Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ghost Butts

My roommate and I spent our unusually free Wednesday night watching the movie Ghost. I had her assurance that despite the name, the movie could not possibly be classified as "horror", and it was, in fact, quite funny. (I refuse to watch horror movies. I think the last "scary" movie I saw was Kucch To Hai when I was 13. Among my group of maybe 10 friends, no one else found it even remotely creepy; I, however, was shrieking and leaving nail-marks on my friends' arms through most of the movie.)

Anyway, Ghost wasn't a bad way of spending some unexpected free time, even though I realised halfway through the movie that I've seen it before. And it raised an interesting question: how do ghosts stand?

In all the movies I've seen that feature ghosts (and yes, I do accept that there haven't been too many), the ghosts can never touch anything. They can't throw rocks, they can't pick up a glass, they can't poke their loved ones, they can't beat up enemies threatening loved ones. If they're lucky, they can be seen or heard (or both), but the touching is always a problem. Then how is it that they can always stand without falling through the ground? Sam (in Ghost) does learn how to throw and hit and poke, but he was standing on the ground long before he learn to "focus his emotion" onto physical objects and pick them up. How was that happening? Even if we say that the earth is solid, you can't fall "through" it the way ghosts "go through" doors and other objects, how does a ghost stand on a train, or a bridge, or the second floor of a house without falling through and hitting (so to speak) the ground below?

To carry this on, how do they sit? Ghosts are always sitting on chairs and tables and sofas. How do their ghostly butts just not fall through? How do ghosts lean on stuff while making sarcastic comments? How do they kneel on the floor while desperately pleading the aforementioned loved ones to hear them?

My roommate thought that maybe it's because they pass through objects only when they want to. To which I triumphantly pointed out that most of the first half hour of Sam's post-death appearance (in Ghost) was spent by him trying to poke and hit every object he could see, to prove that he was still real; most of that half hour was a pointless exercise. So while he desperately wanted to touch something, he could not; his hand would simply go through it. So why didn't his butt go through the sofa or the chair?

I did try googling this. But if I type "ghost sit", google thinks I've misspelled "site" as "sit", or gives me some video of a ghost sitting in a corner. Typing "ghost stand" tells me what ghosts stand for, but isn't particularly illuminative of the secret-of-physically-standing issue. My research skills, however, aren't all that great (a fact that shows in term papers and essays), so maybe someone can help me out? Is this a glitch that movies have just not able to fix or explain away, or is there some ghostly secret that I don't know about?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


A few days ago, I wrote about how I think I’m not changing in the ways that I should be. I’m not seeing or doing or reading new things, I’m not growing. But another thing that I’ve been thinking about is whether I’m changing in the wrong ways. I’m not the same person that I was a year ago, but am I becoming someone that I don’t want to be?

A few years ago, in the inevitable ‘what do you want in your future boyfriend/girlfriend’ discussions, I had categorically stated that even the tiniest bit of sexism, communalism, racism would turn me off. I said that I can’t be with someone who discriminates, or expects me to do something just because I’m a woman, or goes against everything that I believed in. And the same “rule” should apply to my friends too, not just a boyfriend.

But today, my two best friends are not who I would have “chosen” keeping that “condition” in mind. They often make fun of others’ fatness or less-than-perfect looks. They crack sexist jokes, say things like ‘he’s from the South, how cool can he be?’, disparage hair styles and laugh at people for what they choose to wear. V thinks that the strong south Indian accent that another friend has is hilarious, M refuses to eat at a Muslim restaurant because “they are unhygienic about their food”, and a few weeks ago, V told me that he’s extremely glad that I’ve learnt “how to dress” in the year that I’ve been here.

But I am extremely fond of both V and M. They are great in so many ways, brilliant fun to be with, always ready to help when I need it. They laugh at my funny behavior and bad jokes, and crack enough of their own, don’t make me uncomfortable to show the weird and often bitchy side of me. The three of us are very close, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I’m not questioning that friendship here: I’m just wondering whether that friendship is indicating something bigger about me.

Am I changing? Have I become more accepting of the fact that there are chauvinists and racists and communalists in the world, and that I just have to live with it? My friends say that their sexist/racist jokes are just that: jokes. And I know that. But jokes are also rooted in something deeper, right? I’m not calling my friends sexist or racist; they’re definitely not that bad. But they do have some... tendencies might be the right word.

More than the sexist/racist aspect, it’s all the talk about appearances that really bothers me. I’m not the girl who laughs at the fat guy; I’m fat myself and I don’t care. I’m not the girl who discusses the gross factor of stretch marks and dark underarms; I have them myself. I’m not the girl who makes fun of a dress that emphasises a big tummy, or a t-shirt that has too much “bling”. I’m not the girl who walks home talking about how shabby another guy looks, and how he really needs to change that. I’m not that girl, so why am I getting sucked into it? Because my worry is not just that my friends feel the need to laugh at an ugly dress, it’s also that sometimes, I laugh along.

Why am I suddenly trying to go to the gym regularly? It’s not the health factor, or the discipline, or the all the endorphins that actually make me feel good. It’s because my weight and jeans size is starting to bother me. Why am I saying things like “You made out with her? Really?” when I really have nothing against the girl in question. I can’t even justify it in my head when I think about it later. And if I am participating in a discussion about someone’s dressing style, there’s always that faintly uncomfortable and guilty feeling at the back of my head, and ignoring it bothers me.

I know that these jokes are mean and wrong. I know that it still doesn’t matter that someone is fat, or dark, or has a strong accent, or likes bright yellow band-aids, or that a guy has a fairness face-pack and fruity moisturizers in his toiletries basket. My beliefs (so far) are the same. But I’m starting to question them a little too. Are looks really of zero importance? Is it really wrong to laugh at fluorescent green shoes worn by a friend? Is it good that I can look past the fat-jokes and become friends with someone who might, on the surface, believe in everything that I don’t?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thoughts on College (2)

I haven’t written anything for a long time. Nothing voluntarily and happily, that is. I’ve written an article for an application, a paper for a course. I haven’t written anything that I wasn’t specifically asked or required to write.

College is supposed to be a time of expanding opportunities, right? It’s supposed to be a time for experimentation, for growth and development of the mind. It’s supposed to be the time when I start trying to become the person that I want to be. At least, that’s what I wanted college to be. I wanted to find things to love and be passionate about; I wanted to try new quirky activities that may or may not lead up to something; I wanted to learn more, about my subject and others, about people, about the world. I wanted to wake up and go for classes that I genuinely found interesting and enjoyed. I wanted to spend my days with interesting people who make me the better off for knowing them. I wanted to spend wild nights with friends, at the beach, or at my apartment, having the most fun I could have.

But college didn’t exactly turn out to be that. Some of my classes are interesting; some of the professors seem to genuinely care about teaching and their subjects. But the thought of the “future” generally makes me panic. I don’t know whether or not I’ll like a “career” in economics. I don’t even know what such a “career” would entail. And because thoughts of what is still a far-away time for me make me panic, I try not to think them at all. I avoid and I distract and I tell myself that I have enough time to worry about the future in the future, that I don’t need to be thinking and deciding and worrying now.

I did meet interesting people, but I found that I have a lot to learn about talking to people. I can’t talk to different people- I always run out of things to say. I’ve met many “social” people, the kind who can walk into a classroom knowing no one and walk out with five peoples’ numbers and plans to meet up with three of those people later. I can’t do that, and it bothers me. My friend circle is entirely Indian, and living in Singapore, that really cannot be a good things.

My wild nights did work out. I’ve been out dancing all night, I’ve been on long walks with good friends, I’ve had deep, meaning-of-life-and-existence-of-God conversations (with or without copious amounts of alcohol); I’ve been to a couple of the really wild “college parties” you see in movies. I’m mostly happy with my social life.

What scares me the most is that I’m really not growing the way I had thought I would. I’m not doing twenty different activities outside of school, I’m not working student jobs to meet people and make some money, I’m not reading about different things, I’m not watching anything very different. In many ways, after a year of college, I’m the same person that I was before college. And that is not how I wanted things to be.

That’s why I love coming home. It’s not just meeting my family and old friends. Every time I come home, I spend time thinking: evaluating what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. A friend asked me once whether this was a habit with me: thinking about my life to change it for the better. I told him that it wasn’t really. All this thinking started after I came to college and realised that everything that I wanted is not exactly right there and easy for me to get. So, every couple of months, when I come home to Delhi, get some space from the school and the people and everyday life in general, the doubts about that get pushed down by the demands of that everyday life resurface. I spend time thinking and evaluating and talking to my friends, and I go back to college “rejuvenated”. I go back with fixed “short-term goals” and plans to achieve those goals.

And every time I do get back to Singapore after a week or a month or more of being home, I find that it’s not that easy to remember those goals. It’s not that easy to have them at the back of your mind. College saps energy, even when I don’t have that much work. I find it hard to summon enough energy and initiative to write out something I’ve been thinking about because it’s just so much easier to spend that free hour watching Bones or Grey’s Anatomy for the millionth time. It’s hard to generate any interest in the book on Pearl Harbour that looked so interesting when I found it in the library, because it’s so much easier to just reread The Beekeeper’s Apprentice for the millionth time. It’s hard to make that long overdue call to an old friend because it’s just so much easier to call that college friend with whom I don’t have to fear those awkward conversation pauses that come after three months of no contact.

I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten around to writing this either. I did spend the entire past week at home without much work, and not too many people to meet, and didn’t write a single word. If I hadn’t been stuck at the airport with a delayed flight, a boring book and a headache that prevents me from listening to music, this piece might have been pushed to the back of my mind, added to the ever-growing list of Things to Do that somehow, I never have the time to get around to actually doing.