Why are we losing our sense of humour?

I watched the match and frankly I think the cartoon was not only apt but hilarious too. I don’t know what rich white liberals are bitching about.

To recap, here’s what went down in the US Open women’s final, where Serena Williams smashed two rackets and called the umpire a thief, all because she could not get her act together in front of an opponent who looked obviously like a better player…

The umpire was 100% correct in his decisions, but instead of taking due care, Serena Williams was petulant, rude. When awarded a fine and penalized a game, she whined,” Male players aren’t treated this way.”

Sure, male players may be treated more leniently, but that is a systemic problem. It does not justify unloading on the umpire in this particular instance. This is not a court of law where Serena Williams is to be exonerated because of a precedent.

The bleeding heart media is calling the cartoon “coon caricature”, a cartoon genre created in the early 20th century that took pleasure in depicting blacks as lazy, easily frightened, chronically idle, inarticulate cry babies.

The liberal media and celebrities (specially white literati) are up in arms. It is exactly this sort of over reaction over a simple, uncomplicated, hilarious cartoon that is pissing off the white nationalists in the western world.

Why are we losing our sense of humour?

Collective euphoria

A jubilant American sailor clutching a white-unifo

Times Square, New York City.

A girl is forcibly swept off her feet and kissed by a stranger.

The image is recognized worldwide as “The photo that ended the Second World War

Collective euphoria? Or pardonable sexual assault? I say ‘pardonable’ since you can see even the other women in the image smiling.

(Pic courtesy: Life Magazine)

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On the morning of Aug. 15, 1945, 21-year-old Greta Zimmer reported to work as a dental assistant and nurse on Lexington Ave, New York City. While, across Europe, the guns had already fallen silent three months earlier, the war in the Pacific had been raging on, the Japanese – with their stupid do-or-die sense of honor refusing to call it quits.

All morning, Greta had been hearing rumors that the Japanese had finally surrendered after being hammered by two really big bombs everybody was calling Little Boy and Fat Man.

And then the announcement came over the radio and businesses across New York (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 release – a cathartic revelry that gave vent to the pent-up anxieties, fears, sorrows of not only the six years of brutal warfare but also the bottled up anger of the previous three decades of economic meltdown that came to be known in history books as the Great Depression.

Greta Zimmer’s joy was tempered 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, everyone was streaming out of the offices, restaurants, cinemas and cafes into the streets and Greta too got swept away down the stairs, onto the 6th Avenue with the crowd. Without even bothering to change from her nurse’s uniform to her street clothes, Greta took off and for an hour, simply wandered aimlessly west toward Time Square, which was – as it is even now – the go to place for spontaneous celebrations.

Outside, it was a brilliantly sunny day.

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 with Japan had ended and so had the Second World War. 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 blend into the crowds that meandered around Time Square, strangers hugging and shaking hands and soaking up the magic of 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 – George Mendosa.

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The same setting, but this is another frame the same photographer took seconds later, the angle slightly different this time, exposing the smiling girl behind the kissing sailor, George Mendosa’s right arm.

The girl was the sailor’s date, Rita and she wasn’t ruffled one bit that George would scoop nurse Greta Zimmer up and give her a huge sloppy kiss. Rita couldn’t help grinning herself. So euphoric was the moment that it had swept aside any jealousy or resentment that might have otherwise crept in her.

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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 week later but it was a year before both, Greta Zimmer and George Mendonsa, became aware 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 feeling that feeling once, in 1983, when India won the cricket World Cup. The whole city of Pune had gathered on the bridge across the Mula Mutha River, Lakdi Pul. Girls were letting themselves be  squeezed and cuddled openly by total strangers. Of course, straight-laced as I am, I found all that open rub-a-dub inappropriate.

Historic moments seem to bring out the basest bacchanalian instincts in us humans, regardless of gender. I am sure that would hold for any impending events of historic proportions…….

Just suppose an asteroid, the size of ten city blocks, is a week away from wiping out all life on earth and any hope that it would pass us by has evaporated. I am certain you would be able to walk out up to that intern you usually chat politely with at the water fountain in the office and make love to her then and there, wouldn’t you? I would.

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. I am not sure if she married and have family. But folks who knew both are unanimous that they lived happy and healthy lives.

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Take it easy, don’t get carried away thinking that the moral of the story is – ‘grab and kiss any random woman and you’ll live a happy and healthy life’. It works only if there’s been a World War and your side won or a very large piece of rock is about to hit the earth. Other times you’ll end up with a slap with a flip-flop slipper across your cheek or a knee in the nuts. And a jail cell for the night.

Subtlety

“The worst thing about Donald is that there’s nothing subtle about him…”

Marla Maples (one of Donald Trump’s ex-wives)

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The Beast won Belle over her actual lover, Maurice, only because the Beast was subtle in his love for her….

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Let’s take stalk of all those things in men that turn women on. Men who are well-informed, poised and cool, suave and smooth, polished and debonair, slim and dapper, steely and aloof, raw and honest, sinewy and hard but vulnerable within, quick-witted but unassuming, humorous and at the same time self-deprecating and at times.

As you are well aware, I am all of those. Did I include ‘vain and conceited’?

And subtlety. Women love subtlety and I don’t have any fucking subtlety. To be effectively subtle, one has to be a bit aloof and seem as if he is ‘above everything’ and doesn’t really care if you’ll accept the point he is making, because he always makes sense.

If conveyed with the right tone, subtlety can carry quite a punch. I remember this one time, back in the late 1970s, when I was at work in India. We were interviewing a candidate for the post of ‘outside sales engineer’ at a German held engineering company. Our Managing Director, a Dr Brandl, was with me, quietly observing the back and forth. The interview itself was lacklustre and the candidate was middling at best but as he got up to leave, he said to Dr Brandl,” Auf Weidersehen, mein Herr.”

“You speak German?” Dr Brandl asked, sitting up and speaking for the first time.

“Very little,” said the candidate,”I wish I knew it better though. I believe every mechanical engineer should know a little bit of German.”

The young fella not only got the job but went on to become our head of marketing by the end of the decade.

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Wish I had that kind of head-turning subtlety. I don’t. I have observed the same thing with my writing – it is never subtle. There are no nuances to it, just a lot of hyperbole. If I am expressing anger, my writing sounds belligerent instead of a quiet frown. If it is affection or romance, I am a schloop-me-tight guber, instead of a fleeting touch. If there’s a breeze, I say it’s a breeze. I don’t mention instead the rustle of leaves. If its the season’s first downpour, I fail to mention the smell of the wet earth.

My humour has no subtlety. Wish I could make up jokes like the one below that I filched from a friend……

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As Air Force One arrives at the Heathrow Airport , President Obama strides to a warm and dignified reception from the Queen. They are driven in a 1934 Bentley to the edge of central London, where they change to a magnificent 17th century carriage hitched to six white horses. They continue on towards the Buckingham Palace.

Suddenly, the right rear horse lets out the most horrendous earth shattering fart ever heard in the British Empire. The smell is so atrocious that both the passengers in the carriage must use handkerchiefs over their noses. The fart shakes the coach, but the two heads of State do their best to ignore the incident.

The Queen politely turns to President Obama, “Mr President, please, accept my regrets. I am sure you understand there are some things that even a Queen cannot control.”

Obama, always ‘Presidential’, responded:”Your Majesty, do not give the matter another thought. Until you mentioned it, I thought it was one of the horses.”

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What about this one…. “Life without women would be a pain in the ass…” I failed to get that one.

When Kenny told it at the lunch table at work, everybody laughed. Melissa laughed so hard she spilled her yoghurt on my lap near my crotch and then vigorously scrubbed it off, inches from my richard. I don’t if she noticed the bulge but she gave me a flaming hard-on. I just sat through all that, a fixed smile on my face. I almost came, instead of laughing.

But I digress. I started this piece wanting to be serious but swerved into sex instead. I don’t know why you, dear readers, make me feel so raunchy.

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Take emotions, the single most difficult thing for a writer to portray. Masterful writers have use what’s called ‘pathetic fallacy’, where emotions are portrayed through nature – the wind howls when tragedy strikes, dark clouds gather when the protagonist is wrapped up in pathos, violence is a raging storm and of course its sunny, when we are happy.

In art too, the best works are those that are subtle and hint at something rather than show it. In a painting, the blue of the sky reflected on the still water of a lake is far more appealing than showing the actual sky. The hint of a smile on Mona Lisa’s lips has enthralled millions over the years.

Likewise, in matters of the heart, subtle looks and hints can be more romantic than expressing your passion outright. A stolen glance can convey more yearning than reams of words. When you’re sitting across the banquet table from a woman whom you have never met before or when you are in a train or a bus, across the aisle from a girl you are inexplicably attracted to, the vibes can be very real and very subtle. Here’s what happened to me back in my twennies…..

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On the ride to and from work, there was a girl who traveled on the same bus I did, every day. Mornings, like clockwork she got on a few stops after me. Soon, even before the bus came to a halt, my eyes would be scouring the bus stop, desperate to see if she was there. She got off at the same stop I did and went off down the road to another office building close by.

Evenings, we were at the same stop and we boarded the same bus and always sat way back, facing each other, taking care never to stare directly at each other. Every once in a while though we got caught staring at each other and quickly averted our eyes. We pretended we didn’t exist and at the same time, it felt as if we were the only two souls inside the bus.

On days when she wasn’t there, it seemed as if there was no joy left in the world. I moved around at work, listless, feeling like a humourless zombie. I was in love, no question about it. Was it the same with her when I didn’t show up? I would like to think yes.

And then, all of a sudden one day, she wasn’t there at her stop anymore. She didn’t turn up again. For a month I was broken. Not knowing if she felt the way I had felt for her devastated and crushed me. To this day – forty years later – I feel this piercing pain behind my ribs when I think of that girl in the bus.

Did we really have something going between us, some sort of subtle, telepathic, heart wrenching passion, never to be expressed? Should I have walked up to her and introduced myself as soon as I began feeling something? Or was it a brief torrent of subtle passion that was best left at an arm’s length?

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But don’t overdo the subtlety thing, okay? Some women cannot read signals. Sometimes, the best way to know if someone is attracted to you is to send a little flirt signal and see what happens. If there is an attraction, you’ll know. The next move will be to put subtlety in the back seat and let out a hint and step back to see if it is reciprocated. Trust me, 63 years on this earth – 52 of which I spent actively pursuing women – I have tried being subtle and I have attempted in-your-face and both worked.

So don’t fall for all that subtlety crap too much. If you want to be Keats, be Keats but don’t get carried away being Keats, like in his Ode on a Grecian Urn, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter…”

 

It takes more than a frieze, to deliver justice

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“But Grandpa, where’s God?”

Boy who ventured into the main hall of the US Supreme Court

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A section of the carved friezes in the great hall of the US Supreme Court, depicting legendary law makers. Moses, clutching the Ten Commandments, is second from right. The friezes are meant to represent justice, liberty and peace.

Occupying nearly the highest point of the luminous, gold-edged hall, above the 30-foot Ionic columns, the friezes inspire awe. When Sherman Minton, a Supreme Court justice from 1949 to 1956, pointed out each historic figure to his grandson, the 10-year-old listened in silence and then asked in puzzlement, “But Grandpa, where’s God?”

Indeed. Looking at today’s America, the question does reverberate….Where is God?

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America is about to fill a seat on the Supreme Court Bench that had fallen vacant when one of the judges retired. The nominee is a 53-year old religious bigot with deceptively choir-boyish looks who believes that American Presidents cannot be prosecuted since he believes they are above the law.

The US Supreme Court is not really a court by the definition of the word since it is actually nothing more than a hyper-partisan institution whose members not really concerned with delivering justice as mandated by the American constitution. Rather, they are nominated and installed solely to pander to partisan political interests, by whoever happens to be in power with a majority. There is this continuous tug-of-war between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’, when the conflict should be between proving crime and upholding innocence.

Over the past century, the US Supreme Court has delivered such travesties of justice and emblems of hate and bigotry, that to outsiders it looks more like a joke than a symbol of the rule of law.

But then, America has always believed in perceptions, rather than the reality. The Supreme Court must be perceived to be this great big haloed institution. A hush must fall over everyone when the US Supreme Court is mentioned. But if you talk to an Indian or a Chinese or even a Brit and ask if they know the names of even one of their Supreme Court justices, you’ll draw a blank. An Indian or a Chinese judge performs his task quietly without fanfare and is rarely quoted or mentioned, other than when major cases are being argued in front of them. Even then, I doubt if any member of the Indian or Chinese public would pay much attention to who the judge is.

In America, the perception of greatness must always begin with the awe inspiring sight of the building, to legitimize that greatness in the eyes of the citizenry. Everything in America should be larger than life, greater than anywhere else in the world. While a general election in the UK or Canada or Germany takes 8-10 weeks, an American Presidential Campaign is a reality TV show that stretches over two years.

And so should America’s Supreme Court building be – imposing and solemn, filled with pillars and carvings and quotes and reliefs. There’s sheer white marble as far as the eyes can see and great big Ionic pillars that rival the Acropolis. The ceilings are high, designed to inspire awe in ordinary Americans. And marble staircases – you had better start early and have enough stamina to be able to climb that impressive staircase that is so vast that it appears to lead directly up to heaven.

And then there are the friezes. The nine sitting justices (who enjoy cushy lifetime appointments) are not the only presiding presence. High above the mahogany bench, are friezes with the figures of 18 historical lawgivers from different races and ethnicities, dating to as far back as 5800BC (give or take).

The South Wall Frieze depicts personalities from the ancient pre-Christian world. It includes Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius, and Octavian.

The North Wall Frieze shows lawgivers from the Middle Ages on and includes representations of Justinian, Muhammad, Charlemagne, John of England, Louis IX of France, Hugo Grotius, Sir William Blackstone, John Marshall, and Napoleon.

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The courtroom of the US Supreme Court. The three friezes with the 18 lawgivers, are high up on the walls. 

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The friezes are meant not only to honor the above mentioned historical figures but also to depict diverse legal tradition and heritage from around the world that have directly or indirectly shaped the concept of what Americans perceive to be law and justice in America.

For Americans, those 18 dudes on the friezes are the gold standard of justice, law and order. Now let’s take a closer look at some of those dudes and see for ourselves whether they really are the great judicial geniuses that America would like us to believe…..

Menes (c. 3100 B.C.)

The first Pharaoh of Egypt’s first dynasty, Menes singlehandedly created the world’s the first nation-state. Centralized government, through a coherent set of laws, was born. Menes did many great things but, like all great men, Menes had his quirks. At his Temple of Ptah in Memphis, Menes liked to offer human sacrifices to the Gods whenever the Gods demanded it and that was on a pretty regular basis. Egyptian gods were particularly bloodthirsty.

Pharaoh Menes’ human sacrifices were really very regular. Like once, maybe twice, a day. And don’t hold your breath over who made the shortlist of the sacrificial suckers – slaves, of course.

I can’t help imagining one of Menes’ slaves who has come alive and traveled through time to the US Supreme Court, to be confronted by the frieze of Menes up there on the wall. How would he really feel? Would he throw up his hands, awed? Inspired, by the ‘justice’ of it all? Would he scream ecstatically ‘e pluribus unum! I’m so luckeeee! e pluribus unum!’

Hammurabi (c. 1792-1750 B.C.)

Reigning in Babylon, Hammurabi produced the first surviving set of laws. A compilation of legal procedure and penalties, the ‘Code of Hammurabi’ covered all civil and criminal disputes and reflected the belief that law can be fixed and certain, rather than a series of random responses by political leaders to various forms of conduct.

And boy oh boy, were they laws. Here is a sampling….

If a man has stolen goods from a temple or house, he shall be put to death and he that received the stolen property shall be put to death.

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If the woman has not been careful but has gadded about, neglecting her house and belittling her husband, they shall throw that woman into the water

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If a man be in debt and is unable to pay his creditors, he shall sell his wife, son or daughter or bind them over to servitude

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If bad characters gather in the house of a wine seller and she does not arrest those characters and bring them to the palace, that wine seller shall be put to death

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If a boy steals talents from his father’s money bag, his hands shall be hewn (cut, in this context)

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Phew! This guy sounds like Dick Cheney on steroids. Imagine Hammurabi as one of the nine American Supreme Court justices. Would this would be a courtroom or would it be a body-parts wholesale business?

Moses (c. 1270 B.C.)

According to biblical accounts, the great Hebrew prophet delivered his people from slavery and received the Ten Commandments. His figure on the frieze is meant to suggest existence of a higher authority, beyond human control. There are just a few things that escape reason…..

It is virtually certain that, had Moses chosen to remain in his position as Prince of Egypt, he would have succeeded the great Pharaoh, Seti I, to the Egyptian throne, since the old man had already chosen him, over his own biological son, Ramases II. (Disclaimer: Exactly who was the Pharaoh during the Exodus is a matter of debate. Cecille B DeMille’s “Ten Commandments” says it was Ramases-II, but other scholars says it was a dude called Thutmose-I. But who gives a shit).

Had he hung in there and succeeded Set-I, Moses could have, from his position of power, accomplished a great deal of good for his people – the Jews – a people who seem to developed the art of getting in trouble into an art form over the centuries. He might been able to elevate them to status of full citizens.

(The same kind of unnecessary stubbornness got Jesus crucified. Instead of telling Pontius Pilate – ‘okay, you want to be boss, fine, just leave us alone and we won’t bother you’ – he kept blabbing about there being only one supreme god yada yada yada. But I digress).

In any case, looking at Israel, a nation that is constantly under a permanent pall of turmoil and tension and the almost universal below-the-surface Antisemitism in the non-Jewish world today, one gets the feeling that Moses ultimately failed.

Now let’s look at the Ten Commandments. Aside from the fact that most of the commandments are no longer considered cognizable offenses in most courts of law in the modern world, Moses can’t take credit for them, anyway – they were handed to him by God, for God’s sake.

Solomon (c. 992-953 B.C.)

Regarded as a great king of Israel, Solomon’s name is synonymous with judicial wisdom. When two women came to him, both claiming to be the mother of the same child, Solomon determined who was the mother by watching the women’s responses to his suggestion that he cut the baby in half and give each a share. One woman agreed to the proposal while the other yielded her claim, thereby proving through her concern, that she was the real mother.

Great, but here’s the thing – King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Any woman he took a fancy to, whether she was already married or not, had to be his. Some of them later turned him toward idol worship and orgiastic drinking parties. Being predisposed to debauchery, Solomon wholehearted took part in bacchanalian galas.

King Solomon’s descent into sin has been recorded in the Bible.

Lycurgus (c. 800 B.C.)

A leading statesman of Sparta in ancient Greece, Lycurgus guided reform of the Spartan constitution and instituted more efficient public administration. All his reforms were directed towards the three Spartan virtues: equality among citizens. Note the word ‘citizens’. Since slaves weren’t considered citizens, they didn’t figure in the equality thing. The other two values were austerity and military fitness.

According to legend, Lycurgus believed that the most serious crime of all was retreat in a conflict. He had never bloodied his own hands in battle, I hasten to add. Still, to me, Lycy at first glance seems like the only one who deserves a place at the US Supreme Court frieze.

There is just one tiny little problem – Historians are still debating whether he really existed or was just part of a mythological legend, like Achilles and Hector and Thetis and Zeus.

Solon (c. 638-559 B.C.)

The Athenian, whose name survives as a synonym for “legislator,” codified the laws of the Greeks and is credited with laying the foundation for the world’s first ‘democracy’.

Wait till you hear what the word ‘democracy’ meant to the Greeks. Solon ended exclusive autocratic control of the government, substituting it for an elitist version of democracy in which a cabal of wealthy citizens governed, somewhat akin to the Senate of ancient Rome, prior to the Julio-Claudian era.

Great, haven’t I heard something like this being called an oligarchy? So, where is the justice here?

Draco (late 600s B.C.)

Another prominent legislator in Athens, Draco was the first to write an Athenian code of laws. The problem is that Draco knew of only one punishment for all crimes, even the most trivial – death. You swiped your neighbor’s strawberries and the next thing you knew, you were sleeping with the fishes. It is not for nothing that today the term for harsh and cruel laws is ‘Draconian’.

Draco sure does merit a permanent spot at any US court. He’d have loved to administer justice in the US. Cops randomly shooting unarmed folk would have warmed the cockles of his heart. Hey, I heard that the sculptor of the Supreme Court friezes got a crick in the neck and stopped, otherwise he had plans of fitting in Genghiz Khan, Lynndie England and the Saudi King too, in the frieze. If Draco could make it to the frieze, so could they.

Octavian (63 B.C.-14 A.D.)

The first dictator of Rome, Augustus Caesar single-handedly put an end to collective decision-making in the Roman Senate, killing what little democratic process there was.  A singularly dour individual, he was a vainglorious man. Forever ready to go to war, like the Americans two millennia later, he chose ‘Imperator’ (victorious commander) as his first name – Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus. As in the case of Solon, the laws that we lionize Octavian for, were meant to make life for the wealthy and well-connected easy. The slaves, who constituted 30% of the population inside the Roman Empire – even Roman citizen commoners – did not figure in this Octavian dude’s jurisprudence.

Octavian might have made Dick Cheney the Chief Justice of his Supreme Court, I swear.

Muhammad (570-632)

He was a loner, a man who liked to be by himself. I am such a man myself. Like him, I too like to find myself in a secluded hilltop, gazing down at my surroundings or staring up at the night sky. In fact, we do have a grassy knoll behind our backyard, where I like to spend late evenings sometimes. I am just plain unlucky that a descendant of the Angel Gabriel hasn’t appeared before me so far. He probably knows that if he does appear, I just might tell him to go fuck himself.

But in my case, if Angel Gabriel does appear, surely I cannot take credit for what he asks me to note down and convey to my fellow humans? After all, am I not pretty much like a secretary who can take shorthand?

As in the case of Moses, Mohammad too was just the accidental messenger. Just like Moses, he was not the lawgiver, God was. And just like Moses, he left his community in a much worse shape than when he organized it.

King John (1166-1216)

Ruler of England from 1199 to 1216, King John’s claim to fame was the Magna Carta, which is supposed to have elevated the importance of individual rights and the concept of due process – the idea that laws must be administered in the same way for all.

The only problem is that King John didn’t write the Magna Carta on his own. He had to be persuaded, with the threat of overthrow. Imagine a group of the richest and most powerful people in the country who are tired of paying high taxes, having their rights restricted by government – a cabal of robber barons who think the King is an asshole and detest him. Imagine that they get together and agree to use their wealth to force the government to behave the way they want it to behave.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s the way it has always been, and probably always will be. Wealth is power, even in governments supposedly of, by and for the people.

The document called Magna Carta is touted as the ‘incarnation of the rule of law’. Since then countless statesmen have waxed eloquent over this piece of paper. In his 1941 inaugural address, FDR was heard passionately proclaiming, “The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history … It was written in Magna Carta.”

Yeah, right. If you stretch the truth a bit, I guess. The document was actually a deal in 1215 imposed by the richest dudes in England on King John. The wealthy threatened to withhold their money if King John didn’t ease up with his usurious taxes and arbitrary rules that restricted how the barons could run their estates. The rich “one percent” used their wealth to compel Johnny to back off. The Magna Carta barons were analogous to wealthy campaign donors, corporations or Super PACs using their wealth to gain special privileges.

Consider the one clause in this revered document so often cited as the foundation for the rule of law and ‘a jury of your peers’……

“… no freeman ought to be taken, or imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed, or deprived of his life, liberty, or property, but by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.”

Equal rights and the rule of law for all freemen. Cool, right? Except for another tiny fact. The word ‘freeman’ had a very narrow definition and meant the wealthy barons, no one else. All others – the serfs, the infantrymen, the farmers, the blacksmiths, the bakers and the road layers – worked for them or were outright owned by them as bonded labor. Equal rights, my ass.

In any case, King John was a greedy and cruel monarch who was hated by 99.999% of his subjects. When your approval rating is 0.001%, should your likeness be on a frieze in the highest court of the world’s most haloed democracy?

Louis IX (1213-1270)

King of France from 1226 to 1270, Louis IX led the seventh and eighth crusades against the Muslims, in the process of which he came to hold, albeit temporarily, vast tracts of territory that belonged to the Muslims. He was known to exhort his troops on the battlefield not to take any prisoners. The King was even canonized as Saint Louis, for these acts of aggression, by the Catholic Church. By that yardstick, I would think that today the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, has a similar right to being accorded a place on that US Supreme Court frieze.

John Marshall (1755-1835)

In 1820, the U.S. Revenue Service cutter Dallas seized a slave ship that was carrying a ‘cargo’ of 281 African slaves, some of the claimed owners being Portuguese and Spanish. The U.S. Supreme Court heard five days of arguments before packed courtrooms. On the fifth day, the Chief Justice himself delivered the unanimous opinion, beginning by stating that he himself did not find any moral fault with slavery. He then went into some legal ‘spin’, declaring the slave trade a violation of natural law but not the law of nations, meaning that it may be wrong but is legal where protected by legislation.

Since the international slave trade was by then deemed illegal in the United States, slaves bound there were released, but since it was legal in Portugal and Spain, slaves of those owners were returned to bondage.

And guess who the Chief Justice was – John Marshall, a slave-owner himself. Oh yeah, John Marshall should definitely be up there in the frieze, no?

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

Emperor of France, Napoleon is celebrated and demonized for his warfare. But his legacy in the law is an 1804 civil code that influenced laws in Europe, Latin America and, to a lesser degree, the United States. Louisiana’s unique civil code traces to the Napoleonic Code. Among its overriding principles were personal freedom, the ability to make contracts, equality among citizens and an end to church control of civilian institutions.

Too bad that those for whom his civil code was meant, didn’t live long enough to enjoy the fruits of the legislation, thanks to his almost constant and naked impulse for raw unprovoked military aggression. Thousands upon thousands of his soldiers trusted in him and he simply rode them off the cliff on foolhardy invasions of neighboring countries who couldn’t even finish saying, ‘ugh, thar he blows again.’

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In fact, anybody who held a position of authority in a slave-holding, war-mongering society and did nothing to address the issue of slavery, does not deserve a place on any frieze in any courtroom, anywhere in the world.

The American Supreme Court is of course an exception. In America, the slave-holding mindset in the white majority is still alive and well. It has in fact grown worse. Now they have intellectuals who abhor racism with one side of their faces and with other, proclaim incomprehension as to why the blacks, almost all of whom fall under Mitt Romney’s infamous 47%, can’t stop sitting around on their butts, complaining and start earning a living, now that they are ‘free’….. (If they don’t get shot by a cop first, coming out the front door, that is.)

To recap, a cursory glance will tell you that 9 of the 18 gents up there on the friezes, were either slave-holders themselves, actively abetted slavery or at best found ‘nothing wrong’ in the owning of slaves.

In a way, I can understand the friezes in the US Supreme Court. They are in fact quite apt, for an institution that has constantly lied to it’s black, latino and aboriginal citizens over the past century, making them believe that it’s justice was accessible to them all, quoting those flowery words of the constitution to tell them that they counted, that they were free.

I am not impressed by the cavernous room, the red carpets, the marble pillars and the grandiose friezes. They can all go fuck themselves.

It takes more, to deliver true justice.

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Heinous Apples – In a Rotting Orchard : The Killing of Farkhunda Malikzadeh

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Whenever Farkhunda went out, she wore the head-to-toe black hejab that only strictly conservative Afghan women wear. She was in fact studying Islamic Law at a religious school or madrassa in Kabul, having plans of working as a public prosecutor. Her beliefs were shaped by her faith, which in turn seemed to be shaped by Afghan society – she believed that women needed to be educated but their priority lay at home and their duty – to care for their children and be obedient wives to their husbands.

To put it precisely, if there was one person in Kabul who didn’t pose any threat or flout any of the tenets of Islam, perceived or real, it was definitely Farkhunda. But alas, street justice does not set apart the virtuous.

Read the rest of the post here……..

Heinous Apples – A Rotting Orchard : The Killing of Farkhunda Malikzadeh

 

My first smoocherooney

Smoocherooney

I have written of just about anything in this blog, except my first kiss which happened with a girl named Rashmi Bhagwat.

It was 1967, in a small town called Durgapur, in the Indian province of West Bengal. I was 12 then and I am 63 now, but listen, you’ll never ever forget your first smoocherooney, trust me.

I still remember that day vividly. The rest of the school was out at the stadium race-track for the annual parade march-past 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 ta feel like it  was all sort of building up to something but we didn’t realize what that was.

In fact my lips had brushed against her ear on an occasion that week 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 glance to ensure she had my attention and she 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 wasn’t doing any chemistry experiments or anything – she just stood there. 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, Rashmi 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 barely came till 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 smiling.

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 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 – the look that had bowled me over in the first place.

I lay curled up in a ball, gasping for breath and 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 but it was too late by then. As she knelt over me, I uncoiled in a speedy blurr, reached out and grabbed her and she responded by letting out a high-pitched squeal, more in excitement mixed with delight, than fright.

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

Sometimes all you need ta win a girl is a little subterfuge.

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Now, dear readers, please – take it easy. Between the 1967 ‘hurry’, and the 2018 ‘hurry’, there have been genuine advances. Bras and panties became passé, folks have streaked naked over open ground and the word ‘f–k’ entered 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 lying there, me flat on my back and her head on my chest, with her one leg draped over me, her black uniform shoes touching the floor on the 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, the summit of Everest. Around us, the usually bustling chemistry lab was still.

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 feelingthose ridges with my tongue but she recoiled in horror, so I hurriedly put my tongue back in. I have always been quite an explorer. Honestly, if Capt. James Cook was hiring scouts for his Australia expedition, he would have offered me a handsome signing bonus.

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 small town like Durgapur where nothing really went on. Rashmi had lovely feet and wore nupurs 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 mum 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 and throw into that my imaginayshun…….. 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 shall be so intense as to make you feel faint. At that moment you’ll be ready ta do anything for this 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 – and still kisses – a thousand women.

Those days, Indian girls were very passive and demure. They made no moves, y’know. 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 I was innocently flushed. I believed that a stiff dick was just another term for an obstinate 12th century English King with a backache and a lion heart and that baobabs were really African fruits that enjoyed existing in pairs.

I know I shall 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 in my lips.

 

Just imagine you’re Hank the 8th

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“…..He used to marry a new wife every day, and chop off her head next morning. And he would do it just as indifferent as if he was ordering up eggs. ‘Fetch up Nell Gwynn,’ he says. They fetch her up. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head!’ And they chop it off. ‘Fetch up Jane Shore,’ he says; and up she comes. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head’ – and they chop it off….”

Excerpt from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn

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HenryVIII (Burton) and Anne Boleyn (Bujold)

Richard Burton as HankVIII and Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn in ‘Anne of a thousand days'(This is a publicity still, not a movie scene)

The guy Huck Finn was referring to was Henry VIII, King of England from 1509 (when he was just 18),  till his death in 1547. Though Huck’s was an amusing remark, it came pretty close to being very accurate. Henry VIII sure was a piece of work.

The closest guy I know of today could be Vladimir Putin if I can imagine him being a patron of the arts. But more about that later, maybe in a follow-up piece. Hang on.

No, you don’t have anything better to do. If you can scroll down this page using just your pinkie, you can read and twiddle your thumbs at the same time.

Imagine you are a commoner, born in sixteenth century England, a dark and treacherous place in a dark and treacherous time, reverberating with squelching sounds as folk step on horseshit on the roads. If you are taking a morning walk, you learn to stay away from the sidewalk and walk in the middle of the road even though a passing horse might kick you in the nuts.

You avoid the sidewalks because folks clear out their ablutions by simply opening a window and chucking the contents of their bedpans out and you wouldn’t want that in your face, would you? They haven’t yet gotten on to the concept of bathrooms and toilets and sewer systems.

Hey, hey, hey, stop right there. The history that we usually study doesn’t tell us about the world that folks like you – shit shoveling commoners – lived in. Instead, the history we read is actually the biographies of famous men and the battles they fought. So if your dad happened to be king, chances are good you’d be in the history books and I’d be reading about who you fucked and who you ordered wacked and so on.

So let’s imagine you’re not a commoner and instead, a member of the elite. It is the 16th century England and your Dad is King. In those days Kings would give anything to have a male heir to carry on the dynasty and your Dad is no different. He has two sons, you and your elder bro.

You are a magnificent specimen, tall, well built, with flaming red hair and you enjoy jousting, a sport where two knights bear down at each other on their steeds, with long lances in hand and try to unseat each other with the tips of their lances.

You don’t have to worry about being unseated from a horse. You are King Junior. The other guy won’t touch you, unless he fancies having his own little dungeon in the Tower of London and likes to help the executioners’ union with some overtime pay. But of course, nothing stops you from letting the knight have it with your lance. What’s he going ta do? Sue you? Hot damn, you are the fucking law.

Jousting

Jousting. Relax, this is a 21st century demo. Spectators didn’t wear jeans those days (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia)

Your elder bro is a frail, scrawny kid who is always falling ill. Not surprising. With all those charcoal and wood burning stoves right in the middle of the hearth and London’s typically dank and muggy climate, folks are always just a step away from contracting tuberculosis, which right now is a terminal illness. Why, even a bout of flu can get you killed these days. Add to that an unhealthy diet of almost exclusively red meat, probably slightly putrefied in the heat, and you have to have a pretty solid constitution to get to the double digits.

And so it is with Arthur, your big bro. Your Dad had gotten him hitched with the daughter of the Spanish King Ferdinand when he was just two. That is quite normal with European monarchies, this advance booking, since royals want to marry only other royals and there aren’t many going around. Besides, marriages these days have little to do with love. A lot of gold, territory and favors change hands as dowry and new wartime alliances are forged.

A cute plump and unassuming 16yr old, Catherine of Aragon, unfortunately never gets laid. By Arthur, that is. Arthur dies before the marriage has been consummated. They call it ‘sweating sickness’, whatever that is. Your Dad doesn’t break out in a sweat either, since he still has you.

Now, you are quite unlike your elder bro, may the Lord rest his soul. You’re a horny stud. You’ve been escorting Cathy around, holding her soft pudgy hands through her bereavement. You’re just 12 but your crotch-hugging long hose breeches are bulging fit ta burst. You can’t wait to have your left hand inside her bodice while your right wants to blaze a trail into her padded skirt. That’s you with Cathy below:-

Hank and Cathy

Hank and Cathy

The moment your Dad gives up the ghost in 1509, you are pronounced King, being next in line. You’re 18 now and young dames and duchesses are being lined up for you ta marry but you decide to marry old Cathy. You’re pushover for sweet young widows with puffy pussies.

You fuck. All the time – in the antechamber, in the chapel, before a joust, after a joust. You want a male heir, remember? And besides, you’re just a plain horny guy. Alongside, you carry on affairs galore, with women who are commoners. You have a commoner-girl fetish. Hey, I live in the twennie-first century and I have a commoner girl fetish. If you’ve seen those Malayalee Indian farm girls who don’t wear bras, you’ll know what I mean. But this isn’t about me, its about you, Hank the 8th.

The years go by but Cathy fails to give you a male heir. She does give birth to the famous future Queen Mary I, but that doesn’t matter to you. You want a guy, period. When Cathy starts gaining too much weight, you realize that your interest in her is inversely proportional. It is round and about the same time that you set your horny eyes on one of her maids-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn.

Maids-in-waiting are nubile young girls from noble families who are ostensibly employed on an honorary basis by the queen to keep her company and help her get dressed and all. However, their actual job profile and key performance criteria are to be spirited away and get laid by the King whenever he wishes. In this, Anne Boleyn excels and you’re soon infatuated. She has there massive baobabs you love getting lost in, don’t you now, you horny bastard.

(Actually there is no evidence that Anne had big tits. But then this is my blog and if I say Annie had big jugs, she had big jugs).

You want Anne Boleyn but can’t, because there’s only one church these days and that’s the Roman Catholic Church and it won’t allow you to divorce Cath because it says divorce is a sin. The church’s message is that you can fuck all you want and whomever, even your horse if you are into such dalliances. But you can’t get a divorce.

Anne is a nymph, adroit at getting to your erotic zones and you are one big erotic zone, you. She is dark complexioned, perky, impish, impertinent and has a flash of a temper. She drives you nuts and leaves you with one perpetually sore richard.

The Roman Catholic Church has not morphed into the ‘Facebook for pedophiles’ yet. That will happen in later centuries. Right now it has enormous power and greed and it is represented in every European country by its archbishop who runs things like a parallel government, collecting taxes directly from the citizens while the monarch sucks his thumbs and picks up the crumbs and bows allegiance to the fucking Pope.

Hank weds Anne

Hank weds Annie-big-boobs

But you are King, dammit. And you are hot headed. You have been chafing against this no-divorce papal leash for some time. You see an opportunity here. When the Pope refuses to allow the divorce so you can marry Anne, you show him your bejeweled middle finger and establish your own church, the Church of England.

What the Almighty would think about all this – creating a new church just for the sake of a pussy – does not cross your mind.

You go ahead and have all those bishops who still insist on allegiance to the Pope, beheaded. Oh yeah, an executioner’s is the only recession-proof job around these parts. All that a rookie executioner needs to know is how to swing a fifty pound axe and get the sucker square on the neck.

After you’re done with the bishops, you confiscate all church property and wealth (which is enormous and parallels the King’s). Anne, a power hungry harlot, is thrilled.

You wed her, you import a kama sutra expert from the land of spices and gold and you fuck Anny-big-Boobs any which way but alas, she has an air but no male heir and we all know what you do with broads who don’t give you a male heir. All that frenzied fucking does provide Anne with a baby (England’s most successful monarch of all time, Queen Elizabeth-1), but she is a broad. Not good enough. You are fixated with having a son.

Like I said before, your new queen, Anne, is brash and arrogant and that doesn’t go down well for a lady – even a queen – in 16th century. Soon she ends up making powerful enemies in your court – men you have ta mollycoddle and depend upon, in order ta maintain your own power. Very soon Anny-big-Boobs turns into a perceived liability.

From this point, her days are numbered.

You fabricate a story about Anne sleeping around and even screwing her own bro and plotting against you and then – after having laid the groundwork, you sentence her to death. You had originally wanted her to be burnt at the stake but then, thinking of all the times she gave you awesome head, you decide to have her beheaded.

For the execution, you get an expert swordsman from France. (You have your own executioner but you don’t trust the bastard alone with your wife). The swordsman is an authentic French knight, hung like a bull, his biceps (and his stretch pants) bulging. You schedule the execution for the next Friday. You have plans with another MIW that weekend. MIW Maid-In-Shtup…err..Waiting.

Anne is thrown inside the Tower of London. This is a forbidding structure made from huge blocks of stone. There is a dark dank dampness and the air of death in there, torches flickering along the walls, stone steps leading down to infinity. Umm…that was in Ben Hur, sorry, I get mixed up these days.

Anyways, Anne calls for the executioner and tries one last time. She tells him, “C’mon big boy, you an’ me, we could be in Hawaii in six months, I got a fast boat. How ‘bout it’? Let’s split, hunky-doo, ooooh.”

Doesn’t work. The swordsman is gay. Sorry, Annie, Monsieur Swordsman has a date with Hank’s executioner as soon as he has your head on a platter.

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I have to go now. Will definitely let you know what happens after Anne’s beheading and all his other wives, soon as I fill up my mug with another Stella Artois. Story telling makes me thirsty.

Even when its your own story I’m tellin’ ya.

Toodle-oo.

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Jamai Shashti

I clearly remember ‘Jamai Shashti’ of 2000.

Jamai Shashti, a Hindu tradition, is the day when Bengali sons-in-law are feted and feasted. In Our culture, the Jamai (son-in-law) is like God on earth. There is no parallel celebration for the daughter-in-law – perhaps a pointer toward the stark patriarchy that rules India.

If you’re a Bengali man, on Jamai Shashti you get invited to your in-laws and they mollycoddle you and stuff you with the choicest hilsa fish in a bed of ground mustard paste and red chillis, heap your plate with seaming rice. Sweetmeats out of cottage cheese round off a lunch that will take at least 48 hours to travel through your intestine. That’s not all – you go home loaded with presents.

If you are not from Bengal and your daughter is thinking of getting married to a Bengali, Jamai Shashti might set your bank balance back a bit.  

With me Jamai Shashti has been different. If I said anything about Jamai Shashti to my mum-in-law (I call her Maman), she wouldn’t know what I was talking about. She’s Iranian, a dear woman who brought up a small army, five kids, one of whom was lassoed and reeled in by this Bengali cowboy. At the time of writing this, she remains lassoed proper.

On Skype, weekends, my mum-in-law chatters away, bubbling with news and repeatedly asking after my welfare.

“Salaam, jan, holé shomo khubé?” (Hello dear, how are you?). The ‘jan‘ added after the name stands for ‘dear’.

Mèrci, mamanjan, man khubam. Shomo khubee? Aghajan khubé?” (Thank you, Maman, I’m fine. How are you and father?)

That’s where my Farsi begins showing cracks in it’s foundations and while Maman chatters on, I look around helplessly for Farah and wait for her to come over and translate. While I’m waiting, I catch some familiar snatches like ‘love you very much’, ‘waiting to see you in Iran’, ‘look after your health’, ‘don’t work too hard’. The sort of thing that parents say to you.

After our son was born, Maman flew down to lend a hand. She stayed a few weeks and we have no idea what we’d have done without her. She cooked, scrubbed, cleaned, washed and waited. This was her first visit to India but all the while that she was there, Maman never once asked to be taken out sight seeing, go shopping or anything else.

On the day she left, I accompanied her in the Deccan Queen Express to Mumbai for her Iran Air flight back, while Farah stayed back in Pune with our baby son.

Most of the way she was quiet, huddled in her seat with her nose touching the window glass as she stared out the window at the countryside rolling by and I sat next to her with an issue of Time magazine that I’d picked up at the AH Wheeler’s and listlessly leafed through it. That morning even Joel Stein’s irreverently funny column, which was on the recent Tech bubble bust, couldn’t make me burst into laughter and I wasn’t even an investor.

Soon the DQ cleared the Lonavala platform, clattered over multiple track changes and finally settled on one as we ran lickety split into the Western Ghats.

At one point, the coach suddenly swayed a bit more vehemently than normal. My shoulder bumped into Maman’s. Turning to apologize, I saw she was quietly crying. I reached around and held her gently by her tiny shoulders. She turned, sighed and rested her head on my arm, the tears now rolling down both cheeks.

“Thank you for everything, Maman,” I whispered to her softly. Even though she doesn’t speak a word of English, she nodded. Her head was still nestled on my shoulder when the DQ sallied into Dadar Central, platform-4 and eased to a halt. We took a cab to Sahar, reaching there just when they were announcing check-in and security for the Iran Air flight. It was on time.

Those days, if you were seeing someone off at Mumbai’s Sahar International Airport, you couldn’t go in. Because of horrific terror attacks through the previous decade, entrance was barred for all except for passengers and crew and folks who worked inside the airport. You had to say your goodbyes from behind a barrier at the entrance to the departures area.

At the barrier, Maman loaded her one small bag onto a trolley and started toward the Iran Air counters. I don’t usually do this but I tarried and I craned my neck to catch a last glimpse of the small, dear, scarfed woman as she disappeared round the corner of the hall with a pause and a wave.

Maman is still around, back in her native Isfahan. Only, now she has receded into the background, mostly ignored, letting her children and grandchildren run her sprawling home, venturing out rarely and only to pay a visit to the neighborhood mosque. 

The most important people in our lives are always the ones who occupy the quietest corner of our hearts.

 

Lizzy of Isaleigh Grange

When you are browsing second book stores for antique hardcovers, sometimes you got ta choose between a famous but not so old (maybe 60-70 years) book and an authentic antique whose content sucks, written by some jerk.

Let me tell you about one I got yesterday that falls in the second category – it’s a racist harangue, “Germany and the Germans – from an American point of view,” by a turn of the 20th century white nationalist American bozo named Price Collier. The book was published in 1913, in Toronto. So, why Toronto? Maybe because it was a year before the start of WW1 and German U-Boat activity was already beginning ta hurt American merchant shipping in the North Atlantic, pissing off the Americans. American publishers would hesitate to publish a pro-German rant in that milieu, wouldn’t they?

It all kinda ties in neatly. Jeeze, I coulda been a forensic behavioural sciences specialist. If you need ta figure things out, give me a call. I charge $300 an hour and I’ll figure anything out for ya.

It is highly likely that this Collier dude was one of the thousands of German-Americans who wanted President Woodrow Wilson to intervene on “their side”. Woody would have joined on the German side, given the massive German-American voting bloc in those days, but when Fritz began sinking too much American merchant shipping around the North Atlantic, he couldn’t justify it.

In case you would like ta know what happens when somebody hurts American commerce, just ask the 1950s Guatemalans about the time when they told the American giant, United Fruit Co. to shove it. In case you’d like to be further enlightened about it, type “The banana conflicts” in the search box of my blog ‘spunkybong.com’. Go ahead, its free, though nothing stops you from sending me money.

Getting back to Germany and the Germans, the book rages on about how the demographics have been growing darker over the past decade, how in 1882 almost all immigrants were white Christian protestants from Europe, how there was law and order then and how today (1913) one in four newcomers is an “Asiatic or Turk, rampaging through America, unchecked, killing our innocent young white women”.

Fuck you, Prick Collier.

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The feel of an antique book is overwhelming. The binding is almost invariably sturdy, the type bold and double-spaced, the font-size large, sprawled over thick beige paper. Bring it up to your nose and sniff it and you will detect a certain innocence, even in bigotry. Hold it in your hands and you will feel the weight of history in it.

On the inside front cover of “Germany and the Germans” is a beautiful piece of handwriting, with a flat-tipped fountain pen of the type that is used in calligraphy. It says….

Elizabeth J. Greenshields

“Isaleigh Grange”

Danville, Jan 2

1916

The book wasn’t gifted. It has no ‘To’ and ‘from’ in the writing. Elizabeth Greenshields bought the book and therefore had to have been in her late 30s/early 40s at least, to want to read the crap that this Collier guy had written. If she read the book in 1916 as her handwriting suggests, I figure Lizzy was born sometime around the late 1870s and had been living in Danville, today a town of 4000, situated a two-hour drive east from Montreal. Isaleigh Grange is shown in the Statistics Canada website as a “locality” in the town.

The fact that Elizabeth Greenshields spent money to buy right wing propaganda tells me something. But then, she also popped up in a Google search. Old Liz and her descendants apparently started a foundation in the early 1950s, then supposedly well into her 70s, to help underprivileged aspiring black and native American artists in Quebec. Remorse, then the search for redemption? Understandable. They say that within every bigot is a soul crying out to be proved wrong.

And within every old Bengali, is a sleuth, with the urge to express himself (and/or make an ass of himself).


Ale, Malamud and the Hadzas

Bigotry and the search for morality …… and decadence. That’s Malamud’s ‘The fixer’ and the pint of Rickard’s Red.

Red ale is decadent, specially when a plump, pink-cheeked Quebecois girl – with a cleavage you could ski down – serves it to you with a twinkle.

And Malamud’s Yakov Bok is actually me. Jeez, how did Malamud know I would grow into a Yakov Bok?

But wait, that’s a kinda first impression. I have just started on the book. I am on page 45 of 271 pages. Maybe by the time I reach page 271, Bok will be a stranger. The reviews say he redeems himself in the end.

I don’t see me redeeming myself ever.

I bought the book at Nova, the 2nd hand book store by the riverside, because it had that old Penguin paperback smell that reminded me of once being young.

I really need a refill and have ta walk up to the bar since Miss Chubby TwinkleEyes isn’t looking in this direction. And why would she? There’s a hunk in a soiled paint-spattered construction worker outfit chatting her up.

I wish I was sweaty and hunky. Dear female readers, are women turned on by sweaty, smelly men? The Hadza women are. Hadza men don’t bathe for weeks in order ta smell desirable. Read this if you don’t want ta believe me……

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2009/12/hadza/

But hey, wait a second. I might have got it the other way round. Maybe its the Hadza men who insist that their women go without a wash for two weeks before they can consider having sex with them.

Heck, what’s the difference? If men are able ta get a hard-on only with stinky women, obviously women like their men to be stinky too. The two cannot be mutually exclusive.

Dear readers, do answer this poll, though. I’ll decide ta stop bathing on it’s basis.

There, see what you did to me? I was talking about this amazing book by Bernard Malamud and you waylaid my thoughts. So, toodle-oo!