Paradox Paradise

Would you still call it nonsense, if sense exchanges its meaning with nonsense?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

If only she had loved herself, as much as he loved himself

She asked him to write. She asked him to write more. She asked him to write more about him. She asked him to write something about her. She, who doesn’t like asking.

He said no. He said no again. He said no yet again. He will say no for one more time. He, who knows what an unwanted yes is, and still, cannot tell it from a wanted one.

She thinks he is too good to be true. He thinks she is too good for him. She and he don’t know one important thing. It is also true that it would be too bad if they don’t have each other.

This piece is not about her. It’s not about him either. It’s about everything else. It’s about everyone except him and her. That’s because, she thinks, everything else is more important than him or her. And that’s also because, he thinks, it’s not right to tell her that she’s wrong.

Right is one of the most ambiguous words. It means many things and it’s seldom right. One doesn’t feel the right to define it, or when one does it’s either wrong, or loses its direction. I am writing this knowing that he and she will read it. He and she will think it was not right to write about it. Still, I have the right to write it, for he’s mine as much as she’s mine.

Owning is a feeling that is most difficult to rely on. One can’t own a thing unless everyone else approves the ownership. But one can always go around it and redefine the very concept of ownership. That is what I would do, because, it’s easier than trusting everyone for a thing I own. The only thing I have to do is to deny every one else. This philosophy is priceless; as it makes me own anything I want to. Thus, I can own myself, him, her, and everyone else. At this moment, I want to own only him and her. I own them. So can and does, anyone, who wants to own him and her. And, to my trouble, there are many who want to.

Every single self is selfish. Only a few are aware of it, and even few among them respect its existence. It’s with the rest – who doesn’t know the existence of their selfishness, and thus, are selfless – I have to fight for my rightly owned ownership. Then, it becomes a fight between a lonely selfishness and a huge mass of selflessness. Ownerships, naturally and in the name of virtuosity, switch sides. Right is being redefined, as usual, with wrong virtues. Selfishness loses the self, and joins the veteran loser, named me. They beat me with my rules. I am, once again, ridiculed for my selfishness in contrast to their selflessness.

Now, it’s them who own her and him. I am here to approve their ownership, by letting him to lose her, by letting her to lose him, and me losing both. I should be happy being the best loser, owning nothing but my own selfishness. Losers with nothing more to lose are a desperate lot. They will never let the last thing they own – their selfishness. My selfishness is bruised from the lashes of their selflessness. And my selfishness wants its blood to ask for vengeance. It has only me to go to ask for help. It’s the only thing I own. We have only each other, and no one else.

That is reason why I stand by my selfishness and decide to put up a fight against them of the selfless. My fight is for him and her, whom I want to own forever. My lonely battle is to save my selfishness from its loneliness by gifting it the company of him and her. I know they don’t love her or him. That won’t win me my war. Because I also know, they love her and his ownership, selflessly. Selfishness has seldom won a battle against selflessness, and even on the rare occasions when it did, selfishness had to lose its self in the effort. That prompts me to have second thoughts. If I have to lose my selfishness to own him and her, the same him and her I want to gift to my selfishness, is it a battle worth fighting? Yes, it is. If I couldn’t win him and her from them, still I will have my selfishness with me. He and she are worth more than my selfishness, after all.

Those have his ownership will hate her, for losing his ownership. Those have her ownership will hate him for losing her ownership. If they lose their respective ownerships, they will hate him, her and each other. They will have to hate in the name of their selflessness. Poor them. When they lose they won’t even have their selfishness to console them. It’s not a battle they can afford to lose, or they should lose. They will dress him and her in armours of their selfless love to fight against me. Him and her, my selfishness loves. Him and her, I want to own at the cost of my selfishness. It’s not him or her I can fight with, but the rest. He and she can defeat me without a fight, and they will.

I am lost before the fight. I walk away without looking back. Blaming the ones who love his ownership, and hate everyone who come to claim it. Blaming the ones who love her ownership, and hate everyone who come to claim it. Blaming her for putting on that armour of selfless love her owners offered for fighting against me. Blaming him for not respecting his selfishness and not listening to its commands. And feeling guilty for worrying for him and her, when I should have been content with company of my selfishness. Only if, he had given her what she wouldn’t ask, or she would have asked what he wanted to give, I would have been sleeping peacefully tonight. It’s already too late, she had told him.

This piece is written by a demand from a very dear friend of mine, and is dedicated to that invaluable friendship.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Not about the gender unisex is referred to

“Your children are not your children
They are sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself”

- Kahlil Gibran, in The Prophet

Civilisation is all about overriding instincts whenever it is thought to be undesirable. Every manmade law is about forbidding one instinct or other of his. And this particular man has defined castration, contraception, foeticide, and homicide with custom-made yardsticks. It’s all about desirability of this man, who voluntarily represents the society he lives in. She thinks it is for the good of her too, for she wouldn’t have been born without his consent. She feels very important too, for it wouldn’t have been a man’s world without her cooperation.

Now, a negligible issue is there. Women never were desirable, but were only an undesirable necessity. And the womankind was ever since struggling to become desirable to the mankind. With considerable success, I must admit.

Oldtimers had only one option of blessing away the female of their species with a wishful ‘Puthravati Bhava’. History of the mankind tells us wishing was not good enough. Then man invented sonograms. And the rest, ironically, is our future.

A man can experience only the sentimentality associated with a foetus, not the emotions that could be. Anyone who has been to high school knows that a sperm is worth only a trillionth of an ovum. Something really hard for a man to conceive with pride. And thus, very undesirable by default.

It was near this conclusion I was standing after reading about the dead unborns unearthed in a gynaecologist’s backyard in Panjab. And according to the news report, all the foetuses, about a fifty of them, were of one gender. Those who can’t guess which gender it is, must be Marsians. When I was much younger, I believed gynaecologist is the only doctor one can go to with a happy face, and come back with a happier face if the doubts were true. But back then, I didn’t know about undesirable pregnancies.

Now I know about undesirable pregnancies, and desirable pregnancies with an undesirable gender. Still, I don’t know why it is undesirable.

The government has made it a criminal offence to determine and unborn’s gender or to destroy it unless it’s proven dangerous for the mother’s life. The government has also implemented many schemes to help a female child. From perks for parents to extended free education. These must have been motivated by the belief that the undesirability is rooted in economic reasons. Is it desirable for the man to rethink about this conviction?

Anything illegal has never been inexpensive. And it is more difficult to find a criminal to execute foeticide than one for homicide, because they are found only in one of the most respectable social class. Determining the gender of the foetus costs money. Knowing the results needs more money, as it is illegal. And foeticide will cost more. Now, it is only basic mathematics one needs to know that female foeticide is practiced more by the ones who can afford, than the ones who cannot. I know a few people who will disapprove my argument by saying that the process is not really expensive or difficult as I made it sound like. They, of course, are the people who can afford it, and have access to broadminded doctors.

Is a female child actually a bigger economic burden to a parent compared with her male counterpart? If it is, is it only the expenses for her marriage? And if it is, do people really think of an unborn’s marriage and get worried? If not, what else? Is it the anxiety about the return of the investment? If it is, is that all an expectant parent can think of? If it is not, is it simply undesirable for no reasons? Or is it just the man’s instinct that drives him to extinction? I don’t want to know. I am old enough to die before the race vanishes.

Read the news article that my friend JM sent to me here.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Still, “it’s incredibly encouraging,” said Dr. Helene Gayle

Whoever said, prevention is better than cure, was, with no doubt, a white man or woman. Now, you have a good news and a bad news, if I put it in the classical American way of breaking a bad news. The good news here is that the tests of an HIV-preventive pill is announced as a near success. The scientists are not really too happy about it, as what they really want is a single dose vaccine, not a daily dose of oral pills. Oh! I forgot it in my effort to sound elegantly dramatic. No. There’s no bad news, for those who will be benefited by this breakthrough. Others are out the context (and the continent, of course).

The little piece of two-column news appeared on the back page of last Sunday’s (August 13, 2006) Hindu, credited to AP. It filled the gap above the Su Do Ku, and beside Gunter Grass’s much belated confession, made right in time for the next-month release of his memoirs.

The article carefully edited to fit the unsold space for advertisements, read like this:

MILWAUKEE: The first test of a daily pill to prevent HIV infection gave a tantalising hint of success, but a real answer must await a larger study due out next year.

The experiment, done in Africa, mainly showed that the drug Viread is safe when used for prevention. Fewer people given the drug caught the AIDS virus than those given dummy pills, but so few in either group became infected that valid comparisons cannot be made, scientists said.

Still, "it's incredibly encouraging," said Dr. Helene Gayle, co-chair of the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, where the results were released on Saturday.
The experiment was conceived in centrally air-conditioned laboratories in Northern America, and is done in the streets of Africa. On a special species, generally referred in other parts of the world as people. I am sure that it has been done in accordance with international guidelines applicable to the testing of clinical drugs. So, I must agree with Dr. Helene Gayle. It’s incredibly encouraging. And, yes. There were some 400 participants were planned to include from two US cities, apart from nearly 5,000 from Africa, Thailand and Peru. A little more elaborated version of this AP news piece is found in The Washington Times site. It explains the test procedure, little more specifically.

A study by Family Health International, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, tested it on women in Africa at high risk because of multiple sex partners. None had HIV at the start of the study. They were randomly assigned to get either daily Viread or placebos, and all were counseled and given condoms.

No safety problems emerged – an important first step, said Leigh Peterson, project manager for Family Health International. After an average of six months, only two HIV cases developed among the 427 women on Viread, compared with six infections among the 432 given the fake drug.

"We really would be irresponsible to draw conclusions at this time," because those are too few cases to make judgments on, said Dr. Ward Cates of Family Health ternational, "but it does underscore the importance of moving forward very quickly now on the other studies on the drawing board."

I agree completely, Dr. Ward. It was very irresponisble; and it’s the African gods that played the spoilsport. All the 432 who were exposed with the protection of fake drug were supposed to be get infected, like dependable guinea pigs. Those who received the actual drug, also received its side effects. FDA has approved the drug, which is already in use to treat the HIV infected, as an effective preventive pill. Statistics has nothing to do with commonsense, if you already don’t know. The article also assures that no safety problems had emerged, and it was an important first step. Yes, no body threw an infected needle at Leigh Peterson, the project manager.

Meanwhile, Institute of Medicine, another offshoot of National Academy of Medicine as the FDA, has submitted a proposal to restart the practice of using jail inmates for clinical trials of developing drugs. With a humanitarian clause, of course. It is proposed where the experimental medication ‘could benefit’ the participants. The practice was ‘almost’ discontinued after the notorious 40-year research titled ‘Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male’ that began in the 1930s. In 1972, 400 of the ‘participants’ were diagnosed with syphilis but never told them of their illness or provided any treatment for it – even after a cure was discovered. Instead, the researchers used the men to study the progress of the disease. They all eventually died from syphilis. What could, at times, is might not.

Now, I shouldn’t be a non-progressive, self-centric, idealist. I should look at the big white picture. And understand the good of the cause. ‘Good of the cause’, never was an exclusive excuse of the Communists. Africa is the one continent worst affected by the HIV. And it’s a fight people of the world should fight together to survive, with each one in his and her own mite. Now, you can’t expect brilliant scientist from Africa. And one should understand, patient research endeavours are too much to ask from them. For that we have shiploads of philanthropic white men and women. And the Africans can at least help the cause by being the test partners. Let me remind you, it’s for the good of the cause, and it’s a fight we have to fight together. “It is incredibly encouraging,” Dr. Gayle had said.

NGOs in many parts of the world have done routine, well-organised protests against using animals for drug testing. Some have protested against using humans too. We can’t forget that development of new, more effective, life saving drugs are not just the necessity of pharmaceutical companies, but are important to each one of us too, who are prone to deadly deceases. What the world now need is not groups of people with any other intentions than blocking the progress of human kind; but a more pro-human, pro-progressive, and incredibly encouraging society.

Why can’t the nations of the world deal it with the same stupid, yet effective, method they adopt to fight against each other? After all, drugs are ammunition to fight against deadly microorganisms. And it’s too a fight human kind has to fight to survive. Wouldn’t it be great to have an army exclusively to test new drugs up on?

This new army of proud, philanthropic men and women can have immaculate white uniforms with blood-red epaulettes. They can have distinctive decorations for victories over viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. The existing red ribbons and yellow wristbands too can be made exclusive, with specific regiment monograms on them. The selection procedure should be scientifically designed; and there should be ample advertising budget to promote it as the noblest of the careers, which demands physical, psychological and intellectual superiority.

The selected candidates should be rigorously trained to walk with synchronised steps in mirror-polished boots, preferably with some medical equipment in their hands. Higher-grade personnel should also be trained to play golf, use cutlery, and dance in ballrooms. Surgical masks could be made mandatory in the dress code for ceremonial balls. Mortality rates can be expected only as good as the regular fighting forces. So that it shouldn’t affect the image of the existing forces. In due course, Bacteria Crosses and Viral Chakras too can be introduced. And in non-testing times, they can be of great help to the nation on occasions of gas leakage tragedies and the like.

Isn’t the thought incredibly encouraging?

This proposal cannot be implemented immediately. It might take more time than my remaining lifetime. I am not being prudishly ethical. I don’t want this to happen to me, my family, or friends. If a preventive pill or vaccine is made available in the market for a terminal decease, like AIDS, me too will be standing in the queue to buy it. But, I wish that wouldn’t happen at the cost of thousands of guinea humans. I would rather be alright with contracting a deadly virus, if it’s not from a blood bag, through a needle, or at a razor’s edge.

You can read here the article appeared in Hindu. And here is the one seen in The Washington Times site. And when you are comfortably numb, you can click here and it will take you to the news item about a proposal to make better use of jail inmates as drug testing personnel. You can read more about Viread and its side effects here. Here is the news about FDA approval for the drug. And read this blog, posted when the drug trials began a year ago.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I had a dream

I had stopped thinking about dreams. Until this one happened, a few days back. Long, long time ago, when I was much younger, I was really curious about the dreams I used to have. In those days, I believed that dreams are cryptic messages buried deep in my mind, and I wanted to unscramble them to straighten out my then crooked mind. And I did. With much success, and not much satisfaction. It was not really difficult. I went by the book. Tried hard to remember what I dreamed last night, every time I woke up. Wrote down everything I thought I remembered. Now, you have ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ by your bedside, next to your Bible.

I said my prayers without fail every night. My dear Lord, don’t let me dream of snakes. It was too early to be afraid of dreaming me driving my friend’s car. I was very sure, bicycles have nothing to do with the ninth commandment. And when snakes refused to come in my dreams, my faith was shaken. First in Freud, and then in my dear Lord. God must have been too preoccupied with chasing snakes away from his precious apple tree up there, when a naïve, pious boy was afraid of them crawling into his dreams. And Freud might just be a typographical error.

My interest in my dreams lasted more than my interest in the other two guys. There was still time left to be disillusioned from the intriguing theory of life as an illusion. And dreams fit perfectly to the idea, as I understood it then. It was clear as a noonday sun to me then. Life is nothing, but like the last scene in Enter the Dragon. There is this real life, like a room with countless walls made of mirrors. And there’s a life each, behind every one of those mirrors. And sleeping is the process of crossing into those lives. You will never know which life you will enter into, and you may not be able to go to the same life next night. But you can fairly sure about coming back to the real one, if you have an alarm clock.

The room I went into a few days (nights?) back, was the biggest one I would ever see in my life. Call it a larger than life dream if you want. It was a huge white room, with a white floor and a white ceiling that goes as far as I can see. The white was white white. Not the blue white you see in detergent advertisements. Not the yellow white you see in milk bottles. Or the red white you see on white skin unseen by sun. I was lying face down on the floor. And I could see two white walls without any doors or windows, but a square ventilator behind which a black world waited. It looked like a black moon in the eastern sky on a sunny afternoon in a square world.

I could see. I could feel the floor, which was neither cold nor warm. So, I must have been alive. I don’t remember whether I was breathing or not. But, I guess I was, because one could think of breathing only when there’s some difficulty in doing so. I don’t remember moving or wanting to move. I was staring straight to the black, square moon on the wall at the horizon. It was then I felt the skin on my back stretching. I think, I heard a gentle cracking sound. I am not really sure there. I never have before heard the sound of skin cracking. Just when I heard that sound, I saw dry, yellow flakes of skin falling on the floor. Some as big as the pull-off foil paper of my cigarette pack. I didn’t feel the skin being peeled off my back, though. That worried me a bit in the morning, almost with the feeling of a slight disappointment. I always loved the feeling of dead, dried skin over a healed wound being peeled off, or peeling off that thin layer of synthetic resin dried on my fingertips whenever I used Fevicol.

Exactly at the right moment my eyes shifted the focus from the cellulite flakes to the square, black moon. And I saw a green drop of liquid start flowing down from the lower, right corner of the black square. It didn’t flow down like a liquid drop, sticking to the wall and drawing a damp line as it moves down. It didn’t fall fast down like a droplet of mercury. It moved gracefully down, just like any other traditional liquid drop would have. Stopping for a while to take a small turn to the left, then straight down on a faster pace for a while, stopping again… My eyeballs followed the drop till it reached the floor, and then stuck to it as it started rolling towards me. I wasn’t scared. Not even curious. I was lying down like a dropped video camera and just recording what came to my eye. It must have taken over an hour, before the drop came close enough for me to realise that it was not a huge drop of some liquid as I thought, but a huge ant. And, green in colour! I wasn’t surprised then. I was lying down like a dropped video camera and just recording what came to my eye.

The ant was only as huge as a small mouse. But huge, as it was an ant, and I was new to a square world. An ant cannot walk. It runs or it stops to think what it is running after. With a mammoth load an ant might run slower, still it won’t think of walking. All the ants I know are like that. And, this ant, this huge ant ran as fast, but faster in effect as its legs were longer. As it reached the first piece of me I once was, it stopped and thought about why it was running all the while. Ants got attention spans as small as they are. Soon it forgot why it stopped and started running again, only to stop before another piece of old me.

Now, I know what to do. I learnt this with eye straining observation done in many nights when I was awake pretending to study my textbooks. Ants are not very straightforward, socialist creatures, as they widely believed to be. The one first appears on the terrain is the surveyor. Its duty is to find mouthwatering, preferably heavy, objects of desire to be carried away, stored and guarded, till the flooding rains come to waste it. If you kill the surveyor, the general, who conducts the drill in the parade ground back home, will conclude that the surveyor is one of the greedy, irresponsible, selfish black sheep, who found the most delicious thing an ant can mouth, and having it all by itself forgetting its socialist responsibilities. Like any other wise general, this general too will command to sniff after the surveyor, and you will have the complete army looking for mouthwatering, preferably heavy, objects of desire to be carried away, stored, and guarded till the flooding rains come to waste it. But if you just beat up the surveyor without killing it, it will report to the general that there are no sweet or heavy stuff around to be carried away, stored and guarded till the flooding rains come to waste it.

I knew what to do, when I saw the huge, green, ant stopped by one piece after other of dead me. And I didn’t want to do anything. I was lying down like a dropped video camera and just recording what came to my eye. Now the huge, green ant has come very close to me. I can just lift my hand, and decide to call the army or not. It had stopped by one of the big flakes – one of the ones as big as the pull-off foil paper of my cigarette pack. I can see it more clearly, every part of it, enlarged as through a looking glass. Even through a looking glass, one ant looks very much like another. Faces of cows, or dogs or cats too look too similar to identify, but one can identify one from another from other details. It’s not like that, normally, in the case of ants. Their faces, hourglass torsos, and slender legs are too similar to be individualized by a human eye. May be, even for the big, fat Queen ant too. Her highness must be selecting the alpha male by a running or weight lifting competition, before they set off for the flying, mating mission. But, I am here in a square world. And I saw the huge, green surveyor ant’s face very clearly, and I was very confident that I could recognize it, if I see it again. Only if all the fellows in its caste don’t have a small, projected, purple mole, just below the corner of its right eye, like it had. As I was staring at its small, projected, purple mole, it looked up to me. Eye to eye, standing by a piece of me that I once was, and as big as the pull-off foil paper of my cigarette pack. And it laughed.

I was confused. It was my first emotional reaction from the moment I lay there like a dropped video camera, and just recording what came to my eye. I was surprised by this emotional impulse, as it was the first in this life of mine. I was worried too. About my new confusion, about the old, broken pieces of me, about the square, black moon, About the white floors and walls, about the huge green ant, about its small, projected, purple mole, and about its laughing at me. I no longer was just recording what came to my eye. I no longer was seeing the huge, green ant, by yellow cellulite flakes on the vast, white floor. I was thinking about me. I was thinking about what the ant was thinking about me. And I was thinking something I remember thinking many times before in my previous, and possibly future, life. I have only one life and I will never be able to see myself! The same me, every single living thing, even an ant can see, but me! I will die seeing only the inverted images of me in mirrors and the good-looking, photogenic, or a bad-looking, not-at-all photogenic, images of me provided by some camera equipment. I know, there’s nothing like a square world.

I was rather amused, than worried, when I woke up back in my old world. And the lost interest in interpreting dreams did a momentary comeback stay, as I smoked the first cigarette of the new day. What did all these signify? What was that green ant as huge as a small mouse, with a small, projected, purple mole laughed at, when I was lying there like a dropped video camera just recording what came to my eye, in a big, square, white world with a small, square black moon? Maybe, it just meant that I should get up and write about it. It has been quite a while.

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