Monday, January 15, 2007

Racy thoughts

So why so much on the issue of race & gender? All people are a product of their geography, if you're to believe my oversimplified summary of Jared Diamond's book. Well, while at a macro-level Diamond's book is very well argued, I'm not sure what to make of it if we try to extrapolate or bend. For example, I perceive that while over time geographic factors might have been the most regulatory, as Diamond seems to argue, I find it difficult to believe that all groups of men will have evolved the same way in identical conditions - kind of a corollary to Diamond's thesis. However, that's a thought-experiment I cannot conduct.

Besides, that question cannot be raised. Simply because there were no different groups of men. There are men who have been differentiated because of their environments. So currently there are societies that are differentiated from other societies not because of their intrinsic intelligence but that's just as important as the fact that these differences exist. While Diamond's book shows a case for how societies came to be the way they are, it certainly does not say that all societies/people are, by any means, equal in the present day world.

But somewhere along the line, I seem to feel that we live or try to live in denial of this simple fact. The egalitarian approach is merely a noble approach; it does not reflect reality. In fact, the egalitarian approach is actually in conflict with the innate human desire to categorize & classify.

Using race, ethnicity or gender to classify & categorize may just be full of biases & prejudices, & it can be ugly when it receives political or wide societal sanction - but it is terribly foolish to negate these influences altogether from all that is of any importance. Our biological identity - where we are all equal - is not our strongest sense of identity after all.

All men are created equal. Nope. All men were created equal.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

And you are?

One of our pillars of identity is what we eat. In fact, what we eat can be so parochial in nature is that if you try to arrive at the idea of a nation based on food habits – as is possible in a foreign land – the whole analysis is practically useless in the way of categorization but does harbour serious possibilities as farce.

So, say for example, some tourist has been, just by chance, to an Andhra - style restaurant & has had a sumptuous thali, complete with that fiery Rasam. It is just incredibly funny to think Rasam & rice could then in her mind, oblivious to vastness & the consequent variety of our country, become some thing like an Indian dish – devoured with smacking relish across our vast country, with eulogies emanating from the deep recesses of devourer’s guttural abyss.

While I personally love a well made pongal the kind you get in Chennai more often than you do in Bangalore, the pregnant silence that make its presence felt when I voice this opinion in a group of people who belong to the north of the Vindhyas makes me want to dive into a suitcase & pull the top tight & securely.

Bengalis are fish-eaters. That’s banana oil, you know. Give them something piscine you’ve scooped up from a sea & regardless of the content of your bookshelf, or your political point of view, they’ll brand you as loutish tykes unworthy of their society.

What is eaten in Mandya is, then, eaten only in Mandya.