Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Trouble With Being Social

“I was very tolerant of the idea of being behind the times, having had long opportunities of studying the perfectly ghastly people who were abreast of the times; or the still more pestilent people who were in advance of the times.” – G.K. Chesterton

Social networking has never really been my thing and probably, never will be. And yet, I seem to insist on keeping my Facebook profile, even though I rarely log in there. It has something to do with my fear of being left behind as the whole world moves on to new and exciting developments, leaving the days of email far behind.

Confucius say “Man who speaks with forked tongue should not kiss balloons.”

So, when Orkut made its debut years ago, I was in the thick of things. Primped my profile, “scrapped” friends frequently and set up a group that proclaimed “Ooty Schools Rock!” Then, as is the case with most social networking sites, things turned unpleasant. After being bombarded with “scraps” from every weirdo on the planet, I retaliated. I created a profile with a fake tongue twister of a name and the picture of an ugly pink heart-holding teddy bear and went after my tormentors, matching them bad grammar for bad grammar and everything. This profile was something of a shared asset – BC, Krazy Frog, Merry and I made good use of it, posing as a broken English-speaking bunny boiler whenever needed. The scary part, however, was that our psycho virtual creation garnered quite the fan following of her own.

I sighed with relief as Orkut finally introduced some semblance of privacy settings. However, the novelty of social networking had begun to wear off.

Confucius say “The inventor of shag carpet make big pile.”

As I slowly withdrew from the Orkuttian world of scraps, fans and testimonials, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I had my answer when a random dodo I mistook for a waiter at a club in Pune found me on Orkut and crapped…err… I mean left me a host of “scraps”. I was more embarrassed that such poor English had found its way onto my profile than anything else. He even lacked the poetic charm that the moon-eyed “Kay Pee”, who wrote an ode to my “pillow cover lips”, exuded. Cursing the lousy privacy that Orkut offered, I deleted my profile and settled into a happy existence without the bane of social networking.

Then came Facebook. I steadfastly refused to sign up and rebuffed everybody’s attempts to “friend me”. I spat at the terms “friending” and “unfriending”. However, after months of mounting pressure, I succumbed. I soon realized why Facebook was the rage it was. The all-proclaiming Wall and, of course, lousy privacy settings – the trademark of any successful social networking site apparently.

Facebook was and continues to be the answer to every social voyeur. It effectively satisfies two basic human needs: The need to tom-tom every aspect of one’s life to all and sundry and the need to snoop on other people. Facebook is manna for every hungry gossipmonger. Besides, you can get anyone to “like” anything on Facebook. I once put that up as a status message – “You can get anyone to like anything on Facebook”. Twenty-four people “liked” it. Facebook fuels this very comforting feeling of immense popularity. The more number of "likes", the more fabulous the happy ending to a luxurious ego massage.

Confucius say “Man who stick foot in mouth get athlete's tongue.”

I did try to be “sociable” on FB once. Someone prone to posting “philosophical” status updates once put up something about the sun, moon, universe and all things planetary. Predictably, a host of people “liked” it and it sparked a number of “deep and philosophical” comments.

Now “deep and philosophical” and all things intellectual is not me. Not by a long shot. I am… well, I am just blah. However, on this particular occasion, I decided to be social and added my two blabs’ worth to keep up with the Joneses. Now who deeper and more philosophical than Confucius? “Man who eat too many prune sit on potty many moon”, I commented.

A day later, I found I had been banned from this particular err… friend’s wall. I was hurt. Such disrespect to Confucius. However, not all was lost. One person “liked” my comment. Ha.

Confucius say “Wise man never play leapfrog with unicorn.”

Anyone snooping around my FB profile now will leave sorely disappointed. For besides a mug shot that has been run through the “Fat Booth” application and some scorching disclaimer about my innate nastiness in the “About” section, there is really nothing to write home about - unless the snoop is particularly interested in my newfound affinity for social gaming. Yes, yes. I now tend to virtual gardens and beg people to send me spackles, tool belts and paint cans or else I will die. I haven’t the patience for anything else. I don’t even recall the last time I opened my FB messages. I find it easier to check all and clear.

I’ll stick with more personalized one-on-one interactions – email or chat or even the occasional good old-fashioned postcard. I’m with Chesterton on this one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Phoenix Rising

*Disclaimer: Not suitable for those squeamish about male body parts - wooden, wax or otherwise.*


Phranang Island, off the coast of Krabi, Thailand, has some interesting folklore associated with it. During my recent trip there, I was fortunate to have a friendly lady boy named Michele, who took it upon herself to explain it all to us in great detail. As I loitered around near a tiny shrine planted inside a cave on the island, Michele launched into the story with much aplomb. Since religion isn’t really something that floats my boat, I didn’t pay too much attention initially. My wandering eyes came to rest on the hundreds of wooden sticks scattered around the cave. They looked strangely phallic in nature.

I chided myself. “Behave, pervy woman. This is supposed to be a place of worship. Those are stakes of some kind. Nothing more.”

My attention wandered back to what Michele was saying. I apologise for this somewhat abridged version of the story. As I said earlier, I was not paying too much attention initially.

Princess Phranang, the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth, fell in love with a sea monster, who took on a human form. On her wedding day, the old man who had granted her parents’ wish to have a child heard about the imminent wedding and came to stop it. He took the help of a warrior monk, who battled with the sea monster and killed him. A sorrowful Phranang vanished into the cave. The rocks closed behind her and she was never seen again. However, she now grants the wishes of people who come and pray to her.

Michele continued, “So if you want happy for you, or for your lover, you make wish here. Local people, they come make wish. They give a wood in shape of a phoenix….”

“Phoenix?” said several of us, eyebrows raised. “Those sticks don’t look like a phoen—“

“Oh!”, we said collectively. Realisation had dawned. I had been right all along. In fact, this “offering”, some feet away from where we stood, removed any lingering doubts.

“So make a wish to Princess Phranang. If you want happy for you or happy for your lover”, Michele instructed, and went on to tell us about Phranang’s many “success stories”.

“No harm in making a wish, eh?” said KO and we solemnly bowed our heads in front of the shrine.

Present Day

Basically Blah’s Open Letter to Princess Phranang

Heya Princess P,

I hope you remember me from my recent visit there. I was the little thing in bright red playing “retriever” – repeatedly fetching her companion’s flipflops from the sea. I was also the only one taking pictures of the giant wooden thang on the beach while everybody else photographed the beautiful jade green ocean. I’m the one who sprinted ahead of everyone else declaring, “I do not want to kiss the boatman”. I will explain later.

Anyway, I have a complaint. There appears to be something of a mismatch between what I wished for and what you (I assume) delivered.

For instance, I believe I asked for “tall, dark and unconventionally handsome.” I am not sure whether it was the sound of the crashing waves or the fact that you’re behind solid rock, but you seem to have heard wrong. I most certainly did not ask for “small, daft and convinced he’s awesome.”

I know I whined about how the men I’ve dated are never based in the same place as yours truly. But does that mean you unleash a whole hoard of the male species from my current home turf upon me? I’ll take quality over quantity any day, please.

I also think you may have mixed up my request with Michele’s prayer for a “happy lover”. How else does one explain my being asked out by gay men?

Speaking of gay, the KO I’ve known has been anything but. Would you, by any chance, have something to do with her scaring the living daylights out of me when she said, “If you beat me at Words With Friends, you can take me on a date”? (Words With Friends is freakishly addictive, by the way. If you’re on Facebook or Android, play! It sure beats spending your days looking at a rock face, moping about someone who became sushi.)

Also, I am positive KO wished for hundreds of rock-hard buns. I certainly did not ask for men seeking a mother for their future hundred sons.

I may have said he ought to know, among other things, his “halters and ladles” – meaning awareness of women’s clothing and culinary/cutlery knowledge. I definitely did not ask for men who constantly throw the prospect of altars and cradles at me.

Finally, I’m not sure whether this lousy customer service stems from my inability to give you a phallic-shaped wooden stick at that time. Would you still accept a mini one fashioned out of candle wax by a slightly inebriated BC? If it would help my case, I can also throw in these glow-in-the-dark “phoenix” earrings – a lantern for your cavern.

Why do I have these in my possession? Same reason I have the “phoenix”-shaped ice tray.

Hoping for a change in fortunes.

Yours truly,
Basically Blah.