The Colour of The Dress Is Merely a Pigment of Your Imagination.

Last week, the world tottered on the edge of a global crisis with potential wide-ranging disastrous effects. No, the world didn’t run out of Nutella. No, Facebook didn’t introduce a “dislike” button. No, Nicki Minaj didn’t release a new single. This was far worse.

They call it “The Dress”.

The Dress first appeared on social media at around 12:00 PM GMT on the 26th of February, which was followed by successive waves of panic that radiated from the epicentre – Tumblr – to places as far-reaching and obscure as Orkut and (you would have heard of this only if you’re adventurous and a seasoned traveller) Google+.

It was the day the Earth stood still.

They’re saying that the Dress broke the Internet. They’re wrong. It broke the fundamental human will to survive in the face of crushing adversity. It broke the age-old spirit of nations and the metaphorical camel’s back. It broke windows of old-age homes and every three-year-old’s favourite action figure and Stephen Hawking’s speech synthesizer. It broke our conception of reality as we transcended dimensions and the constraints of space and time and became acutely aware of the existence of a higher consciousness, a.k.a. Will Smith’s children, who took the road not taken with the proclamation:

Jaden

In Japan, every worker in every office stopped whatever he/ she was doing as the establishment collapsed, anarchy ruled, and sushi flew through the air. In the USA, Starbucks offered discounts to anyone who saw the Dress as blue and black and a new religion, Protestism, was developed to protest against the uncultured heretics who didn’t immediately see that the Dress was obviously gamboge. In India, programs were written to detect the exact colour of the Dress depending on the intensity of sunlight and the exact position of the sun in the sky, corrected to thirty-eight decimal places. The Russians offered The Dress a place in the Grand Russian Circus.

The Internet meanwhile, as it is prone to do, lost its mind.

Tumblr set fire to the Dress, screaming “WHAT COLOUR IS THE DRESS NOW MUAHAHA” and then running around in circles screaming “PROTECT US FROM THIS SORCERY” and “WHAT IS COLOUR?”

The supremely wise inhabitants of 9gag, on the other hand, took it upon themselves to explain the baffling phenomena, which I will summarize in five words for those of you who aren’t well versed with the nuances of the scientific method: “Such Retinas, Much Magic. Wow.”

Buzzfeed decided to take the onus of sharing their vast knowledge of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories with the unschooled public by means of an extremely scientific quiz titled “What Does The Colour Of The Dress Say About Your Personality?”

Twitter became a microcosm representing a divided Internet in a divided World in a divided Universe. For the first (and possibly the last) time ever, the world identified with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West who took the website to express their sense of disillusionment with the fundamentally mutable nature of reality.

Kim

So is The Dress a symbol of irreconcilable human differences? Does this mean that nothing is ever black and white? Do I have to apologize to Michael Jackson and/or colour blind people for making that comment? Does this exterminate racism? What is political incorrectness? What is political? What is? What?

Individual differences exist in how we perceive the world. Some may see blue and black, some may see white and gold, some may see blue and black with their spectacles on and white and gold without (all credits to my mother), while some may see teal (these people probably forgot to take their medication in the morning). But in the end, for one single day, the world was able to forget about its various problems, like poverty, and swine flu, and slow wifi. New friendships were forged between Blacks-and-Blues and Whites-and-Golds. As Kim and Kanye demonstrated so kindly, we now have proof that inter-Colour love can exist and thrive. The very construct of colour has been challenged and dismantled, which means that racism will become a thing of the past and humanity finally has something other than their hatred for Starbucks employees who spell their names wrong on their venti mocha lattes, to collectively bond over.

Yes, one fairly unattractive item of clothing can prevent, and perhaps even end, a World War.

I bet Hitler’s regretting his shopping decisions now.

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The trauma of packing is emotional baggage.

I went on a trip last week.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking and no, the sentence above has nothing to do with frowned-upon hallucinogens. I really did go on a trip.

I won’t delve into details, but it was fun. Which was unfortunate, because then I couldn’t really complain about anything (although my mother will testify to the fact that I did make a good effort).

So I’ve decided to complain about what comes before a trip – the packing.

I consider bag-packing to be the single biggest First World Problem. I am a perfectionist and an undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive, so for me, packing is synonymous with a nervous breakdown. Even if I need to pack for just a couple of days, I end up on the ground hugging my knees and rocking back and forth in the foetal position while weeping copiously.

The problem is that I don’t really think about packing until the day before I am scheduled to leave. I call this ‘denial’. And when the day finally comes, I am too busy making lists of what to pack to actually pack anything. My mother calls this ‘lunacy’.

Example of my list of things to pack:
Glasses
Spare glasses
Glasses case
Paper towels to clean glasses
Cleaning liquid for glasses
Small pouch to put the glasses equipment in
Clothes

Once I’m done with my extremely comprehensive list, I have to look for each item. Now I think it’s a universally accepted fact that you never find anything that you’re looking for. There is one exception to this rule however – my mother. Suppose I’m looking for my glasses (yes, this is a recurring theme here). I know it’s on my desk and I scan every corner of it for hours and hours, but I can’t find it anywhere. I go outside for a second to call my mother. We come back to the room, and there it is, sitting right in the middle of the desk, a golden beam of light falling squarely on it. I can almost hear the choir of angels singing.

True story.

My mother’s very presence can make objects appear miraculously. Sometimes even the mere mention of my mother’s name does the trick.

Anyway, once I’ve found whatever I need to pack, I’m tasked with the laborious job of putting everything inside the suitcase. As I said before, being an obsessive perfectionist, I cannot rest until and unless every single object fits neatly into its predetermined slot. This…um, let’s say inclination, sometimes has dangerous repercussions. The Great Jeans Crisis of 2012, for instance. I had to fit four pairs of jeans in enough space for three. Let’s just say the crisis ended in a mess of scissors, torn denim and attempted murder.

Now that I think of it, attempted murder features heavily in stories of my packing crises.

Usually to prevent such catastrophes, I make a mind map – a layout of how I plan to arrange my stuff in the suitcase. Shirts in the top right hand corner, jeans in the bottom right hand corner and so on. Sometimes, though, I get a little bit carried away. I once made a large schematic annotated diagram of how to fit every single item required for a seven-day trip in one suitcase. And then, in a fit of misplaced enthusiasm, promptly proceeded to tear it in half. Two-thirds, more like.

So I didn’t go on the trip.

To be fair, my not going on the trip had more to do with me falling ill the next day. But I strongly suspect that my illness was, in fact, a case of nervous breakdown which I owe to the mind map fiasco. Alright, I admit, the doctor said that it was simply a case of the ’flu. I think he’s wrong, because one of his suggestions was that I “drink plenty of fluids”. I don’t trust anyone who says ‘fluids’.

Getting back to the topic at hand: packing. Alright, so I’ve found my stuff and (somehow) stuffed it into the bag. Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that I haven’t suffered a breakdown yet. There’s only one thing left to do now – to lock the suitcase. Now, most suitcases have number locks, and by now, you probably know about my password problem. To put it succinctly: I have the memory of a goldfish in a retirement…well, bowl. In fact, I can’t even remember why I decided to use such an asinine analogy in the first place.

And now I’ve had an epiphany.

You know that John Denver song where he croons, “I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.”

I know now why he was so unsure about coming back:
He’d have to pack again.

Confessions of a Shopaphobic

Wikipedia defines retail therapy as “shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer’s mood or disposition” and that it is “often seen in people during periods of depression”. For my part, I don’t understand this. Even when I’m not depressed, shopping makes me feel suicidal. And while I agree that suicide could be a cure for depression, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘therapy’. It’s more of a last resort.

Frankly, I can’t even believe that ‘shopping’ and ‘therapy’ could ever be in the same sentence. Unless the sentence is ‘People who like shopping really need therapy’.

Shopping is one of the most stressful and agonizing things I’ve done. From the time I walk into the store until the time I walk out, every moment is excruciating.

When I enter, the guard at the door wishes me a ‘good morning’. I know that he’s trying to be polite, but I can’t help but feel that his words are slightly mocking, because how can he wish me a ‘good morning’ when he knows that I have to spend the rest of my morning shopping? That can’t possibly be his, or anyone’s, definition of a ‘good morning’.

Then I have to hand over any other bags that I might have, to the lady at the baggage counter. She spends an eternity searching for a free baggage compartment, then stuffs my bag into it, and hands me a token that I have to keep safely for the next few hours, if I want my bags back. Yeah, thanks a lot. This is how you treat potential customers. You give them tiny plastic discs that they’re not allowed to lose. That’s basically like saying, “Thanks for coming to our store. Here’s your welcome gift: stress. Enjoy your shopping!”

After that comes the actual shopping. All I need is a T-shirt that fits. But then a swarm of enthusiastic salespeople coming rushing towards me, offering to help me find myself a whole new wardrobe. “I just need a T-Shirt,” I say quickly. “What colour?” they ask. “Umm…red, I guess.” I say. So they go away for a few seconds and then come back with all the T-shirts in the store. They proudly display T-shirts that apparently are shades of ‘crimson, ruby, rust, maroon, salmon’ and more strangely, shades they refer to as ‘desire red and lusty red.’ “But all I need is red,” I say helplessly, “Plain red. No lust and no desire.” This usually stumps them. So I leave my mother to decide which shade resembles ‘red’ the most, and I go off to the footwear department to measure my feet on the foot-measuring gauge for the umpteenth time and to wonder why my left foot is a size larger than my right.

When my mother comes back with an almost red shirt, I have to try it on. I go to the changing rooms which is jam-packed with people asking their relatives and friends if the clothes they’ve picked out make them look fat. Well, I’ve got news for them. No one ‘looks fat’. Either you are fat or you aren’t. If you’re fat, you’re going to look fat as well. Skinny jeans are not going to make you miraculously thin. When I finally manage to squeeze into a changing room, I wear the shirt cautiously.  I have no idea why, but until today I have never worn a T-shirt to find that the first size that I pick is the right size. I’m forced to try on every size until I find one that fits. And that’s only if I’m lucky. Usually my size is an odd number, and since they only make T-shirts with sizes in multiples of two, nothing really ‘fits’.

By now I’m frustrated and almost weeping in despair so I just grab something wearable and go to the billing counter. But here too I’m forced to stand in a line because only one billing counter’s open because the others are off ‘having lunch’ at eleven a.m. in the morning. In shopping store speak, ‘having lunch’ means ‘watching cricket’.

I’m invariably stuck behind a woman who has bought new wardrobes for her entire family. Apparently, she’s also carrying her entire family with her in her handbag, because when the man asks for her credit card she rummages through it for an hour, one by one procuring everything she owns. When she’s finally found it she hands it over, and then the man gives her a scratch card and says that she should text the alphabets on the scratch card to some particular five-digit phone number, and then she might win a trip to Malaysia. Or, less extravagantly, a 5% discount on her next purchase. She scratches it excitedly and then spends the next hour searching for the letter ‘x’ on her cell phone keys, while I try very hard not to kill myself by slitting my wrists with my fingernails.

When I’m finally done, I rush towards the door. But once again I am forced to wait while the lady at the baggage counter struggles to find my bags that are sitting right there in front her.

When I’ve finally got everything I rush out into the open air, and breathe in the freedom, like a prisoner stepping out of jail after being imprisoned for ten years. It’s a good feeling.

I’ll summarize by saying that the things which make shopping so bad include the queues, the meddlesome salespeople and the dim-wittedness of some shoppers. But the absolute worst thing about shopping is this: There is no solution to it. It is something we will be forced to live with.

I can end by saying only one thing:
Shop till you drop is the worst consumer advice ever.