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Urban Junkie

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Sexual Suffix

Have you noticed how the term ‘sexual’ has become an appendage to quite an unexpected variety of words? In the beginning there were heterosexuals and homosexuals … and yes, right, bisexuals. We lived for many years fairly content with this three-way segmentation of human beings, with maybe an occasional ‘asexual’ popping up periodically. Then someone decided this was too simplistic a description of human sexual orientation – and so we had metrosexuals. Now there is a flood of diverse sexuality – there are technosexuals, chocosexuals, retrosexuals, frustosexuals, autosexuals (this one gave me a start until I realized auto meant automobiles, not automatic) and cosmosexuals.

“Cosmosexual, that’s me” read the caption under the photo of John Abraham in The Times of India last weekend. “Really?”, I thought, partly curious and partly appalled at the thought of the unquestionably kinky secret that was about to be revealed. A furtive scan of the article however brought forth no secrets, kinky or otherwise. The origin of the caption, it transpired, was the poor chap’s description of himself as cosmopolitan – having been born to a Christian father and Iranian mom and raised in a rather liberal, inclusive culture.

Why should The Times of India decide this was actually a confession to an offbeat sexual orientation?

Who is a cosmosexual anyway? I have pondered this long and hard, and I can tell you the concept does not lend itself to easy interpretation. Is it someone who is irresistibly attracted to anyone from a different culture? Someone not attracted to his own kind? Someone who gets a buzz from people with a mixed genetic history? All are possibilities I suppose, but vaguely unsatisfying. The most sensible interpretation, of course, is that of someone who doesn’t let differences in religion, community, race, nationality, language or culture stand in the way of attraction. Noble, but too general a description to be useful – not sufficiently distinct from ‘secular’ (or, in fact the literal interpretation of ‘heterosexual’) to warrant a separate place in the dictionary.

I quite like ‘chocosexual’, though. Clear and precise – no ambiguity there. Backed by science, too … haven’t chocolates been proven to be an excellent substitute for the real thing? Something about serotonin, if I remember right. Not that it matters, but it is reassuring to have your kinkiness grounded in biology.

‘Technosexual’ is at once alarming and evocative. It seems quite focused conceptually (someone who prefers technology to men, women and chocolates) … but try to think through the practical implications and you’ll be lost. What does ‘prefer’ mean, exactly? And what does ‘technology’ mean, for that matter? No doubt the technosexuals can clarify, but the mind is definitely challenged...

Frustosexual conjures up quite a sad image, although I quite enjoyed Jayesh's take on it.

One has to wonder, though, where this re-writing of the dictionary is leading. Will there ultimately be a sexual suffix to everything? And to what end? Is it an indicator of our willingness to embrace our individual kinks? A boredom with the limited possibilities that biology and society allow? A backlash against the rising population leading to non-reproductive modes of pleasure? Or perhaps just at long last a desire to wear Freud proudly on our shoulders. If Freud was right and everything is sexual, why not proclaim our unique expressions of it with pride?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Single at the movies

One of the abiding joys of modern living is the multiplex. In the days gone by (and not completely gone yet) movie-going was a creaky, crowded, smelly, sweaty experience which only the diehard film buffs were willing to brave. Now of course the tables are turned and the air conditioned, alluringly lit, popcorn-and-Pepsi-abundant movie theatres are the perfect refuge from the creaky, crowded, smelly, sweaty world out there.

I discovered multiplex haven a couple of years ago when I was temporarily yanked out of Bangalore and re-planted in Gurgaon (which has lately emerged as the undisputed winner in multiplex proliferation). For many blissful months now I have been on a steady diet of two-movies-a-weekend, sometimes on the same day. Balancing my Jumbo Popcorn and equally Jumbo Pepsi, and reclining almost 45 degrees in plush, well upholstered seats, I spend most weekends cocooned in a stupor of sensory gratification, emerging replete with my wellness quota for the week.

I have noticed however that my solo movie-going tends to evoke reactions of sympathy and concern among friends and acquaintances. I am deeply puzzled by this, but I suspect that being single at the movies is regarded as a cry for help of the highest order – a shout to the world that you are alone and friendless, with not a soul who is willing even to accompany you to the movies. It also seems to induce faint embarrassment, even guilt, among those who regard themselves as close friends (“You went alone? Why didn’t you just call me? I’ve seen it before but for you I would have come along again…”)

So deeply entrenched is the apparent indignity of solo movie going that nothing you say can convince them that you actually want it that way. But I like watching movies alone, you say in response to commiserating pats on the back and ‘chin-ups’. “Poor thing”, you hear them whisper as they turn away. “But at least she’s putting a brave face on it”.

I find this not just annoying in the extreme but also incomprehensible. The way I see it, the best thing about a multiplex is that you can dive into it alone with equanimity. It is true that I would not have ventured into old-world theatres on my own … but for some reason a multiplex induces a feeling of heightened well-being and independence, obviating the need for company.

Besides, I take movie-going quite seriously and am picky about my companions. At the very least, I look for an appreciation of the following movie-going principles – which I have found sadly lacking in a surprising number of would-be companions.

  1. The objective of going for a movie is to watch the movie. Social engagement is a peripheral benefit and cannot come in the way of the primary objective. Therefore mid-movie conversation is entirely unwelcome. I cannot stress this enough.
  2. We are not in a competition to guess what is going to happen next; nor are we there to beat the hero / heroine to a particular dialogue. The idea (unthinkable as it may be) is to watch passively as the plot unfolds.
  3. Before commenting negatively on the movie or lapsing into hoots of derisive laughter it is advisable to check companion’s reaction to movie. If companion seems engrossed and appreciative, keep opinion to self.
  4. Food and drink needs to be purchased before the movie or during the interval. Under no circumstances whisper ‘do you want a chicken hotdog’ while the protagonist battles for his life.
  5. Keep loo breaks to a minimum. Especially if they entail climbing over companion’s knees and spilling her popcorn.

Of late I have been carrying a printout of these simple principles along with me to a movie, to keep would-be sympathizers at bay. Usually I find people disappearing quite hastily after reading them, which in my view only points to the extent of non-compliance with basic movie etiquette.

Movie-going for most people, I suspect, is a social experience. For me it is clearly a personal one. And so goes my pursuit of single-dom at multiplexes … with half an eye out for the perfect movie companion.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


The simplification fanatics are at it again. Unplug your life, they say. Simplify. Get rid of clutter, complexity, gadgetry, technology … get rid of the life-corrupting unauthentic xyz. Go back to your roots, get out of the concrete jungle, retreat into the silence of the mountains. Unplug.

Unplug? I clutch worriedly at my Home Theatre System and spirit my Nokia 3230 out of sight. It disturbs me, this kind of talk. Aren’t we just about getting complex enough for life to be fun? As far as I am concerned, I have nowhere near had my fill of life-corrupting complexity. These are the days of miracles and wonder, and nothing you say will convince me otherwise.

After all, if you’re as old as I am, the days of unplugged existence are quite fresh in memory. I still remember when acquiring a gas connection was a lifetime achievement. (I am proud to say that I am one of the lucky few who have experienced such triumph firsthand. Oh, those years of toil – when being ‘unconnected’ had a wholly different meaning. I queued up, I groveled, I sidled greasily up to social acquaintances whose uncles owned gas agencies, I cultivated an unspeakable oily charm to endear myself to gas dealers. And oh, the euphoria when the first gleaming red cylinder finally arrived at my doorstep. I almost feel a pang for the young of today who will never experience such magic).

But I digress from my point. My point is the cocooning comfort of my now state-of-the-art kitchen. LPG is the last thing on my mind as I bask in the glow of my microwave oven, hum along with the whistle of my electric kettle, and switch deftly between gas and electricity on my dual-fuel cooking range. Never again will I go without my morning tea because the gas is over; never again will I wait with diminishing hope for the gas man to arrive. If simplification involves dismantling my kitchen I think I’ll give it a miss.

And then there is 24-hour electricity supply. For those as yet inexperienced in its pleasures, this is a nifty concept called 100% Power Back Up discovered by the more unapologetic urban junkies. Largely pioneers who have ventured into the concrete jungles of DLF, having given up bungalow dwelling, kitchen gardens and other such bounty offered by the good earth. I must admit, though, that this can cause more than a pang and almost swing you irrevocably into the simplification camp. But only until you experience Power Back Up, I promise.

In 100% Power Back Up zones, the electricity never goes. This is more addictive than you think possible. Imagine. Imagine never knowing or caring what time the load-shedding is scheduled. Imagine not being stranded without water in the midst of a shower, unable to switch on the pump. Imagine not going to office with un-ironed clothes and wet hair, having been unexpectedly deprived of iron-and-drier. Like I said, you need to live it to know it. Last summer a couple of friends came over with pillows and pajamas to sleep on my carpet, exhausted by an 18 hour power cut. They stayed on for two weeks. And no doubt will shortly be looking for a place in my concrete high-rise.

Nostalgia for the fresh earth and greenery is all very well. But better nostalgic and air-conditioned, I say, than hot, sweaty and swatting mosquitoes.

Recently I came across a more enlightening perspective on this whole issue. Simplification, it seems, is not anti-progress or anti-technology. Or even anti-possessions. It is about the ability to let go … about the absence of attachment, as the spiritually inclined say.

Oh. Aha.

So simplification doesn’t mean we must throw the Flat Screen TV out of the window, it just means we must not mind terribly if someone else does. Yes, well … I can see where they’re coming from there. Detachment from worldly possessions has apparently been proven to lead to higher levels of inner fulfillment than attachment. I can probably handle that fairly well actually; better than might be suspected basis prior evidence. When you live in the company of two Labrador Retrievers with a sharp eye for clutter, you learn to let go pretty rapidly.

My younger, Gypsy, is a high energy black Lab who regards as clutter anything that obstructs her view of her b-a-l-l (it is safe only to spell that word in our house). She recently simplified the bar area from which the b-a-l-l was a pain to retrieve. Where once stood a crystal and booze laden cupboard there is now uncluttered wall. Only a faint smell of Single Malt mingled with vodka wafts up from the carpet occasionally as a reminder of more complex times. Boogie, the elder one, is a lazy 9 year old who now is driven primarily by comfort – but she has many past glories to her credit. Her list of simplification triumphs include two bean bags, seventeen cushions, a washing machine (don’t ask), an antique writing table and several pairs of shoes.

If detachment is the measure of simplification, I think I am a strong contender for the top award. I still love my Labs, I have not thrown out Gypsy’s ball, and I willingly climb a step ladder to pour myself a drink from the bar in the loft. I have done away with the bed rather than bother with replacing chewed up legs. The bean bags were the most difficult to detach from, but I’m proud to say I now only dream of them once every six months.

But of course, I do this under duress. Detachment I do practice, but my urban junkie soul plots and schemes to hold on to my urban junk. I think the microwave is safe, because the Labs have astutely connected it to their meals. I really must get them around to my point of view on the rest

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