Showing posts with label Myths. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Myths. Show all posts

December 15, 2013

Indian Court Decision Looks Like Indian Homo-Mythology

Shatanu meets the Goddess Ganga, by Warwick Goble (Public Domain Image)

   Like many of us, I often turn to mythology and mytho-history in an attempt to reclaim what undeniably is a part of the culture and society around me. It’s something we tend to fall back upon when the world around us makes little sense - it was, for instance, my way of dealing with the ethos of violence against women and its indelible mark upon us in recent times. Today, I turn again to the myths, this body of constructed truisms, desperate to understand how we can hope to restrict the legal and moral notion of intimacy as an act that must follow the methods, if not the intent, of procreation. 

There is no need to restate judgements and reactions, quote politicians or the public. The point here is neither to prove that criminalization of 'unnatural acts' (whatever that may mean) is a colonial anachronism nor suggest that such criminalization is justified by ancient myth - myth which remains a significant part of the contemporary culture of this country - because truly, our myths don’t. Sexuality has been woven into the fabric of our mythology as much as the clich├ęd but ever-alluring eternal battle of good and evil. For the record, homosexuality has never quite belonged to either one of those camps. It just was; and that acceptance is certainly a part of our ancient fabric, along with bisexuality and transsexuality - acts that fall under the ambit of “unnatural” by virtue of their non-procreative nature. By the same definition, so do many heterosexual acts between consenting adults. 

All these, irrespective of the labels we place upon them today, were boldly celebrated in ancient temple sculptures (quite unperturbed by the possibility of criminalization centuries hence). As Devdutt Pattanaik wrote in an article, “the ‘idea’ of same-sex and what the colonial rulers termed ‘unnatural’ intercourse did exist in India. One can only speculate if the images represent the common or the exception.” Reuters Mythology tends to be less ambiguous. A story that finds place across more than one text centres on Shiva’s overwhelming desire for Vishnu as Mohini. The consequent coupling gives us the birth-myths of Ayyappa and Skanda, and, according to the Shiva Purana, the birth of Hanuman through the womb of Anjana.

 Referring to the same incident between Shiva and Vishnu, Wendy Doniger states: “...since Vishnu retains his male memory and his male essence, he can be regarded as having male homosexual relations, playing first the active role with the demons (during the episode of the churning of the ocean)...and then the passive role with Shiva.” In a folk variant of the story, Vishnu explicitly ‘turns back’ into a man during the act, suggesting that the feminine form, such as it is employed in these stories, is more a device than it is a complete transformation. The subsequent inclusion of the celibate, sometimes androgynous “offspring” of these unions into the pantheon suggests a post-hoc rationalization, which can only be seen as further evidence of acceptance of same-sex activity - a word I use here advisedly given the recent Supreme Court judgement - in myth. Other examples of bisexuality and heterosexuality in myth and narrative include the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition where male devotees identified with the gopikas who were Krishna’s lovers and Radha's friends; the transformation of Shiva into a woman when he makes love to Parvati, for her pleasure (a tale which is found in many versions of the Ramayana), and of course, the sheer narrative beauty of the gopikas passionately embracing each other in memory of an absent Krishna in Jayadeva’s Geeta-Govinda.

 Some may argue that divinity is ascribed to these situations, so elevating such acts from the ‘unnatural’ to devotional. But then, is that not the true spirit of all human love, irrespective of orientation? Do we really need to couch the spirit in terms of devotion, impute gender transformation (as in the case of Shikandin in the Mahabharata), or use the language of heterosexual love through role-playing in order to legitimise it? When will we admit that legitimised or otherwise, bisexuality and homosexuality have been an integral and respected part of mainstream existence and consciousness in our myth and in Hindu culture? It could also be said that anecdotal evidence can be interpreted otherwise. To read gods and heroes as those moved by prosaic and worldly impulses such as desire and affection may be to read into symbolism a factual basis that is misfit. Indeed, it is on such arguments that I have based my entire construction of the Mahabharata as an epic that tends more to lost history than magic and myth. 

My submission is as follows: Surely benevolence, compassion, respect and reason are the stuff of which epics and their characters are made? Then, when they are so integral to the heroes of the past, do we want to remove them from our present? In my research and writing, I tend to value the historicity of myth but in the final example I present to you in support of a culture that has been accepting rather than narrow-mindedly normative, let me tread instead upon the borders of mytho-fiction. The critical edition of the Mahabharata contains no reference to the human sacrifice of Aravan, nor is the event likely to appear in my book series, but it is very much a part of our folklore and popular belief. In a sense, Aravan is a man of this hour. Few instances capture the spirit of love and universality as his tale does, and I present it to you here, sans mysticism and magic. I am sure the characters do not mind that I have borrowed them for some brief moments. They are, after all, epic heroes. 

The tale of Mohini Dusk fell over the plains of Kurukshetra as the young man sat sharpening his sword, well aware that soon, he would soon have no use for it. All Aryavarta stood on the brink of a great battle, yet he would have no part in the fight that would pit brother against brother, friend against friend. Yet, he was no less a warrior than them all. The thought brought a smile he saw reflected in the blade rather than felt. It too faded away as the image in the burnished metal moved from his own to another familiar one. He stood, turning to face the approaching man. Something about Govinda left him breathless, as it did every man and woman Aravan had heard speak of him. “It is a good blade you have there,” Govinda began. “Pity…” Aravan nodded, not quite sure how to react to the unapologetic admission of what was to follow at dawn - his own ceremonial beheading as an offering to the gods before the start of battle. 

A war of this magnitude required nothing less than a human sacrifice, and victory demanded nothing less than a human of noble blood. Even as the commanders in Dharma Yudhisthir's camp had stood weighing human worth with precise callousness designed to find a balance that pleased the gods yet did not weaken the forces of men, Aravan, the almost-forgotten son of Partha Saysachin and the princess of a conquered territory, had stepped forward. The proposal was immediately accepted. The entire camp had offered either their sympathies or their solemn encouragement. But then, Aravan had placed his condition, one that was yet to be fulfilled. He suspected that now Govinda had been sent to either talk him out of his insistence or be goaded into forsaking it. Govinda, however, did neither. He asked, “Are you afraid?” “Of what?” Aravan scoffed. “I’m a Naga, a man from the most dangerous parts of this empire.

 I was taught to believe that death is all there is worth living for.” At once, Govinda's eyes darkened. Aravan did not know whether it was anger he or sadness he saw. He added, “As far as I have known, those words are true. Valour is all that matters.” “And love? Surely, you see that wars are not fought for valour alone? Love, compassion, justice - these are the things worth living and dying for, young man.” “How would I know?” The sharp response drew a smile. “Ah yes,” Govinda admitted, “what would you know of such things. The first time you saw your father was on this battlefield, and all he did was to ask you to die so that he, his brothers and his other son may live and rule, victorious. But if you will take my word for it, there is more to life. And those things are what you should be dying for, not some misplaced notion of masculinity, honour and valour.” He placed his hand, warm and reassuring, on Aravan's shoulder. “Is that supposed to make me change my mind, Govinda?” “No. It is supposed to make you see that I understand; that like you, I too would not wish to die without having known love, without having known that which I die for.” Aravan looked up, not daring to put into words the question that Govinda had stirred. But he did not have to, for Govinda's eyes, dark, infinite and mysterious, already held the answer. A little before dawn, Aravan stirred.

 He watched Govinda watch him as he went about his ritual bath and prayers in silence. Eventually, he said, with the lightness that came of a replete heart. "If you'd been born a woman, your name would have been Mohini. Enchantress." He added, "Perhaps, if you'd been a woman, you'd mourn me." Govinda ran a contemplative hand through his hair. “I am a man, Aravan. But yes, I will still mourn you.” Aravan smiled and left the tent that they had shared for the night. Govinda sat, unmoving as the sound of conches and gongs filled the air, the tumult of celebration and worship. Suddenly, all was quiet, save for a single dull thud as sanctified blade rent through flesh and skin to strike sacrificial stone. And then, again, there was music. 

As battle drums rose to a crescendo, mingling with war cries, the thunder of horses' hooves and the rhythm of marching men, he finally let his tears fall, mourning not just the death of a man born to live, but also the end of justice and a way of life. Suggested reading list: "Did Homosexuality Exist in Ancient India?" by Devdutt Pattanaik, Debonair Annual Issue, 2000 Gods of Love and Ecstasy, by Alain Danielou, Inner Traditions Intl., 1992 "Bisexuality in the Mythology of Ancient India", by Wendy Doniger, Diogenes, Vol:208, 2005 Same-Sex Love in India: A Literary History, edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, Penguin, 2008 Krishna Udayasankar is a graduate of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, and holds a PhD in Strategic Management from the Nanyang Business School, Singapore, where she presently works as a lecturer. She is also the author of the bestselling novel, Govinda (Hachette, Rs 350), the first in the Aryavarta Chronicles series of mytho-historical novels. The sequel, Kaurava (Hachette, Rs 350), was released recently.

By Krishna Udayasankar 

March 5, 2012

Six Car Myths That Cost You $MONEY!!

 By:     Most of us view our vehicles as something between an immutable feature of daily life and a rabid, suicidal dragon that gorges on explosions until it inevitably explodes itself. That's because we all know it's only a matter of time until something goes horribly wrong with our cars, and then we're epically, mythically screwed. As a result, various rules of thumb for regular car maintenance have been passed down through the generations -- precious wisdom handed to us by our ancestors in order to stave off, for a spell, the ruinous, virgin-eating car repair monster. But many of these rules are, at best, wildly outdated and, at worst, a total waste of money.
Note: I work as a mechanical engineer on diesel engines for locomotives. I can back up how a car engine works and the science behind these myths, but I don't want to give the impression that I'm a professional mechanic. As with all Cracked articles, you should probably use this as a jumping-off point and explore the information more on your own, rather than take it as gospel. Because if something goes wrong and you tell somebody that you got your bad advice from a website spinoff of a defunct Mad magazine imitator, they're going to laugh at you. Forever.

#6. Change Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles
The Myth:
To maximize your engine's life, you should change the oil and filter every 3,000 miles. At this point you should also say several quiet prayers to the gods of breakdowns and have a mid-ranking church official -- no lower than a nun but no higher than a bishop -- bless the water in your vehicle's coolant.
"I'm sorry, my child, but the Lord can't drive or bless a manual transmission."
The Reality:
The idea that you should change your car's oil every 3,000 miles is so pervasive that it has its own Wikipedia page ... specifically debunking it. This misconception has its roots laid all the way back to the 1970s, when oil technology was still developing and the engine operating environment wasn't nearly as smooth and controlled as it is today. Back then, 3,000 miles was actually a pretty good rule of thumb. So was "Never trust a European" and "Chest hair, son: Always chest hair." However, just like international relations and grooming habits, engine and oil technology have improved drastically over the decades. The life of the oil in your car has now increased far beyond that allegedly sacred 3,000-mile barrier.
So why do we hang onto it? Because no one has bothered to tell the oil-change industry. Those poor, naive fellas still "recommend" changing it every 3,000 miles, despite the fact that synthetic oils lasting up to 15,000 miles have been available for years. If only somebody would show them the backs of those bottles in their tiny, uncomfortable lobbies; why, we're sure they'd immediately mend their ways and return all that needlessly spent money of yours.
"So as you can see, it was clearly a moral dilemma, and I just couldn't do that to you. Here's $300 for your trouble."
Sure, 3,000-mile oil changes won't hurt anything, but neither will 1,000-mile changes or 500-mile changes, or just a big hose attached to a barrel in your trunk that constantly pumps only the finest, freshest artisanal crude right into your engine block.
So how often should you actually change your oil? However often the manufacturer of your actual engine tells you to. For most cars built in the last decade or so, that's around 7,500 miles, but could be as high as 20,000.
Shit, some people sell their cars before they ever see that number.
Probably the same people who toss their champagne once they've poured the first glass.

#5. Warm Up Your Engine Before You Drive
The Myth:
Whenever you start your engine, particularly on cold days, you have to let it warm up to its normal temperature before driving, otherwise it will turn into a bear and eat your dog. Or wait, no, that's feeding ferrets after sundown. If you drive a cold engine, the whole blasted thing will self-destruct, right?
"Seriously? This is goddamn California."
The Reality:
As long as you're not flooring it everywhere you go, you can get going as soon as you turn the key. This myth comes from an understandable place: Various engine parts and oil do take some time to warm up before they can operate at full capacity. However, an idling engine takes much longer to warm up, so it ends up experiencing far more cold-start wear and tear than if you just hopped in and drove it.
Think about it: When your engine is idling, it's still producing power, so what difference does it make if that power is being used to move the car or just scratch its shiny metal ass? Additionally, there are other parts of your car that also need warming up, like your transmission and wheel bearings, and those don't get any help until you actually get the thing moving.
As demonstrated here, with the Cracked company vehicle.
Plus, there's another one of your components that needs warming up to function: your catalytic converter. Until that gets up to operating temperature, your emissions are through the roof. Every second you let your car idle in the cold, a single tear freezes to Al Gore's face. And that's only funny the first dozen times or so. Just avoid highway speeds and rapid acceleration for a few miles, and you can drive right off, winter be damned.
Of course, that all applies to newer, fuel-injected cars. If you've got an old carbureted classic out there, you can hang out in the parking lot for a while, if only to let the opposite sex get a good heaping eyeful of you.
You won't be laughing when we hit 88 mph and have your pre-you grandpa at gunpoint.

#4. Fuel Additives Are Good for Your Engine
The Myth:
Gasoline is a bunch of dead dinosaurs. It's just chock full of dirt, sediment, bone fragments and the occasional restless raptor soul. Using a fuel additive helps keep deposits from building up and clogging your fuel system. Some of them may also increase gas mileage and prevent fuel line freezing, but only if you kiss them after and promise to call.
"Baby ... do you think that ... well, if I promise to be gentle and go slow ... could we try the tailpipe tonight?"
The Reality:
Gasoline does indeed have crap in it that can clog up your fuel system. That's why every gasoline manufacturer since 1995 has been required by law to add detergents that prevent deposits and buildups. Using an aftermarket additive is basically like rubbing two bars of soap together; you're not actually cleaning anything and you look really stupid doing it. Gasoline antifreeze additives are largely useless, too, since most gasoline is good for temperatures down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, and if you're driving in climates colder than that, just move. There are way nicer places, even in Canada. You don't have to live like this, Saskatchewanites.
Move to balmy Nova Scotia, where the snow drifts never get deeper than three or four feet.

#3. Get Regular Engine Tuneups
The Myth:
Engine tuneups help keep your car running at peak performance and should be done regularly by your mechanic to extend the life of your engine. If you don't get a full tuneup every six months, your vehicle will fold into itself and implode. And is there anything worse than that? The sudden absence of a useable car is like waking up one morning to find that your wallet's been stolen and you've suddenly lost access to both of your feet just below the ankles.
"Can't go on ... six feet too much ..."
The Reality:
Most "engine tuneups" are just an expensive way to get your spark plugs and air filter replaced. You see, old cars had a lot of different components working in a precarious balance. Things like ignition timing, idle adjustment and air-fuel mixture all needed to be within a certain range to operate optimally. Getting a knowledgeable mechanic, or a drunken uncle who "swears he 'members how to do this," to tune these things on a regular basis prevented your engine from getting too far out of whack.
"No, I said 'beer.' What the hell am I going to do with that?"
Today, however, everything is controlled by your car's computer and can't actually be changed at all without buying a new chip. While it's probably prudent to have a mechanic check your car every 50,000 miles or so to gauge the state of your spark plugs, belts and fluids, and to make sure that raccoons aren't nesting in your turbo booster, your engine's computer can handle the month-to-month: It checks everything millions of times per second anyway, making fine adjustments and tweaks automatically for best performance.
"Human extermination sequence: Activated."

#2. Winterize Your Car
The Myth:
Due to the brutal conditions that winter months put your car through, many mechanics recommend you bring it in for winterization so they can replace your fluids with cold-weather-resistant ones. You're also going to need new fuzzy dice; the pink ones are only for summer. They got some blue winter dice in the back, but they'll run you about two hundos. Better safe, though, right?
"Got a nice parka we could install on your hula girl if you don't mind payin' the extra."
The Reality:
With the exception of putting on snow tires and adjusting your tire pressure, your car is ready to go. This myth is another carry-over from olden times when men were men, women were sexy steak dispensers and engine oil was a lot simpler than today. For example, it used to be that you used one grade of oil in the summer and another during the winter. That's because oil gets thicker when it's cold and thinner when it's warm. So a summer oil (like SAE #30) would be too viscous during the winter, and a winter oil (like SAE #5) would be too thin for the summer, necessitating you to change oil with the seasons.
"We're gonna need a bigger cap to fit all of that on there."
Nowadays, oil is designed to function in both summer and winter, because some genius fluid engineer at some point figured out that seasons are things that just keep happening. That's actually why modern oil grades are hyphenated, such as 5W-30. That means it works as both 5 and 30 grade oil (the "W" stands for "winter" and not "weight," as is popularly believed). As for engine coolant, unless you're living pretty far north, even summer coolants are rated to -34 degrees Fahrenheit. And if you find yourself saying, "Well, it gets way colder than that here," you need to shut up. Not because you're wrong, or bad, but because talking uses breath, and breath is heat escaping your body. The only way you'll live to see another beautiful Sasketchewanese sunrise is to conserve that warmth in grim, grim silence, friend.
Seriously, just pack your shit and move to -- oh. OK. Hey, never mind us; you do your thing.

#1. High-Octane Gasoline Is Better for Your Engine
The Myth:
Using premium or super-grade gasoline will give you more power and better mileage, and make your engine run smoother. Think about it: paychecks, simultaneous sexual partners, amount of successive fights you've won against crocodiles -- bigger numbers are always better.
Fuck off, kid. Nobody likes a smartass.
The Reality:
With the exception of a small percentage of automobiles that require high-octane fuel, using plus or premium-grade gas won't do anything for your car. High-compression engines like those found in sports cars require high-octane gas, but not for the reason you might think, which is to go from "fun" to "funnest" as fast as possible. It's because those engines like to squeeze the gas and air in a super tight piston-driven bear hug, and the gas can sometimes get too excited and prematurely explode inside the engine (presumably while muttering shameful apologies into its shoulder). When this happens, it causes a phenomenon known as detonation or "knocking." Even though the engine tries to reassure the gas that it's perfectly natural and isn't anything to be ashamed of, it still wouldn't mind if the gasoline got a little help with its "staying power," which comes in the form of higher octane ratings.
Wait, what were we talking about again?
The vast majority of cars, however, use lower compression engines, so knocking isn't an issue with regular gas. Using higher grades won't make your engine run smoother, won't give you more power, won't improve your gas mileage and sure as hell won't make everybody in high school who makes fun of your hand-me-down Geo Metro sorry. The octane rating is purely a measure of how well the gas will resist knocking and has nothing to do with energy content.
In fact, as many gas stations now add 10 percent ethanol to their gas (pure ethanol sports a beastly octane rating of 113, but actually has 34 percent less energy than gasoline), the overall octane rating is usually two or three points higher than what the label says anyway; i.e., 87 gas is actually closer to 90 with 10 percent ethanol added. That means that even if your highfalutin, special-needs engine requires 89, you might be able to use 87 rated E10 in total safety. Plus, that way, you'd be stickin' it to The Man, who keeps tryin' to tell you what numbers you can and can't use. Who does he think he is, The Count? You go ahead and stick your 87 octane right in his craw and pump it until it goes "click."
Or do what we do, and just kind of taunt your car with it. It learns respect that way.
When Chris isn't trying to look under your hood, he writes for his website and tweets.
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