No other subject is, for the writer, so intensely personal as boxing. To write about boxing is to write about oneself — however elliptically, and unintentionally. And to write about boxing is to be forced to contemplate not only boxing, but the perimeters of civilization — what it is, or should be, to be “human.”
That’s Joyce Carol Oates, in the preface to her book On Boxing. Replace ‘write’ with ‘read’, and it sums up the reason I’ve been obsessed with boxing literature since my teens. What follows is a somewhat ordered reading list on Ali, as accompaniment to a tribute that will be published on Rediff Monday.
“Who are you?” Steve Wozniak (played by Seth Rogan) asks Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) in the midst of an incandescent argument in the Danny Boyle-helmed biopic on the Apple founder. “What do you do?”
The questions are equally central to any exploration, fictional or otherwise, of the life and times of Mohammad Azharuddin.
Who was he? More crucially, *what* was he?
We are one confused country. On the one hand, we demand that women “dress modestly” in public places because, you know, the slightest glimpse of skin and/or suggestion of curves is enough to drive our men mad with lust. Don’t blame us guys for what happens after.
At the same time, our gods — or those who purport to speak for them — appear to derive their aesthetic from the films of Raj Kapoor. Vide this little nugget from Ranchi’s Trimbakeshwar temple:
The Trimbakeshwar Devasthan Trust recently decided to allow women into the famous Lord Shiva temple’s ‘garbha griha‘ (sanctum sanctorum) for an hour everyday, but with a rider that they must wear wet cotton or silk clothes while offering prayers in the core area.
Related, some unintentional humor. A baby journo at a website, apparently unaware of the meaning of ‘rider’, comes up with this gem:
a woman can enter the inner sanctum from 6am to 7am every day, provided she is accompanied by a rider, and she is wearing wet silk or cotton clothes while praying.
I read this earlier today and since then, I’ve been struggling to purge my mind of the image of a Mandakini-type female person in a wet and clingy cotton saree entering a temple with a Bahubali on horseback for company. Sheesh!
“It seems that Buranda is what used to be called an Underdeveloped Country. However, this term has apparently become offensive, so they were called Developing Countries. This term was apparently patronising. Then they became Less Developed Countries — or LDC, for short.
It seems that the term LDC is not yet causing offense to anyone. When it does, we are immediately ready to replace it with HRRC. This is short for Human Resource-Rich Countries. In other words, they are grossly overpopulated and begging for money.”
— From the Conflict of Interest episode in Yes Minister.
Now read this clip from an actual news report:
“Beginning this season, for instance, if India’s monsoon rainfall were to dip below 10 per cent of the normal and span between 20 and 40 per cent of the country’s area, it would be called a “deficient” year instead of an “All India Drought Year” as the IMD’s older manuals would say. A more severe instance, where the deficit exceeds 40 per cent and would have been called an “All India Severe Drought Year,” will now be a “Large Deficient Year”.
So there you go: India will have no more droughts. By administrative fiat.
(We’ve had two successive Large Deficient Years, though. And if the rains play truant this monsoon, we might have a Totally Fucked Up Year coming up).
BTW, this is not the first time a name change has solved our problems. Remember this?
The Chandigarh government has apparently decided to monitor the length of skirts worn by women in discotheques.
What elevates garden variety moral policing into the realm of inspired whatthefuck-ery is this bit:
The committee has decided that they may refuse permission to bar owners to run in case of “exhibition or advertisement of scantily dressed women” and “indecency” or if it is “seditious and likely to excite political discontent.”
However, no one knows what is the definition of “scantily dressed women” or “indecency” or “seditious” mean.
How do you even manage to bring “sedition” and “political discontent” into this?
As the NDA government heads to its second anniversary, she said work was being done, but it seemed that some numbers dominated over the others. “What dominates the mind of everyone is the export numbers, that these are falling for the 15 or 16 month. How about manufacturing and production numbers? They have been encouraging. I find the propaganda sometimes informed and 99% of the time uninformed, which is why we have been holding stakeholder meetings.”
Thus, Minister for Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman, in course of telling Raghuram Rajan to get a better grasp of the English language.
“As a share of our GDP, the manufacturing sector over the years has shrunk to around 15 percent. Our services sector is fairly robust — grows annually at around 9-10 percent and is expanding rapidly. It is not a sector that seriously worries us.”
Thus, Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley in New York at the same time. In both cases, emphasis mine.
Speaking of choosing the right words, how is shrinking manufacture “encouraging”?
The “open letter” — which is nothing but an opinion piece by another name — is so yesterday.
Please stop writing them. For one thing, I don’t think you quite get it. For another, each time you do you end up embarrassing yourself.
PS: The above is prompted by this latest entry in the open stupidity stakes, from Bhupendra Chaubey. I read it through thrice, and I still can’t figure out what the heck he is trying to say.
All that remains with me is this line:
A few months back, we went into a huddle on how we could reimagine ourselves. Imagine, the onerous task of doing something day in and day out. Then choosing to move forward in another direction.
Imagine the “onerous task of doing something day in and day out” — otherwise known as going to work.
Imagine , further, that moment of epiphany when you realise what you have been onerously doing day in and day out is all wrong, all out of step with the times.
Imagine the pain of realising that you actually should be doing something else — which is, err, to change your name?