Me Thinks

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Social conditioning

Years before I even knew of the term philately, whenever someone asked me what my hobby was, I'd proudly say "Stamp collection". My brother and I kind of inherited the stamp album that my cousin possessed because he had outgrown that hobby. And not once did I actually seek stamps although my brother would trade Sultanate of Oman for rare stamps like Uganda and thus pretend, I think, to be more serious about the hobby. Whoever I mentioned this hobby to, would carefully collect and hand over the stamps to me and thus our collection grew big till one fine day, we forgot about the album and consequently lost it. I've often wondered why I mentioned that as a hobby when my actual hobby was watching TV. Cooler friends of mine said things like photography and gardening. I couldn't use photography because I thought there was absolutely no fun in pressing a button in a camera (obviously I didn't think of the pictures) and gardening would be a sham since we lived in a flat and the only plant we had was a money(or is it mani?) plant that grew in a pickle or Boost bottle. So I came up with stamp collection to be accepted into the cool-people world.

When I was 13 or 14, we were asked to write an essay on our favorite characters in epics. I wrote a long essay on why Yudhishtra, the personification of truth and justice, was my favorite character when the truth was I liked Sahadeva. I liked Sahadeva in Mahabharata and Shatrugna in Ramayana. But I could never have written more than half a line on these characters.

A digression - Sahadeva (one of the Pandavas) and Shatrugna (one of Rama's brothers) have a lot in common the least of which is the starting letter of their names. They are the invisibles. Maybe I should add that based on my knowledge of the epics, thats what they are. Even Nakula gets a mention for being the most handsome of the Pandavas. But Sahadeva just makes up the number. Ditto with Shatrugna. He is merely one of the sons. So when Ramanand Sagar and Chopra made Ramayana and Mahabharata serials, they picked the most morose-looking characters to play these roles.

Its funny how even as a school kid, people like me innocently said and did things that were totally untrue only to be appreciated and accepted. Over the years we realize it and laugh at it like I do now. And hence I've come to appreciate kids that actually say what they feel. Its got something to do with confidence - confidence that the world will still be the same even if they are not accepted as elite or normal. I saw an 8-year old boy tell Santa that he wasn't a good boy but he'll be next year and that he still wanted a gift this year. I would never have said that as a kid. (I also defend that it can't be termed hypocrisy if the age is taken into consideration.)

Friday, December 07, 2007


During my summer holidays after the 12th exams, a friend asked me what my favorite deodorant was. At an age, where I didn't know the difference between a deo, cologne and perfume, I said with brimming pride in my voice that I didn't use any "such" products. She had an imported Fa then and like most people I thought these products were for people that didn't take a bath regularly.

One of the things I'd credit NCC with, it taught early on in life to people like me the importance of such products. We all Indians know we sweat a lot but still assume we don't stink. BO (body dour) can be very very repulsive and people laugh at us from behind. We are not only not aware of it but we also feel proud of the fact that we live an "organic" life.

All this build-up obviously leads to a story or a predicament I have to deal with. A girl I am friends with is someone I met recently. I look out for her. She is smart and serious about what she wants to do. Landed in this country a few months ago and takes me way too seriously. Her BO makes people around make faces or gestures that are not very nice. How does one tell a person that one has BO without offending them? There is no way. I feel bad not telling her but I can't tell her that she has BO. I can't even tell if she were my close friend and I am guessing even if she were my sister. It's very offensive and embarrassing to the person. What does one do in such a situation?