Of Diwali and a Diwalia (bankrupt) Mind

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The corruption of a nation is complete when bribing becomes a part of culture and a corruption of mind is complete when we can not spot the difference between bribing and kindness.

This morning while I was speaking to a friend over the phone, she said in the most non-chalant manner, “I’m at the parking lot and my parking guy is giving me a good parking spot at the Khan Market.”

I paused while wiping the down the top of my refrigerator, “you have a parking guy?”

“Yes. He helps me get a good spot–”

“—in return of?”

Her tone went to a sing-song voice. “Obviously, I give him Diwali, na.”

“So you pay him extra for doing what he gets paid to do.”

“Yes, because he does a good job for me.”

I sat down on my low-profile dining table, “You realize that you’re bribing him.”

“Non-sense.”

My fingers pinch the bridge of my nose, “Not non-sense. When you give someone extra money to do what they are supposed to do so that you get some preferential treatment; that is the definition of a bribe.”

“Yes, but I like my spots he–”

“—and what have you done in life to get ‘preferential treatment’? Are you paraplegic, in any way disabled, an army veteran?”

She stuttered “No, I’m … I’m–”

“—Rich?”

She gulped “Well, yes but–”

“–This term; ‘Preferential treatment’ over others has plagued our country for centuries. The only preference he has for you is that you have more money than him. You don’t give him Diwali, you bribe him. But guess what when you go to your CEO and expect a Diwali bonus- guess what you are doing?”

“What?”

I shook my head, “you’re asking for a bribe to do what you are paid to do anyway. If you wouldn’t get that bonus it makes you feel shortchanged. Then you slack at work. In effect you only work for the bonus. That’s slacking, 101.”

She turned off her SUV, “that is true, Inder. It seems like we all seek our Diwali from WHOEVER has more money than us.”

That is our culture, bribing. Like most things we do wrong, we want to blame this on the British and colonialism but somewhere this tradition had infested our minds even before they got to the Indian peninsula.

When we walk into a 5-star hotel, the durban (gate-man) salutes us. To me nothing can be more shameless than that.

Who am I?

What have I ever done in my life to deserve a salute?

A salute: the most sacred of gestures to servicemen and women of a nation who dedicate their lives to its well-being. They deserve salutes. I deserve to salute each and every one of them. Any person who does his job with dedication and pride, I need to salute them. If the guard or watchman of the hotel took pride in the safety of its customers, it should be me saluting him.

The only reason he salutes me is because I have more money than him. But how much more. Is double what he have enough for him to make him salute me. Is ten times enough or 30 times? Where is that line in the sand?

The truth is that its in his mind. Servitude is so deeply ingrained in his tissues and his soul that he just accepts that he’s inferior. Isn’t that the worst form of oppression. To be oppressed to such a degree that one doesn’t even feel oppressed?

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Somewhere during this long pause my friend has hung up the phone and my thoughts are disrupted by a knock on the door.

I open the door and the trash collectors are there. They point out to the floor outside the apartment door where I’d left some trash for them. The one with a 3 day stubble starts, “Your maid had left some dust outside the garbage bag after she wept–”

I hold up my hand, “Arre nahi, I don’t have a maid. I sweep the apartment myself. I’m sorry, will clean it up.”

Nahi-nahi, sahib, I’ve already cleaned it.” He flashes a broad grin, “You haven’t given me my Diwali yet, so I thought…” he extends his palm out.

My mind says 23 whatthefucks in 2 seconds. “Sorry dude, I don’t celebrate Diwali so I don’t pay anyone to do what they should take pride in doing.”

As I shut the door on their glazed over faces I can imagine the conversations they’ll be having about me behind my back.

I would sooner hug him and make him feel like an equal than give him a few rupees to cement the fact in his mind that he’s in any way inferior to me.

I flop into my low set couch and suddenly I can’t stop crying. A deep sigh that started from my soul has grown into a wail by the time it escapes my lips.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,” The nobel laureate Tagore had said in his epic Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo

“Where knowledge is free.

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let  my country awake.”

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SOMEBODY STOP ME !

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Inertia is a funny thing.

A body in motion will continue to remain in motion unless an external force is acted upon it to make it stop.

But that is physics.

We at Peedu’s People deal with humans.

Humans defined by habits; most of them bad.

Countrymen oblivious of any sense of civic duty.

Males drowned in their own sense of fake ‘dick totting’ machismo.

We at Peedu’s People started our ‘Keep it (yep- its a double entendre) In’ campaign almost a year ago. Here’s the progress report.

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We were just as shy as the next person who doesn’t stop a ‘piss’achar. We were afraid what they might say.

Worse, what they might do when we tap them on the shoulder midstream.

Would they actually turn around and spray us with urine? Would they argue?

They DON’T.

They mostly make excuses (lack of urinals/ everybody does it/ I am diabetic) but when reminded about the disease and filth their habit causes- they actually apologize.

So at Peedu’s People our theory is – They do this because NOBODY TOLD THEM NOT TO;

Not their mother’s who pulled off their elastic drawstring pants on the side of roads.

Not their fathers who stopped often on road-trips to lead by example.

Not their teachers who are just concerned with covering the syllabi.

Not their friends who held pissing matches after guzzling beer.

Not bollywood for sure who has ample heroes urinating on screen.

They’ve never been stopped.

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We as Vegans believe that all humans are basically good people- they just end up becoming habitual adults as a consequence of their circumstances.

Most people are just looking for us to stop them.

They want to be stopped. They might want to change a bad habit once it’s pointed out to them.

It’s unto us to point it out and say- Hey, Keep it in. Nobody want’s to see your junk or smell your pee.

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Some ‘MOTHERLAND’ This…

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As I started my drive back to Chandigarh from Delhi last week I saw a person urinating by the side of street within 2 minutes. Before I realized what was happening I found myself tapping on his shoulder before he had a chance to zip it up.

Some excuses and minor preaching later, I realized that there are just two types of people in India.

  1. Those who urinate in public.
  2. Those who stop them.

If you aren’t one- then you must be the other.

I’ve been the other for way too long. So I decided to stop and interrupt every man’s urinary bliss for the rest of the drive.

They kept coming.

…And kept coming.

 

…And coming.

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And I kept stopping them.

73 of them in 4 hours and 250 Kms.

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Seventy three !!!

Wow…

This is us claiming that dahrti hamari maa hai (our land is our mother)… Or is it really our whore, our mistress (as a vegan I DETEST even typing such words….or worse).

At what point do we think it’s okay to urinate in public.

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But the truth is since I never stopped anyone before today. I am just as guilty of allowing someone to urinate on my mother—unless my country is my whore too.

So let us decide if it really is our mother.

Then we will be the people who will stop others.

Because I know when stopped, they all either say ‘You are right. I am sorry.” Or they say the one thing that justifies all bad habits in the world.

“Everybody does it.”

Well I don’t.

And I won’t let you.

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Happy NUDE year.

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The Indian male is a funny species. A dichotomy of mind-boggling proportions.

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Today I was informed by my gym that 15 or so members had signed a petition to have my membership rescinded from the gym. My fault; walking around naked in the gym.

No- not in the exercise area—in the men’s changing room.

“Wait, what?” I shook my head in disbelief. “Of-course I’ll be naked when I shower.”

“Yes but you have to wrap yo’ ‘tings when you walk around.” He pointed at my crotch.

“Yes, but there‘s no posted rule, although I?ll certainly comply with the sensibility of other gym-mates.”

 

As I started my warm-up today, I reflected on my issues with nudity. I have a huge problem walking around in the buff unless I have to- but that only happens in front of women. With the guys, I don’t really care- well I grew up in boarding schools where we have community bathrooms.

But the average Indian male is a dilemma.

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At a mind-numbing population of 1.25 billion people we certainly are comfortable being nude and having sex—in-fact seems like we are quite good at it.

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So we are nude all the time—but we just don’t want to be seen naked.

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There’s no nudity in our movies but when a director pulls of the coup of getting nudity cleared from our censor board, we throng to the theaters to see that nudity.

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But we are uncomfortable with nudity.

How does that work??

When we were kids and we were caught naked, all our cousins would sing- “Shame shame, puppy shame. All the girls know your name.”

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Such was the shame associated with nudity—and somewhere it stuck in my mind. I’ve never been comfortable in the nude.

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Years of trying to move forward took a huge hit today. I recede back into a shell which coddles me. I am very very comfortable in that spot.

But a progressive part of my mind urges me to stay naked and be comfortable with it… so I will live to fight another day—just not at my gym.

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WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

Delhi’s air is wretched. My city’s air is getting horrible too.

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Almost 10,500 people die each year prematurely in Delhi owing to the omnipresent smog that has encapsulated the city for more than a decade now. The Particulate matter levels in Delhi are above 3 times the danger limit.

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So when the Delhi government tried to implement an odd even formula for private vehicles (Allowing cars on the Delhi roads on alternate days only) the whole region went up in arms about the ‘inconvenience’ it would cause them (safety/business/recreational- etc etc; the laundry list is endless).

The issue is that we all talk a big game. But when it comes to actions and doing something to help there is just one question we need an answer for – WHAT IS IN IT FOR ME?

This is the one question any NGO, Revolutionary, Activist (animal or environmental), 501 3C, Rescue group etc have a very hard time answering.

We expect people to change because of the lecture we are so handily giving them while they are just thinking the same thing-

-What the heck is in it for me?

-Why should I change?

-Why should I listen to this buffoon who thinks he knows more than I do?

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We will crib about it but won’t act.

-We will say no to plastic until we need a drink of water/soda or a pack of potato chips.

-We will not carpool because it’s not convenient.

-We will detest animal cruelty but we will continue to eat animals for variety/flavor.

-We will cry about an unsafe city but we won’t stop to help a person in need.

-We will clean up our house/shops and leave the trash by the roadside.

-We will wait for our city’s air to be as horrible as Delhi before we act.

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We all change because of fear.

-Fear of the law.

-Fear of personal loss.

-Fear of someone else gaining more than us.

-Fear for OUR loved ones.

There is JUST ONE other alternative; Negativity out, Positivity in.

  • Show them what is in it for them. A better life, more involvement. Add personal stakes to education.
  • The ONLY hope is our future generation. So let’s make such things a part of their curriculum and not just lectures/seminars.
  • Grade them on it. Give them prizes and rewards for such work (much like sports and studies).

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Over decades we’ve been making the same inputs and expecting different outcomes. That is the definition of insanity.

It’s time to answer that one question; even for the children.

WHAT IS IN IT FOR ME?

Horton Smells a Poo

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“Inder, your grandfather has gone mad. You’ve got to talk to him.” My grandma opened the door.
“Stop being so dramatic, Biji. What happened?” I stepped out of the blistering heat into conditioned air.
“Dramatic? Can’t you smell this horrible stench?” She held her the soft chunni to her nose. “All the women in the neigbourhood are calling me the Cow-dung Mafia.”
I polished my white-leather platform shoes with the calves of my bright red bell-bottom pants and put down my own Pan-American airlines bag. “I just flew twelve hours under-care of air-hostesses, Biji. I can’t deal with your squabble with Bauji. I’ve got to get started on my fifth grade project.”
“Why don’t you ask the master project undertaker for help?” She spat out. “He has some crazy ideas in his head.”
“What did he do now?” I put down my new Mattel electronic racing game.
“He says he will make cooking gas from cow-dung. He’s installed the gobar-gas (biogas) plant right in our court-yard.” She slapped her forehead. “The villagers laughed at him so he has promised everyone free cooking gas if they give them cow-dung from all their animals.” She sighed. “I should’ve listened to my mother when she said he was crazy.”
Biji, whatever he does has a reason–”
“–Reason? He’s a lunatic. That’s the reason. The entire neighbourhood has been dropping off cow-dung in bucket loads all week. Haay haay, you have to stop him.”

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Bauji’s pored over some blueprints on his drafting table in his office. His glasses rested at the tip of his nose.
I touched his feet; he put his hand over my head in blessing, never breaking his gaze. “When did you come, Inder? How’s school?”
Hmm mm” I barely cleared his drafting table. “Biji wants me to talk to you about this cow-dung stench–”
He straightened his 6’4” frame and sucked in deep lungful of air. “This is the sweet smell of progress, Inder.”
“Eeeeew,” I pinched my nose.
“Do you know how much energy is renewable in this world?” He tugged my earlobe.
“Renewable?”
“Yes, Inder. We have power cuts in India. We have an energy crisis. We pollute our environment when we can re-use the energy available in nature.” He lifted me by my arms and rested me on his hip clasping his muscular arm around my waist. “Look this is how it’s done…” His pencil traced a big drum and pipelines running to and from it on the blue coloured paper for several minutes.

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Bauji, You make is sound very easy Are you sure it will work?”
“Will you believe me if you and me build a miniature prototype, first he playfully tapped my head with his engineers ruler.
I ran back out to the living room. “Yay, I got it. I got it.”
My grandma blocked my path, “Did he agree to give up his hair-brained idea, Inder.”
I flung my arms around her thickening waist. “I’ve got my project idea, Biji. I’ll need your help though. When its show-and-tell day for my project at school, can you ship some fresh cow-dung to my school. Please overnight it, it will have to be fresh.” I smiled.
Grandma repeatedly slapped her fore-head. “One day you’ll grow up to be just as crazy as him.”

 

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Children of a Lesser Dog- II

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Two months ago, on a vacation to India, I’d stepped into the kennel at the SPCA shelter in my hometown of Chandigarh. The acrid open sewer-like smell blasted my nostrils. Dogs sat on straw beds with week old excrement scattered around them.
I dug my nose into the inside of my elbow “When were these kennels cleaned last?”
“We clean every morning.” The Supervisor did the Indian nod.
“Really? You could use that poop as chalk on the black-board.” I pointed at the crusted over lump.
He nodded. “Well the sweeper has been on vacation for–”
“–What if children from a school show up to volunteer–”
“No sir, no children come here.”
“You mean like never?”
He scrolled through his smart-phone. “The kids from Vivek high school came in August. Some kids started vomiting and–”
“What did you expect? You must make volunteering a pleasant and fun-filled experience for kids.”
“No sir, kids in India don’t have compassion–”
I walked out in disgust. Typical. Blame someone else for our faults. Kids are the same everywhere. These kids aren’t sissies. We adults are.

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I read the email one final time and take a few deep breaths before hitting the reply button. I type a few words and then delete them. After repeating the process a few times I wonder what an appropriate reply would be.
Here in the US we have the infrastructure, the volunteers and school programs in place to foster compassion in children but we are hampered by the ‘Cover Your base’ mentality of lawyers and insurance companies. In India we have no infrastructure that allows the natural bond between child and animal to come to the forefront but the laws are conducive to kids interacting with children.
Although one is slightly better than the other, neither situation is ideal. Problem is, there is just one factor common to both countries- the losers are the animals.

Kids- 2, Inder-0

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The Dance of Democracy

Here are the real choices for the largest democracy in the world.

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1)      The Indian Congress party and its cronies. (Officially called UPA- it’s a mix of different ideologies coming together for their common lust for power).

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This party (Read the GANDHI family- a dynasty of corruption)  has ruled India for the majority of its existence after independence. The current culture of Corruption and unhealthy Public sector(Railways/Power/Infrastructure/Heavy industry etc) can be largely attributed to its policies of copy-pasting the USSR’s model of economy mixed with the drab parliamentary state of the United Kingdom – (we all know what has happened to both these countries and the sad state they are in).

This is also the party responsible for the Sikh riots of 1984; 2000 Sikhs were brutally killed after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Her son and interim Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had justified killing innocent Sikhs by saying, “When a big tree (implying his mother) falls, the earth is bound to shake (implying some retaliation is justified).

Sickening, you say?

Well here’s your lofty alternative (ha ha. Sarcasm heavily intended)-

 

2)      The BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) –

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Currently BJP is trying its best to distance itself from the communal mindset of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) responsible for dividing India based on Hindu fanaticism. They were largely responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 which caused widespread riots and caused un-healable scars on the psyche of the minority Muslim community.

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Its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujrat when Muslims were brutally murdered during the Gujrat Riots in 2002. It’s a known fact that all riots are aided by the government or else they are easy to quash by the state machinery of Police and para-military forces. Also his golden handshakes extended to the stinking rich industrialists in Gujrat scare the common man.

Gosh, You Indians are screwed you say?

Wait up…….

3)      The Aam Aadmi (common man) Party-

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Then we have an incumbent. Arvind Kejriwal. He is the quintessential ‘Common Man’. He promises a corruption free India. He’s the common man and promises no allegiance to his own religion. An ex-income tax official, he quit his job to clean-up Indian politics.

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Skeptics say he’s all promises and nothing can happen. Nothing will be done. But he stirred a lot of water in the 49 days he was in power in Delhi (elected Chief Minister).

Well, for the first time, I see hope. I see a chance. He might have no idea how to run a country but look at the god-awful alternatives we have. If the only property he has is HONESTY- just that is unique enough, promising enough.

For the first time in my 43 years, I see the Indian political scene and I am hopeful. I can afford to smile.

It’s about time the common man smiles.

Alcoholics Harmonious

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     Where’s my husband?” Mrs. Sodhi yelled. “What did you do to my husband last night?” She charged right into Dad’s room.
     My father pressed his fingers to his forehead and cringed. “Uhh. I don’t know. He vanished.”
     “Vanished? You left the bar on your scooter. Then you’re saying he vanished,” she rubbed her thumb on her fingers, “into thin air.”

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     Dad pressed the coffee mug to his temple. “I was driving. We were talking. Then he stopped responding. So I stopped and looked back. He was gone.”
     Mrs. Sodhi threw her arms in the air. “Goddamnn you drunkards.” She slapped her palm to her head. “Let’s go find my husband. Are you sure he was seated behind you when you started your scooter.”
     “I…Think so.” Dad ran his dry tongue over his chapped lips and labored toward the bathroom.
     The revered Mr. Homer J Simpson said, “Alcohol is the cause and solutions of all of life’s problems.” My father would just say, “Chakk Glassy, te napp de killi (pick up the glass and hurry up to getting drunk.)”
     A highly decorated Engineer that worked for the Government of India on deputation to several countries during his tenure, my father lost his way after he retired. Directionless, him and his retired friends took to binge drinking. This was a regular scene at our house.
     However this was the very first time he’d actually misplaced a human.

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     After a few hours of scouring the small town of Chandigarh in Northern India, we ultimately found Mr. Sodhi in the state hospital.
     “What happened to you, Yaar (buddy). We’ve searched everywhere for you.” Dad traced his finger on the bandage on Mr. Sodhi’s noggin’, where some blood had seeped through the gauze.

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     Mr. Sodhi clutched his pant pocket with both hands. “Yaar, last night while you drove me home we both forgot where I lived, right?”
     My father nodded. “Yeah. And I was driving around the neighborhood so you could find your house. We sharabi’s (alcoholics) understand each other.”
     “Yes” Mr. Sodhi nodded. “We always look out for each other. You are my dearest friend. You know I always look out for you.”
     “Ofcourse. But what happened to you. I turned around and you were gone.”
     Mr. Sodhi smiled. “I saw my house and I got off. I knew you were getting late and I didn’t want you to stop the scooter.”
     I leaned in. “So you just got off?”
     “Yes.” He smiled. “I put my feet on the ground and your father kept going.”
     I shook my head. “Really?” I pointed to Dad. “You both are honored engineers? Ever heard about inertia of motion?”
     Mr. Sodhi winced, took one hand of the pant pocket he was clutching and touched his head. “I know now.”
     The doctor flipped his chart. “They found him in the morning. Sixteen stitches.” He put his stethoscope to his ears. “He was bleeding but he wouldn’t let go of his pant pocket.”
     “What do you have there?” I reached for his pocket.
      He angled his thigh away from me and beamed triumphantly at dad. “You see, Yaar. I fell, but I saved my pint.” He produced a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label from his pocket.
     I covered my mouth with my hands. “Really? You fell down and broke your crown. But you wouldn’t break your fall with your hands. You chose to protect whiskey over your head?”

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     Dad on the other hand was sharing the most blissful moment with his drinking buddy. Like co-dependent druggies they pored into each other’s eyes and smiled; in unison.
     Harmoniously.

SUCH IS THE BALLAD OF MY LOVE

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A rose, a generous heart or a bracelet,
The question is; what’s in my wallet?
To be the only one that comes between her and her Calvin’s do I have to be wealthy?
Or did I just waste a tenner at the corner of Happy and Healthy?
I bought balloons, ribbed for her pleasure she will like, I bet
My chin is smooth, the best a woman can get.
I smoke a cigarette; it’s a quick picker-upper.
I nervously toe a mile to her house to get a camel post supper.
She opens the door and swoons, Manly, but I like it too.
I rip open my shirt, Madam, what can brown do for you?
You positively absolutely have to be here overnight. She gives my hair a twirl.
Surely I croon. My easy, breezy, beautiful, covergirl.
She touches my fly, Can you take a licking and keep on ticking? She asks
Yes, Yes, Can you hear me now?…Good That’s my task.
Her dress falls to the floor, You’re now free to move about the country.
I unzip. Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. My penis says to me.
Come on big boy, Do it. Just do it. She starts to parrot.
Big boy? But my five dollar footlong still a baby carrot.
She gives me a blue pill, Father tested, Mother approved.
Suddenly I’m lovin’ it. It just moved.
Then it keeps going and going and going. All along.
I think I’ll still be ready when the moment is right, come and gone.
My Ballad of Love doesn’t give me wings, if passion is a factor,
For erections lasting longer than four hours, you should consult a doctor.