Monday, January 31, 2011

The Imperfect Man

Human beings are imperfect. So what? That is why they are called humans. I am not talking about character imperfections here - just the physical aspects. Why the rush to appear uniformly good looking? In a few years time, everyone is going to look like they were made in an assembly line - all alike and without any distinguishing characteristics. Talk about the end of evolution!

Everyone wants to be thin - not that it is wrong in the first place. Just that being thin is not a virtue in itself- definitely it shouldn't be an all-consuming thought that should take up all your waking hours and dreams. Moderation is good - I am all for it. There should be an organic way where one is able to balance work, life, food and other things. And I don't desire a "WALL-E- like" world where everyone is super obese and is levitating around in mechanical devices. But neither do I want to live in a world where everyone is super-correct-sized and has a BMI ranging between 22 and 22.5.

I have been in places where the majority of the population is super-slim and super-tan and super good looking - and something was gravely wrong with that situation. It was just that everyone who looked so was also extremely self-conscious of the fact that they looked great. That takes the fun out of everything. People should go about their lives, and do what they want to do, and more importantly enjoy it, and also make sure that they don't overdo things and have a reasonable girth. One's entire lifetime should' t be dedicated to achieving the perfect look - all your waking hours are spent on either achieving that look, and once you achieve it, spent in prancing around in the shortest/tightest clothes that would best highlight your achieved proportions.

That also brings me to aging gracefully - I can count with one hand the number of people I know who I think have aged gracefully. The majority dye their hair in such shades of black that will make a crow blush. And worse - they become lazy and don't re-dye at regular intervals - which results in interesting shades of color cropping up, and the base-camp turning white, while the peaks remain black. If you are going to perpetuate a lie, at least be diligent about it. Lie with some discipline and conviction, I say.

And about pot-bellies. I am not against pot-bellies per se. It all depends on the context, you see. If a pot-belly is accompanied by a vacant, lifeless face, and a distant look - there is nothing worse than that. Instead, that person can hold a banner saying "I have officially given up on life - so, if you have anything to say to me, save it, I am not interested". But a pot belly + a lively face + a spring in the step + fire in the approach towards life is not bad at all. In fact it is a perfect recipe for aging.

Aging can be done well. I have seen it happen. Age brings charm with it- only that you should not be a knuckle head to not notice it and camouflage it with bright colored neckless t-shirts and bad hair dyes.

I am told (by more informed sources in this matter) that all girls want to have straight hair. Why- I ask. And everyone these days want to straighten their teeth as well - okay, there are some dental advantages for some people to fix their teeth - but I won't buy the argument that everyone needs to do it. There are a lot of people whose smiles are way more charming - just because they have slightly crooked teeth.

I don't even want to get into the botox story. (Actually other people have handled this issue better.) All I want to say is that I think the world will be poorer if Robert Deniro or George Clooney go ahead and botox their frown wrinkles out. Particularly Deniro's wrinkles - it's an asset for him, not otherwise.

All this straightening, dyeing, tanning, and tucking and taping is only leading to the death of aesthetics. As a population, there will be a day when your next door neighbor will be an exact replica of you and everyone else you know. Homogenizing may be good to store milk for a longer duration - it is not so great for people.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

There will be Food!

I don't know what it is about graduate students and free food. Wherever there are grad students, there will be free food. And, wherever there is free food, rest assured, grad students will be there.

Student-event organizers around the world, when they are sitting in their small committee rooms, planning for events, and asking themselves- how do we make sure people attend the event, come up with the same answer over and over again: advertise free-food!

Even if you plan a free food event in utter secrecy, and only one person is involved in the planning, and print only one flyer advertising it and put it in a box, and bury the box in a secret location in the woods, grad students will come to know about it. And they will be there for the event!

I was a grad student not too long ago. And, I should know. Various student organizations around the university, flush with cash (this was pre-recession US, you see), and not having any great ideas about how to spend the money, will announce a couple of "free-food" events per semester, in the pretense of the "meet your fellow graduate students and network" cloak.

Actually, no grad student is interested in meeting other grad students. That is why they are grad students in the first place. So that they can get cooped up in a small lab or office somewhere and put up with their advisor's tantrums and unreasonable demands, and browse the inner most recesses of the internet, and get solace from those inner-sanctums. If they were the social beings that the "networking" poster would want you to believe, they would have known better and avoided grad school altogether.

At this point you might wonder, this can't be true and there must be guy-grad students who must be interested in meeting gal-grad-students and vice-versa and such events should be considered as a personal, hand-delivered blessing from God. You are right, but grad school is the wrong place for that. Particularly if you are in the science/engg stream - you will learn this pretty quickly. Students who walk into these departments hoping to meet their Madam Curies and Pierre Curies to become the ideal couple and clank test tubes instead of champagne glasses are in for a rude shock. (The quality of romantic material will most probably be like the quality of paperbacks you find in a waste paper shop- that is a separate story, to be ruminated later!)

The grad networking events, promote only one kind of networking- students networking with food! And most of these events will be held at an ungodly hour. Have you ever heard of a 5.00 pm dinner buffet! You have if you are a grad student. And the best part is when you turn up for this 5.00 pm dinner at 4.45pm (thinking you have outsmarted the smart crowd), and find an already-formed queue that's at least as long as Hanuman's tail. And you join the queue, and slowly move towards the food tent.

And the closer you move to the tent, the more nervous you feel. You see these grad student turned goblins stacking their plastic plates with so much food, and fleeing the crime scene before someone can catch up with them and claim the food back. Have you ever seen a hamburger patty sandwiched between two other hamburger patties? - grad students are smart cookies you see- why waste precious real estate on your plate by putting something as ordinary as a bun on it. Instead stock it with brownies and cookies that you can actually use as snacks for the next two centuries. And forget about seconds. If you are lucky enough to get into the tent once, you should consider yourself lucky. And even luckier if by the time you enter, there is actually some reasonable speck of food in the trays, and not just some ketchup and mayo packets and some cookie crumbs.

While the haves sit around and gorge (what looks like) their last supper, the have-nots try to save face by holding a plate with something resembling food on it, and holding a paper cup with water in it, and pretending to drink fruit-punch or iced-tea, and stylishly tossing the cup in the already exploding waste-bins and walking into what is clearly not a sunset for at least the next 2 hours.

P.S.: UN food managers who will be delivering supplies to calamity-hit regions, should consider training as volunteers in such grad events. They might not be able to take the pressure - but, hey, that is what training is all about!