March 12, 2018 § Leave a comment
Allan Bloom’s Wikipedia entry describes him as a philosopher, classicist and academician, and informs me that this book met with critical acclaim from the New York Times and the Washington Post when it was published in 1987. It was with hope that I started reading it – the hope that this was the work of a scholar from whom I could learn the intellectual underpinnings of the conservative worldview and resurrect my respect for it. This hope was swiftly replaced with disbelief and then rising anger. Allow me to quote some snippets from the book. They speak for themselves, but I couldn’t resist brief commentaries.
The recent education of openness…pays no attention to natural rights or the historical origins of our regime… It is open to all kinds of men, all kinds of lifestyles, all ideologies. There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything. But when there are no shared goals or vision of the public good, is the social contract any longer possible?
ME: Openness to all, regardless of origin, lifestyle or ideology, is the shared goal. A social contract based on such openness is not merely possible, it is precisely what makes America great.
At the root of this change in morals was the presence in the United States of men and women of a great variety of nations, religions and races…Openness was designed to provide a respectable place for these “groups” or “minorities” – to wrest respect from those who were not disposed to give it – and to weaken the sense of superiority of the dominant majority…
ME: You say that like it is a bad thing.
Sexual adventurers like Margaret Mead and others who found America too narrow told us that not only must we know other cultures and learn to respect them, but we could also profit from them. We could follow their lead and loosen up, liberating ourselves from the opinion that our taboos are anything other than social constraints. We could go to the bazaar of cultures and find reinforcement for inclinations that are repressed by puritanical guilt feelings. All such teachers of openness had either no interest in or were actively hostile to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
ME: I can only assume that you have either never read the Constitution or were unable to understand it. Respecting other cultures is not an act of “active hostility to the constitution”.
In the past there were many students who actually knew something about and loved England, France, Germany or Italy, for they dreamed of living there or thought their lives would be made more interesting by assimilating their languages and literatures….[They have been replaced] …by students who are interested in the political problems of the Third World countries and in helping them to modernize, with due respect to their old cultures, of course
ME: What exactly do you have against Third World countries?
One of the techniques of opening young people up is to require a college course in a non-Western culture. … the point is to force students to recognize that there are other ways of thinking and that Western ways are not better….But if the students were really to learn something of the minds of any of these non-Western cultures – which they do not – they would find that each and every one of these cultures is ethnocentric. All of them think their way is the best way and all others are inferior.
ME: You hold forth on Western culture’s superiority over the rest, but you don’t seem to know much about other cultures. Indian culture, for instance, has a rich tradition of openness to thoughts and philosophies from elsewhere. I am sure it isn’t the only one. Western culture has produced wonders: it simply isn’t the only worthwhile show in town
Only in the Western nations … is there some willingness to doubt the identification of the good….What we are really doing is …deforming the evidence of those other cultures to attest to its validity. The scientific study of other cultures is almost exclusively a Western phenomenon, and in its origin was obviously connected with the search for new and better ways, or at least for validation of the hope that our own culture really is the better way.… Consistency would seem to require professors of openness to respect the ethnocentrism, what they actually do is to assert unawares the superiority of their scientific understanding and the inferiority of the other cultures which do not recognize it at the same time that they reject all such claims to superiority.
ME: You speak of the inferiority of other peoples with a certainty that is disturbing. The Western philosophers YOU yourself hold in high esteem taught the world to doubt the identification of good. You have learnt nothing from them. To think that reading them was the ONLY thing you did your entire life!
The reason for the non-Western closedness, or ethnocentrism, is clear. Men must love and be loyal to their families and their peoples in order to preserve them. Only if they think their own things are good can they rest content with them. A father must prefer his child to other children, a citizen his country to others… And a man needs a place and opinions by which to orient himself… A very great narrowness is not incompatible with the health of an individual or a people, whereas with great openness it is hard to avoid decomposition.
ME: There is a reason people call their country the motherland. We love our mother not because she is the best mother in the world, but because she is ours. Respecting others’ mothers doesn’t diminish our love for her. Only a petty, little, man feels the need for his nation to be superior to all “others” as part of his patriotism. Yours, sir, is a weak, childish patriotism.
Science’s latest attempts to grasp the human situation – cultural relativism, historicism, the fact-value distinction – are the suicide of science….cultural relativism succeeds in destroying the West’s universal or intellectually imperialistic claims, leaving it to be just another culture.
ME: Wrong again. The openness of Western science has drawn millions of Asians, Africans and Latin Americans of both genders to science. Scientists around the world collaborate on a daily basis. Science is bustling with energy and activity today. It is Western civilization’s greatest triumph. It is your Nazi wet-dream of “Western intellectual imperialism” that committed suicide.
March 10, 2018 § 1 Comment
The Primitive World and its Transformations (Redfield, Robert)
While studying the Zuni people of New Mexico, the anthropologist Ruth Bunzel found a woman potter, who made her own designs by making minute variations on the ancient traditional designs of the tribe. This woman denied that she copied others’ designs, condemned copying as unethical, and had a strong conviction that she was in fact inventive and creative. A few years later, while studying oral story-telling traditions in Bosnia, Albert Lord met story-tellers who could listen to a long epic story narrated by someone else, and who were able to then retell the tale in their own words, with their own embellishments, plot elements, metaphors and imagery. They would swear on everything holy that they had reproduced the story exactly as they heard it, without a single modification. They vehemently denied any imaginative creativity on their own part.
These are not two contradictory or unconnected anecdotes. They are the same fact. They tell us that the meaning of concepts like creativity and originality emerge from a body of social beliefs and values, and that these meanings are influenced by socio-economic transformations.
People – even literate people, with scientific schooling – have a surprisingly poor intuition on how data changes over a long period of time in the real world. We expect things to remain the same, or to change in predictably linear ways, right in front of our eyes. We assume that the things that we have never seen change, could never have been any different. People struggle to understand global warming, for instance, or our evolution from apes: because they feel cold in winter, or because they don’t see monkeys walking out of the forest. This is true of our understanding of how cultures, societies, languages, religions, and other traditions evolve: how words, stories and rituals acquire meaning and how that meaning transforms; how morality morphs, sometimes, from one set of rigid beliefs and practices to a different set of diametrically opposite but equally rigid beliefs and practices. Much of what we believe was “always true” about “our people” is possibly no more than a few generations old. But because we do not see things change in front of our eyes, we deny change altogether.
Even when we accept that change must have occurred, our intuition still tells us that change must have come all of a sudden – during the course of a single year, or decade, or even generation. However, he process of socio-cultural change might have taken centuries to unfold. Often, we believe things must have changed because of one sudden, violent event – our day-to-day experience of change leads us to believe so. The tree was standing in the morning, it is flat on the ground now, ergo a violent gust of wind must have uprooted it. Similarly, when cultural values change, people often look for an invasion, a bloody revolution, murder and mayhem, as the cause. But, says Robert Redfield, it isn’t always so.
January 2, 2018 § Leave a comment
I hold Tina Fey in extremely high esteem. I think she is intelligent, incredibly funny, very creative, competent, sarcastic and self-deprecating in equal measure, and beautiful in a non-classical yet entirely pleasant way; and she never fails to remind me of a favorite cousin. She is everything one could ask for from a face on TV.
Bossypants is an autobiographical funny book, largely detailing her life growing up as an awkward girl, her initial break in Saturday Night Live, her successful stint at 30 Rock, and her celebrated return to SNL sketches in the guise of Governor Sarah Palin, all interwoven with large patches of angst and advice about parenting, work-life balance, relationships and feminism.
I have to admit, though, that I enjoyed the book as a studio audience would during the recording of an SNL episode. I landed up because I knew Tina was performing, I snickered spontaneously whenever it was expected of me, and I was sorry when it was over. But all along, I knew that the performance was not really meant for me. It was meant for a completely different audience. She was performing for people who understood the entertainment industry and its cast of characters, for awkward girls from Greek origin or other immigrant communities in small town America, for people who went to acting school, for comedians and improv artists, for dedicated fans of Saturday Night Live and/or 30 Rock, for career women racked with the guilt of in-absentia parenting, for mothers of only children, and for women holding their own in largely male-dominated professions. That is not a net cast narrowly, yet while I am positively disposed toward each of these constituencies, I fail to personally check any of the boxes. That said, I came away with more respect for her brand of intelligent humor than I had before, and that was substantial.
When I titled this post ‘A Fey Sense of Humor’, I meant the humor was uniquely and distinctly Tina Fey’s. With the capital F. The word “fey” (I had to look it up) means morbid, vague, unworldly and eccentric. Be assured: there is nothing fey about Tina’s sense of humor. She is as full of life and worldly-wise as anyone I’ve seen in New York, she is crisp as biscotti and clear as vodka; and as for eccentricity, fuggeddaboudit! Whaddaya want? She’s a New Yorker, for crying out aloud: even our tax accountants are eccentric.
December 2, 2017 § 2 Comments
The Art of Bollywood (Rajesh Devraj/ Paul Duncan)
For a lot of people around the world, Bollywood is a metaphor for India itself. It has vast numbers, and compensates for a lack of thematic unity with bold colors, wall-to-wall music, and a confused cocktail of glamour, soul and melodrama. (Both stereotypes are misleading, but that is beside the point).
When I think fondly of Bollywood, I think mostly of its 20th century golden years, not its slightly more sophisticated present avatar. I think of the larger than life film-stars: the mighty Khans, whose names was on every vendor’s lips from China to Peru (when they spot an Indian tourist, that is), the glowering Amitabh Bachchan, the romantic Dev Anand, the self-deprecating Raj Kapoor, the poignant Dilip Kumar, the impossibly beautiful Madhubala, the tragic Meena Kumari, the Madhuri Dixit of my tormented teenage sighs. And then I recall the music – composers who were poets of the highest caliber, music directors who synthesized classical Indian themes with folk tunes, Arabian melodies, classical western pieces, jazz, hip-hop, and rock music, to create the first and most popular experiment in cultural fusion ever. Long before the iPod or the Walkman, people from Jhumri Tilaiya to Irinyalakuda walked around with ears glued to transistor radios out of which crackled the latest hits of Lata, Rafi and Kishore. Much media attention has been focused on the big film-makers too: the Chopras, the Sippys, the Johars, Nasir Hussain, Guru Dutt, Mehboob Khan, whose annual offerings were as eagerly awaited by Indians as the annual monsoon.
When I think of Bollywood I think of the triumph of personality over talent. It isn’t that talent doesn’t exist. It is that personality shouts louder. Observe this poster, for instance.
There’s a lot going on here: at least three main male stars, at least two big villains, a fight, women being harassed, romanced and hugged – every actor instantly recognizable from the image. The producer, music director and composer are prominently named. It is a cult film, the biggest blockbuster of 1977: if you are a Bollywood buff, you can probably recite the dialogues, hum the lyrics, discuss in depth that scene where lightning miraculously restores a blind woman’s sight… so here’s a pop quiz for you.
Who designed this poster?
November 29, 2017 § 2 Comments
(Readers of my blog who aren’t interested in Indian cinema, history and folklore may safely ignore this post and avoid bemusement)
In the legend of Padmavati (to resurrect a dying controversy but move beyond the controversial dream sequence), her husband Ratansen is captured by Allauddin Khilji, who demands Padmavati as ransom for releasing the king. Instead of Padmavati, some brave Rajput soldiers led by the heroes Gora and Badal dress up as Padmavati and her maidens, and are carried into the Khilji camp in veiled palanquins. Once inside, they take the guards by surprise, rescue Ratansen and flee the camp, though a few of them die in the attempt. It’s a very unique story, you’d think, until you hear another story that is startlingly similar, one that supposedly took place 920 years earlier, a story we know purely as legend. It makes you wonder about repeating themes in legend and history, and what they mean.
Once upon a time (the legend goes), there sat on the throne of Magadha a weak king called Ramagupta. His father had left behind a huge empire, but Ramagupta was both insipid and insecure. He married a princess called Dhruvadevi who was reputed to be the most beautiful woman in the land. Yet he felt he wasn’t respected as much as his father had been.
So, Ramagupta decided to pick a fight with the mighty Saka king Rudrasimha III, who ruled on his western borders. His younger brother and his ministers tried to dissuade him, but Ramagupta was adamant and went ahead.
Now the Sakas were brutal and lawless warriors whose domain stretched from the Hindukush mountains to Gujarat. They were kin to the Scythians and the Messegetae nomadic tribes that ranged across Asia from the Caspian Sea to China. They were also at the time, without a doubt, the best horsemen in the world. As the lumbering Magadha army, with the entire royal family in tow, made its ponderous advance, the fleet-footed Saka cavalry whirled around Ramagupta’s troops and encircled his camp quickly. The battle was over before it began.
Rudrasimha sent his terms into the Magadha camp.
He said, “My ancestors and cousins fought Cyrus and Darius, Alexander and the Yellow Horde. Even your father, who was a mighty general, had the good sense to leave us alone. And yet you had the temerity to provoke us to battle.
“We cannot allow this to go unpunished. We need to set an example. We have to kill every man, woman and child in this camp, starting with you, and we will hang your head on a pole at our borders as a warning for puppies like you that play at being soldiers.”
Ramagupta asked for mercy, promising never to make such a mistake again.
Rudrasimha hesitated. The Gangetic plains were too hot and humid for the Sakas. He wanted not territory but security: and security came from fear. He had to humiliate the nervous, stupid man standing in front of him so utterly that no other king would dare violate Saka borders again.
“Your father was a wise man,” said Rudrasimha. “I grieve for him that he had an utter nincompoop for a son. However, for the sake of his memory, I will spare all your lives, on one condition.”
“Accepted,” gasped Ramagupta gratefully. “Tell me the condition.”
“I heard you have married a very beautiful woman,” said Rudrasimha. “She deserves better, just as your father’s throne does. I am told she is in the camp now. Send her to be my wife, and I will let you go.”
When Ramagupta saw that there was no other option except death, he ordered a messenger to tell Dhruvadevi to get ready to go over to the Saka king. His courtiers sat in shocked silence, unable to believe their ears. The messenger returned, and said, “My lord, the Queen refuses.”
“What do you mean she refuses?”blustered the king. “I am her lord and master, and I command her.”
But Dhruvadevi had strode boldly into the room by then.
“You may have no self-respect, but I remain the Queen of Magadha,”she said contemptuously, “and the daughter-in-law of the Lichchavi princess Kumaradevi. What you suggest is an affront to my honour and the honour of these royal houses.”
Ramagupta’s voice turned whiny. He begged her tearfully for his life: she held it in her hands, he said. He wept. She refused to move.
Ramagupta then turned to his younger brother.
“Brother,” he said, “Rudrasimha hasn’t seen Dhruvadevi. He doesn’t know what she looks like. I know you have a lover, who is a common court dancer. I order you to dress her in the queen’s finery, and send her out to the Saka brute. I am your older brother and your king: you cannot disobey my command.”
The younger brother spoke. “It is against my honor to do this, and I will not obey.”
Ramagupta said, “You have to obey! Will you get me killed? Have you not sworn to protect me and the kingdom, you traitor?”
“I HAVE sworn to protect you,” said the brother, thoughtfully,”and this I will do.”
So a single palanquin left the Magadha camp that evening, carried by four bearers, and was allowed into the Saka camp. It was conveyed directly to the tent of Rudrasimha, where the bearers set it down and left the tent.
Rudrasimha asked the lady to come out, but there was no movement from inside. Impatient, he leaned over and poked his face through the palanquin screen to catch a glimpse of the reputed beauty.
They say the silly leer didn’t leave his face even after his head was sliced off its neck.
Ramagupta’s younger brother emerged from the palanquin, drenched in Rudrasimha’s hot blood. With a terrible look on his face, the head of the Saka king in one hand and a sword in the other, he strode out of the Saka camp. The Saka soldiers saw the head, and the face of the man carrying it, and parted like the Yamuna on the night Krishna was born, and didn’t dare challenge him. Soon, the army retreated in confusion.
When he entered Ramagupta’s tent, every eye was rivetted on him.
Ramagupta panicked. “Look what you’ve done now!” he cried in fear. “Now we will definitely get slaughtered by these Saka monsters. How is this protection!”
But the brother walked past him, and dropped the head at the feet of Dhruvadevi, who stopped it rolling with her foot.
“I have avenged you,” said the man, looking her in the face for the first time ever. “The honor of this family is intact.”
“You have indeed avenged me,” she said, a strange look in her eyes. “Yet the honor of this royal house is still defiled.”
“I am now beholden for my life and honor to a man who is not my husband,” she said. “This is an intolerable shame, and I cannot live with it. Kill me immediately with the same sword.”
“This I cannot do,” said the brother.
Something like anger flashed across her face.
“Then as your queen, I order you to kill yourself. You are the source of my shame, and you may not live.”
“This I refuse to do,” he said.
They stood in silence.
“Then,” she said, finally, “there is only one other solution. I am sure the Queen mother agrees.”
The brother turned and looked at his mother, the proud Lichchavi queen Kumaradevi, who was standing stone-faced in the corner.
“The queen is right,” said Kumaradevi. “There is only one other way to remove this stain from this royal family.”
The brother nodded, walked towards her to seek her blessing. On the way, as he passed the bewildered Ramagupta, he buried his still dripping sword into the king’s belly. He was stooping down to touch his mother’s feet when Ramagupta’s body fell with a thud, but he didn’t even look behind.
“Rise, king of Magadha,” said his mother, firmly. The entire court roared in approval.
And thus came to the throne of Magadha the man we know as Chandragupta Vikramaditya, second son of the illustrious Samudragupta, and second husband of the beautiful queen Dhruvadevi, and quite possibly the owner of the biggest empire in India before Allauddin Khilji.
- The Sakas retreated then, but they did come back in force. Chandragupta was more than equal to the situation. Wisely, he had made peace with the powerful Vakatakas to his south before taking the Sakas on. As a result, the Saka backbone was conclusively broken in the north-west, and most of India was under the Gupta-Vakataka alliance. This was good, though India lost a powerful buffer against the Huns, who came in waves in the next few generations and eventually wiped out the Guptas themselves
- While Dhruvadevi, Chandragupta, Ramagupta and Rudrasimha III were undoubtedly historical, the events are entirely legendary. A poet called Vishakhadatta wrote the legend down in a play called Devichandraguptam, only fragments of which are extant today. The play was referenced briefly by Bana Bhatta a few centuries later. The legend went to Sri Lanka, and then on wings of trade to Arabia, where it became known as the story of the brothers Rawwal and Barkamaris. A Persian translation (Mujmal-ut-Tawarikh) from the Arabic is how the story comes down to us. Who knows? Malik Mohammed Jayasi might have read this book, too, before he wrote the Padmavat.
- The theme wasn’t original to this story, either. It contains traces of the Mahabharata story relating to the Virataparva, when the powerful general Keechaka asks Sairandri, who is Draupadi in disguise, to meet him at midnight. Her seniormost husband Yudhisthira is unwilling to help, but Bhima dresses up as a woman and beats Keechaka to pulp. I speculate that at the mythic origins of this theme is the matriarchal custom described in the Golden Bough where the queen of the tribe changed husband frequently. Perhaps it indicates a sacrificial ritual where the new husband dressed up in women’s clothes and killed his predecessor. It is interesting to speculate on how a highly matriarchal legend could have progressively become more and more patriarchal in nature, from firebrand Draupadi through Dhruvadevi, until finally we get the tame and passive Padmavati of medieval times, when women were worshipped for subservient suicide.
November 20, 2017 § 4 Comments
The composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey has generated much scholarly curiosity over the centuries. How could one individual (Homer) have written such long and majestic poems? How could he have used words from different dialects and periods? Why were there inconsistencies and logical errors in the plot? Was Homer the genius whose original spark was refined by others over time, or was he the genius who edited and refined the work of others into a work of brilliance at the end of that line? Which was the original version of the story, the “Ur-Text”? Did people of Homer’s time even know how to write? If not, how could poems of that length be passed on verbatim from generation to generation?
These questions led to much armchair-based pontification until a young American academic, Milman Parry, decided to try something different. In 1935, he arrived in Yugoslavia, armed with an even younger assistant (Albert Lord), and some recording machines. He wished to study first-hand the oral story-telling traditions in the Balkans, understand the fundamental principles of oral tradition – how songs are composed, sung, re-learnt, re-composed and sung again. From these principles he wished to identify the tell-tale signs that oral processes leave on the form and content of epics. Finally, he would survey the text of the Iliad and the Odyssey for those signs. If he found them, he would be able to demonstrate powerfully exactly how they had been composed.
Parry and Lord found illiterate singers in the villages of Bosnia and Serbia, in coffee shops or at social occasions. They would strum on a gusle, or a tambura, and entertain villagers with legendary stories of heroic valor, tempestuous love and battles long ago. They learnt these songs as children learn their mother tongue: not by rote. They began by absorbing acceptable usages, the ‘formulae’ of their profession: meters, techniques for quickening or slowing down the pace, or for evoking every kind of emotion, ways to embellish specific themes. When they heard the stories, they made mental notes of the formulaic options appropriate at each stage.
When it was their turn to retell the story, they would judge (with a shrewd eye on the audience) if they needed to drag out or cut short each part of the tale, or to take a scenic detour exploring a side-character’s back-story. If they needed time to think, they’d employ stock situations, like a listing of all the heroes lined up in an assembly or a battlefield, which they could recite while planning the next bit of narration. Literary aesthetics, the Aristotelian unity of action, wordplay, consistency of characterization…these were not the big concerns. They only sought to tell a story that would transfix their audience and move them in that moment.
October 23, 2017 § 3 Comments
When my marriage was less than a year old, I had this brilliant idea for the funniest gag ever. My wife’s birthday was coming up, and I thought it would be hilarious if I got her a couple of books titled “Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus”, and “Mars and Venus Together Forever”, as her birthday gift. “You’re married now, honey,” I remembering quipping. “You’ll need these.” I was mystified when my gift got a cold and distant reception: apparently the joke wasn’t as funny it sounded in my head. She never told me exactly what she thought of the presents, but I gathered that she was expecting something slightly more romantic than self-help books on relationships. Perhaps I needed the books more than she did, but I didn’t read them at the time.
Flash forward twenty years to the present day. I finally got around to reading the first of my abortive attempts at humor: Men Are from Mars. I’m not afraid to admit it. I boldly went where no man – or woman – need ever go again.
It’s utter rubbish.
It isn’t that John Gray gets everything wrong. Some of the advice is even sane, for instance, where he tells his readers not to get upset when their partner points out a mistake or omission, or when he says nobody is ever upset for the reason they think. His basic thesis, based on which he has whipped up this little book (and possibly his entire career), isn’t to be sneezed at either:
We mistakenly assume that if our partners love us, they will react and behave in certain ways – the ways we react and behave when we love someone
In other words, we often do unto others as we would they do unto us, but sometimes they’d rather be done unto in a different way than we would they do. Unto us, I mean. If they’d been the doers and we’d been done unto. Instead of the other way around.
It’s as simple as that!
Yet, out of this patently self-evident statement, Gray derives an elaborate, poorly researched, and profoundly erroneous theory that ALL men behave and think in one way, and ALL women behave in a totally different way, and this, he says, is the reason men and women find it hard to understand each other. Just how different? It’s as if, we are told, all men came from a strong, cool, masculine planet like Mars, while all women hailed from a sizzling hot feminine planet like Venus, and they pretty much fell in love with the first individual of the other species that they set eyes on.
How exactly are they different? We are assured that unlike the goal-oriented men, women are relationship-oriented and “more concerned with expressing their goodness, love, and caring.” For instance, men who go to a restaurant with a male buddy do so to eat food; the women at the next table, on the other hand, are there “to nurture a relationship”. Men come home from work and want to unwind in silence; women want to yak annoyingly about how their day went. Men have a win/lose attitude: they need to win, but they don’t care who loses. Women have a win/lose attitude too: they don’t mind losing as long as their men can win. And on it goes.
But fear not: Gray has you covered. His “list of 101 little ways a man can keep his partner’s love tank full” include such gems as “#1: Upon returning home, find her first before doing anything else, and give her a hug”, “#24: Give her four hugs a day”, and my personal favorite, “#25: Call her from work to ask how she is or to share something exciting or to tell her ‘I love you’.”
By the time I got to Chapter Six (“Men Are Like Rubber Bands”), this particular rubber band was ready to SNAP.
You see, I work from home, while my wife is a busy executive who works really hard in a city office so that she can make it back home at a reasonable hour. Since she’s the one in and out of meetings all day, she calls me when she has a few minutes to spare: usually to discuss weekend plans or the kid’s play dates. She comes home to me. It used to be the other way around, and when that changed, our behavior changed in subtle ways and remained the same in other subtle ways. We both enjoy hugs, and always did: sometimes more than four a day. All this works for us, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones.
Look: there is no “All Men are This”, or “All Women are That” any more than there is an “All Indians are Socially Awkward Tech Support Nerds“: but that’s really OK, because in order to make a relationship work, you don’t need to understand what all members of the opposite sex are like: you need to learn (and VERY quickly) what that ONE person is like that you want a relationship with.
There is some irony in a man named Gray seeing people in black and white categories, and in none of the shades in between. Many men are relationship-oriented, some women don’t like to talk about their workday, many women like to solve problems, some men are great listeners. What a person is like depends on a number of factors: how they were brought up, where they live, who their role models and influences are, how they are treated at work, how well they are paid, and so on. Their gender is probably a factor, but nowhere close to being the only one. When you overlay the gender-based differences with all the other factors, you will find that most men are more Venusian than Gray gives them credit for, while most women are more Martian than he believes. In fact, I suspect most people are somewhere in between these two stereotypes.
Somewhere between Mars and Venus? Why, we might even be on Earth. Who’d have thought, huh.