My transnational accent: Spawned out of a lot of cultural crazy.

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Off late I’ve realized that my accent has changed.

Quite possibly a lot.

Back home in India, I had a distinctly Bangalorean Tamil, accent (as opposed to Bangalorean Kannadiga, Bangalorean Northy, Bangalorean Bengali, Bangalorean Telugu and so on), but also one that reflected the fact that English was my first language. The language I dreamed in.  English was, for all practical purposes, my mother tongue – alongside Tamil of course (us Dravidians are nothing if not linguistic elitists and could never accept a non-Dravidian language as our primary one, no matter how badly some of us might speak the languages of our ancestors.)

Nevertheless, while English was indeed my first language, it was a distinctly personal language, it was my English, spoken in my accent. Not American. Certainly not British. Not some generic, Hank-Azaria-voiced, North American stereotype of an accent.

For I was the son of Radha and Ananth, a mother and father who spoke to me in a Dravidian-Anglo linguistic mix of more-English-than-Tamil to me and my friends, and more-Tamil-than-English to each other and their families. (Add to that the Malayalam on my mother’s side, the Kannada in Bangalore, the Hindi of Bollywood, the Tamil of Kollywood, not to mention the languages of my friends – and you have a helluva mix.)

Now, Amma and Appa spoke to me in that mix of more-English-than-Tamil because I do believe that somewhere deep down they knew that I would have greater opportunities for myself in this Euramerican, colonial world if English was my first language.

Bless their souls. For all my Dravidian spiritualism (and occasional nationalism), I do know that English is one of the reasons I have made a transnational home across Toronto, Minneapolis, and Bangalore, with my awesome warrior-goddess of a partner and a burgeoning community of loved ones in each place.

Thus, my accent was one cultivated partly due to my parents’ foresight to ensure I spoke English from the get go, while ensuring that my Tamil wasn’t forgotten (even if slightly broken). It was a rich, beautiful-as-fuck linguistic environment I grew up in, quite effectively reflected in my accent.

When I left Bangalore in 2002 for a brief while to live in Gujarat, I think my English accent changed a touch, primarily because my spoken Hindi was forced to get much better due to the nature of my work there. (It still rankles me ever so slightly that my spoken Hindi is better than my spoken Tamil, but that will hopefully change as I start parenting.)

When I moved to the States, a mix of lefty political anger, racism that I faced, and a touch of assimilation anxiety in a white-dominated, settler-colonial society had me very rapidly shift to a more neutral accent. One that often had Americans remark at my “British accent” – making me cringe every time, while still secretly gladdening me since it proved I could blend in with greater ease into Euramerican societies when I needed to.

The accent shifted a bit with each move that I made. Baltimore. Boston. New Delhi. Minneapolis. Toronto.

Occasional racist jokes or references to crude Indian stereotypes by so-called friends in different North American cities shifted the accent in different ways. Often in defiance, but also in survival.

Whenever I visited friends and family in India, some would pass comments on my “American accent” or “Westernized accent”. And little shifts in the accent would occur each time. Usually quite subtle and probably unnoticeable to no one save myself.

But incrementally I do believe, especially after Sus and I moved to Toronto, I developed a rather unique transnational accent. One that shifts, depending on the company and environment, while still remaining very firmly mine. With Sus and I building community and family across three very different cities, two Euramerican, one Indian, the shift occasionally even catches me by surprise.

The best part about it, however, is that I’m able to experience laughter, satire, and sarcasm with the same linguistic diversity as the myriad sources for my proudly mongrel accent. The razor-sharp Tamil humor and Tam Bram cynicism of my parents, usually directed at our own communities. The laugh-out-loud goofery of Tamil and Hindi movies. Bollywood. Kollywood. Of course Hollywood. And British comedy. Good and bad. Plus a lot of American sitcoms. Good and bad. Not to mention my warrior-goddess of a partner and our daily humor. As well as that of all of our loved ones (including our cats).

That’s a lot of sources for one accent.

And that’s a lot of cultural crazy for one tongue.

 

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The healing power of community (and other irritating things I learnt on my recent vacation)

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My partner and I (and our little one growing in her belly) recently returned from a vacation where we got to spend some quality time with our community of loved ones in the American Midwest (mostly Minneapolis and Iowa), strengthening the bonds of love we share with them, while simultaneously growing fonder of our community of loved ones in Toronto and Bangalore, thereby strengthening those bonds as well.

I’d like to say we had fun doing all that bond-strengthening while on vacation, but I’d be lying if I did.

(Trust me when I say that there was enough bond-strengthening to puke your ever-loving guts out.)

Nevertheless, the vacation did confirm that we were in the rather enviable position of having a transnational family across three countries, while unenviably having to navigate a few more immigration hurdles in each of the three. Not to mention colonial, patriarchal and/or neo-fascist societies as well.

(The quest to build a community of loved ones across international borders is nothing if not served with the occasional dollop of gut wrenching lunacy.)

Our transnational family is one that keeps growing and changing with a love that is neither perfect nor utopian but grounded in an honest reality. An honest reality that has no choice but to take on and engage with occasional moments of awkwardness and oppression.

Then again, it would be naive to imagine real love being fostered solely through fun and joy.

Human beings aren’t that cool yet.

Animals are. But humans aren’t.

For us humans, there are times when love has to be fostered via the painful fight against religious fundamentalism, crazy nationalism, ethnic chauvinism, and teeth-pulling patriarchy.

(Or whatever the hell satisfies the nihilist gene in our species.)

Because if we want to really be honest with ourselves, there are times when our loved ones drive us up the fucking wall.

I’m sure I’m on them.

But I suppose it’s ok, because it’s where real healing, and thereby real love, can truly take place.

It’s a pain in the ass, but it’s also worth it.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

So I guess what I’m trying to do here is explore the healing power of community – in all its glorious imperfections and occasional crappiness – while reminiscing about the semi-shitty, semi-lovely vacation we had wading through insecure, Midwestern whiteness.

The vacation began with a major rubikon crossed in the relationship with my younger-brother-cum-fellow-idiot-whom-I-nevertheless-love-to-hell-and-back.

(He’s not white or from the Midwest, in case you were wondering. But it still makes for a rather nice, if somewhat sentimental, start to this brief story.)

He and I had a delicious blow up aided by much painfully emotional hand-wringing, eventually ending in the realization that our love was fostered via the mutual strengths of man-childish immaturity, occasional insecurity, as well as the pure, dumb luck to have found far superior human beings as life partners.

(That, plus we both cuddle-torture our cats.)

So, that was the maudlin, Tamil Melodrama-type, start to the vacation, just before we departed Toronto.

Following that we landed in the land of Midwest Nice and Privileged White Timidity.

Why, you ask oh so patronizingly, must we take such a vacation if we know that to be the case, and then have the gall to complain in such cynical ways about it?

Why couldn’t we have gone to the Caribbean, now that I have the glorious settler-colonial, visa-free travel document that is the Canadian Passport?

Why, indeed.

Well, we have people we love to hell and back in those painfully insecure white societies.

Like really love them with all our heart and soul.

And let me tell you, it’s not easy loving people who benefit from something that oppresses you.

(Just ask any woman who’s ever loved a man.)

But the vacation wasn’t all bad.

One thing I learnt is that beatific, God-fearing, and likely well-meaning middle class white folk have carved out some amazingly beautiful spaces for themselves.

For instance, compare the place that I grew up in to the one Sus grew up in.

Bangalore is, generously put, equal parts shithole, equal parts moderately tolerable city. I say this out of a great deal of love for my childhood city.

And it’s with love that I say that Bangalore is getting shittier by the day. The price of capitalism in the erstwhile Third World is that the poverty caused by all that bling bling cannot be hidden. It’s very honest, in-your-face, pollution, chaos, and inequality.

But Charles City (no kidding, that’s the name of the town), the very much First World small town that my warrior-goddess of a partner grew up in, is absolutely lovely, with a pristine river, oxygen-rich air, and wide, green spaces that smell like fragrant pine cones.

And it’s not just the small towns.

Minneapolis, the second-largest Midwestern city, and also the one where I was fortunate enough to meet Sus during my ill-fated adventure in the wastelands of elitist academia, is absolutely gorgeous with hundreds of beautiful lakes and the breathtaking Mississippi River.

Even Des Moines had some tracts of beauty. Aided of course by four awesome souls who welcomed us into their hearts.

Ultimately – beautiful green spaces and majoritarian nervousness apart – the vacation had us building community, dealing with the odd irritating week or two, making new friends, and becoming soulmates with three dogs:

Crystal – the majestically depressed Alaskan husky…

Bailey –  the slightly hyper-anxious, adolescent-in-years-but-puppy-in-spirit black Lab/Husky mix, and…

Missy – the ageing, cocker-spaniel-resembling one, with a permanent cold, hailing from a breed meant for sitting on elite people’s feet to warm them up.

(I wish I was joking.)

The vacation ended with social meals and laughter in Minneapolis as well as back home in Toronto, spending many happy hours hours incessantly discussing – and likely irritating our friends and loved ones with – baby prep plans.

All in all, I’d say it was a win.

But I vouch for a Third World vacation next time.

Super Satchel Man: The Powerless Social Worker (ready to bang his impotent head on the brick wall of injustice)

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Superhero Avatar – Super Satchel Man

Description – The powerless social worker

Special powers – (1) banging a very frustrated head on the brick wall of banal injustice and manic bureaucracy; (2) ability to laugh cynically at the valiant failure of the same.

Alter Egos: Sri (aka Sriru, aka Sriram Ananthanarayanan)

Day Job – lovable loser and maladroit family man.

Super Satchel Man carries a satchel as he goes about his futile superhero duties of working in a healthcare system which mimics the behavior of a really gentle and benevolent fascist dictator prone to occasional bouts of rage.

Super Satchel Man’s Super Vehicle is provided by the public-commons-owned (and operated apparently) Toronto Transit Commission.

Batmobile it isn’t.

A smelly bus it is.

Super Satchel Man is a man of the people, because the people are just as frustrated and batshit insane as he is for even trying.

Life that is.

But Super Satchel Man doesn’t care, because at the end of the day, Super Satchel Man has a large and weird and loving family to go home to

And Super Satchel Man has a bunch of weird and loving friends to hang out with.

And Super Satchel Man has two amazing cats to confide in.

One of whom is Super Satchel Man’s trusted sidekick – snoring on the bed beside him.

[Our next piece will introduce Fuzzy Poo – The Pudgy and Politically Pacifist Siberian Tiger. Until then – here’s Super Satchel Man, ready to drift off into insomnia and a resigned but ultimately peaceful acceptance of his many dogged failures. Goodnight lovelies.]

 

Liberating myself from racist animal slurs by invoking the pure souls of the animals themselves

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The caged bird sings with a fearful trill

  • Sriram Ananth (sriram.writing@gmail.com)

I have been called more animal slurs than I can remember ever since I moved to North America a dozen years ago. Generally those slurs include variations of primates, and sometimes even canines. Greetings like “sand monkey”, “Indian dog”, even “Paki cur” (or it might have been “Paki cunt” in which case I have been ascribing a touch more linguistic depth to the humans who choose to use these monikers than I need to). Also “big ape”, “ugly gorilla”, “fucking chimp” and more. Occasionally, other animals will be invoked. This one time in Toronto’s gay village I was called a “hot and spicy bear” if I’m remembering correctly, and another time in Boston I was called “the great Indian bull” (these last two slurs I think were meant to be exotic compliments by heavily deluded, older white men who were of the belief that their gayness excused them from a basic sense of humanity.)

This is, of course, in addition to the usual smatterings of other non-animal slurs. I often project an ambiguous ethnicity on the streets, so a fairly broad gamut of slurs periodically come my way.

Now, I don’t wish to project this as a daily occurrence, or even a very frequent one, depending on your definition of an acceptable frequency for folks to face this. (I’m one of those saps who thinks once is too many, but to each their own.)

Of course, barring loved ones and genuine friends, a lot of people who don’t face these kinds of slurs tend to be surprised that “this shit still happens?” when I tell them about these experiences.

Be that as it may, over the last many years, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been called some slur or the other in various parts of the US and Canada. After the first fifty or so times, one just blurs it out.

Now, I have found some awesome ways to liberate myself from the clearly dehumanizing intent of all those microaggressions. I’ve already written about how, ultimately, those who oppress or benefit from said oppression are the ones who are dehumanized, and not the ones the oppressive attacks are directed at. So I won’t belabor that point.

But what about also invoking the awe-inspiring pure souls of the animals themselves to liberate ourselves from the ugly manner in which they are twisted into dehumanizing slurs?

It worked wonders for me.

Equally importantly, it led me on a path of slowly destroying my anthropocentrism. It showed me that there was just as much love and liberation, if not more, that one could find with non-human souls as one could with human ones.

(Frankly, I’m seriously thinking of going the other direction and considering misanthropy as a solid life philosophy to incorporate – or maybe just misandry, considering women and trans folk are the only saving grace for humanity. But I think it might be best to keep the therapeutic rage for a later time.)

So let’s talk a bit about liberating ourselves by invoking the amazingly pure souls of the animals, who are unfortunately being dragged into this racism and colonialism nonsense for no fault of theirs.

But I’m not going to do it by addressing the slurs hurled at me in America and Canada. It’s easy to do that. Plus there are many eager liberals who will queue up to condemn those slurs and I don’t really feel like making myself angry right now.

Instead, what I would like to talk about is a body-image slur I faced when I was a kid, because that’s where this healing technique really began for me. Without realizing it, I used this very technique to liberate myself from the constant teasing around my pudginess when I was a kid. And when I recount that episode, it becomes easy to do it as an adult, which I hope you can as well should you ever need this technique.

In this case, i.e. my generously layered pre-teenage years, the animal used to tease me was the awe-inspiring, soul-liberating, elephant – one of my spirit animals. So, I’m going to first talk a bit about how that took place. Because it helped me many, many years later when the monkey/dog slurs were hurled at me.

Ok here goes.

So, I was a pudgy kid.

That much you have gathered.

And I got teased a lot. Don’t worry, I’m not going to dump all of my awkward insecurities on you with this article (that’s what I have my cats for). But I will have to recount some of those ego-busting moments, so try to not shuffle your feet too much.

Among the usual monikers, was your basic, never-going-out-of-style “fatty” in a variety of languages. The linguistic medium and environment of my childhood was a gorgeous mix of English, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Urdu, and Malayalam across friends and family, with the odd bit of Telugu and Bengali thrown in for good measure (usually in the form of crude jokes we would make of our friends who spoke those languages – yo, we all did it to each other).

Needless to say, the number of ways in which you can be teased also gets that rich linguistic and cultural diversity. From being compared to a variety of large, bulbous fruits native to the respective regions that my tormentors hailed from, to just being made fun of via a particular cultural or even religious trope, I heard it all.

When you come from a land that has every religion on the planet, including one that boasts over 3000 gods, chances are that there are some fairly plump ones too, such as Ganesh, the elephant god of goodness, knowledge, and other such desirable life entities.

Growing up, I hated his guts.

Because each god in Hinduism has umpteen different monikers and stories which – in Ganesh’s case – meant umpteen different ways of teasing us fat kids.

However, the one ubiquitous mode of teasing us across linguistic and cultural differences was to be compared to the (ahem, in reality, heavily muscled but admittedly good-personality-possessing) elephant.

We were in India after all.

The elephant.

What an amazing being with such a beautiful, liberated soul.

I realized that when, as a pudgy kid, I was on this trip to Guruvayoor, a small Hindu pilgrimage town, famous for the massive temple honoring the lord Guruvayurappan, a Tamil and Malalayalam moniker – and thus a naturally more tongue-tying one – for Vishnu, one of the dudes in the Hindu holy trinity.

(But one of the meh, not-so-cool, ones. Not like the awesome bad ass – Shiva.)

So there I was in Guruvayoor, placing various gods on a hierarchy of coolness, for this annual pilgrimage that my parents really liked taking. We always drove from Bangalore. I loved those trips because we all got to drive through Kerala, one of the gorgeous coastal states of the land and consisting about 60% of my roots, primarily on my mother’s side (tongue-twisters all).

When I became 18 and somehow connived to get a driver’s license (despite the testing officer’s eyeballs nearly popping out of his socket and chastising me for driving so rashly), I got to hone my driving skills under the patient tutelage of my father during the many road trips we took – the one to Guruvayoor always being among the most picturesque.

It was in Guruvayoor that I first met, soul to soul, an elephant. I was about 10 years old and it was the briefest of meetings, just long enough for a picture to be taken.

She was a kid elephant that the mahout (elephant man) told me was slightly younger than me in terms of our respective stages of childhood.

She looked at me and I looked at her. I felt her tough hide, with hair that stuck out like the sharp bristles of a brush. I felt her majestic breathing. She turned her face slightly, and grunted softly in friendship. Her trunk lightly enveloped my hips, not holding it tightly, but what felt more like a friendly, loving arm around my torso, except from a limb that could have crushed me with ease. Even as a child, she still had a raw power that I could barely contain my awe of.

But the tingle that went up my spine wasn’t due to her physical strength.

Like I said.

Soul to soul.

It was then that I realized a very simple truth that liberated me from the supposed slur of being compared to an elephant.

This being had a soul far purer than any of my tormentors.

Oh hell yeah.

I dug being compared to an elephant.

Or a dog for that matter. Or a monkey, a cat, a bear, a crow, a bull, or any other animal soul out there that we humans dare to invoke with our hateful misogyny, our racist bile, and our colonial entitlement.

Because if there are still people who think animal slurs can be used to hurt women, or people of color, or trans folk, or indigenous people – those hate-mongers should know this very simple truth:

Invoking the pure souls of animals liberates us and defeats the hatred.

In fact, I just realized something else…

We’re also happier as a result.

Purrr…

6 things men can do to be better human beings on public transit

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sara ahmed quote

  • Sriram Ananth (sriram.writing@gmail.com)

I am such a goddamn dick of a man-child.

Really.

I take up way too much space as a dude and I’m a loud, obnoxious asshole. It eats away at my soul. I dehumanize myself by being that way and I hurt others, especially women and trans folk, including those whom I love dearly.

Thankfully I have some amazing warrior-goddesses in my life – starting with a partner whom I truly believe to be the pinnacle of humanity – all of whom graciously and patiently guide me to greater humanization and being less of an asshole, even though it is none of their responsibility. To say I am blessed is the greatest understatement in the world.

So this article is quite personal.

(Hell, which one isn’t?)

Now, I travel a lot on public transit. I regularly hear and read about the daily horror stories that women and trans people have to deal with while on public transit with the unending supply of entitled, oafish men. It lit the spark for this piece. It’s written especially for men (i.e. cis-gendered men, i.e. those referred to as “men” across the vast majority of the world’s population, i.e. the overwhelming majority of asshole evil-doers on earth.)

So if you’re a woman or trans person reading this, consider forwarding this to some dudes you think would benefit from it. I don’t get enough hate mail to satiate my monstrous ego, so feel free to help out.

But really, all this focuses on is how men can be better human beings on public transit and life in general.

So, lets start with the first lesson.

(1) When sitting or standing, ensure that you occupy as little space as possible: Here’s a little practice exercise for all men to try out.

Take a chair.

Now sit on it.

So far so good?

Excellent.

Now bring your feet closer together, as close as you can, no more than a few centimeters apart.

(You’re doing great bro, keep going.)

Now that your feet are close together, bring your knees closer, approximately the same distance apart as your feet are.

Amazing.

(You’re almost there, just keep at it son. Take a beer break if you need to.)

Ok, now let’s work on your hands.

Tuck your elbows against the sides of your torso and hips.

Now place your palms on your knees.

Voila! Perfect seated position that takes up as little space as possible.

Try the same exercise standing and then again standing while holding onto something. Just remember that the best way to take up as little space as possible is ensuring that opposing limbs are brought close together and with reverence to the women and trans folk around you.

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice practice.

Way to go man-child! What say we work on your facial expression and eye line now?

Onward, kind sir, to lesson 2.

(2) Look away or look down and make efforts to show you are not a threat by practicing your “pleasant face” (don’t be overtly friendly by default): Looking away or looking down indicates that you’re not really interested in interaction, and ipso facto not interested in being a threat to anyone. It is an easy way to ensure that your fellow women and trans travellers feel safe and comfortable to travel. (You know, one of those gosh darned “human rights” that the bleeding hearts are always going on about).

This may seem unfriendly, but I beg to differ. I am of the opinion that, due to global gender-oppression, it’s really important for men to refrain from being overtly friendly, because it can often make women and trans folk feel extremely unsafe. Practice the simple art of speaking only when you are spoken to, ensuring that you are polite and thoughtful. Only engage to the limit that makes the other person comfortable, and then go back to looking away or looking down.

But remember to also practice your “pleasant face” for this. All men are capable of pleasant faces. It’s less to do with your countenance and more to do with your attitude really. Below is shown a simple exercise for you to try out.

Stand in front of the mirror and think of something that makes you smile. Then practice making that smile slight, i.e. not super obvious but still noticeable. The Mona Lisa is a great template to practice with for that perfect slight smile. Don’t smile too wide (that could get creepy). Once you’ve got that down pat, remove traces of a scowl or furrowed eyebrows as much as possible. Then look at your eyes. Try to get a sense of calm and peace of mind to get those eyes into a lovely peaceful gaze that shows the same level of threat as The Buddha (the real one, not the pot-bellied garbage hawked to eager white folk who recently returned from a trip finding themselves.)

And there you have it, an easy practice exercise for developing your “pleasant face.” When in doubt, think of someone you really care about, and the pleasantness will show on your face with greater ease.

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.

Way to go man-child! What say we work on tone of voice and way of communicating, talking, and laughing now?

Go forth, intrepid gentleman, to lesson 3.

(3) Don’t be a loud, obnoxious asshole (especially when children, seniors, and other more vulnerable populations are around): Now dude, before you get all whiny, please note that no one’s telling you not to enjoy yourself. Joy and laughter are gorgeous things. Just don’t take up so much space that it’s just you and your equally loud, obnoxious friends doing it. And remember that there is way less social and cultural space for women and trans folk to speak loudly, enjoy themselves, or laugh with abandon.

(Why, only recently, we had the lovely Napa Valley Wine Train episode where a group of Black women were essentially told by authorities that Laughing While Black And Female is a strict no-no from sea to shining sea.)

It is our goddamn responsibility as men to ensure that we are taking up as little space as possible to create more space for women and trans folk to be able to express joy and emotion.

(For our own sake bud. For our own sake.)

All you need to practice in not being a loud, obnoxious asshole, especially with more vulnerable populations around who might be justifiably nervous around this kind of behavior.

Again, very simple to implement.

When in doubt as to whether you are being loud, quieten the fuck up.

When in doubt as to whether you are being obnoxious, quieten the fuck up.

In fact, in general, unless necessary, just quieten the fuck up.

If you actually need a goddamn reason to do that, try to imagine someone you care about who might be more vulnerable and who might feel threatened by such behavior. Try to behave in a way that would make that person proud to share your love.

If you catch yourself being loud and obnoxious, be open about your contrition, apologize even (don’t worry, no one really gives a shit about your posturing, only about what kind of a person you are).

And then, oh yes, quieten the fuck up.

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.

Way to go man-child! What say we work on general demeanor and way of being now?

Stride forward, caring human being that you are, to lesson 4.

(4) Don’t ogle, stare or pass lewd comments. (Also, don’t wear sunglasses in closed spaces unless medically necessary): Do I have to actually write about how you might successfully implement this point? Really?

Fuck me. Alright, here goes.

Ogling and staring makes people feel extremely uncomfortable and unsafe. Women and trans folk, as well as many people of color, immigrants, homeless folk and others face this all the time. It’s a violation of space, it’s a violation of a person’s fundamental human right to feeling safe, and it’s just a really, really dickish thing to do.

Same goes for passing lewd or offensive comments. Again, when in doubt, just shut the fuck up. You’re not doing yourself or anyone else any good by being this way. You hurt others and you dehumanize yourself, damaging your soul in the process, eventually becoming a pathetic shell of a human being hanging around other assholes merely because it’s only assholes who will hang out with you.

(And then you die, and the great goddess Kali feeds you to her tiger companion, as she does with all assholes on earth, but that’s another trip…)

A small, but important, side-point to the ogling issue – unless medically necessary (and we know what those sunglasses tend to look like, so don’t try fooling people) please try and refrain from wearing sunglasses in closed spaces. The reason is that many men use sunglasses to cravenly cover up the fact that they are, in fact, ogling at someone.

Now, we can’t really do much about it outdoors (though if it’s night time, the unsafe creepiness factor goes up by about a million). So just try not wearing them inside. If you absolutely must wear sunglasses inside, stare the fuck out the window or away from people whom you know might feel uncomfortable with your line of eyesight. Or just engage in conversation with your companion if you have one travelling with you.

An added issue is that even if you’re not actually doing any nasty ogling, but just zoning out or something, many folks will still get uncomfortable because your man-child peepers are hidden behind tint.

(Yes, dear ol’ backward-hat-wearing, beer-brat-inhaling, pal of mine – sexism is an extremely intricate and leviathan social structure. And it’s our responsibility to ensure we’re not reproducing that shit as much as possible.

For ourselves bud.

For ourselves.)

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.

Way to go man-child! What say we work on social skills and trying to be a more caring, egalitarian human being?

Gleefully hop-step-and-jump, oh polite and kindhearted beast, to lesson 5.

(5) Always stand the fuck up politely and give your seat to seniors, pregnant women, folks with accessibility issues, and other more vulnerable populations: This is a simple one that doesn’t really need much detailed instructions to implement. Just do it without questioning it or being a dick about it. For starters, not only is it (again) the fundamental human right of vulnerable populations who need seating more acutely than others, but it also marks you out as a decent human being, and therefore also someone who is unlikely to be a threat to anyone.

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.

Way to go man-child! And as we wrap up this session, what say we now work on the kind of mindset that would make men better human beings on public transit?

Carry on, with a heart that brimeth over with love for humanity and the world, to lesson 5.

(6) It’s totally fine to be a nice person, but not a creepy person who doesn’t respect personal space: Be a nice person.

Really.

It’s awesome if you’re a nice dude. So do practice the fine art of being a nice person, a goodhearted person, a person who cares about people, and is keen on ensuring their health and safety to the greatest degree possible.

But also remember that it’s not anything more than should be expected from you.

(Truth be told, I’m stroking that ego so you’ll stay with me here. It’s ok, I don’t mind, I know how pathetically fragile a man-child’s sense of self is.)

Thus, just as it’s important to be a nice person, it’s equally important to not be a creepy person. Often what is “nice” behavior according to you could come off as very creepy and unsafe to someone else. The best mindset that you might occupy is one of empathy and honest-to-goodness care.

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.

Congratulations man-child! You did it! You made it all the way through to the 6th lesson.

Oh, I am so proud of you. I wish there was a certificate I could print out or perhaps an embossed, laminated membership card into the illustrious Platinum Club Of Marginally Less Dickish Men.

Here’s a thought – why don’t you make one for yourself and carry it around with you on public transit? Check it out whenever you find yourself regressing on some of this stuff. It’ll do you wonders.

But wait…

There’s more!

Since you successfully completed the course, we have a bonus lesson…

(6a) Bonus lesson for boneheaded jocks – coming from one who is currently undergoing an intense, 12-step, Boneheaded Jock Rehabilitation program called Assholes Anonymous (we meet secretly at tailgating parties): Listen bud, it’s fine to love sports, get fit, build muscles etc. especially if you’re doing it as part of a transformation to becoming a better person.

Just don’t be a dick about it.

In fact, this entire article can be summarized with one very succinct sentiment that all men on public transit, indeed all men, all the time, would do well to implement in their daily lives. It also happens to be a great sentiment to taking that first step in purging all that misogynistic gunk that clogs their soul:

Don’t be a dick.

With that rare brevity on my part, I’ll sign off.

Bye for now, man-child.

Now go practice, practice, practice until all this becomes instinct.

(And if you expect to be applauded for this shit, consider stabbing yourself in the eye with that spork you just used to eat your Hungry Man microwave dinner.)

Make note of these 6 types of condescending co-workers and reject their snot by laughing at them behind their backs

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going to clown college

As this Anti Oppressive Healing series has evolved over the last few weeks, it has been an absolute blessing to be noshed on by the ever-benevolent writing bug. From a goal of two posts a month when this series first started in March 2015, and the hope of getting to three posts a month in about six months of posting; I am now very fortuitous to be averaging a post a week for the last five weeks and I hope to keep up with this new pace of writing and publishing. It’s been such a lovely learning experience and it helps me remain committed to improving by doing. After many years of having a bloated, taking-my-writing-way-too-seriously ego getting thankfully deflated, I feel grateful to be in this liberated head space. It helps me clear away the haze and do my level best to keep producing work that tries to remove the “wannabe” in my self-imposed identity of a “wannabe healer, writer, and mama elephant.”

Long may this writing bug sink its emboldening fangs into my hitherto oafish brain so it may shake those verbiage-plodding neurons free from their privileged priapean perturbation.

(May it also always make me re-read jargony crap constructed utilizing nothing but an online thesaurus and a prayer.)

Now, I do believe the reason I am in this liberated head space is partly because of blogging.

Blogging, with it’s potential for free expression, limitless creative possibilities, and liberated thought- not to mention unfettered consumption and distribution – is tailor made for a wannabe healer-writer (healter? heriter? hwriter with a silent h?) trying to get some much needed improvement for his craft, as well as write and publish as much as he can without worrying about getting paid for it.

I feel compelled to mention that I am of the inviolable belief that all artistes need to get paid for their work, and I will always fight for everyone to get a fair wage for their creative/artistic work, but I’m privileged to have a life where I can exercise the option of writing and publishing for free consumption/distribution, without worrying about making a living from it because it’s what I need right now to get better. So I just plan on attempting a steady assembly line of posts for anyone out there who’s interested, and for as long as I can. As of now they will all come under the umbrella series, and focus, of Anti Oppressive Healing, but I’m sure that will evolve too.

Ok then. Enough navel-gazing and product-peddling. If you’ve stuck it out thus far with this post, please know that I appreciate you bearing with me as I gazed unabashedly into my unflattering and very-much-not-follicly-challenged belly button while sheepishly pointing you in the vague direction of other posts I have on this blog (sidebar to your left, b t dubs).

On that rather pleasant note…

This post continues in the Healing from Work vein of articles within the series. Only this time it’s trying to reject the hurtful actions of condescending co-workers utilizing that defiant cynical side of ours.

Now, obviously it’s based on condescending co-workers I have interacted with in previous workplaces or continue to interact with in my current workplace. But for obvious reasons I will not give away names or markers of any sort, suffice to say these generic types of condescending co-workers will be recognized by many of you.

And how best to deal with such cosmic ass-warts?

I believe the best way is to mentally reject them. I don’t mean cease interaction, for that might not be a luxury all of us have. What I do mean is that we reject the condescension of these co-workers in our hearts and minds, and commit to not being defeated by it. I’ve already written about investing as little of our souls as we can when selling our labor to capitalism for our sustenance, so I won’t repeat those points.

With this post, all we’re doing is coming up with a list of identifiers that mark out condescending co-workers who need to be rejected in our heads so we can then heal by laughing about them behind their backs.

Before we do that though, our generic colleagues are going to need generic names (and this article needs, you know, a thing). You need these names and many, many more you should strive to come up with on your own. They are your tools of resiliency to deal with those officious office  mates of yours. So let’s discuss a couple of options to get the juices flowing.

Perhaps Sanctimonious Sam? Could that be one of them?

Or if that’s a bit too meh, maybe Sydney Self-Righteousness? It certainly has a certain oomph to that surname.

But if that’s too many syllables for you, you really can’t go wrong with the delicate flow of Peyton Pomposity though now can you?

(See, I gotta be honest, all I did right now was a google search for synonyms of the word ‘sanctimonious’ and vaguely gender-neutral christian names on the net and strung a few of those bad boys with the same starting letters together. I’m going to follow that as an m.o. for this article fyi. I’m also going to take the opportunity, in this particular parenthetical segue, to finally admit that I am a pathetic con job of a writer. Hell, the only reason I even come out of this hack artiste closet is so I can then seek lazy refuge in meta humor as opposed to actually trying to be a better writer. Whatever. It’s therapeutic. Plus, when hipsters do it, no one complains, and most of those assholes have trust funds, so bite me.)

Ok, that was cleansing – and probably disturbing. I’m not sure. Lets just quickly move on to the six common types of condescending co-workers before I go postal with a BB gun in a Kensington Market coffee shop.

For instance…

  • You know that Goody-two-shoes Gabriel, the sniveling little suck-up, who never fails to note down all the times you went on vacation or took time off? Ol’ Gugga will never fail to bring it up in the snarkiest way possible when you return to work, which is the real kicker. (“Oh, hi there! Haven’t seen you in a looong time. Wish I could take time off like that too. Forgot you even worked here for a while. Lucky for you your supervisor’s office is all the way on the other side of the building, am I right? By the way, how did it go last week, you know, with the birth of your first child and all?”)
  • Ahem, simultaneously we don’t want to forget how Bobby Bootlicker – that giant pile of priggish pus who never fails to highlight their work, occasionally repeating a project or two from a couple of different angles, almost always at all-staff meetings and only when the bosses are present. Usually this is done by raising a hand during Q&A, and providing a surreptitious, albeit astoundingly detailed, reconstruction of all the work Bobo did as a lead up to asking a question. They will then conveniently forego asking a question but they will crack a dainty little joke about being a hopeless workaholic. (You can then feel the earth’s axial tilt shift ever so faintly as every eyeball in the room rolls upward in remarkable, albeit exasperated, unison. The goddesses in the sky look down in sympathy as a collective sigh of indignation then descends upon the meeting when Bobo flashes that impossible smile – impossible because it’s being performed by lips vacuum-sealed on the ass of a program director.)
  • But heavens forbid we forget that slimeball, Pharisaical Fadnavis. The duplicitous drool of that duplicitous drooler can be smelt a mile away. P-Fad will always be a picture of politeness with you. Always “on” 24/7, this source of angst will display a propriety that would make Martha Stewart’s heart glow like black granite in the prairie sunshine. P-Fad bustles with a bumblebee earnestness and buzzes, martyr-like, about how helpful they are to everyone around them, though the jury is still out on who exactly “everyone” is. Like Bobo though, rest assured the tone gets positively joanofarcian in those preciously public all-staff meetings with all the bosses present.
  • Ok, enough of that, because now it’s time get really filthy, like bottom of the barrel type stuff, when we recount that slice of smarm, Wheedling Waleed Bin Talal? (More like Wheedling Wally B Buttwipe, am I right?) Now there’s a walking ball of brown-nosing bullshit. Seriously, how can so much of that brown gold be slung with the bosses with nary a stain nor stench? Wally B knows how, let me tell you. Those laboriously shined shoes and immaculately creased trousers will not allow it any other way.
  • Wally B induces the nausea, but can I have a “fuck me, not this asshole again” for Unctuous Ulysses? That Jesus-Loves Me-bracelet-wearing, beatific jive joker – always fresh faced, well hydrated, and with a gleaming smile. Unfortunately for the rest of us this smile emanates from the face of a person who’s ego isn’t healthy enough to attempt moderation when applying that tempting teeth-whitener the previous night. He doesn’t talk about his pompous piety. This literal leap of faith doesn’t need to. It blooms from his being, radiating outward, washing over us like the healing aromas emanating from a landfill. He jades and jehovizes those of us going to hell, making our souls impatient to get there just a little bit sooner so we don’t have to smell his eau de parfum.
  • And finally, can we ever conceive of a list of condescending co-workers without referencing the one we all love to hate the most, your favorite office pest, Vainglorious Venkatanarasimharaju? This is the one who thinks that the office would fall apart without him, yet even a friendly query on what exactly he does in order to keep this office so brilliantly functioning will be met with the kind of exasperation that you do not want to be facing from The V2 Rocket. Nothing more needs to be said about this puddle of piss – primarily because I’m running out of steam thinking about these people and doing google searches for adjectives describing their sorry asses so I can hack out this post.

I think it’s best now for all of us for me to sign off with this very simple mantra…

Remember to never allow the insecurity and inadequacies of your condescending co-workers defeat you.

Your best bet would be to look at your work life via the lens of an over-the-hill but well-adjusted Looney Toons character who doesn’t take their work too seriously and possesses enough cynical zeal to treat some of your more cloying colleagues with the intentionally cartoonish disdain they deserve.

Now, seriously, don’t forget to clock the fuck out before 5pm and go have fun with your loved ones.

And do give a big smile to Paulus Publius Pecksniffian Poopy Pants on your way out.

An ode to a good dump and a grouchy fuck of a grandfather

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prime minister digestion

The last article I wrote on suicide gutted me a bit, so I’m going to be talking about bowel movements for this one, while invoking the late wisdom of a strange, grumpy old man.

I don’t know why really. I think it’s because writing this article made me laugh while invoking a giant middle finger to pain and trauma. Read on if you’d like. It’s a short piece anyway.

When I was about eight or nine years old, my late grandfather on my mother’s side drew a diagram for me and my older brother, a diagram I will describe shortly. First let me briefly describe this man as I remember him.

Thatha died when I was about ten or eleven after his heart gave out, so I do remember him being my first experience with death, and crying when I saw his body, not because I particularly gave a crap that he was gone but merely because I had never seen a dead body in real life. He was a very harsh, abusive disciplinarian to his children, and felt that the most strict and economically productive societies like Japan were the epitome of humanity. He wished to be born in a country like Japan for his next life, so he could work hard and spend his life in strict discipline (no kidding) without having to deal with the chaos and corruption of a messy place like Bangalore.

Weird little fucker he was.

I wasn’t particularly close to the man, nor did I like him very much. From a very young age, I’ve never particularly enjoyed the company of men who thought of themselves as stern family patriarchs or portrayed that kind of behavior, especially in strict or angry ways. They’re often a stressful pain to be around, and it’s only when they change their ways and become gentler, more loving men can I bond with them. Unfortunately with Thatha, he kicked the bucket before that could happen. So I only remember him as a bit of a dick, not a particularly cruel or evil one, just a strict jerk with a quick temper.

However, he did have a deliciously wicked sense of humor and he taught me one, just one, invaluable thing before he died; a life lesson I have never forgotten and one that I am realizing has been a key feature to whatever health and fitness I might possess or have the potential to possess:

Daily, healthy bowel movements.

I kid you not.

And he did all this via a diagram and a very brief lecture.

The diagram he drew and the lecture that preceded was in response to my elder brother not taking a shit this one special morning. I feel compelled to emphasize this god-honest truth – one weekend morning my brother happened to not feel like taking a shit as soon as he woke up, and because he happened to wile away a lazy hour or two of his (weekend) morning without hitting the throne right away, it merited a lecture from my grandfather. The morning had not ended mind you, so there was every chance that my brother would have indeed taken a shit that day before the sun hit the tall sky, even without the lecture that was to follow.

But Thatha believed a household needed to be run like a Toyota factory striving for a level of efficiency that would make the founder emit a gratifying, albeit adequately humble, sigh from the grave.

You see – if you haven’t been able to gather this already from my glib and absolutely unabashed usage of the word “shit” and my regular veering off in the direction of bowel movements (see previous titles on this blog for further, surreptitiously self-aggrandizing, reference) – I come from a family that takes a strange pride in having excellent digestive systems.

Yes.

I did just say that.

I’m going to repeat it for good effect.

I come from a family that takes a strange pride in having excellent digestive systems – and I’m going to keep talking about it, thank you very much, dignity and family pride very much intact.

I grew up in a great family in Bangalore, barring a couple of jerks, which is par for the course with humanity I think and not something to really complain about. No jokes, great family, especially my parents and joint family kin in Bangalore (and now Toronto as well). Very lucky block I am indeed.

Now, I’m not suggesting for a second that they were awesome because they all had great digestive systems – aided by a fibre heavy diet of course. I am however saying that a good shit first thing in the morning can give you that oh so perky start to the day – something I realize all members of my family get. So, at the very least, their good digestive systems make them, uh, less shitty.

(Sorry for that bad pun right there btw. While digestion was one our strong suits, risque humor was not. We were, for all our public talk of bowel movements, an astoundingly prudish lot. Quite bovine in nature actually. Thatha even had the whole cud chewing thing going.)

Ok, back to our story.

Now, in order to lecture my brother (and me too apparently because I was putzing around the garden looking at earthworms), Thatha semi-cogently sputtered about the value of good digestion – occasionally taking a delightfully appetizing break to gurgle and spit brown tobacco juice with jet-stream like precision onto the plants of our grandparent’s front yard, a stray droplet or two landing ever so lovingly on our cringing faces.

To emphasize his point, he drew the following diagram:

First, in profile, he drew the outline of a human being. Or at least a globular, vaguely human form.

Within that outline of a human being he drew an outline of the digestive system from mouth to asshole, with a stomach in between.

Then, within the outline of that digestive system, in the little protrusion representing the stomach, he drew a turd.

As he amused himself to the increasing disgust of his only daughter’s children, he then proceeded to provide his idea of a succinct, medically sound, rationally grounded lecture on daily healthy living. It took all of ten seconds before my brother walked away gagging.

The shiny pearls of wisdom he so graciously provided us can best be paraphrased thus:

We eat.

Then our body converts what we eat to shit.

We need to remove that shit every morning.

Because if we don’t, for the rest of the day, whenever we open our mouths our breath is going to smell like shit…

the same shit that is still in our stomach because we failed to remove it that morning…

because shitting in the morning is something that all good, disciplined human beings (ahem, such as your grandfather) do.

So go take a shit right now.

QED.

He then, as my brother started to gag, proceeded to literally draw the smells of the turd travelling through the digestive system, emanating out of the mouth. By the time he was finished with this final illustrative flourish, there was just the two of us (me a tad surprised that I was still kinda peckish for the scrambled eggs my mum was making for me that morning).

Now, I leave it to you to judge the value of such organic inter-generational advice. I know for sure that I’m likely to adopt a slightly different approach to telling any young ‘uns about the importance of good digestion.

But believe you me – ever since that lecture, over a quarter century ago, I have never gone a day in my life without at least one healthy bowel movement.

You may cringe. You know, tmi or whatever…

But nothing perks you up like a good dump.

And that’s the real value of that lesson. It actually converts the lesson into a truism I admittedly had to glean for myself after talking to people a tad more even-minded than my grandfather (rest his tobacco-chewing, very regular, soul).

But I think what Thatha tried to tell us in his crude and amusingly memorable way was this:

The seemingly inconsequential (and often more unpalatable) daily activities of life constitute the bedrock of health and healing – and we ignore them at our own peril.

Thatha, you grouchy fuck – take a bow in that old Toyota factory in your paradise that you are a loyal comprador, middle-manager of – because whenever I take a dump, I think of you and I’m strangely grateful you drew me that nasty diagram.

(Now, that’s a weird family to get your genes from.)