Monday, March 30, 2009

Dark Secrets about Fairness Creams

I hate lousy fairness creams and I think they should be banned from the marketplace. My deep – seated resentment against this $300 million dollar industry with its aggressive advertising campaigns does not stem solely from the fact that I am dark and have to put up with people who are forever extolling the merits of “Fair and Lovely” and the use of home – remedies like turmeric. Remedies? No thank you, I don’t have an incurable disease. But the sad truth is that in India, dark skin is akin to a particularly repellent disease.
It seems to me that India’s obsession with colour is a relatively recent phenomenon, as in the good old days Draupadi was the loveliest of them all, and her dusky complexion was compared to a blue lotus. And unlike what happens on commercials where only fair girls bag the groom, this black beauty had five accomplished husbands! What brought about such an unhealthy change in the collective Indian mindset? Perhaps history will provide us with some answers.
It is interesting to note that throughout the chequered history of this country where power switched hands with appalling regularity, the victors were always fairer. The Brahmins were considered the superior caste and not surprisingly they were the fairer ones on account of their Indo – European or Aryan origin. In fact, varna, the term used to describe the four castes means colour in Sanskrit. And then a veritable horde of foreign invaders usurped power from the indigenous peoples and each conqueror was paler than the last one. The British were the last in this colourful line and were literally the fairest of them all. Therefore, it is not surprising that fair skin has connotations of power as well as beauty in India. And it is precisely this mentality that has been so successfully exploited by the cosmetic giants and advertising companies.
Nowadays, fair skin is believed to be a prerequisite for success in every possible department – love, career, and life itself. This is a classic example of logic at its most warped. How on earth is skin – colour related to performance on the job? The situation is so bad that parents grieve if their kids are not white – skinned and slather the wretched sense organ with industrial – strength fairness creams, drag them to seedy salons or quacks in the hope of bringing about a modern day miracle. But therein lies the darkest secret about fairness creams and it is a real zinger – THEY DO NOT WORK!
And that is the bitter truth. Genetics is not just a powerful force of nature it is a proven law unlike the efficacy of fairness creams. At best they serve as a sun block and prevent you from becoming darker as opposed to turning fairer. Let us all spread the news and stop buying those overrated, overpriced, worthless things. So the next time somebody comes up to you and recommends some fairness cream or home remedy, don’t make the mistake I did by showing restraint – just hold up your middle finger and walk away in the opposite direction. And if you espy the dreaded tube in your better half’s cabinet, flush it down the toilet. That is where those products belong, with the crap.

Monday, March 23, 2009

When Journalism became Voyeurism

Jade Goody, the British reality TV star succumbed to cevical cancer. From the time of her diagnosis to her last breath every step of her agonizing journey towards death has been carefully chronicled by the media. Her publicist made sure that the dying woman was followed everywhere by TV cameras. Fortunately while her wedding was televised, the news hounds refrained from capturing her wedding night on film (or their digital cameras ) for posterity. Perhaps that will be the next step in cutting - edge journalism. I don't wish to discuss the motives of a dead woman for obvious reasons but what on earth where the journos thinking? And why oh why do people clamour for this sort of crap?
I wish there was some way to filter the information that bombards me from all sides. Seriously I don't want to watch anybody die (unless its on Quentin Tarantino's latest flick where I know it is all make believe). And while on the subject I don't give a damn about Britney's shaved pate, her pregnant sixteen year old sis, Paris Hilton's new boy toy or Lindsay Lohan's sexual preferences. And yet these are the only things that are given print space.
Most editors and media moguls blame their audience claiming that they cater to public demand. I myself feel that despite my stubborn refusal to read or watch anything pertaining to Jade Goody's fight with cancer there was no way to avoid the finer details from being impressed upon me. Surely most of the viewing public feels the same way? And to think we laughed at the Romans for watching gladiators fight to the death or cheering on the lions as they snacked on Christians while they themselves enjoyed the food and drink that was handed around thanks to the largesse of the reigning emperor! Precious little has changed since those times. It appears that we can still take voyeuristic pleasure in watching people perform intimate functions preferably in the bedroom or bathroom (Remember that notorious video that caught Trisha while she was bathing?) Even death has entertainment value it seems. Nowadays barbarism has been replaced with hypocrisy and perversion in disguise. If this is evolution or civilization or whatever we may choose to call it I wish it would stop already.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Aghoris: Bad - boy Ascetics

Shiva, one of the three Gods in the Hindu holy trinity is the destroyer. Therefore, it is not surprising that he is considered the most intimidating of the Gods. He is an ascetic and something of a recluse, unlike Vishnu who comes across as more friendly and warm, particularly in his avatar as Krishna. Shiva worship with its connotations of death and decay has always had elements of the bizarre but the Aghori sect really take the cake.
Aghoris make their home in cremation grounds. They clothe themselves in the dust and filth of the graves and walk around carrying skulls. They follow a form of tantrism, one of the more abstruse branches of hinduism. Tantric rituals attempt to reverse prescribed Hindu practices. Aghoris dismiss traditional concepts of purity as stuff and nonsense since everything in nature is a manifestation of the universal being. By staying close to the dead and literally imbibing their essence, they hope to draw closer to whatever lies beyond the grave. The name 'Aghori' means not terrified (of death) .
In keeping with their beliefs, Aghoris don't believe in personal hygiene or bathing for that matter. They consume intoxicants out of skulls (they were doing it long before Lord Byron did it for a lark), do drugs, have kinky tantric sex, meditate on corpses, and eat the decayed flesh of the dead. By deliberately devoting their lives to what the rest of the world perceives as vices, it is believed that these ascetics accumulate great spiritual powers that allow them to release people from the vicious cycle of life, death, and rebirth or curse them into oblivion. Fascinating stuff huh?
I had no idea Aghoris existed until Bala's "Naan Kadavul" was released. Isn't India incredible? You can live here forever and still unearth little about its cultural grandeur and variety. Looking forward to learning everything I can about the country that wrote the book on everything from sex (Kamasutra) to politics (Artha Sastra) .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Carnivore Speaks Up

I am a hardened carnivore and proud of it. My system goes into deep shock if it does not get its daily quota of meat. This is why I take umbrage when vegetarians run around trying to get the rest of us to stop using animals for dietary purposes. I am sick and fed up of people trying to persuade me to stop being cruel to animals and start eating rabbit food. It is about time we carnivores defended our rights!
Apparently animals suffer when we insist on their presence at our dinner table. I suppose that is true as far as it goes. But don’t plants, as living things suffer as well? The argument is that plants don’t have a central nervous system and therefore it is not the same for them. Please! That argument is so full of holes it is liable to sink faster than the Titanic. I doubt it is a pleasurable experience to be cooked or eaten raw. If plants had mouths, I am sure they would have screamed bloody murder! Soon, there will be a bunch of fanatics lecturing us on the evils of eating plants or animals and prescribing a diet of love and fresh air. Perhaps that will not be a bad thing… we will all get that supermodel body which is the rage nowadays before succumbing to death by starvation.
Before PETA activists have me shot, allow me to clarify that I don’t endorse cruelty to animals. I don’t see why haute couture demands the skinning of animals for superficial accoutrements. And guys who beat animals should be locked up. But it is the natural order of things to consume animals and it is inhuman to say otherwise. So let all carnivores join hands and say it aloud “Enforced vegetarianism is a gross violation of human rights! Let us eat what we want in peace”.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stop the Madness in Erwadi!

Erwadi, near Ramanathapuram is considered a holy place by many people irrespective of their religious denominations. People from all over the country bring the mentally ill to this place seeking a miracle cure from the holy water or oil from a lamp in the Dargah of Quthbus Sultan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed Valliyullah. The Dargah has been in existence for nearly 400 years and has an enviable reputation among the religious although it must be mentioned that it is ill – deserved. A number of imitation dargahs have sprung up all over the place and they are all alike with regard to the primitive measures they endorse in the name of treatment. Tragedy has become the defining attribute of Erwadi as a result of quackery and criminal negligence. The festering cesspool that is Erwadi merely reflects the abominable conditions prevalent in India as regards the care of the mentally ill.
It has been reported that the treatment facilities or safe houses if they may be called that generally use inhumane and severely outdated methods. The practitioners in these establishment recommend prayers and chanting for their charges and though scientifically unsound, it is at least harmless compared to the other techniques that come into play. The etiology of the mental condition is attributed to evil spirits and the inmates are whipped or beaten to drive away such malign influences. Violent patients are tied up or chained, often together. The premises are unhygienic and unsuitable for purposes of treating the mentally ill. Despite repeated complaints about these unsound and unsafe practices the local as well as state administrative officials chose to turn a blind eye till tragedy struck and galvanized them into action, although it would later prove to be largely ineffectual.
On August 6, 2001, fire claimed the lives of 28 mentally affected persons who were inmates of the Moideen Badusha Mental Home. The victims had all been chained and no doubt struggled in vain even as fate dealt its final terrible blow that was the culmination of a life spent in ignominy. The outrage generated by this horrific affair prompted government officials to clamp down on the safe houses. The activities of the safe houses were monitored and the ones without licenses were shut down. Attempts were made to implement guidelines for maintaining safety and basic healthcare standards in homes for the mentally ill. Severe psychiatric cases were transferred to Government hospitals. It was believed that the crisis was past and the response adequate. But it was not to be.
Fire claimed six more lives in Erwadi when a mentally affected woman set a line house ablaze on January 25th, 2009. This incident focused attention on the coastal town again and revealed that unauthorized safe houses continued to flourish and the problem was far from resolved. A host of other issues were also revealed. Pilgrims continue to flock to the place seeking a divine cure for their ailments. Many are left behind to roam the streets in their precarious condition and they are like time bombs just waiting to go off. The police arrested 28 mentally ill patients on the 29th of January, 2009 and they were admitted to the Government hospital later. This situation is not exclusive to Erwadi as it in India it is not an uncommon sight to see the mentally affected wandering on the streets alone and uncared for, making them easy prey for the human predators on the prowl. Something needs to be done and soon. Meanwhile, in Erwadi the death toll mounts.