Wednesday, March 26, 2014


( Methylation, it’s a big word that you probably don’t think applies to you, however, read on because knowing about methylation could improve or save your life.  Methylation is the process of taking a single carbon and three hydrogens, known as a methyl group, and applying it to countless critical functions in your body such as: thinking, repairing DNA, turning on and off genes, fighting infections and getting rid of environmental toxins to name a few.)

This post was inspired by this one .

We Indians, it turns out, actually have a particular gene. Or marker. Or whatever you might scientifically choose to call it.  It is always a dominant gene, and there are very few people  in whom this might actually be a recessive, if not a missing gene.

The gene goes by the acronym IIMB.

Stands for "It Is My Business "....

Sometime back in the last century,  the particular gene was observed to be behaving.

I mean, yes, the natural curiosity to know what was clearly NOT your business existed. But there was a decent amount of self regulation. 

You might have belonged to that strata of society that thought sleeveless blouses were the height of "forwardness", or wearing short divided skirts during tennis was an unparalleled act of bravery. But we let them be. There was a lady with red hair who was part of my parents group that played tennis (of sorts) in a neighboring house plot. Influenced by certain difficult to get comics that we poured over, we used to think admiringly that she was kind of half way blonde and getting there, and admire her bravado, till a maternal glare silenced us during a conversation to find out the real thing.

 It was Mehndi.       It was also none of our business. 

Years passed. Fashions changed. Tolerances changed. The IIMB gene too, began methylating.   Those who observed their own folks exhibiting the dominance of this gene, often took it upon themselves to practice its dominance. 

Sports was a big thing in our college,  I stayed at the hostel, which was considered a questionable and/or brave thing to do.  One was into badminton at a decent level of proficiency. There were tournaments, I was entered for singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles, and a Sardar classmate came to ask if my doubles partner would partner him in the mixed doubles.  There were no problems, she was a great player, and she agreed . The practices would be held daily, and certain people got unduly interested . These were daughters of families I had known since school, and erstwhile community folks. These folks would pass me by with what can only be called controlled smiles, accompanied by knowing looks.  These folks were also blessed (or cursed) with a highly dominant IIMB gene. 

Very soon, a signed letter reached my folks who were then living in another town about 150 miles away.  My "forward" behaviour was documented,  it mentioned my "moving around " with a Sardar friend, and the tone was entirely about a well wisher desperately alerting the family so I could be saved  before I went completely haywire or to the dogs.  The height of IIMB-ness.  The gene must have been shining out of their eyes and ears. 

That, my folks knew about the tournaments from my frequent letters,  that they knew about the fellows who were part of the teams, and were completely updated on the wins and losses  by me and my partners,  was unknown to these IIMB-well wishers.  The IIMB exponents received a stinging but polite letter  response, informing them that they, my folks, were completely informed and thrilled with my sports progress, my friends and my partners,  and did not need any extracurricular inaccurate and false information.

The practice of IIMB methylation continues.

 You get accosted in elevators where people tell you alternative solutions to Fair and Lovely, and rue the fact that you encourage your daughter to swim, which in turn "makes her dark".  You get asked if you don't feel ashamed about wearing a swimming costume at the pool, and you mentally crack up with visions of yourself floating in six yards of billowing fabric, trying to do the freestyle, coming out and challenging the typical Bollywood rain-and-wet-saree-outfit scene, as you emerge out of the pool. 33 years ago, I resigned from my job, which was considered a fairly stupid thing to do and quite unheard of, since I stayed withing walking distance.   The next day, as I emerged  with my son in his stroller , from our hospital where I had gone for some clearance certificates, some amazing exponents of IIMB stopped me to ask if I was leaving for the USA .  (That I started working again later, and subsequently retired honorably probably confuses them.  So be it. Exercises for the IIMB mind)

What analysis, what concentration, what interest, and what nonsense ....

Way then, into her late sixties, my late mother discovered hair dye. She tried it for a few years, then decided the chemicals were too dangerous, and I would occasionally observe her using plain kajal to touch up what she thought were excessively prominent white streaks.  Such was my  recessive IIMB status , that I never dared ask , forget question her about this.   I know folks who use mehndi, and get certain tinges in their hair.  But it's always clear that this is not and never likely to be a subject for advice and debate.  

On a personal level, one has tried these things. While suddenly showing up with jet black hair is not likely  to change people's opinion of you, it is too much trouble , trying to be what you are not.  Once in a while , in the manner of enjoying an exotic fruit, one treats oneself to such things. And like exotic fruit, these things are not mandatory.

So before a family wedding, while IIMB types plead with you to visit a hairdye place ("you need to get a facial too") , you indulge your daughter, who suddenly takes things in hand , literally, wraps a thing around your shoulders, and  proceeds to slather stuff on your hair. You enjoy the surprised looks on people's faces.  You also don't notice, how one month down the line, the white has started inching up.  You don't care either, as you revel in what your daughter did. :-)

But I am sure some IIMB lurker has.  

In the meanwhile, someone recently got married, and spent hours getting her mehndi done for the big day. Amidst the artful swirls and intricate mehndi designs,  there are two prominent tattoos that show up on the forearms.  One is of a butterfly, and one is of a Canon Camera.  These were done ages ago.

Tattoos , did you say ?

And I am waiting. 

For the IIMB types .

 To rush and advise with their interpretations.  Solutions. Emails. Letters.

Or does it mean that the dominance of IIMB is  receding?    



  1. IIMB. Gorblimey I believe it is that after all, a gene, that won't let them be. :)
    Your post reminds me of many more such incidences, parents being informed et al. Sigh.
    A tattoo of a Canon Camera?! Wow that's c.o.o.l! Wondering whether I should get myself one of a Nikon! ;)

    1. Shail. So glad you agree. And about the Tattoo. Maybe Luci and Nikon. I was going to say Birds and a Nikon. But Her Higness would be hurt.

    2. Indeed! Her Highness would be mighty hurt. :D