It’s been a couple of days or so since I last did a word vomit and I can’t let this die out so here I am again. I’ve been thinking about a few things- I was thinking about how I love good logistics, and how I’d like to re-learn how to speak tamil well, but today the main thing on my mind is the death of “Amanat”, the 23-year-old medical student who was savagely gang-raped on a moving bus in Delhi.
It is a sad day today, and I’m almost ashamed to be Indian- to know that I participate in a culture that has, in recent years, at least, objectified women and systematically oppressed them. We have a long way to go, as a species, and I can’t help but mourn the loss of not just her life, but her incredible fighting spirit. I hope her tragic death captures the heroic imagination of the Indian people, and that we come around and face the monstrosities within our own psyche. We have a long way to go before we can even think of calling ourselves civilized, really.
To talk about what’s been on my mind: I’ve been helping my dad out at work the past few days- every two years, there’s a religious Sikh festival held at the Singapore Expo, and my dad’s company is contracted to dispose of all the waste. (Vast amounts of waste!) This year, I was especially impressed by how good the logistics were- the garbage bags are neatly tied and then put in giant trollies, which saves us incredible amounts of labour, because now we can wheel the garbage from the garbage point to the dump truck. I’m reminded of Nassim Taleb’s description of the wheels under baggage, and how that simple “invention” saves effort for millions of people around the world- and how that idea took nearly 30 years or so to be implemented, because it simply hadn’t occurred to anybody.
I remember two years ago, and two years again before that, getting rid of the trash at the festival was an incredibly daunting affair- huge piles of trashbags, some poorly tied, food waste spilling everywhere… it was a bit of a nightmare, really. I find myself thinking about how little actual effort it takes to implement all these little “policies” that lead to far less chaos in the long run, and far less problems for everybody. And I realize there’s a certain piece of life-wisdom buried in there- if we take the right actions moving forward, we can always make cleanup much, much easier. I don’t do this enough in my own life.
(Immediately upon writing that, I think- how can anybody call a little food mess a nightmare, when there are people getting visciously gang-raped elsewhere in the world? And then I think about how, to have that thought, we have to have an emerging global consciousness of sort, and how that’s a good thing, and something to be grateful for, even amidst all the monstrosities and actual nightmares that exist. They have always existed, and while some of them have been confronted in the past, I think we’re starting to confront them even better today- of course, I might just be indulging in generational bias, generational hubris- every generation thinks it’s better than its predecessor. Well, I hope with all my heart that the next generation will be better than mine- that it will be more thoughtful, more compassionate, more caring- I think that’s a good thing.)
One of the labourers that helps us is an Indian national, and he works with me and my dad to get rid of the trash. He’s quite an intelligent guy, I think. I notice that my dad is very effectively bi-lingual. (Tri-lingual, actually- he speaks fluent malay, too!) It’s especially interesting to me to notice how my family speaks english to me, even if they sometimes speak tamil with one another. My dad and brother speak to each other in tamil most of the time, occasionally lapsing in english whenever things get heated. (That’s another funny thought/observation.) I think it’s because everybody knows that I just suck at tamil- it’s almost as if they speak to me english just to spare me the indignity of revealing how bad my tamil is. Even the worker guy tries to speak to me in english, which I feel bad about, because in a group of tamil guys, I ought to be fully capable of speaking tamil.
Then I find myself thinking about secondary school and how I always kind of resented having to speak tamil in any circumstance whatsover- I sort of resented the language, because I associated it with things that I didn’t like. I didn’t like tamil class, I didn’t like modern tamil pop culture (I still don’t, to be honest), I couldn’t yet appreciate tamil history yet (I love it now, I think a lot of it is wonderfully complex and beautiful). I also often thought of tamil as a dying, archaic language that would quickly become irrelevant and inconsequential, so I might as well learn english.
Somewhere along the line I’ve been starting to realize that tamil will definitely be around to stay for quite some time, at least during my lifetime and a couple of lifetimes afterwards. I realize, from my Indian/Tamil followers on Quora, that there’s a huge market/pool of tamil speakers outside of Singapore. Even in Singapore itself, it makes sense to speak good Tamil so as to reach out to the tamil-speaking community. It’s an entire target audience that I’ve been neglecting simply because my tamil sucks. I guess I’m sort of meandering around- the point I’m trying to make is, I would love to be able to speak good Tamil. I was actually trying to learn Spanish for a while, because I thought it would be cool to learn another language, to get another point of view in the world- but then I realize, I can already speak Tamil, so I might as well just get better at it! All the mechanisms are already there, I already have almost everything I need- all I lacked was a reason, and I feel like I kind of have one now.