The Impressionists and their Genital-Envy.

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The above image depicts the Roman Emperor Nero, standing over his dying mother, Agrippina the Younger, his arms outstretched. Like wow, look at mom’s jugs!

It’s more likely that the painter intended to show Nero appear grief-stricken, even though 1st century AD Roman grapevine said he actually had had her assassinated by a hired Libyan assassin.

Let’s look at Agrippina’s two jigglipoos with a critical eye – no sag, no hand grenade-sized nipples, no overt heaviness. Pure and virtuous, not naughty and seductive. They’re just not enough of a palmful. That painting is a disgrace.

A 19th Century oil, ‘Liberty Leading the People’, (Delacroix 1830), depicting liberty in the form of a bare breasted woman leading the charge against the French King Charles X’s forces. Certainly not the recommended outfit for hand to hand combat. But she won. The French monarch abdicated.

No wonder King Chuck lost. If I were there, facing off with this woman, would I give a fuck about fighting? Look at the breasts. Musta spilled out when a bayonet accidentally snipped a blouse strap. Again, no sag, no obscene bulge, no plum nipples, armpits shaved – just runa-the-mill plain and guileless, not saucy. The “Oops, sorry they just fell out” kind, not the “Come and get it, Tiger” kind. The men around her don’t seem aroused at all. They appear to be saying matter-of-factly,” Cover yoreself, Libby honey and let’s go kick some butt”.

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Faust, lying spent after a night of pleasure with multiple nymphs, with the Satan standing over him (Falero 1880). No, Satan isn’t saying, “Now, Fausti-boy, remember the deal”. The Satan is actually apologetic, his head bowed in shame as Faust falls asleep in sheer boredom. And Satan is saying, “Sorry bud, they’re all I had. If you wanted real tits, didn’t you know all broads with big tits go ta heaven?”

Again, the breasts Falero has painted are helter skelter, disorganized and plain. Rogers and Hammerstein would have observed, “They are flibbertigibits, they are willow-the-wisps, they are lambs.”

Yawwwn. I’ve never been so bored writing a post. Tennis anyone?

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And don’t even get me started on paintings of Aphrodite, or Penthesilia, the queen of the Amazons or Venus or Helen of Troy. Tits, tits and more tits. All less than ordinary. Personally I like tits so large that they give me a crick in my jaws when I try to orally stimulate ’em.

Then there’s the male nudity thing in art, where the obsession is with penises, little penises. Muscular men with tiny richards.

Michelangelo’s “David”. Just take a look at his tiddlytoo. So tiny. If you held up your pinkie in front of it, you’d block the view totally. Of course, it can be inspiring to a certain demographic – men who have tiny penises. Like “look, you can have wee little richards and still be able ta slay Goliaths.

Michelangelo’s famous fresco “The Creation of Adam”. If I had had a richard like Adam’s, I would be bullied outa boarding school.

Classical painters insisted on painting tiny richards. Maybe they didn’t want dick-envy so they painted richards that were smaller than theirs’. I am willing to bet you never saw a renaissance painting that had a hunk with a 12-inch boner.

I recently visited the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and I really think they should name the joint “Montreal Museum of unimpressive tit and dick pics”.

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But honestly, what’s with all this nudity thing that early impressionists were so obsessed with? Please, I know all that crap about symbolism, aesthetics and the ethereal beauty of the human body. So go ahead and paint tits and dicks all you like – even in unusual settings like the battlefield, I don’t care. But please paint ’em big is all I ask, with nipples that can ring a doorbell and crack your skull if you bump into them.

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Objectified attachments

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Overheard…..

“Sometimes, when I grab a coffee cup from my cabinet, I will pick one that’s in the back and never gets used because I think the cup feels depressed that it isn’t fulfilling it’s mission of holding coffee.”

“I used to work at a toy store and if anyone ever bought a stuffed animal I would leave its head sticking out of the bag.. so it could breathe.”

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A friend once told me, “I feel bad for inanimate objects, all the time.” I confessed to her that I did too. I have an old heavily scratched water bottle I am unable to discard. Even though I have replaced it with a newer one, it lies at the back of a kitchen cupboard.

Why is this? Why do some of us sometimes sense a pang of guilt while throwing a pair of worn-out shoes in the garbage bin or neglecting to wear an old shirt with a frayed collar that’s been with us a long time? We know these things do not feel joy or loneliness and yet, every now and then our emotions inform us otherwise. Perhaps this is the result of all those Disney films featuring a motherly teapot or brave little toaster.

History however suggests this behavior predates any cartoon depiction of household items with people-like personalities. From the worship of idols to an animistic worldview, various cultures from around the world have long believed that material objects either contain spirits or possess some kind of special connection to us.

Take Galileo for example. The spacecraft “Galileo”, that is……

Galileo had been aptly named. Carried into space by the shuttle Atlantis, in 1989, Galileo performed a finely choreographed series of loops – one around Venus and two around the earth – maneuvers that in Nasa parlance are known as ‘Gravity Assist’. Gravity Assist is like a slingshot, meant to increase velocity – necessary to enable the two and a half ton, schoolbus-sized spacecraft to reach its goal – Jupiter.

Six years later, Galileo arrived over Jupiter and fired it’s thrusters to slow it down and it parked itself into an orbit half a million miles above the stratospheric storm clouds of the gas giant. There had been life threatening glitches on the way but this artificially intelligent robot had listened to the commands from it’s rapidly receding masters and it had come through unscathed.

Like the astronomer whose illustrious name it bore, Galileo scored many firsts. The first flyby of the irregularly shaped asteroid named ‘243Ida’ and the discovery that it had it’s own moon. Gravity-Assist flybys of the Jovian moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The discovery of liquid water bubbling and frothing under the icy crust of the Jovian moon, Europa and the realization that Europa might harbor life in some form. (Arthur C Clarke had seen water under Europa two decades prior in his “2001 – A space odyssey” but that’s another story.)

Galileo sent back grotesquely dramatic video of active volcanoes on another Jovian moon, Io, erupting and ejecting plumes of basalt and sulfur hundreds of miles into space, the pictures having much greater resolution than the ones that Voyagers I and II had sent back more than a decade earlier. Then came the unbelievable real time video of the comet Shoemaker-Levy, slamming into Jupiter’s 90% hydrogen atmosphere and breaking up into multiple fireballs, leaving huge vortex-like holes in Jupiter’s clouds.

And many more. Galileo was designed to last 8-10 years and the scientists at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory would have been satisfied if it had conked out by 1997, the year that the mission was officially scheduled to end.

But Galileo was just getting warmed up. July, 1995, right after it had injected itself into Jupiter orbit, Galileo released a probe, which plunged into Jupiter’s thick atmosphere and by the time it’s parachute had slowed it down, it had transmitted to Galileo 58 minutes of invaluable data on why Jupiter is what it is, for onward transmission to earth, before succumbing to the punishing heat and atmospheric pressure.

By early 2003, Galileo itself had completed all its mission goals (and some) and now it was time to put it down. On September 21, 2003, it was commanded to fire a ‘de-orbiting burn’ and once again it faithfully obeyed. The de-orbit burn caused it to slow down to the point where centripetal force overcame centrifugal force, drawing it inward, into Jupiter. It hit the upper atmosphere at 174000 mph and disappeared into the thick soup forever. 26 years after construction had first begun, the talkative robot finally fell silent. The Galileo-Jovian Project was over.

Immediately following Galileo’s demise, a funny thing happened. Let me back up a bit.

The engineers and scientists dedicated to the mission had been young, in their late twenties and thirties, when Galileo had been first conceived and started being built. Trials and tribulations, marriages, breakups, deaths, disease – they had gone through it all, buoyed by the intensity of their commitment to Galileo’s success. They had cheered at each milestone – delirious with awe at the Shoemaker-Levy spectacle, stunned at the evidence of liquid water sloshing around underneath Europa’s icy crust, laughing hysterically at the oddity of watching a piddly asteroid with it’s own moon and the many other firsts that Galileo had achieved.

Now here they were, three decades later, in their middle age, 365 million miles from their ‘baby’. And they were watching it die. Scientists and engineers – from a dozen nationalities and ethnic backgrounds, men and women – stood up from their consoles and hugged each other, sobbing openly, overcome by a sense of loss that comes with bidding farewell to a loved one, as Galileo – for one last time, faithfully on command – plunged into Jupiter.

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Ever since we have existed, we humans have always attempted to form attachments toward everyday objects that have become a part of our lives, in part because we are loving creatures and affection is in our nature. Love is a fixed part of our species needs. When we are small, it is the teddy bear or the security blanket we couldn’t live without. Remember Linus, in ‘Peanuts’, clinging on to his blanket and sucking his thumb?

As we grow, we fall in love with all sorts of objects in our daily lives. In my case, it’s the old corduroy jacket that always seems to lift my spirits the moment I slip it on. Or my first car in Canada, a 1998 Corolla that had to be constantly coaxed into taking me where I wanted to go, but still came through when desperately needed – like in a snow storm on Highway 20 in the middle of the night. The car was so dear to me that I had even given it a name – Bertha and a gender, female.

Or even the house I grew up in. I remember making a trip to Durgapur, while on a visit to India in 2010, just to see with my own eyes the two-storeyed bungalow that we had lived in, five decades prior – 1964 onward – when I was 10. Besides being a place filled with love, events that had seemed momentous then had occurred there, like the gradual break-up of my parents’ marriage and me being sent to live with relatives first and later on to boarding school, when life with my relatives became unbearable.

As I leaned against the wall of the bedroom that my two brothers and I had slept in, I stared down at the grassy patch outside and I felt I could hear my Ma calling from the kitchen window…”Ei Jobbu, anek hoyeche, ebar bhetore choley aye. Kal school khulche je, boi pottor dekhe ne shob ache ki na” (Jobbu, that’s enough of playing, now come on inside and go over your school bag and see if you have everything. School starts tomorrow).

It was still there but the bungalow now had a run-down look. The woman who let me in was very understanding. After a while, as I wandered from room to room, touching the windows, the walls, while memories sprang up like asparagus on steroids and I couldn’t hold back the tears. The window sill over which I had lobbed Ma’s treasured Ganesha out in rage because I was caught bullying the neighbor’s daughter and given a spanking – that window sill appeared not to have changed one bit, though it had been way taller than me and I could barely see over it then. Later on, Ma told me she would never have guessed where the marble idol had landed (in the bushes outside), had it not been for the Krishna figurine teetering on the ledge of the window. It appears I had taken out my anger on multiple gods. (The fact that I have grown into a well-adjusted adult proves that Hindu gods don’t hold grudges.)

My emotions that day in 2010 were so real that the woman who had let me in hugged me and began crying herself.

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For the men and women who had nurtured Galileo, seeing it plummet into Jupiter, the attachment toward a robotic spacecraft must have felt like something similar. For three decades, Galileo had been a part of their daily lives.

Without doubt, inanimate objects are just that – inanimate. Or are they? After all, we haven’t yet fully grasped what reality really is, have we?

 

Schloop-me-tight-Goober

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The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is an unabashed schloop-me-tight-goober. Here he is seen schlooping various assorted bigshots, including the Obamas.

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What? Haven’t you heard of schlooping? It is a close, squishing, cheek-rubbing embrace, so tight and so close that it can get a bit embarrassing if you are at receiving end of it.

By the way, “Schloop-me-tight-Goober” is an authentic copyrighted Spunkybong term. I’ll sue you if you use it without my permission.

The Indian Prime minister, Narendra Modi, holds a PhD in schlooping, he is such a hell of a touchy schloopy guy. Give him half a chance and he’ll schloop you. If you happen ta be a head of state, film star, CEO or celebrity and you see Modi bearing down on you from across the room, you’re going ta get schlooped whether you like it or not.

Quite admittedly, the act of one human hugging another is a heartwarming image. What with the rise of hate everywhere, the world does face a love-deficit at the moment. There is nothing wrong with the gesture as far as I am concerned. Politicians schlooping each other in India is du jour.

But what is striking about Modi’s schlooping is the look of pure maniacal bliss on his face when he schloops someone. He won’t let go – he’ll just keep on schlooping you with that Alfred E. Newman grin on his face. Just google Narendra Modi and you’ll see a zillion Modi schlooping photos. He makes it look like he is in multiple same sex marriages, each photo appearing as though it was taken right after the ring exchange and the vows. When he is deep into schlooping, he looks slightly off into the distance and seems to be saying,” What? Me worry?”

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After two decades in the west and being near white folk, I have realized that schlooping is not a very appropriate gesture in the western world. The warmth that a schloop tries to convey, is lost on most world leaders, especially if they happen to be white folks from affluent nations. Take a look at Mark Zuckerberg or Tony Scott in the collage above. I can just sense the inadvertent cringe they must feel, being schlooped by Modi.

Would you find a Boris Johnson schlooping an Emanuel Macron? Or an Anglea Merkel getting schlooped by a Matteo Salvini? Modi thought nothing of schlooping his erstwhile arch-rival, Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif. Would you have dreamt of seeing Barack Obama schlooping Vladimir Putin? Donald Trump has professed undying love for Kim Jong Un, but have you ever seen him schlooping the guy? Why does it become so necessary for an Indian Prime Minister to slobber all over another dignitary? During his last meeting with Obama, Modi schlooped him no less than six times in the space of 24 hours.

In the west, physical space is an important concept. Usually it is a two-foot deep envelope all around a person. Western men take breaching that envelope as an annoyance, even as an act of aggression. Between straight men in the west, the only acceptable way to breach the envelope is through a handshake or a high five. Otherwise, schlooping is frowned upon in general. A hug may look quite normal in India –even holding hands is quite common between two male friends in India – but if you try to hold another man’s hand here in the west, he’ll recoil from you, convinced that you are a raving perverted homo.

There could be a number of  reasons for this aversion to touching between men in the west – one is a perception that any overt show of warmth or affection is by default a sign of a lack of manliness. After all, the Caucasian male is essentially a war-like sub-species of human beings, immensely proud of his masculinity.

Another reason could be the way that a western individual is taught to practice his faith. Take a look at pictures of Christian, Jewish or Islamic prophets and even artistic depictions of God – invariably he is shown as old, bearded, stern and humorless , austere, severe and martial and generally inspiring fear and respect. If you looked at a picture of Moses, would it make you feel like giving him a hug?

All three Abrahamic religions teach believers to ‘fear’ God or else. The term “an honest god-fearing man” is an oft-repeated one in the west, meant to describe a devout person. Being God-fearing is like a badge, a qualification here. Brutal retribution is just one tiny sin away, if one following either the Bible, the Tora or the Quran doesn’t fear God. It may be this either my way or the highway implicit ultimatum in these three religions that maybe somehow makes a majority of believers cold and impersonal.

This is not to say that I haven’t met warm Christians or Muslims. The lack of warmth that I am referring to is just alluded to the physical space concerns and therefore the straight western man’s aversion to schlooping. Besides, I am not expressing an opinion on whether that is desirable or undesirable.

In comparison, look at Hinduism and all it’s many gods and goddesses (we Hindus don’t have prophets or any other divine sales reps). All Hindu deities have one thing invariably in common – our Gods have this beatific, mushy, serene smile. Fearing god is not a requirement at all in Hinduism, not in the way that the Abrahamic religions make it mandatory. There is no threat of hell fire in Hinduism. The explanation is simple and profound – how can you love someone you are told you should fear?

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Hey, how you bin?

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Take it easy, Volodya may be watchin’ and if he gets pissed, he’ll release the golden shower video.

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Now cut it out, dumbass. I told you no schlooping and no begging!!!

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Schlooping, like any other field of pursuit, has it’s variations. Let me show you a few………..

‘Schleep’ is when a schloop ends in a kiss on the cheek. You could go further – like you could think of doing a schloop-a-doo-dee. For that, you might have ta check into a motel room in a remote part of town, under a false name, with a blonde.

There are goobers other than the schloop-me-tight-goobers of course. Let me introduce you to another kind of goober that inhabits the world – suck-my-face-goober – also a Spunkybong copyrighted term. Suck-my-face-Goobers are annoying folks who like to kiss wet slobbering open-mouthed kisses that women say are so yucky. Their kisses have a ridiculous slurpy sound, leaving half the woman’s face wet and sloppy, while their tongues slurp around the palate like eels. Yechh!

Suck-my-face-goobers are usually men but once in a while one gets a female – like this married landlady twice my age in India, when I was twennie-two. She just couldn’t get enough of me and would slobber over my face. I indicated to her that she might find schlooping my richard more fulfilling and I am happy ta report to you that she acceded with zest.

But let’s stick to just schlooping, okay? I am too straight-laced to write about the others, though there was a time I even went schlapee-doo-shaa. Please, don’t make me tell you what that is.

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Getting back to Narendra Modi, if I were the Indian PM, I would stop being a schloop-me-tight-goober forthwith and maintain a certain aloofness. In international politics, it is more prudent to command respect than to look for some facile affection.

 

 

Jardin enchanté

“The first thing that Almighty Lord did was plant a garden……” – Anonymous

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A trip to the Montreal Jardin Botanique de Montréal leaves one kinda unfulfilled. When it’s time to leave after spending the day there, one is always left feeling like, ‘Hope I didn’t miss anything’.

There’s simply so much to see in this 75-acre picture postcard Garden of Eden.

Besides, how do you decide just how long you need to spend at each section – the rolling Chrysanthemum beds crowded with red-yellow, blue-purple and angel white Chrysanthemums so huge that if they were any bigger, they would have their own atmosphere, gravity and moons. Or the gushing brook that’s stuffed with colorful bass and overfed rainbow trout that brazenly waddle up and pout at you and let you caress them before they say ‘stop touching me’, wriggle free and scoot away.

Or the sunflower section? You thought there were only them inch sized sunflowers on God’s earth? Nope, the Jardin Botanique has those but they also have ones that are a foot in diameter, teeming with bees that look like salesmen exchanging stories of great deals at the sports bar I go to Friday nights.

Or the weeds section? Oh yeah, the much maligned weeds. Weeds are plants too, some even having their own pretty flowers. It’s only that they appear at places you don’t want them ta be in. Just because they are hardy, need no maintenance to survive and multiply like crazy, they are considered evil. Personally I love weeds because I love the underdog, like. The Jardin Botanique has a whole section here that teems with buttercups, goldenrods, thistles, catnips, jasmines, milkweed and of course, dandelions.

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Then there’s the book. I always have a book with me wherever I go. I can’t stand being somewhere by myself with nothing ta read. I’m fidgety, but that’s okay. All geniuses are fidgety people.

Today I am rereading “The girl with the dragon tattoo”. It’s not the ideal book for a trip to the botanical gardens but it’s so fucking interesting, I can’t put it down, so I brought it along. I am fascinated by Lizbeth Salander. She is unruly, unwashed, probably has bad breath but I am turned on by her. I  picture her savagely squeezing me with her vaginal muscles while I have torid sex with her. Wild, tightly coiled women drive me nuts.

How did this post turn to sex? It was supposed to be about flowers for Christ’s sakes. I was wanting ta write a post on my visit to the Botanical Gardens and here I am, with a stiffening richard the lion heart, thinking of fucking Lizbeth. (Maybe I really want to fuck Rooney Mara).

Wherever you go, you have to choose the book you want ta take with you very carefully. If you are in a doctor’s waiting room, take something comic, like a Richard Gordon, an Emma Bombeck or a Wodehouse. Nothing too racy like a Jackie Collins or else you might fail ta hear the nurse call out your name and even if you don’t, the doc might decide you have high BP. Don’t take Nevile Shute either or else you’ll be stuck being told you have hypotension. A long train journey or a trans-Atlantic flight is true crime / serial killer time. You need the hours ta fly. But if you’re on the bus or the subway, try not to read at all lest you miss your stop. Just watch the girls and day dream like I do.

The Jardin is strewn with reclining wooden armchairs and my ambition is to find the right spot where I can settle and read. As I make my way from one section to the next, I am constantly scoping it out for the armchair that is positioned just right for a long delicious read.

Alas, in the end I don’t actually get ta spend much time reading, because I have been spending the whole time looking for that perfect spot. And by the time I have found it, it’s nearing closing time. What a jerko di tutti jerki I am.

With a half hour ta go before the gates close, I end up at the Restaurant Organique. Soon as I enter, I feel the pure oxygen in there. I munch a vegan sandwich and an ice cold melon kombucha. All 100% organic. The food is excruciatingly healthy, something that my body simply isn’t used to. But I’m famished so I eat it anyway.

The girl at the counter is a picture of health. Plump, baby blue eyes, pink-cheeks, boisterously vivaciously bouncy. I tell her I want ta adopt her and she blushes and laughs, displaying pearly white teeth.

That’s one of the advantages of being an old man. You flirt audaciously and instead of being offended, they blush.

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My first smoocherooney

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It happened 1967, in a small eastern Indian town called Durgapur. I was 12 and so was she. I am 64 now, but listen, you’ll never ever forget your first smoocherooney, trust me.

It was like yesterday, I remember that day so vividly. The rest of the school was out at the stadium race-track for the annual parade dress rehearsal. The morning had gone by playing the fool, leaving corny notes on each other’s desks, hiding our compass boxes from each other and generally poking good natured fun at one another.

This thing between Rashmi and me had been going on for a while and we were beginning to feel like it was all sort of building up to something but we didn’t know what that was. Just last week my lips had brushed against her ear while we were on a arts and crafts project together and I had managed to say, “Surprise attack!” and grinned. She had expressed mock shock and given me a playful slap and run off to the other girls.

That day, the bell rang for the parade rehearsal and everyone began trooping down to the stadium – except Rashmi, who had been loitering behind. Instead of following the crowd, she gave me a quick glance to ensure she had my attention and slipped away and disappeared inside the chemistry lab.

I followed her in. The Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, would have been proud of me.

I found her at the far corner, behind a cupboard filled with the burettes and pipettes. She just stood there facing the doorway, her arms outstretched, gripping the shelves, her sparking eyes filled with delicious foreboding. The moment I swung into her field of vision, her hands flew to her face and covered her eyes, her middle and forefingers parting a crack to see if I was making any progress toward her.

In a few strides I was on her and as I held her tight, she kept trying to wriggle free, though not with any genuine conviction. Rashmi somehow knew she was desirable and therefore her brain was configured to be coquettish and frisky. I guess its one of those things that no one teaches pretty girls, they are just born knowing it.

Instead of breaking out of my grasp, she kept real quiet and that should have told me something but it didn’t. In fact I kinda lost my balance holding her and she thought I was stepping back. Her hands snaked up my back and yanked me back to her tight.

Now that should definitely have told me something, no? This time it did. It emboldened me. I stared at her beautiful lips and said,“ What would you do if I kissed you right now?” Her beautiful face took on a devilish twist. She seemed like she wanted nothing else.

“I would kiss you right back,” she whispered and before her palms could fly right back up to her face, I had them in mine.

Rashmi was a head shorter and had her face buried in my chest so I wouldn’t be able to reach her lips with mine. Still, I tried. I crouched low, not letting go of my grip on her shoulders for even a moment, as I tried to reach down with my lips, but they could barely make it down to her pretty nose.

About to give up, I sighed and gently gave the tip of her nose a peck and started to move away, when she stopped struggling and went slack in my arms. She brought her face up to mine, her bright beautiful eyes an inch away from mine, so close that I had only her eyes in my vision. Suddenly their texture changed, the pupils widened and the corners crinkled. Though I couldn’t see her full face from up that close, I knew she was grinning.

Taking this as a cue, I plunged my lips down but instead, I felt her knee come up and connect with my adolescent testicles with a crunch and I let go with a yelp. She sprang free and ran, but then she came to a stop a few yards away.

Then she did a funny thing. She stopped turned. Woooooo!! It wasn’t over yet, I rejoiced silently. Pretending to be really seriously hurt, I fell to the lab floor and gasped, my face screwed up in mock agony. Taking hesitant steps, she inched back toward me, the devilishly naughty look now replaced by one that was puckered in genuine concern.

Curling up in a ball, gasping for breath, I bided my time letting her come within reach until she was stooping over me to take a closer look, strands of her hair falling all over my eyes and my chin. Suddenly my whole being was being assaulted with the scent of Brahmi Amla Kesh Coconut Oil. It took all my adolescent self-restraint to keep my eyes open just a slit, like as if I was in agony.

I don’t know when exactly she caught on I was pretending but it was too late by then. As she knelt over me, I uncoiled in a speedy blurr, reached out and grabbed her. She responded by letting out a high-pitched squeal, more in excitement mixed with delight, than fright. Sometimes all you need ta win a girl is a little subterfuge.

As we lay entwined, the chill of the chem lab floor made Rashmi shiver and she whispered, “They’ll look for us!” said she and shivered,” Hurry!”

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Now take it easy. Between the 1967 ‘hurry’, and the 2019 ‘hurry’, there have been genuine advances. Bras and panties became passé, folks streaked naked over open ground and the word ‘f–k’ stormed the lexicons of the world. The 1967 ‘hurry’ meant just a kiss. And not even a French kiss.

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It was bliss as we lay there, Rashmi on top of me with her head on my chest, her curls tickling my nose, one leg draped over me with her black uniform shoes touching the floor on my other side. The though of progressing toward something more just didn’t cross our minds. This, what we had achieved so far, in itself was manna – like summitting Everest. Around us, two silent shelves filled with syringes, glass bowls and distilling columns were still, staring down with disapproval, like Lhotse and Cho Oyu.

After a long while we stood, retreating to a corner. I took her soft hands in mine and my lips skimmed over her forehead, her eyes, her ears and her nose just grazing against each while her breath clouded my specs. I could write a saga on just that breath – it had a scent of Amul butter, milk and bread crumbs on it.

I was inhaling greedily when finally I found her lips and tarried there a while. It was the first time my lips had been on a girl’s and I explored the tiny ridges that run vertically along lips that are maiden – they form when the weather is cold and dry. I didn’t know it was cold out there, jeeze, I was sweating like crazy.

For a moment the Amerigo Vespucci in me took over once again and I couldn’t resist feeling those ridges with my tongue but she recoiled in horror, so I hurriedly put my tongue back in. That didn’t deter the oral explorer in me, though. Since that day, my safaris have ventured into more than twennie pu…baby cats in my adulthood. Honestly, if Capt. James Cook was hiring scouts for his Australia expedition, he would have offered me a handsome signing bonus.

Getting back to Rashmi, we remained that way, giving each other tiny pecks and kisses, for what seemed like an eternity. Nothing was said, the words pouring out through our lips, google-translated into kisses. The Almighty created lips for communication but I am sure even He didn’t figure how well kisses can articulate.

In the middle of our kiss, her lips stretched, her teeth made contact with mine and her eyes crinkled and once again that Amul baby breath lingered out and engaged my nostrils and I knew she was smiling again. Right then, if she had demanded that I walk off a cliff onto jagged thorns and hyenas below, I woulda.

The shouts and yelps alerted us to the fact that the parade dress rehearsal was over and the kids were coming back in. She pushed me back against the burette/pipette shelf, making it jangle and almost tipping over some of the pipettes that were near the edge.

And then she ran away, blowing a kiss at me as she turned the corner and disappeared.

After that first time, the back of the chemistry lab served us well in our canoodling, being empty most of the time. Our chemistry teacher sucked and hey, doesn’t chemistry suck on the whole? Anyways, there we would crouch – not speaking, just kissing interminably long kisses. I think 1967 kisses were definitely longer than 2018 kisses, simply because they didn’t come with any feeling up or squeezing you-know-whats.

About a year later, Rashmi moved away with her family, to Asansol, another nondescript small town like Durgapur where nothing really happened. Rashmi had lovely feet and wore nupurs (ankle bracelets) that jingled just a wee bit and drove me nuts. The day before she left we had one last marathon canoodle behind a rack of bunsen burners. She cried a little and knowing how much her nupurs turned me on, she left me a pair of faux silver ones.

“I’ll tell my mother I lost them,” she tearfully whispered.

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Actually I am not sure how much of this anecdote really happened – all those years and all. Throw into that my imagination and y’know how it is, things get a bit hazy. Did I find her behind the cupboard in the chemistry lab or did our trysts happen in the library? Did we have a chemistry lab at all, or was the lab from my memories of my next school, La Martiniere where, a few years later, I ….. oh, forget it, you won’t believe what happened in La Marts anyway.

But, listen, if you haven’t yet kissed anyone and want ta, prepare yourself for a very surreal roller-coaster ride. As your lips meet, every nerve ending shall twang, every hair stand on it’s end. Your eyes shall swim, finding it nigh impossible ta focus. It isn’t a sexual thing. Guys, you won’t even get a hard-on even if you are old enough to have one, but the excitement will be so intense as to make you feel faint. At that moment you’ll be ready ta do anything for the girl. If her lips are slightly parted and she uses a breath freshener, the sensation of slipping your lower lip in will simply blow your mind. Take this from a man who has kissed maybe a thousand women.

Those days, Indian girls were very passive and demure. They made no moves by themselves. They just sat back and loved being kissed all over. I would say Rashmi was a bit more precocious than most other girls of that era. Rashmi’s face would take on a flushed glow when we kissed, I swear to ya.

And me – I was flushed too but suffice it to say that those days the parts of me that were usually soft during the normal course of the day, remained that way even when I was flushed with excitement. I believed then that a stiff dick was just another term for an obstinate 12th century English King with a backache and a lion heart.

I will never be able to go back and stand there in that school in that tiny town in India, without feeling the taste of Amul butter on my lips.

 

 

Just another ordinary American family

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Far-right Republican gun weirdo and politician, Michele Fiore (third from left) with her family. The image was from her 2015 Christmas Card to her constituents.

The three babies in arms don’t have their own guns, the poor dears – what a travesty.

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St Matthew, before he became an Apostle, had been known as Levi, one of the Roman Emperor Tiberius’s many tax collectors who regularly had hapless inhabitants of conquered Roman province of Judea thrown into dungeons if they didn’t pay their taxes on time.

The word ‘levy’ (for taxes) might have been derived from him, but don’t take my words to the bank. Never take my words to the bank. Remember what the header on my blog says.

Getting back to Levi, when he heard Jesus speak one day, he was so moved that he turned into one of the prophet’s closest aides. He changed his name to Matthew, renounced all his ill-gotten gains and began following the prophet around, taking notes that later became ‘Gospel according to Matthew’ in the New Testament. Here’s an excerpt that is perhaps the most ridiculous of all Bible quotes…….

“It hath been said, ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’. But I say unto thee, whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other one also. And if any man shall sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak too….” (5:38-40)

That was Jesus exhorting his followers to not only refrain from revenge and retaliation against their oppressors but to go even further and actually abbett the persecution by looking at it as something that needed to be fueled with encouragement.

In almost the same breath, in another part of this most incomprehensible document that we know as the Bible one of Jesus’ closest apostles, St.Paul, commands his followers to do this…..Samuel 15:3: The Lord Almighty says … ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’

To put this in context, the Amalekites were sworn enemies of the Israelites. I have no idea what they did to the Israelites, but the Jews hated them, period. And we know what happens to those whom the Israeli Jews happen to hate, don’t we? So here was the Christian God, clearly not acting as God of everybody but taking sides and actually directing his “chosen” to commit genocide.

Turn the other cheek or kill their infants? And while the so-called “faithful” are vascillating from one extreme to the other, their God is sitting somewhere up there and having a belly laugh at the mind fuck called Christianity that he has orchestrated.

I swear if I bump into Angel Gabriel on a mountain top, I’ll tell him to shut the fuck up.

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Wannabe American politician, Michele Fiore and her family must hate this guy called Jesus, since he stood for everything that they loathe. Can you imagine folks like the Fiores turning the other cheek or giving away their cloaks?  In fact, it sure is hard for me to believe that such a family can even exist in America. But yes, the Fiores are actually a living breathing American family, exercising their “2nd Amendment” rights.

Now, to the sane among you who will want to ask what the fuck is the 2nd Amendment, it is an amendment to the American Constitution that is interpretted very conveniently as bestowing every American citizen the right to ‘bear’ arms, when it actually does not.

If you are in the company of a Republican (specially someone from the ‘heartland’) for more than 60 seconds, chances are high you will hear the terms “2nd Amendment” or “Founding Fathers” thrown around quite a bit, aside from frequent references to Jesus. Open an American TV Channel and someone is sure to be talking about how the right to bear arms is “enshrined” in the “2nd Amendment” by our “Founding Fathers”. In no other country on this planet do ordinary citizens mouth references to their constitutions with such frequency.

Michele Fiore and her ilk love these terms of course. Like many of her fellow gun crazies, Michele Fiore believes that mass shootings (now regular weekly events in America) are caused by psychotropic drugs. Mass shooters are, to her, just deranged folks with guns who can only be stopped by good folks with guns.

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Michele’s 2016 “Walk the 2nd Amendment” Calendar, a wall hanging featuring pinup-style portraits of her with a different weapon for each month, from a Mossberg 590 for January (“self-defense awareness month”), to a SCAR (Special Ops combat AR) for June (“Campus Safety Month”).

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Since the printing of her 2016 calendar, Michele seems to have put on a bit of weight. And moved into a bordello (judging by the gaudy pink everywhere).

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Her calendar and Christmas card gained Fiore so much notoriety that she had no difficulty gaining a membership of the Las Vegas Republican City Council. She is now Mayor ‘pro tem’ of Las Vegas and says her next step is running for congress. Yes, in America it works. Donald Trump and Ben Carson are living breathing signs that the more outrageous a lowlife looney you are, the more are your chances of getting elected there.

In 2013, Fiore sponsored a bill in the state assembly, which would allow students and teachers to carry concealed firearms on college campuses, grade schools and day care facilities. It would even allow folks to walk into airports with concealed guns on their person. In an interview with The New York Times, she is quoted saying, “If those hot young girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to stick their fingers up their panties. The assaults that are occurring today will stop once a few of these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.”

Fiore is confident that her bill will gain support and eventually become law. “This bill is for the good guys that are abiding by the law, being put in dangerous situations where we can’t defend ourselves,” she says.

If being a gun nut who has an atrocious taste for wall paint colors was the only idiosyncracy Michele Fiore had in her veins, I wouldn’t bother writing this post. I would just call her a wierdo and leave it at that. But more importantly, she also happens to be a corrupt self-dealing politician who is actually in there, like all other Republicans, for the money.

Besides her official duties, Fiore also owns and operates a home health care business, named ‘Always there 4 U, Llc.’ and has her own radio show where she once infamously proclaimed that cancer is not a cell mutation, as conventional science believes, but a ‘fungus’ that can be flushed out of the body with sodium bicarbonate.

A weirdo can still be considered a palatable person if that person at least didn’t break the law, but this lady cannot help herself. In 2014, she and her business faced $1 million in fines involving unpaid taxes. She simply forgot to deposit employee payroll taxes with the state exchequer. And guess what? Michelle Fiore was the majority leader and chairwoman of the Nevada State Assembly Taxation Committee!

Being an Indian by birth and having come from a country that boasts having 36% of it’s elected officials who are members of organized crime and scam artists, I am so heartened to see the beacon of the free world having it’s own share of redneck kooks who fill other folks with disgust.

Way to go, America, thank you for bolstering an Indian’s sense of self-worth.

 

Collective euphoria

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Collective euphoria (Image courtesy : Dreamdis)

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On the morning of Aug. 14, 1945, 21-year-old Greta Zimmer, reported for work as a dental assistant on Lexington Ave, New York City.

All morning, Greta had been hearing rumors that the Japanese had surrendered after being hammered by those two atomic bombs, ending World War II. When the announcement finally came over the radio, businesses across New York (and in fact all over America and the world) downed their shutters and countless men and women spilled into the streets in a giddy and chaotic revelry.

It was a cathartic release from not only the pent-up anxieties and fears of six years of brutal warfare but also the bottled up anger over the previous two decades of economic meltdown that had come to be known as The Great Depression.

Greta Zimmer’s joy was sobered by her past – she had landed in America as a Jewish refugee who escaped Austria in the nick of time in 1938, leaving her parents behind. As of that euphoric day in the photo, she hadn’t heard from them and presumed they didn’t survive.

Nevertheless Greta took off and for an hour, simply wandered aimlessly west toward Time Square, which was – as it is even now – ground zero for spontaneous celebrations.

At the very moment when Greta Zimmer was wandering into Time Square, 21-year old US Navy Ensign, George Mendosa was inside a cinema with his date, Rita, watching a war movie with Robert Mitchum in it. All of a sudden the show was halted and the lights came on and over the theater’s PA system came the announcement that the war had ended. Those inside the theater, George and Rita included, sprang up and rushed out into the street.

They couldn’t find a bar that wasn’t jam-packed, so the couple decided to simply mingle into the crowds that meandered around Time Square and just soak up the historic moment. George had been enjoying the last few days of his shore leave and now he was overjoyed that he wouldn’t be redeployed in the Pacific.

If you were a woman on Broadway or Times Square that day, chances were good that you too would be scooped up and kissed by random strangers and most likely you wouldn’t mind it even a bit. Still, Greta Zimmer was shocked when she suddenly found herself jostled and then before she could gather her wits, grabbed and kissed by a brawny young man in a sailor’s uniform – Navy Ensign, George Mendosa.

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Navy Ensign, George Mendosa, kisses nurse, Greta Zimmer, on a euphoric impulse. Greta has her left arm up, perhaps in instinctive defense.

Every man was kissing every woman that day, so George’s date, Rita, wasn’t even a bit ruffled when he scooped Greta up. In fact if you check out the photo closely, that’s Rita, visible over George’s right arm, with a grin on her face. (pic courtesy Life Magazine)

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This photo is a different one, perhaps taken seconds after the previous one. I figure this one was a few moments after because the nurse no longer has her left arm up in defense, resigned perhaps to the sudden assault. The kiss must have been a sloppy one, because Greta’s fist is clenched in cringing, grudging acceptance.

Judging by the reactions of others in the photo, the action has universal approval.

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I am sure the feeling among most women in America that day must have been one of gratitude, like they owed the men in uniform a debt. Letting themselves be grabbed and kissed (aka sexually assaulted) was seen by them as a gesture of that appreciation perhaps.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the two kissers, noted Life Magazine photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt, had captured the moment. The photo was published a few weeks later but both, Zimmer and Mendonsa, would go years without knowing about “the photo that ended the Second World War” and of their newfound status as icons. The sailor kissing nurse photo has since spread around the world, as an iconic representation of the power of collective euphoria.

I recall sensing that euphoric feeling once in 1983, when India won the Cricket World Cup. The whole city of Pune – at least a million folks – had gathered around the Lakdi Pul and girls were out dancing with abandon, letting themselves be hugged, squeezed and cuddled openly, by total strangers. Of course, straight-laced as I am, I found all that open rub-a-dub very very gross, even though I remember having hormones that were barking like a dobermann pinscher.

Latter on I walked into a store to buy cigarettes and gestured at the still running commentary and on-pitch interviews on TV, saying to the store keeper – a young Muslim woman in hejab, “Wasn’t that simply awesome?”

“Mubarak ho! Mubarak ho!” she replied and smiled, as her hubby looked indulgently from behind her. The woman, someone who had probably been schooled to not speak with male strangers, was bubbling with the desire for release.  Historic moments seem to bring out the base hidden instincts in us humans.

I am sure that would hold for even impending events of biblical proportions. Like for instance, just suppose an asteroid the size of ten city blocks was a week away from wiping out all life on earth and any hope that it would pass us by had evaporated. I am certain you would be able to walk out into the streets and make love to just about anybody right then and there, wouldn’t you?

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Rita and George later married and stayed that way until 2012, when George passed on, at 90. Greta meanwhile lived to be 92, passing away in September 2016. Folks who knew both are unanimous that they lived happy and healthy lives.

But don’t get carried away thinking the moral of the story is – ‘grab and kiss any random woman and your gal will approve and you’ll live a happy and healthy life’. It works only if there’s just been a World War and your side won or if the world is coming to an end. Other times you’ll end up with a knee in your nuts.

You’ve come a long way, baby

Achilles slays Penthesilea, the Queen of the Amazons and regrets it immediately (Plaster by Bertel Thorvaldsen, 1837)

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At the fag end of the Trojan War the desperate Trojans, facing defeat, recruited a mercenary army of Amazons – ravishingly beautiful and at the same time brawny muscular big-breasted women, trained in hand-to-hand combat.

The 4th Century BC compiler of Greek mythology, Palaephatus, thought that the Amazons were actually men mistaken for women by their enemies because they wore clothing which reached their feet, shaved their beards and tied up their hair in headbands.

Of course, you and I know that the Amazons were broads. Legend has it that they made love to a man only once, because he died right after, his richard squashed under crushing vaginal muscle control which must have been like the pressures that the “Trieste” felt at the Challenger Deep. If you were an Amazonian man in those days, you had a hard choice to make – you either had a satisfying orgasm that was immediately followed by your penis being squeezed into a neutron star-like singularity or you chose to skip sex with a Gandhi-like ethos and a game of tennis and remained alive.

There’s no archaeological evidence of any neutron stars being formed out of crushed penises of course. I like to bring sex into everything and this is my blog and I’ll bring in sex whenever I wish.

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When the Trojans decided to call in the Amazons in their war against the Greeks, it was a matter of time before Penthesilea – the Queen of the Amazons was facing off against the Greeks’ silver bullet hero, Achilles. If Penthesilea had had the right intelligence briefing, she’d have known that Achilles had been given the boon of invincibility by Zeus and he could never get whacked. Unless. Unless they knew about his heel, which unfortunately no one had told Penthesilea unfortunately didn’t.

Long story short, Achilles slew her. Oh yeah, in ancient Greece you didn’t kill anyone, you slew them. When Achilles removed the helmet and chest plate from the corpse and saw what was underneath (especially under the chest plate) he immediately regretted killing her. I wonder what he muttered under his breath. Maybe – “My oh my, what a waste of a gorgeous….pu…baby cat…” 

According to Homer, Achilles was bowled over by Penthesilea’s beauty and fell head over heels in love with her – her corpse, that is. He begged his mother, Zeus’s favorite sea nymph Thetis, to bring Penthesilea back to life with those magical powers that Zeus had bestowed on her in exchange for being shtupped morning noon and night, but Thetis made excuses and begged off. Knowing Zeus’s roving eyes, she didn’t want competition.

(In case you come across a differing version of the story of Penthesilea and Achilles, ignore it. This is the official one).

Whatever the truth about the Amazons, there have been exceedingly strong women through the ages who have kicked ass. There have been many, some good and some scheming, but they all had some things in common – they knew exactly what men wanted. The Roman Empress, Aggripina the Younger, who would stop at nothing in order to see her son, Nero, crowned emperor and that included poisoning her own hubby, the incumbent Emperor Claudius. In overwhelmingly patriarchal India, the Rani (Queen) Lakshmibai of princely Indian state of Jhansi, led her fighters against the British during the 1857 rebellion. They say, she knew each of the thousands of soldiers she commanded personally by name and made them feel special. 400 years prior, Jeanne d’Arc did exactly that. She infused tremendous morale into a rag tag French army and kicked English badunkadonk till they couldn’t take it anymore and burnt her at the stake.

History has shown that women are far more capable of tremendous resilience under crushing adversity than men. Research by the Harvard Business Review has concluded that women are perceived by their managers — particularly their male managers — to be more effective than men in virtually every functional area of work. They are more adept at multi-tasking and constantly exhibit initiative, nerve and resilience. They are eager to professionally develop themselves and are more firmly focused on results, while displaying high integrity and honesty. The HBR study found women to be more effective in 84% of the competencies that employers treasure the most in their managers.

If one goes by the number of years – perhaps ever since walls came up in 11000BC around the first human settlement on the northern coast of the Dead Sea at a tiny hamlet that would later be known as Jericho – yes, ever since then, gender inequality has been the longest running human rights issue ever.

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In 1960s, the American cigarette maker, Phillip Morris, launched a cigarette with a single target market – women. Unlike regular cigarettes, the new product – Virginia Slims – were slender and longer, making them look and feel feminine and elegant.

In those days cigarette ads were legal and so the launch was accompanied by a prize-winning ad campaign that had the tagline – “You’ve a come a long way, baby”. The copy was cheeky, aimed to portray the modern woman as being emancipated and no less than men.

Here is a collection of those ads. Take a minute to read the funny captions on the photos, they are hilarious. The one that has no accompanying snippet is the one that speaks the loudest – it portrays a stylish black woman in a freaky Afro top and bell bottoms, looking like she doesn’t give a damn. It is the only one that does not have any accompanying caption. The presence of a black woman in a 1968 ad is the point.

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In the real world, gender equality remains a distant mirage even today. The percentage of women in senior leadership roles in business is still very low. In spite of the fact that women make better leaders, only around 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

Maybe I should have named this post “You still have a long way, Baby”

 

The Erastes, the Eromenos and the Pathikos

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A civilized world is one where there are no taboos – Socrates

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‘Abduction of Ganymede’ (painting by Peter Paul Reubens, 1611)

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For any female, born in an urban slum or in rural India, there is an 80% likelihood of her being either raped or molested at least once in her lifetime. For a boy who was born in 500BC Greece, the odds of something similar happening to him were identical.

Ganymede was a Trojan boy barely out of his teens, whom the 8th Century BC poet, Homer, had described as the most beautiful of mortals. Even the Gods couldn’t take their eyes off him. So taken by his beauty was the lecherous old Zeus that he stole in one day, disguised as an eagle, lofted Ganymede into the heavens and whisked him away to his pad at the Mount Olympus.

Oh yeah, Zeus had this habit of appearing in disguise as a bird whenever he felt horny. He once appeared before Leda, the Spartan King Tyndareus’s wife, as a swan and ravished her. Legend has it that, out of the union was born Helen of Troy. Helen of Sparta actually. Helen of Troy is a misnomer.

As for Ganymede, in exchange for steamy anal sex, Zeus gave him eternal youth and immortality and a permanent position as the official cup bearer – like a bus boy – to the gods.

There is no record of what Zeus’s old lady, Hera, had to say about this new love-affair. Probably nothing. Given the times and the open practice of pederasty that was the custom among adult Greek noblemen and their Gods in those days, she may have just yawned and said,” Tennis anyone?”

The same milk of forgiveness ran through Roman wives as well. The emperor, Hadrian (76-138AD), took a male lover in the form of a Bythinian youth named Antinous. As a foreigner it was perfectly acceptable for Antinous to appear in public next to the emperor and his wife Sabina.

Hadrian and Antinous were lovers for five years until Antinous fell overboard from a galley into the Nile and drowned. Grapevine has it that Sabina had a centurian persuade the boy to jump one night when Hadrian wasn’t looking but I can’t submit any evidence of it. Heartbroken, Hadrian had Antinous declared a god, built temples to him all over the empire, named a star after him and built a city in Egypt, Antinopolis, in his honor.

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Up until the Roman Empire turned Christian under Constantine the Great and Christianity began being rammed down everyone’s throats under threat of death all across Europe and beyond, homosexuality in all it’s forms was a universally accepted practice in the so-called ‘civilized’ world. Sodomy was practiced mostly among the upper classes. (The hoi-polloi were too busy trying to survive invasions and deprivation).

In the pre-Christian world, men f–king other men was du jour.

Philosophers of the day, Aristotle and Socrates, waxed eloquent on how the human anatomy had placed the anus in just right level and orientation to be shtupped by the erect penis of another man, so convenient that even the anal passage had the same angle of inclination to the horizontal as a fully erect penis.  Therefore they surmised that, we were all meant to be fucked up our asses. I can see Euclid exclaiming, ‘QED!’

Around the 400BCs there were other ancient cultures that practiced homosexual sex. The Indian philosopher, Vatsayana, writing in his “Kama Sutra”, waxed eloquent on the number of ways adult males could pleasure each other orally.  But the deluge of direct evidence of homosexual liaisons in ancient Greece that archeologists have dug up is astonishing. Hundreds of vases have been unearthed along the Aegean Sea coast of Greece, that have erotic paintings on the sides, depicting males in sexually intimate positions, dating back to 1000BC.

The vase paintings have a common theme running through them – the sexual intimacy depicted is invariably shown happening between a bearded adult male and a pubescent or adolescent boy, usually the son of another free citizen with whom the adult has a business or family connection. One might wrinkle his nose in disgust today but that was the norm then. The boy knew that his coming-of-age required submitting to anal penetration by a grown adult male, who took him under his wing like a mentor and proceeded to take charge of his education. It started invariably with a period of elaborate courtship when the mentor showered the boy with presents until he eventually broke and submitted.

The Greeks had developed a strict code of conduct as regards homosexuality. An adult Greek male could not have sex with another adult Greek male. It would make the man being penetrated (the pathikos or passive partner), seem effeminate and submissive. That was something which the Greek society – essentially a martial culture – deemed a humiliation and therefore inappropriate. It would bring down the submissive male to the level of women, who at that point in history were considered lesser mortals in this highly patriarchal culture. He could be ridiculed and laughed out of town and even lose the right to hold public office.

The ban on adult to adult male sex did not extend to slaves however. It was open season on slaves. You could do absolutely anything you wanted with your slave, since you owned him. An adult Greek male could f—k an adult male slave till he was blue in the face. Slaves, usually the citizens of conquered lands, were acquisitions and had no rights whatsoever.

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In ancient times, you had to be prepared to be a slave if your city-state got invaded and sacked by an invasion force. A run-of-the-mill invasion usually netted around 15-20000 able-bodied slaves who could then be sold for hard cash. The slave trade was the by far the largest and most profitable business venture in ancient Greece.

During his 8-year long expedition of conquest through the Middle-East, Asia Minor, right up to the banks of the Jhelum River in present-day Pakistan, Alexander the Great is reported to have taken into captivity and sold more than 500,000 slaves from the lands he conquered.

Thanks to Alexander’s zeal, soon there was a glut in the market. Supply outstripped demand and the powerful slave cartels in Greece and Asia Minor, pretty much like the OPEC of today, hated him for flooding the market.

Besides the booties that Alexander looted from the vanquished Persian King Darius III’s coffers, the slave trade was a major source of revenue that helped pay his soldiers’ above-average salaries and frequent bonuses. It is said that on one occasion, after he had sacked the city of Tyre, he paid his troops the equivalent of 8 years’ pay as bonus. If it hadn’t been for his largesse, his men, tired of the fighting and homesick, would have turned and gone back much earlier.

Alexander was huge on the slave trade but he was also a fair man. If a state readily submitted to his invasion force and acknowledged him as their monarch without a challenge, he not only spared them a massacre but in fact enthusiastically waded into their culture, encouraging his commanders and troops to go forth and marry their women and intermingle. He allowed the citizens of the annexed lands to retain their culture and traditions and even offered sacrifices to their Gods at their temples. The slaves came from the states that tried in vain to repel his invasion and faced his wrath as a result.

Alexander was a horny bastard too, of that there is very little doubt. He didn’t believe in harems like his arch-rival, Darius III, who had 365 concubines, one for every night of the year (I suppose he rested on leap years). Alexander however had a string of affairs and wives and he also had at least two male lovers that I know of. He was very respectful of folk he had sex with and there was no rough stuff, unlike other conquerors of his time.

Alexander was a good looking guy, as per the 1st Century AD historian, Plutarch. Says he, “…Not very tall, perhaps a little over five podes and a half, Alexander was light brown skinned and had a tinge of red on his face and upon his breast. Aristoxenus, in his memoirs, spoke at length of Alexander’s sharp features and bright blue eyes. He had heard Aristotle speak in amazement of a most alluring scent that emanated from his skin. His breath and his body were so fragrant that they perfumed his undergarments……” Yuck! Ugh!

Powerful city-states like Athens and Sparta and empires too, like the Persian and Roman empires, had large populations of slaves who had been nabbed from conquered lands and put to work in mines or construction and even as domestic help. At the height of it’s golden age – around 450BC – one in three inhabitants of Greece was a slave.

The slave-to-citizen ratio was even higher with the Romans and that could be a reason why in the 1st Century BC, a Thracian slave named Kirk Douglas managed to band together a well-organized fighting force of 70000 slaves against the Roman legions and was able to get as far as he did, massacring thousands of well-trained and superbly equipped Roman legionaries, before he was finally apprehended and killed. Even though he did not succeed in the end, Douglas is still an interesting example of how far the will to be free can take you, but I shall have to leave that for another occasion.

What? Did I say Kirk Douglas? Oh, sorry, the slave was called Spartacus. Kirk Douglas only played the role of Spartacus and co-produced the 1960 Stanley Kubrick movie by the same name. At my age, it is easy to get mixed up a bit. Do watch it if you get the chance.

But during the heroic and classic ages of the Greek civilization, a few centuries before Spartacus, the thought of organizing their own ‘Greek Spring’ hadn’t yet occurred to the slaves.

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While the adult-to-adult male sex was a no-no in ancient Greece, the acceptable practice was what we term today as pederasty – sex between an adult male (the erastes) and a boy in the age bracket of around 10 to 17 (known as the eromenos). It was pedophilia with a slightly narrowed age range. Pederasty was a practice that was regulated by the State as an institution, no kidding. It was generally taken as a supplement to a heterosexual marriage, which the Greek deemed as essential for the purpose of procreation. Thus, the adult men who practiced pederasty were basically bisexuals.

Today, the age of consent varies from country to country but overall, pederasty is considered just as heinous a crime as pedophilia and most nations in the modern world have strict laws against it. The same Socrates, whom we like to lionize, would be cooling his heels inside a maximum security penitentiary, serving a lengthy sentence, had he been around today.

Back then, institutionalized as it was, pederasty was commonplace. There were even public places where noblemen met and swapped their boy lovers. The Grecian baths for example were places where nobles lazed around and exchanged boys. If they had internet they would probably call it swapboy.com or something.

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An Erastes with his Eromenos, on a Greek vase (Image coutesy: Wikimedia)

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The pederasty practiced in ancient Greece was in fact cyclic – as soon as the eromenos began to sport a beard, it was a sign that he was now an adult and therefore could not continue his sexual liaison with his erastes. He could in fact himself start leading life as an erastes now and have his own eromenos. Oh Goody!!

In ancient Greece, if you were a male from the upper classes, you were either an erastes or an eromenos. You didn’t fight it. You humped or you got humped. By another male. That was that. Grecian stores even stocked different varieties of depilatory products to help you keep your eromenos looking young and therefore ‘acceptable’.

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The Greek poet, Anacreon, and his little lover. Anacreon’s poetry was all about passion, love, infatuation, revelry and parties, like an ancient version of Jackie Collins, except in his case, the protagonists were invariably pederasts. 

Interestingly, most sculptures, bas-reliefs and paintings depicting ancient Greek pederasty, are found in the Vatican palaces and museums today. Should this be a surprise at all?

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The Greek city-state of Sparta mandated an austere existence, devoid of any kind of extravagance (and hence the word ‘spartan’). Military training was mandatory and stretched right through a boy’s formative years, starting at age six, right up until twenty-two. During this period, the little boys got paired off with the older boys or men in the military academy, who became their mentors. They spent long hours working out inside gyms and arenas, practicing the five exercises of the pentathlon – wrestling, races, long jumps, throwing the discus and hurling the javelin.

The youths in the gymnasia were always naked and sexual intimacy was inevitable and encouraged as an essential part of the kid’s education. The word ‘gymnasium’ is reported to have been derived from the Greek word ‘gymnos’, which means ‘naked’.

It got so bad with the 22-year old graduating cadets of the Spartan military academy that, on their wedding night, their brides had to resort to dressing like men in order to arouse their grooms and help them make the transition from homosexual to heterosexual sex.

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It’s an irony that we term the ancient Greeks as the very fountain of western civilization, when most of what they practiced – pederasty, slavery – would land them inside a supermax prison today.

Seeking comfort in inanity

“Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Do pay it. Don’t forget”

― Socrates to personal aide, minutes before he was forced to kill himself by consuming hemlock, 399BC

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The citizens of Athens bore a massive grudge against Socrates.

The philosopher preached totalitarian dictatorship as the only feasible way to govern and spawned through his teachings, students who specialized in overthrowing democratically elected governments and instituting a reign of terror.

Socrates shaped the world view of at least two of his star pupils, Alcibiades and Critias. Alcibiades (450-404 BC) was an Athenian General who proposed that the only successful mode of governance was not democracy but an oligarchy of a few powerful leaders who should decide the fate of the populace. The other pupil, Critias, became a member of a group of bad guys called the thirty tyrants, a pro-Spartan oligarchy that unleashed a reign of terror on the Athenians for more than a year, around 404 BC.

Together, with Spartan support, Alcibiades and Crtitias usurped power and wreaked havoc, in which thousands of Athenians were deprived of their property and either banished from the city or executed.

Aside from his extreme views on governance, Socrates was also well known for his pederasty, the practice of forcing young pubescent boys into having sex with him.

The world lionizes this guy today.

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Ancient Arab merchants had a saying – “if you teach your pupils how to kill, it is only a matter of time when you will yourself be the victim”. So it came to pass with Socrates.

No one knows exactly when or how Socrates fell afoul of the oligarchs or if his open sexual deviance did him in. One day in 399 BC, he was made to stand trial before a  jury of 500 of his fellow Athenians.

Those days, just about any offense could be deemed a capital crime. Long story short, Socrates was found guilty and sentenced to die by lethal poison. His famous student, Plato, has recorded what happened next – an executioner handed Socrates a cup that contained an extract of hemlock called coniine and said,” Just drink it and walk around until your legs begin to feel really heavy. Then lie down. It will soon act.’

Socrates did as directed and then walked around until his legs began to feel heavy like the executioner had said they would and then, he lay down on his back.

As the chill sensation got to his waist, Socrates suddenly rose up on his elbows as if he had remembered something, rubbed his eyes and said to his faithful Crito, “ Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Do pay it. Don’t forget.”

Do you just believe this guy? He was about to die and here he was, thinking of something as inane as repaying a personal debt of a cock.

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Socrates’ last-minute command to his servant might be considered trivial but inanity at a moment of deep personal trauma is not uncommon. At the point of death, condemned men seek to suppress the conscious knowledge of the direness  of their circumstances by speaking of inane things and trying to maintain an illusion in their minds that everything is normal.

The English King Henry VIII’s Queen, Anne Boleyn, insisted on leaving detailed instructions for the maintenance of her potted plants. The serial murderer, Ted Bundy, repeatedly reminded a warder to post a letter of complaint he had written, to a magazine that had incorrectly mentioned his place of birth.

Nobel Laureate and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Eli Wiesel, has written about a neighbor whom he heard asking an SS storm trooper (who was shoving him into a truck bound for the Bogdanovka Concentration Camp) in an everyday matter-of-fact tone, to turn off the lights inside his apartment, since electricity was expensive. The act of turning off lights in an empty apartment of a man who knew he was being carted off to his death, would in no way change his circumstances and yet that was the first thing that came to Wiesel’s neighbor’s mind.

Just seconds before the trapdoor he was standing on, gave and he plummeted to his death, Saddam Hussein was asking the Shiite militia guy adjusting the noose round his neck, to move the knot a bit to the side as it was tickling his nose. The executioner obliged, in a final act of kindness toward a man who did not deserve any.

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A similar urge toward the inane also happens when one is on the verge of saying farewell to loved ones, just before the last call for departure is announced at the airport or when the signal turns orange at the rail station. As parting becomes imminent, the mind goes sort of numb, unable to think of anything consequential to say. Desperate to keep a conversation going, to maintain the feeling of being together, we say the most inane of things.

When I left India for good, my mother was at the airport. There was a wall-to-wall plate glass window inside the lounge where we sat waiting, watching aircraft take off and land. Security had already been called and it was just minutes before departure would be announced. I had no words to say to the one person to whom I owed so much.

“See how cute that kid is?” I said pointing at a toddler who was trying to break free from his mother’s grasp by biting on her fingers. My mother smiled and nodded, trying hard to hold back her tears.

“Can you read what’s written on that counter over there? I do have to get my eyes checked. Haven’t done it in a while,” said she. I nodded and smiled.

We kept up a banter, while inside us raged emotions like wildfire, real conversations, that remained unsaid. Instead one was trying to read something hung up on a counter while the other found a pain-in-the-ass unruly kid, cute. The closer you are, to the one you are leaving behind and the closer it comes to the good-byes, the more inane the conversation seems to turn.

Ah, but for the soothing emptiness of inanity. We are brimming with inanity. Getting rid of our inanities cannot be achieved without getting rid of ourselves.