Saturday, July 09, 2005

Erotica, Brahminism and the hilarious Five point someone...

I walked into crossword and ambled as usual in the Indian section. Trying to see some good books on history, constitution, ancient history etc. I have been bitten by this bug and man the infection is spreading. Its like black coffee or beer. Bitter and unpalatable to start with but then in a really fetish sort of way amazingly addictive and satisfying. Basically I was looking out for some big book which will last me for a month atleast (at 20 pages a day. A little reading on the shit pot and a little before bed) . All of the books had jazzy reviews, glossy covers and dollar rates. I somehow stepped out of that world because I felt my knowledge growth should be selctive and controlled. Its like splits training in body building. you want to isolate a muscle and train it to breakdown. I just ambled by not impressed by the title untill I hit the "EROTICA" section... Vow... that transformed the whole experience.. I pulled a seat for myself and poured into one of the best EROTICA dictionairies ever come across.. literally every term had been laid out thread bare from sitophilia to necrophilia. With illustrations, drawings and clinical explainations. It was mindboggling. I wanted to steal that book (dollar rates remember). I did the next best thing. Hid the book in the travel and living sectoin. No one but me can find it.. hee hee.. Meanwhile I saw one elderly lady groan and complain about falling standards of social norms. It felt wierd because I could hear this background whining as I sat engrossed pouring over books and books of Erotica. I turned and looked and I saw her with two 20 something girls sitting. She just stared back and I smiled (genuine and corteus).. The girls were giggling and I think I saw them flush when they looked back at me. I said to myself, If I were twenty I would have cared a fuck for her aunt/grandma or who ever it was and went there to talk to them. She frowned back and told me "are you not ashamed sitting there and looking at nude women ?" "no aunty. why should I be ashamed. I like it", I said thumbing a nude photo album. The girls were silent and were flushing more. Somehow I thought to myself, here is someone offended by these books. But I dint intend to do it, and I was simply enjoying myself and having a good evening out without encroaching onto anyone. Is that wrong ?

I think like sex, food, friends, entertainment and hewnceforth dress are nothing but choices. Here I got sucked into this mammoth discussion spawned out by Srivatsan's blog and adequately debated by Senthil's blog. To give you a brief, it is about brahmins, their identity and its display. Srivatsan firstly pointed out that how a brahmin displayed his identity against all odds and how harshly the world in general (including himself), and an MNC company in particular (HP) judged the brahmin. He goes on to ask "what's wrong if a brahmin does the same thing, as a sikh does in India". Srivatsan's blog is more about the displays and trappings of brahmins rathar than being a brahmin or not. Is appearance itself function of identity ? I found myself asking. I had blogged about language and identity because I am convinced of that. language gives man to express and it is his first form of expression. Is appearance so critical ?. I am being simplistic here to say appearance. But includes, cultural practices, rituals etc.

Senthil's blog spoke about how inconvinent Dhothi is and how salwar is not traditional south Indian etc. It is a debater's point by point resopnse to Srivatsan. Some brownie points but nothing beyond that. No aspects of identity addressed. Vishitra made a beautiful point of answering the fundamental questions unstated in Srivatsan's blog and asked by me in the previous para (see in bold). In some cases it is and in some cases it isnt. Its purely individual choice and definitely a personal one. Being born brahmin, Iyengar (thengalai-vadagalai, madhwa) or iyer (smartha, iyers) is not in any way demeaning or lesser. Afterall some of the great thinkers are exactly that. Basava, Ramanuja, Subramanya Bharathi. Yes Brahminism has some really bad and retrograd practices. And they have to go. period.

1) Descrimination between people of various castes.
2) Too much ritualism.
3) Orthodoxy.
4) Too clanish a mentality.

The greats that they are never consigned the identity they were attributed to. The changed what the identity meant and stood for. Basava created the veerashaiva community. Ramanuja convered lowercastes to brahminism. Subramanya barathi taught a greater concept of Indianness and so did many other greats. What matters is what is acomplished in the world and how identity helps us lift people marginalised socially and economically and make them stand on their own feet, proud of their achievements. If this is not possible by identity. Identity is useless.

The 60s identity struggle in tamilnadu was a complex one of reaction to caste suppression, abolition of ritualism (masqureded as hinduism) and more importantly giving the marginalised people a chance to look up and feel better. No longer would chandala or ambattan be an abuse. It is manifested in the growth and identity of each community asserting itself for its share of legitimate political, economuic and social space.

So it is left to see what my dear friend Srivatsans' acquaintance in college seeks to achieve by asserting his identity. The key question is does it translate into a larger good ? I mean if it is, I would support that irrespective of what others say. If it isnt, its just another cerbral exercise of vanity. Good for his ego and pride. Nothing beyond that.

I studied in a pune colelge (B-School) and for every major college function, there would be one man in a dhothi and white shirt (yours truly). Sometimes the dhothi wuold go above my knees and reveal a beautiful set of calf muscles and thighs.. (I mean I thought so). Somehow my unabashed comfort with the dhothi made it damm cool in college. I have always worn lungi in my hostel.. its thin, airy and you know all the benifits...

It never really bothered me that the dhothi will slip off. I was good at that. Infact, I secretly wished it would slip off. I was a closet exhibitionist :D..

Infact, I was so moved by "mustafa mustafa" song when it came out in 1997 that I did a stage performance of that song including the electric guitar piece in the begining (with my voice)... Never really bothered me that no one except my prof GI and one fellow chennaiite (she always called herself madrasi and was embaressed to talk to me in tamil) understood tamil. Just two in my whole batch. But then, I was singing for myself and not for anyone else.

You think its wierd.. ever heard of kumar gandharv ? he sings with one lung and man his voice isnt traditionally beautiful but will keep you rivvetted and on a trip much better than the best grass..

Some of the biggest industrialists in tamil nadu were indegenous entreprenuers like PSG group, TVS, Murugappa etc. ever seen any of the board meetings you will have crisply clad directors in starched dhothis. I thought there used to be an ad for premier dhothis... I think it is wrong to say dhothi is not professional. Some may like it some may not.. infact If I want to, I wouldnt for a moment flinch to wear a dhothi. Ofcourse it will be on occassion and with a purpose.

let people judge others on basis of their dresses and customs at their own peril. History has been changed by these people wrongly judged. Remember the story of Dannanda and Kautilya ?

Anyway as I was walking out of crossword, adequately chastised by the elderly lady (she was lilke an aunt, and I could see the struggle in her mind. I sufficiently convinced her that I am not a bad guy - a rapist or a eve teaser. Just that I liekd erotica), I remebered sachin (Bong Machan) saying read "Five point someone" "dont miss it man. Its like our IMDR days. Eerilly simialr to Aapka apartments (ITs an apartment complex where my friends used to stay. Its on the road just before roopali on FC road)".. I picked up the book and instinctively turned to the last page. I was glad that it was just Rs. 95. I told myself "This is fiction, but at Rs. 95 and Sachin's reco what the heck..", I succumbed.

The book was amazingly mindblowing. I was readig about IIT and was imagining about IMDR and fergi campus. the hanuman tekdi, our trivial trials and tribulations. The only sad thing (which saruabh also agreed too ) was that our group of seven had enough life experience language skills, hilarious annectodes to have written the very same book. I just felt that, man we should have done it. Anyway.. Kudos Chetan Bagath. That is a beautiful and alltime favouirite reads.


I think Indian writers are surely coming of age. I just wish the amazing thought purge that is happening continues and tells more endearing stories.

21 Comments:

At 10:56 AM, Blogger sen said...

Vasu,
i agree and disagree with you.First of all my post was something that i wanted to type in as a comical response for visithra blog.It was not a reply to arvind.My thoughts on arvind or in the comment section of arvind post.

Talking about the dhothi example. Many of us dont wear it regularly and only on ceremonies.say u wear it 10 times in a year.is that enought to protect our cultural identity from becoming existant??.why stop on 10 times a year.why not 1 day a year?.will that still be considered as keeping up with our tradition's. The fact is that it cannot be weared for all the activities and you are wearing it only on certain occasions to repeat something that has been going on for centuries.itself is a sign that it is outdated and it will slowly die.

I hate to go into this but guess i have to.I dont know why invariably everybody thinks culture as something that belongs to brahmin & iyengars. Lets take both a iyengar who workships vishnu in all the refined ways and a shirtless munnuswamy workshiping virumandi with arrack , meat etc or the badaga's of the hills and talk about culture and identities.

"What matters is what is acomplished in the world and how identity helps us lift people marginalised socially and economically and make them stand on their own feet, proud of their achievements".

So do u still want to have a society filled with identities and unequality in identities.A ranking system with low & high identities.
I have to say what i told in arvind's blog.why do u want to differentiate yourself from others??.why can't we drop our identities if it will bring us closer to fellow human beings.

'If it isnt, its just another cerbral exercise of vanity. Good for his ego and pride. Nothing beyond that'.

Well said sums up everything.

 
At 10:29 PM, Blogger nr said...

why is it that there has to be a dichotomy in opinion bases when it comes to culture, identity and nationality? You either belong to the ‘tgif’ capitalist mould or vernacular intelligentsia? when hindi is being browbeaten for being the flagship of the construction of a nation and thus nationalism, ‘recognising’ telugu, tamil, kannada or marathi as mainstream vernacular should also fall in the same league. Who and how did one choose one script, one dialect over the others? While one got the legitimacy of being a vernacular, the others still remain ‘dialects’, just being the operative word here.

I have picked up from your entry on language and identity and the earlier comment…I might be leaping to arguments here without knowing the extent of the discussion, still, no offence and I don't want to apologise for thinking out loud, so I won’t.

 
At 12:54 AM, Blogger visithra said...

Since the issue is snaking all over, I've decided not to comment more on it but the second half on the book sounds very interesting. ;)) Nice post

 
At 4:06 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

@Senthil - Agreed. I dint get the humour part. Why do you think that wearing dhothi as the only symptom of stronger identity ? Are those who wear jeans lack a sense of identity ? I dont htink so. But yes, it is so if someone is embaressed to wear the dhothi or be associated with it.

I dont think dress is so impactfull of identity. Most of us wear what is comfortable to us and what we like. Sometimes there is nothing as comfy as a dhothi. I believed in relating with others when I was in B-school and for that my demeanor (dress code) should not be a stumbling block, wall for others to interract with me. Moreover, there was a dress code in college which prescribed something. This does not mean the rest of the dress traditions is crap. Thats too simplistic an assignment. More broadly, I am not convicned dress is not a big symptom/symbol of identity..

I agree with your argumment of hierarchies of identities. I think it is essential for man's confidence he has a strong identity. This does not mean there need be a clash. Brahminism (reformed of the retrograde practices), need not be seen as a conflicting identity of say baduga or chettiar identity...

Just a feedback - I thnik you have to read what I posted a little more carefully before coming to conclusions on what I am trying to say..

 
At 4:24 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

@NR - Why ? An average rural tamil/telugu/kannada youth doesent identify with hindi but identifies with the concept of India. Why should not say Tamil or telugu be an equal reason-de-etaire for nationalism why should it have to be hindi and hindi alone ?? I refuse to accept the hindi or nothing syndrome. Smacks of hagemony which is antithesis of all things liberal and multicultural India stands for.

Infact my argument of a peaeful conglamorate of vernacular as opposed to a monolithic pan hindi identity where every other way of life is subject to learning hindi is a support for the underdog. Infact within kannada language other languages like tulu, konkani and coorgi should be given equal importance. There are no concept of dialects which I subscribe to. Everything is an Indian language and every language is equal. Tulu = Kannada = Hindi. Most hindi speakers have problem digesting this. Not me :).

Its ok to leap, but Look before you leap ;)

vasu

 
At 4:37 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

@Vishitra - Thanks for dropping by.. Should get your hands on this book. At 95 INR, its the best bang for you laugh...

 
At 5:46 AM, Blogger Prabha said...

Vasu,
Guess what me just finished reading Five Point Someone..And yea it was an amazing book.Brought back loads of memories.Made me kinda nostalgic too.
Chethan Baghat has an amazing sense of humour.Hes the kind who can crazk jokes with a perfectly straight face.
Loved it!

 
At 8:29 AM, Blogger sen said...

vasu,
I think there is a misunderstanding.I would like to put it this way "Iam not ashamed of wearing dothi,iam not wearing it cause i find it uncomfortable.If i have to wear it, i will do it with out any embarassment".

"I think it is essential for man's confidence he has a strong identity.".

Again when u want to judge someone by his skills and character,why does some one need an identity?.you can identify some one as a very helping guy,a hard worker etc, why do u need a cultural identity.And why do u need to get your source of confidence from an external imaginary thing.Read the books, increase your knowledge, develop your skills, that is how someone can get true confidence.

In our country where every other animal and tree is identified with god.The human identities are also going to be associated with lot of things.so do u still think a baduga or a kooravan can feel in par with an iyengar with his identities??.

well the reason for the particular paragraph in my last response was this part of your post.

"Basava created the veerashaiva community. Ramanuja convered lowercastes to brahminism. Subramanya barathi taught a greater concept of Indianness and so did many other greats".

The statement that is made here is that particular community is the best and the rest has to rise up to it.let me ask you why didn't bharathiyar convert to the caste of the other guy, why didn't ramanujam convert himself to a lower caste. The reason is that they still wanted to be on the top of the hierarchy.

How about a world where everyone is equal.A world away from these small minded groupings.If you want to acheive that what should we done?.First thing to do will be to forget identities and get out of these groupings.Iam talking about everybody including the baduga and the chettiar.

 
At 9:00 PM, Blogger nr said...

I guess you really didn't get my point. In no way was I equivocating hindi to an Indian identity. In fact I believe that a pan Indian identity is a very ambiguous concept. At the risk of repeating myself, I was trying to say that hegemony acts even at the bottom rung, which was the reason why I brought in the issue of dialects. It's a dicey subject fraught with generalizations as the broad umbrella of “Indian” should examined. Maybe you should read my comment again. :)

 
At 12:10 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

@NR - I did read your post thorroughly and re-iterate the fact, that hagemony up or down both is harmful for India. I feel sad if tulu or mizo go out of use..

Infact is that not what I meant when i said tulu=kannada=hindi ??

I am sure you would agree that we should remove hindi as the national language..

vasu

 
At 12:25 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

>>I think there is a misunderstanding.I would like to put it this way "Iam not ashamed of wearing dothi,iam not wearing it cause i find it uncomfortable.If i have to wear it, i will do it with out any embarassment".

AGREED

>>"I think it is essential for man's confidence he has a strong identity.".

AGREED

>>Again when u want to judge someone by his skills and character,why does some one need an identity?.you can identify some one as a very helping guy,a hard worker etc, why do u need a cultural identity.And why do u need to get your source of confidence from an external imaginary thing.Read the books, increase your knowledge, develop your skills, that is how someone can get true confidence.

AGREED. I dont need to know anyone's identity for my judgement. Everyone needs to be proud of their identity to be confident and assertive. It helps each one. Hence a proud brahmin is the same as a proud korava and there lies the equality.

>>>so do u still think a baduga or a kooravan can feel in par with an iyengar with his identities??.

Yes and they should feel on par. But I dont think an iyengar or iyer should demean or erase his identity for making others feel better. Ofcourse the conflicts have to be removed and retrograde practices have to go...

>>>The statement that is made here is that particular community is the best and the rest has to rise up to it.let me ask you why didn't bharathiyar convert to the caste of the other guy, why didn't ramanujam convert himself to a lower caste. The reason is that they still wanted to be on the top of the hierarchy

That is too harsh a judgement. Basava created the veerashiva community very very similar to marxism. Ramanuja being a guru of advaitha philosophy, made the philosophy freely available to everyone in the context of his period. Coversion here is more philosophical/relegious than caste. He dint care for caste and to judge him on your social values is unjust. You have to look along with the context of his existance. I cant answer the question. I am only pointing out that you dont need to be of any community to become great. Maybe Is hould have said that for every basava ramanuja there were many more kanakas and ekalavyas.. caste doesent matter... I think you are confusing between caste and identity.. are you ?


>>How about a world where everyone is equal.A world away from these small minded groupings.If you want to acheive that what should we done?.First thing to do will be to forget identities and get out of these groupings.Iam talking about everybody including the baduga and the chettiar.

Look what are we arguing about.. ? I am saying for that to happen in the long term it is essential everyone feels great about their own identities without conflicts..

In essense you an dme are using different words but mean the same thing..

 
At 12:30 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

@ prhabz - hey, glad to know more people are reading 5.someone.. Amazing the way he wrote and made me clutch my stomach with pain (inceassant laughter)...

I liked the part where he describes the population control documentary in the theatre... That was just unbearably funny..

vasu

 
At 2:22 AM, Blogger Archana said...

Vasu and Senthil,
Right....when did a caste/clothes start giving humans identity? Clothes are made just to cover/protect a naked body....and it stops right there, doesnt it? [[Something like religion made to protect man's ideas and philosophies??]] And most of all if there is something called 'cultural identity', doesnt it put you at an arms length from someone else? So, should something called a cultural identity exist?

I'm just missing what you both said........or both of you are saying the same things yet conflicting.....like throwing cotton at each other instead of stones?

Should get my hands on that book Vasu.....looks like a good one :)

 
At 6:35 AM, Blogger sen said...

vasu,
i didn't know about the Basava and the veerashaiva community, that's y i talked about the other 2 peoples.

"Yes and they should feel on par."
I agree to it to a certain extent on this.It would be great if everybody could have there own identity and feel comfortable with the identity of others.But given the current conditions(illiteracy, current social setup,centuries old ill feelings and centuries old feeling of slavery) of our country, i would say it is utopian.My point is, it is easier to put phant and shirt to both a iyengar and a koorava rather than make them feel at ease on their own identities and also be respectful of the other.

 
At 8:09 PM, Blogger perspective said...

Wow!!! that's a lot of stuff there...
The erotica bit... i think i agree with you ...as long as you're not encroaching into anyone's privacy go ahead...the section is sitting there for that right?

And about Brahmins and south indians... nah! i dont want to "encroach" into that !

 
At 12:44 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

@archana - Thats exactly what I was saying.. Clothes dont make identity and damm it dhothi is so comfy.. I never felt dhothi to be less cool or anything like that.. just that I cant wear it to college

I am saying the same thing Senthil is saying.. just that for me its got nothing to do with coolness but comfyness... in that aspect a half saree is the same as salwar.. ofcourse a halfsaree is that much more sexier.. About 5.someone, step into crossroads and you would find it on the best sellers rack.. Its just 95 bucks man...

as a final clarification. Clothes dont make identity. Brahmin or otherwise. And strong Identity is nothing wrong and one need not erase it.

@Senthil - As a reminder, let me point out that majority of the people in rural india still wear traditional clothes. I think we should raise above plain city based analysis and talk about everyone.

@Perspective - ya.. you were right. I wasnt embaressed because I was caught reading erotica publically. I was embaressed because the aunt lady was feeling embaressed and if someone in my vicinity gets embaressed, I hate the whole situation basically. Anyway the two 20 something chicks were having a ball, giggling and flushing and looking...

vasu

 
At 8:13 AM, Blogger sen said...

Agreed
Clothes dont make identity.

"And strong Identity is nothing wrong and one need not erase it".

True, provided the identity is strong.what if the identities are associated with lot of bad things??what id the identities identify a weaker group of peoples. If both the strong and weak are not ready to give up their identities then the result will be society maintaining its status quo.

I just used phants to drive the point.Let it be dhothi and shirt or dhothi and towel for rural areas.

 
At 4:50 AM, Blogger Sudarshan said...

I strongly feel that cultural identities must not be hidden. Its not the problem with the one showing off but its with the one who's judgemental about it. If the onlooker is broadminded would he consider that a dhoti or a nama is a cultural symbol? I feel any sane person will look beyond the clothes/attire of an individual. If a foreigner is attired in a dhoti, we call it fashion..at the same time an Indian is branded religious because of the same dhoti.

 
At 6:18 AM, Blogger Archana said...

Vasu,
Why not wear Dhothi to college when you find it comfortable?
I mean....I dont understand....I wear clothes [be it a saree/langa dawani or whatever] as long as I'm comfortable with it/ it makes me feel good.....to college for that matter :-/ Is wearing dhothi to college bad??

 
At 4:49 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

Its not wrong and I would love to wear it.. There are other constraints like social norms. In a college setting it is out of norms.. Thats all.. Seriously dhothi wearing has never been a big issue for me ever.. MY whims and fancies dictate what I wear. surprises me that this issue is so widely and hotly debated..

vasu

 
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