India Uncut

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Blogger's Beef

There’s a bloggers’ meet scheduled for Mumbai bloggers this Sunday, 3pm, at Café Coffee Day near Pritam Hotel in Dadar East. If you blog and will be in Mumbai on that day, please try to come. Yazad, who fits Malcolm Gladwell’s definitions of a connector and a maven, has the details here.

I have been meeting a lot of bloggers recently, but haven’t had much time to blog about it. I met one in Kolkata (besides Bridal Beer) and two in Bangalore while covering the India-Pakistan Test series. I had a wonderful time with all of them, and it would be amiss if I did not write in brief about each.

The first meeting happened on the fourth day of the Kolkata Test. A few hours after I wrote nasty things about Jagmohan Dalmiya on this blog, a policeman entered the press box and sat besides me. “You are Awmith Bhaarma?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied nervously. “I am Awmith Bhaarma.”

He stared at me intently, his bushy eyebrows slinking closer to his charcoal eyes. “Cawm bith me!” he barked. “Shombody bhawnts to meet you!”

I rose and followed him. Ayaz Memon, then sports editor of the Times of India, was sitting right behind me, and asked me what the cops wanted. I shrugged, and fought the temptation of leaving him a note for my wife in case I did not return. My heart beat – but then, it always does.

You have, of course, guessed by now that it wasn’t Dalmiya and his goons who wanted to meet me. Instead, it was an IAS officer I am forbidden from naming, because he blogs another the pseudonym of J Alfred Prufrock. (Check out his blog: A simple desultory Philippic.) It turns out that he was, gulp, a fan of mine (how I blushed), and had read in my blog that I was in the press box, and decided to meet me. “Your series on cliches is getting cliched now,” he informed me wisely, and I went easy on them ever after.

I went over later that evening to have dinner with him and his family, and, to express myself in the passive voice that is so much lingo, a marvellous time was had. (Food was also had, and later, stomach upset was also had, but well, shit happens.) Despite being an IAS officer – and a fairly senior one at that – he had some libertarian instincts. Also, he was as finicky about ordering food as Yazad legendarily is, and as much of a purist about language as Madhu.

Madhu! MadMan was met twice in Bangalore, both times at his restaurant, Shiok. The first time I was with friends, and Madman recommended many marvellous dishes to us, one of which he memorably made himself. I can’t remember what he called it, but it is embedded in my mind as Blogger’s Beef, and I request him to name it that. It justified the existence of cows, who are our mothers, and I suggest that if you are in Bangalore, you rush over there right now and ask for it.

The second time we met, we chatted about libertarianism and suchlike, and an interesting thought experiment came up, based on a true story that I can’t remember the details of. Let me repeat it here for your benefit.

There are two men. One has a fetish for eating dead human flesh. The other gets turned on by the thought of dying and being eaten. Both are otherwise perfectly normal, sane human beings. They meet on the internet, discover the compatibility of their fantasies, and decide to get together. When they do, they frame an agreement, legally impeccable, that the first shall help the second commit suicide, and then shall eat him.. Later they meet at the first guy’s apartment, and switch on a webcam. Man Two happily injects himself with a lethal posion, and dies smiling at the camera. Man One then eats him.

Here’s the question: did they do something wrong? Do you prosecute Man One for doing something that was agreed upon by mutually consenting adults? Under strict libertarian principles, should they not be free to do whatever they want as long as they don’t infringe on the rights, or the free will, of anyone else? (And if you hold that either or neither man was in sound mind, how are we to define “sound mind” and who is to define it?)

It isn’t that simple, of course, and I can’t remember Madhu giving me an answer. Maybe I’ll read it on his blog sometime. Meanwhile, for those of you who feel an instant revulsion at the events, and make a moral judgement based on that, here’s another question, a common one in philosophy classes: If two adults, who happen to be brother and sister, have consensual safe sex regularly, is it morally wrong? Instinctively, many people would say that it is. But logically, I can’t any reason why that should be so. Unlike the earlier thought experiment, this seems quite clear-cut to me, and a perfect example of why instincts can’t be relied upon to make moral judgements.

Enough. The other blogger I met at Bangalore was Suman Kumar, and I thoroughly enjoyed the hour I spent him and his charming wife, Chitra, at the Tavern, this pub that plays excellent music. Suman wants to be a full-time writer of fiction, like me, and his passion for writing was quite inspiring. I was moved enough by meeting him to want to write a big post on him called “The Storyteller”, but I didn’t have the time then and those thoughts are no longer fresh now. Maybe I’ll do it after he’s rich and famous.

This post is already too long. If someone knows that piece of code that helps one do the “expand this post” thingie, please do send it to me. And if you blog and would like to meet fellow bloggers, please do come for our meeting this Sunday. Some of us are insufferable, and the rest of us are me.
amit varma, 4:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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