April 3, 2006

Hirsute beauties

Laurie received a strange e-mail today. Somebody wrote to her in connection to a forum post she’d made about hairy legs in Sri Lanka :p This guy said that he liked women with hairy legs and so was wondering if he could pay Laurie to arrange a meeting with such an individual 🙂 Now everybody’s preferences are their own and I cannot judge them for what they like – or dislike, but offer to pay a complete stranger to introduce you to another complete stranger? I don’t know … that kind of seems a bit strange. Or maybe this was just a late April Fool’s prank? I have no idea 🙂

Speaking of strange things, we were watching "CSI: NY" yesterday and we came across the concept of BIID (Body Integrity Identity Disorder) – the desire to have your body parts amputated willingly. Now I’ve heard of some bizarre things in my time but this really takes the cake. This disorder, also known as apotemnophilia (now there’s a word for the day :p) has a counterpart called acrotomophilia – sexual attraction to other people who are missing limbs. So I guess that brings us kind of back to the whole hairy legs thing …

But what I found myself wondering about was whether all these disorders and neurosis and phobias and manias that people have today, did they exist before modern times? Is it just that something new that we’ve invented to obliterate the tedium of life that we have today? Are these the results of the comfortable, humdrum existence that modern life has given us? Or did these conditions exist in olden times when life was so much more harder and everybody had much more serious issues (such as how to get through that day alive) confronting them? Another question I have is whether apotemnophilia is limited to Western nations (or more developed nations) or if this is a global phenomena. I am doing some research on this at the moment but I had to put down these thoughts first …

Tags: , , ,
Posted by Fahim at 7:50 am  |  No Comments

January 7, 2006


Isn’t it interesting that we don’t always see ourselves the same way as others see us? Or is that just another facet of human nature? I’m aware of the fact that our perception of ourselves (or how we think others see us) isn’t always the same as how other people actually view us. But I had not considered the fact that this could be true also of cultural or racial groups. The fact was brought home to me recently by a comment somebody made.

I had just written an article for a Sri Lankan travel magazine about the Muslims of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka, to lay some background to this whole entry, is kind of strange in that the people here don’t consider themselves Sri Lankans. Instead, they usually consider themselves as parts of a different ethnic groups – the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims. To me, that’s the strangest way to go about being a nation because you are never a single whole but a sum of fractured parts, if that makes any sense :p But then again, I guess this same sense of fragmentation occurs in many nations, human beings being who they are, just not to this extent.

Anyway, as I said before, I wrote this article about the Muslims of Sri Lanka. I was asked to write the article since I am a Muslim myself. So I wrote it and I kept it totally factual – I researched the story thoroughly, though I knew most of the bare outlines, and laid out the story of the Muslims from the early days in Sri Lankan history to the present (well, not actually the present – most of the major historical stuff ended around the British colonial period but who’s counting, right? :p) The editor’s comment on reading the article was that it was good but "not what he’d expected". I was a bit surprised since I thought the story was fairly accurate, so I asked him what he’d expected thinking that I’d slipped up somewhere. He said that he’d expected a story replete with buriyani and watalappam.

Now for the confused, let me hasten to enlighten you. Buriyani is a rice-dish that Sri Lanka Muslims are famous for, in Sri Lanka. It’s actually an Indian dish but they call it biryani there, what do they know? They might have invented the dish (I don’t know if they actually did …) but they can’t go around naming stuff differently than us Sri Lankans now can they? :p It’s basically rice, meat (and sometimes potatoes – the recipe varies a bit) cooked together with spices and it tastes really good. Muslims usually have buriyani at weddings, festivals and other festive occasions and so buriyani has come to be identified with Muslims.

Watalappam is a dessert. It’s basically a jaggery pudding. But then I guess I have to go into what jaggery is :p It’s the solidified treacle from either the kitul or coconut palm and is really sweet. It’s like a big, brown, chunky block of sweetness 🙂 And watalappam is basically jaggery and eggs. Again, it’s considered a Muslim delicacy in Sri Lanka and most people agree that Muslims make the best watalappam.

So what has all this got to do with the article? From my perspective, nothing :p I didn’t really think of the Muslims as being identified by either buriyani or watalappam since that has nothing to do with who the Sri Lankan Muslims are, how they came to be in Sri Lanka and their involvement in Sri Lankan history or politics. On the other hand, the editor, being a non-Muslim, expected me to write about buriyani and watalappam because I was after all, a Muslim :p I just find the fact that we have such diverse perceptions of the Sri Lankan Muslims as a whole and find myself wondering, if another Sri Lankan Muslim had written the article, would s/he have written about buriyani?

Tags: , ,
Posted by Fahim at 7:28 am  |  1 Comment

May 21, 2003

Of rants and reasoning …

Yesterdays non-rant about people saying something and doing something else seems to have touched a few nerves since I received several responses to that in one form or another :p But it actually was that – a non-rant. I wasn’t going to let other people’s actions upset my equilibrium and I was simply stating something that was going through my mind at that particular time – so no reason for anybody to be alarmed, offended, irritated etc :p

However, reading Gordon R. Dickson’s "Way of the Pilgrim" later on during the evening, a paragraph from the book struck me as being relevant to this particular situation. In this particular situation, the earth has been conquered by aliens and the protagonist is trying to understand the alien mindset. In the process, he says that aliens and humans see each other as distorted reflections of themselves in a mirror. He goes on to explain that what he meant was that the aliens and humans can’t really understand each other since they think in totally different ways and yet, they can’t help trying to equate the other’s actions with the way they’d do something and so come up with a distorted picture of themselves to explain the actions of the other. I’m not sure that I explained that properly here but anyway, it made sense to me and what is more, I realized that this holds true even in human-human interactions.

We don’t really understand what drives other people and so we attribute certain things to them in order to understand their actions – only thing is, that is probably a distorted picture of that person since we can never be certain of correctly identifying what drives the other person. For example, there is the case of something that happened at my grandfather’s funeral – this incidentally, is one of the reasons I hate going for any family gathering :p I had bought a new cellular phone recently and by Sri Lankan standards it’s pretty expensive since it’s a Sony Ericsson P800 and it’s one of the latest in the market. My Dad had commented on this to one of my uncles and while my parents berated me for spending so much on the phone, I wouldn’t be surprised that when they spoke to my uncle about it if they hadn’t said it with a touch of pride – hinting that I could *afford* to spend so much money on a new phone … and of course, they would have mentioned the price of the phone.

Anyway, my uncle comes up to me later and asks me if I had my phone with me and I thought that he simply wanted to take a call and told him that I was out of range since I was. He says never mind and takes me over to his son-in-law and a few others and introduces me to them. Then he casually says that my father had told him that I bought a new phone and asks me if he can see it and then says that he doesn’t know much about this stuff and passes the phone on to his son-in-law. Naturally, the price of the phone gets discussed at this point too. I thought at that point that my uncle was simply trying to impress his son-in-law and his relatives with the fact that his nephew had such a good phone (or could afford one) – they do that kind of thing here in Sri Lanka :p But when I told my parents about the incident later, they said that it wasn’t so at all – that my uncle had simply doubted the price that my Dad had quoted (which was the price that I actually paid) and wanted to make sure that my Dad wasn’t lying by getting his son-in-law and the others to verify the price because my uncle trusted his son-in-law more than anybody else (my parents’ opinion, not mine).

My point here is that I thought of my uncle’s actions in one way and my parents looked at it a different way – each one of us basing our opinion of a person (my uncle in this instance) on how we’d interacted with him, how we thought of him and our own ways of looking at things. I really have no idea who is right about the real motives of my uncle – maybe none of us are. But I’d still prefer to think of my uncle the way I’d thought of him since to me that’s a less negative picture – there is this Disney TV movie which I forget where the central character says something along the lines of "if you look for the good in people you will find it" and I’d like to believe that. Maybe I wear rose-tinted glasses but heck, it’s better than looking at everybody and wondering what they might do to you … though sometimes it’s hard not to do that too :p

May 12, 2003

Of death and debates …

I don’t think I understand people and what drives them at all. I try to put myself in their places and understand their actions but I guess I just am not your typical person because I can never understand why they do most things because I never would do it that way. I can only stand there and mutter "fascinating" like Mr. Spock or debate with myself as to who is abnormal – them or me. To me, I seem normal enough (within bounds of course) but that is because I am the only person whose mind that *I* know well – most of the rest of the people seem to do weird, irrational things that have no sound basis at all but maybe I just am not seeing it from their frame of reference … This inability to understand the motivations of other people drives me insane at times because I keep on wondering about how, what, why etc. like a dog chasing its tail and keep on going round and round and round in circles till I drive myself to a frenzy. Of course, this doesn’t happen all the time since I my usual rule is to live and let live. But of course, there are exceptions to each rule and sometimes I end up wondering about a particular action by some person and that’s when things start getting really crazy. Of course, after a while, I come to the realization that it doesn’t matter what somebody else does, that it should be my own actions and my perceptions that I should allow to influence my course in life and then things calm down again but unfortunately, in this particular scenario, I never seem to learn by experience and I repeat the same pattern again and again and again … Sometimes I wonder if all they say about experience is true :p

My grandfather has passed away … My parents left in the afternoon since they heard that his condition was serious. I was supposed to follow tomorrow. I got home and was just praying that his last moments be peaceful and that he pass away without too much pain when I received a call saying that he’d just passed away (and no, I’m not suggesting that my prayers had anything to do one way or another with his passing away but that’s how the events occurred). Calls have been coming in since then – here everybody wants to tell you when a death has occurred. So far I’ve received three calls since the original call – my parents and two of my cousins – Muslims are buried within 24 hours and so the funeral will probably be tomorrow and I intend to leave early tomorrow morning. It’s such a strange thing life – one moment we are here and the next we are not … but where do we go then? That is what I’d like to know …

Tags: , , ,
Posted by Fahim at 6:44 pm  |  3 Comments

April 27, 2003

Guys, girls and the Gilmores

I often talk about "The Gilmore Girls" – it’s funny, quirky and in a sneaky sort of way it satirizes humanity. All the people in Stars Hollow (that’s the village shown in the show) have some sort of a quirk and while it might seem impossible for so many idisyncratic people to be in one place at the same time, if you think about it, you will realize that most of these quirks are actually exaggerations of characteristics displayed by people all around us. Be that as may be, I’m going to talk about "The Gilmore Girls" in relation to relationships, yet once again :p

I’ve talked before about how Rory while in a relationship with her boyfriend Dean, seems to be attracted to Jess at the same time but seems to be unaware of what all this really implies. (Yes, I know I’m talking about characters in a TV show as if they are real people – bear with me … or you know where the X is, click it :p) This is the kind of attitude that I just can’t put up with though I can find explanations for Rory’s behaviour, I still get angry about it since this is the kind of thing I’d hate to have happen to me in a relationship. But first the background – Rory, is a very intelligent girl – quiet, bookish and dreaming of going to Harvard one day – who normally spends her lunch time with a book and her lunch. Dean on the other hand, is your average active teenager – into sports, cars but not really interested in books and stuff. Their relationship seemed to have nothing in common but still they seemed to like being with each other and very much in love. In to this scenario stepped Jess, dark and brooding, always in trouble but with a hidden-side because he’s actually very intelligent and widely-read.

As the last few episodes progressed, it has become more and more evident that Rory likes spending time with Jess and while Dean can see her slipping away, all he can seem to do is cling on to her even harder – which just drives Rory even further away. All this is about par for normal human relations but what I find reprehensible is the fact that Rory just won’t admit to even herself the fact that she likes Jess and that she now finds nothing in common with Dean. To me, it seems that she should simply tell Dean how she feels and move on since that does not keep Dean hanging on, hoping against hope that things will work out and will save him further heartache when she finally does tell him that it’s over – as she eventually will have to. Yes, this is a TV show and a character has to behave the way it is written but then, I think the writing is wrong – or maybe they thought that Rory would be the kind of person who would delude themselves as to the true state of affairs, but even that seems doubtful given how intelligent and mature she is in other areas. So the verdict? I’m just sorry for poor Dean – but then again, given that I’m a guy, most people would say that that is exactly how I would react :p

On the other hand, I watched a Tamil movie today where this guy and girl get married but the girl finds out after the marriage that the guy had had a child from a previous relationship and she divorces him – it’s a cultural thing, "society" in Asia expects the woman to be "pure" (their words not mine) when they get married and while it does not apply so much towards the man, there is a bit of it there too. Even after the divorce, they continue to be friends and both the guy and girl discover that they love each other – another one of those Asian things, you *usually* don’t know your spouse before marriage. Each one is on the verge of telling the other about their love but circumstances (and perhaps their own fears of being hurt) conspire to make them think that the other person loves somebody else. So the guy tries to do what he thinks is best and tries to get the woman married off to the guy he thinks that she loves and the woman tries to do the same for the guy. In the end of course, they discover the truth and get re-married.

Now that is a state of things I can more readily identify with – maybe it’s all cultural and I can’t understand the Western viewpoint but can empathize with the Indian perspective. I really don’t know if that is the case. But I do understand how you could love somebody but yet would let them go silently – it’s because you love them and want them to be happy and while to tell them first might be wise, there is also the fear that you might put an obligation on them to return your love (well maybe obligation is too strong – just that you would be burdening them to some extent) and you don’t want that because you love them. So you remain silent and try to get them together with the one you think they love. As I said, maybe I’m conditioned but *I* certainly prefer the second story to the first …

February 17, 2003

The war for peace …

I’ve been watching the anti-war protests all over the world and I am happy to see that so many people all over the world do see the futility of another war but I find myself asking "will this be enough to tip the scales?" Somebody mentioned a statistic that I keep on coming back to – he said that if this war goes through, 30% of the children in Iraq will die. Is that something that we can actually live with? Not just those who actively supported the war or benefitted by it or participated in it, but those of us who stood by in the sidelines and did nothing?

Is there anybody who’s reading this who would step forward if I was to say that if somebody would step forward so that they and their families could be killed, the rest of the world … no that’s not right .. that’s too lofty and anyway does not provide a correct picture of the situation … that a country on the other side of the world can live without fear of attack? Is there any such person? If somebody like that exists, I might (and I said *might*) consider changing my opinions on this war but I don’t think anybody would like *their* families to be killed. So why are we doing nothing when somebody else’s family is being butchered in the name of something over which they have no control?

When the "war on terror" started and Afghanistan was to be attacked, I said "collateral damage" was not acceptable but a lot of people said "it’s unfortunate that these people have to die but those responsible for 9/11 have to be punished!". Well, time has passed, we’ve had collateral damage on both sides – the US has lost soldiers, young men who really had no idea of the battle they were fighting and the Afghanis have lost people, people who knew nothing about Bin Laden or 9/11 and probably had not even heard of the World Trade Center but has any justice been done? Not as far as I can see. Bin Laden still roams free and so many innocents have been killed on both sides just to make a point. All I see is injustice piled up on top of another injustice.

I watched the delegate from France make a strong appeal for not going to war at the UN and then later heard a commentator on CNN say that if the bullets started flying, you’d probably see France fighting shoulder to shoulder with US troops because France does not want to be left out when the oil fields are divvied up – cynicism, bitterness, reality, politics? I really have no idea – I wonder more and more if I understand humanity at all. All I know is that each and every individual, each and every family, each and every group and region and nation and continent, has the right to live without fear, the right to live peacefully. Nothing and I mean nothing is more important than that. But please don’t bring up that hoary old chestnut about how the US has the same right and this was is all about the people of the US might live without fear – open your eyes, stop listening to the politicians, start thinking for yourselves. People everywhere are people just like you and me – it’s the politicians who are a breed apart …

Tags: , ,
Posted by Fahim at 6:32 am  |  1 Comment

November 27, 2002

Of friends and the past ..

All the testing on BlogMan yesterday meant that I made no post here at all but to find out all the techy junk, you’ll have to read the other blog :p I have found a new friend who is one of those select few who enter my "inner circle" :p I make friends easily but I don’t let most people know about the weird stuff that goes through my head – OK, you may beg to differ since I write about a lot of things here that are totally weird (or maybe not – depending on how you look at it <g>) but then again I don’t write about *everything* here. There are things I leave out – personal stuff, the weirdest theories I have about the world and reality etc.

I feel a bit of a duality here and also feel me going off at a tangent (and not talking about what I originally intended to talk about – but let me save that for another day and follow this thread of thought …) Now most of the time, I say my life is an open book and everybody is free to know anything about me. Heck, I write about almost everything in my life on this journal … but that’s not quite true because for the longest time I never spoke about my former marriage, my ex-wife or my son. The reason I carefully left those things out has nothing to do with how I feel about privacy at all but rather to do with Sri Lanka and how things are perceived here … basically it was to save my parents from heartache and embarrassment (though I can never understand why *they( should be embarrassed about something that I did) in case somebody from Sri Lanka or our family read this journal. I’ve decided to totally let go recently though and so am willing to talk about even the stuff that I didn’t talk about earlier.

Again, my comments need a little bit of explanation – at least about the Sri Lankan society bit. Here in Sri Lanka, everything is stratified and compartmentalized – you marry from your own class, own race, own religion and anybody who strays outside is an embarrassment and usually ostracized by their family. I have never cared for this kind of behaviour or this kind of society and didn’t really worry about how others felt when I got married but then it became evident that this was a source of great mental agony to my parents and to spare them any further anguish and embarrassment when dealing with our relatives, I refrained from talking about my marriage and later divorce on my journal. Then I came back to Sri Lanka and my parents wanted me to get married again and that made it an issue again because a person who has been married is sort of "devalued" in the marriage market. I have always had problems with the fact that my former marriage was not mentioned when my parents wanted to find a bride for me and I always intended to let the girl know before everything was finalized if it ever came to that because I wouldn’t have felt at all comfortable in getting married to a girl under false pretenses. However, that never came to be fortunately since I told my parents that I wasn’t interested in marriage at the moment :p

OK, I see I have really strayed now … But I guess what I was trying to get at was that these pages are an open window into my life and I talk about everything in my life (at least now) here but that does not mean that this is the sum total of my thoughts and experiences. There are still areas that I will not talk about here just because it involves other people and that’s the issue I really wanted to write about today but since I’ve already written at length, let me save that for tomorrow 🙂

Tags: , , ,
Posted by Fahim at 7:59 am  |  No Comments

November 6, 2002

Wedding March or the Ides of March? :p

Since I am off the marriage stakes, my brother has become the latest contender in our family :p Of course, I’m sure that most you either know or have guessed by now that my own reluctance to be part of an arranged marriage stems from the fact that I’ve fallen in love with Jen <g> but be that as may be, my parents are actively searching for a bride for my brother now and he seems not too averse to the idea provided that they find a girl who meets his specifications. I should explain something here – or several things actually :p

The first thing is that in Sri Lanka (and in many other Asian countries too …) brothers usually get married according to age – so the younger brother cannot get married till the elder brother marries. It’s different for girls though – if you have a sister of marriageable age, you are supposed to get her married before you look into your own marriage :p For instance, my sister (who is three years younger than me) got married about ten years ago whereas my parents weren’t that particular about getting me married till recently and that too was probably because I was blocking the path to wedded bliss for my brother 🙂 Anyway, now that I have told my parents that I don’t want an arranged marriage (and that I would tell them once I’ve found the girl I want to marry – who incidentally is Jen and she tells me that she feels the same way but we still haven’t met in person …), they’ve decided that it’s time to concentrate on my brother.

Of course, that brings us to the second point – while love marriages do occur in Sri Lanka and other Asian countries, they still aren’t as common as arranged marriages by parents, especially in the more orthodox families. So my parents will try to find a Sri Lankan, Muslim (all of that is important to them :p) girl from a family that they deem is suitable and then the girl will have to fit my brother’s criteria and of course, he’ll have to be what she wants in a husband and finally the wedding (or at least the negotiations for a wedding) can take place. What a lot of work! :p

Tags: , ,
Posted by Fahim at 8:32 am  |  1 Comment

« Previous Page