Monday, February 25, 2008

The Half-Growl

If you are persistent and patient, you can definitely teach a dog new tricks. Even an old one for that matter. But why go through all that effort when you can just reverse the process and learn from the dog instead?

Of the many important things that Cooper, our lazy dog, has taught me, one of the lessons that stands out is that you don't need to say a lot to express your displeasure at things. My dear friends, I present to you the half-growl. It sounds exactly like the description. Its not long enough to be full-blown growl; in fact its more like a short grunt in the tone of a growl. Cooper usually uses it if my wife and I are talking too loudly for him to be able to sleep. Don't take Cooper wrong - he is probably the friendliest dog during the day, it is just that he takes his sleep at night very seriously. Unfortunately for him, his little remonstrations are met by laughter from us, but out of respect, we try to laugh quietly.

Anyway, I realised that this was probably the most efficient way to express my displeasure to my wife, in case something bothered me. And being of a gender where expressing emotions through the right words is a perpetual challenge, this was a god-send.So these days when my wife asks me to do something I don't like doing like going grocery-shopping, getting my clean clothes out of the dryer and folding them, all I have to do is my half-growl. Since no words are used, there is no rational reply to it and the matter dies a quick, painless natural death. My wife is not a big fan of the half-growl and thinks that it is a lazy way of communicating. My response to that is another half-growl. Thank you Cooper!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Negative associations

When I was growing up, my mother would tell me that it is very easy to have people form a bad opinion about you but it is quite difficult to have them form a good one. I did not heed too much attention to this little nugget of wisdom back then, but now, when I think of it, it is so very true. I think , maybe in some twisted way, it makes people feel better about themselves to know something negative about someone else. Call it an inherent attraction towards morbidity, whatever the reasons, negative things are more likely to be remembered than positive things.

The reason I recollected this was that I recently started listening to this German metal band 'Rammstein'. I really like their sound. Its different from the standard metal ones. I even started picking up some German (they sing mostly in German) by looking up the lyrics and translation online. Which is when I found out that they have been linked to some undesirable groups of people like the Columbine high school shooters, the Chechen militants who took 1200 odd Russian school children hostage in 2004 and some Neo-Nazi groups. As soon as I read it I felt slightly ashamed of the fact that I liked Rammstein too. Irrational though it was, the negative image was quick to form in my brain.

Speaking of Rammstein and their German roots, another much-maligned symbol that comes to mind is the Swastika. Most people outside of probably India know the 5000 year old Swastika only as the 80 odd years old Nazi party symbol. For some reason, Hitler and his Aryan race theory cronies had to hijack something which was meant to be good (Swastika literally means well-being in Sanskrit), tilt it by 45 degrees and turn it into an international symbol of hate. I wish they would have atleast called it by some other name. The Swastika is ubiquitous in India, You will find the clockwise Swastika and and the anti-clockwise Swastika in use in a ton of places ranging from temples, entrances of houses, wedding cards etc.I have even met someone named Swastika on a bus journey in India. Smart-alec that I tried to be, I couldn't help suggesting to her that international travel may not be good for her well-being.

Similar is the fate that the word Aryan has met. The whole concept of the super Aryan race too has made this word Arya/Aryan, meaning noble in Sanskrit and which probably has its roots in Iran, a not-so-politically correct word anymore. There is a Persian restaurant named Arya on Steven's Creek Blvd, in Cupertino, California. I think they were quite brave to have chosen that name in the US. They were either banking on their patrons being well-informed or the culinary skills of their cooks, but it does look like they are doing well.

Personally, I don't believe in religion and I don't really care much about it (that will require a separate post), but it is a shame that Al-Qaeeda and other similar outfits are doing the same thing to Islam what the Nazis did to the Swastika. Either these extreme militant outfits should stop or we, as a people, should try to accept the good instead of focussing on the bad. At this point in time, unfortunately, I don't see either of that happening very soon.