is a further example of how the Centre wishes to rebrand “India as is Bharath” as Hindustan.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll drop my “leftist” agenda which condemns the central government. I’ll even let slide the obvious linguistic chauvinism which is currently threatening the diversity of one of the most beautifully diverse nations of the world. What I cannot let up, however, is people telling me what to and what not to eat. We are a secular nation, which entails the freedom to be who we are, do what we want (as long as it is within the legal limits) and eat what we bloody want. Not going into the whole shenanigans about how necessary animal protein is for people, it’s a simple thing to understand: people have a right to food.

People who choose to follow religious limitations (yet again, a topic which I feel strongly towards and hope to speak about soon) to the extent of depriving themselves of certain things are more than free to do so, but who gives anyone the authority to restrict people not only from eating whatever it is that they wish, but also take away a major source of livelihood? What right does a democratically elected leader have to say that the practice of a religion should be done stringently, and to subsequently encroach upon the basic human rights of his people?

Tomorrow, if a leader is elected who bans the “illegal” sale of leafy greens, are we supposed to silently sit back and withstand the deprivation of an essential component of our diet? Fuck that, if the government decides to ban the “illegal” sale of chocolates, would we stand for it?

If yes, then, honestly, very little can be said here. People who are willing to submit so utterly to authority (authority which is barely educated, has a skewed world view, and takes religious communalism to a whole new level), then what are free-thinkers to do? How can anyone win in a fight where the other side has already decided that there is no competition.

If no, then why stop me from eating my tenderloin steak if I don’t stop you from eating whatever dismal cabbage creation you’ve concocted? Is it because my food offends you more than yours offends me? How can food be offensive to a person, unless you’re taking that offense as part of something larger, say a religion. If my food offends your religion, don’t eat my food. Why should I stop eating my food because it offends your religion? You religion is the primary religion of the country, you say?

Check again.

We live in a “secular” country where trying to get things like beef, which is now a traditional part of many Muslim households, is like trying to score drugs. I have a simple question, aimed at the prime minister and the chief minister of UP (whom I affectionately call Dhonginath; we have an understanding): if I don’t force you to eat meat as part of my religion (that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), why do you stop me from eating it?

The more the merrier

 

This post was cleverly scheduled to come out on Valentine’s day; but as those who are familiar with this little corner of the Internet will know, I am not the most punctual of people. Indeed, when asked why I do no take up writing as a profession (assuming I could write professionally), the foremost reason I cite is my inability to meet deadlines. What is life, I daresay, without a little bit of procrastination, and the gnawing regret that comes after the time to affect change has passed?

Ah, but there I go again; prattling on about something that has nothing to do with the theme of this post. Today, sitting by a steaming mug of filter coffee, I wish to talk about the nature of romantic relationships; rather, the nature of relationships in general. More specifically, I wish to present my case in favour of something we’ve come to learn more and more of in recent years: polyamory.

I have long been of the opinion that for any relationship to be truly sustainable, it needs to have a certain degree of “openness”. Relationships which are rigid in their definitions and closed off in their approach to society often find that a claustrophobic environment is non-conducive to their growth. The reason for this, to me, seems quite simple: we are complex beings with complex needs, and so we need to derive our sustenance from a host of people, and not just one person at a time.

Don’t you think it’s a little impractical, really, to assume that one person is able to satisfy all your emotional, physical, and intellectual needs? Conversely, isn’t it a little unfair that you are required to fulfil the very same needs, single-handedly, for someone else? I can, of course, see the charm in this: that one person is all you need for everything, ever, is undoubtedly a charming concept, but how much practical value does it really hold?

Humour me for a while, and picture this: you have your significant other with whom you have a blossoming relationship. Yes, there are fights, but you are able to “kiss and make up”, and you perceive things through rose-tinted glasses. Now it just so happens that you are plagued with an issue which your partner is not adept at handling, or which requires a view which your partner is unable to provide. You seek solace in another individual to whom you attach some value, and your qualms are put to rest.

Polyamory, most people fail to understand, is not just about having multiple sex partners, though that is very much a component of it; neither is polyamory a way to justify promiscuity. Polyamory is about understanding that more than one people should be allowed to influence your thoughts on love, career, sex, and all the other facets that make up life. Polyamory is about embracing the change that is brought by opening up to more and more people, instead of being confined to a box, with only one other mind for company.

Yet another aspect I’ve seen people have trouble with is that of relationships being a spectrum, and not a binary switch between polyamory and monoamory. It IS possible to sustain an emotionally polyamorous relationship without also making it physical. In fact, that has largely been the nature of my relationships for a long while now, and it has caused me little to no discomfort. On the other hand, it is also possible to have a physically polyamorous relationship without having an emotional one. There are hundreds of other combinations which abound when one truly considers the diversity of people, their needs, and the rationale behind relationships in the first place.

As is often the case with my personal posts, I shift the blame for things onto society. Society has conditioned us to make two things an integral part of our lives: labels and definitions. We spend our early years growing up in a society which has an obsessive need to label and define everything, relationships included. A couple who does not wish to label or define their relationship is still called a couple, because how else are we to attach stereotypes and conventional tropes to them. Even the most progressive of us get caught in the rigmarole that is the need to define, if not label.

There is a person, of remarkable intellect and a face which the gods must have forgotten to fault, with whom I sustain a relationship. What kind of relationship, you’d be tempted to ask, and therein lies the problem. Is it not enough that there is a relationship of some sort? That there is something physical (barely, to my displeasure), something intellectual, and something emotional in this relationship is enough of a definition. Our need to define things by assigning labels to them limits our expansion and growth as human beings; this is a belief that has only strengthened with time.

It is not as though I have taken a pledge against labelling, however; I understand the need for certain labels, such as defining certain things as harmful versus safe, or correct versus incorrect. Where relationships are considered, though, I cannot understand the obsession with monoamory, which seeks to lay possessive claim on another person. Relationships are deeply personal things; in fact, they are deeply interpersonal things, and with over seven billion people in the world, to limit the interpersonal interaction of a person to just “the one” other person seems to me inherently selfish.

Bonds are fickle things; they break and form in the blink of an eye. Bonds strengthen when they are allowed to mingle with other bonds, and form a network. Polyamory provides for that chance; the chance to strengthen not just one, but many bonds, by exposing the individual to the treasures of the human mind. Yes, there is a chance that in a polyamorous relationship your paramour would give someone else more importance than they would give you, but that is a risk you both are taking. And, in my very honest opinion, the risk and the (possible) jealousy are worth it, because at the end of the day, you are developing a more honest, a stronger relationship.

 

Beware the wrath of words, dear

As is the case with almost all of my posts, the inspiration for this particular piece came from a conversation I recently had with a friend (if a romantic interest with no foreseeable future can be so called). Before I can delve into the finer details of the conversation, however, I must apologise to whoever does me the great courtesy of following this blog for my rather long absence. The world seems to have taken a strange dislike to me, and nothing I do seems to set things right. More on that later, though. For now, I am back, presumably to vanish for another three months, but we should take what we can get, no?

The conversation which serves as the theme for this post is the very definition of escalation. Those who are familiar with me will know the tales of my eloquence, of the extent to which I take the expression of simple emotions. The friend whom I spoke of, as it happens, did not fully comprehend that about me at the time. In a display of endearment, I happened to use words which, by some arbitrary ruling, carry great weight. I was chided for “throwing such words so offhandedly”, with the assertion that “when you say it, you should mean it, otherwise when you actually mean it, what will you say?”

As things in this world are wont to do, this got me thinking about something which I’d already been pondering for quite a while now. I reflected back upon all the squabbles and quarrels I’d been a part of in my recent past (recall the tale of me getting a present from a friend, which I spoke of in “You can’t call people fat!”) and saw a pattern emerge: almost every fight I’ve had for a long time has been due to words being taken wildly out of context, just by virtue of their existence.

Too much importance is attached to the words that people use; not the meaning of the words, but the words themselves. It is true what they say: the pen is mightier than the sword. Words, simple in their crafting and majestic in their construction, are consuming in the hands of someone who knows how to wield them. There is overwhelming evidence of this today: poets and writers carry the capacity to reach places within you that you yourself didn’t know existed, making you question the fact of your own existence.

It has become so easy to be manipulated by people who know just what to say and when to say it, just because we put too much importance in the words that have been used. No one seems to care about the intent behind the words, or who they’re coming from, or the context in which they’re used, or anything, really. Words that have arbitrarily been assigned greater value than others are now off limits unless the situation warrants them because they can somehow lead to cataclysmic effects. Based on what, though? Who decides that certain words will hold this destructive power? As far as I am concerned, the culprit is the archaic notion of correctness. I have been trying, for a long time now, to get people to be comfortable with using whatever words they wish to use, whenever they wish to use them. Imagine if we weren’t burdened by the need to be linguistically appropriate all the time: we could explore not just language, but the human psyche itself to great extents.

The example that comes to mind is the word “love”. “Love” is possibly one of the most weighted words in the English language. Glorified by Hollywood and the like, it has become apocalyptic in its power, and all but a taboo in terms of usage, especially in interpersonal conversation. Saying that you love a person (Plato’s notions of love are being generously disregarded here) is tantamount to asking them to take a chainsaw to their families and drown in a sea of their own filth, irrespective of the intensity of the emotion expressed. “Love” is a beautiful word, and I’d like to be able to use it as and when I please, without worrying about the repercussions.

I believe that meaning comes from your knowledge of the person, not from random sounds that they make with their tongues. When time comes for me to actually mean the words that I previously used, apparently callously, I’ll do it by honest expression of emotion, not words which have been used a thousand times over. I don’t want to express my love for a person using the same words that a rapist uses to express their love for sexual abuse or even any other way that is considered conventionally correct.

I do not deny that there are times when the word itself carries the power to cause harm, but those instances are rare. Callously throwing around the words “nuclear holocaust” at a Japanese peace gathering is unacceptable, no matter what the intent, but to extend the same limitations to daily conversation, to words which form a part of our regular speech, seems to me a rather silly venture. The converse of what I say also holds true: just by virtue of using words which don’t carry as much weight as others, people cannot fully express the intensity of their emotions.

That words are a human enterprise seems lost upon people. We created words for effective communication, and it is shameful that we have become slaves to them today. Lifeless scrawls of manmade ink on manmade paper seem to control our thoughts, feelings, and eventually actions, all three of which are greater than anything anyone might have to say. I like to think that I have learned enough and seen enough to know how to express myself fully when the time comes to do so. Continuing along the same lines as the example above, I am confident that whenever, and if ever, I reach a stage where I want to translate my feelings of affection into words, I’ll have the right tools in my arsenal for the job, not because I claim to be some sort of wordsmith, but because there will be an understanding between us at that stage which will facilitate communication.

If it so happens that my particular way of expression does not translate as such to the other person, I’ll learn their way of expressing, and they’ll learn mine, and a stronger community will take existence.

 

 

 

Perfect imperfections

Occasionally, I like to flatter myself in thinking that I have surrounded myself with the greatest assets which the world has to offer. It has therefore dawned upon me that I owe a great deal to these people who have shown me paths to enlightenment time and again, and that has been my agenda for my past few posts. However, few of even those whom I am grateful to have contributed to me as the subject of this post has, for this person has not only been a valuable asset to my present, but has shaped my future and rekindled my past.

But this post is not about me, for I couldn’t honestly write two lines about myself without enduring a plethora of writer’s blocks, and to be fair to myself, I justify the fact that we always know someone else better than we know ourselves. No, this post is not about me, this post is a tribute to one of the most essential people in my life. As it is a tribute, I am required to hold the negativities about my friend, however, instead of doing that, I have decided to write about how even the most negative features of some people, particularly this person, are actually not negative at all.

People are riddled with flaws. This is a fact which applies to everyone, all over the world, indiscriminately. Sometimes, in moments of selective blindness which we have all experienced at some point in our lives, we chose to ignore these flaws and accept the person for their positive qualities. However, there are times, precious few, when we encounter people in whom we cannot seem to locate any flaws, despite being fully aware that there must be some, because they are after all human.

So why is it that our inner eye, which is otherwise so perceptive and rather accurate in the identification of flaws in people, blinded in the case of these special people? Often, it is because that person holds a special bond with us, and since those flaws threaten the breakage of that bond, we tend to ignore their existence altogether. In certain cases though, we find that these bonds have nothing to do whatsoever with the absence of the flaws, or rather our inability to locate them.

You see, flaws have a rather elusive nature, in that what may be flaw for one person, is an attribute to another. Flaws have learnt to survive in our modern, co-dependent society by putting on an appealing fa├žade, which prevents our comrades from seeing them for the menacing atrocities that they really are. Flaws have their own way of propagating and, when left unchecked, of redefining the person as we know them.

Perhaps that makes the person I am speaking of all the more special, perhaps it doesn’t and I am being blinded right now. I don’t know, and whereas it sounds horribly ignorant and vehemently un-scientific of me, I really do not care. For this person who is compelling me to write about flaws, is flawed in the best way one could be flawed. The flaws this person has managed to amass are not ones which you would tend to ignore, but ones which you would tend to appreciate. I can understand how this may sound extremely biased and frankly quite off the mark, but there are certain flaws, very chosen few, which accentuate the overall character of a person.

My dear friend, who is celebrating their coming of age today, has managed to do just that. This is hard to explain, not because there aren’t words which can describe the phenomenon, for there are always enough words, and not because I am too incompetent to use them to my aid, which I flatter myself in thinking that I am not. The reason this is hard to explain is because it is impossible to draw parallels to what you can only assume is the most singular phenomenon of all.

How do you explain not the lack of flaws, but the presence of perfect flaws? How do you explain the concept of a person so perfectly crafted that even their imperfections are perfect? Whereas this may seem like a paradox, or, more likely, this may seem like the ramblings of a person who has been too deprived of sleep and under the influence of suspicious substances, there is meaning to it all. For a person without imperfections isn’t perfect, as they are not really a person. By the established definition, everybody ought to have imperfections, yet what do you do when the imperfections themselves are so perfect that you cannot, in all faith, find anything to flaw in a person?

Such is my plight, and privilege, as a result of finding friendship in whom I can only describe as the most perfect person upon the planet. This statement is heavily biased, but I won’t retract it, and neither will I apologise for it. There are some things we believe are true, there are some things we wish are true, and then there are things which we just know are true. They don’t have a reasoning behind them, they are just true. I won’t impose that truth on you, because it’s not a universal truth. It’s my truth, but it’s the truth.

This particular fact is one of those things. My friend’s presence of the perfect imperfections isn’t a universal truth, it isn’t my belief, and it certainly isn’t something I wish were true, for the menace that is envy is ever-prevalent in this rather special association, it’s just something which I know is true. I realise this most of all in engrossing conversations with this person, because the conversations show me how even the small things which you expect to go wrong with a person, are in just their perfect place in just the right amount.

Whereas this subjective, biased, silly and completely senseless post now draws to a close, there is one thing which shall remain ever onward, and that is the one thing which I hope people will take away from the thousand or so words written here. There is a certain joy in being perfect, and a certain joy in being around those who are perfect, but the greatest joy of all, is knowing that you are a part of something which has just the perfect imperfections, because that makes the perfection seem so much more real

Happy birthday dear friend.