Has It Been Nice Being A ‘Citizen’?

I am a kid of Corporate America … even though I was born and raised in India.

I drank Coke or Pepsi, ate Americanised Pizza and waited for the day that McDonalds would open in my city.

I played with G.I. Joe’s and not with Jai Jawan Rathore (this doesn’t even exist).

It most certainly threw a wrench into how I thought I identified with myself. I was a citizen of India, born and raised, my ancestors took part in the freedom struggle and fought for the identity of a  country.

The next few generations saw migration to the West, vying for visas and the fabled foreign passport.

What does it even mean to be a citizen?

The term ‘citizen’ came from the Greek city-states. It meant that an individual had certain rights and duties. Although, this definition did not include women and further recognised slavery. Following which came feudalism that established a class system within our species; of Subject and His King and Servant and His Lord. It was during the Renaissance period when the shift took place between being subject of a King to a citizen of a city-state or nation. Yet this format of governance still carried with it the innate ability to discriminate amongst our own species.

While the term ‘citizen’ has been modernised to cover a larger array of rights and individuals that can potentially claim to be such a ‘citizen’; the common factor has always been a foundation in geographical location. The concept of citizenship has been developed and modified so much that it scarcely will be able to recognise itself.

Yet how can such a term be used to be the basis of governance?


So What Is Politically Correct?

Charlton Heston once described political correctness as “tyranny with a happy face”. When the actor turned political activist who played Moses and Ben Hur makes a reference to tyranny, one must consider that statement more closely.

Political Correctness is the modern control on language and policy to ensure that a particular group is not offended or disadvantaged. While the inception of the concept came from a place of compassion and sensitivity, the phrase “political correctness gone mad” has become ridiculously popular. This is not because instead of ‘mad’, political correctness would dictate the usage of the phrase ‘mentally challenged’.

In fact, it is now being used as a tool to curb the freedom of speech and expression. Worse still; we’re applying it wrong!

Why is the focus of ‘political correctness’ on artists, writers and comedians?

For some reason their freedom of expression is viewed as being powerful enough to rupture the fabric of society. It appears that a painting, a song or a joke has the potency to erode the ‘strong’ foundations of both our value systems and the functioning of democracy. Therefore, it is only natural that these ‘sociopaths’ be stopped! [If only there was a font for sarcasm]

The irony is that while our value systems ought to be secure against jokes and paintings, curtailing the freedom of speech and expression is directly destroying the cornerstone of a functioning democracy.

It seems upside down that ‘political correctness’ is applied to social and cultural phenomena and not once considered within the political arena.


When You Fall Down

Humans have utilised their innate ability to climb their way up to the top of the ecological food chain. As a species we have dominated the natural world that we inhabit. Using science and technological advancement we have learnt to bend nature to our needs and demands. We wanted seasonal fruits and vegetables out of season, we wanted land where there was none and cleared anything in the way, we wanted more of everything to meet the growing demands and matched it with a growing rate of consumption.

Having become the dominant species, we then proceeded to become almost parasitic on the natural world; sucking the life out of anything and everything around us to make our own more comfortable. And if humans were to venture out to other planets to populate them, we could even be seen as a virus.

The key to this innate characteristic is our own consciousness that has the infinite potential to complain.

We believed that we should not be dying so ‘early’ and advancements in medicine and food took place. We believed we would starve if we had to solely rely on the weather governing our food production and introduced genetically modified crops to combat the challenges faced by organic production because otherwise our species would not survive. Now we believe that we ought not to be shuffling past the ‘early’ age of 75 but be living till we are 135 years of age, since we’ve been consuming this ‘poisonous’ genetically modified crops and we ought to actually be eating organically.

And while a percentage of the global population debates eco-friendly methods of development and food production, there is still a sizable percentage that would prefer any development and/or food production irrespective of the long-term losses. The truth is the latter percentage does not care about the long run because they can’t; their problems restrict them from seeing whether or not they’ll even survive the short run.

In other words, rather bizarrely we have created first and third “world” problems on the same planet. While some are upset for not having food, other are upset at being too full …

Is it that humans lack compassion? Or are they simply desensitized to problems that do not directly concern them?

Both questions can be answered in the affirmative and the negative.

I believe the actual issue is similar to the idiom of “the grass is always greener”.

There is an underlying force in the psyche of the human mind that causes us to find a reason to not be happy, while constantly pursuing euphoria. The fear of not being happy allows anything to capitulate and manipulate us and the ability to fight this is not handed down genetically but is something that has to be learnt and understood by each individual all on their own.

So when you fall down, don’t worry about being unhappy, the human brain already has that under control, worry about figuring out how to get back up, because that’s how we became the dominant species in the first place.


WE ARE F****D !!!

Margaret Millar once said, “Some people become so expert at reading between the lines, they don’t read the lines”.

In fairness, the asterisks in the title may lead you (the reader) to choose to fit in one of the most used words that begins with an ‘F’ and ends with a ‘K’ after ‘Facebook’. I must also take the opportunity to apologise to those who arrived here searching for that but in vain.

The truth is that the human brain has the ability to consistently read through a paragraph in which the words are misspelt with the letters jumbled as long as the first and last letter are the same.[i] In fact the intricacies and complexities of the human brain are beyond the understanding of the greatest minds of our civilization.

Wait, did I just use ‘brain’ and ‘mind’ in the same sentence?

The truth is that the brain is the soft tissue that resides inside our skull while the mind is the faculty of thought which is a social construct. Whilst the brain may be the organ, the mind is the external factor that has an effect in our version of reality.

Truth be told, irrespective of our brain’s capacity and capability, it is our mind that holds value in our social and commercial construct. And whether we conform to or rebel against the norms of society, we remain a product of society.

Yet how can society use our brains to control our minds?


The Fried, The Freudian & The Feminist

I had already had a few pints … my vision blurred … in the centre, there she was … spinning on the pole … it was in slow motion … slowly turning away from me … just as beautiful from each angle … through the window I could see the droplets of water slowly flowing down … the blinking red lights glistening … heat being generated by the pole … my mouth went dry … I forced myself to swallow my saliva … my lips moist from the act … I reached for my wallet …

Now whilst this may appear to be a philanthropic philanderer’s diary entry while window shopping in Amsterdam, please understand that I’m referring to a Doner Kebab … slowly spinning on a rotisserie … tantalizing my taste buds … drawing me closer … Damn, here I go again!


Lost In Trans-Emotion

Through the stormy turbulent disease infested waters of social media throwing up debris that includes Kim Kardashian’s butt, inane ice bucket and cinnamon challenges, a few gems of self development pop up. Recently, an interesting theory came up which was attributed to Sundar Pichai, “The Cockroach Theory for Self Development”[i]. The theory is based on an incident in a restaurant where a cockroach lands on a table where a group of ladies are dining. The women scream and panic and keep pushing the cockroach away from themselves and it keeps landing onto another panic-stricken member of the group. The relay continues till it lands on the waiter, who calmly picks the cockroach up and throws it out of the restaurant. The story aims to point out the difference between a reaction and a response. The women reacted to the cockroach, whilst the waiter responded to it. The theory explains that the reactions of the women are because of their inability to deal with the disturbance caused to them (i.e. the cockroach) and not the disturbance itself as the waiter handled the same with ease. In fact it is really the inability to deal with a disturbance that disturbs people. The theory explains that a reaction is instinctive whereas a response is thought out. The moral: don’t react but respond.

Noam Chomsky said, “I do not think psychoanalysis has a scientific basis. If we can’t explain why a cockroach decides to turn left, how can we explain why a human being decides to do something?”[ii]. Like any navigational journey that is besotted with troubled waters, strong undercurrents and gushing winds, so too is our thought process. Our judgment has overcast clouds, undercurrents of our upbringing and gushing winds of society that not only guide our thoughts but the emotions governing those thoughts.

With a multitude of factors governing the way we think and behave, the multiplicity of our emotions and opinions and the infinite voices inside and outside our heads, it is remarkable that our species have survived this internal onslaught, but sadly not without casualties. There are days when an iceberg pops up and we are left reacting instead of responding.


Will The Real Winston Smith Please Stand Up?

Who is Winston Smith?

Winston Smith, member of the middle class Outer Party, is the protagonist of the George Orwell’s 1984. Winston is the man in fictional Oceania who began to question the lies and half-truths fed to him by Big Brother. He was an editor of historical revisionism at the misnomer Ministry of Truth, Big Brother’s propaganda ministry. 1984 follows Winston’s private thought flow of his misgivings about the nature of life in Oceania, him falling in love with Julia and his subsequent arrest and torture by the Thought Police. O’Brien, an undercover Thought Police officer, approaches Winston with the aim of convincing Winston to join the Brotherhood, a resistance movement against Big Brother. O’Brien gives Winston The Book.

The Book as it is colloquially referred to in Oceania is a paper entitled “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” written by Emmanuel Goldstein, public enemy number one of Big Brother and the apparent leader of the Brotherhood. George Orwell gives Winston only enough time (the same for the readers) to briefly read the introduction to Chapter 1 and read Chapter 3.

Now one can draw parallels between their own lives and the fictional world. Those fortunate may draw a parallel with 50 Shades of Grey while some unlucky ones find themselves in the midst of a Shakespearean tragedy. But under the influence of intoxicants and floating through the rarified atmosphere of pretentiousness I found similarities in the utopia of my life and the dystopia of Winston’s.


Karandi or Kierkegaard: An Existential Dilemma

The old metaphorical question of which came first, the chicken or the egg has been debated over centuries. Modern science, however, has seemed to have been able to answer this age-old query. According to evolution, the egg would have to have come first. The principles of evolution dictate that two species that are closely related to the modern domesticated chicken, bred together to produce the egg from which the chicken came. This is based on the fact that there has to exist an arbitrary threshold which had to be overcome for the species to be defined as the Chicken. Therefore, the egg had to hatch first for the threshold to be broken.

Now while there are plenty of people who espouse that evolution is merely a theory, in the interest of fairness and balance, I will explain the theory of creationism. God created them both at the same time, end of theory. The cultural view of the question is more metaphorical to describe a cyclical situation of a circular cause and consequence; a situation where one can’t exist without the other.

But who cares when human beings have taken this cause and consequence and created the Chicken Karandi Muttai.

Karandi” means ladle and “Muttai” means egg. The process involves creating an egg mixture as you would to make an omelette. The mixture will include eggs and spices, whisked to a fluffy delight, to which pieces of chicken are added. This delightful combination is then cooked as an omelette in a karandi, the ladle. A soft fluffy omelette shaped like a ball is fashioned with a chicken stuffing.

The magical sensation on the taste buds is an explosion of flavours. A typical chicken karandi muttai will include onions, pepper and cumin seeds while the chicken is pre-cooked with no restraint of masalas. Armed with only a fork, as you break open the ball, the aromas and texture of a perfectly cooked omelette incorporated with spicy chicken morsels tickles the palate whilst taking care of any pangs of hunger.

Kierkegaard said, “Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts”. So one may face guilt over the complete domination over a species, where we have taken the egg out of the chicken (that came from an egg, remember) then placed the chicken in the egg and created a spherical representation of two generations for consumption.

But once the chicken karandi muttai has entered your mouth, then the only dilemma faced is how many you want to order!

P.S.: If you want some Chicken Karandi Muttai, I recommend you visit Dindigul Thalappakatti in Chennai. An establishment that has been churning out exotic and exquisite food since 1957 with branches across the South of India as well as an outlet in Paris.

Game of Thought

Men and women sitting in their bathrooms around the world have emulated the deep thought and pose of Rodin’s “Thinker”. Those few moments in a day when we are forced to confront our thoughts, like when we’re on the commode, waiting in a queue or the scheduled day dream have been replaced with being forced to confront the numerous notifications on our mobile devices. Be it the ease of portability in mobile devices or the advent of infrastructure that supports a wireless network of devices, the option to be connected in the virtual world is always available. Some of us may actively seek it and for some it’s a work necessity.

Today the paradigm has shifted; where we seek wireless technology in order to remain wired. Is perpetual connectivity guiding us to a position where knowing becomes obsolete? Does this matter?


Okonomiyaki: Cook What You Like

One of the high points of dining out is watching the flourish of an Oriental chef cooking culinary delights right in front of you. This experience is called Teppenyaki, which originated in Japan. ‘Teppen’ means ‘iron hot plate’ while ‘yaki’ means ‘cooked’, which is an exquisite art form. In such occasions the chef appears like a Marvel superhero with the ability of tossing up spatulas, vegetables, meats and other delicacies high in the air only to land perfectly on your plate looking delicious. However, it has always been one’s dream to step into the shoes of a superhero or in this case under the chef’s hat and attempt to create something mouth-watering. Fortunately the Japanese with their initiative and efficiency have provided customers with their shot at the Teppen. This sporting chance is known as Okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki literally means ‘cook what you like’ and it is exactly what one does. Okonomiyaki is cooked in two styles, which are the Kansai Style (Osaka) and the Hiroshima Style. In the Kansai Region, Okonomiyaki to people not from Japan may appear like a Japanese pancake or pizza. In this particular style, the ingredients are mixed into a batter made of flour, grated yam, water, eggs and shredded cabbage. In the Hiroshima version, the batter and the ingredients are layered rather than mixed. The layers start off as a pile and get pushed down as they get cooked. The Okonomiyaki sauce provided in the Hiroshima Style is thin and lends itself more towards the spicy palette vis-à-vis in the Kansai Style the sauce is thicker and sweeter.

Many of the Okonomiyaki restaurants have a do-it-yourself grill on each table on which one cooks their meal. As soon as one enters the restaurant, the host lights up the Teppen so it can get heated up for your adventure in the world of Japanese culinary arts. The restaurant provides you with a spatula and a pair of chopsticks with which you brace yourself for a lifetime experience. The uninteresting part is to choose the meat and vegetables you want. Now for the fun part!!

All one has to do is dab some oil on the hot plate and place the meat and vegetables and let them simmer for a while. Then douse the food added with the batter provided and mix it up well ensuring that they are cooked well. Then add a generous dollop of the brown Okonomiyaki sauce and dig in. Just as you are about to eat, take a deep breath and tickle your odour receptors before digging in because for some reason Japanese food manages to appeal to all the senses; it tastes good, it is decorated in such a way to make it visually appealing and it smells divine. Vegetarians and Vegans needn’t shy away from this experience because the Japanese are very considerate and will ensure that you get a good meal. The thrill of cooking an Oriental meal beats anything and it leaves you wanting to have another go at the Teppen.