Sunday, April 15, 2012

Toilets, Love, Triangles, and Ideologies

I have a theory. I find that when my life suddenly gets very busy with activities that I hadn't initially planned to do, my mind goes blank for days on end, and I find it difficult to make an intelligent conversation. When someone asks me what I am currently reading, and though at other times I could go on about the Henry James in my bag, and the bad article in the Desh that kept me up the previous night, on these days I go completely blank, give a vague smile, look as if I couldn't hear well, and make a clumsy exit. I cannot even decently excuse myself. Later, fraught with shame and guilt, I try to assess the situation. On one such event, I devised the theory. It is during these periods of apparent dumbness that I am in the middle of ideologies. It is like the toilet model of Zizek. The moment you flush the toilet, you are in the middle of ideologies. Before that your existence was determined by the shape of the toilet - flat back, hole in front, being visible so as to examine worms if any (this is strictly the description of the German toilet bowl, and no double entendres intended whatsoever); bigger hole at the back and the capability of vanishing immediately (the French toilets); floating in the water (America) and so on. Now, if the shape determines the ideology of the culture, signifying the habits they indulge in (examining worms, denial, or indifference), the moment the toilet is flushed, the predominant structure of ideology is flushed with it too, and the person is in a curious state, when he can continue with the embedded culture of his toilet, or might embrace a new one for the day until he goes to toilet again. similarly, I realised, my clumsy conversations - when not especially dictated by the sex and attractive quotient of the person I'm having the conversation with - is between ideologies; the one that existed before I got too busy to sit back and think, and the one I'll presumably follow once I've settled down with the flow of life.

Every time Maa and I have a quarrel, we stop phoning each other. However, a complex system, other than just refraining from the phone calls, is often at work. Despite being angry with Maa, I feel a desperate urge to share a juicy bit of gossip with her. Until I do that, i feel restless. So I start looking for substitutes. I try confiding in my 89-year old grandmother. But she is rather hard of hearing, and as I am trying to tell her about a cousin and her date, she tells me about the price of dhyanrosh at Bhowanipur market (it's one of her obsessions - checking the market price of vegetables at all markets of Calcutta, as printed on the paper). Maa, on the other hand, needs to vent about the acquaintance whom she ran into at the market in Siliguri. Since she has obhimaan, she will not call me. She tries telling Baba who is not interested. I try calling Baba up and telling him about the cousin; he says he's not interested. At last, after two days of waiting, hoping the other one calls first, one of us dials the number, the other one picks up, and after a few seconds of obhimaan related accusations, then laughter, we finally indulge in soul-baring bitching and exchanging notes. This system has been repeated time and again over the past six years, and I have discovered a semiotic triangle that correlates to the culinary triangle modeled by Levi-Strauss. Confiding in Thamma, is like boiling while cooking. The latter needs a receptacle, and hence is not a natural culinary method. Thamma cannot decipher the depths of my thought as dhyanrosh and jhinge crop into her mind, and hence is not natural. Confiding into Baba could be associated with roasting meat. The latter is a natural culinary method, and is associated with men in many cultures. However just like my disinterested father, meat can lose some parts when exposed to the fire, and thus signifies destruction and loss. But confiding into Maa, is like smoking meat. It takes more time than roasting because we have our feelings to resolve before picking up the phone. It is rather natural, but involves the phone as an outside agent like dhyanrosh and jhinge, and makes it somewhat akin to boiling. Other methods of confiding can also be situated within this triangle. Confiding in friends will not elicit the same reaction as confiding in Maa, because the former will demand a lot of footnotes. That could be like grilling, a method which involves placing the meat closer to the fire than roasting (ref: Baba, who's not interested at all).

Of course, the associations are not completely perfect, but it's not completely dismissive too, innit?

This is disgusting.


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