Archive for December, 2005

A subway story

December 28, 2005

I work late nights. It’s less distracting, and the gloominess of a new york night suits my taste a lot more than the garishness of sunshine. A consequence of this is that I spend a lot of time late at nights at subway stations, waiting for trains running off-peak schedules. It can be an interesting place to be at night, primarily so for the people you run into.

Take the other day, for instance, when I sat at a station in upper Brooklyn waiting for the R-train that would take me home. It was like any other day. My mp3 player was out of charge and I was getting rather bored, so I looked around, pondering at the pointlessness of it all. Apart from the MTA workers who were changing trash-bags, the only other person around stood at the far end of the platform – a pleasantly portly man of indeterminate age, in a hat, round-frames and a well-cut three-piece suit that looked rather out of place there. I thought it rather strange. What followed was even stranger. He noticed that i was looking around, and walked over.

“Do you mind if i sit here, young man?”, he asked in an oddly soothing voice – the accent part BBC and part network english.
“Sure”
Making himself comfortable on the adjacent seat, he pulled out a silver pocket watch and frowned.
“Never on time, these people. I must have a word with them sometime.”
“So”, he turned around, “what do you do for a living?”
Quite an uncharacteristic question in this city, but the sincere crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes were rather reassuring.
“I study”
“Well, so do i! I study people. You might say I am a.. what do they call it?”
“A psychologist?”, I ventured.
“Yes! A psychologist. But not exactly, since I am in the spiritual business”
“A priest?”, I asked.
“In a manner of speaking. But priests and godmen are little but minions working for Religion & Co. , wouldn’t you say? I have much more, dare I say it, *extensive* interests in the business”.
With that, he bent over and whispered conspirationally, “Lets say, for the sake of the analogy, that I am a very influential partner”

I was too confused to say anything when he pointed an index finger upwards and asked me, “So tell me, do you believe in *Him*?”
“Mostly agnostic. I cannot find rational justifications for why he should exist. He may or may not and either way i do not think it directly affects me.”
“Have you never sinned?”
“That depends on how you define it, right?”
He laughed. “Let me tell you that he does exist. Both of us do.”

Then it hit me.
“I thought you looked different. Not so.. friendly.”
“Ah, you mean the horns and forked tail? I still do it occasionally. It was a clever gig, but lately I have diversified into another line of business. You know exactly why the costume has to be there if i had to harvest my fair share, right?”
“Because sin cannot exist without fear?”
“And what does *fear* need in order to exist?”
“Consequence”
“Precisely.”

I grew curious. “What is the nature of this diversification?”

“Good question. Not only the question, but also the reason that makes you ask it. Let me first tell you about the agreement i had with *him*. Leaving aside the fine print, the basic idea was that those who feared consequence would be *his* and those who did not would be mine. The whole religion thing was just a way of implementing it.”
“I see”
He pushed his glasses up to the bridge of his nose and continued,”Then I had a better idea. It would allow me to have greater reach, while still remaining true to our agreement. I realised its potential long ago, but for very many years, i could not implement it. For most of history, man was just too busy just trying to stay alive. But lately things have changed, and it’s been rather easy”.
“Most of all,” he chuckled, “this line does not involve Halloween costumes and visions of fire and brimstone and imagined reincarnations as lower life forms.”

An approaching train rumbled in the express tunnel, three blasts of the horn indicating it was a service train.

“Ah”, he stood up. “Its time.”
“Wait, I don’t understand”, and followed him to the edge of the platform, as he leaned over the edge and peered into the tunnel.
“Its easy, son. We – me and *him* that is – built the edifice of religion around one of the basest of human emotions – fear. But there is another emotion that is equally fundamental, and, for my purposes, more potent, because it does not involve *him*. Fear is important for keeping religion going, but without this other thing, we would not have been able to sell the concept of it in the first place.”

The train rolled in – a service train pulling open wagons meant to carry trashbags. It stopped for a brief while and the workers threw bags into the wagons.

He climbed into a wagon and continued, “My new line would just need thinking, questioning minds. And the more men found time for it, the bigger would be my harvest. You see, this thing that I talk about leads most people to the realization that consequence is an arbitrary concept and hence not to be feared. And as per our contract, they are mine.”

The train gave another blast on the horn and started moving. “If you still don’t know what I am talking about, recall how you felt life was when you first saw me”.

“Meaningless?”
“And what brought you that conclusion?”, he said, receding farther and farther away.
“The quest for purpose.”
“And what drives that quest?”, he shouted as he disappeared into the bowels of the underground.

“Curiosity”, I mouthed silently and smiled.

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On torture..

December 15, 2005

if you have been catching up with current affairs over the last couple of weeks, you would be aware of the stand-off between Senator John Mccain and the Bush administration over the torture of detainees by US government entities. McCain spent five years being tortured in rat-infested vietnamese prisons and he knows a thing or two about torture. Which is why, in this case, we have reasons to listen to him. And before you get worried about where this post his headed, let me tell you this is not a political rant. You see, I know a thing or two about torture too.

Surprised? Don’t be. For you see, I regularly torture frankfurters. Not the people, but the sausages. Here’s the how to of it in a few simple steps:

1. The first thing you want to do when you feel like torturing frankfurters is to get hold of them. Frankfurters are notoriously hard to capture. At the first sign of danger, their ears perk up and they hide. Fortunately modern technology has developed a way to keep them sedated in the meat section of supermarkets. Approach them quietly and carefully. You don’t want them to awaken. When you are close enough, grab them quickly, and hold on to them tight.

2. Even after you have laid your hands on them, there is still the tricky part of getting them out of the custody of the supermarket guys. You will have to resort to bribery at the check-in counter. The bribe usually goes under the name of “Retail Price”, so that supermarkets can keep their accounts clean and not be accused of abetting the torture of innocent sausages.

3. When you get them to your place, lock them up immediately in your fridge. The other day I forgot to do this, and I found them later, cowering under my kitchen table. I would have missed them completely had it not been for the fact that I am such a pro at this game.

4. There are several methods of extracting information from them. Some people prefer to cut them up and otherwise mutilate them. I like to do it whole, either boiling them alive or grilling. Show no mercy. Only then will you get the answers you seek.

5. preheat a pan, pour a little oil on it, and show the frankfurter the meaning of a proper grilling. Alternately let them know what it means to land in hot water. Be careful. They have a mean bite and if you don’t watch out, they will jump out and scamper away. If you want to increase your pleasure, make the frankfurter’s mates watch it.

6. Sometimes a frankfurter will die while you are at it. Since we want to be humane, and since we are morally superior to them, we respect their dead. The best thing to do is to give them a dignified burial. Out of respect for frankfurter traditions, lay them on a soft hot dog roll and, in accordance with their rituals, cover them with mustard, relish and ketchup. Let them rest in pieces in your stomach.

7. Even if a frankfurter dies, don’t let it bother you. There’s the other frankfurters, they will surely know. All frankfurters are in on the big secret, so a little collateral damage is acceptable. If all the frankfurters you have in your custody die one by one, you can always head out to the supermarket to capture more. Don’t worry, some day, they will reveal the big secret. Till then, in the interest of national security, it is our job, as conscientious citizens, to keep trying.

Heh. Not for nothing is this site called mental deviation.

doing g-d’s work..

December 12, 2005

So I went through a bout of the *cough cough* and the *sniffle sniffle* last week, because of which I missed my regular post. Apologies hence and a promise, mes amis, that I will make up for it. on to regular programming.

I hate happy people. Happiness is an unnatural state. If God wanted us to be happy, he would have filled the world with sunshine, hot women and reshmi kebabs. (replace ‘woman’ with ‘man’ if you are a woman or are gay-not-that-there’s-anything-wrong-with-that)

Take that simple question: “How was your day?” I mean, come on. Surely *something* is always wrong: Maybe you got constipated, maybe your boss yelled at you, maybe you haven’t gotten to nail that hot chick (women: substitute, substitute) who sits across the aisle from you at work. I hate it that social mores require us to answer that question with a “Not bad”. Whatever happened to honesty?

People like me have an important role to play in a hypocritical society like this. I belong to that little-known band of people dedicated to carrying out God’s *true* intent: we are the happiness-destroyers. I don’t want to toot my own trumpet here, (heh, ‘TOOT my own trumpet’, don’t you just *love* the sound of that phrase? :)), but I am a pro at making people miserable. Here’s a sample conversation that happened between me and an acquaintance called P, a fellow graduate student, who like me, left a comfortable life to pursue intellectual ambitions. This was a few days ago, on the way to the subway station.

“How’s life?”, I asked her.
“O-kay”, she replied, eyeing me suspiciously.
“Surely its not Okay”
“No it is. Actually my day was quite good. I got some work done today.”
“So?”
“So, it means I’ve fulfiled my purpose for the day, and I have the right to feel happy about myself”

Oh, sweet. A home run.

“Reaaaally?”, I asked her, “You are old and fat and ugly. Nobody really likes you, and what you do is pointless. After you die, you will have made no difference to the world. To top it all, you left a cushy job with a chauffeur driven car to be in this hell-hole, and now you scrounge around for free food in graduate seminars. What makes you think you have the right to feel happy about yourself?”

I would have thought people would be grateful for having been shown that big picture perspective. Sadly it is not true. P doesnt talk to me any more. Some people just love to live in denial.

its a thankless job, this one, i tell you.