Orators and Writers

Yesterday I was reading an op-ed in Mint when it struck me was that this particular columnist never argues – in the sense that he never constructs an argument using inductive or deductive logic. His method or argument is to say the same thing over and over again – in different ways, using different metaphors. He hopes to make his point by way of reinforcement, and considering his popularity and his ubiquity across the media, I’m sure it works for a lot of people (though not for me).

Then I started thinking about people who are known to be “great orators”, mostly from the Indian political space. I started thinking about Vajpayee, about Chandrashekhar and several other similar people. I discovered the same thing about them. That they seldom construct an argument using deductive or inductive logic. Their way of getting the point across is the same as the Mint columnist’s – to say the same thing forcefully and in several different ways.

And thinking about it, it seems quite logical. When you are addressing a large audience, you will need to take everyone along. You will need to ensure that everyone is clued in on what you are speaking on. And when you speak, there is no way for the listener to take a step or two back if he/she misses something you said. Unlike text, the speech has to be interpreted in one parse. So if you are to be a great orator, you need to make sure that you take the audience along; that you construct your speech in such a way that even if someone gets distracted for a few words they can join back and appreciate the rest of the speech. Hence you are better off indulging in rhetoric rather than argument.

A writer, on the other hand, has no such compulsions. It is easy for his reader to go back and forth and parse the essay in whatever order he deems fit. As long as he keeps the language simple, the reader is likely to go along with him. On the other hand, if the writer indulges in rhetoric, the reader is likely to get bored and that could be counterproductive. Hence, writers are more into argument than into rhetoric.

Which brings me back to the Mint columnist I was reading yesterday who, as far as I know, has been a prolific writer but not as much as an orator (or maybe he is but I wouldn’t know since he lives abroad). And I’m puzzled that he has settled on a rhetorical style rather than an argumentative style. I’ve happened to meet him and even then he was mostly using rhetoric rather than reasoning in his arguments.

So yeah, the essence is that there are two ways in which you can construct arguments – by logical reasoning which is mostly preferred by writers and by rhetoric which is preferred by orators. I’m not sure how successful you can be if you interchange styles.

Loos in America

Ok I’ve spent quite a few (>1) blog posts after coming here on input so let me write one on output. In fact for a long time I’ve intended to write a post on loos in India but have never got the time. Hopefully I’ll sit down to write it some day. Today, you’ll have to make do with American shyte.

The last time I found facilities in a loo for washing the arse (or thoLyin the thika) was at the Dubai airport on my way here where there was a health faucet. As has been well documented Islamic cultures place a lot of emphasis of keeping the arse clean and hence the ubiquity of this contraption in all Islamic countries (and of late in India also). As has also been well documented, western cultures prefer to keep the loos clean and hence use paper to wipe the arse after the process.

In my serviced apartment I’ve been doing one of the usual Indian things – I’ve kept a drinking glass in the bathroom and use it as a mug. Yeah its volume is quite low but that’s the best I can manage. Thankfully the taps aren’t too far away so I can manage. My biggest fear, however, is that I’ll drop this glass in the bathroom and might injure my feet. Office, however, offers no such luxuries so I’ve to make do with paper. When in Amreeka, do your ass like the Amreekans do.

My apartment and my office have two contrasting flushing systems, both of which seem superior to the system we have in India (the flush in my apartment in Bangalore is especially inefficient, especially when I download large volumes). At home, water starts swirling around in the WC as soon as I pull the trigger, slowly and steadily. Soon the pace picks up and the water level starts going down, pulling the crap along with it. And in a few seconds the pot is clean, and new water comes in so the level of water in the pot is restored. Actually I’ve noticed that the normal level of water in the pot in my apartment is much higher than it normally is in western loos. I think it’s similar to a football defence playing with a high offside line!

Office is a new building so has even more sophisticated loo. First of all the flush is automated – as soon as you get up and start buttoning up your pants the thing goes, though there’s a  button which you can push in case the automatic thing fails. This is the first time ever that I’ve seen automatic flush in a pottystation. I’d earlier seen it only in urinals.

So the flush operates with a vacuum mechanism, much like the flushes on flights. So some pump gets into operation and sucks in all the shit and the paper and everything else in one smooth motion. And then there is a water jet to clean up any remnants, and that gets sucked in too. Finally, there is some fresh water ready to take shit.

The best thing I’ve found about my office loo, however, is the seat paper. So in this special compartment in the potty station you get paper that’s shaped in the plan of the commode (plan as in top view; I hope you can picturize). So when you go in, you pull out one such paper and put it on to the seat, and then take your seat and do your business. And once business is done, send this paper also packing into the WC!

Excellent idea, I think, because the biggest crib that people have about commodes is that they have to rest bare arse on the same space that hosted some other bare arse and this may not be healthy. Providing this facility allows you to take insurance about that, and you need not put your ass-to-risk*. I hope this starts getting implemented soon enough in India also, especially in public facilities.

Some links:

1. Vikram Doctor’s excellent take on toilets
2. One earlier time when I had blogged about toilets at work
3. An earlier post of mine, on washing your arse in the Thames
4. A post on loos and sacred threads. One of those one-liner posts I stopped posting after I started tweeting. This post would become significant later in my life in a most unusual manner