Thursday, June 21, 2007

You can't touch this

Via India Uncut, I come across this article about high schools in Mumbai banning holding hands, touching, etc. between students. Go read. Then answer the following question - between Mr. Rustom Kerawalla and Mr. N. Shah, who do you think never managed to get a date in high school?

These restrictions are ludicrous. It's not just that they won't work, or that by pushing things underground they reduce the opportunities for supervision. It's almost as if these people want their children to grow up with issues [1], want to create a generation of sexually frustrated men and women who have been so deeply programmed to define members of the opposite sex purely by their gender that they end up acting like they were visitors from another planet.

And what's with all this "this is not the proper time" business anyway? I would have thought that high school was the perfect time to be obsessing about relationships and sex. You've got plenty of free time, few (if any) responsibilities, a large pool of potential partners, all with pretty much similar motivations. You've got the hormones. And it's not like you're learning anything useful anyway. All you're studying is a lot of superficial gobbledy-gook, most of which you're never going to need again in your life and won't remember even if you do. Much better to be spending your time flirting with other people, falling in love, getting your heart broken and emerging from high school bitter and disappointed with relationships and ready to dedicate yourself to truly meaningful things like academics or poetry (clearly, I speak from experience). If you're looking for 'unhealthy' behavior, what you should be paying attention to is IIT coaching classes. A bunch of young men sitting around bragging about solving difficult problems from Irodov when they should be out in the beautiful world comparing penis sizes. Personally, I'd rather see the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness than by organic chemistry.

The trouble, of course, is that eventually people who spend their entire time in school just studying will wake up to the pointlessness of the whole thing. By the time that grim realization dawns, though, it's going to be too late for them to do anything about it themselves (by this time they're married, have had kids, etc.). So instead of doing the decent thing and running off with their secretaries, what they will do is sublimate their mid-life crises into silly rules for high schools. It's a vicious cycle.

If you ask me, what we need is to make dating a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Kind of like the whole prom thing, except with grades. After all, sooner or later, everyone's going to have to go out on a first date, so they might as well be prepared for it [2]. Students could practice things like picking the right restaurant, making small talk, managing the whole 'is it drinks, is it dinner' thing. They could do practicals in class. They could take each other out as homework. Before long, coaching classes would open up. Brilliant's would print a 4,397 page tutorial to help you practice dating. Fathers would shake their heads in disgust at Junior's report card, and say, "what is this? A D in pick-up lines! A D! I'm ashamed to call you my son". Mothers would say things like, "There you are again, wasting your time with these stupid physics books. You know Mrs. Aggarwal from 39B? She was telling me how her son is going out with two girls at the same time, and he's even got to second base with one of them. And he's just 15! And look at you! Sitting there, studying. Think about your future!" It would be all the things SUPW should have been, but wasn't.

Meanwhile, if you're one of the unfortunate kids stuck in one of these pathetic schools, try and look on the bright side. You probably haven't realized it yet, but these new restrictions represent a great opportunity. They mean that you can seamlessly blend the two great themes of adolescence - rebellion and sex. In the old days, if you tried to get a girl to make out with you, you were a sleazy horn dog. Now you're a committed revolutionary, dedicated to the subversion of a tyrannical system, and any woman who refuses is a fascist pawn. Go ahead. Be a revolutionary. You have nothing to lose but your clothes.

There's also, of course, the wonderful fact that the people who come up with these rules are so closed to the idea of homosexuality that they refuse to acknowledge it exists. Ironically, this means that if you are interested in people of your own sex, your life just got easier. With public displays of affection banned, there's less pressure to conform to heterosexual stereotypes and since it's unlikely that the authorities are going to pay much attention to touching / contact between members of the same sex, you're not going to be inconvenienced in any way. Plus there may be some perverse satisfaction in knowing that heterosexual couples have it as bad as you. As Nadya Labi points out in an article in the May issue of the Atlantic (only available to subscribers, I'm afraid), gay life flourishes in Saudi Arabia, despite it being punishable by death, because in a country where being seen in public with a woman you're not related to can get you into trouble, it's normal to see men spending all their time with men. And since all sexual activity is proscribed and invisible, there's much less social conditioning towards being straight. Sometimes irony is such a delightful thing.

P.S. I just realized that I titled this post with the lyrics from a MC Hammer song. Who am I? What have I done with the real me?

[1] Though to be fair, anyone who goes to a high school called Vibgyor is going to have issues anyway.

[2] Otherwise you end up with people (like me) - who can solve differential equations in their sleep, but get all awkward and nervous at the very thought of asking a woman out.


km said...

I think it's nice to see yet another generation of decent, hypocritical, sexually repressed Indians. That, my friend, is our defining national characteristic.

//I thought SUPW was about getting paired up with the opposite sex?

Gammafunction said...

great post.When I read this article first thing in the morning I choked on my tea.couldn't stop laughing.

'Personally, I'd rather see the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness than by organic chemistry.'
well organic chemistry is not bad....its the problems in Irodov...especially the mechanics ones. :-)

Sunbeamz said...

Why do I get the feeling that all these Moral Guardians are feeling very.... helpless? They seem to be lashing out more and more viciously!
On the other hand, my experience has been that some of the more open and liberated people have greater difficulty with initiating relationships, when they have learnt to see people as people, not "the opposite sex"

gg said...

Hmm..we need to make this a key goal of the India Shining campaign and compete with China on dating.

Jabberwock said...

...getting your heart broken and emerging from high school bitter and disappointed with relationships and ready to dedicate yourself to truly meaningful things like academics or poetry (clearly, I speak from experience)

Awwwe! *sends some tough love Falstaff's way*

Falstaff said...

km: Ya, that's what I thought too. Except do you know how few girls take photography?

gammafunction: Thanks. And speak for yourself. Physics I could handle. Inorganic chemistry I could handle. But organic chemistry was always beyond me.

sunbeamz: I don't think they're feeling helpless. I think it's just that young people are having fun more obviously now, so that the knowledge of their wasted youth is hitting these people harder.

gg: Yes, exactly. If nothing else we can at least set up call centers to provide long heart-to-heart talks late into the night.

Jai: No, no, this is a good thing. "Aur bhi gam hai zamane mein mohabbat ke siva" and all that. I'm better off this way. Really, I am. Really. Okay, I'm going to go cry myself to sleep now.

rs said...

"So instead of doing the decent thing and running off with their secretaries" wow!
i keep saying i'm better off this way too, and sometimes it is scary that i actually believe it

Kits said...

Oh man, nice one! I don't get these moral guardian types at all.Pointless waste of everyone's time.Free media publicity for the school must be the reason behind all this.

When I was at Xaviers, the security guard would regularly go the Woods and warn off couples who were holding hands amongst other things.Mat karna varna princi wd come arnd types! Total shait!

mandeepsg said...

funny stuff.....

The Peripherally Blind said...

Its truly ha-ha funny!!

Loved it.

kbpm said...

this is a nice one! Irodov brought back really scary memories. Thank god I am a girl! Girls were not allowed in IIT coaching classes in those days. So I geeked out like crazy at home and acted cool and suave outside, despite the green skirt and green shirt my school made us wear.

Anirudh Karnick said...

Excellent! Though academics and poetry are hardly meaningful things.

tangled said...

In your sleep? Really?

tangled said...

I meant "Wow".