Monday, 21 July 2008

Pythagoras and the Football Tournament

The basic tenet of the Pythagorean philosophy was this:
In this life, there are three kinds of men, just as there are three sorts of people who come to the Olympic games. The lowest class is made up of those who come to buy and sell, the next above them are those who compete. Best of all, however, are those who come simply to look on.
The Football Tournament started last Saturday. On Matchday One, I bought Gatorade. (Yes, I like the blue Gatorade. Yes, I know it looks like kerosene.)

I came on as left winger. Had a rather indifferent game, I might add.

From the sidelines, I watched our girls’ team play. We gave them half-time instructions and outlined strategy. As always, they gave us a patient hearing. As always, they went back on the pitch and played exactly as they wanted.

On Matchday One, therefore, I was by turns a consumer, competitor and spectator. Where does that place me in the Pythagorean scheme of the Universe? Pithy aphorisms are all very well in their way, but they tend to oversimplify things. Maybe our man should have stuck to more universal truths like the square on the hypotenuse.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Mystery of the Locked Loos

There’s nothing quite like a nice, juicy mystery to get the boys’ hostel excited. The last time I remember so many theories flying around was when a kleptomaniac stole cash, cell phones, watches and hard drives worth tens of thousands of rupees. The culprit was eventually discovered and brought to justice. This time, it’s something even more serious.

Since last Sunday, two out of the six loo cubicles in the second floor toilet have been locked. From the inside.

The first theory was, of course, that someone had hanged himself in there. But this explanation had its skeptics. What are the odds that two people would commit suicide on the same day in adjacent cubicles? Very slim. Again, why would anyone choose a loo cubicle as a suicide venue? Loo cubicles have their virtues, but they leave much to be desired in the way of cheerfulness and hygiene.

Anyway, the Suicide School of Thought has now been conclusively proved wrong. There is a narrow gap between the partition wall and the ceiling (hereinafter, “the gap”). Tall people have peered through this gap, and pronounced that there are no bodies. We have groaned in disappointment and moved on to other theories.

The Supernatural School has its own set of explanations. Some believe that the ghost of the Pink Lady, who for a time terrorised residents of the fifth floor, is now plying her trade on the second. Others babble wildly about people flushing themselves down the toilet, spontaneous combustion, dematerialisation and little green men. But no true investigator ever admits a supernatural explanation.

That leaves the field open for the Pragmatic School, who point at the gap (see picture below) as the key to the mystery.

The Gap Theory is indeed plausible. But consider for a moment what our mystery man would have to do to accomplish his feat. He would have to enter a cubicle, lock the door, scale a seven foot wall possibly using the commode and the window ledge for support, wriggle through the gap, drop seven feet down into the next cubicle, lock the door again, scale the wall again, wriggle through the gap again, and eventually drop to safety.

So this gives rise to a new set of questions. Who would do such a thing? And why? Was it one of the cleaners, trying to reduce the floor space he had to cover each day? Was it a late-riser who had to wait in the bathroom queue every morning and now wants everyone else to wait in line? Was it a resident of some other floor, jealous of the incredibly cool second floor, and trying to despoil our standard of living?

The morning queues grow longer, speculation grows more intense, and toilet goers grow ever more frustrated. But the locked doors are telling no tales. Silent and enigmatic, they stay as locked as ever.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Of lawlessness

The course structure of our college has undergone a reshuffling this year and a number of new optionals have been introduced. So our discussions these days often run on the lines of What Subjects Do You Have This Semester. My fellow students, when referring to a subject, often omit the word ‘law’. If you, a clueless layman, overhear one of these conversations and find yourself baffled, please remember that:

When a third year says, “I have Property,” he doesn’t mean that he belongs to the landed gentry.

When someone says, “I have Insurance,” the correct response is not to ask, “For what?”

When a fifth year says, “I had Human Rights yesterday,” he does not mean that a totalitarian regime has snatched away his human rights overnight.

When Manavi says, “I have Competition,” she doesn’t mean that some upstart is challenging her vertiginously high class rank.

But the best is yet to come. The third years have Labour Law next semester. What I’m really waiting for is for some girl to message her boyfriend from inside the classroom: Can’t meet you for lunch. I’m in Labour.