Dancing in the Dark

(Translated from Finnish)

“Why does it always have to be us? Here we are, the happiest country on Earth. We have a small population and an almost unlimited amount of beautiful, unspoilt, open spaces for everyone to enjoy, with only 16 people per square km. And yet our political leaders let us down, nay, embarrass us.”

“True. Germany, not far away, has 234 people per square km. Bangladesh has 1,141. And our per capita GDP is also a very healthy $46,000.”

When this conversation between Johannes and Maria started, people sitting close to them had started to pay attention, ignoring the private conversations they were having with their neighbours before that.

“I admit she is young. But that cannot be an excuse when you contest in an election for a public role,” Johannes responded.

A hush descended over the popular crowded sauna in the middle of Helsinki. So far people had been trying to pretend it was not there, but this statement could leave no doubt about the presence of the elephant in the sauna. Even the hissing of the hot stones topping the ‘kiuas’ seemed to have quietened down. There could no longer be any doubt what they were talking about.

The leaked videos of Sanna Marin, the Finnish Prime Minister, dancing in a private party, and generally letting her hair down, has divided the nation down the middle. Some were of the view that it was OK and that as a human being she needed to let her hair down to stay sane, as well as get some exercise. Others felt that she had put herself, as well as the nation, in an embarrassing and compromising position by appearing to act like a common person and not respecting the dignity of her position.

“Why did she do it?” Anneli, sitting on the other side of the sauna, wondered, adjusting her towel. “I am travelling to Italy tomorrow. No way am I going to say where I come from. Tomorrow she will want to go and order an Americano in a coffee shop. Where will this stop?”

Antero, throwing a ladleful of water on the hot stones, to get them hissing again, looked around for an opening and added, “It is not that she has a shortage of role models in terms of popular, democratically elected leaders around the world, many of them much more experienced. She should be open to learning from them.”

“Is it a surprise that America is the richest and most powerful nation today?” asked Olavi from the far corner of the rectangular room lined with wooden benches, to no one in particular. “They have an equally mature voting population who have chosen a leader who can barely stand. Can he ever embarrass the nation by even attempting to dance?”

There were nods of agreement all around. Anneli added, “And when he goes out cycling, he falls over. She could at least have fallen over or had two left feet, instead of the competent performance she put in. Could she not have fallen over or bumped into someone to save us from this embarrassment?”

Maria, sitting next to Antero, said with some nastiness, “Did she not know about the island nation in the Indian Ocean where the leaders appointed relatives to positions of power and led the economy to ruin through mismanagement? It may cause a popular uprising and a revolt but does it divide opinion in this way? No way.”

Annelli added, “And do you know how they were getting exercise? By filling water in the huge swimming pool in the presidential palace while people outside the palace did not have drinking water. No, not swimming. Filling water. Could she not have done that? And then the president got more exercise when he ran away from the public to another country, in time-tested political tradition.”

The temperature in the sauna was rising, and it wasn’t only because of the hot stones on the ‘kiuas’. The owner adjusted the temperature downwards to prevent an explosion.

“Then there is India, the world’s most populous democracy,” Helena, just back from a vacation to India, piped up. “They also have a young leader and a great role model. He may be seventy years old but for a country with 90 being the usual cut-off for a Prime Minister, that is young. Has he ever been caught out dancing? He is like a rock. Check out his pictures in front of popular holy shrines around the country at the taxpayer’s expense. He is absolutely still, and usually covered in an orange coloured cloth. Do you know what he exercises? He exercises his vocal cords. That is what experienced politicians are expected to do.”

“She does not need to look far for inspiration,” it was Olavi’s turn to speak. “She only needs to look at our neighbour Russia. Why can we not randomly invade a country and kill ourselves some civilians? Letting hair down and exercise can both be achieved, not just for herself but for a lot of people at the same time, without anyone even noticing. And once it starts, it can go on indefinitely.”

“And what about Bolsonaro?” Anneli found her voice again.

“Bol who?” asked Maria. “Anyway, what about Bol whatever?”

Directing a cold glance at Maria inside the hot sauna where the temperature had already topped ninety, Anneli said in an even colder tone, “For those of you who don’t know, President Jair Bolsonaro is, well, the president of Brazil, the biggest country in South America.”

Quickly getting over the disappointment of not receiving an ovation at the momentous declaration, she asked, “Do you know how he exercises and loosens up?”

Seeing blank faces around she answered her own question. “Well, he goes around meeting people face to face. And, when he does not like a question someone has asked, he lunges at him, grabs his shirt and tries to snatch his mobile away from him.”

“That is what I would call a true, traditional politician,” Olave clapped and said. “My fear is, with leaders like Sanna, we may be running out of such leaders. It will be a sad day for the world when that happens.”

“Could she not have violated some Covid-19 related or other protocols, as done so effectively by Boris Johnson just a few months back?” Helena asked, a bit ruefully, thinking about the missed opportunities. “Party if you need to, but what is the point of being the prime minister if you are not even going to break some rules while doing so?”

Cross-talk began as the temperature and emotions started to rise.

Johanna, who had just returned to the sauna after a refreshing dip in the adjoining lake, and eager to contribute, said, “And did you know that in North Korea…” But she was not allowed to complete her sentence. There was a hissing sound, not from the stones, but emanating out of the people, as they picked up their respective, and so far unused, ‘vihta’ and set upon her.

Silly Girl

I am beginning to understand why many parents in India don’t want girls. At least Hindu parents. Who don’t want Hindu girls. This is not a blanket pronouncement on them being misogynistic and being against girls in general as there is no data on them not wanting Muslim girls or Christian girls or Shinto girls. What is known is that they don’t want Hindu girls. Of their own.

The reason for it is also becoming clear. They don’t have a brain of their own. The Hindu girls. Now, who would want a child without a brain? Even if they had one at birth, by the time they turn eighteen, the legal age of maturity in India, it seems it inevitably dissipates to a mushy nothingness inside their head.

This, as any person with a brain would be able to understand, leaves them exposed to manipulation and all its evil consequences. Otherwise, why would they be forever getting into trouble by running away with boys. To add insult to injury, boys of other religions. And not of their own accord, or free will, or after a reasoned evaluation of alternatives and choosing the running away option as the best choice for themselves and their loved ones, but on account of being lured to run away. They don’t have a choice in the matter. They are sitting ducks. The Hindu girls.

Despite having achieved the legal age of maturity and being permitted to vote.

Despite the love and care they are brought up with, which could include frequent reminders of them being a burden which the parents look forward to getting rid of one day.

Despite the best cultural traditions they are exposed to, that require them to ensure that they do not embarrass their family members with frequent reminders of how the burden of the family’s reputation rests on their shoulders.

Despite the stinging rebukes behind closed doors each time their world view collides with that of the parents.

Despite the parents having had eighteen years in which to earn their trust and confidence and influence their world view.

This clearly proves the absence of a brain in these girls. Can they not see the evil plan hatched by other religions to lure Hindu girls? Which parent in their right mind, or brain, can remain unaffected?

And while a brainless Hindu girl running away with a Hindu boy may still be countenanced, a brainless Hindu girl running away with a boy of any other religion is not an issue of parenting and relationship between parents and their offspring, it is an affront to the whole society and must be reined in.

And when it is an affront to the whole society the responsive political leadership must respond. As the elected governments of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Haryana have done, promising to bring in legislation to address this affront to the whole society. Since the present laws addressing kidnapping, physical and mental abuse and torture, violence, confinement by physical force, use of weapons, etc. are obviously inadequate.

Why is it an affront to the whole society?

When an affronted Hindu parent, who forms the core constituency of the present elected government in the two states, says it is an affront to the whole society, it is one.

But it need not always be. Hindu parents are reasonable and flexible. Just as it is not an affront to the whole society when brainless Hindu girls take up well-paying jobs in businesses with a majority non-Hindu holding, or when they seek migration for better opportunities to nations and societies not primarily Hindu in composition, it need not be an affront to the whole society if the boy and his family are from what is referred to as a ‘better family,’ which usually means richer.

Apart from taking away the right to decide on marriage and cohabitation, the new legislation is expected to take away their voting rights as well. Why would a society give voting privileges to a brainless person, since they are susceptible to corrupting external influences despite the best efforts of their parents? These rights will be given back only when they have become the mother of an eighteen year old Hindu girl themselves, as the brain starts to grow back when one gives birth to a Hindu girl and is fully developed by the time she turns eighteen.

The legislation is expected to address many other issues festering for centuries. Of Brahmin Hindu girls running away with Vaishya Hindu boys, of Punjabi Hindu girls running away with Tamil Hindu boys and of Shaivite Hindu girls running away with Vaishnavite Hindu boys. All for the good of the brainless Hindu girl. After all, these are not issues of parenting and relationship between parents and their offspring, to be discussed, debated and introspected upon for resolution, these are issues that need the state machinery to mediate between parents and offspring.

The Ministry of ‘Permissible Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour between Parents and Offspring’ is about to be born. As always, we asked for it.

Beauty and the Beast

The level of scholarly debate in the country has been upped several notches with a newly appointed Chief Minister (CM) of one of the North Eastern states, jointly known as the Seven Sisters, weighing in with his erudition.

With a need to impress his political bosses, perhaps in return for an out of turn favour of being given the huge responsibility of running a state, he has lost no time in trying to cement his position in the party by putting his foot in his mouth speedily.

He has stated that Diana Hayden of India, crowned Miss World in 1997, did not have the beauty to deserve the Miss World title in 1997. He should know. After all, he is a democratically elected representative of the people and appointed CM of a state. If he does not know about women and beauty, barring spiritual gurus and movie moguls, who will? Moreover, he is an Indian male.

It seems the only women to deserve the Miss Universe and Miss World titled are the Venezuelan women, the American women, the Russian women, the Australian women, the Chinese women, the Filipino women, the Colombian women, the Angolan women, the Dominican Republic women, the Japanese women, the Swedish women, the South African women, and women from the many other countries that could not be immediately named.

But Indian women, no way. Except if you are Aishwarya Rai. Because he knows. Because he is a democratically elected representative of the people and appointed CM of a state. If he does not know about women and beauty, barring spiritual gurus and movie moguls, who will? Moreover, he is an Indian male.

For proof, one need not look far. Show him an Indian man in his right mind who would choose an Indian woman over a Caucasian woman, assuming he will have such a choice, assuming a Caucasian woman has been found who is willing to consider an Indian male, and he will show you a liar. Of course, excepting when he needs someone to cook dal and chapati for him. Like our grandmothers used to.

According to him, Indians were crowned Miss Universe or Miss World in quick succession. Quick succession meaning a period of about a quarter of a century. Like in 1994, in 1997, in 1997, in 1999, in 2000 and in 2017, till the time of writing this article. Such crowning stopped after the cosmetics market was captured. It was a clever ruse of the cosmetic companies of the world to corner the market in India.

This was a pertinent argument because in almost all other cases, foreign companies did not need any subterfuge to get Indian consumers to adopt foreign products. Indian consumers have taken to foreign products like ducks to water.

Do you remember any Master Healthy World or Little Miss Healthy Universe contests? You don’t because there were no such contests. But packaged breakfast cereals made by foreign companies are now consumed by children across the length and breadth of the country.

Do you remember any Mister Healthless World or Mister Healthless Universe contests? You don’t because there were no such contests. But carbonated soft drinks made by foreign companies are now consumed across the length and breadth of the country.

Our women, as per the CM, used leaves and seeds to keep their bodies in shape. And that is what they should continue to use. Like our grandmothers used to. Only men, sorry Indian men, need to keep pace with the changes taking place in the world. And since he is an Indian male, he obviously has the right to decide for Indian women what they should and should not do. After all, how are we going to eliminate heinous crimes against women unless men like him are allowed to take decisions for women.

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

“Advertisements are a society in microcosm”, it is often said, mostly be me.

It is either plain bad luck or an involuntary reaction against the gaining of knowledge that, despite it always having turned out to be an educational experience, I have not indulged in watching TV often enough.

My recent experience of watching the Hindi movie “PK” on TV was no different. Lady luck also seemed to be smiling on me that night. The movie was frequently interrupted by commercial breaks.

They were eye-opening.

Efforts made by our leaders with their frequent lip-service and seat-of-the-pant implementations for upliftment of women in society, through initiatives like for-women-only pink autos driven by males and rented mostly by male passengers, a still-to-be-launched-as-it-might-not-make-sense women-only bank run by males and efforts at the integration of the two genders such as a coach exclusively for women in the Delhi metro train, are bearing fruit. And how.

In the first commercial break, we came across a lady who has to feed a husband who multi-tasks. And, if that was not enough to handle, she even has to feed her son who also multi-tasks. It may be difficult for youngsters to imagine, but, being the age I am, I can tell you that the housewife of an earlier generation would have struggled.

But not the housewife of today. Faced with the situation, what does she do? In order to feed her multi-tasking husband and multi-tasking son, the woman of the house feeds them chapatis made of multi-grain atta.

Thankfully she is a single-tasker, focussed on the task of making sure her multi-tasking husband and son get adequate nutrition to go about their multi-tasking ways. And she is dressed smart. In a salwar and kurta. Not in a scruffy sari as the struggling housewife of yore would have been.

Barely had we got the chance to digest the monumental change this represented, the second commercial break came on. And brought with it a big car with 4-wheel drive. Of an American brand. With a man at the wheel and a woman in the seat next to the driver’s. Driving to a magical destination with lots of hot-air balloons going up in the air, chosen by the man, it seems. The man, as usual, in full control of the situation, as his smile indicated. As soon as he turns the power-steering with all his might by lunging left, the woman covers her face in wonder and amazement at the sight. And this woman is smartly dressed in western attire. And, what’s more, she seems willing to undertake the hot-air balloon ride. Tell me honestly how many of us can visualise a woman, say thirty years back, in a commercial, willing to go for a hot-air balloon ride.

When children come home dirty after being children, she cleans their clothes.

“So, what’s new?”, you might be tempted to ask.

Gone are the days when you would see a mother handwashing clothes, wiping sweat from her brow,  and advertising for bars of soap which clothes had to be scrubbed clean with. Today, nothing less than a washing machine will do. And they are not stopping there. Some mothers in commercials even have a choice of electric dryers instead of hanging the washed clothes out to dry on a line. Even brands of detergent are par for the course for these mothers of today. No mother ever advertised either a washing machine or dryer or detergent before these devices were invented.

Women are no longer confined to the house. They are mostly engaged in staring enviously at other women whose clothes are whiter than theirs. When pushed to the wall, they even engage in streetside speed-washing contests. Can we ever inmagine a woman of an earlier generation doing a street-side washing test to prove her soap or detergent is better?

When children come home hungry after being children they feed them. With healthy choices like instant noodles and frozen fries. Can you imagine a mother in the seventies doing that?

The time for reaping the dividend from this change has also arrived. In an FM commercial the same day, I heard two children talking animatedly as they came back home hungry.

Does your mother allow you to eat French Fries?

Of course. In fact, the frozen fries my mom uses have 50% less calories.

But I am so hungry. I cannot wait for the fries to be made.

Don’t worry. These fries take 70% less time to cook.

Wow! Such knowledgeable 8-year olds could only be the progeny of the modern, empowered woman.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, it used to be said. Husbands and fathers are rarely to be seen in these commercials, except occasionally replacing children as the cared-for subjects.

It has seeped into the consciousness of society. This change is irreversible. So engrossed was I in the commercials and their messages, I forgot that they were the side story. Each time the movie came back, I would wait eagerly to the next break for more educational commercials.

The times, they a changing, as the latest Nobel prize winner for literature once said.

Face to Face

ECS (name changed), one of India’s largest IT companies, probably the largest, engineered a coup of sorts a few years back when they setup a female-only BPO unit in a country in the Middle East, well known for its treatment of women.

They engineered another coup when they got the Indian PM, during his recent visit to the country, to visit this Centre.

As we all know, conditions and regulations in a host country need to be respected. Even if you are the PM of a big nation. The Indian PM, full marks to him, has never been known to be non-accommodating, especially where uninterrupted oil supplies are at stake.

Though it was a secretive visit, with no coverage in the media, for obvious reasons, some photos of the PM’s visit to the centre seem to be emerging.  We bring these images to the readers of darkofficehumour for their reading and watching pleasure.

Remember, you saw them here first.

The PM walking in with the CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons, the majority owner of ECS

The PM walking in with the CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons (name changed), the holding company of ECS

PM having High Tea with staff, alongwith serious discussions

PM having High Tea with staff, alongwith serious discussions

A worried CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons wondering how to locate the PM in the crowd

A worried CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons wondering how to locate the PM in the crowd

The PM in the crowd

The PM somewhere in the crowd

 

Moment of alarm as an unidentifiable object sighted in the background; subsequent investigations revealing it to be a male of the species

Moment of alarm as an unidentifiable object sighted in the background; subsequent investigations revealing it to be a male of the species

 

Management team of the Centre standing separate from the staff, like in any self-respecting organisation

Management team of the Centre standing separate from the staff, like in any self-respecting organization. These people are quick learners!

Posing with the PM. Looks like an amateur photographer!

Posing with the PM at the end of the visit. Looks like an amateur photographer!

 

These images underscore the importance of this visit. From the expressions on the faces of the participants it is clear that historical changes are afoot.

Remember, you saw it here first!

Defamation

We can hold our heads high.

Our leaders are leaving no stone unturned to protect us. British film-maker Leslee Udwin’s documentary “India’s daughter” has been banned. It has been banned because it defames the country.

By the way, we know that the country’s defamation can only happen when a foreigner is involved, like in this case. An Indian can, at best, cause regional defamation, state-level defamation or religious defamation. But defaming the whole country? No, an Indian can never hope to rise to the level of causing national defamation.

And why should it (the documentary) not be (banned)? After all, it seeks to unearth the truth. And ask searching questions about male attitudes towards women. It deserves to be banned.

Of course, it is quite possible that in the process of interviewing the accused, laws may have been broken, which the Home Minister has been at pains to point out. And that needs to be addressed, as the common man is extremely upset about that, which is evident from the fact that amongst the milling crowds at bus-stops, the people at corner shops, the panellists on TV shows, the headlines in newspapers, nobody is talking about it. The Home Minister has rightly addressed this aspect to allay the fears of the common man.

The documentary, among other things, portrays the accused in the infamous Delhi rape case of December 2012 as blaming the victim for the rape. It is a clear case of a sick mind. We need to shelter the public from such honest confessions, especially the adult male population, who currently don’t, but will start thinking like the accused if exposed to his views. Who knows what further atrocities women will be subject to as a result, that would not take place if the adult male population were not to be exposed to these views.

If that is not enough, we are bound to reverse the gains that have been made in uplifting the stock of women in the country through the introduction of pink taxis and a women-only bank run by men.

Whoever has heard of a debate on an issue of importance doing any good in our society? Whoever has heard of presentation of a true picture ever leading to a catharis in our society? Whoever has heard of debate and counter-argument leading to society gaining a clearer understanding about itself?

There is no need to waste time on such trifles. In any case, since we know that ours is a rich culture, there is no need for a debate, or presentation of a true picture of what people really think, especially men about women. We know. We know all men are chaste and pure and only possess clean and noble thoughts for women. It is only the people who are caught after acts of crime against women who possess a sick mind. Everyone else is clean.

And we know that men have the right to decide. On what women should do. What they should wear. Where they should go. Who they should meet.

Now that the issue of defamation of the nation from presentation of a true picture has come to light, requiring political leaders to act, we should be happy our leaders do not undertake half-measures. When they address an issue, they address it whole-heartedly. Defamation might never be able to raise its ugly head.

In order to shield the country from defamation brought on by poor performance in a future game, political leaders have prevailed upon the Board of Control for Cricket in India to use its clout in world cricket to treat all games, where the Indian team loses, as not having ever been played, with retrospective effect. Any media house found covering the same will be acted against. This will also prevent any other country defeating India from inviting criminal charges from the Indian government for defamation of the nation.

Every person who does not wear foreign clothes or, at the very least, does not talk in a western language, will be removed to an area specially reserved for such misfits. After all, if an overseas visitor were to interact with such a person and see reality, would it not create a poor impression of our great civilisation that is tantamount to defamation? We cannot leave such things to chance.

If at any point of time economic measures reveal a less-than-rosy picture, the slump in growth is to be addressed by changing the formula to measure growth rather than risk defamation.

Many other measures have been prescribed. But nothing is foolproof. To cover that eventuality, legislation has been enacted requiring citizens, in the manner of Mahatma Gandhi’s three monkeys, to “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil”. In simple terms, bury your head in the sand and pretend all is well.

In the interest of transparency and openness and in order to protect against defamation, all divergent views, particularly ones that call upon men to introspect about their attitude towards women, need to be clamped down upon.