Rolled Monk

Her Cave

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2015 at 3:15 pm

I stood in line behind forty others waiting for my turn in the cave; for my turn with her. I’ve been standing in this line for more than 3 days now, since the day I’d turned sixteen. It was well past noon now and Inevitably I became acquainted with the men standing in queue with me. I didn’t want to enter the cave; but I had to. The law stated that any man over the age of 16 must participate. The world depended on it.

The guy who was two spaces ahead of me had the record for lasting the longest in the cave with her. His first attempt was a washout. He was done in 30 seconds. The second time however he’d been better prepared. He lasted an hour and 4 minutes: twenty one minutes more than the previous record holder.

“I saw something in her eyes,” he told us as we listened with rapt attention. “I’d almost made her come… maybe a couple of minutes more and I’d have rid the land of this curse. That is why I am going to try for a third time.”

Each of us knew what would happen if he failed now. His soul would be lost forever and he’d end up as a design on her cloak like thousands of others before him. That was however the least of any of our worries. Time for our planet was running out. We only had six more months to satisfy the lust of the woman in the cave.We begged him for more details.

“You all know the origin stories right?” he asked us. This drew a lot of blank stares from his audience, including me. He sighed tiredly, as if to remark here we go again.

“There is a lot of mystery surrounding the origins of the cave,” he began.“The only thing we all know for sure is that the cave came into existence twenty five years ago. On that same day all the leaders of the world got a message that there was a woman in the cave demanding carnal satisfaction. Unless her cravings were not fulfilled in twenty five years, the world would end.”

“As you can expect, nobody believed it. The entire world thought it was some elaborate hoax set up by some people. However the media picked it up and the news spread like wildfire. Men from all over the world descended on the cave with wildly exaggerated claims about their sexual prowess and how they were going to give it to this bitch who was asking for it.”

“Remember, we didn’t know about the three-time rule then and the system wasn’t as regulated as it is today. For the first two-three months, it was a mad exhibition of testosterone charged ignorance. A lot of us were kids back then and gathered snippets from dinner table conversations which in turn were fueled by gossip.”

“One of the first theories to surface about the woman was that she was a cursed Goddess trapped in a human body because she was horny. An entire religion sprung around her…”

“Wait…” a boy not much older than me interrupted, “why didn’t the world leaders just destroy the cave? Like… I don’t know… drop a bomb on it or something and get it over with? Or at least take her into custody and question her?”

“Well for starters it seemed unwarranted. I mean, it was a woman asking for sex. That’s all and as for the world will end if she weren’t satisfied clause, nobody took it very seriously for a long time. In fact only after that famous incident involving the Prime Minister did the governments decide to intervene. After that we tried to bomb the cave once. However everyone  died mysteriously before they could even reach here.”

“You all know that story right? Happened about 7 years ago…”

“Wasn’t the prime minister the previous record holder?” the same boy again.

“Yes… he was” the man said and we detected a hint of pride in his voice.

“What about women?” this time it was a guy who was going in for the second time. Everybody called him K. After his first attempt, he’d travelled the earth and studied every form of love making known to human kind. Some stories about him entered realms of bestiality and necrophilia. It was said that even corpses yielded under his technique. He was sure that he was going to blow her away. He had savior of the planet tattooed across his penis. Literally.

“What about women?” the man shot back at him.

“Well women too were allowed to participate were they not? Why’d they stop that? No one really knows whether the thing in the cave is really a woman.  I mean we all think she is. But maybe that’s how it wants to appear to us all. I’m sure you also have heard of the alien creature theory? The time traveler theory? And even setting these aside for a moment, if the creature really was a woman, can’t women satisfy women better? Don’t they know what they want better?”

The man smirked at K. “So you mean to say women are better at sex than you? You’re not going to make her come with that attitude my friend.”

Now we were all watching the men even more closely: two of the greatest lovers… no fuckers… on the planet measuring their dicks for everyone else to see. If either of them succeeded it would be a story to tell our grandkids.

“You’ve completely missed my point,” K retorted. “Why’d you deny almost half the earth a chance to save the planet? Sure women can’t match up to me. But I definitely know some who’re better than you!”

“I know you know the answer to your questions kid. Just watch your mouth however boy…”

“If you ask me,” one of the other guys quickly intervened, “at the root of this entire problem is a sexually depraved woman. I don’t think we should encourage women to further explore their sexuality. I honestly feel bitches know more than they must already.”

K silently spat on the ground. “Nobody asked you for fucks sake. And we aren’t here to discuss your philosophies. Just stand in the line and applaud for me as I save your worthless asses.”

Before the argument escalated, distraction arrived in the form of a man coming out of the cave. It was his first time.

“Monster…” he was screaming. “This is rape!” he cried. He was frothing at the mouth, rendered delirious by his experience.

The man just scoffed and muttered:  “weakling.” K spat on the ground again and another guy in the line boasted for all to hear: “real men don’t get raped.”

I was nervous now. But I couldn’t display any weakness,I was a man now. However I began to wonder whether it really wasn’t rape? I’m sure a lot of us didn’t want to be here. Did it really matter to that boy if someone saved the worldnow? Wasn’t he already dead? But what about sacrifice? People died in wars didn’t they? They died for a cause. And was life really over after a bad sexual encounter? I knew it was pointless to try to answer these questions. Everybody had their own opinions and at the end of the day it was a personal thing wasn’t it? I just remembered what my mom told me as I was preparing to leave: “Enjoy it!”

“How was your first time with her?” somebody asked the man.

We all knew what had happened of course, but we wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

“I saw the cloak…” the man said. He seemed to be lost in thought for a while afterwards, as if he was trying to repress a bad memory. However he began again:

“Nothing in your life can prepare you for your first experience in the cave. It is an assault on all your senses. Every nerve in your body is on fire and it takes immense self-control not to orgasm as you look at her. Most of the men haven’t even fully undressed before they are done. If you manage to get your dick into her you’ve done more than most.”

“She is beautiful, that woman. Some say that she knows the innermost desires of your heart and can make you realize it by just looking at you. Nobody who has an untamed mind has any chance of conquering her. In the four years between my first and second attempts, I’d practiced ways to control my mind as much as I trained my body.”

“Can you describe her?” I asked.

Try as he may, the man was unable to paint a coherent picture of the woman in the cave. Maybe she was magic after all. Maybe she didn’t even exist… maybe it was a trick our consciousness played on our senses.

“It is a physical manifestation of one’s oppressed desires,” K said. “Some people even say she is a manifestation of suppressed female lust given form by an alien civilization to conquer our planet. That’s probably why women who’d entered the cave actually felt a kinship with the creature. They forgot its purpose in the throes of their own ecstasy. All of this is speculation. However it is because of this women aren’t allowed to participate. Because unknown to them they want this creature to win.”

“Pfft… feminist…” said the man.

“What… how? I’m as misogynistic as they come.” said K.

By now, the sun had begun to set and day was slowly transitioning into night. We all continued talking, waiting our turns, scared for our lives, scared for our planet. With the setting sun everyday a feeling of despair also sets it. Did any of it matter, I asked myself as another guy came out of the cave; head hung in shame.

I hope he at least enjoyed it.

What’s In a name?

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2015 at 4:53 pm

The road to your greatness is strewn with stories.

I found this written on a park bench in Ooty when I was holidaying there some 15 years ago. The stories they probably meant were tales of courage, valor and hard work. Stories of failures and the lessons they teach; of fighting against insurmountable odds; of never giving up and never losing hope; basically all difficult things. I however was a lazy asshole even back then. So I took the easiest interpretation possible: writing stories and becoming great.

What 11-year-old me did not understand and, 21-year-old me knew but did not care about, and present me has tried to kill with fire and failed were two things:

  1. Writing stories aren’t easy. I mean, they are easy; but writing good stories, good enough that one could become great: that wasn’t easy. In fact I think I’d have rather fought a dragon, received a scar on my face from its claw, retired claiming a disability pension and picked up girls in bars with a “Baby do you want to listen to these scars growl?”
  2. I suck at writing. Let’s face it and move on. Let it also be mentioned just for the sake of it that there are people who suck at it more than me, you know, so that I feel good.

Despite being armed with these two facts I trudged on regardless with blind faith and self-consolatory advice along the lines of no one likes what they create… they just grow into it. Like an arranged marriage or like a kid born out of rape. Human beings’ ability to put up with shit is unparalleled and it is to this ability I decided to devote my life to. Hoping, waiting and writing till that one life-changing opportunity presented itself to me to be squandered so that I can then wallow in even more self-pity.

This is a tale of one such squandered opportunity and a girl. Well this is a tale of more girls than one and in a way isn’t every girl a squandered opportunity?

“______! Have I got news for you,” she told me in terms unconcealed of glee.

“What?”

“There’s a story telling competition that is coming up! I think I’d like it if you took part.”

I am one of those people who talk about how I want to become this great writer to everyone I know. The greatest peril of such expatiation is that you unofficially become the guy everyone goes to when they want to write an official eMail. Next on the list of Why-every-aspiring-writer-should-contemplate-suicide: Competitions.

I have dismissed such invitations in the past by disdainfully remarking upon the meaninglessness of “competition” in an art form. Every story is a perspective of its author – I had further elaborated when none was needed – as are the opinions of those who read it or listen to it. A competition would only mean that some opinions are better than others and as an artist in the true sense of the word, I cannot subject myself and my works to those conceited thoughts.

What a load of bullshit! I was scared shitless of being jeered at was the truth. Raked by doubts of what if my story sucked I had refrained from participating in any of these events. I’d nevertheless had wet dreams where I took part in one of these, won it, expanded upon the theme of the short story and wrote a novel that went on to win the Booker, Nobel, Pulitzer, Sahitya Academy and every other possible award, got a movie deal, went on a book-signing tour, slept with the lead actresses in the movie adaptation of my novel, slept with random girls as I crooned the virtues of Nihilism into their ears as we climaxed simultaneously and then of course woke up guiltily from my sleep.

This time, like every other time, I told myself it was different. I liked the girl who wanted me to participate in this competition and she was making puppy dog eyes at me. Fuck it!

“Wow!! That sounds great… when is it? Is there like a theme? What are the rules?” I asked her in my most fake cheerful voice.

“It’s in a couple of weeks… The theme is something about Names… What’s in a name or something. I am not exactly sure. I’ll find out and SMS you later ok!”

“Sure… sure… 2 weeks is a lot of time. I’m sure I will come up with a story.”

She smiled a radiant and happy smile. I tried to smile and froze midway whooshed away on a tangent of what the fuck am I going to write about Names? I probably looked like a pervert who was hidden in a cupboard and peeping at a girl in some state of undress. Then later that day she sent me the details. The theme was What’s in a name and they wanted a story of some “personal experience” on the theme.

Two weeks really was a lot of time. Normally, a lot of time was a good thing. But for writing it wasn’t; at least for me. Any idea I got, I had to immediately write it down, finish it and forget about it.  The more I let it simmer in my head, the more unhappy I became with it. Sometimes the idea is really good and the execution so poor that I cursed myself for having that idea in the first place; at other times there is no idea at all and I am crying in a bathroom with the tap on (If you said Get Idea, may you die of AIDS).

This was one of those no idea instances. I did have a few personal experiences with my name but they were so lame that the mere thought of recounting them as a story in front of strangers gave me a fever. Also the full gravity of a story-telling competition had taken hold of me only then.

Like really TELL a story? In front of a group of REAL people? I looked at my face in the mirror and a huge NO resounded in my head. The last time I had participated in a story-telling competition was in class 2! But the good thing about that was it wasn’t my own story I was narrating: some twist on the monkey and hat-seller story which involved 2nd generation monkeys and hatsellers and these monkeys not throwing away the hats because FUCK YOU! (Still a better story than anything I’d written)

Everyone who took part in that competition won of course. The sad part about that incident was I still have a certificate for it which they did not allow me to use in my CV for my placements at college. “Recognitions received only from class 10 and after please!” WHAT ABOUT THE FIRST 14 YEARS OF MY LIFE ASSHOLE? What about that time in class 3 when I got a certificate for 100% attendance? That time in class 7 when I won an inter-section running race? That time when I was in class 4 and I won 2nd place in a Word Power competition? Compared to these, I didn’t have shit after class 10. Merit certificate for 99 in social studies? What a fucking joke. I do not know where Kerala is on a map!

This fever however helped me blissfully waste four days out of those two weeks. With ten days to go and not a cool idea in sight, I did what I always do when I have not a coherent thought in my head: call upon the internet. As always the internet threw up something about Shakespeare:

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Of course Juliet! We all agree! Super, fantastic, excellent, marvelous! What she means is that irrespective of what stereotype – caste, religion, country, race, gender etc., – a person comes from, a good human being will be a good human being. Or in her case, my love for you would be the same because you would still be the same person. But of course we have taken this and spun it around by 180 degrees. We look at a name and we associate all the negative stereotypes we can to it.

My name is Khan, I’m a terrorist.

Hi I am Parthasarthy. Bully me and I will write to the Hindu because I am a coward!

I am from Delhi. It is not safe for you to drink with me at night babe!

I am from Assam and I will blow you for money. *wink wink*

So yes! I decided. This was what I will base my story upon. Thank you William, we owe you one. But it wasn’t to be. As much as I tried, I couldn’t find a personal experience to weave into this. Sure I have been stereotyped against but it just didn’t materialize into anything I was really comfortable telling to a room full of strangers. There was also that you really cannot pull off a socially conscious theme dickface thought that was nagging me throughout at the back of my head. So after another week of not giving up on this non-existent story – all my stories are like Schrödinger’s cats, they’re there and they aren’t and as soon as I begin observing them, they shrivel up and die – I gave up.

Three more days! Come on Internet… At least now I didn’t have enough time to over think things and mess it up.

Then there was another “The importance of being Earnest” which I had remembered reading ages ago. But by then it became such a boring story and the impossibility of adapting it to my life so obvious that I moved on to Facebook, Twitter, 9GaG, Reddit and Tumblr. I hadn’t come up with a single decent tale and it was now only one night between me and the competition.

It was around 11p.m that night and I was furiously backspacing shit when my mother enters my room and announces:

“_________, we have received a mail from this girl’s parents telling your horoscopes match! See her picture and tell me what you think!”

This was my God-given Tinder app (nature-given to soothe you atheistic tits). And I really was excited to see the photo of this girl. Swipe right of course motherfucker! As if I really had to think about it. But I had to play it cool. It is not a very wise thing to let your parents know you’re desperate for marriage.

“Not again ma! Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“It won’t take a minute da. Just have a look…”

“How many times do I have to tell you? I am not really interested in marriage. Give me at least 2 more years no… Let me stabilize at my job… Settle down a bit…”

“If we start now only in another 2 years’ time we can finish! Already you are getting girls one or two years only younger than you. The older you are, the older they will be!”

That, by the way, is Fucked Up Explanation #17 in Why you should get married as soon as possible – An incomplete list of Reasons for Parents to coerce their kids into marriage, and those words have been spoken to every male child in an Indian household at some point in their lives. There are more than 100 Fucked Up Explanations and those FuEs deserve a story of their own. However for now let me just leave you with FuE #1, which is, “We need grandkids!” It is like parents take all the pent-up hate they had for us when we were babies, and use some mathematical formula on it to convert it into love for our babies. Anyway I digress. I pretended to sulk and took the phone from my mother.

HOLY SHIT SHE WAS PRETTY!!

Ok calm down! Deep breaths man… deep breaths. I continued looking at the picture for a couple of minutes and then when I was sure I had a neutral expression on my face, I turned to my mother and said: “Anyway you’re not going to give up! Do whatever you want.”

Now mothers are too clever to ruin a victory by letting you know that they know that they’ve won. So she just wordlessly took that phone away from me and left me to my fantasies. The story lay forgotten and I practiced my competitions are for losers and wannabes speech. That was that and by this point, if I were you, reader, I’d be wondering too what the fuck was the point of all this. A little more patience and you shall get there.

So a couple of days later, after the competition was over, and I had successfully not participated in it, I get a phone call from my sister.

“So! Amma was telling me you’ve said ok for marriage?” I could hear an evil laugh in her tone as she was probably preparing for her cruel sister-in-law role. Do they give classes or something for those?

“I never said yes di! I just said let’s see. Your amma is too quick to assume stuff!!”

“Ok ok! I saw the picture of the girl. She is nice… So what are we going to call her?”

“What the fuck! We will call her __________ only! That’s only her name isn’t it??”

“But that’s also chiththi’s name no?” (Chiththi is how we call our mother’s younger sister)

“So?” I ask my sister.

“Dai are you just playing dumb or you don’t realize?” she shoots back and then I realized it.

Holy Jocasta I cried to myself. There was my name story. Right in my family. Staring me at the face all along and I had to look for it everywhere else. Fuck you Freud! Fuck you!

6-year-old me one day asked my dad:

“Appa, you call aththai _____________, while her husband calls her ____________! What is her real name?” (Aththai being our word for dad’s sisters. Bear with me.)

“Her real name is what I call her only,” my dad said, “but since her husband’s sister’s name is also __________, they gave her a new name. For her in-laws house.To avoid confusion.”

What 6-year-old me didn’t realize and 13/14-year-old me did was you can’t get confused between people if their names were the same. I had friends who had the same name. I didn’t get confused by them. There was something more mysterious afoot. So this time I decided to ask my mother. Who, as was her birth right, told me to go and ask my father, who as was his birth right, asked me to focus on my studies and stop asking stupid questions.

Over time of course, I realized why this name change had happened and to a certain extent, why it made sense too. But this was not a realization that was accompanied by some mind changing incident so it just stayed dormant in the depths of my mind. What suddenly made this volcano explode in my head was two things:

  1. Something like this was almost happening to me
  2. The competition what’s in a name?

Since I was continuously thinking about names back then, I had quickly found a more important flaw in this story. The reasons for the name change, which I had thought were acceptable the last time I had thought of them, whenever that was, now just reek of hypocrisy. And patriarchy

My aththai’s husband’s name was ______________! This was also the name of my Aththai’s father.

If I had been telling this story to a live audience, this is where I’d have dropped the mike on the floor and dived off into the crowd from the stage!

Feminism: From fantasy to reality

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2015 at 4:32 pm

There was a dialogue in a movie which I remember vaguely. Well I don’t exactly remember the dialogue, that’s what vaguely means doesn’t it, but something about it stuck; something about how we regret everything we’ve said and done five years ago. I’m struck by how true this is for me; I regret everything I’ve written here 5 years ago and this regret is not just constrained to the quality of the writing. How much can somebody’s thinking change in five years however?

Apparently a lot. The most drastic change which I’ve noticed in myself is my becoming a feminist, at least in the way I think about things. It is drastic because from my current vantage point I was a chauvinist five years ago. Maybe I’m taking myself too seriously? That’s bound to happen at some point anyway and the sooner I let this phase – taking myself seriously phase, not feminism – run its course, the better. I hope this will serve as enough context for this post you are about to read.

So I saw Papanasam and before I go on and say anything else about the movie I want you to know that I liked it. It is as close to reality as Tamil cinema has gotten in its portrayal of characters in a long, long time. Sure it’s a remake of a Malayalam movie and thus it is bound to be closer to reality. However it is thisreality that is scary. The dynamics of a real husband-wife relationship made me sit up and take notice of a few things which are very true in everyday life but are also very detrimental unless we change that way of life; that and what happens to a girl when she is caught naked in the shower.

The first instance in the movie which steered my thoughts into the realm of feministic fantasies was the one where Suyambu (Kamal) comes home one night for some sexy time with his wife. Rani (Gautami) is all ready for it too and just before they proceed to do it she subtly drops a request for a new car (or is it to go shopping with the kids to Thenkasi? I forget). However he is mock-pissed by this request of hers and claims that he is a man who doesn’t succumb to his wife’s every whim and fancy just because she is offering him sex. Succumb is what he does though within the next 30-seconds. They have a phrase for this in tamil: ThalaiyanaiMandiram, which literally translates to pillow magic and is the surest way for a woman to get what she wants from her man.

My initial reaction to this scene was laughter; like everyone else at the theater. I mean the mere prospect of Kamalahasan saying no to sex is funny. After some time though, once I really thought about this, I cringed. Is that how we think of our women? Somebody that uses sex to get her way? And I was mighty insulted by someone like Kamalhasan pandering to this stereotype; sharing the screen with Gautami no less after the kind of relationship they share in real life. Further rationalization (I’m not sure I’m allowed to rationalize this. But it is a habit), however restored my faith in the man. It wasn’t Kamal and Gautami; it was Suyambu and Rani and that is how most of the Suyambus and Ranis are in our country. Cinema is just a mirror that reflects (and also shapes some would argue but I highly doubt that) society. Whether we use our reflections to correct our mistakes or validate them further is entirely up to us.

Take a step back and look at how deep-rooted this stereotype is. Women have been sent to distract even sages with their beauty and sex since the beginning of time. Women have been portrayed as rewards to men who give up their lives for some holy cause. Therefore I un-cringed myself and forgave the world. Only, I had to rant this to the world and hope that at least one person will see some sense in this.

The next scene in the movie which really ticked me off was that interaction between Suyambu and his father-in-law. The fil played by Delhi Ganesh is fretting about how he was unable to give a right dowry for his daughter at the time of marriage. While the concept of dowry itself is something to be looked upon with disdain and is again nothing but a manifestation of the patriarchy overflowing in our society, Suyambu’s response to this steals the thunder.

He says: “I am a business man. I know a good object when I see one and I also know that it is unfair to buy an object as well as get paid for it.” Porul – meaning object, was the word that was used to describe Rani. And I shit you not, this scene was written in to show us, the audience, what an amazing person this Suyambu is. Of course he is. My respect for Kamal the actor grew because he held the mirror right up to our faces. And it was scarred beyond repair. Unfortunately nobody seems to notice these scars.

Noticing the scars brings me to another important point: A few days ago, I was ranting on twitter about how irrelevant feminism is in real life and how Papanasam made me realize it. I was only majorly thinking about these two scenes at that time. However nobody else seemed to have noticed these and I too had failed to notice anything beyond these: the bigger picture that is. Someone had to ask me how feminism is related to the movie to make me really think. Sure the women are bold and courageous and independent. These small instances can be dismissed away as over-thinking things; as a contrived attempt to retro-fit feminism. But is that it?

So for anybody who hasn’t seen the movie yet, SPOILER ALERT: I’ve written that in bold, capital and italics. So if you read on, it is at your own risk.

The main turning point in the movie, which I’d alluded to earlier too, comes in the form of a spoiled brat taking a video of Suyambu’s daughter bathing and blackmailing her for sex with it. I’m not going to get into how the movie dealt with the situation; watch it and find out yourself. That spoiler alert was overrated. However I’m just going to analyse the incident of getting caught naked on camera and how it could affect somebody’s life.

These incidences are dubbed as MMS Scandals. Another movie that deals with this, although differently, is Dev-D (I haven’t really seen the Ragini MMS movies so no comment on those). The character is forced to become a prostitute because she loses all familial support and respect for being caught on camera. Her response is a major waving-of-the-middle-finger to society and that’s one way to go about things. But society doesn’t like people giving it the finger and that’s that. Papanasamhowever tells us a different tale. It is about how a girl’s life is over if she is caught naked on a camera: on how her entire family will have no recourse but suicide; how a girl’s fabric covering her body is also the moral fabric of civilization.

My only question is why? Let us assume I’m caught naked on camera. Sure I’ll be traumatized (so will you!); frustrated, insecure and ashamed. But the only thing I’ve got to fear is being made fun of by strangers. Nobody is going to judge my moral character; or even if they do, I’m not going to let it affect me. It could just be me but I’m sure it is also true for most men I know (false consensus bias? Maybe). So it is a woman’s problem for letting it affect her right? No! It is a collective issue. We’ve made our women that way; the female form that way; our society that way. Even if she dismissed the incident and moved on, we won’t let her to. She is either a poor thing that had to die because of this horrible incident that happened to her or is a slut with no morals for moving on. Case in point is every film actress whose bathroom videos we’ve seen and judged.

So yes! Feminism is relevant to the movie. It is the crux of it. What is the solution? I don’t know and I don’t really care about it. The solution comes only when we accept that there is a problem. Until then, feminism is and will be irrelevant in real life.

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